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This is the second time Mark David Gerson, screenwriter/author and creator of The Q’ntana Trilogy of fantasy novels and films, has appeared on my blog. The first was back in May 2010, when he shared his “Musings on Inspiration,” discussing his views on the subject of what inspires our creativity–a topic this writing and creativity coach and author of The Voice of The Muse and The MoonQuest certainly knows a great deal about.
Mark David is guest author of Dreamographies this week, sharing excerpts from his award-winning novel and soon to be first feature film in the Q’ntana trilogy, The MoonQuest). In fact, this is an exchange of sorts. Today, as his post appears here, a guest post of mine appears on his blog where I share my musings on the moon as a metaphor for our dreams and also some sample poems from my recently released collection, Tricky Serum: An Elixir of Poems (Lethe Press, 2011). Mark David always has something inspiring to say. Sit back and enjoy!
This is the Q’ntana of The MoonQuest, a land where “once upon at time” is a forbidden phrase and fact the only legal tender…a land whose moon is so saddened by the silence that her tears have extinguished her light…a land where fear rules and storytelling spells death…
Imagine it…if you dare…
First published in 2007, Mark David Gerson‘s The MoonQuest has won multiple awards for both fantasy and visionary fiction and is now on its way to the big screen in a production based on his screenplay and produced by Anvil Springs Entertainment. It’s the first book/movie in a trilogy, The Q’ntana Trilogy.
Dreams and storytelling are, not surprisingly, important elements in a story where both are outlawed. When Toshar, the story’s reluctant hero, is sent out on his MoonQuest, for example, he’s given no concrete goal or direction, other than to journey northward to the mysterious place of the moon’s rising and to let his dreams and stories guide him there. They do, often mystically merging into the journey itself.
In this excerpt, Toshar has fearlessly stood up to his nemesis, Bo’Rà K’n. Immediately afterward, he collapses into a feverish coma…and has a dream…
Wetness touched my lips and dribbled down my chin. Coolness bathed my face. I tried to open my mouth to speak, my eyes to see. They wouldn’t obey. “What are you saying?” I wanted to ask. But I couldn’t feel my tongue in my mouth.
My mouth. I can’t feel my mouth! A flash of panic and then…I feel nothing… hear nothing…know nothing…
I’m falling…sinking…floating…breathing cool, damp air. Now, no air…no sound…no light. Everything is black…dark…empty.
And then, something. The faintest riffle of air. A light, feather touch. It’s there, then gone. There again, enfolding me, cushioning me…embracing me. Am I still falling? Everything is so dark…impenetrably dark. Everything? No, nothing.
And then, something. A distant flicker. It wavers and gutters as it draws closer, grows larger. A hand cups the flame from behind. The light is nearly upon me, dancing atop a yellow taper. No, gold. No, blue. No, red. The colors dance as the flame pirouettes. Now the taper is white, as white as the halo of hair behind it, as white as the robe emerging from shadow.
“Do you know me, Toshar?” a woman’s voice issues gently from the flame. Toshar. I know that name from…from somewhere. Where? “Do you know me?” the flame repeats, now in a man’s voice, equally gentle.
“You are fire,” I say. “But who is Toshar?”
“Who is Toshar?” The voice is male and female, neither and both.
“I can’t remember. Does it matter?”
“You are Toshar.” The hand falls away and, with it, the shadow, revealing an ancient face etched with wrinkles. Candle flames dance in eyes as black as the blackness that surrounds us. It’s a woman, long white hair flowing freely over her naked breasts. No, a man, his chest buried under a snowy beard. The face is male and female, neither and both. “You are Toshar MoonQuester. I am Toshar Ko’lar. We are one, you and I. One out of time.”
It makes no sense, yet I understand in a way that surpasses understanding. I reach out to touch the apparition, but there is nothing to reach out with. I have no body.
“What am I?” I whisper. “Where am I?”
“You are here and not here, everywhere and nowhere. You are dream, you are reality. You are light, you are dark. This place, too, is all that…and none of it.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“You will…in time. Why have you summoned me, MoonQuester?”
“I, summoned you?”
“Forgive me. I forget. It was so long ago.”
“This encounter, this marriage of past, present and future into the eternal now.”
“You confuse me.”
“Do you remember nothing? Nothing of Q’ntana? Nothing of M’nor? Nothing of Bo’Rá K’n?”
Memory’s door opens a crack. I pull it shut with a cry of pain.
“Was it truly that bad?” he asks, more to himself than to me, as his image begins to dissolve.
“Where are you going?” I cry.
“If you do not know yourself in me…”
“…then do you know me?” Holding the candle is a wrinkled crone, leaning on a walking stick. Behind her, beyond an archway and through a misty, fluttering light, sits a steaming teapot atop a three-legged table.
“Come,” she says. She releases the candle, which hovers in the air unassisted, and extends her hand to me. I see another hand — mine? — take it and follow her across the threshold. “Perhaps some tea will reawaken your self-fullness.”
“Come,” she says, “sit on your favorite pillow and drink from your favorite mug.”
I cup my hand around the familiar piece of clay. Its green chevron shimmers luminously against my skin. I raise the mug and feel the steam bathe my eyes. As the sweet heat touches my lips and slides down my throat, I remember. I remember it all.
“Oh, Grandmother. I’m so frightened.”
“I know, child.” Her voice is the cool evening breeze that sweeps away a scorching summer day.
“But why? Why did I feel no fear then only to feel it now?” I start to tremble.
Eulisha refills my mug. “Drink this,” she says. “It will restore the balance.” Her eyes never leave me. “Do you understand yet who greeted you when you reached this world between worlds?” I shake my head. “You will be Elderbard, son of my son. What you saw was you, in the time to come.”
“But she…I mean he…that is, both…I mean, which?”
Eulisha’s smile fails to ease my confusion. “He and she,” she explains. “A union of all the qualities, masculine and feminine, resides in the truest of bards.”
“Will I…I mean, how…?”
“No,” she laughs, “you will not appear that way to the world, no more than do I.” Her voice grows serious. “Look at me closely. Look at me with the eyes of a bard, with the eyes of Toshar, Elderbard-to-be.”
I shut my eyes and reopen them. As I stare through the violet of Eulisha’s eyes, her face shifts subtly — a masculine jaw, firmer mouth, cheeks sprinkled with the salt-and-pepper stubble of a day’s growth. It lasts only an instant, then the familiar features return. There is so little difference, and yet…
“And yet we are one, as will you be when your time comes.” She gazes at me, her eyes boring through skin, bone and blood, then smiles. “And come it does. You ask why you fear once the fearful has passed.”
She lifts her mug and takes a first sip of tea. “Know first, child, that you needn’t understand everything, that mystery is among life’s greatest gifts.” Setting her cup on the table, she takes my hands in hers. They are like velour — soft, smooth, warm. “You fear your strength. You fear your power. You fear your fearlessness. You fear the future because you cannot see where it will lead and you fear what you cannot imagine.
“You have glimpsed what may lie ahead. But you are only now building the foundation of that future. If you continue to build, stone by heavy stone, you and that Elderbard will meet again. If you continue to follow the path that is yours alone to follow, you will be that sage, the greatest sage in the time of Q’ntana’s greatest king, under the gaze of a grateful moon. If not… If not, then who can say?” She gestures to the door. “It is time for you to return to your friends. They worry and there is much traveling before you reach The Mir. Much traveling…”
As I stand, Eulisha’s image fades. “Wait,” I cry. I reach out but my hand passes through her as through a cloud. “What of my fear? I’m still frightened.”
Only the candle and Eulisha’s voice remain. “Walk with your fear. Walk through your fear. Walk on…into the promise.”
The candle recedes and darkness returns. Everything is black…dark… empty…
And then, something. Voices. Familiar voices. “…breathing regularly again…skin cooler…” “…more water…raise his head…” “…hear me?…” “…speak…Toshar…one word…?” Slowly, black turns gray turns cloudy and the mist dissipates. Leaves. A thick curtain of leaves, framing a face that peers anxiously into mine.
“Ro’an?” A hand pressed down on my shoulder as I tried to sit up. It was another dream. It had to be.
The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy, the first book in the trilogy, has won multiple national and regional awards, as has his book on writing and creativity, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. Both books, and his The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers CD, are available on his website and on Amazon. Ebooks are also available on Kindle and Kobo and via Apple’s iBook Store; the CD is downloadable from CDbaby.
The MoonQuest, the first feature film in The Q’ntana Trilogy, will be in theaters in 2012.
As a creativity coach and writing-workshop facilitator for nearly 20 years, Mark David has guided writers and non-writers alike to connect with their innate wisdom, open to their creative power and express themselves with ease.
Mark David is currently working on a memoir and on The StarQuest and The SunQuest, the book and screenplay sequels to The MoonQuest. For more information on Mark David, his books and his work, visit his website (http://markdavidgerson.com) and his blog (http://markdavidgersonblog.com
This week’s “Musing on Inspiration” features gifted author, teacher/coach and visionary Mark David Gerson. Mark David has taught and coached writing as a creative and spiritual pursuit for nearly 20 years in the U.S. and Canada, guiding writers and non-writers alike to connect with their innate wisdom, open to their creative power and express themselves with ease. Author of two award-winning books, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write and The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy, Mark David is also a popular speaker on topics related to creativity and spirituality, host of radio’s The Muse & You with Mark David Gerson and a regular featured guest on Unity.fm’s Spiritual Coaching radio program.
For more information about Mark David and his books, or to sign up for his email list, visit www.markdavidgerson.com .
TSC: How do you define ‘inspiration’ for yourself?
MDG: Inspiration is that spark of creative fire that fuels not only my writing but my life. It’s that aha moment in which a bolt of clarity suggests a project, a direction….sometimes even just a word or a step. Like a flash of lightning, it’s that momentary illumination that reveals just enough information to get me going or, if I’m already going, to keep me going. It’s not the whole picture, or the whole story…or even the whole scene. It’s just the minimum required to ignite my imagination and my faith.
What inspires me? I think life is what inspires me. At the same time, I enjoy living in inspiring places and have lived in many. Although I’m about to move to Los Angeles, I’ve spent the past several years living in the mountain foothills of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Being able to walk in those natural areas has been very inspiring to me. It has grounded me and opened my heart. I think that anything that opens our hearts is a potential source for inspiration, and I’m sure the ocean will pick up where these mountains have left off.
TSC: What do you think first inspired you to become a writer/artist? Can you identify a moment or experience or influence that turned you in that direction? And where did it lead you?
MDG: When I was in school, I hated writing….anything creative. What I see now is that I was afraid. I was trying to avoid anything that involved the potential for judgment, that didn’t exist in that fuzzy realmbetween black and white. As a result, I gravitated towards math, because if I somehow recognized that if I got the right answer, I couldn’t be judged.
Apparently, though, my Muse had different plans for me and had marked me as a writer from day one. I just had to be eased, unknowingly, into the process. It began in high school, when I somehow got talked into doing publicity for a high school musical production and had to learn to write press releases. From that safe (because it was formulaic) place, I began to do more publicity and PR work, which led me into some journalistic work and a surprisingly lengthy stint as a full-time freelance writer and editor. Each of these steps propelled me to the Point of No Return: a creative writing workshop that an editing colleague persuaded me to take, against my better judgment, in the early ‘90s in Toronto.
That workshop was a life-changing experience, a nurturing, supportive environment that belied all my fears and beliefs about writing classes. The experience not only sparked a creative awakening but also a spiritual awakening. It also turned out to be my gateway into teaching about writing and creativity and into coaching writers.
TSC: What is your most ‘inspired’ work? Why?
MDG: I suspect most of my readers would say it’s The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, my book about writing. But for me, it’s my novel, The MoonQuest, probably because it’s a powerful metaphor for my own journey through and past my creative blocks.
The story, about a mythical land where stories are banned and storytellers are put to death, begins with the main character as an old man, pushed by a “dreamwalker” to write the story of his MoonQuest, the odyssey that restored story and vision to the land and light to a darkened moon. So often, when I give readings from that prologue and encounter his resistance to his stories, I’m reminded of my own. And so often, it moves me so deeply that it’s difficult not to cry.
I didn’t know I was writing my own story when I wrote The MoonQuest. Frankly, I didn’t know what I was writing when that story was coming out of me! In fact, I knew nothing at all about the story when I began…or, rather, when it began me. That it takes a profoundly personal story and turns it into something universal — and that it does it in a way that transcended my conscious awareness as I was doing it—still moves and humbles me.
TSC: Describe your muse, and how you invoke your muse, and do you use rituals?
MDG: Given the title and cover of my writing book, I’d better be careful how I answer this one! Seriously, despite the book’s cover, I don’t see my Muse in human-like form. Rather, I see it as an energetic force, a free-flowing river of creativity that’s always available to me.
I don’t believe Muses need to be invoked. I believe the Muse is always present and willing to speak. We’re the ones who need to be invoked! We’re the ones who turn away and say, “No, not your way. I want to write it my way. No, not your story. I want to write a different one.”
As long as we’re in a place of surrender to that creative source that is our Muse, it will always speak. And as long as we surrender to all that it would have us write, we will never be be blocked. I rarely engage in pre-writing rituals anymore, though I used to meditate before beginning — not to call in the Muse, but to put myself in a more receptive state for its words and stories. These days, I just sit down with some gentle, ambient music and begin.
TSC: What is your take on the notion that any artistic creative work is more about perspiration than inspiration?
MDG: Honestly? I think it’s bullshit! Of course, unless we’re writing there is no output. But the notion of perspiration suggests heavy labor. And although writing can be difficult at times, that difficulty is all about our resistance to the story our Muse would have us tell.
The more we surrender, the more access we have to inspiration and the less laborious is the process. At its best, creativity is about playfulness not hard labor. The more playful we can be, the less seriously we take ourselves and the process, the easier it always is.
TSC: What do you think is the most problematic misconception about inspiration?
MDG: That we have to do something to access it. Inspiration is around us in any and every moment we’re open to it. There’s no switch to flick, no Muse to invoke. When our hearts are open to our lives and to the world around us, inspiration pours in. Then it’s our job to listen, to surrender, to trust the process…and to write it all down.
TSC: List a few tools or practices or methods that work reliably for you to get you in the mood to create.
MDG: Rather than shifting into a zone, I do my imperfectly human best to live in the zone — to keep my heart and mind open, to live in a place of trust and surrender in all aspects of my life, not just my writing life. When I’m feeling stuck or shut down, a walk in nature will usually shift my energy and my mood — again, not just in my writing, but in my life.
For me, life and creativity are inextricably linked. If I’m living from a place of passion and faith, there’s less I need to do to switch gears. And if I’m experiencing writing issues, I need to look at my life, where the underlying causes of those issues most often reside.
TSC: What are you currently feeling inspired to do?
MDG: Where do I begin!? I could talk about my works in progress (a sequel to The MoonQuest and a just-started memoir). But in truth, inspiration for me is less about specific projects than it is about a way of life. So I would say that I feel inspired to trust more, surrender more fully and life more heartfully — in my life as well as in my writing.