This was a post I wrote in 2014 coming back from SoonerCon. Today I’m exhausted – I have herded all the cats I can herd today. There’s a bunch of moving parts plans happening this evening — however, I’m trying to be better about pretty much everything, so I’m going to keep on schedule even if it is this “Flash from the Past”. New content soon. But SoonerCon was AWESOME (as always). You should go if you haven’t been or if you’ve been away for a while. I meant to get their SoonerCon “office pack” thingie (notebook, pen, tote, and hand sanitizer) but I just didn’t pull the pin on that plan. Maybe next year…
In order to help keep Jimmy company when we were both exhausted yesterday, I pretty much “live Facebooked” the drive home from Oklahoma City to Dallas/Fort Worth from SoonerCon. Sorry, Feed. I pretty much said that this week’s blogs would be all about SoonerCon… well, you’ve been warned…even the pen blog is SoonerCon related. This year, in the packet with our schedules and name tents and program book was a nifty (and not-inexpensive) promotional pen from SoonerCon, and I’m going to tell you about it.
This pen is both adorable and functional, if a bit on the short side. These pens are the kind companies and people like me buy, get some kind of personalization engraved on them, and hand out to unsuspecting passersby. But this one is pretty cool. It’s a bit on the short side if you have a larger hand. It’s 5″ long with the point retracted and about 5.25″ long with the point extended. Though a bit top heavy to accommodate the flashlight, it’s actually comfortable.
The pen barrel is slightly tapered for a nod to ergonomics. It’s that sweet spot between too wide a barrel diameter and… well, not. The mechanisms for both the pen retraction and the flashlight are on the side of the barrel parallel to each other to give room for the personalization. The tip and the barrel transitioning to the flashlight are translucent colored (in this case blue) plastic accenting the bright white. The sliders are textured for a good grip and work well.
The pen has black ballpoint ink. The flow is smooth with little to no clumps or skips – there’s a bit of smearing on good paper, but minimal. I’m not sure what the point is, but it feels kinda like a 0.7mm or slightly bigger – it could be a 1.0mm but without feeling big and gloppy – which I like. It’s a “mini” ball point refill that looks pretty standard, so you could probably refill it. The LED flashlight is bright but not blinding. Unfortunately, it’s all glued together, so once those batteries run dead, that part of the pen is done. But those should last a goodly while.
Why I like this design? My day job has me examining and describing jewelry. Sometimes I need more light on the stones than my lamp gives me to determine color. And (shocking, I know) I occasionally drop stuff on the brown carpet under my desk where the lamp does not reach. This will let me find stuff faster and easier… and let’s be honest, sometimes we just wanna play with flashlights and laser pointers.
1. How does it work? – 1 – It works well. The flashlight works – it shines light, and though it might not be blinding light, it gets the job done. The pen writes smoothly and the mechanism is solid.
2. Grip and feel – 0.5 – I’m am knocking this a bit because it is short. If it were about a half-inch longer, I would be more comfortable with it. It’s also, as I mentioned, a bit top heavy . But still nice.
3. Material – 1 – It’s a “gimme” pen, so it is what it is. It’s plastic. But it’s decent plastic. It feels solid and sturdy.
4. Overall Design – 1 – I like this pen. It’s functional. It’s smooth, and though it’s a bit on the short side, it’s still very functional with the added bonus of making you giggle like a 10 year-old because it’s also a freakin’ TOY.
5. Price Point – 0.5 – It’s not cheap, but it is useful. I don’t know where SoonerCon ordered theirs, but I found them on the site where I buy all my promotional pens – Amsterdam Printing. These are the “higher end” promotional pens – but you do have the flashlight portion. They’re not outrageous but you have to budget for them, and there setup charges. But if you have the budget for them, you’ll get good response. THANK YOU SOONERCON!
That’s 4 of 5 bronze pencils.
Prompt: Big Time Deals in the Big City
Words: feud, philosophy, palace, finger, scandal, skyscraper, complacent, handle, crawl, challenge
“Beware of any challenge, my mama always told me.”
“Would you please try not to embarrass us any further? Do you want everyone thinking we’ve need seen a skyscraper?” Mather wagged a finger at his fellow traveler. “You’re acting like this is a palace. It’s a city, and we’re just here to handle business.”
Bandur ignored his cousin as they made their way through the teeming streets at a crawl. He gawked and pointed at oddities with Mather slapping his arm at every turn. “Cousin, you are too complacent about the wonders around us! Enjoy the bounty! Open your mind!”
“Enough of your foolish philosophy. We’re here to trade for supplies. That’s it. Our families are depending on us.”
Such a simple, straightforward thought proved to be more difficult than Mather knew. The bars and inns around the market spoke little of business and much of the Mayor’s scandal sending the city into a fevered feud with a neighboring community. Mather despaired until Bandur dropped coin and keys in front of him.
“What did you do?” Mather demanded.
“Sometimes it does pay to be in a backwater. We are transporting goods and people away from a war zone. All for a few promises of clean air and honest work. And we’ve all the supplies we need.
Mather had nothing to say.
Word Count: 221
SoonerCon starts in 48 hours (ish). This is an awesome show. You should come.
Here’s my schedule – this is subject to last minute changes. When I’m not in one of these places, I’ll either be eating or probably at the Yard Dog Press table in the dealer’s room. If you want something signed, or one of my independently produced projects, come find me. If I blow past you, it’s probably because I’m trying to get to one of those places or have to use the restroom. I don’t mean to be rude. Hope to see you there.
YardDog Press Traveling Road Show
(watch me make a fool of myself in the name of interpretive dance or other hilarity)
(watch us all become slowly human through the consumption of caffeine)
Strong Women are Star Wars
(watch me talk outside my major fandom – BUT TIMOTHY ZAHN!)
SAT-1PM-YardDog Table – Dealer’s Room
(I will sign anything but a blank check!)
(not a psychic one)
Are You Funny?
(you be the judge – BUT JODY LYNN NYE!!!!)
Star Trek’s Diplomatic All-Stars
(watch me talk about my major fandom!)
Practical Benefits of the Zombie Apocalypse
(Just hilarity ensuing)
This show is the last of the six weeks or so of what seems to be marathon traveling and stuff. I’m getting back to committing word counts and stuff. Hopefully the giant thud you’ll hear about 2 pm on Sunday won’t necessarily being me falling down — but it could be. But I’m getting my butt back in gear and looking forward to seeing folks in Oklahoma.
This past weekend was the annual blueberry pick in East Texas – which meant an inevitable trip into Tyler – usually this is for coffee, this time to PetSmart for a new dog bed after Freya threw up on Loki’s bed and logistics ensued (holes in bed to be repaired before washing). Ended up also in Drug Emporium where I impulsively bought this little guy.
This inexpensive pen is too much fun. For a ballpoint, it actually writes pretty well with minimal smearing and a good color to the black ink. It’s about 6.5″ long, multi-functional and adorable. It’s a retractable stylus pen in my favorite style, the pen comes through the stylus so you don’t have to recap or turn over if you want to go from low tech to high tech. But the fun doesn’t stop there
The pen is a “person” so the ergonomic barrel is both green and white to denote “clothes” and curved for a “body”. The metal clip is a striped tie and solid. The plunger is a ball with a smiley face painted on it with microfiber mop head (in green) to clean your device screens.
For a novelty pen, it’s TOO adorable, yet functional. It actually has a pretty smooth ink and line. It’s probably a 1.0mm but doesn’t glop much to make it seem like a bigger tip and only smears a bit on glossy paper. The stylus is functional but not quite as responsive as others I’ve used. And it comes in several colors without breaking the bank – probably available at other random retailers.
Now to the numbers:
1.How does it work? – 0.5 It’s decent. For the length and price point, it works pretty well. It’s a ballpoint. It’s a cheap ballpoint. And it is what it is.
2.Grip and feel – 1 – It’s an inexpensive, plastic, no grip pen. It has some ergonomics in shape but not grip and is relatively well balanced for what it is.
3.Material – 1 For an inexpensive plastic pen, it’s solidly built. The clip is super solid.
4.Overall Design – 0.5 -I’m giving it a bit of a knock because it’s not the world BEST design – it can be a bit bulky, the cleaner and stylus could work a BIT better, but it’s functional and okay.
5.Price Point – 1 – It’s $1.99 at Drug Emporium. That might be a little high for someone buying something as a novelty but it’s multifunctional, so there’s that investment.. I’m willing to pay a couple of bucks for something that makes me giggle.
Prompt: A Journalist Crosses the Line
Words: defamation, stroke, reporter, truck, weasel, supermarket, encyclopedia, contemplate, classify, clutch
“You’re going to get us sued for defamation, and I think I’m having a stroke.” Len slammed his fist on his desk hard enough to make an encyclopedia jump. “Or worse! The Feds could investigate us. Give me one good reason not to throw you to the wolves.”
Blair didn’t flinch. She stared her editor down as his tirade wound down. She seemed to contemplate the citations, degrees, and awards on the wall behind him until he sputtered to a stop with a “Well?”
“I’m sorry, did you want me to do supermarket stories or did you hire me to be the type of reporter who dug deep?”
“Is this story for real? Are you willing to go to jail for this story? Because you will, you are in the path of a truck you can’t stop.”
“The senator is a weasel. He only decided to classify the findings after I started working on my story. I’m in the right.”
“You really think so?” Len slammed his fist down once more. “Did you think about anything?”
“Of course I did, Len. I thought about the truth. About what’s going on at the highest levels. It’s what we do. We don’t back down in the clutch. Do we?”
“When it jeopardizes this newspaper, maybe. There’s more at stake here than your hubris.”
“If there is, then I want no part in it.” Blair slapped her credentials on the desk. “I quit.” As she stormed out, she palmed a USB drive. After all there was always the internet.
Word Count: 256
Road to recovery…in a writing sense. My creative output has sucked this last quarter. No other way to put it. It’s not that the I wasn’t willing or that I haven’t beaten myself up over it. Or tried to force my way through it. I have. And you know what? It’s still sucked. I’m behind on a whole lot of stuff. Stuff I’ve been “meaning” to work on since April.
There are reasons. There are excuses. They are what they are. I’ve been on TWO business trips (in which I’ve gained a whole lot of knowledge and experience). Family is in town from out of country and staying with us. So things to do there. And sometimes the Day Job is ALL CONSUMING, but it is good work, important work, and it allows me the funds, healthcare options, and vacation time to do all the things I need to be able to take care of the business side of writing.
Welcome to the Real World of Writing. All the “YOU MUSTS” yeah, no. As Rosemary Clement put it in a DFWCon “When to Ignore Good Advice” panel (or Lies my Writer’s Group Told Me – I think that’s her “subtitle”) YOU DO YOU. If YOU have to write something every day. Good. If you need to take time for self care. Good. (I now do yoga one night a week and tai chi two mornings a week at work and walk A LOT.) Does this mean I end up writing EVERY DAY – obviously not or this blog post wouldn’t be happening. BUT…BUT…but…I do write relatively regularly (I need to do the exercises more frequently) and when I’m not doing that I’m generally reading which is research and still vitally important.
If you need to take a few weeks in an allergy medication fog so you can breathe? Breathing is good. I highly recommend it. But honestly, unless you’re doing really “Weird Fiction” I wouldn’t necessarily recommend writing while on Benedryl. TRUST ME on this one. But hey, YOU DO YOU. Pollen-Inspired fiction probably has just as much place in the grand scheme of things as anything else.
I’ve also been on the bandwagon of listening to Podcasts While Commuting. I so should’ve done that long ago – also research. Also writing related good use of time. Not necessarily committing words to paper, but again not a Bad Thing. And if you’re EVER EVER stuck for story ideas? Just start listening to Stuff You Should Know or Stuff You Missed in History Class. SO MUCH FODDER! SO MUCH. I’ve also been loving Talk Nerdy, Writing Excuses, and most Star Talk episodes. So much to learn. So much to put into stories.
So yeah, so maybe my output sucks right now. It’s busy (SO BUSY) and Pollen Season (NO! Fungus Season!). Barring the Crepe Myrtles incapacitating me further (they hate me), my output should be getting better soon. It’s a home stretch thing. I’m going to start some editing and thought priming and reading. It’ll all be good. Because it’s how I do it, and that’s okay…for me. You find what works for you.
Today is a pen related blog… not really a review but a pen blog on a Monday during a crazy early summer of traveling mostly for business. Have fun with this. I’ve written an essay in the past about being a “Practical” pen person rather than a collector. I don’t take care of pens the way a true collector might. I use everything I get don’t discriminate against brand, type, expensive-ness. I’ve been to TWO conferences in the past 4 weeks…here’s the fistful of pens I brought back.
(There was a half sentence in here originally that I have no idea what I was saying, so…) Jimmy collects a specific pencil. It’s not just a mess from across the country. But it’s a true COLLECTION. In fact, there have been changes to my house so he can organize and display his Pentel Pencils when I’ve come home from Day Job Conferences. First shelves then lighting. We’re an LED family now.
This is a COLLECTION. So how’s this different from what I have? Take a look… the first weekend of June I dumped my BOX of pens (and not all of them…just most) and decided to at least sort them by brand/manufacturer and put them in ziploc bags. Then I can slowly (oh, so slowly) figure out what I have reviewed. What I haven’t. What I might want to do with some of this stuff. This is a thinned hoard too. A couple of years ago I culled the lot and donated stuff to teachers and organizations that might have use for writing instruments. Because wow.
I DO NOT have a collection. I have a hoard. I have a plethora. Okay, let’s face it. I have an EMBARRASSMENT of pens (sorry, not sorry). This is why everything I do with ink and pencil seems so incredibly random. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I do, not like with Jimmy or other collectors. And it’s not wrong (a problem maybe, but not wrong). I’d like to say that I can stop at anytime, but you’d all hurt yourselves laughing. I can’t give up pens any more than I can give up coffee or breathing (though during allergy season the breathing thing seem to think its optional).
And the world needs us both. The Collector and the Enthusiast. The collector can tell you the minute aspects of one kind of pen or pencil – Jimmy’s documenting every style change of the Pentel P205. Me? I can tell you which ball point pen may not smear in your shiny new journal. We each have our strengths that bring value to this Wonderful World of Writing Instruments. Will anyone care in the future? Maybe. Maybe not. But it makes us happy, and that’s all that really matters. So find the thing – the pen, the pencil, the marker or crayon or some other thing that makes you happy and be happy.
Prompt: The Supernatural Invades the Everyday
Words: metamorphosis, rogue, shrug, salamander, sleepy, chimpanzee, enzyme, lemon, glance, merge
Salamanders vs. Chimpanzees sounds like the Worst Gang War EVER, but we weren’t talking West Side Story or Happy Days. Oh no. Our sleepy little town actually went through some sort of crazy metamorphosis that changed, well, everything.
Six months ago everything was fine. I mean it. Our little hamlet had high school football, ice cream socials, and FDA-guidelines-be-darned bake sales. Then came some rogue enzyme that “awakened” our town.
“We have to do something!” The sibilance from a reptile tongue still sounded weird to me. I struggled to parse the words even when they were dropping from my newly-forked tongue.
I was roared down by a six-foot tall primate – literally half our town went Chimp. Half went reptile. It wasn’t pretty, especially when it came to resources, and avoiding the news. Both the reports and the reporters.
“I’m not talking about lemons and lemonade,” I said with a quick glance around the room – easy to do with eyes that move independently. “we need to merge forces, work together.”
The chimp shrugged. “Why not just knock heads and be done?”
“Because the fouls aren’t worth it. If we’re ognig to win State, we have to be smart. You’re strong. We’re fast and camouflage. We can win this. Then maybe we’ll be human again.”
Word Count: 213
Written: 5/7 & 10/17
Many apologies for dropping off the face of the earth this week. If you follow my social media, you know I’ve been participating in a conference for my Day Job in New York State. I have met so many awesome people and animals. I’ve seen some amazing scenery. Done a lot. Seen a lot. Totally ready to come home. This experience has been incredible, but my Inner Introvert is screaming to be my OUTER Introvert. Totally looking forward to my back wall cube next week.
So, yeah, there’s been no pen review – though I’m bringing home more souvenir and promo pens and a couple of notebooks. There has been a ton of meeting people and an endless supply of food. Buffalo has treated us very, very well. This is going to be this week’s writing post, because what I have learned is amazing details for whatever Doomsday or thriller (romantic or otherwise) book I finally decide to write.
Seriously, that’s been one of the most amazing parts of this Day Job is all the STUFF there is to learn that can benefit me as a fiction writer – no matter what time frame I want to write in. Because even if I project this into a dystopian future or just a future, these are details that are just going to add depth and color and out and out coolness. And those type of details MATTER. They matter SO MUCH. Not to mention those experts you’re trying to portray? Take a tiny step in their shoes – put on the gear (or even half) for just a minute, and I guarantee your respect for them will rise exponentially. See me in a EOD bomb suit jacket? Yeah, that weighed between 20 and 40 pounds and was just HALF THE SUIT. The panel on the sleeve that are some kind of controls? I couldn’t even reach it! And these guys dismantle BOMBS in this suit. SO MUCH RESPECT. I mean I don’t have a whole lot of dexterity to begin with, but add this suit? DUDE.
Writing something with mounted police? Some squads use Quarter Horses that are cutting horses. BRILLIANT! These are smaller, quicker, and if a suspect runs into a crowd? Why not use a smaller, more nimble horse trained to separate cows from a herd. Same concept, different herd. Never thought of it until I met a PD Quarter Horse. Then it seemed incredibly obvious.
It’s a detail. And details matter. They matter so much. These details can adapted to near future or far future or historical – even alien. We’ve all heard the “write what you know” adage, but we can’t all be aliens or jump to the future, but we can take what we know and project. Just like we can take things from history and project it to the future – because as much as we don’t want it to, history repeats.
So take the time to at least attempt accuracy in your details. Develop the relationships (if you can) with some of those experts to ask questions when you’re stuck. And though I can (and do) talk a mile a minute – especially when it comes to my Day Job with the stuff I can (and need to) learn, I really try to do the “Listen twice as much as you talk”.
So right now, there’s so much stuff swirling in my head – and literature I’m bringing home that can be useful research in the future — and OH SO MANY pictures.
Prompt: On a Quest
Words: medieval, derive, molten, oar, rhythm, ears, antique, corn, daughter, yammer
“Call it a journey of discovery if you don’t want to call it a quest,” Seth continued packing. “But you’re going.”
Astrid glared at her brother as she tapped the short wooden oar against her palm. “It’s a stupid, medieval ritual. I don’t see why it’s still relevant.”
That last conversation played in Astrid’s mind as she stomped through forest and field to the hidden temple of Sif, Norse goddess of the harvest, ears of corn weighing down her pack. She still didn’t get why she was doing this except she was a Viking’s daughter, and she didn’t want to listen to her family yammer on about it anymore.
Astrid’s steps fell into a ragged rhythm as she trudged around brambles and tree trunks until she burst into a n open glade leading to a rock face.
“Safe to assume the dar, creey cave hole is the way into Sif’s temple…” She clicked on her antique flashlight and headed into the dank, tight cave. “And yay. I get to leave the harvest sacrifice and earn my reward. What kind of stupid quest is this, I ask again?”
“One that will change your life if you let it.”
Astrid whirled in the tight quarters, bruising her shin as she played the weakening beam. The voice was warm, like molten caramel, but there was no one there. She couldn’t derive the source of the sound, but she kept moving forward. She pulled the corn from her pack.
“Oh, yes, you’ll do fine.” Suddenly light sprang forth and a woman approached, reaching for the offering. “I wish someone would bring pizza. Just once. Now girl, let’s see about reclaiming the earth.”
Word Count: 278