If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Back to the Cave



When I was ten years old, I was attacked by baboons. Spoiler alert: I survived. But it’s one of those stories I tell when people ask me to share something interesting about myself. There are others. I once saw a UFO. I own two chickens, Onomatopoeia and Chicken Whittle. I know all the words to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and have recited both to my freshman comp classes. I box—very badly—but enjoy it very much. And I once prepared to fight a grizzly bear with my bare hands.

In isolation, each of these facts will tell you very little about me, but when they are placed together into a context, they create a narrative. A story. A report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in a sequence. Your brain loves a narrative, loves it better than a list, loves it like bees love honey, with an instinctual affinity. This is why stories have been one of the sturdiest building blocks of our civilization, outlasting even castles and temples.

Storymaking is one of our oldest skills, going back over thirty-five thousand years ago to the Upper Paleolithic Age. One prime example of it can be seen in the cave paintings at Chauvet Pont d'Arc in France (you can read about them HERE).

During the dawning of our species, our ancestors eventually discovered that cave living was a fine idea. The world was a dazzling and dangerous place, and a cave kept out the larger hazards. Back then, every single day began with the same to-do list: survive until the next morning. Find food, avoid becoming something else’s food, don’t fall off a cliff, don’t step on a snake, don’t let the fire go out, don’t mess with that other tribe across the river because they will club you, don’t don’t don’t.

And yet, in those dark smoky caves, after what must have been grueling, back-breaking days of non-stop work and intermittent terror, we human beings made art. We daubed red clay on the wall and recreated what we saw out in that world: horses, mammoths, rhinos, lions. To our contemporary eye, these pictures may look primitive, childish even. The images blur into each other. The rhinos have six or seven horns, and the horses’ haunches overlap, as if someone were trying to draw a herd and just didn't have the skill to pull it off.

This would be an incorrect interpretation, however, a deception brought about by our modern eyes having grown accustomed to steady illumination. In the dark of the cave, lit by only the flickering glow of a fire, the images begin to move. In the dance of light and shadow, tails twitch, muscles ripple, and manes toss. The herd gallops across the plain, hooves and dust. The predator cat follows, fangs bared. These paintings were the world’s first virtual reality, and our prehistoric ancestors created them out of mud and memory.

Not just a collection of drawings. A series of connected events. A narrative. A story.

When you write or read, you’re participating in a human activity older even than writing or reading itself—storymaking. Stephen King called it an act of telepathy—two humans connected by neither time nor place, nonetheless together. A meeting of the minds, he says. Magic.

Consider this next time you pick up a book. Even if it’s too hot for a fire in the fireplace, imagine one anyway. Imagine that dance of light and shadow on the page. Invite your inner caveperson to move closer so that you can share the story together.

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Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph mysteries for Poisoned Pen Press. The fifth book in this Atlanta-based series—Reckoning and Ruin—was released in April. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories: www.tinawhittle.com.

17 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

Interesting information, Tina. So the paintings were actually the first silent movies!

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I can easily see the cave dwellers, flash to the 20th century--when everyone listened round the radio to hear "only the shadow knows." Flash to the 21st century--Perhaps now I know why many people love to listen to their favorite novels in the car--the new cave. Thanks for an enthralling blog!

Tina said...

I had the exact same thought, Jim (I'm going to call this great minds thinking alike). Plus I wonder if they were silent. That is how we approach them now, with an awe that is best communicated through wordless appreciation. But I wonder if our ancestors were that quiet. I'm betting they were noisy and appreciative.

I hadn't thought about the popularity of audio books, E.B. But I think you've hit on something. We still have our campfires and caves, don't we?

Lisa Abbott said...

I discuss the movement of the shadows on the drawings in my theatre class.

love this essay - but now I have to hear the baboon story!

Tina said...

Interdisciplinary minds think alike, Lisa! I imagine your class is a fascinating place to be. I'll be sure and tell you the baboon story next time we're hanging out -- it's like Gilligan's Island meets Planet of the Apes and The Magic Schoolbus.

KM Rockwood said...

I won't be surprised if the cave dwellers actually used the paintings as illustrations as they told the story.

My image of early story telling is a narrative around a campfire. eventually including talented bards who specialized in retelling stories.

Tina said...

The bards have always been key in transmitting not only the stories of a culture, but the identity of that culture, to the next generation. I vaguely remember one of the early complaints about writing was that it would make memorizing obsolete and endanger the stories themselves. They were safer in a bard's head than on flimsy paper.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I took several college classes about the oral origins of the epic tradition (Homer and medieval epics). Fascinating topic. Great blog!

Julie Tollefson said...

One of my favorite stops last summer in Australia was Carnarvon Gorge. We hiked the "Art Gallery" trail to see the amazing Aboriginal stencil art on the gorge’s sandstone cliffs. Absolutely awe-inspiring.

Great post, Tina.

Tina said...

I'm always amazed at the creative drive of the human animal -- its variety and joy and longevity.

Shari Randall said...

I love that quote - "books are a uniquely portable magic." And they are the only true magic left in a world where we take for granted things that our ancestors would have considered magical - electricity, flight, modern medicine.
Great blog, Tina!

Shari Randall said...

I forgot to post this - your blog made me think of one of my favorite poems by Shel Silverstein, "Invitation":
If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

Gloria Alden said...

Tina, I found your information quite interesting. It's not that I didn't know about the cave paintings, but I hadn't realized how they were done. I've always been interested in folk tales but not ones from that far back.

Chris Booker said...

I want to hear the baboon story too. I have lots of stories from my days in juvenile justice.

Tina said...

It is so fascinating to think of ourselves in this long chair of storytellers, passing along our stories like icons or relics or family heirlooms. In those caves, they also discovered the skull of a cave bear placed high upon a tall rock, like upon an altar. Was its significance sacred? Or was it simply something to draw -- a still life with grotty skull?

I promise I'll tell y'all the baboon story sometime.

Kait said...

What a wonderful post. The opening paragraph sings. Gotta hear the baboon story someday. In some ways, storytellers never left the cave. The image is oddly comforting.

Tina said...

Thank you! Perhaps we all long for the cave, in one way for another.