Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter and Writers, Writers and Winter

Winter is the anagram of writer...if you swap an 'r' for an 'n', and...there you go.

As we climb out of the deep pit of darkness from the shortest day of the year, gradually getting longer days, I thought about what other writers have said about Christmas, and Saint Nick, and winter. I know that during these dark days and nights it takes more effort to get myself to the keyboard, or crack open the notebook. I've read that some writers take the entire month of December off. I can't quite do that. I've learned from the school of hard knocks that if I go too long without putting a word or two down, I get writer logjam. But don't just listen to me. Let's see what some other writerly folks have to say about the holiday season.

“Melancholy were the sounds on a winter's night.”
Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room

Okay, well Virginia wouldn't have been the jolliest elf, anyway.

 “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

 Not bad, Percy. A little more hopeful that Virginia. Who's up next?

"There are three stages of a man's life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus." - Author Unknown

Someone needs to fess up, whoever wrote that one. A nice sentiment. And we get eggnog and cookies.

Let's look at one last quote, then get back to our writing, shall we?

"Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling."
- Edna Ferber

Ah, a good one. That's the way I've always felt. Well, time to slip on my Santa hat and have a little eggnog.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

You Mean They Went Ahead and Did it Anyway?

Yep, they sure did. Continue with making the Star Wars Holiday Special, that is.

I'm picking up where I left off a couple of days ago with posts about our Star Wars Holiday Special Solstice Party. This little-known train wreck is an example of bad writing at its best (worst?), but they soldiered on, because they wanted to make sure the public didn't forget Star Wars, especially as so many knockoffs were spinning out.

"But why?" I wanted to ask of Mr. Grinch. "Why in the name of the Force did you have to make it that bad?"

Everything was awful about it--writing, directing, story (was there a story?)--just everything.
So, the story is that Han and Chewie are beating a path back to Chewie's home planet of Gesundheit, or something like that (Kashyyyk, actually, but I think Gesundheit fits it better), for the Life Day celebration, which was sort of a Wookie Christmas celebration, best as I could figure. Most of the beginning of the Holiday Special takes place in the Chewie household where we meet his wife Mala, father Itchy (what?), and son Lumpy (ya gotta be kiddin' me). And, sadly, the dialogue is all Wookie-ese, and we don't have any human characters to intervene. Nope. So, for a good half hour to forty-five minutes (seemed longer), we were graced with nothing but Wookie grunts, groans, roars, and grumbles.
And it just goes downhill from there. Harvey Korman is a television personality on Wookie TV, Art Carney is a door-to-door trader of household items, Bea Arthur runs the cantina, and then it gets really weird. There's a 15-minute Star Wars cartoon as part of this mess, Chewie's old man watches a virtual reality Diahann Carroll sing and cavort in what appears to be an early version of the one nine-hundred phone sex deals which is right on the edge, and there's a holographic performance by Jefferson Starship.

Well, we made it through watching the whole thing. And if Nietzche was right when he said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger", then our group is damn near indestructible now, though we probably sacrificed a batch of brain cells in the process.

If you're so inclined to watch it, you can catch it on YouTube.

Tomorrow I'll wrap up with a Kolchak Christmas.

Here's a link to my previous post on the Star Wars Holiday Special Solstice Party:

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Surely it Won't Get Any Worse

...and picking up where I left off yesterday, with the Star Wars Holiday Special Solstice Party. First off, here's a link to yesterday's post:

Next up on our holiday horror viewing on Saturday eve was an episode of the HBO-created horror anthology, Tales from the Crypt. This particular half-hour slice of holiday warmth was titled And All Through the House, a perfect title for a little Santa Claus home invasion. Tales from the Crypt, the TV series, was based on the comic of the same name from the 1950s. The TV series ran from 1989 to 1996, and this jolly little episode we watched on Saturday originally aired on June 10th or 1989. Christmas arrived a bit early that year.

All Through the House featured Mary Ellen Trainor faced with the double dilemma of figuring out what to do with the body of her now-deceased husband, plus trying to evade a Santa Claus-attired mental institution escapee. And, yes, she had a direct hand in making her husband a corpse for Christmas. This episode is a true cup of Christmas cheer, and you'll just die laughing.

Almost forgot to mention. Santa Looney was marvelously played by Larry Drake of L. A. Law fame.

Ah, and then the grand finale, the coup de grace of the evening, the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. Airing only once on November 17th, 1978, it disappeared, never to be seen on television again. However, a few enterprising souls way back when decided that dog should not lie still, and with their antiquarian 5,000-pound videocassette recorders, made copies. So, we thank them. I think.

There was truly no way I could adequately prepare our party's attendees for what was to follow. I still remember how excited I was when I heard that a Star Wars special would be on prime time, network television. 'Course, I had no way to record it. I couldn't afford the thousand dollars or so it cost for one of those fancy new VCRs. Nope. I had to watch it the way we did it back then. Live. And I knew that if I missed it, I wouldn't be able to see anything Star Wars-y until whenever the next film came out. That wasn't going to be for another year-and-a-half. So, yes, I was excited.

A little history first. When Star Wars first came out, no one expected it to be as big as it eventually turned out to be. Those were the Dark Ages of fantasy and science fiction. So, even though it was doing well, the studio execs and other big hoop-de-doos in charge of things decided that the public needed to be reminded of Star Wars. And the best way to do it back then? Well, you have a cast reunion special. And that meant a variety show. Now, you also have to remember that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher weren't household names yet (hard as that is to believe now), so they needed real, current stars of the day. They needed Art Carney, Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, and Diahann Carroll. Oh, and Jefferson Starship. Variety show, remember.

And, as I see Ghost of Christmas Present telling me it's time for bed, so there will be more to this saga tomorrow.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Little Ho Ho Horror for the Holidays

Last night we hosted the first ever Star Wars Holiday Special Solstice Party. I just now gave it the full name, as the theme was a bit broad in nature, taking in several of the holidays this time of year of long nights and short days.

The prize, the pinnacle (or the abyss, depending on how you look at it) of the evening would be the "Star Wars Holiday Special" itself, a little-known, little-seen variety show that aired once and only once, on a cold November night back in 1978.

To start things off right, though, we decided to kick things off with a little Star Wars/holiday trivia game where we delved into the early "Ho ho ho" season history. You know, it wasn't always so full of eggnog and toys. Nope. Back when churches were trying to meld the early solstice rituals with the new ideas of Christmas, things got a bit, well, interesting. It was an eclectic mix of questions, ranging from the relatively benign questions, such as: Which hand did Luke Skywalker lose in his big light saber duel with Daddy Dearest? (right), to more obscure ones, like: From 1659 to 1681, what American city outlawed Christmas? (Boston).

Then it was time for the opening act. We traipsed downstairs to the Bat Cave, where we kicked off our holiday horror with a 1932 eight-minute long black-and-white cartoon titled, unmenacingly enough, "The Snow Man". As one comment read, "This ain't Frosty!" There was another cartoon in 1982, a British production, also called "The Snowman", where a boy builds a snowman who comes to life and can fly (Ha! Like a snowman could fly. Sure, I can deal with a snowman coming to life, but...). Said snowman and friend fly off see Father Christmas and a party of dancing snowfolks.

The '32 version isn't so friendly. It starts off all Disney-like with frolicking walruses and seals, and an Eskimo lad who builds a snowman, but once his cold creation comes to life, it goes all demonic and terrorizes the polar population.

The Disney reference is appropriate, as the cartoon was created by Ted Eshbaugh, a competitor of Walt's. Several of the creatures even have some resemblances to a certain famous mouse. Ted, however, couldn't keep up with the Waltmeister. He did crank out a total of 14 animated films, including a 1933 version of "The Wizard of Oz".

At any rate, if you're in for some holiday horror, you should check out "The Snow Man". You can find it on YouTube.

I have more films to write about, including the hideously infamous "Star Wars Holiday Special", but my electronic inkwell runs dry tonight, and I'll continue tomorrow.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Look Out! Rock!

There's all this talk about plot. And it's true, without plot, there's nothing to move the story along. Or to move your characters along.

Here's the deal. Think of your characters sailing along (or floating, speedboating, or whatever) in a river. It can be a fast-running, blue-water river, or a slow-pokey one with murky waters. Now, toss in some rocks in the water, a fork in the river, an unexplored branch. That's your plot. Your characters, if we care about them at all, are forced to make decisions about how to avoid the rocks, whether or not to explore other sections of the river. Perhaps there are river pirates (hey, it happens...remember, it's your story), or a Nessie, or a river-quake (just made that one up). Now your playboy millionaire yachter turns coward (cliche), or your 14-year-old gender-fluid Mensa member goes all Ripley from the Alien films. Remember. Your story.

What got me on this plane of thought, besides not enough sleep last night, and the need to write something fresh before returning to editing, was I just finished reading "The Once and Future King". And I realized, as I've realized with other well-written stories, that it doesn't matter who slew who or what, or who slept with who or what. Sure, there was betrayal, justice, injustice, illegitimacy out the wazoo, heroism also out the wazoo, magic, and swordplay. But all that would've been for nought without being vested in the characters. My characters. My family. Gotta hand it to Mr. White. In 600 pages (and I typically don't have the stamina to make it through a 600-page book), I would have fought for Arthur. King Arthur. The Wart. My Arthur. When I reached the end, I marveled at my feelings of loss, after seeing him start off all those pages prior as 14-year-old Wart, eventually becoming old, blue-veined Arthur, a king who did his best, soon to die.

And Lancelot. And Guenever (Mr. White's spelling). And Mordred. And Merlyn. And Gawaine.

Yes, all of them. I close my eyes (hard to type that way) and I see them before me, because good ol' T. H. White breathed life into them and made them real. Hell, he made them family.

So, there you have it. My soapbox stance of the day. Go, now, and create characters for us to love, or hate, or love/hate, and put them in really sticky situations. It's up to them how to solve their problems. Okay, well, it's really up to you, but you know what I mean.

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

There Was a Young Boy Called Wart

Well, that was his nickname, at least. His real name was Arthur. As in King Arthur. Yep, that's the one.

Tales of the knights of old have held a certain fascination for me for quite some time, as they do for many other people, as well. Look at how popular the Star Wars films have been. Jedi Knights, anyone? Yes, they revived and held true to the old concepts of chivalry. Of course, there was also betrayal, too, but you have that in the stories of the old knights.

Anyway, back to where I started. Arthur. I had picked up "The Sword in the Stone" by T. H. White several years and tried reading it, but I just wasn't ready for it at that time. You know how it is. Sometimes a book grabs you immediately, other times you have to wait a while before you're ready for it, and then there are times when certain books just never do take hold of you.

It's an interesting style of telling the Arthurian legend that Mr. White uses. Sort of conversational. He breaks the fourth wall often, talking to us, the readers, slipping forward in time, looking back, going to a time before Arthur. He weaves historical facts in with the beauty of the legend, so that many times I'll write down some of the phrases and words to look up later. And naturally, being a student of words, I love digging into their origins.

Oh, almost forgot. He also makes references to other Arthurian researchers and storytellers, including and especially Thomas Malory, who wrote "Le Morte d'Arthur", published in 1485. If I maintain my current inertia and fascination with Arthur, once I finish the "Once and Future King" and "The Book of Merlyn", I'll track that one down next.

One of the expressions I like from the book is "up-so-down", an earlier version of our "upside down". Makes me wonder if there was a transitional phrase between these two.

Another expression used by Merlyn when he's teaching Arthur about morality is "Nunc dimittis", also known as "Song of Simeon" from the New Testament. It was a song of praise sung by Simeon when he realized baby Jesus was the Saviour. When Arthur asks Merlyn if his thinking is correct about a certain subject, "Nunc dimittis" was Merlyn's response. Perfectly cryptic for Merlyn.

There are plenty of other examples of terms for places, weapons, and foods, so if you're as much of a word fanatic as I am, I recommend T. H. White's Arthurian novels.

Happy reading, and keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thou Shalt Not...

I know I heard "The Rules" plenty of times, and I'm sure you, my fellow writers, did too.
You know the drill. Rules like "Thou shalt not begin a sentence with 'and' or 'but'". And what's the problem with that? But they never gave me a good reason not to.

Or, "Thou shalt not use fragment sentences". What? Never? C'mon.

But when you (meaning me or us or pretty much anyone infected by a grade school, junior high, or high school English class, unless you happened to have one of the cool teachers) don't even know all the rules and all you want to do is tell your story but you're too busy keeping up with all the rules such as don't use run-on sentences, in a Dave Barry-style rant, then all those words that want to come out and play just stop.



And, there are plenty of rules, aren't there? One thing they tell us, though (and I still don't know who 'they' are), is that you have to know the rules before you can break them.

I didn't care a blue fig for writing until I had a college professor who walked in to our composition class wearing faded jeans, long hair, and packing a well-worn copy of "Sirens of Titan" by Kurt Vonnegut. I still remember his words: "You've had twelve years of spelling, diagramming sentences, and grammar. I'm not here to teach you that. I'm here to teach you to write." So, he put on a Beatles album (can't remember now which one) and pretty much just said, "Okay, start writing."

That's when my eyes and my mind opened to the possibility of words and what they could do.

And the rules? Yeah, I've been smashing them ever since.

See, here's what I've learned along this writing road I'm traveling. Our job is to deliver a message to our readers, whoever they are. And sometimes we're speaking as ourselves, sometimes as our characters; and if, to speak to our readers, we need to misspell certain words, begin sentences with '-ing' words, end with prepositions, or Frankenstein the words to fit our nefarious writerly purposes, then that's what we need to do.

But there is one rule that I've broken many times, only to pay the price of my words forming clots in my brain to the point that I can't even get the words out. And that rule is a simple one. Here it is:

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dancin' at the Reptile Zoo...

Say cheese...
Continued from my previous posts...

Well, we wandered around a bit, looked at all the usual suspects in the cages--you know, the garter snakes, chicken snakes, corn snakes, even a small rattler.

"Wen, did I tell you about the time my Grandad built a snake cage for me to keep my garter snakes in?"

"I think so. How many did you have at any one time?"

"Uh, three, I think. I really didn't know what I was doing, though. I'd put worms, flies, even a small frog in there for them to eat, but I'm fairly certain that's not what they really needed. Living in Morganfield, just didn't have access to good snake supplies."

Pretty soon a fairly good-sized fellow stepped out of the main building, wiping his hands off on his jeans. Smiling as he approached us, I could see he had kind eyes. He stuck out his hand and shook hands with Wendy and I.

"Hi, folks, I'm Jim. Big Jim, they call me, of Big Jim's Reptile Emporium. At least, that's what I'll be changing the name to before too long. You folks been here before?"

"I have, or at least I think I have, many years ago, when I was a kid. We got a little turned around on the highway and saw your place, so thought we'd stop in."

"Glad you did." His smile was as large as he was and just as genuine. "Well, come on in and I'll show you around. We've had a few folks been getting turned around lately and stopping in, which has been good for business. Been something weird with the weather lately, I think. You like snakes?"

"Absolutely," I said. "Wanted to be a herpetologist when I was little, then I wanted to be an astronaut. You know how it goes."

He laughed, then said, "Sure do. I was going to be an accountant, and when the previous owners passed away, I just had to have this place. Love my beasties. Well, let me show you some of the crew. I even have a spitting cobra."

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

We Wish You a Ronco Christmas

It's that time of year, folks. Halloween's nearly flown with the bats, Thanksgiving approaches, and Christmas is on its way, and I'm thinking back to the days of Ronco. That's how we knew Christmas was getting close, with Ronco ads. That and the Sears Christmas Wish Book.

Ah, the good old Wish Book. I remember sitting in the middle of the floor with it spread open in front of me, pencil armed and ready, as I'd peruse the toy section, carefully studying each treasure, then circling it.

But I think of all the Christmas signposts, it's the Ronco ads that remain my favorites. The Veg-O-Matic: "It slices! It dices! It julienne fries!" And here's the thing. First off, I had no clue what the announcer meant when he said it "julienne fried", nor did I really care. The slicing and dicing part was cool enough ('course, when we bought one I just about sliced the tip of my little finger off, but that's another story). And thinking back, I don't know if he said "julienne fries" or "juliennes fries", but I do know, now, that when you julienne something, whether it be fries or whatever, it means to cut it into long, thin strips, like a matchstick. A moot point, however, as I would put that under the slicing category, but it just doesn't sound the same when you say "It slices! It dices!" Needs something else, and that's when, I believe, they threw in the julienne part.

Isn't that what we have to do with our writing sometimes, too? We could just shorten a sentence to make it punchy, but sometimes when we read it aloud to ourselves it sounds like we're missing a beat, so we have to add something else in there--another word, or short phrase--to give it the rhythm it needs. It ain't always about just getting the words down there. We're painters with our words, musicians, and there's a pattern to what we do.

Think about the phrase "But wait, there's more..." That's a cliffhanger. We're waiting now, because they told us there'd be more. More what, we wonder. No idea, but we want to find out what's next. That's what we do when we want our work to be a page-turner. We hold that carrot out there, lingering, so our readers will keep on doing what our readers are supposed to do.

With that in mind, stay tuned for the next installment...

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thyme to Write!

Did I have anything in mind when I sat down to write this post? Nope. And did I have any hidden meaning behind my title's play on words? Not at all. What I'm doing, as much as myself as for my writerly and non-writerly friends is the writing process in action.

It's 11 AM and I've just now sat down at the keyboard. I had intended to get started pounding the keys earlier, but there's a Halloween party to get ready for, cats to feed, and generally just some meandering around a bit. So, I'm trying to get myself ready to finish my edits on The Novel. I'm close, nearing the end, but sometimes it's like that scene in the horror films where our protagonist runs toward a destination which, in their eyes keeps receding from view.

But this is what we do as writers--we meander, procrastinate, and write other stuff in order to jump-start the gray matter. And one of my tricks I use is word play. Like replacing 'time' with 'thyme' in my title. I find it helps bust the left-hemisphere hold and lets the more playful right-hemisphere have some elbow room.

The important thing for all of us writers is to keep the juices flowing. I've learned that if I get in a writing funk, I have to keep penning something, even if it's to say "My writing sucks." I can't let more than a couple of days go by where I'm not writing, otherwise word clots form. So, I have journals scattered about through the house to scribble in. I make vague attempts at some sort of order in there, page numbers, headings, that sort of thing, but the important thing is just to write.

I'm going to paraphrase something (really badly) that I'd read a while back about one of my heroes, Ray Bradbury. He was giving a talk to a bunch of student writers when someone asked him how he got in the mood to write. His response? Something to the effect of "Just start writing. That will take care of any moods you're having."

And, on that note, off I go to my edits. And off you go to work on yore own stuff, too.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fairy Tales, Demythified and Unmasked

As readers of this author's blog (my) may know, (Why do 'us authors' use the term 'this author'? Isn't is simpler to say 'my'?) Wendy and I seek out curious and used (or sometimes curiously used) bookstores, looking for books and/or coffees previously not known to us. We are fortunate to have right here in Lexington sQecial Media, shop near the University of Kentucky that carries a wonderfully diverse assortment if items, including, but not limited to, books and magazines.

Ah, yes, the books and magazines. What a wild and woolly collection--mainstream classics, underground classics, cult material, new age-ish/occult/psycho/para-/head-/pretty-much-everything-B-and-N-doesn't-carry kind of stuff. Now, one of the things I've been into of late is reading the old, original fairy tales, uncut and non-Disneyfied (not that I have anything against the Mouse--I still love my old Disney movies, but sometimes, well, you know...). So, guess what I found today as sQecial. "Favorite Fairy Tales", from Dover, a collection of 27 stories by the Grimms, Andersen, and others.

In the late 1800s, an author named Andrew Lang compiled the best of the best of the old fairy tales in their original formats. He assembled them in three separate volumes, but sadly, the censors of the Victorian age wouldn't allow them to pass to the general public. Hence, the Disney versions of these classics. But these little gems just wouldn't stay buried.

Well, I just read "Little Red Riding-Hood", the one from Charles Perrault, a 16th century French author. One thing I learned for certain, is, well, first off, don't go into the woods alone wearing red, 'cause think of happened to the red shirts in Star Trek. Also, if you meet a talking wolf in the woods (who was called Gaffer Wolf in the tale), do not engage. Also, when you get to Grandmamma's house, and you already know she's old and can't see worth a damn, if she's got great big eyes, well...

How's it end? Do some digging and check it out. You'll be glad you did. It sure doesn't have a Disney ending.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, October 21, 2016

You Can't Get There From Here

Continued from my previous posts...

I figured by this time that we were heading into deeper waters...or time...or space, so I thought I'd go ahead and ask. Wendy knew what I was thinking and nudged me with an elbow to go ahead and ask the lady behind the counter at Cindy's, who said her name was not Cindy, but Pam.

So, I went ahead and asked. "Uh, you mentioned 65 North. Is that the interstate?"

She smiled as though I was a bit simple, which at this point, I felt I must be. "No interstates around here yet. They've been talking about building one sometime in the future, though."

"Oh, right, I knew that." She smiled again and turned back to finish wiping down the counter.

Once back in the car, Wendy said, "Where do you think we are, Tom? She had to be kidding about us being in Missouri."

"I'm not so sure, Wen. I'm thinking we're on a side-trip of some sort. At any rate, it's an adventure. You up for it?"

"Me? She looked at me and smiled slyly. "Always."

Well, we headed down the road a ways, but we decided to take a jog and head east on highway H instead of west, just to see what would happen. Sun was getting low in the sky, and the road was starting to look familiar, though I couldn't say exactly why. I knew that we'd probably need to stop someplace for the night. That's when we saw it at about the same time.

"Honey, look," Wendy said. "It's a sign for the Kentucky Reptile Garden you told me about. Looks like it's just a couple of miles ahead, too."

"Yeah, how about that. But that place shut down ages ago, I though."

"Well, it looks pretty lively now."

Sure enough, we pulled up to a wood-frame building with several large glass cages on stands out front, and a fenced-in area with a rusted metal sign hanging haphazardly that said, in bold red letters, "This way to the 'gator pit."

We pulled up into the gravel lot and stepped out. "How about this? I said. "Like a true blast from the past."

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Only Supernatural Travel Guide You'll Ever Need

We'll return to Wendy and Tom's adventures through space and time shortly. First, though, as it's October and the portal to the creepy-crawlies opens wider now, figured I should also give folks an A to Z travel guide on a few places you may encounter. Grab your talismans!

Abaton: Doubtful you'll find this place in Frommer's or a AAA tour book. Word from travelers such as Sir Thomas Bulfinch have it that it was sighted once in Scotland, but it disappeared again. It's location constantly shifts, like trying to find a decent motel after dark. Good luck hunting for it, but don't worry if you can't. No one else can, either.

Basilisk Country: Basilisks live here, naturally, in this desert region of southern Africa. The area wasn't always a desert. But once the basilisks, fierce serpentine creatures, inhabited the region, their stare alone turned the land into bleak desert. If you have to travel through the region, take a weasel or a rooster with you--they have been known to protect travelers.

Caseosa: Also known as Milk Island, in the Atlantic Ocean, so named as it is milky-white, looking like aged cheese. No one lives there, but you can see the temple to the nymph Galatea there. Grapes grow there, but they don't produce wine, only milk.

Dicitionopolis: Also called the City of Words, rests in the foothills of Confusion. This is where all the world's words are grown. Visitors can purchase words there, or buy letters a la carte.

Ear Islands: Located just off Germany's coast, a tribe of marvelous fishermen live there, the Auriti, or All-Ears, named for their enormous ears. That's why they are such great fishermen--their ears are so large they can hear the fish beneath the sea.

Federal Hill: A region of Providence, Rhode Island, this ancient area supposedly houses a curious stone called the Shining Trapezohedron. Careful about venturing there--dark forces lurk in quiet corners. The Old Ones await.

Geometers' Island: Near Tierra del Fuego, the inhabitants built nothing but square cities there and now spend the rest of their days scratching geometric figures in the sand.

Hyperborea: Somewhere north of Scotland is Hyperborea, a place that knows no sorrow, fishing is great, and butterflies abound. Sounds like a great vacation spot.

Iron Hills: In the north of Middle-Earth, home to the dwarves that battled the Orcs. Residents here are generally secured from marauding dragons.

Justice, Palace of: A bereaucratic nightmare of an impossibly huge building, people are brought in to answer for some mysterious infractions, led through a maze of corridors, and, much like this sentence, keep getting mired deeper and deeper within.

Klopstokia: In 1932 the country of Klopstokia won the Olympic Games--all of them--as everyone who lives in this land is an incredible athlete. Young and old excel at any Olympic game. They are so good, in fact, that it was asked they no longer compete.

Lerna: Near Umsk, Switzerland, Lerna University is the site of unusual experiments on people, all related to the deep mysteries of the Universe. Not much else is known.

Merlin's Tomb: Deep within a cave in Cornwall, England, lies (or stands?) the great sorcerer of Arthurian legend. He was sealed in there ages ago, the result of an unbreakable spell.

Never-Never Land: Yet one more island of unknown location. Home of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Children occasionally catch glimpses of Never-Never Land as they are on the verge of sleep.

Otranto, Castle of: This enormous fortification in Puglia, Italy, is home to peculiar supernatural phenomena--giants will mysteriously appear and disappear, and a gigantic will materialize at times. Escape is possible through a secret passage that leads to the church of St. Nicholas.

Pauk: Don't go here if you're afraid of spiders, as a human-sized spider lives here. Unknown if it's dangerous to people, but it's probably not best to test it.

Quivera: Bordering on the Republic of Indepencia, this South American country is known for its trade in rubies. Rubies are nice, but you have to negotiate blind seamonsters that dwell in hideous caves in order to get to the rubies. So, you decide.

Regentrude Realm: This is an underground land, somewhere in northern Germany. A very tired lady lives here, the Regentrude, who is in charge of making rain fall.

Skull Island: Located in the Indian Ocean, just southwest of Sumatra, this is the home of none other than King Kong. It is sometimes called King Kong Island.

Thekla: An incomplete city in Asia, the people who live here say the will never finish building their city, for if they do, they fear it will begin to deconstruct. I think I've seen some current-day construction project like that.

Universal Tap Room: Within a mountain in Great Britain is this fantastic place. Lining one wall are huge taps, but not for beverages. These taps are used to turn on the weather--one for sunshine, one for nice growing weather, etc. The wall opposite is a viewing area to observe the effects.

Vagon: This is the castle near Camelot where the 150 Round Table knights spent their last night prior to questing for the Holy Grail.

Wandering Rocks: These 'rockbergs' float around the Mediterranean, crushing unwary ships. Jason and the crew of the Argo successfully navigated through them in the quest for the Golden Fleece.

Xujan Kingdom: A city in Africa protected by an immense wall. Dwelling here are a group of people who worshipped parrots. The inhabitants are now insane.

Yspaddaden Penkawr: This is a castle in Wales that lies in a vast plain. The castle recedes further and further from anyone attempting to reach it.

Zuy: An Elfin kingdom in the Netherlands. The elves here are particularly prosperous, which does not place them in high regard among other Elfin kingdoms. They export musical boxes, religious pictures, and starch.

Hope this guide will help you on some of your mysterious and magical journeys.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Virtual Traveler: The Road Goes on Forever

Refer to previous post:

"Hungry?" I asked.

"Huh? Oh, sure, honey. Want to check out this place?" Wendy responded.

"Just what I was thinking. We can check inside, find out about the new exit."

We pulled in, it was one of the old style general stores we love to hit when traveling. Had that Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, general store look to it. You know the type--old Coke machine up near the front, fresh sandwiches made while you look around, even a jar of pickled bologna on the front counter. Over to the right of the counter and behind it on the back wall was a rack of vacuum tubes. I smiled to myself and thought, "Hmm...haven't seen these in years." So, I called Wendy over and said, "Look, Wen, old vacuum tubes. We used to sell those at Radio Shack back in the day."

"That for some of your electronic gear, Tom?" she asked.

"Mostly old radios." I said to the lady behind the counter, "Guess you don't have much call for vacuum tubes these days, do you?"

"Well, sir, folks around here need them a fair amount. We're a self-sufficient lot."

I didn't think much about it, so I said, "Oh, that's good. Nice to see the old tech still used."

She smiled and kind of raised one eyebrow, then said, "Can I help you folks find anything?"

"We saw your place after we took that new exit off New Circle a minute ago, so we thought we'd stop in, see what you have to eat."

"Sure thing. You like roast beef sandwiches?"

Wendy and I both said, "Yep."

"But this New Circle you mentioned a minute ago. What is that?"

"New Circle Road. Around Lexington. We saw all the construction and noticed this new exit for Georgetown, so we decided to take it and see where it leads us. Felt like a drive and maybe even heading up to Indiana or Ohio for the day."

She laughed and said, "Folks, I think you're a bit out of your way right now. You're in Missouri. Although I heard you say something about Georgetown, and you are on the road to Georgetown, Missouri. If you hop back on 50 outside here and head west, you'll run through Sedalia, then take 65 north a ways and hop on H going west, and that'll take you to Georgetown. Here are your sandwiches. That'll be a dollar, please."

Wendy and I looked at each other with the open-mouthed Wile E. Coyote look.

More adventures later...

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Virtual Traveler: A Time Out of Step

Uh, this isn't where we're supposed to be
In keeping with my afterthoughty-type thoughts upon our return from our trip, refer to this post first:

Simple, oh so simple to slip sideways in space and/or time. We were heading towards Georgetown, KY on New Circle Road (some call it Circle 4), it the sun was just coming up, as I looked out my window (Wendy was driving), and we hit a little road construction. Nothing unusual about that. The road crews aren't happy around here unless they're constructing, although it occasionally requires a wee bit of deconstruction prior to or even during the construction.

About a half mile before the Georgetown Road exit (Exit 8, I believe), the sun seemed to shift in the sky slightly, and Wendy asked, "Uh, honey, have they added a new exit to New Circle?" I looked and saw what I figured was a brand new exit for Georgetown, with no exit number. All it said was "To Georgetown". I figured it must be a new way to get there, so I said, "Not that I'm aware of, but let's take it anyway. Says it goes to Georgetown."

We were in an adventurous mood that day, glanced at me, smiled, and said, "Sounds good. Let's see what happens."

Beautiful thing about it was there was no traffic. Once we took the exit and turned on the main road, also marked "To Georgetown", there was no one. No one begging for handouts at the exit, no other cars. Just an old store that said "Cindy's".

That's all for now. The adventure shall continue later...

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dear Earth Non-Readers

Greetings, Earthers, Darth here from a galaxy far, far away. Well, I see you're still doing it--banning books, that is. Good for you. That's the way to keep the Emperor strong.

I have, however, sensed a disturbance in the Force. Unfortunately, there are some of you who seek to challenge the banning of books. You rebel scum. You do not realize the power of the Dark Side. Here is a list of the underground organizations we are targeting. So, be forewarned. We will find you. And, to the author of this blog, we know who you are. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Afterthoughts Before the Next Adventure

Did my smartphone steal my old camera's soul? Nah, the T70 is powerful in the Film.
Back home again, and getting back to our routines, sorting through photos, and preparing for whatever comes next.

A few comments about using a smartphone for photography: it's generally easy, as easy as using my old CanonT70 that I purchased a couple of years ago (okay, more than a couple of years...); it's fairly quick, as long as I don't fat-finger the touch-screen controls; it's cheaper than using my old T70--I took almost 400 photos on this trip, some of them duplicates, of course; I can review some of the shots I just took and delete the Oopses, i.e., shots of my thumb, the ground, my feet, or the horrible selfies when I didn't realize I was taking a selfie.

All that being said, it makes me want to pull out the old T70 and get her cleaned up, load her up with film, and have fun. I miss the days of setting aperture and exposure, and focusing. And yes, if I took 400 shots with my T70, it would cost a small fortune. But there's one thing in particular I miss about it. I had a camera strap on the beastie. So, even though the sucker was heavy and banged against me when I climbed over stuff, or huffed and puffed up a hill, it left my hands free. With the smartphone I either carried it in my hand or had to dig it out of a pocket. Then I had to swipe across the screen to get it fired up.

Perhaps next trip I'll pack both cameras. Just have to make sure the one is charged and the other has film.

At any rate, I'm wondering where we'll head off to next. One thing I learned is that it's easy to write when you're traveling. New stuff to see, think about, do. And I had so much fun with it that, I'm thinking about continuing my travel writing on my blog, at least occasionally, with some virtual trips.

What I'm thinking is this: using home base as my starting point, I may pen some posts where I travel to other places, both real and imaginary, all from the comfort and safety of my desk. I'll give it a shot and see how it goes. So, if you read about me journeying to Everest, or Mars, or the ocean depths, or perhaps back in time along old Route 66, that's what I'm doing.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Someplace and Back Again, or The Well-Worn Map

How'd we end up in Maine?

I didn't want to infringe on Mr. Tolkien, so I changed the post title slightly. Also, it captures some of the karma of our trip. We laugh about how sometimes we had no idea what state we were in. Who knew we could zip across Vermont so quickly?

Made it back home around 10 last night. Wendy did most of the driving, me as Chekov or Sulu (still don't remember which was navigator). We made a good team that way. Well, except for the time a couple of days ago when I got us a tad bit bewildered (we weren't lost) somewhere in the Catskills. I had us zigging when we should've zagged, but oh, well, with the aid of a nice fellow in a truck we found our way back to highway 55.

These next couple of posts will be recaps and recollections of our journey, and I'll try really hard not to bore you folks. It might not be sequential (gasp!), but I'll try to tie location to date so you have an idea of where we were when, and hopefully that will tell you our weird, wonderful, and winding route.

It was a little strange yesterday coming home through Ohio after spending over a week in the mountains and forests of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, especially as we wanted to make it back home last night. Funny thing. Once a trip is over, you know it, and it's time to get home. Plus, we wanted to get back to our home, our stuff, and our babies (Barley and Guinness). We had missed them.

We did get to have breakfast yesterday morning before lighting out at a great local restaurant called Phil & Cindy's in Falconer, NY. The geotag on my photo says it's Jamestown, NY, but I don't think that's correct. Also, their sign says lunch, but they do a whopping fantastic breakfast, too, opening, I believe, at 5:30 AM. Good, standard diner food, and some of the friendliest folks working in the place we've met. We've met a lot of nice folks along the way, but the ladies in Phil & Cindy's were interested in our trip, and were just wonderful.

More later.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sure, Blue Sinks Match With Knotty Pine

I can't explain it, but I've always had this thing about the old knotty pine look. Makes me nostalgic, I think. So, it was perfect that last night we found lodging at the Red Ranch Motel in Catskill, NY, right on the edge of the Catskills.

It was starting to get late last night, and we were heading into the Catskills when I wondered whether or not we'd find a place for the evening. I happened to see a sign for the Red Ranch, noticed it had the AAA good hostelling seal of approval, so we decided to check it out. Good thing we did. It was perfect in a kitschy way.

It was quiet, with signs outside the doors that said to hold the noise down after 10 PM. I like seeing signs like that, especially in strip motels. We walked in the room and were greeted by knotty pine walls, fake stone walls, and cream-blue sinks. Made me think back to days when I went on vacation with my folks--I always had to bug my dad for a quarter for the "Magic Fingers" bed. Don't know if any of the old motels still have those.

One of the best things about the Red Ranch was that it was next door to Angela's Italian Bistro & Brewery. That meant once we unloaded our stuff in our room, we could walk over and have a good meal. No more driving for the day. Wendy had the angel hair pasta with meatballs, and I had the small calzone, which turned out to be the size of a football. Glad I didn't order the large.

Didja notice the part about Angela's being a brewery? Yep. Wendy had a Kiskatom Brown Ale, a nut brown ale with a hint of walnuts. I had the Bare Knuckle Black Lager, mainly because I liked the name. Good and potent.

Time to shut down for the night. More tomorrow.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I Don't Know What an Egg Creme is, But I'll Have to Try It

They're altogether ooky
That's part of the fun of a diner tour like this one--trying different local specialties. Like a chocolate egg creme drink at our last diner for the day. What the heck is that, you may ask. Well, it has egg in it (as far as I know, because in my exuberance to order it, I forgot to ask about all the ingredients), chocolate flavoring, and kind of a fizzy aspect to it.

Okay, ignore some of what I just said. No egg creme in the egg creme recipe I just now looked up online. It's milk, carbonated water (hence the fizz I detected), chocolate syrup, and milk. How can it be called an egg creme without egg or creme (or cream)? Oh, well, moving on. So, just so you folks know. When you order an egg creme, no egg, no creme.

Awoke this morning in our room at The Putney Inn, in Putney, VT. I checked. We definitely started off the day in Vermont. Comfortable, relatively inexpensive place to stay (under 100 bucks) for the area, and quite. Almost disturbingly quiet. There were only two other cars in the parking lot this morning. But it turned out to be a nice place. Just not a high-traffic area.

We ran up to Bellows Falls, Vermont (Google Maps says it's an incorporated village in the town of Rockingham, Vermont--that's too much for me, so I just say we went to Bellows Falls), for breakfast, at Miss Bellows Falls. Like salmon returning home, that was one of the diners Wendy and I went to on our first Vermont trip back a few years ago, so we had to go there. Old classic diner, but it needs a little repair. The sign as I remember it (with my unreliable memory) was brighter. Now the name's faded. The food's still good, though. French toast and coffee, then time to hit the road.

A few pics of Miss Bellows Falls:

Before I continue, got to mention something the photo at the top of my post. A good friend of mine posted a pic of this old place on Facebook, and said we needed to check it out.

So we did.

This is an old inn in Bennington, VT, called the Walloomsac Inn. This pic is how it appears as of today. One person lives in there presently, and he (or she) won't let the city of Bennington paint the place for free, or let one of the original owners' descendants purchase it. It's hard to see from any angle as trees have grown up around it. Built in 1771, I believe, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison stayed in it in its heyday. You can't get in to see it, but we took pics from the street. When you get close enough to see it, it just looks like a rundown old inn, not like a cool Addams family house. Still neat to see, though. I'll have more info as I turn it up.

Think I better cut this post short and continue with more stuff in another post. Don't want to give everyone info-load.

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, September 19, 2016

There's a Bookstore All the Way Out Here?

Pulling in for breakfast at the Peterborough Diner
Inside the Peterborough, where the magic happens
We woke up this morning in need of coffee and headed for the Peterborough Diner, another classic dining car diner from the 50s. Here's a link to their site:

Of course, we did the tourist thing of taking lots of smartphone photos of the outside, the inside, and the required shots of us drinking coffee. Once again, good diner breakfast. We've learned not to order too large of a breakfast as these diners are dotted all over New Hampshire and Vermont, can't fill up too much first thing or there won't be room later on for burgers, reubens, or whatever specialty they serve up.

Breakfast was good at the Peterborough, with the best being the home fries. They had some spice on there that made them a little interesting.

Charley, our host at the Jack Daniels Motor Inn (where we stayed last night), told us about another diner, dang him, on the way to our next stop. Problem was it was only a few minutes away, so all we could have was coffee. This was the Hometown Diner in Rindge, NH, along Hwy 202.
Great cup of Joe at the Hometown

Scooting along NH-119, we found a cool bookstore full of all kinds of treasures, called Bequeart Old Books, in Fitzwilliam, NH. Oh, yes, and we dropped a dollar or two in there. Couldn't pass it up.
Okay, I'll go in and look, but I won't buy anything

Yeah, right
Needless to say, we walked out with two armloads of books.

Along the way to our rest stop tonight in Putney, VT (I think it's Vermont), we ran up highway 10 chasing down covered  bridges. They stayed put, so we had no trouble tracking them. Here's one:
It's safe to drive across, right?
That's it for the evening. More tomorrow along the road as we head toward Miss Bellows Falls and the Blue Benn Diner.

Previous days' posts:

Keep writing, friends.