Yikes! It’s…

The Top 5 Confessions about Auralia’s Colors, Chapter 7 – Night on the Lake

Night on the lake.

Those four words put me right back on the edge of Flathead Lake in Montana, where I first began sketching this story.

I remember a long, hushed conversation with Anne as we sat beside the water in the dark, with the stars blazing overhead, and bats zipping past us. We took turns imagining new life forms that might lurk beneath the water.

In this chapter, one of those life forms makes a rather dramatic appearance.

Oh, and isn’t it interesting that the ale boy would encounter a very creative young woman on the shore of that lake… just as I did? I confess: Anne’s influence on this book is beyond measure.

I fell in love with Deep Lake. That’s why I couldn’t wait to go back there in Cyndere’s Midnight. And we’ll go back again when… oh, I don’t want to spoil any surprises.

You’ll read more about a character named Stricia in this chapter.

Stricia has a “jay’s cackle.”

I remember a girl I knew when I was very young who had a proud, cold expression and a hard laugh like a slap. She treated others with scorn, unless those others were admired and influential. Jealous for attention and admiration, she attached herself to the elbow of those who drew naturally what she wanted.

I always sought to avoid aggravating her; you didn’t want to get on her bad side.

As I began to write about Stricia, I heard that young woman’s bitter laughter—like a jay’s cackle—and remembered her cold, jealous stare.

A couple of readers have criticized my portrayal of Stricia, saying she’s a cliché. And I suppose there are plenty of glory-seeking girls in the history of storytelling. But as I wrote her, I remembered a very particular person… vividly. And I’ve met others like her since then—both male and female. I wonder—did they not receive affection or attention from their families? Were they taught to live life as opportunists? Did they learn that kindness is just a strategy in a game?

I often wonder what that young woman became.

“Why the ale boy?”

The ale boy wandered into the story unexpectedly. It’s his fault that Auralia’s Colors grew from a short story to a novel. A couple of readers said, after reading the first draft, that they liked him and wanted to know more about him. So I started adding new chapters, following him around. And the story began to grow.

“Yes, but why an ale boy?”

Well, it happened like this: When we visit the Gatherers at work, it made sense to find them harvesting fruit, and it made sense to have them gathering fruit for wines. So who would come and assist them but a boy from the breweries–the subterranean place where wines, beers, and liquors were made? Naming him was a little trickier: “wine boy” and “beer boy” didn’t sound as good as “ale boy.”

I already knew that Abascar’s king would have a drinking problem. And I soon discovered that the boy was troubled by serving the king his drink of choice – a particularly harsh and addicting liquor called hajka. Soldiers would want the ale boy to slip them samples and secret bottles. He would be much in demand.

Slowly I realized that, just as House Abascar treats colors as a volatile substance, so strong drink is a volatile substance. Perhaps the connection between the two would be worth considering as the story went on.

What do we do with those powerful gifts that can bring us pleasure when they’re rightly enjoyed, and trouble when they’re used to excess? Should we abstain from such dangers entirely? Should we cast our worries aside and indulge them, devil take the consequences? Or is there another, better way to respond??

I grew up terrified of alcohol. It’s wise to be cautious, but my childhood pastor preached that alcohol was so destructive that it was foolish even to add a splash of sherry to a recipe. Even if it didn’t hurt you, you might become a “stumbling block” to an alcoholic if you were seen purchasing the stuff.

I began to worry about the life ahead of me. Must I live in fear of steering someone wrong? Should I avoid movies because someone might see me go into a theater to see Star Wars and then follow my example, only to become addicted to X-rated films? That seemed ridiculous. Should I drive only battered old cars because a nice new car might cause someone to covet? Why not act as models of responsibility and moderation instead of fear?

The Scriptures warn against drunkenness, but they also celebrate the gift of wine, saying that it “gladdens the heart.” Christ could have chosen anything—grape juice, milk, water, tea—to represent his blood. Instead, he chose a precious gift, something to be savored, something that can only be appreciated after it is taken in its ripeness and crushed. And after much wine was consumed at a wedding, he didn’t hesitate to provide more for the celebration. Not only that, he provided the best wine they’d tasted all day.

That unhealthy fear of alcohol, and the accompanying condemnation of anyone who drank wine – this was a damaging message that made me a suspicious and judgmental child.

I finally overcame those two misconceptions when I was in college. I was about to head off on a ten-week study tour of Celtic mythology in France, England, Ireland, and Wales.

My good friend Matt took two beers from the fridge: a Budweiser and a Guinness. “Taste this first,” he said. With a nervousness that comes whenever you take a cautious step over a line some of your elders have told you never to cross, I tasted the Budweiser. It was awful. It smelled bad, and it tasted worse. “Wow,” I said. “What I heard growing up, it was true. This stuff is repulsive.” “Good,” said Matt. “Now, try this.” I tasted the Guinness. I tasted it again. I decided that one of these beverages was quite unlike the other. And I drank the whole thing with a smile on my face.

“Now,” said Matt, “you’re ready to go and really experience Europe.”

And you know what? He was right.

Want to read about previous chapters?

Here you go: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

You can order Auralia’s Colors at Barnes and Noble, Eighth Day Books, Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, or the independent bookstore nearest you.