Friday, December 18, 2009

Whither Creativity?

Wow...hard to believe it's only a week until Christmas, isn't it? Sometimes time moves so fast it's like you're being carried along by a fast current and if you don't grab onto a moment now and then, you're swept out to sea before you know it.

I'm not really done with shopping. These days, with family spread across the entire nation, we don't make a huge deal out of presents--mostly we buy for whoever is local, which for me is my brother and sister-in-law and three little nieces. And of course, in practice, this generally means I give the grown-ups stuff like coffee and chocolates and books, and the kids get the bulk of the presents. The oldest is now almost four and pretty aware of this whole Christmas thing (and is a social butterfly who will talk your ear off given half the chance), and the middle gal (my little god-daughter) is two and a half and smart as a whip. She has a wonderful curiosity about the world around her--likes to take stuff apart and build and tinker, and when Dad was here, she stood and listened the entire time whenever we played music.

On Tuesday after work, I went to Tarzhay in search of age-appropriate toys and such. I had a few ideas in mind--playdough, maybe, and for my god-daughter, I was hoping to find a Fisher Price xylophone, or one of those toy pianos that are essentially a xylophone inside a piano shell, or a very cheap miniature keyboard. Didn't everyone have some variation on these when they were little? Or maybe some little dolls, I thought, or those over-sized pop-together beads, or blocks. Of course I didn't expect to find the exact toys I had growing up, but I figured there would be *some* similar toys.

What I found:

  • There were blocks, but they all seemed to be part of kits, with a single pre-conceived end you were supposed to work toward--even for the little-kid sets.
  • There were music making devices with keyboards or buttons, but in *every single* case, the buttons played full songs, not individual notes
  • I found sets of "Little People," which were actually kind of cool--the Little People I remember were essentially pegs with heads--armless, legless torsos with just a few vague painted-on details. These were fully molded. However(!!) every single one of them was holding something or attached to a setting. They seemed made to be posed in a scene, not played with.
  • Lastly, with few exceptions, everything was affiliated with some TV show or movie. To me, there's something unspeakably sad about having your kid watch hours of television a day, and then when they *aren't* watching TV, bombarding them with toys, games and books all based on those TV shows. Even in the coloring book section, I found only two that weren't trademark characters of some kind.

All in all, everything seemed specifically designed to stifle creativity and prevent individual thought. OK, so that's a curmudgeonly exaggeration, but even so.... I did find a really cool Mr. Potato Head for the oldest niece (it has a little suitcase to hold all his stuff and keep it tidy, which is nice) and playdough and a few other little things, but...gee. What happened to play being for letting your imagination run wild, not following a script? Thinking about it, most of my favorite toys didn't do *anything* on their own. Toys that did were fun for a brief period, but then the function ultimately became boring and that toy was abandoned. On the other hand, we played for *hours* with the trolls we made out of salt dough and painted, and stuffed animals without voice boxes or videos, and dolls made out of sticks/stones/balloons/socks. *We* provided personalities and histories for them, *we* named them and gave them voices.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think that's the way it should be.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Popcorn love (typecast poetry)

I find inspiration in odd places. Especially considering I can't even eat popcorn right now.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Respooling conundrum

So...let's just say, theoretically speaking, that you had a typewriter with spools unlike any of your other typers, and you wanted to respool a new ribbon onto those spools to at least tide you over until ribbons could be ordered, but the ribbon is attached to the current spool with some sorta staple instead of those little hooks. Have you ever encountered this? And how would you go about attaching the replacement ribbon--is there any way? I almost gave superglue a try last night...but I dunno if that would work on cloth. What say the respooling pros?

UPDATE: solved. I just had to use some brute force to remove the odd little ball-bearing thing holding the ribbon to the spools. Not sure how many times I can get away with reusing these spools (they got somewhat stressed during the process, but seem OK), but they're workin' for now.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I just received the Levenger Christmas catalog, and was pleased to see a Royal standard typewriter on the cover. Then at second glance, I realized it was completely out of proportion to the items placed around it--pens and a wallet and what-not. Turns out, it's a replica in miniature, intended for use as a bookend. I'm not about to pay $98 for a miniature typewriter sculpture, but I'm impressed by the detail. It's typewriter jewelry of a completely different sort.

I was also struck by the story behind the model: it is a replica of David McCullough's Royal, purchased in the mid-60s and still his only writing companion. It got me thinking.

(I admit, I haven't read any of his books. I should probably remedy this.)

I'd also highly recommend all retrotechie writers browse on over here for a very interesting post on writing processes--be sure to check out some of the linked sites, too! Fascinating stuff.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo Redux (IOW TGIO)

Thank goodness it's over: the 50k words, at least. I have a few more scenes to finish in the draft, but that, too, is almost complete--I think writing short stories has helped me pace the story a little better, without a whole lot of floundering around trying to kill time before the conclusion. All the same, this was *not* an easy NaNoWriMo for me, and I am already thinking of throwing in the towel on next year's behalf. I think NaNoWriMo has run its course with me, and I've learned a lot through it, but it's time for us to part ways. It isn't fun anymore.

It wasn't that I had nothing to write about. I did. I had plenty of ideas. Actually, for once, I had the basic gist of the story in mind months beforehand: I started making character and plot notes clear back in June. A lot of them ended up not applying--a minor character who didn't even have a name until the last couple days of October became the female lead, and other secondary characters that were supposed to have fairly major parts slid off the screen almost immediately, but at least some elements lived on. I never truly got stuck with nothing to write next.

But I like to "remember" what I'm writing. I picture a scene, rehearse it in my head while driving or walking or lying in bed or doing the dishes until it's pretty close to right, then write it. You can't do that during NaNo. You have to just keep throwing words out. And I can't really get an entire story pictured in my head beforehand. Ever. Personalities change, or I realize the time line doesn't work (and this year's time line, simple as it was, gave me headaches), or someone needs an alibi or...something.

I wrote all throughout the year this year. Some of my writing, in my humble opinion, wasn't appallingly bad. Producing even a rough draft this thin and pale and disjointed makes me want to weep and pull my hair out. To make matters worse, I love my characters this year. I can picture them more clearly than ever before. And I let them down. I'm not sure if I can fix this story or not. I very much hope so, for their sake. I hope I can paint them as I see them, instead of the dim shadows in a flimsy shadowy world they currently are.

I did come to a new appreciation for the Alphasmart Neo--I switched to it from the wondrous Olympia SG-1 a little more than halfway through the month when it became apparent I was going to need to squeeze in more writing time, especially away from home. It had been neglected a bit this past year, but as I've said here before, it is the most practical writing implement I own. You get all the benefits of instant digital copy in a very durable, highly portable package, with instant-on, instant-save and all but limitless battery life. Someday computers may obtain those particular qualities, but for the moment, there isn't a gadget out there that completely compares. It's a very unromantic little thing, but it sure gets the job done. I'll switch to the netbook/computer for editing, but for pure writing, no current computer can hold a candle to the Neo.

Soundtrack for this year ended up being Matchbox Twenty, Ad Vielle Que Pourra, and various Harry Connick Jr. albums. There is no rhyme or reason to this. It just happens.

I should be able to finish the first draft in the next two weeks. And then, I guess I need to decide if I want to try to dive in and work on it right off, when I'm still a little jaded and a little too close to it, or put it away for a few months.

And speaking of jaded, by next fall, I may have forgotten all about this crabbiness. It was partially just a perfect storm of lack of morning writing time, colds, and life getting in the way. And maybe my story isn't so bad after all. Parts of it are pretty OK. Maybe NaNoWriMo '10 isn't *completely* out of the question. Whoa, do I have conviction or what?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks be

I am thankful for my faith: my rock, my stronghold, my home. I am thankful for family, near and far. I am thankful that our family has grown in the past year through both marriage and births, with no corresponding diminishment. I am thankful for my cats and my dog.

I am thankful for music, and for the tools of music: for FLATPICK-L, for The Waltz Books, for all the many sites out there with tunes to grasp for. I am thankful for the Collings OM1 guitar that has been the love of my musical life for over a decade now. I am thankful for my Rigel A mandolin, which has seen me through jams and gigs across the country and never let me down, and for the little rough and ready Recording King 000 guitar that has my back when the going gets a little too tough for the Collings. I am thankful for electric tuners and for metronomes, and for Amazing Slow Downer. I am thankful for those who bring live music to the area, and for those who make music festivals work. I am thankful for jams, for open mics, for Kamps, and the multitude of musical friends and acquaintances I've made over the years.

I'm thankful for books and writing: for novels, for non-fiction, for poetry. I am thankful for words, for all the richness and nuances of the English language, for all the languages that brought it into being. I am thankful that we have written means to express and record these words. And I am thankful for writing tools: for Parker 51s and Pelikans and Lamy 2000s; for Noodler's ink; for pencils; for Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebooks and notepads; for Staples bagasse paper and cheap Walmart "Made in Brazil" composition books.

I'm thankful for typewriters; for the marvelous Olympia SG-1, for Bernard the SG-3, for the mojo Hermes 3000, for Stinky and the pretty SM-9, and for the homely but comfortable Galaxie Deluxe. I'm thankful for ink ribbons and Duffy Moon typing paper and BAROPS. I'm thankful for clickity-clack ding. I'm thankful for that nifty paper load lever on the SG-1. I am thankful for pretty Flickr typewriter pictures, and for typecasters of all stripes. I'm thankful there are still such things as typewriter repair people in this world.

I am thankful for my Alphasmart Neo--my lean green word-spewing machine. Who could have imagined when the first electric typewriters were coming out that someone would come up with a thing the size and weight of an A4/letter-sized notebook and a battery life of a couple years that could hold an entire book's worth of writing ready to print or store digitally at the touch of a button? It isn't glamorous, but it is a fine companion in these waning days of NaNoWriMo '09.

I am thankful NaNoWriMo is in fact waning. It's been a rough go of it. I've done more writing over the entire year than ever before, and I think have my routines more set than usual, on top of everything else going on this month. As someone who can't think four moves ahead, I need more breathing room to think over the next move each step of the way, and you don't get that with NaNo. A lot of what I end up writing at this excelerated (for me) pace is the thinking space between moves, and it's messy and useless writing that I'd normally try out in my head rather than recording. I don't like that. But I'm thankful for NaNoWriMo for showing me--way back in 2002--that I can write more than those heady first fifteen thousand words--I'd never made it past that point before.

I am thankful for turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy. I am thankful for tea and chocolate. I am thankful for eggnog and coffee--and may the twain meet with frequency over the next month, even though I'm not typically a sweet coffee person. I make an exception for eggnog.

I'm not thankful I have to work on Friday, but I am thankful I have a job I mostly like and am mostly pretty good at.

I am incredibly blessed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Somewhere in the vicinity of 1200

That's how many words I got in before work today. The Alphasmart Neo and I went to the coffee house, where I picked a table where I could sit with my back to the wall to lessen the feeling that people were reading over my shoulder, plunked down a square of anti-slip foam (it makes the Neo quieter and less apt to walk away), took the Neo out of its slipcase, and proceeded to blast away as though I *wasn't* self-conscious as all get out. Now if I can just do the same at least once more tonight at home, I'll be well on my way toward getting caught up again.

I know, I know, I'm welching on the Brigade (which is probably unwise). But it's easier to produce lots of words on the Neo, especially when I get away from the house and all access to the eeeevil Internets. The downside is that I'll almost certainly need to pare that 1200 down to about 800 (exaggerating slightly for effect). I guess that, in the end, is the real difference between writing methods: it all comes down to what's required in the editing. My longhand writing tends to be very sparse, without a ton of description, but with much character chatter. Neo writing has lots of description and can get a little repetitive: I can't see more than seven (currently) lines at a time, which means I may forget I already just said that in a slightly different way. And typewritten work has some of the benefits and downsides of both: sometimes it'll end up being just the bones, sometimes I go over the top just for the joy of typing, and often the sentences are a little convoluted because I start writing them without quite knowing where I'm going to go and don't have a way to fix as I go like I do on the Neo. I haven't made up my mind which method is easiest to edit all the way.

I will say this: another benefit/downside to the Neo is that it's dull as dishwater. It does one thing--writing--and does it in a way that makes it disappear as you use it. There are no lovely tactile sensations, so machine smells, no colored inks to play with. There is nothing (except, I suppose, the word count feature) to fiddle with or procrastinate over. In the last week of NaNo and in the throes of burnout, this is a good thing.

Oh, and if you're ever in the region of Mudbay Coffee Roasters in Olympia, may I recommend the honey apple bran muffin? I know, I know, you're thinking, "Bran muffin? Bran muffin??" Just trust me on this. It is teh awesome.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Neocast: Confessions of a NaNo procrastinator

Well, I'm officially behind in NaNo world. This doesn't usually happen to me. I'm not one of those obnoxious overachievers who write ten thousand words in the first few days and finish the fifty thousand within the first week or two at most, but I usually stay slightly ahead of the game, coasting over the finish line comfortably ahead of schedule on about the 25th. But this year has been something of a struggle. In addition to my run in with the law, I've had quite a number of days when I wasn't able to get in a morning writing session because of appointments or having to be at work before hours. Lack of morning writing time is the kiss of death for me--I find writing in the evening to be a serious and often futile struggle. I've also not been able to squeeze in lunchtime writing--even fifteen minutes of writing by hand would help, but work has been busy and I've been trying to do the whole thing on the typewriter, which I can't easily use at work, so that's been out.

And now I have a cold. And my ribbon is getting light(er) but I feel guilty about changing it when there are starving writers elsewhere with ribbons in shabbier condition than mine, so I just keep using it and feeling dissatisfied. And I miss the coffee house but know I'd get nothing done if I went there with a typewriter--I'd end up setting it aside in embarrassment and diving into a book.

To add to my crabbiness, I'm now at that horrible part in the novel when I no longer feel capable of picking the perfect words--something that seemed to come easily in the first twenty thousand words or so--and the climax is still a long way away, and I have words to write in order to get there--necessary words, and I more or less know what events have to happen, so it's not just fill, but...ugh. I'm not feelin' it. And my characters keep babbling about nothing--useless stuff I'll have to chisel out later. And to add to the pressure, one of my characters invited a guy she barely knows to her parents' house for Sunday dinner (and there will be lots of extended family, too), and he actually accepted. We're all three of us surprised and nervous and are digging in our heels so hard it's a wonder we aren't going backward. If there's one thing I hate, it's crowds. And for sheer embarrassment and mental anguish, the only thing worse than crowds is a crowd of people who are all related to you: people with a special knack for embarrassing you or angering you because they know you a little better than anyone really has a right to--or think they do, which is even worse. And now I have to not only dive into this experience, but try to recreate it in great detail. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it. So I keep stalling instead.

Tomorrow I may take the Neo to the coffee house (and leave any books at home, so it's either write or sit there staring off into space with a funky looking object laying on the table in front of me) and see if I can dash off a few thousand words in the morning. OK, so it isn't a typewriter. It also doesn't weigh fifteen or twenty pounds, and I don't have to worry about carrying along paper or fret that I'm bothering people with my noisy clack ding routine. I would say it's the most practical writing machine I own (sorry gang, but it's true), and I should probably take more advantage of that. I'm not sure it's any less likely to make me a pariah, however. We need some special hats for Alphasmartians venturing off into public places, too....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TMI, F. Scott, mini-NaNo Blah Blah

1. TMI
Ugh...yesterday I went in for a combined appointment for dental cleaning and an orthodontics adjustment. From basic braces, I am now being initiated into the joys of the ever-so-charmingly named "power chains," which are supposed to close the gaps where teeth were yanked more quickly; and elastics (rubber bands, really) which attach to my eye teeth top and bottom to help move my bite into the right place. The requisite pushing and prodding involved in all this left me sore and cranky, though they're good folks and as gentle as possible. You can replicate the experience, if so desired, by getting someone to kick you in the teeth half a dozen times, and then wrapping a big rubber band around your head top to bottom so you can't open your mouth more than a quarter inch without pressure. Go on, try it! It's fun! Bonus: the elastics are very obvious. 'Cause regular braces weren't dorky enough.

Seriously though, I *am* grateful (and blessed) to be in a place where I can afford to finally do this, before I had more problems. And even after just the five months or so since I started this whole process, the dental hygienist was thrilled that she could actually *see* all my teeth. They were too crowded to get at before.

But it'll be awful nice when it's done. Still a long way to go, but it's happening.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald
If you're the sort of person who tends naturally toward "melancholy," you should probably avoid reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you *must* read F. Scott Fitzgerald, for goodness' sake avoid Tender is the Night. Even just *reading* it will make you feel unsettled, slightly drunk, and a bit insane. But oh, I do love his writing. OK, so his characters are pretty much all miserable, immoral, shallow (yet beautiful and charming) people who I would avoid in real life--as if I'd move in the circles of the rich and famous to begin with. But I'm still drawn in by his writing. His stories are like oversaturated photos: unreal and a little disorienting, but compelling. He uses the most exquisite words, and uses them exquisitely. The often quoted line from the very end of The Great Gatsby is a good example:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Even out of context, I love that.

Tender is the Night is not a happy book. It's not a nice book. Nobody ends well. But I couldn't help liking it all the same.

3. NaNo
I quick-and-dirty PDFed another big chunk of my manuscript this morning since I had to be in before hours to do server maintenance. Just made images without trying to OCR. I figure it's good enough for a backup. Considering I've not been able to resist scribbling notes and corrections all over my pages (I'd forget 'em if I waited until I finished), I'm not sure I'll be able to OCR anyhoo.

The story is...well...moving. Slowly. I'd do better with an extra hour in the morning. Unfortunately, I don't have a time turner. I will say this: one nice thing about having a writer in the story is that I can stick in occasional venting sessions, but in his voice, and actually add to my word count. Handy. I'll probably have to edit them down a bit in the rewrite, but some of them are dead-on and very well said. Bravo, Marty.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snobbery, Guilt and the Writing Life

So...back, for a moment, to the meandering writing-about-writing essay posts instead of yet another UJTU.

For no logical reason and no personal historical reason I can think of, writing for me is a hobby which I mention in a whisper, blushing, turning away. I announce proudly that I play music, however badly; I'll happily talk about my limited crocheting skills with anyone who is interested; I blather on contentedly about my pets, the books I've read, my dabbling with calligraphy, my bike--anything and everything else. But I mention my writing habit only in passing; guiltily and slightly defiantly as if confessing to compulsive gambling or a drinking problem, daring someone to help me mend my ways.

I think it's partly for this reason that the more obvious tools of the trade--machines that can be used for nothing else--are something I have a very hard time revealing in public. I've taken my Neo with me to the coffee house dozens of times, gotten it out a handful of times, written maybe a few hundred words at best. Oh, when I took it to write-ins in Colorado, I used it a lot, when I knew I was in the company of other addicts who would overlook my flaws, but in general...I feel all eyes on me, and I want to drop through the floor. Pen and paper are a refuge in public, because I could be doing anything: homework, a journal (which seems less wrong, somehow, than "real" writing), business work. But typewriters and Alphasmarts are the tools of the author: blatant, in your face, pure writing machines. Couple that with the idea of the unmistakable look-at-me sound of a busy typewriter, and I'm terrified.

I suppose I feel like an impostor, a pretender, a poseur. And then, I tell myself, "real" writers don't need to take refuge in tools, in the romance of obsolete tools and beautiful gadgets. Real writers simply write.

Which brings me to the second portion of this mind-wandering: despite all of what I've said above, I like writing tools, particularly those that do nothing else. I get obsessed with pens and typewriters. I love the physicality of writing in analog, the smell of a typewriter and the feel of pressing the keys, the sound of them, the bell at the end of a line; I like the look of fountain pen ink drying on a page, feel of a smooth nib on good paper; I love the crinkle of pages, the heft of them. I feel like I write better with these things, write differently than I do with the current, typical tools. But is that real? Or is that a trick of the mind--do I like tinkering with them, and therefore convince myself that they work better for me so I have an excuse to use them instead of more efficient and common means? And if so, does it really matter? If it works for me, if I enjoy it, why should I care how I make the journey or what others think? But I remain afraid that I'll be seen as a snob: as pursuing a romantic notion of what it means to write, to the detriment of actually writing.

And above all, *am* I that snob? I wonder sometimes. If I completely let go of the tools and just used word processors like everyone else, would my writing really suffer? In comparing work done on the computer with work I've started on paper--one way or another--I'm not sure. I think I do better with clear drafts, but how much of that is a mental block?

Aaaand, on a somewhat lighter note, despite all of the above, I admit to spending some time over the last few days cruising eBay and what-have-you for smallish, quietish typers with the idea of, at the least, doing some outdoor typing come spring. I'm down to four portables and could drop that further, and the smallest typewriter I have with a reliable case is the heavier of the SM-9s. Not exactly easy to drag around. I've kind of been looking at Lettera 32s, despite my apathetic comments in the past re: their appearance. Too bad there don't seem to be that many of them around at a decent price...and I *never* see them locally.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Informal Household Poll Re: Typewriter Volume

When I use the SG-1, the dog typically leaves the room to go sleep under the computer desk nearly at the other end of the house.

The cats, who you would think would be more sensitive to noise, couldn't care less.

When I use the Hermes 3000, the dog will remain in the next room, but still does a lot of sighing nervously.

The cats continue with their inability to care less.

Conclusion: that my cats are broken, and my dog has no taste.

Oh, and that the SG-1 thunders while the 3000 just sounds, as Olivander put it, rather like scissors. Lots of scissors. Be afraid; be very afraid.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Grab Bag: Oscar the Grouch and a Rant of My Own

1. What with it being Sesame Street's 40's anniversary, Google has been displaying a different Sesame Street character or grouping every day for about the past week: Big Bird, The Count, Cookie Monster, and of course, Oscar the Grouch. This weekend I did a lot of procrastinating by means of YouTube, rewatching some of the old Sesame Street songs and such. I'm not old enough to remember the first episodes (Sesame Street was already just shy of seven by the time I come along), but even so....

This was one of my favorites when I was little, which probably says...something. And I wasn't sure how to take the fact that I could *still* sing along with all the lyrics. Is this *really* a good thing for young minds? ;-) Fun, though.

2. I didn't write much yesterday because I was too ticked off. I live a short distance from an Interstate exit that has been the bane of my existence ever since I've lived here. I've mentioned my driving phobias...well, this thing ranks near the top of my list, scaring me daily. It's one lane, with no traffic light at the end, and there's a HUGE truck stop to the left, which means we get numerous big rigs wanting to go in that direction, which backs the traffic up clear to the interstate and beyond. As a fix, everyone forms two lanes--one right, one left, with *both* sides actually partially on the shoulder--the shoulders are nice and wide. It's been that way ever since I've been here. If you aren't from around here or don't follow that unwritten rule, you get honked at. If you're timid about driving partially on the shoulder, you get yelled at or honked at. If you get into the left lane, which is *slightly* more in the main roadway than the right, and then try to turn right when you finally get up to the end, you're apt to cause an accident. It's just a nightmare, but for the most part, it works. On at least a few occasions I've been on that ramp when police officers were also getting off, also following the unwritten rule of the two lanes.

Soooo last night I get off the interstate and do exactly what I do every single flippin' night, and get pulled over by a state patrol guy who just chews me out before I can really say much, saying that driving on the shoulder is a big bad no-no (actually back home you can pass on the right if you're still on the pavement...) that I should know better, that I could have hurt one of the homeless people who live in the parking area nearby and sometimes wander onto the ramp in the dark, that it doesn't matter that hundreds of cars do that every single day, that's no excuse. Meanwhile, the whole time we're sitting there as he slowly, slowly handwrites the ticket, car after car after car after car is coming down that right "lane" or driving on the shoulder on the left.

I've only ever gotten one other ticket in my life, and that was for not noticing I'd gone from a 70mph zone to a 60mph zone early on a Sunday morning with no other drivers on the road. I'm beyond ticked off that this could go on my record, and I basically can't even *drive* that ramp without doing exactly as I did, so apparently I have to find a back way home or risk getting another $100-plus ticket. I'm also going to go to court with it, I guess, which may or may not accomplish anything but letting me have my say. Considering that I don't *do* public speaking, I'll probably get up there and shake and not be able to say a word, but...maybe the unfairness of it all will loosen my tongue.

Did I mention that all the while this exit has been a problem for *years*, there are now *THREE* traffic circles on the back way, even at intersections where there wasn't much of a problem? So to avoid this exit, I get to drive through at least two of the three. But it's apparently what I have to do to avoid breaking the law, just like every other person taking that exit.


3. Due to the above, I'm still at less than 16k words for NaNoWriMo. I'm kind of hoping to make 18k today. We'll see. I should try to work my rant into my story. Lot of word potential there, and it'd be cathartic.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaNo Blah Blah #3: In Which I Ramble On and About the Mojo 3000

1959 Hermes 3000

OK, so I meant to write "the last time I did NaNoWriMo on a typewriter" in there, not "by hand". It's past my bedtime already. Ungh.

At this point, although as I said, the SG-1 is the best I've got--no question--I still have logged far more hours on the Hermes 3000 than any other typewriter. I'm understandably attached to it. It was nice reminiscing a bit today...I'm thinking I'll spend a whole NaNo day on it now and again. If I figure out the words-per-page for it and add that calculation to my spreadsheet, it shouldn't throw me off.

Pages = approaching 37.5. Words = about 12,150.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NaNo Blah Blah #2

1. Pages = 22. Words = about 7150.

After counting a number of pages, I was actually getting about 350 words per page, so I'm estimating 325 to give myself a broad margin of error. The stack o' paper is actually becoming a stack. And I'm suddenly nervous about it. I still have untranscribed pages from my *last* typed NaNo, which used to not bother me, but some friends recently lost their house and all belongings to a fire...which makes me think. And fret. I may see if I can create a PDF of the pages so far, without doing any OCR or anything else, just so I have an electronic backup.

Considering my fears usually run the other direction (fear of losing electronic copies despite all manner of backups), I feel a little weird about this new phobia.

2. I *love* this typewriter.

3. I really do.

4. I am once again reminded of why it's stooooopid of me to attempt pre-planning. In the initial 20 pages, sister-of-Joey has become far more essential to the plot than Joey (who, in point of fact, has been asleep for most of the story so far), and bitter-children's-writer-who-lives-downstairs is now hopelessly in love with sister-of-Joey, which was *not* in my notes. Attempts to get him together with his original intended would be really awkward at this point. And I think she may end up falling for the bass player instead.

And so on and so forth. I'm just along for the ride. *sigh*

5. This week's NaNo pep talk was from Jasper Fforde!!!!! Jasper Fforde, indirectly speaking, sent me an e-mail! I literally cheered out loud and did a little chair dance when I saw his name there. The dog is still a bit freaked out. If you haven't read any of his books, do yourself a favor and check them out. They're hilarious, especially for writers and publishing geeks and lovers of literature, though you do have to get past the heresy of his putting characters from literature into his books and putting words into their mouths. Tons of wonderful puns and word play and font jokes and...oh, they're too unique to describe. I'd suggest starting with The Eyre Affair, which I really need to reread. I actually like some of his later books better (I think The Well of Lost Plots is my favorite), but they make more sense if you start from the beginning.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NaNo Blah Blah #1

Shinied up Olympia SG-1

I tried to get some photos of the newly prettied up SG-1 this weekend, but it's so heavy I hated to drag it outside, and it was spitting rain off and on. I'll have to try again. I did get this one photo, which is more artsy than effective. I still kinda like it. And I won't point out the obvious flaws if you don't....

In other news, I've learned that I can't put the typewriter cover aside for even an instant without this occurring. I don't know if it's exceptionally warm or if they see it as competition or what.

This is what typewriter covers are for, right?

Fortunately, they are utterly uninterested in it while it's actually on the typewriter. I just need to train myself not to toss it on the bed. Gosh knows I'm unlikely to be able to train *them*.

Hit just under 10 pages as of this morning, at about 300 words per page (I'm underestimating that by a bit for word count purposes, however). The plan is to get another three pages in this evening, more if I can since I have to be at work by six-thirty tomorrow and won't have time to write before work.

And, as is typical for this time of the month, I'm very pleased with my story, but already feeling really resentful and bitter toward those who have far more words and who are crowing about it. I won't have any trouble hitting 50k, and the story is going to be decent this year, but as usual, it ticks me off when others are writing twice the daily goal and more, even though that isn't *my* goal. And it ticks me off that it ticks me off. For me, this is more about getting a good headstart on a story at a pace that is faster than usual but not unpleasant, so why should I care how others are using this time? It's irrational. I hate it when I'm irrational.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The SG-1 Returns!

A sampling of the Blue Moon wares

Blue Moon Coffee

Some of the antique typewriters
A few of the antique typewriters on display at the store


Urania at Blue Moon Camera and Machine

Note: I tried to get some decent pictures of the newly shiny SG-1, but need to wait for better lighting. Trust me, though, it's stunning!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Update Just to Update (UPDATED)

1. I finished Peace Like a River about a week ago, and enjoyed it to the end. It's kind of a hard book to describe--part pretend Midwestern memoir (though it's so vivid, I have to believe at least some of the memories are things the author actually lived through), part outlaw adventure story, lightly sprinkled with miracles. And, as I said, plenty of typewriter content. Definitely one of the best books I've read in awhile.

2. Continuing from the Bejeweled is Evil subject of a few posts back, I think I need to de-technologize myself a bit in the next little while. Lately it seems like I get up, mess around on the computer for an hour, go to work where that's pretty much all I do all day, come home and play computer games or watch TV until after ten, go to bed, and then do it all again the next day. It ruins my concentration, wastes my time, leaves me jittery and unfocused. Not to mention it means I never get any housework or writing or reflecting done.

I'll be spending most of November tethered to the typewriter in one way or another for NaNoWriMo, and want to use most remaining free time for thinking, reading, and other more profitable activities. Following on November comes Advent and Christmas, and there too it would be a far better thing for me to quiet my mind, detach from the more frivolous computer time-wasters, and focus more on the important things in life.

3. Speaking of anxiety and lack of SG-1 should be ready to pick up the weekend of the 7th. Is it 11-7 yet? Is it 11-7 yet? Is it? IS it??

UPDATE: they called THIS AFTERNOON, and it's already done!!! I'm astounded! And trying to decide if I can drive down there tomorrow on such short notice.

4. I still haven't decided where to jump into my story. *sigh* The beginning of it is likely to be UJTU-like.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mission accomplished!

1959 Olympia SG-1

Addendum: just happened to think--the SG-1 is a 1959, making it 50 years old this year. A trip to the typewriter spa seems like a pretty nifty way to celebrate!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Psych me up, and other assorted blathering

OK, so this is really just an Update Just to Update (UJTU) in disguise. So sue me.

1. Psych me up.
Fact: for going on three years now, I've been wanting to get down to Blue Moon Camera, preferably with at least one typewriter-needing-help in tow. This is the time of year when I come closest to actually making the venture, but so far I've never quite talked myself into stepping out the door. Fact: statistically, I probably will *not* be instantly squished the second I drive out of Lewis County. Fact: this Saturday, the weather is supposed to be cloudy, but not raining, which is a rare occurance this time of year. I'm also not on call. The chance of both of these items coinciding is going to become less and less probable as time goes on. Fact: the SG-1 has several issues that I cannot fix on my own, but would be an amazing thing indeed if those were fixed.

So...lie to me. Tell me I can do this, and why I should. Tell me there will magically be a HUGE empty parking space with bright shiny arrows to guide me when I arrive at the end. Tell me I can get there in one straight shot without getting lost, despite my miserable sense of direction. I know, I'm not giving you much time to get me riled up, but if I wait too long, I'm afraid I'll lose my nerve again.

2. NaNoWriMo dreaming
We now come to that antsy stage where we have some idea of what we're going to write (even the pantsers like me), and have been conversing with our characters, feeling 'em out. I keep imagining whole scenes, the dialog, the way people are standing and moving and the state of their clothing, and not being able to write them down instantly is killing me. Urgh! I also need to come up with working names for characters. Right now I have names like bassist-who-is-off-visiting-Aunt-Somebody, accidental-children's-writer-who-hates-kids, Thump, and sister-of-Joey. Also, the whole thing revolves around people living in an apartment building, and a lot depends on shared walls/floors/stairwells, and I haven't yet decided on a final map. I need Legos or wooden blocks or something.

3. Computers are evil
On my birthday, my friends introduced me to the Bejeweled game on Facebook, which is, essentially, crack in game form. You have to slide little colored gems into rows in order to make them explode. Sounds so innocent and dull, doesn't it? But oh, it will suck your life away. I spent about an hour last night saying to myself, "Just one more game, and then I'll quit. OK, just *one* more...." I love and loathe it. It is yet another reason I'd be far better off avoiding the computer for most of November.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Birthday redux typecast

The one musical artist I did discover this weekend was actually by means of the Alphasmart Flickr group: Gordon Bok was mentioned by one of the frequent posters, and I looked him up out of curiosity. I like what little I've found. Actually, he also got played in my Pandora mix, somewhere in the realm of Stan Rogers. He's a Mainer with a great slightly-rough-around-the-edges baritone voice who sings everything from sea shanties to ballads to original songs. I'll be looking deeper into his music.

Ah, and now we're back to Silly Wizard. I <3 Andy M. Stewart. *sigh*

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Update just to update

1. I've been reading Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. I'm about halfway through at this point, and I have to say, if it continues to be as good as it's been so far, this may be one of the best books I've ever read. It's one of those books where you're on edge, holding your breath all the way through, thinking that sooner or later it'll let you down, because it's too good to be true. He's definitely a writer's writer--beautiful poetic prose, lots of literary references sprinkled throughout (in a very comfortable unpretentious way that makes me want to read any of the references I'm missing). Oh, and typewriter content, too. Gotta love that.

2. Unlike other typospherians, I have not finished last year's NaNoWriMo novel. I'd kind of set it aside, but now I'm motivated/guilted to *maybe* try and get the last few chapters done before starting all over again. If I went at it NaNo style, I could do it. I'm torn between that and thinking on this year's project. But who needs planning anyhow, right?

Oh, and congrats to Mike!

3. Saturday is my birthday. That's probably part of why I've been a bit of a gloomy Gus lately. It'd be nice if I could have a party without racking up a bigger age number, but I think it's gonna be the other way around. However, I did get a very cool early birthday present from my Dad when he was in the area a few weeks back: Volume I and III of The Waltz Books. And not just *any* Volume I and III: he gave me the original copies we've used over the years--the first one in particular has some wear on it. OK, so it isn't decades old, but we got it when all of us (him included) were really starting to get into playing music, and it includes notes on when we started to learn each tune, bowings and chords that worked better, other notes in the margins...lots of memories there. We played music out of them while he was here (mostly him on fiddle, me on mando), and he said he'd either buy me copies or let me have the good old marked up books. I'm a sentimental fool, what can I say? ;-)

So maybe for my birthday, I'll lock myself in and alternate Neo-ing with mando-ing until either the story or my fingers are finished....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On Writing: The Agony and the Ecstasy

The writing process can feel as though you're riding the waves of a stormy sea: one minute you're being tossed up into sunlight and warmth, the next being dragged down into the breathless dark, where you wonder if it's really worth the effort to fight your way back up again. You finish a project, feel on top of the world, feel like you've done something real this time and want to share it...but that feeling can't last. There's always a sort of postpartum downturn, when the gloss wears off and the seams show--or just because you come to the realization that you can't fully share that elation with anyone else in the world. No one fully understands what that story felt like to write and how you feel about having completed it.

Writing, perhaps more than any other creative activity, is often a lonely outlet. You don't see every reader, you don't know what every reader thinks, you rarely get feedback or even know how many people you reach. I'd guess this is a frustration for anyone who has ever composed a paragraph, from people posting on forums or listservs all the way up through best-selling authors. So often you pour out your heart and soul into your work, and it goes into a great blackhole: there's no way of knowing just where your words—all those pretty little lined up words you were so proud of—are going or what they're up to out there.

The Internet is a wonderful horrible place that compounds this issue many times over. Any Joe Schmo with a keyboard can now reach thousands of people—or more—with a few keystrokes. Oh, the power! But we have even *less* knowledge of who we're really reaching. Yes, there are such things as hit-counters, and some sites like Flickr and Scribd give you some vague numbers. But having those is perhaps worse. Watching a number go up without getting any comments or other feedback, you start to think, “Who are all you people???” And you wonder, do people not comment because they have nothing nice to say?

I think these things, despite knowing how many blogs I cruise on a daily basis without ever commenting. In the typosphere, there aren't many blogs I don't follow continuously, but a lot of the time I feel like I have nothing worth contributing, or as if the writer has already said all there is to say, and I wouldn't have anything to say aside from, “Right on!” which seems kinda lame, honestly. (That said, I treasure every “Right on!” I get on LFP, even while I—DuffyMoon-like—sometimes question the sincerity of the Right-on-ians...)

And then, feedback is just one piece of the puzzle. The truth is that the writing process itself is a matter of ups and downs. Some days you love what you're writing and think it's actually pretty good. Some days you hate it. Some days it just seems so pointless that you can't muster up anything as strong as like and dislike. The never-ending instability of it all can drive you crazy. I can understand only too well why so many authors and poets have led troubled lives, many with unhappy endings.

This month, I've been rereading bits and pieces of St. Therese's autobiography, Story of a Soul. She is someone in whom many of us, regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof, would find a kindred spirit. She talks a great deal about her struggles with desiring the approval of others and the anxiety that can bring, as well the ups and downs that one experiences in spiritual life, when at times you feel nothing but dryness, unable to pray or concentrate: very much mirroring what we may feel in other areas of our lives. Without putting words in her mouth, I think I can say that the trick is to accept the “consolations” when they come—those moments when an encouraging word or a burst of creativity lifts us to those glorious heights—without clinging to them too hard, treasuring them in retrospect without expecting them as the norm; and to take the difficult moments as just a part of the path rather than the end of it all, knowing that the next bend may bring another breathtaking vista.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Galaxie-cast: Kiss of a Rose (Flash Fiction)

Quick and dirty fiction typecast, written this evening. Aaaand I didn't exactly work the page breaks all nice. Such is typecasting, I suppose. It also could use a pretty flower image. I could sooo easily get sucked into the photography cult.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


By rights, today I should be posting something deep and thoughtful about the young woman who inspired my blog's name, the Little Flower herself: St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The first of October is her feast day. I did go so far as to spend some time reading a few passages from Story of a Soul, but I'm once again unable to write.

It's so painful to have the drive, but nothing to say. I know it's mostly just a matter of doing. I need to start sitting down again in the mornings with pen and paper or what-have-you and letting whatever happens happen, good or bad. It just feels like nothing I have to say matters at the moment, ya know? I hate to even post to other people's blogs, 'cause I feel like all I can do is babble right now, and I'm just endlessly annoying everyone by existing. :-\

In happier writing news (perhaps!) the great NaNoWriMo forum purge is occurring as we speak, and in short order here we'll be barreling toward the starting line. If that doesn't get you excited about writing, what will?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On coveting thy neighbor's mind

This one's for Monda--my way of saying I really liked this post, but I think I hate you for writing it. ;-)

On coveting thy neighbor's mind

And yes, I do know how to spell shadow. *sigh*

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pen wrap prototype and prompted poetry


Last Wednesday I had the wonderful experience of running into another fountain pen user at the coffee house before work--nice gentleman, pastor of a local church. He's a fountain pen collector, but definitely uses his pens. He had a nice little batch of pens with him--a few variations on the Pelikan M200 (including demonstrators in blue and amber--I like!), a HUGE Laban Mento (realllly beautiful material, those), and a bunch of nice little Esterbrooks. He was carrying them primarily in little zip folio type cases, with slots for pens and a zipper to keep everything snug. My favorite of his two or three cases had maybe half a dozen pen slots on one side and an index card writing surface on the other--way cool! Levenger-made--he said he got it when they closed that style out. There's nothing like that on their site now.

It was awfully nice to be able to babble about pens with someone who understands this obsession. And as he was leaving, he *gave* me the little blue Esterbrook he'd let me try. Wouldn't take it back. Which makes me feel like rather a cheapskate for just giving away Heros. What a generous gift!

However, without saying a word, he unwittingly made me feel rather guilty about the way I treat my pens. I confess, at most, I clip them to the edge of one of the end pockets on my bag, and at worst, I just toss them in any which way. I don't have anything super old or rare, granted, but it's probably not the best way to treat them long term.

Pen Wrap

I looked on-line, but most of the pen cases I found were very expensive. Pen wraps were a little less so, but then I got to thinking...maybe I could just make one. So I went to Jo-Ann, picked up a fabric remnant that seemed about the right sort of material (something I could cut without worrying about frayed edges), and attempted to hand-sew something acceptable. Considering this was just the prototype, I left the edge on, didn't measure, and didn't chalk out any kind of lines to guide my stitching. I should have--it's all crooked lines and odd angles. I will also make the flap come all the way down on a future edition, if I make one, and will use another part of the material where the lines will be straight (I left the nicer part of the material aside). Still, although it's ugly (I hadn't done any sewing least a decade), it's functional. And it cost me about a buck in materials. Gotta love that.


Give this a try: look around the room. Find something that catches your eye--a picture, maybe, or the rug, or the Siamese cat opening the drawer to the dresser where you store yarn and pulling stuff out onto the floor and---hey, Tamino! Knock it off!

Where was I? Oh, writing prompts. So...look at whatever-it-is and think of a few words that describe it. Ponder those words. Let them roll around in your brain for a few moments. Focus on them. Think of double meanings for them, or how they could apply to a character's life. "Red chair?" Think of a life story for it, or how it was the very favorite chair of George's Aunt Melba, who would visit at the most inconvenient times and park there and refuse to leave no matter how obvious he made it that he needed to go because the love of his life was waiting for him at the park on the other side of town.

I had opportunity to try this out this week. I had to do a software install at an off-site office, and much of the install involves waiting and watching that blue line crawl slowly across the screen. I was all alone in a side office, no one to talk to, but I had a notebook and a pen, and I had a roomful of the sort of things people put around them at work--photos and comic strips and knickknacks and lists of phone numbers and plastic desk organizers. I was bored, so I tried to think of something to write about, and my eye kept coming back to the clock--a white plastic thing with butterflies on it. Butterflies. A butterfly clock. And I started scribbling, and got down the bones of what ultimately became this slightly sticky-sweet poem:

Field of daisies
butterfly clocks
turn in time with the sun;
I am running to meet you
down by the water
where trails of light meld into one
which leaps 'cross the ripples
and into tomorrow
where the waves reach up to the sky
and the golden of daylight
meets purple of twilight--
we stand watching night drawing nigh.

There's a hush on this moment
one golden moment
I am caught in a moment with you;
With my hand in your hand
we walk back through daisies,
asleep now--awaiting their dew.
The sun clocks have stopped
as though time has ceased:
we walk on eternity's shore.
In the blue-velvet darkness
I am awestruck by beauty
my heart is too full to take more.

For what it is, I'm fairly pleased with it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Library haul!

Thanks for all the reading suggestions, folks! Some of the ones I looked for either weren't available at the local library (but can be requested from others in the system, which I do a lot), or were checked out...but I still came away with a decent stack today....

Library Haul

Oh, and for the record, they're sitting on thedoghouse, which my dog likes to climb up on and dig at, hence the busted shingles. It ain't pretty, but the light was better out there....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

OK, enough with the pity party. I need reading material, folks!

As Speculator pointed out in response to my whine last week, often doing more reading can help one out of a writing slump. With that in mind, and considering I still have a bit more summer for summer reading (I won't consider my summer over until after my Dad's visit next month), any suggestions? I like both fiction and non, and in fiction like pretty much everything from classic lit to mysteries to thrillers to sci-fi to literary type books. Not real big on fantasy unless it's superbly well done (a la Tolkein) or mixed with other genres. Also not real big on endless sci-fi series where the books don't stand on their own. And I don't do explicit, as you might have guessed.

Got recommendations?

Still plugging away at a couple of short stories (and my NaNoWriMo '08 story, which may never get finished), but this week has been another week of rewriting the same paragraphs over and over until I want to start throwing things. But the Ambassador is a bit hard to throw, and I'm not risking my pens, so I just stew.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

More fear and loathing. Everybody's doin' it! Also, pen geekery writ large.

aug8 002

Ironically, these tend to be the times when I obsess the most over the tools of the trade, as if I could make everything turn around if I could just find the right pen or ink or paper or typewriter or what-have-you. And I don't give up writing when I feel like this. I'm just disgusted by every word is all. I write, but feel guilty and miserable for trying, sick that I had the hubris to try and run with the big dogs at times, when in reality, my stories are pale pablum not fit for human consumption.

There, you see what I did just then? Mixed metaphors all dumped together in a navel gazing whole that needs to go on that burn pile. ASAP.

But back to the obsession thing. Pens. I recently spent a bunch of time slummin' it with "inexpensive" pens--it's all relative, of course. Most of these were pens I've picked up over the years--I have a cup o' pens in almost every room of the house. Some rooms have two. It's a sickness. They pretty much all have good and bad points. Ballpoints, for instance, are available everywhere (often for free) write practically forever (some of the super smooth pens like the Pilot Dr. Grip Center of Gravity being the exception--they don't last much longer than gel pens), dry instantly and will write on even the roughest, spongiest paper. They're a carefree lot, ballpoints are, and there's a certain freedom to using them: no worries about paper quality or stray moisture, and they smell mahvelous.

Downsides? Yes, many. First and most obvious, they put down a rather anemic line. "Black" ballpoint ink is typically more of a streaky purplish-grey. It can be hard to read.

Their biggest downside for me, though, is that because of their thick, pasty ink, they require a certain amount of pressure to write with, which in turn also makes you grip them more tightly, all of which leads to hand and wrist cramping. When I hear people say, "Oh, I could never write more than a few words by hand," I pretty much assume they've never used anything but ballpoints. Don't get me wrong, ballpoints are great in their place, but I don't like 'em for intense writing.

I also have a number of gel pens around the house, mainly a handful of the ubiquitous Pilot G-2. I like these a lot. They put down a nice dark line, almost always write immediately even when they've been sitting, the ink is (mostly) waterproof and archival. They do require a little bit of hand pressure, but are much more comfortable than ballpoint. As you write, they have a slightly sticky feel to them, which grows on me, actually. It's like...I dunno...writing through honey. Gives you a feeling of control on the paper, but i do find it hard to really zip along with them. Also, they smear. Sometimes a lot. And they're pickier about paper than ballpoints are.

The biggest downside to them for me is that I could go through 'em like water. For me, they typically last somewhere around 40 comp book pages. That may sound like a lot, but it really isn't. On a typical day outside of NaNoWriMo season, I may write four pages in my journal and another four in my story notebook--I get 150-200 words a page, at a guess, so we're not talking a ton of words, honestly. At that rate, I go through a gel pen in five days, provided I don't also use it at work. Seems wasteful to me, especially since most of the time the refills cost as much as the pen, so you're throwing away a pen a week.

Next up would be rollerballs, I guess: liquid ink rolling ball pens. I've used Uniball rollers now and again for years. I'm also a fan of the Pilot v5. Roller balls can be rather like a compromise between gel/ballpoint pens and true fountain pens--with their water-based inks, they only need to touch the page to put down a line. But if the ball doesn't roll freely, they skip, and many styles don't have water-resistant ink.

And now I come back, as I always do, to fountain pens. Do they have downsides? You betcha. They can leak, many of the inks can fade or wash away easily (I'm looking at you, Waterman Florida Blue, or would be if you hadn't vamoosed), they aren't readily available, they can be expensive, their watery ink and pointy nibs are incredibly finicky about paper, and you have to hold them at the right angle or they won't write at all. You have to guard against dropping them or co-workers mangling them, because if a fountain pen nib gets damaged, it isn't as though you can just swap in a refill to replace it--the nib is an integral part of the pen, and it's relatively fragile, especially if it's a gold nib on a nicer pen.

Also they (and the ink and paper that go with 'em) are addictive. If you have the slightest tendencies toward office supplies geekery, for the love of Pete stay away from the things, or next thing you know you'll be cruising Fountain Pen Network at all hours of the day and night, hiding pen and ink acquisitions in the backs of drawers, endlessly scribbling about scribbling, and planning how to obtain your next hit.

I'm primarily an ink addict, though at this point I tend to stick to Noodler's Black and Noodler's "near bulletproof" colors, mostly thanks to the bad taste Waterman Florida Blue left in my mouth (not literally...I'm not *that* much of a junkie...): some of my old journal pages are approaching unreadable, and we're not even talking about much time here. I'm not sure I *want* anyone to read my notebooks in a hundred years, but I'd like to be able to read my own notes for at least five or ten or twenty years.

As for pens, in the last ten years or so I've been fortunate enough to own or try many of the flagship standards out there. My favorite pen is the Parker 51 I picked up for $30 about three years back. It's very, very user-grade: the cap is dinged and worn, the pen has lots of scratches and such, and the ink sac is stained. But writing with that pen is a transcendent experience--no pressure required at all, the words almost float onto the page as I think them. Everyone should have the experience of writing with a pen like that at least once.

I also have quite a few knock-around Chinese Hero 329s and 616s (they come up in packages of 10 for next to nothing on eBay now and again). I give these away to anyone wanting to try a fountain pen, though they do require bottled ink (rather than cartridges). They're also fun to fill with colors I don't use a ton of.

My most recent expensive pen acquisition was a total impulse buy, which I lay squarely in the court of one Marko Kloos, AKA The Munchkin Wrangler: it's a Lamy 2000 like the one at the top of his blog page, with Lamy's XF nib (making it more of a fine in most other worlds). I am very, very impressed with it so far. It's beautifully understated, extremely comfortable in the hand, and very smooth on the page. It holds a ton of ink, too. It may give the 51 a run for its money, especially once we get used to one another. There's also something to be said for a pen that is still being made. Nice to know I *could* replace it if I had to.

Um...I think I had a point, but I lost it somewhere along the way. Babbling as security blanket, I guess. I'll go back to writing bad prose now. ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crayoncast Revisited

Couldn't resist trying this again, making a few adjustments to my method based on MPClemens' last post. I still used a hair dryer on high heat to meld the wax to the paper, rather than the more adventurous toaster oven baking method...but it worked OK! Bernard is MADE for color casting.

Ungh...ironically, I do have a ton of uncorrected tyspos in 'ere. But I guess my point isn't utterly lost.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gargantuan Greatness and Crayon Craziness

As some of you already spotted over on Flickr, I picked up yet another desktop this weekend. As I've mentioned, the little Hermes 3000 is probably my most comfortable typewriter for just plain typing, especially for long stretches, and when I found out about a Hermes Ambassador in the area, I had to at least take a look, right? In spite of the fact that it was an hour away. Right? Right. And we all know how these things end.

1966 Hermes Ambassador

I'll spare you the long narrative and just say that it was apparently in a desk the seller had acquired. He had a TON of old office furniture and electronics and general junk in a mobile home out back...dunno his whole story. Salvage, maybe. Most of it was ugly, broken old stuff, but then...there was this Ambassador, looking very grand in the midst of it all. The ribbon was dry, it was elite type when I'd prefer pica, I couldn't figure out what all the buttons were in order to test them all, but...I couldn't just leave it there, now could I?

Biggest. Backspace. Evar.

It is magnificent. Really. It's a 3000 on steroids. I mean...just look at those big honkin' buttons! Gotta love that. And, like the 3000, it doesn't need much to drive it. You either love or hate the Hermes feel, I think. They have rather short key travel, almost like an electric typewriter, and no slack to the keys. Very, very precise feeling, very light--which can feel mushy to some, especially coming from, say, an Olympia SM-9. I like 'em both, but for marathon typing sessions, I'll take a Hermes. The Ambassador does have a heftier feel than the 3000. Kinda in between the 3000 and most other brands. As in...magnificent. Did I already say that?

It still had its carbon ribbon thing (it has an extra set of spools inside and a second vibrator for that), but I set that aside. And I had to cannibalize a ribbon from the 3000 for now--have some new ones arriving tomorrow from Scan Tracker, so I'll have to report back on the quality of those ribbons. This is my first order with them. They were slightly pricier than some other sellers...but I ordered on Sunday and they shipped Monday. That raises them up a great deal in my mind!

Been working away at both editing previous short stories and writing a new one, so it's getting a work out.

On another note, MPClemens' post about Color Casting made a lot of us nostalgic for crayons and other childhood art supplies. Being me, I couldn't wait to try this out, so I stopped for crayons on my way home, and attempted to colorcast a new poem. I'm not sure it's entirely legible, but it was an interesting project! I'll likely try again. I used a hair dryer on the wax for the first half, and typed that half with the regular ribbon setting. The second half, I didn't bother with the hair dryer, and used the stencil setting. It came out darker, but I also ended up with extra wax rubbed off on other parts of the page, so it's pretty messy looking. I think the best result would be to heat the page to fuse the wax good, then use the stencil setting. When I could see the letters, I was trying to push too hard and otherwise kept messing up and hitting the space and causing skips. For the most part, the stencil setting worked better. Fun stuff, in any case!


Addition: just for clarity, here's the poem again:
I stand on the shore in my solitary state
and across the water watch them:
distant figures on the far shore,
figures of mirth and peace.
The distance obscures,
but in my mind's eye I see them as clear
as if I was in their happy company.
An old man,
silver hair glinting
stands, rough elbows bent,
feet in the sand,
in the dark sand at water's edge
where a blonde child in red
builds towers to the sky:
beautiful misshapen castles
lumpy, bumpy, dripped mud and shell,
bringing beauty to ugliness
as only a child can.
She raises innocent eyes to smile at him;
two generations removed,
she is his own,
his future, his love made new.

I watch
and am blessed in watching
though I hurt:
for what have I been spared
that I am left lonely,
left outside the lives of others
touching corners only,
a circling satellite
adrift in the night sky?
Times there are when I wonder if,
should I be taken, now or time far off,
will there be any to mourn?
What mark have I left, and who
would mark my passing?
My going would be
like the drop of a pebble in these waters,
ripples observed, but scarce noted
before the calm waters smooth over again.
There are no castles on the shore for me,
no child of tomorrow.
Though perhaps it matters not in the vast world that is to come,
in this world, for this I grieve.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


One of many reasons I love paper...there's just no way I could reproduce this process on-screen!

First draft page

Some pages have even more comments. And some of them have brackets and arrows every which way. It works for me. And I like that I can always go back and see the original--sometimes I change something that shouldn't be changed. And yes, that's not a full sized piece of paper, for anyone wondering. It's half-sized scrap paper.

In other news...the Classic 12 is officially on the block. Already have one interested party. However, I'm kinda on the path of another one o' those mint green typewriters.

OK, since I'm baring my soul lately, I'll end off with a few semi-religious poems.



Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Index Card Circa Hack

I've started using the typewriters again heavily, after several months of mostly writing by hand. As a result, I'm using the Circa/Rollabind notebooks again quite a bit. I like that I can put all my typewritten pages in a notebook for easy perusal, and with the knowledge that if one morning I get up and decide to hit the coffee house and write by hand for awhile, I can do that in the same notebook.

In anticipation of November and for my own use now, I wanted a way to store/display index cards in the notebook. The ideal solution would probably be some of Levenger's Dock-it pages, but I'm on a Levenger fast for the time being, and nice as they are, I'm still not sure they're worth the amount it'd cost me to get them, especially with Levenger's high shipping costs factored in. Instead, I came up with this solution.

At Office Depot, I picked up a package of 3-ring binder inserts intended for 3 x 5" photos. They only have four pockets on a page, and only on one side (Levenger's obviously have considerably more, and are far heavier in weight), but cards can face backwards since the page is clear on both sides. Each pocket can hold a decent sized stack of cards.

I trimmed off the side tab with the three holes, reinforced the section next to that with masking tape, and Circa punched. I also had to trim the top of the page a little bit so it wouldn't stick out.

Index card Circa hack

The final result: it works pretty well! I'm proud of myself. And a package of ten pages is under three dollars at Office Depot, for a total of 80 visible pockets, with space for far more cards than are immediately visible. More than likely I'll only add one or two of these to each notebook, and use them primarily for storage of cards related to the story I'm currently working on--character sketches, items and events to remember to include, maps, etc. So long as I can see the top card in each stack, I'm good.

One more view:
Circa card hack--two pages

In other news, I'm most of the way through the first draft of Yet Another Short Story, and Stinky and I dashed down the first few paragraphs of the one after that this evening. Hey, if you're gonna write smoky bar scenes, Stinky is the typewriter to go to. He's had a hard life, and he knows his way around.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday thrift shop scores, with blame to go around

Did the rounds at Goodwill today. I found what I was looking for (a couple of outfits for church), and then did some poking though the chaos toward the back of the store, with some success!


The first bit of this particular CROP is a bit discolored, as you may or may not be able to see, but I think it's OK further in. I may just pass these off to my little nieces to use for coloring (we had a lot of fun with continuous feed paper when I was little--great for making your own "film strip"), but I had to try!

Here's the ink. Nothing too fancy, but it's not available anymore. And I do like the brightly colored (if plain) packaging!

No typewriters today, but you know, I'm kind of glad of it. If I see them, it's hard to walk away, and I still need to pare down. It's fun having some variety, but I have that already. And really, there isn't much that can top my current little group of keepers. That's rather a nice feeling. If I found a pica Hermes 3000, all bets would be off--I've said that before. But I'm awful blessed.

Oh, and during the car ride to and from and here, there and everywhere, I was listening (over and over) to The Innocence Mission's "Befriended," which is available from Amazon's MP3 downloads store, which made it way too easy to buy. This purchase was Cheryl/Strikethru's fault, as one of the tracks on that album was used as the background music for her recent video shoot of Ace Typewriter. If you haven't seen it, go check it out. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

One more little poem--a bit out of my usual zone. Started with the prompt "electric door".

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Random updates

My Silent Type submission is now in the mail, beyond recall. Every time I think about it, I practically break out in a cold sweat. The poems I've started posting recently are about the closest I've come to revealing what I consider "real" writing--goofy short stories that really aren't very serious don't count. And every time I try to do serious, it usually comes out sappy or overwrought or childish or all of the above, if not worse. In the past, I've posted poems here and immediately yanked them out of fearful self-consciousness, and this whole journal thing is bringing out fearful self-consciousness writ large. I actually sent both a poem and a short story--I figure if the story is too horrible to print, maybe the poem is OK. But I'm pretty sure one or both should never see the light of day again. Maybe I should stick to slightly cynical silliness.

I used the SCM Classic 12 for one of my two submissions since it partially inspired the idea; but I was reminded of how much we don't quite get along over anything but short typing sessions. It's sad, really. It works just fine except for needing a minor adjustment to the shift position, and I like its typeface better than pretty much anything else I have: pica, nice open letters without anything quirky about them. A Courier typeface, pretty much. Very pleasing to the eye. And I have no accuracy issues with it. However, something about the feel of it rubs me the wrong way after a brief period. After finishing typing my short short story one last time, I switched to the Hermes 3000 to type my poem, and I could have kissed the little thing. Not that I'd ever do something as silly as kissing a typewriter. Ahem. But it really is almost sinfully pleasurable to write on. I'm reminded of why I enjoyed NaNo '07 so much, when that little guy and I cranked out four or five or more pages a day together.

But I think the Classic 12 will be finding a new home. I'll probably post it on Craigslist in the next little bit. It deserves love and I don't have any to give it. Why I should feel so differently about its little sister the Galaxie, I have no idea. There is a difference in feel, though, similar as they *should* be. In a way, the 12 feels more solid...but I feel like I'm fighting it every step of the way.

In other news...I'm back to paper for writing longer works and poetry and most everything else. The netbook is an awesome little editing and transcribing machine and I had good luck with some short story writing, but when I attempted to move my current novel in progress to it, I almost immediately did what I usually do with digital writing of any semi-serious sort: I started writing and rewriting and rewriting the same scene over and over. And contrary to some popular opinions, repeated drafts don't necessarily get better and better, particularly when you delete one whilst writing the next. Eventually that whole scene went all herky-jerky and forced, and I gave up in disgust. I've gone back to my usual writing and crossing out on paper and have almost recovered, but I'm essentially using none of the words I wrote on the computer. So much for saving time by starting out in digital format!

I'm still loving the $2.50 pocket briefcase thingie from Staples. I couldn't find it when I was getting ready this morning and about had a heart attack. Don't want to go without it. I thought the fact that it's open would mean I'd never use it, but instead, it seems less fussy than the full wallet, and I'm using it constantly for lists and ideas and poems and addresses and anything else that needs scribbling. I've really switched over fully to index cards for all on-the-go or short writing at this point. Love that when I get home I can drop them into the appropriate category in my big card box (Staples has nifty snap-together 1000 card boxes for $5!), toss any I no longer need, and grab a new stack of blanks to keep going. I think I'll declare myself the Index Card Queen. I kinda doubt the title is taken.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Procrastination by means of poetry

Observation one: I've probably been listening to too much opera. These ain't exactly cheery, are they?

Observation two: poems do almost diddly-squat to up your word count. They do give you pretty much instant gratification, however, unlike your average novel.

Observation three: I couldn't come up with decent titles to most of what I write if you held a gun to my head.

Untitled #1:

Untitled #2:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Link: Confessions of a Computer Hater

I've long been a fan of Peter Kreeft, a Catholic writer, philosopher and professor at Boston College and one of the world's leading experts on the writings of CS Lewis. He has a knack for making the esoteric understandable and logical. And now I have another reason to like him: he's a typewriter kinda guy. My favorite quotes:

Despite my ordeal, I had not lost hope. "My name is Peter," I told myself, "and the Hell of Gates will not prevail against me." After all, after a mere twelve years of Herculean labors, I have actually figured out how to use Microsoft Word. Here's the secret: You must trick the computer. If it knows you're indenting, or paragraphing, or numbering, it will correct you. Only by doing something else entirely will the computer give you what you really want.

I have been there. Ooooh, I have been there. And I'm supposed to be a techie. Yes, I know how to work around Word, but I hate it that I have to do so.

And, of course, the money quote:
As for me, I'm done with it. I've found my way out with a relic as rare as a chastity belt: a beautiful little manual typewriter. It has no will, no devious designs, no nefarious stratagems. It's the honest, obedient slave the Industrial Revolution was intended to create. It's content to be my creature, and I adore it. Of course it takes longer to use than a computer, but who cares? Time ceases to matter when you're in love.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Inane Monday Night Typecast: Typewriter Bunnies

For the TV deprived or non-Western, here's the commercial I was referring to. WARNING: it's really, really catchy. "Yippee yi yay, mini sirloin burrrrrgers--hyah!"

The fact that I'm watching this while La Boheme plays in the background kind of adds...something. I'm just not sure what.