Explaining Pens

“You spent HOW much on a pen?” Every pen person has heard it at least once. It can get a bit annoying to hear, mainly because you can hear the judgement in the tone nine times out of ten. If you aren’t a pen person, you’ve probably though it while reading my blog.

I used to just laugh it off and continue the conversation, but the tiny kernel of hurt remained. It seemed an unfair judgement. After all, I stay within my monthly budget. All my bills get paid. What difference does it make if I buy a semi-expensive pen? Semi-expensive in relation to the full spectrum of available pens, that is.

Granted, if you’re someone who’s spent their entire life using BIC ballpoints, it’s likely the idea of spending even $10 on a pen is too much. But we’re all different. We all have something we splurge on (when we can). The trick is to know what the person you’re talking to splurges on.

For example, I was talking to a friend the other day who was having the typical non-pen person reaction (basically, wow, that’s expensive). Knowing she’s on the girly side, I told her:

“Pens for me are like shoes and bags for other ladies”

It was really interesting to experience her near instant change in attitude with her new understanding.

“ohh got it 😉 they are like the jimmy choos”

I’ve had similar experiences with other friends, too. Once I can give them something to relate to, they understand me better and the judgement ceases.

How do you explain your pen habit/hobby to friends and family? Or if you aren’t a pen person, what’s your main habit/hobby, and how do you explain it to your friends and family? Leave me a comment to let me know. I’m really curious.

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Making Your Passion Your Job

“Do what you love and never work a day in your life.” How many times have you heard that? I can’t even begin to count. But, I’ve learned over the years that it’s mostly, if not completely, BS.

I typically try to keep my posts positive, but today I want to provide a cautionary lesson. More and more, recently, I’ve seen examples of people making their passion into their work and finding that those passions fizzle and burn out.

The nice thing about a passion that remains a hobby is that you do it because you want to. And when you don’t want you, you have the freedom to take a break. The moment you turn it into a job, you do it because you have to, and breaks aren’t really an option. Having to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do is a quick way to lose interest.

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Harry Potter Hogwarts Cash Grab

Like Potterheads the world over, I rejoiced when Portkey Games officially announced two Harry Potter apps last year. Harry Potter Wizards Unite (the Pokemon Go style app) sounded more intriguing, but I was interested in Hogwarts Mystery as well.

I promptly followed the HPHogwartsMystery Instagram account and pre-registered for the app as soon as I could in order to stay up to date on all the news. I feel no shame in admitting I, quite literally, squeed in joy when I received the email alert that the game was available. At my desk. At work. #potterlife

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Friday Reads: FanFiction

I can’t believe February is over! March is going to be nuts! The Most Special Chosen is out tomorrow. You can pre-order it now on Amazon. And make sure you check out my Facebook release party on Sunday, there will be a ton of giveaways and takeovers by some fabulous female authors.


This month’s Friday Reads is very different. I’m not recommending a book, I’m recommending a… let’s call it a genre.

I’m a huge fan of fanfiction. Good fanfiction that is. And yes, such a thing exists.

I pretty much only read Harry Potter fanfiction. There are just so many fun ideas within that single sub-genre, I haven’t manage to expand to much of any of the other sub-genres yet.

If you’re a Potterhead like yours truly, or even if you’re not, honestly, I suggest giving fanfiction a try for whatever fandoms you’re part of.

It will never replace books, obviously, but in those “low income” interludes between paychecks when you’re dying for something new to read, fanfiction is a godsend.

Understandably, the online thing may pose a problem, after all, neither wifi nor cell signal are available everywhere, and you don’t want to eat through your data. However, the fanfiction.net app (Android | iOS) lets you download stories for offline reading. There’s also ficsave.xyz which downloads ePub, mobi, and txt files at the press of a button. I tend to prefer the app when I’m reading a story in progress since it will automatically download new chapters, but I like ficsave for finished stories since there’s no worry of the author deciding to remove the story from the site.

So if you have some extra time, I highly suggest you check out FanFiction.net. Some of my favorite authors include robst, chem prof, Clell65619, old-crow, and Rorschach’s Blot. Go take a look. Maybe even try dabbling in some fanfiction writing yourself. It can be fun to take a story precisely where you want it to go. Heck, I’d love to see some The Most Special Chosen fanfiction. *wink*

But be careful, fanfiction can pull you in, and before you know it, you can’t separate canon from fiction. Don’t worry, though, it’snot like I’ve doomed you to a black hole that will suck you in and consume your life or anything. Mwahahaha.

If you’re a fanfiction reader, or writer, drop your favorite author or story below. I’m always on the lookout for something new.

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Lola’s Blog Tours

January 24th was my cover reveal. Congratulations to the winners of the accompanying giveaway!

I did some research while preparing it, and decided to go with Lola’s Blog Tours for the simple fact that, at the time, her cover reveals were free. I figured it was a good way to evaluate her services, and if it was a flop, I hadn’t really lost anything. Thankfully, it was a decent success.

Of course, the question is, how do you measure success? I’m not naive, I didn’t expect my book cover to be plastered across the internet on every single page, especially not as part of a free service, but I’m pretty happy with the 16 people who signed up.

Between the participating bloggers, the social media reach was pretty impressive (to me). It’s impossible, of course, for me to calculate the total reach. But based off of a simple follower count of accounts that posted, tweeted, retweeted, etc., the social media reach of my cover reveal was approximately:

  • 8,000 accounts on Facebook
  • 36,700 accounts on Twitter
  • 428 accounts on Instagram.

This does not account for overlapping followers, nor does it consider blog subscribers, so the reach could be considerably higher.

I also ended up with 29 giveaway entries, which isn’t bad considering the prize was one ebook.

I felt the results were good enough to book additional services with Lola’s Blog Tours. I’ve scheduled a blog tour for March 5-18. If you’re interested in participating, check out the sign up post. I’ve also scheduled a review opportunity that will start around the same time as the blog tour. Subscribe to my blog to get notified when it starts.

I’ve really enjoyed working with Lola. She’s professional and efficient, qualities I greatly appreciate. If you’re in the market for any of her services, I heartily recommend Lola’s Blog Tours.

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The Joy of Coco

There will be spoilers towards the end of this post, but I’ll warn you first.

I saw Coco for the second time on Saturday. And while it didn’t hit me quite as hard in the feels this time, it was still an amazing movie.

The first time I saw Coco (on Thanksgiving), I was blown away, absolutely enchanted, and amazed to see my heritage, Mexican heritage, portrayed on the big screen in such a beautiful way. As Chantel mentions in this Pero Like video, it was amazing to see a story that happens to be set in Mexico, rather than a story about being Mexican.

The Rivera family from Coco

At its heart, Coco is about family. That family just so happens to be Mexican, and living Mexican lives. Therefore you have a rich tapestry of Mexican culture woven into the story. But the central theme of family can be (and has been) played out in any other setting (think Brave, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, Inside Out, etc.). I think this is part of what makes Coco so special to me. The Mexican culture isn’t highlighted, isn’t glorified, it’s just there. But you can’t help but appreciate the beauty and richness of it.

Granted, in Coco, the focus is on one particular facet, Dia de los Muertos. But you get to see other bits as well. With Ernesto de la Cruz, you get a glance at old films. With the music competitions, you get a look at mariachi music. There are also alebrijes, lucha libre, ballet folklórico, chanclas, and on and on, but you get the idea.

Growing up multicultural, I never really paid much attention to people saying that it means a lot to see yourself represented in movies, TV, etc. That was a failing on my part, I know. But Coco opened my eyes to just how much it can mean. There were multiple times I found myself tearing up in sheer joy at seeing Mexican culture portrayed correctly. I can only imagine how great it was for all of the abuelitos going to the movies for the first time and seeing the magnificence that is Coco.  

So if you haven’t seen Coco yet, stop reading here (there are spoilers coming), and go see it while it’s still in theaters. Really, it’s worth it. If you have seen Coco, then let me share with you a little something I noticed when I watched it the second time.

 

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

It didn’t take me long on the first go around to figure out that Ernesto wasn’t Miguel’s great-great-grandfather. And it didn’t take much longer to determine that Hector must, therefore, be Miguel’s great-great-grandfather. What I didn’t pick up on, and really should have, is that because Ernesto stole Hector’s guitar, there was likely something nefarious going on.

And speaking of the guitar, did you notice that it’s the first hint the viewers get about who Miguel is actually related to?

The guitar has a gold tooth.

Head of the Guitar from Coco

Hector has a gold tooth.

Hector from Coco

Ernesto does not.

Ernesto de la Cruz from Coco

It’s even on the movie poster. Talk about fabulous foreshadowing. Did you catch that hint? Let me know in the comments.

Note: All images found through Google.

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Good Times at Bertram’s Inkwell

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I like “pimping” companies that I’ve had good experiences with. So far, I’ve discussed Edison Pen Company, Goulet Pens, and Surreal Makeup. This time I’ll be telling you about Bertram’s Inkwell.

Bertram's Inkwell

Shopping Experiences

Photo of a Red Nibbed Platinum Preppy 05Bertram’s holds a special place in my heart as the store where I bought my first fountain pen. It was a red-nibbed Platinum Preppy 05. I don’t have a picture of mine, as it sadly disappeared in my recent move, but I did find this photo from WonderPens. It was my gateway pen, and the experience of purchasing it was so pleasant that Bertram’s was forever fixed in my mind as a top-notch store.

Photo of Lamy Safari Dark LilacThe next time I visited, I picked up a Lamy Safari Dark Lilac, completely oblivious to the fact that I was buying a special edition. I just knew I liked the color and feel of it. I also picked up bottles of Diamine Meadow and Diamine Aqua Lagoon because they were beautiful, bright colors. I’ve since learned that just because a color is pretty doesn’t mean it will make a good writing ink. Meadow hasn’t gotten much use because a full-page of it can be hard on the eyes.

While we were there, Jim bought a Namiki Falcon as a birthday present to himself. I can’t recall if it was Bert or Adam (or both) who helped us out that day — I was too focused on buying my first “nice” pen — but whoever it was was incredibly patient with me as I went through all of the Lamy colors, and let me dip test a few different nib sizes. Jim was also treated very well as he tried to decide if he was actually willing to buy such an expensive pen (oh, how our views have changed).

And now the really fun part. I get to tell you about some of my customer service experiences that I feel went above and beyond what your typical store offers.

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Facebook Release Party Lessons

About a month ago, Sonya Jesus invited me to take part in her Facebook release party. I’d heard of them, of course, through open calls to participate on my publisher’s Facebook group. I hadn’t ever participated, though, thinking that they were for people who already had books out. The direct invitation, however, made me curious, and, with a bit of trepidation, I accepted the 5:30 – 6:00 pm time slot.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Facebook release parties, they’re a chance for an author to reach anyone in the world by making a public Facebook event page. On the day of the event, the author, as well as any people they have invited to participate, will post to the page with information about available and upcoming books, giveaways, teasers, videos, etc. The idea being that the more people who are involved, the more fans and readers will check out the event, and, hopefully, the book being released.

Research

Because I’d never been part of a release party before, I wasn’t entirely sure of the protocol. So, I did what I always do: I researched. I asked some other authors about typical post content. I attended a couple of release parties and paid very close attention to the posts and engagement. And I made some unexpected discoveries:

  • You post, at most, once every 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Some people seem to treat release parties as a chance to outrageously pimp their own books. As in, every post is a link to buying their books with a picture of the cover or covers, with no real description of the books at all. I don’t know if this nets them any sales, but I noticed less interaction with those posts.
  • Facebook has polls. Yeah, I had no idea about this, and apparently they’re only available on event and group pages, because I don’t have the option to create one on either my personal Facebook page or my author page.

Preparation

Armed with some new information, I got to work creating posts. Since I don’t have a book available for sale yet (March 3rd, people *wink*), I decided to go for teasers. Hopefully they would entice people to follow me on various sites and buy my book once it’s available.

I hand lettered some book quotes (if this sounds interesting to you, check out my Instagram for #TeaserTuesdays). I also created the first teaser video for *The Most Special Chosen*, as this seemed like a great place to debut it (and hopefully get some views). And, of course, I had to provide a link to Sonya’s Author Spotlight. A poll (for interaction), giveaway (to get people to stick around until the end of my half hour), and links to my social media accounts rounded out my main posts. And let’s not forget an introduction and thank you post. Those are important, too.

I wrote up all of the posts so I could copy and paste them on the day of the party to avoid wasting time, or suffering from writer’s block. I’m very glad I did, as I edited everything a few times to have the best content possible.

Party Time

As the actual release party got closer, I started looking forward to participating. I expected it to be fun, and I hoped that people would be interested in what I had to post. At 5:20, I sat down at my computer, opened up the document with my posts, kept an eye on the event page, and prepared to have fun and be engaging. I think I succeeded at both.

It was fun to read people’s comments (especially the GIFs) and respond to them in return. And I can’t deny it’s exciting to watch the likes, loves, comments, etc. counts go up. My time went quite a bit faster than I expected it to, and I found myself almost sad when it was over.

I will note that I had a hard time keeping track of when to post things as Facebook shows “Just Now” for a few minutes after posting. My solution was to add time labels to the document where I’d written my posts. That way, I just had to ensure that the current time and the time label matched before I pushed “Post”. It made a big difference, and let me focus on interacting with people

Overall, It was a great experience, and I’m very happy, now, that I accepted Sonya’s invitation. I look forward to joining other release parties in the future.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, taking part in a release party is to gain exposure. And part of that is reviewing what you did and seeing what did and didn’t work. I think for a first time, I did pretty well, and gained about 10 new followers/likes on each of my social media accounts, which I don’t find too shabby.

The poll was (surprisingly) my best performing post, when I go by total interactions (comments, reactions, post interaction, shares, etc.). My giveaway post received the most reactions (17), while the introduction post received the most comments (12). So make of all of that what you will.

A couple side notes to interactive posts. I think everyone will agree that GIF comments are big right now. So I think I’ll look into requesting GIF comments in future posts. Perhaps one of those “pick your answer” posts would be good, too. You know, the ones where you piece together an answer based on your name, birthday, color of your shirt, etc.

My main takeaway from it all is that I should have more interactive posts in the future. I should ask even more questions, and encourage discussions and comments.

That said, do you have any questions for me? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. And if you need an additional participant at your Facebook release party, send me a message.

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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.

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