Once in a Blue Moon: A Novelby Leanna Ellis
Bryn Seymour was nine years old when her mother died under mysterious circumstances on the same day Apollo 11 made its historic lunar landing. Forty years laterdivorced, working as an obituary writer, and duly cynicalshe meets Howard, a conspiracy theorist who knew her mom and believes a small Texas town may hold clues to what really fueled her demise.
Bryn Seymour was nine years old when her mother died under mysterious circumstances on the same day Apollo 11 made its historic lunar landing. Forty years laterdivorced, working as an obituary writer, and duly cynicalshe meets Howard, a conspiracy theorist who knew her mom and believes a small Texas town may hold clues to what really fueled her demise. Seeking closure, Bryn goes along for this men-in-black ride. But upon meeting Howard’s son Sam, an outspoken Christian, she can’t decide whose beliefs are more pie-in-the-sky.
The gravity of life has pulled Bryn down for decades. But a perfect love could be her first step to soaring. It only happens once in a blue moon.
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Once in a Blue Moona novel
By Leanna Ellis
B&H Publishing GroupCopyright © 2010 Leanna Ellis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHere lies obit writer Bryn She should have stayed home Instead of jumping in.
It's the story of my life. I often jump before looking, much less thinking. But there it is. My life is an obituary-in-the-making. Scary, huh? It keeps things in perspective. But it's not just me. I see others as potential obits, too. Professional hazard, I suppose. Friends text or e-mail pictures of funny or unusual tombstones. One sent me this yesterday:
The children of Israel wanted bread, And the Lord sent them manna, Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife, And the devil sent him Anna.
On Halloween, to give everyone in the office a laugh, I dress up as the Grim Reaper. Every artist's rendering I've ever encountered of the bleak goon in dark, heavy cloak resembles a tall, skinny scarecrow. That's pretty much me in a nutshell. Minus the scythe.
Today, on assignment, dressed in fairly normal clothes (for Austin's relaxed attitude, but not necessarily Houston's uptightness) of jeans, cowboy boots, and T-shirt (which reads: Dead Men Tell No Lies, but their family will!), I stand in a long, snaking line of which I can just now see the front, waiting my turn (not necessarily patiently). Of course, my brain wanders as it is prone to do when it doesn't have anything occupying it, my thoughts leaning toward the morose.
Most folks I've talked to this weekend celebrating the fortieth anniversary at NASA have happy memories of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Astronauts, celebrities, and the common folk alike who observe the stars above and dream of galaxies light years away have gathered at the NASA facilities. Their spirits are as buoyed as the gazillion red-white-and-blue balloons floating around the building, some bound together to form puffy rockets and planetary orbs.
Visitors who were alive on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped on the gray surface of the moon, want to share their memories of the event of the twentieth century. It's a universal hobby this looking up at the moon, gazing into the depths of space and wondering if life on Earth is all there is. Or if there is more, heavenward or in the opposite direction, if there are men from Mars, women from Venus or from some other galaxy. The stars spark our imaginations. The longer we gaze, the smaller and more insignificant we feel, and a craving to know there is something beyond us grows. "One small step for man ..."
... a giant leap into the black hole of my past. I was just a nine-year-old kid busy with throwing a softball into my glove rather than listening to Walter Cronkite narrate the historic occasion, the night my mother stepped into the hereafter ... a murkiness of darkness or light, whatever your beliefs might be. Mine bend toward a gray mist clouding over my heart, leaving me most often in the dark. The gravity of my mother's death pulls me down into a mire of sticky emotions I usually avoid. Without even the spin of the simulator I'm waiting to ride, I suddenly feel my world reel and my stomach tilt.
To distract my wayward thoughts, I make up another appropriate obit:
Brynda Seymour Took a turn in zero gravity She ain't no more.
"Hey!" The stranger next to me who has been texting with his cell phone for the past thirty minutes leans toward me, "What's that?" He nods toward an orange pail outside the door we've anticipated entering for more than an hour.
"In case we barf."
"What?" His lips thin, and he loosens his narrow, gray tie. He seems the type to choose cremation rather than burial, maybe his ashes sprinkled over some cosmopolitan area on a cloudy day. "Have you seen anyone get sick?"
"Hard to tell. After the ride, victims"-I smile and edit myself-"passengers exit a different door."
At that moment the metal door slides sideways. I crane my neck to see around the few guts-or-glory fools waiting ahead of me. Through the doorway ten slightly dazed, pale tourists walk (or wobble) out of the simulator, their eyes glazed, their mouths pulled back in a grimace as if they're still experiencing the full impact of the g-forces. I hold back a laugh. One young woman stutters, grabs a wall, and is shown a wheelchair in which she flutters like a collapsed parachute into the sling seat.
"Not too late to change our mind," the man shuffling along ahead of me says. He's slightly older than I am, maybe full into his fifties from the looks of his gray head. He's dressed in shorts and loafers. I imagine him picking out a plain, no-frills casket for his future use.
"Oh, don't worry. This will be fun," I say. "Can't be worse than HALO diving."
The older man turns, raises his eyebrows, which resemble tufts of gray clouds above his blue eyes. "What's that?"
"High altitude, low opening," the suited guy behind me answers. Definitely top-of-the-line casket required here-piped-in music preferred. He looks me up and down, not checking me out for a pickup, but sizing me up and assessing whether or not he believes me capable of the edgy skydiving. "You've HALO skydived?" Doubt permeates his whiny voice. "You military or something?"
"You mean, crazy? Nah, just a reporter." As if that explains my penchant for the extreme. I'd tell him I'm an obit writer but that might make those in line even more nervous, like I'm scoping out new material.
"Me, too. Houston Chronicle." The lofty tone of his voice sets my teeth on edge. Even though Austin is the state's capital, the larger metropolitan city reporters tend to look down their snooping noses at our smaller paper.
"Austin Statesman." I give a tight smile and skim the warning signs posted outside the simulator room. If you're pregnant ... If you have back trouble ... If you have heart problems ... If you have second thoughts ... Stay out. "You ever experience g-forces?"
"Once." He's young and fit, close to my daughter's age, with a tanned face and easygoing smile. "Puked my guts up."
"Don't sit next to me then." As I move toward the opening door, my step garners a bounce. The green light above flashes. All clear. It's a go-for-launch.
First, a brief introduction to astronaut training by a grim teenager who looks Vulcan minus the pointy ears, then he tells how Buzz Aldrin puked during training. Next, we're given one last chance to abort this mission. A thin, waif of a woman gives an adios and is escorted out of the lockdown area.
"Are you ready then?" Star Trek Wannabe eyes our small group of wary space travelers.
"Let 'er rip!" someone behind me hollers. He, I speculate, will be the first to hurl.
"Okay," Spock's cousin says, "let's blast off."
I roll my eyes and follow the master of ceremonies to my personal docking station. I check the plastic cushioned seat for any unidentified stains or particles. All clear. I climb in, pull down the chest guard, and strap the lap belt in place. "What happens," I ask one of the young workers checking for secured seat belts, "if we get sick during the simulation?"
"Bags are provided in the pouch in front." She sounds as if she's repeated the same phrase a thousand times today.
"No extra charge?"
She gives me a sideways glance, confusion darkening her brown eyes and puckering her forehead.
The older man behind me chuckles.
"Have many been used today?" I ask.
The young woman points to an overflowing trash can. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words.
Sitting quietly for one minute ... two, I check my watch, tap my fingers against the metal handles latched to a fake electronic board providing lights and buttons for my enjoyment. The hatch descends over my head and clicks securely in place. The simulator jerks forward. A bumpy vibration begins in my backside and rattles up my spine. I draw in slow, regulated breaths, releasing the carbon dioxide in equal puffs. I lean my head back against the headrest and close my eyes. My cheeks begin to tremble and shake of their own accord as they pull back toward my ears in a smile that lacks humor or joy. Pressure against my chest builds like a hand bearing down on my heart.
My mind drifts to those first astronauts. What fears did they face during training, during actual liftoff? Did they want to weep? Shout? Say, 'Look, Mom, I'm flying to the moon!'?
And right then, my pulse starts racing as if passing the speed of light. It has nothing to do with the simulator or the vortex it's creating around me. My eyes open. I look around. The enclosed space seems smaller. Frantic, I hold the metal handrails. My breath comes out harsh, fast-then stops. It's as if I've stepped off the Eagle right along with Neil Armstrong onto the lifeless moon, but I'm without my astronaut space suit and air pack so I can't draw even a single breath.
I wasn't watching the television at the moment he set that spongy shoe on the rocky, dull surface, but at my mother. I watched her chest rise and fall with each ragged breath. Soon my world began to spin out of control, out of orbit ... and it's never stopped since.
Before the contents of my stomach start to rise, the simulator jerks to a stop. I sit there a moment, gather my thoughts back into myself, contain them in a tiny capsule, do a mental check of my body parts-arms, legs, stomach, all still with me even though I feel loose and out of touch. Nothing lags behind, not even the contrails of memories.
When the hatch opens, I hop out quickly, ready to escape my past, and give a forced laugh as my boots clunk on the linoleum floor. A retching sound comes from the simulator next to mine. Discreetly, I glance away from the young man in the suit but can't help looking around me at the other faces, which seem drawn and shaded like the green men of a 1960s sci-fi film. I give a thumbs-up sign to the older man who stood beside me for so long and who now seems steady on his feet. The young reporter crawls out of the simulator, hangs onto the edge, and searches through his pockets. For his barf bag? But he pulls out his cell phone and texts a message. Probably: Survived. It sounds more optimistic than his shaky reality.
"Where've you been, Bryn?" Marty Peters, my cameraman, rushes up to me.
"Taking a spin." I thumb back toward the simulator.
He grabs my arm and tugs me out of the simulator room and into a crowded hallway. His camera bag bangs against my shoulder. He wears his Nikon around his neck with a long lens attachment. We seem to be swimming upstream. Marty's long blond ponytail swings from side to side across his back.
I have an urge to grab the ponytail and slow him down. Whoa, boy. "What's the hurry? Where are we going?"
"I've got somebody for you to meet. Might be your next article." Article, not obit. I write inspirational true-life stories for the Sunday paper-stories of life-overcoming, overachieving, survival tales. Ironic, huh?
Marty sidesteps a kid in a wheelchair and veers down a corridor, making me hop, skip, and swerve to avoid getting my toes crunched under wire wheels. "Can't we get something to eat first?" My stomach feels wobbly but not from the ride. "Didn't I hear there's cake?"
"Shaped like a moon. And nearly as big. But later."
"So who is this person? Dead or alive?"
"Oh, he's kicking all right. Could be a Sunday special. I told him about you. Said he's a fan."
Marty pauses outside a doorway. Inside a crowd jumbles together in the oversized room. The din of voices swirls around me, and I feel nauseated. What's wrong with me? Marty scans the crowd, stretching one way, then the other. "This guy worked in the Mission Control room from Gemini to Apollo 14."
"Okay. But I need to eat." I wonder if I should have taken the barf bag and tucked it in my hip pocket for insurance, like carrying an umbrella to scare off rain clouds. I spot the cake across the room and plunge into the crowd, my trajectory straight and determined. "What's he do now?" I toss the question over my shoulder at Marty. "Is he an astronaut?"
"Retired, I think." Marty catches up to me. "He's old." This, from a twenty-something's perspective.
We weave through the crowd holding plastic cups of a lime-green punch. I press a hand against my stomach just as I reach the table and grab a plate with a square of cake. The frosting is an unappetizing pale gray. A bit of red piped frosting bisects my piece. Must be a part of the American flag. Just as I shove a forkful of sugary sweetness into my mouth, Marty comes to an abrupt halt. I bump into his back, barely avoiding slamming my cake into his shoulder blade. He swerves around and stares at my mouth, giving me a look that says, 'What are you doing?'
"Brynda Seymour!" A voice bursts toward me like a thrust of a jet engine. The man, as tall and slender as a flag pole, steps forward, hand extended toward me. "I'd have recognized you anywhere. Anywhere!"
I gulp down that bite of cake and shake the man's hand a bit warily. Who would have heard of me? And why?
"Bill Moore," Marty adds to clue me in.
Should I know that name? An ex-head of NASA or astronaut? The older man with scraggly lead-gray hair that reminds me of the professor in Back to the Future also sports a handlebar mustache. He leans toward me, his thick glasses making his eyes loom larger. His gaze aims at me like a laser. "That's not my real name," he whispers in a rushed huff, then glances over his shoulder. "But I must be careful."
Surprised by his confession, I wait for him to explain. He doesn't. "You were a part of all of this"-I swivel my wrist, indicating all the hoopla around us-"forty years ago?"
Cragged and pockmarked as the surface of the moon, his face breaks into a smile, his mustache curving upward with his lips. "I was. I was. Amazing time. Truly amazing." He surveys the room and from his high-perched vantage point, he should be able to see just about anything he wants. Suddenly he hunches his shoulders forward and shoves his hands in his pants' pockets. His casket, I decide, would have to be extra long. "We should have gone back before now. So much we didn't do. So much we ..." He waves away his statement like it's a pesky fly circling my cake. "I've been contemplating writing my memoirs. You're on the top of my list of writers. Top of my list."
I arch an eyebrow at Marty. "That's flattering, Mr. ..." I pause, not knowing what to call this strange man. "What should I call you?"
He glances sideways, then behind him. "Howard," he whispers, his breath a mixture of cigarettes and coffee, puffing across my face and making me take a step back. "I'll explain everything-"
"I'm afraid you might have me mixed up with another reporter. I write inspirational profiles, but mostly I'm an obituary writer."
"Isn't that all a memoir is? A long obituary?" His laughter is strange and awkward, as if he's unaccustomed to the procedure. Casually, he loops an arm around my shoulders, and I give Marty a look telling him through make-believe mental telepathy that he's going to pay for this.
Marty jumps forward as if the point of my boot stuck him in the backside. Unfortunately I didn't have that particular pleasure. "Can I get anyone something to drink?"
I frown at him. If he leaves me alone with this guy-
"Do you know if they have lemonade?" Howard's face scrunches into serious consideration. "Pink, not yellow."
"Uh, I'll check. But let's get a couple of shots of you in the lobby. Maybe with a moon rock or next to that rocket."
"No pictures!" Howard's voice booms like a rocket on liftoff. He shakes his head vehemently, making his mustache quiver. "Thing is, Brynda," he still has a hold on me, "my story needs to be told." His breath puffs against my ear and the hair along my nape rises. I lean as far away from him as I can without tipping myself over, but Howard only moves closer. "It's a shame it hasn't been brought to light before now. But so many here ... at NASA ... don't want the real story told. Others are afraid."
I aim my fork at the space between his chin and mine. He backs up slightly, and I fork my cake instead of him. "And why's that?"
"Because they know."
"What was really found on the moon."
I start to laugh, but something in Howard's clear gaze stops me. He's serious. Or else an Oscar-worthy actor. Carefully I slide my gaze toward Marty and assess his reaction. He seems just as baffled. I shove my empty plate at Marty, cross my arms over my chest, and meet Howard's gaze again. "And what was found? No air? A lack of gravity?" I decide I need the last scoop of icing and cake and swipe it with my finger. "A bunch of rocks? Or cheese?"
Excerpted from Once in a Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis Copyright © 2010 by Leanna Ellis. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Leanna Ellis sold more than 1.3 million romantic novels writing as Leanna Wilson, winning a Readers' Choice award and the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award for her work. Elvis Takes a Back Seat is the first book published under her married name, marking a new creative direction in her writing. Like Francine Rivers before her, Leanna has left behind a successful career as an author of secular romances to write novels of faith that glorify God. A former schoolteacher, Leanna is now a homeschool mom and lives with her husband and children in Keller, Texas.
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Bryn Seymour is attending a NASA celebration for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing when she is introduced to Howard Walters, who whispers something about a lunar landing conspiracy in her ear. Soon after, Bryn discovers her mother knew Howard before she died, and goes back to find him and see if she can get some answers about the mysterious circumstances surrounding her personal tragedy. She also meets Howard's son, Sam, and an undeniable attraction is immediately formed.Through these two very different men, Bryn learns to finally let go of the sorrows she's held onto for so long. I have long been a fan of Leanna Ellis' writing, and reviewed her last book here. This newest story, however, beat all the others out of the race. By far my favorite! Ellis writes a compelling story about presumed crazy ideas but makes it seem completely natural. There is a bit of an intoxicating relationship between Sam and Bryn - when Sam gives a smoldering look to Bryn, I swear I felt it myself! An absolute pleasure to read.
While most of the world celebrated the Apollo 11 moon landing, nine years old Bryn Seymour grieved the death of her mom Jennifer. Four decades later, Bryn learns of some strange information re NASA and her late mother. Needing to know the truth, as she begins to think perhaps NASA is concealing something about her mom, Bryn travels to Texas to confront Howard Walters, who knew her mother. She hopes he can and will tell her the truth about her mom's death and perhaps NASA cover-ups. In Texas, Bryn and Howard's son Sam are attracted to one another, but his dad's conspiracy theory involving Jennifer may keep them apart. Once in a Blue Moon is an intriguing tale of a woman who never came to grips with the sudden death of her mother forty years ago and now has a chance for closure if she can obtain the truth; that is if anyone living knows the truth as Howard spins a conspiracy tale. Falling in love was not part of her plan, but fate intervenes. Fans will enjoy this strong romantic mystery due to a powerful cast, which besides the late mother and her adult daughter and the two Walters includes the late 1960s Apollo mission teams. Harriet Klausner
As I began reading "Once in a Blue Moon", by Leanna Ellis, I soon realized that I was in for a rare treat. I have my favorite genres and types of characters, and those are my comfort reads. However, I love it when an author can take me some place new, make it a journey to remember, and introduce me to new friends to whom I don't want to say goodbye. That's exactly what Leanna Ellis did with "Once in a Blue Moon". Bryn Seymour is a journalist with a college-aged daughter, a divalistic cat, and real difficulty with close personal relationships. At age nine, Bryn suffered the tragic loss of her mother under mysterious circumstances. Bryn secretly carries guilt over her mother's death, and it is a guilt which colors every aspect of her life. Raised by her grandmother after her mother's death, Bryn has a challenging relationship with her own daughter. When Bryn's beloved grandmother Cora shows the beginning signs of Alzheimer's Disease, Bryn is forced to place her in a care facility. On a reporting assignment to cover the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Bryn meets an eccentric older man, Howard Walters, who claims to have known her mother. Unable to resist learning more about her mother's life, Bryn becomes involved with Howard's seemingly paranoid conspiracy theories. Her life takes quite another turn when she meets Howard's son Sam, who is trying to come to terms with his "anything but average" father. Bryn and Sam share an immediate attraction, but it is a wonderfully written, subtle, slow-build attraction that still packs a wallop. While Bryn and Sam are still "works in progress", all of their emotional and physical aspects are in working order. How delightful that two people over forty are never categorized as middle-aged and are given a shot at a lovely, fulfilling romance. There is an underlying theme of faith and acceptance, which is just right for the story line. Sometimes, a leap of faith lands you in just the right place.
"Once In A Blue Moon" has all the elements of a good story: romance, suspense, comedy, drama etc... Being a Christian-based book, I found the religious references non-intrusive so I wasn't irritated by them. I did, however, find the movie references overdone. Less is more. I enjoyed all the characters and how each dealt with their personal struggles. I also enjoyed the history lesson. I was a young child at the time of the moon landing and it was pleasant to go back in time and relive that moment. I wonder if there really are crystal palaces on the moon! Leanna Ellis is very readable.
Once in a Blue Moon by Leann Ellis isn't quite sure if it's a conspiracy thriller, contemporary romance, or family drama. Brynda Seymour's mother died forty years ago as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. She was raised by her Nana, but has spent the time since living life on the edge, engaging in risky behavior and always falling for the wrong guy. When she's contacted by Howard Walters who claims that her mother's death is part of a conspiracy from NASA, she's pulled into his paranoid world where she meets his son Sam, a former preacher. Sam and Brynda have immediate chemistry, but can she fall for a guy who believes in the Lord who allowed her mother to leave her orphaned at nine years old? Ellis is very skilled at creating fully fleshed characters and writes with a terrific sense of humor. Her books always have a light touch, guaranteed to make readers smile. While the books struggles to settle into a genre, it's still an enjoyable story. The truth about Brynda's mother is rather shocking, but Ellis handles it with grace and there's an excellent message of acceptance and learning to let go.
More like 4.5 stars. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON is the first of Leanna Ellis's novels I have read. It took me a few pages to understand where the book was headed. But I read it in parts of two days and am really glad I read it. I like Sam, and his pure but relaxed view of God. And how he draws out Brynda Seymour's long held secret, and helps her heal. It was a nice paced novel to read after finishing THE OTHER SIDE OF DARKNESS which I recently reviewed. Leanna is a master storyteller and I am eager to read her next book.
Loved the off-beat plot. A little slow to get going on the story, but once it takes off, it's fabulous! You'll be rooting for the heroine to discover the truth!
Leanna presents a story filled with quirky characters, imaginative situations, and a mysterious past. The descriptive wordage is bold and easy to visualize. I was a bit "Lost in Space" in the beginning but after the third chapter the story becomes smoother with a comfortable flow. The reader will encounter precarious situations, potential danger and lots of laughs. There is ample opportunity for sleuthing alongside Bryn, searching for the truth about her mother's death. Along the way her heart faces new challenges. Emotions, once easily suppressed, surface and raise havoc with her sensible way of life, or is it? If you are up for high flying adventure then "Once in a Blue Moon" will launch you into space.
Bryn Seymour, a reporter on assignment to write about the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, meets Howard, an older man with some pretty far out ideas. He believes the government is hiding some information about what they found on the moon and are conspiring against him because of his knowledge. Bryn discovers he knew her mother who died under mysterious circumstances on the day of the moon landing. When Bryn goes to speak to Howard, she meets his son, Sam. He's handsome and charming and seems pretty normal, except for his strong faith. But might Howard's theories hold some water when strange and frightening things start happening to Bryn? I'm not going to give away any more of the book, but I ended up enjoying it very much. The plot was wonderful, with all kinds of twists and turns. It was funny, scary, sad and romantic all at the same time. Leanna Ellis' characters are vibrant and quirky and her descriptions so detailed. Sometimes almost too much so. In a few places, I felt it slowed the pace of the book. But that's a minor complaint. Put "Once in a Blue Moon" on your reading list. It's a enjoyable story that will keep you on your toes. **A complimentary copy of the book was provided to me for the review.
Once in a Blue Moon Intrigue, laughter, family, love, mixed in with characters you immediately like makes Once in a Blue Moon a fun book to read! Here is the back cover summary: She was only nine years old when her mother died under mysterious circumstances on the same day Apollo 11 made its historic lunar landing. In the decades since, thrill-seeking journalist Bryn Seymour has defied gravity, pushing each moment to count. Inwardly, though, she's resisted any close encounters. Skydiving is easy. Staying in a relationship? Not so much. On assignment to write about the fortieth anniversary of the first moon-walk, Bryn meets Howard, a loopy old gent full of conspiracy theories who drops a bomb on her world: he knew her mother. Could a small Texas town hold the secret to her mother's demise? Seeking closure, Bryn goes along for this men-in-black ride .But upon meeting Howard's attractive son Sam, an outspoken Christian, she can't decide whose beliefs are more pie-in-the-sky. The gravity of life has always pulled Bryn back down to earth, but a perfect love could be her first step to soaring. The kind of love that only happens once in a blue moon. This is a great book to help you relax after a crazy day and would be fun to take on spring break or add it to your summer reading list.