To read an excerpt from the book, please click on the following link:

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Rough Synopsis of The Book of Jezebel

Thought I would show my readers that I really do have some ideas for this new novel:

Principal Characters/Book of Jezebel


Earth (200-500 years from now); the planet has reverted to a mostly rural, agrarian culture. In the distant past, a comet was pulled into the Earth's orbit; the comet subsequently broke into pieces; the comet-bits continue to orbit the Earth and are quite unstable.  The pieces of this comet fall to earth on a regular basis in massive "falling star" storms; the comet-storms dump massive amounts of water and potentially toxic metals onto the planet, creating havoc in sea levels and the environment.  People are resigned to the planet's inevitable, slow destruction. Much of the Earth has already been destroyed due to the everlasting tendency of "dominion over" the Earth's resources, forests, etc.  The residents of Earth feel hopeless to create change, as there are no tools to really fight the process. The small population that remains on Earth are oppressed and downtrodden, waiting for the inevitable. Most people live in scattered towns far inland; the setting on Earth is a town called Saltwater, for an inland sea long dried up, creating a huge, barren salt flat just outside the town. This place is based on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.


A parallel world to Earth; the two “existences” depend on each other, so the residents of Kelem have a vested interest in trying to preserve Earth—if Earth dies, so does Kelem. Kelem is linked to Earth partially by the dreamscape (the name is derived from the Hebrew word for dream, chalam), but it is also a world unto itself. There once were wars, killing, rape, domestic violence sexual abuse of children, etc. However, these were abolished long ago in Kelem after a war between the worshipers of the pre-Christian pagan gods and a fanatic religious cult. Kelem is not perfect, but the residents treat each other well and as equals, and conserve the environment; there is still sadness and loss--but it is a very acceptable place to live, through the massive efforts of those who have come before. The culture is matrilineal; they worship a dual goddess (Jezebel and Lilith, who are powerful figures rather than objects of fear, and who got a significant bad rap in the Old Testament). They have a liturgical book consisting of a partial Old Testament (probably just a couple of chapters) and an apocrypha of fragmentary manuscripts of Andersen's Fairy Tales, and fragments of Grimm's Fairy Tales. These manuscripts came (somehow) from Earth and are preserved in a marble and gold temple.  This temple is based on one I saw in a dream when my sister Maryanne died; I dreamed her in that kind of setting.

Every year the residents of Kelem have a month-long liturgical festival which re-enacts the driving-out of hate, war, and abuse from their world. All of the liturgical festival is danced and sung as in an opera, some of it to a gamelan-style orchestra, as well as some unusual instruments (drums made of hollow ice, etc).  

Long ago, engineers of Kelem invented a glass console to monitor the broken comet orbiting Earth and to block some of it from spreading more water and toxins (it's a bit like a video game). The Earth has survived in part because of Kelem's efforts to save the planet. However, their invention and technologies are not perfect. Since the console has a direct line to Earth via an energy source similar to a black hole, it is handled with utmost care, as it can be dangerous and falling through is said to be fatal, especially when passing through the "comet belt" surrounding Earth.

The residents of Kelem communicate partially through dreams, especially when they are separated from each other.

Principal Characters


Melody Painter—she lives in Saltwater and teaches the local schoolchildren (there is a multigraded school). She is a single parent; her husband abandoned her shortly after their child was born. Melody lives in a state of “grayness” emotionally (much more so than the other residents of the town) as she is a rape survivor which caused her to have a breakdown and has told no one except her husband.  She is secretive and smokes a lot of cannabis to keep herself numb, and walks around Saltwater at night, brooding and sad. She is also generous, kind, and loving, which has caused her some trouble in the past, especially with her choice of a narcissistic writer for a husband. Melody is a fiber artist, currently making an amazing knitted coat out of silk and wool yarn scraps (more about that when we discuss her husband).

Ronan—her son, nine years old. He is a funny, smart kid, observant and positive, unaware that his generation could be the very last on Earth.

Melody's husband Bill is not directly seen, but is described (he is a would-be writer who piles rough drafts all over the couch, leaves dirty coffee cups around, and ignores his newborn son and Melody).  He has become narcissistic and selfish in the extreme in service of his "art"; some of this is due to an enormous fear of the world ending; many people are like this out of a need to hold onto something/anything.  Melody still loves Bill deeply and tries to make the marriage work, though eventually comes to the realization that he has never made an effort to really know or love her, will not work on the marriage, and that she is in truth diminished in his eyes and his affections when he discovers the fact that she has been sexually assaulted and had a breakdown (he also refuses to be intimate with her when she finally tells him about it...she thinks it is because she is heavily pregnant, but in reality it is because he thinks she is "dirty" and to blame for the rape).

Bill abandons Melody abruptly in the middle of the night after leaving a ten-page screed about Melody and their marriage on the kitchen table. It is supposed to be instructional for her (eg what NOT to do next time), but it wounds her to the core.  He takes time to clean up his manuscripts and dirty coffee cups before he leaves. Prior to this, Melody and Bill have had a huge fight, but Melody is under the impression that they have patched things up. Far from it:  Melody wakes to Bill's absence, and discovers that he has implemented a cruel "scorched earth policy" in the breakup--in addition to the screed, he has cut up and destroyed an exquisite, intricate wall hanging she has been working on for years.  Since then, Melody  has been piecing together her knitted coat from the scraps of the wall hanging, little by little.  It is the one thing she does that brings her out of her depression, at least for a small amount of time.

Bill and Melody's marriage and breakup are a microcosm of "dominion over" rather than "in harmony with". They both have a hand in the loss of their marriage (Bill is a narcissist and Melody too passive and unquestioning). Subsequently, Melody does not really know how to fight her way out of her depression.  She cannot find her way forward, though she is a very strong person.

In Saltwater, there is a “skeleton crew” consisting of firefighters, a physician's assistant, a nurse, a couple of teachers other than Melody, a librarian, someone to monitor water levels and toxins from the comet storms etc. All of the residents of Saltwater try to help each other with basic survival, protection from the comet storms, etc.


Joren—a high-ranking priest and engineer whose job is to work the night shift in the console room. He falls onto the console after a beer-fueled popcorn fight with his fellow engineer; subsequently, Joren falls to Earth, passing through the "comet belt" onto Saltwater's salt flats, gravely injured, with salt embedded in his wounds. He is discovered, unconscious and near death, by Saltwater's townspeople. 

Jorinda—high priestess of Kelem, principal dream interpreter, and the leading figure in Kelem's yearly festival (among other things, she plays the figure of Jezebel in a ritual battle). She is “bound” to Joren as her future spouse.  She is anguished when Joren vanishes and cannot reach him even in dreams.  Despite her emotional agony, she pushes forward and performs in the liturgical festival.

Jorinda may eventually come to Earth to find Joren, but I am not sure (the festival obviously has to be over). Her job is in a wildlife conservation center (in which we see a few of Earth's extinct animals: passenger pigeons, Tasmanian tigers, a dodo, auks, etc). These have not died out because of Kelem's commitment to live “in harmony with” their environment, even though the dodo and the auk, in particular, are spectacularly stupid birds who always get into trouble, crap all over the place, etc.  Jorinda loves her job and met Joren there.

Ezkel—Jorinda's principal advisor and counselor, though she is uncomfortable telling him certain things.

Kai-- One of Jorinda's best friends; he plays her opponent in the festival's ritual battle, so they rehearse the sword and dagger fighting together. His name comes from the male character in The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. He is gentle and kind, but ironically plays an insane religious fanatic in the play.  Kai is a very empathetic listener and one of the few people she can cry in front of regarding Joren.  He is one of the few persons who receives a dream about Joren after Joren disappears from Kelem.

Other figures: many of the names come either from Kelem's fragmentary Old Testament and the books of fairy tales which are Kelem's sacred texts..

This is the basic character structure and skeleton plot.

Tall order, eh?