Saturday, August 06, 2005

Mona Lisa Smile

So I'm lying there in surgery, and the doctor says, "I want you to smile for me."


I sort of glance up doubtfully--I'm not exactly having the time of my life here--and he says, "No, I'm serious. We're very close to the facial nerve that controls the muscles that move your lips."

Oh. My. God.

Just like that everything can change. And that always makes good material for novels, but--as I smiled weakly for my doctor--I realized that although these are the kinds of things that are supposed to build character, I would not deal well with this sort of challenge. Which is why I am abjectly grateful that everything went well, and I can still smile--and stick my tongue out. (And kiss.)

I can still sing. (Would I have been able to sing with paralyzed facial muscles?) And, believe me, I feel like singing.

I've been celebrating by working in the garden. There's something very grounding (no pun intended) about working in the dirt. The feel of the sun on your skin, the smell of earth and flowers (the hair blowing in your eyes, the sweat trickling down your back). Mostly I've been replanting pots. (Er--repotting plants.) I couldn't figure out what was wrong with all the plants this year; we had such great success by container planting last summer. Then, belatedly, it sank in on me that it wasn't the heat or lack of food or water--most of these plants are root-bound. That's the downside of container planting, but the soil is so lousy here, containers are often the best bet.

I've moved about 17 plants of various sizes and shapes to larger pots, and I've got another ten or so to go, including five large vines. (I'll get them moved just in time to put everything to bed for the winter.)

I think one of the best things about a garden is that hard work pays off. It takes time and requires patience, but you will be rewarded. Hard work doesn't always pay off and you don't always get your just reward in this life, but you do tend to get it in a garden.

Uh, which is why my garden currently looks like hell. (But the writing has been very good.)

I think by tomorrow afternoon I should be back in writing mode. I NEED to be. I've got deadlines and commitments. And one thing I've learned, you have to keep that creative muscle warmed and working.

And speaking of muscles, creative and otherwise, the last batch off Ebay are all Dell mapbacks. (I don't know why I get such a kick out of those goofy old maps and the even goofier "What This MYSTERY Is About" and "Persons This MYSTERY Is About" lists.

DATE WITH DARKNESS by Donald Hamilton, 1947. The map on the back is of the Chesapeake Bay area "Where action is rough and tough in DATE WITH DARKNESS."

The front cover offers a guy in a red shirt getting ready to punch a girl already falling out of her shirt. The girl looks more thoughtful than worried; I imagine she should know.

First line: "He took down her suitcase and her fur coat. She said she did not have a hat."

(No, it is not chick lit--there is no mention of her shoes.)

I noticed this one was going for $12.99 last time I checked on Ebay this afternoon, so perhaps it's well known.

SLIPPERY HITCH by Gerald Butler, 1949. Man and a woman tussling over a boat oar.

Fear came into her eyes.

"Then--you're a--" Horror choked her voice...

He's a--a--what?! Jeez!

The back cover is not really a map. There's a line ink drawing of a map and then five little illustrations: A terrified girl prisoner in a madman's car--Johnny and Bob must stop him...Not daring to ask police aid, they wait for a ticket while their quarry vanishes...Until an unexpected curve appears at the edge of a high cliff...A wild hunch leads them to a cottage on a lonely lane...Blood flows when pursued and pursuer meet and the chase goes on...

Actually I can't tell from the little arrows if the high cliff comes before or after the wild hunch and the flowing blood. Maybe it comes after because THE CHASE GOES ON!!!

The back blurb reads:
The savage passions of a twisted mind makes life a living hell for two men and a girl in this forthright psychological thriller.

TWO men and a girl? Someone is doomed.

What does "forthright psychological thriller" mean? Is this a polite way of saying the madman has his wicked way with the terrified girl? Or are they going to hammer us with a lot of medical terms? Inquiring minds want to know.

First line: "Johnny had never hit a woman before, and when he saw her go down, and lying there, her face and her hair in the light of the street lamp, suddenly knowing it was a girl, he felt sick and dizzy."

Kind of effective, if confusing.

HUNT WITH HOUNDS by Mignon G. Eberhart, 1950. I already have (and love) this book, but I couldn't resist it in a mapback. The cover shows a man in a red hunting jacket menacing a woman in a ball gown (it's the Hunt Ball, right enough). The cover reads PINK COATS AND RED BLOOD--Three murders terrorize an exclusive hunt club.

Sounds a bit like a gay mystery, doesn't it?

The back offers a map of the state of Virginia, then a smaller map of Bedford County, then a nice little picture of The Laurels. It's a good one. The blurb reads
Blooded horses, baying hounds--MURDER, terror, intrigue and false accusations in the Virginia fox-hunting country.

This book was part of my inspiration for the fox hunting motif in VERSE OF THE VAMPYRE. I really enjoy Eberhart's work although she did create some of the most aggravatingly helpless heroines in the history of crime fiction. Never did these chicks fail to pick up the fallen murder weapon or deign to speak in their own defense.

First line: "There had been, as Ruby said later, no other kill that day."

Ah, fox hunting...

JEWELS FOR A SHROUD by Walter de Steiguer, 1950. "She was the victim of a madman!" The spine reads, DIAMONDS AND DEATH. (Sounds like my wedding.)

The map is not really a map so much as four stamp-sized illustrations. The Big City Slept While Murder Combed the Causeways. (I do like well-groomed causeways.)

First line: "On a small piece of land near the junction of Fifth Avenue and one of New York's swankier cross streets stands a building that is better known in some circles than most of the city's tallest and more famous steel and stone spires."

Architecture as opening gambit. Hmmm.

I always find first line comparisons intriguing. First lines and last lines, but you generally have to read the entire book to fully appreciate the last word.

Speaking of last words, the last word for tonight is...Goodnight.


Tori said...

Yikes! I'm glad the surgery went okay.

Those books sound like a riot! Even if it's unintentional. :)

girldetective said...

Thanks, Tori! Yep, there's nothing like a good BAD book to cure what ails you.

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