Watch Us Sweat

Underwood Typewriter

Remember these?

National Novel Writing Month (hereafter NaNoWriMo) is a yearly contest to write an entire novel in just 30 days – November – from scratch – you start writing on November 1st, and stop no later than midnight November 30th.

Yes, it’s insane. But it’s a way to stop procrastinating, and actually sit down and write that book you’ve had in your head all this time.

The idea of NaNoWriMo was conceived by Chris Baty, and his site is here: NaNoWriMo.Org

That’s the official site…

Here at Often Inspired, we like to gather a few people during November for NaNoWriMo and have a party, where we share our work on the forum, pass out prizes, gripe, praise each others work, rally at the end, and produce some novels.

This will be our fifth year!

Join us on the forum and toil along with us, or just… watch us sweat.

Here are the instructions…

The Brown Room

clock“It’s because of the paradox,” I explained.

I fidgeted a bit in the hard metal chair. Government-issue furniture didn’t seem comfortable no matter what country supplied them, or what century. Of course my comfort wasn’t important at all to the middle-aged German police officer listening to me and writing in his small brown notebook. Everything in the room was brown, even the police officer’s suit and hat.

“We found you can’t go back into the past and change it in any important way, such as saving a political figure from being assassinated. We tried that with Archduke Franz Ferdinand and immediately the agent who garroted Princip, the assassin, found himself back at the venture capsule staring at a PATH FAILED mission indicator and only remembering the attempt hazily. He recorded what happened and then returned to base.”

The police officer raised one eyebrow and smiled grimly. “I am no fan of the Nazis, Herr Brummler, but such an astounding story doesn’t persuade me to release you. You are accused of killing Adolf Hitler, a notorious political agitator and admirer of Mussolini, at the house of Herr Hanfstaengl. Do you know we were but a few minutes from arresting that swine when you shot him? You killed him for no good reason. I would like your statement to answer this question. Why?”

I looked around me for a moment to get my bearings. I knew I didn’t have much time left. The clock on the light brown wall of the interview room showed 11:29. But if I persuaded…
“Of course what I’m saying sounds like gibberish. I’m nervous. I need to get back to my small vehicle. You can escort me there. Aren’t you interested how I got here? Where I came from? I promise I only want to open its door, and press one button. One small button. That will signal the computer that I succeeded. Is that so much to ask?”

Officer Ratzinger seemed even more amused. “I’m usually out in the countryside, helping our rural citizens solve mysteries such as missing cattle and non-payment of grain loans. I’m filling in for Officer Meyer, so please excuse my lack of sophistication. I do not believe a word you have said so far.” He leaned back in his own unyielding chair and chuckled. “Tell me who helped you find Herr Hitler. He was on the run from the entire Bavarian State Police after his little rebellion failed. We were set to toss him in prison and let him rot there harmlessly.”

“I’m not making myself clear. So you can’t change the past. But you can change the future. You can go forward, alter events, and there is no paradox.. Do you understand me at all?”

Ratzinger nodded. “I have read a few pieces of speculative fiction, Wells, Verne, and the like. I can see that. Go on, tell me how ‘they’ overcame this problem.”

I wiped my brow and looked at the clock. 11:35. So close, so close. I needed to get the idea into this rural cop’s head. “So they sent the equipment and our team all the way back to 1900, and we were not told what we were supposed to do or why. We were told to perform an unknown mission once a month—simply grab a mission kit, enter a venture capsule, and close the door. It would go somewhere, and to some… date. Because we would be traveling into our future, and knew not what we were supposed to do, we would leave the capsule, close the door, and then try to figure out what change they wanted us to make. Once I knew the date was 11 November 1923, and everyone on the street was talking about Hitler and the NSDAP, I knew. I knew I had to kill him. I did kill him! I prevented the worst war and massacre of the 20th Century. But it will be for nothing unless you take me to my—”

The policeman raised a hand to stop me, smiled, and uncuffed me from the table. My heart raced. He was going to take me there! Then he spoke softly to me while holding my wrists in his firm muscular grip. Ratzinger snapped the cuffs shut on me. “I have enough now. Don’t worry, Herr Brummler. We don’t execute the mentally deranged. You will be treated for your illness and perhaps, in a decade or so, you may be allowed to rejoin us.”

The time was 11:40. My twelve allotted hours were dwindling. Only twenty minutes left. I tried to break away but Ratzinger only smiled broadly. “Don’t make me crack your skull against the table. Behave yourself.” He pushed me into the small cell in the back of the room, and locked the door. He stood outside the grille and looked at me. “I am sorry for you. I think you mean well, but you are totally mad.”

I looked despairingly up at the clock. 11:46. Still time… the venture capsule was only a few blocks away…

Ratzinger disappeared, the cell grille faded, the furniture dimmed, and I found myself standing in the brown room, completely alone, just four walls, a ceiling light, and the clock, the clock must have been slow. My time was up. The brown room faded… and I was sitting in the venture capsule. The numbers glared red: 00:00 and the mission indicator changed to PATH FAILED. I had automatically been returned to 1900.

–William V. Burns

A Cottage Industry

Writing is local.

L. Frank Baum

A Local Writer—L. Frank Baum

If you’re sitting at a desk, or in the coffee shop, or under the weeping willow tree, tapping on the keys and trying to make your artistic vision one with the blank, mocking page—you are a local. If you have handed your work to someone and in return they have reluctantly given you a wrinkled piece of whatever currency spends successfully at your grocery—then you are also a business.

A cottage industry, no more, no less—akin to a potter, or wheelwright, or cooper or blacksmith, whether there is an oak tree or not in the area. You are an ink-stained wretch, grubbing for whatever shekels you can gather.

Writing is global.

The Internet may have hastened the process and broadly increased its extent, but laying words on a page to influence minds has always promised a worldwide audience.

J. K. Rowling has charmed people from pole to pole.

Stephen King has given universal willies in dozens of languages.

Dr. Seuss redefined whimsy and entertained children around the world.

If you write, your words may reverberate across the globe.

Write what you know, but write what you think people should know, wherever they are and whoever they are.

Even if you are writing in a cottage.

–William V. Burns

Won’t Get Done List

Difference Engine

*ahem*

  • Finish M is for Mouse (Jake & Logan novel)
  • Initiate Project Reset (Collaborative post-apocalyptic writing project)
  • Write the rest of Dark Offices ( Thriller set in Alternate 1980s)
  • Reboot Elissa: Sentience (AI Sci-Fi Novel)
  • Write the outline for Good Citizen (Dystopic Novel)
  • Finish The Crux (short story about ultimate predator)
  • Write tale of contents for Some Assembly Required (collection of science fiction shorts)

Yes, I’m trying the ol’ reverse curse.

–William V. Burns

Variations on a Theme

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles

by William V. Burns via Facebook

Belgian waffles vs Buttermilk waffles vs Whole Grain waffles vs Sweet Potato waffles vs Blueberry waffles vs Pumpkin waffles vs Chicken ‘n’ waffles vs Almond waffles vs Applesauce ‘n’ Sausage waffles vs Oatmeal waffles vs Chocolate Chip waffles vs Luft waffles vs Black Forest waffles vs Yeast Raised waffles vs Malted Milk waffles vs Danish waffles vs Tangerine waffles vs Praline waffles vs Banana Peanut Butter ‘n’ Bacon waffles vs Bayesian waffles vs Sour Cream waffles vs Norwegian waffles vs Gunpowder Tea waffles vs Cornflake waffles vs Wild Rice waffles vs Marble waffles vs Corned Beef waffles vs Garlic ‘n’ Onion waffles vs Pinkie’s Compleat waffles vs Heliotropic waffles vs Banana Nut waffles vs Slam-bang waffles vs Eggnog waffles vs French Toast waffles vs Sourdough waffles vs Potato waffles vs Chateau Laffite waffles vs Deep Fried waffles vs Gingerbread waffles.

Re-Kindle your Love of Reading

by William V. Burns

January I bought myself a new Kindle e-book reader.

I’ve read more books in the last three months than the last three decades.

It’s just a lot easier to turn five idle minutes into a chapter read.

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.

…and a dozen more besides.

I’m reading books that were far too hard to lug around…

Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant…

It’s a delightful voyage…

Amazon Kindle

This is the 3G-enabled slate model with the optional read-in-bed leather cover. It’s lighter than most books…

–William V. Burns

Inspired Literary Madness

NaNoWriMo Logo

One thousand, six hundred and sixty-seven words each day. Without stopping for a month. You might have a novel at the end of it.

That’s National Novel Writing Month. That’s NaNoWriMo. Here in our forum, each year, the writers gather, discuss their preparations, characters, plots, electronic gadgets, and hole up, separate from the distractions of the world, hermits for a shared cause.

Write that novel. Accumulate a pile of words. Fifty thousand words on the truck scales, drive on, weigh, hear the hiss of the brakes, have a cup of coffee and drive off, perhaps to sell your cargo to an eager publisher.

Come join us in the rough camaraderie, the brotherhood and sisterhood of the driven. Get that first novel under your belt.

Become an author in bulk. Learn to throw your weight around.

Join us here.

–William V. Burns

Commonplace Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft

“Where do you get all your ideas?”

That’s a commonplace question for writers of fantastic fiction – horror, science fiction, fantasy.

A very uncommon author wrote down a lot of his story ideas in a list called a ‘commonplace book.’

Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who brought us the Cthulhu Mythos and a raft of other horrible, fascinating, beautifully crafted stories, took his dreams, fancies, inspirations, and random events in his life – and wrote them down as seeds for his fiction.

A few samples from each year:

4 Horror Story
Man dreams of falling—found on floor mangled as tho’ from falling from a vast height. [x]

8 Hor. Sto.
Man makes appt. with old enemy. Dies—body keeps appt.

1919

25 Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that

‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’

and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors.

Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief. [Cthulhu]

51 Enchanted garden where moon casts shadow of object or ghost invisible to the human eye.

52 Calling on the dead—voice or familiar sound in adjacent room.

53 Hand of dead man writes.

54 Transposition of identity.

55 Man followed by invisible thing.

56 Book or MS. too horrible to read—warned against reading it—someone reads and is found dead. Haverhill incident.

57 Sailing or rowing on lake in moonlight—sailing into invisibility.

87 Borellus says, “that the Essential Salts of animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious man may have the whole ark of Noah in his own Study, and raise the fine shape of an animal out of its ashes at his pleasure; and that by the like method from the Essential Salts of humane dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal necromancy, call up the shape of any dead ancestor from the dust whereinto his body has been incinerated.” [Charles Dexter Ward]

1922?

90 Anencephalous or brainless monster who survives and attains prodigious size.

91 Lost winter day—slept over—20 yrs. later. Sleep in chair on summer night—false dawn—old scenery and sensations—cold—old persons now dead—horror—frozen?
1923

107 Wall paper cracks off in sinister shape—man dies of fright. [x] [Rats in Walls]

110 Antediluvian—Cyclopean ruins on lonely Pacific island. Centre of earthwide subterranean witch cult.

116 Prowling at night around an unlighted castle amidst strange scenery.

117 A secret living thing kept and fed in an old house.

1924

118 Something seen at oriel window of forbidden room in ancient manor house.

119 Art note—fantastick daemons of Salvator Rosa or Fuseli (trunk-proboscis).

120 Talking bird of great longevity—tells secret long afterward.

128 Individual, by some strange process, retraces the path of evolution and becomes amphibious.

Dr. insists that the particular amphibian from which man descends is not like any known to palaeontology. To prove it, indulges in (or relates) strange experiment.

1925

130 N.E. region call’d “Witches’ Hollow”—along course of a river. Rumours of witches’ sabbaths and Indian powwows on a broad mound rising out of the level where some old hemlocks and beeches formed a dark grove or daemon-temple. Legends hard to account for. Holmes—Guardian Angel.

131 Phosphorescence of decaying wood—called in New England “fox-fire”.

132 Mad artist in ancient sinister house draws things. What were his models? Glimpse. [Pickman’s Model]

133 Man has miniature shapeless Siamese twin—exhib. in circus—twin surgically detached—disappears—does hideous things with malign life of his own. [HSW—Cassius]

134 Witches’ Hollow novel? Man hired as teacher in private school misses road on first trip—encounters dark hollow with unnaturally swollen trees and small cottage (light in window?). Reaches school and hears that boys are forbidden to visit hollow. One boy is strange—teacher sees him visit hollow—odd doings—mysterious disappearance or hideous fate.

140 Explorer enters strange land where some atmospheric quality darkens the sky to virtual blackness—marvels therein.

1926

151 Man forced to take shelter in strange house. Host has thick beard and dark glasses. Retires. In night guest rises and sees host’s clothes about—also mask which was the apparent face of whatever the host was. Flight.

152 Autonomic nervous system and subconscious mind do not reside in the head. Have mad physician decapitate a man but keep him alive and subconsciously controlled. Avoid copying tale by W. C. Morrow.

1928

157 Vague lights, geometrical figures, etc., seen on retina when eyes are closed. Caus’d by rays from other dimensions acting on optick nerve? From other planets? Connected with a life or phase of being in which person could live if he only knew how to get there? Man afraid to shut eyes—he has been somewhere on a terrible pilgrimage and this fearsome seeing faculty remains.

158 Man has terrible wizard friend who gains influence over him. Kills him in defence of his soul—walls body up in ancient cellar—BUT—the dead wizard (who has said strange things about soul lingering in body) changes bodies with him . . . leaving him a conscious corpse in cellar. [Thing on Doorstep]

1930

172 Pre-human idol found in desert.

173 Idol in museum moves in a certain way.

174 Migration of Lemmings—Atlantis.

175 Little green Celtic figures dug up in an ancient Irish bog.

184 Expedition lost in Antarctic or other weird place. Skeletons and effects found years later. Camera films used but undeveloped. Finders develop—and find strange horror.

185 Scene of an urban horror—Sous le Cap or Champlain Sts.—Quebec—rugged cliff-face—moss, mildew, dampness—houses half-burrowing into cliff.

186 Thing from sea—in dark house, man finds doorknobs etc. wet as from touch of something. He has been a sea-captain, and once found a strange temple on a volcanically risen island.

1931

187 Dream of awaking in vast hall of strange architecture, with sheet-covered forms on slabs—in positions similar to one’s own. Suggestions of disturbingly non-human outlines under sheets. One of the objects moves and throws off sheet—non-terrestrial being revealed. Sugg. that oneself is also such a being—mind has become transferred to body on other planet.

188 Desert of rock—prehistoric door in cliff, in the valley around which lie the bones of uncounted billions of animals both modern and prehistoric—some of them puzzlingly gnawed.

189 Ancient necropolis—bronze door in hillside which opens as the moonlight strikes it—focussed by ancient lens in pylon opposite?

1932

190 Primal mummy in museum—awakes and changes place with visitor.

191 An odd wound appears on a man’s hand suddenly and without apparent cause. Spreads. Consequences.

1933

193 Strange book of horror discovered in ancient library. Paragraphs of terrible significance copies. Later unable to find and verify text. Perhaps discover body or image or charm under floor, in secret cupboard, or elsewhere. Idea that book was merely hypnotic delusion induced by dead brain or ancient magic.

194 Man enters (supposedly) own house in pitch dark. Feels way to room and shuts door behind him. Strange horrors—or turns on lights and finds alien place or presence. Or finds past restored or future indicated.

195 Pane of peculiar-looking glass from a ruined monastery reputed to have harboured devil-worship set up in modern house at edge of wild country. Landscape looks vaguely and unplaceably wrong through it. It has some unknown time-distorting quality, and comes from a primal, lost civilisation. Finally, hideous things in other world seen through it.

196 Daemons, when desiring an human form for evil purposes, take to themselves the bodies of hanged men.

197 Loss of memory and entry into a cloudy world of strange sights and experiences after shock, accident, reading of strange book, participation in strange rite, draught of strange brew, etc. Things seen have vague and disquieting familiarity. Emergence. Inability to retrace course.

1934

198 Distant tower visible from hillside window. Bats cluster thickly around it at night. Observer fascinated. One night wakes to find self on unknown black circular staircase. In tower? Hideous goal.

199 Black winged thing flies into one’s house at night. Cannot be found or identified—but subtle developments ensue.

200 Invisible Thing felt—or seen to make prints—on mountain top or other height, inaccessible place.

201 Planets form’d of invisible matter.

202 A monstrous derelict—found and boarded by a castaway or shipwreck survivor.

203 A return to a place under dreamlike, horrible, and only dimly comprehended circumstances. Death and decay reigning—town fails to light up at night—Revelation.

204 Disturbing conviction that all life is only a deceptive dream with some dismal or sinister horror lurking behind.

1935

213 Ancient winter woods—moss—great boles—twisted branches—dark—ribbed roots—always dripping. . . .

214 Talking rock of Africa—immemorially ancient oracle in desolate jungle ruins that speaks with a voice out of the aeons.

217 Ancient (Roman? prehistoric?) stone bridge washed away by a (sudden and curious?) storm. Something liberated which had been sealed up in the masonry of years ago. Things happen.

218 Mirage in time—image of long-vanish’d pre-human city.

219 Fog or smoke—assumes shaped under incantations.

220 Bell of some ancient church or castle rung by some unknown hand—a thing . . . or an invisible Presence.

221 Insects or other entities from space attack and penetrate a man’s head and cause him to remember alien and exotic things—possible displacement of personality.

H. P. Lovecraft’s Commonplace Book preserved in our forum.

Author, make a Commonplace Book of your own. Jot the seeds down, and check them off as you use them.

–William V. Burns

Hook Them Early

Public Speaking

I remember the sweat under my armpits, a dry throat, and gripping the edge of the podium hard to keep from throwing up.

Hell is [speaking in front of a large group of] other people.

Sometimes I have to speak in front of people who don’t know me at all. The biggest obstacle to acceptance is appearance. I am a short, balding, slightly pudgy guy who wears thick glasses. When I walk in front of an audience I can hear the pigeonholing happening as I come up to the podium. I have to immediately break that up.

There is a protective cognitive screen between the creator and readers of written material. It’s harder to overcome prejudice (in the strictest sense of prematurely judging) in person. My secret is to activate the desire of people to become part of a larger group. To unify them.

There are several triggers that can unify a group. Hate, anger, fear, joy, or a shared experience. Depending on the subject or setting, I pick different stimuli. When I go in front of an audience, I have to read them. Why are they here? What would they rather be doing? What is the blockage? Would a joke help? Unite them against a common irritant or foe? Use an anecdote to connect them to the experience I want to share with them? Can I appeal to their love of shiny objects?

Who are they and why would they be interested in anything I want to say?

Bring this principle back to writing.

Author, who is your audience? Why should they be interested in what you have to say? You have three sentences to win their interest.

Hook them with a shared experience, a shared emotion, a common foe.

Or… make them laugh. Laughter is the universal shared experience.

Make your reader part of your group. Then you can lead them.

–William V. Burns

Cudgel and Blade

H. L. Fisher

There’s a short story that’s been staring me in the face for a year or more now. It’s a good science fiction tale, with an underdeveloped narrator and two possible endings. The penultimate chunk of words (about 1,200 or so) remain unwritten. My writer’s block I think is because I want it to be a quality piece of writing.

Desire freezes me in my tracks close to consummation of my passion.

The solution is to pick up my cudgel and beat out a couple thousand words to finish the first draft and not worry too much about the quality, but just pour it in and smack it in place.

Then it will be time for the blade. Slice off the cheesy parts, shorten the sentences, carve out the rest of the sculpture from the rough wood.

I pick up my cudgel now.

–William V. Burns