Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Difference Between Myself and Other Writers

I have revived a novel I call A Kingdom of Children, a fantasy about the Children's Crusade of the Thirteenth Century, and I hope to work on it this winter.

An author named Evan H. Rhodes published a novel about the Children's Crusade, An Army of Children, in 1978.  How do I compare myself to this previous scribe and his work?

Him:  "In researching this book the author traveled the complete route indicated on the accompanying map; by ship, plane, boat, train, automobile, and some 571 miles on foot; only the small stretch of territory between Alexandria and Kantara was not covered.  The Israeli war department was extremely helpful in supplying the author with an armed escort and transportation from Jerusalem deep into the far western reaches of the occupied Sinai desert." (Author's note, 1978)

Me:  "I wonder if I'll be able to pay my rent in January?" "Do I have enough gas to get to work tomorrow?" "Don't I own one pair of pants without ragged cuffs?"

Eh, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer. :)

Monday, October 28, 2019

"Gate Duty"

Opposing events seem to hit me at the same time.  For instance, a good blogger ought to post something at least once a week, and I rarely come here even once a month.  So I decided to try to punch out something weekly.

Then I took on this job based in another city.  I severely underestimated how much time it takes to travel there and back; I'm lucky to get home three hours before I (ought to) go to bed.  So I have little time now to write.  Eh, I'll slog on anyway.

One of the main species inhabiting my fantasy world Aanuu is the gryphon, half-lion, half-eagle.  I incorporated most of my gryphonian short fiction in The Eyrie: A Book of Gryphons, which can be found on Amazon Kindle, along with Dragonfly Woman, a novel devoted to the bird-beasts (along with early female aviator Amelia Earhart).  I suppose it's time to write more gryphon stories.  Let's try for a beginning right here:

            Inkara of the Bear Clan paced the length of a high, arid cliff-top.  Her acquiline talons clicked against the beige-gray granite; she created a second clicking with tongue in beak.  It seemed criminal to waste a muscular Adolescents’ talents on Gate Duty.
            Gryphons of Clan Bear tended to stoutness of body and leg like their ursine totems, but Inkara more resembled the long, low panthers of the hot lands – particularly one in a cage, because she marched in the same precise fashion.
            All Folk knew of the Gates.  The Gates opened – somehow – onto other worlds entirely.  It was through such portals that the humans and One-Eyes had arrived in Sakria to begin with.  Thousands of years ago, however, a series of Catastrophes both natural and man-made swept over the land:  The Germination, the Rending of the Veils, the Fire and Flood, the Wars of Purity.  After those dangerous times the Gates no longer functioned properly.  Most had stood dormant for centuries. The gryphons, the humans and other species patrolled them more from habit than from worry.
            An utter waste of time, Inkara thought again.


There we go!  And I have the sneaking suspicion a Gate will open . . .

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Hands-On Writing

I spent a ridiculous amount of time preparing a poem for a poetry contest, filling out entry forms in long-hand (including a long author bio) legibly, hunting down large and small envelopes, finding various white labels and putting addresses on them (I think it makes the addresses more visible to the post office scanners against a manila envelope), looking for stamps (and don't forget one for the Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope), remembering that they use cheap glue nowadays so taping the labels on the envelopes and taping them shut . . .
It was fun! At least it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Hardly any magazine or publisher accepts snail mail anymore, so writing consists of sitting in front of the computer for hours, and preparing it to go out consists of sitting in front of the computer some more. And when I'm done I sit in front of the screen looking at FaceBook or watching YouTube. And my hoped-for future job will be mostly scanning things onto a computer and uploading things on a computer. No wonder I can't seem to get excited about writing a new book, no matter how great I think it will be. It means more endless hours sitting in front of the computer . . .
I need to make writing more physical. Since I printed 2 copies of my poem, the first thing I'll do is get a manila folder, and get a label, and write the title on the label, then stick it on the folder (then tape it on, &^%* cheap glue), then put the folder in the filing cabinet. Maybe I'll go back to my enthusiastic college years, when I drew maps, pictures of various monsters and characters, drawings of scenes from stories (they were gawdawful but inspiring). Anything to get things going!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Mead Notebook of Fantasy

Something I noticed about the way the fantasy world of "Aanuu" developed has itself developed into a rather quixotic task.  When I first entered the hallowed halls of Oklahoma State University, more specifically when I started wandering along the endless shelves of the Edmond Low Library, I began picking historical, legendary, mythological and fortean/paranormal tid-bits from its many books and journals that seemed almost predisposed to gather together in a milieu of strange lands, peoples and creatures.

I spent most of my spare time winnowing out stories of cryptozoological beasts like the Mokele-mbembe, the Chemosit, and the Agogwe, or mythical countries like Norumbega, Tolopan, and Hyperborea, and magical characters like Aristeas the Wanderer and the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Eventually I cobbled them together (more-or-less) to create the backdrop for what I hoped would be many novels and stories of fantasy.

How well I accomplished that remains to be seen, but I remembered something a few weeks ago:  I wrote down endless notes in longhand during my four years at OSU, on legends, fairy tales, mysterious disappearances of people and objects, new monsters to roam the land, story fragments, you name it.  Also, in all that time, all my notes went into a single, spiral-bound, college notebook.

The notebook was a Mead college-ruled, 9 1/2-by-6 inch, 5 subject notebook with two hundred sheets.  Unlike modern notebooks, it had a rather rough cardboard cover.  I bought a pack of three to start my freshman year.  One had a bright yellow cover, one bright red, and one a very dark blue.  The blue one contained my notes on the "Fantasy World Project."  As you might imagine, entries appeared as I came across interesting folklore or legends (or simply made something up), so there should have been no rhyme or reason to Aanuu's development.  Yet, in retrospect, there did seem to be a kind of progression . . .

Now the quixotic part:  I'm going to re-create the notebook.  Ideally, I'd use a Mead of the exact same kind I used in college -- and the same color.  They don't make those anymore, and I'm not sure they go up to 200 sheets now.  Biggest I've found are 180.  That original book of notes disappeared with most of my other college papers years ago.  But I still have its somewhat beat-up yellow package-mate.

The yellow book was mostly full of its own old notes -- but there were some blank pages, and I could say the same about various other Mead books -- and all the 9 1/2 x 6 ones used the same kind of spiral notepaper.  So I Frankenstein-ishly uncoiled the yellow book's spiral, gathered 200 blank pages in 5 sets of 40 (with dividers), and threaded them together.  Now I have a notebook identical to my old Fantasy World book.  It isn't the navy blue cover, but it literally possesses the cover of one of its sisters.

And now I'm trying to re-create the notes I wrote back in college.  I vaguely recall which books I came upon at OSU, and in what order (each one seemed to make a great impression on me).  I even remember when two different subjects would collide, seemingly pulled together by some outside magnetism (The Pied Piper, the Children's Crusade, and the Black death).  Heck, I may try to publish this facsimile notebook someday -- I think it will be almost 80% accurate.  Perhaps a curiosity, a study on how one author thought.

If nothing else, it's a fun romp down memory lane!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Hoarding an Author

Books, reading and writing are my life, so it's odd that I sometimes write about NOT reading.

When I was 12 or so, my introductions to science fiction were John Wyndham's novels "Day of the Triffids" and "The Kraken Wakes." I read them both every summer from then on. I collected pretty much every novel and story collection by Wyndham after that, and I read "The Chrysalids," "The Midwich Cuckoos" (aka "Village of the Damned"), "Chocky", etc. Then I came to a complete stop.

Why? I discussed this phenomenon with a pen-pal way back when people actually wrote letters to each other: finding a favorite author, collecting his/her books -- then stopping cold turkey. We determined that we were saving books for our old age. Yep, if we read everything by our favorite authors now, we would have nothing to look forward to, as if no one else was ever going to write an enjoyable book.

Well, now old age is bearing down on us, or me at least, so it's time to pull out our "saved" books like wine of ancient vintage. Cheers!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Imaginary Employment

My father said, when one is unemployed, one should still rise and shine early, dress nattily, shower, brush one's teeth, etc., and act like one is still working -- actually, he said that looking for work was your job under such circumstances.

Last Thursday I decided to try -- really try -- to pull this off.  I rose about three hours before I've been getting up.  I showered, shaved, brushed my teeth, FLOSSED my teeth, got dressed, left my apartment, stopped for a doughnut and ice tea -- then I went back to my apartment to my fake job. Yes, as an experiment I decided to act as if I were at a job in my apartment. I got quite a bit done -- applied for a real job, typed 500 words on my novel, read that article on the F-22 fighter, paid my bills, cleaned up my work tables, took those books to the consignment store, got the dishes out of the sink, found those references on quantum gravity (but not on the Palace of Nestor in ancient Mycenaea -- not in the "Archeology" file and not in "Gryphons") . . . wanted to take off my shoes, but you don't get to take your shoes off at work -- it's -- WORK!

In my case it was an experiment to cure procrastination, and I think it succeeded. But a lot of these self-help ideas work on the first day. Could I keep it up tomorrow and the next day?
Friday I followed the same schedule.  Up, dressed, out, got potato chips and chocolate bar, back to the apartment.  Applied for a job, looked for the Palace of Nestor Xeroxes again ("It flourished 1200 BC!  Where else would it be except the Archaeology file?").

Decided F22s are so expensive and tabs are kept on them so well, they couldn't just go off the map in my novel, so I read about the F15 instead.  Typed 500 words on my work-in-progress "Other Realms," finishing the bits on wormholes and Zero Point Energy.  Practiced Excel spreadsheets.  Washed laundry.  When's quitting time?  "Only two hours in?  This fake job is hard!"

On Saturday I could have declared it the weekend, but I didn't want to lose my momentum.  More job searching, more reading, more typing (both on my novel and my non-fiction book), cleaned out and cleaned up my new car to keep it snazzy.  I felt exhausted at some points, so I had to go "off the clock" to rest for a while in my armchair -- yet I ended up working an hour past "quitting time."  Maybe there's something to this fake work ethic!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Phantom Photographer

An occasional curious event noted by forteans is the appearance of Phantom Photographers, unknown people who apparently take pictures of people and/or their houses during a UFO or monster flap.  John Keel wrote of them in The Mothman Prophecies.

I once worked with people in charge of foreclosures at the Bank of Oklahoma.  Their files were full of photographs of houses from which the unfortunate residents were to be evicted.  I noticed that all the pictures had been taken on the move, so to speak, from inside automobiles.  Maybe some of these phantom photographers come from financial institutions.

A number of reports describe, not an obvious camera, but a burst of light as from a flashgun.  Jim Keith, in his book on MIBs, mentions a secret government “light weapon” meant to temporarily blind the enemy.  I suspect this concept eventually became the memory-erasing “flashy-thingy” from Will Smith’s Men in Black movies.

Anyway, I used to think of myself as the guy fortean/paranormal events avoided at all costs, but maybe I once ran into a phantom photographer.

Decades ago a used book store opened at 10th St. and Boston in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  It was the largest book store I've ever seen -- almost the largest store, period.  Walking through its irregularly placed walls was like wandering through the Carlsbad Caverns -- but all its walls were covered with books, stretching up beyond human reach.

I only visited it a few times.  I think it was open only a year before it was gutted by fire.  I walked past it not long after the fire; the shell of the building remained, but the interior was all charred shelves, timbers, and ashes.

Strangely enough, the floor was strewn with books that looked untouched by the flames.  Bibliomaniac that I am, I actually considered climbing in through the shattered picture window and seeing what was there.  I argued with myself that even if they weren't burnt, the volumes had to be sodden by fire hoses; there could be sharp nasty things under the rubble; maybe I'd even fall through the floor.  So I didn't enter.

Before I could walk away, however, a figure came picking its way through the blackened rubble from the depths of the store.  It proved to be a skinny young man, maybe in his mid-20s, with scraggly black hair and a black mustache and beard.  He wore (to the best of my memory) a pale tan shirt or pullover and blue jeans.  He climbed out the broken front window to the sidewalk.  He carried a camera of some sort that he kept turning over and over in his hands.

"Hi!" he said.  "Can I interest you in a camera?"

And he gave me this long spiel about what kind of camera it was and how good it was and how it was almost new (don't ask me what sort of camera; I long ago forgot).  And he only wanted $20.00 for it.

At one point in his turning and rolling the camera (he held it about stomach level), he paused and pointed the lens right at my face and snapped the button.  He apparently took my picture, and he gave a funny grin like he knew I knew.  Anyway, $20.00 was a lot to college student me, and I declined his offer.  The bearded man didn't press the matter and sauntered off down the sidewalk.

The first thing I thought of was the Phantom Photographers chapter of Mothman Prophecies, but I didn't really assign any significance to the encounter.  I assumed he was just a hustler trying to make a quick buck with a probably-stolen camera.  But it was weird seeing him clamber into view from way back in the lightless depths of the burned-out store.  Any why did he take my picture?