Last November I took part in my first National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I used the opportunity to finish a rather rough draft of You Can’t Go Home Again which is a Sci-Fi piece I’m working on for Jeremy Brinkett. If you are a follower of me I would be humbled and pleased if you followed him as well.
At the end of that November I saw a picture that my friend and cover artist Jenny Johnston had put up on her Facebook; an image that she had found a profound connection to featuring a tattooed circus girl and a lion. I asked if she had drawn it and she lamented that she hadn’t, but that it reminded her of her and her boyfriend. The image stuck with me and before November ended Jenny and I started plotting out what would become Tuesday’s Gone.
The image that inspired Tuesday’s Gone was actually a work by artist Julie Filipenko called The Lion Whisperer. Julie’s work, from what my very limited artistic sense tells me, is in the surreal category and she is one of my absolute favorite people to follow on Facebook and Instagram. She also has an Etsy page where you can purchase her amazing work.
While Tuesday was in the editing process I (rather nervously) emailed Julie and told her how inspirational her work was to me. I was thrilled when she emailed me back almost immediately and told me how happy she was that I had found some inspiration in what she had done. Tuesday doesn’t look much like the girl in The Lion Whisperer, and for that I had to look elsewhere.
I always had this idea that as the story took place in the early 1920s the image of Tuesday would look something fairly typical for that time. Tuesday is an abused eight-year-old girl, exploited for her body image and forced to perform by a cruel manager for a meager living. Initially my grandmother was a rather large inspiration as she would have been only a year or two younger than Tuesday in real life, but about halfway through the writing I began to stall because my grandmother’s inspiration could only carry me so far because unlike Tuesday, Edith Johnson was greatly loved and cared for by her immigrant parents.
This was when I discovered Diana Serra Cary, the former Baby Peggy. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll recall that I’ve been shouting this woman’s praises and encouraging my readers to appeal to the powers that be to help get this deserving woman her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A Star for Baby Peggy has been doing a great deal of this work for some time now and continues to advocate the righting of this 90-plus year wrong. They have a YouTube channel showcasing some of Diana’s work.
If you are unfamiliar with Diana’s story, the short version is that she was discovered at 19 months on a movie set and a director marveled at how easily she took direction. As her film career took off her childhood took a back seat to her parent’s ambitions for her and she became extremely exploited for her talents. She would spend most of her youth working on film sets, stage, and working the vaudeville scene – an area she particularly hated. When I discovered her and her film Captain January I knew that I had found a huge inspiration to continue writing this story.
The Francis Eugene Delmar Traveling Circus isn’t actually based on any one particular circus. I did take some inspiration from Barnum and Bailey, but the last thing I wanted was a thinly-veiled circus concept that readers would see right through. Instead the Greatest Show on Rails is more of a take on the greed and indifference of circuses that use animals for entertainment. Mr. Delmar and his right-hand-man Mr. Handfield are based on real people. Mr. Delmar got his signature mustache though when I asked a co-worker with a similar mustache if he was interested in reading Twenty-Five at the Lip and he told me he wouldn’t “Waste his time.” Always remember the adage about pissing off a writer because you might end up in a story. Mr. Handfield is named after my third-grade teacher Virginia Handfield. Everything else about him is based on a real person who is now dead.
Jenny asked me if there will be any more about Tuesday and I can say without a doubt that this is not the last time you will read about her. If anything I write has a chance for a sequel or perhaps more appropriately a larger world building it’s Tuesday’s Gone. I’ve already started work on Grampy Tuttle’s background as well as what happens after all is said and done. I’ve even written the basis for what comprises Tuesday’s own shadowy and mysterious background: where she is actually from, what her biological mother’s name is, where she was from, her heritage, and much more detail on how she came to be adopted by the circus. It’s not a pretty story.
Abandoned as an infant and adopted into a circus troop, Tuesday longs for a normal life outside the clutches of her cruel and degrading employer. While trained as a tumbler and aerialist, Tuesday’s eight year old body is covered in tattoos that are her trademark act in the sideshow. After a near-death experience, Tuesday sets out with a loyal companion in search of a normal life.
Set in the Prohibition-era American South, Tuesday’s Gone is a reflection of a bygone era, often misunderstood and misrepresented in popular culture. The underlying themes represent the culture of the day, as well as capturing the essence of the American spirit in a post-reconstruction setting.
Twenty-Five at the Lip is a year-long trip through the personal lives of three twenty-something paramedics struggling to navigate their relationships, sanity, and integrity. These young heroes come to find themselves struggling to maintain their sense of self and purpose in a quarter-life story written through the lens of EMS.