Friday Reads: Crossroads in the Dark III

Cover of Crossroads in the Dark 3Welcome back for another Friday Reads. This edition will be rather different as I can’t truly say, just yet, if Crossroads in the Dark III will have a lasting impact on me. However, what I can say, is that this book already has significant meaning.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)

This particular volume of the Crossroads in the Dark (CRITD) anthology series produced by my publisher, Burning Willow Press, is for charity, with 26 authors donating stories (see the list below). The book has been dedicated to Tracey (T.F.) Poist, who suffers from EDS (if you, like many others, don’t know what that is, check out the Ehlers-Danlos Society website), with all proceeds being donated to EDS research in the hopes that better treatments, and hopefully a cure, can be found.

I reached out to Tracey about her experience with EDS, and she had the following to say:

It began with fatigue. I was going to be married soon, so I chalked it up to stress. Then I thought I must’ve contracted mononucleosis. I had tests done for Lyme disease. By every account, I was perfectly fine.

Then I twisted a bit as I yawned and stretched. Instant agony. After a few months of dealing with medical bureaucracy, I had an MRI performed. It showed four herniated discs and two others shredded. Spinal stenosis. Arthritis. All without any cause.

Ordinarily, that’s where this story would end. I’d complain about more and more, but nothing would ever come of it. That’s how it remains for most of the undiagnosed zebras out there. But I got lucky. My doctor had a personal interest in genetics and sent me for genetic testing. Bingo! Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Classical Type, with Marfanoid Features.

Doctors in medical school are taught to look for the most obvious causes first. To hear hoofbeats and think of horses, not zebras. But we medical zebras exist. And we need help.

Ehlers Danlos affects every part of my life. My skin stretches and tears. My heart can’t quite keep up with what I’d like to do. My muscles can’t, either. My autonomic nervous system is heavily impacted. In fact, I live in a daily state of fight-or-flight. It exhausts me physically and mentally.

There are several co-morbidities frequently found with Ehlers Danlos. I live with nearly a dozen. And I’m lucky. It can get so much worse. I lose a zebra friend to sudden death every month. Aortic dissection. Aneurysm. Suicide.

Other than the weight I’ve gained and the stretch marks under my clothes, I don’t look any different than I did ten years ago. I don’t look like a person who has to use her wheelchair, who depends on medications to fight Dysautonomia and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia. I don’t look like I have problems digesting food. You can’t see my insomnia or my constant fatigue.

EDS is an almost entirely invisible illness. It is an umbrella under which you may find joint dislocations, heart problems, digestive issues, depression and anxiety, easy bruising and scarring, and so much more.

Before I woke up and yawned and stretched, I took things for granted. Running. Dancing. Dressing myself. Showering. Walking. Living without pain.

Ehlers Danlos is underdiagnosed and misunderstood. I encourage you to learn about the illness so you don’t take life for granted the way I did, but especially so you might be able to connect the dots for someone currently suffering without answers.

There is no cure, and we can only treat separate issues as they arise, but we are resilient. Warriors. And we thank you for your help. May we find a cure for our children.

CRITD III

If you like horror, even a little bit, go buy yourself a copy of it. It’s well worth the money. I don’t even really like horror, and I give it 5 stars (no, really, you can read my review). It’s horrible in all the right ways, and wonderfully demented. Check out all of the fantastic authors who donated their stories to the anthology.

Stories

Are you a horror fan? Have you read any of the CRITD books? Will you buy CRITD III? Have you ever heard of EDS? Leave me a comment below. Or leave a message for Tracey to help make her day a bit better.

I hope you have a great weekend at the Crossroads.

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The Awesomeness that is Surreal Makeup

I’ll be the first to say that I am not a “girly girl”. Makeup happens maybe once a week. I’m really happy if my nails are all the same length. When I wear dresses, it’s because it’s only one piece to pull out of my closet, rather than two. I’m not necessarily the tomboy that I was as a kid, but I’m still definitely not girly.

I tell you this to give you a bit of context for the rest of this post. So that you understand how impressive it is that I’ve bought so much from Surreal Makeup. And when I say “so much” here is my current collection, and I have four more eyeshadow colors on the way.

Current Surreal Collection

 

Backing up a bit, I discovered Surreal at AwesomeCon 2016. Amanda Baker, the founder, was manning a table alone when I went by. She was so bubbly and colorful that I stopped to check out her stuff. She explained how Surreal is “hypoallergenic, naturally water resistant and cruelty-free mineral” makeup, and was very quick to swatch a few colors on the back of my hand. I was stunned. Finally, I’d come across the super pigmented, vibrant eyeshadows I’d always wanted. And, in some ways even better, they clean up with basic baby wipes; you don’t need makeup remover! They certainly live up to their name. But, my funds at the time were rather limited, so I bought my favorite colors (G. I. Jane, Gorgeous, and Royal) and snagged a card so I could buy more later.

Surreal First Purchase

Let me remind you, makeup rarely happens for me. I just don’t get up early enough to do much, if anything, during the week, and on weekends, I often don’t feel like putting in the effort. But I still bought three jars on the spot. Because these eyeshadows, well, a picture’s worth a thousand words, so, look at them. Just, wow!!! Swatches on the left are on bare skin, swatches on the right are over Surreal primer.

Surreal Swatches

I’d like to point out that a full 5g jar of this stuff will last you forever. Well, ok, it depends on how often you wear makeup. But I usually just put a single color on my lids and call my look done. So for that, I generally up-end the jar and tap it 4-5 times into a palette. Not a whole lot comes out with that, but you certainly get enough to do a full look. So these will last a very long time. And being loose powder, you won’t be introducing bacteria, so no grossness!

After AwesomeCon, I only ended up ordering a couple of the sample pod packs over the course of the year. The sample pods are amazing. You get 1 gram of 5 different products. And you can choose any product they have in stock. ANY product! It’s fabulous! You can try before you commit to a whole jar. They are also REALLY good for travel. So much so that I have some sample sizes of colors I own whole jars of, just so I can travel better. I’ve also noticed that you get an extra goodie or two with the samples you order, which is how I discovered Juicy is an amazing color for work.

In January this year, as I was working on my cosplay for AwesomeCon, I dropped Surreal a line on their Facebook page asking if they’d be back again. I got a quick reply in the affirmative. Happy day! I planned to get the makeup for my cosplay at the show. I also threw away what non-Surreal eyeshadows I had (most of them were very old, as in, I couldn’t remember when I bought them) with every intention of buying Surreal equivalents at the show.

AwesomeCon 2017 rolled around and I made sure to find Surreal’s table on Friday. There were more colors, and more types of products (including black light reactive eyeshadows!!!), but Amanda was still just as lovely and bubbly and colorful.

I’m going to pause a minute to say that it occurred to me the other day that Amanda’s like Luna Lovegood all grown up. A very kind soul, and 100% herself (or at least, that’s how she presents herself to the world, and she’s never seemed anything but completely genuine). And honestly, for me, there’s no better compliment. I’m in awe of people who can be themselves completely. It’s amazing. I hope she doesn’t mind me borrowing her photo.

But back to AwesomeCon…Amanda helped me pick out the right eyeshadows for my punk Tinkerbell costume, and swatched many more colors on the back of my hands. I had to wipe both hands off! Twice! I ended up putting together a nine-shadow palette, plus getting a lip gloss (because it was just so pretty). I really only stopped with those because I was determined to stick to my Con budget. And despite asking to see/swatch a million different colors, Amanda was continuously helpful and enthusiastic, so I didn’t feel like I was being a pain. Instead, I felt like we were bonding over her fabulous products. I even made sure to bring one of my close friends to her booth the next day, because I wanted her to experience how awesome Amanda and Surreal are.

It was shortly after AwesomeCon that I started following Surreal on Instagram, and I was, and still am, amazed at how positive all of the posts are. Every photo that Surreal shares has something good in the comments. When the account shares customer photos, they always include some kind of uplifting compliment. It’s generally a “feel good” feed.

A few weeks ago, Surreal started teasing their new Dragon Scales collection, and I knew I had to have them. I drooled over their fabulous swatches and mixing videos, and even set a reminder for launch day so I couldn’t possibly forget to buy them. I was so eager, that I purchased them before the official announcement, and my post BECAME the announcement on Instagram. *grin*

As an example of how FABULOUS their customer service is, I received an email a couple nights ago from Amanda herself, apologizing that they’ve run out of Hydra Dragon because she’s been unable to return home due to the Hurricane. I’m just happy she’s safe. But I was offered a different eyeshadow in exchange, with Hydra being shipped when she gets back home in October. How totally awesome is that! We then proceeded to have a short email exchange, ending with her suggestion of Cosmic or Hypnotize in response to my question about an intense silver shadow.

Now, just so people don’t say I’m being too positive, I will admit to some difficulties with their primer, although I’m pretty certain it’s user error. It’s a gel-like primer, and I’ve yet to figure out just how much to use so that it holds the shadow without being overly greasy or creasing really bad. Maybe someday I’ll figure it out, or, if I’m smart, I’ll ask Amanda at next year’s AwesomeCon (assuming that she goes again).

Ultimately, what I’m trying to say here, is that if you love bright, highly pigmented eyeshadow, Surreal is, in my opinion, the best choice. For what you’re getting, and how long they last, they are certainly among the least expensive, and you’re buying from an AMAZING person. Just try the sample pods once they’re back in stock. You won’t regret it, really. Even Yaya Han is wearing their stuff. My entire eyeshadow collection is from Surreal, and I have no regrets. Ms. Baker, if you ever happen to read this, know that I love your cosmetics, and you have a customer for life. Keep up the amazing work, it’s very much appreciated. 🙂

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Stipula Etruria Rainbow Pens Update

Yikes, what a mouthful of a title! Anyway, we’re about a month out from the DC Pen Show, and I’ve been meaning to post an update to my Stipula’s attitude problem and Jim’s pen’s problem.

As you may recall from my post about meeting Brian Goulet, my Stipula was a bit “skippy” when writing (I just considered it had an attitude problem). Jim’s pen suffered from a bit of overuse. While at the DC Pen Show, a lovely gentleman at the Yafa table (Twitter user @stevetweeting pointed out that it was probably Ross) tweaked both of our pens.

Rainbow Prisma 88

I am very happy to report that Prisma is MUCH better behaved now. I don’t have any problem with it skipping now, even when I write quickly. Check out the difference in the before and after. See how smooth and pretty the after writing is. Both are Diamine inks. Tudor Blue from the new anniversary inks on the before page, and Eau de Nil on the after page.

Writing samples before and after my Stipula was adjusted.

It’s certainly a rather wet writer, now. Almost too wet for me, but thankfully it’s still within the “ok” range. It does mean I get some nice shading when I use the right inks.

Rainbow Demonstrator

Jim’s pen, however, seemed to improve for a bit, then get worse again. After a few weeks, he discovered the real problem. It was cracked along one side of the stamped design. I don’t have a picture of the old nib, so I found this one on Google to refer to. Click on it to see the original page.

An example of where Jim's Etruria nib cracked.

Jim filled out a service form (or whatever it is you have to do in order to send your pen to Yafa for servicing), but hadn’t gotten around to sending it in when we went to Bertram’s Inkwell a couple of weekends ago.

After taking a look at the pen, Bert was kind enough to replace the nib, no charge and no questions asked. Can you say someone has earned your business if you’re already a repeat customer? Needless to say, Bertram’s Inkwell jumped up a massive amount of cool points for both of us. And I’m currently waiting for them to let me know my pre-ordered Pilot Vanishing Point Crimson Sunrise is in stock (waiting patiently is SO not my strong suit).

Anyway, (got a bit off track there) Jim’s Rainbow Demonstrator is now a super wet writer, and he’s very happy with it.

So there’s my update on the condition of both of our pens. We’re both delighted with our pens, and have 0 regrets. I’ll leave you now with some pen porn. *wink wink*

Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 beauty shot Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 beauty shot Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 beauty shot

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Friday Reads #6: Harry Potter

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on Pride and Prejudice.

It only seems right to discuss what Harry Potter means to me on September 1, 19 years later. I’m sure I’ll be writing more posts at some later date, discussing what the individual books mean to me, but for the moment I’ll focus on the series as a whole. And I’ll attempt to be brief, as I could probably talk about Harry Potter forever.

The series apparated into my life when I was in the hospital in 7th grade. My mother bought me a paperback box set of the first three books as something to keep me busy. If I recall correctly, I finished them in two days.

Goblet of FireThen came the wait. You know, the horrible wait between books. I re-read the first three as I waited for the fourth book. When the publishers announced its release, I begged my mom to preorder it for me. She said no, not seeing the reasoning behind doing so, so I badgered her into going to a midnight release. I was determined to read it as soon as possible. She stood in line with me and all of the other kids and parents, desperately waiting for Barnes and Noble to let us buy it. Granted, I’m sure her eagerness had a different cause than mine.

I read Goblet of Fire by streetlight as we drove home, with my mom badgering me about how bad it was for my eyesight. I stayed up until I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore to read as much of it that night as I could. First thing in the morning, I went back to reading.

And when I was done, I had to wait again. I re-read the series during the wait. See a pattern here? I read them all so many times that Goblet of Fire fell apart. Do you remember the scandal with the bad batch of glue? Everyone’s book 4 fell apart. But at least large books are easier to carry in pieces.

Order of the PhoenixThen came Order of the Phoenix. My mom had learned her lesson. She preordered it for me; I made sure we picked it up the afternoon it came out. It disappointed me, though. Order of the Phoenix was, and still is, my least favorite of the books. I can’t put a precise reason to it, but it didn’t speak to me in the way so many of the others did. Perhaps because Sirius dies. Maybe it’s just that bitch Umbridge. Or maybe it’s because I’d started to grow up, and had a new appreciation for what was going on in the books.

Regardless, I read it each time I re-read the series waiting for book 6. My mom also bought me a new copy of Goblet of Fire during the wait, as my original copy (that I still have) had degraded into about 8 pieces.

Half Blood PrinceWith Half Blood Prince, my mom bought me a special edition. It came in a box and had some full page illustrations. I devoured that book, as I had the others. It’s a good thing, too, because I avoided the spoiler scandal about Dumbledore dying. I already knew. I also knew that the last book was going to be hell. Each book got progressively darker, and I doubted the trend was going to stop.

Once again I re-read the series while I waited for the last book. I even read the side books – Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Deathly HallowsAnd then came Deathly Hallows. The book that broke millions of hearts. I’d preordered it on Amazon, as had half of the apartment complex where I lived during college. I watched the DHL delivery people crisscross the paths in front of my apartment, pushing countless dollies laden with identically sized boxes. I was desperate to have my copy, and thinking I’d made a huge mistake by not going to a midnight release, or a bookstore first thing in the morning.

But finally, finally, there was a knock on the door, and my copy was delivered. I spared a brief moment of pity for my roommate who was also waiting for her copy before tearing open the box and plopping down to read. A reading marathon ensued. 10.5 hours straight. I didn’t stop reading to use the bathroom or to heat up food. I’d learned to multitask while reading as a young child, and it certainly came in handy that day. I laughed, cried, raged. I was bereft.

It was over. No more books. I wouldn’t ever go back to Hogwarts again. Of course, even then, us Potterheads had no idea what all we’d be blessed with over the next ten years. If I’d known there would be theme parks, studio tours, another whole movie series, etc. I might not have been so sad. But at the time it was like I’d finally finished childhood, and I didn’t want to let go.

Of course, over the years I’ve reread the books, watched all the movies, visited one of the theme parks (the one in Hollywood), been to the studio tour (and I’m going again in December), cosplayed, and made some of the treats from the universe (hot butterbeer is REALLY good). I have my own wand and a Marauder’s Map. I even read The Cursed Child (if you haven’t read it, don’t. Really. It’s not the 8th book, it’s a travesty.).

But today, 19 years later, it’s all ending again. And many of those same feelings I experienced ten years ago are back, accompanied by a sense of sadness that this time, this time it really is over. We’re here. We’re at the end of the series. It’s done.

But then this morning I saw a tweet from Ms. Rowling.

We went to Hogwarts. And that means we can go back again, whenever we want. So if you haven’t read the series, what better time to start then on the day it ends? If you have read it, go back to Hogwarts with the next generation, and relive the joy, wonder, tumult, sadness, bravery, and magic.

What does Harry Potter mean to you? Have you read all the books? Watched all the movies? Done all the things? What house are you in? Leave me a comment and let me know. And come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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Friday Reads #5: Pride and Prejudice

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on Indian Captive.

Pride and PrejudiceJaneites are nothing new. Worldwide, there are innumerable fans of Jane Austen and her works. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a true Janeite. I haven’t been to bath; don’t know everything about Jane Austen’s life; and haven’t even read all of her works — I know, bad author. But I have read a couple, including Pride and Prejudice, and I’m certainly a fan of them.

I discovered Pride and Prejudice fairly late, in my opinion. Austen wasn’t required reading at my schools, and no one I knew was a Janeite, so I kind of always assumed her books were just romance novels. Yeah, I know, I’m sorry.

I no longer recall why I decided to read Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps I was on one of my “I need to read the classics” phases. But, I finally did so after moving to Virginia. And, what do you know, I loved it.

Pride and Prejudice 1995In the handful of years since then, I’ve only read the original book one more time. However, I’ve watched every filmed version I could get my hands on (the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth version is the best), and I’ve read a metric butt-ton of “alternate versions”, “re-writes”, and “sequels” (I’ll just call them published fanfiction) ranging from fantastic to horrendous.

Clearly, Pride and Prejudice left its mark on me. But why?

The love story sucked me in. Let’s be honest. At first read, I’m sure there are many of us who would love to have a relationship like the one Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam have at the end of the book. Of course, on further contemplation, it completely falls apart, because us modern women would not do well with the expectations of females in the Regency era. But why consider things like facts in our fantasies?

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth BennetThen there’s the lovely, feisty, Elizabeth Bennet who defies convention to forge her own path and follow her heart. She’s learned, self-confident, and possessed of an inner beauty that shines forth so as to make her outwardly beautiful as well. She’s that girl you either love or loathe, and I love her.

And, of course, you have Jane’s — wow, that’s weird to write, better call her Miss Austen — writing style. Many people have explained it far better than I ever could, but, suffice to say, it’s amazing.

Since reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, I’ve learned more about Miss Austen’s writing and life. It’s what comes from reading published fanfiction and various articles and books about her. I’ve learned about the “secret messages” hidden in her writing, and I hope to learn more when I get to Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.

It’s all given me a better appreciation for Miss Austen’s works. They’ve become that much more powerful. And, Pride and Prejudice has become that much better. It’s not ‘just a romance novel’. It’s so very much more.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice? What about the “published fanfiction”? Have you watched any of the video versions of it? Can you quote the opening line of the novel? Leave a comment and let me know. And come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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Friday Reads #4: Indian Captive

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

As a child, my mom preferred to buy me award winning books. I suppose it was so she could be certain I was reading decent, and appropriate, material. Newbery Honor book, Indian Captive, by Lois Lenski was one of them.

Paperback cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

If I had to guess, I’d say I read it somewhere around 15-20 times. Surprisingly, the simple paperback survived all those reads and was still in fairly decent shape when it got left behind upon my move to Virginia. I wish I’d brought it with me, as it got lost when my parents moved to a new house.

For a while after that, I contemplated buying a new physical version (and I still might if I can find a one of the earlier hardback editions), but I never got around to it. Luckily, to my everlasting joy, it was released as an ebook.

eBook cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

I quite happily purchased it from Barnes and Noble and have read it another 4 or 5 times since. So what keeps drawing me to a children’s book?

First and foremost, it is, quite simply, a fabulously written story. Molly is a very strong female character, but with a vulnerability that makes her believable and relatable. She has moments of intense strength, and moments where she breaks down almost completely.

As a child with major health issues, my life often followed that pattern. I’d be great one day, then back in the hospital for who knows how long the next. But if Molly, who was suffering so much greater things than I was, could keep going, then so could I. She survived, and thrived, and I would too.

Perhaps it’s silly that I found such inspiration in a story so completely different than my own, but I didn’t really think of that. I focused on the fact that Indian Captive was based on a true story. Someone had really gone through what I was reading, and had come out a stronger person because of it.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

In addition to the fabulous writing, the illustrations are just beautiful. There is a softness to the style that I loved then, and still love now. I still take the time to look at each image as I come to it. I just wish the pictures were bigger in ebooks.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

One thing that I’ve come to appreciate as an adult is that Lois Lenski made the Seneca characters likable and relatable as well. It would have been so easy for her to portray them all as monsters, but Molly’s friends and adoptive family were kind, understanding, and complex. You can’t help but like Little Turtle/Turkey Feather, Grandfather Shagbark, Shining Star, Earth Woman, Beaver Girl, and Molly/Corn Tassel’s other friends. There are, of course, less likeable characters, but, that’s true of life in general.

The way Lois Lenski wrote made me want to learn new languages, experience other cultures, and make new friends. I understood that it was horrible how Molly ended up as Corn Tassel, but once she was adopted into her Seneca family, her experiences, her life lessons, were beautiful. She learned so much, she understood that the average Seneca person was not very different from the average white settler, and that was a very important lesson that has stuck with me over the years.

Have you ever read Indian Captive or a book like it? Is there a book that taught you a lesson that has stuck with you through the years? Do you still read children’s books? Leave a comment and let me know. Come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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2017 DC Pen Show #4

Alright, this is it, the final installment in my 2017 DC Pen Show series. I can’t believe that when I set out to write my overview, I thought it was all going to fit in one post. Silly me.

Allow me a moment to geek out over Brian Goulet commenting on and tweeting about yesterday’s post (W-O-W!) and Brian Gray commenting on — and Edison Pen Co retweeting — my post about getting a pen from them. That felt pretty awesome.

Ok, enough fangirling. Yesterday’s post ended with heading off to check out the rest of the large room after my epic meeting with Brian Goulet.

First stop was the Modern Chocolatier booth. Because chocolate. They had little sample pieces cut for people to try (unfortunately, without signs, so you didn’t know what you were tasting). The piece I tried was really tasty, with an intense chocolate flavor. If they were local, I’d probably check them out. But my money for the day was earmarked for pens and ink, so I gave them a pass.

My friend, Anthony’s, purchase more than made up for it, though. He bought two, maybe three, boxes of four, and very much enjoyed them all.

Right next to the chocolates was Ryan Krusac’s booth. I was still in awe over meeting Brian Goulet, so I didn’t think to take a picture, unfortunately.

Once Anthony was done buying his chocolates, we went back out to the hallway and finish seeing the tables there. There were several woodworking tables with pens, boxes, etc. Then there were several ink tables, including Vanness Pen Shop and their “wall of ink”.

From there we went back into the large room and just started walking up and down the aisles, seeing what there was to see. Once again, we ended up losing each other and seeing things at our own pace. It was probably a good thing that what money I had left of my pen show budget wouldn’t have covered another pen.

Photo of John M. Russell pens

John M Russell had these amazing pens made from circuit boards. At the Anderson Pens table, I managed to pick up a bottle of Tudor Blue. I’d gotten a sample from Goulet Pens and fell in love. As if the name isn’t awesome enough (you know I love me some Tudor goodness), the color is beautiful, and a great fit for my Prisma 88.

Jim and Anthony caught up to me around this time, and we visited the Visconti Table. Their pens are beautiful, and I’ve sort of had my eye on the Homo Sapiens for a while. I did a lot of research, and the varied reviews, plus the lack of an ink window, made me decide against getting one. But I picked it up while I was at their table, just to know how it would feel in my hands.

I really shouldn’t have done that. It was SO SOFT, like a kitten. I just had to pet it. I understand, now, what people mean when they say it feels warm. Most pens feel cool, even if just slightly, when you pick them up. The Homo Sapiens doesn’t. It’s like it’s the exact temperature of your hand. If they ever add an ink window to it, I’m sold, but until then, I’m on the fence.

Down another aisle, I came across some interesting wooden pens with watch faces by MikesPenTurningZ. Crazy Alan’s Emporium had several tables full of notebooks and various types of paper. I came close to getting a couple, but reminded myself that I already have four notebooks waiting to be used. Jim snagged a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Ama-iro, though.

He tried to get a good look at the Franklin-Christoph table on the last row, but it was so crowded, he decided to try again later. A bit further down that last row, I was entranced by Barry Gross’ table. His recycled watch parts pens were so cool, especially with the bright blue showing through all of the gears. He explained that the watch faces are real, but the gears and other parts come from much less expensive pens in order to keep the prices from becoming astronomical.

Photo of Barry Gross watch pens   photo of Barry Gross shark vertebra pens   Photo of Barry Gross shark vertebra pens

He also had some fossilized shark vertebrae pens. Those were beyond cool. I wish, so much, that I’d had some more money left, because I want one of those pens. He gets certified, fossilized shark vertebrae from dealers and incorporates them into acrylic before turning the pen parts. He also had beetle wing and cigar label pens. Just some really unique stuff I hadn’t seen done ever before. Kudos to Mr. Gross.

Just past Barry Gross’ table were a couple of tables with REALLY fancy/expensive pens. You know, the kind that come in big display boxes. Those ones where if you have to ask how much they are, you probably can’t afford them. I really liked the Visconti Jacques de Molay that comes with a mini Templar sword and signet ring. Out of curiosity, I looked it up later, and, I could pay my mortgage for a couple of months for the price of it.

We finished up the last bit of the large room and exited to check out the tables in the small hallway in front of it.There was a table with notebooks, and a guy selling pen cases advertising the idea of a pen room instead of a wine cellar. Just across from him was the Yafa table. At the time, I didn’t realize it was Yafa. I just saw a bunch of Stipula boxes and decided to talk to the nice man that was sitting there.

I explained the problem I’m having with my Stipula, and Jim chimed in with the problems he’s having with his Stipula Etruria Rainbow Demonstrator. Jim’s pen was a showman’s model he got on sale at Bertram’s Inkwell, so it’s been well-loved. It’s really no surprise that it has a couple of issues.

The lovely gentleman, whose name I can’t recall now, asked to see the pen and carefully scrutinized it. He said the feed was a bit crooked. With permission from Jim, he adjusted it. As I understand, the adjustment helped, but it still gets a little cranky when flexing.

He also took a look at my pen. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it, technically. He separated the tines, just a tiny bit, and it seems to have helped a lot. I still get a very occasional skip on the downstrokes, but nowhere near as much as before. I won’t lie, for writing, my new Edison Pearl is smoother, but the Prisma 88 is just so pretty!!!

The man at Yafa reminded me that Stipula pens have lifetime warranties and that if I have any further problems, I can send it to them for servicing. We’ll see how Prisma’s writing improves/holds up over the next few months.

After Yafa, we decided to head up to the ink testing room. It’s not really what I was expecting. It was very quiet, like a library with about 6 tables were set up in a U shape. The inks were grouped by brand. The concept is fabulous, but the execution was a bit lacking. Very few ink bottles have the color listed on them, so most of what was available to test had no indication of the color name.

Jim and I ended up staying for about 20 minutes to create Col-O-Ring cards for the Pilot Iroshizuku and Kobe inks, as well as a few of the Organics Studio inks (the ones I was sure of the names of) before leaving. Of course, I realized about a day later that the Organics Studio Emily ink was Emily Dickinson, not Emily Brontë. Oops.

A post shared by James Crawford (@pensloth) on

Jim wanted to try the Franklin-Christoph table again, and this time it wasn’t quite so crowded. It took him a while to decide between pen bodies. He was stuck between a pearlescent purple and marble-esque black and white. The guy standing next to him explained to us that the guy who poured the acrylic for the black and white pen also does the acrylics for the Kanilea Pen company. Having a back story made the decision. Jim likes having stuff that has a story. He ended up getting the black and white Omnis with a 1.5 stub calligraphy steel nib.

A post shared by James Crawford (@pensloth) on

While he finalized the purchase, and waited to have the nib fitted, I headed over to the Sailor table to get a bottle of ink. It took me a while to decide between Fuji-Musume and Pȇche. The Sailor table was pretty busy, so I scooted around to the side to try to catch someone. One of the guys working the Sailor booth was having a hard time understanding the question a customer was asking. Language barriers are a bitch.

Once they worked things out, I was able to catch his attention and get a bottle of Jentle Pȇche. While he got my change, I decided to give my (very minimal) Japanese a try. I’ve only just started the lessons on Duolingo. I had a furious mental battle over whether it would be appropriate to go with ありがとございます (Arigatōgozaimasu) or if I should stick with ありがとう (Arigatō). I couldn’t remember if the longer version was specific to a situation, and I know Japanese can be a very formal language, so I went with the safe (in my mind) shorter version.

It was nice watching his eyes light up and as he answered with a very sincere “You’re quite welcome.” It can be easy to forget how much it means to people to make a little effort. I asked Jim about it later, and he told me the longer version is a more formal thank you that is ALWAYS appropriate, whereas the shorter version is very informal, more like a “thanks”. Live and learn, I suppose.

I went back to the Franklin-Christoph table where Jim was still waiting to get his nib fitted. Thankfully he wasn’t having it tuned, as that line was a 4+ hour wait! So I searched out our friends to see about lunch options.

A couple of them were going to stay and continue going through the show, but Anthony was ready to head out for lunch. I collected everyone up so that we could say bye to those who were staying, and show off our purchases. Jim joined us once his nib was fitted.

We made our way along an aisle toward the exit, and got distracted by the Anderson Pens table. Jim ended up finding the Blackstone Daintree ink he’s been wanting. I found lots of interestingly named Noodler’s and De Atramentis inks (Mata Hari’s Cordial, Widow Maker, Jeanne d’Arc, Madame de Pompadour, etc.), but without really knowing the colors, I wasn’t willing to commit to a whole bottle.

With some quick good-byes to our friends and a last look at the large room, I left the DC Pen Show feeling as though we’d not allotted enough time or money to the experience. Next year, hopefully, we can go both days. Maybe when I’m not so amazed and overwhelmed by the show, I’ll remember to take more (and better) photos to share. That said, here’s my haul from the pen show, and our combined ink haul.

Photo of my 2017 DC Pen Show haul     Photo of my 2017 DC Pen Show combined ink haul

I had a blast at the 2017 DC Pen Show and look forward to repeating the experience many times in the future. Did you stick around for my entire overview? Leave me a comment to let me know what you thought. Were you there this year? If not, did my overview convince you to go next year? Am I infecting you with the fountain pen virus? I hope so! And come back tomorrow to read the next installment of my Friday Reads series!

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2017 DC Pen Show #3

Welcome back for the third installment of my experience at the 2017 DC Pen Show. I finished yesterday with spotting Brian Goulet of The Goulet Pen Company. Allow me a few moments for some backstory here.

I was really getting into fountain pens, mostly because you have such a rainbow of inks to choose from. Hooray for color! If I recall correctly (it’s been a VERY busy year), I discovered Goulet Pens when I was looking for pen subscription boxes. I found some posts about their Ink Drop ink subscription box. Unfortunately, it had been a few months prior, but there was a silver lining. Goulet Pens sells ink samples! So I could test out any ink I wanted for a couple bucks. Needless to say, I quickly placed an order.

It was soon after that I discovered their YouTube channel. If you have any interest whatsoever in fountain pens and haven’t seen their channel, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you have seen their videos, I’m sure you can understand why I was hoping to meet Mr. Goulet. He’s so personable. But it goes beyond that.

On June 21, I ordered the super limited edition Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 from Goulet Pens. It was an impulse buy, but after seeing the photo of it on Instagram, I just fell in love. And I have no regrets. After I placed my order, it occurred to me to ask for pen #19. After all, I’d spent so much money, I might as well ask for my favorite number. Not only did I get a quick reply assuring me that it wasn’t a silly request, a few days later, I got pen #19!

Photo of my Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88

I realized, after seeing it in person, that pen #19 was doubly special. Not only was it my favorite number, but the text marking it pen 19/88 meant my birth year was basically on the pen. How cool! I was floored by the customer service (and my luck) and wanted to personally thank Brian for running such a wonderful company.

Which brings me back to the pen show. I’d been keeping an eye out for the Goulet Pens shirts. I saw a few people wearing them, but when I finally spotted Brian, I tapped Jim on his shoulder and we made a beeline for his location.

He’s popular, people. Like REALLY popular. And he’s so personable that when you start talking to him, you don’t want to stop. Which is how we ended up waiting to talk to him. And waiting.

His wife, another Rachel, was standing with him, and I spoke to her for a while. She is equally lovely, which makes perfect sense, really. I told her about my Stipula experience, and thanked her for her part in running such a great company. We traded a few pleasantries before lapsing into silence as I waited, mostly patiently, for Brian to finish speaking to the two guys he was conversing with.

I listened in on their conversation here and there and was amazed when Brian mentioned that their new warehouse is probably about the size of the ballroom we were standing in, because that place was enormous. I seriously contemplated interrupting simply to say thank you, as there was no sign of their conversation slowing down anytime soon.

Jim was determined to wait out the conversation, but I decided to take a stroll down one of the aisles to break up all the standing I was doing. Jim was still waiting there when I got back. And Brian was still speaking to the same two guys. They’d started discussing business.

Even Jim was ready to admit defeat, so we wandered off together down a different aisle. Inevitably, I suppose, we made our way back to Brian. Rachel was no longer there. She was probably enjoying the pen show while he talked shop.

I was determined, this time, to wait for my turn to speak to him. His crowd had grown to include another lady who was listening in, and occasionally contributing to, the discussion.

Brian acknowledged that we’d been standing there for some time, which was rather nice. After a few minutes, the lady started dominating the conversation, and the two guys left to take in the show.

An older man walked up at one point and interrupted so he could thank Brian. But he just took over the conversation completely. It was masterfully done, really. I took mental notes. Thankfully, he didn’t stay long, and the lady had left, so Brian turned his attention to us.

We got to thank him, for the customer service at Goulet Pens, for the YouTube videos and what they’ve taught us, for being a genuine person, for just about everything we could think of. We let him know we’ve sent every person we’ve infected with the Fountain Pen Virus to his channel to learn more. And he was absolutely lovely, letting us get the hero worship out.

With the general thank yous out of the way, I made sure to thank him for Goulet Pens getting me pen #19. That is when I saw him really come alive. I could tell he was really happy to hear such a personal story of how his company did well. He seemed to share my joy in receiving a pen that seemed almost destined for me.

He wanted to know how I liked the pen and how it was working for me. It was the perfect opening to take care of my other reason for coming to the show. My Stipula is cranky, and I told him so. I explained how it skips on the downstrokes sometimes, and how I had such a hard time getting it started when I first bought it.

Photo of my Bag of HoldingHe explained to me that his own Stipula got cracked because he over flexed it. He was trying to describe how to check for, so I decided to just hand him my pen. When I unzipped my bag of holding to get my pen, the handful of people around us went nuts. They all wanted to know what brand it is and where I got it. It’s TopFox, and I got it from Amazon, if you’re wondering. Even Brian seemed intrigued by the number of pens it can hold.

Brian carefully scrutinized my pen and determined I hadn’t cracked anything. He asked if he could write with it (like I’d say no), and pulled out his Traveler’s Notebook to jot down a few scribbles. Of course it worked perfectly for him.

I mentioned I’d found its sweet spot recently, so he handed me the pen and asked to see how I write with it. I wrote in Brian Goulet’s notebook! I really should have done something silly like “Rachel was here” so that 10 years down the line, he and his wife would have been trying to remember why she wrote in his notebook. But, I always get my best ideas after the fact.

photo collage showing how my Stipula pen skips as I write

I did pull my notebook out to show him examples of how my Stipula skipped, and he told me to let him know how it does in the next few months. He promised that if it kept having problems, Goulet Pens would make sure everything got sorted so that it was the perfect writing machine it should be.

And he meant it. It wasn’t just lip service. And I can’t quite tell you how much that meant. If he didn’t already have a customer for life, he’d have a customer for life. I carefully put my pen and notebook away, and I knew I just had to ask.

Photo of my and Brian Goulet at the 2017 DC Pen Show

“Could I get a photo with you?” With a grin, he agreed, and I asked my friend to take the picture. My proof of meeting a “celebrity”. And I’ll always have the story of writing in his notebook to go with it.

With a final thanks for everything, we left Brian to the people waiting to talk to him and went to investigate the table that had chocolate.

Have you ever met someone you consider a celebrity? How about one of your heroes? Leave a comment below and let me know. Come back tomorrow to read the last installment of my 2017 DC Pen Show experience. And check out my Instagram feed for some sexy pen porn of my Edison Pearl and Stipula Prisma 88.

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2017 DC Pen Show #2

Welcome back for the second installment of my experience at the 2017 DC Pen Show. I left off yesterday with finishing my perusal of the small room. I met up with one of my friends in the lobby. He hadn’t been able to find us, and assumed we’d made our way to the large room. A couple of texts took care of that. Ah, technology, you are amazing…when there is signal.

Even the hallway between the small room and the first entrance to the large room was absolutely packed. There were a few booths, the table to sign up for a subscription to Pen World magazine, and a smallish table with a metric butt-ton of flyers and brochures that I didn’t stop to look at because they weren’t pens or ink. What can I say, I had my priorities in order.

I did stop and ooh and ahh over the ARTUS pens. They are beautiful. If you love one of a kind, hand-painted pens, even if you don’t, do yourself a favor and take a look at them. As I mentioned to my friend, it’s a good thing they didn’t have a Queen Elizabeth I pen, or I would have been in BIG trouble.

It took some effort to not spend all day admiring the beautiful ARTUS pens. But I very purposefully turned away and started down the hallway to the left of the ballroom. I gave a couple booths a quick glance, including one with a bunch of pen cleaning, tuning, and restoring supplies. I’m sure that one of my friends who is making forays into pen restoration spent plenty of time at that table.

Next up was the Edison Pen Co. table. Unfortunately, my photo of their pens didn’t come out so well, so I’m borrowing @janinescribbles’ photos to show you the glory:

A post shared by Janine (@janinescribbles) on

My Pen

Despite my failed photo (thanks, cranky phone camera), it was at the Edison table that I found my pen. I was slowly perusing the available pen bodies. After all, how often do you get to hold  Unicorn Barf or Delphinium? But then, I saw it. The Edison Pearl in Berries and Cream Swirl Acrylic.

Photo of the Edison Pen Co inscription on the side of my new pen

It was so beautiful; I had to have it. The red and white swirl was exactly what I’d been hoping for. I unscrewed the cap, expecting an equally beautiful nib, and got a surprise. No nib! The lovely Andrea Gray was kind enough to explain to me that they don’t add the nibs until the pen is purchased so they don’t have to swap nibs.

Feeling a teensy bit foolish, asked about the procedure for purchasing a pen. Clearly I wasn’t just going to pick something up and hand over some money. Andrea patiently explained that once you choose a pen body, you try the four “Tester” pens to decide what nib you want. Then you get to sit down with Brian Gray as he fits the nib and tunes it for you.

With a delighted grin, I plopped down in the open tester seat and asked about the nibs. The four options were 18K Gold Medium, 14K Gold Flex, Steel Medium, and another steel…Flex, maybe? The steel nibs weren’t even in consideration. I have steel nib pens. Lots of them. I wanted a gold nib. After a quick question to make sure that the pen and gold nib would be within my budget (they were), I started writing.

The gold flex nib was a bit broad for my tastes, but the medium was even broader. And anyway…flex! I was sold. I made my official choice, and waited for Brian to finish with the customer he was helping. I’m so used to the world of mass-produced goods that the one-on-one service of small business craftspeople consistently surprises me. They stand by their work in a way I haven’t seen outside of the community. It really makes me want to frequent more small businesses. I wish I had the money to do so.

Photo of the two tone flex nib on my new Edison penBut back to the show. Brian handed off the pen he was working on, and I moved down one seat. Right off the bat, I’m hit with another question. What color nib? Gold, two tone, or rhodium plated? Such a tough decision while I’m in the hot seat. Brian laid out the nibs for me to scrutinize. I faced several moments of indecision, but then it occurred to me, two tone. Silver and Gold. Sun and Moon. Perfection!

Decision made, I watched, somewhat in awe, as Brian screwed in the nib and tuned it for me. “It’s a bit toothy,” he warned. After getting used to writing with the Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88, the Edison Pearl felt like a dream. No extra tuning required.

I gleefully accepted the offer of a display box. After all, why have an amazing, expensive pen without a box to house it in should you ever decide to give it a break from writing? And I handed over a rather large wad of $20s. Yes, Edison pens would be considered expensive to many, if not most, but they are SO worth it.

Photo of my new Edison pen in its display box

I lovingly added my fabulous pen, which I have since dubbed “Moon Blood” (I’m still considering other names, so it may change) to my bag of holding. My friend proceeded to get his Edison pen. It was either a Mina or an Extended Mina in a dark acrylic with light pearlescent bits that looked as though there were ghosts in his pen.

It was around this time that Jim showed up again, and we proceeded down the hallway. I stopped and tested some of the Sailor Jentle Color of Four Seasons inks. Fuji-Musume was beautiful, but already have a bunch of purple ink. I also really liked Pȇche and Ultramarine, but decided to hold off on buying anything to see what else I managed to cross off my pen show list.

It was as I turned around to look at the Bertram’s Inkwell table that I spotted Brian Goulet of The Goulet Pen Company. I’ll end this installment by saying that Brian Goulet is one of the main reasons I went to the DC Pen Show.

Do you have a favorite pen? What is it? Come back tomorrow to read about my experience meeting Brian and Rachel Goulet. And in the mean time, check out my Instagram feed for some pure, unadulterated pen porn. *giggle*

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2017 DC Pen Show #1

This weekend was the 2017 DC Pen Show. I’ve been waiting to go since I learned about it in fall of last year. My fiancé, Jim, and I are moving soon, so we’re busy doing all the pre-moving stuff chores and errands. That means we didn’t have a full weekend to devote to the show, as it deserved. We were only able to go for part of the day on Saturday.

I didn’t think I had any real expectations before the show. When we got there, though, I realized that I had formed expectations because they were blown completely out of the water. The show was much bigger, and MUCH better attended than I could have possibly imagined. There was so much to see that I’ll be dividing my overview of the show into three pieces. Stay tuned for the other two!

We met three friends there, all of whom happened to arrive early (while we were just on time). The show was already packed, despite officially starting at 10am (when we arrived). They’d already run out of the “official” swag bags several minutes earlier. But it was ok, I’d come prepared with my bag of holding.

Photo of my Bag of Holding

The admissions procedure confused me as, once you paid, you weren’t given anything to prove it. So anyone could just walk right in. But perhaps that was just a result of being in a new location this year. “Growing pains”, as it were.

The Small Room

We started with the small room, as it was right next to the “registration” desk. Immediately inside the door was the Kanilea Pen Co. and I don’t know if I’m relieved or saddened that their pens, though fantastically beautiful, didn’t speak to me.

While I was checking out the giant table of pens across from Kanilea, Jim was very happy to discover that Mr. Yoshi Nakama of 18111 still had some of his “Stone Mask” pens that are very reminiscent of the Easter Island Moai. It was on his “to buy” list for the show, and I will readily agree that it is VERY cool. It’s got a slightly rough texture that is unlike anything that I’ve felt on a pen before.

The layout of the small room at the pen show as best I can remember it.

Once I got past the crush of people bottlenecked at the entrance (the result of having two big pen tables there), I got a decent look at the entire room. It was roughly the size of my entire apartment, perhaps a bit bigger, and every wall had a vendor’s table. I doubt I can properly explain the layout of the room, so I drew a little picture for you. *grin* Don’t expect perfection, I’m trying to remember the room from the half hour I spent in it on Saturday morning.

The room was so full of people and vendors that we all lost each other and ended up just checking it out at our own pace for the most part. I was able to alert Jim that the Ink Journal table still had some of the Robert Oster Soda Pop ink, so he swooped in and bought the last bottle they had. He also took advantage of the “Take a Pen, Leave a Pen” table and picked up a Noodler’s Ahab in exchange for a demonstrator pen.

Jim’s strategy was to take a quick turn of the room, then go back and really look at what he was interested in. On the other hand, I made slow progress, giving each table my undivided attention on my first pass. The variety of pens available intrigued me.

Walking around the room, I was searching for “the pen” for my series. You know, the pen I’ll hopefully be signing books with. I specifically wanted a fountain pen that was red and white, and I wanted it to really speak to me. There were many lovely pens, even a metal one that looked blood spattered but was, unfortunately, ballpoint. Even pawing through the various pen blanks at The Woodshed Pen Co. booth revealed no sign of my pen.

As I finished my circuit of the small room, Jim tracked me down and joined me in my leisurely perusal of the last few tables I hadn’t yet seen. He decided to go scout out the large room while I picked up the Ink Miser Ink Shot and Inkwell from their inventor as well as Noodler’s DC Pen Show Ink, A House Divided. With my bag of holding a bit more full, I made my way to the large room.

Photo of the Ink Miser Inkwell and Ink Shot boxes Photo of the Noodler's Ink and Ink Miser Inkwell and Inkshot

Did you go to the DC Pen Show? Are you interested in going? Leave a comment and let me know.

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