The Girl Who Married Rattlesnake

When researching snakes on mythology for my submission project, I came across quite a few that I thought would make for an interesting basis. But only one struck the right chord, and I wanted to share it with you. This text comes from a personal webpage, so I cannot guarantee the authenticity of it. The story comes from the Pomo Indians of Northern California, and is called The Girl Who Married Rattlesnake.

“At a place called Cobowin there was a large rock with a hole in it, and many rattlesnakes lived inside this hole. Nearby at Kalesima there was a village with four large houses, and in the one with a center pole lived a girl. In the spring when clover was just right to eat, this girl went out to gather some. While she was working, she was watched by a rattlesnake.

The snake followed her back to the village, and close to her house he transformed himself into a handsome young man with a net on his head and fine beads around his neck. Then he climbed up onto the top of the house and came down the center pole. The family was surprised to see him, but he told the girl that he wanted to marry her. He remained with the family overnight and the following morning went home again. He arrived and left like this for four days; then on the fifth evening he came back, but this time he did not change his form. He simply slithered into the house and began conversing just as before. The girl’s mother, waiting for her daughter’s suitor, said she heard someone talking in the house. She took a light and looked in the place where she heard the sound, and there was Rattlesnake. He shook his snake’s head, and she dropped the light and ran in terror.

On the following morning Rattlesnake took the girl home with him, and there she remained. In time she bore him four boys. Whenever these children saw any people from the village, they would coil to strike, but their mother would say, “No, you mustn’t bite your relatives.” And the children would obey her.

As the four rattlesnake boys grew older, they also grew more curious, and one day they came in from playing and asked their mother, “Why don’t you talk the way we do? Why are you different?”

“I’m not a rattlesnake, like you and your father,” she replied. “I’m a human being.”

“Aren’t you afraid of our father?” asked the boys, and she shook her head.

Then the oldest said that he had heard the other rattlesnakes discussing her differences and deciding to crawl over her body to find out what kind of creature she was. While this might have alarmed another human, the rattlesnake’s wife was not at all afraid. When the other rattlesnakes came, she calmly let them crawl over her.

Then she said to her oldest boy, “It’s impossible for you to become a human being, and though I’m not really human any longer, I must go back to my parents and tell them what has happened.” Ad so she returned to the house with the center pole and said to her parents, This is the last time that I will be able to talk to you and the last time that you will be able to talk to me.” Her father and mother were sad, but they said nothing until their daughter started to leave. Then her mother ran and caught her by the door, brought her back into the house, and wept over her because she was so changed. But the girl shook her body, and suddenly she was gone. No one ever knew how or where she went, but they think she returned to Rattlesnake’s house and has lived there ever since.”

–Based on a legend recorded by Samuel Barrett in 1933).


The Excitement of a New Project

So, I finished my contest entry. I wrote the entire thing in three different shifts yesterday, and the first draft came out to 5,037 words. That’s so many words. (If you’re lost, check out yesterday’s post about Upcoming Writing Contests.)

I felt incredibly energized working on this project. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. And it gave me pause. On a good day working on my fantasy project, I can crank out between 1,500 and 2,000 words, and sometimes even that is a struggle. But with this one, the words were simply bursting to get out. So, what’s the difference?

Two things come to mind. The first is the complexity of the story. Obviously, my novel has a more complicated plotline, more characters to juggle, and more things to keep track of. Certain things need to happen at certain times. The extra considerations mean the words I put down need to be just what the overarching story needs for that chapter.

The second thing is, I think, more interesting, and maybe more pertinent. The simple length of the story. A novel is long. It’s a marathon. My current draft is just over 89,000 words, and I don’t know how many more lie between here and the end. I expected it to be a drawn-out project, so a modicum of daily progress is acceptable. But this submission was limited to 6,000 words. A sprint. That’s a much easier goal to hit, and the rapidly approaching finale drove me to push through and get the project done. It was exciting, and thrilling to be able to complete something like this in just a day.

Of course, it isn’t exactly complete. Over the next day or two I’ll do some edits, but all in all, I like the way the story turned out. I’m proud of it. I just hope the judges like it too.

Upcoming Writing Contests

Taking a brief fantasy project break this week. Very brief, I mean it. Today is the beginning of a new year, and I’m feeling a lot of pressure (from myself) to finish this project and move on to edits. But, one thing I’ve been wanting to do more of, and as yet haven’t done, is enter more writing competitions.

I didn’t know writing competitions were a thing, not really. Until I took James Patterson’s masterclass last spring and got involved with the forum there. I did enter the Rehoboth Beach short story contest in June, but I haven’t done anything since.

There are two contests with deadlines on January 31st that I’m planning to enter, The Chattahoochee Review and The Iowa Review Awards. If I do it right, I can submit the same short story for both contests. One has a 6,000-word limit, and the other a 25-page limit, so I think I can manage to meet both of those at the same time. I’ve already checked the rules, and stories can be submitted to multiple contests simultaneously, provided that you notify them if the story wins somewhere else.

I’m not well versed in short story writing. My first attempt was the Rehoboth Beach contest, and I really struggled. I didn’t think it would be that hard. A major problem I had was that my story idea was too simple. There wasn’t enough plot, and I had a hard time writing a fulfilling story without it dragging out and being boring. But, like everything else, it was a learning experience.

I already have my story idea, but I haven’t fleshed it out very much. It’s going to center around a young woman. She’s being plagued by dreams involving a snake. When she wakes up, things that happened in the dream are represented on her body, either in bruises or some form of tattoos. Turns out she is being pursued by some kind of deity, who wishes her to enter into their service.

Like I said, it needs fleshing out. But I think it’s a good start, and I’m going to take some time this week to try and make it contest-worthy. At the moment I’m about to start doing a little research on mythologies involving snakes, to give me a solid and believable basis from which to work.

My fantasy project will be waiting for me to return, hopefully in just a couple of days. I finished up chapter 18 yesterday, pushing through because I didn’t want to turn over the year stuck in the middle of a chapter. There’s no logical reason for that, it just seemed like it would be a bad omen. Chapter 19 awaits, and I feel like the ending of the story is looming ever closer.

A Look Back

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I rarely made them growing up, because I never really saw the point. If I wanted to change something, I didn’t bother waiting for the new year. I just changed it.

The beginning years of me trying to write a novel, I did begin making resolutions. Except, I didn’t think of them as resolutions, but rather as the setting of goals. As I’ve mentioned before, Origins took me several years to write, and I had a few false starts even before then. During those years, my goal was simply to finish a novel (check out that journey here).

2016 was when I really began to get serious about pursuing a writing career. I began the first draft of my current fantasy project that summer, but I only made it a few chapters in before I had to put it on hold. My mom had back/neck surgery that September, and I moved back home to help take care of her and take over the babysitting duties for my sister’s kids. My time grew shorter, and I got more exhausted, and I just didn’t put the effort into the project that it needed.

Then came 2017. My mom was on the mend and doing well, and I started looking to the future again. I bought my new laptop in January and began researching writing software (you can check out that search in Switching to Scrivener). And I made a specific, time-oriented goals. My birthday is June 29th. I wanted to complete my draft by that time, and be pursuing publication before the end of the year.

I didn’t make it. I’ve set this project aside numerous times over the course of this year, but, unlike the breaks I took with Origins, I filled the time with other writing pursuits that were incredible learning experiences for me, and I don’t regret a single one of them.

In March I entered James Patterson’s co-author competition. I didn’t win, but the experience was enriching and it’s something I can now use as writing credentials. I dedicated most of the summer months to revising and submitting Origins, which held its own learning experiences, even though it crashed and burned. There are many things I now know to do differently, and I can make the appropriate changes in how I approach my current fantasy project.

I also hadn’t realized how much I needed to close the book on Origins. It was always there, hovering on the edge of my mind, reminding me that the work was unfinished. Success felt so close, if only I could get the draft ready. Success wasn’t close, but I hadn’t learned that yet, and I needed that closure. I could always try again sometime in the future, but the draft needs a complete overhaul, and that’s a project in its own right. In fact, the failure of Origins is what inspired me to begin this blog, and one of my first posts was about Letting Go.

I got back into my current fantasy project in September, and I’ve been working mostly diligently ever since. I missed the deadlines I wanted to hit, but I reached other goals that I hadn’t known back in January that I needed to set. And, I kind of reached one goal. I did pursue publication before the end of the year, just not on the project I had planned.

So, on to 2018. My goals for the new year are much the same as they were this past year. Finish my current fantasy project. Publish it, pursuing self-publication if I must. Begin my next project, which is driving me nuts bouncing around in my head and screaming to get out. And I’m going to reach them this time.