Tag: shawnee small

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 . . .


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


Mars Con or Bust


In just a few hours, I’m off to MarsCon.

This is my only book-associated event for all of 2020 and with good reason. As I explained in my first blog post of the year, I’ve been suffering from some autoimmune issues that have been kicking my ass. Well, those same pesky issues are rearing their ugly head this week, and so the fact that I’m limping my way to MarsCon at all is a miracle. Yesterday, I thought I was going to have to cancel altogether, but today, I’m dosing up on the drugs, wearing my vampire sunglasses, forgoing eating, and am going to give it a go.

It means I’m going to be quiet. It means that I’m likely to be cranky. Ooooh look, just like old Goth times! Perfect…not really. It means that I’m not going to be on my A game and that doesn’t make me happy, but at least I should get a medal for showing up. Showing up is half the battle after all.

So. With that in mind, here is where I’ll be if you find to seek me out. I’ll try my best to perk up in your presence.


4:00pmRomancing the Reader (Room 8)

Our panelists discuss the power of romance, the range and the voice of the genre, and the blush-inducing conversations!


12:00pmThe Internet: Valuable Research Tool or Kitten Photo Gallery? (Room 6)

Our panelists talk about the most useful resources for authors for research and finding markets. Where do you find the information you want and how useful is it?

3:00pmSocial Media for Authors (Room 4)

Our panelists discuss building a fan base through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Which social media platforms are helpful and which are a just a waste of a writer’s time?

8:00pmSex & Violence in Fairytales (Room L)

Naughty princes and violent godmothers. In this PG13 session, panelists discuss the role of both sex and violence in the narratives of the Grimm brothers along with other traditional folktales. Issues surrounding why many tales were later sanitized and adapted for the children’s market will also be addressed.

9:00pmWomen on the Dark Side (Room 8)

Not all women artists/creators are about unicorns and glittery vampires and silly pseudo-bondage. Some women create truly dark and challenging art and content, with just enough humor and whimsy to counterbalance all that darkness. Join our panelists as they celebrate the women creators who are creating content that connects with the deeper, darker side of all of us.

See you on the other side . . . or in this case MarsCon.

xo shawnee

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2020, my people.
A bright shiny new year and if you run in certain circles, another brand-new decade. Before you fight me over the nuance of that last statement, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this thing.
First off, it’s lovely to see you. Yes, I’ve been AWOL.
It’s been a hell of a year and I’m more than happy to kick 2019’s ass right out the ol’ door. We saw quite a bit of upheaveal at Chez Small including saying good bye to several loved ones and saying hello to whole bunch of other unpleasant such as health issues and the like that I’m really glad that 2019 is firmly behind us. There were probably some good things that happened in 2019, but so much of what happened was overshadowed by the bad that honestly, I can’t even remember much of last year. And I don’t want to dwell on those things and be Debbie Downer especially since we’ve got this clean and crisp new page called 2020 which has so much POTENTIAL to be SO VERY AWESOME; yet at the same time, I do feel like I need to offer you guys some sort of explanation as to why my writing stalled out and why Destroyer is almost 2 years overdue. (Yep, it hurt to write that out.)
Back in November 2018, coming off the end of another box set, I started noticing that my eyes were getting tired and gritty at night right around bedtime. I didn’t think anything of it – I’m notorious for staying up reading past my bed time, and I’m no spring chicken either. I just figured that I was entering the scary old stage also known as “needing readers” and went about my business. As we rolled into December, my eyes got more and more irritated and I was having a harder and harder time ‘seeing’ at night. Again, I thought I was just suffering from tired eyes.
Then I got the first corneal tear.
For most people a corneal scratch/abrasion/tear is pretty straight forward. It hurts, yes, and it’s highly uncomfortable, but the eye is a quick healer and for most sufferers, within a couple of days, symptoms abate. For me, not so much. Not only didn’t it get better, it got much MUCH worse. Like a whole holy hell worse where I’d rather stay up all night putting drops in my eyes than fall asleep. What was happening, as I found out later was that my eyes were so severely dry that my eyelid was ripping the SCAB RIGHT OFF MY EYEBALL while I slept. Yep, you read that right. Let that sink in. Ripping a bandaid off your eyeball every night. And the doctors couldn’t figure out why I was waking up in sobbing pain in the middle of the night until I finally saw a cornea specialist who basically saved my life. Finally, someone who knew what was wrong…
Yeah, the funny thing is when you have one autoimmune disease, you’re likely to get another. Okay, not so funny.
My diagnosis? Bloody auto-immune complication. My body’s cells are not just attacking my skin and my intestines, my body has decided to rage war on my eyeballs, too. So my body is attacking the glands and things in my eyes meaning I’ve got constant inflammation and no tears and oils. Not only am I prone to spontaneous tears and abrasions (thanks eyelids, you fuckers), but I’ve got diminished vision when I’m in an autoimmune flare and when I’m not in a flare and I can see relatively well, I still can’t stare at a computer screen very long because the eyeballs dry out (thanks eyeballs, you fuckers). So that’s why my writing has stalled out and my career has come to a standstill.
There have been many, many times over the last fifteen months that I’ve almost thrown in the towel and given up on being an author. Nothing feels quite as bad as being in pain and watching your career tank and not being able to do anything about it. Or sitting down at your lap top and trying to write just one page and having to give up because your eyes feel like they’ve been doused in gasoline and set on fire. To say I was on the edge would be the understatement of the year. And the thing is you can’t really complain about it because someone somewhere has it worse than you. If the worst that happened to me is that I couldn’t write anymore than I should be grateful, right? That’s no way to live, I’ll tell you that for free.
So, what saved me? Well, other than fountain pens, probably a handful of friends and close author chums.
And me. I saved me.
Because I refused to give up. I whined, cried, complained, raged against my stupid body on a daily basis, but I never gave up. If I got one paragraph written or one page (I haven’t been able to write more than 1,000 words at a time since diagnosis), I still called that a win. And you know what?
Today, at noon, I finished Destroyer. At 92,857 words, the first draft is done.
Destroyer Book Cover
Even the drop of water eventually erodes away the stone, my people. So if I can do it with wonky eyeballs, so can you. Don’t give up – whether it’s your dream or your health or something that seems completely unattainable to you – NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT. Because eventually you’ll get there, too.
This is what I say for 2020. Screw all the other resolutions. Just keep this one: Keep fighting the good fight. You will succeed.
See you on the other side.
xo shawnee