Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers (and Editors)

First of all– I am not dead. I got a cold which tried to take me out like a ninja rhinoceros and had me in bed for a full week. I’m now on prescription cough syrup so I’m going to go quickly to the Conversation here.

Brian White and Wendy Wagner


picWendy N Wagner


Brian White is the editor of Fireside Fiction Magazine and terrorizes Twitter as @talkwordy and blogs at

Wendy Wagner is the Managing/Associate Editor of both Lightspeed Magazine and Nightmare Magazine, a regular blogger on the Inkpunks publishing blog and her recent Pathfinder novel is Skinwalkers and she can be found on Twitter as @wnwagner

Brian J. White:  /waves/

 Wendy N. Wagner:  Hi! Wow, I almost forgot how to use chat. I just realized I haven’t chatted or hung out online in, like, over a year.

Brian:  Where have you been hanging out? In meatspace? You know about the germs, right?

Wendy:  You mean GO OUTSIDE?!? Ack! No! Apparently there’s this giant ball of radiation out there, and it will cook you if you’re not careful.

Brian:  I have heard of this infernal device. I work nights so I only see it as it sinks beneath the hills.

Wendy:  Living in Oregon, I only see it 3 or 4 months a year. It’s pretty terrifying. So how are you this morning?

Brian:  I used to think Oregon was an imaginary place, like Nebraska. But I have met too many people from there at this point, and I am starting to doubt my belief.

Wendy:  If you ever meet Andrew Fuller (editor of 3 Lobed Burning Eye Mag), it’ll blow your mind. He’s a Nebraskan who now lives in Oregon. I’m pretty sure he’s a semi-mythical being.

Brian:  Oh my GOD. This can’t happen. I am still trying to cope with Pluto’s de-planetting. Too much change is bad.

Wendy:  The mind is a fragile thing. That’s why they invented whisky. (As an aside, if you play the game Arkham Horror, you can get the whiskey card and use it restore sanity points. Best. Game. Feature. Ever!)

Brian:  They are wise. (I definitely need a whiskey card.) /hides flask/ But, to your question I am well this morning. Just got a load of postcards to send out to the backers of Fireside’s Year 3 Kickstarter.

Wendy:  Do you actually write on them, like with a pen?

Brian:  Last time I did this, I had, like maybe less than 100 to do, and I handwrote on each. This time I have probably like 600 to send, so I had text printed, and I will sign with a Sharpie. I already have screwed-up wrists, and also shreds of sanity left.

Wendy:  Wow. Thank goodness for self-adhesive stamps!

Brian:  Oh man. I hadn’t even thought of that. /pets tongue/

Wendy:  * giggles at the thought * Do you have a special “editorial” signature that you use? I took Mary Kowal’s advice from her beginning writer’s series and invented a special signature for signing books. Of course, after one or two uses, it just devolves into a squiggly line, like my real signature, so I’m not sure how effective it is.

Brian:  Haha. I do not, but I think I would have the same nice-to-squiggly speed. Focusing is overrated. But my handwriting is so bad, I just aim for a legible B at the beginning.

Wendy:  I was a write-in yesterday, and I currently am without a laptop, so I just write manually. I dread reading the stuff! I can usually make out about 1 out of every 7 letters.

Brian:  Heh. That sounds about right. Do you usually write manually, or is that just a without-laptop-induced thing?

Wendy:  I have a desktop computer, and that’s usually what I work on. But sometimes the world just gets too distracting, so I retreat to the porch or the coffee shop with the notebook and the ball point pen. I don’t usually write a lot when I go to manual, but it really helps me refocus.

Brian:  I am still at kind of the hesitant, beginner, stop and start stage as a writer. Which has meant I have fooled around with a lot of tools, often as a form of procrastination. I love the idea of writing by hand, but it’s hardest on my wrists. I have also used things like Dragon to speak words into text. I kind of like that, but it requires a big mental shift.

Wendy:  I like the idea of dictation, but I am really not an audio person. If I had to dictate a book, it would read like this “The dude looked at her. ‘Like, you’re really cool.’ ‘Uh,’ she said. ‘There’s a thing behind you. One of those dead things that eat you know, the stuff inside your head.'” There would be zero metaphor, no depth, and it would be a babbling, incoherent mess!

Brian:  Yeah, it kind of has the opposite effect of writing by hand for me. Dictation can go so fast, you really have to think rather than just fill up a page of rambling. Writing by hand, I sometimes feel like it takes so long I lose the thread of the next sentence before I get finished writing the previous one. I guess I grew up typing, so that is how my brain works. And is probably also why I have tendinitis.

Wendy:  I think we just need titanium alloy tendons or something. I’m ready for a more indestructible physique! So, complete change of chat topic: what made you start Fireside? I can only assume a head injury was involved.

Brian:  That would make it easier to explain, I guess. It was … the best way I can explain it is I kind of had this slowly growing stew of ideas in my head 2011. I had been on Twitter for a few years, starting out mostly talking about copy editing and with copy editors (my “day” job is as a newspaper copy editor) but I had started to follow some writers and stuff too — Gaiman, Scalzi, Wendig first, and then others. So I was starting to see discussions of a lot of things, and they each got plopped into the stew. “Digital publishing models.” PLOP “Payment rates for writers.” PLOP “Make good art.” PLOP And then the thing that made the stew taste just right. “Kickstarter. Crowd funding.” PLOP PLOP. And I thought, “Hey I could do a magazine.” So I started talking to people — Chuck Wendig, Ken Liu, Christie Yant, and Tobias Buckell — about writing for the first issue. And to my surprise, they said yes. And it just kind of snowballed from there. It’s kind of amazing, how with the tools we have available now, some guy can just say, “Hey I want to have a magazine.” And then he does.

Wendy:  That’s pretty fucking awesome. How many other staff members do you have?

Brian:  As far as putting the magazine out, I do most of that myself. Pablo Defendini designed our website and handles the technical issues. Matt White is our submissions manager, and he and our volunteer slush readers are invaluable. I don’t think I could stay alive if I had to organize that. And, of course, there’s the amazing Galen Dara, who does all of our artwork.

Wendy:  Wow, that’s awesome! We have a fairly gigantic staff of volunteers at Lightspeed and Nightmare. I’d guess that I put in over 20 hours a week working on the magazines (I used to keep track, but I have gotten kind of lazy about it), and I can’t even imagine how many hours they put in. It takes SO MUCH WORK to run a magazine. It’s kind of mind-boggling.

Brian:  It really does. Working at a newspaper, where everything is broken down into small tasks, each done at a different person, it’s been really interesting to do it all, rather than just turn my own widget. What sort of things do you handle at Lightspeed?

Wendy:  Well, I have two jobs–Managing Editor and Associate Editor. On the management side, I maintain the production schedule, so I’m setting everyone’s deadlines and making sure everyone comes through on time. I also deal with a big chunk of the website, uploading the ebooks and all the stories/articles/spotlights. I also produce all of our contracts and make sure they get signed and returned on time. On the Associate side, I oversee the submissions and editorial teams. When we have open submissions, I screen all the story recommendations from the slush readers. I work with most of the authors on the line edits for their pieces, and I work with the copy editor to make sure that any questions about the story’s formatting or errors I missed in my first round of editing get resolved.

Most of my job is poking people, cracking whips, and reminding people about their deadlines. Oh, and I’m the Chief Executive Hugger.

Brian:  Face hugger or regular hugger?

Wendy:  Ha ha! Regular hugger! We artistic types require a lot of hugs to keep going.

Brian:  Yes this is true. I may have a mild sickness here, but that all sounds like a lot of fun, what you’re doing at Lightspeed. I like doing publishing production and background work.

Wendy:  It is fun! I love my job. Of course, the best part is working with all the awesome people. Our staff and writers are some of the coolest, smartest, kindest folks I’ve ever met.

Brian:  That’s something I have come to learn and love about the writing and editing types I have met through Twitter and Fireside, is there are so many smart, nice, and supportive people. Everyone wants to help each other. I guess if none of use are going to make any money, we might as well be kind.

Wendy:  Exactly!

Brian:  So you had your first book, Skinwalkers, come out in March. What’s that been like?

Wendy:  Pretty good. There was some confusion about the release date, so it had kind of a soft roll-out. And I’m kind of a newb about book marketing, so I was really overwhelmed by the whole experience. I really don’t know if I did a very good job promoting the book. But I’ve gotten some good responses to the book, so that’s been nice.

Brian:  Now that you have gotten to the other side of the wall and are a publishing insider, can you share the secret of what kind of cake they serve at the Publishing Gatekeepers Society functions?

Wendy:  I hate to break it to you, but the cake is a lie.



Wendy:  Well, now that I’ve crushed your spirit, I suppose I should sign off. I’ve got parenting to do!

Brian:  /twitches/

It was great talking to you.

Wendy:  It WAS! We should hang out more often. Fingers are crossed that some day we actually meet in real life.

Brian:  Yessss. This will happen.

Wendy:  Have a great day!


Pilot Parallel Pen 1.5mm

Some of you may remember how disappointed I was in the Scheaffer Calligraphy pens. Well, I still liked the IDEA of having a Calligraphy pen so I decided to give the Pilot Parallel a shot, as I’ve been extremely happy with Pilot pens so far. I got the 1.5mm because I want to write with it still, not just do Calligraphy.


Here it is assembled out of the package. It comes with two ink cartridges, a squeeze converter for cleaning (though I’m sure it would work just fine), and a nib cleaner (Oh HEY I had no idea this was a thing and have just been using the edge of my paper for the same purpose. This is way better).

Pilot Parallel with items for scale

Pilot Parallel with items for scale








This pen is designed to sorta resemble a dip pen and has the paint brush-style taper body. I’m not a huge fan of the look, but it works just fine. It isn’t as awkward as you might fear for being so long.




I'm not a huge person, but it's still pretty long.

I’m not a huge person, but it’s still pretty long.



It really is quite a long pen. It is completely convertible into an eyedropper pen, though I’m not sure I’d suggest it… simply because the barrel seems to untwist slightly when I untwist the cap and I think it might occasionally leak because of this even with silicone grease.


nib comparison between Parallel 1.5mm and Scheaffer Fine

nib comparison between Parallel 1.5mm and Scheaffer Fine

width of line drawn with said pens. The stutter on the Parallel is user error not pen.


The Good

  • 3 nib sizes
  • writes nice and wet, great for calligraphy (but bad for cheap paper)
  • nice smooth round grip
  • is FUN to write with

The Bad

  • Looooooooooong Pen is Long
  • requires a proprietary cartridge and converter
  • not really practical for everyday writing, but that’s not what it’s made for

Overall grade: A for Calligraphy Pen, B for occasional wanting to write all swoopy for no practical reason



Ghosts In the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Today’s writers are both photographers as well as writers. They are two people I thought should know each other better but who hadn’t really crossed paths. I’m pretty tickled with how their Conversation went.

Andrew Williams and Elsa S. Henry

Andrew Williams - Photograph by Jon Lavinder

Andrew Williams – Photograph by Jon Lavinder

Elsa S. Henry - Photograph by Andrew Williams

Elsa S. Henry -
Photograph by Andrew Williams












Elsa blogs at is on Twitter

Andrew Williams blogs at: is on Twitter, and has his photoblog

Andrew Williams:  Hey Elsa– I’m ready to do this thing if you are.

Elsa S. Henry:  I’m ready! (Just put my dog up for a nap so I could focus)

Andrew:  Excellent! Surviving the weekend and GenCon preparation then?

Elsa:  Trying to! I have almost all my clothes packed and now it’s just the Other Stuff

Andrew:  Cool. Are you doing any programming at GenCon?

Elsa:  I am, yeah. I’m teaching a class on accessibility for disabilities in game design and then I’m on a panel about inclusivity in gaming and then I’m running the Storium meet & greet as the official community manager of Storium, and then I am running into a panel on cultural appropriation. SOBUSY

Andrew:  Awesome! I didn’t realize you were involved with Storium. And yeah, that sounds kinda crazy-busy… in a good way (hopefully)

Elsa:  Yeah, I was hired as their community manager about 2 months ago. It’s a good gig. And yeah, it’s all good. I’ve just never been to Gen Con before. Have you?

Andrew:  No, I haven’t. Everyone I talk to seems to have a good time, but gaming is one of my weaker links in the geek continuum, as it were. That said, I will be at PAX this year and am looking forward to it

Elsa:  What part of the geek continuum have you fallen down the wormhole for?

Andrew:  I’m primarily a reader and sci-fi/fantasy writer. I love me my John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Mira Grant… The last game I played hardcore was WoW, and I escaped with kind of a sigh of relief. That said, I do love playing games with friends, and have been involved doing photography with a company called GamesToGo at their booth at some recent conventions (They sell board games and the like)

Elsa:  And yeah, I hear you on running away from WoW, Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire is currently my new favorite author

Andrew:  I really liked the Feed series. Her urban fantasy stuff is on my to-read list

Elsa:  Feed was SO GOOD it definitely inspired me for some of Dead Scare (the RPG I’m writing right now)

Andrew:  Sweet! Can you give me the thirty-second pitch for Dead Scare?

Elsa:  It is 1953, you’re a housewife alone at home when the Emergency Broadcast goes off and tells you the United States has been attacked and the President is dead.  Then the undead rise, and you have to stay alive. Better red than zed.

Andrew:  Heh. Awesome

Elsa:  Essentially the Soviet Union drops a biological weapon on the United States turning everyone in major city centers into zombies. AN almost entirely female cast for every game. Armed with lawn mowers, cadillacs, and rolling pins

Andrew:  Nice. Sounds like all the old 1950s tropes turned on their heads… with zombies.

Elsa:  Yep, that’s the exact concept

Andrew:  Do you write prose as well or mostly games? (I assume writing games must involve some prose writing, but I’ve never done it)

Elsa:  This is actually my first game I’ve ever written. I primarily do fiction and nonfiction writing

Andrew:  Cool! Yeah, I read some of your blog. You do a good job of tackling major, blood-pressure-raising but very important issues

Elsa:  it is not easy

Andrew:  The sort of stuff I can only blog about once a month or so before my head explodes

Elsa:  I haven’t been posting much recently because of Lots of Life Changes, but I’m hoping to resume a more regular schedule soon

Andrew:  Yeah, my regular blog has fallen off a lot as I’ve been working more on photography this year and trying to something resembling a business running

Elsa:  I saw on your blog that you’re going to Nepal in a few weeks, is that for writing inspiration or photography or…

Andrew:  Yes. Actually, it’s mostly because I love to travel, so when a friend happened to ask if I wanted to go to Nepal, I figured out if I could possibly wing it, and the answer was yes. The sort of trip I’d seriously regret if I didn’t go. I’ve actually never been to Asia, or to a non-English-speaking country outside of Europe before, so I’m really looking to it. Of course, I will be lugging along several pounds of camera gear as I hike through the Himalayas, because ZOMG PHOTOS

Elsa:  Uh. Yeah. Those photos.

Andrew:  And I also have a story I’m writing where one of the cultures is Tibetan-inspired, so I’m hoping to see some things that may inspire me along the way.

Elsa:  Will be amazing.

Andrew:  I CAN’T WAIT. Actually, I leave five weeks from today

Elsa:  EEK you must have so much prep to do.

Andrew:  Mostly just getting stuff together (a lot of backpacking gear which I generally already have). And luckily I won’t have to bring a tent because even though the trek is three weeks long, you stay in teahouses every night at villages along the way

Elsa:  I miss travelling a lots, out of the country anyway. Hoping to go to Sweden next year

Andrew:  That’d be awesome. Scandinavia is on my to-visit list. I’m hoping Finland wins the WorldCon bid in 2017 After Nepal, I’m planning to swing back through Hong Kong and Seoul before coming home

Elsa:  You do WorldCon? I’m considering going to Spokane next year. I went to college out there and haven’t been back since graduation

Andrew:  Yeah, I’ve been to a couple. And of course, being a Seattleite, I’ll do Spokane. I’ve never been there except as a transit point on my way to Montana

Elsa:  I think WorldCon sounds like fun. But granted, I’m terrified of Gen Con, soooo I’m not sure WorldCon would be kinder

Andrew:  Gen Con is really big, isn’t it? Like 40K-ish people?

Elsa:  On the other hand I know Spokane really well. Yeah, Gen Con is ENORMOUS. Not SDCC enormous, but big enough to be a little anxiety attack-y

Andrew:  Yeah, WorldCon generally runs about 7-10K. The tough thing is, because a different group runs it every year, you’re never entirely sure what you’re getting

Elsa:  Interesting

Andrew:  What school did you go to out there?

Elsa:  People give me funny looks when I tell them – I went to Gonzaga

Andrew:  Heh. Y’know, I didn’t even realize Gonzaga was in Spokane until I happened to be reading an article about Desmond Tutu earlier today (he apparently gave a commencement speech there a couple of years ago)

Elsa:  He did! Yeah, super Conservative Catholic Very Not Where People Expect Me To Have Gone

Andrew:  Were you super conservative Catholic at the time?

Elsa:  I raised a lot of hell. Nope. They offered me a very nice scholarship

Andrew:  Heh. That must’ve been an interesting four years (for certain values of “interesting”)

Elsa:  But I credit my time there with why I can talk about blood raising things in a relatively reasonable manner. Interesting is most certainly a word I would use to describe my time

Andrew:  Not planning to go to graduate school at BYU or anything, are you?

Elsa:  I went to grad school at Sarah Lawrence College. My ability to stay calm when people were screaming at me was useful there, too!

Andrew:  It’s a useful ability to have, even if practicing it is a pain in the ass

Elsa:  seriously

Andrew:  I consider myself lucky that I’ve never really had to… part of why I try to jump in now when I see such things going on

Elsa:  I think that’s lucky. I mean, ok ,in undergrad I ran the first ever AIDS Awareness program at Gonzaga my father died from HIV/AIDS in 1993, so educating people on care and prevention is very close to my heart and very important to me. The pro life student group actually protested the event

Andrew:  headdesk

Elsa:  It was one of the harder examples of “Deal with the screaming crazy people without stabbing someone” situations I’ve had to deal with

Andrew:  Wow. I can’t even imagine. Protesting AIDS Awareness is wrong on so many levels I just can’t… even…. but that’s awesome that you followed through on a cause so close to your heart

Elsa:  The fact that I managed to get the Vice President for Mission at a Catholic University to approve me MENTIONING CONDOMS during my talk was a miracle. And that is why they protested

Andrew:  That is, indeed, quite the miracle. I seem to remember reading in the past couple of years that even the Catholic church in Rome has slowly begun to make noises that maybe such things aren’t totally evil in all circumstances

Elsa:  YEP. Also, Pope Francis is almost reasonable on some matters

Andrew: There’s still a heck of a lot to disagree with, but he’s a breath of fresh air compared to Benedict

Elsa:  RIGHT? I’m not Catholic – I’m actually Jewish at this point. But having spent so much time in a culture of Catholicism I actually care deeply about progression and change

Andrew:  I mostly like Pope Francis for his focus on aiding the poor and the less fortunate, and the way he seems to focus on a lot of what Jesus actually said in that regard. I was raised Protestant Christian but I’m an atheist these days.

Elsa:  I married an atheist Jew, but I have faith so I ended up going to Temple

Andrew:  That’s cool. It must have been an interesting experience (sorry to overuse the word, but I mean it in a more positive sense than earlier)

Elsa:  Considerably more interesting, also hilarious

Andrew:  Heh heh. Ironically, I find being an atheist has made me more spiritual than I used to be. In that my own ideas and spirituality feels more internal and rooted in who I am, rather than something imposed by outside

Elsa:  SO, you’re writing your own beliefs

Andrew:  Sort of. I feel like I’m more interested in what might be than in what is. Religion, and different aspects of God, are more interesting to me as stories than as explanations.

Elsa:  Yeah, I minored in religious studies because religion is interesting to me. I find people fascinating

Andrew:  (Most people would call me agnostic, but I prefer “atheist” because agnostic implies that you think the deep truths are unknowable, and I’m not sure that’s the case)

Elsa:  Heh

Andrew:  Oh, totally. I love talking about this sort of stuff with people and hearing their thoughts and ideas. As long as they aren’t screaming them at me. I wrote a long blog post on that once that I sort of considered my “coming out” as an atheist, on stories and beliefs and the nature of what might be vs. what is

Elsa:  Link? I’d be curious to read it

Andrew:  Pretty sure I can find it… one sec

Elsa:  I’m curious how you feel about the skeptic community.

Andrew:  cue headsplode


Andrew:  I actually got involved in the skeptic and atheist community after I moved to Seattle a few years ago… looking for friends and community and the like. And that blog post was part of my reaction/eventual recoiling. It’s a completely cliche thing to say, but I see in the organized atheist/skeptic community a lot of the same things that drive me nuts about organized religion

Elsa:  TRUTH

Andrew:  Putting one’s own personal opinions/beliefs on a pedestal, and defending them with hardcore tenacity while discounting other people’s experiences and feelings, for one. Obviously it’s not everybody in the community (#notallatheists), but I just couldn’t stand the lack of empathy I saw from lots of people. The refusal to see things from other perspectives or recognize that other people have valid emotions and experiences.  I found I didn’t relate to much of the skeptic community. I like being independent, and finding my own way to various truths, which might occasionally include dabbling in things that skeptics would laugh at me for but that I find extremely intriguing (for example, I’ve taken a lot of classes in hypnotherapy)

Elsa:  I know a lot of people both in and out of the skeptic community feel the way you do about the pedestal thing

Andrew:  Part of why I love being a storyteller and creative person is empathizing with other people, in understanding their experiences and perspectives, and seeing certain things (like how that community treated some of the social justice-oriented folks in their midst) sent me running away

Elsa:  Yeeeaaaah

Andrew:  Which makes me sad. Part of why I call myself atheist is that I see so many asshats use the term, and I want to keep them from claiming it entirely

Elsa:  SRSLY

Andrew:  Nor do I particularly like the term humanist or freethinker, for various reasons. So yeah, I don’t know what I am. I’m just a writer.  Oh man, I could totally go off on another rant about how I hate labels, but that’s a whole other three-hour chat. So, what creative project are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?

Elsa:  Definitely Dead Scare. I think its going to be one of those games that makes people think, because I’ve designed it to push people to think in terms of morality and choice

Andrew:  That’s awesome. Good luck with it!

Elsa:  What about you?

Andrew:  Hmm. At the moment, it’s probably my photography. I’m working on a yearlong project where I try to make at least one photographic expedition to a Seattle-area landmark or event every week (you can follow it at And of course Nepal is coming up. For writing, I’m working on a steampunk novel that takes place in colonial Hong Kong called Noah’s Dragon. So I’m excited about that too, and I’m trying to squeeze it whenever I’m not working on photography.

Elsa:  This is my first con I’m going to WITHOUT my camera

Andrew:  What? A con without a camera? /recoils in horror But given your schedule, I can kind of see why

Elsa:  and also, that book sounds awesome

Andrew:  Thanks! It’s partly why I routed my return trip through Hong Kong.

Elsa:  Makes sense

Andrew:  Plus, there’s a British privateer captain in it who’s a mix of Mal Reynolds and Blackbeard, and she is hands-down my favorite character I’ve ever written into a story

Elsa:  Nice!

Fountain Pen Friday: Pilot Prera

Doods. This is my absolutely favorite pen. Aaron bought it for my birthday a year or two back and I really adore it. I don’t have a picture of it without ink because it was half-full when I went to write this entry.


Pilot Prera Clear Light Blue with items for scale

I don’t really feel comfortable carrying it with me all the time because I’d be absolutely heart-broken if I lost it.


It’s a lovely clear pen with clear blue accents, chrome, and an opaque pen cap inner sheath so errant drips of ink don’t muck up the look of the pen.

Pen in hand with cap on the back

Pen in hand with cap on the back

It’s really well balanced and is neither heavy nor light.


Pen in hand without cap.

Pen in hand without cap.

You can get one yourself in fine, medium or calligraphy nibs at Jet Pens or Goulet Pens

Write write writing along

Write write writing along

There’s something about this pen that just fits really nicely with my hand.


The Good

  • variety of nib options and color accents
  • firm snap-on cap – doesn’t dry out
  • nice smooth round grip
  • feels good to use

The Bad

  • can collect ink in the cap (though I personally haven’t had this problem)
  • requires a proprietary cartridge and converter
  • a little expensive for every-day carry

Overall grade: A

I really love this pen and use it all the time.


Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers


Lillian Cohen-Moore and Elizabeth Thorne

Part of this Ghosts in the IM thing is for me to get to know writers a little better. So for people I already know I decided to share the love and match them up with other writers I thought they should know better. Our first conversation is with two of my very good friends and devoted Beta Readers. They have similar senses of humor and both do a lot of health-related non-fiction writing, so it made a lot of sense to have them get to know each other a little better. I’m sure this will eventually cause me consternation when they gang up on me, but for now I’m very happy to bring you their conversation.

Lillian is a writer, editor, game designer, and  journalist. Her website is and she is very active on Twitter.

Elizabeth is a writer, actress, and voiceover artist. You can find out about her erotica at  and follow her on Twitter.

















Elizabeth Thorne:  Is it time to commence nerding? Well, joint nerding.

Lillian Cohen-Moore:  Yes!

 ET:  Excellent!

LCM:  It is sunny and the sky is full of lightning today. Oh, Seattle.

 ET:  The town that regularly thumbs its nose at weather physics. We have a delightful drizzle going. I just went for a walk in it and the cool water is a nice antidote to the hot sticky.

LCM:  I’m hoping the “rain” part of “rain and lighting and thunder” part arrives later. It tried its best this morning but it managed about 10 minutes of rain before it stopped.

 ET:  That was terribly inconsiderate of it

LCM:  Exactly!

ET:  Promise rain, deliver rain. Sadly, the weather gods do not offer refunds. Retribution, sure. Refunds? Never. Terrible customer service. To be fair, I rarely offer human sacrifices, so I probably can’t complain.

LCM:  Y’know, that seems to be a theme with deities in general. Human sacrifices or no.

 ET:  Its true. Human pantheons are far less responsive than most call centers, even bad ones.

LCM:  Truly, the tragedy of humankind. That and we created Twinkies.

 ET:  Both are eternal and eternally disappointing although I don’t think most gods have a creamy center. Not that I’ve checked.

LCM:  We should probably avoid that. Goodness only knows what would happen if you ate a deity.

 ET:  To be fair, I haven’t checked with Twinkies either. They’ve always scared me.If their powers are like prions? Terrifying

LCM:  Oh Lord. That’s fearsome in its awfulness to contemplate.

 ET:  Although it vaguely reminds me of the first season of Heroes

LCM:  I’m so glad I hadn’t made a cup of cocoa yet, I’d have dropped my mug. That first season was honestly terrifying. Going around eating people for their power.

 ET:  It was incredibly squicky, and I couldn’t stop watching. Half the time I wanted to hide under the table, but I couldn’t stop watching.

LCM:  I felt the same way. That first season was so good.

 ET:  Really effective storytelling. And then there was the second season… and I stopped watching.

LCM:  Yeeeah, I mic dropped around there too. It reminded me some of Continuum, with the strong first season, really uneven second season deal.

 ET:  I’m just starting the second episode of the second season of that!

LCM:  Well, Continuum would remind me of it, since it came after. OMG THAT SHOW I LOVE THAT SHOW


LCM:  eeeeeeeeee

 ET:  Warren kept telling me to watch it. Then I had to apologize to him when I finally did, because I wished I’d seen it sooner.

LCM:  I adore the first season so much. I thought it was interesting how they took so many typically male archetypes, and gave it to a female character. The former military turned cop, the spouse who just wants to get back to their family.

 ET:  I hate having to tell him he’s right :) That’s what I love about it too. She’s a strong protagonist who happens to be female. As opposed to a strong female protagonist.

LCM:  And she’s allowed to cry, which is a bonus.

Kiera’s really human, and well rounded, which is nice to see in sci-fi.

 ET:  Yup. She feels like a real person. Although I just started running a Bechdel test in my head I think the show passes, but not necessarily on an episode by episode basis.

LCM:  I think that’s forgivable in episodic format, though.

 ET:  Although there is the female tech officer as well, which helps. I think it is too. It feels like a very feminist show, in many ways. And you have female and male villains. People of color. Age variation in main characters. It’s a well rounded universe.

LCM:  It’s on my go-to list a lot lately, when people ask me what media I’ve seen that

captures a lot of the cyberpunk genre. It may not be as glitzy-neon as some cyberpunk, but I think it touches on a lot of the other elements.

 ET:  And the science in the fiction doesn’t usually make me glare at the screen. Which, to be fair, happens more with bio-based shows than technology shows. The one that came out last year, with the CDC in Alaska, made me want to strangle the authors. They started out with the classic epidemiology story about John Snow, and then the science quickly went downhill from there. Helix! It was called Helix.

LCM:  I’ve been doing some writing recently for a cyberpunk RPG, and when I explained where the tsunami and earthquakes in the setting came from to a friend who’s a planetary geologist she just breeeeeathed, looked up at the ceiling, exclaimed “THAT IS HIGHLY IMPROBABLE!”

 ET:  nod Highly improbable I can live with. It’s outright impossible that makes me nuts.

LCM:  Yes! I’m trying to think of the last impossible thing I watched.

 ET:  You can’t look at the structure of DNA at the scale at which they were looking at it and see sequence variations.

LCM:  Oh lord.

 ET:  Yeah. As I’ve aged into my science degrees, I’ve started to understand why my father, who was a laywer, could never watch legal dramas.

LCM:  I could imagine that’s a peculiar brand of hell.

 ET:  I can suspend my disbelief. I can’t leave it hanging in midair without a net.

Or a tether, which is more relevant to that analogy.

LCM:  Right. It’s so weird, though, that our estimation of the impossible is changing so dramatically the older we get. When I was a kid, I hoped for really cool science like on sci-fi shows, but figured we’d never get there. But I’m typing on a laptop, which seemed impossibly

beyond reach, in terms of tech and cost when I was 8.

 ET:  And Top Gear made hovercars! I mean, they didn’t work particularly well, but they made them. My mom and I decided a while back that, in the biological sciences, the technology to do something automatically takes 6 months less time than writing a thesis while doing it the hard way.

LCM:  That makes sense.

 ET:  Only because three of her students could have done the entire first 5 years of their Ph.D. research in the last 6 months when things like automatic sequencers became

available. I like to call them automagic.

LCM:  That’s a beautiful term. I’ve spent a lot of time with fiction and games work this year around my medical writing, and it feels…spooky? The march of technologic progress we’re seeing. I’m starting to feel like sci-fi RPGs are dress rehearsals.

 ET:  Yeah. It’s a little creepy sometimes how fast progress moves in medicine. The stuff we can do today is astounding.

LCM:  It feels a bit Pandoric. That sense that there’s no putting all this stuff back in the box, and we have to forgive out things in-process.

 ET:  And sometimes I read research papers and feel like I’ve stepped into a novel. We could certainly benefit from more projection out of the possible ethical implications of things.

Because while science fiction is good at evaluating how not all progress is good, we’re not as good at it in the real world. I spend a lot of time writing about the downsides of progress in cancer screening. Just because we can do things, doesn’t mean we should. However, as soon as the technology exists… Pandoric indeed.

LCM:  My first year as a reporter, I got put on a couple of health stories by the paper I was at. This was four years ago. When one of the women I was interviewing found out I was Jewish, she asked if I was going to get tested for BRCA mutations. And I was floored.

 ET:  That’s a rather personal question.

LCM:  Yeaaah. And outside that, deciding whether or not to go for that screening is a big decision. I don’t feel like I’d benefit from that decision, particularly since finding out isn’t exactly something that makes all that comes after easier. But I’ve interviewed women who got mastectomies after they came up with BRCA mutations in testing.

 ET:  Yeah. There’s a horrible radio show that airs out here that was talking about prophylactic double mastectomies after Angelina Jolie got hers. And while I think it can be a reasoned choice, for some women, I also think there are many women who don’t understand that mutation does not mean cancer.


 ET:  It’s hard to make good decision about risks even when you understand the science. There was a great NPR story the other day about making visual representations of health risks in order to help patients make better decisions.

LCM:  That sounds amazing.

 ET:  It’s a pilot program that they said they were hoping to roll out to broader populations. I thought it sounded brilliant. It shows that halving your risk isn’t that big a deal if your risk is already tiny. It sounds like an amazing thing, but numerically significant isn’t always life significant.

LCM:  Exactly.

 ET:  I also feel very strongly about the need to destigmatize the word cancer.

LCM:  I’d be relieved if we could get to that point.

 ET:  I’m now sitting here thinking about ways to use sci-fi to make cancer less scary.

LCM:  Be an excellent application.

 ET:  People choosing to inject themselves with an oncogenic substance because some fraction of them will also develop some interesting positive mutation. They’ll all get cancer, as well, but for many of them it will be entirely treatable. And then don’t focus the story on the few who die!

LCM:   :D That’s a story to put on your to-do list of acts of fiction to commit before you die.

 ET:  It’s such a weird to do list! And much of it comes from twitter. And weird conversations like this one.

LCM:  I think talking to people online is one of the best sparks for inspiration. If only because the chance at widespread new things hitting your brain is so much higher on the internet than most daily living.

 ET:  Oh yes. Anything to shake up the brain. Although having just added that to the list, and looked at the list, I’m reminded that perhaps my brain needs to be more shaken and less stirred. The downside of writing science fiction erotica is that the “erotica” parts makes some of the really bad ideas even worse. On the other hand, some of my favorite stories to write have come from some of the truly awful ideas. I like writing things that start out as a “no one in their right mind would write that” joke :)

LCM:  :  :)

 ET:  There may be a reason that Minerva and I are friends.

LCM:  It’s a good one. I met her because we were both in the same biopunk anthology.

The one where she ended the world with unicorns.

 ET:  I love that story!

LCM:  Me too!

 ET:  I’m going to have to go back and read your story now. I think I read hers under the table.

LCM:  I used implants and tailored viruses to network 3 people’s brains together, a bit like the psychics in Minority Report.

 ET:  Ooooh. Fun! I met her through Warren, who I met through twitter… although I can’t remember how.

LCM:  I’m actually writing for a game with a similar premise.

 ET:  RPG?

LCM:  Mark Richardson’s Headspace, it’s a tabletop RPG.

 ET:  I would totally play that

LCM:  You washed out of the soul-corrupting corrupt sector and band together with a few other top of their field operatives to form a “Headspace,” an implant driven connection that ties you all together, mind to mind, 24/7, to the point that you can even borrow skills. You also have to manage each other’s psychological traumas.

 ET:  Oh wow. That is both awesome and terrifying

LCM:  Right? It’s been amazing to write for. And a little scary, because of sections like “What does shared consciousness really mean?”

 ET:  I’m now thinking about cross wiring PTSD.

LCM:  Which can happen in Headspace!

 ET:  And how you could both benefit from shared resilience and get knocked out by sudden triggers. That would be really fun to play and horrible to live

LCM:  Exactly.

 ET:  I had a conversation just the other day about my utter lack of interest in being a telepath.

I can’t write telepathy or empathy without it turning into a horror story.

LCM:  I think I’d go crazy. I already make interview subjects feel bad when they talk about sad things and I get all sad-faced.

 ET:  I’ve started training as a therapist lately, and empathy management is hard!!!

LCM:  There’s a book for newsies on interviewing people who’ve been through trauma (Covering Violence) and sometimes I have to go back to it and take a deeeep breath because it’s so easy to feel so horrible for people!

 ET:  And yet, it burdens them in many ways.

Or, at least it can

LCM:  Yeah.

 ET:  I think only extroverts write happy telepathy stories


Water, Water Everywhere


Last week we talked about fire. So let’s assume your museum/house/secret lair has had a fire and now the fire has been put out. What is the majority of your clean-up activity going to be focused on? That’s right, dealing with water damage. I mean, the stuff that burned is gone baby gone, but the damp and soaked items? You can still lose them all if you don’t act quick. Other reasons you may have wet items to salvage in your museum/house/secret lair: Broken pipes, leaky roof, or a local flooding event.

Wet items have to be dried carefully in a controlled manner as quickly as possible to prevent mold and additional damage. Water-sodden items will be more fragile than normal and heavier than normal. Take care to stabilize items when moving them. DO NOT MOVE WET CARDBOARD BOXES WITHOUT STABILIZING THEM IN A WATERPROOF CONTAINER FIRST. You never know when the wet cardboard will give way damaging items and injuring people.

The first 24 hours are pretty crucial. You need to clean up as much water as possible. Use wet-vacs, pumps, and mops to get rid of as much water out of the area as possible. Items should be spread out to dry and rotated frequently to avoid damage.Try to get good airflow in your drying area by using fans to circulate air without pointing them directly at objects. If you have the misfortune to have a flood event involving contaminated water such as a broken sewage pipe or saltwater items will need to be rinsed prior to drying in containers of progressively cleaner water.

If you have too many items to process before they start drying, many kinds of items can be wrapped in clean paper and frozen to be processed later when you have more time and people. If you have more items than available freezer space, time, or people, it is crucial to call in professionals as soon as possible to prevent as much damage and loss as possible. Many salvage companies have industrial machines and access to freezers that can help immensely.


Dragon Drop Cocktail Test

  I might have taken this as a challenge. IMG_20140731_192116_487 Ingredients: Lemon Ginger Syrup Red Sugar Black Sugar Hot Monkey Pepper Vodka Yazi Ginger Vodka   Equipment: Shaker (or if you’re lame like me, an old plum wine bottle works fine too) Glasses Measuring shot bamboo skewer IMG_20140731_192800_538   Take the bamboo skewer and dip it into the ginger syrup. Drip drops of syrup on the inside of the cocktail glass. Once you have enough drips for your taste, sprinkle red sugar on the inside of the glass and roll it around so the syrup gets coated in sugar. Dump out excess sugar. Take a slice of lemon and rub it along the rim of the glass without disrupting the red sugar. Dip glass into black sugar. Oooooooo. Totally forget to take a picture of the finished glass. IMG_20140731_193308_206   Add ice to your shaker. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon. 2 oz of ginger vodka. 1 oz of hot pepper vodka and a generous helping of ginger syrup. Shake. Carefully strain into the very center of the glass. IMG_20140731_193355_658   Make a Bunneh intern taste it. IMG_20140731_193452_603(Bunneh intern did not enjoy it as it was sour and spicy) IMG_20140731_193812_048 Make another one and add a sugared lemon wheel. Enjoy.

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations With Writers

Caroline Ratajski


Caroline Ratajski is a writer, software engineer, and editor of Booklife Now. You can find her at on Twitter or Tumblr and on Inkpunks.

Minerva Zimmerman: You just got back from San Diego Comic Convention and omg I keep seeing your Robin cosplay everywhere!

Caroline Ratajski:  By “everywhere” do you mean “I follow you on social media”? ;)

MZ:  ComicsAlliance is not something I saw following you on Twitter

Caroline:  Oh really? Dang :)

MZ:  :P

CR:  Yeah, I was on ComicsAlliance. Which was rad. I love ComicsAlliance and I love their Best Cosplay Ever.

MZ:  Did you post Winter Soldier pics from the actual con? I only saw the test run

CR:  I got one. A friend found it for me. I do not do grumpyface very well, as it turns out :)

MZ:  hahahaha That’s a good thing and a bad thing. My grumpyface tends to look like Alan Moore for some reason

CR:  Well, I tried for grumpy, being The Winter Soldier and all, but it didn’t turn out.

MZ:  Did you have a good time? I haven’t been to SDCC since 2005

CR:  Oh gosh, you’ve missed the explosion then. It got HUGE all of a sudden in 2007.

MZ:  it was so big then! I can’t even imagine.

CR:  I had a good time. I like SDCC. Been going since 2002. I did cosplay, I got to be press for a panel, even got to film an interview with the creators of the Venture Bros. It was neat being in the little press pen at the front.

MZ: Did you have any tacos?

CR:  Oh my God I had SO many tacos.

MZ:  I miss California burritos and Chile Relleno burritos

CR:  You ever hit up Lolitas? I hear that’s the place to go for California burritos.

We went to Oscar’s in PB for fish tacos. The spicy grilled shrimp was off the goddamn chain.

MZ:  I like the little hole in the wall 24 hour places the cops eat pretty much if the cops are parked outside at drunk o’clock you know the food is awesome. I really really miss burritos

CR:  I love burritos. If you’re ever in SF you have to hit up El Farolito. Have you heard about the single-elimination burrito tournament?

MZ:  no. Tell me of burritos

CR:  Oh man. So, they set up divisions for the burrito-off. East, South, West, and California. California is literally its own burrito domain. And El Farolito is at the top of the California bracket, by a lot. I think Lolita’s was number three seed?

MZ:  /steeples fingers Reallly…

CR:  So they’re trying to find the best burrito in the country. Yeah. If it’s El Farolito, I’m going to feel so vindicated. When I first came here, I googled “best burrito in SF” expecting the results to be contentious as fuck. But the first page was like “No seriously El Farolito what are you even doing”

MZ:  Is it wrong to want to schedule vacation travel around burritos?

CR:  This sounds like a solid plan. Sounds like you need a road trip.

MZ:  Tell me about GISHWHES. I have never really figured this thing out other than people are super super excited about it

it’s a scavenger hunt?

CR:  Of sorts.

It stands for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.

Since it’s international, the challenges are more to build/craft/do crazy things on camera, and take photo/video of the thing.

Challenges are like… make a dinosaur out of sanitary napkins.

There’s always a sanitary napkin challenge.

MZ:   …I bet the winged kind are an advantage in dinosaur making

CR:  Or make a video showing a robot getting ready for work, then going to work, then at work doing its job.

MZ:  maybe I’m just still having residual middle-school church youth group photo scavenger hunt trauma?

CR:  Probably you were forced to do stuff you didn’t want to, with people you didn’t care for? Here, you build your team (although if you don’t fill your team, they fill it for you).

And you only do the challenges you want.

MZ:  is there a prize?

CR:  There’s the grand prize, which changes every year. It’s always a trip somewhere with Misha Collins. This year it’s a trip to Croatia.

Last year it was an island off Vancouver. Year before it was a haunted castle in Scotland.

MZ:  I have no idea who Misha Collins is

CR:   (Misha Collins is an actor also the guy who started GISHWHES) He plays a character on Supernatural.

MZ:  Why is Gishwhes important to you?

CR:  I like doing stupid shit.

I mean, it’s just a week of doing dumb stuff and getting out of your comfort zone and doing weird things.

Hanging out with your friends, building and crafting and filming and how does that not sound awesome?

MZ:  Do you think that’s caused you to write stories you wouldn’t have otherwise? (see how smooth that transition was?)

CR:   (hahaha)

I’m not sure. I guess I’m still trying to figure out myself as a writer, so I’m not sure how GISHWHES folds into that.

MZ:  learning new things about yourself, being outside your comfort zone?

CR:  Certainly any craft you do informs other craft, and I’ve learned video editing, which has helped me be more merciless with cutting extraneous stuff from my writing.

Like, yeah that’s a cool shot, but does it help with the narrative line?

These videos are only 30s long, so you have to keep it tight.

MZ:  /nod

you just finished a novel draft too

well, recently

CR:  Yes, I did, which was a real relief.

I need to always turn things in right before SDCC.

Makes for a much more relaxing con.

MZ:  :) it helps to have a hard deadline

CR:  Last year I got a crit on the first day of con.

Bad idea :)

me:  yeah, that would make for a cranky day

even when you agree with it

CR:  Which I did.

That almost makes it worse.

Because you realize how much work lays ahead of you.

Though that’s how I feel about this draft I just finished.

So much work.

MZ:  ugh. Yeah. That’s my least favorite part.

It’s still too early to do that work though, you need distance, especially on long fiction.

CR:  Yeah, I need to get it out of my head.

So I’m keeping sharp with writing exercises until another project shows up.

MZ:  any flash fiction come out of the exercises?

CR:  Nothing yet, but that would be nice :)

I took SDCC off, so I’ve only done one thing since returning.

I decided I deserved the treat.

MZ:  I keep trying to come up with ways to generate lots of flash and short fiction, but everything seems to turn into longer pieces right now. It’s frustrating me.

CR:  Ugh, yeah, I know that pain.

MZ:  I have a short piece I absolutely felt was “finished” that 100% of Beta Readers are like “This needs to be a novella”

CR:  You can sometimes throttle a bigger idea, but not always.


Well, hey, write a novella.

Market’s great for those, right? ;)

MZ:  hahaha, I’ve had pretty good luck actually

CR:  Oh really? That’s awesome.

You have to share your secret.

MZ:  though both of my published novellas were written for a specific publisher

er each was

so I haven’t tried to shop one that just came into being on its own yet.

It’s more that I’m just not done scuffing dirt and being mopey about it needing to be a novella yet

CR:  My fingers are crossed for you :)


CR:  See, this is a thing I wish more people understood about writing.

A lot of people feel like it’s a zero-sum game.

Like, if you sold your novella, that’s a novella I couldn’t sell, or something.

But really, if you sell a novella, that means there’s a novella market.

MZ:  Oh. No, that’s not how it works at all.

CR:  And that’s just wins all around.

MZ:  it’s like Mom’s and kids.

there’s not less love to go around.

CR:  Yeah, exactly.

MZ:  …well, I mean I suppose maybe mothers might love a clone of a child they already have slightly less, but that’s not really what we’re talking about

CR:  Speaking of clones, do you watch Orphan Black?

MZ:  I’m woefully behind on everything.

I haven’t even caught up on Season 3 of Korra yet!

CR:  I gave up on Korra at S2. I mean, S1 was okay but… the boycrazy BS was aggravating and the season needed to be twice as long. S2… I only made it four episodes in before I was just done. Though I hear good things about S3.

MZ:  they actually totally redeemed the boy crazy thing at the end of S2. I was pleasantly surprised

CR:  Apparently it’s Korra and Asami are Bros: The Show. Did they? Because holy cow, throw Mako in the trash.


**20 minute discussion of Korra S2 REDACTED cause SPOILERS takes place here**


CR:  I’m not opposed to relationship stuff or even girls being boycrazy

But it felt so counter to Korra’s character.

me:  I think you’ll be happy with how they eventually went with that.

CR:  Like, she could be naive about people, but she wasn’t so… destructive about it?

And Mako seemed to bring out that destructive side.

MZ:  it was a more realistic version of teen dating including horrible selfish decisions than I’ve seen elsewhere

MZ:  Any things you want to make sure we talk about? last statements?

CR:  IDK I want to fire off some parting advice but there’s so much advice to give and so little of it is universal, you know? I think the “it’s not a zero-sum game” thing is important. It’s a long haul, and the only way we get through it is by supporting one another.

MZ:  Yes. Only if you’re making exact clones does it even matter a little. As long as you’re writing your own stories, there’s going to be a place for them somewhere.

CR:  And even then, don’t make exact clones. Alter one of your clones so they really like doing the dishes or something. Laundry. Laundry’s a good one.

MZ:  Oooo wow

CR:  Make one of them really dig scrubbing tile.

MZ:  I need a dishwashing clone. RIGHT NOW.

CR:  Right?!

me:  Also one that makes me cake on demand

CR:  I want a me that does my housekeeping. Yes. Okay so writers, also get into genetics.

And lower your ethical standards. Is what we’re saying.

MZ:  My favorite SF books as a Kid were all about clones and robots.

CR:   (That is terrible advice, don’t do that.)

MZ:   (neither of us are suggesting you do that, unless you can really get us household chore clones like… yesterday. In which case, yes we totally are.)

CR:   (In which case, call me.)

Museum Monday: Fire Bad

Large_bonfireA lot of the things that cause deterioration in museums are things most people don’t think of as being destructive. Fire, on the other hand, is pretty easy to explain how it cause things to deteriorate. Quickly. Into non-things.

There have been at least two structural fires of off-site buildings that have destroyed items from my museum collections. I am still trying to determine WHAT items were in which locations that no longer exist. Both fires pre-date my tenure at the museum by decades. We’ve also had two almost fires while I’ve been there. A ventilation fan older than either of my parents ran out of lubrication one time and came very close to combusting, and an incandescent light fixture shorted and started smoking.

I also run into collection items like: strike anywhere matches, live ammunition, flammable liquids, and various potentially unstable chemicals, that could all be potential ignition sources. I’ve also had donors attempt to donate such items to the museum which has led me to craft a policy that if the US Postal Service won’t let you mail it, I can’t accept it for donation. There are two mindsets for potential ignition sources within existing collections. One is to isolate the items and remove all sources of oxygen and fuel, thus making it impossible to ignite. The other (and my preference) is to safely and legally dispose of the item. (NOTE FOR PEOPLE FINDING THIS PAGE OFF OF REALLY SCARY GOOGLE SEARCH QUERIES: Your local police department will assist you in disposing of old ammunition/gunpowder/etc. contact them via your local non-emergency number for information) I don’t get hazard pay and there are too many objects and not enough space/time/resources for me to safely store and monitor hazardous objects. Another object that can be a source of ignition or exacerbate fire situations is cellulose nitrate film. Now, clearly I’m not going to willy nilly get rid of all film I’m unsure of the chemical process of, but living in a very temperate climate our building is unlikely to reach the temperatures at which it combusts even if our HVAC fails in a power outage. Small desert climate museums may not have this luxury so these items should be kept in a cold storage situation to minimize the fire risk.

Arson is always a risk for any structure and special care not to leave combustibles in accessible locations outside the building is an important safety precaution.

Fire can also lead to smoke damage, and water damage due to sprinkler systems or fire fighting efforts. This water damage can even happen in areas not affected by the fire.  My building pre-dates sprinkler systems so we don’t have to worry about them activating when there’s smoke… on the other hand, holy crap we don’t have sprinkler systems… AHHHHHHHHHHH.

I try to maintain a good relationship with the Fire Marshal and assist the local fire department in having maps of our building, keeping our emergency exits clear, and alerting them to the location to any known hazardous collection items they might need to be aware of in a worst-case scenario.

Fire Bad. Prevention Good.

Fire Prevention Good. Bears Wearing Pants Bad.

Jinhao x450

Jinhao x450

Jinhao x450

I like cheap pens. I have quite a few of these Jinhao pens from China because they’re cheap. You can get them for less than $10 from Goulet Pens. But they’re fairly ubiquitous on ebay for even cheaper (new) or Amazon for more money.

items for scale

items for scale

I don’t know what to tell you. They aren’t what you’d expect. They don’t feel cheap. I don’t use them much. Not because they’re bad, they’re not. They write very very nice.

cap off

cap off

They’re REALLY sturdy pens. I… I kinda want to see what kind of materials you could shoot one through, with a crossbow. I realize that’s not a normal test of a fountain pen, but it is one of the things that goes through my mind with this pen.

it comes with a standard converter!

it comes with a standard converter!

The pens come with a standard converter included. I’ve had one of the converters not quite put together and had to fiddle with it, but it ultimately worked fine. I’m not sure I’d want to take one fully filled on a plane because I think it might be more prone to blurping ink, but I haven’t had a chance to test that.

Pen in the hand, no cap

Pen in the hand, no cap

It has an ergonomic ridged grip that’s relatively comfortable. The pen is HUGE. I don’t use these pens much because they are absolutely gigantic and heavy. If that’s your thing, you’ll LOVE these pens.

Pen in hand with cap on back. I absolutely can not write with the pen in this configuration because of the weight.

Pen in hand with cap on back. I absolutely can not write with the pen in this configuration because of the weight.


The Good

  • cheap enough and solid enough to mess around with customization of the nib if that’s your jam
  • variety of styles
  • firm snap-on cap
  • ergonomic grip
  • well-balanced without cap
  • nice smooth writer
  • standard cartridge and converter
  • may possibly be able to be used as a crossbow bolt in a pinch

The Bad

  • huge
  • heavy
  • short cap insert leads to ink residue
  • this pen is exhausting for me to use and tires the ligaments in my hand I have the most problems with.

Overall grade: C

I like cheap pens but I have tiny hands. If you like big pens and you can not lie… these are the pens for you.



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