Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Writing Prompt - The Mardi Gras Mask

(Since festival time is approaching in Louisiana, this seemed like it might be a fun prompt.)

The local museum is offering an exhibit of Mardi Gras art. It's a stunning display of those familiar festival hues -- purples, greens, golds. Posters, feathers, costumes and, of course, beads, are spotlighted in glass cases.

You stroll amid the displays, bolstered by the carnival spirit the artifacts suggest. You can almost hear jazz tunes and the shouts from the crowd.

Then you come upon a showcase with a full-head mask, displayed on a mannequin bust. It's a full face and skull of silver beads so shiny they seem to send back flares from the spotlight.

You're staring into empty spaces where eyes might be, but you're entranced as you gaze into the emptiness. You realize there's something unusual about this mask, or the person who wore it. Your thoughts begin to swirl, and then they seem to fill with images...

(Feel free to use as you choose. If it takes you to somewhere creative, that's wonderful.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Midnight Eyes In the Spotlight

Midnight Eyes is featured on The Indy Spotlight today with a brief Q&A.

View it here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's on the Kindle?: Fer-de-Lance - A Brief Appreciation of a Mystery Classic

I probably read about Nero Wolfe and his leg man Archie Goodwin long before I ever read a Wolfe story. Sherlock Holmes was plentiful in school libraries when I was a kid, but, despite creator Rex Stout's output, the Wolfe titles weren't as accessible.

Ironically, in the first story I encountered--a reprint in an issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine--Archie became embroiled in a case and actually convinced Wolfe to leave their Brownstone. Threw the whole armchair detective business into question for me.

Wolfe's rigid schedule and other eccentrics are entact in Fer-de-Lance, the first novel in the series from 1934. I read it recently on my Kindle, having purchased it a few months back. (At the moment it seems to be unavailable, not sure what that's about.)

Pricing on the Wolfe novels is unfortunately a little high for e-books, especially since the paperback editions can be had much cheaper, but I'm glad I bought the first title.

Everything from Archie's Panama hat, which Timothy Hutton duplicated in many of the A&E series adaptations, to Wolfe's orchid and appetite obsessions are in evidence along with a plot that twists as much as the Fer-de-lance of the title.

The Plot
Wolfe is drawn to the novel's core murder in a twisting opening that notes Depression era conditions and introduces a specially-designed golf club, one of those devilish devices so often found in classic mysteries.

Wolfe's faced not just with solving a murder but also with getting paid for his investigation, an effort that makes for a rollicking ride for Archie. He has to yank the chains of D.A.s and other public officials, provide Wolfe with an array of clues and face down life-threatening situations.

The title, incidentally, has a dual meaning, but the literal instance makes for an intense scene.

A few non-PC moments are found since this novel is from a different era, but it's generally a blast.  I read recently that Stout said he knew he was not a great writer, but that he was a great story teller.

The latter's definitely true here. 

Friday, January 06, 2012

A Writing Prompt - What's in the Bag?

(I've always found writing prompts fun and sometimes inspirational. When I taught a writing class a while back, everyone seemed to enjoy them, so I thought, with the new year, that might be an interesting, occasional thing for the blog.)

The Black Bag

You're awakened from a sound sleep by a shrill but hard-to-identify sound. You move to the window to gaze toward the wooded area behind your home. It's bathed in silver moon glow, and through the planks of the tall wooden fence, shadows suggest movement. Perhaps a couple of rickety figures are there, but you can't tell.

Choosing not to go outside, you return to bed for a fitful sleep, rising again only after dawn.

Then you're tugging on a robe and heading outside. When you reach the fence, you curl your fingers over the planks and hoist yourself up to peer over.

Resting on the ground in the woods is a large black bag. It has no markings, and it's cinched closed with a dirty length of rope.

Before you lower yourself back to your feet, something inside the bag moves, and there's an odd sound.

What's in the bag?

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