What's up at Ravens March.

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Oh, Damn It.

Posted by Dirck on 17 April, 2018

The question frequently comes up on forums– “Will the security people at the airport get bent out of shape about the fountain pens I carry?”  The answer has, hitherto, been a resounding no, because (a) no one who doesn’t use them ever notices a fountain pen, and (b) they are less suited to poking a hole in a person than a ballpoint, with the pokey bit being also very bendy.

And then this nonsense happens:

Picture of several Air China planes at a terminal, under headline AIR CHINA PLANE DIVERTS AFTER FOUNTAIN PEN HOSTAGE DRAMA

Shown in picture: Absolutely no fountain pens. Not one. Because they’re boringly innocuous.

Now, if you read the whole story, you’ll find that nobody was hurt, and that one could as probably make the headline read YET ANOTHER ENTITLED GUY IN AIRLINE FIRST CLASS FALLS TO STRESS, but then we lose the exoticism of pointing to a fountain pen as a deadly weapon (which did not actually do anyone any harm).  Why couldn’t he have used a plastic airline fork, or his tie?  At least it didn’t happen with a US carrier or in US airspace, so it may not enter the script of modern security theatre.

Of course… I probably shouldn’t be making noise about it, should I?

Today’s entirely harmless pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s non-toxic ink: Diamine Oxford Blue

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A Little Jaunt on a Sailboat

Posted by Dirck on 13 April, 2018

Today’s film is just what I say– a romantic little getaway in a canvas-powered craft.

By “romantic,” I mean “none for me, thanks.”  Just try to picture the mindset of people who would get into one of those things without any clear sense of in which precise direction or how far away the next land was.  Nuts.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Diamine Oxford Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 12 April, 2018

Day What How Much Pen Ink
  • 2 April
  • 3 April
  • 4 April
  • 5 April
  • Second draft of “The Monster in the Cabin,” which is, despite appearances, a much better title.
  • Bag of Bones,” which is a result of a Steal-a-Title Challenge I decided I should get in on.
    • 3,627 words typed.
    • 1,040 words.

I will admit that I’ve actually spent some moments giggling and clapping at the scale of the latest story– not only being able to get to “show it to the readers” stage so quickly that I can actually remember what the weather was like when I began, but being able to hold the whole of the narrative in my head easily.  All the more giddy to find I had sufficient think-tokens left in my reserves to work on a second story at the same time!

Something else I got around to setting myself up with this:
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com
I’m not going to give it any more time on this branch of my online existence than this mention, but over at the writing preserve, it’s now an inescapable fixture in the sidebar.  I do not expect it will make me a rich person.

…but I will hope, every so slightly.

The sharp-eyed will notice that I’ve done away with the “Duration” column of the chart.  I know none of you care how long I’ve been at the task on a given day, and I’m finally convinced my own inward monitor that however long it it, it’s long enough.

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Upping Their Game

Posted by Dirck on 10 April, 2018

I have been distracted lately, by both my (over-documented) artistic endeavours and the collapse of my site… in addition to all the other current events stuff people spend much of the day screeching about.  The distraction momentarily cleared recently, and I find that the world as I knew it has changed and one of the bedrock foundations of my understanding has become alarmingly wobbly.

I am shaken to discover that Wing Sung can no longer be discounted with, “Oh, they make the cheapest pens you can imagine.”  At least, not completely.

Two pens of recent development bring this home.  First, there’s this thing:

No, it’s not a TWSBI Diamond.

All right, I guess it is a cheap pen.  In fact, the main expense in getting a Wing Sung 3008 is the cost of postage, and even that seems to be available at a cut rate; some people are getting them for three dollars.  I do go into some detail in my profile of this pen regarding the evident cheapness of the materials, but for all that, it has a functional piston filler and it costs less than a Pilot Varsity.  If it lasts through three fills, it’s well worth the price, and mine is in the middle of its second with no sign of impending failure.

“Well, fine, but that’s just one pen, and it’s still a cheap, rickety piece of plastic.”

True.  But then there’s this other, even more recent development–

Yes, it’s a familiar shape. And yet… it’s not quite what you expect.

A lot of Wing Sung pens can be called a Parker “51” knock-off, but I’m inclined to call the 601 a loving recreation, right down to the Vacumatic filler.  The only things it lacks which the Parker had is a gold point and a network of factory-supplied service centres backing it up.  It also costs more than the 1947 Parker which it closely emulates– about $16.00 rather than $12.50.  However, when you start factoring in seventy years of inflation…

Also, the Wing Sung is very slightly bigger than the Parker. That’s not just perspective at work.

One might say that the Chinese pen is in some ways an improvement upon its predecessor.  There’s an ink window (although, in some body colours, it’s absent– baffling!), and the mechanism is made to be removed with a simple crescent wrench rather than an exotic and specialized tool.

Note also; you can’t just stuff one mechanism in another body. Even if they’re compatible diameters (which I don’t know), a Parker blind cap would have nothing to cling to.

They have even started to improve upon the mechanism itself– I have a variant creeping its way here on the proverbial slow boat from China which sees the diaphragm replaced with the sort of piston-head found in the 3008, which should reduce the rate of filler failure and incidence of serious maintenance.  Since there is not a network of service centres and… well, I don’t know if the (relatively) readily available Parker diaphragms fit the Wing Sung mechanism, a more durable filler seems like a splendid idea.

And all for the cost of burgers and shakes for yourself and a companion.  In Wing Sung terms, sixteen dollars is a massively expensive pen, but on the broad spectrum of genus Fountain Pen it is very cheap indeed.  It’s right in the same neighbourhood as the Pilot Metropolitan, which is my personal go-to as a recommendation when someone expresses an interest in trying a fountain pen but doesn’t want to spend a load of money.  The only disadvantage the Wing Sung has in shoving the Met out of that default position is that it’s not available in so many outlets… at least in North America.  Balancing that is the fact that it has a built-in filler and a huge ink capacity compared to the Metropolitan’s converter, so I’m a little torn.  If the notional someone is expressing interest in vintage Parkers, and has no experience with a hooded point, then I have a pen for them, all right.

What these two new objects from Wing Sung indicate, and I’m not the only one saying this, is a willingness to explore outside the “cheap pen with a press-bar filler” territory they’ve staked out for a long time.  This is excellent news for we fans of fountain pens, and not just because it gives us a couple of new toys to play with at a price most can afford.  If Wing Sung is getting experimental, perhaps their augurers see the continued revivification of the market for this kind of instrument.  That is a thought I will cuddle to my bosom.

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini (and looking somewhat nervous of this new competition, too)
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

 

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Shiny New Things

Posted by Dirck on 6 April, 2018

Not really part of my brief, but I find this all VERY hopeful for the future because it’s mostly “in production in 2019” rather that “perhaps sometime in the next decade but one.”

I just hope I’ll be able to afford the VW van when it makes its appearance… in a couple of years.

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

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Posted by Dirck on 5 April, 2018

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 2 April
  • 3 April
  • 4 April
  • 5 April
  • First draft of “Destroying the Abomination” (very much a working title).
  • Seven manuscript pages.
  • Six pages.
  • Six pages.
  • Eight pages.
  • 50 min.
  • 45 min.
  • 45 min.
  • 50 min.

Yes, it’s the return of the previous version of the progress report form.

I… don’t hear anyone cheering.  Fair enough.  I had meant to do something of more interest this week, but I’ve honestly had hardly a moment free at home, and I need several moments to get some necessary pictures out of my camera.  The coming weekend should offer a span of minutes I can grasp, although I fear my wife’s play director may insist upon more rehearsals at inconvenient times.

I was able, last Saturday, to take this happy snap:

This close, and no closer. So far. This too is progress….

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Posted by Dirck on 29 March, 2018

This Week’s Pens Inks How Much Novel Progress
  • 1,481 words typed.

Say, that wasn’t much of a week, was it? Oh, but it was busy. You see, this fellow…

The darling Hercule

…has been going increasingly mad from loneliness since the death of his closest and final chum, Oberon.  It’s not that we humans neglect him, but we do not speak his language well. Last weekend, we finally found him some companions.  We had been looking for either siblings or a cat that was very friendly to other cats.  We ended up finding two of the latter:

Names TBA. We’ve just met them. Also, someone else took this picture.

They are, as far as anyone knows, not related.  But they clearly get on well with other cats.  They were, in fact, required to be adopted together by the rescue group whence we got them.  The older one is great with cats, but shy with people, and thus was hard to adopt.  After he had provided support to the younger during a phase of convalescence from the illness which took his mother and litter-mates (which sounds like Victorian melodrama, but is all too true), the idea of separating them seemed monstrous.

Of course, when brought into our house, they vanished like a dew.  I spent part of Sunday convinced that the little fellow had been killed by some unknown hazard in our basement.  By last night, though, they were both at least visible, and the big guy has apparently convinced Hercule that no one is going to get eaten by anyone else.  Progress toward a happy household.

However… none of this has a lot of bearing on the low word-count.  What brings that about is the fact that one of the words typed this week was END, all by itself at the bottom of a page.  Very nearly 90,000 words, which is a great deal more than I thought the manuscript ran to and a pretty good number for a novel.

This years-ago version of my son is SO PROUD of his dad’s persistence!

This doesn’t mean I’m done, alas.  There’s a little polishing of the whole before it gets put in the hands of feedback providers, then reacting to that feedback, then hiring a professional editor to do some horrible things to my ego… at the end of which I will start sending query letters out.  If this seems a timid and over-baked approach… well, yeah, but since it’s the first novel (bar the ones I never even tried to publish) I’d like it as shiny as possible before pestering gate-keepers with it.

It is done enough that I can get on with some other projects, though.  Hoorah, hoorah!

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The Cold Depths of Space

Posted by Dirck on 23 March, 2018

Let me start with a still photo.  Outside my window at The Regular Job, right this moment:

Yep.  Three days after the vernal equinox.  That’s Canada for you, I guess (portions of south-west coast subject to exemption).

ANYWAY, let’s use that as a jumping off point.  Snow, wind… these are as nothing to the hostile depths of space, right?

Two final observations:

  1. I am very affected by the end.  I blame a confluence of good acting and a very subtle trick of the writing;
  2. Because I am a Canadian and used to harsh conditions, I was slightly distracted by the fact that he never put on his damn hat.

Today’s pen: Parker 51
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

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Posted by Dirck on 22 March, 2018

This Week’s Pens Inks How Much Novel Progress
  •    3,416 words typed.

My effort to get some work done on weekends was done in by attending a writing workshop.  Still, that’s a pretty good week, and I think it’s rather more words than are left in the first draft.  If I didn’t have a couple of {INSERT SCENE HERE} markers lurking about midway through the current draft, I would be entirely certain of having it settled by this time next week.  That marker is, by the way, how I dodge any hint of writer’s block; put the foot down on the gas and shout “I’ll deal with it later!”

It’s still looking pretty likely.  Then, I think before I give it a final skim for utter illegibilities prior to unleashing it upon my well-loved beta readers, I’m going to put in a couple of weeks of down time, leaving it to rest like a steak fresh off the fire.  I may even talk about some pens, despite the mad clamour of short stories that desire my attention.

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Heroic Posing

Posted by Dirck on 16 March, 2018

Having (very nearly) slain the metaphorical dragon of my site’s collapse this week, I’d like to offer the trailer to a movie you should see if you haven’t… although not for the reasons which might occur from the trailer.

There are two important lessons from this.  First, never trust a trailer.  Second, people who win Oscars as Best Editor earn them.

Today’s pen: Pelikan 140
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

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