Works of fiction appearing here are © 2011-2018 by Jack H. Tyler, and are not to be assumed to lie in the public domain.
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Monday, February 12, 2018

WTF?

"I am sitting in the smallest room in my house.  I have your review in front of me.  Soon it will be behind me."
                                   ~ German composer MAX REGER

          Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you amazed!  It is 4:10 AM here in beautiful El Cajon, and I have arisen after something less than two hours sleep, the events of yesterday evening still ringing in my brain.  All of you who have been gracious enough to follow my ramblings have heard me tout the virtues of Writing-dot-com, where I have been a member for the last thirteen months, as the be-all and end-all for writers.  Yesterday evening, then, imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail telling me that my blog, Riding the Blimp, had arbitrarily had its rating raised to Adults Only for strong and inappropriate language.
          A total of twenty violations were listed, and a number of them I completely agree with.  It isn't hard over the life of a blog to stray from your original vision, and I take full responsibility.  However...  "Ladies of the Evening" was listed as inappropriate as it is a euphemism meaning prostitutes.  Except in this case, when it was used as a book title referring to the witches in the story; if you're going to censor my work, WdC, the least you can do is read it!  They take exceptional exception to any mention of violence, citing three different forms of the word "murder," all of which were used in a discussion of the Craft concerning how to treat the "murderer" in different forms of crime and mystery stories.  Again, context.  Also cited was the phrase "punch them in the snout," which may have been a legitimate citation had it been for cringe-worthy comic description.
          But the one that they found the most offensive, which is my own assumption based on the fact that it was the only one they cited multiple times, was the word "stupid."  Apparently, the word they consider most egregious and damaging to the psyche of a minor is one that peppers my ten-year old grandson's speech like sprinkles on a donut.  You know, after spending fifty years of my life working first in, and then for, the Navy, I thought I knew what strong and inappropriate language sounded like, but apparently I was wrong!
          So, in an era when you can't let a child watch the president make a speech because you never know when he's going to start bragging on the size of his dick or how many women he's grabbed by the pussy, I'm not about to be held responsible for bringing about the downfall of America's youth.  The first step in my campaign to save the children will be to find a new home for my writing activities.  I have a WordPress account that I've had for a couple of years and never done anything with, so that will be my first stop, to see if I can configure that to do what I need.  I'll let you know how it goes by adding it to this post, but whether that works or I have to try something else, I've closed most of my WdC items, and flagged the rest as Adults Only; better safe than sorry!.  I never used WordPress because I found it to be very user-unfriendly, but necessity is the mother of invention.  Sorry, can I say mother?  A woman being a mother implies that she may have engaged in sexual activity at some point in the past, and we wouldn't want that picture placed in any impressionable young minds!
          Okay, and I'm going to let that do it for this week's entry, a necessity, as I can't think about anything else right now.  My plan is to use this blog to interact with friends, and WordPress (or whatever else I might have to go to) to publicize my writing, in other words, WdC will be replaced by WordPress, and everything will continue from there.  Sorry, but citing "stupid" is about the stupidest thing I've heard in a while.  My mommy died in 1998, twenty years ago, and I haven't even interviewed for a replacement.  One of the things she taught me was never to hang around where I'm not wanted, so I'm off to find some new digs.  Keep an eye on this site if you're interested; I'll keep you posted.

Talk to you soon,
~ Jack

UPDATE:  I'm building my new presence at https://blimprider.wordpress.comI'll be assembling details over the next week or so, but it's ready to read!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dear Me...

"All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery."
                                   ~ GEORGE ORWELL

          Vain, certainly; lazy, probably.  But I seriously believe I am the most giving person you could ever hope to meet.  Just check my Writing.com activities for confirmation.  I spend at least as much time trying to help new writers find their groove as I do working on my own projects.  Vain?  Of course!  If I wasn't vain, would I keep posting to this blog that hardly anyone reads?  Lazy?  I have to cop to that, as if I wasn't lazy, I'd have my nose to the grindstone every day, producing usable copy.  Instead, I spend half my writing time blubbering about not being a writer anymore.
          And that brings me to a specific Writing.com activity called Dear Me.  Each year during December, Writing.com runs a contest that challenges you to write a letter to yourself as a writer.  It can be motivational, congratulatory, commiserating, anything you want it to be.  The theme, I guess, is what would you say to yourself if you were someone else?  I don't participate in contests (my muse isn't a trained circus monkey that performs tricks on demand), but I wrote one of these letters, from the heart to the brain, as it were, and it has really snapped me out of the doldrums.  I read it first thing when I sit down to write each morning, and then launch into projects with a clear head and a sharp focus.  It has worked so well that I recommend it to anyone who is having difficulty getting started on any project.  This is what I wrote:
 Dear Me,

          What is it that you think you're doing?  We joined WdC a year ago this month, and we came in like a house afire!  We had no sooner stepped in the door than we were setting up forums, starting a blog, forming a group, heck, we even posted a novel.  That novel, that blog, and our port itself were quickly nominated for Quill Awards.  But then something happened to you, something bad.
          I remember when, too.  It was August, five months ago, that you suddenly lost all interest in writing.  After six decades of putting words on the page, I can understand you being tired, but what did you replace it with?  Video games and shoot-em-up television?  Where's the reward in that?  What does that get you besides a few more dead brain cells?
          Me, you need to snap out of it.  I'm lost without you.  We've always been right there on the same page together, partners in crime, explorers of the unknown, two best friends making up new ways to tackle the fantasy that is life, but I can't do this alone.  It hurt me when you turned our group over to another member because you didn't plan to be here after our renewal date.  It cut me to the bone when you closed one of our forums because people weren't lining up to use it.  The pain was almost too much to bear when you asked Kittiara to remove our Quill nominations.  Even now, when you talk about reducing our membership to basic, the level that will barely keep the one remaining forum open, and that only for the handful of people who have begun to use it, I lie inside and cry.  What about the award we give every month?  Will that go, too?  How will the dozen fine people who have received it feel when their icons are replaced with the dreaded "Invalid Item" notice?  This isn't you, Me.
          Are you confused by all the different directions you could take?  Beyond the Rails is crying out for that fourth book.  I'm sure our friends in the crew are sad about the way we left them.  I am, too.  We could dust them off and get them back into the air.  Or, we could start the Darklighters spinoff we set up at the end of that third book.  Those two hooligans would be a blast to follow!  We could come home for a while, and lay down the rest of Stingaree.  Just imagine the fun of a steampunk adventure set right in our own home town, with famous personages as minor characters, and that book is halfway finished already!  Or maybe you're steampunked out.  That's understandable after three books.  How about that exploration of horror that we talked about?  Possession of Blood was well-received.  It could use some company in your port.  I think I see the problem; you have so many directions to explore that it's overwhelming you.  But we need to do something.  If you can't decide, we could set up a poll, and go with what our readers would most like to see.  Yeah, there's an idea!  I know how you dislike making decisions, so let those who would read our work make it for you.
          I miss you, Me, more than words can say.  Ironic, isn't it, for a wordsmith to be lost for words, but I am.  I love being a writer, Me.  I always have, and I want to keep being a writer, but I spoke the truth, I can't do it alone.
          When are you coming home, Me?  I'll wait patiently for as long as I can, but I hope it isn't too long.  We'll turn seventy in the fall, and we no longer have the luxury of time to waste.  I need you, and you need me.  We're at our best when we're together, soaring through fantastic worlds of our own creation.  Come back, Me, and let's do what we've always been best at.  I'll be here waiting when you're ready.

Missing you more than I can say,
~ Me
          To bring the story full-circle, I have returned to Stingaree as my primary project.  That story is simply too rich, layered, and dare I say fun to toss it on the scrap heap and move on.  My secondary project will be a follow-on story to the horror tale, Possession of Blood.  To support my new-found exploration of horror, I have joined The Dark Society, Writing.com's premiere horror group.  Keep your eye on this space.  To quote Dr. Betruger, "Great things are going to happen here, you just wait and see!"
          I've been down in the dumps for too long, and I don't like it.  The future looks bright, and I intend to keep it that way.  I apologize to all of you for dragging you through my personal doldrums, and I promise to bend every effort to not doing it ever again.  I'm treating this past weekend as a fresh start.  The ol' blimp is leaving the dock and setting course for the far horizon.  Join me, friends, on a journey to the real final frontier; the length and breadth of the imagination!

Read well, and write better,
~ Jack "Blimprider" Tyler

Monday, January 29, 2018

At the Corner of Loose End and No Way

          As reported last week, my muse's local seems to be on strike, and he's out walking the picket line (and hopefully gathering new stories for us to tell).  I'm still conflicted about writing, though I am penciling in outline material on both Beyond the Rails IV and the Darklighters spinoff I set up in Book III.  I don't know which, if either, might take off, or if anything ever will again, but while I wait, I'd like to present some material I put together for my writing.com blog yesterday.  It was fun to assemble, and as I don't really have anything else to show for a week's rest, I'd like to share it with a few more folks here.
          We've heard a lot over the past week or so about budget battles, government shutdowns, and the trillions and trillions of dollars being thrown around like we're talking about some kid's allowance.  Most people in the modern world have some idea of what a billion dollars is (if you don't, it's about 10% of an aircraft carrier), but a trillion dollars...  We might be talking about the distance to the center of the galaxy for all that means to the average citizen, so I decided to do a bit of research and basic arithmetic, and see what a trillion might be compared to.  Buckle up, you're going to love this!
          If Jesus had sued the Romans over his treatment at their hands, and the courts of the day had awarded him a billion shekels (or whatever they used back then) to be paid at the rate of one million per day, it would have taken them two-and-a-half years to finish paying him.  If he had been awarded a trillion shekels, to be paid at the rate of one million per day, they would be paying him until the year 2739.  Pretty amazing, huh?  But I'm not finished yet, not by a long shot.
          Let's say you won the SuperLotto or a settlement for $1,000,000, and it's going to be handed to you in crisp new $1,000 bills, crisp and new so they lay close together with no air spaces making the stack fatter.  How tall do you think that stack will be?  If you guessed 6½ inches, we have a winner!  If you win a billion dollars, you'd better bring a full-size pickup, because that stack will come in at 550 feet, about the same height as the Washington Monument.  A trillion dollars?  Ninety-five miles high.  The International Space Station will have an excellent view of the tallest structure on earth as it comes over.
          One more?  All right.  I particularly enjoy this one.  Approximately one billion seconds ago, John F. Kennedy was having his famous series of presidential debates with Richard Nixon; one trillion seconds ago, man was discovering fire.
          Okay, that was fun!  That's all I have for you this week, so take it with you and dazzle your friends while I try to sort out whether I'm still a writer, and what I'm going to do with this blog if I'm not.  You may have just gotten a sample, as I look to make it a Museum of the Weird.  At least the name goes with anything, right?
          Play nice, look out for one another, and get out there and live life like you mean it!

Luvya,
~ Jack

Monday, January 22, 2018

Okay, Now What?

         "The best-laid plans of mice and men are about equal."

~ PARODY OF OLD SAYING, possibly MAD Magazine...

         There's another old saying I just made up that goes, "You don't choose writing; writing chooses you."  If that is true, and I believe it is, then it must be possible for writing to abandon you and move on in search of fresh new voices.  I am convinced that that is what has happened to me, leaving me with 60 years of experience, and not the slightest interest in writing another word.  After careful consideration of my likely future, I have decided to spend my writing time encouraging those fresh new voices to reach their full potential.  This will take the form of reviews, and an occasional blog post discussing concepts and issues that have crossed my radar.  I never thought this would be the final destination, but then, who among us can predict his own fate? 


          Thus did I post on my Writing.com blog, Riding the Blimp, yesterday, because after all my big talk and big plans of the last couple of weeks, the "muse," whatever the hell that is, has deserted me again.  The candle of interest keeps flickering, and the periods when I can't write are constantly becoming longer and deeper.  I can only assume that it's going to get worse until the periods when I can write no longer exist at all.  Rather than torture myself and the few followers I have left with promises of great things to come, I've closed the public window to my works in progress.  There may still be times when I want to write, and the love of writing may return in full, but until it does, I'll be a supporter of the next wave; after all, leaving out my formative years, I had three decades to make my mark, and after those thirty years, there might be thirty people who know who I am.  Time to welcome the next crop of talented new voices to the field.
          That just leaves the question of what I'm going to do with this blog.  Photos?  Anecdotes?  Recipes?  Confrontational political rants?  Yeah, you know me better than that, but, speaking of butchered old sayings, here's a thought to take with you in these difficult times:  A penny saved is a government oversight!
          Play nice, look out for one another, and live life like you mean it.  I'll see you around the web!

~ Jack

Monday, January 15, 2018

Gathering Steam


"When I get a little money, I buy books;
                   and if any is left, I buy food and clothes."


         ~ DESIDERIUS ERASMUS

         Monday again already!  For some this day is depressing, as their mind is focused on the return to the grind.  Studies show that that dread doesn't translate into negativity.  On the contrary, your best work of the week, based on a study of Redbook members, and 28,000,000 of their completed projects, is complete by 11:00 AM Monday morning, so rejoice!  Today you will be performing your best work of the week.
         Of course, as a retiree, it's easy for me to be glib about this, but for 25 years before I retired, I was shift-working, dancing to a schedule created by a random number program.  I'd work a couple of days, a couple of nights, then have a couple of days off.  I was all over the clock and all over the calendar, so Mondays were "just another day" to me.  But yes, I'd see the nine-to-five crew moping in every Monday morning, bemoaning the fact that they hadn't won the lottery or had a rich uncle die over the weekend, and it can really make you think about how you're spending your life.  So if you have a job that fulfills you or is otherwise enjoyable, count your blessings and welcome Monday.  And if you don't, well, you'll cheer up come payday!
         Okay, now that I've redefined the whole concept of "filler," let me get to the blog post.  I got three scenes of Family Reunion written this past week, and a whole lot of outlining.  This story is flying along like they did in the old days, and I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am with the progress, Monday or not!  If I can hold to that pace, my incredible, fantastic, magnificently marvelous story for the ages should be complete and ready to read by late Febanary/early March, at which time I'll provide a link, and you can judge for yourselves.  This, of course, is the first story (of five or six) of what will become Beyond the Rails IV.
         Anyone familiar with my work knows that I'm an old-fashioned writer, in style at least, but I recently learned that I'm old-fashioned in substance as well.  A friend of mine recently blogged about an author who was prolific in the golden age of pulps, a literary style that describes me to a T, and he talked about how the pulp writers who depended on prolific output for their living never rewrote anything.  I have not been able to find this post again, so perhaps he was shouted down by hostile modern authors, but a statement made therein was that rewriting didn't become a "thing" until the new-age movement made its way to writing in the 1970s, and that all the classical authors your parents have loved since before you were born, from Dickens to Kipling to Poe, didn't rewrite anything.  Whether that's true or not, I have no idea, but I'm here to fess up: I don't rewrite either.  I will say this about my writing style:  I outline my outlines in two and three layers, so by the time I'm ready to write, I've already given deep consideration to what I have to say.  As I write, I rarely add more than one scene a day, and before I start the day's writing, I reread what I've written before.   During those sessions, I will often change a word or phrase, to strengthen or clarify a point, and in the final proofreadings, which I do multiple times, I will make final adjustments, but what you are reading is essentially a heavily proofread first draft.  My Beyond the Rails books have been reviewed all over the internet, and unless a bunch of strangers are all lying to make me feel good, that system is working for me.  I don't intend to change it.
         So there I am, as I have been so many times in my life, flying in the face of conventional wisdom.  Now that you know that I don't rewrite, do you hate me?  Are you going to go back and downgrade your reviews?  I hope not, but there you are.  It can be done, but I think it's only possible for a planner to get away with it, because we already know where we're going.  I'll be interested to see whether anyone has any opinions about this, because among writers in the 2010s, it pretty much amounts to blasphemy.
         All right, let's lighten the mood a bit.  I encountered several enjoyable examples of words having fun during the last week, but this one really stayed with me:


Don't assume malice for what stupidity can explain!

          Finally, I'd like to direct you to the site of a good friend, one William J. Jackson.  William writes the Rail City series of books that I can only describe as "The X-Men go steampunk."  If this sparks your curiosity mutation, pay him a visit at The Rail Baron's Blog.  He has a special going today on at least one of his e-books, and if you miss this one, not to worry; he does this frequently.  Worth a look for steampunk aficionados, which I assume you are if you follow my blog.
          Okay, class dismissed.  Until next week, play nice, look out for one another, and above all else, get out there and live life like you mean it!

~ Jack