Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a “typical” genre or style I write it, although I certainly prefer first person. What I will say, is that I feel as though the story I’ve been working on recently is outside of my comfort zone, and it’s been a good thing to try.

My publisher, Burning Willow Press, has an ongoing anthology series, Crossroads in the Dark. Volume 1: Anthology of Morality and Volume 2: Urban Legends are already available. Volume 3: Monsters Under Your Bed is due out on September 30. Volume 4 is in progress, and I decided to try writing for it.

Zombie Ghost PostI struggled for a while to figure out what to write. I based my first attempt on this tumblr post that popped up on my Facebook feed ages ago.

It didn’t go well. With about 300 words written, realized I didn’t like what I was writing. Determined to make it work, I outlined a few different ideas, and even started writing one of them, but the story just wasn’t going well. I wasn’t willing to try to force something that didn’t want to happen, so I decided to give it up as a lost cause and try to come up with a different idea.

Just when I was starting to think I wouldn’t be able to write anything after all, Jim (my fiance) and I had a fun conversation that sparked an idea. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I started writing.

It was slow going at first. I didn’t have a firm plan or vision for the story, and it was unlike anything I’d written before. But I got the intro and the ending written, and didn’t dislike them. I wrote bits as they came to me, and found that ideas flowed easier as I got further into the story. I suppose it shouldn’t really surprise me.

Finally, after a month (a whole month!) I finished the story yesterday. It sits at just over 4,500 words. I gave it to some friends and fellow authors at Burning Willow Press to give it a look. I didn’t want to submit something that people really disliked.

So far, though, it’s been well thought of. Everyone has at least enjoyed the story, which is all I can really ask for with a first draft. I think with a couple more read-throughs, and a bit of polishing, it’ll be ready to submit for consideration.

I definitely think I’d like to try writing outside of my comfort zone even more, as I’m pretty happy with the final story, and it was a fun learning experience. But I don’t know that I want to tackle a deadline-based story again. It’s hard for me to just churn out content.

I’ll certainly keep you all updated on what happens with this story. But for now, wish me luck!

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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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Coming Soon: Author Spotlight Series

Author Spotlight

It can be tough for indie authors to get their work out there. We’re individual people, sometimes with small publishers, and we can’t do what the huge publishing houses do. Our resources are finite, and, many times, quite minimal.

Based off of the pool of indie authors I interact with (which is, admittedly, small in comparison to the number of indie authors in the US alone), many of us understand and acknowledge that we aren’t really each other’s competition. There are enough readers out there for everyone, and we can be allies.  We can help each other.

We’ve all been there (or are there). Spending every scrap of spare time posting to social media, attending events, and coming up with ways to reach new readers, in order to share a story that we love enough to put forth all this effort. It’s a full-time job, usually on top of our full-time day job.

So we have each other’s backs. We share and retweet other indie author posts; we pimp each other’s books; we try, whenever possible, to help each other out, because we understand.

In that vein of cooperation, collaboration, and alliance, I’m starting an author spotlight series. It’s hardly the first of its kind, nor will it be the last, but I’m trying to make it unique, or at least a bit different.

The spotlights will be short, 5-8 questions, usually. I’ve provided the first and last question to every author, but the middle three-six, each author gets to choose their favorite 1 or 2 questions from 3 groups of 10. This means that each spotlight will feature a set of questions unique to the author, so be sure to take a look at them all.

And these won’t just be shameless plugs for books. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the questions:

  • Have you ever had anything edited out of a book that you wish had been kept in?
  • What one person would you most like to get your book(s) noticed by?
  • What is the hardest scene you’ve ever written?
  • Does what you’re writing at any given time ever feature in your dreams?
  • How long do you honestly think you’d survive in a zombie apocalypse?
  • Would you rather be invisible, or able to read minds?

I’ll also be doing video interviews to go with some of the posts, as soon as I’m done moving and have my workspace set up. I really doubt you want to see a mess of boxes in the background.

I’ll be starting the author spotlight series with fellow authors from my publisher, Burning Willow Press, but I hope it will expand to include any indie author who would like to introduce themselves.

I will, of course, be sharing all of the author spotlight posts via social media, or you can sign up for email updates. The first spotlight should be up in a few days, so stay tuned.

If you know anyone who’d be interested in participating, have them leave a comment below and contact me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Friday Reads #1: Little Women

For the foreseeable future, Fridays here will be the Friday Reads series (to go with the hashtag). What better way to start the weekend than the suggestion of a good book? I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of reviews on the different books I’ll discuss, so I’m not going to review them. Instead I’m going to share what they mean to me. I’m starting the series with the book that I think sealed my fate as a lifelong reader: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

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My mom bought me several versions of Little Women as I grew up. I remember owning five different versions, three of which were quite literally read to death. And I’m looking for a sixth, fancy, version to start my “favorite books” bookshelf. Leave a comment if you’d like to hear more about that.

Great Illustrated Classics, Little WomenAnyway, I remember the first version I received when I was maybe 6. It was part of the Great Illustrated Classics series. Hardcover, illustrated, and abridged with large type. I thought the illustrations were so pretty. They were black line, like a coloring book, and I so wanted to color them all in, but I couldn’t bring myself to “deface” a book like that, even then.

Some time later, when my first version was looking a bit worse for wear from reading it so much, I received an unabridged paperback version. I can remember the bright yellow back cover, even now, although the front cover details are lost to me. It was illustrated as well, in a more elegant style. I specifically remember there being a fabulous stylized illustration of Meg in her borrowed ball gown with Laurie staring on disapprovingly. It was captioned with: “Don’t you like me so?” asked Meg. “No, I don’t,” came the blunt reply. 

This second version was roughly the same physical size as my first version, although perhaps a bit thicker. It might have even been a little smaller along the height and width. I didn’t understand why. Shouldn’t it be much bigger if it was unabridged? Then I opened it. The text was tiny! It didn’t matter, though. I think I finished reading it in a couple days. And I didn’t stop. Over the next few years, I read it so many times it fell apart.

It was while I owned this second version that my mom took me to see the play version. It’s the first play I remember seeing. Generally when we went to the theater it was for some type of dance (ballet, river dance, etc) or some other type of performance altogether, like STOMP! It was simple, the only set changes were during intermission, and our seats weren’t the best in the world, but I remember being rather young, and, seeing as I don’t have many other memories of that time period, it clearly meant a lot.

I bought myself my third version of the book. An inexpensive paperback, as I fully expected to read it to death as well. But before I could, eBooks became a thing. So I bought myself an eBook version. And I’ve read it a few times as well. Thankfully, the digital version won’t fall apart.

In the final days of my mom’s battle against cancer, she was somewhat coherent, but couldn’t really hold a conversation. I assume it must have been horrible for her to be stuck with no form of entertainment. Out of a loss of what to do, I decided to read to her, as she had done for me so often as a child. I chose Little Women.

It wasn’t her favorite book. I honestly don’t know what her favorite book was. But it was comforting, and I hoped it would remind her of good times we’d shared. Of all the times we’d watched the different movie versions together. It may not have been the best decision, though, as I find the book rather difficult to read now. I haven’t read it since she died in 2013. It’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without reading it.

But hopefully soon I’ll find the strength to read it again and remember all the wonderful memories associated with it. Regardless, it’s a very important book to me. So much so that I even reference it in my own upcoming book The Most Special Chosen.

Click to check out the Little Women Graphic Novel ProjectI also recently discovered a Little Women graphic novel project that has some amazing artwork. I hope the artist continues it, as currently, only the first 7 chapters have been done. Go take a look and see what you think of it.

Have you ever read Little Women? Have you watched any of the movie versions? Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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