Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Sunday Wind Down

As I sit here nursing a warm cup of coffee, it occurs to me that I have nothing typewriter related to speak of this week.

That's ok. I've got something else I'd like to share with you.

My finace says that I worry too much, and I've gradually come to accept that. I love history, and I love studying the lives of real people that shaped our world. But I also love writing. If you read A Steel Symphony, you'll know that I really really love writing. When I spend too much time away from my typewriter or the dozens of novel outlines that I've been wanting to update, I go through a miniature crisis.

No, I don't have legitimate panic attacks. I'm using "crisis" in the lightest, benign sense of the word.

It's never a good idea to dwell on the past. My lovely lady will probably smack me after reading this. I can't help but wonder how much I could have accomplished in the four years of lethargy I wrote about in my essay. True, it was a learning experience, but at times I think I took the wrong lesson from it.

When I go into crisis mode, I try to allocate all of my available free time to writing and reading. Right now that's ok, because all I have to do is edit my current WIP. I finally finished reading the Mistborn trilogy last night. My next book will be a long one, and I've already promised myself that I will only use the Royal KMM for that project.

In short, when I go into crisis mode, I essentially think that I'm an old geezer who'd better crank out as many books as he can because, dang it, that clock sure is ticking.

When I was young, I very badly wanted to be published before I was eighteen. Now I would really like to break into the market before I am thirty. Statistically, most writers aren't published until they're in their thirties, and I finally realize why.

A writer needs several things to be good at his work: skill and experience. You can only get skill by practicing and you can't get experience unless you live your life. They are two halves that directly compliment each other.

But I, however, fall into the trap of obsessing about skill and forget the part about living. But the biggest gripe I get into with myself is what kind of author I want to be known as, which brings me into conflict with some pre-concieved notions about the industry.

I want to write entertaining fantasies, but I also like the idea of stories in contemporary settings that highlight various social issues. The next thing I know, my brain is spinning its wheels trying to figure out how to accomplish all of this.

And then, last week, I found some words of wisdom from one of my all-time favorite cartoonists:

Bill Watterson

The above link is a condensed, illustrated version of a speech he gave back in 1990 called Some Thoughts on the Real World from One Who Glimpsed it and Fled. That title alone is brilliant. The full text can be read here.

Watterson was a true artist in the sense that he treasured his work as something more than a paycheck. It was a fulfilling occupation, something that satisfied a deep longing every human can identify with. Unfortunately, we live in a society, particularly the United States of America, that pushes money and material possessions above all other forms of achievement.

A consumer economy will not survive if the people aren't buying things, so the advertisers have to keep pushing the people to keep buying those things. Often, this results in a grand misdirection: that buying those things will somehow satisfy the longing in our souls.

It just ain't so.

Brian Jaques, author of the Redwall series gave a talk to some kids in Austin, Texas not long before he died. His call to pick up the pen was after a time spent reading to blind children. He was disgusted with the books that were available, and asked, "What happened to the magic? Where were the stories I used to love as a kid?"

Indeed, what happened?

Sometimes it's hard to practice what you preach. I wrote in my essay that doing something for the sheer pleasure of it is, perhaps, the best reason of all. The world will try every dirty trick in the book to make you think otherwise. In my case, it'll try to make me think that I'm really interested in selling millions of copies, earning awards, and becoming the subject of academic lectures.

And that's not even close to why I began writing in the first place.

But I'd also forgotten something even more important: I serve a loving God.

How does that relate to the subject? In every way.

There are three Bible verses that stand out to me in this moment. The first, Psalm 139:14, "I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." The second, Psalm 46: 10, "Be still, and know that I am God." And the third, Matthew 6:34, "Therefore, take no thought of tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Friends, when it comes down to it, we're all going to die. But the single most encouraging thing about the Christian faith is that death is not the end. I serve a loving God, who brought me through ten agonizing years of arthritis and obesity. He surrounded me with people who loved and cared about me, which enabled me to have the confidence I needed to choose my current career path, and a whole lot of confidence I needed to propose marriage to the woman I love.

It hasn't been without sacrifices. Christianity is not a faith that can do done haphazardly, and not without denying oneself, but that's a topic for later.

I serve a loving God, and He promises me eternal life. My writing, my work, that all came from something inside of me. In that sense, it will never die, so long as I live in Him.

Power to the pen, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Steel Symphony

Surprise Monday post!

A few weeks ago I wrote a short essay entitled "A Steel Symphony."

Well, I am very pleased and very excited to announce that it has been accepted by Richard Polt for his Typewriter Tribute section and is now available online!

This counts as my very first professional publishing credit and I am so grateful for the opportunity.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

One Week and a Royal Baby

One week. One week that, by the time it was over, my head was full of memories and my body was out of energy. 

I'll break it down.


First day of work. Toured the museum and other facilities, including a few offices in the capitol building. As we made our way out of one of the side doors, I caught a glimpse of something I'd never seen in my life.

This was just sitting in one of the lobbies.
I'll bet these were a welcome sight for writers in the old days who forgot to visit the Post Office.

Everyone has been very friendly and we're doing some interesting work. I'll post pictures of the finished exhibits when they're on display. Tried to visit some more antique shops, but they were all closed. Yes, it was 4pm Monday.

My reward after the first day: a pastrami/salami/chicken sandwich with mustard, tomatoes and lettuce.
Sandwich courtesy of the local grocery store deli. Dessert courtesy of Culvers.

The staff introduced me to a new tradition: weekly Frozen yogurt excursion.

Once a week? I could get used to that. So could my stomach. Thankfully, they had small bowls.
New York cheesecake (fat free) with fruit and a brownie bit.


Most of the stores around here close around 4pm. Thankfully, Antiquarium isn't one of them.

When I first drove by,  I thought it said Aquarium...

This place is stuffed to the brim with collectible comic books, toys, and other memorabilia.


More books.

Even more books!
A pristine 1962 paperback. $5
There's an old saying: you get what you pay for. Well, I only bought one book. They had plenty of things that I wanted, but couldn't afford (like the first edition copy of Skeleton Crew for $25).

If I'd been anywhere else, I'd say it's ridiculous. However, this place advertises itself as a collectible book store. What do you get for $25? A first edition that's hardly been touched. Most of the paperbacks, particularly the dime novels, have been wrapped in protective plastic covers. Not only that, they've got everything organized by genre and author.

I don't have any Bradbury titles, so I was happy to find one for so cheap in such great shape.

On the way out, I bumped into an old childhood friend.

It's Morhpin Time!


After work I found an antique store in neighboring Apache Falls that wasn't closed. I got there in time for just 30 minutes of browsing. Not much in the way of typewriters.

Another Sterling. A genuine surprise. I've never seen one in a black box before.
This Underwood Universal Quiet Tab was very tempting.
 It came with the original owner's manual and the key to the case!
Alas, upon inspection, the tabulator got stuck on return,
and I had to pull it up with my fingers to get the carriage to advance the last space.
Shopkeep refused to come down, in spite of this. I didn't buy.

I'm kind of surprised how few machines I've seen for sale. There are a good number of antique shops for a town this size. 

Is it possible that the insurgency is accomplishing its mission? Are the masses realizing what they've had in their attic for decades and have decided to hold on rather than condemn them to the trash heap?

Well, I hope so.

This Smith Corona electric was spotted in another building owned by the museum.
(Photo used with permission)

An IBM Selectric II at the curator's office.
(Photo used with permission)

The Selectric II being used to fill out a form.
(Photo used with permission)
After work, I decided to check out the downtown festivities. Something goes on every week, but I had time to kill. I tried Goodwill first. No luck. But then, as I was driving further into town, I just happened to spot another store that was open.

Whaddya know? A Selectric II for sale. But wait....

What's that???
I was quite intrigued. This little guy was impossible to miss.

I have no will power, but I had a Tuscan Turkey sandwich.

Without the ribbon spool cover, the Signet looks like the old Royal portables of the 20s and 30s.

Yes, I took the typewriter with me into town. I've been to many summer festivals in other cities, and this one has its act together. Several blocks are cordoned off to make it safe for pedestrians. To compensate, all of the parking meters on Capitol Avenue are deactivated after 5pm. I quickly found a spot and enjoyed a short walk to the top of a hill.

View of the street from my cafe table.

A special Harley event was going on, not normally part of the festivities.
All I know is that they were really nice bikes. Couldn't tell you anything else.
Of course I had to go over...

Mmm, brat.

My new portable is a Silver-Seiko that was rebranded as the Royal Signet (not to be confused with the American-made Signet series from the 1930s). They started coming into the country in 1968, but I can't find a serial number database for this line.

The Signet is a no frills portable. Here's a list of all the features it doesn't have:

- Ribbon color selector
- Tabulator
- Ribbon direction switch
- Touch control

The ribbon spool cover falls off if you turn it upside down (something's worn out on the pegs that insert into the frame), and the rubber feet on the bottom decayed a long time ago. I can probably fix that, since they were just little rings screwed onto the bottom of the frame like a washer.

 I can hear the purists now.

"Dude! You should've saved your money and bought a Lettera 22 or a Skyriter!"

I might have, if there was one available. I won't argue that the Lettera is probably a better machine (never tried one), but you cannot hope to find one for $17.

OzTypewriter has an article about the post-war Royal portables here. The Signet isn't mentioned, but you can see it in one of the advertisements. 

If you think about it, this machine harkens back to the days of the earliest portable typewriters. Some of those didn't even have a shift function or number keys.

The keytops are big and chunky with indentions for the fingers. It took me a few pages to adjust, but I like the touch. What's strange is that I'm able to type faster and with less resistance if the machine is in my lap, angled down. The Signet can't go very fast, but with practice, you can maintain a certain pace (which is arguably better). 

The shift key is interesting. It's a carriage shift that angles it slightly away from you. It takes a lot less effort than my old Remingtons, which simply lift the carriage straight up. The margin release also serves as the de-jamming key. That's a handy feature.

I finally have a used for this drawer!

Some papers that came with it. No owner's manual.

The Signet did very well when I was downtown. It's very light, about the same as my Macbook. As with most late 20th Century portables, the machine comes with a top half-case that snaps onto the frame for transport.

I would be much more likely to take this on a long road trip than my Sears Tower, simply because of the reduced weight and size. Writing outside is really nice (assuming you're protected from the elements), and the fresh air helps me think.

But I also like the confines of this tiny hotel room.

"The creative act is done on that machine over there. You see this thing?"
(Charles Bukowski with a Royal HH)

I decided to stay home and rest. I've been going back to the gym and my body was very sore.


Sleeping in rocks! I felt a lot better and decided to go out for a quick bit. One of my co-workers had told me about a picnic that was going on at the historic Jefferson Landing. The city has been celebrating its 175th anniversary. Sadly, the heat and humidity thinned the crowds.

This German folk band was a delight. I arrived just in time to hear them play "Edelweiss,"
one of my personal favorites, followed by "The Missouri Waltz." 

Making rope.

Not sure what this thing is, but I used it to help tighten the strands.
The whole operation took three people, ten minutes, and a lot of elbow grease.
An 1850s era barn loom used for demonstration. 

 My last stop of the week was a record store called In the Groove, only a short drive from my hotel.

Entrance of the store.

Front room.

Side room with some furniture for sale.

A 1920s Edison player.
The records were called "diamond disks" because the stylus tip was made of diamond.
 The store clerk told me that a full crank would get you two records of listening time.
Still works!
Bill had a beard???
I always did like him.

A listening station. Try before you buy!

On a final note, OzTypewriter recently posted an article about a one-armed woman who could type 75 words per minute. Read it here.

Ah, but dear man, I've got one to match. Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't been featured on other blogs in the typosphere (that I know of).

I present Ron Mingo.

I've got no idea what machine he's using. My instinct tells me it's a Royal FP, but going 160 words a minute? It's gotta be custom made. My hats off to the one who can track it down. I'd like to see a followup to this video.

And now, a disclaimer.

I hope I haven't spoiled you, dear readers. My future posts will not likely contain as many goodies. The internship is a huge part of my graduate work. I'm doing it in place of a thesis, so I've got to give it 200%.

Don't worry. I'm sure we'll think of something to talk about.

Power to the pen!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Over the River and Up the Hills

What a week!

With summer class over, I had a few days with my beautiful and insightful fiance. On our last full day together, I decided to take her to the place where I first fell in love with typewriters, a gigantic warehouse called The Shed.

Make sure you enter from the left. Bargain Hut is a different business.
I've bought who knows how many dozens of books from this place. The booths might be organized with a definite theme, or piled with random assortments of vintage treasures. There wasn't much in the way of typewriters, but a few wild sightings is better than none.
Smith Corona Electra. 
Coronamatic 1200.
One thing I never realized about these electric typewriters is how heavy they are!
This Studio 45 is the first Olivetti I've ever seen.
The bell was faint, but the carriage return lever folds back for easy storage.
Only $10!

But typewriters weren't the only things that I was looking for. We toured the shops downtown and I picked up two new books.
The Eyes of the Dragon.
Widely rejected by King fans when it was first published because
it was a radical departure from his traditional horror stories.
This beautiful hardcover only cost me $12.
As far as I know, this is a first print edition. Woo-hoo!
A 1953 collection of Jack London stories. $3
But, at long last, it was time for us to part. She had a job hunt to resume and I had to pack my bags for an internship at the Missouri State Museum in Jefferson City.

On the way, I took my Remington Rand Model 1 and my new Royal KMM to be serviced. I'd found a list of repair shops on Richard Polt's Classic Typewriter Page. Jones' Typewriter Company in St. Louis was on the way to Jeff City, so we made a little detour.

A panoramic photo of the inside. It's a tiny place packed to the brim with old machines!

The shop is run by two guys: Charlie and Vern. We spoke to the latter. I gave him a list of issues I wanted him to look at, and then we shot the breeze for thirty minutes. He was very polite and fun to talk with. Since nobody else was in line, he took a moment to show us some of his prized jewels.

Me and Vern.
The Holy Grail of typewriters!
An 1888 Standard Typewriter Company model, based on the Shoels design.
The type bars are made of wood and strike the platen from underneath.
Allegedly, Mark Twain was the first author to type a manuscript on one of these.

Beautiful Corona 3 with the original instruction manual!
This thing weighs less than my Macbook.
Read an awesome story about it here.

Very nice Blickensderfer 7. 

Vern said that they are at least three weeks behind on repairs, but I feel confident that my machines are in good hands. I won't be able to typecast for awhile, since there was no room left in the car for a third typewriter. 

With that done, we fueled up and continued on our way.

I got to my hotel on Thursday evening. Friday, Mother and I spent some time getting acquainted with the city. The population is smaller than Paducah's, but they have so much to offer visitors!

A delicious turkey club wrap from Cafe Via Roma.
A DELICIOUS ice cream cone from Central Dairy. $2.75!

After some eating and sight-seeing, of course we had to check the antique stores. It's a good way to measure a town's character, and after only two stops, I'm rather impressed by what I found.
Brunswick radio with earphones. 

A really cool telegraph ticker tape machine!
A copy of After Many A Summer Dies the Swan...
First US edition!

Correction Selectric 12

Smith Corona Sterling.
Seems to be in good working order.
Keys need a lot of alcohol.
Only $17. It was really tempting, but I passed on.
Hope it finds a good home. 


A poster featuring the Remington 10. The footnote reads like a history book.
At first glance, I thought it was a period advertisement. No price tag.
Remington Envoy with carriage rails so badly rusted that it won't move.
 $4. At least the keys and bell work. Somebody save it!
If that don't beat all, yesterday I toured the state capitol building. In the House Lounge, guests are treated to a series of giant murals painted by the one and only Thomas Hart Benton. Each mural depicts a scene from Missouri's history, and each person is modeled after a real person. The paintings were made using egg tempera. It's the same concept that the ancient Egyptians used in their tombs. The colors will probably outlast everyone reading this blog.

I won't spoil the whole thing for you. Go tour it yourself.

But I did manage to get a quick snap of one mural in particular...

A portrait of the Missouri woman typing on what looks like an old Underwood.
The blood smeared on her face is subtle and disturbing, perhaps the lost men of WWI?

It was a very intense week, but the good Lord saw me through with lots of blessings. When I'm not working, I'll have plenty of books to read and a manuscript to edit. Yet, the downtown is so peaceful and quiet that I could easily take a typewriter there and work without being disturbed. Too bad I won't be able to test that for a while.

On a side note, I've decided to take up poetry again. I guess watching that documentary on Charles Bukowski did something to me. "Oh, you mean I can write free verse, without rhymes or metaphors?" We'll see where it goes.

Power to the pen!