Thank you to author Kim Kash for stopping by today!
A 21st Century Writer’s Notebook
I own a nice Canon camera that my husband gave me for my birthday the year after we moved to the Middle East. I’ve taken some decent photos with it, and I enjoy the weight and feel of it in my hands.
Lately, though, I’ve used my iPhone to take pictures. They’re not as good—because the camera is not as good. I also don’t compose my shots with a much care. This carelessness has had a useful benefit: I snap shots with my phone as a means of taking “notes” for my next novel. If I want to remember a detail, even a badly executed photo will serve to jog my memory later.
I write a funny, campy mystery series set in Ocean City, Maryland—the beach town in my home state. I’m not trying to impress with my photographic eye. Rather, I want to show a few things that I snapped as reminders about what I noticed and how I felt. Months later, I look at these as I sit in the Arabia desert writing the next installment in the mystery series. Here are some fired-from-the-hip shots from the past couple of years. It’s a peek into my writer’s notebook.
I wanted to remember the way the blue sky fades to a paler shade as it nears the horizon and the water line. Also, whenever I go there I’m always newly reminded of how very wide Ocean City’s beach is, especially here at the southern end of the boardwalk. No matter how busy a beach day it is, there’s always an expanse of empty, golden sand between the boardwalk and the crowds at the water’s edge.
Plenty of chain restaurants and fast food places are creeping into Ocean City, but the town is still full of homegrown favorites like Dumser’s Dairyland and Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy. Dumser’s started on the boardwalk in 1939, and still makes some of the best ice cream in town. Dolle’s opened in OC in 1910, and is another beach icon. I wanted a reminder to include reference to these businesses and others like them in my books. (Dumser’s is in Ocean City Cover-up, or at least a dumpster behind it, where a body is found….)
Trimper’s indoor amusement arcade anchors Ocean City’s boardwalk. Its carousel dates back to 1912, and is one of the nation’s oldest. It is a beautiful, elegant artifact. I love seeing the juxtaposition of the carousel with kitschy stuff like this:
and odd views like this (kiddie water ride + acoustical tile ceiling?):
Speaking of Ocean City boardwalk classics: the Haunted House is my favorite attraction. The last time I rode it was with my best girlfriend, after a few cocktails. I laughed so hard I nearly needed medical attention. My favorite part is the disgusting, ghostly toilet flush (you’re just going to have to experience this for yourself; I have no photograph.) I have a series of blurry, tipsy photos from that night, and used those when I was putting together the scene in Ocean City Cover-up involving a real corpse in the Haunted House. Here’s the headless dude who welcomes riders:
My next book, Ocean City Getaway, will include some scenes at Ocean Downs, the harness racetrack right outside of town. I went to this “racino” last summer, and took some bad pictures. If I’d had my Canon, I could have gotten some cool racing shots. As it was, they all were a blur. But they serve their purpose. They remind me how the crowd looks like the people you’d see at a community softball game, not the kind of shady ne’er-do-wells that my vivid imagination had conjured for a harness race and casino built in the farmland a few miles outside of town. Plenty of families with young kids cheered for each race, and a wagon drawn by Clydesdales looped the track several times during the evening. I was snapping away to capture all these details, but now that I’m back in the desert, the most evocative thing about these photos is the dark evening sky, threatening rain:
Thanks for tripping down memory lane with me. If you’ve been to Ocean City, I hope these shook loose a memory or two for you. If you haven’t, maybe you’ll be tempted next summer to drive across the flat farmland of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and enjoy a few days of vacation fun.