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[Writer Post] Chaos, Disruption, and Spreadsheets OH MY!

Posted by reudaly on October 26, 2016 in Writing |

It’s been a long week – and it’s only Wednesday. Not that it’s been BAD because it hasn’t. It’s just been very … weird. And long. And disruptive.

The annual review went well – just a day later than I had scheduled so the head of self-esteem I had going had to be maintained and that’s just exhausting. 😎 But I did stick up for myself and my accomplishments – which has led to having to pull numbers and statistics to help document the accomplishments. Bottom line?

Spreadsheets make my brain hurt. And my whole day job since the annual review seems to revolve around freakin’ spreadsheets. Ow. This is one of the MANY, MANY, MANY reasons I married Jimmy. He lives by the spreadsheet. I die by the spreadsheet.

Also, due to several compounding factors my life has been disrupted, disjointed, and in disrepair. The things I can control – the chaotic house – are in process of renormalization and are close enough to not rattle me any longer. The factors I can’t control, I’m dealing with the best I can (Darn you, Ragweed!) and have identified root causes. The knots in my neck are totally due to spreadsheets. Hello, Curvy Yoga – and I’ve made a pretty significant to continue this class.

All that to say, my writing was for poo last week. I had no focus, no concentration, no nothing. This week, I’ve committed word counts. Not necessarily BIG ones, but they are there. Things are looking better. And hopefully I’ll be out of Spreadsheet Hell for a while after this week. That would be awesome. So onward!

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[Pen/Pencil Review] The Uni Power Tank Smart Series Ballpoint Pen – 0.7mm

Posted by reudaly on October 24, 2016 in Review, writing instruments |

There’s one thing a writer needs to be able to do – write. Any time. Anywhere. At any angle. In any condition. Seriously. For quite a while, if you wanted to do that, your option was the Fisher Space Pen (which is awesome). Now other manufacturers like UNI are releasing economical and convenient pressurized pens for “all-terrain” writing. This week’s pen is the UNI Power Tank Smart Series Ballpoint pen.
The UNI Power Tank Smart Series Ballpoint pen in 0.7mm is pretty nifty (one because it comes in a 0.7mm – though a “High Grade” is available in the 1.0mm) because it is a decent looking, standardized ballpoint. The barrel is about 5.75″ and comes in an array of barrel colors – I got the Navy body with translucent black grip. The grip is molded plastic with a comfortable diameter but no cushion.
I like the 0.7mm conical tip. It’s smooth and dark for the size. It doesn’t seem to skip or glob nor does it feel scratch on paper like some finer points can. On glossy paper, there’s a small bit of smearing if you rub it right away, but it dries quickly. The ink is black, but uses the standard Power Tank refills, so you can get blue and red in 0.7mm.
These are also relatively economical. The pen itself runs just over $3.00 on JetPens with the refills being $1.65. You do have to order them, I don’t believe they’re available widely in the US. But they’re worth it if you do a lot of work on clipboards or just at odd angles. It’s a really solid pen that you can use for quite a while, and if it walks away? Not expensive to replace – unlike Fishers.

Let’s see the numbers…

1. How does it work?1 – it works well. The ink dries quickly – the 0.7mm point doesn’t smear easily. The line is good and dark.
2. Grip and feel0.5 – The length is good, the plunger is good. The grip is hard and can cause fatigue.
3. Material0.5 – It’s a plastic retractable pen. For a pressurized pen, you might want a bit more comfort in the pen.
4. Overall Design1 It’s a timeless design with an economical pressurized design that goes anywhere and does its job.
5. Price Point1 – You have to order these, but they’re worth it. If you write in challenging conditions, this is a good investment at $3.30 a piece and $1.65 for the refills Very economical for a solid office pen.

That’s 4 bronze pencils out of 5.
Pencil 4.0

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[Writer Blog] Horn Tooting Epiphany

Posted by reudaly on October 19, 2016 in Writing |

I’m not good at “Tooting My Own Horn”. I’m not! Really! Or at least it’s not something that comes naturally to me. Writing bios for conventions and websites almost makes me break out into hives. I think it comes from that super-ingrained cultural phenomenon that says, “Be quiet. Be humble. Don’t make waves. Don’t be loud. Don’t brag. It’s NOT BECOMING.” Even getting a “hey, you’re pretty awesome” cards from my MOM makes me go, “oh, no… not really. I’ve been fill in the deprecating word of choice here” inside. But lately, there’s been a bit of an epiphany (thank you, Curvy Yoga to a degree) that says (within reason because flat out bragging is NOT cool), “You know, I AM – or this thing I did – is pretty darned awesome.” Because let’s face it – hard work it NOT its own reward. You can put your head down, get the job done, and it might not get noticed without a light shined on it. And it’s okay to be the one holding the spotlight.

So, where is this coming from? No, I’m not about to do the “OMG! I’m such an awesome author you should BUY ALL THE THINGS! You can if you want, and I’d be hugely grateful, but that’s not the point. Actually, I’m not all that awesome right now. I’m kinda struggling on the forward momentum of a couple of big writing projects and just trashed a short story I thought had a lot of potential. But I’m working on at least grunt work (typing) that should hopefully jump start the mojo. That and we’ll have the chaotic house under some control by next week.
No, it’s Annual Review Time at the Day Job. I’m working on the whole “this terrifies me to my core” reaction, as well as, Boss’s Office = Principal’s Office = Being in Trouble thing. There’s a form I have to fill out that asks what my “Three Greatest Achievements” are. HAH! I chose to be “programmatic” in my approach to that and I wrote down all the things I did in the last year in these three program areas. This is to help prove – to them and to me – that I don’t have to take the “here’s the cost of living/merit increase” and like it. I can (and should) push for more than the “average of 3%” because I’ve EARNED IT. Even if it is only 3%, it’s still more than what I’ve gotten in the past because then I wasn’t “eligible” because I was part time. Now, I’m making a case because if you look at the list (and it’s not complete – I stuck with my 3 main program areas), the list is pretty freakin’ impressive. And that effort (not necessarily ME but the EFFORT) deserves to be recognized and rewarded.

And that’s a pretty big thing to realize. Welcome to my epiphany, feel free to take it with you and hug it tight. Because whatever it is that YOU DO? It’s pretty awesome, too, because only you can do that thing. And if no one’s said it you today, this week, or this year? YOU ROCK. You’re doing a great job. Don’t just keep it up, blow it up. Out of the ballpark. And listen to the awesome puppy.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] Morning Glory Mach Campus 0.28mm – Blue Ink

Posted by reudaly on October 17, 2016 in Review, writing instruments |

This is one of my last batch from JetPens . Jimmy directed me to the fact there were new 0.28 points available. Morning Glory has a new line available on JetPens that does indeed have one of the finest points available – the Morning Glory Mach Campus Rollerball Pen.
Haven’t heard of Morning Glory? Don’t neither had I until I’d delved into JetPens. They’re a South Korean pen maker. According to JetPens and the TradeKorea website – Morning Glory is the “biggest Fancy Stationary Manufacturer” based in Seoul, Korea. JetPens started out with the Mach 3 line, and now they carry the Mach Campus.
The Mach Campus line has three different colors in the 0.28mm needle tip, roller ball design in a few different barrel styles. This one is the blue ink, pearl body. The pen runs 5.5” long capped and 5.75” cap posted. The cap posts with a satisfying click with no likelihood of flying off. The cap is transparent and the grip is a translucent ribbed plastic so you can see some of the ink reservoir. The barrel accent colors match the ink – only the ink is darker. The length was consistent with these types of pens to give a decent balance.
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The roller ball and ink are smooth and dark for such a fine line (which I like). The tip can be a touch “scratchy” but that gives it a bit of character. I didn’t see a lot of skip or stutter. The needle tip felt solid and not about to bend if you write heavily. The line is solid and totally legible – which is a strength when you’re dealing with such a fine point. And it has a good price point for a disposable roller ball pen.

The numbers:

1. How does it work?1 – For such a fine point, it works really well. A solid, dark line with little skipping. Dries quickly with minimal smearing.
2. Grip and feel0.5 – I’m knocking a half point for nod to ergonomics. The grip is a decent diameter, but it’s a barely textured hard plastic. If you’re a hard gripper, it’ll be tiring. There’s also a ridge where the cap seats that can dig into fingers.
3. Material1 – This is an inexpensive, disposal roller ball. It is what it is. Plastic and steel, but it feels sturdy
4. Overall Design0.5 – It is what it is. It’s a good design for an inexpensive roller ball. I like the view port for the ink levels. It’s meant to be used and done. It’s good for what it is. There aren’t any ergonomics. The roller ball can be scratchy which some might not like.
5. Price Point1 – It’s pretty cheap. It’s $2.00 on JetPens. For a decent quality roller ball, it’s an okay price point.

That’s 4 of 5 bronze pencils.
Pencil 4.0<

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[Writing Post] Story Sale and Even Keels

Posted by reudaly on October 12, 2016 in Life, Writing |

What a difference a week or two makes. We’re in the second full week of October, and I can finally say I feel like all the weight and stress of the past few months is lifting. And if not completely lifting, at least shifting back to normal stuff.

I SOLD A STORY! And not just a story, a dark SF story with no animals in it! I sold it to Mark Finn for an upcoming SKELOS issue! More details as they become available. Since it’s more a literary journal than a typical magazine, I’m really excited about this.

It’s kind of a big deal for me. One, it’s dark and creepy which I don’t do often – and less often without some type of absurd element to it (sentient crocodiles, zombie parrots, intergalactic call centers) – so this was a bit of a stretch. Then Mark came back with NOTES, lots of notes, the week before FenCon. I couldn’t even.

But I told him I’d have it for him in a couple of weeks (maybe mid-October), not sure which. I hit right in the middle of that. I lost some time recovering from FenCon AND its nasty little stomach bug, replacing our washing machine, and finally the water leak under the foundation. Because we don’t do ANYTHING halfsies. But it’s done. Finished. Sold. Boom. AND I managed to write a guest blog for a friend for some time in November, I think. More details when they become available.

So WORDS! I have committed WORDS! To paper. To pixels. To RIDICULE! (Well, maybe not that last one yet.) Beginning to end. Done. Now…now we return to the incomplete projects and the projects impatiently waiting their turns. The YA novel WILL. BE. FINISHED. I have trashed and restarted (and trashed the restart) of a story due by the end of the year.

It feels good to know there’s still a show out there – Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve, y’all! – but for now, I’m floating along blissfully in a sea of NOTHING ON THE CALENDAR except a couple of social things. I can regroup, refocus, and get my house and blood pressure in order. And that’s all good. Even keels, baby. Even keels.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] BIC 4-Color Pen + Stylus

Posted by reudaly on October 10, 2016 in Review, writing instruments |

I know I’ve complained loudly about pen manufactures (BIC and Papermate, I’m looking at you) defaulting to larger and larger ballpoint sizes. I’ve been quite vocal about my love of fine points. I’m still NOT a fan of the default 1.0mm ballpoints. However… sometimes you gotta try stuff when it looks interesting. This looked interesting.
Yesterday I picked up a BIC 4 Color + Stylus pen. 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.
Well, they did another design change. This one now has a stylus on the top instead of the typical plastic nub. This is a value add to this pen that hasn’t seen much of a value add in those mumblety mumblety years. The points have gotten bigger but the barrel doesn’t seem that much wider, so yay? This one has a cool black barrel with a lime green grip. 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 and the stylus works on both my phone and iPad. The ink is typical ballpoint – there’s a bit of smearing with the darker colors if it doesn’t sit for a second. The green ink is still the weakest link, but it’s hard to find a green ballpoint ink that is dark and rich like the other primary colors.
The Numbers:

1. How does it work?1 It works. It wrote right out of the package in all four colors and the stylus is functional
2. Grip and feel0.5 – It’s a, plastic, no frills pen. It’s hard plastic. The green grip is more decorative than ergonomic. But it is smooth with no ridges to dig in.
3. Material1 For an inexpensive plastic pen, it’s solidly built. The cap and barrel are secure. The logo doesn’t wear off easily.
4. Overall Design1 -It’s a classic BIC4-color pen that hasn’t changed in decades. Except for the stylus. The stylus is a value add, even if you have to flip it to use it, running the risk of marking on yourself if a tip is extended. Something needs to give in green ink.
5. Price Point0.5 – I’ve only seen this at Staples – and down with the specialty pens. It’s running $6 there – which isn’t BAD for four colors and a stylus, but it’s also not the world’s most economical pen. But it’s still worth checking out – especially for economy of space.

4 out of 5 Bronze Pencils
Pencil 4.0

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[Writing Post][Conventions] FenCon Part 2

Posted by reudaly on October 5, 2016 in Conventions, Writing |

My last post seemed to scare the bejeezus out of some folks. Let me ‘splain…no, it will take too long, let me sum up…

I’m not giving up Guest Relations permanently, not even with FenCon. I’m just not going to be in charge. Guest Relations is not just something I do, it’s part of my personality – as evidenced by the Greg Grungberg story. I can’t NOT do it in some capacity.

As for the rest of FenCon, it’s an awesome time. I loved the Yard Dog Press Road Show. We did a parody of Naked and Afraid, with bubble wrap for pixilation over clothes (yeah, I’m getting the credit/blame for that). But it was hysterical because we have MAD IMPROV skillz now.

Naked and Afraid Parody - photo by Michael Braun

Naked and Afraid Parody – photo by Michael Braun

Thanks to everyone who came to the Redheads 10th Anniversary party/panel. I managed to get into the dress (with help from friends) that I bought without trying on because it was $6 at Goodwill and stunning. Couldn’t breathe well, but we all suffer for our art, right? And I looked darned good as the Center Square in FenCon Squares the hour before.
ROTA 10th Anniversary - photo by John Husisian

ROTA 10th Anniversary – photo by John Husisian

I got to change back to “me” clothes before the Star Trek panel I was on. Which was fun. A short break before FenCon’s SMALLEST art and charity auction to date. We were done with everything – including sitting around nattering by 9 pm. But that’s when stuff got real. Started feeling bad. Made it to a couple of things before saying, “NO! No more!” – the stomach bug hit fast and hard. According to Sherri Dean, I went from fine to pale to green in about 10 minutes.
FenCon Squares - photo by Michael Braun

FenCon Squares – photo by Michael Braun

Sunday I did somethings I’ve never done. I cancelled coffee delivery, and I bailed on my SECOND Star Trek panel. I did my solo signing and my reading (because those can directly sell books). I had lovely conversations, and to date I haven’t seen a record of sharing the bug. I had to do the reading because it was my Ed story, and it was kind of a final FenCon farewell to him. Robyn was in the front row. Other friends who knew him better were there. I broke down toward the end and nearly didn’t make it through my own story. But I’m a pro, darn it! I did it!

I also handed off my end of con duties to next year’s Guest Relations director and stopped. I was put to bed about 7 pm on Sunday and passed out until nearly 7 am the next morning. I don’t give up responsibility easily, and I’m happy for the slack being taken on my behalf. Next year, my duties will be a lot more passive and pre-show. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more writerly panels and enjoy it more.

The people are always great. So many people asked how my writing is going, what I’m working on, how we can do things better as a writing community. So now, it’s time to make it all work. Deadlines, darn it! I haz them! Time to do something about them, think about some future projects. I have nothing on my event calendar until December, which makes me super happy. Time for a refresh and kick start to the productivity.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] BIC Cristal Bold Rerun with Explanation

Posted by reudaly on October 3, 2016 in Review, writing instruments |

This is going to be a rerun post, because I totally left a bunch of pens at home that I might still need to do, and it’s yoga night. HOWEVER… I’ve been drawn today to a basic BIC Cristal stick pen – which I believe is the 1.0mm in the writing sample at the end of this post. So, I’m picking this one to rerun until 1) I can check my inventory (and may come back to the 1.0mm); and 2) my JetPens order comes in this week – because back up plan to missing the Dallas Pen Show. So, until then…


I know I’ve complained loudly about pen manufactures (BIC and Papermate, I’m looking at you) defaulting to larger and larger ballpoint sizes. I’ve been quite vocal about my love of fine points. But to be fair, I hadn’t actually used one of the “new” 1.6mm “Bold” points. I needed to give them a try. So taking advantage of “Back-to-School” sales, I picked up a package of Bic Cristal Classic BOLD ball point pens…18 count in 7 colors – black, blue, green, red, purple, light blue, light green, and pink.

I used them all, because I like seeing colorful longhand manuscripts. I also wanted to make sure my evaluation was on pretty much all of them. The writing sample is the basic blue–because for comparison, it’s the one that I had all three point sizes for. Those are my disclaimers/explanations.

The Bic Cristal Bold Classic 1.6 mm is about 5.75″ capped and 6.5″ long with the cap posted, which is normal for this kind of pen. On first glance you can see just how big a 1.6mm pen point is. The tip is coated in a hard wax to prevent leaking in the package. It’s difficult to remove completely and does affect writing ability until the wax is completely removed.

Being 1.6 mm, the ballpoint has a lot more surface area to use as a writing surface. You’d think that would be a good thing, but in fact, it causes a lot more clumping and smearing of the ink. I had to be careful not to get anything on me as I used the pens. That’s not a ringing endorsement for me. However, in terms of fairness, the color does come out richer and darker than in other point sizes, but that’s not enough to win me over.

I don’t know if it’s psychological thing, or really an aspect of the larger point size, but I found myself getting less material on a written page with the larger point. In my normal, “comfortable” writing, I felt like I do get fewer “characters per inch” with the bold. I’m sure there would be a much more analytical or scientific way of measuring, but I think even the writing sample shows a significant difference.

The Numbers:

1. How does it work?0.5 It works. It wrote right out of the package, once you got the wax off the tip. It didn’t fade down the page. The ink clumps and smears.
2. Grip and feel0.5 – It’s an inexpensive, plastic, no frills pen. It’s hard plastic. No grips. It’s not an “all day” pen.
3. Material1 For an inexpensive plastic pen, it’s solidly built. The cap and barrel are secure. The logo doesn’t wear off easily.
4. Overall Design0.5 -It’s a classic BIC pen that hasn’t changed in decades. I can see globs of ink on the point, which I don’t care for. The tip actually seems overly large for the design of the pen.
5. Price Point0.5 – You can get them anywhere, but only in bulk. I haven’t seen just 3 or 4 They’re in large numbers. I suppose when you look at it that way the $5-$8 isn’t bad when you’re getting 18, 24, or 48 (depending on which store you purchase them). You’re investing a lot on of resources for something that will probably not be a long term investment.

3 out of 5 Bronze Pencils

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[Pen/Pencil Review][Writer Post] Dallas Pen Show/FenCon Part 1

Posted by reudaly on September 28, 2016 in Conventions, Review, Writing, writing instruments |

I may end up breaking this blog post up into two parts because of length. There’s so much to talk about. FenCon week is always a challenge since I’m both writer chick and staff chick. This year seemed especially challenging and bittersweet because next year I’m taking a step back and letting someone else take over the guest liaison/guest relations department I spent 10 years (I think) developing. It’s time to let someone else drive the bus for a while. It’s not that I don’t love what I’ve done/built, but there’s always one of those 1) there needs to be a next gen, and 2)I need a break before what I love becomes something I don’t (the job not the people).

There were indicators the last couple of years that this was coming, and this year clinched it, so YAY for having one of the greatest sets of GOH’s EVER! These people made it all worthwhile. I loved being around our GOHs, at least the one’s I was able to interact with, at least. When you have TEN, one or two sail by in passing. But I am so glad to have worked with them. They flowed with my hiccups in astonishing ways. Such as Esther Friesner and Kristina Carroll getting to meet Loki and Freya before going to lunch on Thursday. Or…managing to provide Jim Hines with evening soda because I totally anticipated his unspoken need for CAFFEINE FREE Diet DR Pepper (can’t even type that with a straight face). I totally bought the absolutely WRONG soda, but hey, it worked for him.

That was a sign. For me, the working part of FenCon was the Con of Thousand Paper Cuts. Stuff was late, or early (all the flights but one), forgotten, mislaid, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. Little things that don’t matter kept piling up. I’m better than that. I’m smoother than that. Nothing went completely wrong, but nothing went completely right, either.

Everything was off just enough that I didn’t go to the Dallas Pen Show. Let me repeat that. I. Did Not. Go To. The Dallas Pen Show for the first time since I knew it existed. There just wasn’t enough time. There wasn’t enough me. Something had to give. I gave up the pen show. Fortunately, I have a backlog of pens, etc. to write about (so the blog is safe, Jim!). But man, that hurt and next year…all my responsibility is background and pre-show. So hopefully next year… I can go more than a half-hour!

But for all the paper cuts? FenCon was awesome – until the stomach bug. I actually handed off my job to my successor early because yowza. I’ll talk about the awesomeness in the next post, because, yes running long. But yes, in spite of the papercuts…in spite of my stomach going on strike, and IN SPITE of missing the Pen Show…I can’t stop smiling about FenCon. It’s a kick butt con. We’ve built something awesome here. We’ll talk about that more on Friday.

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[Pen/Pencil Review][Conventions][Writing] COMBO POST!!!!!

Posted by reudaly on September 20, 2016 in Conventions, Life, Review, Writing, writing instruments with Comments closed |

YAY! COMBO POST! Pens, writing, and conventions because it’s just that week. Heck, it’s just that month. September is my most busy and stressful month of the year – and this week is the biggest week in the month. Day Job has a big event. FenCon starts (for staff) technically Wednesday. Parents 50th Anniversary is this weekend. And to top it off, I had jury duty yesterday. WHEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! So you get a combo post.

This weekend is also the Dallas Pen Show. I will, once again, bail out of FenCon Friday morning at 9:30 (sharpish) to get to THAT show when it opens at 10 am (but no one gets to the show the minute it’s open! WRONG) so I can spend about 30-45 minutes there drooling over things I cannot afford and talking to pen makers and chocolate makers and then fly back to do FenCon duties. It’s my small window of opportunity. I WILL TAKE IT. You will see the effects next week.

The parental anniversary (and it was a big anniversary) has been celebrated. There’s some bleed over that will happen in my absence before they take off for a short trip. So that’s handled. Jury Duty lasted about half a day which allowed me to make headway on some convention prep that I was struggling to make sure got done. So a bit of a relief.

We’re doing the last run through of prep for the Day Job Event that I will not be participating in but have done tons of prep for this afternoon. I have one more day in the office, then it’s all about FenCon for realz (yeah, I can’t pull that off).

Evenings are booked with all things FenCon. Thursday through Monday is all things FenCon. And Redheads of the Apocalypse. And weird redheaded blurs that could be Rhonda, but who knows for sure. So you see this craziness? Do you know what that means for writing or developing panels for Nerd Years Eve? Yeah, I’m going to be lucky to eek out a few words here and there. I’m muddling through that.

The convention crazy? That’s part of the job. The job gets done. If there are new words, YAY. If there are not? Well, occasionally that happens. It’s not a permanent thing. Back on the horse next week (I have short story edits/rewrites to work on – need to find out when that’s due…) Now… allons-y.

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