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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
An idea is salvation by imagination.
—Frank Lloyd Wright
Writers and other artists are often asked about the inspiration for their work. Some of us—myself included—can find it a difficult topic to address in any way that makes much sense. Some of us don’t even really put all that much stock in the notion, believing instead that it’s ‘perspiration not inspiration’ that carries the day, or at least, reliably fills the page or the canvas.
Nonetheless it’s a topic that continues to inspire inquiry and so I am going to be inviting those who are finding their own successful mix of effort and inspiration to share their unique perspective on the subject with The Shower Channel in the coming weeks. The purpose of these interviews is to dialogue either seriously or humorously about the mystery and magic of inspiration—and to offer any insights that would be useful to others trying to find or better employ their own muse or shift into a more productive creative space.
I’m including visual artists and musicians as well as writers in this invitation, so if you or anyone you know might be interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will provide details. Each guest writer/artist/musician will also be invited to plug his or her published or pending work.
First up is my dear friend and creative partner, artist Cher Odum, whose beautifully inspired and playfully innocent images inspire me to co-create with her our exclusive, original line of greeting card art–and with whom I am currently creating an illustrated children’s book, a set of affirmations cards, and who knows what else!
TSC. How do you define ‘inspiration’ for yourself?
CO: Inspiration is an idea, a vision, a communication from my Higher Self or my spririt guides. Sometimes it comes to me after I’ve specifically asked. Other times it comes as if out of the blue, through a dream or during conversation with a friend. Inspiration is a thought that comes to mind, followed by an urgency to paint it. I know it’s inspired when I can flow with the idea, and there are no struggles to create.
TSC: What do you think first inspired you to become an artist? Can you identify a moment or experience or influence that turned you in that direction?
CO: I can’t remember a time I didn’t think of myself as an artist. When I was four years old I spent hours finger painting what I considered the most glorious creations. Of course, I was encouraged by my grandparents, who lead me to believe that they also thought my creations were glorious and worthy of gracing the walls of their home, and the front of the refridgerator. I felt that any blank surface should have been adorned with my colorful artwork, and I spent many hours doing chalk drawings on neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks, and with crayon on the lovely white walls in the home of my grandparents. I never understood why I needed to wash them away.
TSC: Describe the ‘inspired’ you. What does he/she look or feel like?
CO: My inspired self glows with joy and contentment. She feels alive and happy, and very content and complete. She dances and sings. She is as free as the wind.
TSC: What is your most ‘inspired’ work? Why?
CO: I’d have to say my most inspired work would be the illustrations for a children’s book Dan and I have spent the past year working on together. I’ve never attempted anything like it, and had no clue where to start or how I was going to bring Dan’s delightful characters to life. There were times I was a little overwhelmed by how I was going to create a certain character, and almost convinced myself I just couldn’t do it. Just as I was ready to throw in the towel an idea would just pop into my mind while I was driving, taking a shower or in a dream. When I followed through and painted the images I was given, it just so happened to be on the same line as what Dan was thinking of for that character.
TSC: Who or what or where is your muse? How do you invoke your muse? Rituals?
CO: I always call on my spirit guides or my Higher Self. I light candles, burn incense and ask my guides to assist me . . . to guide my hand as I paint. Other times an idea was offered to me in a dream and I head right to my art table and begin drawing first thing in the morning. Other times I go for a walk in the woods, or a drive to the coast. Some of my best ideas have come to me during a long drive through the countryside.
TSC What is your take on the notion that any creative work is more about perspiration than inspiration?
CO: I sometimes make things harder than they need to be, and put a lot of pressure on myself. When I’m not going with the flow of my inspired creativity, and trying too hard, I make a lot of work for myself, and end up throwing it away and starting over. I’ve learned it’s so much easier when I wait for the inspiration and not try to force anything. After a creative surge I always slip into a lull, which I often refer to as a ‘funk.’ I’ve learned that the funk is just a period of rest, to prepare me for the next inspired creative surge forward.
TSC What do you think is the most common—or problematic—myth or misconception about inspiration?
CO: That it’s easy to come by, or once inspired, always inspired. Some people don’t understand how you can be flowing with inspiration one minute, and wondering where it went the next. In fact, I sometimes wonder about that myself.
TSC What is the most ‘inspired’ work you’ve come across so far?
CO: The most ‘inspired’ work I’ve personally come across so far is the delightful children’s book Dan is writing. I have no doubt that when it’s published everyone who reads it will feel the inspired energy that went into the creation of all the colorful characters in the book, and the unfolding story of the main character.
TSC List a few tools or practices or methods that work reliably for you to get you in the mood to create. How do you shift into your ‘zone’?
CO: Dancing or Yoga, both to free my blocked energy. Playing with my grandchildren, and oberving the ease with which children creatively flow, and how easily they’re able to shift gears. I need to remind myself to not be so serious, but to be almost childlike in my creative process, and enjoy the flow with more feeling and less thinking, like children do.
TSC What are you currently feeling inspired to do?
CO: Currently I’m waiting to feel inspired again. I just finished a series of paintings and the illustrations for Dan’s children’s book, leaving me in that funkish state . . . or a lull, the rest period before the next inspired and creative surge forward. I’m hoping the inspiration isn’t long in coming!