Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Typewriter Vanished and Then a Novel Appears!

My mother-in-law just spent a week here in Missouri, helping us forget our problems. We've got big events coming up at the Felix House (including a lot of school reservations, like, almost every day of the week for the rest of May), plus a four-day trip to visit friends and family in TN.

And then a novel crept from my mind, even though I just finished a 534 page, 180,000 word draft less than six months ago.

Yes, it's that awkward moment when I'm trying to hold off on any big projects until things calm down a teensy weensy bit, and then BAM! An idea I came up with more than three years ago morphed into a new 1500 word short story that the readers on Zoetrope loved and pretty much demanded I convert into a novel.

Yes, it's that awkward moment when, after spending weeks editing Lightwitch and getting it up to snuff for agents, I am now brainstorming a new project.

Dang it, Muse. This is not the schedule we agreed on!

Meanwhile, some of you that peruse may have seen a Nazi SS "Robust" typewriter appear within the last month. The seller clearly had no idea what they had, and the only way I knew was looking at the number keys where the thunderbolt insignia was hiding. I placed a bid, and by the end of the next day, the price was up to $175. Then, less than 24 hours later, I got an email from the administrators saying my bid had been retracted from the auction because:

"Sale of this item is prohibited by Goodwill." 

My guess is that some idiot tipped them off, either by asking for clarification ("Is that a REAL Nazi typewriter??") or threatening to stir the pot ("Like, selling that thing is totally racist").

I'm not mad because the price went up. I'm not even mad that I lost the auction. I'm mad because people lost out on a great opportunity to own a priceless bit of history (albeit, dark history) and a rare typewriter has most likely been destroyed for the sake of political correctness.


But it's not all doom and gloom. I got my Facit 1620 back, and Vern did a masterful job of cleaning. All of the features now work. However, while getting a feel for its Hermes 3000-ish keys, I noticed something. What is it about some machines that make it hard to get really dark prints on the paper?
Don't get me wrong, the Facit seems like a great machine and I'm sure I'll enjoy using it, but it seems that some typewriters have the ability to squeeze more ink out of the ribbon with less effort than others (one reason why I don't like the Olympia SM7, 8, and 9; it just takes too much physical force to make dark text appear on snow white paper under direct light with a brand new ink ribbon, and these are manuscripts I plan to re-read so I can edit them).

Is this a difference in design or am I just expecting too much out of the average typewriter?

Something strange has happened to me in days past. I've found that I really enjoy handwriting notes and story-related things in a notebook using an ink pen. I bought a nice leather-bound one at Wizard World in April, but I also have a plain spiral notebook as well. The leather-bound one is for initial ideas and are written out neatly. The spiral notebook is for whatever comes to my mind and vaguely resembles the scratchings of a madman. One is the kind of book you'd want displayed in a museum, while the other lies buried in the archives of a university because you left it to them in your will.

It's deliberate, but doesn't require good posture like a typewriter. I can do it during slow moments at work, since no one would think twice about a guy writing stuff down and no one can read my handwriting anyway. It somehow makes the whole act of pre-creation a lot more personal, and it's a distinctly different feeling from the one I get when pounding out the first draft on whatever machine strikes my fancy. But I'll be dipped if I could ever handwrite an entire novel with a pen or pencil, like John Steinbeck or Shelby Foote. I'd have to be in pretty dire straights.

*cue the ironic ending catchphrase*

Power to the pen!


  1. We live in a world where people are applauded for hurt feelings, and the machine was taken down because someone get upset it was there. They still accepted bids through email though and I tried to get it. The guy who was winning it before still won it ...hopefully for considerably more than the $175 I drove him up to...

    1. Ah, many thanks for clearing that up. Glad someone got it.