Randomosity on Fridays: A Krispy & Alz Conversation

Welcome to Friday, folks!  Here's a conversation Krispy and I had on Tuesday night, as I was departing Krispy's palace for my own humble abode.


Krispy: Good night, Alz.  I'm going to bed.

Alz: Bread?

Krispy: BED.  Bread.

Alz: ...Peeta bread?

Krispy: Peeta!

Alz: Peeta...Pan!

Krispy: Oh, Alz.

Alz: Pan...which also means "bread" in Japanese.
chokoretto pan = chocolate bread


This is what happens when it's past our bedtimes.  Uninhibited sheer genius!

What are your bread-related weekend plans?


Worldbuilding Wednesday: Series Intro

Hey there, folks! Welcome to our semi-new Worldbuilding Wednesday series, where Krispy and Alz dig deep down into the why, the how, and the for the love of god DON'T DO THAT of worldbuilding.

Today is going to be a little intro post about our motivations for doing this, and some initial thoughts on worldbuilding.

As you may know, Alz has been (and still is) reading Stormdancer and hates it with a holy passion due to its disrespectful treatment, exoticizing, and general abuse of Japanese culture. Some measure of said passion is mentioned in passing in this post, which also includes links at the bottom to further discussion of problematic worldbuilding and cultural appropriation.

This has spurred us into frequent griping discussion about depicting non-traditional fantasy settings, i.e. not medieval Western-European settings, and especially how one goes about writing a story based in a foreign cultural setting--and before you get your hackles up, I (Alz) am using "foreign" here to mean "any culture with which the author is not native and/or intimately familiar."

We will also be discussing what "based upon" means, and how the term can lead to both innocent and deliberate cultural appropriation--by which we mean "acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture." (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

So! There's our intro. Now some basic thoughts on worldbuilding!


Don't Be Lazy

If you're going to worldbuild, don't be lazy about it.

All right, so we were tempted to end it right there, which surely would win us points for succinctness, but doesn't explain how much lazy worldbuilding bothers us.

When creating a world--be it alternate universe/alternate history, paranormal, or pure fantasy--the world needs to work. The society has to make sense, its rules have to be plausible, its people act reasonably within the bounds of the world, and everything should either make sense or have an explanation for why it's different. This is the foundation of good worldbuilding and often the foundation of a good story.

Sometimes you can have too much of one and not enough of the other though. For example, we didn't like (Alz hated) Divergent's worldbuilding because we just couldn't fathom how our current U.S. society became the society of the book: divided into 5 factions based upon 5 virtues and so rigidly enforced that belonging to a particular faction dictates not only what you wear and how you think and act in public but how you do those things in private as well. Since there was no real backstory, history, or explanation as to how our society became theirs, we couldn't suspend our disbelief and enjoy the world.

On the other hand, Divergent is rich in character development and thematic exploration, and the daily world is gritty and full of realistic obstacles, which made up for the clumsy implausible setting. Which, by the way, we would have accepted without batting an eye if it had been a purely fantasy world instead of based in Chicago--linking the book world to the real world was what killed it for us.

For the opposite example, there's When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen [Alz read this], which has a gorgeous atmospheric world built from the ground up, haunted and full of seaside breezes and old magic and thick with politics and a thriving underworld. It also has a heroine who doesn't matter, a plot that's hardly there, and interchangeably indistinguishable characters.

For a good example of both, take Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. We wrote a joint review for the book in which we praise the worldbuilding as encompassing, engrossing, enriching, and other good things beginning with en-.

The three examples cited above are all Western-European based fantasies (When the Sea is Rising Red is more diverse/non-traditional than that label implies though) or based upon a post-apocalyptic future of Western civilization. We'll get into other cultures and worldbuilding problems in a future post.

Mind you, even when writing historical and contemporary fiction, worldbuilding is essential--instead of building a world from scratch, the onus is upon you to write a world that is realistic and rich in context. These are urban and historical fantasy examples (mostly because neither of us have picked up a straight contemporary in a while), but they illustrate what we mean well.

Source: Susan Dennard's SS&D Pinterest
For worldbuilding rich in context, Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty [Krispy read this] gives us all the trappings of Victorian England from the sights and sounds to the very real constraints placed upon women and girls of the time. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a fantasy, but that doesn't mean the heroine isn't subject to the mores of her historical time period. This was something we appreciated about Susan Dennard's heroine, Eleanor Fitt, too in Something Strange & Deadly, which was set in Victorian Philadelphia. Sure, she had zombies to worry about, but she also worried about her family's social standing and the limited avenues of her future.

A contemporary example of worldbuilding rich in context is Holly Black's Curseworkers books [Krispy read this]. The trilogy is set in the modern U.S., the only difference being the existence of Curseworkers - people who can change you (or even kill you) with a touch. But this one difference is threaded into the context of the U.S., so that it fits seamlessly into a world that is recognizably ours. The existence of Curseworkers affects aspects of history, politics, crime, law, and even fashion (e.g. everyone in this version of the States wears gloves).

For some pure contemporary worldbuilding thoughts, here's an excellent post on the importance of using Setting from Sarah Enni: How NOT to Incorporate Setting, Courtesy of Top Chef

So worldbuilding from the Real World is just as hard as writing straight fantasy. For the purposes of this and future posts though, the focus is going to be on writing fantasy. But that doesn't mean that 90% of this doesn't apply to every other genre of fiction-writing.

Q4U: What are some worldbuilding topics you'd like to see us discuss?

Our previous posts on worldbuilding:
World-Building Wednesday: Books with good worldbuilding!
World-building Wednesday: Krispy muses on the difficulties of worldbuilding in her own story
A Matter of World-building: Pondering when "based upon said culture" turns into "this is said culture."

Hmm, for consistency's sake, I'm going to pitch it to Krispy that we should just use worldbuilding as a singular word and concept instead of jamming a hyphen in there.


Randomosity: Book-to-Movie Adaptations

We were going to do a serious post about world-building and research, but since we have ALL THE FEELS about it, it's going to take a while to put the post(s) together. Plus, it's Friday and I feel like Friday should be FUN DAY.

So here's our fun post for Friday while we work on being serious over the weekend.

Recently, I was thinking about Book-to-Movie adaptations because I'm currently reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which has a movie adaptation out this weekend! I never did read this book back when I was an actual YA/teen, but a few of my friends did and loved it. So I've been meaning to read it and am now doing so before I go see the film.

Here are a few other Book-to-Movie adaptations we enjoyed, some more faithful to the book than others but all enjoyable. Oh and we left out big/popular adaptations like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Harry Potter series because they're the obvious choices (and we loooove them).

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle - The book is a delight of wistfulness and magic with effortlessly gorgeous prose. It's one of Krispy's forever favorite books, and before she ever knew it was a book, she was in love with the movie. The animated movie features one of the most beautiful unicorns ever to grace the hand-drawn screen, and has a lovely soundtrack.

*Krispy & Alz: read and watched.

The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern/William Goldberg - Swashbuckling, swordfighting, poisons and death and love and betrayal and weddings, all with wit and humor and self-awareness. You can't get much better than the movie, except for the book. Or maybe you can't get much better than the book, except for the movie. In either case, read this book or watch the movie and you'll realize the source of so many pop culture in-jokes. "Inconceivable!" "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

*Krispy & Alz: read and watched.

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand - A riveting account of the lives of 3 lost men brought together by a horse no one believed in. A true story of underdogs and the Great Depression and one truly remarkable horse. The movie is just as good - well acted and beautifully shot - playing like a highlight reel of the book. Oh and it features some of the best and most intimate horse racing segments in film, thanks to innovative race choreography and filming techniques.

*Krispy: read and watched. Alz: watched.

Our local track & for real HQ of Seabiscuit.  Still from blu-ray.com

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace - A moving collection of tall tales that together form a picture of a man, who lived larger than life. The book is whimsical, nostalgic, romantic, and introspective - all the things I (Krispy) love. It's also a book about the power of stories. The movie differs slightly in tone, emphasizing the son's estrangement from his father, but it captures the spirit of the tall tales perfectly. And the imagery is fanciful as only Tim Burton could make it.

*Krispy: read & watched.

Also Ewan Mcgregor is in it, and he plants a field of daffodils
to woo his lady love because they're her favorite flower.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman - The movie is quite different from the book and I (Alz) have heard most people malign the movie as inferior, unworthy, and generally a piece of crap compared to the book. I think this is totally unfair since the movie is sort of Princess Bride-y in being in turns humorous and fairytale-ish and fun, while the book is very Neil Gaiman-y in being more serious and subtly humorous. Treat it as a separate entity from the book and you'll be fine. (Krispy: Also in the movie, there's Ben Barnes. Just sayin...)

*Krispy: watched. Alz: Read and watched.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - Another movie adaptation that's very different from the book, but equally good--though many book-fans disagree and say that the book is infinitely better or couldn't enjoy the movie because it was so different. The movie is very Miyazaki, being full of flight and wonder and villains who aren't precisely villains. And the book, at least in some arcs, is very English. So a few things had to be combined and cut and changed in translation. Again, treat it as separate entities and you'll be fine.

*Krispy & Alz: read and watched.

What are your favorite book-to-movie adaptations?

Edit: Looks like other people have book-to-movies on their minds too. Check out some Upcoming Book to Movie Adaptations at Pub(lishing) Crawl!


A Cooperative Reading Venture

As you may know, Krispy and I read a lot of books.  As you may also know, I am masochistic.  And as you may know again, Krispy and I read the same books if they're good/we think it's well-suited to the other's taste.

This why, through one thing and another, I ended up reading Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon without having read the first book, Silver Phoenix.  Krispy read Silver Phoenix a couple of years ago and had moderate feelings toward it (which I think became lukewarmer with the passage of time), so I didn't read it and just had Krispy summarize everything.  She was interested in the sequel but when our library didn't pick it up right away, she forgot about it.

Then, recently, what with all the Stormdancer brouhaha about research and cultural appropriation hitting the 'net, Krispy and I have been talking about diversity in YA and cultural (mis)representation and appropriation, particularly of Asian-based fantasy--reminding us of Silver Phoenix and hey, did our library ever get the sequel? (Note: Not that the research stuff has anything to do with Silver Phoenix. It just got us thinking about Asian-inspired YA fantasy.)

Then Krispy came across a review of Fury of the Phoenix that describes how the Chinese-based characters cross the ocean to what the blogger called generic!Whitelandia since the country is so colorless--and yet despite the apparent time period, the (Caucasian-based) women of this western land enjoy more equality, empowerment, rights, and sexual freedom than anywhere in the real world today.

Naturally this piqued our curiosity anew.  Krispy wanted to read Fury since she was curious as to what happened, but was a bit reluctant to pick it up because she's got a ton of other books on her plate and reading Fury seemed like an exercise in pointless masochism.

Which latter is just my style!

Krispy and I hate this cover, btw.
There is nothing Asian about it, from the girl to her costume to the dagger.
I told Krispy that since she read the first book and told me everything, I'd return the favor by reading the second book and if I didn't think it was worth her time reading, I'd tell her everything.  Which I did.  The very next day.  Because if I put it off I might not do it and if I took longer than a day to read it, I feared might hemorrhage something.  Fortunately, the book wasn't that bad, but uhhh it was problematic.

Let's just say that the plot was very slow for one storyline (the first half of the book is essentially 8+ weeks of sailing with nothing happening except a random pirate attack and random a magic monster attack in an unsuccessful attempt to make things exciting) and got slower and slower in the other storyline (which is humanizing backstory on the villain from the first book).  The two storylines don't really mesh or intertwine, and in the end they're jammed together in a conclusion that doesn't entirely make sense.  And generic!Whitelandia was everything I'd dreaded and more.  Also, there was a very disturbing lolwtfbbq plot point with regards to the fact that the backstoried villain is a eunuch.

But see!  Together, Krispy and I got through the Kingdom of Xia duology together!  By acting as a buffer and gauging each other's taste in books, we managed to find a happy medium that satisfied our mutual curiosity with minimum effort.  Schneizeleffort extended to book reading, baby!

Have you had a cooperative reading effort before?

P.S. Schneizeleffort always wins the day.

P.P.S. We're planning a post on the concerns raised by Stormdancer and its worldbuilding and research. So we will link up to all the relevant posts in that later post. However, if you're dreadfully curious about the brouhaha mentioned above, here are a few links to fill you in.

  • Part 3 of our friend Wistfully Linda's Ponderings on YA Asian Fantasies: Green-Eyed Asian Love Interest (this post got Krispy started thinking cultural appropriation & world building)


Fancy Flower Friday

Krispy and I have an incredibly talented friend whose floral arrangements are all the more beautiful because she handcrafts every flower out of paper--scrapbooking paper, tissue, coffee filters, Q-tips, wire, and floral tape all come together with paint and bleach and hot glue and scissors to make a thing of beauty.

And then she does it again.


And again and again.

She does make some very gorgeous flowers and not only that, she arranges them too!  Her creations are so beautiful that people are always asking her to decorate.  I say she should charge them by the hour, or at least by the vase.  I mean look!  All the flowers in this post are for one particular event.  Our friend is a flower-making machine.

We all have our creative outlets.  For Krispy and me, it's writing and manatees and penmanship, among other things.  I tried out flower-making under our mutual friend's tutelage and, er, I haven't quite her patience or her nimble fingertips or experience, so mine are not pictured here.  They didn't come out half-bad, but that's largely because our friend did all the majority of the work painting and drying and folding and cutting and after she showed me how to assemble them, I merely finished up what she had done.

(This is the same friend who baked butterscotch Dalek cupcakes for Krispy's sister in the last post, by the way.)

She does some great stuff, eh?  She should get that Etsy store of hers open so she can send her flowers out into the world.  These won't wither and shed petals!  Good thing she gave me a tissue flower because I have a black thumb and murder every living flower I touch.

Have you tried any new crafts lately or learned crafts from a friend?



I saw this last week on Kate Hart's blog, then Jessica Love posted, as did Katy Upperman. So we couldn't resist the steal.


loving... The IMAGINE DRAGONS album. The Sister talked about it in her Fall Music Preview post, but now that I've had a chance to listen to it, I can add my vote to her rec. I'm especially digging the song, DEMONS.

Demons by Imagine Dragons on Grooveshark 

reading... Tiger Lily, a riff on Peter Pan that I'm enjoying so far and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yeah, I know. I'm nearly a decade late on the latter, but I have friends who loved it in high school, and the movie is out soon!

watching... Doctor Who, though we're becoming increasingly disenchanted with the way Steven Moffat is showrunning this thing. Moffat is good when he's good, but I think that's only in small, concentrated doses a la the classic episode "Blink."
Also watching, The Walking Dead - just started & my sister hates everyone, lol.
Aaaand college football (Cal Bears - already breaking my heart; UCLA Bruins - surprisingly good!)

thinking about... writing, actually. And how I'm so freaking behind on some stuff (not necessarily writing related). And where the heck did the summer go?

anticipating... October! Lots of exciting things planned for October! Concerts and travel! On a more timely/September note, anticipating so many books! Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, which I'll hopefully pick up this weekend and Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys (which I've already pre-ordered).

wishing... More 3 day weekends! Seriously, I'm burning out.

making me happy This silly guy (and his Halloween bandana)

And as for Alz--

loving... Tea. Oolong milk tea floats and jasmine milk tea floats.  Also citrus tea.  And Thai tea with boba.

reading... Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder still, and also piecemealing my way through the increasingly problematic (over-written, culture appropriation & exoticizing, lack of research, etc.) Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.  Also just finished Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan--I like some facets of it, but was ultimately underwhelmed and a little disappointed.

watching... Doctor Who, with Krispy & her sister.  Ditto everything she said RE: Moffat steamrolling the show into the realm of angry plot-holed unwatchableness.  I've also been watching 07 Ghost with Krispy, which we lovingly refer to as "fantasy anime" and "that anime where the protagonist is shackled hand and foot for like 8 episodes straight".

Dalek cupcakes for the Sister's birthday by our friend.
thinking about... Revision.  I have to sit on things for a long time after finishing them before I can go back and shred them.

anticipating... Shamefacedly, The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson.  I know, I know I panned the first book but my masochistic streak runs strong and there were enough hilariously bad moments of WTF-ery in the first book that I kind of want to read the second just to see if there are more.  Although after perusing the promo chapters online, I was saddened to learn that Elisa has (apparently) kept off the pounds and is no longer a fat princess.

wishing... I could carve better.

making me happy... Yogurt-flavored Hi-Chew candy.


Randomosity on Fridays: Fall Music Preview!

Hey all, I sort of didn't notice it was September already (I seriously dated something as August just yesterday) until I got slammed by Start of School Traffic this week while trying to get to work. You can't really tell by the weather; we're still cruising in the high 80s.

In any case, whether I like it or not, it's the start of the a new season and there are many exciting things afoot. Travels, shows, books, music!

So for this first weekend after Labor Day, we're bringing my Sister back in to give you a brief Fall Music Preview. Enjoy! (P.S. It's her birthday this weekend!)

Now that it's September, all the little kiddies have gone back to school and I am left feeling old and wondering what the heck happened to summer. When late September comes along, I'll be crying in a corner realizing that I am not going back to school. But with a new school year comes new music.

From what I've learned from all my internships, Fall is actually the busy time for music vs. summer (which is actually our slow season). Lots of new albums from some of my favorite artists have come out or are coming out, so here is a brief fall music preview. Go buy these albums because they are amazing. Hope you enjoy!

First up is the new album from Two Door Cinema Club that just came out this past Tuesday! If you get it at Target its $7.99 or you can get a deluxe edition at Best Buy for $9.99 that includes the new album with another live CD. The new album is called BEACON, and though I've only listened to it all the way through twice, I enjoy it so far! It's a bit different from the 1st album and has more mid-tempo songs, but you can still tell that this is the same band. You can definitely hear the growth in this album.

Songs I'm feeling at the moment are "Someday" (which sounds like the Two Door we all know and love) and "The World Is Watching," which includes a nice guest vocal from Valentina.

The World Is Watching by Two Door Cinema Club on Grooveshark

Next album is from one of my new favorite bands, Imagine Dragons. I posted about them last time when they just had their EP out. Now their full-length, NIGHT VISIONS, is out. I was so impressed with their EP that I knew I would not be disappointed if I bought the full album, and I'm not! The only issue I have with the LP is that a lot of songs from the EP are on it, which is fine since I love those songs, but I'm not used to having so many EP songs on an LP. This full length album continues to show the versatility of the band which was showcased on the EP. And as the check-out lady at Best Buy told me when ringing me up, "I don't get bored listening to this album."

 One of my favorites from this album is actually a bonus song on the Best-Buy version called "Selene." "Tiptoe" is also another great one. Trust, the whole album is amazing.

 Selene by Imagine Dragons on Grooveshark

Now I'm going to introduce you guys to two very lovely British ladies. Their albums dropped in the summer months of July and August, but their music just fits much better with Fall.

The first is Jesse Ware with her album DEVOTION. If you are into mod, electronic, "I'm in a fancy modern restaurant/store" type music then you will definitely like Jesse. Some of her songs also remind of that chill vibe The Weeknd has. It's hard to describe her style of music, but just know it is great! She has such an amazing voice, and I love the feel of her songs. Plus, she is friends with the goddess that is Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine, so ya know Ima bit biased.

Some songs to check out from this album are "Wildest Moments" and "110%." Grooveshark is lame and doesn't have any from this album but "Valentine: is a great song too!

 Valentine by Jesse Ware featuring Sampha on Grooveshark

The next artist is Lianne La Havas with her album IS YOUR LOVE BIG ENOUGH. Lianne is a soulful singer, and it's crazy to think this voice comes out of someone at the young age of 23! It's one of those voices that you just fall in love with.

What really made me fall for her was the version of "No Room For Doubt" that she did for La blogotheque. I'll leave you with the album version of it, but definitely check out that version on youtube! Another song to listen to is "Don't Wake Me Up."

No Room for Doubt (feat. Willy Mason) by Lianne La Havas on Grooveshark

And with that, I leave you all. Hope you enjoyed these! Also, make sure to get the new The xx album called COEXIST next week (it is currently streaming in full on their website)! I saw them in July and died. Besides, their first album was SO GOOD, so check that one out too if you haven't.

Q4U: What are you looking forward to this Fall?


What We're Reading Wednesday

Krispy and I have been reading some surprisingly okay/even good books lately, and I realized we haven't done one of these look-at-what-we've-been-up-to-reading-wise posts in a while.  Take a gander at our recent reads!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - This is the book for which Krispy and I attended a book signing and were generally greatly anticipating for a multitude of reasons.  Krispy read most of it and then I stole it from her while she frolicked in Vegas, and then she stole it back, and I read it while I was at her house and finished it and had to wait impatiently for her to finish it so we could discuss.

Ultimately, she liked the book and I thought it was okay.  I probably would've been more frustrated/critical if I hadn't read the original online version of it; nostalgia hardcore factored into the experience.  A joint review of this light/diet-fantasy adventure is forthcoming.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard - Krispy just finished this one and rather enjoyed it.  She also judged it to be a book thatI wouldn't immediately lambast with an F and 0 stars due to sheer character incompetence or stupidity, which means I have neutrally medium-high hopes for it.  She did say it was very plotty and we had an interesting discussion about racial stereotypes that may or may not be stereotypes and the difficulties involved in writing them in a historical/period piece like this.

Mind you, the racial discussion sprang from a minor part of the book.  Post on that possibly forthcoming.  In the meantime, Krispy enjoyed the Victorian zombies.

City of Fire by Laurence Yep - I found this MG book at the library and was like holy crap omg because it was Laurence Yep and alternate history San Francisco with shape-shifting dragons, magic, mythological creatures, and more multiculturalism than you could shake a stick at.

It started off amazingly awesome, well-researched and with glorious immersive world-building--but by halfway through, the book started to lag due to pacing issues and a very, very straightforward plot, and Big Reveals that were tossed off in a very flat informative manner.  I do want to read the sequel but I have lowered expectations.

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake - Krispy just got this one from the library and is reading it right now.  It is the much-anticipated (by us) sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood which we both enjoyed and never managed to write a review for, although you can get an idea of how much we liked it from the fact that it was all over our Class of 2011 YA Superlative Blogfest posts.

Krispy's not far in yet but likes it so far, and she'd better read fast because I want to read it too.  We don't read much YA horror around here just because we get distracted by shinier covers and titles, but Kendare Blake pens some good ghost stories.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder - A book about which we have both heard a great deal and which many people have urged us to read.  Krispy got it from the library and as usual I stole it from her.  The only other book I've read by Maria V. Snyder is Inside Out, which I liked but didn't love, and I can tell that Poison Study is her first book from the way it's written.

Which is not to say that it's not interesting and fairly well-written, mind you!  I do have some suspicions about a large plot point though.  Also, despite the fact that the heroine is around 16 or 17, this doesn't seem like YA and the publisher is not a YA publisher, so I'm not sure why I've seen it touted as YA.

That's what's on our current literary platter!  Fantasy, Victorian zombies, alternate fantasy San Francisco, horror and ghosts, and poison fantasy.  Delicious and deadly!

What have you been reading lately?  Old good books, new good books, much-recommended books?