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.

 

 

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 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.

New Novel Excerpt… Chicago World’s Fair 1893

When Mr. Ferris’s Giant Wheel starts to become its own character…

Three men holding lamps walk by. They talk in low tones, and I turn to see where they’re going. I didn’t think there was anything behind me, but in the soft glow of their lamps, I see a pile of steel that looks like a giant spider’s web.

I follow the men, the pile of steel growing from one to several, and in the middle is a giant axle attached to the ground. The men raise their lamps. In the background are boxes as large as covered wagons.

“What’s this?” I ask.

“Mr. Ferris’s giant wheel. It was supposed to be ready for opening day, but as you can see, it’s not even close.”

It’s half built, a skeleton missing whole sections. I step forward and touch a piece of steel. It’s cold despite the warmth in the air. “That’s too bad. It would’ve been nice to ride it, to see the entire fair from the very top.”

Roald’s Story

At one time, I was a frightened and shy boy, jumping at shadows and stuttering over words. Then came my visions, and I learned I could be a hero, which changed my life.

For years afterwards, I walked with confidence, thinking I was a gift bestowed upon the world. Then tragedy struck, teaching me that even heroes could fall, and I tumbled back into my cowardly and cautious ways.

Through sacrifice and devastating loss, I have come to live and love again. Though it has meant striking a deal with the devil, enduring the curse entrusted to me, and utilizing it as well as I know how.

-Roald Fischer

Introducing My New Main Character – Roald Fischer

wheat-fields

After finishing a most awesome travel assignment, I have time to give my WIP some much needed attention. This novel is from a single POV, Roald Fischer, a boy born in 1871 with the gift of second sight. I already love him so much! He grows up on a farm in southern Illinois (my Little House on the Prairie influence is kicking in hard!), hence the gorgeous scene.

A line from my chapter this morning…

“Roald felt the pricks of the insult heavily, and not for the first time did he wish for the courage to strike back. But speaking was his own worst enemy, and words were his only weapon. So he remained where he was, absorbing the taunts and crying internally.”

And yes… His name is inspired by one of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl.