The inspiration behind “A Grandfather’s Yarn” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 9 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

A Grandfather’s Yarn is, perhaps, the shortest story in this collection. I wrote it as a submission to a science fiction contest a few years ago. It has two inspirations: First, was a trip a friend and I took to Arches National Park a decade ago. It was a beautiful scene and I tried to capture that with my words. Second, is the old notion that grandfathers like to spin stories with embellished facts–like the “walk uphill both ways in the snow” idea.

I combined these two inspirations and added a twist. Maybe aliens are real or maybe grandpa just likes to talk…

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“A Grandfather’s Yarn” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “A Grandfather’s Yarn”

I sat on the porch in my chair with my three grandchildren at my feet. Peter and Lucy were eight-year-old twins, and Michael was four. Peter giggled as he listened to my story.

“Grandpa, everyone knows that aliens aren’t real!”

I smiled. “Just wait, one day you’ll meet them, too.” The night had grown dark and the full moon hung high in the sky. “Now go wash and get ready for bed.” I loved it when my grandchildren visited and they loved staying up well past their bedtime, even if they didn’t always believe my stories.

The inspiration behind “Space Dinosaurs” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 8 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

In my one-year-old son’s room there hangs on the wall behind his closet door a banner to measure height and growth. My wife and I went with a dinosaur theme for his room, so in keeping with that theme, the banner has blue and green dinosaurs, a t-rex and brontosaurus, dancing and smiling. In between are the words Little but Loud.

Change the brontosaurs to a triceratops and you’ll notice a matching banner in this story.

In the mornings or after naps, H will walk to the edge of his crib, smile, and start waving at his banner. It’s just like one of the characters in this story. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a one-year-old, but I thought it would be fun to write a short story to give a reason behind the why? of smiling and waving at that banner.

And, so, “Space Dinosaurs” was born.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Space Dinosaurs” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Space Dinosaurs”

Lydia’s blue eyes narrowed before they rolled. “Not this again.”

“Come on…”

“No, Steven. The theme is space and astronauts, not dinosaurs.”

“Just pretend they’re space dinosaurs.”

She glanced down and rubbed her belly. Our son, Issak, was due in two weeks. “What are we going to do with your daddy?”

I laughed. Then I held the banner against the wall. “How about over here by the closet door. When the door is open, you won’t even see it. Please?” I saw her look. I knew I was pushing it. “It was on my wall as a kid. It meant a lot to me.”

“Why? I mean, it’s cute, but why is it so important?”

The inspiration behind “The Perfect Man” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 7 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

“The Perfect Man” is the first story in the science fiction section of my book. It is a story about love, with a twist. It’s hard to dive too much into the inspiration of the story, because that would give away the twist.

I do, however, owe the story to my wife. A few years ago, I was suffering a case of writer’s block and I told her that I wasn’t sure what to write about. She thought for a moment and replied, “You should write a story about…”, and then four hours later, the first draft of The Perfect Man was finished.

I also submitted this story to Writer’s Digest annual writing competition. It took home an honorable mention. And, yes, they sent out the image below to use for “bragging rights.”

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“The Perfect Man” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “The Perfect Man”

Hearing their voices urging her on, she filled out a profile for an online dating site, entered her credit card information, and clicked Match Me!

And then she went to bed.

The next morning, Tamara found herself matched with ten guys. She immediately got rid of three who had no pictures. Four more seemed only interested in showing off muscles and cars. “Grow up,” she murmured as she closed them as well. Another guy looked cute, but was three years older than her and still lived with his mom. Another claimed to be some sort of wizard supreme from a parallel realm, whatever that meant. The last guy seemed normal and sweet, but he was an inch shorter than her and she just couldn’t see that working.

After the failure, she went about her day and woke with anticipation the next morning, much to the same results. Finally, on day four, she came across the profile of a man named Chad. He was thirty-two, never married, and an accountant with a legitimate firm. He had no pictures of himself flexing, none with his car, and none that appeared to have ex-girlfriends cropped out. He liked reading and hiking, and he owned a single cat—a British shorthair named Milo.

Best of all, she had a message waiting from him.

The inspiration behind “Trail Blazing” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 6 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

“Trail Blazing” is the final story in the life, love, and loss section of my book. It is a story about growing up and leaving behind childhood loves for new grownup loves. It is the adventure of two brothers and a cousin as they spend a week hiking along the Current River in southern Missouri.

One inspiration was growing up canoeing the Current River. Almost half the summers of my life have time spent on that river. Another inspiration is reflecting back on my own experiences of how life changes as you age.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Trail Blazing” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Trail Blazing”

On that first trip Xander took with us, Parker was still out cold well after Xander and I woke. My brother sat beside me with a mischievous grin as we munched on granola and dry cereal. Then he told me his plan for a practical joke that involved a hatchet, duct tape, and the words last one up.

Now, as we waited for my brother to emerge, my and Parker’s laughter turned into solemn stillness. Without saying a word, we both knew what weighed on each other’s minds. He and I had just finished college, Xander would soon be a high school senior, and I was engaged to be married at the end of summer.

“I think I’m going to take the job in Virginia.” Parker broke the silence.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

To see great things, we often have to step outside of our comfort zone.

In May 2010, a friend and I planned to spend a week storm chasing, something that isn’t as crazy as it sounds when you actually hold a degree in meteorology. But when the weather proved to be too nice, we made a last minute change of plans–a 3000+ mile round trip from Missouri to Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and back. All in seven days.

The pace was a bit grueling. We stayed in a different hotel every night and didn’t have them booked until we were on our way, since we were never quite sure where we’d stop at the start of the day. The hotels didn’t prove that bad, except for one in Denver, but that’s a different story…

Along the way, we made stops at Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Rocky Mountain parks. All were beautiful. All deserved more time than we were able to give.

My favorite among them was Zion.

We hiked several trails at the park that day, but we started with the mother of them all: Angels Landing. The trail to the landing is a 2.5 mile one-way trip that doesn’t sound bad until you include the 1500 foot change in elevation that involves a series of steep switchbacks.

The greatest challenge, however is the final half mile. There, you climb along a spine formation with a narrow path and sheer drops. For most of the climb, you have chains to hold onto, but also many places where you look to your side and see straight down.

It is breath-taking and exhilarating as it leads to the landing–the tall overlook of the canyon carved by the Virgin River below.

Oh, and did I mention: I’m scared of heights.

I don’t like climbing ladders. I hate crawling into attics. And it’s rare situations that I will set foot on a roof. I like roller coasters because I feel safe strapped in. But I stay away from most Ferris wheels.

Needless to say, I’m one of the last people who should probably be making a hike like the Angels Landing trail.

My friend and I even reached one part where he encouraged me to join him for a glance over the side. My chest gets a little tight even thinking about it, and in the moment I did have a mild breakdown. After a few minutes of panic and stating that I was done, my friend said he was going to go on. I could join him or wait for him to return.

My mind raced. I weight the benefits and risks (a beautiful, maybe even once-in-a-lifetime view vs. falling to a horrible death). I reasoned that very few people had fallen to their deaths compared to the numbers who completed the hike, that I may never have the opportunity to do the hike again, that I would likely be okay so long as I didn’t try to tap dance on the ledge, and that if it was my time to go then it could be as easily through a bite by a rabid chipmunk as a fall.

So, I called to my friend to wait, swallowed my fear, got up, and made the hike.

And it was worth it.

Thinking back, I’m still in awe of the views. (Although, I recently watched a video another hiker shot of the final leg, and I wonder how I actually convinced myself to get up and press on.)

The hike was one of the greatest challenges to my comfort zone that I’ve faced. Part of me hopes one day to be able to do it again before I get too old. But even if I don’t, I’m glad nine years ago in that moment I took the risk I did.

(Pictures below all owned by me; you can find the video by that other hiker I mentioned here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy6K0KoMrco) (note: the “other hiker” is not my friend that I mentioned; I found his video on youtube but have no other connection)