Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Magic Monday ~ The Sphinx, March 1905


I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature.  I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

John N. Hilliard

The February 1905 issue of The Sphinx included a piece about the wizard war between Ching Ling Foo and English magician William Robinson who performed as a Chung Ling Soo. Perennial columnist John Northern Hilliard weighed in on it in the next issue.

We believe that the belligerents have gained publicity enough through an adroit manipulation of the press… We refuse to take it seriously.

Hilliard, an author and critic by trade, was involved in his own scrimmages. In the same March 1905 issue he writes  of Harry Kellar in a refutation of a column printed in July of the previous year:

“Think of the years,” continues Mr. Stewart, “think of year Harry Kellar has spent in originating and perfecting his apparatus.” Perfecting, yes; for Mr. Kellar is a man of sinew and there is the grip of the blacksmith in his horny hands, and every piece of apparatus he uses must need be three times the ordinary strength in order to withstand the terrific clutch of his fingers.

Hilliard would eventually become the advance man for Howard Thurston, who took over Kellar’s show when Kellar retired.


What Am I Reading?

March has been an incredibly slow reading month. I’m in the home stretch on Rebecca and should have the review next week. I *did* finish Magic in Theory. Review of that should be next Monday. My next nonfiction read will be Who is Magic Babe Ning? by magician Ning Cai.

On the Blog

  • Thursday: What Else in March
  • Saturday: A Deal Me In double feature
  • Sunday: ROW80, Round 2 kick-off post
Posted in History

Writerly Writing ~ Update 7

Pretty decent week in the land of rewriting-what-I-got. The toughest part was an action scene in the first half of the book. I hate action scenes. If I had my way my novels would consist of characters having skirmishes of wit over lunch. I’m down to less than 20K left, although I did realize this morning that the last 20K included a scene I wanted to reframe from a different character’s perspective. My deadline is Tuesday because…

I’m going to do camp NaNoWriMo in April with a goal of 30K words. That means, 1000 words per day starting April 1st. I’m also going to do a Round of Words in 80 Days again, starting next week when the next round begins. I’m already doing a Sunday update here and will probably start doing a quicky Wednesday update too.

You see, Eric and I had a talk this week about where we’re headed. His goals, his “where I want to be in a year,” are all based around the things he wants to finish. My goals had become entangled with notions of publishing and legitimacy and were being darkened by this shadow of disappointment. See, I’ve had it pretty easy in my life; I’m really terribly bad at dealing with setbacks, especially ones I can’t just dodge around. So, the question became: What do *I* want to get done in the next year? I’ll proclaim my solidly vague goals next week, but mostly, I just want to be a *writer* again.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

April Reading List

AprilTBR Continue reading “April Reading List”

Posted in Male Author, Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 13 ~ “You Don’t Even Feel It”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“You Don’t Even Feel It” by Lawrence Block

Card picked: Three of Diamonds

From: Murder on the Ropes

Thoughts: Keisha’s husband Darnell is a junior middleweight champion. After being married for twelve years with three daughters, Keisha was under the impression that Darnell would retire. He intends to, but not until after another two fights. He knows he can win these fights and tie-up another two belts. He’s in good health, at least on the outside. Keisha, though, notices his forgetfulness and the way he’s started to slur his words. “Getting hit upside the head? You don’t even feel it,” Darnell assures her, which isn’t reassuring at all.

This was not a great story. Boxing is, basically, a sport where two men* do damage to each other until one man can’t take it anymore. This leads to complications for everyone involved: the boxers, the boxing industry, and boxing fans. “You Don’t Even Feel It” handles this without any complexity and in a somewhat preachy manner. It doesn’t even scratch the surface.

*And women too. It will be interesting to see if any of the stories in this anthology include women.

Posted in History, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thursday Rewind ~ First Lines of Favorite Books, 2003 edition


Originally posted to my LiveJournal on January 31st of 2003, this is a list of the first few lines of my ten favorite books in 2003. Not too much has changed in this list in the intervening twelve years.

SmallAce      SmallAce      SmallAce

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.
Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury

When I teach a beginning class, it is good. I have to come back to beginner’s mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing.
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books.

84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff

The most important things are the hardest to say.
–“The Body”, Different Seasons, Stephen King

This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.
The Princess Bride, William Goldman

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone.
The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle

This was an old man. Not an incredibly old man; obsolete, spavined; not as worn as the sway-backed stone steps ascending to the Pyramid of the Sun to an ancient temple; not yet a relic.
–“Paladin of the Lost Hour”, Angry Candy, Harlan Ellison

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.

Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney

Who am I to be writing a book about my life as a writer?
Let’s start by saying it wasn’t
my idea.
A Writer’s Tale, Richard Laymon

Posted in Male Author, Nonfiction, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Magic Monday ~ House of Mystery


I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature.  I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

House of Mystery: The Magic Science of David P. Abbott by edited by Teller and Todd Karr

House of Mystery: The Magic Science of David P. Abbott (Volume #1)House of Mystery: The Magic Science of David P. Abbott (Volume #2)

A note from Teller:
This two-volume set includes Abbott’s Book of Mysteries, a collection of super-mysteries which, so far as I know, has never been surpassed. Abbott was a genius who built his work on the devious principles he learned from spirit mediums, who could not afford to get caught.
With these miracles, Abbott fooled Houdini, Kellar, Okito, Ching Ling Foo, and all the greatest minds in magic, and recorded his secrets in step-by-step detail in two of the most delightful and detailed books ever written on the art of magic.
This edition’s annotations and the newly-rediscovered articles and letters, including seven original hand-illustrated Kellar letters, make this set as essential for the history buff as it is for the professional performer.
— Teller (via Goodreads)

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on these two books for a couple of years now. And I still do! I read a browser-based scanned edition made available by the Conjuring Arts Research Center. I’d love to own my own copy. These texts are pretty lush. They contain all of David P. Abbott’s written works, as well as introductions and asides from Teller and Todd Karr that give each work context. There are crunchy historical bits: letters, photos, stories from contemporaries about Abbott and his performances. Included is an extended section on Joseffy in volume 2; Abbott’s The Marvelous Creations of Joseffy is given full treatment.

House of Mystery gives me further insight into the kind of man David Abbott was. His descriptions of his tricks are incredibly detailed. Almost mind-numbingly so. He was also a very peculiar skeptic. If he couldn’t find a complete explanation for phenomena, he was likely to officially say “I don’t know,” rather than to speculate publicly.


What Am I Reading?

Been a slow couple of reading weeks. I’m still working on Rebecca and Magic in Theory.

On the Blog

Took last week off from blogging, more or less. I was pretty busy and I’ve been a little slumpy as far as reviewing goes. I had intended to have Rebecca reviewed for Thursday, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Instead, I’ll probably do a Throwback Thursday.

Posted in History

Writerly Writing ~ Update 6

Started a rewrite of In Need of Luck last Sunday. As of this minute, I’ve rewritten about 25% of what I had. I’m going straight through, including the scenes that I had put aside for reworking. Still, 25% isn’t that impressive.

I’m considering doing Camp NaNoWriMo in April. Camp NaNoWriMo is like the little cousin of November’s National Novel Writing Month. Instead of starting a novel and writing 50K, you can do pretty much what you want. I’m considering a 30K or finish goal. Of course, finishing this rewrite before then would be step one.