Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jackstein...Edmund Jackstein?

"The rumors that will be told of me," wrote Edmund Jackstein in his book, "On Jackstein Farm.

Yes, odd Eddie, 'tis true. In the text, on page 173, he was writing about another writer from a century earlier, Ned Mud. Come to find out, that's an anagram of Edmund. So, it seems, odd Eddie was writing about himself.

More information has just surfaced recently about Mr. Jackstein, thanks to a few other researchers out there who have shared their knowledge with me. Apparently, the exact years unknown, he left his post at Dunwark College for a time, and travelled to the small Alaska town of Thorton, Alaska. As best we can tell, he tried organizing a group of like-minded gamesters and word punners. He lived at the local library, working as their librarian.

This is where Eddie became even weirder than he was. He became obsessed with the alphabet, but not just the normal letters. He claimed that there were "letters between the normal letters," and worked on this wild theory until he returned to Dunwark College.

This information was recorded in a series of letters he wrote while working as Thorton's librarian, to one Eleanora Pride, another linguist back at Dunwark.

Somehow he and the group he tried to organize had themselves convinced that, for example, there would be a letter between 'A' and 'B', then between 'B' and 'C'.

How he could have maintained these obsessions yet still served, according to many accounts, as a wonderful librarian, is yet another mystery within the mystery of Mr. Edmund Jackstein.

One question: was he attempting to break some sort of code? That requires further investigation?

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Yes, Virginia, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, is in the Dictionary

Well, it's in Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary, at least. That's Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words, by Mrs. Josefa Heifetz Byrne. And right now you're thinking, "Tom, you're doing it again. You're making stuff up."

And, that's exactly the type of thing I would make up. But not this time. As I write this, I have Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary on my lap. Normally, there would be a cat on my lap, but I've placed a blue cat towel on part of my desk, so for the moment, no kitty helping me type.

According to the Editor's Introduction (Robert Byrne--her husband, I assume), he didn't want her to write the thing. But she did, over a ten year period (makes me feel a little better about taking ten-plus years to write novel number 1), and I love his quote at the end of his intro: "The author and editor apologize for the ammunition this book provides to bad writers." Just makes me want to run my fingers and eyes through the thing, picking odd words at random and tossing them in to whatever I'm writing. Like I'm about to do...

Here are just a few carelessly plucked gems:

Abra--It's a noun, and no, it's not the first part of abracadabra, or the incorrectly spelled name of a Swedish pop group. Spanish in origin, it's "...a narrow mountain pass."

Erf--Another noun, it's "...a half-acre in South Africa." What's a full acre? A double-erf?

Ever run across a sunken, invisible wall? Me either, but a haha is another noun, and it's "...a sunken wall, invisible from a distance." I kid you not.  Ha ha.

Then there's niddle-noddle, meaning "...a wobbly or nodding head." An adjective, one could say someone had a niddle-noddle head. I wouldn't say that, but someone could, if they were so inclined. And guess what? Leave out the hyphen and it's a hand reel for yarn.

No further annoyances for now.

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Today We Fight for Each Other

This is a little different post from what I usually write. It's a running commentary as I head toward the end of my manuscript. Oh, I will have some sticky parts to clean up as I go back through for the final editing, I assure you. But this large scene I work on now is a battle sequence.

It is a scene that I have worked on before, sketching it out, just to get the gist of it down. By no means complete. But what I have worked on today is the pre-battle speech, a definite must before any major battle.

What I've found helpful is to watch movies that have stirring pre-battle speeches. Watch those, and certain ones will resonate with you. Not all will. But listen to them to capture the feeling. Two in particular that put me in the mood to draw a sword and go "Once more unto the breach, dear friends..." are the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V (1989), and the pre-battle speech from The 13th Warrior (1999), spoken by Buliwyf. Both of those will prepare you save the regiment single-handedly.

If you need other examples, a quick Internet search for pre-battle speeches should give you several hits.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chief, Interrobang's Back in Town

Me again. I haven't worn out this whole punctuation thing yet, so I thought I'd continue with the interrobang. Nope, it's not a super-secret spy agency. It's that mutated, double-jointed bit of punctuation that combines the exclamation point (or mark) with the question mark (but not a question point). It looks like this: !?, but smashed together. Perfect for comic book expressions!?

A fellow named Martin K. Speckter came up with this little critter in 1962. Ideally, it should look like one punctuation mark, and I've looked up a handful of references on how to type the little rascal, but I still get !?

It's great for situations when you're writing and want to expression shocked disbelief, as in "How the hell did the car get up there!?" or "You voted for who!?"

There are a whole batch of other lost or forgotten punctuation marks that I think we should pull back out and start using again. Especially considering that we have some punctuation marks that we just don't know what to do with. And the rules. So many !%?!$# rules. See, there's a good use of punctuation marks. Some are necessary. Others, well...

The semicolon. Sounds like a medical procedure and feels like one when you're trying to figure out how to use the thing. Someone got the bright idea of putting a period on top of a comma. What, they couldn't make up their minds? "Okay, the comma part, that tells us to slow down, pause a little, and the period, well, we sorta stop, but we don't really."


In grammarese, it separates two independent clauses (two sentences), but also shows their interconnectedness, how they're related to each other. I say toss the semicolon out and throw a couple of dashes in there, like this--see how easy that was?

Okay, I've abused enough words for this post. Tune in next time when I'll discuss the asterism and how to get treated for it.

And in case you need some more unusual punctuation marks, check out this post:

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, November 22, 2015



Yep, exactly. We'd be like subway commuters in a megalopolis at rush hour, not crammed together like sardines because sardines don't do that voluntarily.

Supposedly, my first two sentences at the top of the page were how every thing was written until sometime around the third century BCE (why not B.C.E.?), when one of the head honchos at the great library of Alexandria, Aristophanes, with papyrus scroll in hand, shouted, "Enough!", and he threw in an exclamation point and a couple of double quotes. That sentence right there is why we have punctuation. It's a mess as it is, but can you imagine it without punctuation? I can't either.

Well, Ari didn't quite come up with the exclamation point, but he did originate the comma, which was a dot, like this (·), a colon (.); and the periodos (·). So, finally, folks could catch their breath while reading.

Later we changed periodos to period. Period. We also plopped it down to rest on the bottom line of lined paper. The period is also referred to as a full stop. Now, to me, I'd think a full stop would be an exclamation mark, and here's why. Let's say you're captain of a ship and you're about to hit a big chunk of ice. What do you say? Full stop. But, like that, the guys in the engine room, they're gonna think, "Yeah, full stop, big deal. Doesn't sound like he really means it," so they continue with their card game and hit the berg. But with an exclamation point, the captain can now shout, "Full stop!" and maybe thrown in another two or three exclamation points for good measure, and those engine room guys will go, "Oh, s**t! He's serious!" and slam on the brakes.

I find it interesting that the exclamation point didn't rear its pointy little head until the 15th century, which makes me wonder what they did for excitement before that. And how did they conduct a decent war? You can't go into battle by saying, "Charge." No one's going to think you mean it.

Well, that completes our tour today of punctuation. Stay tuned for our next broadcast when we look at the curious world of the letter 'a' and how it can also be a word.

For more on punctuation, check these out:

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Those Mome Raths Certainly Were Outraged

Been having some fun with the predictive text feature in word processors lately. You know, that oftenly (or rottenly--it doesn't care for my made-up words) annoying little genie (or jinn) that tromps about within our computers, waiting for an opportunity to second-guess what we're writing. So, I decided to have some writerly (or whitefly?) fun by typing in Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky," just to see if I could make it hemorrhage. Here's Mr. Carroll's poem with the jinn's suggestions.

"Taws billing, and the smithy toes
Did gyre and gamble in the wave;
All missy were the brogues,
And the mime rats outrage.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujube bird, and shun
The furious Bandersnatch!"

He took his viral sword in hand;
Long time the manhole foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tetum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in offish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulle wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The viral blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Calloo! Calla!"
He chortled in his joy.

Taws billing, and the smithy toes
Did gyre and gamble in the wave;
All missy were the brogues,
And the mime rats outrage.

Apparently, frabjous totally frabbed it out, as it could offer no suggestions.

So, not to worry, my writerly friends, computers won't replace us yet. Although I rather like the line: Long time the manhole foe he sought...

Keep writing, friends, and stay supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

'Tis the Season to be Shopping

As a writer, certain words hit my radar, especially when they’re media-generated. Here is a quick tour through some words invented for the holiday season, the time of year carved out of the calendar, roughly from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Now, however the Holiday Season starts much earlier, especially if you go in the stores. I swear I saw Christmas ads in August.


Many years ago I worked retail jobs during the Christmas season, and one of the busiest times of the year, naturally, was the day after Thanksgiving. Before everything went all whack-a-doodle with Christmas shopping, we just called it “the day after Thanksgiving.” Then, the advertising cheerleaders decided to give it a special name—Black Friday, implying that all the other shopping days had been red, or low sales days.


To me, an old movie buff, Black Friday is a 1940 movie with Boris Karloff, so when I hear the term Black Friday, I don’t associate it with a major shopping day.


Then there’s the Christmas Rush, an ever-powerful, self-fulfilling fanaticism, also media-created, where everything starting right after Halloween is accelerated faster every year. It means simultaneously the rush of shoppers at the stores, the rush to get things done, buy those gifts before they’re sold out, get that stuff on sale because they’ll never ever have another sale on that item again…


In the last few years, marketing engineers are trying to get Thanksgiving Day cranked up as another sales day, calling it either Gray, Brown, or Black Thursday. Personally, I don’t think we need any more days with colors just for marketing purposes. I would just like to have Thanksgiving Day and the day after Thanksgiving.


Back in 2005, we got Cyber Monday. That was invented for those of us who didn’t want to get crowd-clobbered on the day after Thanksgiving and wanted to shop online instead. So, once again, they manufactured a special day of the week for online shopping, as though there’s something magical about doing it on Monday.


Then, a few short years after that, they extended it to the whole week, calling it Cyber Week. I figure eventually, they’ll just wrap the calendar around and smash it all together on Christmas Day. Let’s see, perhaps Cyber Year, or Manic Holiday Year, or something along those lines. That way we can stay in a holiday shopping frenzy the entire year.


Holiday Tranquilizers with your eggnog, anyone?


Keep writing, friends.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's the (Expletive Deleted) SpellCheck, Baby!

Okay, gang, got a new one for you. Regular readers of my posts know that I have some issues with SpellCheck (or spell-check, etc.), and have turned it off at least on my silly-phone. Well, both Wendy and I might be kicking the Word Police out the door soon.

A few minutes ago she said, "Tom, you've got to come in here and see this."

So, I went in her studio and she said, "Take a look at my laptop."

I did, and what to my curious eyes should appear was not reindeer or Santa, but highlighted in a bold, blue font was the word, uh...motherf****r right there on the screen.

"Honey," I said, "are you trying to push the censorship envelope a bit?"

"Nope," she said, and, smiling, she erased it, then started typing the word 'mother', when, like some sort of foul-mouthed computer gremlin, the remaining six letters magically appeared.

"Uhhh...what?" I stammered.

"Yep," she said, "I was typing in the phrase "...mother's recent death..." when the spell-check or intellisense or whatever malevolent mind lurks behind the screen hijacked my words and came back with one of George Carlin's Big Seven. What do you think about that?"

"I never thought I'd see something like this," I said.

"Neither did I," she said. "And check this out. Anytime I type the word 'mother', the vulgar genii completes the rest." She then proceeded to demonstrate.

"Uhhh..." I said.

"Yep," she said.

"I have to write a post about this. But no one will believe it," I said.

And that's where I am now, writing this post. I feel like a storyteller in a Poe short story, relating something few will accept. But my tale is true, dear friends.

With that, I leave you with this warning, "Keep looking up..."

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Jester Went to the Liberry in Jest

Word play. Do any of my writerly friends out there enjoy that? Sometimes I do to a fault, especially just to see if anyone’s paying attention. Recently I purposely misspelled ‘library’ as ‘liberry’ in an email to some folks who should realize that I intentionally did that. What followed was a snowball-rolling-downhill event I couldn’t have anticipated.

Them (the email-ee): That’s not correct. The word is ‘library’, not ‘liberry’.

Me (the email-er): Yes, thank you, I know. I wrote that in jest.

And here is where things began to proceed along an out-of-hand path, as one of the people who was cc’d (Aside #1—we use the abbreviation ‘cc’, which originally meant ‘carbon copied’ to indicate someone else who would receive an actual, physical carbon copy of the original text. My problem is, I know I can write ‘carbon copied’, but I don’t know if cc’d, to represent ‘carbon copied’ is correct.) responded with: You jest what?

Me: I jest wrote that in jest.
Them: No, you can’t do that, using ‘jest’ for ‘just’.
CC-er: Was it just to use ‘jest’ for ‘just’?
Me: Oh, most certainly. And as far as liberry goes, and I do so wish that the spell-check thingy would not put that red squiggly underneath ‘liberry’, when I looked up liberry online I got many hits. It’s annoying.
Them: That’s not all that’s annoying.
CC-er: Hits? How so?
Me: There is a blog called Love the Liberry at And that’s not all. Someplace in Alaska they’re having a LiBerry Music Festival & Berry Pie Throwdown. Sounds like a perfect combo of pies and literature.
CC-er: Righto. I’m a-goin’.
Them: That’s horrible. All those pie-eating people can’t spell library.
Me: But don’t you see what they’re doing? It’s what kids say—liberry. They know it’s not truly liberry. It’s supposed to be funny. Besides, there’ll be pies.
Them: There’s nothing funny about the English language.
Me: That’s because you’re not getting to the gist of the whole thing. Just because you don’t get the gist does not take away from the fact that this has been all in jest.
Them: You’re insane.
Me: Quite.
Them: Quiet.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Edmund Jackstein, Who Were You?

Ha! After some significant amount of research, I finally found a few more references to Edmund Jackstein, that 19th century writer and local celebrity. If you recall, I wrote a little about this unusual fellow in a post dated September 3rd of this year. By pure luck, one of my blog readers was a distant relative of Edmund’s, and while he had no direct knowledge, he had heard some family tales about “odd Eddie”, as he had come to be known. He also had one original copy of Edmund’s book, “On Jackstein Farm,” the only known surviving original copy of the work.

This relative, a cousin several times removed, is not a direct descendant and did not want his name mentioned, said that according to family legend, “odd Eddie” loved to wear brightly-colored clothes when he showed up at family gatherings and would annoy everyone with his obsession over word origins. Supposedly he would interrupt a conversation with, “Say, did you know that the word ‘abracadabra’ was invented by an ancient Roman named Serenusti Sammicustius?” Which is, of course, not quite correct, as Edmund had the first and last names wrong. But that’s what he would do—toss out random word facts, then intentionally change some of the facts. Apparently, he thought that was quite funny.

Additionally, in the family copy of Edmund’s book, he had gone in and marked out some of the words, with a note on the back of the book signed by him. The note said, “After my book was published, I noticed that many of the words were ceratype words, so I have changed them in this copy. I shall attempt to locate all copies sold and change them as well.” No one has any idea what a ceratype word is, and there is no definition that we know of today for that word.

As we know, Mr. Jackstein experimented with a wide variety of mind-altering chemicals. However, this distant cousin did say that Edmund taught for a few years at Dunwark College where he graduated, acquiring quite a following. He was eventually forced to resign for his refusal to grade any of his students, saying that grades inhibited true learning.

That’s all I have for now on the mysterious and strange Mr. Edmund Jackstein. As I gain more information, I will pass it on.
Please refer to my previous post:

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

No Cuppa Joe, No Words on the Page

This post is taken from an earlier one I wrote. Tom's brain is on vacation today, as he's working on his novel, completing the final edits.

Coffee and writers. Writers and coffee.

I can’t imagine writing without the stuff. I would not necessarily consider myself a morning person, but I’ve learned that morning is when my brain is firing (or misfiring, depending on the morning) at its best. And I can think of no better way to get those cerebral juices flowing without a cup of the magic black stuff sitting beside me.

Now, what I wonder about is, what is the coffee of choice for writers? I tend to favor and savor the strong stuff myself. Sumatran. If I could afford it, Jamaican Blue Mountain. Hawaiian Kona is good, too. Espresso, too intense. I prefer a nice, slow burn in the morning, sort of the morning equivalent of a beer buzz. The coffee glow should start off slow, build to a nice, steady roll, to the point where it augments my writing jazz.

And just in case you’re wondering what other writers have to say about coffee, here are a few randomly chosen author’s quotes about the dark elixir.

This is one of my favorites from Dave Barry — “It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”

I definitely agree with this one. Coffee is a serious matter. Absolutely medically necessary. As one caffeinated friend of mine said years ago, “I need it to jump-start my heart.” Yep.

From J. D. Salinger — “That’s something that annoys the hell out of me- I mean if somebody says the coffee’s all ready and it isn’t.”

Oh yeah. That’s right up there with, if you tell me I won the lottery and I really didn’t.

Of course, there’s always a sayer of nay or two. Take this example: “Coffee, though a useful medicine, if drunk constantly will at length induce a decay of health , and hectic fever.” — Jesse Torrey, The Moral Instructor (1879).

Okay, looks like Jesse never got a really cup of decent diner coffee. I’ll take the decay of health and hectic fever myself, though.

Reminds me of a quote that I thought was by the old jazz pianist, Eubie Blake (or I made it up, not sure which). “Coffee must be slow poison. I’ve been drinking it for more than 90 years and it hasn’t killed me yet.”

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Zombies, and Werewolves, and Ghouls, Oh My!

Halloween is coming! Halloween is coming! Yes, I know I'm a wee bit early, but seeing as how Christmas stuff is threatening to crowd out the Halloween stuff already, I figured I should get this post out. I like Christmas, too, but let's have some good monster time first. And, speaking of monsters, this handy-dandy little guide to monsters familiar and obscure from around the world may aid you in your monstrous quests. So, happy tracking.

Most everyone is familiar with the Big Four: vampires, werewolves, mummies, and Frankenstein's creature (and remember--Frankenstein is the man who created the creature). But there are other critters out there that you may want to call on from time to time. Here's a brief list A to Z, along with brief definitions. My selections are mostly random.

Alp-luachra: Of Irish origin, this fairy ain't Tinkerbell. If you fall asleep beside a stream, this invisible fairy becomes a newt, crawls in your mouth and eats your food. Hmm, wonder if that's why I'm always hungry?

Blemmyes: These critters, of ancient origin from various parts of the world, have no head. Their faces are on their torsos. Doesn't sound as though they're particularly dangerous, they just can't wear hats of normal size.

Cyclops: Primarily of Greek origin, these one-eyed giants were rumored to have nasty temperaments, especially if you watch the old 1950s and 1960s mythology flicks. Related to the Titans, they also built enormous structures and were the inspiration for some of H. P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones.

Dzunukwa: A hideous hag of Kwakwaka'wakw origin from British Columbia, she steals children, then eats them. If you can trick her into falling into a fire pit, you'll be rid of her. Perhaps.

Echidna: Of Greek origin, when you talk about the mother of all monsters, she's it. Half human, half snake, her child is the Gorgon. Think Medusa. Echidna had dominion over "...the corruption, rotting, and pestilence of the lower dregs of the earth." Refer to the link

Fachen: This half-bodied creature could kill you with just a look. It had only one leg and an enormous, vile-looking  mouth. So frightening in appearance was the fachen that whoever gazed upon died of terror. Of Scots-Irish origin.

Ghost: Of English origin (in Old English, gast), versions of ghosts are everywhere around the globe. The spirit of a dead person, sometimes benevolent, occasionally malevolent with the ability to do harm to the living.

Headless Mule: This Brazilian-based creature began as a woman who offended God, and for her sins she was turned into a fire-breathing, headless mule. The stuff of nightmares.

Ittan-momen: Anyone afraid of a flying roll of cotton that wraps itself around your face and smothers you? I wasn't either until now. This Japanese monster falls into the category of Yokai, meaning "ghost, phantom, or strange apparition."

Jackalope: A jackrabbit/antelope from the wilds of America, it's a rabbit with antelope antlers. It can gore a hunter's legs, so hunters are advised to wear stovepipes on their legs for protection. Known to appear around Stuckey's, Howard Johnson's, or Cracker Barrel.

Kraken: "Release the Kraken!" Just had to say it. From Scandinavia, it is often represented as gigantic octopus or squid. It can easily sink ships at sea with its tentacles. The suckers on its tentacles may have spikes, as well.

Loup-garou: A French version of the werewolf, it was used to frighten children into behaving, as we see with many myths and monsters. This werewolf variation can transform at will and remains fully aware and intelligent.

Mogwai: In Chinese folklore, the mogwai is a vengeful spirit that will cause you harm if you did evil to it while it was alive.

Nachzehrer: A German variation on the vampire, a person becomes a nachzehrer if they commit suicide, or sometimes if they die accidentally. A little confusing, as an accidental death you had nothing to do with, but oh well. These creatures do not prey on the living, but eat dead bodies.

Obia: From West African folklore, this beast is a large animal under the employ of witches. It wears human skin for a coat, which it has obtained from its victims. Okay, that's gross.

Piasa: Of Native American legend, images of this winged dragon were found on bluffs along the Mississippi River in Illinois. Antlered, it has a human-like head, and was covered in scales. Loved to eat people.

Qalupalik: In the Inuit culture, this monster was good for keeping children in line. A sea creature that resembled a human, it would steal bad children. If you hear the sound of humming near the ocean, chances are it's a Qalupalik.

Redcap: Dwelling in castle ruins along the Scottish/English border, it appears as an old man with talons. If you wander into its home, it will kill you then use your blood to make its hat red--red cap.

Surma: The surma, of Finnish origin, is a huge snake-tailed dog that turns its victims into stone. Its stare is worse than its bite.

Talos: I remember this mountain-sized man of bronze from Jason and the Argonauts. Created by Hephaestus, he defended Europa from outsiders. In some depictions, he's winged.

Uma-no-ashi: I had to include this one. In Wikipeida it's defined as "A horse's leg which dangles from a tree and kicks passersby." I didn't make this up.

Vampire: These folks are all over the place, but the one many of us know is of Slavic origin, but contrary to the anorexic, pale vampire of today, the old school vampire appeared well-fed, with a dark complexion. Also, sunlight didn't turn them into piles of ashes. They just needed to use sun-block.

Will-o'-the-wisp: Some Scots-Irish versions have it that a fellow named Will or Jack is doomed to haunt bogs or marshes for some wrongdoings. Don't know why Will or Jack is singled out, though. If you see one of these ghostly lights, in a boggy area, it will lure you off your path, into trouble.

Xing Tian: Similar to the blemmyes, this headless giant wages a continual battle against the Supreme Divinity in Chinese folklore. With its face on its torso, it wields a battle axe and a shield.

Yeti: Also known as an abominable snowman of Himalayan origin, the creature is a large, ape-like biped. Reclusive, it is unknown whether or not it likes donuts, as does the American bigfoot.

Zombie: Originating in Haiti, zombies are more common than roaches these days. Starting as slow-moving, reanimated corpses, now they're speedy flesh-munchers. Zombieism is now attributed to a type of virus. We are losing some of our fear of zombies now, as some can even hold jobs as medical examiners (iZombie.)

Well, I hope you've found this little alphabetically monstrous romp entertaining and even perhaps insightful. Know that there are plenty of monsters to choose from out there, and every culture has some version.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Where the Heck are We?

And that is a major question for me at this point of sweeping up in my novel. Been through two or three edits and revisions, sweeping up. The next process is to figure out exactly where everything is in my world I've created.

To say I've been all over the map is pretty accurate. My alternate world is based on some actual locations on Earth. A past Earth. And what I have to do now is make a series of maps for all the places I've created. This is especially important for me as I'm a visual thinker. I'm also a non-sequential thinker, so stuff is everywhere.

I'm thinking out loud here, but this could prove helpful for my writer friends who have created their own environment. One of the things I'll be doing is to read through my manuscript, sketching the relative locations of places--buildings, forests, which way roads run, lakes, mountains, etc. And if I have someone's home as down the road to the right in relation to someone else's home, that must be consistent. If a forest lies northeast from a village, I can't have it be southwest.

I have three main locations where things happen. I'll need a moderately detailed map of each of those locations. I also need a larger map, the 30,000 foot view, so to speak, where I see the bigger picture of how those three places lie in relation to each other.

Okay, well, here I go. I'll post more info as I progress. I hope these ramblings are helpful to any and all out there.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Writer's Tell Overture

And, we're off and running again.
Check out the sentence above. I could've just written it as "We're off and running again." But I didn't. I wrote it as I speak.
That's the funny thing (sort of peculiar funny, but also Ha Ha funny), that we read it but we also hear it.
And there's a rhythm to it as well as a style, and a part of style is the writer's tell.
Now you're wondering, "Okay, what's he talking about this time?"
Well, I'll tell you.
A tell is an unconscious tic or mannerism in that can give a clue to what a card player is REALLY thinking behind his or her stoic demeanor. In poker, a player might, without realizing it, tug on her ear lobe when she has a good hand.
Us writers have tells, too. It's those little words/non-words/punctuation choices we toss in to our writing. And, as we get closer to writing how we speak, those little tics appear in what we write. Which is both good and bad.
On the one hand, it puts our signature, so to speak, on our words. On the other hand (there are four fingers and a thumb--sorry, my granddad's humor got in there), it can get in the way of what we're trying to say. So, it's a judgment call. Some tells are good, others not so.
So, what are my tells?
Well, this short piece is chock-full of them. Beginning sentences with "And" is one example. Check out that sentence at the top again.
Some of my others are:
Beginning with "But." But I do that, too, you say. And, that's perfectly okay (see what I'm doing?)
Beginning with "Well." Well, I don't know about that.
Beginning with "So." So, this is how it's done?
I'm also the Ellipsis you can see right here...
And, so, let me repeat...tells are neither good nor bad--just one more tool in the ol' toolbox.
But use them carefully. And, watch overuse of commas after and, or but, or so, or well,......
Keep writing, friends...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sincerely, Darth

Dear Earth people,

Thank you for providing the list of your banned books. I have been reading many of them, seeking out ways to get closer to the Dark Side, as I aspire to one day be as powerful as the Emperor. Sadly, however, I have been disappointed. So far, I have not found them helpful on how to get really, really dark. Here is all I’ve learned so far:
  • "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"—plucky little girl goes on adventures and learns the value of her home, but also the power of friends.
  • "The Great Gatsby"—money can’t buy you love. But, you had a musical group called The Beatles that said the same thing. Are they, too, banned?
  • "1984"—don’t believe everything you read in the paper.
  • "Animal Farm"—power corrupts.
  • "The Lord of the Rings"—all about honor, bravery, and loyalty

These are all I’ve read so far. Please send a better list. Somehow, after reading some of these, I’m strangely drawn back to the Good Side. The Emperor won’t like that.

Live long and prosper, uh…no, that’s not what I mean…uh, you can’t resist the power of the something something, uh…oh, never mind.

Have a good day,

Suitcasing Some New Words

Just learned a new word today.

No, not that kind of word. I already know plenty of those. The word is “glamping.” I know it’s a real word as I saw it on TV. So, I decided I’d check it out, and it means glamour camping. Actually, I would never think of putting glamour and camping together in the same sentence, but apparently, others have. One photo I saw online shows several folks camping, and they’re clinking their wine glasses together. So, it seems that as soon as you go into the wine realm when camping, you’re now glamping. To me, though, I don’t want to glamp anything. Sounds like some sort of bodily function that wouldn’t be too fun.

Got to say, though, I’m not the roughing-it type of camper, anyway. Wendy and I talk about buying a truck camper or something like that, but I don’t think we’ll do much of the primitive style anymore. My question is, how much comfort can I have while camping before someone says I’m glamping? And is it comfort-based, this odd transition from camping to glamping? Take the wine thing, for example. Is it just drinking wine that makes me a glamper, not a camper? What if I have some specialized import beer and not, say, Pabst in a can, am I considered a glamper? I can tell you from personal experience that some of the wines I drank back in the early days would definitely not have put me in the glamper category. Think MD 20/20 or Boone’s Farm. If you have those on a camping trip, you’re most certainly not glamping. Heck, you’re nearly feral if you have those.

But there are other words like glamping that concern me—these portmanteaus. And no, portmanteau isn’t one of my made-up words, though it sounds as though it could be. And it’s not some sort of aquatic mammal. According to my friends with Merriam-Webster, it’s a large suitcase. Okay, well, that’s one definition. It’s a blending of two or more words, smashing them together (I can sort of see the suitcase comparison—my clothes are like that when I travel.), as in smog (smoke and fog).

Now, I know, being a wordsmith, making up words myself all the time, I should be happy the English language is kept fresh and alive with this word evolution (wevolution?), but sometimes the Frankensteinishness of the new words, well, I think they could do better. Perhaps it’s just jealousy on my part, though. But let’s look at some more travel and leisure related words besides glamping.

For some time now we’ve had staycation, a peculiar blending of “staying home” and “vacation.” What’s wrong with just “staying home?” But one that sounds so, I don’t know, pretentious, is “honeyteering,” a mix of “honeymoon” and “volunteering.” This one sounds like something created by the travel industry so they can sell a vacation package to young adventurers (yadventurers?).

I figure, though, that I might as well saddle up and ride along, so I’m gonna toss out a few of my own. Hang on to your hats, folks:

This trend now toward serving a meal in movie theaters gives several possibilities. The company called Movie Tavern could call itself Mavern or Tovie. You’d be eating dinner while watching a movie and we could call it dovie. Might kill the dating industry, however. “Hey, Susie, want to catch a dovie?” Not sure about that one.

Then, there’s driving while texting (which I highly disapprove of), and you’d be a dexter.

Surfing while watching TV would be “swatching” or “wurfing.”

Multitasking is too long. Needs to be “masking.”

Stay-at-home moms and dads would be “stoms” or “stads.”

Well, I’ve probably overstayed my welcome (overcome? Welstayed?), so…

Words evolve, for good or ill. More on this subject at:

Keep writing, friends (kwends?)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'm of Two Minds...No, We're Not...

I'm one of those writers (yep, one of those) who doesn't write in one particular style. I have my whimsical style, which most of you folks see. I also have a serious style, which will show up before long as I'm completing my first novel. Then, there's this thing that happens randomly, this regurgitation of words in a sing-songish/Dr. Seussian/Shel Silverstein style, where I'll have words popping out all rhyme-like. Like this:

Why I Rhyme...I don't use would be a crime...

See what I mean? And this is why I don't do poetry. It ain't pretty, and I have no control over it.

After the vernal equinox
We'll rearrange our clocks
Then after the equinox vernal comes
On our doors spring will knock

This one bubbled to the surface while driving to work this morning. No, I wasn't using my silly-phone or writing anything while driving, it was all just automatically happening in my noggin.

The words just come out this way, and I don't know why...hey hey...

Bouncing a SuperBall
In the hall
Against a wall

And see, it's always bad. It's as though I have these word spasms, and then, like hiccups (or hiccouphs), I'll be okay. Or as okay as I ever get.

Here's one from a while back, where I combine two or more TV themes:

(to The Brady Bunch theme)

Here's the story
Of a boy named Timmy
And he fell down a very deep well
Then along came
A dog named Lassie
And everything was swell

Okay, feeling better now.
Not really sure how.
Stop it!

Any of my other crazy writer friends out there do stuff like this? Hate to think I'm the only nut job writing this way...hey hey.

'til next time...Adios.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Yogi and a Berra Walk into a Bar

Well, we lost another great one on September 22nd. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra died, 90 years young. An incredible catcher for the New York Yankees from 1946 to 1965, I remember him because my Grandad watched him and talked about him all the time. And supposedly one of my favorite cartoon characters, Yogi Bear, was derived from him. But one of the things I remember him for were his “Yogi-isms”, his wild and creative quotations he was known for. Did they make sense? Yes, in a Zen sort of way. Here are a few of his best:
“It's like deja-vu all over again.”
“The future ain't what it used to be.”
“If you don't know where you're going, you might end up some place else.”
"It ain't over till it's over.”
And one of my favorites: “You can observe a lot by watching.
I don’t know whether we have any actors, comedians, athletes, or other folks in the public spotlights who engage in word play nowadays. Once upon a time we had folks like Victor Borge. One of his nicknames was “The Clown Prince of Denmark.” As a kid growing up in the 60s, there were these great variety shows, and Mr. Borge would come out on stage, seat himself at the piano and fasten himself to it with a seat belt. He would then discuss how one could use Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” as an egg timer. A classical pianist, he would perform some classical piece, then run off into something else such as “Happy Birthday to You.” One of the things I remember was his routine where he would tell a story and insert sound effects for the punctuation. He was also known for his “inflationary language,” where he would alter a story, incrementing any numbers in the story, or incrementing what even sounded like a number. For instance, “Once upon a time” becomes “Twice upon a time,” “forehead” becomes “fivehead,” etc.
We had other entertainers famous for their word play.
Archie Campbell, of Hee Haw fame, would tell the story of Cinderella, but he would sway the first letters of certain words: “RinderCella” instead of “CinderElla,” and “slopped her dripper” instead of “dropped her slipper.”
Nipsey Russell, was a comic who appeared, well, pretty much everywhere, including many game and variety shows. Famous for his poetry, many were composed by him on the fly:
What is the secret of eternal youth?
The answer is easily told;
All you gotta do if you wanna look young
Is hang out with people who are old.
George Carlin, who had wonderful observations, such as:
Where are the great pundits, and wits, and nitwits who show us the way now? Who teach us how flexible and comical our language is?
I had the good fortune of living in a time where we had Yogi Berras, Archie Campbells, and others. And I have to say I come by my love for word play honestly. My grandfather, a well-rounded man who would’ve finished the eighth grade if it hadn’t been for the “…woodpeckers eating the school down.” had plenty of his own expressions. His specialty was taking high-falutin’ words and tossing them in casual conversations and situations. When picking up an object sometimes, he would state, with elaborate flourish: Grasp it thusly betwixt the forefinger and the thumb.
Or when about to give a pre-dinner speech (translation: tell a tall one): I’m going to make an epistle now. I never knew what an epistle was, but it always sounded funny to me.
And then there were the little joke questions I still love to annoy people with:
Pete and Repete were sitting on a fence. Pete fell off. Who was left?
Pete and Repete were…
Just remember. Two half-wits make a twit. Wholly wit.
I don’t always toss words around randomly, but when I do it’s without meaning.
Keep punning, my friends.