Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Do Me a Flavor and Finish My CampNaNo Project

April is good. April is fantastic. This is a month of magic, when transformations occur as flowers yawn themselves into blooming.

Sometimes it's hard to remember, but I'm going to do it.

Here are five *new* wonderful things about this rainy month.

1. Boba Tea

Despite being told my reputable sources about how awesome boba tea is, I've finally had one. And, of course, my friends don't lie.

A brand-new coffee shop opened up nearby called Brew House - so new that they didn't have all their cupcakes in the display case... and they don't have a website yet. It's a little out of the way, so my mom and I made sure to include it in our errand run this morning. The shop is cute, with plenty of room for writing novels on napkins or staring at the new hospital across the street. The girl working there was very friendly and gave us an explanation (and samples!) of what boba is. Basically, boba are little round jelly balls filled with fruit juice. It's like biting into a grape. A strong splash of flavor hits you when you eat one and the combination with sweet tea works.

I ordered mango iced tea with strawberry boba pearls. Brew House didn't have all the flavors yet, so I'll have to come back to try their lychee flavor! As you can see from the third picture, I wasn't very good at evenly eating the pearls and drinking - but having so many at the bottom of my cup was a treat!

2. Used Books

Nothing's better than finding good books - books that have had many lives, with bent pages and wounded spines. I came home with four news books that I never would have been able to resist. I love anything about the World's Fair, so Ticket for Tomorrow by Carol Cox sounded exciting.

I almost rubbed my eyes in disbelief when I stumbled upon A Swiftly Tilting Planet because it has a gorgeous cover, one of the new reprints I've gawked at in the bookstore plenty of times. My other L'Engle books date back to the 1960s, with super cheesy, yet appealing covers.

Getting another Neil Gaiman book was, well, totally great because I have not read enough of his work (Neverwhere, Coraline, Stardust, the Sandman comics, and a handful of his short stories. I need more!).

3. Misty

My doggie. She threw out her back last month. In the past week or so, she's returned to her usual spunk and I'm so thankful to see her back in action!

4. Voting in the Lays Do Us a Flavor Contest

Ever since this darn choose-the-next-Lays-flavor contest started, I've had a hard time finding all three flavors to try, let alone deciding on where to cast my vote. Apparently, Florida is apathetic about the contest, so I hadn't been able to find the chips until recently, thanks to my friends.

I've also delayed writing my verdict because it was so hard to figure out which one was my favorite. Thus, I'm happy that I finally figured it out in April, haha!

Chicken & Waffles: I really wanted to like this flavor because it was weird. But it doesn't work for me. I tasted way too much grease and not enough, well, chicken. Or waffle. I dunno. I've never had chicken and waffles, so maybe, if I'd eaten it before, I would have acquired that taste and fully enjoyed the chip version.

Sriracha: Not a fan of spicy flavors, especially not chips. I don't like the idea of having to carry water with me when eating such a casual snack. However, if you ignore the burn, the flavor's actually quite tasty!

Cheesy Garlic Bread: After much deliberation, I have to say that the garlic bread flavor was my favorite out of the three. It's the only one I can eat without feeling sick afterward (that's a good sign, right?). It's not the most creative flavor out of the three, but you can taste the varying flavors of the cheese and garlic, making it different from the garlic-based chips already out.

Thank you Jenn and Allison for sending me chips. Without you, I'd still be dithering over not getting to cast my vote and suffering from unsatisfied curiosity (ugh, can you imagine? O_O).

But in all honesty, I would have really loved prawn-flavored chips. When I studied abroad in England, I tried so many different kinds and they were all delicious. A much better flavor than these three, gotta say.

5. Progressing in My CampNaNo Project

Yep. That's happening. Just as I hoped, my sea legs are coming back in terms of writing. I've been typing away, sometimes so focused that only the screeching beep of the washer / dryer can wake me from my stupor.

I've been getting to know the characters in Stella quite well, but it improves every day. I'll be driving to school and suddenly, after stopping at a light, I'll think, "Oh my gosh! I know what Wyatt's secret is!"

And then I'll dash to my office and write it down on the scrap of an old newsletter.

The character I'm most comfortable with is Layla. I've been enjoying working with her because, in a lot of ways, we're going through the same struggles. However, she's so much snappier than me - it's an utter delight to write her sparring matches with the other characters.

One of the least developed areas of my project had been the fireplace world (coming up in the next chapter officially, I believe). It was kind of hazy in my mind. I wasn't sure if I was going to take the reader there or not. But it's been building steadily. The chimney-palace is being built, brick by brick, and the forests are twisting with endless lanterns. And after finally getting around to watching Bryan Fuller's Hannibal, I now have a mental image of the fireplace king - and boy, does that put some puzzle pieces together.

I can't wait to go there in the story. I'm typing at a brisk pace, knowing that the ending is approaching, no matter how many miles away. It's a good feeling.

6. BONUS. Imminent Graduation!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bullstock 2013: A Wave of Nostalgia

Before you say anything about me being behind with my campnano project, let me explain you a thing:

This is the poster I saw on Wednesday. On my lunch break, I left the library and headed to my office. I thought about the sandwich waiting for me in the mini-fridge, and the emails I had to catch up on before running back to the library for more work - and I almost kept walking when I saw this poster. It seemed like a mirage, standing as it was on a metal stand in the dirt, and I caused a minor traffic jam when I stopped on the sidewalk to examine it further.

"There's no way Owl City's coming to USF," I said, narrowing my eyes. "I must be seeing things."

But when I got back to the office, I forgot about the sandwich and emails and researched the event. And, my gosh, it was true.

And it was happening in less than two days.

Nothing says, "OMG KIM YOU'RE GRADUATING" than the impossible happening. I've been listening to Owl City since my college days, starting with my discovery of "Saltwater Room" (I had iTunes Genius to thank for that, haha). Adam's catchy music and gentle lyrics charmed me and I became a fan for life :) In 2010, I went to my first OC concert in Orlando, and again in 2011, so I never really believed that Adam would come to USF. No one comes here, haha.

Graduate school tends to keep you busy, busy enough to miss out on a lot of events, or just completely uninformed. Finding out about Bullstock was like having a bucket of icy water thrown on me: I woke up, shocked and excited about something besides my finished thesis. My fellow MFA cohorts had missed the memo too, so I knew I'd be going to the concert alone. I studied the campus map ('cause, you know, I'm chained to one building mostly) for parking options and blasted The Midsummer Station on my drive home.

I have a few OC shirts, but I chose to wear my powdery blue one that I had bought at my first concert  in 2010. As I hung it on the back of my chair, I felt nostalgic. I had come full circle, in a way.

When I had gone to the House of Blues in 2010, I was graduating from college. The cap and gown had been ordered, honors tassels on their way, and my posters needed to be peeled off the dorm walls and put away (hopefully to be used again someday). I had no idea what awaited me after college, and I remember being worried about whether or not I'd make it into graduate school to pursue creative writing. With all that going on, I had a great time at the concert - and not long after, my worries were put to rest when I found out that I had been accepted into grad school.

So fast-forward to Friday and picture me hopping out of my car, lugging a backpack because I'm coming straight from work (and it's an easy way to hang onto a water bottle, for sure). I had driven through the rain, but the top of campus was clear save for an overcast sky. I held my umbrella like a sword and set off for the The Meadows, a stretch of lawn just beyond the college dorms. With 80% humidity, I practically swam down the sidewalks and bobbed across the streets with other students as we guessed when it was safe to cross. By the time I made it there, Bullstock was already in full gear.

There were two stages, almost side by side, and a screen in the middle that had been used to project the evening's schedule and, later, the performances, so each side could watch the show, no matter what stage they stood in front of.

The stage I picked had a few hints that seemed to indicate that Owl City was playing there: extra special effect lights, a keyboard, and a line of Hoot Owls already staking their spots up against the wall.

By the time Owl City came on, night already fell and we avoided any chances of rain. Thankfully. South of Holly, Variance, and Hot Chelle Rae were all amazing bands; despite a failed crowd-surfing moment along the way, the energy in The Meadows was electric. So were my legs, haha. Afterr having been to three standing room only concerts before, my body seemed to remember what it was like to not move for a few hours... wow. A breeze rolled through every ten minutes or so, making the waiting, dancing, and waiting again much more pleasurable. And when the lights flickered on and Owl City took the stage, the crowd went wild. For the first time, I felt like USF had awakened.

Being so close to the stage meant that each song was a little hard to hear, and it took me a few seconds to figure out what song was next. The ground throbbed with the music, hands swaying, screaming filling the humid air. And once again, I noticed how much Adam has grown as a performer. He cracked jokes between songs, interacted with the audience, and even had a few funny faces ready for the more humorous songs like "Deer in the Headlights" and "I'm Coming After You." There was a least two times during the concert where I felt my heart almost drop out of my chest, haha!

And later on, I would come to find out that, at least by twitter and tumblr's testimonies, this was the first concert that Adam had ever worn a sleeveless shirt :)

What a breathtaking, impossible concert! Even two days afterward, I'm still reeling over the timing. My usual habit of writing something before an epic event didn't happen this time - I hardly had time as it was to prepare for Bullstock. But if I had the chance to say anything to Adam, it would go something like this:

No matter how it happened, thank you for coming to USF and performing. Right now, I'm at the end of a chapter, with another just on the horizon - and here you are again, just like the last time. Very surreal, but I'm happy to have made it to Bullstock. I'll continue to write my strange, whimsical stories, crawling with ocean-washed bastions, whale-song, space hotels, and abandoned ex-planets. Keep writing your inspiring, cheerful music! There's never enough Owl City music :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Final Countdown

Camp NaNoWriMo: April Edition

There's nothing like a big old reason to start another project or make headway on an old one. Maybe I like running myself into the ground, so I'm going to participate in this month's Camp NaNoWriMo event.

Here's the deal: I've been thesis-crazy, revising, and revising some more until my committee members gave me the green light to move on. After getting approval from all three, I had to fill out forms that demanded signatures from many people - including higher authorities that I'd never met before. And after that, I had to attack my thesis once more in order to read a peppy excerpt for our end-of-the-year celebration, Curtain Call.

(I'm still waiting on pics from the event... but I'll blog about that real soon - with sneaky-peeks of the narwhal-and-lighthouse thesis I've been talkin' about for months, haha).

So, in a nutshell, I'm so tuckered out that it's been hard to get back to the place I've been - the happy place where I write, every day, and enjoy the process of writing instead of biting my nails over what I will do with it afterwards.

In an effort to get back there, I'm going to work on a small project, tentatively titled Stella Over the Fireplace. My goal is to finish the first draft by the end of the month. It won't be longer than 20k.

Since it took so long for my creaky brain to formulate a story, I will totally be flying by the seat of my pants on this one. Slowly, the characters and plot twists are rising to the surface: a creepy portrait that  decides to cry; a girl who dreams of designing clothes, but wonders if it's just in her blood; a psychic who's hiding her regrets under smoke and mirrors; and a clumsy boy who bears scorch marks and touches fire.

It'll be a good month of writing-therapy for me - and hopefully, I'll be back to Tread Softly and Boys & Bees with renewed energy!

Goodbye to Formpring

If you haven't gotten the memo yet, it's official: Formspring has officially closed. It has been such a fun experience to use Formspring over the years, fielding some awesome questions that have helped me in picking blog post topics and learning what my readers are concerned with or thinking about. The best part is that the questions were anonymous - and, really, that means that the questions were exciting and sometimes shocking (but in a good way!).

Before Formspring officially closed, I asked you to send any last questions you may have had - and I got one last one.

Basically, Anonymous asked why I haven't been blogging about my Figment projects lately ;_;

Well, I do love blogging about my writing, whether it's a Figment project or one of my other harebrained ideas. However, this time in my life is wrought with cliff-hanging stress like never before:

1) I'm literally graduating at the end of the month. THE END OF THE MONTH, GUYS. Can you believe it? But before I can hold my precious master's degree, I have to survive these last few weeks - and academia is nothing if not rigorous to the very end.

2) After graduation, I'll have to face the real world. I'm kind of excited.

3) There are a few short stories that I've have to push back (see above), but now I've got to crack down and finish writing them so they're shiny and ready to submit. After all, literary journals and magazines don't have year-round submission periods *cue infomercial grin*

4) Annnnnnd, I'm still querying agents and publishers, seeking a home for Birdcage Girl. It's a long, long road, my friends.

I should be back to my old antics soon, talking about stories and keeping up with my Figment updates and reading list, but I can't quite do it right now. And that makes me sad.

But I'm doing the bet I can and I hope you'll bear with me :)