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"