Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best Anonymous Quotes of 2013

As 2013 comes to an end, I've found that words bring the clearest meaning. The last half of this year has been packed with words: from the manuscripts I've written, or not written, the little emails laced with hope and jokes, and advice from friends that helped me both laugh and contemplate where life has taken me since graduating with my MFA.

Now that I have an iPhone (oh yes I do), I've joined the modern world with things like Instagram and other amazing apps (sorry, Kindle Fire. I love you, but your apps stink). I experimented with a typography app as I crafted this post. This year more any other, words spoken and written by anonymous people seemed to have encapsulated my thoughts and feelings. So I wanted to share these quotes with you.


I love this twist on the classic "great minds think alike." I adored this quote right away because of the use of "wonder," one my most favorite words. But there's a lot to love here. It reminds me of the wondering that I've had the pleasure of doing with some great friends. I appreciate it even more now that I'm out of school.

Nothing beats being able to hash out a new story idea or difficult scene with a friend. In the MFA program, I was spoiled by being surrounded by like-minded writer friends who were just a floor away. I'd wash the red ink off my hands after a grueling grading session and wander through the halls, knocking on my friends' offices with a burning question on my tongue: "What point of view should I use? What do you think of me adding a tiger into the end of my story? How do I describe creme brulee without using the name?"

Without batting an eye, my writer-friends would divulge their opinions. We'd talk entirely too long about our respective projects and end each conversation complaining about the lesson plans still to write.

In the "real world," you don't often run into people who can have such conversations easily. I try to keep my craft-talk to a minimum, but I still get blank stares, polite smiles, and nods from my new work friends. They're happy and proud of me. They're also eager to peek inside the brain of a would-be writer, but what they find there doesn't make a lot of sense. This is usually the case for most writers.

My writer-friends are pure miracles, really, and getting to meet them on a free weekend over a greasy sandwich or hot bowl of soup raises my spirits. We burn our voices out talking at the speed of light about writer things, and I'm just thankful that I can have these conversations, even if they are more a treat now than the norm these days.


I've had a ton of dreams this year that probably stemmed from stress, but were nonetheless memorable (and draining). Have you ever dreamed something so real that you woke up fully expecting it? That was me, at least once a week. Those dreams usually had to do with me thinking I'd received an email or phone call that, upon waking and checking my Kindle Fire, I realized hadn't happened at all. 

Yet, other times, when the said email or call would come (just later in the afternoon), I wondered, "Well hey, am I psychic or something?" Then I'd daydream about the Oracle of Delphi and scold myself for putting off writing a novel about Apollo. 

For someone who writes in the vein of fantasy, my dreams are mundane. Weird stuff happens, but usually framed within spending time with friends and family and doing normal things, like grocery shopping. Magical realism that would be too boring to write about. But again, if I believed that even one little part of my dream was real, I'd wake up blinking and scrambling for proof. 

Having dreams like that is tiring. When I get to work, cracking my jaw over a big yawn, it's because the manic and worry that came with an ordinary dream dug its claws into me. At times like this, I wish I drank coffee. 


This little manta comes from Wren, my college buddy who just started a blog, The Wren's Nest. She, in turn, had heard it from an old friend, so perhaps it's got some history in it. 

2013 was not without its disappointments. Rejections, a writer's best friend, came flooding in for various manuscripts; as a consequence, I finally cleaned out the pints of ice cream in my freezer (the taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream is greatly improved when sprinkled with tears).

Eventually though, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. It was a useless emotion that cramped my writing mood - and anything that prevents me from writing is bad news. "If not this, something better" came at just the right time when Wren and I stayed up late talking over the phone. What's great about this saying is that it leaves no room for negativity. If your expectations about anything don't happen, then you're asking for something even better to replace it. It welcomes life to surprise you.

It's hard to accept surprises when you're a writer, because when you create a world, you're the one who controls everything. You know which plot twist will send your main character reeling. You know what kinds of flowers grow behind the haunted mansion in your story, which villain will be redeemed by the third book, and how many paper clips is in your MC's math teacher's desk. But real life? Who knows what will happen? Sometimes, that's a good thing, especially when you invite extraordinary surprises in. 


I'm trying to follow my own advice here. Not too long ago, I wrote a post about being stuck in revision hell, along with facing writer's block. I think the gifs I used within that post accurately described what that was like, haha. With the help of my friends, NaNoWriMo, and a few well-placed contests (with tight deadlines), I think I'm back on my feet. 

After graduating, I tried to write at my normal speed, but it was difficult to rebuild my schedule without the program. Being a writer now meant finding small moments during the day to write a paragraph or map out a few chapters on the back of a post-it note. Tired from a long day of work, I'd curl up on the couch and blink blearily at the television screen until finally stumbling to bed. 

I haven't stayed up late to write in months. Weekends are dedicated to catching up on sleep, seeing friends, watching movies / reading books / and other things I can't do during the week. I'm totally an adult now. It's almost too easy to be normal with such a schedule. 

So seeing "Stay Weird" printed in bold script on a sweater was like a wake-up call to me (and a hit to my wallet, haha). I didn't forget to "stay weird," but the principle of it had slipped to the back of my head. 

Maybe that's why I had such a hard time writing. When I let go, the wheels started turning again. 


2013 was a mixed bag. It was a year of growth forced by the natural consequences of leaving academia's cozy yet frustrating bosom and launching into the brick wall that is the "real world." 

I've revised tens of thousands of words, shed substantial weight, developed a love of sweet potatoes and beans, mimicked Sonic the Hedgehog in meeting writing contest deadlines, and filled my life with a lot of music and life-changing books. 

I'm happy to say goodbye. Hello, 2014. Let's be friends. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Art of Writing With the Internet

I really enjoy reading my favorite authors’ blogs. Typically, I’m a bad blogger in the sense that I’m usually behind with reading the blogs I love, but when I do get the chance to sit down with a mug of chai tea, I enjoy getting to read the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the people I admire most. Laini Taylor’s blog is one I keep coming back to. She’s the author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of my favorite books. I just started reading Night of Cake and Puppets, savoring every bit of Zuzana’s adventure. I went on Laini’s blog this morning and read her post about how her most recent writing retreat went. She gave some advice as well about how best to be productive during a writing retreat, and it got me thinking.

A writing retreat is exactly how it sounds: you pack your bags, check into a hotel room for x number of days, and write. The hotel functions as a (comfy) desert island where you will fill up your empty word document because the sand is getting hot and the seagulls are not great conversationalists.

If you’re to go on a writing retreat, Laini suggests that you avoid the internet:

“No internet accesss. This is very important. Go to a hotel without free wi fi and do not buy a connection, and do not ask for a password. Just don't ever go down that path. NO. INTERNET.”

I get it. Checking your facebook account and tweeting photos of your hotel room’s carpeting is not what a writing retreat is all about.

The internet in the enemy. Turn off your wi-fi and go it alone.

Except that I don’t think I could do it. In fact, if I didn’t have the internet, I’d probably trudge home from a retreat with only a big fat bill to show for it.

On the bottom shelf next to my bed, I have as series of binders from pre-college, where I’ve stored drawings, stories, and copies from source material before personal computers were a real thing. Sometimes I open up a binder and look at the stories I wrote, torn out of notebooks and hole-punched together, wondering how I ever managed.

Nowadays, I handwrite notes and outlines for my stories–along with snippets of dialogue or description–but the bulk of my writing happens on a computer. And somewhere along the line, I started using search engines to seek the answers to my questions rather than bugging my mom to drive me to the library.

Yes, the days of interrupting my parents to have them rebuild the Roman aqueducts for me and catch criminals in Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? is over.   

Is it bad that I never got past the Ancient Rome case? I much preferred the other Carmen Sandiego game where I wasted plane fuel jumping country to country interviewing suspects

Of course, nothing beats physical source material. When I was writing my thesis, I ordered a 1927 reproduction of a Sears catalogue since the novel takes place in a 20s-inspired world. I spent a whole afternoon flipping through the pages, lost in a world long past (and actually, I considered the idea of dumping my wardrobe and replacing it with all 20s outfits, if only I could pick straight from this catalogue).

Research time usually happens before I even start writing. I gather books from the library or order them if I think I may use the information for future projects, and hunker down with some hot vanilla blueberry tea. I type my notes to make sure I can read them later, haha.

When I’m writing, I don’t usually have sessions where I write straight through. More often, I’ll keep writing until I need to know something. What kind of nuts do airlines serve? How does a jet pack work? If you were in a hot air balloon and the pilot fell out of the basket, how would you figure out how to fly it?

Not all questions can be answered through raiding the library alone (especially because my library severely lacks a decent selection. Hello, inter-library loans!). Google is wonderful for this, and usually I can find a picture or website that helps answer the question so I can move forward with my story. Other times, I might have to email or call an expert in the area… which is something I’ve tried to do multiple times with hilarious results. If you meet me in person, ask me to tell you what happened when I contacted a doll-repair business.

I cannot turn off the internet. If I did, I’d probably be stranded in my draft. I’m not the kind of writer who can simply skip over the issue and continue. I don’t leave “BLANKS” throughout my drafts as markers for places in the story to return to and fill. And I can’t say, “I’ll keep going because it’s a first draft. I’ll just let my imagination free!” Honestly, I wish I could, but it’s just not my process.

So I minimize my document, search the internet, and eventually return with an answer. Rinse and repeat.

Laini is always full of great advice; when I read her blog posts, I’m usually nodding my head vigorously and taking mental notes. Her advice about not using the internet is still good. On bad days, it’s the very thing that prevents you from making progress in anything–not just writing. Even though I can’t bring myself to shut off my internet, thinking about what she said made me aware of how I work and how writing makes it from my head to the paper.

Understanding your process as a writer is pretty important–it’s a surefire way of beating writer’s block, at any rate. Perhaps the internet is more helper than hinderer for you too.

It's debatable.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving, Karalius Style

Oh yes, I'm really sitting at my netbook right now, writing a blog post on a holiday. Other people, I suppose, are watching TV and sharing stories with relatives, while the children hide under turkey-patterned tablecloths. And someone's already breaking into the dessert.

Not me. Nope.

The thing about moving to Florida is that you say goodbye to such legendary get-togethers. No more paper plates piled with slices of pies that you have no intention of eating. No more dozing, lulled to sleep by a combination of turkey and your uncle's story about the great-grandparents you never met. I've been living in Florida for over ten years, and while those memories of huge Thanksgiving dinners are fondly remembered - that's it. They're memories.

With all my relatives up north and my brother living 4+ hours away, this Thanksgiving would have been a quiet one... if me and the 'rents didn't decide to continue our Thanksgiving tradition of going to Disney.

Please. Don't pity me.

This year, we went to the Magic Kingdom. Upon filing out of the monorail, I got the sense that there weren't many Florida natives in the park today. People snatched maps from the park entrance, pouring over the times tables and huddling to make plans. Strollers nipped the backs of my heels. A herd of cheerleaders here for competition shivered in their uniforms. I heard the names of many cities, all over the U.S, being whispered like secrets. Thanksgiving Day is always crowded, but this year's atmosphere was caked with confusion. No one knew where they were going. In a way, that makes traversing the park more fun.

While on line for The Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland, I admired the dresses that the girls in front of me were wearing. The one dressed up as Aurora had glittery silhouettes of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather on the hemline; Cinderella's dress had similar silhouettes of the carriage and Gus and Jaq. Who knew that such detail could go into those dresses? It's not something I normally notice, but with the lines as long as they were today, staring at the rock formations only remains interesting for so long.

Although we didn't have much luck with rides, the park was full of music. The dance party in Tomorrowland was in full swing. Goofy, Chip, and Dale start out on stage, but eventually join the crowd of kids and parents as they dance along to the DJ's catchy tunes. the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party parade dogged us whenever we went back to Main Street. With such wonderfully cold weather, everyone seemed full of energy - both the performers and the crowd. I even saw a few fathers take off running with their strollers full of squealing kids (something that NEVER happens in 90 degree weather here).

After lunch, we decided to walk over the the Contemporary Resort. And that's where I had this sugar cookie:

Special for the holiday season, this cookie is part of a sweet series of treats inspired by the yearly gingerbread houses ("houses" being a loose term. You never know what to expect) that some of the resorts participate in. I'm not really a gingerbread person, so I decided on the sugar cookie. What sold me on it? Mary Blair's characters sitting on the monorail was enough to convince me. 

The biggest surprise today by far was spotting Captain Rex as a new Vinylmation figurine on Main Street. For those of you who don't know, Captain Rex used to be the pilot of Star Tours, the Stars Wars simulator ride that took you all over the galaxy. Rex's optimism, combined with poor piloting skills, added character to the ride, making it one of my favorites growing up. But after Disney bought the Stars Wars franchise and rebuilt the ride, Captain Rex had been ousted and reduced haunting the cargo bay, doomed to echo his lines for all eternity. It's depressing, really. 

And no, the knowledge that due to the new timeline, Rex has not yet become the pilot I remember (and is currently defective), does not make me feel better. 

... I just had a Doctor Who moment. Woah. 

So anyway, as you can imagine, seeing him again in all his plastic splendor was awesome. Actually owning a Rex figurine? Near impossible. I'd either have to be very lucky or empty my bank account buying all the mystery boxes. 

Oh well. At least I have a picture. I'm thankful for that. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

That Time I Was Stuck in Revision Hell

Stop the presses: I’m finally writing about writing. It’s been such a long time.

It’s the most important month of the year for writers around the world because, as soon as November 1st hits, the month dons its alter ego mask and cape and becomes… NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month is for writers big and small, new and old, who rise to challenge of writing a full-length manuscript within 30 days. In order to do this, we writers forgo mundane activities like doing laundry, eating, and taking the dog for a walk.

Yes, this happens every year.

The official goal is 50,000 words – the minimum length of a complete novel manuscript. In my experience, my novels usually go way over 50k, but most novels do. Reaching that 50k is a true achievement anyway. Like winning a marathon. Only in this case, the gold medal comes in the form of your own hand patting you on the back. Or on December 1st, having your mother yell at you to finally start dumping your stinky clothes in the washer.

Although I’ve written my fair share of words each NaNoWriMo, I haven’t “won” yet. This is because I had been in graduate school the past three years where November is one of the most hectic months. Academia is always on the verge of chaos at this time. As a grad teaching assistant, grading and planning classes became more important than ever. Students burst into your office, demanding that their tardy sins be forgiven and that the A- they got on their last paper should bumped up to an A.

I had my own graduate classes to worry about too. 20-page annotated bibliographies don’t write themselves. My short stories had to go through the writing workshop mill, again and again, only to always come out in pieces. During my last year, when the epic movie that is Wreck-It Ralph was released, I adopted Felix’s “I can fix it!” mantra while staying up late at night, taking turns critiquing my students short stories and revising my own.

Somehow, I managed to update my piddling word count at NaNoWriMo’s hub every now and then. And each year, I felt proud with what I had accomplished.

Fast-forward to now.

Kind of. Because before I tell you what my current NaNoWriMo project is, I should probably explain my mental state leading up to November. Because I’m not working on Boys & Bees this month… despite the bees that literally plague the palm tree outside my front door. I know they’re looking for updates (or the fruit growing on the tree. Or both). I feel like a have the mafia, in bee-form, staking out my house until I finish that novel. Gah. Nevertheless.

Let me explain you a thing. Remember the novella I wrote and posted on Figment back in May – Stella Over the Fireplace? WELL, I hadn’t written anything new since then. That’s almost four and a half months of no new writing. What was I doing?

Revision. REVISON (it needed to be in caps).

After taking Stella down and submitting it, I found out that two publishers were having open door submission periods… around the same time. For those who don’t know, open door submissions means that a writer can, for a period of time, submit an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher for consideration. This is a rare, wonderful thing since most publishers only look at manuscripts sent to them by literary agents (hence, the term solicited manuscripts). Since my hunt for an agent continues on with all the endless mountain-climbing and orc-battling of The Hobbit, I jumped at the chance to take advantage of the open doors. But I had to polish my manuscripts one last time.

And then I quickly sunk into the dreaded pit of revision hell.

Now, normally “revision hell” means that a writer is stuck in an endless cycle of revising the same manuscript over and over again. Yet for me, it was more like being constantly handed another manuscript to revise after the previous one was finished. It began with Tread Softly. I wrote the final chapter that I’d been putting off writing for a while. And then I shouted “I’m gonna wreck it!” and tore down the first three chapters, only to rebuild them into a shiny, much improved version. Then came tweaking and reworking the rest of it. After tying Tread Softly’s shoes and sending it on the bus with the other manuscripts, I turned by attention again to Birdcage Girl.

The opening chapter still didn’t sit right with me. And, between a few revisions on Pocket Forest, I realized that Birdcage Girl would probably need another overall round of polishing. That’s the thing with writers. We keep changing. We keep improving. Which means that as long as your manuscript is in your hands alone, you’ll always find something to revise. I shut off the lights, closed my bedroom door, and listened to the Pushing Daisies soundtrack until inspiration flew at me, saying, “Yes, this is the beginning. Right here. You were close, but this is better.”

Yay for soundtracks!

And so, I continued revising BG again too. When I had spare time at work, I edited and reworked sentences. When I came home, I stared again at another mess of words on the screen and revised some more. By the time I sent BG out again (I buttoned its sweater and waved as it boarded a plane), I was left wondering what else I had to fix / change / revise.

But all that was left was the blank page. A new story. And I was scared for the first time.

Imagine spending months on end doing nothing but changing words already written on paper. So when someone hands you a blank sheet and says, “create,” it’s not exactly a shining moment of freedom. Trying to write something new was like waking up from surgery without the use of my hands. Sentences dripped from my fingers, dull and jumbled, and I could hardly stand looking at what I wrote. I deleted almost everything I tried to write.

Me on a good day.

The thought of continuing Boys & Bees was very appealing for many reasons, but I knew that I’d want to revise all 30k before writing new chapters. Which was bad. Because I’d only be delaying the fact that I had to face the blank page again.

I had to force myself to use the other side of my writer-brain again. Turn off the internal editor. Awaken the dreamer. Nothing could shake me out of this stupor like starting a new project:

This title is shiny.
Planning WCFiL was fun because this new set characters are just… something. Really. They have interesting backstories, a stake in the novel’s main conflict, and when they talk to each other, I hardly know what to expect. Even though my writing is always fiction, the topic of this project is near and dear to my heart. I feel like, while I’ve been gaining back my writing-creating skills, I’ve also been exploring my own feelings about the topic. Expect magic, heartache, humor, and goose chases.

Say hello to a town that believes in the powers of love charms. The people of this town trust in their fortunes so fervently that they never question the mysterious woman handing them out… and how she can possibly know everyone’s romantic fate. A few hapless teens band together to form a rebellion bent on overthrowing the woman, but in the end, whose side is Love on?

However, like all of my projects these days, this one has a deadline too. So I don’t think I’ll be able to share it on Figment without taking it down quickly after. Hang on tight because you’ll be able to read this story soon, one way or another *cue evil laugh*

So this is NaNoWriMo... and I'm going to kick butt this year. I've got my headphones, Charlotte Bronte muscle tee, cup of earl grey. Today's NaNoThon is going to rock.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hurricane Who 2013

You need to meet my little brother.

... not sure... which one?

Saying he's little is ironic. Although I'm the older sister, he somehow grew as tall as a tree (at least, from my height), but I assure you, he's the baby of the family. Now that I've thoroughly embarrassed him, I'll tell you how it is he became a special guest at this year's Hurricane Who convention.

Hurricane Who is a Doctor Who convention in Orlando known for drawing in passionate fans and engaging speakers; the convention's small size makes for a cozy atmosphere with plenty of Tardis blues and Dalek reds on parade. This was a new experience for me because I'm used to going to large conventions with stadium-sized vendor spaces, endless panels, and very long lines for overpriced food, so the slow, yet charming energy of Hurricane Who grew on me the longer I was there.

Bill's projects in card form
My brother is an amateur voice actor, though it's hard to call him an amateur when he worked on so many projects. You'll find a list of his projects on his website, here. Bill voices mostly cartoon characters, whether it's playing a beloved character in a fandub or embarking on an original project. Sometimes it surprises me that he fell into voice acting - not because he can't do it (I grew up being entertained by his uncanny ability to mimic my favorite cartoon characters), but because I can't stand the sound of my own recorded voice, haha. I'll stick with the written word, thank you.

I went to one of the panels that Bill was on all about voice acting. So, despite my dear sweet brother's lack of Doctor Who knowledge (he's still stuck on Martha's season...), the audience was eager to pick his brain about voice acting. With him was Ashlee Webster, another budding voice actress who focuses on voicing for audio books and radio dramas. Also, there was a dalek. She had good questions.

Growing up, if you wanted to be a voice actor, you were told that you had to live in one of the major cities, line up outside for auditions, and cross your fingers that you, out of hundreds of applicants, would get your coveted role. But with all this new technology, becoming a voice actor isn't reserved for only those who live in a convenient location. As Bill said, you need to invest in a good mike, some fabric to sound-proof your office, and start perusing a handful of websites and forums where writers / animators / directors are looking for voice actors. Granted, they are usually tech-genius high schoolers and college kids, but it's a good way to start.

Paul and Bill, up to no good

Later on, Bill appeared again with Ghost Hunter's International star, Paul Bradford. I mean, you know, before he got into voice acting, my brother was a ghost hunter. But that's a story for another day (oh boy). So Bill and Paul shared a table during the convention and they told ghost hunting stories during their panel (or rather, Paul shared the stories. Bill just provided witty quips, since he wasn't part of GHI). 

I also attended a panel called "It's the Coat." I scratched my head over that title when I read the schedule, but it makes sense. After all, Doctor Who has some of the best coats in television history.

The entire panel was a celebration of costuming in Doctor Who, starting with the panelists calling up every Doctor cosplayer to the front of the room. I was disappointed that the topic of bow ties never came up in conversation, but it was fascinating to hear about monster makeup from the classic episodes and a theory about how the Doctor's coat pockets must be linked with the Tardis (and are, therefore, endless).

No, that guy isn't David Tennant


How could I even dream of writing about this convention without sharing some fantastic cosplayers and sights? Strangely enough, while there were a lot of doctors, I think I've seen more of them at a typical convention. However, I saw many Amy Ponds (her clothing is pretty easy), River Songs, a few impressive weeping angels, and a lot of little kids who had great costumes. Paul Bradford, a big Whovian, even donned his Ood costume - and ran into a little boy who had also dressed up as an ood. 

Paul Bradford (left) with little Ben Ben Defrin and Paul Defrin

The funny thing is, as soon as the boy took off his mask, he got scared of Paul and started backing away with a nervous smile on his face. So cute. 

Vincent Van Gogh, a little Cyberman, and a plastic, remote-controlled Dalek
If you haven't seen the episode of Doctor Who with Vincent Van Gogh, you should do that right now.


Okay. You're back, right? 

Well, the guy who dressed up as Van Gogh had not only looked the part, but also had Van Gogh's character down pat. He came to our table spewing a rambling monologue about "hearing colors," which had us almost in tears, remembering how the particular episode ends. But you know all about that, right? Because you just watched the episode.

There was a little Cyberman, pictured in the middle. I don't know how he lasted so long in that costume, but it was brilliant. The last photo isn't cosplay (after all, the lady dressed as a dalek is already pictured at my brother's panel). However, this remote-controlled dalek was the most popular item of the day. And each time someone bought one, it was immediately opened and used. I had to watch where I was stepping in case I bumped into one of the daleks.

Other Stuff

Bill was nice enough to lend me a corner of his table, so I rolled out my Pocket Forest gear. Selling an e-book is a difficult feat when you can't literally hand a copy to a potential reader. So. I made handouts in the hopes that if anyone was interesting in reading Pocket Forest, they had only to hang on to the paper. And it's pretty. It was a fun experiment, but I feel like it would have gone better if I included something on the handout about how I think that Rose Tyler is epic or something. Because it's true.

I also decided to dress up for Hurricane Who - kind of hard to resist when Hot Topic came out with such a cool collection of costumes for Halloween. The Tardis dress I settled on was comfortable and fun to wear and I certainly wasn't the only girl at the convention wearing one.

The entire weekend was packed with Doctor Who-induced adventure. I'm still fairly new to the fandom, having started with the ninth doctor with no classics under my belt, but I feel like watching Doctor Who has been a writing-changing experience for me. I learned so much about character development, plot twists, logic that's not so logical, and making readers laugh and cry and laugh again. As a writer, this show has a lot to teach. I'm proud to say I love Doctor Who

So on I trek, catching up with Season 7, Part 2, and wondering what Moffat and the crew have in store for future seasons. Oh, and wearing my Tardis dress out beyond the borders of the convention, haha.

... like Jellyrolls.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pocket Forest’s E-Book Release!

When I think of the new edition, I compare it to the highly unlikely scenario where, after receiving your baby at the hospital, a nurse chases you down to say, “Ma’am, wait! You actually delivered twins!”

Then she hands you another wrinkly little baby that looks nothing like the previous one, yet they both share the same piercing scream.

It has to be like that.

Deathless Press had published my chapbook, Pocket Forest, back in August. The first edition sold out within 12 hours. The second and third editions are, as of last week, officially sold. Sometimes people email me photos of their copies, which always makes me a little teary-eyed. It’s like I’m looking at babies.

Babies... have mustaches, right? Thanks for the photos, Allison and Cara!

Having my first published book sell out, no matter how small, is a great accomplishment. But logically, it also means that no more copies are coming. If you had been hoping to snag one, I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… unless you spot someone walking down the street with a copy of Pocket Forest and steal it from them.

So how did this whole e-book thing start? Supplies to create more copies of my book were dwindling and Deathless Press had to start making Fall 2013’s lineup. Time to move on… except for the fact that readers were still asking for it. Deathless Press and I kicked around some ideas about what to do next. We talked about publishing an e-book and the plan began to solidify. I looked forward to updates from DP and just about swooned when I saw the e-book cover.

Yet plans change sometimes.

Publishing the e-book wasn't going to mesh with DP’s vision of the press. I understood that. So we shook hands and the reigns got turned over to me.

I decided to publish Pocket Forest with Amazon. My inner perfectionist came out while wrestling with the formatting. There was always another typo I missed (I’m the queen of typos. My kingdom is vast.); getting the spacing just right, when it came to chapter titles, was a bit tricky too.

Don’t get me started on the Online Previewer. It lets you see how your e-book will look on various platforms, including iPads and iPhones. Very, very cool… until, if you’re like me, you spend a good few hours reading each version in a last-ditch hunt for final edits.

But really, the entire process is easy. After I submitted the e-book for approval last evening, I went to sleep… and woke up at midnight with an urge to see if my book was online.

And guys. It was.

That’s Sonic speed, right there.

It’s going to take Google a little longer before the link comes up in a search, so you can find the e-book edition by typing in the title and author into the Amazon search bar or simply click on one of the numerous, clearly-marked links on my blog:

One last thing: Don’t forget to leave a review for Pocket Forest once you’ve read it. You can post it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. And please be honest. I can take it!

Something like that, I suspect.

Regular readers of my blog may be getting a tad tired of all the Pocket Forest news, so I promise to entertain you with other topics this month (and next month. Yes).

Unless you want me to talk more about PF. In which case, feel free to ask me a question in the comment section or email me.

Otherwise, I’ll be catching you up to speed on:
  •  how it feels to be stuck in revision hell (fun times)        
  • my NaNoWriMo plans and current writing project
  • that Boardwalk post I mentioned in the previous post.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Disney's Food and Wine Festival 2013

IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN! Covering Disney's Food and Wine Festival is becoming one of the most fun and intensive traditions I have on this blog. Saying I look forward to this event every year is an understatement. I love trying new foods from other countries. I am a foodie at heart, despite not cooking much myself. So I love running around from booth to booth, trying new dishes and skulking around the Festival Center to spy on chef demonstrations. 

In past years, I've seen Robert Irvine and dozed in top-secret lounges, but I always try to trump myself. So here we go. 

If you're participating in the Food and Wine Festival, you can pick up free Discovery Passports. The passports are incredibly useful and small enough to tuck in your pocket. You will find the menus from each country's booth, along with a spot for stamps. I've never collected the stamps in previous years (usually because of laziness and forgetfulness), I decided to go for it this time. 

And, that means that I cheated.

Although most of the booths are countries, others are kind of random with no geographical home (like the Cheese Booth, Refreshment Port, and Desserts & Champagne). I don't drink... not really, no, so I wouldn't actually buy anything from the booths focused on alcohol. And even though I try new foods, I don't have enough time or money to conquer the whole circuit in one year. So what I did was get on line at each booth and patiently waited to collect the stamps. Fair enough, right? The weird part was that I wasn't the only one doing this. Other people - grown adults - were racing between booths, passports flapping in their hands. It was invigorating to see, haha. 

The ultimate prize is getting the Stamp of Completion from the Festival Center. Hoo-rah. You don't even know how proud I was to show the passport at the front desk. And, ironically, the cast member working the desk didn't even check to see if I got them all. I guess I look like a trustworthy person. Here they are anyway:

Food I Ate: 

In a nutshell, I must say that everything I've eaten this year was fantastic. You'll notice that I had a lot more dessert; that's basically because it's October and still extremely hot. More hot than previous years. So the weather has made the festival less leisurely and more... like a lot of work. To stay hydrated, I stopped at water fountains and kept ordering dessert. The silk ice cream ribbon (kind of like Ninja Ice's ice cream) and lychee aerated water from the China Booth basically saved my hide during a very cloudless midday heat wave. Florida, man. 

Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie
Ireland Booth

Potato & Leek Waffle with Braised Beef
Belgium Booth

Kielbasa & Potato Pierogi with Caramelized Onions & Sour Cream
Poland Booth

Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties
Scotland Booth
*My Favorite*

Trick'n Chick'n Curry with Basmati Rice
Terra Booth (Vegan)

Chili Colorado with House-made Chips & Cashew Cheese
Terra Booth (Vegan)

Youki Tofu
Japan Booth

Mango-Flavored Silk Ice Cream Ribbon
China Booth
*My Favorite* 

Lychee Aerated Water
China Booth 

Australia Booth

Frozen Smores 
Desserts & Champagne

Guylian Belgian Chocolate Seashell Truffles
Desserts & Champagne
*My Favorite*

Little German Village:

Sorry guys! I wasn't able to update this section this year because, even though I've been a few times, it's still early in the festival for the train village to be updated. So, to make up for it, I have pictures of the new chocolate sculptures from the Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar!

Later in the month, I'm going to put together another post about the Boardwalk, including some adorable ducks taking over the swimming pool at the Dolphin and my spending the majority of the night listening to some awesome music at Jellyrolls, the dueling piano bar.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Deathless Press: Summer 2013 Review

Do you know what's more delicious than dipping your toes in the ocean or going parasailing? Indulging in Deathless Press's summer released chapbooks:

I've never considered myself an eloquent reviewer, but I want to make reviewing Deathless Press chapbooks a tradition. There are never, ever enough fairy tales in the world - and I've been enjoying the ones coming from this press.

Considering that my own chapbook POCKET FOREST was released in this bunch, I'm going to skip over it (of course) and focus on the other two chapbooks.

Catskin by Sylvia Linsteadt

CATSKIN is a retelling of a the same-named fairy tale, where a princess runs away from home disguised in a coat made of cat skins to avoid being married to her own father. This dark tale is a classic - but if you're not familiar with it, you may have read Donkeyskin, which is the most popular variant (at least, when it come to retellings).

Linsteadt breathes new life into her version of Catskin. The story opens with a girl named You (or Yew, as she prefers), living with her father in a lighthouse that demands time and care. When her father, heavy with drink, considers marrying his daughter, Yew runs away to escape him. Her travels take her into the woods where she meets the Mistress of Bobcats. The Mistress of Bobcats offers Yew a new identity and power, but not without payment.

The Mistress of Bobcats is a fascinating character: incredibly wise, yet untrustworthy. I enjoyed how well Linsteadt described the bobcat-who-is-also-a-woman, with shifting shadows and sharp teeth. When Yew becomes Catskin, she gains freedom from her father, and any other man who threatens her, but she also loses her humanity - which is perhaps a good thing, by the end of the tale. Maybe she becomes the best of herself. CATSKIN reminds me of "The Tiger's Bride" by Angela Carter: lush description, shifty characters, and an unforgettable ending.

Throw Down Your Hair and Then Yourself by A. A. Balaskovits

Rapunzel remains one of my top favorite fairy tales. There's something incredibly relatable to me about being trapped or limited in some way, no matter how much your "jailer" loves you. And then... there's always my favorite part, when Rapunzel's tears bring back the prince's sight (yes... I'm a sap. And proud!). However, Balaskovits's retelling, THROW DOWN YOUR HAIR AND THEN YOURSELF, is probably the most twisted and darkly shocking version I've read so far. And that's what made it so enjoyable, despite my penchant for the happier variants, haha.

Our Rapunzel narrator begins her tale telling us what her auntie has always told her: that she's a sharp thing. She's stuck in a tower, surrounded by soft things to combat her sharpness, until one day when a sweet-talking prince convinces her to leave her auntie and become a queen.

Life as a queen isn't easy, especially when her husband starts ordering the deaths of every citizen with a physical blemish. But as her auntie once said, our narrator is a sharp thing. And boy, does she ever strike back against her husband.

Even though this story started out as a Rapunzel retelling, I felt that by the end, I watched the narrator transform into the Evil Queen from Snow White. Did you ever see the movie Snow White and the Huntsman? Frankly, I dislike that movie, especially when people try to tell me that it was better than Mirror Mirror (weird, right? MM is totally better). BUT Charlize Theron played an amazing Evil Queen and her scary-wrathful beauty is quite like the narrator's transformation. Making, of course, a great ending to this chapbook.

So what are you waiting for? Go read these books! ;)