Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Cloth and Paper Subscription Review

A round dish full of push pins.  Image Courtesy of DreamsTime.com.As part of my “obsession” with planning, I’ve tried a few planner subscriptions this year, using money I received for Christmas. I love getting things in the mail, so a subscription that delivered planning supplies right to my mailbox was doubly exciting.

A Cloth and Paper subscription appealed to me because they bill themselves as providing “luxury” planning supplies. The subscription was pricy: $100 for three months. But if I received quality, engraved, luxury items – as the advertisement seemed to imply – I figured the cost was worth it.

Short Review:

  • The items were mostly luxury, but often not planner related.
  • Some things appeared luxury, but were of poor quality.
  • Many items were not even useful.
  • Customer service is lacking.

All in all: Not recommended — especially if your objective is to outfit your planner.

I should caveat that my recommendation to stay away from Cloth and Paper has more to do with expectations than the quality of (most of the) actual items received. Also: I was very disappointed with my one customer service experience.

Now for a more detailed review:

When you sign up for a Cloth and Paper subscription, you’re asked what size planner you own (so they can send things to you in your planner size) and also for your name or initials (or whatever) you’d like engraved on the items that are mailed to you.

How exciting!

However, not once in my three-month subscription (January – March) did I receive an item that would fit in my planner. Nor, did I receive anything engraved with my name. All planner items received were “odd” sizes. Many of these items remain in their shipping box, as I have no idea where—or how—to put them to use.

The Boxes

In January I received:

January 2017 Cloth and Paper Subscription Photo: Scissors, Notebook, Purse, Small notebook

  • a pair of brass handled scissors – with a nut and bolt so large connecting the two halves it’s comical. The scissors do cut well, but are quite heavy and are not something I’ll carry with my planner.
  • a “hand crafted” change purse – made of a material I can’t identify. Because it’s constructed by folding, rather than sewing, there are gaps in the bottom two corners. The top folds over like an envelope, also creating gaps in the top corners. It’s “sealed” with a button.
  • a brass pen – which didn’t write. The pen is heavy, which I personally prefer, but others may find writing for long periods with it to be difficult.
  • a 5 x 8 notebook with unlined paper. I have a personal preference for lined paper, so this notebook didn’t appeal to me. It’s also “perfect bound” which means that it won’t lie open flat.
  • a smaller notebook- also unlined, meant to be kept in your purse or bag. In all these months, I haven’t had an occasion to use it, even though I carry it with me.

Note that none of these items are true “planner supplies.” All items are stamped or engraved “Cloth and Paper” or C&P — not my initials.

I was too lazy to send a note about the pen that didn’t write, but I remedied that when the February box came in.

In February I received:

Cloth and Paper February Subscription: Brass Ruler, Brass Pen, Brass Tray, Brass Clip

  • a 6-inch brass ruler
  • a brass desk tray
  • a brass binder clip
  • a gold-toned pen that looks suspiciously like a “Cross” knock-off.

Again, nothing for my planner, and all the engravings are “Cloth and Paper” or “C&P.”

I was quite disappointed with this shipment. I’m not likely to use any of these items, except perhaps the clip just to try it out. I suspect that it will fall off in my purse and relegate itself to the “useless” pile. Brass is not my thing, so I won’t be using these items on my desk.

Because I didn’t like the shipment, I contacted Cloth and Paper via email to ask if I could exchange the box for something else. While I was at it, I asked if they could send me a refill cartridge for the January pen which didn’t write.

A C&P representative wrote back promptly. There were a few back and forth messages to verify which pen cartridge I needed and the rep said that I could exchange the box.

Happily, I wrote back and asked how we could make the swap.

In the next email exchange, the rep changed her tune: she said that she had made a typo. She’d meant to type “can’t” not “can” about being able to exchange the shipment, and that no exchange of the February box was possible. And that was that. She did send two refill cartridges for the pen (about a week later) however.

In March I received:


  • sticky notes, all of which have the company name “J’adore” printed—large and bold in black ink—across the top. These are neither luxurious nor plentiful (containing about 20 pages on the pad). They’re small—and the logo takes up a lot of space. I wonder if these were a “freebie” that the C&P people received from elsewhere and charged their subscribers for? They’re neither luxury nor quality. Frankly, I’ll have to use these as “throw aways” because they really can’t be used with correspondence with the large logo on top.
  • Phone Message Pad – which is printed on VERY high quality card stock. But the cards are white and the printing is gold and that makes the form very difficult to read. These are so wasteful, when you consider their use.
  • Expense Pad – This is one of the places where C&P could have gotten things right by sending me something in 5 x 8. Instead, the pad is 4 3/4 x 7 which doesn’t fit well in my planner.
  • Weekly Agenda Cards – Again, printed on heavy card stock. These might be useful on special occasions, such as when you’re at a conference and want a quick schedule you could use at a glance. I don’t think I’ll find these useful on a weekly basis (although some other folks might).

All in all, I was highly disappointed with the subscription. My expectations were that I would receive planner supplies to match the size of my planner and that some of the things would be personalized.

Overall: not recommended. While the luxury of most of the items is not in question, the functionality is. Spend your money elsewhere, where you can choose the exact items you want or need and which will fit in your planner.

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Published in Starward Tales II

Cover of Starward Tales IIJust a quick note to say that I have a reprint published in Starward Tales II, a collection of short stories, poems, legends, myths, and fairy tales as science fiction. It contains my story, All for Beauty and Youth.

I share the Table of Contents with many fabulous writers, including: Monica Rose Song, D.A. D’Amico, squiddosnazz, Mike Lewis, Michael Harris Cohen, Virginia Frances Sterret, Eddie D. Moore, Richard King Perkins II, Dianne Williams, Robert Tokley, R.W.W. Greene, María Castro Domínguez, Patrick S. Baker, Virginia Frances Sterret, Halli Lilburn, Chanel Earl, Dick Yaeger, Benjamin West, Tod McCoy, Marsheila Rockwell, Ashleigh Gauch, squiddosnazz, Karen Bovenmyer, and Vonnie Winslow Crist.

(This is the third anthology that Vonnie and I share this year, which is simply amazing. She and I are also co-editng an anthology, Dark Luminous Wings, which will be available in October!)

Starward Tales II is only available on Amazon right now. You can find it in Kindle and Paperback editions here: Starward Tales II: Another Anthology of Speculative Legends

I don’t have a story in the original antho, but if you’re interested, here’s the link for Starward Tales, Volume 1.

If you prefer an audio version, Volume 1 is out: Starward Tales, Volume 1: Audio Edition.

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Published in July: A New Charm City Darkness Short Story

Occult Detective QuarterlyThe latest edition of Occult Detective Quarterly contains a new Charm City Darkness short story called Light from Pure Digestion Bred.

The story takes place in the time frame between Book 2, A Favor for a Fiend, and Book 3, A Blue Collar Proposition. This is important because in that time period, Assumpta is still demon-marked. How the mark works is key to the mystery here.

I won’t say too much more except in the story, Pournelle (the demon!) comes to Assumpta and asks for her help. Doesn’t get any better than having your enemy coming to you, eh?

If you haven’t read the magazine before, I urge you to read it! The stories are terrific, and the artwork is phenomenal. Digestion includes a fantastic drawing of Pournelle and Assumpta sitting at a table in the Charm City Brewery.

Buy now at Amazon.com.

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Review - Quo Vadis Plan and Note Planner

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m a planner nerd. So you have no idea how excited I was to win a contest on the Quo Vadis blog for one of the Plan and Note Planners. I’ve been coveting one of these for a long time, and this was a great opportunity for me.

In return, I promised to write a review of the planner and how I used it for bullet journaling. (But the fact is, the journal bowled me over with its quality, and the thought of bullet journaling took a back seat).

Quo Vadis Planner

Short Review: This is a high-quality planner with extreme “touchability.” It just feels good to hold and to use. The cover texture is soft, and the pages are very smooth. It’s a joy to write on them. The order of the planner is well thought out and includes some future planning features. “Strict” bullet journalists may find the idea of using a pre-defined calendar as their journal quite restrictive. “Lazy” bullet journalists (like myself) may find it suits them perfectly.

Now for a more detailed review:

I loved this planner from the moment I received it. Black is my favorite color, but I love the blue spine and elastic band. (It also comes in violet or rose.) It’s a soft-cover planner, but sturdy enough to write on in your lap, or simply holding it in your hand. It lies nearly flat when opened. But the “touchability” of the cover won me over immediately. The texture is a soft, almost warm, material that invites you to stroke it!

The inside pages are very smooth and thin, and the quality of the paper is outstanding. I used fine Sharpies, colored felt tip pens, gel pens and even several different fountain pens, and nothing bled through. I even had a fountain pen leak and leave a nickle-sized ink splat on the pages. It did not bleed through! You could sometimes see shadows of writing on the other side of the page, especially in hard light, but no bleeding. I was very impressed. For a pen junkie like me, this is a huge selling point. I’m sold just on the quality of the paper.

Two photos merged together here:  one of the ink-splat page on the left, and it's obverse (turned back a day) on the right.

Two photos merged together here: one of the ink-splat page on the left, and it’s obverse (turned back a day) on the right.

The planner is divided into several useful sections, especially if you prefer a pre-printed, bound calendar/diary. If you’re bullet-jounaling in the traditional sense, these sections might get in your way. However, there’s lots of room for personalizing and adding to the journal.

Here are the sections:

1) 2017 – Year on One Page
This is a useful first page in the planner. I found myself using it frequently, if only to check what day of the week certain days fell on.

2) 2017- Year on Two Pages
This is one of the better layouts I’ve seen for full-year planning. Unfortunately, the space was too small for me to be extremely useful–in the traditional sense. In this size planner (6 x 8 inches), I’d like to see an option for a year on four pages just to have a little more room. (Interestingly, in the back of the book is the same set up for future planning for 2018. I found the size much more useful there, because my days weren’t so busy yet.)

Year on Two Pages

Year on Two Pages

Because the space was small, I found myself “paralyzed” as to what to record here. Then it dawned on me that these pages are PERFECT for habit tracking. I like to work on one habit at a time, so I used the entire daily box to track: showing the beginning and ending dates of the project in pink, and highlighting in gold — with a star — the dates I followed the habit. But these boxes could easily be divided to track up to five daily habits (maybe more, if you use just colored dots, perhaps).

Quo Vadis Planner

3) Monthly Calendars, one per page, printed horizontally.
I’m used to a vertical version of this and found the horizontal much more friendly, especially on busy days.

4) Week on Two Pages, January – December

Quo Vadis Planner - Week on Two Pages

Showing a week on two pages spread, and my lazy bullet journaling…

5) Future Planning Section
I’m lumping these several pages into one section, although it spans several. It contains a monthly calendar for January, a 2018 Year on One Page, and 2018 Year on Two Pages. Interestingly, I found the year on two pages in the back “just the right size,” probably because I don’t have so much planned for 2018 yet.

6) Address Book – 9 Pages!
In the back of the book are nine pages dedicated to contact information: phone numbers, email addresses, etc. I didn’t find this section useful at all, and feel it has too many pages dedicated to it. But the pages are “college ruled” and I’ve been using them for story planning, capturing ideas and general notes. Nine or ten pages is just about perfect for this.

Because the headings are in a light gray color, the pages are easily re-purposed. This is where dedicated bullet journalists will be able to pack their spreads.

7) Lined Pages – 2
I’m not certain what these two pages were intended for. The ruling is not quite as narrow as the address book and notes here look less cramped. I’m using the pages to list the books I want to read next. It’s an excellent place for an index

What Would I Change?
This planner is a well-thought-out and highly useful traditional planner. I would combine the address book and two lined pages in the back into one generic section. To make it even more useful, I’d make it dot-grid instead of lined.

Overall, the Quo Vadis Plan and Note Planner is an exceptional planner of quality. I highly recommend it to anyone!

Where to Find Quo Vadis:

For more information on the Plan & Note planner including where to purchase: https://quovadisplanners.com/catalog/planandnote

For all Quo Vadis planners: quovadisplanners.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quovadisplanner/


Quo Vadis blog has posts on time management, writing, journaling, and more: quovadisblog.com

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Announcing a New Charm City Darkness Novel!

This is NOT the cover of In the Eye of the Beholder. But I needed to put something here to catch your eye, right?

This is NOT the cover of In the Eye of the Beholder. But I needed to put something here to catch your eye, right?

There’s been a lot of silence on the blog lately, for this reason: I’ve been working on a new Charm City Darkness novel–which was supposed to be a novella.

Ever have a project take over your life?

This one has taken over my writing life. It was meant to be a short writing hiatus between books three and four (A Blue Collar Proposition and, “As Yet Unnamed”) and it turned into a monster of its own. So, instead of a brief story starring Jo, voila! we have a full novel.

(I’m not complaining! Though I’ll admit that I’ve been whining to my “inner circle” of writing friends for a few months now that this wasn’t supposed to happen. Jo was absolutely going to get her own book–after I’d finished Book 4. Alas, the best laid plans…right?)

But, that’s neither here nor there since the writing is over! A short time ago I turned the manuscript into the editor. Yay!

In the meantime, I’d still like to offer you a sneak peek into the book. I hope you enjoy Chapter 1, below. (It’s unedited- so be gentle! I’d love to hear what you think.) Soon, I hope to share the cover. Stay tuned!

In the Eye of the Beholder

A Charm City Darkness Novel

Kelly A. Harmon

Chapter 1

The demon Pournelle materialized into Jo Byrne’s Turning Wheel pagan shop after closing hours, as Jo was restocking the candles. He took a deep breath, savoring the heady mixed odor of loose herbs and scented candles. A cone of strawberry incense burned in a brass dish near the door.

It must be her favorite, he thought, remembering the same scent was burning the last time he’d been here.

The flotilla of fairies, with their tulle wings and feathered skirts—along with a dragon armada—hung still and silent from the ceiling. Since he hadn’t entered through the door, no breeze served to move them. A small radio played an old grunge band softly somewhere near the cash register. He’d met the lead singer in Hell. Shame, that. The band could have made millions.

Pournelle pointed a finger at the bell on the door and waggled it. The bell rang as if a customer had just entered the shop.

“We’re closed,” Jo said, turning to face the latecomer. “I’m sorry, I thought I’d locked— She felt the blood drain from her face, and she dropped the box of slender, white candles she’d been holding. They clattered to the floor, breaking the seal, and candles rolled in all directions. Heart thumping, she stood still, cursed herself for three kinds of fool for her deer-in-the-headlights reaction.

“It’s not what you think,” Pournelle said, holding up a hand. The starched, white cuff of his dress shirt was in direct contrast with the smooth, black skin of his forearm, and stuck out far enough as he bent his arm, for Jo to notice the black and silver cuff links fastening the cuff together.

She cleared her throat, and said, “I think there’s a very powerful—uninvited—demon in my store.”

“Well, if that’s as far as you’ve gotten,” Pournelle said, dryly, “you’d be right. But there’s more to it than that, I’m afraid.”

I’m certain there is,” Jo said, taking a step backward. She turned her head to the left, glimpsing over her shoulder. Was there nothing within reach she could protect herself with?

“You have nothing to fear, I assure you,” Pournelle said.

He remained standing where he was, so that reassured her, but not much. “I’m not so certain of that.”

The demon nodded, and a look that passed for sorrow flitted across his mocha-colored face and was gone.

Sorrow? Why did that make her want to hear more from him. Was this a trick?

“Why are you here?” she asked.

He smiled—was that hope on his face?—and snapped his fingers. The electric tea kettle Jo kept behind the front counter clicked on and started to warm the water inside. “We need to talk,” he said. “Could you spare a cup of tea?”

Pournelle knew he had to take this slowly. There were half a dozen things within reach that Jo could use to send him straight back to Hell. Was she even aware of that fact? One of them would send him back as an amorphous puddle of goo. He couldn’t have that, even if he was trying to mend his ways.

Turning the other cheek only went so far in his book. He wouldn’t turn it so far as to sacrifice himself. If he were willing to die for what he believed in, he could have done that a thousand times over in the last century. This was about living, and escaping Hell.

But first, he needed an ally. Or at least a friend. Someone who might be willing to help him, should he ask.

He’d start with someone who would listen.

Jo moved behind the front counter and switched off the radio. She pulled two tea cups from beneath the glass case.

“Lapsang Souchong?” she asked.

He pulled a face. “Much too smoky. Do you mean to be insulting?” That since I’m a creature of Hell, I must enjoy the taste of smoke? That’s not the way it works. He tsked. “I was hoping for a friendship tea.” He smiled to let he know he wasn’t kidding. Jo laughed anyway.

“You have a lot of nerve asking for friendship tea, Mr. Demon—”


She nodded. “You have a lot of nerve, Mr. Pournelle.”

“Just Pournelle.” He smiled, hoping it looked more genuine than feral. “I would like to be your friend.”

“Coming from any other guy, that statement would come off creepy, and maybe a little insane,” Jo said. She rummaged below the cabinet, found a bright yellow cylindrical cardboard container way in the back, and plunked it onto the counter. She peeled the plastic lid off and peered inside. “You’re just scary, but I think I’m holding it together pretty well. You’ve piqued my curiosity. I can only hope that doesn’t get me killed.”

Instant tea mix, Pournelle noticed. Crystalized into a single rocky lump. There was no way that stuff was coming out of the container.

Frowning, Jo grabbed the letter opener near the cash register and jammed it into the solidified crystals over and over again. Bean-sized pellets of instant tea broke off away from the main lump.

It was Pournelle’s turn to frown. “You’re not actually going to serve me instant tea?” he asked, a note of disdain in his voice. “Especially that instant tea.” He frowned more. “Serving me instant tea might get you killed yet.”

“You’re the one who’s kidding now, right?” she asked, sparing him a brief glance.

As if she hadn’t heard him, she spooned three teaspoons of rock-hard mix into each mug, poured boiling water over them, and stirred. She pushed a cup in his direction. Their fingers brushed.

“Really?” He was highly offended.

Jo looked up at him and smiled, the fake kind of smile you offer to unwanted guests and insulting mothers-in-law. “The polite thing for you to do would be to accept this cup, take a sip, and tell me how good it is. And then you can tell me why you’re really here.”

“But the right thing for me to do is to tell you how much I’ll hate tasting that, let alone drinking it gone. Isn’t that what friends do? Tell the unvarnished truth, even though it hurts? I’ve expressed my displeasure at the idea of drinking instant tea. How can you stand there smiling and still feel obliged to serve it to me?”

She sighed and sat down on her stool, appearing to consider what he said. Finally, she said, “You’re right in many ways, but that doesn’t apply here. After all, I’m giving you what you asked for.”

“Instant does not qualify as anything better than swill.” He snapped his fingers.

In less than a trice, a tall, narrow, tea samovar appeared at the end of the counter on a large silver platter. A hand-painted tea pot—small blue and orange flowers on the creamy china background—sat on top of it. Two porcelain tea cups, filled to their golden rims with steaming black tea, rested on the platter next to a silver dish of lemon slices. The tart, citrus aroma of lemon, freshly sliced, pervaded the strawberry scent of the shop. The fragrant odor of fresh tea wafted in Jo’s direction.

Pournelle smiled and reached for a cup, and placed it directly in front of Jo.“Tea, in friendship,” he intoned.

She frowned, then turned her colorful, yellow tea cannister to face him. The label read, Friendship Tea.

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “You asked for friendship tea. I gave it. That’s what friends are for.”

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Happy New Year! Have You Planned Your 2017 Yet?

Happy New Year!

I wish you peace, joy, prosperity and health in 2017!

Also: I wish you fulfillment of all your goals.

Did I mention resolutions? Nope.

I don’t believe in resolutions. Resolutions are something most people make between the countdown to the new year and the champagne they drink at 12:01. Almost no one sticks to their resolutions. I gave up making them more than a decade ago.

Instead, I make goals for the new year. I plan — which is not to say that things never hit the fan and life is golden. Things do happen, and I miss goals, but I generally get more accomplished than if I’d not planned to begin with.

I’ve been planning 2017 for a few months now, both personally and professionally, and made a few decisions about what I’ll be concentrating on in 2016. If you haven’t done any planning yet, use January as your planning month and move forward from there. It’s not too late.

Begin by Reviewing Your 2016
Always review last year (last month, last week) to see what you accomplished and what you could do better. Here are some questions to think about:

– What major events happened in 2016?
     – Finish a book? Publish a book? Attend a convention or writing retreat?
– What big and small goals did you accomplish?
     – Learn how to self publish? Write cover copy? Use a new social media venue?
– What challenges did you overcome?
     – Speak in public? Submit a story to an agent? Finish a short story?
– What could you have done better?
     – Spent more time in the writing chair? Listened to your critique group or editor about something? Concentrate on area of writing: dialogue, grammar, scene setting?
– Have you become a better writer in any way?
     – Finished more scenes? Wrote more words? Took a grammar or spelling class? Studied dialogue?

Even if you’re not a writer, you can use these questions to plan, just consider them outside the writing angle.

If you’re not a writer, consider:

– What big things happened in 2016?
– What large and small things did you accomplish?
– What did you overcome?
– What could you have done better?
– Have you become a better (husband/wife/co-worker/fill-in-the-blank) in any way?

Next, Decide What You Want to Do

Now, consider what you want to be. I know that’s a bit vague, but planning your goals will depend on what you want to be at the end of the year.

– Do you want to be a better writer? If so, what is your definition of “better?” Find your voice? Improve your grammar? Write more words? Accomplish more chapters? Finish more books?
– For non-writers (or, even for writers who want to tackle both professional and personal goals: do you want to spend more time with your family? Lose weight? Improve a particular skill? Etc.

Be specific here. You can’t plan effectively if you don’t have a specific goal.

For example: “Lose weight” is not a specific goal. Instead, consider, “Lose 10 pounds by March.” For writers, instead of “Write more,” try, “Write 10,000 words per month.”

Once you have a specific goal, you can break it down into smaller steps. Work on those steps daily, and you can accomplish great things.

Are you like me? There are too many goals on your list for this year? That’s where prioritizing comes in. I’ll write about that next week…

I hope you’ll plan with me this year. Some of my goals include:

– Increasing my word-count production by 10%
– Writing a non-fiction book (as well as the fiction and short stories!)
– Taking a class on marketing

What do you hope to accomplish this year? Leave me a note in the comments! =)

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

turkey-arsimagegalleryHappy Thanksgiving!

I’m one of the crazy travelers today! And I can’t wait to get together with my family and eat lots of terrific (and terrible for me) food! I’m bringing my eclair ring – which, after slaving over it, I won’t want to eat! (Isn’t that terrible?)

So: wishing you and yours safe travels and fabulous get-togethers! I hope the food is terrific, and the desserts even more so!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Good Read Giveaway - In a Cat's Eye

Pole to Pole Publishing is hosting a Goodreads Giveaway for the book In a Cat’s Eye, edited by me and Vonnie Winslow Crist. Giveaway ends November 11.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

In a Cat's Eye by Gail Z Martin

In a Cat's Eye

Giveaway ends November 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Blue Collar Proposition - Featured Over at Novelisty

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]A Blue Collar Proposition–the third book in the Charm City Darkness series–was featured over at Novelisty.com on October 1 as part of their 31 Days of Halloween!

(It’s lovely to be featured, but I wish I’d known about it! I’d have dropped a link here much sooner!)

Novelisty featured a “heat-rating” and a few pertinent details about the book, as well as included the back cover copy and an excerpt. If you want to read the first chapter or so, head on over to Novelisty’s 31 Days of Halloween.

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Capclave Schedule 2016

Cartoon Drawing of a DodoI hope you will come out to Capclave this weekend and say, “Hello!”

I’ll be around all day on Saturday and through Sunday around 2.

My schedule:

11:30 a.m. Autograph Table in Author’s Hall
3:00p.m. When Should You Remain Stubborn, Bethesda
10:00 pm. Broad Universe Reading, Rockville/Potomac

(I’ll likely read from my latest Charm City Darkness novel, A Blue Collar Proposition.)

Noon: Cats in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Rockville/Potomac

The noon panel is so serendipitous since the anthology I’ve recently edited, In a Cat’s Eye, is also available just this weekend.

I hope to see you!

In a Cat's Eye, Edited by Kelly A. Harmon and Vonnie Winslow Crist