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[Writing Post] Spectrum and DFWCon

Posted by reudaly on May 3, 2017 in Life |

I’m having a “so much to do but no pressing deadlines so….” week with almost nothing to show for it. That has to change. There’s something to be said for “allergy season” and brain muddling, but that’s just an excuse, especially with how active the next four to six weeks are going to be. I have one writers’ conference and two Day Job conferences coming up so TRAVEL! Yay.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live was awesome, but not what I thought I was going to do at it. There was no sitting in the lobby or bar and writing (because it wasn’t that kind of facility). There was a lot of walking and stairs and stuff – which is good, but doesn’t inspire carrying stuff around. I did meet and talk to a lot of cool artists – from legends to rising stars. Helped out John Picacio some, because Texans stick together – also figured out that we’ve known each other since 2004 when we met at the WorldCon Art Show in Boston. Time flies.

Might have (maybe) volunteered myself to a potential ginormous writing project (how’s that for specific) if an article that I need to be working on RIGHT NOW, DARN IT. I need that project like another hole in my head, but it would be pretty darn cool to do. A piece of David LaRocca’s speaks to me of story ideas – just not necessarily elder god vein the way he intends it, or maybe there is some tendrils there. We’ll see. Enjoyed spending a bit of time with Sara Felix, as well as Jimmy Holloman, Sherrie Dean, and Allison Stein before running into Jimmy Murray.

The Spectrum Awards show was cool, because it was a show. Dancers, a comedienne MC, and the like. It was very nifty. And of course, there’s always a bit of “what is this equivalent to”? in my brain. So… even though the Chesleys are given out at WorldCon or NASFIC, they’re voted on by association members – so, like a Nebula Award. The Spectrum Awards are a juried thing… so like World Fantasy Awards. The Hugos are the Hugos, bless them.

And though I thought I would come back all shiny and bright and ready to write – I came back to Lean Six Sigma training that was all foreign concepts to me – STATISTICS. And the complicated stuff. Only the fact I’m a Redheaded Missourian is keeping me in the program. I was not the only one who was confused and frustrated. The instructor seemed to think this stuff was the easiest thing in the world, and we should get it first go. Um, no, that’s not the case. And if you struggled once, ANY question you had after that had to be painstakingly OVER-EXPLAINED. So not conducive to well, ANYTHING else.

But… this weekend I’m going to DFWCon. A writer’s conference. Most people are going to pitch to agents or editors. I’m going to hang out with writers, get my brain back, and maybe learn stuff. I have work I can pitch if necessary, but none of the agents seem to take what I write. So that pressure is gone. Huzzah. We’ll see how this goes.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens

Posted by reudaly on May 2, 2017 in Review, writing instruments |

Today’s pen review is a jump ahead. I have so many things from Christmas and Birthday that I haven’t reviewed yet – then I picked up more stuff when I was at Spectrum when we hit not only The Pen Place but also Artist & Craftsman Supply. There was also a quick trip to the new (to me) location of Asel Art Supply in Arlington, TX. Today I’m looking at Pilot’s Varsity disposable fountain pens – one from Asel Art Supply and one from Artist & Craftsman Supply.

I’ve used the Varsity pens off and on for years, but I do like going back to them. Though they come in seven colors, this time we’re looking at the primary blue and red. These are called “everyday fountain pen” and it’s that true. These are no-frills plastic barrel, stainless steel medium nib pens. The nibs make a decently fine line that makes writing with them easy. They’re also completely sealed so leaking is less of an issue than it could be.

These pens have liquid fountain pen ink encased in a plastic barrel with clear sections to see the ink levels. In the truest sense of disposable, they’re not refillable. Being a liquid ink, there is drying time involved to the ink and some smearing, if you’re not careful. The no frills design of the pen is still fairly well balanced and comfortable. They’re about 5.5″ long, and the cap posts fairly well for molded plastic.

They run up to about $3-$4 a piece, but you can get them cheaper. They’re available in singles or the 7-color variety pack for anywhere from $11 – $15 dollars. They’re available online and in art supply stores – maybe even big box office supply stores. So they’re accessible as well as easy to write with.

The numbers:
1. How does it work?1 – It is what it is – a disposable fountain pen suitable for everyday carry. But the nib is narrow enough for every day writing, yet wide enough for some “fancy” work, and the ink flows smoothly.
2. Grip and feel0.5 – The grip is plain with no attempts at ergonomics. There’s a ledge between nib and barrel that can dig into your finger in long-term use.
3. Material1 – It’s plastic and stainless steel. It’s what it proclaims to be. A disposable fountain pen.
4. Overall Design0.5 – There could be some nods to comfort, but it’s not bad for what it is. The clip seems a bit weak, but it’s plastic, like the rest of it.
5. Price Point1 – The Varsity is available everywhere, and runs at affordable pricing, it’s a great way to try out fountain pens before investing in a much more expensive piece.

I give it 4 out of 5 Bronze Pencils

Pencil 4.0

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[Write the Story] Wrapping Up a Business Trip

Posted by reudaly on April 28, 2017 in Writing with Comments closed |

When it comes to these stories, some are better than others. This (in my opinion) is one of the others. It was a St. Patrick’s Day attempt.

Prompt: Wrapping Up a Business Trip

Words: bar, laptop, insect, Germany, baseball, nervous, embark, protest, swing, sentence

Story

I was a bit nervous being in a bar in Germany on St. Patrick’s Day. I mean Germans take their beer even more seriously than the Irish. Besides it’s too dark to notice if they deigned to color it green. I took a swig and it didn’t matter. Besides, I’m not really Irish.

I opened my laptop to stream a baseball game before heading to the airport and home. I couldn’t wait to embark on that journey.

“Brother, can you spare a sentence?”

I blinked, coming back to the environment in which I sat and not the virtual world of sports. Surely my basic German had failed me. “Excuse me?”

Then I realized who was speaking. The guy was short, like really short, but like a Christmas elf. “Can you insect me a moment?”

“Do you speak another language? My German is…small.”

“Ack, yes!” the little dude switched to a thickly accented English. “I need a favor. You’re heading back close to my homeland. I would like you to swing me home.”

Something rang in my head. “I don’t know…” I protested weakly.

“Ack, there will be a pot of gold in it for you.”

Then I knew I was in trouble. Nothing good ever happened with those words.

Word Count: 209

Written: 3/17/17 and 3/19/17 (weak)

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[Writer Post] It’s Been An Interesting Week (non-Chinese Proverb Version)

Posted by reudaly on April 26, 2017 in Books, Writing with Comments closed |

For a short work week with a vacation (that kinda wasn’t), it was a busy week last week that made me remember some reasons why I do what I do. I won’t even begin to touch on Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! this week. Because a promise I made a few weeks ago appeared. I told my friend, Crystal, I’d help a 5th Grader she knew with a school “passion project”. Apparently the kids were assigned to interview someone who does what they think they want to do when they grow up, this 5th Grader, we’ll call her K, wants to be a writer. So she came up with SIX good questions that her dad emailed me. After trying to do good answers – they solid, open-ended questions – I asked her if I could post the interview on the blog. She agreed (and I hope she gets a good grade). She did tell me in her thank you note that her dad typoed question #5 – it was supposed to be “did” not “do” – but answer is the same…

1. Who was your role model as a writer and why?

This is a harder question than you might know. I didn’t have just one role model as a writer, there were many who influenced me over the years. But, here we go… one of my biggest role models as a writer actually wrote and created television. His name was Gene Roddenberry and he created Star Trek way back in the day. I learned a lot about story structure and pacing from episodes of Star Trek. The show also had novels called media tie in books that kept the universe alive in book form.

As for books, some of my first memorable reading was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern and Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books. They led me into fantasy – as well as the Elfquest graphic novels by Richard and Wendy Pini. But some of the things I really loved from a young age were mystery series that were older than I was – Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. These were books written by SEVERAL women over the decades under one name – but it introduced me more to ensembles and how to keep characters consistent.

2. Did anyone tell you couldn’t be a writer? What did they say and what did you do?

No one told me flat out that I couldn’t be a writer, but they weren’t overly supportive about it – but let me clarify that none of those people were my parents. My mom and dad have always supported me and my writing. In fact, my mom’s a writer now that she’s retired. It was other family members and friends. They all had that “Oh, that’s nice…what’s your backup plan.” Or after I started published, they said, “Oh, you’re actually like GOOD at this.” Like they’d just been humoring me.

I even had a woman in college say (when I told her I wanted to write professionally), “Oh I hope you marry well.” Implying I would need someone to financially support me. That was uncool.

3. What first got you interested in writing?

I am an only child, and for a while we didn’t have a lot of neighbors. So I read a lot. Made up stories and scenarios for dolls and toys to act out because I didn’t have a lot of other people to play with. And one day I was a reading a book and thought to myself, “I can do this. I want to do this.”

4. Do you have any tips for a new writer?

The essential tip is to keep at it. Don’t stop. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. The other is a reminder that you don’t have to be perfect. In fact, most of what you write will be garbage, and that’s okay. In fact, if you don’t write the garbage? You never get to the good stuff, because the good stuff is what happens when you start revising and editing. Gemstones start out as dirty, ragged rocks that don’t shine until they’re cut and polished – writing is the same way. Also? Don’t think you have write epic tomes right away. Start small – short fiction or small amount of words every day just to get the muscle memory and habit going. Just go.

5. Do you ever think writing was not for you and what changed your mind?

Only about every six months. I’ll go through a dry spell where it’s just painful get a handful of words written in a day or I’ll haven’t had anything sell for a while and I think, “Yep, this is it. I’m done. They’ve all figured out that I have no talent or no story to tell. It’s over.”

Then you know what happens? A story sells, or a person at a convention – or another writer or artist – asks what I’m working on or when the next piece of a project is coming out. Or even a lovely student asks me to talk about what it’s like to be a writer. Then it all comes back.

6. What are some of the pros about being a writer?

Wow, another good question. Pros to being a writer:

The creative jolt of hanging out with other writers. We get each other – and it’s so important to not feel alone with the struggles.

Seeing a person holding your book and reading it when they don’t know you’re there – they do know you’re there and don’t care.

Tangible ones – selling books to complete strangers at conventions. You kind of know your friends and family will support you, but having people you never met buy a book is awesome. Both because it’s money, but also because you have the opportunity to change a person’s perspective for just a little while.

Seeing your name on a cover – book or magazine – is the biggest rush because it proves that you can do this thing you’ve loved for so long – and other people also see the value in it.

The money for selling a story or a book is nice – but it’s never going to be a lot unless you’re in the top 1%. But this is not something anyone does to get rich – no matter what TV and Movies say.

Her dad read the interview and has been trying to get K to read Dragonriders of Pern for years, maybe now she will. And only a couple of days after I wrote this up, I met Wendy and Richard Pini at Spectrum, which is another part of the “interesting” week. Maybe I added them because I was thinking about Spectrum, but I did read the first graphic novels in either 8th or 9th grade when I was firming up what genre I wanted to write (I decided to be a writer when I was 10 – so about the same age as K.) Full circles, man. Full circles.

Serious, K? If you don’t get a good grade, it’s me not you. 😎

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[Pen/Pencil Review] On the Road

Posted by reudaly on April 24, 2017 in writing instruments with Comments closed |

No pen blog today. Heading home from a wonderful weekend with artists. Will try to post something tomorrow.

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[Write the Story] The Last Moment of Childhood

Posted by reudaly on April 21, 2017 in Writing with Comments closed |

This week’s strory…live from Spectrum Art Live!

Words: Halloween, refrigerator, pier, strength, voices, surprise, contribute, bird, iron, requirements
Story:

The last moment of childhood was right there, staring me down as I held open the refrigerator door. The voices in my head whispered that I’d been so good with my iron will. But now…but now that evil little bird voice told me to go ahead.

“Dig in. Try it,” it said. “It’s quality control. It’s practically requirement.”

I had to resist. I HAD TO. This…I knew it had been a mistake to attempt it, but I was supposed to contribute! It’s part of the deal to get invited to the Halloween Party. This was the party. But no one got in without bringing something…special. Something unique.

So with great resolve I removed my offering from the fridge and wrapped it for travel. Then donning the cloak to my costume to ward off the hill of the damp evening, I headed out into the night air.

I dodged families and roving bands of children on their endless quest for candy. They had no idea what else went on in the darkness. Before I knew it, I was at the pier. To my surprise, I paused uncertain if I wanted to take the last step across the threshold. I strengthened my resolve and moved into the crowd.

“She’s here! She’s here! Did she bring it?” The voices and whispers surrounded me.

I whipped the wrapping from the container. The elixir bubbled and glowed. The last moments would prolong ours. For at least another year.

Word Count: 244
Written: 2/28/17

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[Writer Post] Return to Balance — I Hope

Posted by reudaly on April 19, 2017 in Life, Writing |

I’m in the process of getting my mind back in the game after my hiatus week. Well…HAH. Last week was “hiatus” solely because all brain power was focused on the Day Job. We had an issue where I finally got to put some of my new Public Information Officer training into practice while putting the final prep on the department’s second largest (but higher profile) externally-facing event.

I was “Con Chair” for this Half Day, 2-track programming event. We had an “opening ceremony” (city leadership speakers and key note), two breakout sessions with three presenters each (6 panels), and “closing ceremony” which was a product demonstration. We had about 100 people who out rank me in so many ways (including my boss’s boss’s boss who was also one of my speakers). Everything had to go as smoothly as possible…SO NO STRESS THERE. Nope… and yeah, I totally checked my blood pressure that week (NOT). I took my meds, but I didn’t check the readings, don’t yell at me.

But everything is done now. I’m in “clean up” mode before hitting the road tomorrow for Spectrum Art Live! This is an artist/art convention. I have nothing to do there but be there. I’m not sure how to do that anymore – so like any good small press author (heck may also apply to big press authors) I will have a small box of books in the trunk of the car. Just in case someone asks, “Hey, where can I find your work.” And also… on Amazon in electronic format. Oh, and in just in case you were wondering, I can, indeed, take credit cards.

I’m totally treating Spectrum Art Live as the vacation it’s going to be. I might offer to spell artists who have booths/tables alone so they can have a break, but mostly I’m going to find a comfy chair in the (coffee) bar to talk to people, regroup, recharge, and write fiction. Because I need that. To be around other types of creatives will help recharge THIS creative and perhaps help me to relax – not that I know what that really means (just ask my yoga instructor and manicurist). And I’d really like to have that kind of energy back.

Until then, I are chore-like things that has to be done before hitting the road – like finishing the housecleaning for the dogsitter. Snuggling said dogs.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] Black Polymer Skull Pen

Posted by reudaly on April 17, 2017 in Review, writing instruments with Comments closed |

It’s a recovery week from a super busy week at the Day Job last week and prep for going to Spectrum Art Live on Thursday. So it seems like a good time for a novelty pen that I picked up…somewhere. I don’t even remember – maybe World Market. Maybe Party City. I think I found it around my birthday – so well outside the traditional Halloween realm.

This sucker is super heavy duty. It’s not your basic cheap plastic. It’s a solid polymer – maybe clay? It’s not stone, but has a heft like stone. The skull is molded with the barrel, so you’d break something (like a bone) if you broke it off. If you NEEDED a pen that also worked as a weapon, this one would do some damage as a sap.

The ink is a fine point black ball point ink with a stainless steel point. The ink flows well and has a smooth action. The diameter of the barrel is minutely tapered and relatively comfortable if you’re okay with the overall weight. It’s about 6″ long, so it’s long enough to be comfortable. It’s a bit top heavy with the skull top.

If you want to make a statement? This pen will do just that. I picked it up to make sure I got one – and figuring if I didn’t I’d end up with four as gifts.

The Numbers.

1. How does it work?1 – It’s better than I expected. The flow of ink is nice. The length and diameter are good, and it’s better balanced than expected
2. Look and feel0.5 – It’s not bad for a novelty pen. It’s top heavy. That can be tiring. There’s no cap, so take that into consideration
3. Material1 It’s a fun novelty pen. It’s a solid polymer. There’s no real breaking of this.
4. Overall Design1 – It’s an awesome skull pen that writes well and can be a makeshift weapon if needed.
5. Price Point0.5 – I don’t remember how much it was, but I want to say about $4. Which for a novelty is a bit much, but it’s not going to break. I will have to figure out if I can get the ink out and how to refill it.

4 out of 5 bronze pencils.

Pencil 4.0

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[Write the Story] Wrapping Up a Business Trip

Posted by reudaly on April 14, 2017 in Life with Comments closed |

I am getting to this today. Everything that piled up to cause a hiatus week was done yesterday. Huzzah! You’ll notice a note at the bottom. This was my judgement on the story when I wrote it. Not all stories are going to be good or strong – and for anyone starting out, just know that it’s okay. There will be OH SO MANY words of crap to get through before the good ones. 😎

Here’s this week’s story:

Prompt: Wrapping Up a Business Trip
Words: bar, laptop, insect, Germany, baseball, nervous, embark, protest, swing, sentence
Story

I was a bit nervous being in a bar in Germany on St. Patrick’s Day. I mean Germans take their beer even more seriously than the Irish. Besides it’s too dark to notice if they deigned to color it green. I took a swig and it didn’t matter. Besides, I’m not really Irish.

I opened my laptop to stream a baseball game before heading to the airport and home. I couldn’t wait to embark on that journey.

“Brother, can you spare a sentence?”

I blinked, coming back to the environment in which I sat and not the virtual world of sports. Surely my basic German had failed me. “Excuse me?”

Then I realized who was speaking. The guy was short, like really short, but like a Christmas elf. “Can you insect me a moment?”

“Do you speak another language? My German is…small.”

“Ack, yes!” the little dude switched to a thickly accented English. “I need a favor. You’re heading back close to my homeland. I would like you to swing me home.”

Something rang in my head. “I don’t know…” I protested weakly.

“Ack, there will be a pot of gold in it for you.”

Then I knew I was in trouble. Nothing good ever happened with those words.

Word Count: 209
Written: 3/17/17 and 3/19/17 (weak)

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[update] Hiatus Week

Posted by reudaly on April 11, 2017 in Life, Writing, writing instruments with Comments closed |

I’m just going to call this a hiatus week on the blogs. I might get a story up on Friday, but yeah. Not happening.

I’ve been planning an event for work that’s in 48 hours. Eek. And other stuff has happened that makes the day job even more…adventurous at the moment.

So… see y’all next week.

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