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 http://www.geardrops.net/ 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.


Ghosts In the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Berit Ellingsen


Berit Ellingson is a Korean-Norwegian who writes haunting fiction such as The White. Her novel The Empty City has also been published in French as Une Ville Vide. You can find more at her website http://beritellingsen.com/ and follow her on Twitter.


Minerva Zimmerman

You and I shared my very first anthology appearance TOC in Growing Dread

Berit Ellingsen

That’s awesome!!! I didn’t know that was your first antho!

MZ: and I immediately followed everyone on Twitter and have been following you ever since

BE: thanks so much :)

MZ: I know from Twitter that you’re very science-oriented, have two cats, live in Norway, and are a pretty hardcore gamer

BE: Not sure if hardcore is the right word :D but I enjoy gaming and have worked as a game reviewer. Now I just write the occasional essay about games. And I work as a science writer during the day, writer at night. :)

MZ: you’re headed on an arctic expedition soon? Am I remembering that right?

BE: Yeah, a short trip to Svalbard in the Arctic and Longyearbyen, the biggest settlement there, it’s like a small Norwegian town.

MZ: while it’s still summer?

BE: Oh yes, because it’s summer up there too, about 8 Celsius, which is the same temperature as late fall/early spring here. Much better than when it’s 20 below freezing in Svalbard.

MZ: I very much want to visit various arctic areas in the summer, there’s just something about that environment that appeals to me

BE: I hope you have the chance to go there. The landscape is unique, and the air very clear because it’s cold and dry and still relatively unpolluted.

MZ: I think it’s the openness while still having so many secretive pockets. I’d love to go to Alaska, and do a Scandinavian tour

BE: Alaska sounds wonderful! Wide open spaces, fjords, and mountains, wild life etc. Most of Scandinavia resembles Washington/British Columbia, a bit more northern than OR.

MZ: Yeah, I grew up in Seattle and come from a Scandinavian background. Plus my family used to own a salmon cannery in Alaska

BE: Really? That is so cool! They don’t own it any more? I remember you mentioning traditional Scandinavian baking on twitter. So cool you’re continuing the tradition. :)

Did your family speak Scandinavian?

MZ: No, they sold it when I was very small. And my family is 3rd/4th generation so there’s not much language that’s hung on. A few words and things, but no fluency.

BE: Then your family must have been among the first waves of immigrants, in the mid-to-late 1800s. Language would be hard to hold onto after such a long time. The written language might not be too hard to pick up for English-speakers, many similar words and somewhat similar grammar.

MZ: I personally find it fascinating what things have been passed down and how culture changes. Yes, I can read a lot, plus I also took German in school. Definitely not 100% though, maybe 60% at most. Enough to get the general idea of what a Tweet or webpage is about. I am super good at reading food labels though :D

BE: That should make it easier. Did you see the study about half a year back where some scientists claimed English was more similar to Norse and might have taken in more Norse words than they did from Northern German, which was assumed to be the “root” language till now?

MZ: I didn’t see the study, but I completely believe it. It would make the weird grammar bits of English make more sense

BE: Yeah, the similarity in grammar and sentence syntax was one of their arguments.

MZ: I know the word “knife” has always been something we’ve said funny in our family as a homage to our background

BE: How do you say it?

MZ: like “Kah-nif”

BE: heh heh heh, that sounds Scandinavian, yes. :)

MZ: not like properly pronounced in either language, but garbled on purpose :P

BE: hybrid is good :)

MZ: Oh, I wanted to talk to you about themes in your writing. I mean this is a writer chat, I suppose we should talk a little about it :D

BE: :D Language is a part of it ;)

MZ: I’ve also noticed there’s a very stylistic almost desolation or emptiness in a lot of your work. Like I almost always imagine wide open emptiness in your various settings.

BE: Glad to hear that comes across. I like to think that comes from the open landscape I’m used to here, and also a little from zen or East-Asian art, which I like (but am by far no expert on).

MZ: It feels very deliberate not an absence of description, but purposeful emptiness

BE: Oh and also, maybe a tiny bit of it is inspired by Scandinavian minimalist design.

MZ: I personally find, at least in the US Scandinavian communities there’s this strange mix of minimalist design and warm clutter

BE: Stylistically, I think what’s not said or not said directly can be as important as what’s spelled out, like the use of negative space in minimalist design and East-Asian art.

Heh heh oh yeah, I know what you mean with warm clutter. That’s like the other end of the design spectrum. Fashion designers Moods of Norway have used that to their advantage, a sort of warm, rural clutter :)

MZ: it doesn’t seem like they could work together, but it seems to!

BE: It does, strangely enough.

MZ: Are there other themes you find you revisit in your writing?

BE: Apart from landscapes and silence, the natural world seems to come up a lot, especially in the two novels I recently completed. Animals, plants, the stewardship of those, but also space, research, technology.

MZ: are you self-publishing them?

BE: I’ve wanted to write fiction set in space, as I mentioned to a friend, not just science fiction in a distant future, but our present, which is becoming a little like sci-fi.

I’m trying to find a publisher for the novels. If I can’t find that, I’ll self-publish them.

MZ: near future sci-fi is near and dear to my heart

BE: Like Gravity?

MZ: I love taking the cutting edge technology and extrapolating how it will change in a very short period of time

I haven’t seen that yet, our local movie theater closed down. I meant more in fiction than movies though. My novella Copper takes place not too far in the future and is a world recognizable to us now.

BE:  That extrapolation is great for science fiction indeed

I must ask this: Why is it called Copper? Peak copper?

MZ: :) the word has many meanings in the story, mostly it is because they are using the old technology of copper phone lines to circumvent government monitoring

BE: Ahh, old-fashioned landlines. :) Or even telegraph?

MZ: modems! :)

BE: :) wow! I remember those. A lot of waiting for pages to load. :D

MZ: and the screeching!

BE: :D yes! Our current world is indeed a little like science fiction.

MZ: How do you think being a science writer changes what you write in fiction?

BE: I think it’s made me interested in bringing in issues and themes such as the natural world and the existence outside of human cities and human culture. I’m not a hard SF writer, though, I haven’t been inspired by physics and mathematics to such a degree. It also makes me aware of current news, and what research actually reaches the news.

MZ: I will admit I dislike the term “hard” relating to SF

BE: It’s certainly a bit of artificial separation

MZ: especially when no one can decide if biology is hard or not

BE: ha ha ha, so true! Saw that conundrum in a recent discussion about the project that’s currently mapping the neurons in the human brain.

MZ: it is SO true about what research makes the news though. I mean think about research relating to only one gender or a small population of people.. it’s rare for amazing breakthroughs in certain things to get any kind of notice at all

BE: So true. When it happens it does so bc of a concerted effort of publication specifically towards the media and the top media. I guess it’s similar to most other current affairs, what gets the world’s attention and what doesn’t. The imbalance of representation.

That’s why I think the debate about representation going on in writerly circles these days is very good.

MZ: Yes. It’d be good for it to extend to science publications too.

BE: Indeed. I saw some reports last year about how female scientists are presented and highlighted in media vs their male colleagues. One female was presented as being a good mother and good cooks, despite primarily being a top scientists.

MZ: I think some scientists could use better PR too, a lot of the time they assume the research will be important enough to spread far and wide, when a lot of the time it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grants and publicity.

BE: So true! Science needs to alert publicity and the media too.

MZ: I know in Archaeology it’s talked about as “National Geographic Archaeology” and “The important stuff”

BE: :D

MZ: cause if you’re lucky enough to get a digsite that will appeal to a NatGeo photographer and lots of full page pictorials, it’s easy to get continued funding and permits.

BE: Those NatGeo articles are lovely, though, and I’m sure they can be “Important Stuff” too.

MZ: But… so few of what actually give us amazing information also appeal to super glossy color pictures

I mean, fossilized human poop is fascinating

BE: :D

MZ:…but I don’t expect two page spread of it any time soon

BE: There was a news story about that some weeks ago. Something about early humans and their waste. Lovely. I actually didn’t read it.

MZ: lots of exciting work going on in Oregon about that right now :)

BE: :D Really? I guess it can tell lots of things about nutrition = food = culture.

MZ: the arid desert regions are full of caves that were used by early humans to North America so they’re finding lots of preserved things they don’t normally find, shoes and stuff too

BE: Soft objects, that’s nice.

MZ: Well, I probably shouldn’t keep you up all night :) Is there anything else you want to make sure we talk about?

BE: I should probably say that not only science, but also ecology, climate change, and the not too distant present are also themes in my current work. Difficult themes, but I’ve felt it was important to write about.

It goes back to my education as a biologist and the surprise of actually living in a time of a biological mass extinction.

MZ: It is not an easy thing to accept, no.

BE: It seems like it’s not happening bc we don’t see it from day to day or notice the species being gone, but it is happening and we seem to be doing little about it.

I heard that 40% of the Norwegian bird species, just common birds that used to be everywhere in the country, are now approaching an unhealthy status. That’s unsettling.

MZ: it does seem to be happening slower in middle latitudes, so maybe that’s why people aren’t paying as much attention?

BE: It’s not just in the Amazon or Africa or the Antarctic, but in the temperate zones and near where humans live.

Yes, that’s probably part of the reason why, it’s happening gradually and slowly, or relatively slowly, and we don’t see it directly, so it’s easy to forget or overlook.

MZ: like the lobster slowly being cooked to death

BE: :D sadly, yes.

I saw one scientist in a fairly recent climate documentary say that it’s like we’re approaching a cliff, but we’re making few attempts at steering away from it.

driving towards a cliff, I mean.

MZ: I guess all we can do as writers is try to bring attention as we can

BE: Indeed. That’s why writing the recent novels have felt so important. I agree, that’s what we can do.


Adversary: Confusion



Have you ever lost your keys? I know I have. Probably a few times a week on average. Well, maybe that’s not a great example, because we use our keys all the time and tend to carry them around. Have you ever gone looking for something where you thought you knew exactly where it was but you hadn’t actually looked for it in a few months and when you went to where you remembered it being, it just wasn’t there?

Yeah… well, I hate to say this, but this happens in museum collections too. Less often than in my normal every day life, but often enough. See, there is a written record of where everything should be… but it’s dependant on someone actually updating the records as things get moved. Luckily for me, one of my predecessors was fairly anal about updating records… but if the object was moved in the time after their tenure, I often have to make an educated guess as to where it might have ended up. After working at the museum for six years, my educated guesses have gotten a lot better. There’s this thing called “institutional knowledge” which is the memory of staff and volunteers. Institutional knowledge can be the thing that saves your bacon when you just can’t make heads or tails of the cryptic note left in the catalog.

People move objects around. Sometimes it can be as simple as needing to move an object to get to another object and forgetting to put it back in place. It can be more catastrophic when records are “going to be” updated by a staff member who… suddenly stops coming to work with no explanation and now no one knows what they were working on, where their notes are, or how to go about picking up the pieces.

If I got hit by a bus right now, my coworkers would be taking my name in vain for YEARS. My paperwork and records are nowhere near up to date. Everything works FINE as long as I’m there… but if anyone else had to figure it out… Ooof. So I’ve shifted my schedule to be at the museum on Mondays when it’s closed so I can dedicate a full day to nothing but updating records and cleaning house.

I’m hoping to get everything up to date in a few weeks, so wish me luck!

Fountain Pen Friday: Monteverde Artista

I haven’t been using pens as much the past couple weeks. You see, my outside chest freezer got all rusty and I needed to put rust-eating spray paint all over it. No Big Deal. Well… So, it turns out that you really shouldn’t spend the better part of an hour pressing your finger down with hard constant pressure. I originally thought the numbness was due to being covered in paint, but it turns out I (hopefully temporarily) damaged the nerve endings. It is getting better, but slowly. I’ll be buying a spray grip for any future spray painting though.


This week’s pen is the Monteverde Artista Crystal with a medium nib (Goulet Pens, Jetpens, Amazon). This is a slightly pricier pen than previous weeks, but we’re still talking about mid $30 range. My (as always, terrible) pictures don’t do it any justice. It is a fully clear pen with chrome accents. It also comes in a number of clear colors, but I like the crystal.

Pen in pieces, freshly cleaned.

Pen in pieces, freshly cleaned.

items for scale

items for scale

The Artista has a weighted screw-on cap and uses standard cartridges and converters. The cap is designed to let you see the nib even when the cap is on. My only gripe about this is that the cap insert is very short (so as to not hide the nib and ink residue can get stuck between the insert and the cap. It’s a really nitpicky gripe and doesn’t affect the pen’s operation in any way. It just means my cap is no longer entirely clear, I have a little purple residue from inks past I’ve been unable to fully clean out.

Pen in hand cap on

Pen in hand cap on

If you like a more substantial feeling pen, just put the cap on the back and the weighted cap will oblige you.

Pen in hand no cap

Pen in hand no cap

If you’re like me and prefer a lighter pen, just omit the cap for an equally wonderful writing experience. The nib on this pen writes… just wonderfully. It isn’t exceptionally fast, but so smooth and an absolute trooper. I almost never have to fiddle with this pen.

Writing sample

Writing sample

The Good

  • very very clear
  • solid, well-made
  • gorgeous
  • writes smooth and steady
  • adjustable pen handling due to weighted cap
  • standard cartridge and converter

The Bad

  • hard grip
  • screw on cap (though the threads are high enough not to dig into my fingers)
  • short cap insert leads to ink residue

Overall grade: solid A

This is a pen that constantly comes back into my rotation and I know I can count on.

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Amanda C. Davis



Why should you know Amanda? Well… go read her story Shimmer, and then you can tell me. She is one of the people I wish I lived close enough to that I could show up outside her kitchen window holding out my empty bowl like Oliver whenever she bakes. You should also check out her website (There’s more fiction links there!) and follow her on Twitter.


Minerva Zimmerman

Well, I suppose the first thing is to establish how we know each other

Amanda C. Davis

Let me see. I’m sure I got to know you on Twitter, but I’m pretty sure we were in a TOC together?

MZ: Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed, I think

AD: That’s the one

I actually log all my TOCs in this big spreadsheet

MZ: I don’t remember if we followed each other before that TOC or not on Twitter

AD: so I can just search it for anyone and see what we’ve been in together.

I think before, honestly.

MZ: I think so too

AD: One of those things where our circles overlapped.

MZ: Yeah, it’s weird how that happens

AD: Sometimes I follow Clarion grads just to get in on the ground floor. :)

MZ: I’m not much of a workshop person.I found I don’t actually like workshopping in general

AD: Ah!

MZ: I just found it isn’t as useful for me, personally

AD: Is it better online? I prefer to get written crits rather than verbal ones. Possibly because it’s easier for people to be vague out loud than on paper.

MZ: I prefer one on one crits with someone I know and knows me at least tangentially, rather than the workshop format

AD: Gotcha

MZ: I have really awesome Beta Readers

AD: I’ve never gotten crits from someone I didn’t know at least in passing. Not sure how that would work for me.I’ve always had great crit partners at hand, I’m very lucky. My sister, first and foremost.

MZ: is your sister also a writer?

AD: I’m thinking about that a lot lately, actually, because I’ve been brushing shoulders with some writers in their teens lately, wondering–how can I help them without hurting them? What kind of guidance gets them through this stage into the next one?

My sister Megan Engelhardt is also a writer. We co-wrote our collection, Wolves and Witches.

Available at e-retailers everywhere. ;P

MZ: :) My youngest brother is my first reader, so I do like working with siblings

though he’s 15 years younger, so we don’t have the same childhood experiences

AD: My sister and I are only two years apart, so our experiences are VERY similar. It’s good and bad in that we can usually tell what each other is trying to get at, but we might both miss the same things. And rivalry is a thing. :)

MZ: did you read the same books?

AD: Haha, we did to the extent that we let each other touch them. One or two prized books, we negotiated signed contracts. Not perfect overlap, though. More like a Venn diagram.

MZ: I bet family trips to the library were fun

AD: We had a bookmobile.

MZ: did your parents have to negotiate cease fires over who got a book first?

AD: We lived in the country, so every…month? I’m not good with time. This van full of books would park by the post office and we’d do our librarying there. Not over that! We were both fast enough readers that we could both get to the same book within hours.

The entire family warred over Goblet of Fire, though.

MZ: Oh, I remember fighting my mom over that one

AD: So my sister and I have been reading each other’s manuscripts since elementary school, easily.

MZ: Do you have other Beta Readers you use too?

AD: It depends on the project. I have a great local group that sees a lot of my short stuff, especially if we all write to the same prompt, and they’ve seen one novel. Then there’s this whole network of Internet friends who’ve seen various trunk novels, or who will be called to service sometime this year, I swear. Heads up, guys!

A lot of the time, shorter pieces will only go through Megan, or just myself.

MZ: How do you go about writing short fiction pieces? Do you go from prompts mostly?

AD: Most of my short fiction has been to prompt, or for an upcoming theme.

Deadlines are a big part of my motivation. If I just get an idea I want to write, it usually hangs back in my brain until I have something to apply it to, if that makes sense.

MZ: I think my short fiction generally starts with: Step 1: First you get a Deadline

AD: Haha, I feel that. :)

MZ: I don’t seem to finish things without deadlines as much

AD: It just helps focus my priorities.

MZ: yes, exactly!

AD: There aren’t a lot of stories I care about so deeply that they go to the top of the list. There’ve been a few. Mostly, knowing someone out there wants a specific thing is enough to float a project.

Do you remember that time I went crazy over motivation/encouragement profiles?

MZ: I will admit I focus more on your food projects

AD: Fair enough. :P

MZ: I’m more likely to remember things that make me drool for whatever reason

AD: Let me grab you a blog link. (I just made two batches of cherry jam. AWESOME.)

MZ: Did you get the big counter mounted pitter?

AD: Oh no, I did it with a paring knife and my right thumbnail. Between the dark juice and the cuts I look like I was in a knife fight. There we go: http://amandacdavis.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/writers-whats-your-motivation-encouragement-profile/

MZ: holy cow, that’s hardcore cooking

AD: Long blog post short, I think certain kinds of writers are mostly driven by deadlines, and we are definitely two of them. So we might as well embrace what works for us.

MZ: I think I’d say that while I can be socially driven, it doesn’t result in published work

not the way deadlines do it still results in work, but just not of the type that is immediately publishable

AD: Ah, got it. Is the goal then to show it to someone else?

MZ: but that’s really important for getting through a longer fiction piece

AD: That’s interesting. Maybe deadlines work better for short pieces because it’s one and done, but if you have crit partners, getting chapters to them can be that immediate gratification you don’t get if you save a whole novel to send out.

MZ: right, cause I still need the motivation to keep going sometimes and crit partners provide that

what I’m having trouble motivating is editing longer pieces

AD: Oh, you are singing my blues right now. Have you successfully done it? Edited a full, long piece to the point where it wasn’t going to get better without professional help?

MZ: I mean, I know how to fix stuff and what I need to do, but can I afford to stop publishing short fiction for a long period of time? Plus there’s a lot of do a lot of work and then hurry up and wait to be rejected which is hard to force yourself to do.

I’ve done novella length, but not novel that’s the next hurdle.

AD: The short-term rewards are so hard to give up! :D You write a piece, you ship it out a couple times, it sells or it doesn’t, it’s over.

MZ: Oh no. I am a short fiction addict.

AD: Three years on a novel? I want to claw my face off.

MZ: /wrings hands/

AD: Haha, this is what happens when you talk writing to me, I just gripe about the novel for one million years.

Let’s talk about how much we edit our short pieces instead!

MZ: Ha, Ok. Have you ever had a piece that seems cursed?

AD: There’s something James D. Macdonald said on Absolute Write once, that I thought was smart, comparing a short story to a key lime pie: if it doesn’t bake up right, you just have to make another one. That’s how it tends to work for me. I’m much, much more likely to scrap a story than significantly rework it.

MZ: Yeah. Sigh. I once had a class with a guy who said one smart thing ever in my hearing (the rest of what he said had to do with how he was a reincarnation of either Jesus Christ or the Devil’s Son) about how some stories are just meant to become compost for new ones.

AD: That sounds about right, yeah. (The last part.)

And sometimes I can see the links between stories, chronologically, where I (apparently without realizing it) took a second shot at something I did in a previous story.

Oh boy, though, doesn’t it suck to throw away something that’s about 90% right!

MZ: Yeah, I’m still not convinced this one I’m struggling with isn’t fixable which is what is killing me right now.

AD: Have you ever managed to work through something like that?

Fixing it to your satisfaction years later?

I have two right now I’m hoping to pull that trick on.

MZ: Yes, but usually when the problem was that I wasn’t a good enough writer yet.

AD: I may have only done it once.

I’m curious, what specifically did you improve at, before you could fix the story?

And would a really good crit have helped you along faster, or do you think you had to get to that point at your own pace?

MZ: Well, partly was that I had the wrong crit partner for a long time.

AD: Ouch!

MZ: Like, I was learning a lot, but we were never going to see eye-to-eye on certain things because I’d have to destroy my voice to get them to where they were trying to get me. I just know myself and my writing and my voice better now. I know what things to ignore now.

AD: Being able to play your own instrument, rather than learn someone else’s?

MZ: Right, it was like trying to learn acoustic guitar for years when you really wanted to play electric.

AD: That’s funny. I’ve had my crit partners long enough that for a lot of them, I can recognize things that will bother them to death that I’m just not going to stop doing, so I can take that crit for what it’s worth. :)

MZ: and to take that analogy further, I have really tiny hands so I couldn’t do the fingering correctly

AD: And then if I spot that kind of thing in their work, I know they’ll want me to point it out.

I was thinking violin and tuba, but tomato-tomahto. :)

MZ: I was at least in the same instrument family :)

AD: So, but do you think voice is really what makes or breaks a piece?

MZ: Mmmm… it can

AD: I feel like it’s important and valuable, but not strictly essential.

MZ: but I think more importantly it is something that can trump other problems

AD: She said, as a devoted hack.

Ooh! Like what?

MZ: like if it is wrong it doesn’t matter how right the rest of the story is, and if it is right it can make up for a lot

AD: Ah, okay, I’ll buy that.

I think there’s room for it to be “just fine” too, unremarkable, and the story can still work.

MZ: I think you can still have an excellent story with middling voice.

AD: Yeah.

MZ: You just can’t have an excellent story with terrible voice.

AD: Unless that’s the point. :D

MZ: And excellent voice prevents a story from being truly horrible

AD: I agree with all of that!

*high fives*

MZ: *high five*

Is there anything else you want to make sure we talk about?

AD: Nothing in particular!

I’d be happy to do it again sometime.

MZ: I’m hoping this is something that catches on. I want newer writers to understand how writers network and actually talk and how things happen.

that it isn’t some crazy conspiracy

AD: Hahahaha

(continues laughing)

(still laughing)

MZ: we just overlap and enjoy talking about stuff!

AD: What we do is, we slave away in solitude, going quietly crazy

and then get together and just complain about it for HOURS.

MZ: and trade recipes

the recipes are very important

AD: Well yes, and that. :)

The thing that Twitter has really taught me about networking

is how it’s really all about mutual interest and impressing each other.

I follow people who are funny, they follow me back if they think I’m funny.

MZ: Right. I don’t follow people back who just post links to their stuff and their blogs. I follow people who talk to other people.

AD: Writers follow each other when they share a TOC, or a favorite genre or topic, or just an interest. It’s the number one best way to find new markets, support, and awesome people!

MZ: TOC are a major way I’ve ended up following people

AD: Same here.

MZ: cause it means we generally write about the same sorts of stuff

AD: People who got into things I failed to get into. :)

Plus, it’s a conversation starter. And something to bring to cons to get signed.

MZ: Yes. I really like following people with different interests who feel very passionately about them

AD: Same! I’ve learned fantastic things by watching people gush about them.

Have you tried baking macarons, perchance? ^_^

MZ: Not yet, I’m still intimidated!

AD: Don’t!

MZ: But my brother is staying with us at least for the summer, and he adores cooking things, so we might try it together

AD: Haha, it’s like submitting stories. What’s the worst thing that happens? You fail? Come on.


MZ: Well, right now the worst thing would be eating an entire batch of macaroons :)

AD: You are confusing “worst thing” with “best thing” :D

MZ: probably :)

My Adversary: Apathy




If you can’t make people care about objects and the culture they represent, you can’t save them. You can preserve them, but you can’t save them. To make people care, you need a story. When the objects don’t come with a story of their own, it has to be hunted down and attached to the object like Peter Pan’s shadow. 

This is a gross oversimplification, but a lot of objects come to museums when their owners can no longer care about them due to death, illness, or no one in subsequent generations will care about them so the current owner goes looking for a new custodian. Most of the time objects come to the museum after someone has died or as someone is sorting out their belongings after a health scare. It’s not 100% of the time, but it is the vast majority. I do a lot more grief counseling than you’d imagine in a given year. I was lucky in that my first boss was also a chaplain so I had a good role model and assistance when I needed it as I was getting my footing. 

I give the donors an opportunity to tell me the stories (if any) that accompany the items. I wish I could tell you that the majority arrive with a story, but they don’t. Usually all I get is the name of a previous owner and a brief description of how they believe it was used. Sometimes that’s all that gets recorded and then it goes into storage. If the object inspires curiosity I will attempt to go all history detective on its ass. About 2 out of 3 times I turn up no further information or hit dead ends. But that third time I hit pay dirt and discover a story I can tell using the object to inspire the public to care about the object and its story. 

Objects that come with stories are the most valuable objects in any museum collection. A museum without stories is just a building full of stuff. 



Noodler Creaper Flex


Ooo a box

This week’s pen is the Dec 25th Creaper Flex by Noodler’s. I’ve been a huge fan of Noodler’s inks but this is my first Noodler’s pen. I bought this on sale at Goulet Pens and they don’t seem to have this particular color  at the moment but if you go check them out there are plenty of other colors.

There's a pen in the box!

There’s a pen in the box!

There's also an informative paper about the pen, how to fill it, use it, and replace its gasket.

There’s also an informative paper about the pen, how to fill it, use it, and replace its gasket.

I had read that the Creaper Flex are pretty small pens, so I was excited to get one to try out the size for my hands.

Pen in the hand.

Pen in the hand.

I can see how this might be a bit uncomfortable to use if you have larger hands as the barrel is really quite narrow, but it feels pretty good in mine.


I can see myself using this pen quite a lot in my pen rotation. It is fairly light, feels good to write with and its narrow width makes it particularly good fit for my hand.


This is a piston fill pen, which is filled a little differently.

To fill, you unscrew the back while it is dipped in ink.

To fill, you unscrew the back while it is dipped in ink.

Like so.

Like so.

The Good

  • comes in various styles and colors
  • replaceable parts
  • narrow barrel
  • writes nice
  • light without the cap but not flimsy feeling

The Bad

  • hard grip
  • no cartridge option
  • threads for the cap tend to dig into my finger

Overall grade: B+

I kind of want more than one of these pens because the narrow grip is really nice for me, but I wish the threads were just a bit higher up on the pen.



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