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.