Monday, October 07, 2013

So, anyway, where was I.....?

Back in August I had every intention in the world of writing the third volume in my Halcyon Beach Chronicles, a story I was calling Ghost of a Dancer By Moonlight. I had about 8,000 words written and I was enjoying the story. In August it seemed possible I could have it ready for Halloween. Then something happened--a little girl named Charity started cropping up in my imagination wanting me to tell her story. She was a sad little waif who had never been properly cared for and who was about to become an orphan when her dissolute mother died. Except she had a father--a father she never met before. A father who had a reputation as a wild man, both literally and figuratively because his name was Daniel Boone Wilde.

Daniel Boone Wilde, called Boone, had done it all. He was a big, tough, good-looking womanizer who rode in a motorcycle club, worked as a roadie for Guns N'Roses and as a cowboy in Montana. He'd recently returned to run his family's hotel and tavern. And he'd recently met a nice woman, a doctor, whom he liked a lot. But now he has a 12 year old daughter who needs him.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote until I'd written over 70,000 words and told their story. The book, The Christmas Daughter, should be ready by Thanksgiving.

But what about my ghost story?

Well, it won't be ready for Halloween but, with luck, it will get written. It is a story within a story within a story and this is part of it. Now, I have to get back to writing.

from Ghost of A Dancer By Moonlight

My name is Cleo Blair. Yes, Cleo is my real name. My father, I am told, had a crush on the English jazz singer Cleo Laine. Maybe he thought I'd be inspired by the name but, even if I could sing, which I can't, the idea of performing in front of people has terrified me all my life. Being a writer is safe. I'm not even real comfortable with having my picture on the articles I write. I don't like the idea of my face being more noticeable than my words. If you want to know who I am, don't look at my picture, read what I have to say.
My friend Glenda tells me I'm too young to be such a curmudgeon. She's probably right but so far in my life writing is the only thing that I seem to be any good at. I'm certainly a failure when it comes to romance. The funny thing about that is I've always been told I have a romantic nature. When I was young—even through my teens—my mother was always telling me to get my head out of the clouds. When I finished college and landed my first job writing for Discover New England Magazine it was the articles I wrote about strange and mysterious places, places with a romantic aura, that got the most attention. Eventually they also attracted the attention of Rod Perkins—which is where all my trouble began; which is no doubt why I am such a cynic now.
The article that attracted Rod's attention was about the ruins of an old, overgrown castle deep in the woods of New Hampshire near the Vermont border. It was built in the 1920's by a woman known as Madame Antoinette Sherri, a notorious fashion designer for the Ziegfield Follies. Madame Sherri herself was quite a scandal—throwing extravagant parties and driving around West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, in her Packard wearing nothing but a mink coat and pearls. Her house was built on a stone foundation with pillars, fireplaces, and a fabulous stone staircase supported by graduated stone arches. For years it was the scene of parties that shocked the sober locals but, inevitably, Madame Sherri's money ran out. She abandoned her lavish house in the woods. In 1962 it burned to the ground leaving behind a tantalizing landscape of stone arches, pillars, and stairs, which the forest did its best to reclaim
While researching the article I learned that she became quite mad and lived her final years in a tiny house. She sold her beloved Packard in order to buy food and ultimately died in an institution. Maybe the combination of her flamboyant past and pitiful demise seeped into my writing and Rod Perkins was drawn to it like a shark to an open wound.
It was October when one of the magazine's staff photographers and I visited the ruins in the forest on the side of Wantastiquet Mountain. The photos accompanying my magazine article showed cold, gray granite ruins covered in flaming autumn leaves. I used a lot of poetic license, not to mention factual license, in my writing. It was more fanciful than the place actually warranted but I fantasized about the history of passion, romance, and debauchery held forever in the silent stone. I even managed to slip in a few musings about echoes of music and ghostly laughter lingering there. The prose was embarrassingly purple by most journalistic standards—but people loved it. That issue sold out within days.  

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