April 14, 2011

My Albino Moon Nightmare

Anyone who has read this blog for more than a few months knows I am a writer. They also know my online portfolio is here: Akurgal (this link is no longer available). I don't how many people have visited my portfolio, but those who took the time to look around probably encountered this story: Albino Moon (this link is no longer available).

I wrote this story several years ago, around 2003 or 2004. There was a writing contest that featured a short prompt, a word limit of 1000 words, and a 24-hour deadline. I don't remember exactly, but the prompt was something along the lines of, "All alone in the long desert night..." From the prompt came four lines of verse, from the four lines of verse came the idea for a band, from the idea for the band came the idea of a Native American lead singer and a short study in race relations in America. I decided to call the band, "Golden Earring" because pirate paraphernalia was everywhere at the time. Pirates, it seems, often had at least one golden earring as a sort of last resort money that they could fall back on when times were rough in order to bribe a jail guard, buy a pint of ale, or whatever.

It took about two years of edits and revisions for the story to finally wind up in it's current form (as linked above). It has done very well at Writing.com and for about a year and half now I've been playing around with the idea of expanding it into a novel. As part of my research to test out the feasibility of this idea, I bought a guitar and started taking lessons. I've always wanted to learn to play a guitar anyway, and now I find myself in a position of having more than enough time to practice and study music. Two birds with one stone: fulfill a dream and write a book. Simple enough.

So I'm talking to my guitar teacher explaining to him why I'm taking lessons. He asks to read the story, so I print out a copy and take it into him. At my next lesson (this would on April 7), he mentions that there is a real band named "Golden Earring" and asks if the story is based on them.

A real band? I've never heard of them.

He's not sure where they're from, but he informs me they had a couple of hits in the eighties and that's why he remembers them. One of their songs, "Radar Love" is a regular feature in sheet music collections of rock songs for guitar players.

Naturally since I don't much care for rock music, I've never looked at sheet music for rock guitarists, which is another reason I've never encountered them before.

I decide I need to look into this band. Well, this past week I've been sick so I didn't have a chance. Today I finally started searching around and this is what I found: (the video that used to be here is no longer available)

My chest seized up and I very nearly had a heart attack. Seriously. This was the closest I have ever come to dropping over dead from absolute shock. Not only is the band real (and very successful in Europe), they have a song named "Albino Moon", and the album that this song appears on is called, "Millbrook U.S.A.", which is the town where Chris is shot in my story's climax.

I guess that kills that novel idea dead. Their song is nothing like I imagined my fictional song and their band is nothing like I imagined my fictional band, but for international copyright infringement that would not matter in the least. I suppose I can think up a new title for the song, the book, and the band. It's not that hard to do. It's just really disappointing.

Oh, well, back to the drawing board, I guess. I suppose some folks will call it psychic synchronicity. I just call it a novelist's worst nightmare.

And it's too bad, because I really do love that story.


(December 28, 2017: I have pasted Albino Moon here because I deleted my portfolio at Writing.com. For five years it drew less attention than even this blog gets, so there seemed no point in continuing to pay for it. Below is the story, "Albino Moon", originally written in March 2003.)

Albino Moon
by Brian K. Miller
March 2003

"Albino moon glowin' in the sky
Wolf in the distance lettin' loose a cry
All alone in the long desert night
All alone when the wind takes fright
Darkness singin' a storyman tune
All alone 'neath an albino moon"

Chris finished the last chorus and the crowd went wild. It didn't matter where Golden Earring played, as long as we closed with Albino Moon the crowds could never get enough. Chris's moaning alto-soprano close had the power to carry us all a million miles away. At one jam-packed club in Phoenix she carried the final chorus acappella. The rest of us got so caught up in her voice we forgot to play and the audience never even noticed. Golden Earring had the world by the tail, until the night we played in Millbrook.

Millbrook, Alabama had less than 20,000 people. It was a tiny little stage set town just outside the state capitol of Montgomery. I'd have rather played Montgomery, more money and bigger crowds, but Millbrook was Kenneth's hometown so Millbrook was where we went. The town looked the way we expect small town America to look; a town square that was really square, a movie house next to a diner that served chicken fried steak and eggs with grits on the side, and a great big Rotary/Lion's Club sign to welcome any weary traveler foolish enough to stop. For all the whitewash, a lot of those towns are rotten at the core.

The Chamber of Commerce had set up a bandstand in the middle of the square. The Courthouse and City Hall were behind us, the diner on the north side, brick police station on the south side, and the setting sun in our eyes as we climbed the steps and started checking the instruments. There was trouble almost immediately. Chris stepped up for the mic check and some kid whose letterman's jacket size and IQ were the same number hollered out, "That injun chic ain' gonna sing, is she? Where's Chris?"

Before the roadies could grab him or any of us could say anything, some girl about the same age hollered at him, "Shut-up Billy, you ignorant jock! That is Chris!"

At the time, we should have noticed the obvious, but after a year and a half on the road all the fans in the world were beginning to look the same. Chris smiled down at the girl, gave a little wave and kicked out a hip. The only thing I noticed was a cute brunette in a way too short light blue mini-skirt. Chris's skirt wasn't much longer, but I stopped noticing what Chris wore her second day in the band when she told me straight up she preferred girls. After that, I played my guitar, sang a few refrains, and figured I'd have a social life once we got off the road.

The guy in the letterman's jacket scooped up some of his buddies and split the scene. The roadies relaxed and the rest of us got ready to play.

The first batch of songs went off like clockwork. Kenneth was stoked to be in his hometown and it showed. His bass line ran deep and strong as the Missouri River. Wallie, the sound guy, cranked up Kenneth's track so loud the only thing that could be heard clearly above his bass was Chris's vocals. Hometown or not, there was no way Wallie would ever let any of us outdo her. We'd all be down on him quick if he did.

Deep into the second set somebody screamed. Kenneth's riff broke up and mine wasn't much better. Chris kept right on going like the rest of us weren't even there. Then the crowd circled out like dish soap dropped on an oil film. Right there in the middle of the openness was the letterman. He had a gun in one hand and a knife in the other and the girl in the mini-skirt was lying in a pool of blood. That's when I noticed the girl was black and the guy was white.

The roadies leaped for him, but before they'd gone half a step he pointed the gun up at Chris and fired. Just like that. No smile, no smirk, no angry words. Just one calm shot that lifted her to her toes and flung her back against me. I dropped my guitar, caught her, and fell on my backside so hard it felt like I'd broke something.

She was still singing, but she'd drifted into the chorus of Albino Moon. Her voice was so low I don't think anyone heard her but me.

"Thanks for catching me, Ben," she whispered, and then she was gone. Just like that. Chris was a real star, right to the end.

Golden Earring died with her, of course. Kenneth and Wallie tried to put another tour together, but I couldn't play without Chris. It just didn't seem right. I drifted around a bit, wound up back here in Millbrook where Chris is buried. Last night there was a full moon, so I took my guitar down to her grave and played Albino Moon soft and slow. When the chorus came up a wolf howled; soft and slow, just like the guitar. In that moment time kinda froze and I felt connected to the world around me in ways I'd never even dreamed of before.

That's when I heard her whisper, "Thanks again for catching me, Ben."