Wendigisms 2: The Penmonkey Strikes Back

I needed a good title for the sequel.  I thought about naming this one Revenge of the Pen Monkey but Chuck already used that title for one of his writing books.  Next was Dead Man’s Prostate, but that’s just a little too gross to publish across the interwebs.  The Quickening doesn’t sound bad, but I’m happy with what I picked. 

These are all giblets of stuff Chuck has published on his website and most are related to the art of writing in some form or fashion.  They’re priceless.  The first page of stuff is here on my 1st Wendigisms page. You can always read more over at Terribleminds.  

And without further ado:

  • Feculent turd-heads
  • Eff that in the ay, emmer-effer
  • I will beat you to death with a sock full of your own teeth
  • Mornings tend to be when your brain is at its lemon-scented freshest
  • Think of this as a narrative laxative
  • Covers that look like someone just ingested a rod of uranium and threw up in a clown’s shoe
  • Suddenly your voice is scratchy and dry like you’ve been gargling watch parts and cigarette butts for the last ten years
  • Loosen your mind sphincter
  • Shock-prod your brain-squirrels into powering the endeavor at hand
  • Sad trombone
  • Harvest all the delicious Idea Chilli *nom nom nom*
  • Plot is like Soylent Green: it’s made of people.
  • Sweaty genitals, which is the worst ice cream flavor ever
  • Massaging the prostate of your soul
  • Your artistic faucet won’t offer anything but a quivering, syphilitic drip
  • You are not a sad friendless little tugboat
  • It’s about throwing caution into a woodchipper
  • coffee so black it might as well have been ink poured out of a squid’s behind.
  • scream like a Tasered girl scout
  • you were just rolling around in a dish of someone’s fingernail clippings and hoagie sweat
  • Extract those wretched little nuggets of hard black hate-coal and use them to fuel the writing
  • trees only read magazines about trees. Printed on the flesh of humans
  • your jaw hangs loose like a broken porch swing
  • Secrete enzymes to build your own authorial exoskeleton
  • Ngggh
  • we’re all gonna end up under the Grim Reaper’s riding mower
  • it’ll slip through one of the many mouse-holes in your mind-floor
  • chipping off the tiniest sliver of our intellectual granite
  • Shake lose the barnacles you’ve gathered while floating inert in the murky harbor of your undoing.
  • I’m allowed to make up new words because I have my Pennsylvania Writer’s License
  • jet-lagged and dung-brained
  • an autumnal orgy of sweet arctic fruit-sex
  • SEIZE THE CARP. No matter how hard that fucking fish wriggles.
  • Embrace the Viking immortality of having your ideas live forever.
  • a rollicking case of the spiritual pee-shivers
  • Cement your genital stamina

Holiday events, life in the Moody House

I love Thanksgiving!  It has turned into probably my favorite holiday. My wife and I shop together and prep the stuffing and turkey together.  I love cooking with her. After the bird is in the oven we have about 4 hours to relax, and call family.  It would be great if we were all together but our family is spread all over the country. 

Today we watched a Kung Fu movie together, about one of Bruce Lee’s mentors. Grand Master Ip Man, starring Donnie Yen. It was really enjoyable. 

The turkey came out golden brown and perfectly moist and delicious, just like always and all the other fixins were hot, and scrumptious. The timing worked out just right.  We gorged!


Afterwards, I plugged in all my timers for the outdoor Christmas lights today, so the lights are on outside. We did all the prep work a few weeks ago when the weather was nice, got all our clean-up yard work done and all the outside decorations up. 

Over the course of the last few weeks my wife has been bringing out her plethora of wonderful Christmas decorations. She loves to decorate for Christmas and it really makes the house feel very festive. This year she got a great idea from one of her magazines, using candy in clear glass containers to make a beautiful decoration and we went with it. It is one of my favorite new things she added.  Also the White garland is new and both are captured in this shot.

My Nano adventure has been less than prolific but I am making progress. Unless I am struck by some sort of writing miracle I am not going to hit 50k by the end of November this year,  I just can’t  pump out ten thousands words in a day. My brain doesn’t seem to work that way. But I’m not giving up or getting upset about it, I just keep plugging along.

I did get excepted into my Master’s Program!  Yay me! I had to prep a ten page piece for critique.  I’m expecting to receive papers from all the other students in my class to critique before I show up in early January.  I also had a read a book for class, Fated by Alyson Noel, and I just finished it this week.  So, all told, I’ve been busy, with work on top of all that. I liked the book, it’s YA and supposed to be romance but it was light on romance.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and good luck to all you Nanoers out there!

Clear Ether!

NaNo Prep: Writing Rules III – Return of WriMo

NaNoWriMo is merely three days away, and in the spirit of preparation I revamped my Writing Rules again.  This time when I went back to review them I realized that they were a hodgepodge of thoughts with no form.  So I organized them and revamped them and added some new content.  As always I am open to suggestion if you see something wrong or something that needs clarified or plain just doesn’t make sense.

This is kind of long and I have it posted as it’s own page here.

A few years back a friend of mine asked if I could pass along some of what I’ve learned over the past couple of years about trying to write a book.  I’ve tried to distill that info here.
I am focused on novel writing, so all of these ideas may not apply to poetry writing or something other than Novels or Novellas.  Please feel free to add in some comments that will help refine this.  This is all from the perspective of a novice unpublished writer, but I have done my homework, and learned a few things along the way.  These so called “rules” are merely guidelines.  There are no hard and fast rules.
Getting Started: Setting and Characters
There are a couple of ways to do this, and a couple of key ingredients that you need to start.  You are going to need to know the setting…intimately, at least for the actual places your characters will be.  This doesn’t mean you need to include every detail in the narrative, but you, as author, need to know how things work. 
The other key ingredient is the characters.   A strong protagonist and a strong antagonist are absolutely essential.  Other types of characters you might include are companion, or foil, for your main characters that will allow you to showcase certain aspects of your main characters, to bring out viewpoints or details about the background that might be needed to flesh out the world.  Another key character type is the relationship character, which will usually be at odds with the protagonist early and will mend the relationship by the end.
I recommend writing down everything you know about the character.  You don’t want to make them perfect people, interesting characters have flaws.  They need to be balanced.  Try writing a little bit in their POV to get to know them if you are stuck.  You don’t have to use any of this but it may help you understand the pathos of your character better, and they should all be suffering to one extent or another, otherwise, why are we writing about them.
 
A lot of people get hung up on world building.  They really like this part, and I can see the fun and the draw of that, but at some point you need stop world building, develop a plot idea, some characters and start writing an actual story.
Okay, so now you have some characters and a setting what do you do next?
 
Plots and Character Arcs
There are basically two types of arcs, an internal and an external.  The external is pretty straight forward, things happen in the world.  Usually your characters will react to these things and respond, making a new thing happen.  The external character arc is usually what people will refer to as the plot of the book.  A happens then B happens then C happens. 
The internal arc is about how your protagonist deals with things in their head.  The internal character arc is what the book is about.  The internal arc is more about how your character changes through the book, not how things in the external world change.
An Arc is exactly what it sounds like, rising action to the climax then falling action to the dénouement.   You can have multiple arcs and for novels you will have several hopefully.  A short story usually has one. For the longer piece you will have an overarching character Arc.  The big problem that needs to solved.  Inside of that you will have mini-arcs that tell a smaller story within the story, and different characters may be involved with each one.  You need to close each of these off before you end the story, unless perhaps it is part of a larger story arc involving multiple books.  
Each of these little arcs are like promises to the reader, and you need to keep your promises and solve the arcs or the reader will feel cheated.
The axiom is that the closer together you can resolve the external and internal arc and reconcile with the relationship character the more powerful the ending will be, ideally in the same chapter if that is possible.  A really great book for this concept is Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.
There are a couple of well-known formulas for setting up your story arc, for example: The Three Act Play, or the Hollywood Formula or 7 Part Story Structure.  There are lots of ways to skin the cat.
Point of View and Voice
Choose your voice for the story and be consistent. The POV is really going to set the tone for your narrative, so you need to think this through to see who will tell the most interesting story.
You have two tenses and three basic points of view to choose from and you can mix and match these giving you a wide variety of ways to tell your story.  Most established authors that I’ve spoken to or read about tell you to avoid present tense, leaving past tense as the most commonly used method.   Third person narrative is the prevailing approach, but books are also written in first person, Twilight by Stephanie Meyers is a good example, and second person, Halting State by Charles Stross is a good example of this form, but it’s fairly rare. 
There are also variations on how to use the third person in the form of omniscient, objective (primarily used for news reporting) and limited, which can lend itself to a narrator that is unreliable.  Unreliable just means you only see what the character sees and feel what the character feels, whether it’s a true representation of reality or not.  Third person works very well if you are changing the narrator. 
Each character will allow you to tell a different aspect of a story, but you will need to pick the one that tells the story you want or at least has access to all the important stuff.  You can use more than one Point of View character.  But please don’t jump heads in the middle of a paragraph, have the decency to have a definite break before you switch POVs. 
For each scene the POV character should have something at stake.  If they don’t have anything at stake for that scene then someone else should be the POV.  If nobody has anything at stake you might want to rethink keeping that scene.  As a general rule of thumb if you start a scene with one POV and switch, you should try to end the scene in the POV of the one you started with.
Pantsing or Outlining?
There is no right or wrong way to write a book.  The end goal is to have a finished story that makes sense and the reader is able to follow and enjoy.  The two most prominent that I am aware of are outlining and discovery.
Outlining is just what it implies; you make an outline then flesh it in and keep adding layers and detail to your outline in the form of story.
Pantsing, or maybe better known as Discovery Writing, is where you have a kernel of an idea and just start and let the story go where it wants.  I prefer a combination of the two, with a basic outline then start writing and adjust my outline as the story progresses.  Another common way for discovery writing is to get to where you are about what you think is 2/3 done then outline the ending to help you close the loop on your story.
Where do you start the story?
There is an oft quoted idea that says, “Get in as late as you can and out as early as you can.”  But this doesn’t necessarily mean you start like a James Bond Movie.  There is a lot of advice out there that says “start in the middle of the action,” but I’m not convinced that’s the best way to do it.
We need to have enough of a feel for the normal life and even a little empathy for the protagonist before we start blowing up his or her world.
The beginning of the book should grab the reader.   But what it really means is showing us why we should be interested in this particular protagonist.  What is different or interesting about him or her? This is not universal, I know a lot of established authors don’t really follow this advice, but they already have a following.  To hook new readers you need to start out with an interesting passage.  Most editors and agents are going to ask for the first three chapters or X number of pages, but they want to see the beginning, so it should be your best stuff and include what is referred to as the hook.  The hook is just that thing that is interesting about your character or the story that will make someone want to read further. 
There have been attempts to study what makes people keep reading, of course it’s not universal, but if you have an interesting hook most readers will give you the benefit of the doubt and get through the first chapter.  If you hold them that long they will read more chapters until they are invested in the book and finish it.  Most readers are stubborn and once you hook them they won’t give up on a book unless you give them a reason to.
Prelude or not? Most writers I’ve talked to recommend skipping the prelude idea, just start your novel there if it’s that interesting.  It is situation dependent. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. 
Mechanics
The most important thing is to tell a good story.  It’s more important to tell a good story than to write well, but both are a plus, so learn your craft.
Show, don’t tell.  This means let the action play out; don’t just describe it in summary form.  Action sequences should always be shown.  There are parts of the story you can skim over with broad brush to avoid boring the reader, but too much of this makes the story feel empty.  Ideally you leave all the boring parts out.
Info dumps should be kept to a minimum or broken up into smaller bits and brought out in the right spots, preferably by one of your characters via conversation.
Know the rules of grammar.  You can say anything but punctuate it properly.  An excellent book for the essentials on clear, correct English is Strunk and White’s – Elements of Style
Another great resource is the podcast Grammar Girl.
Read your book out loud to make sure it flows.  Dialogue should be dynamic and not stilted, but written dialogue is not like real talking.  Leave out the “uhs,” the choppy unfinished sentences and stuttering unless you are trying to set a tone or particular character trait.
Minimize the use of strange language.  Too much technical jargon or unusual language is going to lose your reader, just pepper it in to give the feel and style you are trying to portray.  Ease the reader into it and you can use it a little more later on perhaps, once they get accustomed to what you’re doing.
Describe only what is needed.  My personal pet peeve is over-doing the description.  Most of us are not Nora Roberts.  Let’s not fool ourselves or overcompensate by describing every detail of something that really has no bearing on the story.  The idea here is to only describe things that might be different or things the character notices.  I know different people have different tastes on this and some well-known authors still do this, but if you are going to do it just know that I am probably skimming that part.
The Joy of discovery.  Sometimes your characters are going to take you places you hadn’t planned on.  This, to me, is one of the great joys of writing, but sometimes they will take you down a dead end or completely off course.  Then you will have to decide if the new direction is a better story or if it really is just going to derail the entire plot.  Save all this stuff though.  Don’t throw any good prose away.  I keep a boneyard for all my ideas that I can salvage things from later.
Use Active voice.   Passive voice is weak and tends to make you add a lot more words than you need.  It is appropriate at times to slow up the pace, but as a general rule active voice makes things happen in a style that creates action and movement, which will help hold the reader.  There is a place for passive voice and it will require some work to develop a feel for it.
Avoid editing and writing at the same time.  You write with the right side of your brain and edit with the left side.  Your creativity flows from the right side, so try to avoid mixing in left side stuff when you are in the creative mode.  You do use both sides at the same time or you wouldn’t be able to write, but if you avoid going back and changing a lot of stuff constantly while you are in creative mode you will likely have more success moving the story forward.
A good book on helping avoid passive voice and other editing tips is The 10% Solution by Ken Rand. 
I love using the thesaurus to avoid using the same word too often.  http://thesaurus.com/
Where do you get your ideas?
People ask all the time where you get your ideas from, but honestly once you actually start this writing thing as a regular part of your life the ideas just flow. 
Keep a notebook with you as much as possible and write down ideas as they come to you. 
Reading a lot helps, with style and tempo and form.  Read as much as you can.  But I know a lot of authors avoid stuff that is too close to what they are presently working on to avoid too much influence on their story (and lawsuits).
Dreams are often a good source of ideas.
I read lots of magazine articles on the subjects I’m interested in writing about.  For me Scientific American is a great source of ideas.
The web is a great source for ideas as well.  I stay up on news events in my area of interest also.
I love listening to writing podcasts.  My favorite is Writing Excuses. These guys and gal are successful writers and have a plethora of good advice for aspiring writers.
I borrowed an idea from Brandon Sanderson for keeping track of story ideas.  I use a Book Guide.  It is broken down into four sections: Character, Setting, Plot and Boneyard just flesh out the information for each section as you develop more of the ideas.  I find this helps immensely with continuity and just tracking down mundane stuff that you’ve put in the setting or how you spelled someone’s name, or the color of their hair, etc.
Habit patterns
Write as often as you can.  It’s best if you can develop a habit of writing.  If you can manage to get a regular time and place to write that is ideal.  The whole trick is to write, as often as you can.  Then write some more.  Did I say that enough?
Here is an interesting fact: 250 words is approximately one page for determining your novel length.  It takes about 15 minutes to half an hour to do that each day.  If you do that for a year you will have a novel length book.  Obviously if you can write for an hour or two each day you can pump one out a lot faster.
You may find that the more you write the better it flows and the ideas just start coming out of the wood work.  The imagination is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly.
Editing and Reviewing
Get a Writing Partner or two or three.  They write, and can be a free way to get good edits and ideas for where you went off course or just didn’t connect something properly.  Sometimes you have all that story in your head and you make assumptions that the reader knows things, when you haven’t actually made it clear.  A critique group is a great idea also. If you can’t find a local group, then look on the Internet.  There are lots of places to get free critiques.  One of the better ones I’ve used is Critters. Beta Readers can help with this also. 
Once you finish the manuscript hand it off to a first reader, one that is going to give you real feedback, not your mom, who loves you and won’t tell you the hard truth.  Listen to the critiques and make changes if you think their critique is valid. You don’t have to take all, or any for that matter, but listen to what they are saying.
Don’t over edit.  Error checking is great and continuity checking is good, but your editor voice doesn’t have the same view of your work and if you do too much editing you may lose the magic that made your story work.  I read often that the first draft is often crap and you need to edit brilliantly, but the creative part of your story is going to come out on the first pass more than likely, so keep this in mind.  Three or four passes is probably enough to get the big stuff: errors, continuity and first reader/beta reader comments that show stuff that might require some tweaking is probably all you need.  Your mileage may vary here, but the idea is to let go at some point and start mailing out your story.
In the end you will want a professional editor and they do cost money.  If you can sell your book, then the publisher will provide this for you, but if you self-pub do everyone a favor and pay for one.
You’re done, now what?
If you are going to submit your writing to someone, whether agent or editor, follow the guidelines they lay down.    There are people that get picked up that don’t follow the rules but they are not norm.
Have faith in yourself and be prepared for rejection, it’s likely going to happen, a lot. 
Publishing cycle
Traditional publishing is going to take at least two years before you see your book in print.  It could be longer.  Many of them won’t want to publish more than one a year due to their seasonal release schedule and just not wanting to oversaturate, if that is even a real problem.  They also don’t give you a lot of information on sales, and payment can be delayed.  They will often give you money up front though, in the form of advances.  The value of the advance has been going down in recent years as the publishing industry has been in such turmoil, but from what I am reading lately things seem to be leveling off and traditional publishing is profitable again (for them). 
This is where self-publishing has a real advantage.  You can publish quickly, in a few days to get formatting right, and publish as frequently as you like.  I know several novelists that are publishing as many as four novels a year this way.  If you are a prolific writer and don’t want to wait on the traditional publishing cycle this is the way to go.
Agent or Not
There is a lot of discussion on this issue right now.  It will really depend on how much of the business side of things you want to take on.  If you don’t want to mess with any of it then an agent is probably the way to go.  If you can take the time to understand the business and work your own contracts then you probably don’t need an agent.  You can always use an independent editor and an attorney that specializes in book contracts to help you out here.  For more on this subject I would read through Dean Wesley Smith’s website on debunking the publishing industry myths: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860
Once you are ready to submit your novel get it in the mail and START ON THE NEXT BOOK.
Self-Publishing
If you don’t have any luck getting a big time publisher to buy your book or you simply just want to, you can self-publish and there are lots of ways these days to do this.  You will also keep a larger percentage of the book sale, and have a lot more velocity in the publishing cycle.  The down side is you have to pay for all marketing yourself and take care of all the business transactions, cover design, tracking for taxes, etc., yourself.
This tidbit is something I found in the comments section of one of Dean Wesley Smith’s blogs:
Put your novel up on Smashwords, which gets you to Sony, Nook, iBook, and other places. Cost: Free
Put your novel through CreateSpace in trade paperback form in POD. That gets it to Amazon. Cost: Free (or $39.00 if you want better distribution into all stores.)
Put your novel through LighteningSource in trade paperback form in POD. That gets it to Ingram. Cost: around $100.00
From what I gather that will pretty much get your books to every English speaking market on the globe.
Good luck on your writing!

Next Big Thing Tag

 

NaNo Prep: The Next Big Thing.  Janice Hardy tagged Jami Gold, who tagged me.   I’m honored that she picked me and I’m going to do my best to answer:

 
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
 
Quoting Jami:
As NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—write a 50K word novel during November) is all about writing “the next big thing,” I decided this would be a fun tagging game to play.
So have I.
 
What is your working title of your book?  
Clear Ether.  This is the2nd title I’ve used for it, but I think it works.
 
Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is my first novel length work, and I had a couple of idea kernels that I ended up mashing together, (those make the best stories don’t they?) one being about a vampire and the other circling loosely around my experiences sitting alert as a military pilot.  It made at least half a dozen major morphs before it emerged into what it is now.
 
What genre does your book fall under?
It is Science Fiction Adventure with romantic elements.
 
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Okay, believe it or not I already had this figured out, LOL.
 
 
 
 
(Protag)Remie La Jeunesse – Matt Bomer
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anneliese Trahan – Emily Van Camp
 
 
 
 
Chloe Naquin – Alexandra Daddario
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Conall La Jeunesse –  Logan Lerman
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sage La Jeunesse – Chloe Moretz
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sebastian Meijer – Cary Elwes
 
 
 
 
 
I am actually considering doing a screenplay version, but have to cut about 300 pages.  Heh.
 
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Remie thinks that being a vampire is not all it’s cracked up to be, once he outlived his wife and watched all his offspring die one after the other, and is ready to call it quits, until a chance meeting with a hot tempered young female pilot reignites a spark of life in his long dead heart.
 
Okay that’s kinda long, but I cover a lot of ground and that doesn’t even scratch the surface.  It takes place 700 years in the future and we have inhabited 58 star systems outside of our own.
 
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am going to shop it with a few agents and if that doesn’t work I may try the slush pile at a few book sellers.  If all else fails I may self-pub …  or, I may trunk it.
 
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Another tricky question that on the surface seems simple enough.  I’ve been working on this book for more than three years, but the actual draft that I am currently using took a little more than a year to write. 
 
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I know there are a few cheesy movies that have vampires in space, but this book is nothing like that.  It’s a character driven story.  I know that Jane Fancher has a story, called Blood Red Moon, with vampires, mixed with science fiction but I haven’t read it.
 
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I have wanted to write a novel for about 25 years, and finally put aside video games and made a serious effort to do just that.  It has been a steep learning curve, but I’ve met so many great people on the journey it has made it all worthwhile.  I’ve learned a great deal about writing and publishing in the process.  I think I am closing in on the magic one million word mark and it is all starting to make more sense.
 
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
My vampires are not quite the traditional sort.  They are spawned from an alien phage that came to Earth via meteor strike in ancient time and nearly wiped out an entire region in Europe before the survivors figured out what they were.  It has star travel and space battles and poker and romance.  Chloe Naquin is Remie’s actual granddaughter, from the daughter he had before he was turned.  She is the only person he has ever turned into a Nemisi, and she was a quadriplegic until the day he turned her.  She runs a syndicate made up of Remie’s thousands of descendants from his two children.  Of course he couldn’t have any more children after his turning, but he reunited with his wife for the rest of her life. There is lots more.
 
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
 
Jami Gold tagged me.  She is a writer and blogger extraordinaire and I expect she will be famous before too much longer.  She is one of my oldest twitter friends and I’m excited to cheer her on for NaNoWriMo this year.
 
Stacy McKitrick is my writing partner. She just finished the draft on her 5th book and is shopping her stories right now.  We have been working together for a little more than a year and I really appreciate everything she does.  It’s also a joy to share in someone else’s journey.  NaNo Stacy?
 
Jane Fancher is a writer and artist and is back at the writing thing after a hiatus.  She writes Sci Fi and just released Netwalkers: Partners, a prequel to her acclaimed Netwalkers trilogy.  I’ve read it and it rocks. 
 
Karen Woodward is a long time twitter friend and a prolific blogger.  She collects lots of great information on writing on her blog.  I’m not sure if Karen is doing Nano either.
 
Gerry Wilson is a writer and I only recently met her doing a blog challenge (that I am failing) but she has a wonderful way with words.  Gerry, are you doing NaNoWriMo?
 
I am doing NaNoWriMo again this year and I am Kardaen on their website, and my story this year is tentatively called Requiem for Memory.
 
Clear Ether!

1978 – 8-tracks and Moon Shoes

Jane Ann McLachlan had this great idea for a blog challenge for the month of October to do one day for each of the first 25 years of your life.  This is the 15th installment. 

In 1978 the Dow closes at 805
Inflation was at 7.62%
Average cost of a new house: $54,800
Average income: $17,000
Gasoline: $0.63 a gallon
Movie ticket: $1.50

The Hugo is won by Frederik Pohl for Gateway.
The Campbell Award Orson Scott Card for best new SF Writer.

Worst year for fashion ever!  Leisure Suits, Silk shirts, open collars, gold chains, moon shoes.  Disco is sweeping the world.

The Galaxy 2000 is opened in South Charleston.  It’s a dance club with lighted floor just like Saturday Night Fever.  The Bee Gees tear up Billboard and I actually notice.  I like their music.  It will be years before I start liking heavier stuff.  It will be a few years before I set foot in the place and by then the Disco craze is past.

Fantasy Island premieres and pairs with Love Boat.  I love both of these shows as a kid.

Elvis impersonators start coming out of the woodwork.

The first ever radio episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, is transmitted on BBC radio 4.

Dallas premieres on CBS as a miniseries.

Carl Sagan wins Pulitzer for “Dragons of Eden.”

The first ever SPAM email is sent to every ARPANET address on the west coast of the U.S.

Grease premieres.  Travolta is the hottest thing on the planet. 

The Sony Walkman is released. 

Space Invaders is released.

First test tube baby is born.

I get my first turntable/8-track player.  The first albums are Dire Straits, Foreigner, the Partridge Family and I can’t remember the 4th.  My brother and I start collecting 8-track tapes.  We both like Cheap Trick.

This is the year my mother’s parents move to Madeira Beach, Florida.  The 8-tracks come in handy during our 18 hour road trips to Florida.

I went to camp this summer and experience my first real kiss with a girl I barely know. I’d kissed lots of girls prior to this, but no tongues. It was exciting and scary all at the same time.  She was ready to go behind the bushes with me, and although I wasn’t exactly sure what she had in mind, I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. Six months later my answer would have been completely different.  Puberty is such a strange animal.

I also remember drawing a lot at this age.  I did a pretty good imitation of the Dr. Smock cartoon.  I’m also elected Governor in our WV Studies class, much to the chagrin of my teacher, although I never really figured out what she had against me.

This is the era when I start lifting weights. Mark Moss, Bill Shamblin and I used to go to Carl Hundley’s house several times a week and try to put on some muscle. I weigh right around 100 pounds and could bench 120, but despite my efforts I can’t seem to get any bigger.  Carl seemed to be the only one of us that was gaining any muscle.  My metabolism is ridiculous at this age. I could eat anything and not gain a pound.  Oh, how I miss those days.

Clear Ether!

1977 – Star Wars Impact

Jane Ann McLachlan had this great idea for a blog challenge for the month of October to do one day for each of the first 25 years of your life.  This is the 14th installment. 

In 1977 the Dow closes at 831
Inflation was at 6.5%
Average cost of a new house: $49,300
Average income: $15,000, this is the 1st year it’s gone down in a very long time
Gasoline: $0.65 a gallon
Movie ticket: $1.50

C.J. Cherryh wins the Campbell for best new SF writer.

President Carter pardons draft evaders.

Radio Shack releases the TRS-80.  I managed to get my hands on one years later.  Two months later the Apple II goes on sale.

Star Wars is released in May.

Elvis does his last concert in Indianapolis June 26th. Elvis dies at Graceland at the age of 42.

Voyager 1 launches.

Bill Rogers wins the NYC Marathon.  Long distance running is becoming a fad.

The first three nodes of ARPAnet are connected.  The Internet is born.

What a great year for pop culture.
Movies: Star Wars, Wizards, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, Saturday Night Fever, A Star is Born, Capricorn One
TV: Roots, Three’s Company, Soap, The New Mickey Mouse Club, The Love Boat, ChiPs, The Man from Atlantis
Music: Rumors by Fleetwood Mac released, The Sex Pistols release Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, The Clash release their first album, The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack goes nuts and Disco takes over the world (briefly) but not until 1978.

Elvis dies at Graceland at the age of 42.

Farrah Fawcett posters.  I had one on my wall. 
Digital watches. Skateboarding is making a comeback.

In 1977 I had hair down to my shoulders and was skateboarding and playing board games, like APBA Baseball, Football and Golf, Strat-o-matic Baseball, and Negamco Basketball and Golf. I even invented my own boxing and golf game.  I started playing golf with my dad that year and quit playing baseball.  

But the huge game changer was Star Wars.  I distinctly remember going downtown to Charleston watch it at the Kearse Theater and the line went all the way around the block.  Unheard of back then.  I knew kids at school that had seen it a dozen times.  My mom let us get the soundtrack.  It was the first movie soundtrack I ever owned.  I became obsessed with Science Fiction and wanted to be Han Solo.  I started buying Starlog and comics and Omni Magazine when it came out the following year. I started reading everything I could get my hands on.  It literally changed my life.  I would not be a pilot today if not for that movie.  I am still a huge Star Wars fan and even though I was deployed in 1999, when Episode 1 came out, I managed to see it in Germany. I still love Science Fiction as well and plan on writing in that genre for the foreseeable future.

Clear Ether!

1976 – Life Changing Events

Jane Ann McLachlan had this great idea for a blog challenge for the month of October to do one day for each of the first 25 years of your life.  This is the 13th installment. 

In 1976 the Dow closes at 1004
Inflation was at 5.75%
Average cost of a new house: $43,400
Average income: $16,000
Gasoline: $0.59 a gallon, back up fifteen cents
Movie ticket: $1.50

Hugo for best SF Novel goes to Joe Haldeman for The Forever War

My sixth grade class goes to Washington DC, via bus for our Patrol trip.  This marks the first time I am away from home by myself for any length of time.  It is an inspiring trip to the Nation’s Capital and we see all the memorials, the Capitol building, Monticello and the Smithsonian.

Frampton Comes Alive is released by Peter Frampton and goes platinum. I know it was big among many of my friends, but not with me.  I still didn’t really care much about music.  Mind boggling.

U.S. Bicentennial is celebrated.

NASA unveils the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

Reds win the World Series again. Yay!

Jimmy Carter wins Presidential election.  Some say he was the “smartest” by IQ of any President we ever had.  He was a Naval Academy graduate after all.  But from all accounts he was a micromanager with too many pie-in-the-sky ideals.  Not the type of decisive leader the country needed and he was out in one term.

Apple is formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Chuck Wendig is born.  I was going to release a second version of Wendigisms, but I’ll wait until this blog challenge is over.  The original Wendigisms is here.

Both my father and my mother remarried (different people) that year.  We attended both weddings, which were even in the same month.  That marriage took for both of them, as they are both still married.  I now had four sets of grandparents and new extended families.  It made them both happy, so it was a very good thing, and I love my step-parents. It wasn’t always easy navigating as a kid, but on the whole it was a gain.

That was the year I played Midget League Football.  I think it was actually called that back then.  I’m sure they’ve changed the name by now, since it’s not really politically correct in today’s world.  (I vehemently dislike political correctness)  Anyway, I had the same coach for football that I had for baseball, and as I said before, I wasn’t all that great at baseball, but football was another story altogether.  I think he was shocked at how skilled I was, despite my small stature.  We used to play “Kill the Quarterback” all the time in my neighborhood and I could run all day with the ball. I was the second fastest kid on the team; the fastest was lightning in a bottle, but stick thin.  His older brother ended up playing defensive back for my beloved Minnesota Vikings, so he had some good athletic genes. 

I loved playing football. Love, love, loved it.  Even practice.  Our team was horrible, but I didn’t care.  I found something that I really enjoyed and couldn’t wait for the following season. But, in the interim the city started a soccer league for the first time.  I went out for the team and my speed was a big plus, and I ended up playing center forward.  Our team was pretty good, but near the end of the season my left knee gave out.  I had a bone come out of place and I was unable to run for several years because of it. 

It was a course change for me.  No more football, no more sports, period. And that was all I cared about at the time.  To top it off I had started junior high school.  My focus switched to academics.  Bleh.  I had Mr. Hamilton for math and science, so I had been getting As in those classes, but now I got As in all my classes.  It put me on the path to become an Air Force Pilot. 

It would be several years before I was able to run again, but the speed never came back. It wasn’t meant to be, but I used to think about how different my life might have been if I had not injured my knee. It might have been a much sadder tale in the end.

On hindsight, that was a lot to deal with in one year, but I came through it mostly intact.

Clear Ether!

1975 – Beaches and Baseball

Jane Ann McLachlan had this great idea for a blog challenge for the month of October to do one day for each of the first 25 years of your life.  This is the 12th installment. 

In 1975 the Dow closes at 858  
Inflation was at 9.2%, it has doubled in consecutive years
Average cost of a new house: $39,300
Average income: $14,100
Gasoline: $0.44 a gallon
Movie ticket: $1.50

Hugo for best SF Novel goes to Ursula K. Le Guin for The Dispossessed.

Fran Tarkington and my Vikings lost the Super Bowl to Pittsburg.  I could have named almost the entire roster for Minnesota back then.

Microsoft is created by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.  The first microcomputer, the Altair 8800 is released.  The Cray-1, world’s first super-computer is commercially developed.

Betamax and VHS video machines are created and begin to slug it out for supremacy.

Digital Cameras and Laser printers are invented.

You might recall that I mentioned Mrs. Anderson substituted for Mr. Hamilton on occasion in my last post.  Well, the night prior was the famous M*A*S*H episode where Henry Blake dies on his way home in a helicopter crash.  We watched that show religiously, and that episode really hit us hard.  When I got to school the following day, it was all everyone was talking about, and thank God Mr. Hamilton wasn’t there that day, he didn’t strike me as the sentimental sort.  Mrs. Anderson had the crazy idea to write to the producers of the show and tell them how distressed we were by what happened.  The most wonderful thing happened.  Larry Gelbart, the director of the episode, sent each one of us a handwritten letter in response, on M*A*S*H stationary with green felt pen.  He explained that bad things happened in war, and it was often a sad ending for a lot of people.  Not the response I was looking for, but it was incredible that he took the time to answer a bunch of ten and eleven year olds.

Michael Shaara won the Pulitzer for Killer Angels.

Jaws was released, and scares the crap out of me.  I struggle with swimming in the ocean forever more.  And where do I go right after this moving comes out?  The beach.

My Dad drove me and my brother to Florida that summer and we started at Disney World, staying on the property at the Howard Johnsons hotel.  It had a wonderful glass elevator in the center courtyard.  It’s not there anymore, but it was a cool place to stay.  I also remember standing in line in 90+ degree heat for more than an hour and half to ride Space Mountain, which just opened in January.  We saw all the sights and after a couple of days there, we went to Sea World and then to Daytona Beach and up the coast to St. Augustine Beach.  It was a wonderful trip and a great time to bond with Dad.

The Big Red Machine won the World Series.  Dad and Papaw (my Mom’s dad) took us to Riverfront that fall, so I got to see them in person.  Earlier that year, Dad took us to see the Pirates play at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburg, and Willie Stargell hit 3 home runs.  While I was growing up our local AAA baseball team, the Charleston Charlies was a farm club for the Pirates and I knew a lot of these players from those days.  Dad took my brother and me to Charlies’ games often.  Thinking back to this, I am almost the same age now that he was then.

Clear Ether!

1974 – Paddles and a New Course

Jane Ann McLachlan had this great idea for a blog challenge for the month of October to do one day for each of the first 25 years of your life.  This is the 11th installment. 

In 1974 the Dow closes at 616  
Inflation was at 11.3%, it has doubled in consecutive years
Average cost of a new house: $34,900
Average income: $13,900
Gasoline: $0.55 a gallon, back up fifteen cents
Movie ticket: $1.50

Hugo for best SF Novel goes to Arthur C. Clarke for Rendezvous with Rama.

The Loch Ness Monster is photographed.

Six Million Dollar Man premieres.  I remember watching this every week with my Dad and brother.  The Rockford Files also started this year, and it was one of the few shows I ever remember my Dad saying he liked.

Gold goes from a record high of $121.25 an ounce to $197 by April.  In August congress authorized citizens to own gold.  I guess I never realized we didn’t always have the right to own gold.

The Streak by Ray Stevens hits #1. Streaking was a thing back then.  I still don’t get it.

The Watergate Grand jury concludes that Nixon is involved in the cover-up. He resigns rather than be impeached.

The Man with the Golden Gun premieres and my Mom took my brother and me to this, our first James Bond movie.  Awesome is not a big enough word to describe it.

I started 5th Grade.  Mr. Hamilton is a New York native and he had a different style of teaching than any I had been accustomed to before.  He was loud and ruled the classroom with an iron fist.  He expected us to do our homework and be well-mannered in class.  If he asked you to do something he expected it done, and right now.  His style of teaching would get him fired today but he turned my academic life around.  He seemed larger than life and I was literally afraid of not having my homework done. 

I distinctly recall one episode where one of the students was having a very hard time with his math homework and had even enlisted the help of his older sister and it was still wrong.  Mr. Hamilton was flabbergasted, but Scott Anderson started laughing at his tirade.  Big mistake.  We used the one piece metal desks with a wood top, and Mr. Hamilton kicked Scott’s desk over, with Scott in it, for laughing at the other student.  Holy Crap!  I mean he launched it! As far as I know nothing ever happened to him for doing that, and in fact Scott’s mother ended up substitute teaching for Mr. Hamilton when he was out.  So I guess she was cool with it.

He had a huge paddle that he wielded like a broadsword.  If you got out of line, you got whacked.  I was arm-wrestling with another student on our break time, but when break ended we were still locked in an epic battle and neither of us was giving in, until suddenly we were both grabbed by the shoulder and put into the leaning position against the back counter to be paddled for not getting back to our seats on time.

I was a lousy student until I had him for a teacher.  I went from below average grades to As.  He changed my life.  I know I would not be where I am now if not for him.  His style was unorthodox and would not be tolerated by today’s standards but he demanded perfection and his students performed.  I went back several years later to see him and was surprised to find that I towered over him.  He was maybe 5’ 4”, but my God, he seemed so much bigger when I was 10.

Clear Ether!