Dapper Dragon is Building Up Steam

My nascent soap-making cottage business, Dapper Dragon Soaps, is building up a head of steam as I get ready to start offering products for sale.

The first thing to go up will be shaving soaps. I’ve pretty much gotten my formula down, just waiting to hear back from some product testers before I pull the trigger and start making pounds of soap.

Shower/face/hand soap has a bigger lead time. Cold process bars are just prettier, not to mention that I’ll probably amuse myself with colors and the like that I wouldn’t want to gunk up a brush. But CP means 4-6 week (minimum) time before they’re ready to use. I also want to either build or buy a loaf mold so I can have actual bars of soap. I think people would like that.

I’m aiming for Q1 of 2014 to launch. I had hoped I might be able to get something going before Christmas of this year, but it just didn’t work out that way.

NaNoWriMo is almost certainly a “failure” this year

It’s November 25th, and I’m sitting at 19,200 words. It doesn’t take a degree in math to know that’s not nearly enough to “win” NaNoWriMo.

While I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out, I can safely say that it was never really in my hands to win or lose. I had a medical procedure (nothing big) that I expected to get me behind. But then my oldest got pneumonia, which put the rest of the family under a lot more strain. Things had to give, and totally voluntary writing contests are high on the list of things that have to shift first.

But still, I put failure in quotes for a reason. Because even if my word count won’t be hitting 50,000 this month, I have the beginnings of a good story down, and I’m much more in the habit of writing regularly than I was before the month started. So in that sense, I still benefited from participating, and that’s a win.

NaNoWriMo Continues, but not quite apace

What happens when you add a rush of orders to your wife’s pottery business, minor surgery, and a teenager with pneumonia to a month-long rush toward a manuscript?

Your manuscript takes a major back burner, that’s what.

I’m still working on it. Lifting the Yoke (working title) has been rumbling around in my head for a while, and I am enjoying getting it down on paper. But to finish the 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, I have to turn in just over 2500 words/day. Something tells me it’s not going to happen.

Dapper Dragon v3 Makes For A Nice Shave

After a week of “curing” (actually just drying) on my desk, the third version of my shave soap was solid enough to handle without becoming a mess. So, I took the ugly-looking top slice and plopped it in a bowl for some testing.

Soap and lather bowl

Ready to handle

Successfully lathered

A thick, slick lather

 

 

It made a nice, slick lather quite easily, and the blood orange fragrance oil has a very nice scent when lathered. I also left the lather in the bowl for 30 minutes while I played with my daughter and got dinner ready. It fell a little due to gravity, but didn’t collapse and was still quite slick.

Soap and lather after 30 minutes.

After 30 Minutes

I shaved with it this morning, and it worked quite well. My lather this morning might have been slightly less slick than I’m getting from my V2 soap (which was made with pure KOH), but I’m going to use it a few more days before I make any determinations.

I hope to pack up soap samples for people that have volunteered to test for me this weekend, and put them in the mail on Monday.

Guess I’d better get to work designing a logo, huh?

NaNoWriMo 2013 – Here we go!

At the last minute, I decided to go ahead and participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. My wife is behind me, and ready to work with me to be sure I get the time to write my 1667 words/day. If you’re also trying, feel free to add me as a Writer Buddy. My profile page is right here.

I’m going to be writing a secondary world fantasy story that I had already planned to do as my second novel. The idea came to me years ago, after thinking about weapons of mass destruction. Mages, I reasoned, are potential WMDs. Yet in traditional fantasy settings they are usually completely unregistered and self-regulating. I didn’t think that was very likely in any place with a semblance of government. In fact, I thought control would probably be very tight indeed.

My first attempt at playing with the idea was as a D&D campaign. Unfortunately, my ideas required a fair amount of house rules, and being in your late thirties doesn’t lend itself well to spending a ton of hours designing a campaign. It fizzled, but the idea remained.

So now the first day is done, and I’m a little off the pace but feeling good.

Word Count: 1328/50,000

A Scattershot Approach to Creativity

I haven’t been very active here since this summer, but I have been keeping busy. Fatherhood and a full time job will do that for you, regardless of your creative efforts.

Thankfully, I haven’t been idle on the creative front, either.

LadySea.net Updates

My wife is a potter, photographer, and knitter. She is selling her work over at LadySea Creations. Since I’m already conversant in HTML and CSS, and have a decent idea of design, I’m the webmaster and site author over there. It’s a pretty good creative outlet. I have always enjoyed programming for that reason. (I’m writing server side scripting in PHP.) Creative problem solving, followed up by translating those ideas into a structured language. It’s a fun challenge, and not entirely dissimilar to writing structured poetry.

Writing

I have worked a bit more on The Apprentice, and also a couple of short stories. It’s not as much progress as I’d like to make, but fatherhood and work continue to be very intense. My hope to write on the laptop or paper while being Parent on Deck hasn’t really worked out. The littlest munchkin is just too active, too curious, and too smart. She requires more attention now, not less. I’ll likely be hosting a story or two here in the near future.

Soaping

I’m still really enjoying soap making. The last soap I made didn’t work for the house because I had forgotten that my wife’s tree allergies involved cedar.

The next thing I made (that worked) was a soft shave soap with shea butter. It really came out great. The lather is very effective, and the shea butter leaves the skin feeling marvelous afterward. I was trying for a lemon-lime scent with a touch of peppermint, but the peppermint oil was much stronger than I realized. I ended up with basically a pure peppermint scent.

Currently I am curing a stiffer version of this soap. I also plan to try a hard version. Whichever I like best will become the basis for my shave soap line. That’s right, I’ve decided to try selling soaps. I will call the brand Dapper Dragon soap, and sell it alongside Sonya’s pottery at Ladysea Creations.

I intend to make bath and facial bars as well. Hopefully I can include some in the products on display when Sonya does local craft sales.

Visual Arts

This is one realm where I haven’t kept my hand in this year at all. I’m not really happy about it, either. But there are just too many things to do, and not enough time. However, I have checked out the newest Krita for Windows. I really like the way it works. It is similar in many ways to MyPaint, but since it uses the KDE libraries, it’s not affected by the Gnome/GTK issues that killed tablet functionality in MyPaint for Windows and GIMP. And it’s open source!

 

That’s the state of my creative life these days. Look for more, and more frequent updates as I get these projects rolling.

Time to go back to paper and ink

One of the challenges of being a writer and the father of a young child is when and where to write. When is its own special kind of difficulty, and involves orchestrating time with the kid(s), time for the SO (if any) to not have the kids, and other activities that keep you paid or sane. It also depends a lot on how the child is feeling. Sometimes a pre-schooler or toddler just want you around, like a home base they can come back to from time to time. They don’t necessarily want to play with you, or need you to feed them, or anything else right then. Other times they require 100% attention.

Where ties to when. If your writing is tied to a particular place or device, then that place can’t be used when you’re watching the little one, unless it’s kid-safe. Using a computer, I’m of the opinion that such places are never sufficiently kid-safe for writing. For one thing, little kids are fascinated by lights and buttons, and will turn your computer off without warning. Not a good thing for a work in progress. In my office, there is also a craft desk covered with beads, pens and ink, and soon an easel and oil paints. Nowhere a toddler can be left to play without constant supervision.

We own a laptop. I could use that while watching the toddle play, but I tend to hurt the tendons in my elbow when I use it in my lap for extended periods. Go go gadget RSI! Plus, my daughter uses it for homework and my wife uses it as well. It’s not something I can just lay claim to when inspiration strikes. Similarly, writing on my tablet is untenable. So what’s a guy to do? I want – no, I need – to write more frequently.

Once upon a time while having difficulty developing momentum for scripting my graphic novel, Celerity, I switched to pen and paper to do my writing. The change in format seemed to break something loose, and I got a ton of writing done. I filled up a couple of notebooks, and finished the first draft of the story. I decided that would work. I can always grab a lap desk, TV tray/table, or just the dining room table to write on. I can also carry a notebook to places where a laptop wouldn’t work. Plus, it gives me an excuse to use my fountain pens more regularly.

Poking around in my office, I found a few quality notebooks and pads. You can’t really use generic binder paper or school spiral notebooks with a fountain pen. They bleed through the paper, and out, ruining your lines and legibility. Also, part of the joy of using a fountain pen is the extremely smooth, effortless writing experience. The rough surface of cheap paper ruins that. So you need a fairly tight-woven paper with a light tooth to it. I turned up a Clairefontaine notebook, a leather bound Italian notebook that I tried to use for painting class, a Moleskine, and an A4 sized Rhodia pad which would meet my standards. The Moleskine was mostly filled up with the first draft of the first novel I wrote. The leather-bound book is nice, but it doesn’t like to lay flat, plus I hope to go back to painting soon. I’ll use it for more notes. The Clairefontaine had been chosen to be a personal journal. So that left me with my Rhodia, which is not a bad thing to be “stuck” with at all.

For pens, the main contributor was a no-brainer. My best pen, and my favorite to write with is a Pelikan m600. It’s got a nice italic ground nib customized by Richard Binder. It writes incredibly smoothly, and results in an interesting, calligraphy-like hand. I wanted to have at least two pens with me, though, in case the Pelikan ran out of ink. (It’s a piston-fill, which means no swapping cartridges.) I have a small collection of pens, and there isn’t one that I dislike using. In the end I ended up going my an antique – an Eversharp lever-fill pen with a slightly flexible nib. I loaded them both up with Noodler’s “bulletproof” black, in case of spills, rain, or other disasters.

It’s already working out well. I brought them with me to work today, and in between tasks an on breaks, I can jot down a sentence, a paragraph, or an idea. It’s not as fast as the word processor, but the output seems to be more steady.

Pens and notebook

Rhodia pad, Pelikan m600, Eversharp lever fill, pen case, and blotter.

Pen with written notebook

Looks like it’s working so far.

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