Category Archives: Life

A Frosty Transaction

It’s December already. Where did the year go? In honor of December and the holiday/Christmas season, I’ve decided to share a Christmas-themed, horror-flash, fan-fiction story I wrote.

I’m linking this story in the comments on Chuck Wendig’s blog, where he posed a challenge to write a Flash Fiction Challenge: Holiday Horror Extravaganza.

A Taste of Christmas Spirit
By Miriah Hetherington

Ethan rubbed his hands together and blew into them with steamy breath. He looked from the tip jar to his watch. It was six o’clock. Time to close up the espresso stand, and his tips barely covered the bus fare home. At least the boss was paying him double for working the Fourth Avenue cart on Christmas Eve.

He made two large mochas before closing up the stand. He was half-way to saving enough money to buy his own coffee cart, and someday he hoped to own his own restaurant. Ethan decided to save his meager tips and walk home, but stopped by the bus shelter to give one of the coffees to the homeless guy who’d been sleeping there for the last three nights. He wasn’t there, and Ethan hoped he’d found a better place.

Ethan turned the corner next to Macy’s on Main Street and joined a throng of foot traffic crossing the street. On the corner sidewalk, an older woman in a heavy white coat and ear muffs was busy setting up a vintage snow cone vending cart with a snowman painted on the side. As he got closer he heard her humming the Frosty the Snowman tune.

“Hello,” he said.

She turned, and Ethan could see that she was older than he’d first thought, but her eyes were lively and bright. “Sorry, my boy. I’m not open yet.”

“Uh, I wasn’t-” Ethan looked around. Other passers-by seemed to ignore her, and the old woman appeared to be alone. She opened a box full of snow cone syrup bottles and put one on the counter. “Ma’am, nobody’s going to buy snow cones tonight, it’s too cold.”

“I’ve been doing this for over fifty years — every Christmas Eve.” She winked. “Is one of those hot drinks for me?”

Ethan looked down at the two mochas he still held in his hands. “Sure.” He handed over the cup he’d intended for the homeless man.

“My name is Karen.”

“Ethan.” He shook her hand, a little surprised by how firm her grip was. “Would you like some help?”

Karen’s smile widened. “I would be delighted.” She took a sip of the mocha and gestured to the box. Ethan began unpacking the syrup bottles while Karen lined them up on the counter.

An overhead street light flickered in the early evening gloom. The light made the syrup bottles glimmer. He unpacked five shades of red, from blood-red charitable cherry, to wispy pink wise watermelon. Kindness kiwi glowed a tempting green, next to generous berry blue and orange tropical contentment.
Karen placed an empty gallon-size jug on the counter, and Ethan read the sign taped to it. “Pay what you wish?” He snorted, remembering his mostly empty tip jar from earlier. “Really?”

Karen shrugged and began filling a paper cone from the snow bin. “I’m serving Christmas Spirit. Who can put a price on that?”

“Uh-huh.” Ethan regarded the oblivious shoppers waiting at the corner for the street light to change. The old woman was clearly reality-challenged. But he couldn’t leave her here in the cold alone, waiting for customers all night.
Just then, a middle aged woman wearing a stylish overcoat and designer shoes stepped up to the stand. “I’ll take jolly raspberry.” She dropped a twenty dollar bill in the jar.

More customers began to stop at the snow cone cart. Karen poured grateful grape for a sullen teenager texting on her cell phone. A grey-haired man who announced he was a retired traffic cop chose playful peppermint.

A crowd surrounded the cart and Ethan filled paper cups with snow as fast as he could while Karen poured the syrup. Finally, the snow bin was empty except for a corncob pipe, button, and two lumps of coal. Ethan’s announcement that they were out of snow was met with a flurry of disappointed sighs as Karen sent people away.

Ethan stretched and looked at the gallon jug. It was full of bills, none less than twenty as far as he could tell. “I don’t believe it.”

“I always save one cone,” said Karen. She opened a side compartment and took out the last snow cone and an old silk top-hat. “I’m getting too old for this, Ethan. How would you like to take over?”

“Are you kidding?” It was Ethan’s dream come true. “But, I don’t think I can afford it.”

Karen pressed her lips together in a thin smile. “Consider it a Christmas gift. The cart, everything — the jar of money too. But you have to accept the responsibility. The snow bin can only be filled once a year, on Christmas Eve.”

With the money in that tip jar and his savings, Ethan could buy his own coffee cart. The unflavored snow cone glittered red and green, probably reflecting the changing traffic lights. Ethan’s mouth watered in anticipation as he reached out.

Karen pulled it back. “You must accept responsibility for the cart and agree to sell Christmas Spirit yourself, every Christmas Eve. Do you accept?” She held out the hat and the snow cone.

“Absolutely, I accept.” Ethan grasped the hat and brought the snow cone to his mouth. It cooled his tongue with a burst of sweetness like nothing he had ever tasted before. All at once he felt everything each syrup bottle had promised. He slurped charity, wisdom, kindness, generosity, contentment, gratefulness, playfulness, and joy. Everything the holiday season was supposed to be about. Far too soon, the cone was empty.

Ethan regarded the empty snow bin. “Just tell me what I have to do.”
The End

frosty-the-snowman-12
Frosty the Snowman is not in the public domain and doesn’t belong to me, so this story is fan fiction.

Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it.

because purple is my favorite color

I’ve been wanting to color some of my hair purple (again) for some time.

Miriah Hetherington

Miriah with purple hair


This was the first time I used bleach to lighten (part of) my hair before coloring it. Seriously nasty stuff. I’m sure the fumes killed a spider that has been hanging around my bathroom sink. Also, after it was on, my hair got hot – really hot. I had to ask one of my twins if it was supposed to do that. The purple was easy, but I did have to be VERY careful to clean every accidental smudge right away.

a bee caught by a spider in Miriah Hetherington's front garden

Bee caught by a spider.


I love the lavender that is blooming in front of my house. The bees like it too. As do spiders, apparently.

Have you done anything unusual (for you) this summer?

Happy Writing

Be Entertaining

Mary Rosenblum has this wonderful website, New Writer’s Interface, and recently she blogged her advice for new writers who have trouble figuring out what to blog about. That is totally me!

I subscribe to Mary Rosenblum’s newsletter. I recommend it. She describes herself as the Literary Midwife for new writers. I love the idea of that.

Anyway, her main advice was: be entertaining.

Goats at Farrel-McWhirter park

Goats at Farrel-McWhirter park

Somehow I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend about twenty years ago. She was pregnant with her second child, due anytime, and worried about needing to have labor induced like with her first delivery. Her midwife told her something like, “Have I got a fun assignment for you! You and your husband go home and have sex. A lot of sex. And have orgasms. A lot of orgasms. That will get your labor started.”

My friend’s pregnancy was near term and she was huge and uncomfortable. It was a hot Southern California summer. She was perpetually exhausted. Her (unsurprising) response was, “Ugh! Not only do I have to have sex, but I have to have orgasms too?!?” (I don’t remember what her husband’s opinion was – I think he wisely kept it to himself.)

Where am I going with this? (Nope, not there. At least, not without a pseudonym.)

But I AM thinking, “Not only do I have to write a blog post, but I have to be entertaining too?”

The most entertaining and thoughtfully funny blog I know of is Chuck Wendig’s – he makes you feel like you’re sitting with him drinking a beer. The most engaging blog I know of is Louise Penny’s – she makes you feel like a personal friend.

Clearly, some (awesome) people just have a knack for making this blogging thing seem easy. Blogging is writing, and writing is what I do for fun. So thinking of ideas/stuff to blog about should be easy, right?

Like everything else I guess it just takes practice.

Where do you get ideas for blog posts?

Happy Writing,
Miriah

Volunteering

Another thing that occupies my time besides raising two teenagers and writing is Slighe nan Gaidheal. I’m still recovering from the Seattle Fèis the week of June 9 to 15.

“Fèis” is a Scottish Gaelic word meaning festival. (Not to be confused with “feis” which means something rather different :-)

The event was sponsored by Slighe nan Gaidheal, a non-profit that creates ongoing language and music programs in the Pacific Northwest, and puts on the Fèis in alternating years at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.

Fort Worden State Park Bunker

My twins looking out at the beach from the Fort Worden Bunker

The Seattle Fèis is amazing, and it could not happen without dozens of volunteers. I was the Registrar in 2010 and 2012, and it was a huge amount of work. I am so grateful to this year’s team of dedicated, hard-working volunteers.

Even though I wasn’t on the Fèis planning committee this year, I was involved because I’m Slighe’s (volunteer) treasurer. That’s kept me busy! (btw, unless you have an iPhone, Intuit GoPayment is a horrible pain in the ass, in my opinion.)

Volunteering is a wonderful way to support the things you love. How do you volunteer your time?

A Eulogy, sort of

This is a diversion from my usual posts. Something personal.

My ex-husband James L. Arther Jr. passed away on Sunday from liver cancer. I am sad for my beloved oldest daughter, the child I had with him. I’m deeply sorry she has lost her father. I love her dearly and she loved him.

I will admit that when Jim and I divorced twenty years ago, and in the years following when our daughter was a child and I had to interact with him, I may have wished for this day to come much sooner.

I’ve been trying to think of positive things to say about Jim.
*/four days of racking my brain/*
Uh… half of my wonderful oldest child’s DNA came from him. That’s the best I can come up with.

Lilacs at my house.

Lilacs at my house.

Jim was 19 years older than me. People wondered why I was attracted to him. It was because when we met our neuroses were perfectly matched. Back then I had extremely low self-esteem and believed I didn’t deserve to be loved. He craved unconditional love, and expected the people who loved him to constantly prove it. His “testing” reinforced my negative self-image and provided constant opportunities to earn his conditional love.

It’s my fault the marriage fell apart. I changed. After I started going to therapy, I began to believe that I was a worthwhile person and deserved to be treated as such. I recognized his emotional and verbal abuse for what it was. Jim liked our relationship the way it was and didn’t want to change.

There is so much more I could say, but already this is a little too personal. I do not regret being married to Jim, because I wouldn’t trade my oldest child for anything.

Rest in peace, Jim. But don’t be surprised if you rise again as a villain in one of my stories.

Happy Writing.

Writing Just for Fun

I blogged before (here) about the play-by-email role playing game (PBeM RPG) I’m a member of.

It has been almost three years since the group started. My own first post was on 20 April 2011. This cooperative writing project has been the source of both intense enjoyment and utter frustration. It’s wonderful when everyone participates consistently, and crazy-making when one player flakes.

Pheasants on the road near Stirling, Scotland August 2013

Suicidal pheasants on the road near Stirling, Scotland August 2013

Last Autumn I was pretty fed up with the way some other long-time players were blocking story threads. At that point I had four characters. I wrote two of them out of the story, intending to back out of the game. Then the GM quit just before NaNoWriMo. One of my two remaining characters is/was stuck in limbo because two players went AWOL. My last and oldest character is/was in a slow-moving story thread with one other writer.

I thought I was okay with one, minimally active character in the RPG. After all, I had original writing to do! I shouldn’t be wasting my precious writing time on fanfiction that can’t even be published! Write? I mean, Right?

Wrong.

RPG writing is fun. Creative. Easy. No serious editing. It feels like writing that first draft and submitting it right away while you’re madly in love with it — without that OMG morning-after, what-have-I-done hangover feeling.

The thing about RPG in any form is, players come and go. That’s just the way it is. I realized that I really missed writing the game. And now there are new players. Game Master responsibilities are being managed by a committee. So I’ve created a new character I hope will be more active.

Of course writing collaborative fiction with the goal of publication would not be the same as writing an RPG. But, I bet there would be similarities and I hope to get to try it sometime.

Happy Writing.

2014 Clarion West Application & Rejection

I applied to Clarion West again this year, and did not get in.

Rejection is a normal part of the writing life. I know that. We all know that. I honestly have no problem with submitting a story to a publication and the story getting rejected. I know it’s the story that’s being rejected, not me.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Clarion West is a six-week, 24/7 intensive writing workshop. Just sending an application is a huge commitment. Putting aside a huge lump of money. Figuring the mechanics of how someone else will take care of my responsibilities as I (potentially) remove myself from the lives of my loved ones for six weeks.

The application consists of two parts. 1) A 20 to 30 page short story in standard manuscript format; about 4000 to 6000 words. 2) A 700-800 word essay telling them about yourself. For me, the essay was much, much harder to write than the story. The essay is personal. Unlike my short story, the essay absolutely IS me.

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer Slough on 1 April 2014. Pretty and stinky – it must be spring.

A couple months ago my twins had a school English class assignment to read a biography and write a book report. One of them chose Nelly Bly, the other chose singer Ke$ha. When I asked why the Ke$ha book report was only one page long, my daughter’s response was “Duh. She’s only twenty-three years old.”
Yeah. I really hate writing the two-page book report of my life.

The whole process of applying to Clarion West triggers my inner demons in a way that the submission/rejection process never does. After more than twenty years of recovery, it jars me into the realization that deep down, I will always have codependency issues. From the time the application window closed on March 1st, to March 14th when someone-who-would-know tweeted that the acceptance phone calls had started, to March 22nd when I finally received the rejection email. The wait (and everything that goes with it) was agonizing. This year was even worse for me than last year.

I love to write. I’ll keep on writing, and I will continue to submit. Rejections really don’t bother me because like I said, it’s not me it’s my story — easy peasy.

Right now, I don’t know if I will apply to Clarion West next year. Six whole weeks of immersion in the craft of writing would be pure heaven for me. But the price of that lottery ticket is painful. Also, the summer of 2015 will be particularly busy with family commitments, so disappearing for six weeks may be impossible.

Two friends, one a close friend, will join the 2014 Clarion West class. I am really, truly happy for them and their class mates. My most sincere congratulations to all eighteen of them.

Happy Writing.

Why do I have this blog anyway?

It has been three months since my last blog post. This is the point where I insert an excuse. Or an explanation. Or maybe a list of exciting things I’ve been doing instead of blogging.

But truthfully, I just didn’t feel like writing blog posts.

When I started this blog, I thought every writer *should* have a blog. The theme I chose was my experiences along the way to becoming a published author. I’m still actively pursuing that goal. I have two short stories published.

But, two years later I know that a blog is actually NOT a requirement for becoming an author. I also arrived at the realization that a blog about me trying to get published isn’t particularly interesting, even to me. Personally, if I want blogger advice about how to write great stories and get them published I’m going to read the blogs of people who are doing it.

And my friends’ blogs. I read those.

This must be the point where I declare a new and inspiring theme. Except. Oh, wait; I don’t have one. Yeah, when I have a new theme I shall declare it. In the mean time I’ll be updating this blog with whatever strikes my fancy.

Miriah in 6th grade

Miriah in 6th grade


btw, it was my birthday on Monday. This photo was taken about four and a half decades ago.

Happy Writing.

Dandelion Inspiration

Argh. It has been almost three months since my last post. Time for some introspection? Excuses? Self flagellation? Pledges to post regularly from now on?

Naw. (Who wants to read that?)
Well, maybe an implied pledge. Because obviously I’m starting to blog again.

I found this dandelion growing in my driveway the other day.

Nature finds a way to keep growing.

Nature finds a way to keep growing.

It inspired me with its tenacity and simple beauty. I want to be like this dandelion. Push through the cement and grow like a weed.

Happy Writing

not accepted and moving on

A drawing by Alison Hetherington

by Alison Hetherington

I applied to the Clarion West six-week Writing workshop, and received my rejection letter last Friday (March 22).

Oddly, it wasn’t until after I sent in my application (five weeks before the deadline) that I realized how desperately I really wanted to go. It was like holding a lottery ticket. I hardly ever buy lottery tickets, and even when I do I don’t daydream about winning a million dollars (well, not for more than five minutes). But I did daydream about going to Clarion West, and how indescribably amazing and life-changing it would be.

Hoping for that golden-ticket phone call was far more stressful than I had expected it to be. I watched the forums on the Clarion West web site. On March 12, applicants on the forums were already speculating that acceptance phone calls were imminent. Although I made only a couple of brief posts myself, I saw the craziness I was feeling echoed in post after post from other people. Some “forum-ers” with far better Twitter-stalker skills than me found a tweet from one applicant who got their acceptance phone call on March 19.

I wish I could say that I was able to channel my anxiety into a flood of productive writing. But no. I have been at a creative stand-still for the past two weeks. Today I dredged up my last unfinished short story, a Sci-Fi story based on an early 1600s Border Reiver ballad. Because it’s time to shake it off, move on, and keep writing!

My rejection email included the phrase “our readers particularly commended your work”, which I’ve heard is a good thing. I will be thinking about participating in the Clarion West write-a-thon, and I hope to apply for the workshop again next year.

And this summer in Seattle there will be weekly Clarion West Instructor readings to look forward to.

Happy Writing!