Lorrie Duncan, an abstract painter working as a substitute teacher, dreams of making it big in the art world when she’s not busy looking for Mr. Right. She seems on the verge of getting what she wants, at least with respect to her career, because her current boyfriend Marty is a rising star in the L.A. art scene. But when a fortuneteller gives her a medallion with malevolent powers, her life and plans fall apart. Now to survive, she finds herself in a race to discover its secret, before it destroys everything she holds dear.
A Blue Moon is Vanessa A. Ryan's first novel, a genre-bending literary urban fantasy.
Markham Jr. looked impatient. “I suppose,” he said, “even with your salary you can afford to keep up the property taxes. They’re quite low, but we advise you to sell the property if you can. The roof may leak and the cabin is in general disrepair. No one’s occupied it for some time. If you try fixing it up, it may cost you more than it’s worth.”
“I think I once visited my grandfather there when I was a kid. He had a cabin somewhere in the mountains.”
“It’s the same one,” Markham Jr. said. “Your grandfather passed it on to your uncle.”
I remembered the cabin more than I remembered my grandfather, or Uncle Harry for that matter. I hadn’t seen Uncle Harry for at least fifteen years, so I didn’t feel bad about his death.
I signed some papers, they handed me the keys, and then I left. I had known my inheritance wasn’t going to be much, but all the same it depressed me to hear Markham & Markham spell it out so completely.
Since Willow was a one-way street, I drove around the block to get back to Wilshire. In doing so, I found myself on a street of quaint craftsman bungalows, built in the nineteen-twenties or earlier. They had turned some of them into offices and stores. One white cottage caught my eye. It had a large, crude sign of an outstretched hand on its roof: Madam Grace * Psychic * Advice * Palm Readings * Tarot.
I wasn’t into fortunetellers, but I needed some cheering up. They usually said wonderful things were going to happen, like you were going to meet some tall, dark stranger who would be the love of your life. Exactly what I needed to hear.
Madam Grace turned out to be young, pretty and pregnant. She wore a dark red sari and her blond hair tied in a bun. Although her eyes were blue and her skin was pale, her heavy brows and her wide face gave me the impression she was either Middle Eastern or Slavic.
She spoke in a low but forceful voice with just a trace of some unrecognizable accent. “Come in,” she said. “We are having a special today. All readings are now fifty dollars.”
Fifty dollars. Some special. That was a lot of money, but I had gone this far, so I nodded and went inside.
Her living room was small but inviting. White lace curtains filtered in the afternoon sun and beautiful Persian rugs made her vintage Sears maple furniture look elegant.
I followed her into another room furnished with two large, blue vinyl game chairs. Between them was a card table covered with a white cloth. In one corner was a thirteen-inch TV on a fake wooden stand. In the opposite corner was a large, cardboard storage box covered with paper made to look like wood. Hanging above it was a velvet picture of Jesus.
The woman indicated to one of the chairs. The room felt warm, and before I sat, I took off my jacket. “Could you open the window a little, please? It seems hot in here.”
“It is hot because of the heater, but outside is cold. If I turn off the heater, it will soon be cold inside.”
That made sense, though I still felt hot with my jacket off. Since I couldn’t very well take off my sweater dress, I suffered in silence.
The woman sat opposite of me, shuffled some tarot cards, and then handed me the deck. “Shuffle the cards and then divide the deck into three and please the piles on top of each other.”
I did as she asked.
“Now, tell me your full name.”
“Lorrie––Laura Butler. Most people call me Lorrie. My mother was Italian. My Father was Scots-Irish.” I shrugged and looked down at the table. Then I bellowed, “Nothing in my life works out. I inherited some property, but it isn’t worth much. I have this boyfriend, Marty, but I’m not sure he likes me. And then there are these two teachers at school...” I leaned toward her. “Can you help me?” I was surprised I sounded so desperate.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was recovering from an illness, and writing A Blue Moon was a way to make sense out of my situation.
A Blue Moon takes place primarily in Venice, California, where lived for about nine years. I had read Ray Bradbury's Death in a Lonely Business and it inspired me to use Venice as a setting for my novel. I am a painter and sculptor, so it was easy for me to use my experiences in the art world as a backdrop. At one time, I also worked as a substitute teacher.
Is this autobiographical?
Not really. The one thing that remotely relates to me is I was a long-term substitute teacher in art, and the school I worked for filled my position with a permanent teacher. Rather than lay me off, they switched me to the English department, though I didn't have a credential in that subject. And because test scores were low, I suggested at a staff meeting that we teach grammar. Although everyone groaned, because grammar is boring to kids, the principal agreed to offer a mini-course in it, but only in summer school, and only for the smartest students.
When did you start writing?
I started writing in the early 1990s.
Who would play your characters if your book became a movie, please provide pictures.
I don't know.
Vanessa A. Ryan is an actress in Southern California. She was born in California and graduated from UCLA. When not writing or acting, she enjoys painting and nature walks. Her paintings and sculptures are collected worldwide. At one point she performed stand up comedy, so her writing often reflects her love of humor, even for serious subjects. She lives with her cat Frannie, and among feral cats she has rescued.