Some of us draw down the moon in dreams, prayer, or ritual, understanding that she wishes to give gifts, inspiration, and insight. The Child of the Erinyes is also drawing down, preparing for its finale. After the publication of When the Moon Whispers, Book Seven, there is only one story left to tell.
Swimming in the Rainbow. (UPDATE: Swimming in the Rainbow is now published! The series is complete!)
As I have mentioned in posts and backmatter, writing this series became my life’s work, though I didn’t exactly intend it to be that way. I often wonder if I would have begun if I had seen how long it would take, how much work, and the cost, not only financially but physically. Still, the sense of accomplishment is pretty satisfying.
When I was a kid, I remember wishing I could be older so I would know more, could be a better writer, and could put into permanent form the stories floating through my mind. Nothing gave me as much fulfillment as doodling a tale with pencil and paper, and later, the old Royal typewriter in the basement. One by one, inspirations revealed themselves, beginning with D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. It cracked the door open, giving me hints of the faraway worlds calling to me, waiting for me. There are so many! When it comes to Greece and myth, the stories are endless. Later, I found out Scotland is similar in that regard.
As I approach my mid-sixties, I see things very differently than I did as a child, writing stories in the forest, or as a young adult, juggling writing with work, with love interests, and with partying, or as a thirty-something, as a working mom. Writing had to take a back seat in those years. But I knew I would get back to it, and I did, joining a writing group which forced me to have a new chapter ready every week, entering contests, collecting validation from other writers, and seeing this epic saga slowly form its shape.
I thought I was barreling along, but the story needed time to simmer, many, many more rewrites, new visions, and much more introspection. This series builds one upon the next, so even though there are eight books, I classify them all as “a story.”
For When the Moon Whispers, which I started writing in the late 1980s, I had to conjecture what the world would be like in the faraway, futuristic year of 2020, which was my original choice of date. Turns out I missed the mark on some things. While I did foresee countries invading their neighbors, I never foresaw a pandemic, and I confess I failed to envision the lengths technology would go. When I reread Whispers somewhere around 2008 or so, I laughed to find cassette tapes holding on in my dystopian world. Apparently, I thought cassettes were the height of what humans would do with recordings. Even way back then, I knew I had to put that book aside and leave it alone. I deliberately ignored it during the years it took to mold, write, rewrite, and expand The Year-god’s Daughter, The Thinara King, In the Moon of Asterion, The Moon Casts a Spell, The Sixth Labyrinth, and Falcon Blue. I knew the way those books evolved would change Whispers drastically, and they did.
I started the focused rewrite of Whispers immediately after publishing Falcon Blue, in 2018. Falcon Blue is an Arthurian medieval tale, set in 502 AD; Whispers jumps from that setting to one beginning in 2049 AD, and then leaps to 2072! Swimming in the Rainbow takes place even farther on, in the 2090s.
It took a long time just to read the notes I’d added to the Whispers manuscript over the years. Don’t forget to…, inspiration from here and there, and a very long list of “Prophecies that must be resolved.”
My memories had grown blurry so my next step was to reread the book itself. The reread caused more than one moment of “How can this be happening?”
Whispers was meant to be purely speculative fantasy, but events were unfolding in America and the world that mirrored the story. Not Covid. Covid is never mentioned in Whispers nor does it need to be. No, it’s other things that caused uneasy shivers on the back of my neck. There are things in Whispers that I don’t want to come true, ever, anywhere on the planet, but many have already. I’d much prefer them to remain firmly in the realm of dystopian fiction. I may have missed the mark with cassettes, but I hit the mark on other things, which doesn’t make me particularly happy.
This seems like a good time to advise potential readers on the content. Sure, there are a lot of books out there that are worse than mine. But some of my scenes were difficult to write and for some, will be difficult to read. There’s raw language and raw events. No sugarcoating. More so than any of the other installments in the series.
Speaking of that shiver on the back of my neck, I’ve noticed throughout the writing of all the books that every now and then, I’ve been given a “WOW” moment, not because of disturbing things becoming reality, but signs that I haven’t been toiling alone.
For instance, there’s the way some things just inexplicably work, despite my laziness or brain fog (It’s real), or the pressure to get this book done, or the stress/adrenaline that makes me write something down with the understanding that I will have to go back and fix it later, before publication.
In Whispers, there’s a scene where Rafe explains “Carnevale” to his son, Adam. “This year,” he says, “Carnevale will begin tomorrow morning and culminate in the Hunt on Tuesday night.”
I knew vaguely that the scene was taking place in summertime, but I wanted this event on Tuesday night to fall on the same night that was the sacred day out of time in the Bronze Age books—the holy day falling between the old year and the new. I didn’t want to take time out to research how to write this in a way that would work, however, because it would take too much time when I was trying to get the draft finished. This was one of those things I would go back and fix on one of the rewrites. I left a note in red to remind me.
When the time came and I was cleaning up the manuscript, I opened this program I used with Whispers called Aeon Timeline. It’s a nifty piece of software where you can set up your characters, their bios, their ages, and keep a timeline of every event in the book. I had set up some of this but not all. Now I had to figure out how hard it would be to juggle things around to make the Carnevale event fall on the right day, and because I didn’t think this would be a quick or easy fix, I gave myself an entire day to work on it. I found some old notes from The Year-god’s Daughter where I’d researched the rise of the star Iakchos (Sirius) and the ancient time telling methods, and refreshed my memory on those events. Chrysaleon competed in the racing and wrestling on the 16th of July. He fasted on the 17th, 18th, and 19th, the 19th being the holy day out of time. That night, he went into the labyrinth to kill the old king, Xanthus, and boom: he became Crete’s new bull-king.
Going back to Aeon Timeline, I started looking at the various events that had already happened in Whispers, and their dates. I came closer and closer to the moment Rafe was explaining the workings of Carnevale, and that’s when the back of my neck shivered, because somehow, the Tuesday night event—the Hunt—fell exactly and naturally on July 19th. Exactly. I didn’t have to change or fix anything.
Little moments like that throughout the series have made me feel Athene was gazing over my shoulder and intervening every now and then, bringing clarity in a dream, making a random date just mysteriously work, and guiding me, word by word by word, edit by edit, rewrite by rewrite, to the perfect ending, the ending that was in front of my face the whole time, but which I couldn’t quite see. I only had a vague notion of what had to happen. Reading and working, concentrating and living the story brought out the real ending.
My intent for this series has always been fourfold: To Inform, to Entertain, to Empower, and to Inspire. To make a suppressed possible history with fictional elements come to life in the reader’s mind. And I’ve always wanted to offer a slightly different perspective of my heroine, Aridela, than what is currently popular in books and movies. I’m a fan of Joseph Campbell’s reluctant hero, as those who know my books have seen. I’ve read more than once in comments and reviews that Aridela (and her later incarnations) has been incredibly frustrating at times. There was a warning about this way back in The Thinara King, when Aridela married Chrysaleon. “Thou wilt breathe the air of slavery for as long as thou art blinded. For thou art the earth, blessed and eternal, yet thou shalt be pierced, defiled, broken, and wounded, even as I have been.”
Aridela did not hatch from an egg all super-power-ey and infallible, able to leap tall mountains and crush the bad guys with a glare. To me that’s an unrealistic stereotype. Aridela (and her later incarnations) was a normal, real girl, like our sisters and daughters and friends and selves. She made mistakes. Sometimes her mistakes were pretty bad. Sometimes it was one step forward and two steps back. But she did have a good heart and always tried to head in the right direction.
“Robbers Roost?” you might ask. “What’s that?” Robbers Roost is a remote area in Utah that plays an important role in When the Moon Whispers. I won’t go into a description, as information about it is readily available online. Butch Cassidy supposedly hid from law enforcement there. “Bluejohn Canyon,” of Aron Ralston fame, can be found nearby. It’s desolate, but in a magical, mesmerizing, almost otherworldly way—the perfect place for my protagonists to seek sanctuary.
Here is a photo of the butte in Whispers, the one dominating the landscape, the inspiration for the place where Erin and Brie shelter with Maya.
“Sneffels? Sounds like a cold.” Early on in Whispers, this is where the reader is taken to find Erin. This, too, is an extraordinary place that worked well for a setting. Unlike Greece, which I can’t jet off to every time I have a question about a setting, I can and have popped over to Robbers Roost and the Sneffels area to solve dilemmas or memory lapses and say hi to the chipmunks. In this photo, you can clearly see why Erin and Will refer to the summit of Sneffels as “Old Man Sneffels.”
Now that When the Moon Whispers is complete, I’m turning my full attention to Swimming in the Rainbow. Unlike most of my other books, this one may not even reach 300 pages when all is said and done, but every book in the series leads up to it. It is the fulcrum. It is the book I love, and every time I read it, I cry. In a way, I wrote all the other books just trying to get to this one.
“Teófilo described the enchanted world inside a rainbow thousands of times, and I never tired of listening.
It is an endless ocean. You will swim, breathe, and drink color. Colors will burst on your tongue and in your throat, purple like grapes, brown like earth, white like salt, blue like twilight. You will become color, freed of human limitations.”
Swimming is a love letter. I hope my readers come away feeling the same love I felt as I wrote it.
Finally, I’ve commissioned an Athene doll from my good friend, the prolific, delightful Greek writer and artist, Annia Lekka. It’s my gift to myself for getting this far.
The Athene doll isn’t done yet, but here’s a photo of another doll she’s made.
And here’s her website: Annia Lekka
Onward and upward! As When the Moon Whispers finds its way into the world, I send out my gratitude to those who have helped and supported my efforts.