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Archive for December, 2018

Each Month a Decade

Posted by Dirck on 31 December, 2018

Didn’t the last year feel that way to you?

But let’s avoid politics. I’m going to do what I did at this time last year and show you some almost meaningless stats regarding my writing endeavours:

Now… that looks like a couple of slack years, but there was the novel-writing wheeze that I was pursuing, wasn’t there. To the 2018 “Completed Words” we might add, if feeling recklessly charitable, the 89,374 words of the second draft on the novel. We do not feel thus charitable, since the second draft sits quietly, still awaiting the work that will render it worth foisting even upon beta-readers, but it does make the words/year count of the past two years seem a little less sparse.

It is that as-yet-gestating novel that occupies most of my thoughts in the current retrospective mood, because I have over the past few weeks been thinking about the effect of the effort of creation which it represented on me and the other stuff I’ve been at since I embarked upon it. The column to the right is the one that gets me. 2016 was definitely The Year I Got Serious, and the fact that in the following two years I finished so little is… embarrassing.

If it were just the numbers, though, I’d give the embarrassed aspect of myself a slap and a point out that great heap of words lurking in the background. There is, I come to realize now that I’ve given it some thought, some lingering effects of spending a lot of writing time not finishing something. I’ve had more trouble grinding out the stories that followed the novel’s typing-up than is quite right, and when I haven’t been having trouble pushing the thoughts out of my head and onto paper, it’s frequently been because I’ve been lapsing into poor habits I’d believed to be behind me.

I think, I hope, that I’ve gotten things back in hand.  The latest item on the front-line, “Preserve My Fondest Memories,” has felt a little more like soaring over the slopes of Helicon, bourne up by the good-will of the Muses, than it has like trying to pull my own teeth (which has definitely been the case with a couple of this year’s efforts). I’ve had a couple of encouraging personalized rejection notes back on a couple of submissions rather than the all-too-frequent form letters†. However, the fact that running up the novel as far as it has gone thus far has had this effect on my general attempts to carve lumps of language into pleasing shapes makes me wonder if it’s something I’m quite up to.

But because I’m also The Amazing Self-Defeating Man, there’s a lot of world-building gone on for one of the other novel-sized notions I have drifting around my mental orbit. Sigh.

I mentioned preparing technology in Friday’s oddly-placed progress report. I have, with the urging of my wife (who is at very least a catspaw of the Muses if not an occasional avatar), bought an iPad to replace the increasingly rickety tablet I got four years ago, at the same time as the camera I still occasionally use to good effect. I have allowed myself the foolish magical ideation that the iPad is the solution to some of my creative woes. It will pair with the bluetooth keyboard I own, something Rickety couldn’t manage for more than thirty seconds at a go (a bit of a creative flow throttle, that).

However… I also apparently got a dud, so high-minded plans for creative flow on Sunday went out the window with a marathon session of chat with Apple Support. The upshot is that my plan from Saturday of “take it back to the store” now has Official Apple Sanction, without which the story bluntly declined to do a return. I think the Apple Support people were very pleasant and anxious to help… but it does sour the mood somewhat that it took several hours of

  • Try this–
  • Did it before I contacted you, but why not again?
  • OK, what about this?
  • It made a noise, but not the right noise. Still no screen.
  • (long pause for thought) How about this other thing?
  • (ten minutes of downloading later) Nope.

before the admission of a hardware problem and allowance to return a not-working object. I hope the one I pick up today is less… unique in its attributes.

But what about the pens? Won’t somebody think of the pens?!

Oh, yes. They’re not forgotten, although I’m starting to worry slightly that age-related modifications to my vision might see me have to drop repairs for others… sometime. The main problem I face in the direction of pens is financial.

Particularly since I just bought an iPad.

It takes money to get pens. Pen repair is not vastly lucrative. You will remember my big coup of 2018 was a Montblanc…

An elderly, slightly beat-up Montblanc of a model hardly anyone has heard of.

…which cost very little. The other additions to my site have likewise been on the cheap side, not unlike the Sterno of last resort for a drunkard who can no longer afford brandy. The problem with these little darlings is that they are not particularly re-sellable, and so count as a pure outgoing. I could for example flog the Montblanc for somewhat more than I paid, having cleaned it out and set its point to rights, but without inflated shipping cost shenanigans, this Pelikan…

…would still show up as a red item in the accounts if I sold it at correct market value. Ditto various WIng Sungs and Jin Haos I’ve used to quiet the monkey on my back.

It’s not like I need to feed that beast, of course. There is not, in my case at least, a stylophilic equivalent of the DTs. But there’s the sensation of not serving my site and those who look at it, even though I realize in my brief periods of lucidity that the V’Ger impulse to learn all that is learnable is foolish at best, and utterly ridiculous when being turned upon a consumer product still in production, with new models popping up all the time. If I wanted to make a site that shows all the variations of a certain class of object, I probably should have gone with something like flintlock-equipped firearms in active military service (which, I’ll bet, has a more recent date of final appearance than I suspect).

There’s also a matter of how much energy and time I am able to devote to the whole pen game. I’ve only got so much at hand, it seems to be waning (time more than energy, which given the subjective length of this year surely counts as a paradox), and there are other things I want to apply it to. My writing, of course. My family, obviously. Stuff like that.

I get this way at intervals, though. I’m sure this mood will pass eventually. Heck, I’ve got updates for the site that just need a bit of polish even at this moment. Let me drop a hint:

She probably is short, but there’s no reason to shout about it.

Happy new year to you all, then, and may it find the passage of time returning to a more sensible pace.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer NoNonsense Old Timer (part of a costume for a party tonight)
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

†Which are generally kind in their formulation, which I do appreciate. There is no evident will to wound among sub-editors.


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Posted by Dirck on 28 December, 2018

Day What How Much Pen Ink
  • 24 December
  • 25-27 December
  • 28 December
  • First draft of “Preserve My Fondest Memories.”
  • Festive Family Frolicking
  • Not much of anything, alas.
  • 5 manuscript pages.
  • Use lunch hour for lunch? Lunacy!

I’ll get into that technology thing on Monday, when I’m considering the year in review. As one does at this time of year.

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…and I in my cap…

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2018

Merry Christmas to all.  I have a few days off work, which will deform the usual schedule here. I will look in again on Friday, with a progress report. For today, here’s the foundation of a lot of our modern notions of Christmas, read in pleasing voices, to keep you company while you wait for the rattling of many hooves on your roof.

It must be more than one creature stirring up there. Right? So many hooves…

Today’s pen (a Christmas gift): Waterman Phileas
Today’s ink (a festive colour): Diamine Syrah

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Solstice Bonanza

Posted by Dirck on 21 December, 2018

The light, at least north of the equator, is as scant as it will be for a whole year. HOORAH!

To observe the day, and lower us all gently into the last shopping Saturday before Christmas, some films. First, for the unreformed Scrooges of the world, here’s a look at the worst jobs to do with the season (some, for you who hold the reason for the season to be axial tilt, are from pre-Christian Europe)

And in keeping with the theme… more or less… I’ve been pursuing this month with ghost stories just because it’s the dark time of the year, here’s another Blackwood story, told by someone else entirely.

If you’ve been out in the cold too long, this is a very… familiar… story.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Statesman
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

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Posted by Dirck on 20 December, 2018

Day What How Much Pen Ink
  • 17 December
  • 18 December
  • 19 December
  • 20 December
  • First draft of “Fresh Milk.”
  • First draft of “Preserve My Fondest Memories.”‡
  • 9 manuscript pages.
  • 5 pages.

Holy cats. That’s a wholly unplanned run of Herbin inks. Good thing the Vanishing Point ran dry so I can bring in something else, eh?

†I’ve run into some incontrovertible evidence that the number I’m relying on is a date-code. So it’s not a Sailor 102… it’s a Sailor pocket pen made in February of 1971, the model of which I still have to work out. The page will be updating soon to reflect this.

What appears to be becoming a common unease with the result of the first draft has settled onto me regarding “Fresh Milk.” This makes sense, for a change, because the idea only lightbulbed its way into my life the day before I started on it. “Preserve…” on the other hand is something that has been lying patient in the root-cellar for quite some time now, sprouting pale, curling ramifications; only the first day of work on it, but it’s looking like it’s going to develop as I’d hoped while “Fresh Milk” gets to rest and ferment a little.††

††Yes, that is a mixed metaphor. I will also mix gin with tonic or whiskey with Drambuie, when the mood strikes.

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An Astonishing Simulation

Posted by Dirck on 14 December, 2018

Today’s film exactly replicates the experience of watching TV as a child in the mid-1970s. It also gives a very good idea of what watching TV in the Netherlands is like for an English speaker.

On the second point, there’s not so many horrifying hellbeasts on Dutch TV… or at least there weren’t the last time I was there.

Today’s pen: Pilot Vanishing Point
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert de Gris

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Posted by Dirck on 13 December, 2018

Day What How Much Pen Ink
  • 10 December
  • 11 December
  • 12 December
  • 13 December
  • Fourth draft of “Heretics”
  • First draft of… um… an SF thing.
  • The usual banging out of dents I hadn’t noticed I’d made.
  • 12 manuscript pages.

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A Ghost Story Near Christmas

Posted by Dirck on 7 December, 2018

After running out my own seasonal ghost story for the year, I thought I’d follow the theme at least for this week. Today’s film is more in the line of the traditional seasonal ghost story, which if I take anything from the works of M.R. James don’t usually have that much to do with the season.

The other point of interest is that it’s being told by Algernon Blackwood. I’m sure some will have said who? to that name, so I’ll explain briefly that he was famous for writing creepy stuff in the first half of the 20th century. No, that’s not quite right– through the first half of the 20th century. He began a little before radio for home entertainment became possible, and was in the public eye long enough to make stuff like the following for an entertainment-hungry post-WWII public.

He’s sort of like Stephen King in terms of career length and popularity, although I think he’s got a better delivery when he’s reading his own work (King probably has him beat in the rock guitar department).

Today’s pen: Waterman Executive
Today’s ink: Diamine Sargasso Sea

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Posted by Dirck on 6 December, 2018

Day What How Much Pen Ink
  • 3 December
  • 4 December
  • 5 December
  • 6 December
  • Second draft of an as yet untitled Christmas story
  • Final draft of Wassail, which finally grew a title.
  • Final draft of “Palmer’s Folly”
  • 2239 typed words.
  • Gentle polishing.
  • Adjustment of contours

To expand, on a couple of points– the more important of which is that “Wassail” is out in public right this very instant!!! on my writing side. As a special bonus, the recipe for eggnog which my family has enjoyed for at least two generations (a third awaits the arrival of drinking age) is in a link hidden away in the copyright notice at the bottom of the story.  You’ve still got time to make some!

Also, while I’m still not quite convinced “Palmer’s Folly” will ever add its weight to slush pile, my readers have told me they enjoyed it. Since they’re entirely willing to dash my feelings against rocks in response to “tell me what you think of this story,” it’s probably not mere words of gentle friendship. Debate continues.

This was a quite productive week, to, when you consider that there was a power failure on the 4th, affecting a lot of the province for about six hours. Oddly, The Regular Job was dark, but home had power. Lucky me! I was sent home because productivity was impossible, and I managed gobs of it!

For a sense of scale, from the bottom right corner of the outage to the upper left extent of it is about 600km– so at highway speed, you could only just drive across it while the lights were out, if there were a single road running that way.


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