First of all I want to thank all the incredibly awesome bloggers, writers and readers who made The Book of Paul Tour such a huge success. So many of the bloggers put so much effort into their posts and designs — and the reviews were amazing — truly an author’s dream. Thanks also to all the visitors here who subscribed to The Book of Paul newsletter and are following future posts! I promise to deliver on the entertainment factor, though any wisdom and valuable insights into the human condition will remain iffy at best. So without further ado and adon’t, here are the fantabulous winners of the photo contests (drum roll please):
Best Irish photo: Cal Killeen
Cal happens to live in Ireland and I’m told the castle photographed below is only a short distance from his home in County Kerry (not County Kelly, which Paul is still extremely upset about).
The artistry, creativity and sheer labor put into the assemblage is extremely impressive, though the sickle is a bit modest and outdated for Paul’s current needs. His current model is described here:
Paul reached carefully into the deep pockets of his coat and felt around for his knife. His pocket-sickle. He had it custom made in Germany, where they still knew a thing or two about craftsmanship and cruelty. The long semicircular blade was hinged in two places and attached to a stainless-steel handle with a 360-degree rotational swivel joint, so he could open it with one swift whip-crack motion, whereupon hidden metal dowels would lock all the hinges in place. It was a scary piece of steel even when it was closed…the razor-sharp edges facing in on each other. You had to be careful just reaching in to grab it because the hair-trigger spring could instantly turn it into a bear trap in your pocket. Ouchy, wowchy.
Best tarot photo: Kriss Morton, The Cabin Goddess
Kriss takes The Tower to new heights in this jaw-dropping (pants dropping?) photo montage, featuring her snow-covered outhouse as the Lightning Struck House of God!
There’s plenty more to gape at in this fantasmagalooza wonder. The moose (mooses? moosi?) alone are worthy of devout praise as is the All-Seeing-Eye, The Goddess Triumphant and The Book of Paul posted on The Tower’s enchanted entrance. One thing’s for sure, at 488 pages, she won’t run out of TP anytime soon! Here’s what Paul tells William about The Tower when he explains the creation myth in the tarot:
“The key to the creation sequence lies in the starting point. Which is the first card? What’s the chicken? What’s the egg?”
“Well if it’s not The Fool, I guess it must be The Universe.”
“It’s a creation myth, the Universe doesn’t exist yet,” he said with a pained sigh.
I was stumped. I tried a few guesses and he got bored or impatient. He laid his big paws on the table and parted the vertical rows I’d made right in the middle, like Moses parting the Red Sea. Now there was a gap between The Emperor and The Hierophant, The Tower and The Devil. “It begins here,” he said pointing to The Tower.
He laughed at my perplexed expression and laid it all out for me. “In the beginning there was only Chaos and the Will to Become, the Intent to act. Close your eyes and imagine that you’re in a sensory deprivation tank. No light, no sound. You’re floating in saltwater so even the sensation of gravity dissipates. Now imagine being suspended in that senseless state without any thoughts, without words, because they don’t exist yet. What are you left with?”
“Nothing. Without any sensation or internal dialog you wouldn’t know you exist.”
“Close, but no cigar. You have awareness. And with awareness, the ability to perceive, the capacity for intelligence. Unfortunately, you have nothing to perceive because there is no other. All is one. You’re an entity with unlimited creative power, but no idea how to express that energy, how to come forth…to become. Imagine the agony of such a condition. And to make matters worse, the agony is eternal because time and space don’t exist either. The Tower is what you might call the Big Bang. The first Singularity.”
Kriss and Cal will both receive Skype tarot card readings from “the author” who promises they will both feature sunny, happily-ever-after outcomes, regardless of what the cards actually say.
And now for the big winner of the Kindle Fire:
Most Creative Photo: Erica Kloetstra
Talk about commitment! I understand that Erica had a one-on-one “session” with Paul to capture this very pointed sequence:
Thank god the Novel Publicity jury gave Erica the award. Otherwise, she’d have a very hard time explaining that recent hand injury to her readers, friends and loved ones. When I saw this I laughed out loud, but was also totally blown away — not only by the effort and craftswomanship, but also the terrific narrative and existential commentary titles. Erica certainly “gets it” — though she may have “gotten it” a little too much! So for the rest of you who haven’t yet read The Book of Paul (what the heck are you waiting for?) below you will find the entire (but very short) chapter that inspired Erica’s submission, where Martin gets a “reorientation lesson” from Paul because he’s gotten himself all confused by falling in love with too-hot sexpot Rose:
Martin Goes to Hell
Hell is a lot like death, not at all what you’re expecting, always much worse because it’s real. You can smell Hell before you see it. It smells like rotten meat left on the kitchen counter for a week. Like a rat that died inside the walls. Like a toilet that hasn’t been flushed in a week. It smells like Paul’s apartment.
When Martin opened the door, the first thing he noticed was the stench.
He once read that the sense of smell was more effective at triggering memories than any of the other senses. Martin had tested it out on his various belongings and discovered this hypothesis was so consistently correct that he promptly scrubbed, soaked, washed and practically sandblasted everything he owned until the scents were blessedly neutralized.
He closed the door behind him and wrinkled his nose, the scent instantly transporting him back to his first visit here. He could picture it perfectly, walking up the stairs behind Paul, waiting as he pushed the door open. And then…that smell.
Martin tried to shake off the memory. Paul smiled and put his hand on Martin’s shoulder. He hugged him warmly, then led him down another hallway away from the big bright room. It got darker and darker as they walked.
Paul occupied the whole top floor of the old condemned building. None of the other squatters living there made much of a fuss when he took it all for himself. Understandably. He had restructured many of the inside walls so the interior was a giant rambling maze of gloom. Well, someone had done it. Martin found it difficult to imagine Paul doing any real physical labor, although he could clearly picture him gleefully smashing through the drywall with a sledgehammer.
They kept walking, making a few turns here and there, until the sight of a dim light ahead triggered another memory of a previous journey through the pitch-black maze. He was alone. Walking in total darkness. Suddenly, there was a light up ahead, leading to a door, no, not a door, a wall that opened like a door into a room filled with candles and…
Martin was jarred from his memory by the grip of Paul’s hand on his shoulder. The light they were approaching came from a normal-sized door, only a few more steps ahead. Paul squeezed his hand more tightly and led him into a small room, lit by a single dim bulb hanging naked from the ceiling at the end of a long black cord. The bulb hovered weakly over a round wooden table, unadorned except for a carpenter’s hammer and a thick steel nail about six inches long. “Let’s make ourselves comfortable,” Paul said, waving his hand at two large oak chairs. “Getting hungry?”
“Yes,” Martin said, his eyes drifting to the hammer.
Paul’s face turned to stone the instant Martin broke eye contact with him. Martin waited for the explosion, but none came. Instead, Paul’s face brightened and he rubbed his hands together shouting, “Me too! I could eat a horse!”
Martin heard some thumping noises and a muffled rustle directly behind his chair. He kept looking into the glowing smiling face across the table, the light above casting long shadows into the sockets of his twinkling eyes. He wasn’t about to turn away again to see where the thumping came from.
Paul stood. His face was changing again…to the dead mask. Martin called it the “dead mask” the first time he saw it. He never said it to Paul’s face, but even if he had, Paul probably would have liked it, so apt was the description. It was a true mask, perfect in its utter emptiness, a mask you can’t argue with or plead with for mercy, because there was nothing behind it.
So pure. So empty. So dead.
Paul wore the dead mask like he was floating in heaven. He looked at Martin for a long time, enjoying the stillness around them. When he spoke, it was in a dull whisper that tolled like an old church bell. “What has become of you, Martin? Are you like other men?”
“No,” Martin said.
“Other men don’t have the power you have. The fierce clarity. The absolute commitment. The unshakable will. Do they, boy?”
“No,” Martin said.
“Other men get all bogged down with feelings…love and fear and pain clouding their proper judgment, sapping away their strength. You don’t have feelings like they do. You don’t whine and cry every time a little pain gets in the way. Do you, boy?”
“No,” Martin said.
“Why, I could nail your hand to this table and you wouldn’t budge an inch, would you, my brave, strong lad?”
“No,” Martin gulped.
And so he did.
And so you can see why Erica took home the Fire! But she had plenty of stiff competition, and tomorrow I’ll be featuring the runners-up and other awesome entries, because everyone that took the time to enter and honed their creative muse on the grindstone deserve a huge round of applause. So until tomorrow, here’s a Tip O’the Hat and a bow of gratitude, along with some parting words, our Paul quote of the day:
“I don’t make claims. I make widows and orphans.”