The Waxing Moon, Percy Cole, and Me

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Occasionally, we writers write ourselves into a corner. And so it was with the latest Persephone Cole Vintage Mystery, Hotshot Shamus, debuting in time for Mother’s Day. In some ways, finding out you’ve made a big boo-boo can be a challenge. Being the inventive sort that writers are, we often come up with a pretty nifty bit of business to get out of these scrapes. The bonus is the story often improves, becoming more colorful and interesting.

However, you can’t do that sort of thing with Mother Nature. You have to stick with what is scientifically possible. Unless you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, of course. Then you can have a green sky and 6 moons. But here on earth, we are stuck with one orbiting satellite, which tends to do its thing consistently. In fact, we have come to expect the moon to behave in a certain way. I happen to write cozy mysteries that take place on earth, so I can only diddle around with the truth of it so much.

As I neared what I hoped was the final round of rewrites for Hotshot Shamus before sending it off to my editor, I realized I had several scenes and chapters taking place during two full moons. Unfortunately, these full moons occurred only 10 days apart within the story.

I am not a scientist but even I know there have never been two full moons in that short a space of time. Something catastrophic would have to take place for that to happen. Given the state of the world right now, I didn’t want to go there.

I tried not to panic. Maybe I could turn one of the full moons into a new moon? No, no, no. A new moon is just a full moon coming back within the same calendar month. And it usually happens 25 to 28 days apart.

Time to panic? I couldn’t leave it as it was and I couldn’t abandon the moon being a part of the prose, either. Like many writers, I often make the atmosphere a character in the story. So, it was with this stupid moon. A driving character, too. Did that mean I would be rewriting 4 to 6 chapters worth of story to correct this error?

If I had to, I had to. But I wouldn’t be happy.

After several pieces of chocolate washed down by a martini, I decided to research the moon in all its glory. Maybe the moon did something I didn’t know about that would bail me out. After all, it’s a good moon, a lovely moon, a romantic moon. I even look ten years younger in the moonlight. Moon, don’t fail me now.

Then I stumbled upon what is called a waxing­­­­ gibbous moon. Somehow that particular phase of the moon got by me. I’d never heard of it before. Waning, yes. That rang a bell. But waxing? No. Gibbous, excuse me?? Come to find out gibbous means marked by convexity or swelling of the moon or a planet. Well, I never. Maybe I was in Study Hall when that lesson took place.

Panic avoided. The beauty of a waxing gibbous moon is it turns into a full moon after about 8 days. That’s close enough for my needs. And bless its little heart, it can shine enough light the entire time to save my scenes and chapters. Just a tweak here and there and all became perfectly reasonable.

Ain’t Mother Nature wonderful?

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