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.”

The inspiration behind “Strange Walls” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 5 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

One of the things you learn as a foster parent is to never say a negative thing about a child’s biological parents. It doesn’t matter the backstory. Every child has a longing for a good relationship with those who gave birth to him/her. To speak negatively about a child’s mom or dad is to attack that longing.

“Strange Walls” is a story about such a longing, told through the eyes of a 17-year-old boy in foster care. Abused and neglected, he simultaneously both loves and hates his father and longs for the good memories before his family was torn. Within the raw emotions, it is within those memories that a hope for the future is found.

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.

“Strange Walls” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Strange Walls”

There is a funny thing about being a kid in the system. Good people, like the Isaacs, mean it when they say they are there for you. Their love is genuine. In time, you figure that out and even begin to feel love for them.

And then you hate yourself.

It’s like you’re betraying where you came from, even if where you came from involved too much alcohol and yelling, and not enough hugs.

The inspiration behind “Flowers for Every Day” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 4 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to inspire a story. This is true of “Flowers for Every Day.” It is, indeed, a short story, one of the shortest in the collection, and a simple story about lifelong love.

So, where did the inspiration come from? A song.

The Gray Havens is one of my favorite bands. On their debut album, they have a song called Gray Flowers. The chorus starts with the line, “He brought her flowers every day.”

That’s it. That’s the inspiration.

Sometimes, that’s all you need.

You can read an excerpt of “Flowers for Every Day” below.

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.

“Flowers for Every Day” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Flowers for Every Day”

The young man watched as the young woman stepped into the room. She stood tall, though she was of average height, and held her head high. Brown locks with waves of curls were pulled and pinned near her left ear. Her golden-brown eyes scanned the crowd until she found the two other girls she was looking for. Then she smiled and waved.

“Who is that?” the young man asked.

Another young man, shorter and stockier than he, glanced up. “I don’t know. Maybe she’s new. Wait, Robert, where are you going?”

Robert had already stood and moved away from their seats before his friend had finished. He smoothed his dress shirt and adjusted his tie. The school concert was set to begin in ten minutes, leaving him enough time.

A vase of fresh flowers sat on a table near the entry. He plucked one, a white daffodil, and approached the group of three with a smile.

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

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 3 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

Several years ago, an online magazine ran a lengthy story, filled with pictures, of the Burning Man festival. Going to such a festival would not be my thing, but the story and images captured my imagination. I tried several times and failed to take those images and turn them into a story about a trip to Burning Man.

Around the same time, I had a doctor misdiagnose me with a symptom linked to quite a few serious neurological disorders. It is never fun to have such a fright, but I was able to link one of those disorders with the Burning Man story.

What developed from that was not a story about a trip to Burning Man, though such is a side piece to the narrative. Rather, came a story of a young man with a clock ticking faster than most of us experience. It is a story of finding purpose and love, and holding onto faith in the face of death.

It is at the same time a tragedy and a triumph, a reminder to let our lives burn bright, no matter the hand we’re dealt or the years we’re given.

You can read an excerpt of “Burn” below.

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.

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

Excerpt from “Burn”

The previous summer, after his freshman year, Jackson journeyed to Nevada with college friends. For a week they lived on the salt flats with thousands of others, giving and receiving, dancing and sharing, all waiting for that final night where the statue in the middle crumbled to ashes in the flames. Burning Man, they called it. Listening to his stories, I wanted to go. But I was seventeen and dad said no.

I would have to wait. Then Jackson suggested, “We can do our own.”

With the fire dying, I collapsed onto the blanket and wiped my face. Somehow, I managed to crawl into my sleeping bag. I folded my hands behind my head and stared at the sky. Miles from the nearest city and the air crisp and clear, the Milky Way stretched in its long, bright band.

That’s how I fell asleep. One of my favorite memories.

And if you’re reading this, then I’m dead.

5 Favorite Authors :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Today: 5 Favorite Authors, in no particular order

1. Francis Schaeffer. He was a well-respected thinker and Christian apologist in the 1960s&70s. Yet, he was not a hardened intellectual. He had great compassion for people as he sought to lead them to Jesus. His works heavily influenced my early faith and continue to challenge me today.

2. CS Lewis. A theologian and a dreamer. Lewis knew how to stir the imagination as well as the soul. His works remind us that theology doesn’t have to consist of a bunch of cold propositions. Jesus often spoken in stories. Stories can help to form us spiritually.

3. Michael Crichton. He wrote a lot of popular fiction, especially of the sci-fi variety, during my teens and 20s. It’s not high literature, but there’s a lot of fun reading. And plus, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Dragon Teeth… there’s also dinosaurs. What’s not to like?

4. Jared C. Wilson. A very grace-filled and gospel-focused author of the present. You could say a lot about what he writes, but I’ll leave it at this: I’ve yet to pick up anything of his not worth reading.

5. Dean Koontz. This one is borderline on my list. He writes a lot of pop fiction, a lot, especially of the sci-fi and mystery genres. And not everything he writes is good. When you have published over 100 books, there’s bound to be plenty of duds. He makes my list for one main reason: The seven-book Odd Thomas series. Odd is a kid in his 20s who talks to ghosts, hangs out with the spirit of Elvis, and reluctantly solves mysteries. It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s humorous…it’s odd.

Honorable mentions: AW Tozer, Os Guinness, Gary Paulson, Louis Sachar (who I pen-palled in the 5th grade)

Image source: Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

5 Favorite Favorite Places I’ve Visited :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Today: 5 Favorite Places I’ve Visited, in no particular order

1. London. I’ve been to London six times, all on layovers, including two overnights. I’ve seen Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham (at least the outside), British Museum, rode the Eye, and lots of rides on the Tube (mind the gap). It’s a big, multicultural city and there is still so much to see. I’d like to go back some day and spend a week.

2. Zion National Park. Hands down, ZNP is one of the most beautiful places I have been. And as much as I hate heights, I was able to do the Angels Landing trail. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that again, but the views were breathtaking.

3. Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve been twice and managed to do some hiking surrounded by 14,000ft peaks. Where I live, we have hills. We even have some bluffs along rivers. The Ozarks have their own beauty, but goodness–to see mountains! One thing, though, if you make an unplanned trip in May, remember there will still be snow and you’ll need something more than a light jacket.

4. Zambia. When you grow up in a first world country, you don’t realize how much you have and how much you take for granted. Then you visit a third world country where people live on about $2 a day and the average lifespan is in the 40s, and it changes your perspective. There’s also something beautiful about walking through the African bush and stumbling across thatch hut villages.

5. The Ozark National Scenic River Way. Growing up, summer vacations involved seeing grandma and canoeing. Unfortunately, life has not permitted much time on the rivers of southern Missouri in recent years, but I have spent time in over my half summers in a canoe or kayak among the river bluffs.

Photo, mine

5 Favorite Candies :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Today: 5 Favorite Candies, in no particular order

1. Reese’s Pieces. I know, everyone seems to love the peanut butter cups. I’m an odd duck. I like chocolate. I like peanut butter. I do not like chocolate and peanut butter combined. So, keep your cups. The great thing about pieces–no chocolate, just that straight up creamy peanut butter in a crunchy candy shell. (Oh, and there’s not much better than pieces mixed into vanilla ice cream.)

2. Whatchamacallit. The name says it all. This candy bar has a mixture of all the chewy, crunch, gooey deliciousness. Enough said.

3. M&Ms. Let’s go with a classic here. They melt in your mouth and not in your hand. Unless your hand is wet. Okay, maybe these are not the best candy to buy at the shack at the swimming pool. But, they’re crunchy and they’re milk chocolate and it’s hard to stop eating them once you start.

4. Cadbury Creme Egg. I sometimes question if these would be my favorite if they were readily available all year round. But, since they only appear near Easter, I enjoy them without them getting old. My only complaint is that I swear they’re smaller than they used to be.

5. Skittles. I almost put the Hershey Kiss here, but my list has a lot of chocolate already. Skittles are a fruity, chewy classic. Taste the rainbow, just avoid the weird commercials. I will say, they did drop a bit in my book when they replaced the lime with green apple. No. Just, no.

Image credit: Photo by vaun0815 on Unsplash