My fourth novel was originally titled, 'Scorpion Hunter,' inspired by the over one hundred scorpions I murdered in mi casita in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the first three years I lived here. The first time I saw one, I almost fled...the 'wise voice' I always listen to said (her soft, firm voice), "Hold still, kill it." I took my flip-flop off, waited for it to run, fight back, it just held its place on my wall. They're like The Borg, no idea of human presence; in fact, pre-human. I eventually found their entries in the beautiful roof beams in my bedroom...a full moon shone through the cracks when I looked up to see an enormous scorpion on the beam directly over my head, as I lay on my bed reading. I had the openings patched up with cement, now only an occassional stray...and that's how los escorpiones claimed a starring role in my novel. I hunted them, and I also dreamt them. A shimmering, golden scorpion, that was so beautiful I couldn't kill it. I told this dream to a friend and he told me the story of the golden scorpion, which began to haunt me (of course). I hadn't started the novel yet; written that first line that commits me to the long journey of the novel. In fact, I was dreading it, the first line, that always feels like its written in my own blood. That kind of promise. To write, word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page, dream by dream, to the very end. But once I'm within the fictive dream, I am absolutely hooked. So I continued to resist the first line, in blood.
I met a shaman in New Mexico- where I lived for five years before driving down to San Miguel de Allende. An early morning, snow on the peaks, Pueblo dance. The deer dancers came out bare-chested in the freezing cold, hunched over and dancing with their two long sticks, creating four deer legs. The shaman laughed, "I used to do that in my younger days." He handed me a hot apple cider drink, steam rising as we spoke. The novel took me six years to write and only now do I realize the novel began with him. I promised I would not ever write about him directly, describe him, name him, and so I not ever will. A piece of his wonderful spirit appears in my character Hank (his Hopi name, Hototo: Warrior Spirit Who Sings). A young Hopi/Taos Pueblo Kokopelli flute player, artist, teacher. Hank brings the message/vision of the Hopi Fifth World...the warning of the Blue Star Kachina (Saquasohuh), that the blue star never dance in the plaza. On our Earth. These are some of the things we talked about, which became one of the driving themes of the novel. When the themes, storylines began to push through, I wrote them down in a fresh notebook, and I never quoted the shaman directly. It was as though his request had made me 'forget' our once a month, or so, talks. Only now do I remember his direct words, the tone of his voice, his face and his laughter...we also joked alot. At that time, he advised me to read 'Book of the Hopi,' Frank Waters. At the back of the book a Hopi language dictionary; the words read like poetry. Siyamtiwa, Object disappearing over flowers... Tuwanasni, Center of the Universe... Kuwanlelenta, To make beautiful surroundings. I wrote poetry using these beautiful words, which will appear in my eighth book of poetry, 'Gracias,' simultaneously with the novel. First dreams, then poetry, guide the fictive dream. The novel.
The central storyline is a love affair spanning thirty years- an older woman, younger man relationship. Xochiquetzal and Javier appeared in my first line, on the first page, and surprised me with the passion, Eros, of their meeting. I almost balked at the first scene, very erotic, and thought (me, the writer) it should happen later on with more introduction. Every time I'd try to place that opening scene somewhere else, they would literally walk out on me and refuse to appear, continue the fictive dream, their story; and so, the opening scene remains as it is. And from there, the fictive dream/novel unfolded, as other characters/stories were magnetized to their story and the theme of the Hopi/Pueblo Fifth World, the Mayan Sixth World. Ai, a young Japanese woman planting peace crystals around the world to honor Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Don Francisco, a Maya shaman from Oaxaca/Chiapas. Ari, an Israeli Commando...his mother Jewish, his father Latin American. Pompeii, a drug cartel character I didn't know what to do with until he showed me his heart. And more.
Here's how the first line arrived...I stopped to talk to an artist displaying his paintings at the local Parque Juarez. He told me the story of his wife birthing their son, that she had to hold the final push as she was crowning (the head just showing). Having had four children, I knew/know that moment very well. That desire, bodily instinct, to push push push...to give birth. My body clenched with that memory, I held my breath. I wrote the first line the next morning, visualizing/remembering that moment. To give birth. To the first line. The long fictive dream that would take me six years, that long dreaming pregnancy. To the final line. The final page. The final dream. Every writer knows. Joy/sorrow, the letting go, as we must, our grown children. To the world. Here's a GRITO...that Mexican shout/yell that proclaims joy/sorrow in equal measure. When I hear it here in San Miguel de Allende, I laugh/cry. A gift.