I Just Read: Blood Money and Other Stories, by Elmore Leonard

bloodmoneycover

I went into this short story collection completely cold.  I knew nothing about Elmore Leonard except that he created the guy from Justified (a show I never watched).  And he has been mentioned by Austin Kleon time and again.  I’m not sure why I decided to pick up this book.  I’ve been gaining a taste for Western fiction ever since I entered a classic movie kick a few years back (when I binged on Samurai flicks and the Man with No Name series).  That led to reading things like True Grit and of course the delectable Walt Longmire series.

So I decided to give Leonard’s take on the wild west a try.  Thank God I did.  There are few writers as terse and eloquent as he.  I’m not going to lie, there were plenty of places that felt dry.  Or better put: so specific to early Western life that I had to invest some time in doing research.  This was an era just after the Civil War, when Indians still had territories and trains were long groups of wagons.  It took some getting used to.  But once I adjusted my paradigm, it was gravy til the end.

What I love about Leonard’s prose is the lack of gloss.  He speaks the plain truth, with no frills.  I imagine he spent time cutting as much unnecessary text as a possible from his manuscripts, while still leaving something to read.  By the end of his career I’m sure it was second nature to write in that style from the get go.  As a writer who errs more on the side of verbose, this was as refreshing as a bucket of water to the face.  Chilling, but eye-opening.  And that’s not even getting to the amazing stories, with real but still heroic characters.

Do yourself a favor and read something by Elmore Leonard.  Doesn’t even have to be a Western, he wrote across genre lines.  His work has been adapt by Hollywood more times than Stephen King (arguable but it’s close).  He’s a master story-teller.  I’m excited I’m just getting started on his collection.

TL,DR: Go read this damn book.

Writing up the wall: things I do between the pages

bookcovers

The book covers above are just a sample of what I’ve been reading the last few months.  In addition there are a few more novels, books of poetry (Dylan Thomas), various collections of world folklore (thank you public domain) and a few on writing.  This seems like an insane amount to read.  I think I read fast, but I also know the trick of reading a little each day.

Inspiration comes in many forms, and while The Left Hand of Darkness may not influence Quippley (actually that is the one book that might), something of it will ooze out of my head one day.

I’m  going to try to talk about how these books influence my ideas, and take a look at how the creative process works.  Last year I tried to chronicle a similar journey.  That stalled out, not because I stopped reading, but the books I forced myself to read were far too terrible to go on.  Maybe one day I will post my thoughts on Dead Witch Walking but I fear the evil that would be wrought through me by doing so (I really hated that book).

This process will be loose and I will post when something bubbles up and bursts.  Some of it may be of interest to you, some of it may not.  Maybe they’ll be a take away that will help you in your creative journey.  Or maybe you’ll find a good book to read.

Anyone interested in the above books, I’ll post links to them here and now:

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
Foundation, by Isaac Asimove
Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King
The Man Who Was Thursday, G. K. Chesterton
Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher

 

There’s magic in the water…

BlogWicked title for a blog post, I know (it means nothing).  So here’s an updated list of all the books I gotta track down and read.  A few weeks back I mentioned how I wanted to read up on the Arthurian legends.  To that I’ve added a few medieval tomes (research for cultural/technical accuracy in manuscript).  And a few other books to top it off.  So here’s the list so far:

  1. Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik (currently reading on Nook app)
  2. Idylls of the King, by Lord Tennyson (found free on iBooks)
  3. The Once and Future King, by T. H. White (still trying to find a good copy. No e-reader version it seems)
  4. Death and Memory in Early Medieval Britain, by Howard Williams (trying to find a library copy)
  5. Medieval Warfare, by Helen J. Nicholson (think its on Kindle)
  6. Blood Angel, by Justine Musk (I follow her blog. Figured I should read one of her books)

I think I’ll also have to pick up something about traditional folklore and legends of the British Isles and Europe.  I know what you’re wondering, how could I possibly read all these books in a reasonable span of time?  Well, for most people (with social lives) it would be difficult, but the beauty of a driven creative is that I can find ample free time.  And I got locks on my bedroom door.

Death and Memory in Early Medieval Britain

My fall reading list

BlogI’ve been on a bit of an King Arthur kick lately (thank you, Julie Andrews!), so I thought I’d pursue some books upon the subject.  Join me on a literary journey, won’t you?

The books I intend to read are:

The Once and Future King, by T. H. White
Idylls of the King, by Alfred Tennyson
Le Morte d’Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory

Now I’m sure these cover a lot of the same ground.  But I’m eager to read the author’s different takes on the subject.  “Idylls” particularly is a series of poems, so they should give a unique profundity to the work.  I tried to find these as ebooks, but I might have to pick up a couple of old-fashion paper backs.

Don’t be surprise if some of this “leaks” into the Wizard of Quippley.  Don’t be surprise at all…

An early inspiration: the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien

BlogWe all knew this one was coming.  My first encounter with the works of Tolkien was, surprisingly, at a later point in my life than you’d think.  It was 7th grade and in Literature class we read “The Hobbit.”  The story was vaguely familiar to me: I had seen the series in paperback form scattered amongst my step-sister’s books and the image of slimy Gollum on the cover made an indelible impression on my mind.

J. R. R. TolkienWhen first examining the story, I was less than enthused.  Throughout my childhood I had avoided stories where the main characters were humble, seemingly ‘weak’–namely children.  So imagine my disdain for a story who’s hero was a small, whining child-like person.  I wanted to see tall and proud knights, supermen or warriors.  But Tolkien’s magic worked its way into my mind and by the time actual people were introduced at Esgaroth, they seemed foreign and distant to me.  I wanted to stay with the dwarves and hobbits.

Soon after, I discovered my mother was a devout fan of his work (to this day I don’t know why it had never come up before).  I picked up her copy of “Fellowship of the Ring” …and never made it passed the prologue.

It took the release of the movies to finally push me to read the trilogy.  I quickly became a purist fan, being mildly upset at the editorializing of the films.  I can honestly say there were scenes in the book that were far more thrilling than anything portrayed on screen (ie: Gandalf verses the Witch King before the gates of Minis Tirith).

The SilmarillionAny true inspiration, however, didn’t come until I was exposed to “The Silmarillion.”  I purchased a mass market paperback copy and tried to read it.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the strange and hard to pronounce names (of course I wasn’t reading it aloud, but even in my mind this posed a challenge).  I found a copy of an old audio recording of the book, and took it with me during long walks.

The serene surroundings of an empty Florida subdivision, coupled with the powerful voice of Martin Shaw, seared the story into my psyche.  The grand depth of the creation of Middle-earth and the epic struggle of the mighty Valar and the elves was far more exciting and provoking to my imagination than any other Tolkien work (I guess I’m still looking for heroes in my fiction).  The beauty and sorrow of Beleriand was captivating and intriguing.

So how has this influenced my work?  Look around :P.  I think I will always be chasing Tolkien, whether in my comic or writing.  I will always be looking for a city like Valmar, perfect and shining with the Sun.  In my heart there lays an ancient anchor, pulling me to a world that is old and mystic, free of the shallow accoutrement of our age.  So whether in real life or in my fiction I search for it.  Perhaps I will never fully see it until I die.

“For the lesser even as for the greater, there is some deed that he may accomplish but once only and in that deed his heart shall rest.”