Monday, November 26, 2012


One month later, and it's done.

November Growth

Overseen by the trusty Nano Rhino, my 2012 draft is in the bag. Or more correctly, in the box, where it will percolate for another month or so until Christmas vacation when I'll dig it all out with the obligatory pen and Refreshing Seasonal Beverage and start tearing it all up again. This Nano turned out to jump the rails a lot faster and more dramatically than drafts of years past: I diverged from my insane pre-planned outline mid-month, only to finally loop back in the final day or two of writing. Some characters never made their appointment with the story, others stepped forward to take their place. There were digressions, and wanderings, and ramblings, and many, many expository speeches. And I only remember snatches of it, since I was up at 5-ungodly-o-clock for almost the whole month to sneak in 3-4 pages before my day got started.

All the typewriter auditions turned out to be mostly for naught, since I didn't want to tinker with the magic of Online OCR being able to successfully turn my typescript into digital text. I'm still assembling the final document, melding my typed pages together with those I wound up typing on the Alphasmart over vacation, usually while visiting with the neighbor's cats. The final work was mostly done on the Royal KMG Beast, and an Olympia SM9 and SM3, all of which have boring Roman-style typefaces. (All the better to scan with, I hoped.)

For those still grappling with your Rhinos: hang in there! Put your head down and charge, right through to the end, even if it's not the end that you anticipated.

Now I need to play catch-up on all the happenings from the past month or so and breathe a little air again, because soon enough I'll sit down to see how those original ideas grew.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


It's Thanksgiving Day today in the U.S., a national holiday dedicated to the legend of a shared meal between the early European colonists and the Native Americans who encountered them. Of course, time and selective memory have softened the truth of that first harvest season into something that's suitable for elementary school re-enactments, where the class is divided roughly into Indians and Pilgrims, and perform a make-believe feast of construction-paper food for parents and family. At least, it was recognized as such in one of my early schools. We moved to another state when I was still fairly young, one that had a deer-hunting season, so the fourth Thursday of November became less focused around making hand-print turkeys and more about the making unique fashion statement of blaze orange hunter's caps with camouflaged coveralls. Thanksgiving became an also-ran to Deer Day.

Now I'm older and more ornery, and bristling visibly at "Black Friday" sales now being superseded by stores opening on Thanksgiving day. Christmas decor is already in all the shops: it's been in place since the first of the month. I still champion the day, though, not just because of its focus on sharing a really big, home-cooked meal concluding with pie* -- well, that is a large part of the appeal -- but because it's a last day of quiet before the rush to the end of the year. This year, the calendar has aligned such that Thanksgiving is the earliest it can possibly be -- November 22. This means we effectively get an extra week to heed to the drumbeat of Christmas mania. You can imagine how I feel about that.

That drumbeat, however, is over 24 hours away. I'm writing this Wednesday evening, and I hope to be offline much of tomorrow. Tomorrow, I get up early as I have every day this month, sit at the keys and try to wring a few more pages of my novel out of my brain, and listen for the sound of my youngest sneaking into the room with the dog diligently behind her. We'll make pumpkin pie, and apple pie, and a raisin pie, and make too much noise as we mix and pour and bake and clean, and then do it all again. The Nice Dishes will come out of the cupboard, we'll wipe off the wine glasses and shake out the good napkins and prop up the hand-print turkeys my daughters make** as they wait and wait and wait for the meal to be readied, as too many people try to do too many things in our too-small kitchen. We'll sit down at last, hungry and tired and ready to eat, and then go around the table as we always do, saying what we're thankful for.***

I'm thankful for many things: things I'll share at the table, things I'll keep private in my heart.

Thanks to all of you for putting up with Rhinos and novels and all the self-indulgence that comes from keeping a blog. Thanks for being part of the Brigade, be it as a participant, or part of the cheering section, or one of the sane people watching politely from the sidelines. Thanks for being one of the nicest groups of people on the Internet, hands down. Thanks for all your scholarship, for your photo essays, for flea markets and for sharing your hobbies.

Thanks for another year, everyone. Can I get you another slice of pie?

* If it's done right, that is. Some traditions should never be lost, and the post-Thanksgiving pie coma is one of them.

** Hand-print turkeys are another tradition not to be trifled with.

*** Highly corny. You're allowed to do this. It's Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dark Horse the Second: the Neo Nano Rhino

As much as I tease AlphaSmart users at this time of year

Brigade Poster

...I appreciate the combination the pure functionality, durability, and simplicity of the AlphaSmart. This summer I traded in my old Pro model (c. 1987) for the latest, a Neo2, which brings with it the added advantages of on-board USB, two-way file transfers, proportional and scalable fonts, and keys that don't require ball-peen force to trigger. I've used it on and off, and plan to make it my main revision machine for 2012's ever-growing opus.

Today, it got pressed into service as a drafting device, too.

Neo Rhino

My wife came down with a sudden bout of stomach something-or-other this morning, and since our younger kids are home-schooled, she had to put in for a last-second substitute teacher, which is... me. The Neo has been hopping room to room with me today (sans Rhino), picking up some words whenever the kids sit down to get a lesson done. It's infinitely more portable than all but the slimmest travel typewriters, without all the distracting pecking and bell-ringing that would pull my darlings off-task.

The only downside is that it's so damned easy to count words with a simple keystroke, so I'm trying to not obsessively to that every. Single. Line. (Trying and failing, obviously.) Today's wordcount is going to falter a bit -- yes, Duffy, I hear your snorts of derision, settle down -- but hopefully my Brigadier Cred will remain intact.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Auditions: A Dark Horse to the Rescue

Due to the fact that my typing station is set up in our family room, my Nanowrimo typing time is limited to those few hours when people aren't trying to watch TV, or have a conversation, or basically do anything over the unholy din of me at the Beast: the Royal KMG tucked in its November writing spot behind the sofa.

This is what morning looks like

Such a situation arrived yesterday. My youngest was staying in, recovering from one of those spontaneous fevers that children seem to develop. Using the Beast is out of the question when a kid's in the room, much less a sick kid propped up on pillows watching her way through our DVD collection. And all my auditioned machines are at my office. Drat!

I could have grabbed any of the spares here at home, but since I discovered how well OnlineOCR works for me this year, I'm hesitant to use a machine with irregular type, as many of them do. And of course, being a sort-of collector means that you get to play favorites.

This is when I remembered Gomez, my same-era SM3, who was tucked away on the floor of the coat closet.

Typing pad project: the raw materials

I grabbed an old cafeteria tray we have at home, Gomez, and paper, and headed off into the bedroom to work. An emergency type-cleaning with some alcohol and an old toothbrush was all it needed to get the slugs shining. Gomez types at the odd-sized 11 cpi size (picalite?) so every page from that machine is like one and a half from the Beast, and over the course of the day, I ducked in to try to knock out a page when I wasn't swapping DVDs or getting beverage refills.

Gomez was a well-loved machine before I got him from Freecycle. I'd forgotten about the stray marker scribbles on his side and the mysterious sticky something (gum, I hope) on the front corner of his frame. The ribbon cover paint is worn away from being scraped by the return lever, and he desperately needed the gasket-replacement repair.

His looks may not be much, but oh! I am a stalwart lover of these Teutonic marvels. Gomez rescued the day's writing... though not the plot. Nothing in my collection can manage that.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Off the Rails

Just like clockwork, the Rhino has laid waste to my carefully-laid plans. He's claiming no responsibility for it, of course.

I Deny Everything

As I've said countless times, the reasons I devote all the prep time to NaNoWriMo are because:

  1. Control freak
  2. I tend to go blank at the keys, especially during my main writing session first thing in the morning
So, I plot and I plan and I make index cards and stack and sort them. Everything's all laid out, nice and neat, all I have to do is write the day's notes.

Every year at this time, though, the Rhino and my Muse conspire against me, and have me tossing out -- OK, setting aside -- my notes right when I need them the most, here in the clutch.

It's Week Two. That's right: it's Suck Week.

Week Two Nano Rhino Suckage

I always like to think that my outline will insulate me from the suckage that follows so closely after the giddy start, but it doesn't, not by a long shot. My characters are now running around, not following The Almighty Plan, uncovering interesting details and asides that I knew nothing about. They're throwing parties, and scheming, and lying, and telling fables, and all sorts of things that were totally unanticipated, and dammit, they will not be denied. And this in a sequel, too. You'd think they would have learned how to behave the first time around.

So, me and the Muse are at something of a creative stalemate right now, thanks to the Rhino prodding the old girl. Obviously, the Plan I've so assiduously laid out isn't happening, or at least not in the order I expected. I'm wheel-spinning to keep to make my self-imposed word goal of 65-70K. At the same time I'm gazing at the plot horizon, looking for a way to get back on track, even if that means ending the journey somewhere other than where I started.

Curse you, Rhino! Curse your derailing ways!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Five Days In

NaNoWriMo proceeding normally, at least as "normal" as the Typewriter Brigade gets

For example:

NaNoWriMo Pantsers?


Rhino Rasta

which are ways that I spent time prior to the kickoff.

Thank goodness November started at last and I can cram all that strange energy into writing, instead. This year's novel is a sequel to my novel from 2009, and the very best thing that's happened so far is my first-hand experience using to turn my typescript into text. The difference between this and my own small incursions into optical character recognition is amazing. I actually have a text file for each of my typed pages this year, and am using "real" word counts instead of some estimating formula/spreadsheet combination.

Better still, I can work from the actual text instead of taking months and months to transcribe my draft, so it's really the best of both words. Digital copy for editing, paper copy for backup and scribbling upon. Five days in, and I'm happier than a rhino doing happy-rhino things.

Despite all my planning, I'm surprised by the actions of my characters, their backstories that are spun out on-the-fly, and by all the little details that crop up as I go. This happens every year. I tried to give myself some gap time, though, so I can afford to spend a session or two writing up things that I didn't expect.

Also true to form: character names. I am unable to come up with decent ones on the fly without a lot of pained staring at the wall first. And then I'm unable to recall the name later, so I wind up putting the role of the character in place instead -- "thief #1", "matron", "farmer #3", etc.. My entire novel looks like it's populated with the supporting cast of a much larger, more interesting book. I've been filing spam messages from interesting-sounding (fake) people in a special folder for a year now. I need to print this out as a cheat sheet, I guess.

Finally, the Brigade is nuts this year. We normally take over the "Nano Technology" forums anyhow, but this year, we're skirting close to having 600 posts in the thread (!) and we're not even a week into things. New people are dropping in all the time. It's a pretty amazing thing. Maybe we'll get a little Typosphere bump along the way?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

November dreaming

Off you go, Brigadiers. May your fingers fly, your imaginations soar, your muses be generous. Tame the Rhino!