I'm a fountain pen junkie, which is why the Levengers catolgues are such torture -- I've been to their show room and hung over their display cases of fountain pens, too. My most expensive pen is a Platinum Koi, which writes like a formula one car drives (I presume) but I have a couple of inexpensive Watermans and Schaeffers as well.
Recently I purchased an old pen I knew nothing about but thought was quite pretty:
It's a very lightweight, lever filled pen, with narrow black and green celluloid striping. The clip is marked Epenco, which I believe means Eagle Pen Company, and from the wear and style I'd say (tentatively) it dates to 1950 or earlier. I paid $14.00 for it and a bottle of pen ink (I use cartridges, so lever filling is a whole new challenge.) It writes beautifully but I think it needs cleaning; I'm having a little trouble filling it. The nib is iridium and very fine, like a signature pen.
Fountain pens are not convenient writing instruments, and can be messy, but once you get used to them ballpoints and felt tips seem utterly blase. Writing with a fountain pen is also easier on my hands so I prefer them over anything else. If you're thinking of a gift for a writer this season, this is one neat idea.
Apparently not worried about the adverse side effects,
President Bush announced that he is getting innoculated with the newly available smallpox vaccine. For those of you considering doing the same, particularly you youngsters who have never had the pleasure before, I recommend you do your homework and check out the risks involved.
Dr. Paul Offit, who creates vaccines and is one of the top infectious disease specialists in the US, had this to say about the situation: "We know if we immunize a million people, that there will be 15 people that will suffer severe, permanent adverse outcomes and one person who may die from the vaccine." -- and -- "We tend to think of vaccines as being very safe and every effective, which they are. But all the vaccines that we use today are the result of modern technology. That's not true of the smallpox vaccine. It has a side effect profile that we, we would not accept for vaccines today."
Dr. Edward Jenner discovered the vaccine for smallpox back in 1796, and the vaccine being made today is basically the same one he used -- created from a non-lethal relative of the smallpox virus. Before Dr. Jenner's work, millions of people died of smallpox, which kills one in every four people who contract it, and causes serious disfigurement to most survivors.
And for what it's worth, here's my opinion: the studies conducted on smallpox vaccine reactions were conducted over thirty years ago. One study indicates 74 out of a million people will suffer serious complications, another says 500. I tend to go with CDC statistics. I have been innoculated against smallpox -- twice -- so I don't need the booster. My children, otoh, have not been vaccinated. The bottom line is, if there is an imminent threat of this disease being used as a terrorist weapon against the US, we need to know, so we can make an informed decision for ourselves and our families. And we need to know right now.
My cats are not allowed in my bedroom clothes closet ever since they reduced the hem of a silk skirt to ribbons. This ticks them off, of course, so the minute I open that door, they try to get in. Now they see me stashing boxes with all the lovely, bright colored, easy to shred wrapping paper on them and I think it's driving them insane. Jak and Rush have taken to sitting in front of the closet and clawing at the door when my back is turned. Jericho managed to slip in while I had it open and got trapped all yesterday afternoon, because he won't mew when he gets stuck somewhere. He destroyed four boxes so I don't think he minded incarceration much.
To try a new strategy, I wrapped a couple of open-ended empty boxes in some old wrinkly paper and left them in the livingroom before I went to my meeting. I came back just now, found the play boxes have been totally ignored, and all three of them sitting in front of the closet. Jak turned his head and gave me this look that said, "What, you think we're stupid?"
I give up.
Designed, cut, and sewed three gowns last night for my heraldic angels in the school play using a single bolt of broadcloth and some very creative piecing. Materials were donated so I have to work with what I have, which is a little like the old silk purse/sow's ear deal. Time got away from me on this project (the play is next week) so I didn't think, I just sat down and sewed. My trusty Singer zipped through the work without so much as single skipped stitch, and I kept the foot pedal floored for three hours. When I die, I want this sewing machine buried with me, okay?
I really don't like to sew fast. There's no time to finesse things or enjoy the process. Everytime I read a historical romance where the heroine is being fitted for a gown and the seamstress is told to have it ready by the following day, I want to slap the author. You try making a dress out of satin and taffeta -- entirely by hand -- in 24 hours. Kind of changes your perspective when you're the one basting bodices at three am.
Anyway, I have a play committee meeting and one more costume to sew this morning, then fittings at school this afternoon. Mike is home sick, Kathy woke up with a cough, yep, it's definitely Friday the thirteenth . . .
Thinking up an idea for a novel is not difficult, I get two or three a week. About half of the ideas I get would actually work as a novel, the rest I know would fall to pieces in the plotting or writing stages. That just comes from time and experience; I have about a hundred partial novels I've started over the years, stopped and said, "Ick, this won't work."
Of the remaining ideas that would actually work as novels -- in my case, say roughly fifty a year, less than half are marketable. I may think writing a novel about John Keats turning into a vampire ER doctor would be cool, but no one else is interested in a physician who hangs around the blood bank and write his case notes in sonnet form. Then I only have time to write a third of what's left, which works out to about eight books, which is where I am now.
It's frustrating to have so many ideas that would work and no time to write them. I get impatient with myself over that -- it's like I have an internal coffee pot percolating 24/7, and the damn thing constantly overboils. But I think new ideas are good exercise for the writer's brain -- they keep you thinking in novels. You can also do other things with the ideas -- turn them into short stories, for example. I never thought of combining ideas until I started hanging out with the clan over at FM, and that helps a lot, too.
Mercy and Cat from my short stories about Trellus wanted their own novel, and I came up with a separate idea about an ex-slave owner and a Hsktskt gladiator. Putting those four extremely strong characters together seemed pretty dangerous -- that many protagonists would be a huge juggling act -- but then they all fell into place as if that was what I'd planned all along. And speaking of Mercy and Cat -- I thought it would be fun to do this novel in third person, and it's working out quite nicely . . .
Excerpt from Gamers by S.L. Viehl
(rated PG-13 for adult situation, children, why aren't you in school?)
Mercy felt something tickling the back of her neck, and smiled as she came fully awake. “You have two months to stop doing that.”
Prehensile gildrells slid around her throat and into her hair like a bunch of long, white snakes, while three muscular pink arms tugged her back against an equally hard body. “In two months, the contract will be signed,” Cat told her. “You’ll be my wife. Then I can do anything to you that I desire.”
The idea that they would marry was still something of a shock, and a thrill. Thrilling because she wanted it as much as he did. Shocking because there was no record of an Omorr ever taking a human for a spouse. That she had once been a professional pleasure-giver and he had been the son of a preacher factored in there, as well.
“Hmmm.” She wriggled her hips, adjusting herself to the interesting changes in his lower anatomy. The genitalia of Omorr males remained within a pelvic recess, extruding only when they felt an undeniable need to mate. “Where are you taking me for the honeymoon?”
The tip of one gildrell tickled the rim of her ear. “Terra?”
She giggled like a young girl. “Oh yeah, they’d love
Two of the delicate membranes on the ends of Cat’s arms spread over her breasts, while the third stroked down over her bare belly to slip between her thighs. What he did with those dextrous webs of flesh was pure, sinful magic. “It will be the rainy season on Omorr.”
She caught the end of one gildrell between her lips and sucked on it lightly. “What’s that like?”
“Constant precipitation. Flooded roads.” He smothered a groan and shifted closer. “Endless mud.”
“Scratch Omorr.” Mercy rolled in his arms until she was facing him, and slid her thigh over his single leg. “We could spend a week in space, lock ourselves in a passenger cabin.”
“Waste of credits.” The gildrells that covered the lower half of his face cradled hers as he shifted closer. “We could do that here.”
Cat was so different from her, from the disparity of their bodies to the polarity of their personalities. He was big, tough, methodical, and quiet. A native Terran female would have considered his bright pink hide and bald, oddly-shaped head hideous, but Mercy had thankfully never acquired her species’ prejudices. She saw his alien body as something exotic and beautiful – as he saw hers.
“Don’t deny me my honeymoon, Cat.”
Found an old pic of me and Mom, one of the rare times we were both redheads (me natural, hers dyed.) My first wedding, and egad, look at that hat. . .
Compared to the second wedding, ten years later -- my hair got bigger, but hey, it was the eighties...
Never mess with a patient:
I went to see the doc this morning, and he sent me to get a followup xray on my piping. Most of the pesky little mycoplasms are history, thank you, erythromycin. I've still got another four days on the meds but I no longer feel like I'm going to produce part of my sternum when I cough, so I will happily continue swallowing the pills and using the inhaler.
I had to go over to do the xray as an outpatient, and the technician I got was really surly. He couldn't get me positioned right, kind of shoved me around, and even snapped at me to be still when I coughed on the table. Now I know patients can be a pain, but I was very meek and cooperative -- he was just having a bad day.
As I was changing out of the patient gown (which was apparently manufactured by the Bounty Paper Towels company) I looked down and saw some blood on the floor. I hit the edge of the table with my bad leg climbing off and didn't realize I had two nice new lacerations on my shin and knee. I used the discarded gown to stop the bleeding and mop up the mess on the floor, slapped two Blues Clues bandaids on myself from the stash in my purse, then walked out to find the tech prepping the table for his next patient.
"Sorry for all the trouble," I said, and held out the stained gown. "Hey, do you know if coughing up blood is a bad thing?"
I wasn't mean -- I told him I was only joking -- but I enjoyed the way he turned white and stuttered for a few seconds first.
Oh Bloody Hell:
We baked today, and I thought the house was a little warm from the oven going constantly. Five hours later, the oven is cool but nothing else is, so I took the panel off the AC unit and sure enough, the condenser coil was a solid block of ice. I asked the maintenance guys to clean it last time they were here, but apparently that didn't happen. Now I'm defrosting the coil (hair dryer, set on low, speeds the process) and wondering why I never moved to Maine like I've always threatened to . . .
Got my ARC copies of "The Deepest Edge" in this morning, and they're cool -- pale green plain covers versus the dead white ARCs they were sending out for Eternity Row. Green is one of my favorite colors, so it seemed like a good omen. I called Mysterious Galaxy
to see if they might be interested in having a look at it (it's nice to send ARCs to your favorite booksellers, but you should always ask first). Lo and behold, they already had it on order and cross-referenced on their computer -- so much for the deep dark secret of me writing as Jessica Hall. Btw, MG has a couple of really neat gift packs they do and ship for you, so if you're shopping for a book lover, check it out.
I'm delighted to see one of my book in print, as always, but its a little disorienting. February seemed a lot farther away last month, and now it's right around the corner. Where did the time go? (the author says, checking around her desk to see if it slipped behind the anatomy books) Next year will be a whirlwind, what with at least six of my books being released, and I just don't feel ready for it.
It's weird -- I get an idea, plot the novel, write the manuscript, send it off, and then I forget about it because I'm so engrossed in something else. And then they turn it into books on me and I get to hold it in my hands and it's real. A solid object, a book, something people can carry in their purses or backpacks or cars. Thousands of copies will be shipped next month, all over the country -- it's just hard to believe this is mine. I know writers are supposed to get used to this, but I don't think I ever will. It's still such an amazing thing to see the end result and know I wrote it.
Odds and Ends:
On e-mail -- I know I'm woefully behind again, sorry folks. Will try to catch up tonight after I finish editing today's quota. Thanks for all the get-wells, I really am on the road to recovery now and as soon as I shake this God awful cough I'll be good as new. JeriT, if you're reading this and have a chance, check your e-mail and let me know if what I sent you came through okay.
Thanks also for all the lovely compliments about "Illumination" and sorry I screwed up the download thing. If your computer asks which program to use to open it, it's Adobe Acrobat Reader. If that doesn't work, check my web site this week, Willa will have the .pdf and html versions posted soon.
To answer the question of what I want for Christmas: RAOKs. Go out and do a random act of kindness for someone this holiday. Buy an angel off a mall tree and get a toy for a needy child. Call your parents and tell them you love them. Donate some new books to your local library. Take a friend at work out to lunch. Have a snowball fight with your kids. If you want to go for a really big gift, bury the hatchet with an enemy (as in, make up and be friends, don't actually go after them with an ax.) Knowing you're out there and spreading good will is the best present you could ever give me.
Sunbeam has a set of Christmas lights encased in 12 feet of heavy-duty tubing (aka "rope lights") which we decided to try on the tree. The tubing is too big for Jericho to gnaw on, and the lights have a sound sensor that make them blink in sync with music, which is cool when you put on Christmas tunes. Thus we solved our lightless tree problem (the kids have been nagging me, and they're right, a tree without lights is kinda dull.) Got them at K-Mart, $12.99, for any of you with similar cat/light problems.
I have to come up with my traditional "Best of" annual lists, and since my meds knocked me on my backside I figured I would catch up with the year's movies. This weekend I saw "MIIB" "Reign of Fire" and "Kissing Jessica Stein."
"Reign of Fire" was not what I expected, but I liked it. The dragons were cool, so was Christian Bale. Matthew with the long name I can never spell right was pretty intense -- but I knew a lot of guys like that when I was stationed with Marines. I liked the lady chopper pilot too. The movie felt short, though, I didn't buy the twist (somebody should have figured that out a looooong time ago) and I wanted to know more about life on Scorched Earth.
"MIIB" was cute. I love SF that doesn't take itself seriously. Laura Flynn Boyle was wicked, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were fun, but I think Frank the dog stole the show. Some dazzling special effects, especially in the tentacle department.
"Kissing Jessica Stein" was smart, funny, and interesting -- a very "New York" movie. I didn't recognize any of the cast but they were all pretty talented. The actress who played Jessica reminded me so much of a younger version of my mother that I was practically rolling on the floor every five minutes. I thought the guy who played the nasty boss was a bit of a cliche -- will Hollywood ever show writers as anything other than dark, sarcastic and tortured males? -- but he was cute, too, so I forgave him. Some of the wedding scenes were priceless.
Nothing has come close to knocking "Brotherhood of the Wolf" out of the number one spot for 2003, though, and I think I'm done with movies for the year. If I have time I'll rent Minority Report so I can see how Tom handles Dick (no pun intended.)