Done (not really)!

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

Yes! I made 52000-plus words. Iʼm done (not really). The reason there hasnʼt been a post for months is in the past now.

NaNoWriMo 2013 — won.

Morte Saison isnʼt half finished at this point — really just a lot of (nearly random) scenes and sections, not even tied together, and certainly not complete. Thereʼs a ton of work ahead. But this year (even more than last, which topped the utter crap I churned out in 2011), I feel like I have gotten quite a lot accomplished. I am even looking forward to more writing and lots of editing and revising ahead.

Right now, it feels wonderful not to worry about getting in hours of writing time for a day or two (and definitely catch up on unfinished and unwritten letters and blog posts — hey, I still have an entire vacation to write about).

Anyway, year four complete. Iʼll add the little winner icon to the sidebar soon…

(Even better, we have our Christmas tree up and decorated — and all the lights have lit!)

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

The Tourist Imprisoned

Recently, The Lovely One and I returned from vacationing overseas. The transatlantic experience spawned the latest installment of The Tourist’s mayhem…

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Lies, ladies and gentlemen, all lies

Every time I have to do it, I hate flying more than I had before. The airlines seem locked in a death struggle to determine which brand can devise the final sadistic imposition on passengers that will at last prevent anyone from ever flying steerage again. Or simply never flying.

That imminent day resounds with sadness, but corporate profiteering edges the dire knell of the skyfaring businesses nearer with each deliberately overcrowded, crammed and undernourished flight.

Recently, domestically, I furtively smuggled a seamstress’s cloth measuring tape in my pocket — dutifully removed to pass microwave fullbody scansion, along with keys, change, watch, personal detritus and pocket lint — and used a minute portion of its length to measure my allotted confinement space: 21 inches from backseat ahead to head rest (less by nearly six when the careless cad ahead dismally and pointlessly reclined his so-called “backrest” eight minutes into our heavenly ascent), almost 9 inches from seatback ahead to front edge of my euphemistic seat “cushion” (less with egophilic jerk’s reclination, but only by an inch — sufficient to make the safety drill’s assurance of a flotation device beneath my economy seat merely a taunt, at best a contortionist’s impossible dream; from armrest to armrest a minuscule 16 and 3/4, possibly of suitable proportions when I was in my (early) roaring twenties but no longer (and my own somewhat bulging belly added its own girth to that measurement), and my corpulent seatmate oozed her bulk intrusively well into my euphemistic “space” and sweating flesh throughout, the decisively lowered armrest proving no barrier to unwanted intimacy whatsoever. Although officially in sitting position, my space, especially once the overhead lighting quenched to keep us docile, put me in mind of tyrants’ notorious “standing cells,” my movements restricted nearly to nil.

Therefore, I devised the demise of the purser who refused my request for any available liberation, who even declined to disturb the selfimportant fore-ass’s pseudoreclining position as it was after all, “resting period.” Well, I put a period to that. And while we were straightjacketed in the air as well.

That’s the start of that. More on the trip (the actual vacation) ahead, friends and family…

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Trying to Dictate (a little bit of a finished story)

This is not much of a post, but I was actually almost hard at work earlier, attempting to defy the continual and continuing issues created by Mountain Lion and the app that forced me last October to “upgrade” my system, Dragon Dictate (version 3). After I experienced one crash/forced hard restart mid-morning, I tried some dictation about 11:00 AM…

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Test. I started to dictate “Taking the Plunge” about a half an hour ago. I got the first two or three sentences done, but when I proceeded to orate into the Dictate window the remainder of the first paragraph, suddenly we were in spinning beach ball territory! Endlessly. I finally forced the computer to shut down and restarted.

Naturally, this time Spotlight began to run even before everything in the Menubar had loaded. (I just checked, and it is still grinding away. As always. Endlessly.) QuicKeys at first would not finish not loading so I force-quit it, and on the second try the (essential, for me) program did eventually load. So I moved on to try Dictate.

At first, as it did before the computer restart, Nuanceʼs program jumped straight to the Dictate text window (I am not sure if I feel altogether happy that it did retain the sentences I had uttered before the beach ball and forced quit), but this time it also tried to open the Load Profile window (which is supposed to be the first step when the program launches), and when I clicked on the JRB profile, we just got beach ball. Again? However, this time around, I was able to get Force Quit to force quit Dictate (the previous problem had been that intervention did not work, and so I had to physically forcibly shutdown the computer). I tried again. And after some stalling and closing the still-remembered Dictate window from before the crash, here we are with me successfully dictating (directly into MacJournal). Hurrah!

“Taking the Plunge” is a Tourist story, the second one completed. The first (and a segment from that story is one of the oldest posts on the blog) was set in London. “Plunge” takes place in San Francisco, written in the fall of 2009 in the first flush of freedom and getting “Underground” completed and typed (and unsuccessfully off for publication). Hereʼs how it starts:

Taking the Plunge

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

San Francisco sunlight, a surreal gift of certain bliss after days of fog and rain. The sun came out my fourth day in the city, my vacation having reinvigorated the old Mark Twain observation, “The coldest winter I ever endured was one summer in San Francisco.” My early experience this trip had been wet, cold and dismal.

The worst day had been Sunday, my second, when I had determined to take a ferry across to Sausalito, an excursion Marsha Kay and I had only contemplated when we were on the bay many years ago. Weʼd gone on a local tour (Dolphin Tours) to the wine country and Muir Woods, and the van in which we and five other couples were loaded had dumped us all on the highway through Sausalito to fend for ourselves for lunch. That had been one sunsparkled, bay-brilliant day — so thoroughly unlike my chillingly dismal return — and we both had discussed the pure California loveliness over lunch in a fish house on the water whose name fled from me in the hectic years since.

But I treasured the sensual bliss of my memories — yellowbright, windscoured and catarchingly warm — through the too-many midwestern winters we shared and then I suffered in weary lonesomeness since. Shoveling through eight inches of heartbreaking snow for myself alone in bitter predawn dark just to be able to get a car to struggle, swerve and skate over icy, scarcely cleared roads to work — among others only those fragments of solarkissed bliss on a July afternoon in Sausalito.

But the bleak reality of this return chilled me more thoroughly than any black midwestern morning, that well layered for the subzero darkness, I had endured in patient expectation of renewing the California sun. So I had suffered disillusionment those first days — dark, cold, drizzling — unimaginably worse weather than back at home, until that fourth morning frothed with solar effervescence in my uncurtained hotel windows, alluring me before 7:00 to awakened alertness, anticipating at last the day to come.

Showering I relived the bay crossing less than forty-eight hours previous. Icy drizzle from the moment I awoke — not quite so early on Sunday, not as early as I had intended, either — about 9:30. The boats I had explored started running at 8:45, and I had intended to cross the bay as early as possible and really explore Sausalito for most of the day. But the grey rain had soothed my mind, evidently, and the touch of frost in the air made me unconsciously snuggle deeper into bed as this most unsummerly summer day had dawned.

Noises in the hall, a family departing for the day, whining brats complaining loudly about the dank weather, stirred my consciousness again well after 9:00. I felt groggy — aware I was late to my schedule, but too dull to care much. And what did it matter? I only had myself to amuse.

So I lazily showered, shaving, dressed and prepared to leave the room for the maidʼs casual attentions in my absence, closing the door about 10:20 and heading off uphill to cross down to the ferry building, at least a twenty-minute hike. I figured Iʼd be in Sausalito for lunch by 12:30.

The ferries didn’t keep to my schedule, however. And the sea-spray, rainy crossing — me on deck, almost alone, drenched and shivering (at least, after the icy hike to the waterfront, Iʼd decided to purchase a fleece at one of the businesses in the ferry building — overpriced but warm enough, though by the time we docked it was much more than damp), brought us across the bay about 1:30. In my misery, I had even missed Alcatraz in the dreary damp. Late for the lunch I had come for, I elected with rare wisdom to forgo the nostalgic waterside deck and eat indoors, too utterly iced through already for more freezing drizzle so soon.

I got busy with other stuff after that. But apparently dictating works again (although with at least a dozen quite strange errors I had to catch while posting), and I have plenty of digitzing talking ahead of me when I donʼt choose to really write (fresh material).

Come on, computer, keep with it: do your job, finally.

What do you know? No footnotes. Almost a first in the past year or more.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Winner (Kind of, Partially, Not Really IMHO)

Although I struggled to write anything, and although a good part of what I did write was, um, “garp,” my NaNaWriMo 2011 experience has ended happily and, officially, successfully. Just check that meter to the right (which I will delete in a few more days) or, more permanently, that NaNoWriMo 2011 Winner’s Badge toward the bottom of the second column.

Or this…

My Official Certificate

I wasted most of my time most of the days this past month (without exaggeration — I really did, just as I slipped through the first months of 2011 fruitlessly), but with blushing and partial success I made some important progress on the horror story (including a detailed calendar of events for James Arkham and others in 1993-94). Unfortunately, just like my efforts last year on Slaves to the Lesser Moon, the taleʼs not done. How utterly like me.

I would feel a lot more successful if I believed that every word really counted (this year) and that I might (someday… ever) finish these long items.

Yes, faithful readers (who may actually remember other comments I have made on my partial success this year), much of what I wrote may never actually get used,* but 51916 sleazy words later,** the month of November draws to a close. Now I have weeks of completion and revision ahead of me. But first, I think I may take a little vacation/digression/diversion for the writing topic that was drawing my attention when the month began and kept distracting me throughout these past twenty-eight days — Søren and Judah.***

And yes, a gentle and (for me, at least) enjoyable review of the excellent time The Lovely One and I enjoyed in Budapest. I think that starts tomorrow…

See you then (so to speak).

* “May,” ha! Probably will not get used.

** NaNoWriMoʼs count (52174), which may include chapter numbers and titles and suchlike, runs a bit higher than the count I was keeping in Scrivener. I feared the goal count was higher than I might end up with after compilation, so I kept going (necessarily, not just worriedly). And I need to keep going.

*** My first big project, commencing today and tomorrow, is going to be finishing the dictation of handwritten text for that first of the interlocking Sepharad stories (and the part of story #2 that I have already handwritten). Dragon Dictate and my microphones have had it too easy (as have I) for far too long. (Besides, one of the two versions I have composed of our first days on vacation — along with most of our Alaska trip, 2010, too — is handwritten and in need of dictation into digital reality, as well.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Autumn

Itʼs quite chilly in Iowa today. I have hauled out my fingerless gloves for the first time since mid-April, and although the wrists and palms of each hand are cozy enough, my fingertips feel cold tapping away at the keys.

Everything is indicating the full arrival of fall. I raked leaves five different days (and hauled away ten truckbed-loads). Furthermore, I am going to have to rake again soon, although our back yard trees and bushes have not let go of their photosynthesis machines yet. I may as well be looking ahead at the last lawn-mowing of the year…

I have also been receiving notifications about the imminence of NaNoWriMo 2011. And, although I have been utterly worthless as a writer this year — probably penning (often literally there) only ten or twenty thousand words outside the wretchedly few blog posts I have uploaded* —, I am intending to use November to (I hope!) finish the Mantorville (Iowa horror) novel. If I actually finish it, that will be considerably more than 100,000 new words (and I do mean “new” — above and beyond what I have already written and posted here).

Last year, I wrote 110,000 words on the planetary fantasy, but it remains incomplete. I havenʼt added word one since the end of 2010.

But back to more positive thoughts. Mantorville and the cesspool of evil behind the incarceration of former teacher Arkham**

I know that the story will fall into three (possibly four) sections. Only the first is the more-or-less formal record of the treatment sessions between Dr. Symonds and legally insane murderer Arkham. Part Two, probably, is the Arkham diary that I had finally gotten introduced toward the end of what is available so far. Part Three… well, some things are about to happen that will, after some delay, turn the tale into Dr. Symondsʼs story (and I may just interweave the diary selections through that portion, which I intend him to be dictating into a cell phone or mini-digital-recorder in more or less present time, early 21st Century). That fourth part? I may need one more major character to resolve the whole thing…

And a whole bunch of people have got to get killed off. (It is a horror story, after all.)

Scrivener is ready to go, announcing on Facebook today that their 2011 NaNoWriMo versions are available. So, having used that wonderful software for last yearʼs (still incomplete) “novel,” I guess/hope I had better be ready and willing as well.

* Incredibly, even without regular posts, the blog has been receving more than a hundred hits a day (mostly folks seeking images to use, just as I borrowed the NaNoWriMo official logo to the left and above).

** Anyone remember his first name? I donʼt without re-reading.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Something (Slightly) Creative

I realize (have for some time realized) that I ceased offering a bit of creative writing on weekends. Even though I have hundreds of old poems to cannibalize or use, I just havenʼt had time to do much of anything. (Yes, The Lovely One does keep me busy, pleasantly — usually shopping with her —, on weekends, when the job isnʼt consuming all my time and energy). However, as I remarked some time ago, I have been writing (on and off) over the past few months. Just to prove that point, hereʼs a little introduction of a Tourist story (the direction of which, and even location, I donʼt know). This bit may never become a story.

It really should be just a writerʼs notebook passage describing pretty much what I was seeing as I sat in Janetʼs car while she shopped at Kohlʼs in Cedar Rapids on a rainy Sunday a few weeks ago.

Sitting in a rain-drenched parking lot, safely dry inside my rental car, I realized that modern vehicles make it pretty difficult to conduct surveillance unobtrusively in a downpour. With the ignition off, the view through the windshield was a splotched and ragged kaleidoscope, the side windows heavily speckled with continuing and sometimes sliding arcs of raindrops. But if I turned the key even to the Accessories position for the wipers to work, I also instantly illuminated the parking lights fore and aft, obviously marking my Chevrolet as not just another deserted car parked outside the mini-mall. Bad tactics, particularly in this situation.

Furthermore, either my breath or body heat was slightly, slowly but continually misting the windscreen. Another easy indication that I was inside. That I was here. And the rain was too heavy to risk starting the car briefly for a reprieve via defrost and lowering the window just to crack even the humidity within. Although I did just that, also illuminating the headlights and letting the wipers take a cleansing swish or two.

Now, although I continued to let the radio play (it remained on, even with the key withdrawn, until I opened the door, I had finally discovered accidentally just the night before, returning in some haste to my hotel room, eager to reach my temporary domicile before a testing phone call rang through), I could hear the wind battering at the vehicle as it wrenched the paltry trees, bordering the street, in wild gyrations. And the rain was letting up. Lightning flashed among the clouds over the increasingly agitated saplings and evergreens. The car rocked and jolted more than mildly.

Tornado? To follow the three-day thunderstorms. Or was it just a lot of wind? The radio just kept playing antique rock songs I had never liked, nor my father either.

Still no evident action within the store I was amateurishly observing. And as the wind kept things moving — a woman scurried right beside me to her car, taking advantage of the rainfallʼs lull, but had a confusing time trying to get her long windwhipped hair to stay within her car until she could slam the door and drive away; an empty fastfood enormous cup came leaping and rocketing past her passenger side just as she did restrain her hair and close the door together — the rain must have increased again because my view was broken erratically once more with drops and rivulets. And I hadnʼt been watching the store. Again.

And as the car jumped some more, I realized that with the window slightly down, I was feeling chilled. Injudiciously, I twisted the key past On, and as the wipers swished twice, raised the window again.

Now I didnʼt do any of the things (except perhaps try to lower the window to balance the relative humidity within and without) that the first-person character does in the passage. And Janet drives a Toyota, too. My mind got interested in the differences my GOV revealed in its operations. Nor was I engaged in surveillance (merely reminded of the rainy watch Marlowe keeps for a chapter on the upscale porn shop in The Big Sleep). But, see, kids, I was writing

The Tourist character is having a busy time in my mind and notebook, by the way. I am fifteen or sixteen (handwritten) pages into his Big Encounter in Seattle as well as nearly to the brutal climax of his flight home from Europe to Chicagoʼs OʼHare. The San Francisco story is complete (for many months now) and needs dictation into digital form, as I just did yesterday with this bit of nothingness.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Iced Songbirds to Go

Hereʼs the start of a story that has percolated in my head since the night in Seattle, several years ago, that Janet and I had the pleasure (unanticipated, at least on my part) of hearing Eartha Kitt perform, sadly just months before she died. I kicked my idea around in my hinder thoughts until two weeks ago, when Janet had completed her work (well, most of her work) for, during and after her bossʼs Big Birthday Party (a story I still need to tell in this forum). I donʼt mean to reflect at all on the Celebrity Performer brought in for That Event, but somehow, as She enjoyed a celebratory martini after her show and the end of the party, and as The Lovely One chatted up Important Folks at the party, the story resurfaced insistently. I sat in a quiet corner of the bar, sipping a Johnnie Walker Black (which I had been too simple and foolish to specify earlier in the evening) and composed the following five hundred words…

The working title for the short story (series?) is the title of todayʼs post.

The time had come to haul the old broad out of cold storage. DeMint trundled his way down the lowest corridors of Le Grande Canal seeking the berth of tonight’s grande dame. As usual, he silently thanked his lucky stars for the elementary and ancient concept of alphabetical order, and as he so often did, cursed under his breath aloud that so many of his most popular corpses had surnames from the final third of the letter sequence…

Manischewitz, Markowsky, Mingo…

Neruda, Oppenheimer, Ott…

Pascal, Pomme, Shelley…

Sterne.

He sighed, a sign of his disloyal respect (loyal disrespect?) and pressed the blue icon on the touchpad outside her coffin to begin the reanim process. Once again. In one hundred and thirty-seven minutes Sharynn Sterne would sing again, her seven thousand eight hundred and fifty-seventh immortal performance. (Assuming he hadnʼt at some point forgotten to record a couple.) For the assembled miners of Sigma Calyx IV, which couldnʼt be buried much further, more remotely or less significantly in the back of beyond.

With an almost inaudible hiss, her resurrection began.

Having done his part for the next two hours, DeMint shuffled off to the cold level lounge to access the records net and pour himself more than a few cold ones. Down in the depths among his cold ones.

He loved them both. The beers and the broads, best on ice, less nice at room temps. But both the broads and the beers needed rewarming now and again. If only to keep other broads, his immortal songbirds, and better beers cold and refreshing and ready to serve.

He had negotiated eleven days with the mine unionʼs entertainment czar to reach an agreement of appropriate financial reward for an acceptable star revived out of yesteryear. As usual, as he had come so very long ago to expect, they had demanded performers of several magnitudes greater significance than his humble star freighter maintained. As though the handlers of such stellar celebrities would deign to cruise the nether depths of nowhere near such an insignificance as Sigma Calyx IV. When was the last time any starship had dropped orbit about their frozen mineral hell and offered to put on a show? That telling point had at last, long last, diminished the czarʼs expectations to a reasonable realm where an agreeable accommodation could finally be accomplished.

Not much reward financially for one of his most remembered Chillahs. Chilled Thrillers. But with unrefined fuelstuff thrown in, sufficient to get him and his cold coloraturas effectively out of this hell. Finally. So the deal had been struck and the time had come for Sharynn Sterne to sing again.

Now all DeMint had to do was convince her to cooperate.

By the time I had penned the last paragraph (yep, sitting at my little table with pen in hand and small yellow pad of mini-legal paper before me) it was nearly 1:00 AM. So there it rests (but at least I have gotten the written word digitized now).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.