A New Year Update

It’s nearing the end of the first week of January and I’ve been thinking a bit about my goals for the coming year. I imagine a lot of us do the same – thinking about what we don’t like about ourselves and making resolutions to change (and then getting depressed when we don’t meet the goals of those resolutions).

I’ve read a lot of articles and blogs that make it clear that setting small goals is better than big ones. I already know this, of course. I’m a project manager by trade, so I know a thing or two about setting goals, identifying tasks, and then implementing a plan. But, that’s at the office. Our home lives can often be much different. “The cobbler’s son has no shoes,” and all of that kind of stuff.

So, for the new year, here are a few goals I’ve set for myself. They’re largely health and creative goals. But here’s the trick, they’re daily or weekly. They exist to establish habits, so that by the end of the year, they aren’t goals so much as just things that I do.

  • Drink 120 ounces of water each day
  • Walk 3-5 miles per day
  • Write every day instead of only a few days per week (I’m not stating a word count goal here because I’ll end up feeling like a shit if I don’t hit that count)
  • Kettlebell workout for 20 minutes each day

To be clear, these are goals that I’ve set before, but have had limited success in achieving. But this year brings changes that make them a little more important. Being over fifty and facing a threat of potential diabetes and cholesterol medications if I don’t change diet and exercise habits has helped change my perspective. My wife and I will also be celebrating twenty-five years of marriage this year, and I’d like to do what I can to make sure that we get another twenty-five without health issues. I’m not trying to become one of those over-fifty-with-washboard-abs guys (although my wife would probably be for that). I mostly just want to be an over-fifty-with-the-ability-to-walk-up-stairs-without-getting-out-of-breath guy.

The good thing is that I have friends and family who are well aware of these goals, and I know that I can count on them to keep me honest and on track. I’ll probably document some of my progress here, but I’m not making this a health blog where I talk about macro nutrients and shit. Nope, that’s not me. But I will update this blog with milestone events (lost x pounds, submitted/published this or that thing, etc.).

Cheers!

Tools of the Trade

My father managed an office supply warehouse for about thirty years, and growing up I never found myself wanting for a pen, pad of paper, or staples.

I still have a penchant for hoarding – yes, “hoarding” is a strong term, but it feels appropriate at this moment – office supplies to this day. As a self-professed fountain pen nerd, I have (along with my collection of pens) several notebooks of varying size and paper quality, and numerous bottles of ink. In fact, I have two types of black ink. Two. I suppose this is the part where I tell you that one of those inks is a little blacker than the other.

Finding fountain pen friendly paper can be a challenge because there are so may variables at play. Weight of the paper (GSM, of Grams per Square Meter), pen being used, nib size and flex, ink type, etc. The same ink will most likely perform differently in two different pens/nibs/paper. And it’s possible to have two bottles of the same ink, but those bottlings may have slightly different properties due to production methods (purposeful or accidental or uncontrollable).

I’m lucky to have quite a few great pens, and I rotate through my collection so that they all get a turn (otherwise, why have them?). That said, there are three that are my go-to pens and are most always in my portable pen case as part of my EDC bag.

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They are (from top to bottom):

The Edison has a lot going for it: made in Ohio, nib that’s as smooth as butter, and it was a gift from my wife. That last one is the best part.

The Lamy 2000 is the IDEAL fountain pen for someone looking for a pure writing experience that is based upon function rather than form. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that one of my writing heroes has called the Lamy 2000 a “great for novel writing“.

The Jihao 159 is a surprise pen. It’s the least expensive fountain pen I’ve ever purchased (I paid less than $10 and had free shipping), and it’s surprisingly good. To be fair, I did replace the nib (which is the heart and soul of a fountain pen), but the size, shape, and weight of this thing all work well for me.

As far as inks go, I tend to use the Noodler’s brand. Nathan Tardif makes some really interesting inks and I have more bottles of his work than any other brand. My favorite Noodler’s flavors are:

  • Heart of Darkness
  • Black
  • Q’Ternity
  • Nikita
  • Legal Lapis
  • 54th Massachusetts

I prefer fast drying inks, so the H.O.D., Q’Ternity, and 54th Mass. see a lot of action. Other inks that I’ve used and will buy again are:

  • Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu Gaki
  • Pilot Iroshizuku Kon Peki
  • Sailor Jentle Four Seasons Oku-Yama

I mentioned paper earlier and I’ve whittled my preferences down over the past couple of years to:

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the paper, because your mileage will vary from mine, so I can’t speak in absolutes. I can say that there’s a good deal of production variation with Field Notes, so one notebook might be great with a fountain pen while the next one will be utter shit. Overall, though, the Field Notes brand is top-notch. The Seven Seas Writer notebook is my favorite because the paper quality is awesome and you get a lot of pages (480). For general, everyday carry for the office, the Leuchtturm 1917 is my preference. Good quality and they hold up well over time.

That’s about it for the pens, inks, and papers that I like to use. But there is one more thing. My Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter (loosely translated as: red thread pocket companion) is one stellar piece of kit. It holds my Seven Seas notebooks as well as anything else I want to toss in its direction. I have the A5 size and love it. It’s in my bag no matter where I’m headed.

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Quick note on the links I’ve included above: I’ve tried to link to the product manufacturers where possible. I’ll leave it to you to Google a retailer for anything you might want to check out. I prefer to give my business to Gouletpens.com for my pen and ink needs. I get the Seven Seas notebooks firectly from Nanami, and you can get a Roterfaden from a retailer based in the U.S. (without ordering one from Germany, which is what I did).

So that’s it for today. Just wanted to put out something here since it has been a while since my last post. That and it’ll be a little while until I get another post up due to the upcoming holiday break.

Until then – laters!

 

*** Here’s a preview of what I might chat about next time – I’ve been exercising my musical muscles a bit…

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Data Hacks, Conventions, and Occultists. Oh, My!

Chinese data hacking via newly revealed microchips and other various (and nefarious) forms of corporate espionage (I used to work at a place where attempts happened, folks – every single day) aren’t the only things that scare me. Lots of stuff does…

  • Flying
  • International travel (I’m just a homebody, folks – don’t like to be out of my zone)
  • Wasps
  • Snakes
  • Being seen dancing on an elevator via a well-hidden security camera

Notice that “sharks” didn’t make the cut. I’m not afraid of sharks. That’s largely because I’m never going to put myself into a situation in which I am exposed to one. Therefore, no reason to be afraid.

But back to the Chinese. I’m afraid that the old curse*, “May you live in interesting times” has come to pass. I spent the last weekend at the Imaginarium convention in Louisville, Kentucky. It was the fifth Imaginarium con, and the third that I attended. I was one of many author guests and found myself, just as last year when I was a guest as well, in very good company. Con guests do not always get to pick the panels to which they are assigned by the organizers, and it never occurred to me to ask. Not that I would, mind you. I’m completely happy to sit on any panel to discuss any topic. I’ve been around the block several times and there’s no topic too jinky** for me to go into.

One of the panels I was on for this last go-round, was “Occult in Literature”. Oh, awesome! This is bound to be interesting! We’ll talk about witches, and spells, demons, etc., and how they’ve been used in literature over the years (particularly in the 60’s and 70’s, or at least I hoped). It certainly seemed like a panel topic that could be interesting, and considering I’ve written stories that have included occult things (demons, witches, and spells), I figured I would have something to add to the conversation.

There were four of us on the panel and we had a small, but engaged audience. We also had at least one panelist who indicated that they were in the habit of practicing in occult arts, such as casting spells of protection, and that they would never write out the “recipe” for a spell in a book because it could be dangerous should the reader attempt to cast the said spell. This is where the eye rolling came in. Not from the attendees so much as from me. The panel had moved away from “occult in literature” and into the territory of “occult in the real world”. Yes, I am biased against this type of stuff. I grew up in a home that wasn’t into any of the traditionally American Judeo-Christian kind of thing, but rather into the occult and new-age scene. I won’t bore you with the details, but maybe in a few hundred years when we meet in another life, we can have a laugh about this blog post. There was discussion of wicca, spells, herbs and plants, as well as energies (both healing and harming). But my biases aside, the problem was that none of the discussion was about these items in the abstract. It was assumed that everyone was on board with the witches and what-nots being real***.

By the end of the panel’s allotted time, it had gotten interesting. I had made it clear that I’m an atheist, and maybe (meaning I definitely did) dropped an “F” bomb on the room****. I’m not saying I’m proud of it, by the way, because the last thing I want to do is offend anyone, whether on the panel or attending it. I tried to make it clear that, just like religion, belief in “real occult” stuff just isn’t my thing, but it’s totally cool if others are into it as long as they aren’t hurting themselves of others. But the bottom line is that I just can’t sit silently while superstition and fantasy are being sold as objective reality.

Imaginarium holds a special place in my heart, and I have really enjoyed every year that I have been able to attend (as a guest or otherwise). I really look forward to being a guest of Imaginarium again some year and that I get to sit on another equally interesting panel or two.

Now I’m off to bed to curl up with a book I picked up at Imaginarium, “Jack the Ripper Live and Uncut” by a new acquaintance Matt Leyshon. Super nice guy and I can’t wait to get into this book.

Laters.

* To be clear, I’m not 100% sure about the authenticity of the quote or its national origin. Yes, I could have researched it, but it’s after 9:00PM on a Monday, I’m tired, and this blog is free, so back off.

** Yes, I did just use (likely incorrectly) a word from Scooby Doo. As someone who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, I’m likely to do it again. I’m groovy like that.

*** Yes, there are “real” witchy folk who believe they are doing witchy things, but not really doing anything other than just hanging out with like-minded folks and dancing naked in the woods or some shit. I don’t know what they do and again, it’s late and I don’t feel like doing any research.

**** Someone on the panel mentioned mediumship as being a real phenomenon, to which I piped up and said, “If someone walks up to me and says they’re a medium, I’ll tell them ‘fuck you, no you’re not’ because that’s all pretend!”

The Latest

Wow! It has been a a while since I’ve posted anything here on the ol’ blog. I figured with this entry, I’ll just give you an update on what I’ve been up to since the last time as well as a preview of what’s coming up over the next few months or so.

Since we last met, I’ve been busy writing shorts and working on a novel. Of course, my priority has been prepping my son for his upcoming enlistment to the military. It’s all been very exciting, but dear old dad here is still working out the emotional gymnastics around saying goodbye.

I also managed to rid my life of Facebook. Well, for a while anyway. The problem is that too many people I know use it and getting them to stay in touch by other means is difficult, if not impossible. The good thing about getting back on, if there can be a good thing, is that I’ve now got a bit more control over my feed, and I’ve decided to eliminate any sort of “professional” presence. Facebook will be strictly personal use only, although I plan to continue connecting with other writerly folks. Yep, nothing but good, wholesome social media here. Pictures of food, updates on the kids, and cat videos. What else could I ask for?

In the coming months I will continue to manage my team at work, attend a conference or two to stay connected with my tribe, and write. Lots and lots of that last one, of course.

Flash! Ahhhhhhhh!

(sorry – I couldn’t help myself on the title…)

I’ve recently been writing flash fiction, which is a little new to me. I’ve read plenty of it over the years, but always preferred to write longer form.

That said, when fellow horror writer Jack Wallen invited me to participate in a flash fiction project, I was all in. The project is called “Music Be The Food”, and all of the flash pieces are based upon pieces of music that Jack picks out for us. It started with a new song every two weeks, but Jack recently made it a monthly thing. There are some really great stories here, and I hope you check them out by visiting Jack’s site at http://monkeypantz.net/tag/music-be-the-food/.

I’ve really enjoyed writing these shorter pieces. Each one has been an exercise in jumping right into the action as well as faster character development.

Other authors on the project include: Jay Wilburn, Chad A. Clark, Todd Skaggs, Jaime Johnesee, Eden Royce, Leigh M. Lane, and, of course, Jack Wallen himself. Other writers have recently been added to the roster and I’m really looking forward to the project continuing and seeing what’s in store from everyone.

 

After the Con

I spent last weekend in the deep-end of the writer pool with friends at the 4th annual Imaginarium convention in Louisville, KY. It’s a decent con, albeit small, that attracts writers from a variety of genres and skill/experience levels. The best part is that the vast majority of the people there will make you feel welcome, understood, and appreciated. I’ve spoken before about the “tribe” and Imaginarium is a good example of a small island on which the tribe can gather briefly and no one gets voted off.

I was able to attend some interesting panels, and was fortunate enough to be a panelist for a few interesting discussions. One such panel focused on the mental health of creatives. I was honored to be on that panel with the likes of Gary Braunbeck and Lacy Marie. I also sat on a panel with Lucy Snyder and Monica Corwin in which we talked about the importance of first lines in our work.

The best moment of the con, however, wasn’t actually part of the con itself. I was given some sage advice from a friend who said, “Find the con within the con, and stick with those people.” So, that’s exactly what I did, and I wasn’t disappointed. I am part of a writing group that meets in North Central Ohio and they are a really wonderful bunch of people. The best moment was when this group of sixteen people went out to dinner on Saturday night and had great food and conversation as well as some big, big laughs. I can’t go in to what was said, because it was truly one of those “you had to be there” dinners.

It remains to be seen if I will attend the 2018 installment of Imaginarium – there are several other cons that I would like to get to at some point and my con budget doesn’t allow for much. Nevertheless, I came home from the weekend with a renewed energy to write, network with old and new friends, and do my part to contribute to the rising tide of creative energy of my chosen tribe.

Write on.