Originally in XX
As a kid, I grew up around science, whether it was astronomy, computers or aerospace engineering in the California Bay Area. When not overseas on deployment, my father would take me out stargazing a few miles away from the naval base we lived on. The beauty about living on the Moffett Field was that it housed the, still functioning, NASA Research Facilities. If I had a question about the stars I only had to walk from Hangar One and ask some of the most talented people on the base.
When I set out to write my Steampunk romantic novella, “The Invitation” (previously known as The Winter Triangle) I knew that stargazing and astronomy had to be a part of this Valentine tale. Professor Morgan Thibodeaux was created and based on my research about two of the “Pickering” women—Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Annie Jump Cannon. Both ladies worked at different times for Pickering as human “computers” to measure and catalog the brightness of stars.
These findings were later produced into the Henry Draper Catalogue. Annie Jump Cannon, while an undergraduate at Wellesley, contracted scarlet fever and became partially deaf. Not letting that stop her she went onto invent the Harvard Classification Scheme for stars. Henrietta Swan Leavitt’s discovery allowed astronomers to measure the distance between the Earth and distant galaxies. Her discovery of the period-luminosity law for Cepheids is still used by astronomers today.
That kind of dedication and love for the night sky is what I brought to Professor Morgan and she brings that love to Cassandra with the help of her sign language interpreter, Hunter. Professor Morgan has Leavitt’s cheerful personality and it shows throughout “The Winter Triangle”. Morgan’s silent world is not a hindrance. She sees the world around her in all its vibrancy and brings a sense of fun to Cassandra’s world during the eve of Valentine’s Day.
With good humor and cheer, Professor Morgan inspires both Cassandra and Hunter to look at the night with new eyes. Throughout their evening in “The Winter Triangle”, the trio’s adventures fill them with the same awe and wonderment only a clear West Virginia winter night sky can offer.
An excerpt from “The Winter Triangle”
“What is a Wicked Night Carnivale?” Morgan asked.
Hunter and Cassandra shrugged.
The smell of hot maple sugar and popcorn filled the air as they approached the platform.
The black stemwinder train commanded the trio’s view. Lights glowed from the sleeper at the rear of the iron horse and the caboose, but the two middle cars were dark. All of the cars were painted in saffron yellow and rust red vertical stripes with a large bolted sign in the center of each that read “WICKED NIGHT CARNIVALE” in azure blue.
Festive entertainers circulated amongst the well-dressed passengers gathered on the platform. One, a blonde-haired gentleman wearing a green and blue kilt over tattooed legs rolled a sphere with a glowing blue flame within along his fingers whispering things that made a gathering of women giggle uncontrollably. Elsewhere, an entourage of voluptuous women dressed in handmade winter shawls, silken skirts, and velvet coined scarves twirled through the crowd, the glint of their silver belled ankle bracelets sparkling in the extra lights strung between the speaker columns on the platform. Morgan Thibodeaux was mesmerized.
A very proper looking older gentleman stepped up to Cassandra, Hunter and Morgan with a tray stocked with dazzling trinkets and sweet treats. Cassandra spoke to the vendor, and the man handed her a bag of maple pecan popcorn still steaming in the February chill. She paid him, then turned and handed it to Morgan.
Morgan hadn’t been to a carnival in years and missed it. She missed the colors, the contortionists, and the jugglers. The stilt walkers towering above would always make her Emilie giggle with delight. If Emilie had not been staying with her parents this evening, her three year old would be reaching her chubby little hands into the trinkets and food, and attempting to crawl onto everything forbidden. Her daughter had made it a new practice to close her eyes whenever Morgan tried to give her a discipline speech. Morgan’s mother had told her that was normal for children her age, but it still drove her mad. Morgan smiled. Despite it all, she still missed her little peanut, and could not wait to see her again tomorrow afternoon.
She thanked Cassandra, took a small handful, and offered the open bag to her companions. After they all tasted, the pleasure on their faces made her laugh and thank Cassandra once again.
The entertainers had cleared away from the platform though a few of the vendors remained when a woman with a bright red top hat and matching red stained lips sauntered toward the loud speaker column. Hunter’s jaw dropped yet he managed to translate what the scarlet woman said.
“Ladies and gentlemen! We welcome you to the Wicked Night Carnivale! Tonight you will experience sights to intrigue and delight you! I promise,” she winked, “you will never be the same.”
The crowd clapped and laughed as they boarded the caboose. The two Morgans and Cassandra did not move.
What had they stumbled into?