Saturday, October 31, 2009

Speed writing

Yesterday I mailed the second draft of my thesis off to my adviser and second reader, and tomorrow I'm diving into NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Yes, quite clearly I'm insane.

I'm not an offical NaNoWriMo participant, because to do that you must start a brand new novel tomorrow and write 50,000 words in 30 days. Instead, I'm planning to finish a novel I started in June. This has been my stress-reliever novel, my unexpected book, my yes-I-know-there’s-exposition-in-the-dialogue-but-I-don’t-give-a-f***-because-I’m-having-fun book. I'm exactly at the halfway point as I write this, just over 25,000 words, or about 118 pages of double-spaced Times New Roman 12-point type. NaNoWriMo participants will have to complete an average of 1,667 words per day, or about seven and a half pages by my count. For me, 833 words a day.

It can be done. I might not have believed it until my 100-page+ writing binge in August. Now I see it's not only possible but that there's a value in speed writing -- moving quickly can allow you to clear the mental hurdles you might otherwise create for yourself.

Not that it's going to be a perfect manuscript. But so what? Write now, fix it later.

For official participants, you can upload your novel to the NaNoWriMo site for a word count at the end of the month. If you've hit the 50,000-word mark, you win! Isn't that great? Last year there were more than 21,000 winners.

I've talked my dad into trying it and he's officially signed up. How about you?

Friday, October 30, 2009


Noticed this in the ditch along my road. Not sure I want to meet the neighbor who put it there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hand Bones: The basement

Here's the next chapter in the Hand Bones saga for 3WW. The words are incubate, nightmare, and vanity. You can see the first part of the story below in the previous entry.

What madness compelled me to follow the gloomy young man down the concrete stairwell I cannot determine, but my feet carried me toward the nightmare that awaited. I prayed that the smells that bloomed stronger with each step did not foretell my unseen fate. Only one aroma was familiar to me – that of embalming fluid – and the others carried a more ominous source. Perhaps it was some sense of vanity that propelled me forward, some false sense that I could not be harmed.

When we reached the bottom of the steps it took a moment to understand what images beheld my sight: Pods of frozen human bodies similar to those of fantastical tales of cryogenics, these lined upright against the far wall, and before them several haphazard rows of coffins which appeared to carry the residue of fresh soil. At the center of the room was a massive wooden table covered in dark stains that I could not, would not allow to linger in my sight.

The young man turned to me and I shuddered at the deadness in his black eyes.

“Frozen, preserved or fresh?”

I found myself without voice and he offered his recommendation of fresh hand bones, which were of the utmost delicacy, particularly when seared over an open flame.

“I’ll prepare them for you,” the young man said, and before I had the slightest understanding of what plans he had in store, he produced a bloody cleaver.

The fear that had incubated within my viscera suddenly burst to life and rendered me nearly paralyzed. Somehow I managed to stumble backwards, believing the young man was about to serve me my own limbs.

Instead he pushed up his sleeve, rested his hand on the stained chopping block, and whacked off his own hand at the wrist.

The fingers twitched on the table as if beckoning me. The young man wrapped his bloody stump in his butcher’s apron, his face pale and sweating, but the only screaming came from my own throat.

He named a price for his hand that far exceeded my means.

“I cannot pay!” I exclaimed, still entwined in the horror of his action.

Now the young man’s face turned from white to red. He leveled the cleaver at me like an accusation and said, “You are wrong.”

To be continued again…

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hand Bones: A partially true gothic tale

Just for fun, here's a 3WW story for Halloween. The words are reckless, heartache and jangle.

It dawned upon me one afternoon that a healthy evening soup would be preferable to a common meal and I pursued this venture which required the use of a ham bone.

It wasn’t long before I attempted to procure such a bone from the local establishment which sells groceries and other items of necessity. Having no luck in my search of the butcher’s shelves I stopped a young gentleman who clearly was the butcher’s apprentice and inquired whether the store had available any ham bones.

But the young man misunderstood me, it appeared, and repeated my question with a frightening alteration: “Hand bones?”

He asked in a such manner that would indicate it was common practice for patrons to seek such a grotesque item.

(Now we diverge into the fantastical part of the tale.)

I considered his question carefully. Should I pretend that he in fact misunderstood me and repeat my original request? But curiosity overcame me and I could not resist the temptation of viewing what he might produce.

Recklessly I nodded and agreed that I was, in fact, searching for hand bones.
He looked carefully about him to ensure no one witnessed our exchange, leaned close and whispered, “Come with me.”

I followed the young man through a pair of swinging doors that presumably led to the anterior of the cavernous establishment. There was little indication at that moment the extent of the horror I would witness but the jangle of his keys in the lock of a mysterious metal door caused me irrational heartache. My despair compounded as he swung open the door revealing a dingy stairwell lit by a single weak bulb.

To be continued…

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Search and destroy

I'm working on getting the second draft of my thesis ready and the basic strategy is to compress the first half and expand the second half. So I've been going through and highlighting and deleting, highlighting and deleting. It's kind of fun, like going through my stuff and finding things to give away. Surviving with less. So does the story.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old folks

My mom was digging out some old photos for a relative interested in genealogy and I thought these were pretty great. Love the spooky double-exposure on the top photo.

I'm not sure but I think the second photo might be an early meeting between Gandhi and FDR.

"I just wanted to look purdy for the cows!"

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I was thinking about how many films I’ve watched in which a character suffers the resetting of a dislocated shoulder, realignment of broken bones, a tracheotomy, bullet extractions or wounds stitched shut with dental floss, all without anesthesia or the supervision of a health care professional, and I thought, maybe people are revolting against health care reform because we’ve been culturally conditioned to think sucking it up is a virtue.

Or maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg sort of thing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wrong number

We found a serial number on the sewing machine but Googling turns up only a patent for a corn husking peg, a number to text for Star Wars wallpaper and a phone number to rent a flat in New Delhi. Already worth the ten bucks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mystery machine

On my way home from a cooking class on Saturday I stopped at a rural rummage sale and found this beauty, price $10. I dragged my dad back to the sale first to make sure the thing could be restored because I intend to use it – I don’t need a seventy-pound dust collector, sweet price or not. The parts are intact and there was even a box of attachments and the original instruction manuals in one of the drawers.

Or so we think. We’re trying to figure out how old this sewing machine is and have had trouble pinning down information on a manufacturer. It says “United States” where the brand name is usually printed. But an initial search turned up nothing. One of the instruction manuals said Greist Manufacturing Company. The Greist Brothers apparently made bicycles before joining up with a man named Ebenezer Beecher to start the sewing machine company. But a closer look showed that the company made only the attachments, not the actual sewing machines.

Another manual from the drawer indicated the machine itself may have been made by the Domestic company, which started manufactured sewing machines in 1863. But photos of Domestic machines turn up none with “United States” as the model. I speculated that it might have been a wartime production but then my dad found one reference to the United States Sewing Machine Company in a Smithsonian trade literature archive, which also carries the manuals for Domestic and Greist products.

The only other reference we found was of a Jerome W. Hyde, born Sept. 23, 1861, who was the treasurer of the United States Sewing Machine Company of Springfield, Massachusetts.

So we’ve got manuals from one company and a sewing machine from another. I’m guessing the companies merged at some point, but it would be nice to have more history on the United States Sewing Machine Company so we can date this thing. I’m reluctant to do anything cosmetic to it until we know what it’s worth. Maybe I need the Antiques Roadshow or the History Detectives or those guys from Pawn Stars.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I spend a lot of time in a dark little room with made-up people.

There’s necessary isolation when working on a project of this magnitude and the busy nature of life tends to keep us in our own tight little circles anyway. Meanwhile life and death and sickness and stress and joy continue and we revolve around our own suns and sometimes our planets line up and sometimes not. I feel more connected to friends now that so many of us are in virtual space, which has become its own weird little planet.

But sometimes I’m off in a batcave on the moon.