MJ Monday-Manuscript: Besieged by the Moon

Here’s an excerpt from the very rough draft of BESIEGED BY THE MOON, tentatively scheduled for July 2020 publication:

“Helga is a character,” Parker said as he helped Phoebe into the back seat of Dakota’s SUV. Phoebe was so tiny she could be mistaken for a child.

“I think she’s frightened.” Phoebe scooted across the seat as if to make room for Parker beside her.

He’d planned to sit in front with Dakota, but climbed in next to Phoebe.

Dakota, who usually maintained his silence, tried to get chatty with Phoebe as he fiddled with his phone. “Where in Tennessee are you from?”

“Soddy-Daisy.”

“Isn’t that where Senator Tuttle is from?” Dakota asked, as he drove out of the parking lot.

“In half a mile, turn right onto Coriander,” Dakota’s phone instructed.

Phoebe went very still. “Yes. Tuttle is from Soddy-Daisy.”

“He’s in town, you know.”

Phoebe hesitated. “Really?”

Neither an admission or a denial. Parker was getting strange vibes off her.

“Do you know why?” she asked Dakota.

“He’s here to support the local congressman’s family. A lot of issues there.” Dakota ran a yellow light.

Issues?

Parker struggled to remain neutral.

It’s Alarming

Last year I indulged in a new alarm clock. An atomic clock, which means I never have to set it again. The numbers are enormous, making it easy to read without my glasses. It not only shows me the time, but also the temperature and humidity of the room, the day, the date, and the moon phase. It also has a USB port for charging my phone. How could this be a bad thing?

The moon phases are always off a little. I should have realized this before I purchased the clock. The clock runs on a man-made calendar, while the moon phases itself on a (shocking!) lunar calendar. This is not a deal-breaker.

My phone started acting up whenever I plugged it into the clock to charge. Every day at 1:08am, 2:08am, 3:08am, 4:08am, 5:08am, 6:08am, 7:08am my phone vibrates twice. I am a light sleeper. This seriously impacted my sleep.  I checked every alarm, alert, etc. on my phone. I asked my co-workers, most of whom are much more tech savvy than I when it comes to smart phones. Nothing.

After months of frustration I finally figured out why my phone was vibrating at eight past the hour every hour. For some bizarre reason, the clock face goes completely black on the hour in the AM. It comes back on eight minutes later, which causes a power surge in my phone, making it vibrate. That mystery solved.

Now if only I could figure out what’s going on with the eight-minute blackout.

 

MJ Monday-Music: Aria 2

Many years ago, a friend gifted me with a CD called Aria 2The compilation is one of the most relaxing collections of music I’ve ever heard. Very few of the cuts are in English, which makes the songs unobtrusive. It’s difficult to be distracted by lyrics when you don’t understand them.

I love the CD. Even the synthesized percussion somehow make the music approachable. And the vocalists, particularly the females, sound relaxed.

But sometimes I’m a little slow.

Several years later, my husband and I were at the Glimmerglass Opera for La Traviata. Not being a true opera fan, I was shocked when I realized, “Hey! I know that song!” But I had no idea how I was familiar with the melody. Several hours later it came to me: it’s on my Aria 2 CD. With that insight, I also realized the CD was opera arias. Until that moment, I had no clue. Did I mention I can be a little slow?

But the performances on Aria 2 don’t sound operatic. They are … comfortable. I tend to find opera singers sound as if they are in pain while they are singing. That’s not the case on Aria 2. There is almost a folk music type of ambiance to the CD…if a CD can have an ambiance.

iTunes has a download of the CD. I’ve read where you can stream it on Spotify. Not sure about Pandora. But you should check it out.

Digging in Upstate New York

Digging things up was a minor trend in upstate New York back in the 1800s.

Joseph Smith Jr started it in 1823, when he dug up a buried book written on golden plates near Palmyra, New York. This discovery led to the establishment of the Mormon religion. 

Throughout the summers of my youth, local TV stations ran a Public Service Announcement for the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a reenactment of Smith’s adventures on the hill. Once, at a writing conference, an editor said to me, “Oh, I’m from upstate New York, too, a small town outside of Rochester you’ve probably never heard of. Palmyra.” I responded “Hill Cumorah Pageant.” “That’s the one,” she replied.

Twenty or so years after Joseph Smith did his thing, George Hull and his cousin Stubbs Newell decided to play a hoax on the American public. Hull commissioned some folks in Iowa to create a “petrified giant”, which he then buried on his cousin’s farm in Cardiff, New York.  A year or so later, his cousin commissioned a couple of people to dig a well on the spot where he’d buried the petrified giant.  And thus one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public came into being: The Cardiff Giant.  PT Barnum, when he couldn’t buy the original, commissioned his own and made a fortune off it.

The Cardiff Giant isn’t nearly as well known as Mormonism–but it does have a niche following, and people tend to co-op the name on a regular basis. There’s a baseball team in Cooperstown, NY (where the real giant currently resides, a folk-rock band out of Indiana, a wrestler, a winery, and a bar in Brooklyn.

Yet the place where he was disinterred barely rates a roadside marker, unlike Hill Cumorah.

I know, because I grew up next door to the farm where the giant was unearthed.

 

MJ Monday: Movie-THE REWRITE

The first time I saw THE REWRITE was with my husband who thought I’d like it because it was about a writer. He wanted to see it because it takes place at SUNY Binghamton, where he went to college. Starring Hugh Grant (eh) and Marisa Tomei (I’m a fan), I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the movie. We watched it. I recognized other actors–Allison Janney, JK Simmons, Chris Elliott. I thought, Oh, this is a cute movie.

Fast forward a year or so, and one of my critique partners found the DVD in the library and brought it on our semi-annual writing retreat. I didn’t hate the idea of watching it again; indeed, I enjoyed it more the second time around (but that may be because of a more sympathetic audience).

Hugh Grant plays a washed-up screen writer whose sole success was 15 years earlier. The only gig his agent can find for him is Writer-in-Residence at Binghamton University in upstate New York. The plot is predictable. He’s resentful, sullen, and selfish until the eternal optimism of an older single mother with two children who happens to be taking his class turns him around.

Three stars–Janney and Tomei are worth the watch.