Mondays Are Hell: The Seal-Wife, or Sometimes Fathers Are Stupid

Wanna hear a cool Eskimo demon story? No, seriously. I’ll tell you one. But I warn you, there are some issues with it.

First of all, the right word is Inuit, not Eskimo. First problem.

Secondly, I heard it as a witch story, but for my blog, I’ll change it to demon. Because, of course, Mondays are hell.

Thirdly, I read it when I was in the sixth grade, which is a whole lotta’ sleepless nights ago. So this isn’t precisely the story, but close enough. My daughters and I were playing hellish tundra, such a fun game, and I re-told them this story. Here it is. But I warn you, it is a grisly tale.
* * *
The storm, oh the storm. The wind, oh the wind. The snow, oh the snow.

It was the worst storm anyone had ever seen. It was a storm that would freeze the spit in your mouth if you left your igloo. It would turn your blood to ice. It would harden your eyeballs until they popped out of your head. It was a hellish storm.

And it brought demons.

A father and his family were huddled in their igloo, fearful over the storm. And the children cried out, holding their bellies, complaining. “Father, go out and bring us fresh food!”

“Wife,” the father said, “I must go out and brave the storm to feed my children.”

“If you go, we’ll die,” the wife said, for she was very wise. “Let the children eat the leftover fat.”

“My children deserve fresh meat,” the father said, for his wisdom was yet to come.

He left his family and fought through the wind and snow and the ice and the freeze. He found a seal hole and with his harpoon freezing to his hand, waited, praying, waited, praying. Please, God, bring me a seal. Please, God, protect my family. Please, God. Please.

But sometimes God does not listen. For a demon, riding gleefully on the killing wind, found the igloo of the family. With the father gone, the she-demon broke through the snow door and killed the wife and ate up the children.

This demon was clever and deceitful. She cut off the skin of the wife and dressed herself in the wife’s face in order to trick the father.

Sometimes God does hear a father’s prayer, and the father caught a seal, and with the seal freezing in his hands, the father returned to his igloo and found his wife, huddled by the seal-fat fire, warming her hands. It was dark, so the father couldn’t see the seams of his wife’s skin covering the demon. But he knew something was wrong.

“Where are our children?” the father asked.

“Oh, they are outside playing,” the demon-wife said.

And the father became a little wiser. “I brought a seal. Are you hungry?”
“No, I’m quite full,” the demon-wife said.

And the father became a little more wise. Wise enough to know that his family was dead, and he would die too if he weren’t clever enough to outwit the demon. “Help me with my harpoon,” the father said. “We can sharpen it together, my good wife whom I love so much.”

And when the demon took a hold of the harpoon, the father drove it into her belly to find his children still alive. He took them out, but when they unwrapped their mother’s skin from around the demon, the children cried fretfully, “Our mother is dead! Our mother is dead!”

But the father had learned wisdom, and he took his wife’s skin and sewed it around the seal he had caught. And once he tied off the last piece of seal gut, his wife opened her eyes. “Husband, you have come back. Did you find a seal?”

“No,” the father said, “but I learned wisdom. Sometimes it is good to listen to one’s wife.”

And the family ate the leftover seal fat, and the wind blew, and ever after, the father’s wife always knew where the best seal holes were, and no one could match her skill at catching them.

“You have a good wife,” people would say to the father.

The father would nod. “Yes, she is a good wife. And very, very wise.”

Mondays Are Hell – The Last Temptation of Betsy’s Demons

Art work by CFBear27

First, this is one of my favorite topics. Demons. Pure badassery. On wheels. With sexy smiles and rippling… ahem.

Secondly, before I talk demons, which I spend a lot of time with in my fiction, I thought I should clarify: I don’t actually believe in real demons. I believe in God, but demons, not so much. Ditto Satan and the whole fallen angel gig. I find it a little too convenient to blame our misguided actions on some demon’s influence. Convenience of belief reeks of human construct. So my demidemons are human-like (they’re half-human anyway) and if I were to get all lofty about a theme revolving around my demons and why they’re demons, it’d be Temptation.

We—humans, I mean (and dogs. and cats. especially cats) succumb to temptation all the time. Whether it’s that hot young thing in the booth over there or cheesecake or explaining to our boss the precise brand of idiot we think he is, or the rum or even running through the cartilage in our knees by the age of 35, we all have caved. And it’s easiest to say it was done under the influence of some demon or cosmic evil force. Even easier for some people to feel guilty about something that makes them feel good, especially if it appeals to our compulsive or impulsive natures.

It’s why I find it entertaining to play with demons in my fiction. They make mistakes and do all the naughty things regular people do, but they have no one to blame but themselves, and—this is key—they know they don’t. They are rash, manipulative, jealous, and far too attracted to the pleasures of flesh and wealth and whiskey for their own good. But since their culture accepts their own lesser qualities, it also forces them to accept the responsibilities thereof.

What a world that would be, eh? If we all accepted our own natures and took responsibility for the consequences of our actions…

Nah, never mind. What would we talk about on Facebook?

Check out Betsy’s shiny, refurbished blog
Betsy on Facebook
Follow her on twitter

Today, I Do The Impossible. I Launch My Book. I Interview Myself. We are Mighty.

Guess what? My book is out today. I have an ISBN that I am going to tattoo onto my flesh.

First off, if you are in Colorado, and if you aren’t incarcerated, come and join me for my book launch tonight at Hanson’s Bar and Grill in Denver.  The Facebook event is here!

But yes, my dreams of youth have come true in a very real, very worldly, very dirty way.

That’s the world, real, dirty—imperfect. Since March 29, 2012 rates up there with all the important dates in my life, I decided to do the impossible. Any book that gets published is an impossibility, even those self-published. It’s all impossible. So, I am going to interview myself. Yeah, you got it. It’s very Billy Idolish. Let me sink another drink…


Ah, this Aaron Ritchey, this guy. You want his bio? Click ‘round on this here website. You want a synopsis of The Never Prayer? Same thing. Click around. My short pitch is that my novel is about love, angels, demons, drug addicts, and atheists. And it really is.

So, let’s get to the weirdness? Your Honor, permission to treat the witness as hostile.

Permission granted.


AMR1: So, Aaron, your first book published? Is this the first book you ever wrote?





AMR2: That’s a bad question. I’ll answer it, but I ain’t happy. Nope. My first book, way back when, I began when I was listening to the song, Mailman by Soundgarden in 1994. I had always wanted to be a writer, from day one. It was my secret dream. And I had stories and characters floating around in me my whole life. That first novel, The Dream of the Archer, it was big, beefy, postmodern, Shakespearean, David Lynchian! It was epic! And wordy. And I tried to pack too much into the book and it bloated up like a novel dunked in the bathtub. It took me years of critique groups, study, book-readin’, for me to write a novel tight enough and good enough to make it through the gauntlet of getting published. Like that old Clint Eastwood movie. Sondra Locke. Ugh.

AMR1: Let’s keep on track. No wandering off. Okay? So what kept you from sending out query letters for the books you wrote?

AMR2: Terror, mostly. And I was locked in my basement, in chains, by a madman, for years on end. The madman, being, of course, me. I didn’t know where to start with the pitching and query letters and synopsiseseses. I was lost and forsaken. It was only until I became desperate that I asked for help. And I’ll wander. Damn you.

AMR1: What made The Never Prayer different? Why query this novel and not just shove it away into a drawer like all the others–12, is that right?

AMR2: Well, I wrote a 500,000-word trilogy that I count as one book. But yeah, 12 books, in various stages of revision. One I almost got an agent with, but it was too dark and ironically suicidal. People have a hard time with suicide, and with ironic suicide, my main character came off whiny to a lot of people. I queried 10 agents with The Suicide King, but it never made it. The Never Prayer was a perfect storm. I had gotten a handle on story, and so the narrative is so tight it squeaks. It’s a nice length, about 67,000 words. And it is very me. Angst-ridden, desperate for meaning, searching for the Divine, and the characters are the same way, and it just all worked well. I continued to believe in it even after other people critiqued it. And it’s nice to have a story that people are familiar with, angels and demons, yes, everyone knows about angels and demons, and love, and Twilight, and sparkly vampires. But what I did with the whole angels and demon thing, it’s unique to me. I hope it works.

AMR1: How is your book different from your standard good versus evil book? I mean, it’s all been done. There is nothing new. We are writing in post-postmodernism. The literature of exhaustion, gone to bed, 3 a.m., nothing stirring, no creature awake.

AMR2: Everyone wants to make the Divine clean and perfect and something we can understand. God, Satan, angels and demons, it’s not a crystal castle in the clouds shining down in wonder and perfection. It’s a mud puddle. My angels and demons are mruky creatures, hard to understand, driven, but flawed. If we could logically understand the Divine, it would be a horror. My book is not good against evil. It’s hope against despair. It’s wisdom versus hunger. It’s selflessness versus canoli. It is not a clean fight. It’s mud-puddle dirty.

AMR1: Who would you want to have coffee with? Your hero, your heroine, or your villain?

AMR2: You ask other authors better questions. How come I don’t get the bar question? Or the wedding planner question? Okay, okay, coffee. I can’t go into a lot of detail because I don’t want to give anything away. At the beginning of the book, it’s not exactly clear who is the villain and who is the hero.

My villain is bad news. When I was writing the book, I would get so upset with him because he is righteously horrible. He’s this wounded soul who hungers and will never be filled, who wants everyone to feel the chaos he has inside of him. Would I want to have coffee with a guy like that? He’d be messing with everyone in the Starbucks and we’d eventually get thrown out. My hero, on the other hand, is just as wounded, but angry, serious, driven by a relentless need to fix the world. In the Starbucks, he’d be counseling the barista on whether she should leave her boyfriend or not. Again, not good company.

Which leaves me with Lena. Who would be drinking venti triple-shot lattes, worried about her brother, grieving over her parents, fighting with her aunt. We could talk music, maybe, but her mind wouldn’t be in the conversation.

Great, I’ve written a novel where I wouldn’t want to have coffee with any of the major characters. The minor characters? I would love to chat with Santiago about his recovery, or Pockets about Battlestar Galactica (best show ever), or Gramma Scar about her five husbands, or Deirdre Dodson about her fashionista ways. The supporting cast is a whole lot happier and easier to get along with. I did that on purpose. I did try and lighten things up with the supporting characters because the book starts off really dark. But things get better as Lena finds her support group.

Johnny Beels would make an awesome wedding planner, however.

AMR1: Are you done? I kinda’ fell asleep. So what emotion do you want readers to leave The Never Prayer feeling?

AMR2: Jeeze, man. What the hell? You were nicer to your other guests. I feel so self-abused. Of course, I wanna leave ‘em all in tears, yo. I cried all the way through this book because Lena has it rough and she wants to get through, but it’s hard on her. But in the end, there is hope, always hope, to change ourselves and to change the world. So yeah, I’d like readers to leave heartbroken but hopeful. Lena makes it through to the other side of her grief. But she pays a price. Gosh, I love this book. I’m so glad this is my first book ever published. I feel so proud to have written it.

AMR1: How fortunate you are. Sad books sell tons. Yeah, uh huh, great. I wish you luck, bro. Okay, this is the big question, and I know you don’t want me to ask you this question, but here it is: if you could take a pill to erase all desire to write without any regrets, would you take it? It’s a one-shot deal, like the red/blue pill in The Matrix. You take it and you are no longer a writer. Would you take it?

AMR2: Thanks, the one question I didn’t want to answer, you ask me. That’s just great. The acceptable answer is no, not me. I love to write. I was born to write. “In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream…”

The truth? I’d be a better husband, a better father, a better everything if I didn’t have this need to write fiction. I could write other people’s biographies. Everyone is always wanting to me write their memoirs. If I didn’t have this fiction thing, I’d have the time. I could watch more baseball. I could work out more. If I had the pill, I would take it. I’d get countless hours back to do a million other things.

But there is no pill. If I could have quit writing, I would have. But, though it is a burden, the benefits are legion. I get to be with other writers. I get the joy of finishing a story and looking back and enjoying the moments of feeling the Divine guide my pen. Er, fingers on keyboard. My friend Chris Devlin felt sorry for me because I didn’t like the actual writing. So I decided to love it like nothing else. And magically, it has become wonderful. The actual writing. All the other stuff around it, the marketing, the selling, the publishing woes, that stuff is still hard. Query letters. Hard. But the writing? Good.

Ernest Hemingway said, “Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.” That has happened to me. I’m in this for the duration.

I will always write books. I will never stop. Ever. It’s too late for me. If you can quit writing, quit now. If you can’t, God help you. God help us all. But enjoy the ride. Henry Miller said it. The only reward for writing is writing.

So let the words flow. Peace out!