A Magical Journey

14 01 2014


Are you ready for a trip into the exotic this morning? Well, put on your traveling shoes and fill your  insulated mug  with your favorite tea cause we are going to ancient places filled with the unexpected.

Jimmy Nelson has produced a book filled with exquisite photographs that will transport you to other worlds as surely as any magic carpet.  His on-line site is filled with photographs that are  nearly  3-dimensional – you can almost breath in the icy air  in the mountains of India or smell the yellow paint on the faces of  Huli in New Guinea who say “Knowledge is only rumour until it is in the muscle”. This book, Before They Pass Away, is a glorious documentation of what is while it still is.

Hop on your carpet here: http://www.beforethey.com/#before-they-pass-away

or here


My Hero’s Have Always Been Con-Men (Weekly Challenge Stylish Imitation) Sam Spade

13 09 2012
Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right”.  (Sam Spade) Dashiell Hammett

“When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it.”  (Sam Spade)

Dashiell Hammett                ********************************************************************************

I grew up in a dusty seedy little town  where nothing much of anything exciting ever happened, at least not out in the open.  Oh sure we had our share of punk hoodlums and scalawags, the Pharris brothers come right to mind but we chalked  their bad behavior up to a sorry  father who beat them just because he felt like it. When ever he felt like it.  And he felt like it a lot. When they weren’t scaring the pants off little girls like me with remarks like these hissed out to the grocery lady ” Gimme two cents worth of that haaard candy lady, because my teeth are, you know,really, really,  sharp, heh, heh, heh”  they were setting fire to the straw in the upper floor of the shed in the back of their ramshackle house while trying to light the hand rolled cigarettes they took such malicious pride in or jumping out from under the   bridge on my way to town,  in broad day light  at scaredy cats and causing them to lose their mama’s cigarettes, or else they’d be down in the mud along the river  catching catfish with their bare hands.

In the summer the City Library was a big deal, second only to the radio so when I didn’t have my ear glued to the family Motorola I hung out in the musty corners of the top floor of our municipal building where the goods were stored, racks and racks of them. It was here  I discovered Frank Yerby in paperback  just as I was entering the 7th grade.  Now my mama had never read Yerby’s books and I didn’t know it then but  that was a good thing cuz later the next summer she caught me reading the biography of Gypsy Rose Lee out in the shade on the front porch.  Very quickly  she jerked  that book  out of my hands, closing it with a icy glare ” I don’t think this is a book a girl your  age should be reading.”

And that was that.

I was  married  before I knew the story of Gypsy  Rose Lee and even then I read the book with a tinge of guilt.  So, let me tell you, her black hair would of  turned every shade of white if she’d of cracked a Yerby book and I’d probably  have ended up in a convent somewhere  or worse at my grandma’s out in the country feeding chickens and gathering eggs for the summer. No chance of getting in to trouble there. But books like that are  another story.

So what was a skinny  scaredy cat girl  doing, headed towards home  with an armload of Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammet, and Raymond Chandler paperbacks on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of  ’51, with maybe a Yerby  slipped somewhere  into the stack?  Well, she was  jumping into the dark and dangerous  paperback world  of a cynical tough big city detective.  Into a world peopled with smart mouthed women and deceptive partners.  Learning the heft of the disarming come-back and  how to stand your own  ground, how to bluff  and when to fold.  Learning the value of that cynical outlook  or the arching of one brow and how  to look beyond the obvious.  Learning that everybody  has a code  they live by and you can write your own if you’re tough enough.  Learning that things aren’t always exactly as they seem and that even  hero’s have flat feet.  And that’s OK too.

And yeah,  I know the title of this little piece is sort of a con in itself,  but hey it got you this far, didn’t it?

The truth is my hero’s have always been authors and there is a little  bit of the con in every story, don’t you think?

Hammett homage

Hammett homage (Photo credit: Koocheekoo)

 “When you write, you want fame, fortune and personal satisfaction. You want to write what you want to write and feel it’s good, and you want this to go on for hundreds of years. You’re not likely ever to get all these things, and you’re not likely to give up writing and commit suicide if you don’t, but that is — and should be — your goal. Anything else is kind of piddling.”― Dashiell Hammett
To see how other bloggers   handled this week’s theme of  Stylish Imitation,  click here.

Memorable First Lines – Weekly Writing Challenge

11 09 2012
English: Cover of serial "Tale of Two Cit...

English: Cover of serial “Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s writing challenge asks us to focus on the author  who  has   influenced us most, for me an almost impossible task.   So many authors, so many  stories  have influenced me throughout these  years beginning with the ones my mother read or told me on her lap.  How could I choose just one?  So I thought I might  begin this week’s challenge  with a few  great opening lines from some favorite books,  lines  I’d put on my top  100 list and why.

A good place to start is John Irving’s opening sentence in A Prayer For Owen Meany .   If your interest is not pricked by this line  “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice-not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a christian because of Owen Meany.” you were obviously born severely deficient in curiosity.  When I got to the end of the story,  to that very last line in the book, that first line  in the book immediately sprang up  in my mind and I marveled at the serendipity.  “Kudo’s”  I said to the author. I  forgave him for the burden of  his wordiness and any other  small grievances I might  have had as a reader as it was apparent that the ending was known to him from the beginning.  That story was so well crafted there seemed no other reasonable way for the book to end.  Since then I’ve read 5 more of the 12 novels he’s written over the past 40 years.  He remains a favorite.

Recently I read an interview he had given at Good Reads in 2009 in which he explained  his writing process; “For 12 novels the last sentence has come first, and not even the punctuation has changed. From that last sentence I make my way in reverse through the plot, because there always is a plot—I love plot—to where I think the story should begin…..And once I get that first sentence, I can begin writing the novel.  By then I know the whole story and all the important characters; how and where they meet, when their paths cross again.”

Of course.

Another favorite author wrote this  first line “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” in  Love In The Time Of Cholera. The smell of almonds, in all it’s darkest evocations,  permeate the story.  Gabriel García Márquez  leaves no doubt that he  also knew the ending of his story before he ever put the first word of it down on paper.

With this concise, sparse line from The Gunslinger, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Stephen King  invites you into his unknown territory with a sense of deep  foreboding.  King is the master of a great read with an acute understanding of  people, both as characters and as his readers. He knows how to crook the finger to beckon us carefully  into the dark. Contrariwise it him took 12 1/2 years to finish this dark adventure begun on a ream of bright green paper found at the library.  While the rough outline of this story seems  constant throughout it’s  many revisions I find it hard to  believe the last line had been written in  beginning.

Another concise  line  “My name is Ismael” in Melville’s Moby Dick, gives us absolutely no clue to the story and we are left to pilfer around in the words a little to see if we’ll continue. This first line while widely known would not make my list although the book is a favorite. The fourth line however, “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”  will probably hook you and could have been a great opening line.

Sometimes what I like best about an author is his ability to construct a masterful sentence as quoted above.  Or one like  Charles Dickens  used to open  A Tale of Two Cities    ” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” with it’s cadence and dichotomy.

A more modern opener  is the one  John Hawkes used to launch  his 1964, Second Skin,  “I will tell you in a few words who I am: lover of the hummingbird that darts to the flower beyond the rotted sill where my feet are propped; lover of bright needlepoint and the bright stitching fingers of humorless old ladies bent to their sweet and infamous designs; lover of parasols made from the same puffy stuff as a young girl’s underdrawers; still lover of that small naval boat which somehow survived the distressing years of my life between her decks or in her pilothouse; and also lover of poor dear black Sonny, my mess boy, fellow victim and confidant, and of my wife and child. But most of all, lover of my harmless and sanguine self. ” I’ve included this second line too because I  particularly like the  truth in it.

Many of the best novels don’t have great opening lines of course, relying instead on the force of it’s characters or a story too  compelling to ignore. But those that do are rarely forgotten by readers and are the ones we as writers aspire to.

%d bloggers like this: