Review: Doms Fusion Pencil

There is a lot to like about the Doms Fusion pencil. It’s a rounded triangular pencil with black paint and metallic accents. You all know I’m a sucker for black pencils. This pencil is matte black with a rubberized grippy finish. It feels really great in my hand. I’ve spent a lot of time with it shoved over my ear and under my hat. It stays put.

The sides of the pencil feature metallic red, blue, green and silver printing. The point end of the pencil has either red, blue or green stars printed on each side. They aren’t especially tactile but they look great. Further up the imprint and bar code are printed in silver. The end dip on this pencil looks like a cap and it’s very smooth and well done. The pencils have a red, blue or green around their dip. The dip is super shiny.

The designation for this pencil is X-TRA SUPER DARK PENCIL. I’m hear for it. I love an extra tag line, this one is on par with “Manufactured by elaborate process.” I like it.

Review: Doms Fusion Pencil

Review: Doms Fusion Pencil

All of the exterior stuff is printed onto a pencil body that smells like it it made of bass wood. Which is wrapped around the Doms dark smooth core. I really like the Doms X-TRA super dark cores. I find that while they are very dark and smooth they hold a point for writing reasonably well, they are a dream on smooth papers that don’t have a ton of tooth.

It sharpened well too. I popped mine into a hacked Apsara Long Point and the point is excellent. I’ve written a few pages in my current bullet journal with this pencil and it’s great. I’ve wrote the writing sample in a Baronfig Confidant.

This pencil arrived bundled with a short point sharpener and eraser combo plus a 15cm ruler. The Sharpener it arrived with is a short point and not very useful, though the eraser is pretty good. The ruler is made of clear plastic and does it’s job.

I paid $9.50 for these via Amazon and at roughly 80 cents per piece (eraser sharpener combo and ruler included) feels a bit spendy. The Doms Zoom has the same core and can be found in triangular format, though with metallic pastel paint. The Zoom can be purchased for $5 or so for a 10 pack. I really like the Fusion but I’d wait until it comes down in price to buy another pack.

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Week Links

Lisa led me down the rabbit hole of Raul Pacheco-Vega, Phd. website and his version of the Every Thing Every Where journal which he calls his Everything Journal. His notetaking methods and interaction with materials is NEXT level. Here’s a link to his Everything Journal.

He goes deep on the differences between bullet journals and everything journals.

This led me to Time and Date! What a great calendar printing site! In the past I used to print a little tiny yearly calendar onto card stock for my pocket notebooks. I abandoned that when I went to grad school, as it was less necessary for my needs, but also I purchased a smart phone- the phone carried my calendar. I used to move that little calendar from book to book. I might revisit that idea.

This led me to thinking about how I highlight and make notes as I read on my Kindle. It’s not perfect but I do like the notebook feature of the Kindle. I wish I’d had it when I was in grad school.

Here’s a good analog task management and planning system that is super simple and minimalist. I like it.

NovelPad Opening Screen

Review: NovelPad Cloud-Based Writing Part 2

For part 2 of this review I want to look at some of the parts of NovelPad that I don’t use as much. NovelPad is a cloud-based writing app, that lets you draft your novel using any browser.

Plot is a tool to assist you in plotting out your novel. Here you can add scenes and chapters to the main plot or side plots. You can search through the novel and organize your search based off color coding, scenes and chapters. It’s an interesting tool, and one I’ve yet to use to it’s full potential as it seems to become of full use in the later finishing and first edit stages of the novel.

Characters keeps track of all your characters and where you mention them in the novel. I have found this far more useful than I ever expected. To use it you enter in a character name and all their nicknames. NovelPad then logs each chapter and scene where that name is used in a column for you. This is great if you want to check and make sure that you have written about a particular character in a particular scene, it’s easy and fast to check it. Open the character page, scroll to that character, and check for that scene and click.

Locations is similar to the character page. You can map out all the locations in a novel in advance and NovelPad will find all instances of that location in the novel. I found this useful in my Nano novel as I plugged in each location I realized I changed the name of a bar mid novel and was able to quickly go back and change it to the new name, which was so much better. In the new novel I’ve been outlining it has helped me thing about settings and locations in advance, which has helped my writing of scenes in those locations. Knowing that a desk faces the door, and that there are two chairs or a bench in front of it is immensely helpful at writing scenes fast and consistently.

Goals is the page I use far more often than the others in this section of the review. It let’s me set word count and time goals. Then based on my actual numbers of works per day it gives me a finish date, and nifty little charts to show progress, or stagnation. This combined with reminder notes, really helps keep me on track.goals

Insights allows you to look at all the parts of your novel in comparison to all the other parts. That’s not very clear but it’s the best way I have to describe that page. I have found it helpful to find the various sections I’ve color coded for more writing and work. It’s useful and I think an interesting way to quickly explore the piece while comparing it within itself.

These tools are largely what I would use when I’m doing my first round of edits rather than as I write. For my use I need the chapter, place, character tab, and the goals tab while I’m drafting. I can plan out most of my novel using these tabs. For my use, everything else is for the first round of edits.

Overall these tools combine to make NovelPad a really powerful tool for writing and editing your novel. The big downside that I see here is that there is no ability to have an editor edit within the app itself. I can’t share my NovelPad with an editor or beta reader. I’d have to download in whatever format I use, and send it out. That means I’d have to cut and paste any edit into the app if I want to keep using it. So for now NovelPad is an excellent drafting tool, but as the team adds in more usability, NovelPad could become a viable contender when writers are debating what tool to use for writing and editing. Frankly I really like NovelPad.

Jinhao Candy Fountain Pen Bright and Fun

Review: Jinhao Candy Fountain Pen Bright and Fun

I ordered this pen on a whim, specifically for the neon green plastic pen body. At $4.50 it’s not the cheapest but it’s certainly not expensive. It took a very long time to arrive from China and was tied up in customs for months. (It’s currently not available on that link, but keep an eye on eBay as it’s likely to pop up again, possibly under another name.) You might notice that the color of this pen does not photograph well, it’s so bright and truly neon that it looks washed out on the notebook. The Jinhao Candy fountain pen is bright and fun.

Jinhao Candy Fountain Pen Bright and Fun

Jinhao Candy Fountain Pen Bright and Fun

It arrived in a simple bubble wrapped envelope and sleeve. It barely fit into the package. Fortunately the pen is made of very sturdy plastic and arrived looking great and in pristine condition.

The plastic pen body is made of thick sturdy plastic. When I looked at it I was surprised at how thick the plastic was. It’s not heavy but feels good. Some plastic pens feel cheap, this one does not. The grip is slightly short but isn’t uncomfortable. It’s narrow so this isn’t going to be for those large fingered big fisted folx. It’s not a dainty pen but sort of in between. The body of the pen is short-ish, and I found it uncomfortable to write more than a few notes without *gasp* it posted. Yes I post this pen.

The cap posts perfectly and tightly on the end of the pen and extends the pen to a perfect balanced length. This pen is surprisingly well balanced for my writing and grip style. I’m not gonna lie, I love that ball end wire clip. It’s fun and works surprisingly well.

The nib as it arrived was a fine, with a fair amount of baby’s bottoming and while I did attempt to smooth this out, it would not work for me. It worked intermittently and they the ink just wouldn’t flow. So I ripped it out and replaced it with a similar nib. If you decide to play around with Jinhao and WingSung pens, do yourself a favor and order a package of replacement nibs. The money spent is worth it. With the new nib in, the pen is an extra fine with a smooth wet flow.

Honestly I like this pen FAR more then I ever expected. It is a cart/converter pen but it’s fun, bright and a joy to write with. The tiny converter means I get to switch ink colors every few days, though I’ve been cycling through green inks.

Jinhao Candy Fountain Pen Bright and Fun

I’ve been using this pen daily since it arrived. It’s tough enough to stay strapped to my ScribblSheets Orange Opal journal and get tossed in my bag.

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Review: NovelPad Cloud-Based Writing Tool Part 1

As part of my new series on writing processes I am exploring a series of websites and apps that are similar to Scrivener but are a little different. NovelPad.co is a browser and cloud based novel writing app. It features a chapter and scene card based outlining and writing tool, a character and scene tracking and outlining tool, goal tracking, an insights tool, and the ability to export into a variety of formats. I’ll explore all of these tools in detail in this review of the cloud-based writing tool, NovelPad.

Everyone’s writing needs are a bit different from another person’s, but I need an app that will sync across devices and can be used on my PC* laptop, android** phone, and Fire*** tablet. Whatever I use to write, needs to work as well, if not better than Docs on these 3 devices. When I hit save on one I want to see that work on all 3 as instantly as possible. 

I currently writing in the morning and evening on my cheap laptop, on my lunch break on my tablet or phone. In the pre-Covid times I wrote in a café on Friday evenings and Saturday days. When I’m out and about my tablet and a small compact BT keyboard are a lighter weight option so it is important that any of these writing tools I review work seamlessly on the tablet and phone.

To start this review out, NovelPad works well on all my devices. It has been speedy and smooth my my cheap laptop, slick in the Silk browser, and great on Chrome on my phone. Chrome is sideloaded onto my Fire tablet and it seems that the ‘Zon interferes with sideloaded apps and their ability to use BT devices connected to the tablet. I have been able to work in all my usual manners in almost all my usual locations using NovelPad.NovelPad Opening Screen- Review of the cloud-based writing tool, NovelPad.

NP has a simple and clean interface. At the website you are greeted with a clean page that include icons that look like books with the titles of your novels. When you mouse over, or tap them, they open the book and offer for you to open that document. It opens to the “edit in context” option, where you can write directly into your novel. Along the left side of the screen are a series of icons. It took me a moment to figure out the icons and their meaning, and the tutorial is pretty clear.

NovelPad Navigation Bar

The icons are as follows:

  • Edit in Context
  • Chapters
  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Location
  • Insights
  • Goals
  • Save
  • Export
  • Settings
NovelPAd Chapters Horizontal View

Horizontal View

NovelPAd Chapters Vertical View

Vertical View

I really wish it opened to chapters for many reasons. Chapters is what makes NP really stand out. Chapters allows you to set up chapter cards and scene cards within each chapter. You can then easily drag and drop scenes and even whole chapters into new locations. Chapter 3 not working between 2 and 4? Does it need to be between 7 and 8? Drag, drop then renumber. It’s ridiculously smooth and easy. And I love it.

As I was working on my NaNo novel, I realized I’d left out a scene at Thanksgiving. I dropped a scene card in that said, “Add Thanksgiving angst.” I then highlighted it in orange so that it would stand out as I worked on my novel. The color coding is meant to assist you in tracking plots and scene changes, but I have found in my raw writing stage it most useful to remind me of where I’m currently writing and what scenes need more work.

I really like that I can open the chapters tab, click the pen icon for a scene, and a writing area pops up. The writing area can be half or full screen. With this I can keep an eye on the outline as I write. I can easily toggle between my writing and my outline. It really helps to keep me on track.

Each scene has an associated notes section, the icon looks like a tiny sticky note in the corner. This allows you to drop in research notes, character ideas, and other associated information into the body of your work. The notes section can also be set up with a reminder, that can be set to remind you in an hour, a day, week, or month. Nifty.

Because I’m finishing my NaNoWriMo novel I decided to stress test all the apps I’m testing with a cut & paste of the 58k words in a Google doc into each app. I wanted to see if the app would 1. divide the doc up into scenes and chapters based off my heading structure 2. use three * to divide into scenes 3. be able to handle the giant number of words dumped into the app.

I don’t recommend dumping nearly 60k words into any app, heck even Docs doesn’t handle it well and Word’s online version was shaking apart at the seams. It took several tries for NovelPad to accept the cut and pasted doc. It did not divide into chapters and scenes in a way that made sense, though it did break the novel up into several scenes, though they seemed to be rather random. Instead of cutting and pasting 60k words at a time, I’d suggest pasting the novel in a chapter at a time.

This might seem like it’s a negative, but does anyone really expect any app to handle that large a document in one large cut and paste? I would like to see NovelPad include an upload feature that works as well as their download feature.

Once your novel is finished you can download it in markdown, ePub, and Word formats. The process is simple and easy. Best of all it works well.

In Part 2 of this review I’ll look at the Plot, Character, Location, Insights, and Goals sections of the app.

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Week Links 202102

Jestine wrote about running tasks lists in bullet journals at Rediscovering Analog. It’s a great way to keep a week’s worth of tasks organized and would blend seamlessly with an Every Thing Every Where Journal.

I’ve been thinking about rubber stamps, mainly because I’ve gotten a bunch of them for my Every Thing Every Where Journal. Also, Andy of Erasables asked about stamp pads over in the RSVP group. Ana (of The Well Appointed Desk) has a good review here, and carries Ranger Archival ink pads in her shop and writes about them here. I like Ranger ink pads but I also really like Staz-On for stamping on the outside of my journals and for making stickers and labeling envelopes. It’s messy stuff though. I also have an assortment of pigment pads. Pigment pads might take longer to dry and make a mess of your stamp (clean them well after use) BUT the richness of the ink is worth it.

State of the Art: Coffee Bag Wallets

I’ve been making recycled coffee bag wallets for years. I used them extensively throughout grad school and sold them. I haven’t had time to make them recently.

Many of the coffee companies I’ve been getting coffee from have changed the bags they use- they’ve gone from the tube style to a style that has 4 sealed edges or are short and squat. I welcome that they use less plastic but the lower amount of plastic means I don’t get to make the bifold bill fold wallet, since there just isn’t enough bag there to make one.

I started looking at some of the wallets I like online, and my Baronfig card sleeve. I’ve always wanted a slim wallet that holds very few cards and takes up as little real estate in my pocket as possible. But I’ve always wanted something that holds cash as well. The Baronfig sleeve doesn’t hold cash well.

I decided to make something a bit larger all around than my Baronfig sleeve, not to hold more card, but to hold cash.

I attempted to heat seal the pieces together but that didn’t work well at all, so I’ll try stitching them together. That’s for next time.

Review: ScribbleSheets Orange Opal Edge Journal

ScribblSheets popped up in most of my social media feeds and I admit I was quite taken with the pretty edges. I reached out to the company and requested a copy for review, I’m really glad they said yes. Shipping was delayed due to the current state of the USPS, but wasn’t as bad as some of the other things I’ve ordered recently. The journal was packaged in a bubble mailer and within that a crisp cellophane wrapper.

At first glance the ScribblSheets Orange Opal Edge journal looks like a standard moleskine style journal, and in many ways it is. It measures 8.25×5.75 inches or 21x14cm also known as A5. It includes a sturdy elastic and a generously long narrow ribbon. The ribbon arrives heat sealed but I hit mine with a lighter just to get that seal a bit extra.

The covers are black vinyl or what everyone is calling vegan leather these days, and I won’t rant on the disingenuous nature of the idea of vegan leather. It’s plastic, and vinyl at that. It’s a nice vinyl and feels grippy and slightly squishy. On the lower back cover the ScribblSheets logo is debossed. It’s small and tastefully done.

The back cover sports an elastic loop for a pen, it’s large enough to accommodate a fountain pen, mine is currently holding my Wing Sung 3013. But It’ll hold a Preppy snuggly. It will not hold a pencil. I find that it’s a tad narrow and my pen flops around a bit, but in my Lihit Lab Bag in Bag it’s fine.

The inside back cover lacks a pocket, but I added a little slash pocket of my own. Inside there aren’t any markings at all. No logos, no square or lines to write your name or address. I used a ruler and added mine own in pencil then cleaned it up. Easy. There aren’t any page numbers either.

The grid is perfect. It’s the palest grey imaginable, so it completely disappears behind your writing no matter the color. I love it. At 5mm it’s a perfect distance for my writing. Each page has 40×28 dots per page. It’s a good number for a bullet journal- enough spots for a monthly log and more than enough for a day’s task list. My Peter Pauper ruler works perfectly with this grid size.

The paper is amazing with pencil, it’s got just the right amount of tooth for an HB like the Musgrave Harvest Pro or even the firm core of the Blackwing Eras. I also really like it with ballpoint and gel inks.

The paper does okay with finer nibs and well behaved fountain pen inks. You’ll be able to see in the images some long fibery feathering that reminds me of the old moleskine paper. But then it does fine with other inks and nibs. Generally, thus far I’ve been sticking to my Wing Sung 3013 loaded with Shaeffer Skrip Peacock Blue. It has been doing really well with this ink.

Now, let’s talk about the Orange Opal edge on this journal. It’s incredibly pretty. I’m not sure how they get the edge colored, I’m assuming that it is some sort of printing process, what ever it is it’s great. The colors are lovely and soften as the journal is opened. I really love the pattern and how it looks. It’s a nice touch on a nice journal.

Inside there are 160 pages stitched in using the Smythe (the same as the moleskine) style. They lay flat and the pages stay open. I had a few loose stitches in the start of my journal, but it didn’t impact my use. I had absolutely no glue creep between signatures or at the stitches. The block of the journal is affixed to the covers well. Like most journals the spine is stiff at first but then opens flat and is flexible.

Overall I really like the ScribblSheets Orange Opal Edge Journal. With 160 pages I’m not looking at more than 3 or 4 months use before I have to start a new journal, but I like starting a new journal. At $16.99 it’s not cheap but the pretty edge is a nice design element, and while the insides are sturdy and useful, that edge makes this journal stand out. It’s a pretty element that might seem a little frivolous at first, but it’s an understated design element that only the keen observer of your bullet journal will notice, but I notice every time I open up the journal. I like that.

This isn’t going to be your fountain pen journal, but the journal you use on the go with a pencil or gel pen, maybe even a Bic Cristal.

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Maker: Setting Up My Every Thing Every Where Journal

I mentioned on instagram that I had decided to retire my 2020 Every Thing Every Where Journal (ETEWJ) and start a fresh one for 2021. I never do this. The whole POINT of the ETEWJ is that it is flexible and not retrained by dates or years, rather it flows undated with my needs and my uses.  The next issue of Useful Journaling (1.3) explores the idea of Every Thing Every Where Journals.

My need for 2021 is to leave behind 2020. Also, the Baronfig Work/Play III has a lot of really intense journaling that needs to be left behind, though referred to often. Mostly I did not want to carry that weight with me on the daily.

So I ripped open my new ScribblSheets (full review soon!) journal and started to set it up. You’ll recognize many elements from Bullet Journaling, but with some added flexibility. I’d cut out chunks and added things as I need change.

To start I add a bunch of sticky notes to the front pages- a few extra large lined, a few regular 3×3 inch, a few 2×2, a few flags, and a handful of tabs. I use these to flag books I’m reading but to also flag important notes in my journal as I’m working. I’ll slap the large post it notes on the outside of the journal to trigger me to remember specific things.

The first spread of pages gets divided into 3rds, and I add in what would be called a “future log” but only includes 6 months. My ETEWJ rarely lasts 6 months, sometimes they are abandoned, but more often than not, I fill them in 4 to 6 months.

I then add in monthly logs for the next 2 months. I use a durable file tab in blue to mark the current month, on the fore edge of the book for easy access. I use these to mark off weekends, pay dates, dates when bills need to be paid, and when I need to do various assort things around the house. Blogging info goes in here as well.

Then I’ll start specific project logs. These only get a paper tab when I’m actively working on that issue. If you think of GTD, this would be your project to do list- it’s got all the things that need to get done to make this project a reality. I call this my Every Thing Task List In the case of this example, Useful Journaling, the to do list doesn’t change, but it helps to make one of these lists for each issue. The opposite page get the rough outline for the current issue I’m working on. This will get translated to Google Docs or NovelPad for drafting.

The next spread gets my Blog Posts To Do list. This page gets a durable plastic tab on the top edge of the page in whatever color I’m feeling at that moment. When a stationery item arrives at my house it gets logged here. As I write, photograph, or post I tick off the appropriate box.

Then come my weekly logs. I use a separate DayJob bullet journal, so my ETEWJ only concerns my side hustles and other creative work. Having a daily log for all of this seems unnecessary and I don’t put pressure on myself to do this work during my DayJob work week. Generally these are labeled with weekend dates. The opposite page is for information gathered in regards to my side hustles and creative work. The left page is for short bursts of info, quotes, and things I want to remember.

This series of notes is from my old ETEWJ.

This series of notes is from my old ETEWJ.

After this I’ll use the next free series of pages for notes. If I’m reading my ETEWJ is there with me. I’m taking an edX class on Project Management, my ETEWJ is there with me as I take notes and learn. I also use as many pages as I need for planning and designing things I’m interested in. I’ve got ideas for making planters out of pallets so I drew up some basic designs in my journal.

Then I’ll start the weekly log for the next week. The ribbon marker is always on the current week’s log.

Rinse, repeat as needed.

What I like about this system is that it is fluid and easily adapts to what I need,

Review: Wing Sung 3013 Vacuum Fountain Pen

The Wing Sung 3013 vacuum filling fountain pen is 100% copy of a TWSBI Vac 700. I won’t lie, I purchased the Wing Sung because the price of the Vac 700 is out of my reach right now  especially for a pen that I wasn’t sure I would like.

For $7.42, the 3013 is a steal. It feels well made when compared to some of my other knock off pens. The body is sturdy, threads well molded, and generally looks pretty nice. The cap continues the TWSBI knock off theme and looks startlingly similar to TWSBI’s caps. The clips is generic looking but sturdy. The finial is plain domed chrome. The cap is postable but throws the balance of the pen off.

The nib is the classic Wing Sung Pilot knock off, and mine is fine, and writes smoothly. The feed is clear plastic and also a Pilot copy. The grip section is round plastic and reminiscent of the TWSBI Diamond series.

The back end has a cap that unscrews. One must be careful to NOT unscrew the silver band just below the cap as that will allow you to removed the mechanism. Once the cap is unscrewed the piston slides in an out much like the plunger on a hypodermic needle.

The mechanism builds up a vacuum until the plunger reaches the bottom of the body of the pen, at which point the vacuum releases and sucks up ink. Getting a full fill takes some work and practice, but once done, this pen sucks up an enormous 2 ml of ink. To compare, most pens take up about 1 to 1.5 ml. A converter gets about .75ml, while a cartridge has around .5 to .75ml. 2ml is a huge amount of ink!

The only problem with it sucking up that huge amount of ink is that only only get to fill it once in a long while, and frankly, I really want to watch this thing suck up ink!

The nib is smooth and the grip is nice. I did fine that the body of the pen is a bit sharp, but this didn’t actually impact my use. The sharp area didn’t rest on my hand or under my fingers. I did use a sharp knife and patience to knock the sharp edge off the body of the pen. I know that the sharp edge was a complaint of some early Vac 700 users.

Overall, I really like this pen. At $7.50 it’s a steal. The combination of the fun filling mechanism, nice heft, and smooth nib makes this an everyday use kind of pen. That is to say, that since I received this pen and filled it I have not put it down. There is no getting around the fact that this pen is a direct rip off of the TWSBI Vac 700. After using this pen, I’m convinced I will like the Vac 700 and I’ll be using the Vac 700 as a carrot on a stick.

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