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[Write the Story] A Family-Run Farm

Posted by reudaly on November 24, 2017 in Writing |

Prompt: A Family-Run Farm

Words: temporary, invent, trust, horse, burst, pulley, signal, dam, punch, chicken

Story

“It’s only…”

“Don’t you dare say it’s only temporary, or I will punch you right in the face.”

Andrew bit his lip, suppressing laughter until it seemed like his mirth dam would burst. Sarah took that as a signal to walk away. Which she did over to the barn to pull on the rope feeding the pulley system that dumped more hay on the pile. She watched an elderly horse amble over to start munching.

“Too bad we can’t train Trigger to do that himself.” Andrew wiped sweat from his brow with a checkered handkerchief. “Or maybe we can invent a mechanism to automate…”

Sarah shook her head. Trust her brother to dream up high tech ways to do low tech work. He always had big ideas when there were simple chores to be done. She headed to the chicken coop. Though she did give credit to Andrew for the LED lights on the nest boxes that turned on when the hens laid eggs. That came in handy.

Andrew still prattled on about innovations and science and other things Sarah couldn’t follow, but he worked while he talked so she let him. It’s what Dad and Granddad would’ve wanted. Which reminded her to take flowers to the family cemetery when she mowed tomorrow. They were all part of the land now.

Word Count: 221
Written: 8/18/17 & 8/23/17 – this weird delay led into Harvey, so there’ll be a bigger jump in the next one.

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[Writer Post] Waxacon, Power Rangers, and Plot Bunnies

Posted by reudaly on November 22, 2017 in Conventions, Writing |

This past weekend was Waxacon – a first year comic con in Waxahachie. Waxahachie is a commuter community just south of Dallas that also is the home of Scarborough Renaissance Festival and Screams. I found out about this show at Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve and was an early adopter. This was my last show of 2017, which is a good thing. I need the next few months of “close to home” to get some stuff done that’s been piling up, as well as get to the “to be written pile”. I need this time. I feel like I’ve been treading water the last couple of months.

So…Waxacon. Waxacon was a “Good News/Bad News” type of show.

Good News – Easy access to the celebrities. The layout was such that the celebrities were in the same room as the rest of us which was a good move on the organizer’s part. I was able to use the line “To find me, go to the Power Rangers and turn around.”

Power Rangers setting up – Jack Guzman and Phillip JeanMarie directly across.


Bad News – It was a first year show in a commuter community, the celebrities were what the organizers could afford (which was a good move), which aren’t the “A-Listers”

Good News – I wrote four pages of a brand new short story inspired by a comment made during the Saturday panel I was on with Steven Brust. A friend of one of the voice actors gave me a couple more elements.

Bad News – I had time on Sunday to write four pages of a short story.

Good News – The folks who were there were willing to spend money.

Bad News – There were very few folks there. Some of the lack of attendance was beyond the organizer’s control – TWO major local events landed on his dates (one promised not to but did, the other he didn’t find out about until the weekend of).

The people who were there were a lot of fun. I named one character of my short story after the two actors across the way from me. (And this weekend I need to watch a Netflix movie because I promised and it sounds hysterical.) Another character is named for the guy who gave me elements. I need to get back to that because, even though it’s four pages of kind of stream of consciousness (first person, so allowable to a degree) it’s pretty good and I want to see where it goes. And also, because of that pesky “Finish Stuff” mantra that plagues me. Though I didn’t need a new project right now, there are so many that need my attention, but I can’t ignore a plot bunny of this magnitude.

I am going to give Waxacon one more year – there was a discount, and the organizers made the right sounds about how to address the issues. I always give a benefit of the doubt. Here’s hoping next time is better.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] J. Herben Lie De The Ink Rerun for Thanksgiving

Posted by reudaly on November 21, 2017 in Review, writing instruments |

I fell down on the whole pen blog thing yesterday – for reasons. My day off turned out to be quite full with stuff that went on all day after two days of Good News/Bad News comic con (not it’s name and I’ll talk about it tomorrow). So… today’s a rerun…about brown ink for Thanksgiving this week.

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So last week, I talked about the J. Herbin roller ball hybrid pen that I really like. Because I have some family stuff to deal with this week, I’m just going to add to that by talking about the Lie de Thé (Tea Brown) ink from the same company. You saw it a bit in the last review, and it’s also from JetPens.
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The J. Herbin Lie de Thé (Tea Brown) ink comes in the standard short international cartridges, giving you a wide range of pens in which to use the ink. This ink comes from the “Jewel of Inks” series, which has been around since 1700. The ink is water-based, lightfast, and non-toxic. It’s also called “pH neutral” so I would assume that means “acid free” for archival issues.
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The ink does dry fast. It’s got a good, rich pigment. I struggle with brown inks. Sometimes I like them, other times not so much. I do like this one. It’s a good chocolate-y mocha brown – not too dark. Not too light. There is a disclaimer on the website that cautions about freezing – this is a water-based ink, it will expand when frozen so it might cause leaking, but unless you keep your pens and ink outside in the winter or in your freezer, I don’t see that as an issue.
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The ink comes in a charming metal canister holding six cartridges. The canister, though nice, does affect the pricing of the ink. But if you’re really picky about the ink? It really might be worth it. This ink does seem to last a lot longer than other inks I’ve used in similar cartridges. I’ve used it pretty frequently in the roller ball pen, and I still haven’t come to the end of the first cartridge – so there is that to also consider. You might pay more, but if it does last, then it might be worth it.

The numbers:

1. How does it work?1 – I like it. The color is rich. It’s smooth and lasting – at least in the roller ball. I haven’t used it in a fountain pen.
2. Grip and feel1 – Obviously there is not “Grip” to an ink cartridge… but the feel of the cartridge is good. Unless you freeze it, there’s no indication that any of the plugs or seams are going to give.
3. Material1 – It’s a good quality international cartridge with an extremely good quality ink. The pigments are rich, the water-based design lets the ink flow out of the cartridge easily. The pH balance is nice.
4. Overall Design0.5 – It’s a classic design for an ink cartridge, just has the aluminum container – which though cute, the lid doesn’t stay on as tightly as I would like. I have to keep track that cartridges aren’t spilling out somewhere.
5. Price Point0.5 – These are only really available on JetPens, so you have to order them. The canister only holds 6 cartridges – and the container costs $5.50. That’s more expensive than Pilot or Kaweco by quite a bit, and I don’t know if that’s a direct correlation to the container or the quality of the ink.

That’s 4 of 5 bronze pencils.
Pencil 4.0

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[Write the Story] A New Love Blooms in Old Age

Posted by reudaly on November 17, 2017 in Writing |

Prompt: A New Love Blooms in Old Age

Words: inheritance, walk, dust, dapper, husky, squirrel, planation, berry, silk, shovel

Story

“I don’t know how much time…” Maggie couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence.

“Don’t think about the future, just concentrate on today. Now. This walk.” Matt squeezed her hand while they strolled through the plantation grounds.

“But I’m not ready to …it’s not enough. I didn’t realize how much…how attached I’d get.” Maggie dabbed the corner of her eyes with a silk handkerchief. Surely the tears were irritation from the duct they kicked up – not emotion.

“Oh, look. It’s Casper’s newest friend.”

Ahead, the white-muzzled husky dapper in a bow-tie festooned collar frolicked with a gray squirrel. They chased each other around through a berry patch until Casper collapsed in a panting heap, tongue lolling from a grinning muzzle.

“We’re doing a good thing here, Maggie,” Matt said. “I can’t think of a better way to invest our inheritance. Look how happy he is. How happy we can make all these old dogs.”

As he spoke, a Labrador sauntered over and plopped down next to Casper, nosing at his neck until Casper made a move to play. The lazy back and forth ended as the two elder dogs nodded off in the Southern sunshine. There would be no need for the shovel for a while, but until then, hopefully, the old dogs would learn love and new trick in their sanctuary.

Word Count: 222

Written: 8/14/17

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[Writing Post] In Search of Whelmed

Posted by reudaly on November 15, 2017 in Writing |

It’s Wednesday and suddenly I thought, “Holy Cow! Blog day! EEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK!” Because not I have to be pithy, well, maybe not pithy. Coherent maybe. Coherent is a good goal.


Today I want to talk about “whelmedness”. That’s currently my goal. I’m trying to reach a point of “whelm”. I’ve been UNDERwhelmed by amount of output because of reasons I’ve already talked WAY too much about. But I’m also OVERwhelmed by the amount of STUFF currently on my “to do” list – both Day Job and Writing. The Shoulda/Coulda/Woulda/Oughtas (the Brain Weasel Brothers) have set up shop in my head and here we are.

I look at the List of Things and don’t even know where to start. I look at the length of the List of Things and the To Be Read pile and I don’t know what to pick up first. The Time Management Monkey is sitting on the shoulder saying, “hey, you can always set timers and work on one thing at a time for X-number of minutes” – which for some things might work really well, for other things? No.

So then there’s time spent trying to figure out if there’s something small that can be accomplished to chip away at that list. My Monday calendar at work starts with “Water Lucky” (Lucky is my bamboo plant. He’s called that because 1) he came with a tag that said lucky bamboo and 2) he’s lucky to still be alive – I have a brown thumb.) Why? So I can mark it off the list and start my week with a sense of accomplishment. How sad is that?

The rest? I have to admit there are days I “ostrich” and don’t deal. There are others I try to muddle through on one thing or another. By golly, I’m going to get steps or get to yoga, or something that helps chip away at that wall of “EEEEKKKKK! TOO MUCH STUFF!”

Yesterday, that wall of “Overwhelmed” chipped just a little. I managed to make progress on things in small steps. Today maybe a little bit more until the “over” part erodes down to a state of “whelmed”. I live for the state of “whelmed”. A nice, even-keeled “whelmed”. Let’s get it done.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] Sheaffer Star Wars Pop Collection

Posted by reudaly on November 13, 2017 in Review, writing instruments |

This is another Star Wars pen collection – this one from Sheaffer (which if you notice in the writing samples…I CANNOT spell correctly). I ordered these from iPenStore when they were available for pre-order. They’re now available in retail stores like Office Max (if you can find one) and likely Office Depot as well. Sheaffer put out pens for Darth Vader, R2D2, and Yoda in both fountain and rollerball. They are the Star Wars Pop Collection.

These are higher end pens than the BIC line, and thusly cost more. The barrels are plastic with idealized designs and metal accents. Darth Vader look like armor. R2D2 is almost schematic like. Yoda boasts the great phrase “Do or Do Not. There is No Try.” All three have the iconic colors. The caps post pretty securely. The rollerballs run about 5.5” long. The fountains are about 6.5”.

The fountain pens have “medium” stainless till nibs and come with classic black cartridges (though I didn’t/don’t use black in the R2D2 – he calls for blue). The rollerball is also a “medium” point in the Slim Rollerball refill. The inks are dark and smooth. The nibs are flexible but not too fragile. The chrome clips have cut outs in the “white dot” design but are sturdy.

There’s a nod to ergonomics on the grips. There’s a slightly spongy rubber grip, but the grip rotates, so it seems like the point is not secure, but it is. There is a ridge where the grip meets the barrel that can dig in. The barrel diameter is just on the good side of being too wide for comfort. And just heavy enough to be well-weighted without being too heavy.

I’ve been using these pens pretty consistently for a couple of weeks and am totally enjoying them. They not only write well but are a lot of fun. There’s a bit of jury out on the Yoda rollerball because I’ve had issues with the rollerball ink in the past drying out or running dry rather quickly. With fountain pens, it’s expected because liquid ink and finite cartridges, rollerballs I expect more from. So we’ll see how that goes.

The numbers:
1. How does it work?1 – They work great. The ink feathers only a little bit on porous paper. And liquid inks are going to smear on shiny paper no matter what. But the flows are good and pigments rich.
2. Grip and feel0.5 – There are ridges that dig in after a while and the “not quite too wide” can get tiring after a while. I would have preferred a slightly longer and narrower barrel.
3. Material1 They’re plastic barrels with chrome accents and stainless steel nibs or tips.
4. Overall Design1 – They’re fun, functional, and if you’re a fan, or a kid or kid-at-heart, it won’t matter. These are too awesome for words just on a visual level. The fact they also work well is almost a bonus.
5. Price Point0.5 – These are not cheap. They’re running in the $20 EACH range. The roller ball is often cheaper than the fountain pen, but it’s a decent average. They are refillable (already on the second cartridge of Darth) so that makes them better about the price point. But these aren’t toss away BICs.

4.0 out of 5 Bronze Pencils
Pencil 4.0

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[Write the Story] A Small Local Political Race

Posted by reudaly on November 10, 2017 in Writing |

Prompt: A Small, Local Political Race

Words: coordinated, support, farmhand, spray, serious, rail, lips, taxpayer, fool, middle

Story

“Better a farmhand than a meddler and a fool!”

“Is that two people or three?” Cletus asked scratching his cowlick.

Rhoda blinked. Was Cletus serious? She scanned the other small-town players and half seemed as shocked by the question as she. The other half mirrored Cletus. “Two. It’s two people. The candidate we want the one we don’t.”

“But who’s the fool then?”

Rhoda bit her lips to keep a lock on her first answer. That didn’t stop a guy to her left from spitting a spray of coffee on the wall. If Cletus weren’t a taxpayer – or so she thought – and she didn’t need all the support for Billy she could get… NO. No more.

“Now look. Billy has solid roots in this community. He’s worked hard for the farms around here. He knows what it takes to make it here. We need him as a commissioner, not some entitled rich guy whose daddy made a pile of money through the railroad.”

Rhoda played the crowd like a coordinated symphony. It wasn’t her first rodeo or her third – in fact she had an actual rodeo scheduled later. But if change was going to happen across the board, it started here. Local. Rural. Already plans were in place. Soon, no one would know what hit them.

Word Count: 216

Written: 8/1/17

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[Writer Post] Convention Round Up

Posted by reudaly on November 8, 2017 in Conventions, Writing |

I’ve never gotten around to writing up the FenCon report and now World Fantasy is in the rear view. I have one final comic con the week before Thanksgiving in Waxahachie. Then there’s a well-deserved break until ConDFW in February when it starts all over again. But for now…

There’s probably a whole lot I can say about FenCon, but that time was such a mental muddle given the Day Job Stuff happening at the time. I was there doing a significant number of panels – because Robyn (like SoonerCon which I’ll also be attending again in 2018) takes my stock answer to “how many program items…” as a personal challenge. I answer, “please don’t kill me”. Now it seems we have a Tootsie Pop Dilemma – how many programming items does it take to kill Rhonda? (Hopefully) The World May Never Know.

The panels were well-attended and participatory – especially the one where drama ensued. It was the strong women in fiction panel and the strong women ON the panel took on the one dude trying to insert his agenda into it in a man-splainy and pretentious kind of way. It was dealt with quickly and concisely on the panel and then reported and dealt with on a grander scale.

Overall, a good time – stuff done, books sold, and then right back to the Day Job. Even though FenCon reignited my desire and motivation to write more fiction, it’s taken a month to regain the mental capacity to focus. I did have two deadlines for short projects during October that I managed to accomplish – a short story revision and an essay – along with some blogs and exercises. It’s something… but…

Then came World Fantasy. Jimmy and I were volunteer/staff – him in the art show and me as guest liaison. I had the best/easiest GoH of all time. We ended up helping load in books and art. I have a much greater understanding of parcel handlers now.

I was eligible for a panel – which was on Thursday night at 9 pm. It was called “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie” and was based on the Ursula LeGuin essay and Diana Wynne Jones material. LOVE the Tough Guide to Fantasy. The panel went on a 5 minute rabbit trail about STEW. Signed and sold some books at the mass autographing/reception. Came home with even MORE books.

Spent most of my time foisting my book-selling skills at the Skelos Press table. Mark Finn and Jeffrey Shanks were kind enough to buy one of my stories for Skelos 3 and include one of my stories in a future issue and have it available in a preview sampler (that story revision deadline). The least I could do was my part to sell them out of copies. So, HEY, two new stories out in print! Woo! And by helping out hopefully this is the beginning of a long and mutually productive relationship.

But now…there’s no resting on anything. I’ve had more than one person at multiple conventions ask not only what I’m working on or what I’ve done, but when the next long-form piece comes out. The answer is, um, when it’s written. It’s mightily motivating. Really it is. And flattering. Really it is. But now I have also have a new phrase – my To Be Written pile is about as tall as my To Be Read pile. Which means it’s time to hop to.

So as I go try to whittle down that pile, it’s also time for the annual “I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo” disclaimer. It doesn’t work for me. If you are and it does work for you – you go! Go get them word counts! Good luck and see you on the other side of the month.

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[Writer Post][Conventions] World Fantasy 2017

Posted by reudaly on November 2, 2017 in Conventions, Life, Writing |

Happy still setting up day for World Fantasy 2017. We are here and already stayed up way too late. Did my part yesterday by hefting and carrying HALF the supply of giveaway books from storage to hotel — plus art.

Stayed up way too late moderately helping (mostly watching) Jimmy and Scott – with Randy and Ruth — build the Art Show structure, because “married to Art Show”.

Already talked to some interesting people. Was witness to Houston friends gobsmacked by the Astros winning the Workd Series (way to go ‘Astro’s). And today is more of the same. Today my Guest Liaison duties begin, my panel is tonight.

Though it is a “working” convention, it’s still TRIBE, and I intend to soak it all in.

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[Write the Story] Living with a Chronic Illness – Halloween Edition

Posted by reudaly on October 31, 2017 in Writing |

It’s not Friday…but it is Halloween. And a few weeks back Jimmy and I were listening to Stuff You Should Know and Chuck Bryant talked about old fashioned wheelchairs and a haunted one. Which is, of course, created a plot bunny.

I’ve jumped ahead in my calendar of Write the Story Exercises to the story I wrote today – Halloween – which was a hard topic (Chronic Illness) but I wanted to take on the haunted antique wheelchair too. This one cries out to be expanded but for today… a Halloween Edition Write the Story…

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Prompt: Living with a Chronic Illness

Words: fever, weight, unpack, rollercoaster, surgeon, daffodil, Northern, patch, mossy, tendril

Story

Maybe it had been the fever or the long rollercoaster ride of the last year trying to unpack the diagnosis, but Charlie was worn out. The weight of knowing it was never all in his head but an actual chronic illness was gone, leaving behind tendrils of pain and exhaustion and legs that no longer held.

“We found this antique wheelchair in the attic. We thought you might like it better than the regular ones. At least until we know more.”

Charlie spent his days in the wicker-backed wheelchair. Weird dreams and dark, horrific images floated daffodil-like through his patchy consciousness. He spoke to the surgeon about them, but was shrugged off. Side effects of the medication.

The longer Charlie stayed at Northern Hills Medical, the more vivid the disturbing images. It wasn’t the meds, he dumped those behind some mossy rocks by a water feature. Still they persisted and grew darker, more disturbing and then the voices began. Nothing curtailed his growing fear and agitation. His travels in the chair ranged wide and gained speed until it seemed the chair took on a life of its own, even as Charlie’s hovered in a twilight state.

“Stop!” But it seemed the chair wrapped around Charlie, not wanting to let him go. He hurtled them both into the water feature, drowning the voices.

The next time the nurse went to the attic, the chair was there. Waiting.

Word Count: 236

Written: 10/31/17

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