Thursday, August 17, 2017

Where Have all the Good Words Gone?

Okay. Time to scooch up to the metaphorical table and get started. I had plenty of good ideas flying around my head in bed this morning. So, where are they now?

Crack the knuckles. Or... maybe not. A touch of Uncle Arthur (what my Uncle Buck used to call arthritis) in the hands these days. Probably from cracking my knuckles.

I had some sort of riff I was going with this morning about coffee, and all I can recall now is that I've had some good coffee lately. Also some tea disguised as coffee. Needed more Ummph!

Quick aside (reader warning: there may be several asides. Sorry). Ummph isn't in the Thesaurus. I found oomph and umph in various online dictionaries, but no ummph. Hmm, that's a shame.

Anyway, one of the best cups was, I believe, called Marksbury Bold, at Good Foods Co-Op, a good, bracing cup, that kicks you right in the forehead, but with zero after-taste. It would go outstandingly with some dark chocolate. And red wine. Merlot. On the deck.

Well, time for a coffee/wine/chocolate break afore I do some more writing.

Be seeing you.

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Must... be.. More... Productive...

One of my gripes about current trends in some writing magazines is the push to be more efficient, more productive, more... more. Perhaps it's because I'm a lazy writer, or perhaps it's because in my former job as a computer programmer, the emphasis was on faster output. Even now, I hear the galley-slave drum beat. But enough whining.

One article recently spoke of "... conserving, protecting, and leveraging..." your time banging words out. That word leveraging in particular is one that's always annoyed me. What I'd like to see are more articles on writing techniques, grammar problems, or ways to deal with writing slumps. Telling me I need to write more, harder, faster is not helping.

Sorry, folks, guess this turned into a gripe session, but I think there are plenty of other writers out there who've run up against this issue.

Keep writing, friends. Not harder or faster. Just writing.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just Getting the Fingers Moving

Just so you know, I'll be all over the place with this post. Apologies beforehand.

Trying to get the word-jam moving. No excuse. The last couple of weeks have been hectic, but even so, I could have been writing. Yeah, I did a little, but not every day. And I know what happens when I don't.

So, anyway, here I am, trying to get my scattered thoughts together. We've had the electrician in to fix a few things; plumber to replace the garbage disposal, and the plumber back the next day to fix what he didn't fix properly; car A/C fixed; doctor stuff; and just random busyness (or is it business?). So, today, a Sunday, I decided would be a day to ease back the throttle.

Oh, yes, and then there's the genealogy addiction. That's my drug for when I'm stressing.

Well, at least this feels better now, getting some words on the page.

The change in the weather has helped mellow me out, too, today. Sitting on the deck this morning with Wendy, I felt a little coolness to the air. Yeah, I know it's still August, but I sensed a subtle change in the light. Pre-fall.

We sat there having breakfast, watching our birds and squirrels. And I need to pick up more bird seed and suet this week. Right at the end of it and my babies will certainly let me know they're running low.

Oh, and I also saw a white rabbit running from our yard to the next earlier today. And no, one pill didn't make me larger. It really was a white rabbit. Someone's pet, I think. Now I'm gonna hafta cue up some Jefferson Airplane.

I feel better now. Next post might be more coherent. But I'm not promising. Now, at least, I can return to my editing.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Zombies, and Diamonds, and Africa, Oh My!

Always at least one casualty in the Black Friday line

Long before we had track speed, flesh-munchin' zombies, we had slow-walkin' zombies. (Hmm, I wonder if Jones in the old Ray Stevens song was a zombie. He was sorta slow-walkin'.) The first movie zombies were slow-walkin', but they weren't killers like in last night's "The Zombies of Mora Tau".

Haven't written a movie review, so I figured it was high time.

All us Scoobies at the Tates Creek Classic Horror Film Club met for our regularly scheduled scare-'em-up and watched some undersea diamond hunters head for deepest, darkest Africa (Okay, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. That's about the same, right?), and incur the wrath of swimming zombies.

This was a fun little film, straight from the 1957 drive-in movie days, that had double-billed with "The Man Who Turned to Stone". Nothing terribly scary here, folks, if you're squeamish on horror flicks. No blood. Sure, a zombie might stab someone, or whack them on the head, but no munchin'. The screenplay, from writers George H. Plympton and Bernard Gordon, keeps things rolling, but it's definitely MST3K material. Plus, there's Allison "50 foot" Hayes. She's really pointy. I can't imagine that bra was at all comfortable.

Anyway, if you're looking for a fun B (or Z) horror flick, this is fun. And keep telling yourself, "It's in Africa, it's in Africa." Watch for a real live African duck in one of the lake scenes.

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Few Steps Closer

I've been away from my blog for a while. You know how it goes. Life.

Started with the slowdown of the 'net on my old laptop. I say old, but it's only eight (nine?) years old. Yeah, I know. It's a Windows Vista machine. But it got the job done.

Then there was the search for a new laptop, buying one, the new laptop crash a few days later, the recovery.

Had a plumber out for a new garbage disposal. Got it installed. Water all over the kitchen.

So on and so forth.

But today, Wendy and I worked a little more on the path to what will eventually be the Writer's Pen. A place for us to work away from the house.

Now, I'm not delusional enough to think that somehow, magically, I'll turn out massive amounts of new writing. Or that Wen will crank out all manner of art. Nope. It's just a place that's different. A place where we can go that has fewer distractions, where we can open the windows (installed ourselves), hear our birds and squirrels, and perhaps have a visit from them as well.

So, that's what I've been up to lately. Now, back to the edits on my novel.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Slow Electrons, Rapid Holidays

Loadin', loadin', loadin'
Keep them pages loadin'

Why don't he write? I'll bet you're wondering. Well, it's about time to put the ol' Windows Vista laptop out to pasture. Can't get no support these days, and trying to load certain sites on my Firefox browser is like wading through mud with hiking boots. So... we'll see if I'm able to get this post launched. Cross your electronic fingers.

Not much writing-related info in this post. Just a couple of odd things Wendy and I encountered while we were out this morning. Stuff that made us cock our heads dog-sideways and go, "Wurff?"

Cracker Barrel. The gift area. Always changes with the approaching seasons, right? Okay, so, we walk in and did a serious double-take, asking each other if we'd Rip Van Winkled and slept through a month or three. Halloween decorations and stuff on display. Yup. And right beside the Halloween stuff was fall stuff, and possibly even Thanksgiving bobbles. We just kept on going to our table. I didn't have the stomach to see if Christmas goodies were out.

Oddity number 2. Toys"R"Us. We want an inexpensive little badminton set for the backyard to get a little after-meal exercise. So, we asked the young woman (possibly a twenty-something, perhaps a little younger) behind the counter if they had any.

Okay, you ready for this? Her response: "Is that like some sort of a game?"

I'm tired and old right now. Gonna go watch cartoons.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where Have all the Adverbs Gone?

Signs bother me. Well, okay, it's not really the signs that bother me, but the words on the signs. I passed two today on the highway that stuck in me like a splinter.

"Drive Safe," the sign read. Now, I'm not certain what kind of safe that is, unless it's a particular kind of roadside service for commuters where they can lock up their valuables. Yeah, that's it. A drive safe. Interesting new business.

What the hell happened to adverbs? Has it become cheaper to drop the '-ly' and turn nouns into adverbs? Is there a shortage on certain letters?

But perhaps I'm a Luddite at times. Maybe I need to loosen up my hold on the language and not go all Thurber. Whom I happen to love. And, yes, I did just 'verbify' Mr. Thurber. I know that a language needs to grow and change to remain alive. Else, you end up with Latin. Which really isn't a dead language. It's more of a living dead language, as it still comes in handy in crossword puzzles. Latin even gave us the dance called the salsa. Salsa's also good with chips. But I regress.

Perhaps I need to relax and embrace the new words and phrases. I'm just a little confused about certain ones, though. For example, I saw another sign that read, "Homegrown Student Checking." What does that even mean? Who's checking these homegrown students? I wish someone would explain it to me.

Ah, well, I'm going to try and ease up. So, for my next post, I'll get into this whole verbify business.

"Every morning, Poseidon would awaken at the Kraken of dawn."
               -- Anonymous

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

By Sea and by Land

Just finished reading Jack London's "The Sea-Wolf", and started reading a couple of nights ago Raymond Chandler's "The High Window". Both written first-person, but very different styles. Jack got philosophical with his main character's transformation, where Raymond's Marlowe isn't philosophical at all, unless it runs deep.

I enjoyed "The Sea-Wolf", but Chandler's staccato style hits home like a punch to the gut. Hmm, what are you doing to me, Raymond?

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lookin' Out My Basement Window

How about that? Bananas do grow in Kentucky
And that's why I don't write songs. Sorry, John Fogerty. Actually, I should've written 'back window', but it's not. And it just now made me think of a line from a Beatles song, "She came in through the bathroom window."

Okay, enough rambling. I had no ideas for this post today, so I figured if I just started writing, something would happen.

Took me a couple of months, but I finally got my desk turned around so I'm looking out my basement window. Don't know why I didn't do it earlier. Now, I have a much better view that looking up and seeing the television, or a wall. I recommend everyone set up their writing areas so they can see some bit of outside.

I see my birds and squirrels and chipmunks carrying on. There's shadow and light. Some of the leaves brightly lit. There's a blackbird walking over the rocks I need to use to complete my pathway. He's staring at something on the ground. There's color now, our orange daylilies blooming, and impatiens, red and orange, growing in our head pot (or pot head). Our concrete Rin Tin Tin silently guards our rock path, waiting for Rusty. A blue jay just made a strafing run toward the feeder.

And then there's our odd couple--our tall Thai goddess beside our gnome, with a lamb and rabbit for company. We keep thinking the goddess and gnome will run off together sometime, but still they remain. Ah, just now a sparrow landed in the patio outside my window. Thought something was food, but it wasn't.

Yes, this is so much better than TV.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Great Saturday Morning Cartoon Breakfast Bash

Yes, sir, folks, the date's almost here for some of us to relive that wonderful Saturday morning ritual we grew up with--cartoons and cereal. Back then it was with lots of sugar, so, while we won't be totally clear of sugar, we'll minimize it. Somewhat....

What, you may ask, is this GSMCBB of which I speak? Well, it happened this way. For some time, Wendy and I have hosted a variety of horror and sci-fi movie parties. And, one day, brainstorming other movie themes, I got on my soapbox (yes, once again) about how kids today are deprived. No Saturday morning cartoons. So, we decided that what's needed, at least for our band of grown-up (sorta) kids would be a Saturday morning cartoon party.

I've assembled, over the years, a bunch of cartoons from back in the day, some on VHS, some on DVD (waiting on the arrival of Jonny Quest, season 1), along with the commercials from the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. I'll have a sampling from those three decades, and, whereas I won't show them exactly in the same order or same time that we would've seen them back then, I'll create a reasonable facsimile of the schedule, starting off with and episode or two of Underdog--"There's no need to fear, Underdog is here...."

I'll intersperse with our kid commercials, including toy commercials, cereal commercials, and, hopefully, Keds sneakers.

Food? Glad you asked. Cereal and cinnamon rolls for breakfast, with OJ, and coffee. Lunch will be a bit more adultish, with DIY sandwich materials--luncheon meat, veggies, that sort of thing.

Might even have a sing-along. "Here I come to save the day...."

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, June 12, 2017

... but Now am Found

Yeah, that was just to rope you in. The title has nothing to do with "Amazing Grace." What it has to do with is the pocket knife in the photo.

It's a Tree Brand pocket knife that my 6th grade teacher, Sam Hardy, gave to me when I graduated from high school. And in case you're wondering, no, I'm not going to sell it. However, it's spent more time away from me than with me. Oh, it's always been around, but most of the time I never knew it. Here's how it goes.

I carried it around in my pocket for quite some time after high school, but somewhere along the line, I lost it.

Replaced it with another knife, but it just wasn't the same.

Okay, so, let's jump ahead to 1986, 1987... something like that. I'm sitting on the couch in my living room back in Owensboro, Kentucky. Some friends and I are watching some science fiction movies, can't remember what they were now. Anyway, I happen to shove my hand between the couch cushions. I don't know, fishing for change maybe, and I feel something metal, but it sure isn't pocket change. It was my old Tree Brand knife.

Carried it around for a few more years. Lost it again.

Now, my wife and I are going through stuff in our garage, seeing what we can toss, and there, among some odd pieces of this and that, is... yes, drum roll time... my knife. Found this time after more than 20 years.

So, here it is on my desk. I have another knife that I carry now, a Leatherman, also from one of my best friends. I carry it in a belt case. Don't like much stuff in my pockets anymore. Too bulky and lumpy. But, I just like the idea of my old Tree Brand being around. So, I'll shove it in a drawer, try to remember where I put it. I'll eventually forget, though. We'll move. Other stuff will happen.

But you know what. Some time later, I'll be fishing around looking for something else, and guess what I'll find.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Don't Want a Veg-a-Matic? What About a Portable Potty?

Step right in, take a seat
Picking up from my previous post, you'll want to check it out first:

Well, the four of us were on missions now after that first stop. Stuff for a dollar. Or less. Wendy and I are planning on creating some yard art in the back yard, so we were hunting for odd metal pieces--old pots and pans, pie tins, anything large enough we can fasten to a post.

Along they highway we saw plenty of folks who set up shop anywhere they could find a level spot. Here's a picture of one a bunch of neighbors threw together in Harrodsburg, KY.
Anyone have a crowbar for sale? Or a crosscut saw?

And I think this might be where we saw the first of the portable toilets. We didn't buy one, but it's somewhere on one of these tables, I'm certain.
Maybe I can find a cast iron skillet
Time for lunch. We hit downtown Harrodsburg's Kentucky Fudge Company. A mint condition soda fountain and pharmacy from the past. They used to have a guy in there who played ragtime music on an old piano, but the piano's gone. Still has fantastic atmosphere. And phenomenal food. Try the BLT. Wendy always goes for the olive nut sandwich, which I'm gonna have next time. And make sure you try a root beer float. Can't go wrong with that.
What kind of root beer was that?
It was a little after 4 and things were winding down, but we found a flea markety store in Perryville, KY. This is where we found the rest of the portable toilets. Not sure why I focused on pics of portable toilets, but they seemed to be at every stop.

Even found a Veg-a-Matic. We had one when I was a kid that sliced through my fingernail. When they say, "It slices, it dices...," they're not kidding.
It slices, it dices...
When we found the Styrofoam head on a stick, we figured it was time to call it a day. We figured we couldn't top that.
So, that was the capper to our 400 Mile Yard Sale outing. I know the US127 yard sale is coming up later in the summer. I'll bet there'll be portable toilets.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, June 2, 2017

We've Only Covered How Many of 400 Miles?

Kentucky Fudge Company in Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Well, we had to make all these stops. Yard sales, you see.

Like a good story, yesterday's road trip had a beginning, middle, and end. We kicked things off with breakfast in Nicholasville, Kentucky yesterday, before hitting our first stop on the 400 Mile Yard Sale. We all love these Mom-and-Pop diners where the waitresses call you darlin', the coffee is first-rate, and so is the breakfast. And as my wife knows, I do love breakfast. Can't recall the name of the place at the moment, but I'll find it and update my post. They actually had fried bologna. Guilty pleasure of mine.

From there, it was time to seek out bargains. We didn't know at first, but we had to zag a bit to get over to US 68, where the yard sales were, but that wasn't a problem.

First stop on the US68 400 mile yard sale
Our first stop for the four of us (Wendy, myself, and our friends Pat, and Gayl) was near Wilmore, Kentucky. We pulled off the road onto a gravel lane where all the tents and people waited for us. And this was one of our favorite places, mainly due to a young guy working at one of the tents with his father. I guess he was about 10, maybe 11, and just a hoot of a personable salesman. "How are you folks today?" he asked, all bright with smiles. "I'll make you a good deal on some items." Well, how could we resist that charm? Also, stuff was priced to sell. Most items were a buck or less, so, yeah, we made a couple of trips back-and-forth to the CR-V.

Stay tuned for more about the sale in the next couple of days.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Art from the Heart

There's a place in North Carolina, near Holden Beach, called Mary's Antiques and Folk Art.  Used to be it was called Mary's Gone Wild.  And when Wendy and I first discovered her place a dozen or more years ago, it was called something else.

Way back then we were driving along, looking for bookstores, coffee shops, and just anything unusual.  And, there it was.  I don't remember who was driving, but out of the corner of my eye I saw this color explosion of odd miscellany hanging from trees, and scattered around the yard.  We had to pull over.

What we found was the work of a true honest-to-goodness folk artist.  Paint cans and broken glass painted in wild colors, window frames in various states of brokenness propped up against trees, signs collected from everywhere, odd assortments of Christmas lights strung from trees to buildings back to trees, tree-houses with doll furniture, and gospel music blaring away from a speaker.

And then, there was Mary.  Always smiling, dressed as colorfully as the conglomeration of objects she painted.  I asked her if any of her art was for sale.  She said she'd take 10 or 20 dollars for something if I liked it.  Wendy and I found an odd piece and handed her a 20.

That's Mary.  You can't go to her place without coming away smiling or laughing.  She's a living testament to the true creative spirit.  No art classes?  No materials?  Not a problem.  She takes what other people throw away, paints it, glues it to something else, and hangs it from a nail.  Voila!  Art.

We went back there four or five years ago.  Mary was still there, creating, smiling.  Her husband Paul had added more odd buildings on the property, and Mary kept filling the buildings with her creations.  They had built bottle houses, bottle ships, and a bottle pool.  There was also a Coca-Cola house.

We have some of her work hanging on the fence in our backyard. Someday it will deteriorate. And that would be okay with Mary. She’s not concerned about preserving it. She’ll just make more art.

If you ever make it to North Carolina along Holden Beach, stop by Mary's.  Click here to see some of her work:

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Supermarket Words

We woke up (Wait... is it more correct to just say woke, without the 'up'? Or should I say we awoke? I'm never sure. Need to look that up. Hmm... up gets used a lot.), and decided to go to Joseph-Beth this morning for breakfast. It's actually Joseph-Beth Booksellers, but that's too long. So we just say Joseph-Beth. Or Jo-Beth.

Anyway, we went there and had a great view of the pond outside, and had an opportunity to see duck social dynamics in action. We watched a mother duck with her eight kids, but the most interesting show was of an awkward threesome. There was a mallard female (we think), her mate (we think), who was a white duck, and an interloper mallard male. From our point-of-view the male mallard kept making improper advances toward the female mallard. The white duck kept chasing off the male mallard, but finally the male and female mallards flew off together to hang out in the motel swimming pool nearby. It was a regular duck soap.

At any rate, we hit the supermarket next. And one of the items we searched for was a jar of capers, which set me thinking (unfortunately). I did not subject Wendy to my runaway train of thought, so I have to release it here. Apologies.

I don't know why the 1960s Batman series never had one of our regular villains plan a heist of a caper shipment.It would have been the Caper Caper. And, of course, Batman and the Boy Wonder and aforementioned super-villains would have capered about in their colorful undies during the fight sequences. Capricious, I know, but there it is.

Also in the store, I spied a jar of Eggplant Appetizer. Apparently, it's something you apply to eggplant. But the word appetizer I've always had trouble with. The definition says it's a first course that's supposed to stimulate your appetite, but all that's happened when I eat an appetizer is that I get full. Then I don't want the meal. Seems to me it's an anti-appetizer. What they should do is not serve an appetizer before a meal to make everyone hungry. That would be a non-appetizer.

Stay tuned for the next post when I'll write about our trip to a bookstore, where we perused the non-books.

Sorry, folks, but I'm feeling much better now.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Whadda Ya Mean I Can't See Through Stuff?

Had a buddy of mine several years ago who took a trip to New York City. He saw all the sights, did all the checklist stuff. But the story that got the most attention when he returned wasn’t about what worked out, but what didn’t work out. But in a good way.

He bought a Rolex from a guy on the street. Yup. And when he got home he was smiling about it. And we were laughing about it. Because he knew it was a fake before he bought it. Paid five bucks for it knowing it wouldn’t work.

Buying a Rolex from a guy on the street, especially if it’s in NYC, is a story. A legend. Someone a long while back bought that first innard-less Rolex, bad for him, good for us storytellers. If my friend had returned from New York with a fully-functioning Rolex, would we care? Nope. But a defective Rolex? Storytime.

Now, I didn’t go to New York, and I didn’t buy a busted Rolex. I did, however, find a pair of X-Ray Specs at our local Goodwill. Remember them? Used to see them advertised in comic books when we were kids, along with all the other kid stuff. And yes, I sent off for a pair when I was a kid. And nope, they didn’t do what I thought they’d do. I couldn’t see through anything. All they did was make a translucent outline around whatever I was looking at. But just like the five dollar Rolex, it made for a good story.

True enough, like the first defective Rolex buyer, I didn’t think it was funny at the time, but it evolved. The story, that is. And like a shared memory, all of us who had bought the sea monkeys, or the throw-your-voice kit, or the plastic tri-color sheet that could turn your black-and-white set into a color TV, we told the stories, adding to them, embellishing them. So, yep, I had to buy them when I saw them at the Goodwill the other day.

And they work just as well as they did way back when.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

To Comma or Not to Comma

Yes, that is the question. And the answer is, it depends.

I have a tendency to toss in commas like garlic powder. Which I happen to like. A lot. So, as I'm in the midst of editing my novel for randomly and liberally sprinkled commas, what I find helpful is to read passages out loud. I know I've brought that up before, but it's a vital part of editing.

And, one of my other idiosyncrasies is to begin sentences with "And," and "But," then slap a comma after the word. I started to use it just with certain characters in my book, thinking it would be an interesting character trait (or defect), but what I've noticed is that it often makes them sound like they're quoting Captain Kirk from Star Trek. "You, know, Spock, with a, dramatic pause, after a, couple of, words." So, watch those, commas.

There's also the... ellipsis... which is effective for pauses, but can... put your readers to sleep.

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Where are the Rattlers?

Dancin' at the Reptile Zoo
You just can't beat a good reptile zoo. And while this one didn't have everything promised, it was still fun.

Wendy and I headed to Natural Bridge State Park today, a Monday, for an overnighter. And what should we see while heading there but one of my old favorite places to visit from when I was a kid, but a reptile zoo. Of course, these days, having seen my share of tilt houses, mystery spots, all manner of ghostly places, I told her, "Don't expect too much, hon."

Ah, but it was great to see one again. Somehow we (or, rather, I) had the impression I'd see brown recluses, black widows (not snakes, but, hey, venomous critters are venomous critters, and still appeal to the five-year-old in me... as long as they're in their glass cages), rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral snakes. But, no, we saw a couple of cages of corn snakes, perhaps a copperhead, a king snake, and a few others I couldn't identify, all napping on top of one another in piles like kittens. A couple of aquariums of local fish and turtles completed the exhibit.

No, I didn't get to see any rattlesnakes, or coral snakes, or other poisonous creatures. But it did take me back to the days I'd holler for my parents to stop at one of those roadside places. And in my malleable memory, I remember riding on the back of a Galapagos Turtle, staring at a cobra, and watching a pit full of alligators.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

If it was a Golden Goose, Maybe it was a Golden Ticket

Happened on this little newsworthy headline today:
Man uses plastic bat to defend son from goose, gets ticket.

This bit of news is so much fun, I hardly know where to begin. But I will.

First off, those department store plastic bats like they used in the old "B" vampire flicks are sort of floppy. I'd think one of those wouldn't be too effective. I believe I'd try a live bat. But they're kind of bitey, so that wouldn't be too good, either. Of course, maybe they mean a plastic baseball bat? Not sure.

Also, who goosed the man's son? And why? What happened to provoke the gooser? Did the goosee goose the gooser to set off the whole incident. It's really not clear, is it? Or are they referring to the bird variety of goose?

What kind of ticket did the man get? Concert ticket? Baseball ticket?

But wait. There's more....

The man stated that the goose "...chased his son...", and that the goose was "clearly attacking" the boy. Not just attacking, but "clearly attacking". Obviously, plainly, and evidently attacking. So, what we have here is a goose expert.

Ah, yes, but anyway....Always remember, folks. Be precise in your writing. That way, when you've been goosed, you'll know what kind of bat to use so you'll receive the appropriate ticket.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Don't Wabi My Sabi

Yep, I like wasabi with my sushi.

Oh, wait, it's not wasabi. It's one of the latest fad phrases to catch hold of us. In our staccato, ADHD world of new terms, wabi-sabi is one of the latest. Originating in Japan, it's the idea that impermanence and imperfection is okey dokey in art. And here all along, I thought that was what art was about, anyway.

Nothing's perfect in art. When you write something, you can always go back and see something that needs changing. In painting, a slip of the hand adds that extra brush stroke. Film? Editing problems. Photography? Too little, too much light.

We latch on to these bright, shiny expressions. Empowerment. When I worked for Long John Silver's in the 90s, that was the big, new word. Just meant giving yourself permission to forge on. Later, it was paradigm shift. That's looking at things differently. And in the writing world within the last few years, it was steampunk. That's just dressing up Jules Verne a little fancier.

Be wary of the Emperor's New Clothes, folks. You can say you're downsizing me, but I know when I've been fired.

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

And Chaos was His Name-o

Ray Bradbury used to say (at least I think it was him) that whenever he needed a story idea, he looked around his office and picked up some random object, a personal treasure, and that would fire up the story-generator. Okay, Ray, perhaps that worked for you, but for me, I need to minimize the number of objects around me. I have more than enough cluttered chaos floating around in my noggin. Plenty of ideas up here, I just need to focus enough to get them on the laptop, then complete the damn things.

Here's an example: I wrote the above paragraph in my notebook last night. By hand. On paper. And I immediately thought of hitting the Alt key, then F, and S to save what I'd just written. See what I mean? Chaos.

Keep writing chaotically, friends.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Writer in the Park, III...

...forgot to mention earlier that it was blowing cool and breezy that first night when I wandered with Ernie to his home. Amana Heights.
"You ever been to Amana Heights, Stoph?" he asked.
Stoph is short for Stoffel, which is short for Christopher. We had too many Christophers in the family, so I shortened it to Stoffel, then shorter still to Stoph. Started off spelling it Stoff, but it evolved (or devolved) into Stoph.
"No, not that I recall, Ernie. I've never even heard of Amana Heights. Why's it called that?" I asked.
"Refrigerator boxes. That's my name for it because I have two refrigerator boxes. Most other folks around the area only have one. I'm kind of proud of it."
I believe he was.
So, anyway, we left the park, and had a bit of a walk through and industrial section. There was a chain-link fence we had to go through. Looked like a car ripped a gash through it.
"It had," Ernie said, when I asked him about it. "Shoulda seen it. Regular high-speed chase. I got several stories out of that. Made several dollars from those stories next day, writing them from different perspectives."

Go to these links to read parts I and II...

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Writer in the Park, II...

... "Will you teach me?" I asked. Was there a whiny, plaintive note in my voice? The crowd that had gathered around Ernie left for the day, and he was packing up his gear to head home for the day, wherever home was.
"Your voice had a whiny, plaintive note to it," Ernie noted, Tom Swiftily. "And where did you pick up a question like that? 'Will you teach me?' How many times have you seen Karate Kid?"
"Too many times," I said, "But I think it came from Doctor Strange. Seen it?"
"Yes, I have," Ernie said, as he shook a Marlboro from a wadded cigarette pack. "Light?" he asked.
"No, sorry, man, I don't smoke."
"Okey doke," and he stuck the unlit cigarette in the torn shirt pocket. "And, we won't waste any time with the usual jazz where I make you prove yourself. Yup, I'll teach you. C'mon." And he hopped down from his picnic table perch with surprising dexterity. "Oh, and when you write this story later on, don't say something about me hopping down with surprising dexterity. Find one word to replace two."....

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

I'm Okay, You're OK...Connery

Think I'll try my hand at writing scripts for Euro-spy knock-off movies. Looks like fun.

I never knew Sean had a brother. For those of you who love Euro-spy flicks, or Bond knock-offs, this is the Pot o’ Gold. And, with tongue placed firmly in cheek, we’ll get started.

I’ve seen this film at least three, perhaps four times, and I love it. Where else could I see Neil, Sean’s younger brother, playing…Neil Connery, the brother of Agent 00… yeah, you know who. And they get lots of mileage out of almost naming Neil’s big brother, and almost saying the ‘7’ in ‘007’. But, wait, the brother of Neil Connery would be Sean Connery, not James Bond, so are they saying that Sean is the super-spy, or Bond? That’s one of the many great things about OK. Ya just never know which universe they’re in. Is the actor the spy or the character the actor plays, or...? My brain hurts.

While we’re looking into OK Connery’s (aka Operation Kid Brother, or Operation Double 007) uber-alternate take on spy-guy stuff, this Italian Bond riff uses several of the James Bond actors in roles that are kinda sorta like the ones in the Sean Connery Bond films. In OK, we get to see Lois Maxwell (we know her as Miss Moneypenny), play Max, a field operative in MI6 (if it’s MI6 – I don’t recall them ever saying for certain). Haven’t you always wanted to see Moneypenny out there packin’ a machine gun, blazin' away? I know I have. Italian actor Adolfo Celi (Largo in Thunderball) remained a bad guy, playing Mr. Thai, also known as Beta, in OK. Bernard Lee (‘M’ from the Bond films) gets a full name--or at least a last name--in OK. Now he’s Commander Cunningham. Anthony Dawson, Professor Dent, in Dr. No, plays Alpha, the head of Thanatos, in OK. Thanatos is the Spectre of OK.  According to IMDb, Mr. Dawson played Blofeld, the cat-friendly mastermind in From Russia with Love and Thunderball, although in Russia he’s listed as (?), and in Thunderball he’s uncredited. Hmm, a true man of mystery.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reflections on a Dark City

Wanta hear a joke?

Speaking of writing, I have to include this post from a while back about my favorite TV show, Gotham. The writing is without peer.
I’ve been reading comics for fifty-plus years, and Batman has always been one of my favorites. I’ve bounced from The Flash to Superman to Batman as far as which has been my go-to comic. Batman would be my top pick, because he’s a regular Joe. No super-powers--just discipline, developing himself to the peak of his physical and mental abilities, and some cool technology.

One thing I haven't read much about in the comics is the story behind Gotham, the city. Why and how it got that way. That’s what the show Gotham does for us. It’s not about Batman. In fact, most of the time I forget that it has anything to do with Batman. Yes, we have the young Bruce Wayne, but this is long before he wears the cape and cowl. One of the elements I like is how they’re focusing on Bruce’s developing detective skills. Detective Comics. DC. Remember? At one time, lost in the dusty past, one of Batman’s taglines was “The world’s greatest detective.” Somehow that got pushed aside over the years, placing more emphasis on his martial skills, or his access to extreme technology. Some of my favorite scenes in Gotham are of Bruce poring over bits of printed material at his super-sized desk, or drawing inferences from the photos and clippings on his bulletin board. I’m not seeing him use tech a lot yet. He’s doing it the old tried-and-true way, going full-on Sherlock.

Normally I don’t get into series-based shows. The ongoing situations that never end. And, over time, I’ve seen all kinds of plot situations and devices, so it’s hard to surprise me with anything. So, true, we know Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, and *** Spoiler Alert*** Ed Nygma, the quirky analyst at GCPD, eventually becomes The Riddler, Cat becomes Catwoman, Ivy transforms into Poison Ivy, etc. What I love are the characters and the way each actor brings something new to the table. I love watching the new and entertaining interpretations on our eventual major/minor players, and how they interact with each other. So, for me, it’s about slipping into a familiar world, but with something new added.

In fact, one of the logos for Gotham on Facebook has pictures of Jim Gordon in the top-left corner, Selina Kyle (Cat) in top-right, Fish Mooney at bottom-right, and The Penguin at bottom-left, with the word ‘GOTHAM’ in the middle. No picture of Bruce Wayne or Alfred. This is a dark, edgy police drama with backbone, plus some quirks, and a hint of the supernatural (or unnatural).

The city itself is a major player, providing us with dark alleys, waterfronts, and speakeasies. When’s the last time you’ve heard the word ‘speakeasy’? That’s another interesting take on the show. It’s set current day, but it has a noir-ish, pulp-detective novel feel that runs deep. One of my favorite characters is Detective Harvey Bullock, played with a 1930s/1940s style by Donal Logue. His signature leather jacket and hard-bitten P. I. fedora is a direct pipeline to Sam Spade or Mike Hammer. He’s a borderline burned-out cop who’s learned how to walk the edge. Heart of gold beneath that tarnished exterior.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Writer in the Park

I will be trying something new here. A continuing story created from separate posts:

Part I 

"Ernie? That's what you go by?"
"Yep. Sure do."
"But your real name is Robert Scud Miller?"
That's all the information I would get from Ernie for a while. My first time I talked to Robert Scud Miller, or rather, Ernie. Must've been a few weeks ago, can't remember for sure.
Just out for a walk, and saw some folks gathered around this fellow sitting cross-legged on one of the picnic tables. He looked in his 70s, but I think he was younger. He had one of those black composition notebooks in his lap, and he was writing at a frantic pace, total concentration, his eyes laughing, and his tongue poking out the corner of his mouth. There was this crazy hat resting cock-eyed on his head, the kind a 1960s TV dad would wear when he took his kids fishing. Looked like presidential campaign buttons from several years were pinned all around it.
No one spoke while he wrote. After a few minutes, he finished with a grand flourish of his pen, waving it in the air, then stuck the pen in his torn shirt pocket. He tore out the pages and handed them to a young woman and said, smiling, "One dollar, please."
She dug around in her purse, fished out a five, and handed it to him....

Part II

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

View from the Inside

This week I have to do it. I have to move my desk around so I can look outside. The way I face now is directly at my bookshelves, which is rather uninteresting. Now, since I have decent peripheral vision, my attention is drawn to the right where the TV hangs on the wall. I always see movement out of the corner of my eye. What I should do, of course, is turn off the bleeping thing. But I need something to look at when I'm not looking at my laptop screen. When I'm in thinking mode. So, this week. Turn the desk around so I can see outside.

Yes, I'm rambling. It's been some time, since March 8th, since I've penned a post, and the pipes are rusty. But I'm writing.

It's spring, so stuff is blooming, and there are yellow and green things growing outside. Some white things, too. Don't know what most of them are called. But I want to look at them. Also, we have a monster of a fountain which we've turned into a miniature garden. Keeping watch over the plants are a lamb, a Thai goddess (at least I think she's Thai), a gnome, and a rabbit. Used to have a gargoyle, but he broke. The four remaining watchers are concrete. They don't move much. At least not while I'm watching them. So, I guess I'm watching the watchers.

Keep writing, friends. And try to avoid doing what I did, which is to take too long of a break from writing.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

...I Want to Bang on the Drum All Day...

Hear that beat? It's everywhere. Our hearts bang it out. Slow, steady, insistent. Or perhaps fast, quick-stepping. Like the sound of...ramming speed! Or perhaps so fast they'll explode.

Rhythm surrounds us. We were born into it. Likewise, there is a cadence to words. Let's look at a few examples.

One of my favorites is Star Wars. Just the title. It's a simple drum beat. Ba bum! And it drills into you, never letting you forget.

Then there's a sentence I love, the first sentence in Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five". "I have come unstuck in time." Say that sentence aloud, and listen to its rhythm. Da da DAH da DAH da dah, with a downbeat on the word 'time'.

And that's the takeaway. Writing (and reading) doesn't deal with just flat words, entering our bodies visually. We hear the words, as well. So, as writers, when we're editing, we need to read our work aloud. If not to other folks, as in a critique group, then to ourselves. And hear the drum beat.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bad Guy or Good Guy...Hmmm...

Hard to tell sometimes.

Growing up, we always thought good guys had the white hats, bad guys wore black, right? And the good guys did good stuff, while the bad guys did really bad things.

Uhhhh, well....

Our good guys (translation: do-gooders, heroes, champions) and bad guys (translation: evildoers, villains, malefactors) in our writing share differences, but they also share similarities. They have to or they're not interesting. A pure good guy is boring, and a pure bad guy is just not believable. Let's take a look under the hood.

Good guys always do good stuff, right?

I watched a Star Trek episode recently where the distinct life forces of an extinct civilization had taken over one of the crew members. Kirk's solution: place the crew member in a pressure chamber and crank up the pressure until all the life forces were destroyed. Basically, he committed genocide. And Kirk's one of the good guys, right?

Another example: Superman, the ultimate Boy Scout, in the second Superman movie with Christopher Reeve, has no trouble eliminating Zod, Ursa, and Non. Didn't give it a second thought. No attempt at returning them to the phantom zone, just poof!

Now, the flip side. One of everyone's favorite bad guys, Darth Vader, Mr. All-In-Black himself. Evildoer, right? Killed children, women, pretty much anyone. But he started out with great promise, as a good guy. Followed the wrong path for a while. But in the end, who saves the day by destroying (we think) the Emperor? Darth.

So, a couple of things to remember. When creating your bad guys and good guys, they're not pure. Shouldn't be. Your good guys should have some darkness in them. Makes them interesting. And your bad guys will do some good stuff occasionally. And sometimes, they might just flip sides. It all depends on perspective.

Now, go forth and think about other good/bad guys you've read about or watched on the screen.

I command it.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I Need is Writer Oil

The undisciplined writer, that's what I am. Well, I figure you can guess that from the infrequency of my posts of late. Been busy with life lately.

Now, I know that's no excuse. Especially when I read about other writers' routines. "I'm up at 5 AM every day, dress, work out, have a cup of something, then write until noon." But then there's the rest of us. Folks woulda coulda shoulda done that, but just slam down a few words when we can. It's not so much a writer's block as inertia. A matter of stuckness, like that old faucet on the side of the house that just won't turn off in the spring. Writer's oil, that's what's needed. Note to self: save that idea of writer's oil. Never know when it'll come in handy.

Anyway, I'm back, trying to get the machinery moving again. Also in the final phases, I hope, of edits on my novel. People ask me, "When are you gonna finish that thing?" Well, when I'm ready. Being waylaid for a bit, I need a final running start (or running finish) at it. It's my flagship and I want it as good as it can possibly be.

Aaahhh, this feels better, pounding the keys after a hiatus. Afore I head out, I'll leave you with this live action example of proofing your work with your eyeballs, not just your word processor's spell-a-matic. I saw this on the web site of a major organization today. Here's an excerpt. I won't divulge the organization's name:

Work & Jobs
Your Fired. Now What?
8 things to do before handing over your employee ID

What, exactly, is my 'fired'? If they had visually inspected it, they would've seen they needed "You're", not "Your". I engage in word play, but I don't think that's what happened. Oops.

Keep writing, friends. Even if your undisciplined. Catch that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Little Ol' Martian Potato Farmer Me

I've been reading Andy Weir's book "The Martian", and am a little over halfway through. I've been reading a lot more lately during the winter, willingly giving up a lot of TV for the pleasure of a good book. Let's see, starting back in October or a little earlier, I read "The Sword in the Stone", wonderful book about the young King Arthur before he was a king Next came "The Once and Future King". I was a true Arthurian junkie at this point. Then I had to read "The Book of Merlyn", because Mr. White really left me hanging at the end of "The Once and Future King".

Read Ian Fleming's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" next. Yes, Mr. "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" wrote a smashing good children's book. Then, since I was apparently on a British kick, I read "Mary Poppins". Got to say, I like the movie version a little better. Mary was just plain mean in the book.

So, back to "The Martian". Written in first-person style, this is a rockin' good read. This is Mr. Weir's first novel and I look forward to what else might come from his pen. He starts right off, Bang!, into the action, and it had to be told first-person. I like the character of Mark Watney. He's tough, with a good sense of humor, sometimes a gallows sense of humor, that really helps him survive.

One thing I've noticed that I like, is that as Mark goes through his day-to-day survival, his log entries subtly show how he's becoming more and more of a Martian. Oh, I don't mean he's turning green with tentacles and a third eye. Actually, the correct term would be colonist. He's becoming a colonist. When he goes on missions away from the Hab (where he lives) that last for several sols (Martian days), he says sols instead of days with a comfortable familiarity. Like when we would say, "So many days ago, I...", Mark would say, "So many sols ago, I..." All very casual.

And, when he's been on one of his outings, he talks about being glad to get home. Not home as on Earth, but home as in his Hab. It's becoming home to him.

Yep, I'm looking forward to more work from Mr. Andy Weir. A tip o' th' astronaut helmet to him for making this read feel natural. Now, I have to finish reading it so I can get Mark home, uh, back to Earth...

Keep writing, friends.