Retro

DvorakLibTable1

I found this beast in what I would call a junk store in Northeast Bremerton just before Christmas. Aside from sawdust all over it and a lot of wear on the case, it was in excellent condition and the shop owner was thinking of stripping off the keys and selling them for craft materials, since the “weird” machine was unlikely to sell for a good price intact. I just couldn’t let that happen, so I bought it. Not super-cheap, but certainly a lot cheaper than if I’d bought if from someone who was more “into” typewriters. I took it straight to the local repair shop–known for their knowledge of vintage machines–and left it to be cleaned and made serviceable. Today I got it back.

DvorakLibTableKeyboard

I have named it “August” (or “Auggie”) in honor of Dr. Dvorak–who designed the keyboard arrangement. Auggie has pride of place on the vintage library table. We’ve determined that Auggie is a Royal Portable model (specifically an OT), built in early 1934, and shipped to the University of Washington. Dvorak keyboards weren’t a standardized item yet, since Dvorak’s patent was still in review (it was filed in 1932, but not granted until 1936). Paul, the technician and owner of Bremerton Office Machine Company, tells me that custom keyboards could be ordered at the Royal dealer’s offices by anyone, so long as they met a minimum order cost. A photo from the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle shows several of the older, heavier Standard “Model 10” Royal typewriters in use in Dr. Dvorak’s 1932 typing class at UW. I’m hoping to get in contact with MOHAI and the University’s archivists and see if I can discover more about Auggie’s past–not because it’s likely to be worth money, but because I’m a research hound and can’t resist a historical mystery.

DvorakBack

Auggie has an unexpectedly light touch, but a long stroke, so while I’m hitting the keys harder than they need, I don’t push them down far enough to get good contact on every keystroke. I don’t yet touch type Dvorak, so it may take a while to get up to speed on Auggie. I’m also trying to discover what makes the sub-type OT different from the parent model O, and I hope to find an owner’s manual for it as well. This isn’t a museum piece–the finish is imperfect, scratched here and there, foggy in some places, the keys are not enamel but metal with paper tags under protective glass disks, and the model wasn’t rare–except for the Dvorak layout–but it still makes me happy to have it lurking in the library.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Writing in 2015

The last quarter of 2014 and most of 2015 was heavy going for me: The Greywalker series came to a close; I was diagnosed with a tumor and had a lot of tests and surgery, then a long, slow recovery both in the hospital and out of it; assuming that would affect me less than it did, I committed to 5 short stories and a cooperative/chain novel as well as revision of a new novel; then I agreed to an additional short story and a novella.

While most of the stories haven’t yet been published, the chain novel and novella are both still in draft, and some other projects are still in the air, I met all of my original obligations plus a bit. And this is how 2015’s project word counts look now:

Novel: 150,000 words revised twice, plus some additional wrangling.

Short stories: 30,354 combined total words.

Chain story: approximately 3,700 (+1,300 words of notes and one more chapter to do between 3,500 and 5,000 words in 2016).

Novella: approximately 10,000 words (plus notes and 15,000 words or so to do in 2016–unless it decides to be a novel).

I have to finish up the last short story before the end of the year and I promised a certain meerkat that I’d get this novella done by the Ides of March, so I have to get back to work as soon as the Holiday Period is past. But, for the most part, I’m happy with the work I’ve done. Now I just need to get back up to speed on my health and fitness. Guess what I’ll be doing in the New Year….

Posted in Personal blither, writing stuff

Christmas Retread

I wish I could post part of the funniest Christmas things I ever wrote, but alas, I think it’s still under license. It was “The Werewolf Before Christmas” from the Wolfsbane and Mistletoe anthology put together by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner. And it started like this:

“‘Twas the night before Christmas – well, the late afternoon, in fact, but who could tell at the North Pole in the middle of winter – and Matthias the werewolf was knee-deep in reindeer guts. Really, it was the deer’s own fault for having that glowing red nose that had made it ever so easy to pick him out in the gloom.”

But since I can’t give you the rest, I’ll give you my second-favorite piece of Rudolph-abuse (yes I seem to have a “thing” for abusing Rudy and making venison jokes.) So here y’go:

Reindeer Games
[Originally posted: December 23, 2002 on a long-gone blog called Mullspace]

It was in a dark and dingy bar, far from the North Pole and obscured from the city’s self-knowledge by a veil of shame and hopelessness. I just came in to use the phone–honest.

I sidled in, keeping a hand on my bag, and leaned on the bar, trying to attract the bartender’s attention. The place was so dark that, at first, I didn’t realize the patron next to me was a deer. A reindeer, in fact. He had a large, red nose, which resembled a Christmas light-bulb. It wasn’t lit, but he sure was. He was knocking back what appeared to be his fifth or sixth glass of Old St. Nick–rot-gut whiskey I wouldn’t pour for a junkyard dog.

He looked at me and began to talk, which would have surprised me, if I could have been further surprised after seeing a large ruminant sitting on a bar stool in a low-life bar. Now, I’m not in the habit of listening to sob-stories in drinking establishments, but, as I tried to attract the bartender, the deer began to tell his tale. I sat myself down and listened as he rambled on. Here’s what he told me:

I see you’re lookin’ at my nose. Yeah, it’s big and red, and yeah, I’m a drunk, but that ain’t why it’s red. It’s the other way around, see? I’m a drunk ’cause of my nose. See, long ago I was a sleek, young buck with a nice, little, furry-flapped nose like every other reindeer. Surprises you, don’t it? Yep, I’m a reindeer. Used to run for the Big Guy–y’know: Santa Claus.

But let me tell you, it ain’t all fun and reindeer games up at the North Pole. No, siree-bob! Let me begin at the beginning. See, when I was just a young buck, Santa’s Elves came around to all the herds, recruiting. Had a bunch of nice flyers and it sounded real good. Easy hours, only one performance a year, educational benefits, room and board, health care and retirement benefits. Now, let me tell ya that when you’re wandering the frozen tundra, that sounds like easy street. So I signed up.

For a while, I was just a second-stringer. Hangin’ around, hoping for my big break. I used to talk to all of the other reindeer, trying to get pointers, but some of them where kind of stand-offish. Then, I got my chance: Charlie retired. Never heard of Charlie? Well, you’d have called him Rudolph. See, the team has positions for each name and when you take the job, well, you become the name. You didn’t really think they were the same deer, did you? Reindeer don’t live that long. It’s kind of like Ronald Mac Donald. So, y’know, everybody’s been replaced a time or two. And some of ’em–well, you wouldn’t believe what they’re really like.

Let me tell ya’, it’s rough up there; nothing but wall-to-wall guys, except for Vixen. You could have called her a lot worse than that. But, really, can you blame her? The only girl deer in a herd of eight guys? Not that she had anything to do with Prancer and Dancer, ’cause those two were getting along just fine together, if you know what I mean.

And the elves, man, let me tell you! What a bunch. They used to wear these little pointy-toed shoes until that movie came out. Y’know: Lord of the Rings? Then they all got uppity and started wearing long hair and soft-soled boots so you couldn’t hear ’em sneaking up on ya. Used to frighten the hay out of us, and then laugh like crazy. Nasty.

But, so, anyway, back to Charlie. See, when Charlie retired, Santa needed a new Rudolph and I wanted to make the first string so bad, I didn’t care about the surgery. It was all gonna be OK, right? I mean, the health care was gonna take care of it and I was gonna be Santa’s Number-One Deer. I was gonna be in gravy and I might even get into Vixen’s stall, if you catch my drift. Gravy: boy, there’s irony for ya.

So I get the surgery and everything’s going pretty good. Heck, I even went for the high-tech, laser-pointer nose option. Every year we get a nice card from Charlie from some exotic place like Madagascar, or whatever. “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.” Yeah….

Then, one year, things have been going OK, when I get sick. So I go to call in, but I can’t remember the back office number. So I call the main number. And what do I get? I get Santa’s phone tree! And what do I hear?

“To speak to Santa, press one; to speak to an elf, press two; to order venison products, please stay on the line….”

Venison products!

And suddenly it all falls into place for me. I mean, why didn’t I see it before? I mean, this is the frickin’ North Pole, fer cryin’ out loud! How does a guy running a business on his own manage to weigh three-hundred pounds in that kind of weather without a supermarket nearby? Let me tell you, it sure ain’t his wife’s cooking. That woman could burn water. He puts away a lot of milk and cookies every Christmas, but it sure ain’t enough to keep up that bulk all year. Hell, no!

But every year, somebody “retires.” Somebody like Charlie. I was walkin’ around in a dead guy’s nose! “Wish you were here….” Yeah, more like “wish you were a hero sandwich!”

I needed to get out, but I was too sick to crawl. It was two days to Christmas and I was in deep kimchee. I knew Santa’s dirty secret. And I knew I’d be the next Rudolph to “retire”. I lay low and tried to build up my strength….

But on Christmas Eve, the worst happened: there was a knock at the door and when I opened it, I could barely see Santa for the fog which had socked us in like poisoned cotton candy.

And y’know what he says to me? Yeah, I can see it in your face: you know. He says, “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

I know what I should have done. I know what the smart thing would have been, but I panicked. All I could see was that smiling, jolly old elf, fat and happy on roast leg of Charlie!

“Fuck you, Fat-Man!” I screamed and I ran for the back door!

I was out and across the field, into the woods and gone in five seconds flat. But I knew they’d be coming after me: the Elves! The elves with their silent boots and long streaming hair and bows!

Bows, I tell ya! I should have realized it earlier. They all had bows, just like that elf in Lord of the Rings–what’s his name? Leg-o-lamb? That’s how they got Charlie! Silently, in the night….

But, my nose was shining like a beacon, that treacherous, traitorous nose! The nose I thought was gonna make my fortune was leading my death right to me! So I ran for the nearest bar and in it I found Blitzen. And he was really Blitzed. I called him a sissy and he took a swing at me and he smacked me right in the kisser. He broke my nose and I thanked him, but the Elves were already on to the place and coming through the door, so I made with the flying trick and sailed on out of there.

With my broken nose, I couldn’t see in the fog, but neither could they and I managed to get away.

Eventually, I found a surgeon who was willing to fix my nose so it would never light up again, but it was never going to be a nice, furry reindeer nose again. I’d have to move south, where the air was warm enough to breath. I started moving, selling my services to petting zoos, then moving on, whenever the Elves started breathing down my neck.

And I’ve been moving on ever since.

I don’t know how much farther I can run, though. It’s been a long time. I’ve been from the North Pole to the South, been to Africa and South America and every little island you can think of, but they keep on coming: the Assassin-Elves. Some day, some day soon, my luck’s gonna run out. Then I’ll be just another string of venison sausage in Old St. Nick’s larder. But at least I’ll have told the world the truth about Santa’s little Sweat Shop. I’ll die a free deer.

….

And he tossed back the last of his drink and staggered unsteadily for the back door. He looked back just once and said, “Remember me. Remember Charlie.” Then he was gone with an eerie clatter of hooves as he ascended into a cloudy sky, running like… well, like a deer.

When I left the bar, a man came up to me. He was tall and thin and his long, silver-blond hair hung down his back like a shimmering curtain from under a dark fedora. He wore dark glasses and a long, black coat. He stopped me and flashed a picture.

“Ma’am, have you seen this deer?”

“No, sir,” I replied. “No deer around here. It’s still hunting season.”

He glared at me suspiciously, then turned away. I could see the bulge of his bow under his jacket.

I don’t know what became of that deer, or if he wasn’t just half-crazy with drink, but every time I think of that night in that bar I say a little prayer for him.

“Run, run, Rudolph.”

Posted in blatant self-promotion, holiday, shorts and excerpts

Bookday!

The ebook of Unbound is out today! Happy bookday to us, every one!

Posted in anthologies, Cool writerly people, other people's books

Submit! (but carefully)

Really, honestly, truly, if you are submitting fiction (or non-fiction) anywhere for any market, follow the submission guidelines as given on the publication’s, publisher’s, agent’s, or editor’s site, to the letter. Otherwise it becomes an excuse to throw your work away without reading it and why give anyone a free excuse? Submissions are flooded and everyone is looking for a way to cull the slush as quickly as possible. Don’t let your work be the garbage that’s easy to throw away. Force the slush readers to be creative about throwing your stuff out–they might discover that they like it if they have no excuse to toss it first. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but you’ll raise the odds in your favor if you don’t have to be that exception–especially on the days no one has time to make you the exception. It’s not hard to find the guidelines, and in this day of electronic submissions, it takes very little time to reformat a document or compile a different number of words to suit a requirement. Also, personalize your cover letters–proof that you did some research and took the extra step is worth it. This I give you for free, because as a former (and possibly future) editor, I appreciate this. As a workshop leader, I appreciate this. As an author I appreciate that my agent, editor, and publisher are my partners in making my work successful.

(Edit: Also, don’t submit something inappropriate or outside of the genre/submission call/etc. Your work will be 86ed faster than rotten fruit if you send something that doesn’t fit to begin with.)

Posted in Writers Hints and Tips, Writing, writing stuff

Anthology Updates

At this point, I have confirmation that 4 of my 5 short stories written this year will be in anthologies coming out in the next 12 months. Yay! I’ll give more specific information as I get it, but right now this is what’s coming up for me:

“Heart’s Desire” in UNBOUND, edited by Shawn Speakman, from Grim Oak Press, December 2015-February 2016 (delivery of final edition from the press is still in the air, but I’ll update as we find out, but the ARC is out now);

“Drafty” in UPSIDE DOWN, edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli, from Apex Book Company, “Fall/Winter 2015” (Kickstarter details to come);

“Spite House” (a Jo and Harper collaboration co-written with Catie Murphy) in URBAN ALLIES, edited by Joe Nassise, from Harper Voyager, July 26, 2016;

“Peacock in Hell” in SHADOWED SOULS, edited by Kerrie Lynn Hughes and Jim Butcher, from Ace/Roc November 1, 2016 (no link info yet).

One more short story I wrote this year may end up on the scrap heap through no one’s fault but mine, and I’m still working on one for another anthology that I was invited to recently. There’s also one more mosaic piece due to Christopher Golden for INDIGO. And sometime I need to decide which of the 10 novel projects I’m actually going to put my heart into and write with an eye to pestering publishers to pay me for it. (And Laura Anne Gilman may have bullied me into writing a novella about a certain annoying guy.)

And that’s the Publishing news from Katlandia!

Posted in anthologies, Cool writerly people, other people's books

Scribble Till Your Wrists Ache

Spent an hour or so today signing ARCs of the UNBOUND anthology along with Todd Lockwood and Shawn Speakman. They are SOOOOOO pretty.

Posted in anthologies, Cool writerly people, other people's books | 2 Comments

Unbound Closer

So, the un-themed anthology, Unbound, (coming from Grim Oak Press before the end of the year), is very nearly here and I’ve got the final cover and the first page of my own piece to show you. I hope you like them and I hope you’ll pre-order the book, since, well… it’s very good.
Unbound-final cover First page of my story for Unbound
(click on the images to see them full size–they are fantastic!)

Lovely work by Todd Lockwood on the cover and the interior art by his apprentice, Stacie Pitt. I won’t show you all the other interior art–it’s all wonderful–but if you poke about on Grim Oak’s order page (given above), you can find the list of authors and hunt down the rest of the first pages for yourself–like a treasure hunt!

Posted in anthologies, artists, Cool writerly people, other people's books, shorts and excerpts | 1 Comment

Darkness Behind My Eyes

Close your eyes, and you are afloat in a sea of eigengrau, amid a sargasso of phosphenes.

Let me explain (and see if I got this right.) Apparently, when you close your eyes, the “blackness” that you see is a color called “eigengrau” and the hexadecimal description is #16161D. But chances are good that you don’t see endless darkness behind your lids; sometimes you see flashes, stars, color-spots, and moving, evolving geometric patterns–“phosphenes.” It’s light, but it’s light emitted within your own eye. Your retina is always on, and when you close your eyes (or rub them), the neurotransmitters in your visual centers continue to fire, emitting “biophotons” that the visual cortex interprets just as it does other light, but this light isn’t exactly like the stimulation your eye receives in a well-lit room. Different atoms within the eye and optic nerve release slightly different photons and your visual cortex interprets these photons and patterns of emission in various ways: as flashes of color, pure light, or geometric patterns, depending on the nature of the biophoton.

My inner darkness is alight with strange fires.

Links about Phosphenes and Eigengrau:
http://scienceline.org/2014/12/why-do-we-see-colors-with-our-eyes-closed/
http://zidbits.com/2013/03/what-are-the-colors-you-see-when-you-shut-your-eyes/
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/eigengrau
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eigengrau

#weirdscience #writerbrain

Posted in Personal blither, weird science | 2 Comments

Dead Birds Tell Tall Tales

Yesterday there was a Hummingbird Incident here. Jack the labradork kept going to the sliding glass door and wanting to go out. So I would let him. He’d poke at the glass and the door mat and then want to come back in. After two repetitions I finally looked down to see what he was poking his nose and paw at and saw a male Anna’s hummingbird lying in the shallow space between the door mat and the door frame. For a moment I thought it was dead, then I noticed it was breathing–or palpitating, it’s hard to be sure which thing so agitated its breast: heart or lungs. So I went and got a box and put a towel in it so I could put the bird somewhere warm and dry.

backdoorfeeder

But when I went to pick it up it fluttered suddenly into the air.

Jack bit at it and grabbed the poor bird in his mouth.

I yelled at him to drop it.

He dropped it and the bird lay still next to the door, only a few inches from the opening. So I again tried to pick it up and put it in the box, assuming it was injured.

Once again, the bird suddenly leapt into rattling flight as I tried to lift it and, once again, Jack lunged at it.

I grabbed Jack’s collar with my free hand and lofted the bird upward, thinking it was still too injured to fly, but as soon as there was free air under it, the hummingbird zipped around and buzzed out the door and away into the trees.

That’s the second bird I’ve rescued from the dogs when it was playing “dead.” I wonder if they’ve left a birdie hobo-mark on my house that means “sucker here”?

fucshiafeeder

Posted in Personal blither

Opportunism is a Bitch

We have two hummingbird feeders. The flying menaces have only recently noticed the window-mounted one on the back door. Alas, so have the ants.

Mr. Kat initially decided not to use the “ant moat” that came with the window-mounted feeder on the assumption that the ants wouldn’t have any reason to find it in the first place. But, he was wrong. This morning, I saw a large scout ant noodling its way up the sliding glass doors until it came near the feeder. I nipped outside and flicked him off, hoping he would be too confused to tell his buddies back in Ant Central about the yumminess to be found on our back window. Then I installed the ant moat, just in case, and filled it with water.

An hour later I looked at the window and discovered three ants. They were stuck to the glass by a combination of dried sugar water and spider web. Apparently one of the local arachnids figured this was a great location for a franchise of Spiders R Us, but whether it was aiming for the “tourists” or hoping for larger game is uncertain. Either way, it looks like there will be Sweet Ant Glacé for dinner in Arachnidia tonight!

Posted in Personal blither

Coming Soon!

More Unbound information at Grim Oak Press. Now with finished cover design and complete ToC!
Unbound cover by Todd Lockwoodm for Grim Oak Press 2015

Posted in books, Cool writerly people, other people's books, shorts and excerpts, Stuff about the book(s)