February 1, 2018


Tell me it’s wrong the scarlet nails my son sports or the toy
     store rings he clusters four jewels to each finger.

He’s bedecked. I see the other mothers looking at the star
     choker, the rhinestone strand he fastens over a sock.
Sometimes I help him find sparkle clip-ons when he says
     sticker earrings look too fake.

Tell me I should teach him it’s wrong to love the glitter that a
     boy’s only a boy who’d love a truck with a remote that revs,
battery slamming into corners or Hot Wheels loop-de-looping
     off tracks into the tub.

Then tell me it’s fine — really — maybe even a good thing — a boy
     who’s got some girl to him,
and I’m right for the days he wears a pink shirt on the seesaw in
     the park.

Tell me what you need to tell me but keep far away from my son
     who still loves a beautiful thing not for what it means —
this way or that — but for the way facets sets off prisms and
     prisms spin up everywhere

and from his own jewelled body he’s cast rainbows — made every
     shining true colour.

Now try to tell me — man or woman — your heart was ever once
     that brave.

Victoria Redel

the great lesson

February 1, 2018

A Walk to the Castle by Alexandre Chaudret

But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales…There is the chivalrous lesson of ‘Jack the Giant Killer’; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of ‘Cinderella,’ which is the same as that of the Magnificat-exaltavit humiles. There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast’; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep.

G.K. Chesterton

genre writing

February 1, 2018

a murder 1

I was asked recently if I had any good writing advice I might share. I’m afraid I fell back on that old wheeze, “Write what you know,” because there’s truth in it, and also because I couldn’t think of anything better. This advice, while valid, gets tricky in the case of genre writing – if you grow up quietly in a small town in Iowa, as I did, and what you love to read is mystery novels…in particular tough-guy private eye novels…how exactly do you apply that advice, anyway? I had never worked my way to Europe on a tramp steamer, let alone walked down a mean street.

In my case, I tried shifting the big-city setting of New York or Los Angeles, common to most hardboiled stories back then, to my own small home town, Muscatine, which I called Port City. (Muscatine is on a bend of the Mississippi and is nicknamed Port City.) I also made a young comics collector the secondary lead of my first book, Bait Money (1973, available in Two for the Money from Hard Case Crime), and the bank I robbed in this heist novel was the one where my wife worked. I used Port City for the first Mallory novel, too – Mallory was a hometown boy who became a mystery writer – and the first in my Quarry series, as well. Quarry is a hitman, but he is based in part on a stressed-out Vietnam vet who was a friend of mine, also from Muscatine.

That was decades ago. I still use Muscatine in the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series, co-written with my wife Barb (under the joint byline “Barbara Allan”), though we now call it “Serenity.” We also use our own interest in antiques, and the family background of Brandy Borne, the main character, derives from Barb’s own family. The next one will be out in May – ANTIQUES CHOP – if you’re interested.

So I continue to find ways to “write what I know,” despite the mystery/crime genre I’ve chosen.

Max Allan Collins
Seduction of the Innocent: The Story Behind the Story

the creative condition

February 1, 2018

a doubt of witchcraft

Being in love — “falling in love” — now I understand it — now I know what it means — what happens to me when I am writing: I am in love with the work, the subject, the characters, and while it goes on and a while after, the opus itself. — I function only by falling in love: with French and France; with the 15th Century; with microbiology, cosmology, sleep research, etc. at various times — I could not have written “A Week in the Country” without having fallen in love with current DNA research…What it is I suppose is the creative condition as expressed in human emotion and mood — So it comes out curiously the same whether sexual or spiritual or aesthetic or intellectual.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Introduction to: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs