This past weekend was both ConDFW and my birthday (thanks to everyone who came by the convention and wished me a happy birthday whether in person or online). But that made for a very busy weekend, so today’s day off was full of catch up — and seeing Black Panther because…well, BLACK PANTHER!!!!
This was a transition year in pen pilgrimmages and such. Paradise Pen Company is gone, which is sad. But I was fortunate that at ConDFW I met David Doub (Sr, for those who know the Dusk Comics David Doub). Doub Sr makes wood, metal, and acrylic pens. Doub Jr convinced Sr to apply appliques to the arcylic and create comic book (and other themes) hand-turned pens, mostly in the cigar style. I ended up with TWO of his creations – one was a purchase (MINIONS!), the other (Wonder Woman) was a birthday gift from Jimmy.
Then Floyd and Sarah Brigdon gifted me with an amber glass necklace that’s a skull and spinal cord. The spinal cord is curved to fit the hand (sort of) and with a glass fountain pen nib. It’s a first attempt and the designer (who was a vendor at the convention) and it works – after a fashion. So it needs some evolution and refinement, but for a (currently) one of a kind/unique, and let’s face it… BAD ASS pen, I don’t care that you can’t use it except for demonstration purposes.
The Doub pens are classic Parker-Style refills – currently with what feels like a 0.7mm but is probably bigger – black ballpoint ink in both pens. They work well, and will be well loved and used.
These are SO COOL!!! But almost impossible to rate. The Doub Pens are, and I may come back to these, because he is really reasonably priced, but today there is a blog post.
AND SO MANY HEARTFELT THANKS!
Prompt: An Intern Meets Someone for Lunch
Words: father, continent, favorite, comfortable, highlight, drive, salesman, pair, mail, level
“Are you comfortable with the tasks I’ve given you?”
Megan scanned the list. “Yes, sir. It’s straightforward. But…are you sure?”
“If you wish to keep this internship, that’s the job.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Rinaldi.” Megan turned to go. “Sir? What this note here?”
“A lunch appointment I need you to keep. Be at that restaurant at noon. Sharp. I have reservations there.”
Thus began a whirlwind morning of driving, running, and convincing a salesman to let her have the order set aside for Mr. Rinaldi. She rushed to the post office to mail a pair of packages she thought should’ve gone by FedEx, but she was just the intern.
Just before noon, she staged into Level 42, the trendy, newest favorite spot for people like Mr. Rinaldi who had homes on the Continent. She had no business being in such a high-end place, especially since her internship with Rinaldi was unpaid.”
“May I help you, Miss?” the maître d seemed stereotypically stuffy. After she stammered out her incoherent story, he gestured. “This way.”
Megan was led to a table with Mr. Rinaldi and another stately gentleman, who rose. The second man was her father.
“Megan! Happy First Day. Give us the highlight of your morning.”
Megan had a feeling her challenges had just begun.
Word Count: 214
ConDFW is this weekend. It’s bittersweet having a convention and knowing Bill Crider won’t be there ever again. They also had their Guest of Honor cancel, so it’s going to be weird, but it’s going to be fun (DARN IT!) We’ll make this year awesome yet. Here’s where I’ll be and when.
Saturday is also my birthday! Want to help celebrate? Come to the convention and buy some books – ALL OF THEM! Mine and other peoples! Buy some John Picacio art.
Friday, 5pm: Mapmaking for Dummies
Panelists: Christie Meierz (M), Paul Black, Barbara Ann Wright, Rhonda Eudaly
You may not need to draw a map, but to build a world you definitely need to have geography in mind! How do you decide what is where? And where does the “Here Lie Dragons” go? Our worldbuilder panelists discuss. Drawing may or may not happen.
Saturday, 10am: Crafting a Short Story from Start to Finish
Panelists: William Ledbetter (M), Chris Donahue, Martha Wells, Rhonda Eudaly, Bradley H. Sinor
We bring together a group of successful short story writers to talk about their experience. How do they get started, what inspires them, and how do they polish it after it’s done? These topics and more will be discussed.
Saturday, 12pm: A. Lee Martinez, Rhonda Eudaly
Saturday, 4pm: Groupthink and the Art of Collaboration
Panelists: David Doub (M), Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Sue Sinor, Rhonda Eudaly, T.M. Hunter, Teresa Patterson
Let the fun begin! Our authors talk about how they get their minds together to write a single work of genius. Is there arguments involved? Is there games involved? What do they do to decide who writes what? Is there even a discussion? Let’s find out.
Saturday, 6pm: The Classic Western: How to Create Them
Panelists: Tex Thompson (M), Ethan Nahté, Taylor Anderson, Rhonda Eudaly
The Western has been infrequently seen of late. So, it’s time to brush up on what makes a classic Western! Our panelists talk about gunfights, ranches, standoffs and many other things that may (or may not) be elements of classic Westerns.
Sunday, 11am: Kevin C. Neese, Rhonda Eudaly
Sunday, 12pm: The Nuts and Bolts of Print-On-Demand and Indie Publishing
Panelists: Adrian Simmons (M), Catherine Jones Payne, Karl K. Gallagher, Paul Black, Rhonda Eudaly
Sometimes you just have to do it yourself. Our indie publishers tell you some of the tips and tricks you need to know to be able to publish your work your way.
Day Job is busy. My niece’s birthday is today. My birthday is Saturday – people are asking me what I want/want to, and I have no idea. ConDFW is this weekend. AND we’re redoing our living room – so CHAOS!!!! AND, BAD PEN WRITER, BAD… as I was starting to plan my Birthday Pilgrimage to Paradise Pen Company, I find they closed up all shops about a YEAR AGO and I had no idea. So what do I do? I buy more pens – both online and impulsively at a check out. And thank you, Office Depot for keeping the TUL line when you merged with Office Max. Today is yet another TUL retractable.
The TUL retractable pens are about 5.75″ long with the tip retracted and extended. The barrel is black plastic with a navy blue dimpled rubber grip. The clip is metal and sturdy with navy blue accent. The plunger is a solid black plunger. The name of the pen is a simple, navy blue accent. There’s not a ton of squish in the grip, but they’re pretty comfortable.
The difference in this is the blue-black ink. This is darker than the traditional blue that TUL is known for. It’s a quick drying ink that works well on most papers. The color is rich and smooth with a 0.7mm conical tip. I’ve enjoyed working with these pens off and on for a while now, for an everyday pen, they’re in the top five or ten for roller balls.
They were for sale at the cash register when I went in for something else. I had to get it for the SHINY. They had this one blue-black, but also a light blue and pink. There are probably other colors, but hey had me at the blue-black. These are good utility pens. Solid mechanisms with good ink for a decent price. These run about $2 individually.
1. How does it work? – 1 – These are solid pens. The ink doesn’t skip or blob. The ink is dark and rich. It has a good feel.
2. Grip and feel – 1 – It’s a utilitarian pen. Has a nod to ergonomics with the dimpled, rubber grip. It has a good length with decent balance.
3. Material – 1 It’s a solid plastic and metal retractable pen. The colors are awesome. Very shiny.
4. Overall Design – 1 – It’s solid. It’s utilitarian. It works. SHINY!
5. Price Point – 0.5 – These run between $1.50 – $2.00 a piece, which make them affordable, but I’m not sure how easy they are going to be to get any more other than online. Since TUL was an Office Max “house brand” I don’t know that Office Depot kept them on. Get them while you can, if you can. Or order them online.
4.5 out of 5 Bronze Pencils
Prompt: A Middle Class Family Doing Its Best
Words: castle, beetle, Facebook, calculator, nostril, timetable, wireless, stripes, scroll, white
“The only people who’d consider this house a castle would be beetles, and I don’t mean the iconic singing group.”
Diane colored a bit, a combination of anger and embarrassment, her while skin turning blotchy red. She tried to control her nostrils flaring at the complete lack of tact Spencer showed. They’d been looking for a house for a while now without much luck. The Vinn Diagram intersection of what they could afford and available housing plus locations good for commutes, schools, and dog parks was slim at best.
“There has to be more than this.” Spencer gestured widely. “Are those stripes in the paint job?”
“Spencer, stop! You’re the one with the timetable. You were the one on the mortgage calculator.” Diane felt her composure evaporating. “The realtor is doing her best.”
“Right…” Spencer snark was palpable. “Give me a solid wireless signal and I can probably find three better options scrolling through Facebook.”
Diane swallowed a wave of rage. Spencer was generally a good man and father, but today? It’s like he switched brains with their teenage child sulking in the car. Maybe it was a Freaky Friday moment. Or maybe the realtor would kill them all.
Ah living the American Dream. Ain’t it grand.
Word Count: 230
I don’t always go for the useful pens. Sometimes (especially when it comes to Christmas Stocking Stuffers or other random occasions) I go for pens that are just fun/silly/etc. Let’s face it, that’s most of the time. This one was an impulse holiday sale. Jimmy picked it up for me to put in the stocking because of all the feels. It’s a pen from Funko Pop! And it’s a tiny vinyl Barb from Stranger Things on a pen.
This is a novelty pen, so the expectations are not high with pens like this. This one is top heavy, obviously, because Barb stands on top. BARB! It’s just over 6.5” long. The cap can’t post, and it’s a narrow barrel – black with the red Stranger Things logo. It’s not a pen for long-term writing unless you have a small hand.
The surprising part is the smoothness of the black ballpoint ink. The conical tip is smooth. There’s some ink glopping but not bad. It’s probably close to a 1.0mm, but it’s hard to tell.
The selling point is the Barb figure. I identify with Barb so much. I’ve mentioned (except for the pink) that if you wanted to know what I looked like in the 80s? Check out Barb. Kinda want to know what I was like? Check out Barb (except for the eaten by the Upside Down – that wasn’t me). The glasses. The hair. The Trapper Keeper. The awkward and overweight but wants to protect her friend? Totally me at that age and decade.
So I HAD to have this pen. I love this pen. It was on sale when we bought it at BoxLunch – kinda like Hot Topic (they may have been there, too). So I don’t think it was too expensive – maybe $2.00 or $2.50. Hot Topic has the other cast for almost $5… which I know I didn’t pay. So find them cheaper if you can.
1. How does it work? – 1 It’s works fine, solid ink flow and a decent tip. The cute/identifying aspects are just a bonus.
2. Grip and feel – 0.5 – There’s a nod to ergonomics, but it’s long and not well-balanced
3. Material – 1 It’s a cheesy plastic novelty pen. You get what you pay for.
4. Overall Design – 0.5 – The cap doesn’t post – in fact the cap is probably superfluous. It’s long, oddly balanced, but so much fun you can’t quite NOT use it.
5. Price Point – 1 – It’s not outrageous. It’s $2 ish at Box Lunch on sale. But if I’d had to spend more, I totally would’ve $2 is a good price.
Prompt: A New Take on the Arthurian Legend
Words: Avalon, crossbow, orphan, list, comrade, corruption, lake, enfold, disgraceful, grass
“Do we really have to do the whole lake thing?” Avalon asked of the other women. “I know the whole dramatic entrance, hair floating in the water stuff looks cool, but it always makes me sneeze and wheeze. Totally ruins the effect.”
“Next she’ll ask us to not designate an orphan as our champion!” Ursula scoffed.
Avalon crossed her arms defiantly and stomped her foot in the grass edge of the circle. “This is my ritual. My champion. I get to do it my way, right? The list you gave me was a guideline not hard-and-fast, right? I mean, isn’t that where corruption starts?” They left her alone after that.
Avalon brought her comrades together days later to watch her ritual unfold. The SUV sat in the center of the Crossbow Mall parking lot not far from the Capitol. Excalibur – or its current incarnation – was embedded in through the windshield and into the cabin.
Whoever can remove this sword shall be ruler of this country.
The vehicle stood for weeks. People took photos. Made memes. Even posed with the scene. None even attempted to pull the sword. One bystander seemed curious, even touched the hilt then let go. “Who want to run this mess of a country?”
“Disgraceful,” Ursula said.
“I could’ve sworn if I built it, they would come.”
Word Count: 220
I’ve been quite vocal about my love of fine point pens and pencil. I’m still NOT a fan of the default 1.0mm ballpoints and 0.7mm pencils are okay but… However… sometimes you gotta try stuff when it looks interesting. This
The BIC 4 color pens have been around for DECADES. I remember getting them mumblety mumblety years ago in school. Little has changed in the BIC 4 color pens. The basic ones all come with red, black, blue, and green ink – the “fashion” ones in some combo of pastels. The barrels might have some different colors, but you knew what you were getting all those years. Last year I talked about the one with the touchscreen stylus (which I still use quite a bit with the fine point refills put into them)>
Well, they did another design change. This one has a 0.7mm retractable mechanical pencil in place of the green ink. So this one is red, blue, black and pencil. Where the others have the stylus or the white nubs, this one has a white eraser under a clear cap The points have gotten bigger but the barrel doesn’t seem that much wider, so yay? This one has a cool white barrel with a gray grip and a translucent mid-barrel and tip. There’s seems to be an attempt at ergonomics but that’s all.
Everything about the pen is functional. It’s not so wide that it’s uncomfortable. The length is good at about 6” long (a touch longer with the point extended). The clip is molded plastic but solid. The eraser and cap seem secure. The ink is typical ballpoint – there’s a bit of smearing with the darker colors if it doesn’t sit for a second. The pencil works well. I’m sure it’s easy to put more lead into the mechanism, but I haven’t had to do that yet.
1. How does it work? – 1 It works. It wrote right out of the package in all three colors and the pencil works well.
2. Grip and feel – 0.5 – It’s a, plastic, no frills pen. It’s hard plastic. The gray grip is more decorative than ergonomic. But it is smooth with no ridges to dig in. It’s got a few nods.
3. Material – 1 For an inexpensive plastic pen, it’s solidly built. The cap and barrel are secure. The logo doesn’t wear off easily.
4. Overall Design – 1 -You know, I like this design for the fact I use the pencil option a lot more than I ever do green ballpoint ink. The classic three colors are solid and useful. Having kind of an all-in-one office pen is kind of nice..
5. Price Point – 0.5 – It’s $4.99 at Target which may seem expensive at first glance, but it will go on sale occasionally and that’s really just $1.25 per color/pencil – which isn’t bad when you take it all in. But in all in one go – you might think twice. If you know where to look online, you can get refills.
Prompt: Two Best Friends are Baristas
Words: coffee, molehill, insulation, sneakers, inspire, pencil, embroidery, justify, loveless, pane
“How can you do embroidery after all the caffeine?” Emily asked, her sneakers slapping rhythmically on the wood-plank floor.
Helen smiled serenely as she continued working on the intricate pane design. “Maybe I’m the one person coffee doesn’t effect. Or maybe I just have better focus.”
“Well, you inspire me to find a way to block out this place.” Emily shifted to pull a pencil out of a pocket of her skinny jeans and pulled a napkin closer to doodle.
“That’s a nice molehill.” Helen looked up from her needlepoint.
“It’s a mountain thank you very much. Uh oh. We’re getting the stink eye from Byron. I guess our break is over. Time to get back to our loveless job.”
“Oh come now, we’re baristas not sweatshop workers. You’re being overly dramatic.”
“Girls! Don’t make me justify your paychecks. Get back to work.”
“Hah. Like we don’t earn those pittances.” Emily tied her apron.
“Think of it this way.” Helen set espresso to brew and steamed soy milk. “We’re insulation between the Wrath of Byron and the younger kids.”
“Well, if he’s not careful he might meet the wrong end of a grinder.”
The words were barely out of her mouth when there was a high-pitched scream followed by a crash.
Word Count: 211
I had super good intentions for earlier today – but meetings and such took care of all of that (including a meeting over lunch). But I’ve actually begun a major pen project that probably should’ve been done years ago when I started this blog.
Enter the Spreadsheet.
I’m not an Excel person. There are people who can make spreadsheets sing and dance and even turn somersaults (isn’t that what a pivot table does?) Me? I’m barely functionally literate when it comes to spreadsheets. But… but it’s long past time for me to create a spreadsheet to FINALLY organize the above mess of writing instruments (and the ones not shown there). So, as I said on Facebook over the weekend, I willingly and of my own volition created a spreadsheet – with column suggestions from Jimmy (he’s the dancing spreadsheet guy).
The plan is to not only find the pens/pencils I haven’t reviewed yet. Perhaps revisit some of the really early pens that didn’t have the more objective numerical rating. Many may be old, discontinued, or what have you – but that could be the fun part of it.
SOME people got all silly and suggested I needed to forgo the spreadsheet and go straight to a database…to that? I just laugh. Spreadsheet is about the best I can make happen.
Darn it, Jim! I’m writer, not a data expert!
But I’m going to try. It’s part of the whole being better this year. Let’s see how it all works.