In Which We Keep to the Code

Take what you can, give nothing back!

Those who fall behind are left behind!

Parley!

POTC Logo

Okay, my title isn’t actually referring to the Pirate’s Code. I’m talking about Morse code, y’all.

A friend and I thought it would be just too cool if we knew Morse code. (John Watson from “Sherlock” knows it. ‘Nough said.)

Something like that, yeah.
Something like that, yeah.

So we determined that, by jolly, we would learn! Together! Morse code buddies, for the win! And in about a day-and-a-half, we’d more or less memorized the alphabet*.

* (And not many days after that, we managed to forget most of it due to lack of practice. We are just that quick, y’all.)

This is not a brag post. (Although, I mean, seriously: Go, us!) Rather, I thought I’d share with you the tricks we each used to take on our self-imposed challenge**.

** (And which we can use again, whenever we’re game to buckle down and relearn this stuff.)

1 ( . _ _ _ _ ) = Study the chart. Specifically, this chart, which I found online by simply searching “morse code chart”. (No, I did not bother to capitalize the “m” in “Morse”. No, I am not proud of that fact.)

morse-code-chart

And for some people, that may have been enough; alphabet memorized. But our brains needed a little more to go on than that.

2 ( . . _ _ _ ) = Look for patterns. This little brainwave was my idea. Taken as a whole, the assignments of dots and dashes look pretty darn random – which I guess is a helpful feature in a successful secret code. But I noticed that many of the letters had mirror images or opposites. Observe.

Mirror images:

A / N = . _ / _ .

B / V = _ . . . / . . . _

D / U = _ . . / . . _

F / L = . . _ . / . _ . .

G / W = _ _ . / . _ _

Q / Y = _ _ . _ / _ . _ _

 

Opposites:

E /T = . / _

I / M =  . . / _ _

K / R = _ . _ / . _ .

S /O = . . . / _ _ _

P / X = . _ _ . / _ . . _

Visualizing one half of a pair helped me to remember the other, reducing my mental workload significantly.

3 ( . . . _ _ ) = Write it out. Many times. I’ve heard it said by more people than just me that the act of handwriting a thing can help it to stick in the memory. Typing may have a similar effect; I opted for both – handwriting the alphabet according to the mirror/opposites patterns, and typing out strings of sentences so I could get accustomed to using letters as they’re intended (i.e., for words!).

4 ( . . . . _ ) = List the dots ‘n’ dashes alphabet out loud. Of the two of us, my friend is apparently a stronger auditory learner, and so finds this technique more helpful than I do. Unless the information is set to music, I’m not as likely to remember it in the long term. This makes her the one to go to for “Doctor Who” quotes, and me the one to sing you all 80 minutes of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.

Between the two of us, we’ll annoy the . _ _ . / . _ / _ . / _ / . . . off of you!
Between the two of us, we’ll annoy the . _ _ . / . _ / _ . / _ / . . . off of you!

5 ( . . . . . ) = Find ways to make individual letters stick out to you. For me, for example, I can easily remember the sequence for R ( . _ . ), because it looks like the emoticon someone might use after I went on a rant about the time my cousin ate the piece of birthday cake with the R from “birthday” on it. (Yes, it was like seventeen years ago. No, I’m not over it. I wanted the R; it was a Ralphie from “The Magic School Bus” thing.)

And V…! You guys, my mind went boom when I out-of-the-blue realized this:

The Morse code sequence for the letter V = . . . _

That is the same rhythmic motif as seen over and over in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

The Roman numeral for 5 = V.

Talk about a composer ahead of his time! ...Even if it was only by a handful of years. X)
Talk about a composer ahead of his time! …Even if it was only by a handful of years. X)

6 ( _ . . . . ) = Do it for fun! Because as we all know, learning new stuff is always easier when it’s fun! …Or when lives are at stake. That kind of motivation may help a bit, too.

 

Got any tricks you use to help with memorization/learning new things, or fun Morse code facts? . . . / . . . . / . _ / . _ . / . in the comments!

“Princely” or “And the Patiently Waiting Nominees Are…”

Previously on Ever On Word, my blog and I received the Liebster Award, for which the rules of acceptance are as follows:

* Answer the 11 questions provided.
* Create 11 questions for the next nominees to answer.
* Link back to the one who nominated you.
* Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
* Go to their page and tell them.
* No tag backs!

I’ve taken care of items one and three; now to finish the job by announcing my 11 nominees and questioning them like the good cop/bad cop interrogator I am.

Because I like to work with themes, I’ve chosen to relate each of my 11 questions to my novella, “The Swan Prince (Book One of the Wilderhark Tales)”, (coming in 3 weeks, whoo-hoo!). It was a challenge (there are only so many general questions you can ask about swans!), but I think I managed to come up with a “like or befitting a prince; magnificent” mix. Take a look.

1. If you were cursed to take on an animal form every night, which do you think the spell-caster would choose for you, and why?

2. Which song reminiscent of moonlight on water do you enjoy more: Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata, or Debussy’s “Clair de Lune?

3. Name the fairytale nearest to the story of your life.

4. You feel sick. ): Would you rather see a doctor about it, or tough it out alone?

5. Who is your favorite “Swan(n)” – Emma Swan (“Once Upon a Time”), Bella Swan (“Twilight”), Elizabeth Swann (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), or [other]?

Must’ve been a real pain in heroine school, having all those other Swans in your class…
Must’ve been a real pain in heroine school, having all those other Swans in your class…

6. Who is your favorite prince? (Real, fictional, the “Purple Rain” artist who partied like it was 1999… whatever.)

7. Who is your favorite “the”? Just kidding. X) If you had to go on a two-week walking trip with someone – any someone – who would you want it to be, and why?

8. Are you the cool, rational type, or emotional and instinctual?

9. How far would you go to make a person fall in love with you?

10. Describe your early childhood home.

11. What does “happily ever after” mean to you?

As for my nominees, I feel like I’ve already tagged most of the bloggers I follow. So I figure, hey, how about I show some love to the bloggers who follow me? (Just in case you weren’t of the opinion that a subscription to my words is reward enough in itself…)

A warm round of applause to our dozen-minus-one arbitrarily selected nominees:

Shannon A. Thompson

Ionia Martin

ofglassandbooks

Carrie-Anne Brownian

The Parasite Guy*

Ellen J. Miller

Rick Mallery

Ursa Bowers

Kate Conway

Fel Wetzig

Bird

Congratulations, one and all! And to anyone who didn’t get nominated and is sitting there thinking, “Aw… but I wanted to answer those questions…”, I do have a comments section, guys. If you’ve got answers you’d like to put there, I would be glad as all get-out to read them. (:

* Speaking of The Parasite Guy, would you believe it? He’s nominated me for yet another award – the Sunshine Award! – the rules for which are:

Sunshine Award

  1. Post the sunshine award logo
  2. Accept the nomination and link back to the nominator
  3. Answer the questions
  4. Nominate ten other blogs(or sites) and inform them of the award

1, done. 2, done. 3… well, I’ve answered these particular questions once before, and my opinions on these matters have not much changed. So I’ve decided to delegate and let one of my characters answer in my stead. And what better character to interview during this princely post than the swan prince himself? Sigmund, come on down!

Favorite color: “I’ve not thought about it, much,” he says, clearing his throat awkwardly at having been summoned and thrust into the spotlight with so little notice. “I suppose I prefer dusky reds, like burgundy.”

Favorite animal: “The trumpeter swan.”

Favorite number: His narrow, sidelong glance at me has “This is a silly question” written all through it, but he answers, “How about… seven.”

Favorite non-alcoholic beverage: “Water.”

Favorite alcoholic beverage: “They don’t serve alcoholic beverages at the children’s asylum. The nuns promote temperance. Perhaps if I spent my evenings carousing in the village with the other youths, I would acquire a taste for it anyway; but I do not.”

Facebook or Twitter: “Wilderhark has neither.”

Passions: “I have yet to develop any. I have more important things to concern myself with. Never you mind what.”

Giving or receiving gifts: One shoulder lifts and lowers in an elegant shrug. “If the gift is worth receiving, I would prefer that. If not, you’re welcome to it. Enjoy.”

Favorite city: “Cersegg. Though I don’t expect most of your readers will know where that is.”

Ooh, hey, this question wasn’t on the list, last time I answered. I choose San Francisco! (…pending my someday visit to London.)

Favorite TV shows: “Wilderhark doesn’t have television, either.”

Well, we do. And I don’t watch it much, but when I do, it’s probably because “Once Upon a Time” is on.

Thank you for your indulgence, Sigmund! As for my ten nominees… well, gee, the list I’d compiled for the Liebster would have been perfect – eleven minus The Parasite Guy, since he nominated me – except P.G. nominated Shannon A. Thompson as another of his ten, and I don’t want to burn her with too heavy a dose of awarded sunshine. So I’ve got one additional nominee:

Gwen Stephens

Congrats, award winners! And mega-thanks to all my followers, for bringing your sunshine to Ever On Word. Y’all make me smile.

“Pirate” or “The Best of Buccaneering”

D’ye know what today be, mateys? International Talk Like a Pirate Day! I kid you not – as of 1995, it is a holiday, recognized by at least tens of thousands of Facebook users.

In honor of the day, I figured I could, if not talk legitimately like “one who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation” (I’ve just come off of a summer locked in 16th-century England; great as it was, I’d like to be able to just talk like me, for a while!), then at least have a little informal talk about pirate-related things. Things like…

“Pirates of the Caribbean! Show of hands, who among you loves these movies? I can still remember the first time I saw “The Curse of the Black Pearl” on TV; that moment when the moonlight revealed the accursed crew for what they really were… *shudders* It terrified me, but it didn’t stop my adoration of Captain Barbossa. And by the time we reached the climactic swordfight between Barbossa and Captain Jack Sparrow, Hans Zimmer’s “He’s a Pirate” heightening the swashbuckling ambience, that was it. I was hooked. The pirate’s life was for me!

I mean, c’mon: Pirates have swords! Who doesn’t love swords?!

“I know I love swords!” Will Scarlet cheers.

Of course you do, you Merry Swordsman, you! Also among pirate weaponry are pistols and cannons and, in the case of Peter Pan’s nemesis, a hook for a hand.

“And muskets, and bombs, and knipple shot—”

What kind of shot, now?? Where are you getting this, Will?

The Pirate’s Realm dot com,” he says, pointing to one of our (apparently) shared computer’s open tabs. “They’ve got a page all about pirate weapons.”

Ah. Someone might enjoy that. Thanks, Scarlet.

“All very well,” Allyn-a-Dale walks over to chime in. “But you’ve yet to mention the most alluring element of piracy.”

“Thievery?” Will guesses.

Allyn shakes his head and answers (in pattern-conforming emboldened font, bless him), “Pirates have ships to sail the open seas.”

Or the Great Lakes, I say, recalling my voyage once upon the Tall Ship Windy. That was fun.

Writer buddy Tirzah Duncan was awesome enough to bring her own hat. One of the ship’s crewmen was awesome enough to lend me his.

“Naturally, it was,” says Allyn. “Captain Sparrow actually put it rather lyrically, in that aforementioned film: ‘Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is… what the Sword-o’-the-Gale really is… is freedom.’”

A stirring recitation – although Jack Sparrow didn’t say anything about the Sword-o’-the-Gale.

Allyn coolly adjusts the cuff of his alter-ego’s elegant coat (which I hadn’t taken notice of his wearing, ‘til now). “He would have, were he Captain Gant the Second.”

Well, be that as it may, I’m all for big, beautiful ships and the sparkling sea. Thanks for joining in on the pirate talk, boys! Readers, feel free to toss in your two pieces of eight! What parts of piracy have you cheering “Yo-Ho”?

“Tag +!” or “Get Your Head Back in the Game(s)”

Righteo, readers! – who’s ready for the second round of Blog Tag? I’ve answered and asked my first five questions, and the halftime show is over (without a trace of scandal, unless Bruno’s voice or Saturday’s scientific/theological debate can thus be called), so now let’s finish up strong! (And then we’ll have ourselves a little unrelated bonus round of sorts. Hang on to your hats, kids, this place in jumpin’!)

6. When it comes to your creative endeavors (writing, drawing, singing, cooking, whatever!), what is your best source of inspiration?

Quite often, my past creations will inspire those to come – books and short stories and poems and pictures all circling around related themes; the off-the-clock babble of characters sparking a story that simply has to be scribed; and even my tales without minstrels in them have been known to inspire songs. (Take my The Princess and the Moon” music video, for example. …Well, I mean, don’t take it; that would be shameful piracy. But do feel free to watch and listen.)

7. Do you plan on doing NaNoWriMo this year? / 8. Why or why not?

Oh yeah, you better believe I am! My first NaNo gained me an awesome book (“The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”), an equally awesome best friend (Tirzah), and all sorts of other awesomeness inspired by those first two awesome things. My second NaNo didn’t quite count as a NaNo (although it counted for a lot as a PerGoSeeMo), so I’m more hyped than ever to have a proper NaNo this year. And by “proper”, I mean off the hook! I’m even planning to attend The Night of Writing Dangerously in San Francisco with Tirzah and two of our mutual writing buddies, so BOO-yah! Do I have any idea what my novel’s going to be about? Not a clue. But that’s what October’s for.

9. What’s one thing you like to do to relax?

Relax? Oh, mercy, I don’t bother to do that nearly enough. I have to justify everything I do as being somehow productive, or I feel like I’m frittering my life away. However, those infrequent times when I’m willing to say, “Forget productivity, I wanna do this!” I’ll usually double back to re-smell the roses. Read stuff I wrote. Listen to music I composed. Look back on old drawings. Or maybe hang out on DeviantArt to look at other people’s drawings, while listening to others’ songs on Pandora Radio or YouTube. Or reread someone else’s book (I specify rereading, since I may count reading something the first time as a sort of productivity). And, oh yeah, gab on the phone with Tirzah at all hours; when we’re not annoying the snot out of each other and don’t have to carry the emotions of character drama, that can be quite relaxing (and circumspectly productive. Our immaterial pillow fort’s an inspiring place).

10. Do you prefer books/movies/TV series with clearly defined endings, or those with ambiguous ones?

The former. Even if a story is slated to have a sequel, I need some closure at the end of Part One. I mean (**“Pirates of the Caribbean” spoilers!**), what would have happened it all the people involved in the films died before they had a chance to finish “At World’s End”? Where would that have left us? Wailing because Captain Jack Sparrow’s been swallowed by the Kraken, Captain Barbossa’s suddenly alive again, Beckett has Davy Jones’ heart, Will and Elizabeth can’t look each other in the eye, THE END. Just, The End.

So much for the worst case scenario. It could well be, of course, that the story in question isn’t leaving you hanging simply to build up suspense for the next installment in the franchise; it could well be that it’s a standalone, and that’s just the ending the creator had in mind. I don’t care for that, either (though it may not call for the screaming that the “Pirates” example did). I like my stories tied up with a nice, “And they all lived happily ever after.” Or, “And they all had to lie in the beds they made, for better or worse.” Or, “And they all died in fiery explosion just as Gore Verbinski called a wrap on the filming of ‘Dead Man’s Chest’.” Whatever, just so long as this plotline feels conclusively over. Otherwise, I’m inclined to feel cheated.

* * *

That’s that on my end, friends! Now here are the last five questions for all of you.

6. Who was the last person you told you love them, how did you say it, and what prompted you?

7. If your life were a movie, which part would you condense into a musical montage, and what kind of song would be playing?

8. If you had the power of unlimited multitasking, what else would you be doing while answering this question?

9. Name a word or phrase that you despise (and the reason behind it, if you happen to know).

10. A magic spell/science experiment has gone awry, and you’re a mermaid/man for the rest of the week. How stoked are you?

Thanks for playing, guys! I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say for yourselves.

* * *

But wait! There’s more! Another little game going around Blog Land, these days, is the Lucky 7 Meme, a tag-esque deal specifically for writers of novel-length projects, which works in this wise:

1. Go to page 77 (or, variably, page 7) of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 writers and let them know.

I’ve been explicitly tagged by my dear pallies, Ben and Louise, and have found myself a part of the open invitations of Emerald and Ms. Marshmallow, as well (and possibly more that I’ve forgotten. Like I said, it’s been going around). And as I’m not quite sure how many people I know are writing a novel and/or already got Lucky 7 Tagged, I shall also go the open invitation route. All even remotely eligible players welcome! Now, for my novel-in-progress’s 7 lines! (…Which, to avoid awkward chapter breakage, I just started at the top of page 77.)

~ Ruster sighed in bliss. “Isn’t it extraordinary?”

“That a letter she sent this morning came this afternoon?” said Logan. “Kinda. That thing must have shipped triple-express or something.”

“You miss the point,” Ruster sulked, and returned to his reading.

“I guess we could always eat each other,” Mitch said contemplatively.

Daniel’s green eyes rolled. “If you can manage it without fainting, help them get their stuff moved into their space, and I’ll go pick up some sandwiches or something.” ~

Just dying to read the finished book, now, aren’t ya? Someday, my friends; someday…

“Association”

You want to get me laughing? Show me a can of Pepsi.

            …And when I just stare at you like you’ve lost your mind, try saying, “I’m not a simpleton, Jack,” take a sip of the soda, and finish, “You knew my father.”

            Then I will laugh, my mind instantly producing flashbacks of summer art camp (good old Masterpiece Ministries) and rehearsals for a much-abridged Open Mic reenactment of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (yours truly serving as writer, director, and characters Commodore Norrington and Captain Barbossa for the production), and countless other memories involving camp and the Backstreet Boys and “The Wizard of Oz” and goodness knows what else, all stirred up by your one little stunt with the Pepsi.

            That’s the power of association – definition 3a., “A mental connection or relation between thoughts, feelings, ideas, or sensations.”

            This works with books, too, you know. On the reading side, for example, I can never think of one of my very favorite books, “The Outlaws of Sherwood” by Robin McKinley, without accompanying thoughts of sitting in a high school auditorium, reading the opening chapters while awaiting curtain-up on a most enjoyable performance of “Beauty and the Beast”; when I glance at my bookshelf and observe the novelization of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”, I’m reminded of the tiny bookstore where I bought it (and saw that really cool bust of Mystique from the “X-Men” comics, but didn’t buy it because I couldn’t justify the sacrifice of that kind of money and space); “Pride and Prejudice” makes me think of babysitting, for what better than an Austin novel to keep you entertained while the little ones are abed? (Well, okay, “Northanger Abbey” didn’t do much for me. Guess that’ll teach me to generalize.)

            But one of the cases of this associative phenomenon that I find most interesting is the double mental transportation that takes place when I read various writings of my own.

            Chapter Thirteen of the book starring my fantastic talking fox not only takes me to a beaver lodge with extraordinary amenities, it takes me back to the left bucket seat of the family van, on a summer road trip to and from I-forget-precisely-where (getting my sister back from dance camp in Florida, perhaps?), where I staved off highway boredom by adding some word-count to the then-current project.

            Books Four and Five of “The Wilderhark Tales” take me north of the Baltusian Mountains and, as a certain Crown Prince put it, “West, west, and then on to some point west of that, apparently.” They take me also to my desk in the elementary school library that once served as my domain, where I would scribble out bits of inspiration in between cataloguing books and reading to kindergarteners and otherwise living the glamorous life of a library media assistant.

            The illustrations are endless (or close enough to it), and that’s just books and me! I could sit here for an hour trying to come up with a whole bunch of theoretical scenarios where A might remind you of B, or blah-blah might remind you of yadda-yadda, but I’d really rather use my time more constructively than that. Spare me the hypotheticals, and let’s deal with real life. (Whoa – did I really just type that??) You are invited, readers, to share your crazy association stories with me via blog comments; I’d love to know where your mind goes when you see a certain breed of dog, or taste a particular flavor of jellybean, or hear that one song blaring out of somebody’s car stereo… whatever comes to mind.

            And in the meantime, I’ll sit here laughing over how I may have cleverly tricked you into thinking of the Ever On Word blog every time you crack open a can of Pepsi.

“Immaterial”

This is no longer your world, Jones. The immaterial has become… immaterial.

            Ah, Lord Cutler Beckett… how I love to hate you. For those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing, that’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, spoken to another incredible villain of the franchise, living myth Davy Jones. Hats off to the script writers, because that’s actually a rather clever line, incorporating both definitions of the word at once:

1. Having no material body or form.

2. Of no importance or relevance; inconsequential or irrelevant.

(Dictionary order reversed for the sake of neatly matching the order presented in the quote, FYI.)

            Now, it’s time I confessed to something, readers: On occasions where I mention my “friends” in this blog, chances are I’m including comrades that most sane people would consider strictly imaginary. Fortunately (or not, according to my sisters), I don’t consider myself particularly sane; many writers of fiction don’t, you know.

            Mind you, I don’t refer to these friends as “imaginary”. Jacquelina, the invisible girl I danced with in my first (and only) ballet recital and who later was a horse – she was an imaginary friend, as were her fellow horses, Jacquo and Jacqueliese. (This spelling is total guesswork, by the way. At four years old, I never bothered to work out what to write on their nametags.) Blobbermouth, the man in the top hat who later became a genie and lived in a little gold-painted plastic bottle on my dresser – he was an imaginary friend. My minstrels, my tailor, my Dream World Deliverer… – these friends are not imaginary. They are merely immaterial.

            “Imaginary”, see, means “having existence only in the imagination; unreal”. Who wants to think of their dear friends that way? That would be depressing, and suggestive of mental problems (as opposed to mental peculiarities, which sounds much less worrisome, don’t you think?). But to say that the friends are immaterial does not impugn their reality in the least. They’re real enough – they’re just invisible, and incapable of physically manipulating our material world, except through possession of a willing vessel. …Okay, that did sound worrisome. As well it might. Any other authors out there who’ve had emails hijacked by characters who felt they had more important things to say to your material friend than you did? Any of your voices slip unconsciously into the accent of your primary antagonist during a phone conversation? Any of your tailors make you overdose on peanut butter? (Not to make mine feel bad by harping on that. But I digress…)

            I like to think that there are several planes of reality, all no more than an elusive cross-dimensional rift away. And one of those planes is a place where immaterial versions of ourselves can go to meet with characters out of the stories we write. And the whole gang can get into shenanigans like Fantasy Tug-o’-War, and battles against the equivalent of a pride of mutant lionesses, and the rougher-than-rugby brawl we call Super Soccer.

            Not exactly the kind of thing non-authors would necessarily expect of a twenty-something, I know. And I’m sorry if people like my sisters are occasionally annoyed by it. But I’m not about to ditch my friends any time soon. The immaterial are more than immaterial to me.