Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WEP - ALASKAN DREAM


Welcome to my
WEP Spectacular Settings 
Flash Fiction Challenge entry. 
For the first half of the challenge 
I've chosen a passage from my favorite novel. 

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
It was a savagely red land, blood-colored after rains, brick dust in droughts, the best cotton land in the world. It was a pleasant land of white houses, peaceful plowed fields and sluggish yellow rivers, but a land of contrasts, of brightest sun glare and densest shade. The plantation clearings and miles of cotton fields smiled up to a warm sun, placid, complacent. At their edges rose the virgin forests, dark and cool even in the hottest noons, mysterious, a little sinister, the soughing pines seeming to wait with an age-old patience, to threaten with soft sighs: "Be careful! Be careful! We had you once. We can take you back again."

For the second half of the challenge, I drew from my first impressions of Alaska, and a picture taken in the Brooks Range as my inspiration.


Yolanda Renée © 2015

ALASKAN DREAM

I fell in love looking out over an expansive horizon filled with evergreens and white birch. The view stretched for miles across a valley that flowed in gentle waves of brown and gray to the foothills of the Alaskan mountains, where Mount Denali sat resplendent with a crown of cottony clouds. I'd never seen anything so beautiful or color this bright. I knew then that my decision to take the engineering job with the oil company in Alaska was the right one.
The chill of winter was gone, and during nightly walks through the forests of the Brooks Range, the quiet sang to me. The rejuvenating breeze of spring became my companion, and the views around the next bend my rationale for going deeper into the wilderness. I was an explorer in search of my destiny and with every step, my confidence grew.
The job gave me an excuse to end a long cold relationship. He'd found someone new months earlier, but our shared condominium was in too prime a Chicago location for him to just walk away, so I did.
My arrival at the almost all-male line camp called Dietrich was like stepping into the dark ages. Naked photos of women filled the bus that shuttled us from the airport to check in. Knowing looks and snide remarks should have had me turning back, but I'd resolved to persevere. A woman in a man's world, no one ever said it'd be a cakewalk.
After weeks of trying to find my place in this new world, the wilderness and my evening hikes became a sanctuary.
I was stealthy like a grizzly on a hunt, surefooted like a Dahl sheep, and quick as a fox. But in camp, I was as skittish as the ptarmigan. Constant catcalls, rude comments, and downright crude proposals followed me everywhere. When I refused to react, the men became angry. Slut, whore, and ugly bitch hit me in the back like rocks. These weren't men. Instead, they took the definition of a creep to an all-time low. How would they feel if their mother, daughter, wife or sister were in my shoes?
The fresh air and the mystery of the woods wiped away the ugliness. I was content. The workday became brighter after each hike; rudeness no longer drained my energy. I'd found peace.
I discovered bear tracks in the mud. They frightened and amazed me. The bear that created them was huge. I looked around to see if the beast was still present, then foolishly followed them for a mile before realizing the danger of my quest. I couldn't out run this animal, and I was sure that whatever tree I chose to climb, this brute could uproot. His claws were at least five inches long, but I felt no fear—only curiosity.
During work, I heard talk of bear sightings. Hungry bears looking for a first meal after hibernation had been spotted in camp. We were forbidden to leave the area. My boss made sure I received the memo. I promised to cooperate. Co-workers knew I wouldn't stop and warned me to be extra careful. I assured them I would.
The truth, I was determined to find you. During each hike, I'd discover fresh tracks. I continued my search despite the twinge of fear that circled my spine. Confident I'd outwit my prey, see the bear first, and then return to camp satisfied that I'd tracked the fiercest beast in the wilderness. You became my fate, a goal I needed to pursue, even though I didn't know why.
Six weeks after arrival I'd finally hit my stride. The day felt magical. Details for a project went smoothly. The men were less harassing. My expectations ran high. I skipped dinner and left work early. I was sure the evening would bring me to you.
The sun, higher in the sky filtered through the new growth, kissing my skin with the promise of summer's warmth. I'd gone miles further and discovered a new river higher in the mountains. The water moved swiftly, looked inviting, but I knew it was ice cold. Near the edge, I spotted your perfect paw prints, so fresh the wet soil glistened. Had you just been here? My heart jumped. Was it fear, excitement, or joy?
I froze at the sound of a breaking branch, contemplated running into the water. I hesitated, wanted to turn around, but I knew I'd been caught. You'd won.
The voice was resonate, imposing. "That's a hell of a print. Shouldn't you be running in the opposite direction?"
I inhaled. Conscious my mouth was open, waiting for the scream that never materialized. My hand hid the evidence of apprehension while I giggled at my foolishness. I hadn't laughed in months. It felt wonderful. "Probably, but I'm more curious than frightened," I said as I turned.
The man was exquisite.
"You do know the end when curiosity is the defense?" His smile matched mine. His dark brown eyes danced with mischief. He moved closer. Muscles rippled as he threw the ax he carried over his shoulder and extended his hand. "I'm Kuruk, and you are?"
"Lila." My hand disappeared in his. His shake was firm. He pressed our hands to his heart, rested the ax against his leg, and caressed my face. His touch ignited buried desires. I blushed.
"My beautiful, Lila."
His words were a caress. I trembled in response.  
"You've been searching for me."
I nodded and bowed my head.
He lifted my chin. "Sweet Lila, you found me or did I find you?"
I surrendered to the warmth of his kiss. Fate had brought us together. I recognized my future.
Nature's song was symphonic. The world and its ugliness disappeared.
*****
"It's been a week, have they found her yet?
"No. Just the tracks of a massive grizzly they call Kuruk the Monster. They're going to try again tomorrow. Looks like he'd been on her trail for some time."
~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Word Count 998/ FCA

Don't forget - follow the links below to read amazing stories from truly inspirational writers.


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80 comments:

  1. Gone with the Wind is full of beautiful descriptions. Great choice for part one.
    Such a lovely description of Alaska! The changing mood of the story kept me engrossed. The treatment she met at an all male camp is sadly not uncommon.
    Loved the sentence, "I was an explorer in search of my destiny and with every step, my confidence grew."
    Thanks for hosting Spectacular Settings.

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    1. Thank you Kiran, that male attitude is way too common. Thank you for your wonderful contribution to the challenge too.

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    2. Yolanda, this is great. Fabulous twist at the end! Your love of the land shines through. I can feel your passion for the pristine perfection of Alaska and the solace it brings. Makes me want to go there and meet a grizzly bear (at a safe distance). Hope you get back soon.

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    3. Hi Jenny, thanks, I hope so too! And at a distance is a good thing when it comes to a grizzly.

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  2. The nature and wilderness of Alaska sure sounds like something to see. But yeah, heard stories of some groups up there. Not any place I'd want to live. Have to watch out for those hungry bears too lol

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    1. Hi Pat, it takes all kinds, but the beauty of the wilderness makes up for the worst of it.

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  3. I loved and remembered the Margaret Mitchell snippet - but Alaska is high on my wish list. That uncompromising beauty calls despite the attitudes of people, the unforgiving country and the inherent dangers. Thank you.

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    1. GWTW will always be a favorite. And Alaska too, despite all of it, still calls to me.

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  4. Do you live in Alaska Yolanda? I enjoyed this story and I believe all went well between the pair of them. Romantic me.

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    1. Hi Jo, no, I'm in PA right now, but yes I did live in Alaska when I was younger and more adventurous. I agree with you Jo, I'm hoping he, the bear, was a shapeshifter, but I thought I'd leave that to the reader. I did hike the mountains of the Brooks Range, and I did work in a camp as described. I also followed the tracks of bears, but thought better of that dangerous exercise and moved to more open and higher ground. Eventually my boss did make me stop hiking, but the next spring he also joined me. We concentrated on scaling the mountains and stayed clear of the bears.

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  5. Oh hey!!!! I wasn't expecting that! But maybe it's a gorgeous huntsman who lives alone in the wilderness and wears shoes made out of grizzly paws? :)
    Gorgeous setting and great story told in under 1000 words - not an easy task. Well done!

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    1. Thanks Li, I hope the same for poor Lila. I love the challenge of FF because it really makes you work to get a full story in the limits posted. It's worth the effort.

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  6. Hi Yolanda! Great! Both sections!l As you know I adore Margaret Mitchell, and still remember those lovely posts for the A-Z Challenge. Awesome! There's so much you could share for sure as she was a master of setting.

    And how I love your Alaskan story. So perfectly rendered in so few words. The setting came alive. I'm sure your love of Alaska and your hiking in the Brooke's Range helped colour your words. But the plot, too. I'm pretty sure we were all gasping at the end. What is this? Hmm. A shape-shifter? Maybe she is. Maybe he is. All the same, let the reader use their imagination.

    A great entry for Spectacular Settings. Thanks so much for being my worthy partner in this!

    Denise :-)

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    1. Thanks Denise, but your entry was beyond words!
      It's a pleasure to work with you - I love the WEP and what it offers all writers!

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  7. Hey, Yolanda! Man, you and Denise have ROCKED Spectacular Settings. Magnificent. And how about that ending twist? Excellent writing. I SO want to see Alaska. Maybe someday.

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    1. Robyn,
      I hope you get to Alaska, you'll love it. Thanks, Denise and I love hosting the WEP!

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  8. You did a great job with describing the Alaskan wilderness, and you told a captivating story too! Splendid!

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    1. Thanks L G, and thanks for joining us this year! So awesome to have you!

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  9. I really enjoyed the Alaskan piece. You can tell the story has a personal meaning to you. You can almost see you in the background writing the story as it's happening. The end was classic- leave people wondering. Everything about this was simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing and hosting this event.

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    1. Toi,
      Yes, it's very personal. I love a happy ending but I wanted the readers to choose. Reality - she'd be dead, but fantasy she's found a shifter. Thanks for being part oft he WEP!

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  10. Oooh so creepy!!! I had a feeling this was going to end badly but then I thought just for a second that poor Lila was going to be happy. What a fantastic ending. Bravo! :)

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    1. Thanks Julie,
      The ending can be whatever you want. I like a Happy Ending, but others will see it as she was a bit foolish. Thanks!

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  11. Gone with the Wind - brilliant book taking you right in to the lives and landscapes of the characters. Your flash is enticing, entertaining and enthralling and well written as always. You take us through the back story, the current story and the present time, a nice piece of romanticism, mystery and some mayhem (as we have come to expect from you). I also had connotations of Beauty and the Beast, either way a brilliant story. P.S. my thanks to you and Denise for resurrecting WEP and for all the hard work you both do behind the scenes.

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    1. Hi Sally, I love GWTW!
      Never thought of Beauty and the Beast, but yeah, I can see it for sure! Denise and I are both thrilled to have it back up and running and the number of folks involved is wonderful. I hope Halloween proves even more exciting! Thanks!

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  12. Wonderful. I had to smile - I just watched Gone With The Wind last night. Coincidental? One of my favorites. And your story of Lila is so unique. Loved it. Thank you

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    1. Feather,
      I missed the movie but got to watch the making of! Loved it, so interesting the three years it took and the number of directors, writers, etc. Amazing! Thanks!

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  13. What a sharp image she created of the trees patiently waiting to reclaim the land now covered by cotton.

    Your Alaska "adventure" had such a surprising twist! And I loved the idea that she found the dangerous forest her sanctuary, the "man" her fated lover. Very chilling and beautiful.

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    1. Hi Lee,
      GWTW was a great novel. My Alaskan adventure the highlight of my early twenties! Thanks!

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  14. Very clever. I like the lead in and especially the pay off.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Thanks Arlee, appreciate the read and comment!

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  15. Well, Yolanda, that threw me for a loop. I like the ending as it forces me to dwell on whether shape-changing is something that happens, or whether the end was more common as the camp people imagined. I like to follow the shape-changer line of thought. That said, I never want to meet a bear in the wild. . . As for the excerpt from GWTW, I grew up in Georgia, leaving it in my twenties. I remember the red clay soil, the heat, etc. It made me go north. As for Alaska, I'd like to see it, but it's a lot like northern British Columbia from what I've heard.

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    1. Oh wonderful, I love throwing folks for a loop! :)
      Yeah, I left it up to the reader to decide. She's either happy with a shifter - or she's dead because of her own ignorance. I too spent time in Georgia, and yes the red clay is what you never forget. BC and Alaska, very similar! Thanks!

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  16. Well done. I've been to Alaska several times and it looks exactly like that. Not this spooky, though. Great scene.

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    1. Hi joylene, no not spooky at all, although if you're alone that can change quickly. Thanks!

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  17. What a great story, Yolanda. I visited Alaska once, and I can see how its spectacular vistas would inspire your story.

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    1. Hi Olga, it's a beautiful place. My favorite! Thanks!

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  18. beautiful entry! took me to the cold, colorful mysterious terrain of alaska - and love the twist!

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    1. Thanks Tara, I always like a twist! :)

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  19. Loved the descriptive passage from "Gone with the Wind" as well as yours about Alaska, Yolanda. The story had an unexpected twist. Interesting premise with the shapeshifter.
    Side note: I used to work in an all male environment and would laugh at their lewd comments, answering back in kind Pretty soon, I was just "one of the boys" and the harassment stopped.

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    1. Hi Debbie, I was too young. and naive, and so damn shy. They scared me to death, but I never gave up. I stuck it out - and yes, I found my sanctuary in the wilderness, but no, I didn't meet Kuruk! Although, during on trip in a pickup I saw 9 different bears in one evening. One that could have been him, though. That put an end to my hiking for awhile! :) But the wilderness still calls!

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    2. Good for you, for sticking it out with the men, despite your fear. You obviously have an adventurous spirit. I'd be afraid to hike through the wilderness alone, bears or no bears.

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  20. Hi,
    Excellent choice, Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I'm a Georgia girl living in Europe now and as I read your excerpt from Mitchell, it made me homesick.

    Now to your submission:
    You caught my attention with your first paragraph. In your description of the Alaska, I knew that your main character was on a quest. Especially when you wrote the last sentence in that first paragraph. I knew she was searching for something.

    I loved the build up starting with the stress she received when she boarded the bus to get to her new job. The naked pictures of women so openly shown. I have worked for a company department of engineers with men only and my first shock was the pictures of naked women posted all over the department and their lewd commentary. So, I could feel her shock and dismay.

    You brought out her strengths also. The fact that she left the condominium in Chicago showed she had strength that she was unaware of but would soon discover as she tracked the bear.

    Finally, your play with magic or fantasy kept me in awe. The ending is fantastic. Mixed with love and disappearance.
    Is he really a bear or a monster or lonely man waiting on his soulmate?
    And to the dismay of her colleagues she is no longer there.
    I love your Alaskan Dream.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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    1. Hi Pat, I didn't say why I chose GWTW or that passage. I kinda of felt it needed no explanation. I too lived in Georgia, and that description was spot on! As you said, like going home!
      Yes, I too found such an introduction to an almost all male camp pretty horrifying, but I grew stronger for it. Thanks for the kind words. I left the ending to the reader, as one can do with flash fiction..

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  21. oooh, this grizzly sounds like a hottie! hehe

    I really enjoyed your excerpt - and incidentally, Alaska is somewhere I also want to visit, along with Antarctica. Noticing a slightly 'chilly' theme with my bucket list items? :)

    Never fear, I have warm places I want to visit too!

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    1. Hi Trisha, I too want to visit Antarctica! Need to form a group and just do it! LOL Glad you liked Kuruk, it's easier to see him as a shifter than her as dead. But the story actually stemmed from my real life adventure - I used to follow the tracks too. Wised up and the first time I saw a grizzly was from the safety of a pickup truck. Much, much safer! :) If we were talking reality here, she'd be dead! :(

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  22. I can't remember if I ever read Gone With The Wind... great excerpt...
    It's obvious that you've lived in Alaska. The intimate writing portrays a special love for the place.
    I loved "crown of cottony clouds"...
    And I'm wondering about Kuruk... man? beast? shapeshifter? hallucination?
    I have no idea what a ptarmigan is... off to Dr.Google.
    Love the mystery at the end.
    Excellent flash fiction, Yolanda!

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    1. Hi Michelle, if you'd ever read it you would remember. Kuruk is what you want him to be. I've put the connection to Google for ptarmigan up there now. It's a bird, like a chicken, and they're all over the North Slope. Thanks Michelle!

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  23. It was lovely to revisit Gone with the Wind. Great setting. Your story drew me in and I particularly liked the description of male harassment.

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    1. Kalpanaa, that was based on reality. A harsh setting for sure for a young naive girl. But she grew stronger for it. Thank you!

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  24. The clip from Gone with the Wind is so completely opposite a setting from your story, but very visually descriptive stuff there!
    I would LOVE to see this fleshed out into a novella or something. Bear shifters are about my favorite things ever. I found it odd that you linked grizzly to a description of one yet left ptarmigan untouched when most people don't have any idea what it is (a bird, I know). That sort of threw me for a loop. I really like the picture. I've been sort of obsessed with the idea of going to Alaska lately and this is just feeding into it :)

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    1. Madilyn, Honestly it never occurred to me, but it's there now. Thank you for the suggestion. I'll have to consider extending the story. I wanted the readers to make their own choice, but I do like the idea of a shifter vs death! I hope you make it to Alaska, you'll never regret the trip!

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  25. I love Gone With the Wind.
    Your entry was fantastic. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks J Lenni Dorner, I enjoyed writing it. GWTW is my all time favorite.

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  26. That took me back to those A-Z posts you did! GWTW is an inspired choice for setting.

    Loved your flash too, your feelings for Alaska shine through your writing, and that twist in the ending is stunning, the flip from the reality of the male dominated camp setting to magic/fantasy leaves one breathless. Beautiful!

    Thanks for hosting and the great read, Yolanda.

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    1. Hi Nila, I think that's why I couldn't frame her work around my opinion as to why I chose it. I thought it spoke for itself.
      Thanks for your kind words regarding the flash, this was all based in reality with a nice fictional blend and then a twist.
      Denise and I love the response to the WEP - the entries have been fabulous!

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  27. HI, Yolanda...

    Margaret Mitchell can certainly teach the PUBLISHERS today what stunning writing is all about. What's wrong with telling? Atmosphere is SO important for a novel. SET THE SCENE...

    AND... you did beautifully. Nicely written! I really enjoyed the tension and twist... Thanks for teaming up with Denise to bring back such a much needed blog hop!

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. Hi Michael,
      How amazing was the photograph. Loved it! Thanks for your kind words. You have a great weekend too!

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  28. You know I've never read Gone With The Wind? It's shameful, really. The advantage, though, is that the excerpt you chose to showcase landed on virgin soil -- and I loved it. Thank you for that. Loved your story, too... Love the idea of the shapeshifting bear, and the fact they never found her makes me think the shapeshifting wasn't just an illusion; Lila is still out there, living out a magical love story in the wilds of Alaska. That will stay with me for a long, long time :)
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

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    1. Thanks Guilie,
      You must read her work, she did an amazing job! I like to think Lila is out there too, but in reality such foolishness would get you killed. Thanks for the kind words. Maybe someday I'll write a shapeshifting novella, and finish the story. Something to think about. Your words make me smile!

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  29. Thank you for the journey to Alaska. I enjoyed this very much.

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    1. You're welcome Rasma, thanks for stopping by.

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  30. That was a freaky story. Seems like the mc had a death wish. Although people can be very naive when it comes to wild animals. I remember reading recently about a woman killed by a lion when on a jeep tour because she refused to obey the rules about keeping her window closed. People need to respect dangerous animals and the laws of survival of the fittest, lest they become a meal.

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    1. Hi Lexa, thanks, and yes, pay attention or pay the price.

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  31. Both passages are very well-written, whether classic or new. The film drawn from the novel was the favorite of my own mother's mother (my late grandmother). You did an excellent job with your fiction, because both shape-shifters are interesting for me and so is the theme of a woman in a very masculine setting. This was a great post.

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    1. Thanks odell01, I appreciate your kind words.

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  32. I'd forgotten that Margaret Mitchell paragraph. Thanks for sharing that and your twisty story. Just got back from Alaska--my first trip. Very impressive place where only the strong and wily survive.

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    1. Hi Linda, I do appreciate Margaret's work. You'll have to tell me about your trip to Alaska, what part you visited. Thanks for stopping by!

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  33. Very descriptive piece from Gone With the Wind.

    As for you story, I enjoyed the description and the feeling of being in the wilderness. I did sigh a bit at what seemed to be heading toward a cheesy romance with a rugged woodsman.

    I'm glad I was wrong, though not so glad for poor Lila...

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    1. Hi Arpan, thank you. I'm glad I didn't disappoint you. I enjoyed your post too, excellent!

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  34. The Gone with the WInd passage brought back so many memories of the time I first read the book. Thankyou for sharing it, Yolanda.

    Alaska came alive to me in your excerpt. And the grizzly-- loved where it ended, I wasn't expecting that. Beautifully wrought. I love how you've built up the all-male atmosphere, how resentful and trapped she felt in the whole situation, and yet, a man she meets in the jungle becomes the reason she disappears. Fantastic.

    My only input would be to add more details:

    "Nature's song was symphonic. The world and its ugliness disappeared."

    Could we have the particulars of that song: was it birds, cicadas, and then move into the metaphor of whatever song this man represents? The more details the reader gets, the more sensual responses generated, the more affected the reader is going to be with the story.

    "Instead, they took the definition of a creep to an all-time low. How would they feel if their mother, daughter, wife or sister were in my shoes?"

    Is there another way of putting this across without telling this? What do the men smell like, what do their voices remind her of, how does her body react to their predatory gaze? We have a lot of 'tell' here, how can we show this to the reader, make him/ her experience it?

    Thankyou for sharing your amazing work with us, and hope my questions are helpful.

    Thank you also for all the tireless event you have put into this event, along with Denise. Aplogies for the late comment-- I've been having a tough time since last weekend.

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    1. tireless effort, I meant-- hate autocorrect!

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    2. Damyanti,

      Our success with the WEP has so much to do with your tireless efforts to spread the word. Thank you! I hope the tough time this last weekend is over and there is smooth sailing ahead.

      Thank you for your kind words regarding Alaskan Dream. It was fun to write and I did use many memories of my time in Alaska to write it. If I decide to expand it beyond the 1000 words this flash fiction challenge called for I will take into consideration your suggestions. Right now, I'm looking to cut it by 250 words. I hope I can retain the complete story and show rather than tell as you've suggested. A real challenge, but that’s the fun of it.

      Thanks again for all your efforts for the WEP and for taking the time to critique despite your trails.
      Wishing you all the best.

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    3. ha, ha, trials not trails -- yeah spellcheck / autocorrect! More like finger correct.

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  35. I love that your piece has an open ending; it's a great piece of writing.

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    1. Thanks Laura, I could have ended it, and in my mind I did. She's dead. But it only seemed fair to let the readers decide!

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  36. The fantastical fan in me LOVED that ending *quite magical, a handsome shifter* and the fact that it was unexpected made it all the more delightful! Grounding the reader in reality and tossing in a fantasy twist was brilliant:)

    The Weight of Wonder

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    1. Hi Sam, thanks, I knew some folks would see it from that angle, so I left it up to the reader, but when I wrote it, she died for her foolishness. As would happen in reality. To each reader, their own ending.

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  37. Very nice. Not sure if he is a shape shifter, or a Beast for this fairy tale adventurer. You wove the setting in expertly, I felt chills when I realized how big the prints were. Well done :)

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    1. Thanks Donna, lots of room for improvement, but now I've cut it to 750 words, will experiment with no limit to achieve those chills! Thanks for stopping by.

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  38. I really like this. It has a fairy tale feeling to it. (And I'm particularly into bears at the moment as my newest project is about bear shifters! :) )

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