Monday, April 14, 2014

Writing About Not Writing

Here it is, late on another Monday and I've not written my blog post yet.  I am writing about not writing, which is writing, but there is certainly some tautology there.  It seems a little like going back in time and killing your own grandfather.

I realized writing and posting both on Mondays is not a good idea.  I moved my writing day back to Thursday.  That didn't happen last Thursday, or Friday, or ...

I have made writing daily work.  It is a proven method for me, and plenty of other authors (or maybe I should just say authors).  Writing one day a week, or some days a week doesn't seem to work for me.

By the way, I have two interesting observations about the picture I used.  I think that's Hebrew on the keyboard.  I don't write or speak Hebrew, and please don't take it as a political statement.  I just found and like the picture.  It seemed appropriate for today's post.

The other observation is I found this picture on a blog called Dreaming On Paper.  I took it without permission (shh).  The date he posted it was 15 April 2013.  I had misread it and thought it said 2014.  It seemed strange that it should be posted tomorrow, but then it is tomorrow in some parts of the world already, and I thought it would be cool if I could post it with a date before the original date.  Unfortunately I eventually saw that it said 2013 and I eventually remembered that this is 2014.

Back to the writing part.  This is not an excuse, but more an observation on what works for me.

I am reminded of a small island in the Caribbean I visited once, well, by visited I saw it while messing around with Google Earth and what with all the pov pictures it's just like being there anyway.

The island is called San Vita, and is named after the patron saint of lost keys (remind you of a certain temple?).  Don't bother looking for it.  It is so small you'd never find it and anyway I pulled the Wikipedia article and sent a note to Google that it is fictitious.  I want to keep it all to myself.  It is just so adorable.

The native name for San Vita is Goinoware.  It was the name the inhabitants of nearby islands gave to the Spaniards when they first arrived.  It means, "What island, that one, oh we never go there, don't bother, it's a complete waste of time, and no fun at all."  Surprisingly efficient these native languages are, aren't they?

Back in the 1950s the CIA set it up as a Wicker Chair Monarchy.  It's similar to a Banana Republic, but instead of being fronted by the United Fruit Company this was the Amalgamated Patio Furniture Co.  It was headed by the King of Savings for years.

It's now an autocratic economy (everybody minds their own business) under a Liberal Dictatorship where everyone is at liberty to be a dictator to everyone else equally.

I think I may retire there someday.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Atlantis Rising

I have a "theory" about Atlantis.
Is that the temple of Biro, God of Lost Pens, on the far left?
pic courtesy of

Atlantis is the lost continent.  It stands to reason that if it is The LOST continent then it should be associated with lost things.

What I mean by, "associated" is that I envision temples to Lost Socks, Lost Keys, and Lost Glasses.  These would be great stone temples the glory of the ancient world where these lost things would just appear, filling the buildings from across time and space.

These must of necessity be transient locations for many of these things, thus the temples would be very active and lively places with keys popping in and then back out to return behind your sofa.  A temple might be blessed with the appearance of grandpa's horn-rim glasses only to lose them again a moment later when they return to perch on his bald pate.

There might be other things there too.  I imagine the people are all fat, but beautiful, young and sane.  They are very wise as well because they have the vast store of our own lost memories to call upon.

This is, of course a continent, a world outside our own; in another perhaps parallel universe, or perhaps on a very slight angle.  Yes, I believe it would not be perfectly parallel because at some time it, if only for a brief moment, if only in Plato's dreams, it crossed paths with our universe.  For a time a man could walk the streets and find his dog.  Maybe the people would approach him with his wallet he was sure he had had in his left back pocket.

They must have been wonderful times, but alas, they are all lost to us now.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Poll and Poll

A Pole pole courtesy of
The Copernicus Center Google+ page
Our last poll did illicit much response.  Only two people responded and said their preferred method of writing is with something computerish.

I actually had this poll idea a while back and now I get to use it.

What is your favorite Chicago movie?

I'm not going to list movies that are about Chicago if they weren't filmed here (I'm looking at you Chicago!) and short shots that are essentially stock footage don't count either (I'm looking at you My Big Fat Greek Wedding).  I'm debating including The Dark Knight.  Gotham looks so much better in these films because of Chicago, and if you know Chicago you know immediately it was filmed here.  On the other hand they call it Gotham, which I always considered to be New York.

I looked for some sites that listed movies in Chicago.  Esquire had a good article, and I'm thinking I should be able to trust Chicago Magazine and The Chicagoist.  I also pulled a list of all the movies ever filmed in Chicago since 1896 from The City of Chicago's own home Website.

For the poll I'm only going to put my top 5 up there to vote on, and an, "Other" category.  If you want to add others you can put a comment on this post.

Here is a list of Chicago movies I like:

  • My Best Friend's Wedding - don't actually like the movie, but the City looks fantastic in this and it has the Cuneo Museum up here in my neighboring town of Vernon Hills.
  • Candyman
  • 16 Candles
  • Untouchables - you don't like this movie?  "Well, you're not from Chicago."
  • Backdraft - I don't think the firefighters will agree, but I like it
  • About Last Night
  • Stir of Echoes
  • The Fugitive
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Risky Business - I have lots of comments about this, North Shore, "Looks like University of Illinois!", "Sometimes you just got to say...", the El, "Get off the babysitter", my mom told me Tom Cruise reminded her of me
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  • The Break Up - again, don't like the movie, but Vaughn loves the City and it shows
There are some others that I've heard fantastic things about and may have seen part of, but not the whole thing:
  • Ordinary People
  • Road to Perdition
  • Public Enemies
  • Color of Money
  • Call Northside 777
  • Hoop Dreams
  • High Fidelity
  • Source Code
  • My Bodyguard
What do you like?  What are your favorite quotes?  Please share and vote.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Cache - Bank - Cache

You would have thought I would have known better by now.  I've been doing this blog for years and yet I fell for a very beginners trap, of not having enough material banked in case of an emergency.
Imagine these are all blog posts

The last two days have been crazy at work and at Scouts, well, that's really just excuses.  I could not get to the computer to write a post for this blog on Mondays.  Regardless, I have committed to making posts each Monday and I should have.

The way you make sure you can post on a set schedule despite any eventuality is to have a cache of material which I do not have.

I tend to get so excited when I write a post that I don't hang on to it, I post right away.  Also, I've set Mondays as posting day and writing day.  What I should do in this case is to write two posts each Monday.  That way I will have one to post and one to bank.

I will make sure I do that going forward.

What I am going to do next is go through the 30 Days of Worldbuilding exercise I went through before.  This time I promise a story on this site exclusively.  My plan is for a lighthearted, serialized story.  I will do several, "Days" at a time and when I have gotten far enough along, when I write a post for a, "Day" I will also write a part of the story.

Just a slight preview, there will be a country called Penoa (located between Finland and Sweden) and another called Anoitoia (a floating island actually) the last colony of Atlantis.

I will, this week, post a second post (to help make up for a lack of a post Monday) to review the last poll and introduce a new poll.  What would you like to see on that poll?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Goal Slide Into the Box

I've completed my story, "The Figurine in the Box."  I've sent it copies to some people for review and comment, but I already know I'm going to make at least one major overhaul.  I'm going to edit it down about half of the 15,000 words it is now.

If you don't already have a copy and would like to read it please leave me a comment with an address to send it.

I think it is a good story.  It pretty much did what I intended it to when I started out.  My inspiration was listening to The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft.  I wondered why Lovecraft's gods always had to be so ugly.  Of course they are alien and un-understandable, but why does that always have to equal ugly, hideous and frightening.  Can't something be beautiful, desirable and utterly frightening?

Bradbury explored this same question in "Something Wicked This Way Comes."  Bradbury didn't make it incomprehensible though.  Also, I think it took it in a different direction than where it went for me.

It took much longer than I had anticipated to finish it, and there is still a long way to go in editing it before I can submit it.  I needed to finish it, and it was a good exercise.  Now, it may be an equally useful exercise to edit this smaller story before I try to tackle editing Hidden Temple to the Lost Gods.

This is why I am not completely disheartened by my progress toward this year's writing goal.  My steps are different and smaller, but still headed in the right direction.

Get Hidden Temple to the Lost Gods published by the end of the year.


  1. ProNoFiMo in January
  2. NaNoEdMo in March
  3. Research publishing in April
  4. Send it out to publishers starting end of April.
I'm going to have to add some steps:
  1. Write "The Figurine in the Box" - DONE
  2. Edit "The Figurine in the Box" - MARCH
  3. Submit "The Figurine in the Box" for publication - APRIL
  4. ProNoFiMo (Prop Novel Finishing Month) - MAY
  5. NaNoEdMo - JUNE
  6. Research publishing - JULY
  7. Send it out to publishers - AUGUST to DECEMBER
And where does that leave you, dear Illini6 reader?  I've promised Mondays as writing day.  Mondays are the day to come here and see a new post.  If I am seriously dedicating myself to these steps what will there be for readers of this blog to read?

I could write more jokes.

I could report on my progress.

I could be completely ambitious and write stories or chapters just to be read here on this blog, from a story that will only appear on the blog.

Something tells me the last option is the preferred one, but only if I can pull it off.  There is the gist, the crux, can I pull it off?  I say I can, but I must offer one caveat, it will be simple and unpolished.

I will promise this, I will never again publish anything on this blog for which there is no ending which can be posted here.  I have posted parts of stories that had no ends.  I've posted parts of stories for which there was an end, but I had no intention of posting the ending here.  That won't ever happen again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day everybody!

I've tried in fits and starts to have a tradition of writing and posting a St. Patrick's Day joke each year.

This is my record so far:
2010  (actually in 2011)
2012:  missed

This is my attempt for 2014:

We've all heard that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, but did you know that the snakes themselves have always wanted to go back.

The snakes felt they got a raw deal and were unfairly discriminated against, victims of species profiling.  After several years of exile they decided to get together and figure out how to return to their beloved homeland.

They rented a conference room at a Ramada in Chicago and held a huge convention.  All day long the met and discussed.  Imagine if you will a huge conference room filled with snakes, green as the emerald isle itself, all hissing in a thick Irish brogue.

By the end of the conference they had worked themselves into quite a lather, every one of them spitting mad at the one man who had done them all wrong.  Every one of those snakes was ready to strike, all except one, Sean O'Shea.

Sean sat quietly curled up on a beautiful box he had brought with him.  Eventually all the other snakes turned to look at him in confusion.

"Why is it, Sean O'Shea that yer not angry at Patrick, the man who drove us out?  Don't you love Ireland?"

"Aye, I love Ireland same as you all.  I love the land, the green, the people, but most of all I love the music.  I've always loved the music, the jigs, the reels, the hornpipes, the ballads, and the laments.

"I've always loved the fiddle, the uileann pipes, the flute, the concertina and the badhrans.  All me life I've wanted to play in an Irish band.

"One fine spring day I was making me way through the glen when I spied a wee little man.  Quick as a wink I coiled round him, cuz I knew right then, he was a leprechaun.

"I got yeh, leprechaun, sez I.  Now yeh got to give me yer crock o' gold.

"'Oh, ya got me sure and fast.' Sez he.  'You must be the quickest and smartest snake in all of Ireland.'

"'I am.' Sez I, 'I'm Sean O'Shea.'

"'Ah, Sean O'Shea, you say?' sez he, 'Not THE Sean O'Shea, the snake who wants to play in an Irish band?'

"'The same,' sez I.

"'Well,' sez he, 'I think I might have somethin' even more to yer likin' than me wee crock o' gold.  How would you like a magic concertina?'

"What use have such as I with no hands, for any concertina?' sez I.

"'Ah, this is a magical concertina.  This concertina plays all by itself.  It needs no hands, just a guiding soul to give it the tune.  If you release me I'll tell you where it is.'

"Now, I'm no fool.  I made that leprechaun tell me where to find this magical instrument before I released me coils.  As soon as I did he disappeared.

"I followed his instructions and true enough there in the valley I found just what he had sent me after.  The case itself was amazing, airtight, water tight, indestructible, with brass hinges and clasps.  The interior was lined with the finest velvet and silks.

"Nestled in that case me befell on the most beautiful sight I could ever imagine.  The magical concertina was inlaid with gold and silver.  The buttons were gem stones and pearls.

"As beautiful as it was, and try as I might I could not get that instrument to play one single note, not a single chord.  After trying  everything I could think of, in frustration I sought out that leprechaun.

"I found him, back in that glen I had caught him before.  None the wiser, I caught him again, wrapped me coils round him and squeezed.

"'Ah Sean, how are you enjoying yer concertina?' sez he.

"'I'm not.  It won't play.'

"'Won't play?  Ach, where's me head?  If it weren't attached I'd lose it sure.  Of course it won't play.  You need to know the magic word.'

"'Magic word?  What is the magic word?  Tell me quick.'

"Now, I suspected that leprechaun meant to cheat me.  I taut he had kept that bit about the magic word from me on purpose all along, but I taut I was smarter and with me coils wrapped round his wee body I threatened to squeeze out the breath of life if he didn't tell me.

"He told me that there was only one man in the whole of the world who knew the magic word to make the concertina play, but he alas was no longer in Ireland.  The man with the magic word had immigrated to America, and if I wanted the magic word I would have to follow him there.

"Well, me friends I packed up all me belongin's and set off to find him.  I floated across the wide Atlantic Ocean on the watertight case.  I've been looking fer the man with the magic word ever since.  So, my friends you ask me why I'm not angry at Saint Patrick, the answer is simple.  St. Patrick didn't drive me out of Ireland.  I left on me own accordion."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pens, Polls and Goals

Energel and Piccadilly 
In my last poll I asked how you like your literature served, hot or cold, er no.  I asked, "How do you consume written material?":

  1. Dead Trees (paper)
  2. Magically (electronic devices)
  3. Other
Three responded with dead trees and one responded, "Other."  I have no idea what other they meant, perhaps smoke signals, carved in stone perhaps by a bird ala the Flintstones), or maybe fiery letters writ by the Hand of God.

Our next poll is along a similar vein:

What writing instrument do you prefer?

I ask this because I've recently become interested and in the possession of fountain pens.  It all began on a warm summer evening.  I had been selected to mentor in Tanzania through a charitable foundation at work called Abbott Fund.  I thought it would be prudent to bring an analog, non-electronic (there are analog electronic systems, don't forget) system to record thoughts and such.

I had tried to keep a journal when I was deployed to Afghanistan with disastrous results.  It was 2003 when we were alerted and back then flash drives did not come cheap.  I killed several, including the "huge" 500 MB one I was keeping my journal on.

I started researching notebooks and pens.  I ended up taking a Pentel Energel as my primary pen and a Piccadilly 5.5" x 8.5" notebook (see image above).  The Pentel was a great pen and I ran it out of ink.  I ended up with my backup, a Pilot G2.  I did not like that one as much.

As I was looking into pens I realized I wanted a quality pen.  I also wanted one that was nice to write with.  I started seeing that fountain pens are making something of a come back, and thought I wanted to try them when I got back.

Image courtesy of
I like the idea of fountain pens, like watches they are collectible little machines that, when high quality can last several lifetimes.  Unlike watches they can be a bit cheaper.  It's also more common for people to have more than one pen, while watches are less so.

Image courtesy of eBay
I have three fountain pens now. The first is a Pilot Varsity.  It's a disposable and possibly my favorite.  The second one I got I haven't used yet, because I didn't realize it didn't come with ink.  It's a Bauer.

Image courtesy of
The one I got for Christmas from Mrs. Prop is the most expensive and potentially the nicest.  It is a Lamy AL-Star.  I've been  having trouble with that one.  I'm either not writing with it correctly, I haven't loaded the ink properly, or it's broken somehow.

I'd like to review my writing goals.  This is my third consecutive Monday-ish posting.  Hooray for that.  I have not done any editing of Hidden Temple to the Lost Gods however.

I may have a valid reason though.  I have been working diligently on a "short" story called "Figurine in the Box."  It's a Lovecraftian cosmic horror story.  I started it last month and have shown some of it to some coworkers.  I feel obliged to finish it so I have not shown an unfinished piece that will never be completed.
Inspiration for my figurine

I put quotes around "short" because it has been expanding and threatening to become a novella.  This is mostly a function of the fact that I'm enjoying writing it.  It is close to 15,000 words right now and will probably end up just over 16,000.  This is before any pruning and editing though.

There is some value in this story though.  It is in the same genre as Hidden Temple so I'm in the right mood.  I've been writing it in a similar way as I wrote Hidden Temple.  I think I may have hit on a comfortable way to work the long form.  Finally,and second only to the fact that I must finish a story I shared with some one is, I think I have a market for it that will pay fairly well (as far as these things go).

I'm going to try to submit "Figurine in the Box" to Lovecraft eZine.  I will keep my dear readers abreast of how it goes.  Wish me luck.