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.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Welcome to the Inner Sanctum

For all new initiates into the secretive world of the writer, prepare to be properly amazed.

Cue sound of heavy wooden door as it slowly creaks open, Doc Frankenstein-style.

We now see the writer at work, one of the most cloistered beings on the planet. If we're quiet, perhaps he won't hear us and will work uninterrupted. This is so exciting. I will present this as bulleted notes, for which I will prepare the scientific paper at a later time.

  • The writer shuffles about his basement, known as the writer's lair.
  • Turns on TV, spends significant amount of time finding an appropriate channel. This seems unusual behavior, as the writer will be unable to watch TV while he's working.
  • Next, he finds a stack of papers on the floor, picks them up, groups them with another stack of papers. He fiddles with them a bit, places this larger stack back on the floor.
  • Stands in the middle of the room for some time, dazed expression. We can only assume this is the result of his massive brain plotting out a bestselling novel.
  • He goes to the computer, and...oh, this is terrific...we're going to see him engaged in actual work, or research. We'll be able to discover which sites he visits for his information.
  • The writer plays something called Angry Birds, attempting to best other players.
  • Next, after completing play, he heads upstairs...comes back some time later with a sandwich and something to drink, sits back down at his computer.
  • What's he doing now? Research? Yes, it must be. He's researching for a novel, something to do with the weather...he's going to one of several weather sites. This is it, folks! He's writing a novel on hurricanes, as he's checking for the presence of any hurricanes around the world. Yes! He's opened up a blank document, he's cracking his knuckles, and...a cat just jumped on his lap.
  • He's petting the cat with one hand, attempting to type with the other, and he's typing a title now. Let's see, it says..."Hurricanado". What is that? A new word in the dictionary?
  • Now he's setting the cat down on the floor, he's getting up and using some small hand weights, obviously to maximize blood flow to the brain.
  • Okay, now he's going back to the stack of papers from earlier, he picks them up, finds other papers, and adds them to that stack.
  • Wait a minute! He's going back to the computer, executing another search. Something about space, I think. Here we go! He's preparing to do research on a science fiction novel, I'll bet. He's looking up..."Which is more powerful? The Starship Enterprise or the Death Star?"
  • And now, he's getting up, going over to the couch, and getting ready to take a nap.
 Well, that's all the time we have for now. I just know that when we return tomorrow, all this preparation the writer has done will prove fruitful and he will begin work on the Great American Novel.

Stay tuned tomorrow, folks, when we'll have another exciting episode of Candid Writers.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Eye Can Spel All by Myselph

Spellcheck, curse or comfort? All I know is that most of the time it gets in the way of my writing. How about you folks out there? Let’s say, just for example, that you want to write about a caveman named Thag. Here’s what happens on the silly-phone. First, it changed Thag to That. So, I backed up and tried again. This time it let me without complaining.

So, here’s the deal. We’re writers and we throw down a lot of words on the page. And we also know how to check for grammatical and speling errors. Like that one. Spell-check (or spellcheck or spell check, etc.) is a handy-dandy tool, but it’s no more than a hammer. A hammer on auto-pilot. Okay, that’s not the best analogy in the world, but you see what I mean. As writers we know to edit our work afterwards. When that predictive, intelli-sense, spelling doodad constantly tries to change our words while we’re writing, it interrupts the flow. If you have to go back and tell it that you want “lets” instead of “let’s”, then that’s throwing a log on the tracks. And I know that in my case if the writing train’s derailed, I’m gonna hear the siren song of Angry Birds, or go play with the cats.
Not only is it annoying when it predicts (or attempts to predict) what word you’re typing, but when the word it thinks you want pops up with the little ‘x’ symbol beside it, I inevitably poke the wrong thing and end up with the word I don’t want. Helpful not.

What to do?

Well, in my case, I have an iPhone 5, and after a bit of ‘net searching, I found that if you go into your Settings option, select General, then Keyboard. There you go. Now you’re where you need to be to tell the electronic beastie that you can spell (or not) all by yourself. A little suggestion, as I’ve played with the settings a little, and what I’ve seen on the ‘net differs slightly from what I’ve learned. They tell you that all you need to do is turn off the Check Spelling switch. Just turning that one off won’t keep it from changing your words. You need to turn off Check Spelling and Auto-Correction. That will keep it from changing your words as you type. There’s one more option, too. It’s the Predictive switch. If you turn that little rascal off, then it no longer will offer “helpful” suggestions as to what word you intend.

A word of caution, though. When you turn off both the Auto-Correction and Check Spelling options, then decide you want to turn them back on, you can turn the Auto-Correction back on, but the Check Spelling button disappears. Guess I made it angry when I turned it off. I did manage to get it back, though, by resetting all settings. But, truthfully, I don’t want the option anyway, so that’s fine with me if Check Spelling vanishes. My opinion—you’re a writer. You know how to look stuff up, and you probably have a whole editing process you go through, so just turn off all three things. I can use a dictionary.

Next, I’m gonna tackle the spell-thingy in my various flavors of word processors. I’ll report back with what I find. Once again, until I’m ready to crash-and-burn with full-out editing, grammaring, spelling, and revising, I just want to type, with no interference from HAL.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wait...I Wrote That?

Still using the machete to slice through the jungle of words in my manuscript. But it's not all pruning. Sometimes you're going along and you see gaps that you hadn't previously seen.

What I've learned, and I'm still astounded by this, is that when you work on a long, large project, you'll be surprised when you see a section you wrote, oh, years ago. I know. At times I'll see a clump of words there, and I'll go, "I wrote that?" As in, "Oh, man, I'm glad it hasn't gone to print yet. I need to fix that." The good thing is that I'm far enough along now that I CAN fix it. When I first laid the words down, I couldn't. Wasn't ready yet. All I could do then, and all I needed to do, was get the words on the page.

Other times I'll say, "I wrote that?" and it's in a good way. "Wow! That's actually good!" I'll say.

The point is that both will happen. As writers, as creatives, we judge ourselves harshly sometimes. We're too close. We need to get away, step back, take an uncritical look at our work. What happens is that with every rereading, we see more. Trim a little here, add a word there, chop out this sentence, find a different word.

Here's a little of what I'm currently hammering away at:

Consistency--my character always refer to his mom as Mother. Never Mom. Guess what? Mom slipped in a few places, so it's time for some good ol' word processor find and replace.

Word of caution: Avoid doing a Replace All. Use brain and eyeballs to check each instance, otherwise you could get some unwelcome alterations.

Example: If I Replace All instances of 'Mom' with 'Mother', what's going to happen? Yep, I had a sentence beginning with the word 'Momentarily'. Doing a Replace All changed it to 'Motherentarily'. Oops.

Reading aloud--reading it with the eyes is different from hearing it with the ears. Read passages out loud to a writing partner, critique group, or yourself. You can hear the rhythm and tone better and will become aware of problem spots that you might miss by reading silently.

Tightening--that's removing extra words. Take a look at the first sentence in the paragraph above that begins with 'Reading aloud'. My sentence '...reading it with the eyes is different from hearing it with the ears' could use pruning. How about '...reading it is different from hearing it', or even '...reading is different from hearing'. It's subjective, though, as to how much to trim. There's no right or wrong.

That's it for now. Back to the edits.

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Pulling Some Weeds

Couldn't Have Said it Better, Snoop
 Here I am back at the edits on my novel. I'm on page 111 of my 185-page manuscript, and I've taken care of a lot of the picky things--obvious misspellings (although spell-check (or spellcheck or spell check or Spell Check, but never Spell Czech) and I disagree sometimes, which is subject matter for a future post), punctuation absent or too frequent (have I mentioned that I toss commas around as though I was Johnny Commaseed?), and tenses. Now I'm rootin' around amongst the words, sounding out sentences, swapping one word for another. Here's an example, live fire:

He could feel a strange pulling, a tingling sensation, and he turned sharply away from the consuming blackness. They flew swiftly away, struggling to stay aloft with their loads.

"I couldn't save them all," he said. "I couldn't carry all of them. There were just too many," his voice caught in his throat.

No misspellings, at least none that are obvious. Careful of relying too much on any spell-thingies. You can have a word in your sentence that doesn't belong. For example, I used 'away' twice in the first sentence of the two above. If I'd spelled it aweigh (for who knows what reason), the spell-doodad would just go merrily along and say, "Looks fine to me." So, don't rely on spell-things alone. Use your eyeballs and your noggin.

I could tighten the first sentence a little, like this, perhaps:

He felt a pulling, tingling sensation as he turned sharply away from the consuming blackness. Flying swiftly away, they struggled to stay aloft.

A little better, but still needs work. Got rid of the "...with their loads" part as I'd established earlier they were carrying a lot.

For the next part, let's go with:

"I couldn't save them all," he said. "There were just too many," his voice caught in his throat.

Better. Next, I may try to get rid of the cliche, "...his voice caught in his throat." Swallowed his words, tripped over his words, word-stumbled? Have to work on that one, but you see what I mean.

This is the part of editing where you need to have some distance from your story. Got to let it simmer for a bit. But it's fun, too, because every change makes it tighter, punchier, and gets your story closer to release.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Lost, Now Found, Game of Edmund Jackstein

There’s a story among writer circles that the relatively unknown 19th century novelist, Edmund Jackstein, loved to play with words to the extreme. A resident of Grafton, Vermont, Edmund lived there all his life, earned his English Literature degree at the small Dunwark College (that burned down under highly suspicious conditions), married Frannie Loeb, then started writing full-time. His one and only novel, “On Jackstein Farm”, he wrote in 31 days, after accepting a challenge from an old friend. This novel became an immediate success among the local communities, but Edmund couldn’t complete any writing projects afterwards, having become afflicted with terminal writer’s block. The novel, and his family farm, however, provided he and Frannie with enough money to live comfortably.

What he was known for, however, was his writerly parties. Other writers he knew in the surrounding county of Windham (home of the Windham County Bearcats—but only for a short time), came to his parties, where they all engaged in alcohol and absinthe-induced word games until near dawn. His parties were famous for many years.

Well, now, Edmund and Frannie never had any children, and the house sat there abandoned after they passed, until one day, an adventurous young man (I don’t recall his name), all full of curiosity, decided to investigate the interior of the renowned home. And in an old desk (not a rolltop—Edmund disliked rolltops), in the top drawer, this young adventurer discovered several pages of nearly illegible writings, obviously part of one of their games, and almost certainly generated by the various chemicals Edmund and crew imbibed. Here are a few of the notes he could decipher. The game apparently had something to do with parts of speech. What manner of game it was no one knows for certain.

Noun—also known as a sister, wearing a habit, perhaps of the Catholic persuasion.

Conjunction—the meeting place of two cons, usually happening in dark, seedy corners.

Preposition—the vicar was prepositioned once, and he spoke of it to no one.

Interjection—where two words meet on a Skribble board at 90 degrees (Author’s note: after much research, Skribble was apparently the predecessor to Scrabble.)

Gerund—a small furry animal that is occasionally kept as a pet.

Verb—a sound escaping from one’s mouth involuntarily after ingesting too much strong drink. One should then say “Pardon me” after verbing.

Research is still being done on the manner of this supposed game. If any writer out there has any information as to the nature of the game, and how it was played, please let me know. I’m attempting to research it myself.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Words Like Concrete

 Just a few writing quotes to keep us going today. There are days when we as writers lose focus, and we’re out there in the forest, wandering amongst tall oaks. Yesterday or last week or last month the way was clear, the words fell out of us like water. Today, however…well, the words are like chunks of concrete and our fingers aren’t doing what we’d like them to do. Perhaps you write a half-sentence, then stop, unsure of what comes next. Or the sentences are short little things that sound as though someone else wrote them, and that someone can’t write worth a damn. Every single one of us hits that place and it can be frightening how quickly it can come on us. We’re going along smoothly, then Bam! Concrete words.

Here are a few quotes I’ve found to show us that even the Big Kids hit that wall, and we’re all in there together. A little inspiration and humor for all of us.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ― Louis L'Amour

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”
― Ray Bradbury

“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

“E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”
― Anne Lamott, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life"

"I can’t write five words but that I change seven."
– Dorothy Parker

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Good Coffee is Pure Writing Juice

Finally, a writing getaway. What is it about travel and writing? I think it’s the chance to see something new, something unexpected, that helps to free up the word clog in our brains. Or, at least, in my brain. You turn a corner down a street, and there’s a brand new coffee house. Or diner.

I needed this, as my original plan for this past week was to make a pilgrimage to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and tour the battlefield. I wanted to get a feel for the battle, incorporate it into a huge conflict in my novel I’m trying to wrap up. The trip didn’t happen, I still needed a getaway, and a chance to write, so Wendy and I hit the road in search of writing havens. We found ‘em.

Coffee shops are great for writing, especially if you have easy access to an outlet for your electronic stuff. I have to use my laptop. I can write in my notebook, but if the ideas really get rollin’, I can’t read what I’ve written.

One thing I like is a quiet environment. Or if there’s music, it has to be in the background. People talking around me is fine, but if there’s too much commotion, I can’t focus.

Anyway, we worked for a few hours at a place called Ugly Mugz (, in Somerset, Kentucky. It was ideal. Great coffee. I don’t remember the blend, just that it was a dark roast. Only problem we had was with the chairs. Hard, wooden things. Wendy’s had a back, but mine didn’t. After a few hours of sitting there, we couldn’t walk. Also, another thing to keep in mind if you’re going to plan an extended session at a coffee shop, is you need to switch off the caffeine after a while. It did have the advantage that we could see more than just the visible light spectrum and vibrate our way through solid objects.

Restaurants and diners are good sometimes to write in, but you need to remember that the servers work for tips, so it’s not fair to tie up a table too long.

The best time, I’ve found, for a good writing session, is morning. That’s when my neurons seem to work best. Plus, I can make three cups of Joe last till at least lunch time.

Well, the writing juices are flowing again, and I’ve gotten a few blog posts out of our latest trip. Now, back to the edits. As far as my battle scene, I’ll study up on that part of the war online. Good thing about research online (as long as it’s a reliable source) is I can do it at a coffee shop. I’m thinking a cup of Sumatran.

Keep writing, friends.