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Category: Personal

Personal stories, events, and non-project announcements.

Two years of fountain pens!

Happy November 1st! In case you don’t know, the first Friday of November (today!) is Fountain Pen Day, and incidentally, two years ago on this day, I got my first fountain pen and ink–the ever-reliable Pilot Metropolitan and Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku.

a bottle of turquoise ink, a swatch card, and a black fountain penIroshizuku Ku-Jaku and my first Pilot Metropolitan. How far I’ve come…

So if I’m going to talk about fountain pens, why not today?

Cleaning House

Hello again!

So you probably haven’t noticed because nobody regularly checks this blog (don’t worry, I don’t either), but today I’ve made a bunch of changes to the website. For one thing, I’ve re-enabled the comments section! Hooray! I’m not really expecting a flood of comments or anything but hopefully now that I’ve added some anti-spam stuff, I won’t get all the spam comments that I was before.

I’ve also added a Blog Navigation page which lists all of the post categories and tags (in convenient groups, too!). That should make looking for whatever you’re looking for on this website a lot easier–not that it matters much now, when there’s barely any posts to begin with and there’s a search function besides. But eventually, I’m sure it’ll see more use. The important part is that it updates automatically, so it’ll always be up to date.

Most importantly, and the actual reason why I’m posting this blog post, is because I’ve finally set up a newsletter! No longer do you have to check this website once a month on your own to stay up to date or use the RSS Feed (which there’s nothing wrong with, but since Firefox got rid of their built-in feed reader it’s definitely more of a pain to work with), you can now get posts directly into your inbox almost as soon as they happen! You’ve probably noticed the giant orange button on the sidebar or at the bottom of the page, but if you haven’t, here’s another one:

The other benefit to subscribing to the newsletter (besides getting notifications in your inbox) is that you can choose what kinds of emails you want to get. Right now, I’ve only got four categories: Reviews, Essays, Project Updates, and Art, but the categories will probably expand some more once I post more content such as pen/ink reviews. You start out subscribed to all of them, but you can remove/add categories (or unsubscribe) whenever you want. I promise to only send out emails when I have new content posted, and you can probably expect to get emails slightly more than once a month (since I do Media Reviews monthly, with a few essays and project updates in between).

As for everything else, it is now the summer and I am…still as busy as ever. Busy in a different way, though, so we’ll see how much writing I get done. It would be nice to finish my manuscript by the end of the summer, but based on the amount of time I have to work on it, that seems unlikely. But progress is progress! I’ll see how far I go.

I survived Game Jam 2019!

Hello, friends! In case you’re not up with the news (and also not from the Midwest United States), it’s currently about -20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, a temperature which is also known as fuck cold. It’s so cold that even the state universities have closed for the day, and plain old subzero temperatures aren’t enough to make that happen. So I’ve been inside all of today under a very cozy blanket so I don’t freeze. I haven’t gotten a whole lot done today–it’s just one of those tired days, I suppose.

Anyways, in case you missed it, this past weekend, January 25-27, was the Global Game Jam. My good couch friend, who’s working with me on some other projects, invited me to come along, and so I did! I ended up doing basically all of the art in the game (and nothing else), and all in all, it turned out really well. We (a team of five people: three coders, me, and a guy who did basically everything else) really made a whole-ass game in less that 48 hours, with game mechanics and even a cutscene that took like 14 people-hours to finish. If you’re interested, you can download it here:

While I’m here, I’ll go ahead and talk about the process and how it went.

Book titles and noir

I’ve been working some more on my book (and also watching film noir movies like Double Indemnity and Murder, My Sweet) and I’ve been thinking for a while that Pearls and Smoke isn’t a very good title–or at least it doesn’t sound like a very noir title. I liked the inclusion of pearls and smoke, which are in-universe slang, but it doesn’t sound super exciting. So I’ve decided to change the name of my novel to The Crow’s Last Call, which is equally significant, in ways that I cannot explain without spoiling the entire plot, and actually sounds like a hardboiled novel title. So I’ll be referring to it as that from here on out.

Moving on from that, I’ve been going through my hardboiled library a bit more, my hardboiled library being the works of Hammett, Cain, and Chandler. Since I’m trying to emulate a story written in the 1930s or 40s, both in time period and writing style, I think it’s important to go off of stories that were actually written in that time, by multiple authors. It’s a good thing I’m not trying to emulate any one author in particular (such as, to pick a completely random example, Raymond Chandler) because it’s just impossible. I’m the least poetic person in history and I’m not able to come up with big exciting metaphors and clever uses of language. My strengths are in character interaction and action and emotionally-charged scenes, so it’s best if I play up to those.

Anyways, I recently read The Glass Key, which is apparently considered a very good mystery novel, but which I found a bit confusing, and Double Indemnity, which was a wild ride because I had no idea it was just about a dude trying to commit the perfect murder and get away with it. But it was! And it was so good that I decided to watch the movie ASAP afterwards, and that was really good too. I also read The Annotated Big Sleep which was partially because I love Philip Marlowe but also because I really enjoy annotated books and being able to see the kind of context involved in a story that’s very steeped in 1930s culture on account of being written at the time.

I’ll probably read The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Maltese Falcon next, along with Red Wind. We’ll see how those go.

Writing into the new year

Hello, friends!

It’s the new year (a couple of days late, but don’t mind that), which means it’s time for looking back at the past year and forwards into the next.

It would probably be easier to look at the things I did in the past year if I did any sort of record keeping, which I…generally don’t. So let’s see how much I remember and go from there.

Snow days

So if you’re up on the news, you may have heard that there’s currently (or was very recently) a huge snowstorm in Chicago, which ended up cancelling about a billion flights at O’Hare. Of course, even though there’s somewhere around eight inches of snow, classes are still in session (which really sucks for anyone who flew out for turkey day weekend). Considering I’ve had to go to class in subzero weather before, the lack of snow days isn’t a surprise.

But the amount of snow had me thinking about the last really significant blizzard, aka that one in February 2011, aka Snowpocalypse. It’s really funny to me that you can look up the phrase “snowpocalypse” and get actual results about the 2011 blizzard, though obviously “snowpocalypse chicago” gets you a lot more relevant results. Apparently it was a significant enough event that it has a Wikipedia page. That shouldn’t surprise me, but Snowpocalypse didn’t feel like a “historical event” sort of deal so much as some localized phenomena that everyone who was in the area remembers. It’s the kind of thing where if you talk to someone from Chicago and ask them about Snowpocalypse, they go, “oh yeah!” and if you ask someone from somewhere else they go, “what?”

Obviously I have no idea if that’s the case, that’s just how it feels to me. But a lot of people have a Snowpocalypse story and I’m in a snowy mood, so I’ll talk about mine.

The vague anxiety victory lap

Last weekend, I just finished one of my shorter stories (as in about 20k, so not that short). It’s always such a weird feeling when I’m done writing something and put it out for people to read, partially because I hammered out about 13k in a week and partially because there’s this extended period of held-breath anticipation while I wait to see what other people think and if my work really was up to snuff.

The problem with that, of course, is that there isn’t really any kind of objective metric by which I can say my work is good or bad (other than the fact that I have complete confidence in my writing skill, so I can say with some certainty that it’s not bad). I can get comments and kudos from people but there’s no magical threshold over which I know I’ve made it, so there’s no way to really feel satisfied, and I just keep being vaguely anxious until I run out of steam about a week later.

It’s kind of like a victory lap except instead of victory and celebration it’s anxiety about whether there are people out there who share my very narrow window of interests. It’s kind of like when you build a Rube Goldberg machine and try the whole thing out for the first time, except the machine just keeps going and there’s no win condition.

It’s not a mystery why it happens–it’s a function of not having well-defined goals before I throw stuff out into the aether. So, by extension, it’d be pretty easy to fix by setting goals (which everyone loves, I’m sure). It’s just that any number I chose would be arbitrary not to mention irrelevant, because a lot of numbers (comments, hits, kudos) are a function of exposure, not my raw writing skill.

It’s not really a bad thing, it’s just a thing that happens. By the end of the week, I’ll stop worrying about this story and get back to work on the next one.

A blog…how curious.

Hello, friends!

After sitting on this domain for a few months, I’ve finally decided to start populating it with content. I’m not entirely sure what will go on this website since I’m not really the sort of person to regularly produce content, but I’ve got a lot of interests and I’m sure that someone out there will be interested in some of those.

If you’ve somehow managed to find this website without first knowing who I am, welcome! I’m Jesse. My main interest is storytelling, and I’ve been writing since 2006. I’m currently working on a web serial as well as a film noir urban fantasy detective novel. On the side, I also make art, crochet, and play games. I’m pretty good at making cool stuff, but not so good at playing games. That’s just how things end up, sometimes.

I don’t have a super clear idea of how this website will go, but I expect it’ll involve posting project related things and some short essays at the very least. If that’s something that tickles your fancy, then feel free to stick around!