By JohnU | March 30, 2014
From the Sound Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, September 2013.
By JohnU | March 17, 2014
By JohnU | March 15, 2014
The John Urbancik 5 Rules of Writing:
1 - Write?
2 - Write.
3 - Write!
4 - Rearrange those written words.
5 - Write something new.
By JohnU | February 26, 2014
I didn’t even know there was such a thing. When I heard of National Read a Fairy Tale Day, I knew I had to celebrate it somehow. But I didn’t want to just read one myself; I wanted to invite the world, the whole of civilization, to read a fairy tale, or something like a fairy tale, no one has ever seen before.
This is, in fact, from my InkStains project, Day 8:
When a thousand little gods still walked the earth, when humanity was young and the land fresh, before the ages of silicon or iron or bronze, there was a youth in love.
Even then, when there was little worth fighting for, when language was new and inept and inexact, there were few things more worth fighting for than love.
The youth wrestled a bull until it had to yield. The youth diverted the course of a river. The youth dug a hole straight through the mountains with his bare hands.
The girl did not notice.
Let me tell you about the girl. You may have heard of Helen, for whom a thousand ships were launched. You may be familiar with Cleopatra. You might have seen filmic images of Brigitte Bardot. But you have never seen beauty such as existed in her face. There has never been as great a beauty ever.
She was smart. She knew all the stories. If there had been books, she would have read them all. Until she saw the shapes of unicorns and dragons in the clouds, no one saw anything but cloud. She wore a jade piece around her neck, which she had found and fashioned herself; before then, no one had ever made jewelry. She discovered salt on a breezy afternoon, discovered pepper over a long weekend. Had there been weaving, she would have woven. Had there been canvasses, she would have painted, and her paintings would have been lost to the ravages of time but would still, today, in just the memory of them, inspire artists across the world. Had there been kings yet, she would’ve been the very first.
A girl like that is not easily impressed. So the youth appealed to the gods. And three of the gods heard, and were generous.
The first god gave the youth a net with which he could catch fish, and a knife, or something like a knife, with which he could clean his catch. And this youth was first of all mankind to catch a fish, prepare a fish–with some salt and pepper–and serve fish grilled. He fed the village, if it could be called a village at so early a time in our history.
The girl ate the fish, and liked the fish, and thanked the youth, but nothing changed.
The second god gave the youth a sack of seeds, which he planted in a field, the first seeds ever to be planted in all of time. Plants burst forth, first as stems and vines and bushes, until overnight they blossomed in every color imaginable, and many colors that, while we take them for granted today, had never existed before.
The girl ran through the fields of flowers with all the other girls, the children, and the animals. They made garlands and necklaces and filled stone vases. But by the time the blooms faded, nothing had changed.
The third god gave the youth fermented grapes, from which he made wine, which had never before been seen. Like everything else, he gave this to everyone, and though it was deliriously delicious, still nothing changed.
Despite the three gifts of the gods, the youth had failed to win his love. He wandered hopelessly through the woods until he came upon a river, and there he sat on a boulder and wept. They were brilliantly intense, those tears, and the skies cried in sympathy.
After some time, he looked up and saw the girl. She had come after him into the woods. She was smiling.
“You brought me dinner, and that was nice,” she said, in the language of their time so the translation is approximate. “You gave the whole world flowers, and I know that you gave them to me. You brought us wine, and I don’t think we’ll ever celebrate anything the same as we did before. Did you think I wanted these things?”
“I don’t know that I was thinking at all.”
“You weren’t,” she said. “And you aren’t now. I appreciate those things, but they are not what I want.”
“You want my heart,” he said.
Her smile grew larger then. “I want your heart.”
“It’s yours,” he said.
But the girl shook her head. “It’s not so easy. Convince me. Tell me. Use every word you can imagine, and make up new ones, but tell me how much you love me.”
And that is how poetry was created.
By JohnU | February 9, 2014
I saw seven hawks playing in my backyard today.
If counting hawks is anything like counting crows, I ought to be entitled to a secret never to be told.
By JohnU | December 31, 2013
InkStains: 12 months, 1 day off per month, 353 handwritten stories. 1 January 2013 - 31 December 2013
My hand hurts.
By JohnU | December 22, 2013
InkStains isn’t over yet. Today is 22 Dec 13; I have 10 more stories to write this year.
But what will I do next year?
I can’t do another story a day project. I’d hate to repeat myself. Also, realistically, not all of these stories are good (some I think are excellent). I can’t do anything with a great many of them (unless they’re all to be collected together). In fact, I’m open to suggestions. Should I submit the project to a publisher? Big or small? Release them one month at a time for the Kindle? I don’t know.
What I do know is this: In 2014, I need to focus my attentions and efforts on projects that can’t be mere exercise. So I will write a novel.
Not one novel for 2014. And certainly not one novel per day.
But this is my goal: one novel a quarter. First draft and revisions. Actual dates don’t matter; if I finish the first draft of one in four weeks and don’t go back to revise it until four months later, so be it.
I want novels I can submit and sell.
One will be the third DarkWalker novel. Obviously.
One may be a Midnight novel.
I have good ideas of what the other two may be. I have more than two contenders for those spots. Indeed, the first will involve a Greek myth but take place in the modern world.
2014: The Year of the Novels
By JohnU | December 22, 2013
When the northern lights hit the spires of ice, they burst with color and the tinkling of bells. The city stands tall and deep, carved out of ice and snow, shrouded half a year in the dark of night.
It’s an ancient city. The scents of roasting and baking still waft through its streets. The air itself tastes of candy canes and nutmeg.
But the city is empty. Deserted. Abandoned long ago. The colonel frowns as she flips through reports in the middle of what they’ve dubbed Main Street. The scientists are having their own special sort of Christmas, making discoveries and observations and theories. But this isn’t what they were seeking.
It’s the third such city in ice, the third indication of civilization predating the Egyptians and the Chinese, and the third disappointment of the season.
A voice crackled on her radio. “Sir,” the voice says. “We’ve found something.”
In an icy basement of an icy structure, the Colonel joins a pair of her explorer soldiers and one of the scientists. The scientist holds something at the end of a long-limbed set of tweezers. Unlike anything else in this frozen city, it is neither ice nor snow. And it’s not twelve thousand years old.
It’s a shred of gift label. Red. Sparkly. With the name of a recipient on the inside.
“Amazing,” the scientist says.
The Colonel barely acknowledges the comment. Of course it’s amazing. It’s unexpected, unwarranted, unheard of. And though it doesn’t say Colonel on the gift tag, it is most certainly the Colonel’s name.
“That’s it,” she says. “Pack up. We’re done.” When they look questioningly at her, she says, “We’re not going to find what we’re looking for here.”
The scientists resist, of course, but they’ll return with full teams and all the proper equipment to map out every corner of the ice city. Within three hours, the helicopters are lifting off the ice and headed south.
The Colonel stares wistfully from the helicopter as they fly away.
She doesn’t see that her team has been seen. She doesn’t see the elf lowering his binoculars and picking up his satellite phone. He dials the switchboard in Copenhagen and says, “They’re leaving.”
There’s a delay before the response. “Again. They’ll be back. We’ll inform the big guy.”
The switchboard in Copenhagen sends the message to seventeen regional offices across the world. The big guy is at one of them – or about to arrive. It’s been a long time since the workshop could operate efficiently from a single remote location deep in the Arctic Circle.
By JohnU | December 1, 2013
Today is 1 December. 31 days remain in the year. I will write 30 more InkStains.
I originally intended to take up to 3 days off every month. But after several months of taking only a single day, I decided that was the true target: one day off, enforced. Some months, I almost didn’t take it, but I’ve discovered that the fount needs a day of rest as much as it needs to be pumped, cajoled, pushed, seduced, and encouraged.
Some days are weaker than others. Some stories are not good.
At least, I believe this to be true. Maybe I’m not the best judge of my own work. Maybe mine aren’t the most objective eyes.
It’s strange, as I’m writing new stories and typing up some of the old ones (and strange to consider them all, having been written this calendar year), the themes I go back to, the imagery that twines through my work, the connections when there were never meant to be connections.
But of course all the stories are connected. All the stories are me. Even the ones that are explicitly not about me.
One thing I’ve learned: the fount never runs dry. There are always more ideas. There are always more characters, more stories, more places, more angles, more explorations. Some don’t work. That’s to be expected. Some are beautiful. Perhaps touching. Exciting.
You might ask what project I’m going to take on in 2014. I’ll share more about that later. For now, I’m going to give you a number. At the end of the eleventh month, the number of InkStains stories I’ve written: 321.
321 down. 30 to go.
Somewhere, the math is wrong. I seem to be off by 2.
UPDATE: There are two 82s and two 234s. This is wrong, and should be corrected. The true InkStains count, as of 30 November: 323.
By JohnU | November 14, 2013
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