Author: shawnee

5 Fountain Pens under $20

I’m known among my author friends as a pen crack dealer and lets face it, I’m not gonna lie, I kinda am. I love fountain pens. I would go as far as saying I’m obsessed with them. If you’ve followed my Instagram feed, you’d know that it’s almost entirely full of FPs these days in different shapes, sizes, and colors. And yes, I also restore and repair fountain pens. 

So I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to wax poetical about fountain pens and of course, one of the first things people always ask me beyond the most obvious question which is “How many fountain pens do you own, Shawnee? To which I reply, “Not enough,” is that they ask me where should they start if they wanted to get into fountain pens.

I always err on the side of caution when suggesting pens and that’s primarily because they do require work. It takes effort to own a fountain pen. You must feed them and care for them and FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, CLEAN THEM, PEOPLE. Seriously, I better never catch you throwing one into the back of the desk drawer full of ink . . . but if you understand that fountain pens require some care and you’re undeterred, then here are some fountain pens that you can pick up on Amazon for less than $20.

ONE THING TO NOTE: This is just the tip of the iceberg for fountain pens and is not an exhaustive list of pens under $20 – I culled the list down to just the ones that I could happily recommend for writing out of the box 95% of the time.

 

Platinum Preppy

 

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this little workhorse of a pen. I love Platinum pens anyhow, but to get Platinum quality for just around $5-8 is something pretty special. There are a couple of other Japanese pens in this price range from Pilot, but the Preppy is by far the best of the bunch.

What really makes this pen great is the nib. Steel, of course, but it has the characteristics that you get from higher end Japanese pens and they pretty much write right out of the box 99% of the time, which is not something you can say for some of the other counterparts on this list (see Wing Sung below). Yes, Platinum has it’s own proprietary cartridge meaning it won’t take a universal ink cartridge, but most people I know turn them into eyedroppers with just a little bit of silicon grease on the threads and that gives you a lot more ink capacity. It also means you can use whatever ink you want. Bonus!

If you get only one pen on this list, I’d get this one and I’d go for a medium nib. You can get it in blue-black from Amazon by clicking here.

Pilot Metropolitan

This is my least favorite pen on the list and also one of the most expensive coming in at around the $15 range, which is not too bad for this pen. Cheapest you’re likely to see it is around $13 and it can go as high as around $30 if you don’t shop around. 

While I personally don’t like this pen, lots of people LOVE the Metropolitan and you get quite a bit of pen for your money. Unlike the rest of the pens on this list which have plastic barrels and sections, the Metropolitan actually has a metal body. It is probably the no. 1 starter pen on the market for the obvious reason – you’re getting a solid, well-made pen from Pilot in this price range.

I’m not such a big fan because all that metal does come with a cost . . . in weight. It’s a heavy pen and if you’re journaling a lot like me then hand fatigue sets in quickly with this pen. Also, weirdly enough, this is the only pen I’ve ever owned that made my hand sweat. But having said all of that, it does work out of the box and it can take a real beating. I’ve found it for you on Amazon for right around $13 – click here.

Wing Sung 3001

Chinese manufacturers get a bad rap these days and you can’t join a fountain pen Facebook group without running across at least one ongoing fight about Chinese manufacturers ripping off designs from other pen makers. I tend to shy away from those conversations because I think regardless of where you stand on the debate, the one good thing that makers like Wing Sung and Jinhao have brought to the table is that they’ve opened up the market so that anyone can afford to buy a pen and that’s creating whole new generations of fountain pen lovers, which is marvelous (See? I am a pen enabler.) 

Having said that, cheap also comes at a price and that price is quality. You may be able to get a half a dozen Wing Sungs for the price of one Metropolitan, but I can pretty much guarantee you that at least 30% of those pens aren’t going to write on your first attempt and maybe not even your third or fourth if you’ve never owned a fountain pen before.

So I say this with a caveat – buyer be aware when buying cheap brands like Wing Sung and Jinhao. You may get a dud or two in the mix that you will have to tweak. I’ll explain what I mean with the Wing Sung 3001.

First off, the Wing Sung 3001 is a clone of the Pilot 78g. Secondly, it’s cheap as chips and you can buy, get this, 5 for $13.99 on Amazon which is kinda nuts. Problem is that with the “EF” nib set that I got (EF stands for extra-fine), the first two that I tried to ink wouldn’t write at all without first pulling the nib and the feed out of the section. That’s gonna scare some of you, but I’ve got you, it’s easy and in fact I would STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU DO 2 THINGS before you ink a cheaper Chinese pen – 

  1. Remove the nib and the feed from where they slot into the section of the barrel and rinse under the kitchen tap running with good flow (STOPPER THE SINK FIRST IN CASE YOU DROP THEM); the nib is the metal two-tined point of the pen and the feed is located directly behind it. Grip the two together and gently pull out. It should be easy on a Wing Wung 3001. Once you’ve rinsed them well, put them back together and gently push back into the section. The nib sits nicely in an indent in the feed if you put it back together properly.
  2. When you’re ready to fill this pen, this pen uses a converter and takes ink from a bottle. Unscrew the body of the barrel from the section. You should now just have the section, the converter, plus the nib and feed. The converter has a knob that you can turn to suck ink up into the converter which holds the ink as you use the pen. BUT I suggest you tug the converter off, manually fill it in your bottle of ink and then push it back onto the tail end of the feed which is housed inside the section (basically put it back from whence it came) AND this is the important part, when you put the pen back together before you screw the body of the pen back on, prime the feed and the nib by twisting the converter down enough that ink floods behind the feed and down the tines and to the tip. If a drop of ink comes out and splashes on the paper, that’s okay. You want to make sure that you’ve got the best chance of getting this pen started without doing something you’ll regret like pushing down too hard on the paper and bending the nib or splattering ink everywhere are you flick you’re wrist too hard trying to get the ink to come out. 

There are other issues that you may have with Wing Sungs, but the great thing about them is that they SUPER CHEAP so don’t be too precious with them. Be prepared to destroy a few as you get to understand how a fountain pen works and watch lots of Youtube videos. I think having a few Wing Sungs in your collection is worth it. When they work, they work great! 

Jinhao 992

I love the Jinhao 992, I really do. I first came across the Jinhao 992 in Richard Binder’s nib smoothing class at the Baltimore-Washington Pen Show and I have to say that it’s such a great pen and cheap as chips – you can get 6 of them on Amazon for just $13.60! It reminds me a lot of a Sailor Pro Color 500 which makes me a little squeamish on the inside given how big of a Sailor Fan Girl I am, but honestly, it’s an amazing sparkly gem when it works* (see note about Wing Sung). If I had to pick between two Chinese pen makers, it’d be no contest – Jinhao would win every time. The more I use my Jinhaos, the more I love them.

Moonman Wancai Mini

 Okay, this pen is at the top end of the bracket, but worth every penny. This is another Chinese manufacturer, but there is something about Moonman that just speaks better quality to me. Some penheads will point out that its more like the rich man’s PENBBS, but given that I don’t have any of the latter, I can’t really say. What I can say is that I love the Moonman Wancai Mini. I have 2 – this one pictured above and then the clear demonstrator (it comes in two more flavors) and they both worked right out of the box and are a real conversation starter at shows. And the $19.99 price tag? I would gladly pay it over and over again. It’s such a cute thing that the girlie part of me squeeeeeeees everytime I see it. And being an eyedropper has its advantages – I don’t have to cart a whole bunch of ink to every author event I go to because like most new eyedroppers I own they hold quite a bit of ink. If you don’t like this pen, then you can send me hate mail, but I think for the price tag and it’s general cuteness, it can’t be beat. BUY IT NOW.

Good lord, it’s taken me all day to write this post. Patrick Dugan – I did this for you!

xo – Shawnee

 

 

 

Happy Release Day . . . oh wait.

Today was meant to be the release of Destroyer, the final book in the Shining Ones series. It was a day in the making – everything seemed to be just right like stars in alignment during a solar eclipse and then . . .

Covid-19

Yep. We’re stuck in a world of house arrest, Netflix binging, and a severe lack of toilet paper, and while we’re holed up at Chez Small, I’m trying my best to keep a smile on my face and shrug it all off.

Because things happen. Shit happens and then everything goes to hell in a hand basket. How can I worry about a book release delay when there are literally people the world over strapped to ventilators fighting to take their next breath?

Due to things beyond my control (and some that probably were within my wheelhouse if I was honest with myself), Destroyer is gonna be late.

Right now as of 6:00PM EST, we’re awaiting approval across all platforms to go live for EBOOK ONLY. The print version of Destroyer? I got no clue at this point. I’m still waiting for the proof to show up and as Amazon is shipping all essential items (like medical supplies out first) I can’t make too much of a fuss – it gets here when it gets here and then I hope like hell that it’s okay.

So I’m asking everyone to have some patience this week while we vanquish all the ghosts out of the machine. Destroyer is still set to be available this week, and it’ll be worth the wait.

See you on the other side. – xo shawnee

 

Let’s Talk about Parasite.

By now, everyone has heard about Parasite, the South Korean subtitled dark satire that swept across the Academy Awards board this year. It not only won ‘Best Picture’, but also picked up multiple other accolades including ‘Best Director,’ ‘Best Original Screenplay,’ and ‘Best International Feature Film’. Even the President of the United States got in on the Parasite action although in Trump xenophobic fashion criticized a movie that he, in fact, didn’t even watch

Well, I actually did watch Parasite. I was hardly going to pass up a South Korean directed and produced movie given my obsession with K-dramas and everything Korean, but let me tell you, Parasite is NOT a K-drama. I repeat . . . SO NOT.

Not that I didn’t know that going in. I did. I love quirky and dark. I thought I was prepared.

I WAS SO NOT.

A quick overview for those who haven’t seen it – Parasite is a movie about a Korean family barely existing in the slums of Seoul who scam a rich family by taking up servant roles in their household. It’s got hints of The Riches at this point, but from there on out, it goes weird then twisted and then, well, disturbed.

I was disturbed. I walked out of the movie with the husbot who immediately asked me what I thought and my hollow answer was, “I don’t know.” I was confounded, uncomfortable, disconcerted, all of that plus physically itchy. Then it was my husband’s turn to be bewildered as we sat over an Indian meal after the movie (the second time we’d eaten out that day in fact) and I looked up at him in tears.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I’m a horrible person,” I replied.
“Awww, J*&y, you’re not. Why would you say that?”
“Because we’re those people.” I let out an uncomfortable laugh. “We live in our bubble and I created that bubble. We are two white privileged people and there are people out there suffering. We’re not doing enough. We just . . . aren’t.”

I was sensitive and raw and about 30 seconds away from insisting we sell our house and live more simply because it was disgusting to have so much when so many have so little.

A movie did that. A movie made me feel unworthy yet privileged at the same time.

Because the fact is a lot of us don’t see our privilege. We take lots of things for granted: clean water, sanitation, food, our roof over our heads, a job, a spouse, our children, our friends . . . our lives here in the U.S. are filled with privilege, but we don’t want to pay additional taxes to ensure universal healthcare or to ensure that children get a hot meal every day. Because we Americans think that everyone should pay their own way and if they don’t then that’s their problem, not our problem.

And that’s the most disturbing part of this whole thing.

I could be more clever and talk about all the double entendres, the metaphors, and the nuances of what is a brilliant film, talk about what it means to be a parasite and who the actual parasite is, but there will be plenty of blog posts out there already doing that. That’s not what this is.

This is a call for everyone to go watch Parasite and grasp what out Western privilege has cost us . . . our humanity.

Yet, I have to believe we can change. I have to believe that there is still hope for us yet, that we can do more . . . we can act more. We can search out the desolate and befriend them, we can work to alleviate those suffering among us, we can dig deep into our own communities and make a difference . . . hell, we can even put a compassionate humanitarian in the Oval office if we want it bad enough.

We don’t have to live in a movie like Parasite. We can be so much more.

Go see the movie and judge for yourself. You’ve been warned.

 

 

K-Dramas = New Obsession

Happy Friday, everyone!

Starting this week, I’m going to start running some Top 5 lists while I’m waiting on edits from Amanda on Destroyer. This one is near and dear to my heart, and in case you haven’t been following my posts on Facebook recently, I’m going to give you one hint, here he it is:

I’ve got the worst case of Chen Kun on the brain EVER closely followed by Eun-Woo Cha, and God, I hate saying this out loud, but also Jingting Bai who is frankly young enough that it makes me feel like a letchy old lady. Ew. I haven’t been this fixated since probably Sons of Anarchy or David Tennant in DR WHO. I’ve got it bad. I’m so obsessed with Korean and Chinese period dramas that I’ve taken over control of the TV in my household and I’ve eaten waaaaay too much pot noodle and kimchi for one non-Asian household. It’s seriously so bad that I’m considering learning Korean or Mandarin Chinese just because that’s what you do when NETFLIX FEEDS YOU CRACK TELEVISION. OH MY GOD.

Yes, I’ve been bitten by the K-Drama bug. It started off harmless enough with binge watching Love Alarm and now I’ve moved onto a 56 episode Chinese drama THAT WILL TAKE ME FOREVER TO FINISH IT. Who makes a 56 episode season? The Chinese, that’s who. Kill me now. Wait, don’t. I have to get to the end and see if Ning Yi and Feng Zhi Wei finally make it (it only took them 40 episodes to hug, people . . .)

I should point out that technically, The Rise of Phoenixes that I’m talking about is not in fact a K-drama but a Chinese period drama so I’m cheating a bit. At this point, I might’ve lost about 50% of my readers who have no idea of what I’m talking about, but here it is in a nutshell:

K-Dramas stands for Korean Drama also known as Korean drama televisions series televised in . . wait for it . . Korean. They have made a bit of a resurgence more recently outside of Korea due to the K-pop and K-culture phenomenon and often are a love story that plays out in a contemporary setting and deals with relationships, family, duty, and other themes prevalent in Asian culture. They always have pretty boys and a girl who must choose between two or more possible love interests. The filial duty aspect also takes on a life of its own almost like another character in the story line especially when you start drilling down into period dynasty dramas. They are the slowest burn romance you’ll ever come across so if you are impatient, you will be screaming at your TV, trust me. But if you’re good for sacrifice, duty-bound tragedy, celestial destiny, and a whole host of wacky martial arts moves then read on. 

I’m going to make a contentious statement right here: The best TV on Netflix hands down RIGHT NOW is Asian television. Everything else that Netflix has produced as original content has been pretty lackluster and I’d even put The Witcher in that category (feel free to send me hate mail). If you want compelling, beautiful TV that delves into family, duty, honor, and personal sacrifice, Netflix has got a great selection to choose from.

Here are my current Top 5 MUST WATCH Asian TV Series on Netflix:

1) The Rise of Phoenixes 

I will say this: don’t start with this series. Although it’s my favorite so far, it is hard going to begin with and if you’re not used to watching subtitled content you will drive yourself insane and give up quickly. Try something a little softer, like Rookie Historian, which is my no. 2. It’s also a slow burn, but I think is a bit more easier on American audiences. If you delve into The Rise of Phoenixes be prepared for the time commitment and to fall head over heels for Chen Kun and Ni Ni who make this story so compelling. The cast overall is superb and you will find that you quickly care about all the characters and worry every time that someone is going to die ala George RR Martin. I’m going to be sad when I’m done with this one.

2) Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung

Until I started The Rise of Phoenixes, this was it for me. I really thought no one could top Historian Goo and Prince Yi. Equal parts funny and heart felt, again, the whole honor and duty-bound aspect of the show really cuts you to the core. The thing that I failed to mention above in The Rise of Phoenixes is that we’re also talking about very strong and clever female protagonists who still strive to have their own identities and desires separate from the main love interest . . . even if it means not getting the guy in the end. I just loved this one so much and it made me an instant Eun-Woo Cha fan who is also in a K-pop band. Go figure.

3) When the Camellia Blooms

True fact: my husband has been known to run around the house shouting, “Dong Baek!” It’s kinda cute and annoying at the same time. This series isn’t so much of a K-drama as it is a romantic comedy mixed with some thriller moments. What I love about this particular show is that it’s more realistic than the other picks on my list. It deals with a single mother raising her son in a small Korean coastal town and the way she struggles to be accepted in the close-knit community while attracting the single son of the local matriarch while also trying not to be killed by a murderer. It was a refreshing change from some of the more sickly sweet teen K-dramas you might see on Netflix.Very funny. 

3) Cheese in the Trap

We are a torn household on this show. I really liked it, my husband really didn’t. He took offense to the nerdy up-tight love interest, Jung Yoo, being too clinical, almost “on the spectrum” with the way he treated Hong Seol given the fact that my husband is himself a super nerd who can be socially shy shall we say. I actually thought it was a great college-level-girl-has-to-choose-her-destiny but wasn’t thrilled by the fact that it ends on a cliff hanger. I suspect that this could get another season. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be pissed (just like Love Alarm).

4) Cinderella and the Four Knights

If you’ve ever watched Eastenders, then this is the Korean equivalent. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just think soap opera. Man, this thing goes on forever about hidden agendas, secrets coming out of the closet, and a whole heap of mean boy syndrome. I’m not sure this one belongs on the list, but I did stay entertained. The husbot gave up and walked away bored. It was almost too much K-drama for him, but I felt like this was a quintessential K-drama at its core and was the best representation of what you get with this genre. I think it’s also easy and disposable if you like romance unlike some of the other ones on my list.

5) There is no number 5 . . . .

I hate when that happens, but alas, I could only recommend 4 for now. I still have a large list to get through and I didn’t want to add a fifth just for list sake. If you want to see what else I’ll be watching here is it – 

  • Chocolate
  • Yanxi Palace: Princess Adventures
  • Eternal Love
  • Romance is a Bonus Book
  • My Sassy Girl
  • One Spring Night
  • My First First Love
  • The Bride of Habaek
  • Mr Sunshine
  • The Princess Weiyoung

 

Let me know what K-dramas you love. Email me at shawnee@shawneesmall.com

xo – shawnee