Blazing Star

It has been a while since I posted on here. There will be more on that at a later date, but I have some BIG NEWS to share with you tonight.

Davis Publishing Company hosts a quarterly short fiction contest and the finalists for Summer 2016 were announced last night. My story, The Blazing Star, was picked as one of the final entries, and will be published by DPC along with the other two finalists. Of course, the final placing must be decided by author and writing mentor KM Weiland, but that’s all gravy at this point. Being a finalist means that I will go from aspiring fiction author to PUBLISHED fiction author.

PUBLISHED.

I want to let that sink in for a minute because it feels kinda good. I have published writing works before as a journalist, but this story being published is a momentous thing for me. It gives me hope that I can really make this writing thing work, and now I want to work harder to keep the ball rolling.

On the heels of this announcement, I would also like to offer a bit of a teaser for future projects. I have been working with Josh Davis of DPC to build on the Blazing Star story, which came about after I wrote the short story. I knew there was more to the tale than what I had in the submitted work, so I have been working on expanding that. More to come in the future on that!

I want to thank Josh and Patricia of DPC for taking me on and giving me all the guidance and support that I could ever ask for. I also have to thank my wife, Emily, who has supported my writing and gave me the strength to finally chase this dream.

Be sure to look for the final results of the contest on September 30th, and keep an eye out for more news after that!

Goals

We all have goals.

Weight goals (of one kind or another), workout goals, life goals, work goals, etc.

The point is that you have to shoot for something. Without a destination in mind, we are aimlessly driving to nowhere.

With this in mind, I have set some goals for myself, or more accurately, for my first book. In case, you haven’t been paying attention, read further on my novel aspirations HERE. Anyhow, my goals are:

  1. I want to complete 5 chapters a week on my first draft.
  2. I want my first draft to be done by October 1st.
  3. I want to have critiques and edits done by November 1st.
  4. By April, I want my final draft off to a editor/proofreader
  5. Roughly one year from now, I want my book to be hitting bookshelves.

Those are my goals. They may come to be, and they may not, but now I have something to shoot for. As for goal #1, I have 3 chapters done in 3 days, so I’m doing alright thus far. I figure it will take me roughly 10-12 weeks to do my first draft at this pace, which I am fine with, since I have a full time job and a family. That will put me well within range of goal #2. Then begins the race for the rest of my goals.

Also, big news, I have reached a verbal agreement with the Davis Publishing Company to be my publisher. The co-owner, Josh Davis, has been a great help and mentor, and I am looking forward to working with his growing company. I hope that we can help each other by bringing both of our respective brands success!

So the moral here is to have goals. I have a few other goals that I’ll keep to myself for now, but when the time comes, I hope they will be instrumental in building towards a life that is fulfilling for both myself and for my family.

That’s all I have for now, folks. Keep checking in for updates on the progress of my novel. I will be sure to post milestones as they are reached. Sometime soon, I will release a story synopsis, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

The Battle Has Begun…

Earlier this year, I began crafting an idea for a book. For years, I banged half formed notions and thoughts around my head, trying to get something to stick. I was unable to give the ideas the attention they needed to grow, and they would always fade away. I was almost to the point where I was going to let writing fade in to the background of my life. Luckily, inspiration came along and turned things around.

My wife chasing her dreams kicked my writing habit back in to gear. I knew if I rested on my laurels any longer, I wouldn’t ever get started. 6 months later, I had a plot summary with 51 pages and 34,000 words. I pushed myself to make progress, and the ideas flowed like water.

I created a plot that I felt a personal sense of pride in. I built a story idea that I believed in, and that I knew could be the basis for a series of books. The only thing I was worried about was the opinion of others.

I sent my work out to a few people, so they could check the plot summary for the content it contained. I wanted to know if they felt it was a good story, and if it was worth moving forward with. The response I got back was favorable, and I was told that I was on the right track. I knew that I had something substantial to work on.

What I have is a fantasy tale. I won’t go in to details, because I’m not ready to share that with the world. I will say that it’s not overly fantastical or wild. I love the fantasy realm for the ability to build my own world, make my own rules, and not be bound by our reality. So here I am, with my plot summary and a path forward.

Now the battle begins. I have started the work on the actual story, and it will be a long and twisting path to the completion of the book. I’ve done a lot of research and read a lot of books, blogs, articles, and works on how to go about writing a book. I’ve tried to prepare myself and figure out how to go about attacking this, but I have realized that nobody will be able to tell me how to best write my book. Only I will know how I can accomplish that. I found that out when I began my summary. I followed the steps of others, but my success came when I followed what came natural to me. Obviously, the advice and experience of others did give me some guidance, but when the ink went on the paper, I had to chart my own path. I feel like writing the book will be the same. I will have the mentors and guides to consult, but my hands will write the book, and I have to figure out the best way to do it. The process will be slow at first, but I know I will find my way. I can see the story in my head, but now I just have to figure out how to get it on to the page.

I feel like every day will be a learning experience, and some days will be incredibly frustrating. I will want to give up, and I will want to walk away. I will wonder why I ever decided to make writing a part of my life. After that, I will sit back down, and lay siege to the story and not quit until it is finished. I want it too bad, and I want to write for a living. If I can pass this test, then I can make it my life.

So, today I announce that my story, currently titled Mage’s Fire, is in work. I am proud of the fact that I can say this, and that I can actually share it. I’m hoping to have it done within a year. Josh, hold me to that. In fact, everyone hold me to that, so I can set myself a real deadline.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this venture. Also, thank you to the people who have always supported my writing habit. Without the guidance and kicks in the ass, I would not be this far along. Keep guiding and kicking.

Now I am off to put more words in to my story. I hope that it will be as good in your eyes as it looks in mine.

Father’s Day

Being a father has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My daughter, Madelyn, is a handful, but watching her grow over the past few years has made all the tough days worth it.

I learned how to be a dad from some really great men. They weren’t perfect, but I learned a lot of life lessons from how I was raised.

I wouldn’t be who I am without the influences of my dad and grandpa. They are the reason I joined the military, and why I am proud to carry the Townsend name. Words can never truly express the love and admiration I have for them.

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My dad and grandpa showed me how to be strong, compassionate, caring, and supportive. They taught me that being a good father means that you learn from your mistakes and you never give up. I have watched both men struggle through so much, but their strength and willpower was inspiring.

My grandpa is no longer with us, and I miss him greatly. He was a constant presence in my life, and always there to lean on. I have such fond memories of the long summers I would spend in Mississippi, and I could always count on him making it to as many of my sports events as he could. He was a good man with a big heart, and he had a wicked sense of humor. I wish he could have been here longer, but I will always cherish the time we did have.

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My dad was always the best father he could be. I didn’t make things easy on him, but he never gave up on me. We grew closer as time went on, and he even brought my sister, Christel, and I together. He taught me that it is never too late to be a good father and to make amends for the past. He also taught me the power of being supportive.

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A year and a half ago, my dad had a stroke. He has worked incredibly hard to recover, and his willpower has been inspiring. He could have given up or just been content with being in a wheelchair, but no way that was going to happen for my dad. He keeps fighting every day, and I am so proud of him for never giving up. Being his son is truly something I will always appreciate. I could go on and on about the times that my father and I shared, but the true depth of those moments cannot be explained. He is the type of man I strive to be. He is a hero and an inspiration.

There is one other father I would like to recognize as a big influence on my life. When I played football, I met a coach named Bryan West. Strangely enough, he lived across the alley from me, and he took me under his wing. After the season was over, he didn’t coach me in football again, but he became a father figure for me. My home life during that time was tumultuous, and Bryan and his family let me come and hang out when I needed to get out of the house.

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The Wests opened the doors to their home and hearts to me, and I am eternally grateful for that. They taught me that you can love anyone like family and give them the support and they need in a time of difficulty.

So, thank you to the men who helped raise me and teach me what it meant to be a good father. I know there are so many more who I learned from, but I these three men were instrumental to who I am today as a dad. I hope that I can make make you proud, and pass on the things I learned to my kids.

If you are lucky enough to be a father, be one with all of your heart. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be as good as you can be. Being a father is a gift and I’m so lucky to have that in my life. I wasn’t sure I was ready when it came, but I’m glad that I have it now. The words, “I love you daddy,” always melt my heart. Every day with Maddie is Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Make every day with your kids special.

Emily

You often don’t get to witness inspiration and transcendent talent in real life. We can live our whole existence seeing things of beauty from a far, and being touched by the works and abilities of others while never having a personal connection. This beautiful world that surrounds us is full of people who create beautiful things and have amazing talents, but those truly brilliant souls in our world are few and far between.

This weekend has been the culmination of a long road for a woman of pure, unadulterated, and boundless musical genius. Her path to where she is now wasn’t the easy one. Despite everything that was in her way, she overcame the obstacles and persevered to follow her dreams. She never gave up despite the fears that she faced and the desire that would often strike her. Doubt would eat at her confidence, but she would not give up. She fought against all odds, and now she is an Magna Cum Laude Honor Graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Music Performance.

She did all of this over the past several years while being a mother and a wife. She did it while moving to an unknown future, with only the barest of ideas and plans for where to go forward. She has blossomed from a girl with a viola to a professional musician. Watching her growth as a person, a musician, an academician, a wife, and a mother over the past several years has been like watching an artist craft a masterpiece. It has been like hearing a composer create their quintessential work. The best part is that I know this is only the beginning.

I feel so blessed to have her in my life, and to be able witness her talent and beauty firsthand. When she plays viola, it is so beautiful and so passionate. When she studies music, she is so thorough and so eager to learn. When I watch her with our daughter, she is so loving and fun. Some days, I wonder how she has the strength to make it through, but then I would remember the fire I would see in her eyes. Her eyes are always alight with a beautiful flame when she is playing viola, learning or sharing about music, or spending time with Madelyn. Her heart and soul are always in every thing she does, and I love seeing the results.

Emily, I am blown away by you. I stand here proud to be your husband, partner, and best friend. You have been my rock in troubled times, and I am so proud to have been yours. I know that the days of doubt and turbulent times we faced were meant to make us stronger, and they would pay off in the end. You made it! Despite everything I have said here, words still could not express the admiration, love, pride, and awe that I feel for you. You are such a beautiful and talented woman, and I cannot imagine my life without you. I am so very proud of you, and everything you have done. You have inspired me in so many ways, and you continue to amaze me on a daily basis. I love you to the ends of the earth, and I will always be your biggest supporter, your writing partner, your listening ear, and anything and everything you need me to be.

Emily, you truly are a one of a kind beauty and talent. There is no one else in the world like you. Never forget that, my love.

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WTF Is The FDA Smoking?

So… the FDA is “protecting” Americans by throwing the hammer down on e-cigarettes, but never mind the fact that cigarettes are still killing around 480,000 people a year in the US. They want to know exactly what goes in to the vaporizers and e-liquid, but does anyone have a clue what goes in to cigarettes?

Proponents of the new regulations say that this is all about protecting our youth and keeping “tobacco products” out of the hands of minors. I understand and support that. If the regulations stated simply that and they were going to work with the current vaping industry to build guidelines, I would be on board. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and I am disgusted with the draconian way that they have tried to crush the start up industry.

The FDA says it will take $1-2 million for research and testing on EACH product for government approval. So for a company that sells 10 different e-liquids, it could cost them $10-20 million to continue business. AREYOUFUCKINGKIDDINGME?! Let us not forget that our friends over at BIG TOBACCO have gotten in to the vaping market, and are pretty much the only ones who could afford this ludicrous cost. Tell me you see a pattern here. (I’ll give you a hint: the pattern is the FDA is getting money from big tobacco.)

Keeping this stuff out of the hands of minors should have been the biggest concern. Requiring ID checks is a must, but ultimately, we know that people still manage to buy alcohol and cigarettes underage. There are ways to put age verification on websites, and e-cigarette sites are beginning to incorporate them. I absolutely think the checks and balances should be there for this requirement, but to try and shut down an entire industry by bludgeoning it with outrageous regulations is a big steaming pile of bullshit.

Speaking of bullshit, let’s get past the myth that people don’t know what is in e-cigarettes. If you want to talk about a self-policing industry, look to vaping. The e-liquid isn’t some mystery concoction. Websites that sell it list the ingredients. There are more companies that list the ingredients on their bottles than ones that don’t. The liquids have the nicotine content on the bottle. If that wasn’t enough for you, I make my own liquid, so I know what goes in to the flavoring as well. The doors and windows are wide open in this industry because they WANT to be accepted. You go ask a cigarette company to list their ingredients on the boxes, and see what they say. The industry is willing to work with the FDA to get approval, but no small vape company can afford the cost the FDA is charging.

Look, if you are of legal age to purchase “tobacco” products, no matter what your pleasure, then I say that is your choice. I’m not going to tell you that you’re a better person for vaping, or you suck at life for smoking cigarettes. If you’re a non-smoker, that’s your choice too. All I am saying is that the FDA is stomping all over the vaping community to “protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth”(Sylvia Burwell, HHS Secretary). Don’t worry about those kids still buying cigarettes underage. Let’s not worry about those annual 480,000 people who might like to have known what cigarette companies were putting in their products. Never mind that research is beginning to show that e-cigarettes are a less unhealthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. (Yes, they aren’t as good as not smoking at all. I’m not going in to that argument.) I could go on, and on, but I digress…

I hope that the bills going through Congress and the Senate right now will curb the FDA’s lunacy on these regulations. I hope that people do come to their senses. I don’t mind that vaping isn’t allowed in the same places that smoking is banned. I’m OK with the fact that vaping gets its fair share of shit for being the new douche bag trend. It is what it is, but what I am not OK with is people being contrary and hypocritical. Don’t feed us a big pile of bullshit and tell us it’s all for the kid’s sake. We know you’re so full of shit it’s coming out of your eyes. Why don’t you guys go do something worthwhile like figure out how to regulate and legalize marijuana so that the draconian agenda surrounding that can go away? Oh right… the kids.

Thanks for reading folks. If you’re a vaper, we have 2 years, folks. Hopefully people come to their senses before then. And, yes… I used draconian twice. Look it up. It has a fun history.

Anxiety!

Hi folks. As you can tell, we will be talking about anxiety. This month is, amongst many other things, Mental Health Awareness Month. There are so many disorders and mental diseases that are out there, but anxiety is one that I am very familiar with. This is my own personal take on the subject, from the life experiences I’ve had. I’m not going to go in to terms and definitions or get scientific on you. I want to give you my real world view.

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Now, let’s debunk some myths I used to believe about anxiety.

MYTH: Anxiety causes people to be nervous wrecks all the time.

REAL LIFE: Anxiety is not defined as someone who suffers from constant worry or fear. It is definitely a part of suffering from anxiety, but you aren’t in constant Chicken Little mode. There are times where the sky is indeed falling. Other times, you are a completely functional human being. Two years ago, if you would have told me that I have an anxiety disorder, I would have told YOU to get your head checked. The effects of anxiety are wide ranging, but most people who suffer from anxiety go through phases of anxiety highs and lows, and will have anxiety or panic attacks.

MYTH: I thought having anxiety meant you were crazy.

REAL LIFE: Well, you are crazy, but everyone is crazy, including me. Anxiety is a normal response to certain situations. Some people suffer from an overabundance of it. It can be mild or severe, but most people with an anxiety disorder fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Anxiety can also be associated with other disorders such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Being “crazy” is subjective. We all go off the rails from time to time. It is important to know when you are going off the rails too much.

MYTH: You can tell when someone has anxiety.

REAL LIFE: The truth is that people are exceedingly good at putting on brave faces for others. I know this because I’ve done it for a long time. I’m not going to go in to details about my life, but it hasn’t been all sunshine and happiness. I began hiding behind a mask of sarcasm and ill temper a long time ago. I have a very short temper. I constantly think about how things aren’t going to work out. I function on a razor’s edge of knowing that my life is fine and I’m an idiot for worrying and complete nuclear meltdown. Hi, I have an anxiety disorder. It took a rather personal situation to put it in perspective for me. The world didn’t end, and I was relieved when I found out that there was a rational answer to my irrationality. The only thing I regret is not seeking out help sooner.

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Anxiety is a tough road to walk if you don’t know where you’re going or if you don’t even know what road you’re on. My personal experiences have taught me that the best thing that you can have is a support system. Get help and talk to someone if you feel like there is something in your life that you can’t control. If you know somebody who you think is suffering from anxiety, reach out and support them. Don’t be a short fused nervous time bomb like me. It’s ok to be a little crazy. We can all be crazy together.

For more detailed information on anxiety and associated disorders, visit the following links:

National Institute of Mental Health

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

 

Hurricane Madelyn

I have a 3 year old daughter named Madelyn. She normally looks something like this:

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Don’t get me wrong, she is lots of fun when she is being playful and in a good mood, but my little “threenager” is a violent outburst waiting to happen… and I love her to death. When Maddie came in to my life, I wasn’t sure I was ready to be a dad. I suppose I should tell you a little backstory at this point.

I met my wife, Emily, on eHarmony while I was deployed in Bahrain. She was pregnant with Maddie, and I realized that her being pregnant wasn’t going to stop me from getting to know this amazing woman. I was traveling from Norfolk, VA to Whidbey Island, WA when Maddie was born. Not being with Emily during that time caused me to be really conflicted about being a father and I was really confused about my decisions. I worried that I wouldn’t be good enough or wouldn’t know what to do. I had no idea what I was getting in to, and I was about to jump in the deep end without knowing how to swim. I made it to Portland, OR and took a flight back to Charleston, WV to be with Emily and Maddie. Yes, I drove all the way across the country and then flew back. Shut up. I was still really unnerved about this huge shift in my life, but it all changed when I saw Madelyn Jane for the first time. When I held her, my fate was sealed.

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This little girl had me wrapped around her finger, and I wasn’t letting her go. After a few days, I flew back to Portland and completed my trip to WA. I spent a few months in an unnecessary training school, and then drove down to Dallas where Emily and Maddie were waiting for me. Together, we began our adventure together as a family and headed south to New Orleans, LA.

We’ve had our ups and downs in NOLA, and we’ve had quite an interesting few years here, but one thing has been a constant: Maddie is a force of nature. As soon as she became mobile, she earned the nickname Hurricane Maddie. She could destroy just about anything, and being in New Orleans, it seemed fitting.

Despite the constant craziness, Maddie is such a fun little girl. Shes so smart and curious, and often devious and nefarious. She’s a goofball and cuddlebug. She’s so wild and energetic that it’s like chasing the Tasmanian Devil. Watching her personality grow has been an amazing thing. Her facial expressions are priceless and her smile in infectious.

The challenge that Emily and I embarked upon when we started all of this was the beginning of the best adventure of my life. Together we are raising a girl who will be a tough, smart, and talented person. She will have any opportunity we can give her, and I want her to be able to explore anything that interests her. These three years have taught me that the toughest things in life are the most rewarding. Maddie has made our lives so full and so vibrant, but she has also driven us absolutely crazy. At the end of the day though, I see that smile, and I hear, “I love you daddy”, and my heart melts for that little girl.

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I am so proud to be her father. I’m so in love with the little hell raiser who can become a sweetheart in no time flat. She is my little girl, and I’m so happy that she will soon become a Townsend. We are currently in the process of finalizing my adoption of her as my daughter, and her name will become Madelyn Jane Townsend. I can’t help but think back on the wonderful times her and I have had in the three years so far, and know that those times are only the beginning. Emily and I are so lucky to have Maddie to fill our lives with her craziness and love.

I love you little girl.

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Our sweet little Madelyn.

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Vaping: The Good, The Bad, and Some How-To

I vape. I’ve been doing it for about 2 ½ years now, and it was one of the better decisions I have made. I’ll be honest, I did it to quit smoking cigarettes, but I didn’t do it to give up nicotine. Please hold all judgments until the end of the presentation. The reason I wanted to give up cigarettes was my daughter, Madelyn. I didn’t want her to associate that awful smell with me, so I switched to e-cigarettes and never looked back.

I want to talk about the good and bad side of being a vaper, and I also want to pass along some things I have learned along the way. These may be good tips for someone looking to switch over to e-cigarettes or upgrading, or for someone looking to becoming more do-it-yourself in regards to building their e-cigarette or making e-liquids.

I’m going to start with the negative things first. I know everyone has heard the various reports of the ways that e-cigarettes are dangerous. Poisonings, batteries exploding, popcorn lung, metal poisoning, and the list goes on and on. Most of these reports have been debunked, and in some cases, it has been shown that the reports and studies were funded and purposely skewed by the major tobacco companies. Some of these were simply misleading, such as the poisoning report by the CDC, in which it wasn’t the actual smoking of e-cigarettes causing poisoning. Vapers were leaving their e-liquid unattended around small children, and the poisoning would occur after the child swallowed the e-liquid. This, of course, caused a huge spike in reported cases, because they had never tracked them before 2013. The battery explosion nonsense has been blown out of proportion (pun intended). If a battery is mishandled or mistreated, it can catch fire (not explode), which can be seen in phones, vehicles, hover boards, and numerous other electronic devices. Use and handle your batteries correctly, and they will almost never malfunction. As the industry has grown, the manufacturers are becoming more careful about what they use and how they create their products. When e-cigarettes first became popular, the main detractors were claiming that they were using antifreeze as an ingredient in the liquids. Propylene glycol, which is one of the bases of e-liquid, is a commonly used pharmaceutical and food product chemical that has nothing to do with antifreeze in that form. The main problem with the detractors of e-cigarettes is ignorance. Yes, they are obviously less healthy than not smoking, and they are still too new to the market to have been fully studied. I fully accept the fact that I am continuing an addictive habit by vaping, but I would rather deal with materials and liquids that list all the ingredients they use. When you smoke a cigarette, you have no idea what is in it, and we all know the deadly history of smoking.

So, if I knew smoking would kill me, why did I start smoking in the first place? I started smoking because it was the only way you could get a break. When I was younger, I used to give my dad and sister a ton of shit for smoking. I would always say I didn’t want to smoke. I kept that strong until I was 25. When I joined the Navy, you really didn’t get many breaks as an airman. To get a break at work, I would go out to the smoking area because you would get yelled at if you were sitting around the shop. At first, I didn’t smoke out there, but eventually I did because I couldn’t be out there if I wasn’t smoking. Thank You Navy! So, that’s what got me in to smoking, and that’s what brought me around to vaping. I don’t do it to be cool or because it feels good. I know there is a lot of rhetoric about why people start smoking, and there are a lot of reasons, but you get addicted, and it is hard to break bad habits. I quit for 6 months at one point, but started again during a stressful stretch at work. I’m not looking for pity, sympathy, or making excuses. It’s not the best thing in the world for me, but I think it’s better than me smoking cigarettes. I’m really not going to get in to the whole social connotations of vaping. Every group of people has their assholes and douche-bags. Just because some vapers are disrespectful of other people doesn’t mean we all are.

Vaping isn’t for everyone, and some people would rather just stick with cigarettes. Me condemning them would be hypocritical, so I won’t. I chose to vape, and now I want to talk about some of the good things I’ve found along the way. I will tell you that I feel better than I did when I smoked cigarettes. There is something about not inhaling large amounts of tar and other crap anymore that my lungs thank me for. My wallet also thanks me, since vaping is significantly cheaper. I was spending roughly $150 a month on cigarettes, and that was over 2 years ago. It would probably be more nowadays. Vaping usually costs me about $40-50 a month in liquid and sometimes I have to buy new equipment or materials to rebuild my e-cigarette. Recently, I got in to making my own liquid, which I will talk more about later, which will lower my monthly cost even more.

My first attempt at e-cigarettes was with the cig-a-like type, but I wasn’t too impressed with it. When I decided to go with vaping full time, I started out with a vape pen. Vape pens are a cheap starter device for someone looking in to trying vaping, but aren’t sold on it yet. I started out with Volcano e-cigs, but as I moved to an Advanced Personal Vaper (APV) I started trying other brands. Now there are a ton of brands out there for liquids and for devices, not to mention countless places to purchase them. My advice is to do your research in to anything you are interested in purchasing before you do buy it.

A breakdown of different types of vaping devices can be found here: http://www.cigbuyer.com/types-of-e-cigarettes/.

I’m sure you have seen many different brick and mortar vape shops around where you live, and for those times when you need something right now, they are great. The big problem with vape shops is the price mark ups and they often only sell things that they like. I know you have to make money, but I don’t really want to pay mark up on something that I can afford to wait a few days on. If you have the patience and do your research, look online for the best deal and be sure the read reviews. A great thing about the vaping industry is the companies are trying to be as transparent as possible with their products in an effort to attract more cigarette smokers to switch over.

Sidebar: This brings me to the attraction of underage smokers. Let’s get real folks, kids smoked cigarettes underage. You can try and lay the same blame on vaping as they did on cigarette advertising, but the only companies who can afford to advertise their vaping products like that are the tobacco companies who bought in after they decided to stop fighting against it. If kids are able to buy this stuff in stores, then the blame lies on the sellers who aren’t checking their IDs, and if they are getting it online then the blame is on the parents for not paying attention to what their kids are doing online. Age verification online only goes so far, and if they are buying e-cigarettes online, I’m sure they are looking up things worse than that. The key to keeping it out of the hands of minors is paying attention.

Anyways, back to the topic, vape shops are convenient, but a lot of them are predatory towards uneducated vapers. If they are the only shop in the area, they don’t have to be competitive, and the customer pays the price. Something that you can get online for $50 including shipping can cost you upwards of $100 in a vape shop. Liquid can be just as bad. To be fair, not every vape shop is like this. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, but be a smart shopper and check prices before you buy.

As a vaper, the more experienced you are, the more preferential you become. Some people go for cloud production, and some people go for nicotine content. People also usually stick to flavor groups as well: fruits, sweets, tobaccos, desserts, etc. I could sit here and beat you to death with stuff, but I think I have done that already so here are a few guides for those interested in looking deeper in to vaping.

Beginner’s Guide: http://onvaping.com/guides/beginners-guide-to-vaping/

Advanced Guides: https://www.planetofthevapes.co.uk/guides/advanced-vaping

You can also surf the Internet and YouTube for numerous other resources and information on vaping how-to. One of my favorite things was learning how to build coils for Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers (RDAs). Of course, I got lazy and started buying pre-made coils once I got in to the more complex coil builds, but I fully support anyone who has the time and inclination to do so. I have switched back and forth between sub-ohm tanks and RDAs, but some prefer one or the other.

Here are the sites that I frequent for equipment, parts, and e-liquid:

Mt Baker Vapor

Vapor Beast

Vape NW

The Vape Mall

Liquid Barn

The last thing I want to cover is making your own liquid. I guy I worked with started to make his own liquid last year, and he set about making an Orange Cream flavor, and asked my opinion. I had searched high and low for an Orange Cream flavor on the Internet, and had no luck. Anyways, after a couple of iterations, he made a version that was perfect, and I was sold. Last month, after he got transferred, I decided to start making my own liquid. I had done the research, it was cheaper to make my own juice, and I wanted to make the Orange Cream for myself. I needled and annoyed the recipe out of him (which I will never divulge or profit from because I’m not a dick), and got everything I needed to make 500 ml of it. I broke it down in to 100 ml bottles and each bottle ended up costing me about $13. To give you guys an insight of how cheap that is, to buy the run of the mill juice from vape shops or online retailers, 15-30 ml bottles can run you anywhere from $10-30 a piece. I made this stuff at home and made significantly more for substantially cheaper. It will only get cheaper as well, since I didn’t go with the cheapest options on bases the first time around. I can get my costs down around $3-4 per 100 ml if I do it right, which is definitely the only way to go if you have the time and you want to put in the effort. If you don’t want to put in the effort, there are sellers out there who make good liquid pretty cheap, and don’t charge you extra for the name on the bottle. I’m going to send some business my buddy’s way if that is the case: Adam Hesterley

To wrap this all up in a nice bow, I’m glad I made the decision to switch over to vaping. There are a lot of negative things out there about vaping, but I think most of it is due to misinformation. If you are looking to getting in to vaping, there are a lot of options, and if already are a vaper, there are a lot of ways to control your vaping like building your own atomizers and mixing your own liquid. I’m not advocating for anyone to do it, but I’m just putting this out there so people have the information. Do with it what you will.

Let the judgment commence!

The Search For The Perfect Pen

When I first began writing, I used to do most of it by hand. There was always something special about the tactile feel of putting the words on to paper. Typing is always more efficient, but longhand is personal and unique. Everyone’s handwriting is different. While my handwriting is pretty messy, some people’s words can be downright artistic.

When my neck problems started, I began having issues with hand cramps and fatigue when I wrote for more than a few minutes. At first, I tried to deal with it, but the pain became unbearable. I stopped writing longhand unless I had to, and I felt my connection with writing start to wane. Writing my thoughts out free form helped me transfer ideas better than typing does, especially when taking notes. I accepted the fact that typing was going to be my main form of writing, but I still had a spot in my heart that dearly wanted to be able to be able to put ink to paper again.

When I began getting treatments for my back in the past few months, I started doing research in to how it could affect the nerves in my hand. The weakness and cramps were something that still bothered me, and I was hopeful that I could start writing by hand again. I was also looking for something to use to takes notes or write in, because I was beginning to have a lot of ideas and inspirations for stories, and I didn’t like taking notes on my phone. I decided to get a journal, and after much searching, I picked a journal from Earthworks Journals. Now, this wasn’t just a cheap journal, so I couldn’t use a regular pen. I began to look in to pens that were of a better quality, and it turns out that cheap pens can also contribute to hand cramps and fatigue. I started looking at pens that are best for people who have the same problems that I do, and the consensus answer was fountain pens.

Fountain pens have always interested me, but they have always seemed daunting. I always viewed them as potentially messy and a hassle to deal with. I really did not know much about them besides the fact that they were expensive. Boy, was I wrong about all of that. I started looking in to them seriously when I read that the major factor behind hand cramps and fatigue was the pressure you have push down with to use a ballpoint pen, and the grip you have to use to apply that pressure. A fountain pen can relieve that because the ink flows better, and does not require a hard grip if the pen is well balanced. I was sold on that part alone, but there were a lot of other things that make fountain pens appealing to everyday writers.

Fountain pens come in all shapes and sizes, and can range in price from a few bucks to ARE YOU F’N CRAZY?! If you aren’t sure if fountain pens are for you, there are disposable ones. Don’t like dealing with bottled ink? Most brands are capable of accepting ink cartridges. Most fountain pens are built to be low maintenance, and anyone can learn how to clean and repair their pen. You can also choose the nib or tip size to suit your needs, from extra fine, fine, medium, or broad. These pens aren’t just for the elite society or old world. They can be used in all parts of your daily life.

When I began searching for the right fountain pen, I ran through about 15 sites and at least 30 YouTube videos before I narrowed my choices to what I thought would suit me best. The site I chose was Goulet Pens, because they have the best selection and prices across the board. They also have in-depth knowledge that they share via their blog and YouTube videos. If you still have questions, their customer support teams will answer anything you need.

I waffled for two weeks between 3 pens, but I ultimately settled on the Lamy Al-Star Orange with a fine point nib. I could have debated for longer, but I knew this pen was the one I really wanted. I wasn’t sure about the nib size, but looking back, I am glad I chose fine over medium.

IMG_3441

This pen is awesome. I can write without my hand cramping or feeling tired. Normally I would have to shake out my hand or stop writing, but I don’t feel the need with this pen. I can write until my ideas or the pen dries up, which ever happens first. I went with cartridges at first, but I quickly switched to bottled ink and a converter. Bottled ink looks so much better, and the pen feels less scratchy. For anyone looking for good bottled ink, Noodler’s is the way to go. I am still waiting on my journal to arrive from England, but this pen makes writing a joy again.

Finding the perfect pen is a journey, and I feel like I will end up collecting more fountain pens. I am glad that I figured out that they are not as intimidating as they seemed. I have found that I enjoy tinkering with it, and I will become more and more comfortable with how a fountain pen works. If you suffer some of the same problems I do with your hand while writing, I urge you to explore fountain pens. They may help you out, and it may assist you in rediscovering an enjoyment in writing. Don’t take my word for it, though. Go explore for yourself, and you will see that fountain pens can be beautiful, useful, and can last a lifetime if you take care of them. Thanks for reading.