moving

Consequences

I ushered in 2014 by making myself a promise. I wanted to write. As part of that I wanted to revitalize my blog. My reasoning was—and still is—that if I’m working to update my blog on a regular basis, I’ll be writing more often, and this should bleed into other areas of writing. It’s the same idea that journaling everyday will help us write more.

To give myself a real consequence I said that if I didn’t make significant contributions to my blog, that I would delete it.

Well, it’s late March, and I haven’t changed my habits much. So I converted my self-hosted blog, to a free WordPress blog. I cancelled my webhosting, although I did keep my domain registration—and forwarded it to my free blog.

Hopefully, this will stop me from frittering away writing time, by maintaining, updating and tweaking the design of my blog. I’ll still spend a little time choosing the right template, and customizing the header….but after that, there’s not much else to tinker with unless I want to spend more money.

Hopefully this move, will convince me that I’m serious about my writing—and when I threaten myself with a consequence, I’ll follow through.

016

Seeing Things in Black and White

Newton Gibby

I just got my first custom pen. There are quite a few makers of custom pens out there. But I didn’t just want a pen made from a kit. Those generally all have a similar look and feel—you’re just picking your parts. I wanted something made from scratch. Due in part to my previous dealing with Shawn Newton—I bought a replacement #5 nib from him, which performed beautifully—I went with Newton Pens. And now after a long wait—compared to an off the shelf pen—I finally have my first one of a kind pen.

So what do I think of it?

Design/Ordering Process: 9/10
This was a difficult category to score. The process of designing a pen with Shawn is a fight between two different forces. First, you’re ordering a commercial item. From this perspective the process is kind of lacking. Even if you have a good idea, and you’re idea is fairly simple, it’s probably not going to be as easy as filling in a form, hitting send, and waiting for your pen to arrive. But it’s also—and primarily—a creative process. Working with a craftsman simply can’t be done by visiting a website and checking a few boxes.

To some extent Shawn has tried for a balance between the two forces, and he’s generally opted for the craftsman approach. Our design process took place over about 3 dozen emails over a two week period. When I’m buying a pen I’m not the guy who says, “I would buy this pen if it had this sort of grip”, or “I love this pen except for the color.” Generally I make my decision based on the pen as a whole, unless I’m trying to fill a gap, such as wanting an oversize pen. But when I’m designing my own things I’ll be the first to admit I get a little finicky. Shawn handled this very well, and I appreciated that when he told me something wasn’t doable, that he explained why.

Ultimately, after wasting a lot of his time, I settled on one of his base models, with a custom combination of two materials. If he wanted to jump through the computer and throttle me with my space bar, for taking him on a wild goose chase only to settle on an established model, he never let that show.

If I could recommend a change to the process it would be that Shawn streamline his website to walk the potential customers through the process and their options in a more linear fashion.

Note: I noticed that Shawn has made changes to his website, formalizing certain models, and adding additional information. The score of 9 that I’m giving is based on my experience, not what had changed since then.

Appearance: 10/10
Duh…I designed the pen. Of course I like it. Come to think of it, it doesn’t make sense to judge the pen based on how it looks, because Shawn didn’t choose anything about it’s appearance.

So, instead I think I’ll rate the pen’s…

Accuracy: 10/10
How well did the final product reflect the pen that I thought up? 10 out of 10.

The two materials I chose are decidedly random in their pattern. Whether through chance, or craftsmanship, or a combination of the two, the final product has a nice balance of color and design. The pen could have easily looked silly if the black threads on the white barrel were too few or too many. Though I gave no guidance on how deep the ends of the barrel and cap should be, they both seem “just right”.

In short, the pen looks exactly like I thought it would. Scratch that. The pen looks exactly like I wanted it to look. What’s the difference? I didn’t expect that the pen would look exactly like I thought—how often do you make something and it turns out just right? For me, not often. My guess is that Shawn had better results.

Construction: 10/10
A 10 just doesn’t seem like a high enough score here. There is a fundamental difference between a quality handmade product and a well-made, mass-produced product. I can make a few things by hand, but none of them are well crafted—maybe…MAYBE…well-built.

This pen, is finely crafted. My brain and my eyes KNOW, that this pen is made of two different materials. But my fingers can’t feel any of the seams (not counting the one that’s threaded, because…duh…I can feel where the threads start). If I didn’t design this pen by picking two different materials, I would assume this pen was made from a fancy acrylic that was formed from two different colors—it’s that smooth. The threads…normally I don’t like threads that join plastic to plastic. There’s always a lot of friction, and if not well done can feel scratchy. These are the best plastic to plastic threads I’ve felt—very smooth.

And turning to a more subjective measurement–the pen just FEELS like someone spent a lot of time on it.

Filling: 8/10
8 is my default score for a Cartridge/Converter system, where the end of the section is smooth, making it easy to wipe off after filling. But, as with the appearance, Shawn didn’t pick this. He provides other options, but I went with the Cartridge/Converter because that’s what I like. I’m not scoring this category, either.

Nib: 9/10
The nib wasn’t great at first. It wasn’t quite smooth, and it was awfully wide for a Fine. I discussed this with Shawn through email, and he told me a couple of things I could try. I tried them, and frankly I made things worse. So Shawn told me to send it back to him and he fixed it up for me, even correcting my own poor attempts.

Now it’s a nice, wet Fine. It’s probably the best of the steel nibs I now have, and that means it beats out a Visconti, a Delta, a TWSBI, a Binderized Pelikan, and a Pendleton Pelikan.

Test Drive: 10/10
The whole point of a pen is how it writes. Everything else is prologue. Can I write with the damned thing? Can I write for hours? When I clean out my pens and decide to ink up 3 of them, will my heart reach for the Newton?

It’s not even a fair question. With Shawn’s help I designed a pen that is very much ME. I love this pen. One knock would be that I didn’t realize how light the pen would be…but when I put it on the scale it’s still a little heavier than my Custom 74….so I guess it just looks like it should be heavier.

I haven’t left it uninked since I got it. So far it’s handled Yama-Budo, Visconti Turquoise, and Cactus Fruit Eel without skips, and without any problems.

Overall: 9.6/10
9.6. That’s the verdict. For comparison, my Delta Dolce Vita Piston, and My Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze both got the same score.

If you’re looking for a custom pen, I cannot give a better recommendation that to give Newton Pens a try.

Newton Gibby Uncapped

focus

My Focus for 2014

focusMy creative writing goal for last year was to review and regroup. I spent the year going through old notes, unfinished stories, snipets, ideas, and a lot of junk. The idea was to judge what was worth keeping and what could be permanently forgotten. Then I took all that and organized it so that I can get to it again.

And I did a pretty good job. I’m left with one story that is unfinished that I still feel is worth finishing, and a good-sized database full of characters, scenes, dialogue, and thoughts that I can both find and use, when I need them.

But all that was prelude to a different goal. Now that all that is out of the way, this year I’m going to focus on redeveloping the habit of writing. Being creative is hard. Especially if you don’t use it everyday. And I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing.

There are many excuses I could give for this, and some legitimate reasons, too. But there’s no point in spelling them out, because even if you have real reasons you’re not writing, if you have the time and energy to list them, they’ve become excuses.

So what are my goals?

  1. I will write everyday. It might be a blog post, or a journal entry. Maybe personal correspondence. And just maybe a little bit on a story.
  2. I won’t schedule any exceptions to #1, but I will allow myself 1 failure/week without guilt.
  3. Since I’m rebuilding a habit, I’m going to start small. January 1-January 15, 5 minutes/day minimum…January 16-January 31, 10 minutes/day minimum…and so on. So by the Ides of March my minimum will be 30 minutes per day.
  4. I will learn not to stop when I’m on a roll.

And to give myself the threat of consequence…if I don’t contribute, SIGNIFICANTLY, to this blog in 2014, I’m deleting it.

You may notice that these goals do not include writing X stories, or anything to that effect. In fact I do have a project, that I’ll be working on this year–Rob Diaz and I, will be compiling and editing a collection of short stories. But right now we’re in the early stages and haven’t developed a deadline. Keep an eye out for news.

2014s

My 2014 Anti-Resolutions

2014Written based on the Today’s Author Write Now! prompt on December 31, 2013, in which we are asked to creatively list ten things we will not do in the coming year.

Today’s Author is a blog designed to help get you off the couch and back to writing.

The rules are simple:

  • List ten things you resolve NOT to do in the upcoming year.
  • Be as creative as possible.

To get this thing rolling, here are…

My 2014 New Year’s Anti-Resolutions

  1. I will NOT leave scores of opened cans of tuna around my apartment building hoping to attract feral cats to serve as my army of evil minions.
  2. I will NOT try to convince my kids that the manna referred to in the bible is actually cranberry sauce.
  3. I will NOT refer to my collection of fountain pens as my preciouses when we have people over.
  4. I will NOT attempt to experiment on the scientifically illiterate by professing the theory that the sense of smell is an illusion and the invention of the government.
  5. I will NOT amuse myself at cocktail parties by asking the males whether they have six fingers on their right hand.
  6. I will NOT try to advance my career by getting co-workers to refer to me as Red Five.
  7. I will NOT stop in my quest to change grammatical standards to mandate that punctuation go after the closing quotation ONLY when it makes mathematical sense.
  8. I will NOT, on the occasion of my 42nd Birthday, celebrate by walking around in a bathrobe and claiming to be the second coming of Arthur Dent.
  9. I will NOT do what the cans of Red Bull tell me to.
  10. I will NOT attempt to thwart the NSA by resurrecting my disastrous plans for the Analog Cell Phone.
2013

My 2013 Anti-Resolutions

2013Written based on the Today’s Author Write Now! prompt on January 1, 2013, in which we are asked to creatively list ten things we will not do in the coming year.

Today’s Author is a new blog designed to help get you off the couch and back to writing.

The rules are simple:

  • List ten things you resolve NOT to do in the upcoming year.
  • Be as creative as possible.

To get this thing rolling, here are…

My 2013 New Year’s Anti-Resolutions

  1. I will NOT introduce myself to potential employers as prisoner 24601.
  2. I will NOT attempt to organize the Squirrels around my apartment into a guerilla force to intimidate the woodpeckers around the next building–no matter how cute they would look in fatigues.
  3. I will NOT try to capitalize off the newly-confirmed existence of the Higgs-Boson particle claiming that I coined the term God Particle.
  4. I will NOT attend climate change conferences in an attempt to promote my idea to fight the coming flood by creating a new continent entirely out of kitchen sponges.
  5. I will NOT make lunches in the cafeteria more interesting by pretending I am following orders from my Kindle.
  6. I will not greet new people I meet by asking them their name, quest and favorite color.
  7. I will NOT fill my fountain pen with dark red blood and insist that whenever I enter into agreement we each sign the contract in blood.
  8. I will NOT lobby the new Governor to make Cthulhu’s birthday a state holiday.
  9. I will NOT force my cats to wear the little tin foil hats I made for them, so that the government can’t read their thoughts.
  10. I will NOT retaliate against the constant thumping caused by the two small girls upstairs, by practicing with my drum kit, which is directly beneath their beds, at 2 am–no matter how much I really want to.
2012_thumb

My 2012 Anti-Resolutions

It’s time get the new year off to a creative start—and make some resolutions you’ll actually keep in the process.

The rules are simple:

  • List ten things you resolve NOT to do in the upcoming year.
  • Be as creative as possible.

To get this thing rolling, here are…

My 2012 New Year’s Anti-Resolutions

  1. I will NOT lobby Congress to change the national motto to “Riiiiiicolaaaaaaa.”
  2. I will NOT convince my kids that the DVDs I bought them are in the new FOOD-Ray format, which converts their TV into Taste-O-Vision.
  3. I will NOT introduce leitmotif into my home, by composing original themes for each cat and humming their assigned theme whenever they enter the room.
  4. I will NOT use my impending 40th birthday to begin my crusade to start the new tradition of Birthday Pie.
  5. I will NOT use my new status as an ordained minister of the FSM, to hang around the pasta bar and blessing the plates of strangers.
  6. I will NOT start a movement encouraging use of the upcoming “end of the world” as a way to clear up personal debt.
  7. I will NOT alter the kids birth certificates to list Gonzo the Great as their father so as to make them believe they are a new breed of Muppet hybrid.
  8. I will NOT attempt to convince the Pipe & Drum Band to add Harmonicas as an accompanying instrument.
  9. I will NOT, when it’s time to renew my phone contract, insist that they allow me purchase the secret intra-cranial smartphone that’s talked about in the “secret memo.”
  10. I will NOT start an email hoax insisting that the baking mixes for Yellow Cake, actually contain uranium.
thumb_trb

If I Had It To Do Over Again

The Setup

Jodi Cleghorn, my pesky beloved editor, on her own blog, posed a question for me to answer.

Two years ago, she and Paul Anderson, two fellow bloggers at Write Anything, asked me if I’d like to write a story for an anthology they’d dreamed up. “It’s called Chinese Whisperings. Did you ever play that game when you were a kid? In America, I think it’s called telephone. (OK, I’ll admit that’s probably not a direct quote. I probably still have the email but I didn’t want to spend the time looking for it.) Two years later that, story has been done, plus another in the series, the eBook has been out for over a year, I’ve published another story through working friendship collaboration (with two more on the way), and Chinese Whispering is about to publish it’s first two volumes in paperback.

In case you decided to skip that paragraph…it’s been a busy two years.

The First Chinese Whisperings books was written a little bit like a camp-song sung in the round. Each author had to take their main character from the cast of secondary characters in the prior story. And now that Chinese Whisperings: The Red Book is about to come out in paperback (Oct 11, 2011, in case you were wondering), my frenetic energetic friend from across the world has put this question to me: What would I do if I had a second chance at my story? Is there another character that I whose story I would have chosen to tell?

The Response

Short Answer

No. (I could make it shorter, but I liked including the period.)

Long Answer

As I was waiting my turn to write my story (sixth out of ten) I was able to read the stories before mine as they were turned in. I remember while reading Jason Coggins’ Something Mean in the Dream Scene, wanting very badly to be the next author in line, because a story came to me almost fully formed about one of the characters. But having just reread that story I can’t for the life of remember who that character was…or what the story was.

Then when I read Tina Hunter’s Innocence I drew a blank. I didn’t want to write the story of any of those characters. But Jodi reminded me that I’m always like that at the beginning of a project. And she was right. After about ten rereads the the secondary characters of that story were all already too involved in the events of the book. I needed to look at the background characters. When I finally did choose the story it came out quickly, if erratically.

But looking back at the book as a whole, I can’t think of a character I would have rather picked up on than Simon.

Although I have to admit I was a little bummed that Jasmine Gallant didn’t tell Verity’s story. But it’s hard to hold a grudge when she did such a great job with Dash.

This will all make so much more sense to you if you’ve read the book. Don’t have a copy? Never fear. It’ll be out in paperback in less than a month.

I’d originally tagged Annie Evett as the next to answer the question, but it seems she, as well as most of the other female writers are busy. So to keep things going I’ll tag Rob Diaz.

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