Monteverde Poquito

 

 

 

 

Today’s pen is the Monteverde Poquito (Available at Goulet Pens)

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Monteverde Poquito

Christie sent me this pen thinking that I’d love it… and she was right!

Monteverde Poquito cap off

Monteverde Poquito cap off

It’s entirely metal so it feels super sturdy. There’s a stylistic point at the top of the cap that looks a little weird to my eye, but I figure it might just be in case you need to use this pen in hand to hand combat to take out an enemy with a temple shot.

Club Card shown for scale.

Club Card shown for scale.

The pen isn’t heavy but it has a really pleasing weight to it. The cap snaps on with the absolutely most satisfying click noise. It is hard not to fiddle with this pen when you carry it.

Pen in hand with cap

Pen in hand with cap

It is an adorable little pen with a metallic, almost holographic nail polish sort of color.

 

Pen in hand no cap

Pen in hand no cap

I really enjoy how Monteverde nibs write, so I find it lovely to write with.

Pen Test

Pen Test

Pen Test 2

Pen Test 2

 

The Good

  • cute!
  • nice smooth grip
  • standard cartridges
  • lovely to write with
  • sturdy with a nice weight to it
  • satisfying click noise putting cap on

The Bad

  • can’t stop fiddling with it – very tactile
  • pretty sure this is going to feel small to a lot of people who are not me
  • some converters may not fit (haven’t tried the one Christie sent with it yet, but I assume it will work eyeballing it)

Overall Grade: A

This pen hasn’t left my notebook since I put ink in it about five days ago. There’s just something about this pen that makes me want to pick it up and use it. If you like small pens I highly recommend picking this one up. (And if you don’t believe me you can go watch the video over at Goulet Pens about it http://www.inknouveau.com/2014/10/monteverde-poquito-quick-look.html)

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Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Andrea Phillips

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Andrea is a multi-faceted storyteller. You can learn more about her at http://www.deusexmachinatio.com/ You can read her work at http://lucysmokeheart.comhere and she can be found on Twitter.

 

Andrea Phillips: :D

Minerva Zimmerman: Pirates. I wanna talk about pirates.

AP: ARRRRRRRRRR

MZ: You have a series of short novels about a pirate captain and I’m curious what it is about pirates that drew you? I mean obviously pirates are awesome, but what it is it in particular for you?

AP: Actually “pirates are awesome” is exactly it. I wanted to do a longer-term project for reasons of discipline and possibly revenue stream, funded on Kickstarter. So when you go to Kickstarter, you have to consider what it is that you’re good at, and what it is that The Internet likes and might potentially be into backing even if they don’t know you *personally* So I literally made a list titled “things that are awesome”

MZ: :D

AP: It was like: Ninjas, pirates, zombies, games…

MZ: I’m with you on everything but zombies

AP: I’m not sure why “pirates” is the one that stuck. This name Lucy Smokeheart kinda popped into my head, and I thought it was super hokey and planned to change it later. But it turns out it was hokey in the I-secretly-love-it way and not the this-is-seriously-just-a-placeholder way

MZ: I do love it when that happens. I have a pirate character named Lawless McCord.

AP: That is ALSO AWESOME. How piratey are your pirates?

MZ: and there’s actually an in-world reason for it and everything.

AP: Because the funny thing about pirates is mostly they’re not… actually… particularly piratey at all?

MZ: Pretty piratey. He’s a privateer for the Emperor

AP: Wow, exciting!

MZ: so, I guess he’d never consider himself a pirate.

AP: My pirates are a sort of Disney super sanitized version of piracy. No actual pirating ever occurs. It’s all socialist lizard-people and enormous chocolate sculptures all up in here :)

MZ: That’s pretty awesome

AP: I mostly aim to amuse myself and have a good time with it, though that can be hard sometimes

MZ: I hear you’re knee-deep in revising your novel Revision these days. Does that ever get inception-y?

AP: Ahhhhhahah I make so many jokes about that. So many.

MZ: that’s good!

AP: The sequel will be Advanced Review Copy. Followed up by All Edits, Complete Draft, and Working Title.

MZ: I love this so much.

AP: :) It’s a weird feeling, actually, revising Revision. In my line of work, I don’t often get a chance to redraft as I see fit after the manuscript has had time to cool. I do a lot of just-in-time writing, and 85% of the time my first draft is what goes.

MZ: I don’t think I’m actually aware what your line of work is?

AP: So I’m drowning in this luxury of being able to see what isn’t so great and *fix it now*

Oh! I’m a game designer? Or more precisely I make immersive and interactive experiences for games and for marketing campaigns. I am a *transmedia pundit*!

MZ: I was thinking by your description it was either games or comics :)

AP: It can be a tough business *cough cough gamergate* But I think there are things you can do in interactive media you can’t do any other way. I’m planning to do a project called Attachment Study hopefully next year, that is among other things the story of a character *falling in love with you* over email

MZ: oh how cool

AP: Man romance novels are awesome but *falling in love with you* is better ^_^

Dragon Age, you know? Are you a Bioware player? Do you have a crush on Alistair?

MZ: I have not, I was super hard-core Warcraft at the time I should have played it.

AP: It was FREE for PC yesterday. Maybe it still is! It’s still worth the play, I would highly recommend it :)

MZ: How long is a play-through?

AP: Hmmmm I think 40 hours-ish?

MZ: oh that’s not bad. I’m a pretty obsessive player so I don’t do much else when I play games.

AP: It’s not SUPER long. I mean it’s not like Skyrim. Yeah me neither, it’s sort of an issue for me, the binge-playing So I don’t buy and start a game unless I know I can lose a week of productivity

I binge-work, too, which I guess makes up for it?

MZ: I’m actually using my obsessive gamer tendencies to un-screw all my habits with HabitRPG right now

AP: Oh! I’ve started using HabitRPG! I’m very bad at it.

MZ: it seems to be almost written for how I obsess

AP: Which is embarrassing because my habits are things like “take a shower” and “take your vitamins”

MZ:…uh, why is that embarrassing? I thought that is what it is for :D

AP: it’s embarrassing that those are my habits I’m trying to do and I *still cannot do them*

MZ: both of those are literally ON MY LIST RIGHT NOW

AP: Oh man that makes me feel better, actually. You know the thing about comparing yourself to how you THINK other people are? I have a bad case of that

MZ: apparently I motivate through gold and loots

AP: See, I’m more a cheevies kinda person. Cookie Clicker, man. The dumbest game in the world BUT SO MANY ACHIEVEMENTS TO EARN

MZ: the pet collecting is what gets me. It’s why I stayed with Warcraft waaaaaay past the rest of the game being any fun

AP: I haven’t gone that far in yet! I only just recently started, so I don’t quite know how to play yet

MZ: Oh! You have to get to uhm level 4 I think? and then you start getting random loots

AP: I had hit level 2 and then I died

MZ: but it doesn’t hurt to die at low levels very much

AP: I had dumb cancer last week so I used that as my excuse to spend several days as a hedonistic slob

MZ: sounds legit. You can check yourself into the INN when you’re not up to doing stuff

AP: Oh man that’s a thing?

MZ: totes. It’s very well designed, and only unlocks stuff at a gradual pace so you don’t get overwhelmed

AP: I used to do very well with Health Month. The community angle was pretty helpful to me

But there’s a weird sort of struggle I have around structure and habits

MZ: with this you can form parties and do quests, fight monsters, by succeeding at your tasks

AP: …I’m sitting here thinking “maybe I should fold a basket of laundry tonight to get some more points”

MZ: yeah, this is the first thing that’s really seemed to work in any sustainable way for me

AP: You are a good influence on me!

MZ: I also decided to only make my own laundry my task and have made everyone else in the household fold their own laundry. It’s just too overwhelming otherwise

AP: That’s awesome. I long for the day when my children are old enough for that

MZ: I also have an entire shelving unit dedicated to putting clean laundry until it gets folded

cause folding is stupid pants

AP: We sort of have a swamp of clean laundry on the floor of our closet *hangs head in shame*

MZ: Yeah, the shelving unit was my upgrade from clean laundry swamp

AP: Hahah

MZ: cause, changing our actual habits was totally not going to happen :)

AP: It’s good to be able to acknowledge these deep truths about yourself. I mean, sometimes you just have to admit that you’re not that person. ^_^

MZ: I am not a lot of people, especially organized people

AP: Aaaaahhhahahah I’m not a gardener, no matter how much I wish I was.

MZ: oh, me either… and I so very much wish I was

AP: It’s a nice dream, isn’t it? The pottering and the fresh flowers and your own tomatoes

But then you actually go outside and it’s buggy and there’s the stupid sun

MZ: My house looks like a white trash version of Sleeping Beauty with blackberry vines taking over everything

AP: And everything is totally horrible in every possible way. We have raspberries in our back yard! I planted them long ago before I knew I was not a gardener

MZ: We have 2 acres and a barn!

AP: They do well here, but not so well that it’s a problem like they might in other parts of the country. Oh man that’s amazing

MZ: it is until the blackberries start to take over

AP: But!

MZ: and then you’re out there like Ash in Evil Dead with a trimmer.

AP: You get to eat blackberries! Warm from the sun!

MZ: it’s true, that’s pretty awesome. What else has been warming up your brain meats recently?

AP: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm I’ve been thinking a lot about feminist stuff

And talking a lot about feminist stuff I am a Strident Feminist, you know!

MZ: …you chew a lot of gum? :D

AP: Hahaha No but seriously, issues of fairness and representation are really important to me, so I try to *talk* about it

MZ: Yeah, my loved ones are apparently sick of me talking about feminist stuff of late to the point where they have arguments with feminist me in their head without me saying a word. It’s pretty awesome. All the outcome, none of the work.

AP: I don’t always have the energy for it, but I seem to have the fight in me right now.

Oh dude that’s fantastic

MZ: I suspect I’m contagious and everyone ends up with a little me inside their head causing problems eventually

AP: The interesting thing is I don’t get as much pushback as I always expect

MZ: It is getting better.

AP: You know, I think the internet as a whole is getting better. I was just saying today, I think comments sections are getting better

MZ: People are more aware, and there’s less ignorance or disbelief now.

AP: I look at YouTube comments on a random video and they’re… you know, FINE. I hit a random blog and skim the comments and they’re not always Just and Progressive, but they’re usually better than not. Maybe this says something about me and my browsing and viewing habits, but I really do think the etiquette for how we expect people to behave online is maturing

MZ: I think the past 6 months or so have shined a very bright light and scattered some of the cockroaches.

AP: Yeah.

MZ: I mean clearly we haven’t managed to exterminate them, but it’s a start.

AP: Now if only we could get harassment and incitement to harass made into actual crimes

…Not that I trust our current batch of lawmakers to do that in a sensible way, but jeez, some of the behaviors we see shouldn’t be legal if you ask me ^_^ It’s a complicated thing, isn’t it?

MZ: I think we just need precedence to show that they fall under current laws of stalking and the like.

AP: And a legal system that recognizes that “just don’t go online” is not a viable solution

MZ: I’m not sure if new legislation would help as much as enforcing current ones in digital spaces. Right. I don’t know about you, but I live in a very rural area, so the internet is the vast majority of my social connections.

AP: I live in the suburbs of New York, but the internet is still the vast majority of my social connections. Working at home, you know, and never going much of anywhere. There’s a problem writers have of living too much in the mind and not enough in the body. That’s part of it, I should probably just get out more in a super basic sense ;)

MZ: I have also put all of my stretching exercises on my habit list :) because of this

AP: For a while I was swimming about a kilometer a day, and it was fantastic! Very meditative and definitely helped my stress levels

MZ: I like walking. I need to take more walks. So much beautiful stuff around here and I never get out in it.

AP: Especially after I found goggles that did not leak

MZ: That is terribly important.

AP: Exercise, man. Outdoor exercise is Not For Me because skin cancer, but I always liked hiking

MZ: The museum I work for has an interpretive trails site near my house I should spend more time at.

AP: Oh neat!

MZ: Especially since I can take the dogs.

AP: Museums are awesome in general

MZ: I just need to get them little orange vests for right now because of hunting season.

AP: I have a crush on weird quirky museums that have like fifteen things in them. It’s interesting to think about how those objects are all there because at some point they were very important to somebody

MZ: I wish my museum only had 15 things! I’m in charge of the things. And I don’t have an exact number but it’s more like 50,000

AP: That is a *lot of things* OK so It’s like the warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones, right?

MZ: …yes

AP: Promise me it’s just like that :D

MZ: actually I have a building that looks a lot like that, with the crates and everything

AP: …and you have the stencil, right?

MZ: I keep meaning to make one

AP: I mean basically in my mind you just transformed into that dude at the end of the movie

MZ: Hey, I managed to hide a Ghostbusters quote in my exhibit. I’m pretty happy about that.

AP: Though it’s possible my vision is wavering a little bit with The Librarian. Ahaha! Which quote?!

MZ: https://twitter.com/grumpymartian/status/519732614941261824

AP: Oh man That’s amazing

MZ: I warn you, I am about to make you feel really old with a museum thing I’ve been dealing with.

AP: This is OK

MZ: But current K-8 students, were born between 1996 and 2009

AP: Oh yeah I have two of them ~_^

MZ: the things they have no reference for is amazing

AP: When they were toddlers they would take pictures with their play phones

MZ: I was trying to explain this to a roomful of 80 year olds the other day

AP: The idea of a phone you can’t take pictures with is weird to them. It took each of them until they were 6 or 7 to understand “that TV show is not on right now”

MZ: I get hit with the hard explanations on both ends of the age spectrum :)

AP: Oh man yeah that could be a neat trick!

MZ: I was trying to explain that to get kids to understand a record player, I also have to explain…y’know.. CDs and tape players

AP: Yep! My kids don’t remember cars that didn’t lock with a key fob, or roll-up window handles

MZ: and that items they have laying around in their closets are exactly the sort of things I’d like to have for hands-on learning even though it isn’t “old” to an 80 year old.

AP: Ahahaha. I can just imagine. To bring this back a little — my older one recently found the iron in the closet and was super baffled…She does not remember ever seeing it used…

MZ: and that these kids don’t remember a time the US wasn’t at war.

AP: Yeah, that one is sobering. I was raised in the USAF so I have a slightly different relationship with war

MZ: it’s just weird on a museum end, because I have WWII stuff coming out of my damned ears but… I don’t have much for military stuff past Korean War

AP: For most kids today it’s very abstract. But when I was 9 or so I was reading military nuclear war survival manuals for some reason. This is the thing I super loved when I read Watchmen — only a few years ago

MZ: Cold War stuff, I remember having bomb drills in school.

AP: It *so perfectly* captures that zeitgeist of the 80s, that feeling that we were all going to die at any moment in a nuclear holocaust

MZ: exactly!

AP: It really did feel like the edge of the end of the world

MZ: and then the early 90s was when we all started feeling like the country was going to rip apart from the inside and be a civil war… and then it all turned into TV pundits instead of fighting.

AP: I dunno, I remember feeling in the early 90s like maybe it was all going to be OK

MZ: I lived in Seattle :)

AP: The Berlin Wall coming down

MZ: Grunge was a very Dark Time.

AP: For a while it looked like there would be peace in Israel, before Rabin got shot. Jesus Jones and Right Here, Right Now, you know? ~_^

MZ: yeah ok, like 89-92 was pretty good

AP: But yeah it didn’t last

MZ: nope. sigh.

AP: For a little while when Obama first came in it felt like that again — hopeful. But it’s been a very long time at this point.

MZ: and now it feels like I should get to scream “Dystopian Novels were not HOW TO BOOKS!!!”

AP: Yeah. Oh gosh there’s this whole thing I feel like one of the roles of science fiction is to show what the future can be like, right?

MZ: Absolutely.

AP: But that puts us at the mercy of horrible futures. Because it’s a lot harder to drum up drama in a utopia I mean utopian fiction where the utopia doesn’t have a Dark Flaw is fundamentally more challenging to write, which is why you see less of it. I keep trying to figure out how to write a story for which the message is, “providing a basic minimum income for all people would be a good idea”. But how do you take something like that and make it into a story that’s… you know… not a super boring economic treatise?!

MZ: Yesterday Kate Elliot and Daniel José Older, and Rosefox were talking about the subversive power of happy endings.

AP: Oh yeah?

MZ: Yeah, that showing happiness for people society says don’t get happy endings is a subversive act. That really appeals to me right now and I think SF/F doesn’t get enough happy endings in general

AP: Actually this is one of the things about Lucy Smokeheart So OK it’s a super goofy and not at all serious project, right? I have an Artisitic Statement about it floating around somewhere, and basically it says it’s my rejection of the Game of Thrones aesthetic where everything is horrible forever and there is no narrative justice. I *miss* narrative justice and I wish it would make a roaring comeback, I’m so tired of gritty and realistic.

MZ: I think you can be realistic without being gritty

AP: Do you remember the humor SF in the 80s? There was a ton of it back then

MZ: I mean, my going and getting a coffee is rarely a gritty experience unless the grinder is broken. YES!!! I LOVE IT

AP: The Myth Adventures series, Stainless Steel Rat

MZ: I’m trying to bring some of that back too.

AP: We used to know how to have fun, man. What happened to fun?!

MZ: I think humor is under utilized and a lot of SF authors who write “humor” write it like… Heavy Metal style “humor” so there’s all sorts of gross stuff, and that’s not what I want at all

AP: Mmmmm yeah. I really dig what Mur Lafferty’s done with her Shambling Guide and so on

MZ: I want characters who have fun and get in absurd situations and know its absurd but make the best of it.

AP: And of course there’s still Terry Pratchett But I feel like funny-SF just isn’t out there in the market very much these days

MZ: Yes. I’m slowly rationing myself through the Discworld books, because they make me so happy.

AP: Hahah

MZ: generally we do them audiobook in the car on long trips

AP: I love them but I can’t read too many or I stop enjoying them! Like eating too much candy

MZ: Audiobooks are good for that

AP: Alas I don’t spend enough time in a car for audiobooks

MZ: They are also awesome for house-cleaning

AP: I put like… three thousand miles a year on my car

MZ: then I feel like I am multi-tasking

AP: I used to listen to podcasts at the gym. Man I used to have such good habits, what happened to me?! Tsk

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

AP: Wait wait

Let’s talk about

Um

Man now I’m trying to think of something amazing and hilarious

And of course I can’t

MZ: tap-dancing newts?

AP: O_O

MZ: I mean they’d have to get tap shoes otherwise they’d just go “slush”

AP: I don’t think they’d do so well in shoes. It would be like putting a toddler on roller skates

They wouldn’t know what to do without toe suction!

MZ: /is totally checking YouTube for toddlers in roller-skate videos now

AP: I think we need to make this happen

MZ: Ok, who do we know that can make tiny webbed tap shoes?

AP: I bet there are thousands of those. Because parents are horrible. The videos, I mean, not the newt shoes

MZ: …I dunno maybe I should check etsy, someone might make newt tap shoes

AP: Gotta be I mean surely this falls under some subcategory of Rule 34

MZ: a crafting subcategory? If a weird craft item doesn’t already exist…

AP: Yeahhhh. You know about Regretsy? It is the best thing.

MZ: it’s gooooone

AP: WHAT

MZ: /cry

AP: NOOOOOOOOOOO

MZ: it was the best thing…

AP: This is the very saddest thing in the world.

MZ: I’m sorry, I thought you knewand now I want to write humor sf in which someone mourns Regretsy in a regrettable way

AP: Wow it’s been down since January of LAST YEAR. That shows you how up on my latest breaking internet news I am. You should write that story.

MZ: I only found out recently. Well, unfortunately my family apparently would like to eat some time today… so I should get going. Gah, humans… it’s like they think they should eat more than once a day.

AP: All right. It’s been lovely talking to you!


Bourbon Pen

My friend Brian sent me this pen because it combines fountain pens and bourbon, two of my favorite things. You can get your own at BourbonPens.com and you should totally click on that link and go drool over all of their pretty pretty pens.

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Doods, it is a wood pen with chrome accents that is made out of the wood of a bourbon barrel. In fact it comes with a certificate of authenticity and chunk of barrel wood cut into a pen rest that smells deliciously of bourbon. What, no I don’t just sit here and sniff it sometimes. That’d be crazy…

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This pen is impressive looking. I was worried that it was going to be too big for my small hands, but then I took the cap off and the actual part you hold is a very nice width.

pen posted on the back

pen posted on the back

The back of the pen has threading so you can screw the cap securely on the back, which is handy for those of you who like to do that. I’m personally not a fan, but this pen is very nicely balanced with or without the cap on the back.

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This is probably the fanciest pen I own and I feel kind of badass when I use it.

pen in the hand without cap

pen in the hand without cap

It really isn’t as big as you think it might be and the grip is really nice, plus the wood feels amazing against your hand between the thumb and forefinger.

pen in hand with cap on back.

pen in hand with cap on back.

It’s a little long with the cap posted, but not bad. Remember my hands are TINY. I should become a hand model for value meal burgers or something.

Pen Test. I totally had to use the whiskey-scented ink to christen it.

Pen Test. I totally had to use the whisky-scented ink to christen it.

The Good

  • Gorgeous
  • nice smooth grip
  • comes with converter
  • standard cartridges
  • writes nice
  • well-made
  • wood
  • comes with a bourbon barrel pen rest wood chunk

The Bad

  • it’s too nice for traveling
  • a little heavy

Overall Grade: A

This is one of my nicest pens and absolutely the fanciest pen I own. I really like touching it and using it. Plus the pen rest smells amazing. I generally store this pen on its rest in a place of honor on my desk. It looks cool even when it’s not being used.


Writers Wanted

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No Ghosts in the IM: Conversations with Writers today due to installing my very first exhibit at the museum. I’ve helped with a lot (and at previous museums) but this is the first exhibit I designed and planned and lost sleep over. However… I do need volunteers and for people to suggest others for future Conversations. Check out past Conversations and the submission form here: http://minervazimmerman.com/ghosts-in-the-im/

You can also email me directly or message me on Twitter if you’re interested.

I’m going to go collapse now and try to recover from this very exciting week.


Pen and Ink Sketch Fountain Pen

Spoiler Alert – I hate this pen.

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I genuinely thought I’d thrown this pen away. It’s by Pen and Ink, who happen to make my favorite small notebooks. Good Notebooks. Do not recommend the pens.

 

pen without cap

pen without cap

I haven’t used this pen very much and you can see the damage. This is by far the cheapest feeling pen I own.

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it comes with a “suede wrap” that… I guess you’re supposed to wrap around the pen at all times so it doesn’t come in contact with life lest it get all scratched and dinged up?

the chrome is peeling off

the chrome is peeling off

another shot of the peeling metal accent

another shot of the peeling metal accent

Detail of ridge right by nib

Detail of ridge right by nib

This is also the WORST designed pen I own. There is a raised ridge right at the end of the pen where you grip… or at least I do… IT HURTS TO WRITE WITH. The ridge digs into your fingers and makes the act of using it a horrible experience.

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It’s a fine size, but it comes apart easily, feels cheap and extremely light for its size. I know I know, I normally really LIKE light pens, but this one is just… I mean even the disposable Pilot pens feel sturdier than this thing.  It feels flimsy.

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The nib is nothing to write home about either. It feels scratchy and uneven against the paper. It has the textural feel of the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.

The Good

  • It comes with a piece of leather?
  • standard cartridge
  • comes with converter

The Bad

  • flimsy and cheap feeling
  • terrible writing experience
  • easily damaged
  • stupid ridge in gripping section of pen

Overall Grade: F – There are a ton of cheaper pens that are better made and nicer to use than this one.

 


Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Christie Yant

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Christie is one of the writers I’m happy to be able to consider a personal mentor. When there’s something I need to noodle out about life and career she’s someone I turn to. You probably know her most recently as the editor of Women Destroy Science Fiction.  If you’re not familiar with her fiction peruse the list at her website. As always I recommend you follow her on Twitter.

Minerva Zimmerman: How are you doing this morning? It’s nice but windy here today.

Christie Yant: I’m a little sleepy! I stupidly stayed up way too late last night, doing nothing at all useful. How are YOU? Do you have enough coffee?

MZ: I think that’s our inner children not wanting to go to bed.

CY: Very much so. I honestly feel like a three-year-old at times, mentally kicking and screaming and refusing to go to sleep no matter how tired I am.

MZ: I have caffeinated sparkling water. I always drink coffee with silly amounts of sugar and cream in it.

CY: My tastes changed all of a sudden last year and I started taking my coffee black after a life time of cream and sugar. It was strange. Have you been able to give the Poquito a try yet?

MZ: I haven’t yet because I broke my phone so I can’t take pictures. I’m hoping my replacement comes today or tomorrow

CY: Oh ha! Do you always document it the first time you use a new pen?

MZ: Not always, but I need to figure out if I lost any pictures of the last 4 I took pictures of and I didn’t want to put ink into it yet cause I have ink in so many right now.

CY: /nods

MZ: I’m terrible at not cleaning out my pens so I’m trying to be better about it.

CY: I’m paring my collection down to a few favorites now. Which means that I get to be the Pen Fairy to a bunch of friends. :D

MZ: Yeah I need to figure out some kind of blog giveaway or something.

CY: Good idea!

MZ: I have a few that are just not suited to me or how I write.

CY: The Lamy Safari and Al-Star were like that for me. I just can’t write with them.

MZ: the grip?

CY: They’re a favorite for a lot of people, but they’re just not compatible with the way I hold my pens. Yeah. I got a different Lamy, though, with a straight barrel and grip, and I love it. (The Lamy Logo.)

MZ: Oooo. Yeah I think that’s one I’ve been looking at. it’s a lot smaller isn’t it?

CY: That and the CP1 I think is the other one that looks similar. Yeah, very slender. The Logo is pretty heavy still, despite the small size.

MZ: I have one I need to get a review up that is the smallest pen I’ve ever used. Even smaller than the Petite1!

CY: Ooo! Which one? Or is it a secret?

MZ: Ohto Rook

CY: Oh I have one of those! It was my second…no, third fountain pen.

MZ: I’m kind of excited about trying it as my purse pen

CY: It’s good for that! The cap got dented when I was carrying it regularly, but it is a good little pen.

MZ: I… I kind of like it when pens get little dents and scratches. Makes them have mileage

CY: It says more about the way I treat things in my purse than it says about the pen, of course. And yeah, pens should be loved!

MZ: Hey, I’m the one who managed to dump enough coke into the bottom of a purse to send my phone swimming recently

CY: hahaha erm I mean sorry to hear that

MZ: I was like “That’ll learn me to be girly!” or at least to carry a purse that’s waterproof on the inside

CY: Are there such things? I might need one myself.

MZ: well, apparently this cheapo purse was reasonably water tight it was not the reason I bought it :P I bought it because it was like a super small messenger bag and less than $30

CY: An excellent purchase

MZ: We were talking a bit about short stories last week. I didn’t get a chance to ask you, did editing (and slushing) Women Destroy Science Fiction change how you look at stories you read?

CY: Yes and no–I’d been slushing at Lightspeed for a few years already, so there wasn’t a real shift in that regard. But once I knew what my vision for the issue was, I knew what kind of stories I was looking for. I had to pass on a lot of great stories. Fortunately John bought several of them for other issues, so I didn’t have to feel too badly about letting them go!

MZ: :) awesome

CY: But it also meant that I had to read everything and I couldn’t rely on slush readers to weed things out for me. I always took their comments into consideration (they worked SO HARD) but I still ended up reading every submission myself. That was a crazy couple of months–I was traveling non-stop for my day job, working crazy long days and trying to get through 1000+ submissions, get a TOC finalized, handle a bunch of administrivia

MZ: Oof I hope you’ve been taking some time afterward

CY: Oh yes. The past couple of months I’ve taken time off and haven’t committed myself to any new writing or editing projects. I’m back to just working on short stories on spec.

I owe a revision to an editor for a story coming out next year…hm, I’d better get that done.

For Lightspeed right now I’m just working on a guide for the next Guest Editor (Seanan McGuire), a new website that’ll act as a clearing house for all of our DESTROY projects, and a Zazzle store that is like a month and a half overdue to launch.

MZ: Oooo Women Destroy T-shirts

CY: I really need to get that up before Women Destroy Fantasy and Women Destroy Horror come out on October 1. Yes! And mugs, and stickers, etc. John has been referring to me as Director of Special Projects, which I guess is kind of what I am now. :)

MZ: heh! Baptism by fire

CY: Totally. There were a lot of lessons learned that I can pass on to the next victims–I mean, editors. But short stories! That’s what we were talking about. I love them. If it changed anything about how I read, I’d say it just made me fall more deeply in love with the short form.

MZ: I just had my first slushing experience, which was simultaneously amazing and disheartening.

CY: Oh neat!

MZ: I think the biggest self-realization was that I can tell a story that isn’t ready to be published almost immediately.

CY: I don’t know what your slush pile looked like, but ours tends to be a whole lot of perfectly competent but not particularly engaging, with a few HOLY WOW and a smattering of UGH.

Yes!

MZ: Yeah the smattering of Ugh was SO UGH.

CY: It doesn’t require reading to the end. When I first started slushing I did read everything to the end, but once I gained a little confidence (and had seen enough of the same thing over and over) it started to become clear in the first couple of pages. Because if the first couple of pages don’t make you want to read on, then it’s not ready.

MZ: (I should mention that UGH = didn’t follow submission guidelines, was torture porn, involved child abuse etc for non-story reasons etc.)

CY: Right

MZ: The other thing slushing showed me is that I can see the difference between good stories and great stories… I’m just less certain entirely what that difference is.

Emotional impact is a lot of it, but totally not the only thing.

CY: What I came up with when I was trying to do that analysis for myself was: voice, structure, and something to say The stories that strike me as great as about something important. That doesn’t mean they’re preachy, or political, or heavy-handed, just that they’re about something that matters deeply to people. The emotional resonance, like you said. And voice–did you notice how much of your slush pile sounds exactly the same? Like the same perfectly competent but not-quite-there author wrote 2/3 of what was submitted That was a major revelation for me

MZ: Yeah, it feels more like “lack of voice” to me

CY: Fair enough

MZ: it’s like a news anchor is reading the story

CY: Yeah! And when one stands out, in my experience it invariably had a strong individual narrative voice

MZ: yeah the story or the characters sound like specific people

CY: You understand the narrative POV from the words they choose. Right. It was a big moment for me when I realized that my stories all sounded like that news anchor and that I was in the perfectly competent but uncompelling category.

MZ: I think I fall short in the structure category.

CY: Have you found any resources that were helpful to you in that area?

MZ: more so for long fiction than short

CY: /nods Yeah it seems like most of what’s out there is directed at screen writers

MZ: Like, I can find the rhythm in a longer fiction piece better

CY: Oh I see, I thought you meant the resources themselves, sorry

MZ: Well, and I come from a screen-writing sort of start, between stage, film, and comics

CY: Neat!

MZ: but that 3 act thing doesn’t neatly translate to short fiction all the time

CY: Right. I’ve had fun with short story structures. You can do a lot with it. I have a blog post about it somewhere, hang on…Here it is: http://www.inkpunks.com/2011/09/12/playing-with-structure/

MZ: I’m mostly not sure how to fix it when its broken. I can see when it works, just not what piece isn’t holding its weight when the thing is lopsided rather than collapsed

CY: I have to pick a shape for the story and then impose it on what’s there. And like you said, three act structure doesn’t do the job. For me, at least.

MZ: That’s hard. I mean it’s totally possible and works great. But it kills the story soul for me a lot of the time. It becomes a chore.

CY: It helps me to actually visualize the shape of it–the length of scenes, the repetition of theme

Ah! For me it does the opposite. So much of the writing life is figuring out what works for us as individuals. Everyone is so different in the way we need to approach a story to get the best out of us

MZ: It really is. I’m struggling with the structure thing. It seems what sort of works is to kind of try on a few different structures on the story to figure out what works. But, that means a lot of re-writing

CY: /nods

MZ: and stories take a long time which isn’t great when you’re trying to hit a deadline for a specific call, or trying to submit more stories

I think I need to let those goals go, and just work on learning structure for me.

CY: I’m getting close to doing this with one work in progress. I’ve been writing scenes–some are strong, some are weak, the weak ones will have to go–but I don’t know how it’s all going to fit together yet. I’m now revising the scenes, cleaning them up, and next I’ll look at what kind of pattern emerges from them and what’s missing to complete the pattern.

I’ve submitted one story all year!

And I’ve given up on the self-loathing over it.

Which I’m prone to. But these are going to take what they’re going to take for them to be as good as they can be and I’m not submitting them until they are. I made that mistake last year–rushed a couple of stories out the door just for the sake of submitting something

MZ: Yeah. The worst is if you rush something out the door and it gets published… so you can’t change it. :)

CY: I had to completely rewrite them later, they were so not ready to go out

That is a legit fear!

MZ: I mean specifically that you’re not happy with how a story turned out and it gets published

CY: Right

MZ: not a story you are at the self-hating point with that is perfectly fine and gets published. That’s similar, but different

CY: One of the things John has always said is that he sees way too many stories that could have been great if the author had just let it cool a little while longer and given it another pass

MZ: Oh yes. There were SO MANY of those in the slush.

Like the concept or characters were REALLY cool but the story just hadn’t been “finished”

CY: Yeah

MZ: I seem to have trouble writing regularly in the summer. Do you have trouble keeping it up while you’re traveling?”

CY: Oh yes, it’s been impossible for me so far.

I have the best intentions to change my schedule so that I go to bed early and get up early to write but I haven’t succeeded yet. Once the day job travel kicks in again it’ll be the only way it gets done, because I’m just wiped out by the end of the day. Right now I’m just making sure that I write or revise in a few short sprints every day. But my schedule is flexible right now, so I can do that.

I’m working on several things at once, which might seem like a bad idea, but for me it keeps me interested in all of them and I can take my time and groom each one carefully

MZ: I find the getting up “early” on my days off helps, but if I do it on the days I work it just means I dink around and am too tired after work

CY: Discipline is…difficult. I have never been good at it.

MZ: I do not have it. Nope. I like being a bit of a scatterbrain in lots of aspects of my life, but trying to discipline myself is hard.

CY: I look at people like Jake Kerr–who is currently a powerhouse of productivity, despite a family and a demanding day job–and am just baffled at how he does it.

MZ: I think some of it really does come down to “They are different people than I am, and that’s OK”

CY: Yeah, I am still working on that “don’t compare yourself to others” thing. :)

MZ: There’s a difference between making excuses and living your own life.

CY: I definitely have a tendency toward procrastination and laziness

MZ: I mean there are people who function totally awesome on 4 hours of sleep a night every night. I am not them either.

CY: NOPE me either

MZ: Me too. But sometimes that procrastination has a purpose

CY: 7-9 or I’m significantly less functional I can get away with 6 ONE night a week.

MZ: so it’s trying to be honest with myself both ways with it

CY: /nod

MZ: sometimes I feel like I’m “procrastinating” when I’m really refilling the aquifer of creativity and emotional bandwidth

CY: True! That is so necessary.

MZ: and sometimes I am quite honestly fucking around

CY: :) I have found that programs like Cold Turkey help me a lot. I have social media blocked during the work day except at lunch. And also most of my other distracting sites (ModCloth, Etsy, Slate, etc.) I can lose hours easily, so I just eliminate the temptation (I still have Twitter on my phone and check it periodically, but it’s such a pain to use on the phone that I don’t say much.)

MZ: Yeah, I am probably due for a good break from online but, I don’t have a social outlet outside of the internet… so that’s also something to keep in mind. Heh, that sounds slightly lamer than it is

CY: No I’m with you–we’re isolated here too

MZ: I live very rurally, so I don’t have a lot of opportunity for in-person socialization and the friends I do have in the area keep moving away.

CY: I only block from 8-5. And yeah, we have no social life here either, despite living in a sizable town. We had a gaming group for years, but our DM changed jobs a few months ago and haven’t seen any of them since

MZ: awww

CY: And two of them were already remote! We would play over Google Hangouts.

MZ: this is very much a retirement community in a lot of ways, so there just aren’t a lot of people our age and the ones who are, are really busy. I mean, only here and in SFF am I considered “a kid”

CY: I am going to the wedding of one of our game friends tomorrow, though! It will be good to see her. They live about an hour away.

hahaha

MZ: The mayor calls me “kiddo” when she sees me :)

CY: Lots of golf and bridge being played? :) This is why conventions (and social media) are so important to me–that’s where I see my friends.

MZ: golf for sure, not sure about the local bridge clubs. I’m sure there are though

I know the fastest way to spread news around town is to have someone talk about it at Senior Meals

CY: Ha! :D

MZ: There have been a few people who had premature deaths in town because someone got them mixed up with someone else and said they died at Senior Meals, and their family was very concerned when they started getting condolences

CY: Oh no!

MZ: (They were actually alive)

(still are)

CY: hahahah So what are you going to be working on today?

MZ: other than dishes?

CY: Well, yeah. :)

MZ: I am actually taking a novel project and splitting it up into 3 shorter novels and doing their outlines as they currently exist so I can see where the holes are and such to make them into 3 instead of one. I’ve split out the first two and now I need to add a bunch of extra stuff to the 3rd one to see how close in length it is before edits

CY: Excellent! That’s a big project.

MZ: …and dishes, and vacuuming

CY: I’m doing the opposite: working on three short stories related to an existing published one, that I eventually intend to put together into a short novel.

MZ: ooooo

CY: I’m having fun with it. I actually have two projects I’m approaching that way. One fantasy, one SF

MZ: I will say, I do really like how ebooks are opening up these kinds of projects

CY: Exactly!

MZ: And to publish projects that wouldn’t have seen the light of day in the past because of length or not fitting into a normal publishing cycle

CY: The possibility of writing and selling the stories to established markets, and then putting them together after exclusivity is up and selling them as an ebook is a great opportunity. I have one mini-collection out there, but I’ve done nothing at all to promote it

MZ: I’d like to do a mini-collection of stories set in the world I destroyed with tiny unicorns

CY: hahaha awesome

MZ: I have two stories published there, and ideas for 3 more

CY: (Ooo my Metropolitan just ran out of ink. Time to pick a new ink sample to try!)

That sounds like so much fun.

MZ: I am absolutely digging the scented inks. I know it is silly, but I like having that added dimension to the experience of writing

CY: Not silly at all. I started collecting perfume samples for the same reason

MZ: plus the novel project has characters who are associated with particular scents, so it really gets my brain into that world

CY: Totally! I was thinking about trying out a new prompt session at Rainforest based on scents instead of visuals

MZ: Ooooo I can bring stuff

CY: Fun! Let’s do it!

MZ: /highfive

CY: /highfive

 


Ohto Rook

You know when the “for size” picture features a dime the pen is going to be small. The Ohto Rook is the smallest pen I own.

It's even smaller than the Pilot Petit1

It’s even smaller than the Pilot Petit1

I bought this pen specifically because I like small pens. I’ve been hauling it around as my new purse pen and other than it tends to fall to the bottom of purse pockets, it is doing quite well for that.

Rook and Petit1 without caps

Rook and Petit1 without caps

I’d previously bought a Kweco squeeze converter and thought it might fit this pen too. Nope. This pen is too small to use even that converter.

Rook with Kaweco sport converter attached. Doesn't fit.

Rook with Kaweco sport converter attached. Doesn’t fit. Too long.

It really doesn’t have much for threads so I wouldn’t even attempt to do an eyedropper conversion on this little guy. It looks like it’s cartridges or nothing, but that’s OK. I’m using this as a travel pen.

standard cartridge attached

standard cartridge attached

The pen body is a very light aluminum and it is by far not only the smallest pen in length but in girth. It feels more like holding a pencil than a fountain pen in that fashion.

In hand with cap on back.

In hand with cap on back.

I’m not a fan of using pens with the cap on the back and this pen is no exception. It is super super tiny all by itself.

pen in hand no cap

pen in hand no cap

It’s almost too small, even for my hand. On the plus side it is even lighter than the Petit1 and being so small around I don’t seem to grip it quite as hard.

Writing test

Writing test

There’s nothing remarkable about how it writes, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. It’s a great little pen.

The Good

  • tiny
  • light
  • very narrow grip
  • standard cartridge

The Bad

  • very short without cap
  • not convertible in any way
  • easily lost
  • nothing to stop it from rolling off tables

Overall grade: B

I like it, but I don’t love it. I think the Petit1 beats it out on a practical (and cost) level, but the Rook’s narrow girth and lighter weight makes it have its own charm.


Ghosts in the IM: Conversations With Writers

71fc8b350049b65c99a36b8f098f33ad

Andrew Penn Romine

Today I’m catching up with Andrew Penn Romine. Andrew is a writer and animator. He can be found on the internet at http://www.andrewpennromine.com/ http://www.inkpunks.com/ and on Twitter.

 

Minerva Zimmerman: So, the first thing I want to catch up on is how your research went when you headed to the Midwest? Did you visit a lot of places?

Andrew Romine: You’re talking about my trip last year?

MZ: Yes. I haven’t caught up with you in forever!

AR: Hah! I guess it’s been awhile! So last summer, right after I wrapped at DreamWorks, my wife and I took the opportunity to drive back east to see family. On the way back, we decided to route through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas because my current WIP is set in the Dust Bowl, and I wanted to get a real feel for the country. And I did! It’s flat, hot, and very dry.

MZ: Flat in particular seems such a foreign concept to me.

AR: When I tell folks from those areas that we made a special point of driving through, they laugh and say “well, you only needed to drive a few miles, and you probably had the whole picture.” So you’ve mostly lived along the coast, and mountains?

MZ: Seattle, San Diego, and Oregon Coast

AR: All beautiful areas.  And so are Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, though especially in the western parts of the states, the beauty is stark. I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of places like that. I love to drive through the desert. You can see for miles.

MZ: I like the desert as seen from a comfortable car with AC

AR: Haha! Yeah. it’s easy to love it that way.  My sister used to live in Tucson. We have friends who live there now. We love to visit, but try to time our visits in the winter or spring.

So getting back to original question… the trip was mostly driving, though we did hit some small town museums and got some local history. It was sort of an impromptu trip, so I didn’t have time to schedule any interviews or that sort of thing.

MZ: find some good details?

AR: Oh yeah. We even had a little dust storm blow through while we were in Dalhart, tx. You can read about it, you can watch a Ken Burns documentary, but nothing like feeling the sting of grit on your face.

MZ: yikes

AR: (i should say though, what we experienced was not even a fraction of what they used to get though.) I mean, we could still see the sky.

MZ: Yeah, my grandma lived through that. It’s weird to think about her stories cause she got married at 16 and then they left everything behind to go to the West Coast to try and make a new life and still lived in complete poverty, with lasting health effects of the lack of food.

AR: Yeah. Physically and mentally, it’s hard to get over that sort of hardship.

MZ: like, she went gray by 20

AR: Wow.

MZ: I just can’t even fathom that kind of hardship

AR: No, I feel pretty fortunate that for all of my lean times, I’ve never experienced anything that extreme. There are people that do, though. Every day.

And you can look at pictures from that era — and everyone looks about 20 years older than they actually are. To have experienced that sort of hardship, though. To survive it. I have utmost respect. And it’s one of the reasons I write about the period.

MZ: And now you’re back doing animation too. Did you enjoy a break from it?

AR: It’s always good to switch gears for a bit, focus on a different creative task. I was working pretty hard before my trip, and so it was nice to really dive back into writing. And then, yeah, to dive back into animation again!  Oh, so for your readers, I guess I should be a little more specific about what I mean by “animation.” My day job is in visual fx and animation.  And while I’ve worn many hats and done a lot of different types of work, my focus these days is developing and simulation cloth and hair rigs for digital characters. And then running the characters through shots for the commercial, TV show, or film.

MZ: (He’s badass at it too)

AR: In film, especially, a movie gets made by assembly line…

(aw, thanks.)

There’s a different department that handles each stage….

My department is called different things depending on what studio you’re at, but probably the most general term I could use is “Character Technical Director.”

or CharTd

it’s sort of a hybrid artistic/technical job.

MZ: I think it makes perfect sense that you are a writer, cause technical and artistic goes hand in hand with that too

AR: We deal with clothes, hair, fur, fat/skin jiggle. We clean up the performance of the Animation department to fix objects going through each other (ie, a char’s fingers poke through the cup he’s drinking out of, tc) yeah, that’s true! both are all about performance, but you have to know how to get the performance you want. (true of any discipline, I guess.)

MZ: I guess you deal with a lot of artifacts too! Just a different kind :P

AR: Heheh yes! my ways of working are similar.  Lay down the broad strokes first. Get a sense of where you’re going, what you want to accomplish. Do a refine pass.  Then another, then another.

until it’s done.  which sounds simple. it’s not.

MZ: it never is, and no one ever tells you that there’s no good way to know if anything is ever really done, mostly you just get to a certain point and push it out the door and pray a lot

AR: Yeah, though in vfx/animation, the movie DOES have to get released sometime…

MZ: deadlines deadlines deadlines. It is amazing how much inspiration you can get from deadlines

AR: so there’s a fair amount of.. negotiation between getting the shot done right and just getting it done to hit the deadline. It’s a good balance, most of the time. Oh yeah. In fact, my most successful writing ventures of the last year or so have been to antho calls with specific deadlines in mind. Not all of them have ultimately been accepted, but it was a great motivator to get some stuff written

MZ: yeah, me too. Not doing so well for acceptances this year and at least one of the projects I decided to trunk indefinitely

AR: I’m sorry to hear that. Though sometimes, it seems trunking is the best option

MZ: Yeah, i think ultimately it was too specific to the call and more personal catharsis than marketable story

AR: And sometimes you have to write those stories. To practice the craft. To get it out.

And who knows. Nothing has to stay trunked forever.

MZ: I might steal aspects of it at least

AR: exactly.

MZ: I find that happens more and more over time.

AR: Yeah. I can’t speak for all writers (let alone you) but for me — I’m less obsessed about making sure everything I write is 100% marketable. I’m more interested in the experience of writing it. Er, don’t get me wrong. I’d LIKE to have others read it. get paid. Be showered in the adulation of my colleagues and friends…

MZ: Yeah. I had a specific anthology call in mind for this story.

AR: Yeah. and that can be tricky because you get so focused on making sure that one market will love it, and it may not be as successful elsewhere. But like you said. Pull out the guts, rebuild it.

MZ: Well, I think I could have sent it to another market, I just decided that it ended up more catharsis than story.

AR: Yeah. So what are you working on these days?

MZ: I’m actually working on long fiction again. My brain seems kind of frazzled trying to work on short fiction recently.

AR: i know the feeling!

MZ: It’s been nice to get back into longer stories with established characters.

AR: Are you back to working on a previous project, ie, a setting/chars you’re already familiar with or are you starting something new?

MZ: I’m getting ready to dive back into a previous project for in-depth editing.

AR: Nice! I finished a draft of my book last year (sigh) and need to get back to it. It’s hard to start up after a long absence, though

MZ: I find the best way to do it is to involve someone else, so you can piggyback off their enthusiasm so a Beta Reader or involved editor or the like

AR: Mmm. Good idea.

MZ: cause just having someone to talk about story stuff and the characters really gets the writer juices flowing

AR: Yah, for sure.  I’m pretty positive there are going to be some significant rewrites

but hey, that’s part of the game.

MZ: I’m doing a post-write outline right now putting all the scenes into a spreadsheet so I can look at all the different parts in one view

AR: that’s a good idea

MZ: I do something sorta similar but my own version of Justine Larbalestier’s spreadsheet here http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2006/09/06/how-to-write-a-novel/ but I do it after the story is at least 60% done at the earliest

AR: Oh cool, I’ll check that out!

MZ: I don’t like doing an in-depth pre-outline, cause it destroys a lot of the discovery process

AR: I agree. It’s good to have an idea of where you’re going, but discovery is most of the reason *I* write.

MZ: I’ll write up directions, but I don’t draw a map until I get lost. The other thing you’re known for, is being something of a mixologist. Any new favorite cocktails recently?

AR: Ahh. Another fun subject. I was definitely hardcore into mixology a few years ago. My interest hasn’t exactly waned, but the way life’s fallen, I tend to mix (and drink!) less these days.

(Not a bad thing maybe?)

Still, though, it’s a passion of mine

MZ: I got a huge sampler of Fee Bitters recently, and I’ve been using them in seltzer more than cocktails :)

AR: Oh that’s a great idea! I have an army of bitters bottles, and I’ll often add them to soda water as a digestive

MZ: it makes a very lovely non-calorie drink

AR: As far as actual cocktails go, i’ve been focused on the classics these days (o, I bet!)

Manhattans, Martinis, margaritas, negronis. You really can’t go wrong with those.

MZ: I made what ended up being sort of a tequila martini sort of thing, 1 to 1 silver tequila and St. Germain with grapefruit bitters

AR: I’ve been making my margaritas lately with mezcal instead of tequila. And a variation on the Negroni (which is a house-fave)

MZ: I’m not sure I’ve ever had mezcal

AR: Oh mezcal is tasty. Smoky, a little like scotch, but with that sort of resinous mouth feel of tequila.

MZ: Oooo I like smoky

AR: Try mezcal!

MZ: Do you have a brand you recommend?

AR: Well, I’ve tried a few, though for the value, Del Maguey’s Vida is my fave.

MZ: Cool. I’ll have to try that. I’m a big scotch person, so that’s a fascinating new taste to try.

AR: Yeah, if you like smoky scotch, then mezcal should be right up your alley

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

AR: I could talk all night about a bunch of things…

but

I probably shouldn’t…

I’m eager to get back to my writing.

 


Ghosts in the IM: Conversations With Writers

SunilPatel

Sunil Patel

Sunil just recently sold his very first short story! He’s a playwright and an actor in the Bay Area and soon he will be reviewing books for Lightspeed Magazine. He can be found on the internet at http://ghostwritingcow.com/ and I highly recommend following him on Twitter.

 

 

Minerva Zimmerman: So you just sold your very first short story!

Sunil Patel: I did! I keep telling people this and I still don’t believe it.

MZ: That’s so awesome. It’s a big step.

SP: And I’m sharing a table of contents with some unbelievable names, like Ken Liu, Cat Rambo, Seanan McGuire, Andy Duncan…people with AWARDS AND SHIT.

MZ: And you just got back from LonCon

SP: My second Worldcon!

MZ: I really like following you on Twitter because you just get so exuberant about everything. It’s like getting the cliff notes about the stuff I care about

SP: I love turning people on to things I love. I always think about the mark I make on the world, and I want it to be a positive one. Even if I do nothing else before I die, if I was the reason you watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, then I did something good in this world.

MZ: :) I feel like there’s a good chance that if you like something I’ll like something.

SP: And that’s good! It’s good to be aware of people’s tastes. I like to think my recommendations are the best, but they’re only the best if you agree with me and what I look for in things. I tend to be more positive in general than most people, I think, which means I even like things that are generally derided, like the first Transformers movie.

MZ: What was your favorite part about your trip. You seemed to be eating your way through Paris prior to the con

SP: And I just hope the fact that I like some things that may not be objectively good doesn’t invalidate my recommending genuinely amazing things. With regards to Paris, the dinner I had on my last night was definitely a highlight, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Foie gras (I’M SORRY DUCKS I’M REALLY SORRY BUT OH MY GOD), roast duck, pain perdu, and…you know, I just had Subway. Sorry, stomach, please forgive me, I’ll put something wonderful in you again soon enough.

But another highlight was acquiring some single-serving travel buddies at the Eiffel Tower. Two 19-year-old girls, both from England, I believe, and one of Iranian descent. And they were the BIGGEST NERDS EVER. At one point they were singing the Pokémon theme song. On the Eiffel Tower.

I loved that our geekery bonded us strangers together for one night.

MZ: So random, but so awesome that geekery can bring people together. Though I am realizing that 19 year olds probably don’t remember a world in which Pokemon didn’t exist and that’s sort of weirding me out

SP: And there are so many kids who have never known a world without The Simpsons.

MZ: Yeah, I’ve been watching the marathon sitting here sick on the sofa.

SP: Kids? Adults. Shit.

MZ: And realizing that some of these episodes I remember airing, aired like 20+ years ago

SP: I feel really old all the time, even though I know I’m young. And I keep feeling like I should have started getting serious about writing and submitting years ago. I should have written FIFTEEN BOOKS at my age or whatever.

MZ: Yeah. I get that feeling too.

SP: I know every writer has a different path. There are plenty of stories of successful writers who started late in life, and they’re heartening. But then I hear the stories of people who wrote their first novels as teenagers and I’m like SHUT UP.

MZ: Well, I think there’s partly a thing where you can’t generally start too young because there’s some fundamental amount of work that needs to come first. I mean most people wrote young, but that doesn’t mean they’d learned yet

SP: I wrote a book called The Disastrous Dino War when I was nine. I also illustrated it. I’ll bet you can’t guess what it’s about.

MZ: clowns?

SP: Close! It’s about a dino war. It was disastrous.

MZ: Hehehehe

SP: I will never misspell that word. Never ever.

MZ: I’m on cold medicine, so that’s really funny to me today.

SP: Because the day before I was to submit that book for a contest, I realized I had “Disasterous” on the cover and title page and that was not the correct spelling and I had to redo them both. Disaster-ous! Like a disaster! IT MAKES SENSE. Goddammit, English language.

MZ: oh no. I wrote a book of poetry for a young writer’s contest at like 7, it’s terrible stuff like: “A bear makes tears, A Mom repairs”

SP: “Sandy ate pears”

MZ: but Dear Mr. Henshaw was my favorite book ever, and I HAD to go to the young author’s meeting

SP: “They fell on their derrieres” I loved that book!

MZ: and like you had to turn in a book to go!

SP: (There are so many books today where I say, “I loved that book!” but I was a kid and I have literally no memory of the book, I just know I read it.)

MZ: I was working at the kitchen table trying to come up with a story and I truly thought my life was ending when I couldn’t make anything work. At 7!

SP: What a tragedy!

MZ: I was like knocking back shots of apple juice in despair!

SP: Despair, see, that’s another good rhyme.

MZ: pretty sure I used that, also something about a goblin

SP: “The goblin scares”

MZ: yep, that was it

SP: I feel pretty good about being as talented as a 7-year-old.

MZ: :D So, I try to keep that in mind when everthing seems terrible and I’m never going to be a “real” writer.

SP: For me, it’s trying to put into perspective my writing path as opposed to other people’s. Some people just wrote and wrote and wrote continually since they were children, and then they wrote all the time, and they wrote books, and they couldn’t stop.

MZ: Yeah if you try to navigate by other people’s milestones, you’re going to end up lost.

SP: That wasn’t me. For me, I only wrote for contests as I was growing up. That was what motivated me to write something. The first major story I wrote just because I had an idea and I wanted to write it was called “Polter-Cow,” which I then adopted as my online persona, hence my Twitter handle of ghostwritingcow.

MZ: Heh, I really like the idea of Ghost Cows there is apparently a place here in Oregon that gets them

SP: It came from an enemy in the Sega Genesis game Toejam and Earl 2: Panic on Funkatron.

MZ: ohhhh yeah

SP: But anyway, after that first story I wrote just to write a story, I ended up taking creative writing courses in college, and I wrote a lot in college.

MZ: didn’t that have a really spooky sound effect?

SP: I remembered the other day that I even wrote a short screenplay.

MZ: You’re also really active in theater

SP: I don’t remember the sound effect! Possibly.

Right, I got hooked on theater in college and took a dramatic writing course, and once I got to the Bay Area, I started writing monologues and short plays. And I have to keep reminding myself: all of that, ALL OF THAT was writing. I didn’t just start writing last year and then sell a story nine months later.

MZ: Yeah, I don’t think anyone really does that. I mean everything has to be in your brain first.

SP: I’m in a weird paradoxical mode where it feels like I did that since I only started submitting to SFF magazines recently. But I’ve been writing for years and years, in so many different forms. I wrote a lot in online journals as well.

 MZ: Right, but I mean it’s kind of like making gumbo. First you make a roux, then you start cooking your onions and garlic, and then you start throwing in ingredients from all over and you have something sorta in mind, but it isn’t the same every time.

SP: That metaphor is going way over my head because the most complicated thing I can make is chili and that is dumping things into a pot.

MZ: hahahaha, so is this sorta, but in an order

SP: First you drop in your terrible dinosaur book, mix in a story about a ghost cow, sprinkle in some theater…

 MZ: I mean everyone has their basic writing skills, and then all the books and stuff they’ve ever read, then all their experiences

SP: Who even knows where words come from?

MZ: and then there’s so much writing that has to happen in all different kinds of things before you can put something together good enough to publish

SP: Every time I look at a story I’ve written I don’t really understand where it came from. Words are weird.

MZ: Words are weird. Brains too.

SP: I tried to add up if I’d written my million words of crap. I forget the total I came to but I hadn’t included all my online journal stuff and I think that counts because that was a lot of crap.

MZ: I have a weird question. Have you read a lot of plays?

SP: I have read a lot of plays! Both for class and for fun.

MZ: I had a weird TA gig where I had a lot of free time in the drama department, so I ended up reading all the plays starting with A. I think I got to about S

SP: What was your favorite?

 MZ: I really liked the original Arsenic and Old Lace because all the Boris Karloff jokes make more sense in that character was actually portrayed by Boris Karloff

SP: That play is hilarious. The movie’s great too.

MZ: Auntie Mame too

SP: Really like those A plays, then.

MZ: I did apparently. I wish I’d kept better track of what I’d read

SP: I need to go back through time and ask my past self to update my Goodreads.

MZ: my past self is such a pain in my ass

SP: I like to think that I am currently the best version of me that has ever been because, hoo boy, some of my past selves.

MZ: ahahahaha I just wish I could delegate more or at least have them undo some of their mistakes. I work at a museum, and I’m always telling people to write the records and notes in the records as letters to their future selves telling them what they were thinking at the time. Cause your future self will curse you otherwise.

SP: I am so incredibly grateful for all the journaling I did because it was basically offloading my memory into digital form.

MZ: Yeah I’ve gotten out of the habit

SP: I can read past entries and there are so many details of good times I had with friends that I cannot access in my brain anymore. So I guess they happened. Probably. I can’t really trust what I wrote to be accurate though.

MZ: I wonder if it is a thing that happens in life or not

SP: I think it’s also because now there is so much more Internet. LiveJournal used to be The Place and then Facebook and Twitter sort of became the way people communicated instead. And now Tumblr.

MZ: it’s true. I remember when LJ was most of my internet. I prefer Twitter in a lot of ways, but I can’t deal with Facebook at all.

SP: I feel that I have been neglecting Facebook for Twitter, which is sad because I love Facebook. Facebook is where my friends are. Not that I don’t have friends on Twitter, but Facebook is where the people I have known for years in real life—mostly my college friends and theater friends—talk.

MZ: I never liked the user interface, so I never really got into it.

SP: The response to my Facebook post announcing that I sold my first short story was tremendous. I felt so supported, even by people I hadn’t actually talked to in years. Also being able to use more than 140 characters when communicating is a plus.

MZ: Yeah, I do miss LJ for that. But I feel like people just don’t really comment on journal posts anymore

SP: Which saddens me because it’s the only way I know someone has actually read it. Otherwise I feel like I’m shouting into the void.

MZ: Yeah, but I mean I guess that’s what writing is a lot of the time, so it isn’t necessarily bad… just feedback is nice.

SP: Writing—all art—is a form of communication, an expression of ideas, so it’s nice to know that you’ve reached someone in some way. Even if it’s simply “I have no reaction to this at all but I have heard you and internalized your words and I have no choice but to be irrevocably changed by this experience because that is how life works.”

MZ: I’m looking forward to reading your short

SP: I’m looking forward to you reading my short story! Also dreading. I’m excited/terrified.

MZ: Sounds about right :)

SP: I hear it never gets any easier.

MZ: nope, fraid not

SP: Lord, what fools these writers be.

MZ: Hark, but I do hear the morning lark

wait, no… that’s just a cold medicine hallucination

SP: Nay, ’tis the afternoon ibis.

MZ: /coughcoughcoughlaughcough

SP: That joke is only funny to me because we were all birds on Twitter earlier today because, you know, Twitter.

 MZ: Makes sense. I’m still sort of sneaking up on today. I really don’t recommend this cold.

SP: I resolve not to get it, and I will not recommend it to others.

MZ: Good plan. Well, I think that about wraps it up for this. Anything you want to make sure to talk about?

SP: I did want to put in a plug for Worldcon as a fantastic convention to go to, as last year’s Worldcon was what showed me how lovely and supportive the SFF community is and inspired me to officially join it as a writer.

MZ: Cool. That is a much stronger recommendation to go next year than a lot of things.

SP: I’ve already registered for next year. Hope to see you there!

MZ: Kind of curious how that’s going to go with it being not close to a hub airport

SP: Perhaps they will organize mammoth caravans or dragon rides.

MZ: ooo dragons. that would make it memorable

SP: Make it happen, George R.R. Martin.

 

 

 


Update – I am a talented klutz

Well, it finally happened. I broke a cell phone. I put a bottle of coke in my purse that wasn’t quite fastened and that purse turned out to be water-resistant enough on the inside to send all of the contents swimming. This has put a major crimp on my ability to take terrible pictures of pens and things to update the blog because I had 4 weeks of pictures on my phone. I should hopefully be getting a refurb replacement in the next couple days and I endeavor to figure out what pictures I lost and replace them.

The same day I broke my phone I also managed to flush a piece of our steam cleaner which required a plumber to clear from the toilet. I am REALLY talented. I just wish I was as talented at writing stuff.


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