Monday, December 17, 2012

Adventures at the End of a Year

Can you believe it? Winter break has finally arrived!

I've been trying to take it easy. A possible second cold may be coming - my glands are swollen without explanation, so I'm trying to nap it off in the hopes of a fluke. I never get more than one cold a semester, especially when the first one happens so late to begin with (how can I catch another cold when I just got over the one from November? Well, let's hope it's a really good fluke.

Due to the looming vacation in a few days, I may not be able to blog again until the new year. So here's what's been going on lately. Boy, December is full of events!

Home Away From Home

Her father's clever way to add Piper to the fridge.
When the semester ends, I have a tradition of visiting my best friend in Lakeland. That small town is full of nostalgia; I had spent all four of my undergrad years at school there and every little inch of it (it seems) holds some kind of memory.

After college, my friend ended staying there, getting a job, then later marrying and having her first child.

The baby is new - and last Saturday, I met little Piper for the first time.

I'm not shy about my feelings towards kids: they scare me. I get really uncomfortable around them, I don't know how to act, and that makes for a lot of squirming and awkwardness... on my part. But there's something different about meeting youngins that belong to family and friends. I fell in love with Piper when I first saw her. Like her parents, she radiates calm (and at only a few months old too - wow!). She has big, luminous eyes like her mother and chubby cheeks like her father. She also likes to fart and laugh about it. Piper snatched my fingers up in a vise-grip and even sneakily took my bracelet with her during a quick diaper change.

My friend and I snacked on blue chips while enjoying the bright morning. We reminisced, as we always do, about our college lives - it's strange to think that, here we are, finally away from the dorms and sticky mosquito weather on campus. All the while, Piper happily stared at us with her intense gaze. I cracked a smile and she laughed.

The kitchen fridge was covered in words. I wandered into the room with it's little window overlooking the backyard, the "Bless This Cook" apron draped over the cleaning bottle, and the spices all lined up on a shelf like soldiers. There were poems all over the fridge, small chunks of phrases, but still just enough unused words for me to make my mark:

Weird and obscure? Check.

New Fantasyland 

So. Who hasn't heard the news about New Fantasyland? Over the pat few years, Disney has worked on expanding Fantasyland to include actual castles, more rides, and Princess-themed restaurants and entertainment.

When I went yesterday, only half of New Fantasyland was open, so I'm afraid I don't have too much to report. I went on The Little Mermaid ride - it was beautiful. The line itself is great too, though, because the interior is designed to look like Ariel's treasure cave. While waiting on line, you can help tiny animated crabs clean up the place after another storm blew through and messed up the treasure (at least, that's what animatronic  Scuttle claims when you're far enough in line to see him).

You board sea shells against a painted sunset backdrop (very, very pretty) and watch as the movie flies by in a flurry of animatronic moments. My shell got stuck at the scene where Eric and Ariel are about to almost-kiss in the boat - the workmanship on ride, down to those tiny details, are truly marvelous.

1000 Figment Fans

Guys, it's been two years since I joined Figment (and, uh, since came into being). It's been such a long journey.

I remember finishing my first semester in graduate school, utterly frazzled by teaching for the first time and still getting used to the hectic lifestyle of higher education. As I unearthed myself from a pile of grading, glowed - bright and squeaky-new - like an oasis. I knew that Figment would allow me to have fun with my writing and to experiment, outside of workshop, with the kinds of plots and structures that I wanted.

Birdcage Girl was born and very slowly, I began to make friends and read some fantastic work by other talented writers on the site.

But never did I think, way back then, that I would ever reach a thousand followers.

I remember celebrating one hundred followers - readers who liked my work enough to keep track of me - and the feeling that comes with gaining more readers never gets old. I'm honored and thankful to have so many lovely readers.

With that said, 1,004 fans, I'll do my best to continue spinning strange stories for you. Hold on tight.

The Next Installment of Lookout

Last week, the new issue of Tripod Cat came out.

If you've been keeping up, you've already listened to part one of my serial, Lookout. You've been introduced to the seaside town of Helium and quiet, eagle-eyed Lorelei who won the summer job of being strapped to a cloud as a lookout for the beach.

In this new installment, you'll be introduced to Sculley, a wind-peddler who has arrived in Helium with his uncle for a mysterious purpose. And he's a bit of a ladies' man (that's what he'd like you to think).

All issues of Tripod Cat are free; you can listen to them (and both installments of Lookout) via iTunes.

Winter Vacation Plans 

With all these exciting events still swirling around in my head, it's hard to keep track what's to come: family vacation. The thing is, we don't really go anywhere during winter break. Disney is always a must, but other than that, we usually sleep in late and recover from the semester's stresses, including preparing for the next semester to come. I know that sounds boring (besides the Disney part), but it's been the standard for a few years now. 

This year is different.

On Thursday morning, we're going to pack out suitcases in the car and head out for a two-week whirlwind adventure: we'll be in Miami to meet cousins and admire the Art Deco buildings, then off to St. Augustine to climb a lighthouse and search for ghosts on a tour. Lastly, we'll be back at good old Disney, exploring this year's holiday decorations at the hotels, drinking more LeFou's Brew, and exploring the Boardwalk's nightlife for the first time.

With that said, I still don't have a fancy phone. I'll be taking photographs, but my posts will have to wait until I get back. When I find Wi-Fi along the way, I'll do my best to check in!

If I can't reach you in time, make sure you have a Merry Christmas and a relaxing, exhilarating break!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Death and Workshopping

"That's okay. It's the end of the semester, after all."

I think I said the above phrase at least twenty times last week. It's one of those things you say to soothe the people around you - kind of like saying "I'm sorry" when someone dies.

The act of speaking these words means that you've already let your shoulders sag.

This is the end of the semester and we're moving steadily to its final breath.

Tug on your seat beat. Hold onto the safety bar.

A windy afternoon

On Thursday, my professor decided that we'd spend the entirety of our three-hour class workshopping in small groups. We all brought our tentative final projects in, printing enough copies for everyone in our respective groups. 

The class I'm taking is called Illness Narrative. As you might guess from the title, we learn about all things that fall under the loose term of "illness." I've read poetry, essays, and fiction on topics ranging from the common cold to cancer, ranging from tear-jerking sadness to snorting laughter. The nice part about the class is that all of us, regardless of genre, are able to experiment with different forms and topics - something that is, for the most part, rare to do at the graduate level since you always want to put forth your best. 

I've written some weird stuff for this class. A small piece about eyelashes that, amazingly, had been published in the same semester, and two essays where I wrote about my harrowing experience at Disney with sugar-free dessert and my lifelong, though recently ending, battle with my giant pores, haha. And lastly, the short story I workshopped on Thursday. 

It's a humorous story inspired by the unit we did on the five senses. I gave my main character a heightened sense of taste, a cape-wearing nemesis, and three hairless cats. But I didn't know how to end the story. 

"I don't care where we go," said one of my group mates, "just so long as we're outside. I'm done." 

That's the end-of-the-semester-weariness talking, but we all agreed that some fresh air would be a nice change from the arctic classroom we all usually sat in. The groups all split up and we found a table in the new park, right behind the campus library. 

The park is pretty nice (though, to be honest, the space would have made a better extra row of parking - we need more parking on campus. Gads). There's a fountain that sprayed us with mist whenever the wind picked up. A girl passed out on the only swing set and fell asleep to the music pounding through her ear buds and the gentle motion of the swing. The wind found every little hole in my knit sweater. 

For the first twenty minutes, I used my hands as paperweights as we talked about our other classes, funny teaching stories, and complaining about the usual writing stuff (like lack of sleep and abundance of rejections).

Our stories were riddled with fatigue. 

"Your characters need to talk more here. Add some good puns to stick with your theme."

"Okay," I said. A pause. "Wait. Can you give me an example?"

Maybe it was the wind, or the fresh air, that made my mind so slow. I gave my group mates a drowsy smile and scratched down a few notes.

The Grand Tour 

While taking this class, I'm constantly reminded of the Death and Dying class I took back in college. At the time, I thought it was a great class to take as one of my final electives. If I wanted to be a writer, I'd only benefit from facing death head on - or, at least, in the form of a few multiple choice tests throughout a semester. 

So I took Death and Dying.  

The class was full of all different majors, people with tragic lives and people, like me, who are relatively cheerful. There were tears in during certain lessons. Every Tuesday, our professor started class with by reading us Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. During our "Death and the Media" unit, I (unsuccessfully) tried to convince the class that The Hush Sound's "Medicine Man" music video had to do with death.... and I say unsuccessful, because, for some reason, the deep and complicated story line of the video somehow went over their heads. I don't know. You tell me.

Next came the field trips. 

There was the funeral home: the tissue boxes were beautifully designed (that's how you know they were probably expensive), eagles were a common decoration for the caskets and urns, and the building was furnished, yes, with dark-wood, vintage furniture.

On the day we visited the local cemetery, a downpour of thick, blinding Florida ran ruined the trip - but we drove over there anyway, finding our professor standing in the rain under an umbrella. He told us to drive through the cemetery instead - and the only way to do that was to take the funeral procession route. Yep. Awkward.

Lastly, we got lost looking for the giant church seen from the highway that was hosting a guest speaker, talking about the stages of grief. We arrived late and had to be escorted by stern, suited men to our seats. It was strange and I felt happy that I'd never been in a place like that before then (or ever since). Whew.

It was a strange semester, haha. And yet another semester is just about to end, another one that held the theme of another bittersweet topic.

I went home after workshop, watched some Food Network shows, and dreamed about banana cream pies and bacon.  

Publication News:

There's a tiny bit of death in this piece. It's more than wonderful to start the new month off with a publication. Luna Station Quarterly released their annual drabble issue today and my drabble, "Octopus Girls," can be found inside!

For those of you who don't know, a drabble is an extremely small work of fiction, usually ranging in the 100-150 word area. I guess you could say it's like reading little pieces of candy. Whether it's bitter, sour, spicy, or comfortably sweet, the story stays on your tongue for only a moment before evaporating.

You might like this story if you:

  • Only have a few seconds to read something
  • Have unruly hair
  • Daydream about a love affair with a handsome sailor 

By the way, for the Figgies out there: Linna Lee also had her drabble "Hold Fast" published here. It's a brilliant little piece!

As winter gets darker and colder (yay!), what are you feeling nostalgic about? If you're still in school, how are you preparing to finish out the semester? And if you have crazy hair like me and those octopus girls, whatever do you do to tame it? :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things You Do When You're Sick

No doubt, being sick stinks.

I've managed to avoid the waves of stomach flu's and strep throats that strike like lightning through campus. With only three weeks left of the semester, I had thought that I made it out just fine. Until Sunday. I woke up with a sore throat and a clogged nose.

Whenever I'm sick, I usually pretend that I'm not - mostly because I can't afford to let my deadlines pass or save my work until the last minute. There's never a good time to get sick, especially when you're in graduate school. If you blink, you'll find a new stack of papers to grade, another short story due, and more revisions waiting for your red pen.

Highly Appropriate

The longer I stare at the computer, the more powerful my headache becomes. It's not like this always happens - I guess runny noses and glowing computer screens don't mesh well. So if I've been behind on Figment, now you know why. Hopefully I'll feel better by next week. Yeah, I'm sure I will.

The meantime, I do my work in tiny increments, take naps, and try not to look at my computer very often. My Wreck-It Ralph art book finally arrived so I've been sneezing all over the drool-worthy pages of conceptual art and candy models. I'll have to Lysol the book before letting anyone else look at it, haha.

I'm going to leave you with some photos from the art book - just the cute little cheering squad extras from Sugar Rush. You don't get a good look at these little guys during the movie, but they are completely adorable.

Have a great Thanksgiving and be thankful that you have working taste buds and noses to enjoy the meal with (I can smell, thank goodness).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

101 Fan Clubers

The theme of this post is most definitely celebration. The spinning vortex that is November has been sending me into a tailspin, but I wanted very much to grab onto something solid for a moment and post about this amazing thing:

*rubs eyes* Am I dreaming? No? Hurrah! It's official: my figment fan club has reached 101 members!

This is totally a big deal. Yes, I do have a lot of followers, but for someone to enjoy my writing enough to join the group does matter a lot to me. We all know what the figment groups are like; it's hard to check updates, new comments, etc., when there's no notification system. No matter what group you join, you're left in the dark (unless you have a shameless habit of checking the groups every four minutes... in which case, not many people are like that. Trust me).

So 101 fans... thank you. Thank you so much. And while I'm at it, a hearty thank you to fellow figgie Ben Chapman who created the group way back in '11 and the admins and mods that continue to look cool, haha.

You guys give me the honey glows something awful.

To celebrate, I rearranged my schedule in order to try (and it's working so far) to write, write, write and post. As much as I love the feedback on Tread Softly, I know what you all really want is more Boys & Bees - hence, the new chapter.

We're getting to a tipping point in the story. There's the looming circus, the dead-end clues, the mysterious helper and Hedda's secret... gah! Well, cool your heels. I'm writing when I can, but until then.. here's a formspring question to tide you over.

What are the school's uniforms on B&B? and if they don't wear uniforms, what do Hedda and Lorabeth usually wear?

Clothing. Yes. This is the perfect opportunity to create some visuals. In terms of the apiology school's uniforms, the descriptions have shown up within the early chapters of Boys & Bees. The colors are mostly black and yellow, though I think the combination isn't so jarring with majority of the uniform being black. The boys and girls have different uniforms. The girls wear yellow cardigans with black blouses underneath, a plaid skirt, and knee-high stockings. The shoes shoe be black, but Lorabeth wears her beat-up boots with her uniform while other girls have nice new shoes. The boys wear black cardigans with yellow collared shirts underneath, black pants, and yellow socks. Very charming, haha.

Lorabeth Frisch

I would say that Lorabeth is a uniform-wearing girl. She barely remembers to change out of her uniform, save for the weekends (when her dirt-encrusted skirts and cardigans have piled up for the wash). Lorabeth doesn't have much clothing, fashion being a thing that doesn't matter to her. 

Her clothes are boyish, like the pants and suspenders combo she wore the day after the fire. In the latest chapter, Lorabeth unearths an old dress in the back of her closet - her mother probably picked it out for her. When I saw the collar, I thought it was perfect for bees to hide under, haha. 

Hedda Sparling

Unlike Lorabeth, Hedda is very feminine with (likely expensive clothing in soft shades of pink, cream, and other pastels. Any trinkets she has are far from tacky; her jewelry is subtle, usually with thin chains and small charms. Hedda basically wears dresses and skirts - it makes me wonder if she would ever borrow Lorabeth's pants if she had to.

I included that poster in the collage, saying "A true love story never ends" because we're still guessing what kind of feelings Hedda has in terms of love and boys. Maybe she does have hope for love - but why would she need hope when every guy has a crush on her? Heh, we'll find out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is Halloween

At this very moment, children are running around in the dark with their trash bags and pumpkin-shaped  totes. Drool runs down their chins as they bite into tiny pieces of chocolate - double-checked first by cautious parents.

It's crazy out there. It's Halloween.

Excuse me while I plug my ears. I'm not on candy duty, but the doorbell keeps ringing and my dog, Misty, is barking up a storm.

When I went to school today, I wore a simple costume - a T-shirt that's designed to look like I'm wearing Sailor Moon's top - the sailor collar, ribbon, and imperial silver crystal brooch. Ironically, it wasn't as popular as the Pikachu shirt I've worn the past two years (but then again, I barely left my office today. That might have to do with it).

This month has both dragged and skittered and I'm actually surprised that it's still October as I write my blog post.

Things I've Done

Somehow, I've managed to find time to make lovely-eyes at a few early Christmas presents. In an earlier blog post, I mentioned how I've been putting off ordering a burgundy Modcloth coat. Well... I'm still successful at that, but I ended up falling in love with another coat - the one to the right, called A Thrill in the Air by Knitted Dove.

After crawling my way through a difficult end to the month, I decided to indulge a little and went with this one. Why? Unlike the other coat, this one has reasonably long sleeves, a Penelope-like design, a detachable collar (so it'll look like a dress), and the neckline is high enough that I won't have to depend on a turtleneck or scarf to stay warm.

Yes. I've thought about this, haha.

When you're up early like I am, it's actually nicely chilly. When winter break comes, and I head into colder Florida places, it'll be nice to have something warm and fun to wear.

I squeezed three books into the mix too! I've finished The Diviners (and I hoping it becomes a movie because I really want to see it visually) and The Fault in Our Stars (it's about time, right? I'm presenting on this book tomorrow). I just started The Elementals by, like, my favorite author Francesca Lia Block (she's tied with Mervyn Peake). Block' newest book sings differently than her other work, but I'm enjoying it so far. It's just really wonderful to be reading something new (how many times have I re-read her books? Gads).


Who's participating this year?!

I'm going to do my best, though this is probably going to be my busiest November yet. Ah, graduating year - endless surprises.

My main goal for this month is to make at least a 25k dent in Birdcage Girl's sequel, A Horse to the Moon. My thesis work has set me back in terms of working on it so far, so I'm happy to finally crack my knuckles over this one. Because I'm still searching for agents, you guys won't see anything new from AHM - but never fear! For the month of November only, I'll be posting another manuscript of mine called Tread Softly. I haven't written the last couple chapters... and if I'm honest, I'll need to revise what I do have along the way. It's about time!

What are you writing this month?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Disney's Food & Wine Festival 2012

Hey! Autumn is lovely. We're nearing the end of the month and the weather here is finally shifting. There's a cool breeze now, even though the sun slices right through it. If you're up early in the morning, it's nice to wear a light sweater.

This is also a time for food. Disney's Food & Wine Festival is in full swing. I've gone twice already this year and I feel like I've got enough photos and food in my mind now to write up a meaty blog post, haha.

BTW: If you missed out on my first blog post about last year's festival, do make sure you check it out here.

What's new:

Last year, I reported that Disney installed fancy utensil dispensers - and they're back! What's more, Disney seems to be moving towards using paper dishes for most of the food. You'll notice that in the photos in place of last year's plastic dishes. I'm really impressed with the paper because it's strong enough to withstand even the most watery sauces and not leak.

A new booth joined the crew this year as well; Terra, the vegan booth. One of my friends is vegan, and ever since she had that decision, I've been curious about those foods and how inventive vegans are at creating tasty substitutes for meat and dairy dishes. You'll see the fake chicken dish below - it was delicious and, really, tastes just like real chicken (even though it's made of veggies. Amazing!).

This year, a new space opened up in the festival center called the Chase Lounge. The lounge is hidden inside the Ghiradelli showcase called The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar.

There are two awesome parts about the showcase itself.

1) Free Ghiradelli chocolate. You have to keep an eye out for it - a cast member holding a straw basket is the key, haha.

2) Chocolate sculptures. I mean. Woah.

All the chocolate sculptures displayed behind glass

Seeing the sculptures was surreal, especially because I've only been as close as the other end of a television screen to seeing one (Yes, yes, I watch way too many Food Network competitions). The details in each sculpture were amazing, but I'll just post one of 'em so you have an idea.

Deep inside the chocolate showcase, there's a small hallway that a cast member diligently guards. You have to show the cast member your Chase Visa card (hopefully you have one) that will allow you inside the top-secret lounge. I only have one good photo of the interior since the lighting wasn't friendly towards my camera. The walls were painted bright blue with stamps of the different countries. There were TVs and two small seating areas, as well as an odd, giant table with high chairs that looked more like a toadstool than anything.

The overall design of the room makes you think of a perfect picnic under a cloudless blue sky. The carpet is green enough to pass for grass if you're not looking straight at it and there are tiny booths that house the coffee and soda fountains. Very, very cute.

Me and the 'rents experienced the lounge on the opening day, so there had been a big spread of breakfast food like muffins and cinnamon rolls, as well as giant glass dispensers of orange and apple juice.

The second time (today), we found out that only the coffee and soda are staples in the lounge on a normal day. But that's okay. The best part about the lounge is that it feels like a secret. I'm enjoying it while it's still here (so fleeting - it'll be off limits again after the festival is over).

Foods I Ate:

Between my two visits, there had been a lot of dishes I ended up eating. Each one was delicious. I'm not even lying, haha. My favorite is still, by far, the fisherman's pie, but the potato pierogie comes in second (my first time trying a pierogie!). The only dish that wasn't too too good was the cheese fondue - only because the fondue itself was an unidentified concoction that didn't quite work (it was sharp, a little bitter, and had the particular zing of wine in it).

Here's a visual representation of what I ate (and feel free to see the similarities and differences from last year's - it's fun!):

Cheese Fondue with Sourdough Bread
Cheese Booth
Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll
Germany Booth
Sweet Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions
Italy Booth
Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream
Poland Booth
Trick'n Chick'n Curry with Basmati Rice featuring Gardein Chick'n Breast
Terra (Vegan Booth)
Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise
Hawaii Booth
Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie
Ireland Booth
Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney
New Zealand Booth
Seared Sea Scallop with Kumara - Red Curry Puree and Apple Radish Salad
New Zealand Booth

Little German Village:

So, sadly I haven't seen any super cool food celebrities this year (i.e. Robert Irvine from last year). The closest I got was missing Andrew Zimmerman (from Bizarre Foods) by one day. Ugh. Ugh. What a loss. Even so, attending the festival on a Sunday is pretty relaxing. The morning is slower, less hectic, and most of the booth lines are small. I checked in with the train village in Germany - just like I always do - and saw that it was decked out in honor of the festival again this year.

Don't know what I'm talking about? I made a post all about it here.

All the booths are out!

And the cranberry bog!

You'll need to see a bigger version, but the poor man in the chair has fallen over. I hope someone sits him back up again. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Debut of "Lookout"

Back in July, had hosted a Summer Reading Contest that I decided to enter because, well, it seemed like a lot of fun. You got to choose one prompt out of three choices and write a 500 word story. The prompt I had fallen in love immediately was this:

A high school student on his or her first summer job

Super. Well, as I brainstormed, I realized that my own experience with summer jobs was slim, at best. When I was in high school, my summers consisted of jumping in the pool, complaining about the lack of snow, reading, and plowing through a slew of video games. Oh! And brushing up on my rusty math skills before facing the fall semester. So what did I know about summer jobs? Well, only one thing: they're supposed to change you. 

I missed out, but I wanted to make sure that my story touched on that thought. And then, as I wracked my brain for a summer job idea, I came across Maia Flore's Sleep Elevations series. The concept of sleep, flying, and the whimsical backdrops for each photograph is stunning. You need to check them out. 

One in particular, pictured here, just slapped me upside the head and said, "OVER HERE! I'm your summer job!"

Well, yeah. You know how it goes. 

I wrote my story, featuring my shy protagonist named Lorelei Hall, who won the job of the town's lookout - basically, a glorified lifeguard. Lorelei is strapped to a cloud and keeps an eye on the beach-goers... but she also hopes that having this coveted job will allow her to make friends and come of out her shell. In 500 words, I did the best I could and posted the story. 

"Lookout" didn't stay up for very long since I realized that I couldn't keep up with the feedback-seeking demands of this particular contest. However, I still planned on coming back to the story again someday.

That someday is now. In stepped The Tripod Cat, a new literary journal that my fellow MFA friend, Alan, started. What's unique about this journal is that the issues are all audio. You hear the stories and poems being read, instead of reading them. It's kind of exciting. The issues are free and, if you decide to get them from iTunes (yes, free), you can listen to them on your mp3 players. Yeah. Cool. And scary, haha. 

Alan took a liking to "Lookout" right away; it'll appear as a serial at The Tripod Cat. In fact, the first segment of "Lookout" is already up. You can listen to it and the rest of the issue here

Fair warning: I'm the one reading "Lookout." No surprise, right? I'm the one who wrote it. However, it's hard for me to listen to my recorded voice... I think it sounds funny. *Kim reveals her kryptonite, bwaha* 

I'm not sure how long this serial will be (hence, I'm not saying, novel, novella, or even short story right now), but I'm looking forward to hearing what you think you think about the story. It's gotten bigger:

Lorelei Hall has been chosen as this summer's lookout in the seaside town of Helium, but it doesn't mean that she'll be spending her summer simply strapped to a cloud. A wild wind's approaching the town and only Sculley and his uncle Gallagher - two rascally wind peddlers - know about it. Sculley and Lorelei will have to work together if they have any chance at saving Helium - too bad their personalities clash. 

Clouds and Clouds

By the by, has anyone noticed how clouds have grown in popularity lately? Even the whole floating-in-the-air-strapped-to-a-cloud thing. I want to post two peculiar sightings to finish out my blogging for the day. 

Ellie Goulding's "Anything Can Happen." Brilliant song, brilliant video. I must have listened to this song a hundred times since its release. Did you see the scenes where Ellie's floating in the air with a cloud? It look EXACTLY like Maia Flore's photo! When I watched this video for the first time and saw it, I almost spit out my soda and started pointing frantically at the screen (I was alone, yet I felt I had to do this, haha). 

And this one, ironically a Guinness commercial (I still don't get), features a  brave and curious cloud that takes on the city. The narration gives me the shivers; I'm such a sucker for that kind of thing. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Publication News: Rose Red Review

Hallo! How's October treating you so far?

Although I'm still sweating in my shorts and tank tops, the world is starting to change. Ghosts hang like used tissues on tree branches. The grim reaper watches me as I dump half-price cheese balls into my shopping cart. I wish for bats, remembering how I saw them fly each morning while I wandered the outside hallways of my high school. Gads, I love Halloween spirit.

This month is also proving to be one full of, well, my stories.

This may be a late announcement, but the lovely Rose Red Review has published my short story called, "Scissors & Thorns." Hurrah!

You may want to read this story if you:

  • think scissors are magical
  • never underestimate the danger of thorns 
  • are partial towards clumsy boys with fishing traps

"Sleeping Beauty's Dream" by Catrin Welz-Stein
If you've been reading along, you already know that I have a thing for Sleeping Beauty. It's one of my favorite fairy tales. There are so many angles to explore, ideas to follow... and I feel like, one day, I'll end up with a giant pile of short stories and novellas that all center around it. After all, just look at "Tick-Tock Beauty," the short story I had written for Mossyhearth. I can't get enough.

In this case, the idea of what caused and sustained the thorny barrier in the original fairy tale was what started "Scissors & Thorns." Even if the good fairy had cast the spell to cover the castle in thorns, how could the thorns stay alive for a hundred years? Maybe by feeding on the all the boys that weren't the princess's true love... or maybe, well, the thorns weren't purely thorns at all. Hmm. Hmm. Go read the story.

In other news: two more stories will soon be published this month.

The first is a flash fiction piece that will appear in the first issue of the White Ash Literary Magazine.

The second is the first segment of an audio serial featured on the Tripod Cat.

Believe me, I'm excited to share these stories with you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

So, September...

I got home with knots in my shoulders, but a spring in my step. For the first time in the last four weeks, I finally have a spot of free time to relax and regroup. The perfect time to blog. My plans for this month's posts were going to be fantastic. Trust me. They would have blown your mind.

But September decided to have none of it.

From The Enchanted Cottage (1924). YES. My sentiments exactly.

The Fall semester is typically a whirlwind of surprises, deadlines, and extra events to color autumn and dawning winter with different flavors of stress.

The best way to express this past month is with bullet points:

  • Being up to my nostrils in manuscript revisions
  • Attending meetings about things like how to graduate by properly formatting thesis 
  • The usual school stuff (like teaching and taking classes)
  • Squirming over a ridiculously lovely burgundy coat - and NOT pressing the "purchase" button
  • Emotionally prepping for Disney's Food and Wine Festival 
  • Welcoming my best friend and her husband's new baby girl (even if it's only through email so far). 
  • Rolling around on the floor with my dog, Misty
  • Putting off watching Gravity Falls because, as amazing as that cartoon looks, I can't find whole episodes (or balance that and manuscript revisions).
  • Contemplating buying a blow-up, electronic Dalek and riding around in it at school. 
  • Adopting a Dalek mentality towards my revisions. EXTERMINATE THE ADVERBS! 

Through every speed bump this past month, I had to tell myself:

The truth is: of course I care. I always care. But just watching this gif made my stress more bearable - especially because I loved the film, In the Good Old Summertime. It's the first color film I saw with Buster in it. He's adorable and I almost cried when he appeared on screen ;_;

Dwah. Look at 'im.

Returning from my digression... this month hasn't been all business. I've eaten a lot of sushi (there's a new all-you-can-eat buffet in town), listened to Shelly Fraley's albums over and over, and geeked out over Richard Barthelmess in The Enchanted Cottage (1924).

OH. And I was just bored enough at a meeting today that I doodled this (and colored it when I came home):

Jimmy, Ashlyn, and Diamond! Yay!

I dragged my feet through this month. It's actually surreal to think that it's almost over. And I'm looking forward to October.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dime Stories: The Escapist Book Fair

"No chance of rain. Hurry."

There's a rumor in this city, as old as the sewer steam that rises from the vents. The librarians whisper about it during their lunch hours, spearing their walnut and roman salads with silver forks. Derek's heard them talk about the book fair that meets only once a year, a book fair that only invites the dreamers of the city.

Derek thinks that he's earned the right to attend the book fair this year - he's racked up some good karma. On the weekends, Derek shaves, dons his black trench coat, and tracks down abandoned books. He carries a net with him that he uses to catch books, as if they were strays.

"I find most of them in dumpsters," he tells his friends. They back away from him; his clothes smell like rotten eggs.

Sometimes Derek thinks the books are talking to him. They squeak and groan as he puts their spines back together.

On the morning of the book fair, they woke him up by falling off his desk.

"'No chance of rain. Hurry,'" Derek reads. He fingers the telegram that was slipped under his door. The address listed is downtown, not too far from his apartment, but Derek jerkily completes his morning rituals of shaving, eating, and dressing. His heart pounds as he races down the street.

The door fair is in an abandoned lot. The narrow space, caught between two apartment buildings, is stacked with books. Trolleys form makeshift rows, nothing is labeled, and all of the books have unmarked covers. Dereks barely breathes, scared that the entire book fair will fade away like the smoky remains of a snuffed candle.

There are other dreamers at the book fair. Derek sees an artist with a shaved head fingering through a book of photographs. A little girl clutches five books in her arms.

Derek doesn't notice that they all disappear, at some point, the echoes of their smiles imprinting the air.

A mustard yellow book grabs his attention. It hums in his hands. When Derek turns to the first page, he reads the first sentence in his head. It's a story about tropical winds, sandcastle palaces, sword fights.

Before he can even think about closing the book, he falls into the pages, slipping into the ink and merging with the words.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Spend a Hurricane Issac Day

Who hasn't heard of Hurricane Issac?

Since I live in Florida, this terrifying hurricane has been everywhere. Not that, you know, I'm scared of hurricanes. We get them all the time, especially during the summer season. What worried me was that yesterday, Monday 27th, was supposed to be the first day of school. Would we get the day off because of the storm or did everyone have to drive through the wind, rain, and RNC traffic to reach campus?

Well, at the last minute, the schools closed. Monday had become a day off.

If you want to know the proper procedure for protecting yourself during a hurricane, you'd better read another blog. Because, like most hurricanes that hit here, the weather is bad enough that you shouldn't be driving, but it's nothing to really worry about. Stay inside. Have some fun. And that's what I did.

Here's how I spent my hurricane day:

1. Watch Dr. Who

When Dr. Who aired on the SyFy Channel a few years ago, I saw a smattering of episodes. Time travel, funny aliens, a lot of running and screaming - Dr. Who was very exciting, but it didn't quite grip me at the time.

I consider myself a fantasy girl. Give me swords over space ships any day. I have trouble engaging in - and sometimes even understanding - the technical aspects of science fiction. So when I was a little high schooler, watching Dr. Who for the first time, I thought it was just like the other sci-fi shows I'd watched growing up (like Farscape). I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything when I stopped watching.

However, I've since changed my tune.

One of my summer goals had been to watch EVERY EPISODE starting with the 9th Doctor. But then the reality of completing my thesis hit me - and I didn't do a lot things I said I was going to do this summer, haha. So when Hurricane Issac gave me an extra day, I turned on Nettflix and started watching. I've seen about six episodes so far, and I'm really loving the show.

Maybe I had to grow up a bit to be able to enjoy it, or maybe now is just the right time for me to start. I already jumped the gun and bought a "Bow Ties are Cool" t-shirt (not because of the show, but more so... because I really believe that). I can't wait to get to the 11th Doctor, but I will take my time and watch in order. I promise, haha.

2. Read Literary Journals

I have a big reading list, but more often than not I cross novels off my list rather than literary journals. There are two journals that I thought would be fun to read and I finally snuggled up on my couch and read them. Weird Tales and Shimmer are both journals focused on publishing speculative stories that are, of course, weird, whimsical, and surprising.

Weird Tales #358

Weird Tales has a long history, having been founded in 1923 (cool, right? I'd love to read some of those really old issues). Issue #358's theme was Hell (I had no idea when I bought it, haha), so I ended up reading about renegade angels and contract-wielding demons. Although the theme wasn't my cup of tea, I enjoyed all of those stories. Another great aspect about Weird Tales is that they also publish academic / non-fiction articles too that have to do with weird or speculative tales. The articles in this issue included a study of "weird" in film and how McQueen's fashion aesthetic could be considered "weird." interesting stuff.

My favorite story from this issue had to be "A Beginner's Guide to Sandcastle Alchemy" by Nik Houser. A group of boys from a specialized school go to the beach during a storm and build sandcastles - all the with purpose of trying to attract the attention of the Mermaid Queen. However, the boys have no idea what the Mermaid Queen is really like and what they are risking by following through with their whimsical sand structures. This story gave me the chills but it was very well done.

Shimmer #14

This issue of Shimmer didn't seem to have a particular theme, but the stories were strange and wonderful. From mud creatures to eerie trash men, I was surprised by how creative and exciting each tale was. Almost every story has an illustration too, made by the artist who did the cover. Very cool.

My favorite story here is "This House was Never a Castle" by Aaron Polson about a boy and his two sisters Rosamond and Olivia (who is ghost, having been eaten by a wolf). They live in a house kind of like a nautilus in that there are many rooms with shut doors - but there's no way in or out of the house without using a bit of magic. The siblings only leave the house to get food because the world outside is a dangerous place, full of soldiers at war, wolves, and disease. The boy struggles with his desire to stay small and protected, but knowing that he has to step up one day and be a man. This story was creepy and I got attached very quickly to the boy and sisters. I want to read more about them!

3. Bake Macarons

Ever since my mom and I started baking macarons, it's become like an addiction! While the trees out back shivered in the rain, we made two new flavors: banana and lilac. They both are delicious.

A note about the lilac: we bought lilac in the hopes of coming close to a flavor like violet. It would be amazing to make violet macarons, but violet anything is expensive and hard to find. My mom and I trolled all the health food stores in the area, asking for violets, to no avail. But one shop had lilac and so we decided to take a chance on that flavor. Thank goodness - it's really good and it does taste a bit like violet.

These are the flavors we used. Left to Right: Banana for the cookie, chocolate for the whipped cream center, and lilac water for the other batch of cookies and whipped cream filling. The Watkins brand of extract is amazing! I highly recommend.

The lilac water is sweeter than rose water... I dunno, I kind of like the lilac better, haha. I wish that the food coloring had been darker - we have to play around with that some more.

4. Play with Misty

Done and Done!

5. Listen to The Midsummer Station

I love Owl City. It's a fact. frankly, the new album, The Midsummer Station, couldn't have come soon enough. I listened to it for the first time while driving to and from orientation, blowing out my eardrums because, you know, I have to turn up the volume in my car.

During the storm, this energetic, cheerful music washed away the worst of the thunder and lighting flashing outside.

This album is better than I expected; typical of any Owl City song, it's hard to choose a favorite. However, I'm singling out "Metropolis" because there's something mesmerizing about it. Every time this song comes up, I have to pause for a moment and daydream. Here's the song and part of the lyrics:

Oh oh, I can't even take it in
Oh oh, I can't even take it in
Oh oh, I left my heart in metropolis

So far apart, I checked but the coast was clear
I feel like a postcard
I wish you were here

Subway through the dark, carriage through the park
Taxi down the street, get out and use my feet
Don't matter much to me what it is that I do
As long as I'm coming home to you

Oh oh oh, as far as I can see
You're the only one, the only one who can get to me
Like a hijacked plane or a runaway train
Or a speeding bullet, there's no stopping this
I left my heart in metropolis

A thousand miles feels like a million years
Like hundreds of postcards that say 
I wish you were here (I can't even take it in)
Airplane through the sky, greyhound racing by
Dirt bike on the beach, sailboat on the sea
Don't matter much to me what it is that I do
As long as I'm coming home to you

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Baking Adventures: Macarons!

So I love macarons, but they're awfully hard to find in Florida. It's easier, I imagine, to find a unicorn than a macaron shop.

Until one opened up at the mall.

When I went to the mall last weekend, I wandered in and out of the Hello Kitty store, tried on a mound of clothes at H&M, admired the displays at Nordstrom's, and ate spring rolls and noodles at the food court. You know, the usual business. This mall is indoors (ironic) and far from where I live, so every time I go to there, it seems like an adventure, a long expedition to an exotic land of overpriced purses and trendy people. But on the way out to the parking lot, I discovered a newly-opened macaron shop. I was enchanted.

The space was very open with wood floors and huge posters of pastel macarons on the walls. The display cases were lit up. For a minute, I thought I was inside Flour House's bakery, Sweet Crumblier.

Just a minute.

Then, I saw the employees and their sneers... and I couldn't leave the shop fast enough.

It seems counterproductive to turn your nose up at customers if you expect to have good business. When I entered the shop, I got chills and didn't feel very welcome. A lady with a power suit and clip board observed the flow of people in the shop (since when do you need a power suit to bake?) and the teens working behind the displays were unfriendly. The price, also, was extremely high for such tiny treats. Normally, such things wouldn't bother me... if the vibe wasn't so strong, you know?

So I left that day proud that I hadn't bought anything from the shop, but also feeling a gaping hole in my stomach where macarons should have been. I really wanted some.

Maybe I could make my own.

This wasn't a new thought - baking my own macarons - but seeing that shop finally spurred me to action. I cracked open the recipe book I had gotten a few months ago, grabbed my mom (the real cook of the house), and embarked on a wild afternoon of trying to create this mysterious French dessert.

Here's how it went:

The cook book I used is called Macaroons: For the Ideal Bite-Size Treat. The outside feels soft, like a baby book, but there's tons of macarons inside to choose from. I couldn't find the edition I have online, so I've linked to (maybe) the same book. For some reason... it's on pre-order. Well, weird. It's the same publisher, at least. The only unfortunate thing about this book is that they spelled macaroon with an extra o.


Come to think of it, Oleander from Flour House had to learn the difference as well between them. A macaron is the French dessert that, for lack of a decent explanation, is usually pastel, has a filling, and is worn as much as a fashion statement as it is something delicious and sweet to eat. A macaroon is the ugly, yet tasty, coconut dessert. Hence, the chart:

Since my mom and I have been enjoying rose water (we've even made vegan cupcakes with it!), the choice of which flavor macaron to make was simple.

Maybe you can read the recipe directions? Hmm.

Almonds, Powdered Sugar, and Egg Whites

Pan Lining Paper

Ah, the basic materials above. We gathered all of this together, along with a bunch of blenders and mixers. I felt like a mad scientist, haha.

Because we didn't have almond meal already, we had to put our diced almonds into the blender. After that, we put in powdered sugar and created a potent concoction, haha. The almonds and powdered sugar had to be blended for fifteen seconds.

But the biggest challenge was the meringue. 

Neither my mom nor I have ever made meringue and so we had no idea what to look for when making it. So, the first time we tried, it ended up looking like this:

Thin, bubbly. Not quite right.

Even after adding a ton  of cream of tartar, sugar, and food coloring, it was still too flat! 

The almond-powdered sugar mixture and the meringue are supposed to combine to make the cookie part of the macaron, so we knew that this watery failure wouldn't work. 

After wiping away a single tear, I flushed this down the toilet and we began again. 

What ended up saving us from a second epic fail was a wonderful site called Food Nouveau. Not only was there a helpful, step-by-step video set to Amelie-like music, but there was also a troubleshooting page that allowed us to find out what we did wrong right away. 

We probably had a bit of yoke that got into the egg whites, overbeat it in the process, and used too large of a bowl. Yep. 

Ah! Much better the second time! Looks like shaving cream, haha.

As carefully as folding a spider's web, we worked the almond-powdered sugar mix into the meringue and then packed it into a pastry bag. As you can see, the almonds left speckles on the cookies - because they weren't finely ground, haha. But it's all good. 

Ready to bake!

Look at that!

Do you see that perfect one? It's like... as real as one you'd get at a store. I almost cried when they came out of the oven ;_;

... but the holes!

Unfortunately, while they were baking, the paper on the tray flopped over - that's why some of them here were wrecked. The cookies are really delicate like that. You have to be careful when even eating them, haha.

As the last step, we had to include a filling for the middle. We went with whipped cream flavored with sugar and rose water.


They're so cute, all imperfect and everything. *pinches their cheeks and cracks them* 

When we finally got to taste them, they were just, again, like ones you'd buy at a fancy store - with the added benefit of being fresh out of the oven. I wouldn't say that macarons are hard to make, but it's just that most of the techniques one would use to make them are, well, not part of everyday baking (at least, for me. I use the microwave).