Sunday, January 31, 2016

Legacy Droppings


What's your legacy? What do you or will you leave behind?

Legacy is one of those words that has transformed, and not necessarily in a good way.

When I had been working in the computer field for a few years, I began hearing about legacy data. I didn't have a clue as to what my younger colleagues who tossed this word around were talking about or meaning. Came to find out it was their way of describing old, useless, or unneeded data. Or, sometimes they referred to legacy software--old software that, in their oft not-so-humble opinions shouldn't even be around.

Until they needed it. Like old programmers.

A legacy can be something that hangs around and holds back progress.

Or, it can be a body of work or knowledge that, if examined, could be quite useful. Like writing, and books, and cursive handwriting, just to mention a few things.

What will be our legacy as writers?

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What's on Second?




At our workplace pot luck the other day, I just finished the first course and was lingering, loiteringly, in grazing mode, and I became enmeshed in a most curious conversation that went like this:
Someone asked me if I had a second. I said that I did, but it was already gone.
They’d have to pick another second.
Someone else came up and asked if I had a second, and I replied, “A second what?
Second car?
Second’s a weird word.”
Then someone else commented, “I’ll second that.”
I replied, “But we didn’t formally first it yet.”
Then someone else asked, "Why is something called secondhand when it's used?
"Exactly," I seconded. "Does that mean the second hand on a watch is used? Or is it called the second hand because it counts the seconds?"
"On the other hand," another joinee quipped, "there are four fingers and a thumb."
"So, then, is the other hand a second hand? And what distinguishes from your first hand. Who chooses which hand is the first hand? Is it by firsthand knowledge?"
Well, by this point, the verbal and nounal thrust-and-parries had burned off a few calories, so I returned to the food table for seconds.
Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Music to Write To? Oh, Surely Not


Not sure why, but I've been writing to 80s music today. 'Course, I'm working on the battle scenes, perhaps there's something there. All I know is, I'd tried the usual route today--jazz, classical, some electric Celtic. Nada. Then I plugged in "Roam" into Pandora by the B-52's, and I was off and running.

My foot was going, followed by my hands, and I was on a roll. Oh, I've had plenty of false starts, but I've kept it going. Some Billy Idol, Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and just now "Rock Lobster."

Who knows? Tomorrow I'll perhaps be back to John Coltrane, or Wagner, or Bach. Today it's 80s jam. Ah, well, just go it.

What music works for you folks?

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Better Toss a Comma in There, Just in Case...


Well, this explains a lot. About my writing, I mean.

Last night, Wendy and I cracked open an old trunk containing memorabilia from when I left Owensboro, Kentucky, back in 1988. After my parents passed away, and just before I left Owensboro permanently, I squirreled away tons of stuff in a blue, Kmart-purchased, trunk. So, with snow on the ground, a nice fire from our fireplace, kitties all curious, we had a glass of wine and a glass of good Porter, and opened...the Trunk.

It was a small miracle that I was able to find the key to open the thing, but there it was, accompanied by several other keys in a plastic bag in our kitchen everything drawer.

Among the many treasures discovered was this obvious class lesson from English class back in 1967. From the date, I had just turned 12. And there it was. Evidence as to my love for commas. In the date, I uses backslashes to separate month, day, year. But just to make sure, I threw in a couple of commas.

This was also back when I could write cursive. I've written about this before, how cursive is becoming a long-lost art. And, whereas I wasn't brilliant my any stretch in my penmanship, it was legible. These days, my signature looks like I wrote it in my sleep.

Also, this perhaps goes a long ways to explaining my fascination for word meanings and word play in general. I'm sure my young mind never fully understood how words could be so pliable depending on context, but it must've tripped a couple of synapses that kept puzzling over that for years.

So, here I am today, using forward slashes for dates, no commas, but sprinkling the commas hither and yon liberally. And still wondering why we cover something with a cover, and we show up for the show. Perhaps it's all a cover-up...or all for show...

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snow Day!


Now, how many times does this happen for a writer? An actual snow day? One where you wake up in the morning and they tell me to stay home, the roads aren't safe, and they've shut down where I work? So, here I am, with the day stretched out before me, my brain and fingers ready to roll. A nice, long runway to let the words rip.

Thought I'd start things rolling with a quickie blog post, just to get myself going. Not sure how the weather is in your part of the world, but here's to hoping that if you are stuck inside, use this time to get some writin' done. These don't happen often, where you have no obligations, can't do anything else but write.

I sit here at the keyboard now, thoughts flying, watching the cardinals going after the sunflower seeds I put out for them. Wendy's writing and doing art upstairs. Barley and Guinness are asleep somewhere warm in the house. Bach is playing on the stereo...

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Let's See What's Out There...


Continuing from my previous post about word choice and the emotional content of words, I thought about two very different starship captains in the Star Trek franchise--Captain Kirk, and Captain Picard, and how they "put the pedal to the metal."

Kirk, definitely the more Horatio Hornblower of the two, you can imagine on an old sailing ship, "...straight on 'til morning." He'll never grow up, full of adventure, as he commands, "Ahead, warp factor 2, Mr. Sulu." Later, in one of the movies, he simply says, "Warp speed." There's always that feeling of bluff and bluster about him, and you can just see him, face in the wind.

Picard, more formal, at first sight appears more proper and formal with his one word command, "Engage," as he sits back in the captain's chair, sipping his Earl Grey...hot. But, there's that sense of adventure that comes galloping out every so often. At the end of the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, right before he says "Engage," he says, "Let's see what's out there." So, he's multi-faceted, after all.

Many ways of saying the same thing, even by the same character. "Let's go!" "Let's get the hell out of here!" "Time to go," "Outta here!" "Exit, stage right." Each of these tell us it's time to leave, each has a different feel. And, depending on the depth and breadth of your character, she or he might use one of those expressions, none, or something completely different. And, just like Capt. Picard, we might think of him as only saying his formal "Engage," but just under the surface there could be a "Let's see what's out there" trying to escape.

Ahead, maximum warp...

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, January 15, 2016

I'll Commence My Car Now


Well, now, that would be weird, wouldn't it?

Begin, commence, start. All mean pretty much the same thing. Or, do they? All three have essentially the same definition--to initiate something--but words are so much more than their dictionary meanings. There's power behind words, emotion, history. I might "Begin the Beguine" or begin a search. Or a teacher might say to students, "Let's begin," when she wants them to take a timed test.

"We shall now commence."

A little more formal, perhaps. Sounds like the beginning of a formal ceremony.

Then, there's start. "I'm gonna start my car." "Start 'er up, man." A lot less formal. We don't say "...commence my car," or "...begin my car," although all three of those are defined about the same.

About the same. But not exactly. The Thesaurus is a powerful tool for writers, but like any tool, it can be dangerous. Use its power wisely. Think about the emotion, the history behind a word.

Take me, for instance. When talking, I season my speech with "cool" and "man," so you can guess what era I'm from. If you write a character the way I speak, you need to make sure you've got him or her pinned down to correct time period, and also the correct part of the world.

More on this later.

'Keep writing, friends (buds, comrades, pals, amigos y amigas...)

Monday, January 11, 2016

It Ain't Pretty, But I'm Getting the Words Down


Okay, it's gonna be one of those kind of writing days. I've messed around with the font, the font color, the line spacing; I've gotten up, changed from coffee to a Frappuccino; I've tried light jazz, nature sounds, no music. But, grumbling, I'll roll up my sleeves and lay down some really awful words. Fortunately, my wife's a writer, too, and she just called me to see if I was putting down some awful words. "Yes," I replied. "Horrible words. How about you?" "Oh, most assuredly," she said. So, we're writing. Ain't pretty, but it's writing. Here we go...

This was a post I wrote a short while back. Everyone has these days. What I've learned is you just keep chipping away. Today, for example. Word count, pitiful. But at least it was greater than zero. That's what matters.

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

It's About Time


For many if not all of us writers, time is the question and the answer.

Where will I find the time? When will I find the time? If I only had the time...

And finally, the holidays over, Wendy and I have taken today, this Saturday, as our sacred time, carved in basaltic stone, for writing. So, while eating a supper of fish chowder and crackers with cream cheese, I'm taking this quick break to write about writing time.

We've worked most of the day, writing, and getting back to where we need to be with our writing. For myself, I didn't get much work done on the novel during the hurry-scurry of the holidays. Not making an excuse, I just didn't push myself. Now, the holidays over, we declared this day off-limits.

Right now I'm getting back into my final battle sequence, and I found that the longer I stayed away from my novel, the longer it took to get back into the mindset. So, I've organized my previous writing, fitting the Lego pieces together and listening to my battle music. And finally, I'm returning to the arena, sword in hand.

I would encourage all of my writerly (and art, music, and acting) friends to carve out a chunk of time to work on your craft. Take it, take it, take it. And yes, you do deserve it.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

No Bad Words...Bad Thoughts, Maybe...


The title of my post is taken from one of the geniuses in word play who was responsible for sending me down the path of looking wild-eyed at the words we use:

George Carlin

He was right, you know. It's the emotional content behind a word that gives it its power. Words have come and gone, even in my lifetime, some of them doing the pendulum swing. One year something that's good is bad, next year if it's good it's good. Or cool. Or hot. Or tight.

Words come and go. And some of them need to really go. Quickly. I checked out (that was slang, you know...and so it 'you know') the 'net (not a fishing net) and found two sites that list some words that have over-stayed their welcome. Here are a few that I've randomly selected, by no means exhaustive. Or thorough. Or complete.

And before I forget, the two sites are:

The Banished Words List from Lake Superior State University, at http://www.lssu.edu/banished/ 

And, Esquire magazine's "10 Things You Need to Stop Saying Right Now," at http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/a36980/most-overused-words-phrases/ 

Problematic--why can't we just say, "That's a problem", or "I have a problem with that?" Problematic is problematic. Let's not use it anymore.

So--As in, "The word problematic is SO problematic." Don't need it.

Manspreading--Seen in bigger cities, especially, where space is at a premium, this is apparently the trend where some guys spread their crap out across two or more seats on a subway, or at a theater. I'm a guy. Cut it out, guys, if you're doing that. All it means is you're spreading out your crap everywhere. That's just inconsiderate, not manspreading. Stop trying to make it sound nice.

I kind of love that--You do or you don't. Get both feet in the water. Go ahead and say you love it. Or someone. No fence riding.

Get with the program--That one's like fingernails on the blackboard. No. Most of the time the program they want me to get with is not a program I have no interest in. Stop it.

Okay, that's enough of my ranting for now. I might've been guilty of manspreading my pet peeves, and I thought I SO wasn't going to do that this year. I know it could be problematic for some folks, and they may not want to get with the program, or even kind of love it.

Stopping now.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, January 1, 2016

And We Open to a New Page

Here we are, folks. A new year. 2016. What are your writing goals for this year?

I'm always a bit cautious about resolutions, especially when they come to my writing. Perhaps even suspicious, as I know myself all too well. I've made those well-intentioned forecasts and goals before, only to see them not be met. Or some met, but others ignored, so I'll say what I've said before, for me and my writing friends. Let's call them suggestions. Guidelines. Resolutions are hard-edged. Sharp. Confining. Because things change as we progress in our writing, or art, or music, or acting.

What I will try to do, and try really hard, is to write every day. Even if it's only a sentence. Even a horrible sentence. Because as I've learned, when you turn off the tap, sometimes it's damn hard to turn it back on. So, I will put something down every day.

Next, is finishing my novel. And I do mean finishing. Not kinda sorta finishing, but finishing for unleashing, like the Kraken, unto the world. I've been away from it for a bit during the holidays and I'm making myself put ass in chair to get it done.

Last year about this time I got started writing a magazine article, another story in itself, that took me away from the editing of my book. Won't let that happen this time. I'll push on, like an ice-breaker ship, until it's out the door.

So, folks, here we go. Let's all have a seat, get pen or pencil or laptop or whatever fired up and ready to go and get started.

Happy New Arts Year, folks, and, as always...

Keep writing, friends.