Monday, May 27, 2013

Harbor Stories - Introduction

I grew up in Grays Harbor, Aberdeen, to be precise. The south side of Aberdeen, to be even more precise, a couple of blocks from the Chehalis River, in a neighborhood of houses with no basements because the Chehalis went over its banks at least once a year and flooded the streets. The combination of big rain and an ultra-high tide would do it; we could look at a tide chart and know just about when it would flood. As the water rose, all the stuff under our houses would float out: bits of wood and fabric, Wonder Bread wrappers, insulation, dead cats and mice, discarded toys and headless dolls.

I remember a family of beavers swimming down the street one year. My dad would tie our crayon-green rowboat to the front steps and we'd row around in three feet of water.

For the record, yes I know the house where Kurt Cobain lived. Yes, I know the places he wrote about and no, I didn't know him, I was long gone from the Harbor before his family arrived. And yes, the Harbor really is a gray and drizzly place all year 'round, almost perfectly temperate when I was a kid with very few sunny days but also very few really cold days. I can remember entire summers when there were maybe a couple weeks of semi-sunny weather. The result? I am slightly distrustful of too many sunny days in a row.

Grays Harbor -- or just "the Harbor"  was the first of many harbors, bays, sounds, ports, and inlets that I lived in (literally, in boats and houseboats) and still live on. Years ago I started writing about them, and now I have several bulging folders (real and digital) of stories; places and people that I've collected into a series called -- not surprisingly -- "Harbor Stories".

It's kick creating a amalgamation of everywhere I've lived and visited and populating it with people that I can't make nearly as quirky as the people I meet. I include myself in the "quirky" category. The best I can do is to combine quirks.

To make it all work I've created a fictional place; Salmon Bay, which just recently renamed itself, much like how the Queen Charlotte Islands are now Haida Gwaii. I've had to draw a map of my fictional place so I can keep track of where everyone's comings and goings.

The nifty thing about a blog is that I can post character sketches and such to see what to look like "in print" before integrating them into the book. It's a humbling experience: I think I've got a sparkling character only to see him or her fall flat after being filtered through the blog.

About Salmon Bay--

Salmon Bay has one store/gas station: the Mercantile, called the "Merc" by everyone because the "antile" fell off the sign in 1952 and was never replaced. There are tribal offices, a school, a post office, a harbor with four docks, mostly filled with crab and fishing boats. There are five churches and four taverns: the religious folks feel they have the edge on the drunks.

More about the Merc next week.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Me and the Wacom

Back after an intense two weeks getting three manuscripts through final edit and on their way to being published.


Carpal tunnel syndrome was doing me in. I've switched from one kind of mouse to another and used a big Kensington trackball for years, but even that was getting to me after six and eight hours of editing. (I use an ergo keyboard, which helps the typing part).

Years ago I used a Wacom (and that's Wah-com, not Way-com) tablet. 1994 and I remember having to type in the code because I was doing animation on a Unix-driven system. I wondered if I'd imagined that, but no, here's the Linnux code for the ArtPad.

I now use a Wacom Bamboo Create, as my primary pointing device. There was a heck of a learning curve, I discovered I have a tapping my fingers on the  tablet surface when I'm thinking, which made the tablet respond in creative ways. (Mostly it thinks I want the screen bigger.)

The new tablet functions like a tablet computer or a SmartPhone with tap, touch,  and double and triple finger combos. There are also mouse keys on one side -- in 2001 the Wacom came with a separate mouse, it's all integrated now and that is cool.

I don't use either a tablet computer or a Smart phone, but figuring out the tap-touch-drag stuff is quite intuitive. What I've got is a touch screen-like-function attached to the big desktop monitor and that's kicky.

Two things you'll want to know at this juncture: I mouse left-handed. I draw and paint left-handed and write right-handed.


Sometimes I just do whatever I was going to do with whatever hand I picked up the pen with.

The Wacom default is left-handed mousing (as if you're using a laptop touchpad) with right-handed drawing.

My brain goes wonky figuring out what I'm doing with what hand. I find myself drawing and mousing left-handed just to keep the left side and right side of my brain from screaming at me. And oh yes, the pen also has left/right mouse poor brain does somersaults.

And occasionally I flip the Wacom to left-handed orientation--but don't change the orientation of the buttons and such -- and use the whole thing backwards.

If you've tried writing with your non-dominant hand, you may have discovered that you try to write from the opposite side of the page and backward. I'm pleased to report that the Wacom is perfectly happy with me writing backward; it appears forward on the monitor.

And now I am back to editing, because even with three manuscripts almost off my desk, there are others waiting for my attention.