Saturday, July 31, 2010

Figgerin' it out

When I worked in the past to find a source to sell me those Bic orange medium fine point pens, I ran into a nomenclature issue. When it was rolled out in the 1960s, I remember it was called a medium fine point; there was a white barreled pen with a metal clip called an Accountant extra fine point. I didn't like that pen; the point was too sharp and it had a tendency to either jam the paper or smear.

Apparently, over the years, the Accountant fine point was one of the pens that contributed to the stereotype of nerds who had ink stains on their shirt pockets. I suppose because the tip was so small, the pen ink well must have had some extra pressure to force the ink to flow - which led to its propensity to explode.

As the years went by, to the best of my knowledge, the Accountant fine point was converted to the same ball size as the medium pen - .o8 mm - and they were both dubbed fine points. The difference with the Accountant was then stylistic - it has a white barrel and its plastic cap lacks the "clip", it still has a separate metal clip.

Bic still makes a pen with what is called the needle tip - .o5 mm - but it has a totally different design.

When I first began looking for a source for the orange pen, I didn't realize that for most of its existence it was called a fine point; when I was a kid, it was still called a medium fine point.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Contract received

I got my contract from the North Texas Speculative Fiction Workshop for my story which will be published in the anthology "28th Dimension: Tales from the Texas Zone". It's entitled "The Man Who Machine-Gunned the Lady of the Lake".

BTW, in case you don't get the anthology's title, Texas was the 28th state admitted to the Union.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Pen Pal" revisited

"The Orange Fine Point is one of Bic's most popular models. Introduced in its original form in 1961, it was the first pen to take advantage of the introduction of Bic's new tungsten carbide ball point design. It was originally marketed as a medium fine point in the U.S. and sold for 25 cents. It remains popular in Europe, Africa and Asia but is no longer available in the Western hemisphere."

Sound familiar? It's an excerpt from my short story, "Pen Pal", published in 2004 in Revolution SF. It received an honorable mention in the 2005 edition of "The Year's Best Science Fiction".

The story germinated after I found one of these pens in a desk when I started at a new job in 2003.

In 2005, I went to work at a newspaper that used to have an office supply store, and I found six more of the pens.

I have kept this small supply of very old pens since then; only a few of them, maybe three, still write well. Over the past few years, I have tried a few times to order them, but no office supply company overseas would sell such a prosaic product overseas.

THEN, two weeks ago, I stumbled upon a web site that stocked them and would ship them overseas. It wasn't an office supply business, it was a scientific technical supply company - Alltec in the U.K.

I paid $22 for a box of 20 - the shipping was two-thirds of the cost. They arrived yesterday. It's great; they're bright, shiny, new, and write like the old dream I remember. They're all I will be using for the duration.

Happy, happy, happy.

In case you want to read "Pen Pal", it's still archived at RevolutionSF: tp://

Monday, July 26, 2010


I actually spent most of my free time this past weekend tending to the peach trees that have surprised me by bearing fruit this year, and working on business for the local Optimist Club, which I am heading up for the time being.

I would feel more guilty about not writing spec fic, but I am up to date with the slush pile shuffle and currently have 17 stories out there, ranging from contract-signed and waiting for publication to probably lost and forgotten.

I am recharging the creative batteries following the completion of "The Fontane Sisters are Dead" and already have 3,500 words on the "What if the Civil War started NOW?" AH story, "The Secessionist Shuffle".

Best line so far - AH timeline joke, "but the President is only half black!"

"Then he can have half the country!"

David Duke-type gov of Louisiana has called the secession convention.

On a personal note, I'm glad I have Molly Ivins as a character.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Excellent coverage

The Associated Press is giving Comic Con excellent coverage. I checked and it currently has 19 stories and 191 photos available. This is, I'm sure, the most coverage any genre event gets. There is plenty of coverage available for your local newspaper.

As the ME (managing editor) of an AP paper, I can check their web portal. I didn't use anything for my own paper - this is a very conservative, traditional part of the world - but I might browse some stories.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Holy smoke. My wife and just noticed a feral peach tree in the yard is dropping big fat peaches all over the yard. My wife is allergic to peaches, so it was up to me to pluck a few off the tree and try them.

They were great! Wow, talk about a windfall! I have to keep track of the fruit and start harvesting them.

I don't know where and why this tree is in the yard - there are a few other ones scattered about. But I hear tell Native Americans did plant peach trees, so maybe these are their descendants.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Secessionist Shuffle"

After getting a start to "The Sanguine Empire", I realized I really need to get back to another AH story I started on a few months ago, "The Secessionist Shuffle". It's about what happens when the American Civil War breaks out like now, after the election of the first black President (a compromise in 1861 prevented the Fort Sumter crisis from turning to an all-out war.)

I want to give a copy of this story to someone at ArmadilloCon, so I'd like to finish it by then. I already have over 3,500 words - what I did today was give it a real beginning, and yanked out a plot element that wasn't going to work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"The Fontane Sisters are Dead"

is done, and sent off to Sheila Williams at Asimovs. Came in finally at 6,938 words. It is the 90th short story I have written in eight years.

Of all the stories I have ever written, this is the one that I like the most - which means nobody will ever buy it.

But I don't care, I write for my own enjoyment. In this case, I like the plot, the dialogue and story structure, and the ending really snapped.

The original working title of the story was "Golem Gal Won't You Come Out Tonight?"

I already got a 700 word start to "The Sanguine Empire". More importantly, I figgered out how to finagle a crucial plot twist

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hack, slash, cut

Very satisfied with final edit of "The Fontane Sisters are Dead" - story tightened up over 500 words, down to just over 7,100, and I still added a few little things right at the end.

Read it to Patricia - she liked it, too, and helped point out something questionable that had crossed my mind, also.

I will probably finish up in a day or two and move on to "The Sanguine Empire".

Saturday, July 17, 2010


As far as the fiction goes, I spent the past week finishing up a few things in my 'East Texas Golem Gal' story. I had one plot point that stuck briefly - why didn't the golem turn on the dude who reanimated her? (as usual, the protag is a transplanted Yankee Italian newspaper editor - who'd a thunk it?) but I finessed that one (The secret word, as Groucho Marx used to say, is "Marrano".)

There are a number of times I end us only satisfied as opposed to enthusiastic when I finish a story, but I actually really like this one. I think it's a lot of fun. Of course, that means nothing as far as marketability is concerned.

Meanwhile, I started some research on my next story, an AH about what would have happened if early pagan Viking explorers established a permanent settlement in the New World - not in Vinland, but in the interior. This is a takeoff on the legend of Sanguenay in Quebec. The story will be called "The Sanguine Empire".

I was happy to learn that two crucial plot elements come together - the city of Sanquenay in Quebec, as well as the instance in the 1970s when a mud flow in a previously undetected unstable soil layer wiped off a community on the outskirts of that same city.

That natural disaster is how I would explain why - in our timeline - the Viking empire failed to survive, and only remained as a legend by the time Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region.

I don't know if it is too hokey to survive to the final version, but I have a nice "set piece" where our New York harbor - rather than the Statue of Liberty - has a statue of Thor, hammer raised on high (with 'lightning' beacon) - that was extracted from the people of Francia as tribute after they were conquered by the Norse kingdom as it crossed the Atlantic and subjugated the Old World.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sad news

I'm saddened to hear that James P. Hogan passed away. I met him about four times over the years, and he was always nice to me. He was a great writer, and a real character. He will be missed.

Finished up tonight on the first draft of next short story, which has clocked in at 7,200 words, "The Fontane Sisters are Dead". It's my Golem Gal in East Texas tale (as Jack Paar used to say, "I kid you not!"). Look up what the sole Number One tune the Fontane Sisters had on the Hit Parade, and you'll get the reference, as well as the time frame of the story.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekend recap

I know the main event in genre fiction this weekend was ReaderCon in Massachusetts, but that's a long way from East Texas. I had my own little projects to take care of.

The book signing in Tyler went well. The staff was very nice and attentive. The sales were not the best, but not the worst. Tyler also has a Barnes & Noble, and I got the impression - just from eyeballing the customers in Hastings - that Hastings there gets the people more interested in videos and games, rather than books. But still, profits paid for dinner for me and my wife, so who's to complain?

MythCon in Dallas Sunday went well - I was on two panels. In addition to meeting people I've done panel duty with before, such as Willie Siros, Scott Cupp, and A. Lee Martinez, I got to meet Tom Powers. Both panels were well received by the attendees. and in between them they served us lunch. Book signing again was middling, but it paid for a sack of groceries I picked up on the way home.

The main thing about the weekend was the driving: Tyler is an hour and half from Mount Pleasant. and Dallas is two hours away. I borrowed my wife's car, it has cruise control.

No appearances now until I speak to the New Boston Friends of the Library on August 16.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

No HM this year

"The Year's Best Science Fiction", the Gardner Dozois St. Martin's Press version that leads the pack in annual "Best of" anthologies in the field is out for this year.

This is the 27th edition. I did not get a mention nor an honorable mention this year, but I really didn't expect it. I really didn't think 2009 saw anything that rose to that level from me.

I can't complain, I've had ten honorable mentions, in 2004 (one), 2005 (four), 2006 (three), 2008 (one) and 2009 (one). I think that back in 2007 I was surprised that nothing made the grade, but I think I have better grasp of the field now and this year's list didn't surprise me.

Just for the record, here are my stories published in 2009:

"Acroscaphe" (with Ed Morris) - Planetary Stories - January 2009
"The Silver Dollar Saucer" - Ray Gun Revival - January 2009
"Professor Malakoff's Amazing Ethereal Telegraph" - Science Fiction Trails No. 4 - March 2009
"Good News for the Dead" - M-Brane SF April 2009
"Airy Chick" - Alienskin magazine, June 2009
"Stairway to Heaven" (with Ed Morris), Encounters Nov. 2009
"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (with Ed Morris), The Fifth Dimension, Dec. 2009
"Twilight on the Finger Lakes", Bewildering Stories, Dec. 2009

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

More specifics on MythCon

Here is the latest lineup for MythCon. This should be final -

Sunday, 11 a.m. Is Fantasy and Science Fiction Social Commentary in Disguise? Moderator Willie Siros. Panelists Tim Powers, Janet Brennan Croft, Shanna Swendsen and me. Manchester Room.

Sunday 1 p.m. Should Speculative Fiction be Realistic? Moderator: A. Lee Martinez. Panelists Tim Powers, Shanna Swendsen and me. Manchester Room.

I will be participating in the book signing from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Here's a recap of MythCon

The Mythopoeic Society’s annual conference is being held in Texas for the first time this year. Mythcon 41, with the theme of "War in Heaven - Cosmological Conflict in Mythpoeic Fiction" - is being held at the Crowne Plaza Suites – Dallas July 9-12, 2010.Tim Powers is the Guest of Honor, and other speculative fiction panelists include Lou Antonelli, A. Lee Martinez, Scott Cupp, Shannon Swendson, Willie Siros, Will Clarke, and Jason Henderson.Local support for MythCon 41 is provided by the Southern Methodist University's CAPE Creative Writing program.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Appearance on Youtube

Will Avery, the fellow runs the video web site for Marshall, Texas, called me Thursday. He said the video he made of me chatting about "Fantastic Texas" when I was doing my signing at Prospero's book store June 12 had hundreds of visits. He was impressed.

I suggested that posting it to Youtube would be good promotion both for me as well as his web site, and he's done that. You can see it here:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel

Got word via a Facebook message that Issue. No. 6 of GUD magazine is ready for proofing. That's a hopeful sign. It should contain my novelette, "Dispatches from The Troubles".

Whatever happened to that old Sunbelt?

By LOU ANTONELLI Managing Editor It’s rained almost daily for the past four months. The ground is saturated; walking across grass is lik...