Thursday, September 17, 2009

Once Upon A Time...

...there was a little girl who lived in a very big city. In fact, it was one of the biggest cities there ever was in the whole world. But, she didn't think of it as big; it was simply home. Every now and then her mother took her and her brother and sister into the "downtown" of the big city. She didn't know why it was called "downtown," but it meant riding on a train up in the air - a train her mother called an "L"," and looking into pretty store windows, and having lunch at a restaurant called Jacques. They always dressed up to go "downtown," and that made it special too. Downtown was like a tall forest, but the trees were made of brick and concrete and steel, and stood straight and tight like broad-shouldered giants standing arm-in-arm. The little girl's name was Lindy, and she loved going into the brick forest. She wasn't at all afraid, even though her mother insisted they all hold hands so no one would get lost, and even though some people downtown talked to themselves right out loud.

Lindy wasn't the little girl's real name; but, it was the name her father gave her and the only name he ever called her. He told her about a man who flew across the Atlantic Ocean all by himself and made it safely to the other side. His name was Charles Lindbergh, and although Lindy's father didn't care much for the pilot's political ideas (which her father declared were "rusty") he liked a song that was written about Charles Lindbergh. Lindy's father loved to cross his right leg over his left, and give Lindy a ride on his foot while he sang, "Lucky Lindy up in the sky, Lucky Lindy flying so high." And - whoosh - up he'd ride Lindy and then - boom - down she would go. This game made them both happy. Although Lindy's father didn't care much for Lindbergh, he did think he had "guts," and guts were very important to Lindy's father. But when he talked about Charles Lindbergh's guts, Lindy's mother would narrow her eyes and tighten up her mouth, and say something about using words that the children might repeat, and guts was not one of the words she wanted the children to repeat. Nevertheless, Lindy's father was determined to win the argument, and Charles Lindbergh had guts it was and guts it was going to be no matter what mother thought about it.

There was nothing in the little girl's life that caused her to fear anything, until the night she was awakened by the sound of someone talking very low and far away. It sounded like her father's voice, but her father's voice was big and deep. Deep like a when she and her sister would stand on a wooden soda crate and yell down the almost empty rain barrel and the sound would come booming back at them. She got out of bed and carefully crept towards the living room and peered around the corner. The room was dark, except for a small lamp. Her father was sitting in his chair with both of his feet on the floor, his elbows on his knees, and his hands clasped in front of him. A cigarette with a long ash jiggled in his clenched fingers and an almost empty bottle of amber liquid stood sentinel on the floor. He was talking about a dog of long ago named Moochie, and about how a man in a car swerved to hit Moochie, about how her father chased the man as he drove away, how he ran for blocks down the city streets until he collapsed from exhaustion. Her father called the man bad names that Lindy knew would cause her mother's eyes to narrow and her lips to tighten. She looked to see if someone else was sitting in the darkness; but, her father was alone. She realized he was crying. Now she felt afraid. At the time she didn't realize that fathers cried. As she got older, she would learn that the good ones did.

A short time after she saw her father cry, Lindy began to have a nightmare. She was in a tunnel that looked like a subway station with gray walls, a gray rounded ceiling and a dark, wet pavement. Then she heard the "ba boomp ba boomp" sound, like the last echo of a train's retreating wheels, then a growl, and a hiss. And without turning around she tried to run, but her feet were lead. The dream came back again and again, and she became afraid to go to sleep. Then one night, while being chased by the unknown beast, she struggled to scream. She tried and she tried and finally let out a yelp that woke her up. Standing by her bed was her mother. "Had a bad dream, honey?" Her mother crawled into her bed and drew Lindy close and stroked her cheek. "Do you know what courage is, Lindy?" "Being brave?" the little girl responded. "Well, Courage and Bravery are sisters. Courage is a little older and wiser and lives up here," she said, tapping Lindy's forehead. Then she placed her hand where Lindy's heart beat and said, "Bravery lives here." Lindy looked over at the crib where her brother was fast asleep and asked, "Do they have a brother?" Mother's eyes followed Lindy's and she smiled knowingly. "Well, baby, their brother's name is Fearless." "And where does Fearless live?" With that, Lindy's mother tickled her feet until they both laughed. "He lives here where he can run, and jump and climb things he shouldn't."

"The next time you have the bad dream, I want you to use your courage and turn around. And then I want you to use your bravery and stare right back at the monster. And then Fearless can take over and chase the monster away! How does that sound?" It sounded like a pretty good idea. Lindy's mother turned out the light and sat on the floor next to the bed, and petted her hair. Her mother's perfume was Wind Song, and Lindy knew her mother was close because the familiar fragrance wrapped her up like a blanket. Eventually, the bad dream returned; but, Lindy was prepared with a plan - and it actually worked. The only glitch was Fearless. He ran backwards and out of the tunnel (so the monster might still be there.) But the nightmare was gone forever. When she told her father about defeating the monster with her Courage, Bravery and Fearlessness, Lindy's father was proud of her. "You got guts, kid," he said with a wink.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I've been asked to select some titles for the next Slaves of Golconda book. At first I hadn't the ghost of an idea. I mean, it really was murder coming up with a theme. It was a devil of an assignment that haunted me. I think you now get the drift.

Autumn is here at last. The nights are growing cooler and soon leaves will turn their most brilliant hues - their last hurrah before...Death. Why do we love to be frightened? In what was my most recurrent nightmare, I was being chased by a frightful, demonic figure. As I tried to flee, my feet became leaden and I slogged forward knowing that right behind me breathed a beast. I was always just outside his reach. And then one night I discovered that I could run as fast as the wind with one...big...catch. I had to turn around and run backwards, thereby forcing myself to face the creature that roared and raged, ready to devour me. The nightmare never returned after that night. I had learned to face my fear, and by facing it I had defeated it. Perhaps that is why stories of mystery and suspense, of ghosties and ghoulies and monsters under the bed hold a certain goose-pimply charm for us. So, in honor of Halloween (my favorite holiday) I thought a little mystery, murder, mayhem or "things that go bump in the night" might be in order. Follow!


First published in 1926, and considered to be one of Christie's most controversial mysteries, the Murder of Roger Ackroyd breaks all the rules of traditional mystery writing. A widow's suicide has stirred rumors of blackmail, and of a secret lover named Roger Ackroyd, who was found stabbed to death in his study. The case is so unconventional that not even renowned detective Hercule Poirot has a clue how to solve it. For many Agatha Christie fans, this was her masterpiece.

THE MALTESE FALCON by Dasheill Hammett
The Maltese Falcon is a detective novel - one of the best ever written. It is also a brilliant literary work, as well as a thriller, a love story, and a dark, dry comedy.

It involves a treasure worth killing for, Sam Spade - a private eye with his own solitary code of ethics, a perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammet's coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers. (from Google books).

Published in 1886, this is one of the best known of Stevenson's novels. It concerns the way in which an individual is made up of contrary emotions and desires: some good and some evil. Through the curiousity of Utterson, a lawyer, we learn of the ugly and violent Mr. Hyde and his odd connection to the respectable Dr. Jekyll. A brutal murder is committed. The victim is one of Utterson's clients, and the murder weapon a cane which Utterson had given to Dr. Jeykill. And so, the lawyer becomes entangled in the strange world of the physician who has created a drug that separates the good in human nature from the evil - and the despicable Mr. Hyde.


Set on the English moor, on an isolated cause-way, at a mansion in the bleak, flat wetlands - with no neighbors in sight, the story stars an up-and-coming young solicitor who sets out to settle the estate of Mrs. Drablow. Routine affiars quickly give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister than any nightmare.

Often compared to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, the book starts peacefully and builds to a frightening crescendo that, according to one reviewer on Amazon, "will haunt" you."
Are you game to take a sojourn (perhaps foolishly) into Eel Marsh House? What awaits you there? If you do, will you ever be the same? (I'm getting all spine-tingly just thinking about it.)
Happy Halloween! Oh, I haven't learned how to link yet - but you can always Google.  *The blurbs and reviews are taken from various sources.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...

...which is how Snoopy perennially starts the novel he attempts to write from the roof of his doghouse.

Day One - Grad Writes A Novel:

I placed my laptop on the table in the breakfast room - the sunniest place in the house. It has a view that used to be quite lovely. That was back in the days when I had just learned to garden and threw myself into it with a frenzy. I planted and read and mulched. I deadheaded and weeded, misted and watered. Whatever I touched blossomed and thrived. Then something happened to my magic touch. The view is still green, but invasive vines seem to have choked out all the flowers, except for the Confederate Jasmine and Carolina Jessamine that have grown heavily over the arbor.

I cleaned the breakfast room windows at the beginning of the summer, except for one. A large, striped spider (a huge spider - the size of my palm) had built a magnificent web over that one and I didn't want to disturb it. My children have begged me to get rid of Flash Too (her name), but I'll have to wait until I have the time to catch her in a glass and transport her to the back of the yard (where she should have spun her web in the first place - like Flash One did several years before). One would think she could have picked a better piece of real estate - safety-wise. But I think she rather likes sunning herself.

Okay, so, hands on the keyboard. But, first I decided a pot of tea on the table would benefit the flow of thoughts (which I was certain would come fast and furious) and so off to the pantry. What kind of tea? There's Raspberry Lemon, Red Zinger, Earl Grey, Sleepytime (no, bad choice), English Breakfast. What's in that canister over in the corner? Oh, Apricot Tangerine. Just think I'll rearrange the middle shelf as long as I'm standing here. Why isn't all the tea in one place, the coffee in another, the canned goods arranged by type? The empty storage containers should be in the cabinet near the fridge, not in the pantry.

So, an hour later and I've forgotten that I wanted to brew a pot of tea. The pantry is in order. Back to the table, hands on keyboard.

Did I remember to pay the guy that cuts the lawn? The front yard looks truly awful and needs edging and mowing. I'm afraid my neighbors are talking about it. I'll just give him a call. Did I pay you? Will you come on Tuesday? In that case, should I tape the check to the door? No? Mail will do? I'll stop by the post office on my way to work on Tuesday. Thank you, thank you.

Let's see, I was in the middle of something. The laundry? The laundry!! I ran out of laundry detergent. Must run to the grocery store before I forget. They are having a sale on turkey breast, I think. So, let's see - turkey breast, stuffing mix, onions, chicken broth. We'll have Thanksgiving dinner in September! The leftovers will make great pita sandwiches during the week. Get pita bread, avocado, lettuce and tomatoes.

End of Day One of Grad Writes A Novel. At this pace, I should be published very soon.