We took our dog for a walk along a nearby creek yesterday, and we were rewarded with a view that we’ve waited for since moving to the suburbs: the annual salmon run. We were originally told that it happens in September, so we’ve been going every weekend since late August hoping to catch a glimpse. Someone did eventually tell us that they actually run in October, but we were starting to think we’d missed out, especially since the city celebrated Salmon Homecoming last weekend (yes, they really call it that.)
Well, yesterday was the day! The creek finally subsided to normal-ish levels after a brief lull in the west coast rains, and I guess the salmon decided it was now or never. They weren’t the bright orange color I expected, so I suppose that’s limited to certain species. They sure did look out of place though—big fish in a small creek, their fins and tails poking out of the water. A few of them would huddle together, resting before a thrashing leap over a rock or submerged log to reach the next quiet section of water. Here and there, pairs of salmon took turns undulating in the gravel creek bed to hollow out a spot to lay eggs, and as I delighted in my inter-species voyeurism, it struck me that this was a heroic adventure story.
A hero has a quest, and somebody—or possibly everybody—is trying to stop him or her. Along the way there are allies who have their own ways of doing things, rivals who want to beat the hero, competitors who plunder scant resources, opportunists ready to swoop in and take advantage of any mishap—and finally, a relentless foe bent on defeating the hero. The hero encounters obstacles, and either overcomes them or suffers setbacks. There are moments of frenzied activity, periods of rest and contemplation, and the constant nagging thought that maybe the final prize is forever out of reach (okay, I may be projecting a little on that last one). And for some salmon it truly was unobtainable, and all they got for their efforts was to drift lifeless to wherever the current deposited them.
Many did achieve their final goal, but in doing so they made a hero’s sacrifice, because bringing forth the next generation is a salmon’s last act. A hero, too, often loses something in victory—although not always—but they are always changed by the journey, a part of them dying to make room for a new, improved version of themselves.
As I write this, it occurs to me that my own adventure as a writer echoes this journey. Writing my first book changed me. Not only did I live through William’s adventures, I also shared his epiphanies and overcame his weaknesses. I had to in order to write convincingly (and I hope I did that). But I also had to swim through the unfamiliar waters of the publishing process, which was a well outside of my comfort zone. Like writing itself, it involved periods of frenetic activity followed by anxious introspection, and without the allies I’ve gained throughout my journey, I could not have made it this far up the river.
So with your help and encouragement I will continue swimming against the current, and with luck and hard work my stories will find their way past the rocks and eddies and reach the open sea.
P.S. The first draft of book two is about a quarter done. Watch for my invite to the beta reader team in the next few weeks!