clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Secret Lives of Pens

At left, a monk at work in a scriptorium. Public domain image hosted on wikicommons .

I use my own pen, mostly. Receipts, credit slips, waitlist sign-ins. I usually have a pen unless it is lost.

That second part: unless it is lost.

What happen to the pen after it is lost?

I imagine a collection of souvenir pens. They look ordinary enough; but, each was acquired from a famous writer in their lifetime without their knowledge.

I can see Updike searching for a Parker ballpoint to sign a rental car agreement and not having his pen any longer. Vonnegut's Bic isn't in his corduroy jacket pocket when he goes to sign an autograph. Dan Brown's crayon is missing when ...

Okay. That last one is just mean. You've got me.

I can see a type off odd little crook whose acquisitions are of attachment - to him - and not for the material value in the things he stole.

Now, he dies. The expansive home is filled with seemingly ordinary items in places of prominence and display. The pens aren't in the kitchen drawer. They're in the library in a frame upon the wall labeled in a neat little hand:

George O.
Bret E.E.
G. G. Mq.

The house is filled with these inconsequential little trophies acquired surreptitiously.

But there are other things, too.  There's a Matisse - say Blue Nude - which is supposed to be in the Baltimore Museum ...but this one is either a copy or another draft or ...what? There's a gun rack in the game room. There's a Mannlicher-Schonauer rifle chambered in the 6.5x54mm cartridge labeled "shooter three's rifle."

So, the dead man is a collector. He never put forth any of the collection for sale, auction, or display. What is the provenance? What would an heir do?

What would they do with a small box of Memorex tape labeled "18 min., R.N. potus."

Memorex in the 1980's was the largest worldwide supplier of magnetic storage medium. Some of you had a Sanyo dash mounted tape player that ate the stuff like candy.

There's something to this little tale. I'm going to have to think about it a bit.

What tale are you thinking of these days?

Witches? Zombies? Devils? Sugar-crazed nephews?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

At The Trade

At left, an Olivetti in the public domain hosted on wikicommons.

Not many left. No, I don't use one.

I've been too light on the trade this fall. I do my best work when I do a lot of it. I suspect many of us are this way.

When we write a great deal, we tend toward the simpler straightforward prose of the story. We're less indulgent. Less clever.

I'm doing a ton of work in the coming weeks. Morning session, evening session. This is what it takes for me.

I've a string of short stories that have been scratching at me and so drafts of them will be scratched out by me. Murders, mostly. I'm working the trades.

One must have material.

So, if you have an old aunt you just cannot stand or maybe a spouse with a onerous pre-nup, think of me. I'm killing 'em off by the bushel.

Just like poison: cheaper by the pound.

Back to work. Try to do a little more. It helps.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Death Squad Bingo

Photo at left in the public domain and hosted on Wikicommons. I'd guess it was taken about 1983. Subject is Thomas Sankara  late of Burkina Faso. Very late.

They dug him up this spring. Released the findings this week. Riddled with Bullets. Shocking.

He was a Marxist revolutionary who came to power in the height of the Cold War and attempted reforms aimed at removing Imperialist influence from the African continent. 

An elevator speech summary would be accurate in asserting Sankara as a pan-African Castro. 

He adopted Renault's Le Car as the state vehicle of Burkina Faso. 

Can't make shit like that up in fiction. No one would believe it.

He's not even a footnote in history now. 

There is however black humor in the passing of even a despot. I have a gallows humor and I'm putting more and more into the WIP as they come along.

My characters have been weak. Confessional time; but, there it is. 

With a little twisted humor though, our characters cross vast spaces of perspective that otherwise separates the white upper middle class female reader from the corpse on the floor of a dining room. 

Ever notice how in your favorite murder books when the body count grows the focus isn't on the outrage or revulsion but on the urge to solve the puzzle both as a reader and by the principals in the story?

Why don't people leave?

Three little girls murdered in Sharp Objects for example. If you lived in Murderville, wouldn't you move?

Well. Not you. You're reading Mayhem.

What about the people in Burkina Faso. Wouldn't they have moved?

Chained to the plow and we've all got to pull.

I've got rows of ink to plow. So do you.

Mind your dogma. It isn't safe in these neighborhoods for ideologues.

Try not to stage a coup. It excites folks way on over in the next county and their dogs bite hard.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


At left, Mars from the Spirit rover around Gusev Crater. Public domain photo JPL hosted on wikicommons. Not one of my vacation snaps.

Read a book then go to the movie?


After thirty-five years (enough snickering - you in the back)  of doing this you'd think I'd learn. I don't.

I'm an old bear and I never learn that movies are for people who don't read the book.

Read the book? Don't go.

Fine movie. Nothing wrong with it.

Unless you read the book.

I'm off to write on one. You should be too.