Touring the Nonsuch

Nonsuch from starboard stern

My cur­rent WiP, Every­thing that Nev­er Hap­pened, is set main­ly aboard a small 17th-cen­tu­ry sail­ing ves­sel, a square-rigged ketch named the Man­dalay. It’s not a coin­ci­dence that it’s a square-rigged ketch, just like the his­tor­i­cal Non­such; ever since the first time I vis­it­ed the Non­such gallery in the Man­i­to­ba Muse­um, I’ve been fas­ci­nat­ed by the ship. I’m not a nau­ti­cal type; I’ve spent my entire life on the prairies, and have seen ocean a total of three times. But some­thing about the ship has always stuck in my mind, and I find myself con­stant­ly return­ing to it.

Maybe it’s just the name. I’m a suck­er for a good name.


Any­ways, some­time in Feb­ru­ary it occurred to me that, to real­ly under­stand the Man­dalay and her crew, I might be wise to learn more about the Non­such. I sent an email to some­one at the Man­i­to­ba Muse­um, ask­ing for any infor­ma­tion they could give me, and also ask­ing about tours. I received some infor­ma­tion in the mail, a rec­om­men­da­tion that I check out a book by Laird Rankin, who’s some­thing of an expert on the Non­such, and an offer of a tour. To trim a long sto­ry to a short one, I went on a tour of the ship on Mon­day. Since the muse­um was closed, it was a quite pri­vate tour.

I spent three hours on and around the ship, ask­ing ques­tions of Robert, the muse­um’s res­i­dent Non­such expert. I learned a lot, and I took a lot of pic­tures. Some aspects of my sto­ry are great­ly clar­i­fied for me now. Some of the things Robert told me will find their way quite direct­ly into the novel.

And now I’ll get back to writ­ing it…

All my Non­such photos


Well, I got my prob­lem fig­ured out. I had to blow away my brows­er pref­er­ences and start fresh, but it works now. (If I’d had time and incli­na­tion, I prob­a­bly could’ve used a less apoc­a­lyp­tic method, but, well, meh.)

Also: Last night I out­lined about three-quar­ters of the mid­dle act (which is where my long projects usu­al­ly start to sag), and fin­ished up the sec­ond chap­ter, too. More writ­ing, if not tonight, then tomor­row for sure. Plus I got some more of the site for this ser­i­al-sto­ry project spruced up.

Stay tuned, and keep warm!


You know how some­times, you can look at a prob­lem from 800 dif­fer­ent angles, and it just won’t go away? And you just know there’s a sim­ple solu­tion; the prob­lem is just pick­ing the cor­rect sim­ple solu­tion from the infin­i­ty of incor­rect ones.

And you know how some­times, it’ll fil­ter in your mind, and sud­den­ly you’ll have this epiphany, this flash of insight, and you know the answer? And it turns out you’re right?

I’m halfway there. I haven’t had the epiphany yet, but I’ve got One of Those Prob­lems. Noth­ing life-threat­en­ing; just some­thing that’s intel­lec­tu­al­ly aggra­vat­ing. And Tech Sup­port is involved, too.


Did some writ­ing tonight, too. At least that went well. I have some research to do. Things I would like to know include:

  • Bur­ial cus­toms in the 17th Cen­tu­ry (Boston? New York?)
  • 17th‑C slang
    • Things of that ilk.


Writing project

My New Year’s res­o­lu­tion, writ­ing-wise, prob­a­bly won’t show up here until about March, but rest assured I’ll be work­ing on it start­ing tonight. I hope to start a ser­i­al sto­ry, post­ing “chap­ters” about a thou­sand words long, twice a week. The sto­ry (at least so far) will be one that I’ve had fer­ment­ing in my mind for over a year and a half now, called Every­thing that Nev­er Hap­pened, and it fea­tures a zom­bie lawyer, a sea­far­ing cap­tain, a man named Fauntleroy, a jun­gle king­dom, an undead vizier, a trea­sure map, and a threat to every liv­ing soul. Intrigued? I know I am. I’m look­ing for­ward to writ­ing it. Tonight I did 1100 words, and here’s a few of them:

Doc Hutchin came up from below, his face and hands and shirt bloody. There were men and boys down there that had been run­ning the pumps for hours, maybe days. They’d been work­ing the wood­en han­dles, cal­lus­es split­ting and weep­ing, blood serv­ing as oil to lubri­cate the pumps, and no one real­ly knew how long it had been any­more. The sun’s trav­els had seemed errat­ic ever since the can­non had explod­ed, but Riley was pret­ty sure that it was just the cri­sis, punch­ing a hole in his expe­ri­ence of time.

Hutch came over to him, tak­ing slow and care­ful steps. He nev­er seemed to get his sea legs, ever, but he did­n’t often rel­ish going ashore in port either. The men whis­pered the­o­ries about his check­ered past, how he had a con­sta­ble look­ing for him in every port. One of the boys had once found a WANTED poster nailed to a tav­ern door which bore a decent like­ness of the good doc­tor’s face.

Drink?” said Hutch, sit­ting down next to him.

No,” he said. “Got to get up. Soon.”

You’re exhaust­ed,” said the doc­tor. He pulled a flat-sided brown bot­tle out of one of his boots. There was a foomp! sound as he pulled the cork out of the neck with his teeth. “Bit o’ rum ‘ll do you some good, I reckon.”

I don’t–”

Doc­tor’s orders,” said Hutch, hand­ing him the bottle.

He swigged down two swal­lows’ worth, then hand­ed the bot­tle back. As he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, Hutchin took a healthy pull, then re-corked the bot­tle and slid it back down into his boot.

Help me up,” said Riley. “The men need to see their cap’n.”

Aye,” said Hutch, and rose to his feet. He put a hand on the bul­wark to steady him­self, then extend­ed his oth­er hand to Riley. The doc­tor pulled the cap­tain upright.

Some­thing shrieked from on high, and they both looked up, shad­ing their eyes against the sun. A gull wheeled above them.

Will we make it, d’y­ou think?” said Hutch. His voice was non­cha­lant, as if he did­n’t care one way or t’other about the answer, but Riley had known him a long time. The doc­tor was ter­ri­fied; it was writ­ten all over his face, in the wor­ried lines around his eyes, in the hard set of his jaw, clamp­ing his teeth togeth­er so tight they ground one against the other.

It’ll be close,” said Riley.

Ah,” said the doc­tor, and bent to retrieve his bot­tle again. “No sense let­tin’ it go to waste,” he said, straight­en­ing up. This time, when he pulled the cork out, he spat it overboard.

True,” said Riley, accept­ing the bot­tle when it was offered. The rum burned its way down his throat to his bel­ly, warmth spread­ing out like slow gold­en fire. “To Man­dalay,” he said, rais­ing the bot­tle high, then hand­ing it back to its owner.

To Man­dalay,” said Hutch, hold­ing the bot­tle aloft, then drain­ing it and let­ting it drop to shat­ter on the deck. “Long may she sail.” 

(Man­dalay is the name of the ketch (or, in this par­tic­u­lar world, the cor­ti­co) on whose deck the action takes place.)

More to come, lat­er. Like I said, prob­a­bly start­ing in March, and run­ning till it’s done.