Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Today I Was a Zombie

I am sick.

I do not like being sick.

I do not like it so much that I actually hauled my carcass to the doctor today. If you know me, this is a Big Deal.

While I was there, they took my blood pressure and my heart rate, which were miraculously NOT THERE.

"I am dead," I said to the nurse.

"No, you are not dead," she replied.

"But I have no pulse and no blood pressure. That means that I am a zombie now and you should fear for your juicy, juicy brains."

Then she cocked her head at me and checked the charge on the heart monitor.

Oh, well. It was kind of cool for a second.

My new diet. This, and plenty of Jell-o.

Since I am verifiably Not Dead, I am planning for the future. Next Wednesday's future, for instance, will be my grateful participation in The Next Big Thing Blogroll. I was graciously tagged by Ellen Morris Prewitt, who is now practically a deity in my opinion. I'm going to have to do some thinking about which of my projects to post about, but I just wanted to throw that out there in case of, you know, zombie attack.

After all, if we can't find an excuse to eat brains, then at the very least we can learn to appreciate them for their intrinsic qualities. Even mine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tools of the Trade: Ink Review - Private Reserve DC Super Violet

Since I've got a little stock of ink reviews already written up, I thought I'd carry on the tradition of Tools of the Trade and post up another one. This one's not a blue! Shock! Gasp! Seriously though, I have a few other non-inky tricks up my sleeve for the blog, but I enjoy smearing cool colors all over my desk enough that ink reviews are a natch.

Private Reserve DC Super Violet


This ink is a fun one, and I'm glad I got a big bottle of it when I had the chance. It was a limited edition, brewed up by the folks at Private Reserve for the DC Pen Show. It is my understanding that they only released 500 bottles of it, which is a shame because I will miss it when it is gone. I'm a purple fan and have several different shades, but this one has a special nuclear, eye-searing quality I haven't found elsewhere. I think that PR has a history of making these special edition inks part of their usual production runs, so maybe this one will get the same treatment.

Check out my review and let me know what you think or if you have anything to add. It has been brought to my attention that my comments have been screwy on the site. If you're trying to comment but it doesn't seem to show up properly, drop me an email at blankpagewarrior (at) gmail (dot) com. (Die, spambots, die!).

The scan is missing a bit of vibrancy and looks a little darker than what I see in front of me, but you can check out color corrected swabs at Goulet Pens. (No affiliation except a satisfied customer and active user of their impressive library of swabs and info!) It also appears that they have some small bottles in stock right now. I still don't know if it is considered a "regular" color now, but buy them up!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Inspiration Monday: Lucky Day

Luck is one of those words that people throw around a lot, but when you sit someone down and ask them if they believe in luck, you'll get differing answers. Some people believe that there is no such thing as luck. Some people believe you make your own luck. Some people thank their lucky stars.

Star Buddy by Stacey
Most everyone knows someone who has bent his or her life in some small or large way for the sake of a good patch of luck. When I was a kid, I had an actual foot of an actual bunny attached to my cute little backpack because they were supposed to be lucky. It was the foot of a dead animal. A kind of animal I quite like, and one I would have been traumatized over had I seen one hobbling around missing its foot. But, because it was famously lucky and dyed an unnatural color, I didn't seem to have too much of a problem with it. Ah, the creepy innocence of youth.

Nowadays, I don't give too much thought about luck except in passing conversation. My beliefs about the ebb and flow of the universe have grown in complexity and devotion, and most major events and near misses in my life tend to get attributed in a spiritual direction rather than toward a severed animal foot.

That said, if I get a dose of good news right after finding a heads-up penny from my birth year, I will look a little closer at that penny and keep it around in my purse for a while (just for ambiance, you see. I'm not superstitious!)

However you fall on the issue of luck, there is no denying that it plays a big part in literature. If an author relies on it too much, the plot can seem contrived. No matter what heroics the main character pulls off, the reader has already checked out. They don't believe your big 80,000 word lie anymore because they've seen the seams. The illusion is broken.

Used judiciously, however, luck can give a little extra thrust to your pacing. A near miss is an exciting thing, and lucky objects make great MacGuffins. Characters can espouse all the same perspectives on luck as us boring flesh and blood folks. For instance, you could have a heart surgeon who always wears his or her lucky insoles when performing surgery on Tuesdays. This would be a man or woman of science, whose precision determines life and death in a very direct and literal way, who relies on worn out sneaker guts to function properly. Maybe you could have a compulsive gambler who will only bet against people on "lucky streaks" because he's psychologically profiled them to the point that he can predict their every move--and baits them into believing in those lucky streaks.

Put your lucky bamboo plant out on your desk, grab your lucky pen and your lucky notebook and write a story where luck plays a part, whether in the positive or negative sense. A lack of luck can be just as compelling as someone who just can't lose. A change of luck can compel a character toward new heights...or lows.

Grab some inspiration and see where it takes you. After all, it may be your lucky day. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dreaming Underwater

Creativity is the fuel for the rest of my personality. It is the part that powers me, that allows my arms and legs and brain to keep moving through the rest of my life. If I don't get in my time to consume and create art, then I run out of gas, plain and simple. It is like sleeping without dreaming--it leaves little point to waking.

I need time to soak in my thoughts, to hold my breath and explore the landscape on the bottom of my brain. Real Life floods in and crushes the air out of me, forcing me to the surface where the world stands waiting with their hooks and nets.

In short, I'm drowning in life.

They totally look like Fruity Pebbles.
They probably don't stay crunchy in milk, though.

What is the trick to dreaming underwater and not drowning in the process? Is there a way to crest the surface and suck in a lungful of reality without losing the mental, emotional, and spiritual nutrients that I absorb while I'm soaking in my own mind?

These fish have the right idea. I imagine that if I was one of them, I might start out a skinny, laggy, milky white blank-slate fish. I would swim around and around, learning from the other creatively colored fish, taking in everything about my surroundings and having increasingly complex thoughts until my very body began to change with the weight of them. I'd swell up and my fins would grow strong and fast so that I could see more, do more. My thoughts would grow ripe and throb for expression until my tiny sides would glow and change colors. I would be like the others, but also different. You would know me by my colors and the way I swam, and those things would be directly informed by the unique way I saw my world. I would be my own art, creator and created. It would make me a part of their aqueous society, not set apart from it.

Why can't people be more like my imaginary fish? Probably because we have bills to pay and jobs to do and people to please. I'm all about doing these things, but sometimes I just wonder if I can find myself a little reverse SCUBA suit so that I can suck in a few lungfuls of creative energy while I'm walking around like a fish on dry land.

Here's to the struggle, fellow creatives. You know we're all in this together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Case of the Missing Saturday

When I woke up this morning, I had no clue what day it was.

I opened my eyes at the same exact time as I do everyday for work. I stared at the clock, and it stared back. My first thought came in the voice of what could only be described as one of my ancient Cro-Magnon ancestors. "Work," my mind grunted. "Time go work."

My second thought was a little more like my normal thoughts, including the articles and infinitives that generally characterize normal speech, even in the south. "All I ever seem to do is go to work," I thought, a little sadly.

I blinked at the clock a few more times, mad at it for sitting there and counting my precious, slippery seconds when I couldn't seem to get a hold on them. "When do I get a day off?" I asked it with my glare.

When it didn't answer, it dawned on me to ask it, "Wait--what day is it and how many more until Saturday?"

For two full, agonizing minutes, I stared down that clock and neither of us seemed to have any clue as to how to answer that question. I tumbled into a vortex where time has no foothold, a world in which there are no Saturdays, even a distant future Saturday on which to hang my weary hopes. No Saturdays, no Sundays. Only alarm clocks, traffic, work, traffic, a seven-hour nap if I'm lucky, and then an opportunity to rinse and repeat until I keel over during one of those activities. 

Once I counted on my fingers and toes to realize that it was, in fact, actually already Saturday, I nearly wept into my pillow.

After my brush with a world without Saturdays, I thought I had better make the most of the one in front of me. I was determined to cherish this sweet Saturday with all of my heart.

I sat myself down and set my jaw. "I am going to write you, novel. I am going to write you today, because today is Saturday, and that means that you and I have a whole day to stare at each other until one of us blinks since you, novel, are not an alarm clock which is a rude object that never blinks back unless the power is off."

I stuck my face into the manuscript and breathed in all the leftover creative vapors, hoping beyond hope that they would creep into my brain, seize my unraveled story threads, and for Heaven's sake, start knitting them back together.

I narrowed my eyes and sucked in a deep breath. I strategically placed all of my notes around me. I shooed my evil cat off of the notes and placed my fingers firmly on the keyboard.

Then I fell asleep at my desk.

Oh, you sneaky Saturday. You came without warning and escaped me just as easily. I will get you next week, and I will put you into a creativity-filled stranglehold.

You and me, Starbucks. You and me.
Unless I forget.

Is it Sunday yet? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Strange Bookfellows

Why hello, there! Blog? Is that you? It's so good to see you! My, you've changed. Have you lost some weight? Probably, because there's been NO ONE TO POST ON YOU TO KEEP YOU PLUMP AND HEALTHY!

Consider me shamed. Now, to fatten you up with some empty calories.

I have had a full week with plenty of ups and downs. It has been a little heavier on the downs, but I persevere. I persevere, and I write. Those are my two best tricks.

On the writing front, I've been working on my novel a bit. "Working" here means "staring at the text and sorting through countless notebooks looking for that scene I just know that I already wrote that would be absolutely perfect for this transition, but apparently either evaporated or was a figment of my imagination." The latter is likely because, after all, even the stuff I have written is still nothing but written-down imagination figments. That's all fiction really is anyway, right?

Since trolling through my notebooks only affords me so much quality procrastination even on my super-limited schedule, I've also been thinking about who I'm actually writing this novel for anyway. The obvious answer is, "myself." That is the truth in many, many ways that could get all metaphysical and sappy if I was to expound on it, but it is also a limited answer. Once this beast is finished, I want to get it published with all of the want my big, bursting, wanting heart can want with all its want. That means I am really writing it for anyone and everyone and no one all at the same time.

I am under no illusion that any amount of publishing of my work will ever net me the kind of walking-around money that the Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rowlings of the world have, and I'll probably never win a Pulitzer unless it is for something to do with rambling blog entries or government social-service grant activity sheets. I just want my book to be published because then it will exist.

Sure, it exists now. It exists on my hard drive, in countless notebooks and on napkins, in my writing buddies' inboxes, and as several reams of printed manuscript. It just doesn't exist in a way that makes it separate from me enough that it can belong to another person. It isn't final. I don't care how many times I print it or email it or read it or tap-dance on top of it, I'm going to see some little something that doesn't sit just right with me, and out comes my ruthless red pen. This phase is maddening for me because it seems never to end, but I've begun to think of it as a period of gestation. Once my novel finally grows itself a proper pair of lungs and gets its heart beating with a regular cadence, then it can join the rest of the world on the outside of my mind.

Lately, I've been thinking about what kind of market my book will be born into. The publishing world is in a state of flux. People are reading differently on a number of levels these days. The rise of e-readers and instant downloads has made it tough for bookstores to keep afloat, which hurts my story-sweetened old bookseller's heart. That said, in addition to a mountain of hard-copy books that will someday probably fall on me and kill me, I also have an e-reader.

E-readers brought with them a convenience and anonymity that have ushered in a new zeitgeist of popular novel. Self-publishing is easier than ever, and many talented authors are choosing that route only to be picked up after the fact by traditional publishers. Readers are worrying less about what their friends would say if they caught them reading that book and making their real reading interests known by what rockets up the e-book bestseller lists.

I'm noticing more and more ironic juxtapositions in book marketing:

I realize that alphabetical order was, is, and always will be the almighty dictator of shelf position, but the choice of face-out display speaks for itself. Sorry, James Joyce. Ulysses just doesn't have enough sex-appeal to catch the modern reader's eye. (No offense to Valerie Joyner. I'm sure her book is perfectly wonderful, it just struck me as a product placement which would baffle Joyce if he were to wander through a Barnes & Noble.)

It's almost like people aren't sure what they want--something to speak to their inner desires, or their outer ones. Maybe they can't tell which ones are which. Either way, Wal-Mart makes it easy to grab an inspirational paperback to take to the church retreat and a steamy Harlequin for the drive up to the location:

In this schizophrenic market, there are a lot of opportunities for writers to wedge their little fingers in the cracks and pull open a book-sized hole for themselves if they're willing to give it a shot. It's heartening in many ways, because pubs are having to look at a lot of factors they once ignored and readers are paying attention to writers they would never have had access to just a few years ago.

All any of this rambling really means is that I'm still writing my book in my own head and that it is a patriot without a country at this point. It takes me full circle and I remember that at least it has me, and I can always just write for myself.

Then someday, when I put my foot down and make the time, when I stop doubting, when I stop procrastinating, my book will exist. Here's hoping there will be someone other than myself waiting to read it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tools of the Trade: Ink Review - Diamine Majestic Blue

A while back, in my search for ever-entertaining inks and pens, I discovered a unique concept in fountain pen inks called sheen. This ain't no Pantene commercial kinda sheen. This sheen is cool, and you can write with it.

A "sheening" fountain pen ink is one which is usually highly saturated with dye content, and therefore will give off a unique different colored "glow" when it hits the light just right, especially in areas where the ink has pooled. The last ink I reviewed had a tendency to have a slight red sheen to it in areas of high saturation, but I have run into very few inks that will give you this red sheen like Diamine Majestic Blue.


Here is my handwritten review for this awesome ink, and I'm attaching a few photos where the sheen is somewhat apparent. The usual caveat is in play here as well: my gear is not too great at color correction, so if you want to see a true blue (ha!) color-corrected swab, head over to Goulet Pens and take a peek.

Without further ado, Diamine Majestic Blue:

Click to embiggen.
Here are a few pics in which we tried to capture some of that awesome sheen.

Be reminded that sometimes cool sheening inks like this come with a price. This ink can become cloggy if you don't write with your pen often. It is an ink with which you should take some special care in your pen hygiene.

Some people like the color, but don't like the sheen or just want an ink that is a little less fussy about clogging. I'm happy to report that you can dilute Majestic Blue quite a bit with water and it still holds its color remarkably well. I haven't done this in a while so I'm not sure of ratio, but there are threads over at Fountain Pen Network which have more information.

I hope this is useful and maybe at the very least, it will inspire someone to PUT DOWN THE BALLPOINT. There is help available. Call 1-800-FPSRBETTER for more information from Ballpoints Anonymous. (Don't really call. I'm kidding...or am I?)

Inspiration Monday: First Meal

People give a lot of lip service to what they would eat if they were about to have their last meal. Since I've been MIA due to some dental adventures lately, if you would ask me this question, my answer would probably vary from, "Anything solid, please!" to "Jell-O. Why break precedent?"

Who needs rose-colored glasses when there are Strawberry Jell-O ones?

If you get tired of eating it, build a toothpick fort. It reminds me of Orgrimmar from World of Warcraft.
Today at work, I had the more unique opportunity to be inspired to think about what I would choose for my first meal. Of course I don't mean the first meal of life. Babies don't really get much of an option, and let's be honest. If they did, they'd pick Jell-O.

My morning was spent with two gentlemen who have recently become housed for the first time after decades on the streets. They've managed to survive for years eating what they can when they can and not asking a whole lot of questions about who prepared it, how many calories were in it, or how many antioxidants they were getting in their diets.

Today, we went grocery shopping. Now they both have their very own refrigerators and pantries. They have cabinets and counters, stoves and sinks. They now have a place for that random jar of olives that everyone always buys and sticks in the fridge door, but no one ever eats. (Except me, when I have teeth. Nom.) They got to wander up and down the aisles in a way I have never experienced--with an eye for what I would cook in my own home if I was about to cook a meal for myself for the first time in eighteen years.

There could be a lot of thought that goes into that process. Or maybe not very much thought at all. It would be hard to say unless you were actually there pushing the grocery cart. Maybe you really want to bake some ribs, but you don't have a baking pan. Maybe you want fried eggs, but you don't have a frying pan. Maybe you just want ice cream. ALL the ice cream.

If you are so inclined, write or art or compose or dance a little scene about someone planning this first meal. Include internal cues about what this person would be thinking. Mention what foods this person would choose and why he or she would choose them. Why is this a first meal for this person?

If you're a good cook, go out there and plan your own first meal. Think of a scenario in which you are turning over a new leaf in one way or another. Food is life, so find foods that connect to this new chapter in the book of You and cook a meal that signifies it. 

Remember: There's always room for Jell-O.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Life as a Toy

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a lovable plush toy representation of yourself?


Well, you're missing out.

My good friend Stacey from Searching for Wonderland gave me just such an opportunity. Ladies, gents, and crochet creatures, I give you Marisa Monshter, a cheerful citizen of Monshter Town.

Stacey, the almighty creater of Monshter Town, is a master with a crochet hook...and a paintbrush...and a Wacom...and a sewing machine...and rocks, paper, scissors, and all kinds of other things. She has got to be one of the most creative and talented people ever to live, and I'm all smug and smarmy about the fact that I've known her since high school. She even made a box, complete with the little tabs and insert thingies that used to hold your Care Bear toys in their boxes like war criminals.

This is seriously one of the coolest gifts EVER, and at an absolutely perfect time. She presented my new little friend to me when I was doing my best to keep an aging stiff upper lip on my thirtieth birthday last year.

Now I'm immortal, and with adorable little fuzzy horns and fantastic blue hair. I don't actually have horns or blue hair, but the little bit of punk streak in me wonders how the blue hair would look...
The text on the back is fantastic (as is her graphic design prowess).

"Marisa Monshter's favorite color is blue! She loves making new friends and she has a lot of hobbies (that's an understatement). Some of her favorite things to do are draw, write, and go horseback riding. Marisa loves music more than just about anything else in the whole world. She even plays the trumpet! Marisa's favorite food is waffles! (A shoutout to our writing group--hi, Laura!) Won't you be Marisa's friend?"

Yes. Won't you? She enjoys long walks on the beach and staying out of the dog's reach. She's currently reading the entire David Sedaris canon and hoping to upgrade her little pink and green iPod to an iPod touch with better battery life and Angry Birds.

Seriously, I thought I'd post about this today because it inspired me. I've been moping around my house all weekend and feeling sorry for myself because I can't get into a creative groove. That pesky writer's block I posted about last week is still wrestling with me, and it doesn't fight fair. I flopped myself down in a chair and decided to stare blankly at the mocking bookshelf full of its writings and publishings and awesomeness that I can never attain, and there was my little stuffed doppelganger staring happily at me.

It just kind of reminded me that there are a million ways that a person can be creative, and that maybe my desire to get into a writing "groove" is part of my problem. Maybe I'm so far into the groove that it has become a rut.

I hauled myself up from my chair and decided that I would find something else to flex my creative muscles for a while. Dear Husband Chris and I ended up putting on our photographer hats and harassing the animals by chasing them around and taking pictures of them.

We worked on a light box and took completely useless (but really cool!) pictures of seashells.

You know what? It kind of worked. I started feeling refreshed and energized, like I was charging my batteries instead of trying to draw on a dead one. Now I feel like I could sit down and get a little bit of writing done without beating myself up over it.

So, hurray for today's Surprise Muse, Marisa Monshter, and her fabulous creator, Stacey-friend.