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.