Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, April 28, 2013

In Which I Do Terrible Things to My Back

I suppose everyone has that one nook or hidden cranny (hey, get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talking about spaces within one's home) which they use as what I shall charitably call an unorganized free-form storage space.

I had one. Here in my study. The study is an A-frame cabin style structure, which my Dad and I built by hand back in the early 1990s. The loft area, which is sized for Hobbits, has three-foot knee walls, and in the southwest corner there is a tiny closet.

In this diminutive closet, chaos reigned. I must confess I simply stacked things in it, usually with my eyes closed and always before hurrying away. It was a mess.

But no longer! I went in today, armed with three stalwart Sherpas, a vintage 1944 Sherman tank, two flamethrowers, the USS Strident, and a towel.

We lost the Strident in a pitched battle with a stack of old Writer's Market books, and one of the Sherpas fled after witnessing a dust bunny achieve sentience, but at the end of the day, the space was cleared.

The bad news is that I did something awful to my lower back. There was a prehistoric Sony CRT, you see, and there were stairs. I won't go into the details any more than that. The CRT, which still works and occupies a volume slightly less than a Buick, is now at the end of our driveway bearing a sign which reads WORKS, FREE. I'm hoping someone out there takes it home because frankly I can't bend over anymore.

The good news is that I unearthed my valiant Smith-Corona PWP 5.

I'm not entirely sure when I bought this machine. I believe it was 1984. I do know that I bought it because PCs were, at that time, both enormously expensive and basically incapable of doing anything other that waiting for the late 1990s to arrive. Seriously, a computer capable of doing even rudimentary word processing in 1984 was the approximate size of a dorm refrigerator, and almost as effective as a dorm refrigerator at doing word processing. What? You want to <gasp> cut and paste? Move a sentence?

Wait a few years, future boy. In the meantime, dial into AOL and enjoy some 8-bit graphics.

I couldn't afford a PC anyway. So I went with the Smith Corona PWP-5 instead, and that's when I started writing in earnest.

Marvel at the PWP's awe-inspiring seven-line LCD display! It could do global word replace. It could print -- one sheet at a time, fed and removed by hand. It could store manuscripts on disc. One disc could hold nearly 100 pages of double-spaced text!

Man, I was in technological heaven.

I wrote a lot of stories on that tough old machine. Wrote them, printed them out one page at a time, and then mailed them via the United States Postal Service, because this 'e-mail' of which you speak hadn't even hit Star Trek yet.

There is an old homily which states that every writer has a million bad words they must write before they get to the good ones inside them.

If that is true, then this poor machine endured my million bad words.

Speaking of bad words, on top of the PWP-5 there was a box.

Inside this box, dwelt horror.

I speak of the last surviving manuscript of my first complete novel. I thought I'd burned all the copies, but this one survived.

DO NOT LOOK TOO CLOSELY UPON IT. You know that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis open the Ark? Remember that guy's face melting?

This manuscript was in the Ark. 

Yeah. It's that bad. All 314 unrelentingly bad pages of it. Each of which was printed out over the course of a weekend in 1985, page by appalling page.

Thinking back to that weekend, I realize now a small part of me knew just how bad this book (its title may not be spoken aloud, nor may its cover page be shown) was.

I was young. Young and inexperienced. I sent this thing out, thus exposing unsuspecting tens of slush readers to near-certain doom.

I apologize to any survivors.

I'm going to keep the PWP downstairs now, to remind me how easy I have it now with my monstrous 4-core dual-monitor rig and my snazzy Word 2010.

The Manuscript Which Cannot Be Named will be sealed in a lead box, encased in concrete, and put in a deep underground vault which is quickly filled with tons of molten lava. A stainless steel placard on the surface will warn the people of the far future away from the site with prominent displays of dangling participles and graphic examples of adverb overuse.

I'm still amazed my valiant PWP-5 didn't just run away about the time MTV first aired.

A few more random pics, and we'll dispense with history.

Meet Big Blue. Big Blue is my ten-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope. I mention her because she weights a combined 90 pounds (scope and stand) and it appears I will never lift that kind of weight again.

I built Big Blue six or eight years ago in a fit of telescope mania. It took months, because even a Dobs needs to be a precision instrument and that takes time.

Does she work?

Yep. The first thing we saw with her was the Orion Nebula, and it was beautiful.

That was years ago, and I haven't hauled her outside since. Why?

I'm lazy.

Last pic!

A couple of cool things unearthed in the Great Closet Assault of 2013 wound up on my shelf. Specifically, the dowsing rods around the central steampunk gun.

They're cool rods, solid copper, hand-made by an expert dowser. I myself have absolutely no talent for dowsing (if in fact there is even such a thing). But they're well-made and I'm glad they're down where they can be appreciated.

If you're like me, and let's hope you're not, the first thing you asked yourself this morning was 'Self, where can I obtain and/or purchase a Mug-themed coffee mug, or other items or apparel related to the book All the Paths of Shadow?'

If you did make that query, well, as usual I'm here to help.

Drumroll, please, as I announce the grand opening of.....

Meralda's Magical Merchandise!

Want a Mug mug? We can hook you up! Prefer a tee shirt? Got that too!

Mousepads, posters, nightshirts, adult tees -- check out the store. If there's something you want that isn't there, let me know, and I'll ask Meralda to whip something up.

That's all for this week! I'm going to go lie down flat and hope the stabbing pains subside.

Stay safe out there, people!


  1. Feel better, Frank!

    But seriously, you have to know that you can't post a high-res image of the Novel That Shall Not Be Named, sternly warn us not to gaze closely upon it, and actually expect that we WON'T gaze closely thereupon ... even Mug knows better than that.

    I have to admit, I rather like "mongrel herd of coffee cups grazing in the dust."

  2. Oh no -- apparently, the awful prose defeated the blur feature in Corel Paintshop Pro X5! If you have looked directly at the images of the Novel Which Must Not Be Named, please flush both eyes liberally with cold water and a Hemingway book cover before seeking medical attention!

    There is still hope but time is of the essence. If have viewed Page 38 (The Page of Doom) see emergency medical care or a Tanith Lee audiobook immediately!

  3. All's well. Page 38 remains unseen. Exposure to other pages of the Novel has proven to be successfully treatable through medical use of single-malt Speyside whiskey, taken internally and repeated as needed.

    Come to think of it, that remedy could apply to your back, too!

    1. Speyside? I shall try that!

      I thought the back was better until I tried to assume a full vertical posture just now. Internal application of Speyside seems appropriate!

      Thank you, Dr. McFadden!

  4. Yeah, I want to read that novel in the worst way now.

    Laphroaig over Speyside. Islay malt for the win.

  5. Maybe I'll put my copy of the Necronomicon and the Novel Which May Not Be Named up for sale on ebay. I know several budding Evil Overlords which would jump at the chance to own both infernal works.

    Didn't sleep at all last night. Back pain was unyielding. Couldn't go in to work today either. If I had a bottle of Laphroaig right now I would upend it .