The Moon as Muse

Here’s why I love second drafts…

When you revisit your characters after writing their finale, you have a better grasp on who or what they’re fighting, what their motivations are, and how they might achieve their victories.

At times, when these characteristics and motivations are falling into place, you, as the writer, have an intense “ah-ha moment” that ties everything together in magical and unique ways.

This is what happened to me as I was writing the second draft of my upcoming YA novella—to be illustrated by the lovely Brynn Ronning Sandoval. My MC, Cassidy, had to have some sort of connection with the moon because of its numerous, fantastic cameos. But, I hadn’t yet put my finger on that was.

Until now…

The moon now plays a major role in Cassidy’s past. Not only did it cause immense grief, it also has the power to change her life into one of joy.

So, in honor of the moon and Cassidy’s unique connection with it, I present some awesome moon artwork pulled from our nation’s top institutions. What a fun mining project this was. Enjoy!

Caspar David Friedrich (German, Greifswald 1774–1840 Dresden) ~ Two Men Contemplating the Moon ~ ca. 1825–30 ~ Oil on canvas ~ 13 3/4 x 17 1/4 in. (34.9 x 43.8 cm) ~ Metropolitan Museum of Art Permanent Collection
Paul Delvaux ~ Phases of the Moon ~ ca. 1930 ~ Oil on canvas ~ 55 x 63 in. (139.7 x 160 cm) ~ Museum of Modern Art Permanent Collection
William H. Johnson ~ Moon Over Harlem ~ ca. 1942-1944 ~ Oil on plywood ~ 28 1/2 x 35 3/4 in. (72.5 x 90.8 cm) ~ Smithsonian American Art Museum Permanent Collection
William Kooning ~ Untitled (The Cow Jumps Over the Moon) ~ ca. 1937-1938 ~ Oil on Masonite ~ 20 1/2 x 36 5/8 in. (52 x 93 cm) ~ Harvard Art Museums Permanent Collection
Yashida Hodaka ~ Moon ~ ca. 1952 ~ Color Woodblock Print ~ 16 x 10 13/16 in. (40.6 x 27.5 cm) ~ Art Institute of Chicago Permanent Collection
Charles Melville dewey ~ The Harvest Moon ~ ca. 1908 ~ Oil on Canvas ~ 24 1/8 x 30 1/8 in. (61.2 x 76.6 cm) ~ Smithsonian American Art Museum Permanent Collection

Pulling Out My Hair Over Rough Drafts

I find the first draft of any piece of fiction to be the hardest part of the writing process. Revising, fine-tuning, workshopping… those are the fun parts.

But that rough draft, where I’m creating my characters for the first time, discovering their arcs, quirks, and struggles, well… that gets me pulling my hair out.

With that being said, today is a great day because I finished the rough draft of a YA illustrated novella. Even better, I love my main character and the way her life changes from start to finish. Whew!! Now on to the fun stuff!

Cassidy:

Madness with which I’ve flirted now flirts back with fierce intensity, frightening me and releasing a slew of butterflies in my stomach. This is too much, beyond dreams and drugs and death. I simply can’t make sense of it all.

When was the moment that started it all? When the boy emerged from the tarp? When I entered the water and the waves carried me out to sea? Or, had it been on the boardwalk, a single plank acting as a button and turning on the crazy?

Standing in the middle of this island among the memories of a boy intimidated by a forthcoming destiny, I’m isolated and desperate for something I know I can’t have—a sane solution to my absurd predicament.

 

 

Colorado’s Last Frontier

One hundred years ago, large ranches and open space filled Colorado’s landscapes. The Centennial state was the land immortalized in song, with purple mountains majesty.

While Colorado is still famous for its gorgeous forests and wilderness areas, expanding ski resorts and a growing population have led to the parceling of large ranches, making the cinema-worthy lifestyle virtually obsolete.

The days of working cowboys and herds of roaming cattle may be gone in most of Colorado, but one often unheard of county maintains its ranching heritage in unique and exquisite ways.

Custer County preserves its ranching culture through conservation easements, lighting ordinances, and annual events celebrating the ranching lifestyle. The result is a pocket of Colorado that remains virtually untouched, whose beauty and outdoor opportunities rival any other in the West.

Through a partnership with VistaWorks, I was fortunate to research and write about this remarkable area. The county’s “largest” towns, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, are lesser-known compared to behemoths like Breckenridge or Steamboat. But like much of Colorado’s smaller treasures, they’ve recently been thrust into the spotlight.

Check out my newest project, www.VisitCusterCounty.com, to learn all about this amazing, up-and-coming Colorado destination. It won’t be secret for long so be sure to visit soon!

“Music Therapy Can Create Amazing Results for People with Autism” is Published!

My son was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism (commonly known as Asperger’s) in September 2014. While I suspected something was different about him for some time, an official diagnosis sent me into a tailspin. As his mother, I wanted to be proactive and give him as much support as possible. But, with that drive came immense feelings of isolation, fear, and of being overwhelmed.

After three years of navigating therapies, healthcare costs, and local resources, my son is now on a great and successful path. He’s thriving, happy, stealing hearts, and taking names. As he’s grown, I’ve discovered incredible and unique gifts that make him an amazing, loving, and very bright little kid.

A significant characteristic in my son is his love of music. So, when a new music therapist, Kristen Arbogast of Altitude Music Therapy Services, came to town and hosted a seminar on music therapy and autism, I was there in the front row, notebook in hand. What I learned from Ms. Arbogast was how music can connect with children and adults with a host of learning differences, creating positive effects like improved social behaviors, increased focus and attention, and improved body awareness and coordination.

Ms. Arbogast runs Altitude Music Therapy Services out of Salida, CO. Please check it out!

I was so inspired by Ms. Arbogast’s lesson that I immediately dove deeper into researching the topic. The result was an article titled, “Music Therapy Can Create Amazing Results for People with Autism,” recently published in Autism Parenting Magazine.

A live link will be available in the future, but for now, I just wanted to share this little bit of success. Autism Parenting Magazine covers a subject near and dear to me, one that’s filled my life since my eight-year-old son was a toddler. Thank you for supporting me and all other parents raising unique and incredible children, Autism Parenting Magazine!

My Favorite Turtle

If you live in Buena Vista, Colorado or the Arkansas River Valley, you’ve most likely seen work by the very talented and delightful Brynn Ronning. Well, here’s a little secret. A small collaboration inspired by this turtle might be in the works.

BTW – I totally and completely fell in love with this image and am sure you will, too!

Here’s a snippet for you to enjoy.

He leans against the boat’s edge and calls into the water. His voice is a symphony of brass, a blend of notes impossible for a person to make. I can’t focus on how strange it all is because the sound hypnotizes me until I no longer feel the waves, the cold, or the pain.

I find my balance and peer over his shoulder. Large, log-like masses move in a slow and fluid dance in the water. A fluke rises into the air, and I gasp.

“Whales,” I whisper.

Even as I speak the word aloud, I hardly believe it. The closest I’ve come to a whale is watching them migrate from the shore. Even then, all I’ve seen are small humps rising and falling on the horizon. If I was lucky, a whale exhaled, causing a stream of mist to shoot into the air. Never have I seen whales this close. Their presence leaves me speechless.

The boy juts his chin in the direction of the pod. “Sperm whales. The smartest ones out there.”

He oozes arrogance, speaking as though he’s trained them himself, which confuses me more.

The boat stills as the waves change direction to push the whales away, who barrel through the ocean unaffected. I can’t take my eyes off these magnificent beasts. They’re larger than I’ve ever imagined, and when they swim together, it’s like an island rising from the sea.

They surround the boat as the boy speaks to them. The whales’ sonar moves through my skull, my sternum, and my legs—click, click, click. The volume pains my ears, and I cover them with my hands. Are they talking back?

The boat jolts and lifts from the water, causing me to fall again. I bump my hip on the center thwart and pain shoots up my side. I wince and massage it, momentarily forgetting the insanity happening around me. All I see is the inside of the wet boat.

When I force myself to stand and have regained my balance, I glance over the edge of the boat, which hovers several feet from the ocean’s surface. My eyes widen in disbelief. We’re no longer in the water but perched on a pod of whales carrying us toward the moon.

The Field

Thank you Twister Sister Literary Magazine for publishing The Field. This is my first attempt at Science Fiction and was inspired by Henri Rousseau’s The Football Players, now part of the Guggenheim’s permanent collection. This piece is dark, but for those who’ve read Wrapped in Color and Light, you already know I like to lean in that direction.

the-football-players

The Field

I was pulled outta my cell this morning and thrown into a shitty, white coaster. You know, those hover pods they stopped making, like, twenty years ago. Next thing I know, I’m dumped in this field covered in plastic, green shit that crunches under my feet. I think it’s supposed to be grass, though I doubt anyone’s felt that stuff in decades or what I’m standing on is anything close to the real thing.

The field is bordered by trees with long roots that crawl upon the ground and tiger-orange leaves that glow from the lights inside them. The stripes, however, are saved for me. Black on yellow like a god-damn bee, or whatever those fuckers were called.

I feel like I’m standing in an ancient football field, which I’ve seen somewhere before, though I can’t remember where. Fucking memory. Can barely remember shit anymore, which makes me bat-shit-crazy. When I can’t recall a face, a fact, or something that’s happened, I bang my head with my hand until it comes to me. These days, I can bang so much I black out and wake on the floor as confused as ever. The officers on the other side of the bars laugh because they still have their banks—a small chip that enhances our memories — but I don’t.

Read more…

The Wall

It’s summer, and between work, building a house, and two children on summer vacation, writing fiction has been tough. I’m definitely looking forward to the start of school when stricter schedules allow for more writing time. In the meantime, I thought I’d post an excerpt from a short story I have in the queue. It’s inspired by Peter Doig’s Lapeyrouse Wall, a 2004 oil on canvas currently at the Museum of Modern Art. I was drawn to this painting’s soft edges and the juxtaposition between the pink umbrella and the top of a factory in the background. And once I read about the cemetery, I fell deeper in love and knew I wanted to write a short story about the man and his connection with the wall. Enjoy!

The Wall (an excerpt)

The loneliness in my life is so great, it rides on the slow ticks of a clock.

I’ve tried to bring people into my life but blending into this world has always proved disappointing. So, I stopped. Don’t worry, I’m accustomed to my solitude, and have, at times, considered it a fine thing.

Today is Monday, and I’m on a bus pulling into the Port of Spain station in Trinidad. I will walk six blocks to my work at Republic Bank, where I will talk with people for the first time since Friday.

My walk takes me past the Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Trinidad’s city of the dead. It has streets, alleys, and residents with fixed addresses—rich, poor, Chinese, French, British, and everyone else in between.

Since the first bodies were buried in the 18th century, hundreds of corpses have been exhumed by robbers. A wall was erected around the cemetery to keep the vandals out. But, when I look at the wall, with its crumbling layers of cement and faded paint, I wonder if it also keeps the spirits in.

The wall is nearly as tall as I am. I can see over it only when I stand on my toes. I peek inside and hear the clapping and chanting of the Shouters in one direction and the murmur of the Catholics working at their beads in the other. I also smell flowers mixed with incense and firecracker smoke, which means the Chinese are here, too.

I relax back onto my feet and continue along the block. I’ve walked several feet when a woman’s voice whispers in my ear, and I swear I feel her lips brush my lobe.

“Every time ah pass, you look at me. Every time ah pass, you look at me.”

I spin around, my skin tingling, my hand landing on my chest.

“Ah gonna tell mah mama do’ sen me down dey. You better tell yo’ mama do’ sen yo’ down here. Every time ah pass, you smile at me. Every time ah pass, you smile at me.”

As she sings, purple, green, and blue notes swirl around me, wispy things like butterflies. Between them, I weave my loneliness, until it is tied in knots and I am no longer standing alone.