Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's the moon done to you? (a Mona in the Desert update/excerpt)

This is the final paragraph of chapter 13 of Mona in the Desert, a first draft novel that will be complete, I predict, by the middle of this month. I have only to write the final chapter and the book is done. It's going to be pretty short, as novels go: this first draft will be around 65,000 words. I imagine that after revisions it'll be around 70k, which is certainly novel length, but fewer than 250 pages.

All the usual caveats apply, and this excerpt contains a possible spoiler, if it's possible to spoil a book that spoils itself as it goes along.

Ruby, at that moment, was buying cigarettes and tequila at the grocery store a half mile north of her house. She had slept away the entire morning and a good deal of the afternoon, her head down on her crossed arms at the kitchen table, Senora de Barrios’ loaded pistol safe in the pocket of Ruby’s deep red cotton apron. When she awoke, dehydrated from the night’s drinking and smoking, Ruby knew she’d been having vivid dreams and that some of them were likely important but she was unable to snatch any of them up for examination. The dreams swam away from her, darting like rainbow hued fish into the receding ocean of sleep out of which Ruby awakened. Ruby got to her feet and stretched, her small hands groping toward Heaven as a yawn took her captive and then Ruby remembered that she’d dreamed of the rocket man. His face, round and unassuming, floated in Ruby’s memory but there was nothing else though Ruby concentrated hard, fighting to recall the dream. Nothing more came until an hour or two later when Ruby was digging for change at the bottom of her purse. In her dream, Ruby had been here at the cash register, buying Pall Mall reds and Sauza and the rocket man was the cashier. What are you doing here, Ruby said. Working on a test burn for a new solid-fuel single-stage launch vehicle, the rocket man said. I thought you’d gone back east and died, Ruby said, a few years ago. Nineteen forty-five, the rocket man told her. But I’m not going to let death slow me down, ma’am. You should, Ruby said. You should stop your work. You will do terrible things, terrible. Look what the Germans did with rockets. Ah, the V2, the rocket man said. I had the pleasure of examining a captured V2 once. Quite a machine, ma’am. If I’d had half the funding the Nazis had, think what I could’ve done out there in Roswell. Terrible things, Ruby said. Rockets to the moon, ma’am. Nothing so bad as you’d like to think. Why don’t you leave the moon alone, Ruby asked. What’s the moon done to you that you wish to crawl over her face? Some men are never satisfied. Nor some women, the rocket man said. Ah si, that is also true. I prepare for one now, Ruby said, holding up her fifth of tequila. I will be ready for her.

And yes, this is all one paragraph. It's a book made up of very long paragraphs. This is an example of one of the shorter ones.


  1. vivid dream. Oh, and congrats on getting The Astrologer out there.


  2. Love the imagery of the rainbow hued fish in the dream. Nice going there.

    Hope you had a great holiday. I've finally finished with Lord Bailey's story, so after it comes back from the critters, I'll be publishing. Yes, I will publish in paperback, hopefully by February, so I'll be glad to send you a copy.

    It is your story after all.

  3. Donna, thanks! Do you have something coming out? I read something about you getting feedback from a publisher on a MS?

    Anne, the dream stuff is always fun. I think I've put dreams into every book I've written. I look forward to reading a copy of the new book! Thanks in advance; that's very sweet of you.

  4. I was having a conversation this morning about someone putting on a pretense in a dream. The argument in your paragraph is equally fun and interesting. I like how she repeats the terrible possibilities.

    Have you ever read Michael Chabon, by the way?

  5. I like the repetition of "terrible," too. This scene exists because I wanted to have Ruby meet Robert Goddard, because in an earlier chapter the narrator claims that they never met. The story contradicts itself all the way through like that.

    I have only read Chabon's Maps and Legends, which is a book of essays. I didn't enjoy it, but I've promised myself that I'd read either Kavalier and Clay or The Yiddish Policemen's Union this year. Aren't you reading Wonder Boys?

  6. I'm about halfway done with Wonder Boys. I tried Kavalier and Clay, and it dragged for me, even though I was interested in some parts of it. Wonder Boys is engaging me more, though I liked the first third more than the current section I'm in. I want to finish it so that I can have an entry in my list of books read in 2013!

  7. This is lovely, Scott! I do hope I get to read the entire thing sometime (long paragraphs and all). Unlike Ruby, I rarely recall things in dreams once they've decided to dart away from me. I hate it when I know they were important and I'll never be able to retrieve them.

    Favorite line: "What the moon done to you that you wish to crawl all over her face?"

    What a wonderful question, and I love that the moon is female. :)

  8. Michelle, I'm glad you like this. You should see it about a year from now! In the meanwhile I'm going to write about Antarctica and then, I think, about a philosophical detective. No promise about the latter, but that's the plan for now.

    Ruby's mother tongue is Spanish, and in Spanish the moon is la luna, a feminine noun. Though I'm sure Ruby would think of the moon as a she anyway.

    Today at lunch my narrator wrote about Shakespeare and Nabokov, telling lies about Nabokov in what I hope is a parody of Nabokov's prose style.

  9. Darcy has named her babydoll la luna. I think she knows more Spanish than I do. :)

  10. Is Darcy reading yet? There's a fun duel-language edition of Dr Seuss's Cat in the Hat (el Gato Ensombrerado).

  11. Yep, she's reading. I'll check it out. :)

  12. She can have my copy. Let me know and I'll send it to you.