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...