Thursday, December 29, 2011

Illustrator Wanted

Just popping in for a moment here, before the family treks off on some mandated Togetherness Time. (Actual quote from my wife and I to kids: "We will have fun, it won't be boring, so put down the video games and get your shoes on!")

Rob Bowker correctly and kindly suggested that I need an illustrator for the vision I'm carrying around in my head for the cover of my honest-I'll-self-publish-any-day-now novel One Last Quest. Of course, I have no experience finding the same. How exactly does one find such talent these days? Craigslist posting? Comb through deviantArt? Hang out in Starbucks and Peet's and look for someone sketching? Does one even sketch any more, or is it all done with iPads these days?

If things get desperate, I can always hand the digitizing pen over to my nine-year-old daughter. At least she won't be riddled with self-doubt, and I can reimburse her in leftover Christmas cookies.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

See the Mighty List Before Us

  • Cards sent and cards received
  • Gifts bought and wrapped and hidden and shipped
  • Cookies to be made
  • Ingredients we need for more cookies
  • Wishes written in wobbly crayon to a certain Jolly Old Elf
'Tis the season for us compulsive list-makers for sure as we try to cram in all the final things before the end of the year. Most people do these as New Years Resolutions, but I resolved long ago to not "do" Resolutions. Here's my own personal to-do list, stuck on a yellow sticky note where I can't hide from it.
  • Pies
Just so you know that my priorities are straight. There are pies to make today, and over Thanksgiving I tried making my own crusts for the first time, after watching my mother and sister do this from scratch every year. It was time I took up the family tradition,  so this Christmas, all the crusts are from scratch. Or will be, once I stop screwing around on the Internet and make them.
  • Web Site
For reasons that seemed good at the time, I volunteered to be in charge of our local youth track team. This is funny for a number of reasons, not the least of which is I can't run. Of sure, if there's a disaster or if I'm in mortal peril or there's pie waiting for me at the end, I can get there under my own power, but it certainly won't be pretty. Luckily, this is not a coaching-type job, so I won't inflict my own lack of grace, form, and athleticism on children. Instead, I am merely coordinating adults who have all of those things. Part of the deal, though, is that I want to redo the web site, which is a pain to maintain in its current form, and will give me another outlet to show off my accumulated knowledge.
  • Garage
My wife and I already gave each other our big Christmas gift: a new back porch! Yes, it's just as romantic and festive as it sounds, but we wrote out the check to the builder yesterday, and now I'm looking at all the stuff that we shoved into the garage while they were doing their work. Now we have to decide what goes back, and what's clutter and gets tossed.

As a bonus project, my large tool chest has, over the years, gotten to the point where it holds a ton of junk that's not-tools. It's like a microcosm of our back porch. Time to empty it into large boxes, and then replace things worth keeping, and toss or sell or donate the rest.
  • Donate
The ultimate fate for much of the salvageable clutter. Once all the "special" gifts are out of hiding in the back of the car (shhh) it gets loaded up with the old dishes and outgrown clothes and hauled off to Goodwill. And hey, while I'm there, might as well look for some familiar cases...

The simple fact is: there's a large tree in the middle of my small house, and it's keeping a mighty pile of gifts under its boughs. Come tomorrow morning, we're going to need to find places for all those things.I believe they have reached some sort of gift critical-mass and are now producing new gifts entirely on their own. Saint Nicholas is going to have a devil of a time finding room tonight.
  • Read
I'm exchanging read-my-novel favors with a friend, and am overdue to go through his draft and give him feedback. I'm hip-deep in a Victorian-era Gothic horror novel, and there's three books on inter-library loan sitting on my nightstand that must go back by January 5th. I finally got myself onto Goodreads, too, though I have yet to post any reviews of anything. At the moment I've used the site as a place to dump what books I can remember reading.

Also, I think the NaNo draft has ripened: it's time to have a big glass of something fortifying and hops-based and go through it, or through one of the drafts that are stacked in boxes on my dresser.
  • Letters
So many letters I owe to the Typosphere! It's embarrassing. I have managed to send exactly one letter since September, I think. I need to set up a typing station somewhere in the house. Thank-you notes will need to be sent out in a week's time or so, too.
  • Publish
This has to happen. I've got beta-readers finishing up my own novel over the holiday, and I'm in need of an illustrator to try and realize the half-formed notion I've got for cover art. I finally got myself hooked up on Smashwords as well, as a bookend to the Goodreads membership. It would be nice to see this link go away: "You have not published any books — Publish a Book"

So that's the list. Ambitious? You betcha. But not, I think, unreasonable. I've been relaxing for a few days, letting the kids drive me crazy, but use list-makers can only idle for so long.

I hope your own holidays are fulfilling, in whatever form they take. And if you wind up on the wrong side of someone's "Naughty or Nice" list, I hope, at least, that you earned it.

Christmas 1970

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Doomsday in 2012?

Whereupon I strap on the sandwich board and declare:

The End is Nigh!

Say Goodbye

No, not that kind of doomsday, although if you work for one of the institutions represented above, it probably feels like it. Once-mighty Kodak is now suffering the indignity of seeing its stock trade for less than a dollar per share, with the ravening wolves of bankruptcy snarling just outside its doors. The U.S. Postal Service offered to delay closure of large parts of its infrastructure until the end May, but it's clear that volume has dropped well below its capacity, never to return. And the newspaper industry continues to consolidate, restructure, reduce, and combine in an attempt to remain relevant in a world where nearly everyone carries a fully-connected two-way computer in their pockets.

As a photographer in a line of photographers, I'm sad to see Kodak being steamrolled by history. The silver film can up there belonged to my late grandfather, an ad man by trade, decades before Don Draper and friends made it cool. (Grandpa worked on the Westinghouse campaign, and others I don't recall.) Losing Kodak is losing a part of that connection to the hours spent under the dim red safety lights in his basement darkroom, watching images magically appear on paper, surrounded by amber bottles of mysterious liquids and yellow packets of dry chemicals. At least Fuji still seems to be in the film business, and there is a manufacturing outfit in eastern Europe that is still making film, but the loss of Kodak is truly the passing of a great American success story.

As a retronaut and sporadic letter-writer, I'm sad to see the post office falling away, becoming a niche service that even people like me only mainly use once a year for sending Christmas cards and packages. Unless SOPA passes and drives us all back to pre-Internet times and technology -- and boy, is the Typosphere ready for that eventuality -- I see the end times for the good old USPS coming sooner than they'd like, and later than is practical. I'd better write some more letters and use up those stamps.

As a reader, the loss of the newspaper should hit me the hardest, but as I picked up our paper this morning in the driveway, half-soaked because it slipped out of its protective bag and into the rain, I realized that we're only getting it for two things these days: comics and coupons. I'd like to say I'm reading it for news, but everything there is a day old at least. "Local" news has all but disappeared in the wake of our own paper's many mergers: shown in the photo is the Business "section", which is a huge misnomer, as it is simply one page of newsprint, folded into half. Four pages, and the last page is taken up by a 3/4 sized advertisement. Our delivery person is an anonymous stranger that drives up and down the neighborhood at 5:45 am each day, after having driven thirty miles or so from his home for the privilege of peppering our suburban neighborhood with a bundle of advertisements insulating yesterday's news.

So where is the bold, beautiful tomorrow?

To be completely honest, I think it's in our hands. Literally. Mike Speegle is off making his writing dream happen by just doing it, publishing his own book, and damn those writing-program naysayers. Typosphere godmother Cheryl Lowry is working for a certain large seller-of-everything-under-the-sun, and leveraging her writing skills and 'net savvy into some sort of position that requires her to carry about numerous cool toys. Rob Bowker is sending hand-typed letters to any and all takers, bringing back the lost art and simple joy of a handmade message (and maybe introducing a new generation to the idea.)

And, oh yes, there's that little "Occupy" movement that the kids are so het up about. Whether you see this as citizen democracy or hippie rabble, it's the same thing -- individuals trying to jump in and do something, make a change, with their hands and voices and actions.

Dissolving old institutions, and trying on new ones. Smaller, localized, and independent. Kodak's demise doesn't come at the cost of photography, citizen journalism brings an immediacy and intimacy that the printed page cannot, and the mail? Unless it's a letter from a pen pal, 90% of what I get in my mailbox goes right into the recycling bin.

Maybe it's time to bring back the Pony Express? I bet my newspaper carrier would be up for it. I have a sandwich board here that says he's going to be out of a job soon.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


December 10th already? Egad, this month is flying by. Pie-baking and cookie-decorating ruled the day, and on Monday, the promise of meeting the Big Guy Himself. My daughters prepared their letters today before dinner: handwritten, of course. Does St. Nick even have an email address? And how do you know it's not an outsourced elf on the other end?

These are the kinds of things I worry about.

Christmas 1971

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wrap It Up

Nano Rhino Purple

Another November done and gone, another draft on the pile. The Typewriter Brigade was in rare form this year, with more purple winner's bars showing up than year's past. The Office of Letters and Light upgraded their servers this year and the forum software, and not only were there no meltdowns, but we also didn't get our topic split up into multiple chunks like years past. True to form, though, the typewriter people posted the most... and no, it wasn't all just me. We had new faces as well as veterans, plus proud members of the Typewriter Mafia (those without a functional typer) and cheerleaders a-plenty, as the humble Nano Rhino prodded one and all with a motivational horn to the sides. It was a magical time, and in those waning days, as my caffeine addiction reached its horrible peak, I realized that I look forward to November the same way my kids look forward to Christmas, with all the excitement of the good times to come, without fretting about the inevitable cleanup.

Ah, the cleanup. There's no avoiding that, is there? NaNoWriMo 2011 (a.k.a. The Ballad of Congo Willy) will go down in personal history as "the one where I just kept blathering on in circles in the middle of the book." I always try to do something new with each NaNo -- this year was letting go of some of my retentive planning process and just seeing what the characters would do in certain circumstances. And they did some strange, freaky stuff. They lied to each other. They got kicked out of the house. They waxed poetic about the slow pace of life on the byways of central Ohio. They rigged a revenge game of cowpie bingo.  I'm pretty sure they even died. None of this was planned this year: my index cards were essentially a TripTik across the U.S., with a few scenic spots highlighted (and in some cases, entirely bypassed.) So this year's New Thing was: "write from the hip."

Now comes the hard part. After the gifts are all unwrapped and piled up under the tree, and the kids are all banished to their rooms for going stir-crazy, I'll be plopped down on the sofa with a fountain pen in hand, sifting through... something. Maybe this year's draft, or maybe even last year's, which is still unread and in a box in my bedroom. Right now, I need to get a little mental distance from the writing, and think about which story is ready to be wrapped up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Headless Typewriter Found in Bottomless Garage

(Optional subtitle: "Hello/Goodbye")

Hermes 3000, c. 1968

Fresh on the heels of what I thought was an awesome score this summer, the universe seemed to decide that it had enough of my griping about the relative rarity of the Hermes brand in this part of the world, and aligned in such a way that three Hermes 3000's showed up on Craigslist within a week of the arrival of my own, including one in my very own neighborhood. Fortunately for my ego, they were all priced the same as what I'd paid (including shipping) so I could breathe easy. And then, inexplicably, one showed up again just last week, one that I remembered from the summer. At a Drastic Discount.

You already know how this story is going to end.

So, I was out on a Craigslist meet-and-greet yesterday, spending a very satisfactory conversation with the previous owner of the above-pictured machine, a slightly earlier model than the one I'd grabbed over the summer, and more critically to me, in the desirable pica type size. I've gotten to the point where I'm trying to be more restrictive about the machines I keep around, and have realized that I just prefer pica to elite. My other 3000 is an elite, this one is pica. Checking Ted's excellent NOMDA scans, I see that this is the Epoca typeface, which is a very handsome san-serif typeface, which is an added bonus. Perhaps after cleaning and a new ribbon it might even be suitable for OCR work.

The seller was the former academic dean at the local community college and something of a collector: his garage is packed with what he jokingly called "the museum," which featured a broad assortment of just plain stuff: vintage toy cars and a barber's chair with attached ash tray, turntables, movie projectors, brass hose nozzles, mobile phones from the late 80s, and everything neatly labeled and shelved, with still more stuff in the shed. Stuff that started to take over his house, until his wife gently-yet-firmly suggested that he move it out of the living room and into the garage. (Visions of me in about 20 years here...)

His son wrote the book on our town's local history -- literally, it's for sale all over town -- so we also discussed writing, and free-writing, and I (of course) brought up NaNoWriMo and the Typewriter Brigade. He had a lovely old Royal Quiet De Luxe on display that belonged to his father, and featured Norwegian keys added on later. That one was a keeper, he said, and I agreed: it had a special story, and he's got kids to pass that along to. The Hermes was a yard-sale find from a neighbor down the street, and he had no such attachment to it, though he did admit to getting an email flame from someone in the Los Angeles area who was mad that he was letting this machine go for so little, presumably devaluing the LA seller's own machines. And the seller was not ignorant, either: he'd affixed a sticker showing a sample of eBay prices to the machine. He simply knew that he was done with it, and didn't need it, and that it was time for it to move on.

The only downside to the entire transaction -- and it is a very slight one -- is that I'm lacking the lid to the case. The seller never had one, and perhaps it was lost or broken by the previous owner: who knows. So, I've already pestered a few of you about the possibility of locating a new lid, and thrown out a request on the TYPESWAP group for the same. That's still in the works. At the moment, this machine is sitting beneath the dust cover from the other 3000, the 3000 that's now a surplus machine, and might be ready to move on. And while I'm thinking about it, perhaps it's time for Moses to mosey along too, he of the elite typeface and the persnickety space bar. I think it's time to take a little inventory around here and round up the machines that are ready for new homes before my darling wife moves me into the garage, too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Through the Desert

Caution: Flying Rhinos

Another week of NaNoWriMo down. My head cold is a distant memory, except in the sinus passages of my best beloved, who curses my name when she tries to sleep at night. The strange backstory issues that plagued me last week have all but dissipated, not so much out of figuring them out but more out of my poor battered muse throwing up a white flag. "Aw, that's good enough," she says, trying to rearrange her robes into something Inspiring. "You'll sort it out in the edit." And she's right, of course. She always is. Plot B is going to require a lot of reworking, though, as I kept approaching the intertwined histories of these secondary characters from different angles. I certainly understand them better now than I did in those naive halcyon days of yore, way back in October when I was trying to sort my notecards into some semblance of logical order.

Oh, the notecards. Like the Plot B backstories, my dear Nano Rhino has pooped all over those as well. "Chaos from order" best describes my process this year, as whole sections airlifted out of harm's way of the rampaging Rhino, choosing to settle in later in the story once some of his steam was let off. And I have made the 50,000 word mark, so my Rhino pal was suddenly distracted by his new skyward motion, letting me move on with Plot A. Perhaps as an apology for the aimless wanderings of the last week, my poor battered Muse decided that my "go crazy in the desert" note card needed a Weirdness Infusion, stat. We've just come out of the desert, the protagonist, the narrator and I: a strange walkabout starring twin sisters on 4x4s, an unsettling insectarium run by a strangely prophetic old woman, and a diner in the desert with a peculiar clientele and a highly specific and memorable menu. None of these people or settings appeared in the cards, but they are turning out to be my favorite part of the story so far, injecting a heady dose of the mythic into what was becoming a rather mundane road-trip. For a story that started out as a shameless crib on Jason and the Argonauts, this diversion is a welcome one, and it gives me permission to let the rest of the story get its freaky on, too, so to speak.

So now the characters are nearly there, their destination is on the horizon, lit by the mighty beacon of the Luxor. That airlifted scene is primed and ready to go in its new home, and the end of my trip is in sight as well. Although I've reached the word goal, the count was inflated by my brain doing idle donuts in the middle of the plot. (Mmmm... idle plot donuts.) We're through the desert now, heading for the lush pastures that await, and the always-magical sensation of being able to type "THE END" on another draft. Keep looking skyward, fellow NaNo'ers, but watch out for surprises from the Rhino.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hiding Rhino

I crossed a major NaNoWriMo milestone today. I've only got around 10,000 words to go to make the 50,000 mark, which is around four days worth of concentrated writing. So why is this Rhino looking so peeved?


It's because I've jumped into my second plot (the backstory section of the book), and that's less clearly defined than the main journey of my protagonist and his friends. I started off the month with sketches of these second-story characters, but I did not know who they were, thinking at the time that they would be Mysterious and Secret.

The characters had other plans.

Peeved Rhino

They got all up in my face, yo this weekend, demanding that I spend some time figuring out who they were, where they came from, and what they were like. I learned all sorts of things -- one drove a laundry truck, the other fled North Korea. They are connected in a way that I did not expect, but which fits with the overall story perfectly (they knew this all along, I'm sure.) Both have exceptional gifts in their own way, though both are ultimately doomed. And maybe that's why they have been staring at me all weekend from the platen, demanding that I sort their sh*t out before I dispose of them. I've spun my wheels a lot these past four days, trying to figure out which of the many histories is truly theirs, and trying to see how they fit together into the bigger puzzle. They're getting their moment on the page before they are written off.

So, I've laid down a lot of words these past few days, but I know that many of them are destined for the axe. I'm still trying to get some traction on their stories, but right now am sliding all over the page. I'll settle it eventually, but I need to get back on track, because even though the word counter says I'm close to being done, I'm not. Right now, I'm just spinning my wheels.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teh Suck! Teh Suck!

Week Two Nano Rhino Suckage

It's the kickoff of week two on the NaNo calendar, when all those exuberant plans turn to suck. This is why you spend the first week building up a wordcount buffer, so Week Two can come by and consume it nom nom nom-style. I wrote a post on the Brigade topic about powering through this week. tl;dr version: just write anything, and count everything you write. And for the love of the Rhino, don't worry about what you've already written. There is no such thing as "continuity" in the first draft (or quality, or pacing) so if you're fretting about these things, stop right now, and write instead. Write about the fretting, even. I'm writing this on Saturday night, dosed up on cold medication and hot tea, on the cusp of the end of summer time and theoretically an extra hour of sleep (or writing. Let's not kid ourselves.) Plotwise, I'm about to step into that great unknown void in the middle of my story, where I know the characters need to get from point A to B, but I'm a little blurry on the specifics in between, and how some planned scenes fit into the schedule. The transitions will be rough and random, but I know I'll be able to smooth them out later, when I can breathe and look at the novel as a whole. That time is not now. Now it's time to embrace the suck, and move on, always on.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Keeping the Rhino Fed

Nano Rhino Werdz

Weekends are tough for me at NaNo time. There's usually a couple of kid-related activities to attend to, plus action-packed items on my honey-do list, like cleaning gutters and taking down the Halloween cobwebs from the porch. Unlike weekdays when I'm operating on a schedule, it's tough to get a distraction-free writing session completed. I'm still getting up early, which gives me an hour or so to get something down on paper, but my catch-up lunch sessions fall away until Monday. I honestly dread Thanksgiving break for this same reason.

Don't get me wrong: I love my kids and my family, and being busy and all. But November is the time to feed the Rhino, and I enjoy that, too. So, I'll squeeze in what writing I can this weekend, maybe bring out a pica machine to fool myself into writing more. Six pages per day is my goal, regardless of type size. Come Monday, though, I know there's going to be a hungry beast lurking on the keys, waiting for sustenance.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

...and begin!

November dreaming
Is it bad form to start writing with a 5am blast from an air horn? (Past experience says: yes.)

Good luck, fellow Wrimos. May your muse be cooperative and your rhino tamed. I'm going to take a typecasting/social networking hiatus for the duration, though I may slip in an UJTU* now and again. I'll post mini blurbs on The Twitter if anyone is so inclined to follow @mpclemens: 140 characters may all be I'm willing to spare for a while.

See you on the other side, Wrimos!

* Patented Little Flower Petals "Update Just To Update"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fingers at the ready...

Brigade Poster

One day left! Where's my character name file? Do I have enough paper? Who moved my ribbons? For heaven's sake, how does this book start?

Pre-flight jitters here. How's everybody else?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


20111027 pencast

Our scanner at work is black and white only, so here's a photo of my ad hoc test setup. The lines you can see on the paper are shining through from a lined pad I put underneath the sheet.
Bagasse paper stress-test

Ink feathering detail:
Bagasse paper feathering

Paper texture detail:
Bagasse paper texture detail

The paper is by Sugarmade, and is acid-free, 20#, 92 brightness.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Royal Rising

This is what morning looks like
The view from last November

Wheeled el Beast out of its summering spot last night and have it set up. I think I need to wind on a fresh ribbon and clean out the typeslugs, but it's pretty much ready. Now it's a matter of sorting through my notes to find out if I'm ready.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Company I Keep

I was having a little discussion with someone on The Twitter today, recommending (again!) Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird as a great resource for writers, would-be writers, and the easily frustrated of either type. The chapter on Shitty First Drafts (PDF) should be required reading, every single November. I know that whenever I pick up my copy of the book, I wind up going back and re-reading the whole thing from the start. Every year I get more out of it.

Anyhow, the Twitter chat made me realize that I don't think I've ever collected all the titles in one place, though I know I've discussed them before. So, here's the contents of my "sage writing advice" shelf.

People much smarter than I am

In photo order:
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
    To be honest, not my favorite of the bunch, but it comes praised by many. Perhaps you'll get more out of it than I did?
  • The Elements of Style, Strunk and White
    Because I can never remember how to do quotes. Also, because I am trying to become one with the philosophy of cutting surplus words, if not in this blog, then at least in my writing.
  • The Moon & I, Betsy Byars
    Hilarious, unless you are snake-averse. Then probably seriously creepy. Writing advice disguised as autobiographical stories.
  • Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Browne & King
    The book so nice I braved the vultures circling Borders books to get my own copy. Makes a good argument for putting the extra effort into revisions of your own work, and gives real-life examples. My post-NaNo Sherpa. I reviewed this one earlier, though you may also want to check out Bell's The Artful Edit and Lyon's Manuscript Makeover. I preferred the Browne & King book.
  • No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty
    The pre-NaNo Sherpa. I picked this up after my first year of NaNo. Certainly not the most serious book, but then NaNo isn't the most serious creative endeavor, either. Baty's novel aftercare advice about summarizing scenes on index cards inspired my current pre-noveling process.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss
    If your blood pressure ticks up a notch every time you see an abused apostrophe, read this. Funny for Type "A" personalities like yours truly. Obnoxious to everyone else, probably. Read immediately after (or in parallel with) Strunk & White.
  • Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
    Slightly hippy-trippy compared to the others in the stack, but her mantra -- keep your hand moving, always moving across the page -- is invaluable advice.
  • Steering the Craft, Ursula K. Le Guin
    Meant more as a workbook than a read-from-cover-to-cover work. Le Guin does get into discussions of taking criticism in a peer writing group, which is the only book I've found that does this. Type "A" people need all the advice we can get about accepting criticism gracefully and silently.
  • On Writing, Stephen King
    Also largely autobiographical, and King has led a colorful (and medicated) life. Solid advice, though, from someone who knows how to make popular, readable work. Also: a sample of before-and-after edited work.
  • Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
    Still among the very best in the pile, in my opinion, especially for writing-and-life advice. So many books that I've read were very dry, highbrow, academic books written by Serious Authors Crafting Serious Art. This is not those books, thank goodness. This is the one that gets me back in the NaNo frame of mind every year. After reading it, I'm excited about writing something terrible and bloated and meandering and occasionally surprising and subtle and wonderful.
Now obviously, one or more of these books simply won't do it for you. (Hopefully you are not also a planning-obsessed control freak, 'cause this here blog ain't big enough for the both of us...) If you're looking for some advice from smart people, though, you could do worse than this stack of paper.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nor-Cal Mini Type-In

Dedicated followers of the Typosphere know that for a while, I seemed to be the only California-based typecaster out there (or at least the only one willing to blog about it.) Cameron of Living in the Woods joined up this year, and when he said he'd be nearby, we arranged for the First Ever Type-In of the Northern California Branch of the Typosphere. We met today for lunch and typing, and some inspection of a couple of sick machines in Cameron's care: an Olympia SM3 with more than the usual amount of smooshed bushings, and a de-badged Olivetti with a loose top, letting me at last tell a fellow typecaster that he had a few screws loose.

My original meeting place of a coffee shop was passed up for the far larger table space in the adjoining courtyard: the same place where I filmed my one-man Typewriter Day celebration. Whether it was the sight of the mighty spread of machines (five between the two of us) or the the music of the typing as it echoed around the court, we talked with several passers-by about typewriters, the 'sphere, and this crazy thing of blogging on a typewriter and fielded many questions from an over-friendly security guard asking the worth of his old Underwood portable. Sigh. Note to graphic designers: we need to start passing out business cards with the Typosphere URL on it. Seriously.

As always, the live-typing seems incomplete compared to the amount of actual socializing we managed to squeeze into my lunch hour: Cameron did more typing than I did, as I got to look over the problem machines he brought along. I'm rather camera-shy, and didn't want to put Cameron on the spot by taking his picture, so you'll have to settle for my typecast and these photos, and imagine two dashing gentlemen typing away on a pleasant sunny day.

20111013 typecast Tippa Versus Baby Cameron brought a Tippa at my request, and it's a cool little machine. I have a real soft spot for travel-size typewriters, and this one is very full-featured and well built. A little skip-prone with a "soft" left margin, but a fine machine nonetheless. Plus, it came with the manual and a load of accessories, including a ruler with which I demonstrated the magic "Olympia elite" typeface (11 characters per inch.) Gossen means business German Precision Mystery Knob Touch control? I forgot to look this one up. But there's a clever "stencil" knob on the right-hand side. Both are features I haven't seen on a travel machine before. Shield your eyes! Love the plastic eraser shield that was in the case. Just outstanding. Love the Germans No space is wasted: a place to file everything. And leather! Not cheap vinyl. Importer The back of Cameron's sick SM3. I took this to check against my own machines, which are newer. Fallen Olivetti The other patient: a $5 Olivetti with a little rust and a loose top. Four screws will fix the top, cleaning is needed for the guts, and some Liquid Wrench or other penetrating oil is needed to loosen one of the spool nuts. It's just a Valentine, without the $200 plastic trash can attached. Noisemakers My view of the proceedings. Clockwise from lower left: Tippa, Skyriter, Baby, SM3, and Olivetti, hiding under the stack of lids. The Mighty Spread Cameron's view. Note the pile of smooshed bushings to the left of the Olympia. Kids! Always check your rubber. (ahem) Baby and Rhino, With Hands Even the Nano Rhino got into the act, coming out at the promise of a meal. Cameron's joining the Typewriter Brigade for his first ever NaNoWriMo this year. What about you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Just like clockwork, the website is up and running, this time sporting a new technology that may withstand the press of writers. I haven't noticed any major problems, though there's the usual assortment of new-platform bugs that the development team is shaking out. Of course there's a Typewriter Brigade topic for anyone considering joining up this year and using a typewriter to draft their work, even just for part of it. And the Brigade accepts all well-wishers and assorted hangers-on as needed. If you've done NaNo before, stop on by and say hello. If you haven't done it before, consider it! It's a lot of work and a lot of fun at the same time. You don't have to be an overplanner like me: the only secret I have to "winning" is to be regular. Write a little bit, every single day. If you can make that a habit for thirty days, even if you're not making the average word-count, you're a winner. If you can write a little on the days when you absolutely do not want to write, and your brain feels slushy and thick, then you've Won Everything. Simple as that.

Come join up.

The rest of this post is mostly reference for me, so I can document what I did this year to clean up my transcription. If it's helpful to you, hooray! But save a copy of your file before following any of this advice. The Word examples were untested at the time I wrote this, but I can refine it if there's interest.

I have already extolled the virtues of having your draft read aloud (see the last bullet point on this post) and I am seriously looking at voice transcription for this year's draft. What both of these miss, though, is subtle issues of punctuation and spacing. Good news, though: your word processor can help you out. These are the things that I get caught up on.
  • Double-spacing is out of fashion. This is bad news for those of us who originally learned to type on a typewriter, or who were taught by someone who learned that way. You may still double-space on the computer, but if you're posting on the Web (at least), that extra space is being absorbed anyway. Modern use appears to be leading us to single space ├╝ber alles, so in your word processor's box, type two spaces in the "Find" box, and a single space in the "Replace With" box (or whatever your program calls them.) Click "replace all" and then marvel at the number of excess spaces that have crept in. You may have to click this a couple times if you triple-spaced anything.
  • Indent with styles, not tabs. Another typewriter holdover. All your indents should be done automatically by the style set in your text. If you're still tabbing or spacing over to indent or center things, you're in for a world of grief. I tend to do those only after typecasting something and then moving over to the keyboard. I also lose where the apostrophe key is, but that's just my own mental shortcoming.
  • Underline is out, italics are in. Same reason as above, really. Underlining is what you do on a typewriter because you can't do italics. I mess this up all the time.
  • Passive voice. Your English teacher was right; this is bad stuff. Passive voice is the air my novel breathes in November.
Finding styles -- like finding underlines, when it should have been italics -- can be done right in the find/replace box. This article explains how it's done in Word. In LibreOffice, it's similar, except underlining is treated as a "Font Effect" and not a "Style" (The reasoning, I think, is that italics actually changes the font to an italic version, underlining enhances the existing font.) In LibreOffice, choose "Find/Replace > More Options > Format... > Font Effects" to get to the proper place.
Beyond that, my find/replace magic pixies are something called "regular expressions," which are clever little ways to write things that you can't normally type in a find/replace box. Here be dragons.

In OpenOffice/LibreOffice, there is an option in the Find/Replace box to use them. In Word, these are called "wildcards," and work in a similar way. For example, if I normally press the Tab key in the find box (like to find a tab), the cursor moves. To actually find a tab in my work in LibreOffice, I can use the magical regular expression:  \t

That's a "backslash-tee" for those reading aloud. In Word, the characters are slightly different: ^t ("carat-tee")

To look for a lowercase letter following a period -- which shouldn't ever happen -- I search for:

\. [a-z] (In LibreOffice: "backslash-dot-space-square bracket-a-dash-z")
 . [a-z] (In Word: the dot is not a wildcard character, "dot-space-square bracket-a-dash-z")

[a-z] means "match any letters from a to z" here, so you want search-and-replace to be case-sensitive. Otherwise, you'll get altered to every single end-of-sentence. Annoying.

I mess up dialog a lot: I can never remember on which side of the quote the punctuation goes (inside, for U.S. style.) Also, I've been known to put commas when I mean periods, or vice versa. So:

"[\.,:;?!] in LibreOffice, to find the juxtaposed quote/punctuation

"[.,:;^?!]  in Word

To look for commas at the end of dialog when there should have been a period... assuming that I capitalized correctly:

," [A-Z] in both LibreOffice and Word

To look for periods that should have been commas:

\." [a-z] in  LibreOffice
." [a-z]  in Word

Passive voice is a killer. I am particular fond of using the could (verb) construct instead of the more active form, as in "She could see the gorilla" instead of the far better "She saw the gorilla." So:

could [a-z]

Also, was (verb)ing shows up a lot in my writing. "She was running" versus "She ran." This is a strange one. It looks for "was", followed by a space, and a bunch of stuff that's not a space that ends in "ing" So:

was [^ ]+ing in LibreOffice
was ?@(ing)> in Word (I think: untested!)

These magic spells go a long way towards polishing out the really rough spots on a draft.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Speak and be heard

20111004 speechcast
Obviously, there are issues in the text. A few dropped words here and there, and "nano rhino" is an excellent malapropism. I would prefer numbers and ordinals to be spelled out ("2 daughters", "but 1st"). Frankly, I haven't even begun to plumb the depths of the documentation. This feels like it could be a configuration option somewhere. I'm also not sure how to introduce capitalization in the middle of a sentence, though the software is clever enough to pick up some proper nouns on its own: Google, and Elizabeth, and its own name.

Speaking of names, there was a question of how it would do with proper names, especially when dealing with character names. Elizabeth suggested using uncommon substitute words in the text ("rutabaga") and then running a find/replace operation afterwards. This isn't a bad idea. Just to test things, here's a list of baby names in the U.S., pulled from the Social Security Administration's web site:

Popularity Male name Dictated Different? Female name Dictated Different?
1 Jacob Jacob
Isabella Isabella
2 Ethan Ethan
Sophia Sophia
3 Michael Michael
Emma Emma
4 Jayden Jason Yes Olivia Olivia
5 William William
Ava Ava
6 Alexander Alexander
Emily Emily
7 Noah Noah
Abigail Abigail
8 Daniel Daniel
Madison Madison
9 Aiden Stephen Yes Chloe Chloe
10 Anthony Anthony
Mia Nina Yes

100 Brian Brian
Rachel Rachel
101 Bentley Bentley
Mya Maye Yes
102 Alejandro Alejandra Yes Rylee Riley Yes
103 Sean Sean
Katelyn Caitlin Yes
104 Nolan Nolan
Ellie Ellie
105 Riley Riley
Isabelle Isabel Yes
106 Kaden Kayden, Yes Vanessa Vanessa
107 Kyle L Yes Lilly Lily Yes
108 Micah Mica Yes London London
109 Vincent Vincent
Mary Mary
110 Antonio Antonia Yes Kennedy Kennedy

250 Corbin Corbin
Alondra A longer Yes
251 Simon Simon
Jazmin jazzman Yes
252 Clayton Clayton
Breanna Rihanna Yes
253 Myles Miles Yes Quinn Quinn
254 Xander Xander
Christina Christina
255 Dante Dante
Kyla Kyler Yes
256 Erik Eric Yes Adalyn paddling Yes
257 Rafael Rafael
Fiona Fiona
258 Martin Martin
Kaydence cadence Yes
259 Dominick Dominick
Allyson Alison Yes

In general, it did better than I expected, and may do better still with additional training on my part. Homophones will surely give the software fits, though. It claims to be context-aware, which may be why it did so well on these name lists. But unless you're planning on writing about a longer jazzman named Breanna Jazmin, search/replace should be your friend.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bannation For The Win

One month to NaNoWriMo, and I have had a brilliant idea. October first marks the end of this year's national Banned Books Week, a time to think about all the books that have been denounced due to theme or content or because they upset one group or another. The local library and bookstores always set up a big display of the titles. "READ A BANNED BOOK TODAY" they say.

Guys, this is a total win.

Having trouble thinking up ideas for your book this year? Totally aim to get on the banned list. With a little work on your part, you can be sure that somebody, somewhere, will be upset enough to make a big public stink about it. Maybe, if you're lucky, they'll even hold a bonfire. Bonfires make great TV.

Struggling with being literary? Having trouble being refined and classy? Pfft. Write something titillating or shocking or just plain depraved and wait for fame to come knocking.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting Smashed

We're not above the vast sums, I should say. Too many negatives, not enough mental capacity. Please read the following understanding that Mr. Speegle and I are greed-driven beings, all the way down the withered, charred stumps that used to be our souls. Raising children will do this to you.
20110923 typecast pt1 20110923 typecast pt2

Pretty much the most awesome typeface ever, on an Olympia SM3 from 1958 Olympia SM3 badge, c1958

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Publish or Perish?

20110915 typecast pt1 My god, it's full of books 20110915 typecast pt2
I'm not trying to imply that Mr. Speegle falls short of a "real writer" definition, by the way. I don't actually know what that definition includes.  Typed on the Remington Monarch 
Remington Monarch, c1963

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Train Trip

In the U.S., Labor Day weekend typically marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. My older kids have been doing school for a couple of weeks now, but the holiday gave us a chance to squeeze in one last hurrah. Our destination: "Gold Rush Days" in the historic section of Sacramento, our state capitol. We roused the kids early and headed off to the local train station to start our day.

Amtrak Station, Martinez CA

Doesn't everyone look excited? Well, no, but they should. Train travel is eminently civilized, as Adwoa routinely proves. Sadly, this entry will not have glamour shots of typewriters-in-the-wild as her posts do. It's about 7:30 AM in this photo, and the kids (not shown) are alternately sleepy/excited about the trip north. They've been up here before, but this was my first time.
Leaving Martinez

Boarded and heading out now, we're heading for the bridge near the middle of this photo, which spans a long eastward-reaching bay. If one were to put a boat in the water and paddle west, you'd eventually pass beneath the Golden Gate bridge. This is an industrial area, with oil refinery storage tanks visible on the hillside. This is a typical morning view, with the fog still coming in from the bay.

The Capital Corridor

Across the bridge and heading north now, and you can see what I like about living here. When we first moved, the brown hills of late summer looked dead to me, coming as I did from a very wet climate. Now it just looks normal to me, and green hillsides seem strange. We rarely see rain between April and October, so most of the summer the hills are golden like this. That's the fog rolling back along the top of the hills. We're "inland", which means we have temperatures about 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit above what's felt in San Francisco, just a few miles on the other side of these hills. Today promised to be a hot one: it did not disappoint.

Hot Air Balloons near Davis, CA

About half an hour more to the north now, and you can see that we're moving away from the hills. We passed some kind of hot-air balloon launch, just a handful of them, rising up in the morning air. That might have been my second choice of travel, if there were some way to do it on the ground. I've got a few pictures of Sacramento, but most feature my kids, which I don't like to post publicly, so you're going to have to settle for a few establishing shots, and more narration. Unlike most of Switzerland, there's simply not that much history in the U.S.: our oldest monuments and structures may date from the late 1700's at best, and in California, it's even younger. Most of the "olde timey" booths and actors were recreating the 1850s or later. So, quite a few tents selling modern takes on period fashion, like these hat pins:

Hat Pins

And most of the acting was of the Wild West variety, including a mock shootout:

Shootout on K Street

Not shown: the small Women's Suffrage demonstration that wound through the crowd just before this show, which mortified my teenage son. He kept us safely out of embarrassment’s way on the opposite sidewalk. In the spirit of recreation, the streets are covered in dirt, and with all the horses and horse-drawn equipment making laps around the city, a number of other "natural" products as well.

Send in the Cavalry

By this point, it was early afternoon, and getting hot. These guys had the right idea, waiting it out in the shade. We headed in for lunch and air conditioning, and planned out the rest of the day. Tragically, we seemed to have missed "The California Fire Brigade Rescues the Burning Brothel" show. Another opportunity to mortify my son wasted, though we did manage to rattle him quite a bit when we explained what a brothel was. Loudly.

Red Circle Dancers

After lunch, we took in the Red Circle Dancers, and by "take in" I mean "accidentally happened across." My wife and I insisted on forcing the kids to get educated, dammit, so we stayed and watched. This show, plus the Buffalo Solidier tent shows that Gold Rush Days depict a Kindler, Gentler, More Equitable Wild West. By now, the kids were in Full Grumble Mode: it was hot, and the crowds were picking up. Conveniently, there are a number of museums right in this section of Sacramento, and they all offer free admission during this weekend, so we circled the troops and headed off for the nearest one, passing a few costumed ladies from the brothel show en route, giving my wife and I the chance to point them out. Loudly.

Printing Presses, Linotype

Naturally, the insides of the museums are generally far too dark for photography, at least with the small lens and sensor on my digital camera, but I did manage one retro-typographical shot, near the historic presses and Linotype machine in the area sponsored by the local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee. Of course I had to see it up close, and for a small donation, had a old-timey Western WANTED posted made up for my daughter. I explained the whole process as they ran the paper through as only an obsessive can, and the volunteer working the press offered me a job. I might have to go back...

Being the contrarians that we are, our family went through this museum backwards, starting with California's role in modern agriculture, and then rewinding through the two world wars, early settlement, and the gold rush that made this area famous. A few typewriter spottings, including a Pittsburgh and a Sholes in a very dark cabinet (sigh), and a three-bank "Noiseless" set up on a display. No pictures, alas, but they're there. Our youngest -- age three -- had taken charge by this point, and was pulling us past the displays in search of Something Less Boring (bad news, kid!) so we left the county history museum and headed next door to the train museum.

Now, I am not -- mercifully -- a Train Nut, and aside from an HO scale layout I had as a kid, I've never seen the draw of trains. There's a small section devoted to train-related toys, a display celebrating the completion of the trans-continental railroad, and several restored engines and cars inside. But the high point of the trip -- as my kids promised -- was a walk through a restored Pullman passenger car and matching dining car. The Pullman is rigged up so that it has a slight rocking motion, and plays a loop of sounds and lights through the windows simulating a nighttime ride. I had to go through twice. Ah, so very, very elegant. I'd ride one of those in an instant, even with the teeny-tiny berths. I'd like my time machine now, please, and a cross-country ticket. (Also spotted: a Royal QDL inside the glassed-off luxury compartment.) Sadly, I had to sacrifice a third trip through in the name of ice cream -- I'd planned on hiding in a berth and just taking a nap -- so we left the museum behind and headed out in search of a final treat. Typically, we happened along another crowd, this time around a demonstration of a period cannon.

Fire in the hole!
It looks innocent in the photo, just there in the middle of the lawn, but was enough to give a massive chest-pounding THUMP when fired. You can see there's quite a crowd now, and still more as we fought our way down for ice cream. A bit of a line greeted us at Sacramento Sweets, but the air inside was cool and diabolically (or diabetically) sweet-smelling. We all came out with ice creams bigger than our heads, and polished them off in short order.

The last stop of the day was the military museum, by request of my son: one can only take so much gingham and calico and brothel-talk. I was less awed by the displays of superior firepower and more by the ice-cold water available in the downstairs fountain. High temperatures for the day were expected to be in the upper 90s, and we met and exceeded expectations. After admiring all the forms of lethality on display, it was time to gather up the kids and trundle back to the train station for the return journey. As we clacked along in big aluminum and steel tube, I have to admit that my mind was still back in Sacramento, sitting in a private berth behind that QDL, rocking gently side to side as a night many generations gone slipped by outside the window.