Tuesday, February 20, 2007


It's not nice to fool Pele.
You would think being a deity, she does not have a sense of humor.
Actually, she does.
Years ago, the park service workers at Volcanoes National Park decided to tell tourists that if they stole lava stones bad luck would haunt them and terrible things would happen. Ooo Woo hoo (cue scary music).
Be careful what you wish for.
Pele heard their plea.
Soon lava stones were being mailed back to Volcanoes from far and wide accompanied by tales of woe and misfortune.
And what does this have to do with writing you ask?
Sit down.
Make yourself comfortable.
And I'll tell you...

9:30 pm and 74 degrees. Tradewinds were gusting to 40 earlier. How did I know that? I had the nav station instruments on and I felt ORION heeling.
I have been in hurricane Iniki. I have walked along Chain of Craters road. I have seen the smoldering lava from miles away. I have been at sea, sailing away from the extinct remnants of the Waianae range.
But have you? Have you done this?
Could I make you see what I see? Feel what I feel?
Smell the acrid smoke. Have your feet slip underneath and hear stones rattle to the valley far below.
The Halyards hit the mast in a rhythmic song played by the fingers of the wind. The very same wind that blows across Kilauea carrying with it the sulfurous volcanic ash over to us on Oahu. The roads of the Big Island pass by miles of hardened lava from Mauna Loa. Flow from 1843. Flow from 1881. Flow from 1919. Each documented year and flow, spread across the map.
The fire of Pu`u `O`o.
I have seen this.
What have you seen that you incorporate so tightly into your work it cannot be undone? What are your secrets? How do you make your reader see with your eyes? Understand your vision?
And now.
Back to volcanoes.
What does writing have to do with Pele? Have to do with the Goddess of fire?
A fib someone told came true.
A Goddess listened.
Bad stuff happened.
And somebody was very, very sorry.
Sounds like a novel to me!


Sam said...

I'd love to see a volcano - from afar, lol.
I'll be polite to Pele, and I won't steal any volcanic rocks from the flanks of her volcanos.
But I suppose I'd have to go there. To see where the virgins stood. To imagine them with their hands lashed behind their backs, flowers wilting in their hair, and hearts pounding as the heat scorched their faces.
Volcanic rock is sharp and cuts. They would leave scarlet footprints.

Demon Hunter said...

I loved how you described the Halyards hitting the mast. Great stuff. I feel that things that we know best are more easily conveyed to our audiences. I love people and places already, but it definitely adds to the writing.

Kimber An said...

I love stories like this, myths, folktales, legends, ancient religions. They're the anthology of the human race. Here are some which inspired Star Captains' Daughter:

Oddyseus and Penelope
Cupid and Psyche
Demeter and Persephone
Fa Mulan

This is probably why I'm more fascinated with visiting Pele on my first trip to Hawaii than I will be with basking on the beaches.

Michelle Zink said...

I so admire your breadth of experience, Pat, and your willingness - no, passion for! - experiencing things firsthand.

A woman after my own heart, you!

My writing isn't informed so much by places and events, but (I've been told) more by a sense of melancholy that pervades even my funny, sarcastic stuff.

Ack! I can't just be funny!

I think it all goes back to my childhood, but I'd need a proper couch to be sure...

Anonymous said...

Can you feel this?

"Then we heard the sound. Like the guttural, prehistoric groan of a woman beginning a new labor pain. The sound. God, how I hated that hideous sound!
The start of another seizure. A thick, choking, sharp intake of air from little Dom. It sounded like someone was holding his head underwater. And then it stopped and the seizure quietly took over his body. His hands clenched. Body curled up. Head twisted back. Tongue crushed between his teeth. And drooling, drooling. Wracked with electricity like a mosquito on a zapper.
Vince, Gina and I bolted to him as soon as the sound began. The world stopped turning as we assumed our posts. We knelt down next to him. Gina at his head, Vince at his legs. I held his face. I had to blink the tears from my eyes. I’d never get used to this. Gina crossed his arms, Vince crossed his legs in the opposite direction, left over right and squeezed his big toes using the ancient acupressure point for the brain to cut off the seizure. I tilted his head forward so he wouldn’t choke on the torrent of saliva. His lips were blue, eyes rolled back, body in tight spasms. We clung to him for 45 seconds that felt like 45 years."

Dr. Hack said...

I smack Pele up whenever she gets out of line, then tell her to get back in the kitchen.

Goddesses can be so uppity.

Kim Stagliano said...

Goodness! Thanks for the link! A friend went to Tahiti, brought home shells and has had a lot of problems every since. Shades of the Brady Bunch Hawaii episode! Doodleoodleooooooo! I think the jinx was sponsored not by the gods or goddesses, but by the Tahiti Tourism Board - she has to return the shells to break the curse!

ChumleyK said...

I was disappointed that Kilauea was erupting into the sea when I was in Hawaii. There was nothing to see except some smoke/steam by the water.

ORION said...

Trust me. We here in Hawaii were not disappointed!
The sea is better than the land!

Holly Kennedy said...

Chain of craters? Smoking lava? Volcanos alternately mystify and terrify me, but I have to admit they're also mesmerizing, aren't they? I flew over a volcano when I was in Maui in 1998 but I can't remember which one. I do, however, remember hyperventilating as I pictured it going off... just...as... the... helicopter... dipped down lower for a look!!!!

LadyBronco said...

Volcanos are so very cool!

On my list to do before I die is to see the volcanos in Hawaii. (along with a few other hundred things I will probably not get to...lol)

Wendy Roberts said...

Every nail-biting moment in a story first had its place in the writer's heart. If I want to brutally kill someone off in my mysteries I don't imagine volcanos, I just need to think of them hurting one of my children.

Holly, I think I was on the same Maui helicopter ride!