Notes on Writing "The Purple Orb"

Since this site is soon to be transferred to the new location, I will be posting my Chapters on my own website. I am building the page slowly and will notify readers here and on Dreamwidth when it is up for viewing. Thanks for your patience. Okay! Here is the link to the two first chapters.

My original intention was to write what I called “Long Stories” in opposition to the annoying (to me) trend of writing ever shorter and shorter short-shorts which eventually terminated in the Tale of the Tweet, i.e., right down to the level of 140 characters or less. My own preference of sentence length inclines toward the Johnsonian as perfected by Austen with nicely balanced concepts on either side of the fulcrum of a semi-colon. However, I also wanted to develop the idea of three-way choices throughout, as I was tired, tired, tired TO DEATH of binary thinking, stupid double binds, and trrraaagicalllyy over-emoted false traps in a lot of contemporary fiction; so the actual thought-pivot, in practice, might well be a double-hinged pair of semi-colons or a rounded cluster of loosely related clauses, like clumps of nutty ideas in a hefty mass of peanut brittle held together by the glue of mood, atmosphere, and a deliberately dense writing style. (LOTS of adjectives and adverbs, yum.)

I estimated that I could write stories of approximately 40,000 words each, and combine them into one book for a respectable novel-length work of about 120,000 words. At the time, I felt this was a highly original and at least satisfyingly oppositional means to buck the trend. I have since learned that this approach is called a “Story Suite” after the similar idea of a musical composition consisting of a collection of songs or melodic lines with similar instrumentation and inter-related variations on a set of themes. So: thematically related stories about different events which share a common fictional world and a variable cast of characters, with a few well-developed regulars and a cast of thousands, if I liked, but working out in practice to about ten to fifteen people 'on stage' during the course of one story.

This notion was based on my experience of putting together an 80,000 word quasi-novelette which, at the time of compilation, seemed to me like sweating bullets. If you are new to longer forms, you too might experience this feeling of constriction. I believe it is like giving birth: once the first baby is born, the delivery channel is stretched out and the next one is likely to be easier. YMMV.

Okay. So I start writing. I write by ear, not by visuals. I hate and envy people who can write by the visual sense, because it is primary for most people and 'THOSE people' can grab a reader by the short eyelash hairs and drag them into their created world in a blink of time. Grrr. Those of us who merely “hear” our stories have to work overtime and doubletime and backwards to insert into our already wearily overworked prose the little touches, visual cues, aromas, and tastes that give sensory body and fullness to keep the readers appetites fed with a balanced diet. Prose that only appeals to one sense, I find dry and lacking in essential oils and fats. Again, YMMV. Rapid-paced story-telling skips this revision step in order to just keep on going, such as the clean, straightforward, functional, if unremarkable, prose of J.K Rowling. Lots of people like it, and it has undoubted motive power when one is gripped by the 'what's next' of the story.

Back to me and MY idea of what makes for a good story. I had (still do) nine story-ideas in mind to work with, which, when done, would complete the overall idea-complex, and I could move on to other works whose irons were still in the fire. Annnnggghhht ( a you-fail buzzer sound). No such luck. The very first story expanded and expanded and spilled over the mill race and started the mill-wheel into turning and grain flooded in from some silo situated in the Unknown, so that finer and finer gradations of grist came puffing out, till the whole inside of my head was a floury fog of confused sound, song, and fury. Oh, my word! Oh, my words! I had about 300,000 of them, no driving motive of a storyline, just one demned thing after another and more waiting to parade past and all grabbing at my limited span of attention. A whirl of a world, into which I was tossed willynillywonka.

This was when I got the idea to put my growing pile of quilting scraps (heard scenes, dialogs, background exposition, etc.) into a spreadsheet with keywords for quick sorting and organizing. It didn't help. Well, not at all for the first story, which had become a quest to rival Frodo's, but it did assist me in completing one of the nine Longs, and almost finishing this fragmentary piece now before you. I have the beginning down solid, the ending all polished and ready to go, but a doughy, half-baked middle—story of my writing life, where long works are in view.

This is the result of my choice of the first exercise in the Writing Out Loud project. You can see that it has the strengths, motives, and weaknesses of my style of writing. Lots of detail and world building; not very speedy plot development; will take a massive amount of research to verify whether a twelve-year old girl living in a crannog-style village would have all the skills and crafts my breezy paragraphs have bestowed on her; has emotional warmth but not drowned in treacle; intriguing glimpses of Things to Come.


One minute, her life was as dull, fixed, and unchanging as a village adage, something about donkeys and dung, plaaduph, eww; and the next thing it wasn't. The adage stayed the same, as did the truth it encapsulated; but her life was not, and never would be, the same again.

She had escaped, she knew not how, from the fate written for her by an unknown hand, long before she came into existence. She had walked, no, edged away from the only world she knew, on feet as flat and thin as a wood shaving from her father 's workshop. Not her father in blood but in all else that mattered. She had the look of that other man, her blood father, to be sure, and nearly everyone in the village marked the resemblance. They attached shame, blame, or envious admiration to her person on his account, knowing nothing of her and caring less. The funny thing is--was--how she knew any of this to begin with. She had never been aware of her situation, never so clearly as it was now displayed before her inward eye, unfurling before her fascinated gaze like a ribbon of road slowly appearing out of the morning mist.

It was long before she learned what had happened to her -- to them all, all the people she had ever known before her new life began. But we who tell of her adventures are not so limited in our points of view. We can look about us and see the map, a great roll of parchment, spread out upon a deal table, worn smooth with age, and gleaming with the rubbed-in wax of many an ensorceled candle. We can peer over the hunched shoulder, clad in once-black sarsenet now streaky with the faded russet of bleached-out spots and dotty with greenish stains, doubtless caused by spills of roughly handled alkhymical potions. He was an impatient man, a hasty man, this coarse-featured, horny-handed magician--the hands of no monkish scholar, more like a farmer's hands, or a sailor's of course. How else had he come by the map? A pirate magician, a man not to be trifled with or left out of anyone 's account. A man who knew what he wanted but not much concerned with getting the details just right.

He was altering the map. No one but his own son should have the key to the map, be able to read it and find his way to the treasure he had buried hereabouts. He blotted out paths, distinguishing oaks, and even clumsily eradicated a whole village beside the knoll where he had deposited his riches. Alas! He did not know nor care that this was an enchanted map—tied point for point, mote for mote to the surrounding countryside. It was a defensive map kept by the old man, the real magician, to guard his small demesne and keep him abreast of what his neighbors were up to.

A magician must always keep one eye on his neighbors, if he is half as wise as he hopes one day to be proved.But old men have been known to die, in times seasonable or not, and this one had done so. His belongings had fallen into the laps of the auctioneers, and thence, by a tremulo modulation of most unlikely events, his map (at the bottom of a trunk thrown there, rolled up and tied with a tidy ribbon by a hired hussif who knew naught of its magical properties, but only wanted to get on with the clearing and sweeping of the room to make ready for the new tenants as soon as might be) came into the hands of a pirate who had some small smattering of magic to his evil name.

When the clumsy spill of Dysspelling Fluid wiped her village off the map, Sylvie had been in a field next the bounds. There was a palisade of tall poles enclosing the stilt-legged thatched roundhouses where she and hers had dwelt in the boggy wetlands just inland from the coasts. The soils were rich and in summer yielded ample barley for grand beer. Much trade – lawful, half-lawful, and awfully not – passed their way. The Fens, you know, have ever been apt to favor the fortunes of smugglers; and pirates are but a degree or three in difference from smugglers.Flames had begun inside one of the huts, Peaty Purblind, she thought. He must have left a stalk of corn too close the hearth? He had done so before. Where was his little dog that kept him from making those mistakes by barking and tugging at him? It all happened so fast, too fast. One roof to the next, as the fires spread, the villagers came out with wet sacks beating at their own walls or their neighbors ', but in vain. At last they all ran out of doors, snatching up whatever was readiest to hand – and vanished, right before her eyes. Bowls, blankets, babies, bottles in hand, running for the gap in the palisade one instant — gone the next.She saw her father, he saw her and as he ran toward the gap from within she ran to him from without. Both stretched out their hands, they might have touched...did they? She could not be sure. But he too disappeared, fading from sight even as he stood before her. Then blackness. She found herself, floating up, up, upwards on a plume of black and white smoke, striped, like a skunk, and smelling near as bad.

She was but a speck of a girl, a bit of soot, rather, that emerged soundlessly from the map, though she was weeping and shouting as she flew. She landed on a bookshelf, unnoticed, behind the careless magician. There, she expanded in two dimensions, to the shape of a girl of eleven, no thicker than a piece of papyrus, brown reed paper, that all the children made as a game, toy sails on toy reed boats. She was bewildered, of course, and sought to hide. She slipped herself in between two pages of a book and stayed put there for hours. When she crept out, after dark, the little house was deserted. The map was gone, along with its lusty, pepper-bearded, short-legged custodian, she knew not whither, for neither.

She gained thickness slowly over the course of a week, chiefly from breathing. She had never before noticed herself breathing. It had been second nature to her existence. Now, it was primary. She could not help herself: the air was so – so airily delicious. Once she was fully rounded and no longer quite so papery in substance, she began to crave water. There was a spring not far from the magician 's house, her nose led her there. She knew the smell of water before, but never had she smelled it in three-dimensions. It was irresistible, and she risked going out in broad daylight to get to the source. She drank and drank and filled out more completely, thought she felt kind of soggy within for a while. But the water sufficed her every appetite until it didn 't. After a few days she knew what it was to be hungry.

She was a forward, well-grown girl, long in the leg and lithe of limb. Her mother, who died when she was four, had bequeathed her a good flinten knife with a horn handle, wrapped in hide and she knew well how to use it. She dug up the water roots and caught fish and built small smokeless fires to roast them, mostly at night. Whoever had cursed her village out of being might be still about, looking for her.

It was late summer, and there was good plenty all about the little cot. The magician 's garden, left untended at his death, was not much harmed by a month 's worth of weeds; all the produce had been well established and shaded out the worst of the lot. The purslane and sorrel, fast growers, were themselves edible as any planted crop. Once she was reasonable sure no one knew of her presence, she resumed the habit of weeding, harvesting, binding up and drying, as any sensible girl would, escaped from dire peril or not.

Of new beans and old, all gathered and told, there were a goodly round number: seven great stoneware jars, most sealed well and hurtless within, for the old man had been careful about his food stores and magicked the air within his jars. Besides the beans, there was wheaten flour, a small quantity; good gleanings from the last barley mow, mostly in the grain, but some hand-ground and now weevilly but siftable; fish paste, smelly, salty, but sound; some kind of pressed and potted meat, pork was it? or maybe veal?; and the remains of a flitch of bacon, hard-smoked and somewhat hacked about by the sailor-handed man before he took himself off. Why hadn 't the lot been sold or given away? Sylvie guessed that no one would want to taste the food of a magician. She wouldn 't have done so herself had she not been driven by desperate hunger and nowhere else to go. She commended her soul to the Lady of the Waters and ate. When the food did not kill her, she gave praise where it was due and tended the midden as she might have done at home.

A month had passed and none troubled to come to see to upkeep of the cottage; it stood far afield from habited places. She was lonesome and wept for her father and even longed to see the sight of the village children who had treated her with a mix of scorn, envy, and despite. Goody Halram, the nearest she ever knew to a mother 's care, used to bake for her those roasted barleycakes fat with goat 's butter and dripping with bee 's honey. She missed the cakes and the gruff kindness that supplied them now and then. A sip of goat 's milk would not come amiss neither.

But there was far too much for her to do to spend precious daylight hours in grieving her losses. Most days she was so tired out at dusk that she closed her eyes and slept with a spoon and bowl, licked clean, yet in her hands. There would be time enough to sorrow later on.

Feeding herself was made easy by the grace of how her fortunes fell out. But what about winter? Extra clothing there was none in the cot; not so much as a spare blanket. And though she knew well enough how to spin, and might have been 'prenticed to a weaver, come next year, she had but a girl 's knowledge of the art, and what she had seen of her father 's worksmanship in making frames of larger looms. She set about the task of making a backstrap loom, using reeds and nettles and setting cane fibers to ret in the water meadows downstream of the spring.

Reed mats began to cover the stone-laid floor, and a fair stack of them rose to shape a snuggish bed in one corner. For mattress, bundles of dried grasses, not so warm as hay, but plenty of them, laboriously gathered by the childish handfuls and cut with the lone knife. No other tools had she of her own; the magician 's were of no account, all sold or rotten with rust.

A coarse covering of nettlecloth eventually appeared. Not much but more than nothing. The lone window in the cottage was filled in with a bent reed frame and plastered almost shut with a daub of strawed clay, leaving the barest minimum of light and air to enter. She gathered and stacked such firewood as had fallen or drifted down the river. The shed was about half full of green logs, left over from last year, now getting to be seasoned and good. To one side of the shed she neatly stacked her fire-findings, saying the proper prayers over the pine cones, the oaken snaps, the bundled and mud-plastered gleanings of twigs that, with care, could provide a little light and heat, released slowly as the wood charred inside its tube of earthen coating.

She had grown so used to the place and her solitude that she took to singing as she worked, as she had done all her life, heedless of who might be on the listen. Late in the summer, when the Lady with the Sheaf was beginning to rise at night, she was out one day on her usual errands and chores, when she heard a distinct rustling in the stubble of the barley patch.

The weather had been dry and a good part of the barley she had managed to bring in, one handful at a time. Still, more than half the field was left standing and would likely go to waste, unless someone might remember of it and come to glean grain that was never put in by their own hand, as she had done. It was not evil if there was need, so much she did know. Perhaps birds would come to partake of the unwonted plenty, and she might snare them or net a few when she was fishing before it got too cold.

But it was no bird she was hearing that day. Something much bigger was moving through the unmown barley. She stopped singing at once, quickly fled the field and shinned up a willow, then cautiously, silently, transferred herself to the tall beech that grew close beside, on which the willow leaned. It had been coppiced many times and made a most complete screen for someone her size. There she waited and watched.

For the first time since her escape, she was afraid, not knowing who or what was out there. She had not long to wait, however, and the wait was well worth its pains. Out form the base of the stalks came trotting a little dog, one she knew and who knew her. It was Peaty 's dog, the very one, spots and a limp from a short leg. He came snuffling about into the stubble, thrice circled the place whence she 'd fled, ran to the willow and looked up eagerly, barking in his hoarse little voice. Down from the beech she came as fast as she could to get down with him and take him up into her arms, saying his fellowname over and over.

;Peaty, Peaty, Peaty! Do you miss your Peaty, like I miss my Da? Oh, Peaty, how did you get away? What 's happened to us? What 'll we do?” She wept all over again at her loss as if a wound had opened and bled; he licked her salt tears and whined and worried with her for a while. Then he wriggled out of her grasp and barked sharply, running off into the mow, making as much racket as he could. She, fearing to lose him, ran after him. But he soon reappeared, driving before him two fat and healthy goats, one pregnant and the other a female not quite a yearling. They were Goody Halram 's, two of her herd, and they too knew Sylvie, and came to her begging to be combed.

She wept still more at being united with her memories in the form of these two dear fellow creatures and, since they were both full to popping point on stolen grain, she led them home, with Peaty proudly bringing up the rear, knowing that he had been the cleverest dog that ever was, to have found Sylvie and brought his charges safe to proper care.

Now there would be no more fears for the winter—or less than might have been. They would all keep each other warm at night, and there was plenty for the goats to eat. Peaty was a rare ratter and would keep the mice out of the newly cut grain. The wool from the goats Sylvie might spin all winter, and use to make snares or felted patches as might be needed. It was altogether such a blessing that Sylvie went down on her face and kissed the ground, thanking the Lady of the Earth for looking after them all. She also looked up and prayed to the Lady of the Stars to protect her father and all the folk of her village and their kin, and prayed that they might all meet again. Perhaps the Faerie had taken them, and might send them back again? She did not know, and a thorn of discontent worked its way into her heart, even in the midst of her gratitude and despite her unaccustomed ease and bounty. Sylvie hugged the goats and wept.

The blessing of companionship and belongingness soon made itself felt, however, and the four of them settled into a comfortable routine. Sylvie, with her clever fingers and father 's knowing, fashioned needful things such as snares of green willow and worked a yew sapling into a hunting bow for small game, strung with a cord twisted from her own hair. Later she replaced the hair bowstring with a better one of squirrelhide, cut in a perfectly even spiral with her mother 's good knife and her father 's meticulous care. Her loved father 's care, that is. She knew naught of the Baron her breedsire, nor he of her.

That, of course, was going to change. But not just now, children, not this winter, at least.


The snows came soft and thick and tremendously high that Yule. The four companions weathered it well as as only the young, the old, and the wise, can do: without worrying too much about anything to come. They had food and fire and shelter and each other; and that was enough for now, if not for all eternity. The roads were blocked up, the waters were but thinly frozen, easy to break and drink or gather for cooking. If the goats soiled one reed mat, Sylvie made another to replace it, and the midden steamed like a chimney all winter long. Peaty knew better than to relieve himself indoors, and was as content as he had ever been, save for missing his duty of bossing Peaty Purblind about. But the goats served well enough as a substitute and Sylvie was as good a playfellow as any dog could ever want.

Sylvie wove tight reed grain sieves and even finer sifters and worked the quernstone and combed the goats, and dug up roots and culled cabbages and made dumpling soup and kept filling up with snow the black glass basin the magician had used for scrying because it warmed when the sunlight struck it and melted the snow for indoor drinking. She fed Peaty from the vealpot once a day, though most days he hunted up his own meals. The goats got fat on grain and straw and the still green herbage that grew by the waterside long into the turning of the Wheel. Early in the New Year, the older goat gave birth to twin kids, but one of them was runty and died. The other was uncommonly large and hale. Sylvie suckled the goat 's other teat now and then, taking the place of the dead twin, and she grew stronger too. The dead twin was not wasted neither, but skinned and the meat eaten by Sylvie and Peaty with solemn prayer from her and great relish by himself. The goatskin became a pair of good leggings that kept Sylvie from cuts of sharp ice, and frostbite when she went out with the goats to watch over them while they ate the corn. There might be wolves or cats about, though they seldom came this far into the wetlands; but you never knew what Old Hunger might foster on you unawares.

Sylvie was handy with a sling and she set small hurdles and weirs to catch fish and birds, as she had planned. Altogether, there was hardly daylight enough to get done all she had to do, and, as before, busy hands made for a quiet mind.

It was well into spring before her life was to change yet again.

David Trammel's picture

I cleaned out the code snippets that were left at the start of the paragraphs for you. In doing so the first few paragraphs of your story merged. I put some breaks in but they might not be as you wanted them.

Thanks--I meant to go back and clean up the rest of it myself. The paragraph breaks are not vastly important, since it is but an experimental exercise in composing from jmg's idea-generating technique.

David Trammel's picture

One of the techniques I use to evaluate my stories, is reading some of the passages aloud as well, taking particular note of when my spoken reading pauses. That is where in my text would a speaker pause, if what I was writing wasn't a story but a speech.

You can think back to any character that you have watched in film, who gives a speech and how they have long passages and shorter ones, often pausing between even sentences, if they want to give move emphasis to an idea or a phrase.

Most of my stories have some sort of action, be it a sword fight or a chase, and I will often slowly decrease the leangths of my paragraphs leading up to the action. When at first a paragraph might have 6, 8 or 10 sentences before a break, as the action increases that number gets smaller. I find it speeds up my attention and hopefully the reader's as well.

You can also use that technique, the shortened paragraph when you want to bring attention to a particular subject when its among a bunch of other more mundane ones. Readers, and I'm guilty of doing this as well, will sometimes space out a little on larger tracts of text, especially if its being used as a introduction of the society or environment that the character inhabits. Breaking these sections up with an occassional group of 2-3 sentence paragraphs can help to keep the reader focused.

Especially if these "breadcrumbs" will be important later in the story.

A large section of text that is describing the village that the character lives in, how they grow food and trade for supplies, what government they have and their enemies, can be spiked with theses simple sentences.

"And then there was Nigel, the local priest of Bal. In a religion that preached obedience, Nigel made it his point, day in and day out, to tell every how the town's people should live their lives. He was particularly attentive in that way to Sylvie and her few friends, even if they didn't want it."

Now you don't have to Nigel show up in the same chapter but can keep him and his watchful eye in the background. And can't you just what Nigel looks like in your head, lol.

I had planned to overwrite last month’s Notes with this month’s. However, since there is a useful conversation attached to them, I’ll just add on from here. (For, it is simply NOT DONE to leave other people’s posts dangling in mid-air on the edge of nothingness.)

JMG, who started this project, has moved on to Scene 2 of Draft 1. The pieces I hope to post on the new Home of the Green Wizard site in pdf format, are whole chapters comprised of multiple scenes that may include a number of fancy foo-fahs such as flashbacks, indirect speech, or other tools and toys that repose in the grab-bag of writers’ techniques. These chapters will have been edited and polished several times already, so cannot be viewed as first nor even fifth drafts, but as essentially complete story units, ready to go to press, barring the need for a complete rewrite – which, my Lady forbid!

There are very sound reasons why JMG advises beginning writers not to edit-as-you-go during the composition phase. However, I do just exactly that; it is a habit of long standing, derived from: 1) the way I compose poetry (usually by the sound and rhythm of the words); and, 2) years and years worth of technical writing. I do not find that editing-in-stream stifles my creativity at all. It does slow me down; but at the same time, it gives precision to my ideas, shapes and informs and lends a certain heft to the prose that I find satisfying at the end of a work session. I also find that copy-editing (fixing punctuation, checking for typos, poor grammatical structures such as disagreement of plurals and tenses, etc.) creates an immediate opening for sharpening the focus of a scene, rearranging sentences, removing redundant thoughts, picking out a choicer word or fresher metaphor – another set of tricks of the trade. This in-stream editing habit was reinforced by doing my writing as a hobby or after work activity; I wished to have each successive stage completed at one session so nothing would be hanging over me when I next had a chance to write. Thus, when time permitted, I seized on each scrap of dialogue or narrative flow with both hands and did not let go until I had done my best to capture all the nuances of that particular inspiration I could wring out of it.

Once a session is done, I tend to read over the chapter (or scene) once more to see if it is shaped and polished to my complete liking. Creating a nicely rounded episode in my novel is as pleasant as taking a fragrant loaf of home-baked bread out of the oven to cool on the countertop. The act of writing can be a kind of sensual pleasure in and of itself, without ever bringing a storyline to completion.

This is why poets should never EVER try to write novels. The much longer arc to completion that a novel portends is antithetical in many ways to the whole notion of poetry. Poetry is usually meant to seize and concentrate a reader’s attention into a small compact compass, like looking into a microscope and seeing the animacules that are invisible to the naked eye. Whereas novels are like looking out onto a vast landscape, parts of which you examine with a telescope to make sense of the whole big view.

I am a living example of doing this thing the hard way. I have LOTS of good material and even know the ending, but the middle sags uncompleted for want of crucial bits of story that my highly polished chapters have essentially pre-locked into the form. I hope to use the techniques for beginning a writing project to shift this logjam of massive amounts of material and get the pieces moving into a more or less orderly downstream flow. All I need is a lever long enough and a place to stand.

This, "so the actual thought-pivot, in practice, might well be a double-hinged pair of semi-colons or a rounded cluster of loosely related clauses, like clumps of nutty ideas in a hefty mass of peanut brittle held together by the glue of mood, atmosphere, and a deliberately dense writing style. (LOTS of adjectives and adverbs, yum.)"

reminded me of the hinged 'heya,' the double-armed spiral symbol at the center (of the inward and outward again flow) of the fictional Kesh people in Ursula LeGuin's Always Coming Home. The book is a kind of 'story suite' like you mention, with poems and 'ethnographies' and folklore and narratives... around a theme of time and place. Perhaps you've read it?

These days (or in all days, I don't know), trends arise in reaction to other trends' declines or as a kind of counter-force but all ultimately just revealing that there's an audience for everything. So, bring on your long sentences, there ain't no harm in tryin'!

As to your question about zines, below.(grrr...dang forum software doesn't let me actually see what's 'below' now that I'm commenting here)... Basically, just

- make up some content (written, drawn, collaged, painted, photographed, whatever)

- make it into page-size format

- print it and bind it

- distribute it

I'm at the final stage of content creation (two last graphics to go), have it very nearly laid out in its final format and then must count my pennies and get it printed/copied. Will bind it in a nice way and send it out to interested parties. It'll be 16 half-sized pages in length, covers in color, the rest black and white. When I get my act together and make time to continue working on it, there's a tear-out linocut postcard that'll be on the inside as well.

I'm a slowpoke, though, and this is about a year in the making (in spurts and stalls).

I have conceived of it being a periodical series of themed issues and am using it as a way to combine some wide-ranging creative dabbles that can be put on paper - otherwise I am fearsomely critical of my dilettante tendencies and then all fun grinds to a halt 'cuz it's not Well-Behaved, Productive, Creativity and THAT IS BAAAADDD!! This is my concession or step toward hopping out of the binary (Slacker:Producer or Dabbler:Artist ---> how about Just Making Stuff When I Can? yep, that'll do nicely.).

Lotsa zines are political or personal, and zine culture trends toward the leftward/activist direction - I'm aiming less toward a tightly defined topic or political/social stance and more toward whatever catches my fancy, which is rarely the hot-button topics of today's (US) social world except for my underlying drive toward relationship with place and exploration of ways of knowing/understanding. Eh, that sounds kinda loosey-goosey. I don't know what I'm trying to say Laughing out loud other than I'm not making an *-ist zine.

You could make one too. Anyone can. That's the cool thing.

I wonder whether you have ever done an ergo on the work it takes to complete a zine? That is, how many personal hours does it take to complete the physical aspects of printing, including layout and all?

Nope, I have no clue. It'd be different for each zine maker. A workshop held locally was led by a guy who just whipped 'em up in a few hours - not counting mulling ideas, collecting content, or artwork that was longer in the making but that he just had 'lying around' and thought to use, this was just him cutting, pasting, moving around, copying, amending and then stapling.

Me? I'm sporadic and working on many things at once so am totally no help there.

The reason why I ask is this: it seems to me that the zine mode and culture is the ideal way to get useful knowledge for the future into print form. I have collected a lot of electronic books on topics like railroads and sewage disposal and how to make hairbrushes out of pig bristles, and lots more. A regular zine that prints meaty extracts from these books as the main feature, together with fiction, poetry, and graphics by people who associate with the zine editor included as lagniappe would be fun and instructive. The actual printed copies, once read by the first purchaser could become trade, barter or sales items to make a little money back and pay for the subscription to the zine. Or, they could be bound into book form as a reference work on various topics of interest: composting and humanure, or garden tips for the local region. This, to me, would be an ideal way to publish the Gladdis world stories, including all the world-building stuff which I call the Taluriapaedia that contains little essays about the world: not stories but snippets of ‘research’ and homlies and so forth. Like Herodotus on steroids, so to speak.

THAT is completely fitting - there's (as you probably know) already a strong lean in that direction, with zine culture coming out of the punk movement and its emphasis on DIY.

I have a number of writerly friends (some known in person, others via internet) who are publising in ebook format and while I'll do that as well, I very much also want to create actual things. So though my zine is reliant to some degree on computer work (for layout of some pages), having actual cut and paste and then printed and handbound physical 'books' is the currently closest I can get to letterpress (which I liked a lot when I had access to a printshop in college) - and anyway, hybridity is fun; pure letterpress is kind of restrictive in format, and I like the malleability of photocpying and mashing of things together.

There's also something welcoming about the zine "voice" that offers how-tos and such - a kind of "hey, we're in this mess together, let's do something creative to make things better, more fun, interesting, etc."

I very much like your notion - it feels right at home in the zine milieu (not that I have tons of exposure). And frankly, it sounds like all the best of the internet, saved for when the www is harder to get into.


I don't know where I land on the wrting-from-which-senses fulcrum but as a reader, I have to say I love your lush sound, the wordplay and the ...


oh, I was trying to figure out what the next part of that sentence was, I realized that I was casting about in my mind's ear for what sounded right!


huh. I'm gonna hafta think about that one a bit. I mean, I visualize to a large degree, but have to actually feel the thing I'm writing about bubble up as a whole that I approach obliquely, trying to suss out its characteristics from the not-just-visual sensory detail. I'm thinking, though, that my first love that fed on language (that would poetry) set me up to need a richer diet. Yeah, some folks are "good storytellers" but if they aren't good word-workers, I leave the party with my tummy rumbling.

Ok, so this is neither here nor there - I just want to say, 'cuz I didn't on the thread in which you posted such delightful names for the backstabbing/backslap phenomena that I like your writing (incl. in Into the Ruins - that is you, right?).

Yes, you are blessed if you have the visual trait and also have the ear. It makes reading such a joy. It does make airport books taste like melba toast left too long with a hole in the wrapper. Yas, the Ruins stories are me, thanks for the comps. It helps a lot to have appreciative readers. I will post my chapters here, if they are not too bandwidth intensive. If they are, I will keep struggling to make my own website come back to life. Do you have a preferred sentence length? Or do you use them all in turn so none of them feels left out?

Haha, here's something you might get. So I've got an old story with a line that I've grown to love - problem is, it's got a word spelled "incorrectly" - the way I want it to be said/heard, not the way it actually is. And it comes across as a typo yet I can't stand the right way to pronounce the word. I haven't un-corrected the copy-editor yet, waffling in indecision about the matter...

Keep in mind, this isn't going to make any kind of sense taken out of context, but just so you can hear what I mean:

"And as he strode down the esophagal streets he would sing to his spirit, “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,” seeing fledglings scatter as he belted their song into flight."

The question is, do I keep esophagal (with it's shadow-rhythm of esophagus but the klaxon visual of a misspelled word) or correct it to esophageal (with its overabundant reliance on Latin rules and English spelling conventionality)?

Typically, I'm not that nitipicky, but this word, misspelled, is the way it was literally heard in my mind and I LIKE what it does for the sentence.

Anyway, to answer your question about sentence length... I have no idea!

I like parenthetical thoughts so have to rein that in a bit, but am happy to use a short sentence for impact. Probably mostly I go a little long.


I wish I had more time for fiction right now but I'm stretched kinda thin between two jobs and heading a household while the spouse works overseas (poster-children for a last-ditch effort to survive a globalized economy and shrinking resources... Anyway...), otherwise, I'd be doing the Writing in Public exercises (on the ecosophia dreamwidth) with more attentiveness and vigor and (not least) finishing up my zine and putting out a collection of short stories, each of which hover behind me, breathing but otherwise silently waiting while I don't finish them.

I can well imagine that you have too much on your plate at present, but can you say more about your zine and what you want to accomplish with it? I am interested in the zine scene as a peripheral satellite, but do not understand it from the inside.

In my opinion, you are perfectly right to keep your word even if it is a neologism. It fits the rhythm perfectly, makes a wonderful image and is NOT being used in a medical sense. Tell your computer to "add to dictionary" and do not worry about it.