Happy New Year Again!

In celebration, I bring you my constant companions—four mountain walruses by name of George, John, Paul and Ringo. May their ineffable cuteness bring you good fortune in the year to come!

I ate my last hamburger of the year today, I worked more on a necklace, I am still fiddling but near completion on my first crude wax ring carving, and picked up some polyfill from the craft store so that future plushy endeavors will continue to be a few pounds over curvy pleasingly plump.

Go out there and stare at the moon—as Krispy said, it's a blue one!

Happy New Year!

It's New Year's Eve, and there's a blue moon!

I think I'll go make a wish on it (I mean, why not? It's a weird astronomical thingamabob, right?). ;)

I saw my last movie for 2009/the decade today (and in 3D too!). AVATAR was gorgeously real and all kinds of beautiful. See it if you haven't. Oh James Cameron, you fiddled with my heartstrings with Titanic when I was a tween girl, and now you're dazzling my eyes with all the bio-luminescence of Pandora and making me empathize with blue people. So good.

The last book series I finished in 2009? Percy Jackson & the Olympians. So glad I finished it, but I'm sad it's over. Um, more please?

The last thing I wrote in 2009: a random drabble set in Story of Questionable Origin-verse, which I should finish before the clock strikes midnight.

I have New Year's resolutions somewhere around here, but until I find them, I'm just here to say HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! May the new decade be better than the last!



I'm late thanks to the hectic holiday, but here's our gift/greeting to you! Almost a herd of Prongses!

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS everyone! I hope Santa brought you what you wanted and you find some time to relax and enjoy.


Book Reading Udpate

It's almost Christmas! Is everyone excited? I am, even though I've pretty much opened all my presents already. I usually save them, but when your friends are badgering you to open them, it's hard to say no. Besides, it turns out one of my friends and I got each other the same thing. It was pretty awesome. LULZ were had.

In any case, I've got one more Christmas surprise in the works and a holiday message for anyone who drops by this blog whether by accident or choice or coercion. So that will be beaming its way to you come Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on when I find the time. (I'm desperately trying to finish writing something for a friend. Shh.)

I've also been READING, which is surprising since like I said, I no longer have a Winter Break to slob around during - a fact that still troubles me greatly.

I have finished not one but TWO books already - The Titan's Curse and The Battle of the Labyrinth, both from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. These books really do get better, though I have to say I liked Book 3 more than Book 4. I hear Book 5 is the best, but I have yet to get my hands on it. I'm like 98 in the queue for the library copy, so I'm contemplating just BUYING the book. I was so desperate to keep my reading high after I finished Book 4 that I went to Amazon and read the first 6 pages of Book 5 through the preview.

Um, yeah. My sister rolled her eyes at me in disdain.

Anyway, I do have a huge pile of OTHER books I borrowed from the library, as I stated in my revised list of books, so I started to work at that while I wait for the last Percy Jackson book/contemplate buying it.

I've started Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. Not far enough in it to really say anything about it, but so far so good.

Anyone else itching to read something?

Finally some plugs:
Check out Merc's story Hero's Choice out as a serial online.

My co-conspirator, co-writer, and co-slightly evil person Alz is not only a fantabulous writer, she's rather crafty too. Randomly, she gets it into her head to try new crafty things every once in a while like jewelry making and welding or something. I'm not sure. I just reap the benefits of her immense talent. Please check out her cute and pretty works at her craft blog Sparkling Rampage, which is also located in our sidebar. If you're a BBC's Merlin TV show fan (as I am), you'll like her most recent post.

Until Christmas then darlings!


Lists of Things: Books III

As I am now officially on Winter Break, (even though I started writing this post when I still had a week of class left to go), I shall be embarking on a marvelous endeavor: to read the 34,209,234,589,234 books that have been lingering on my ever-growing to-read list for the past several years.

Of course, I say this every break (winter and spring and summer) and I haven't progressed very far. It's gotten worse since grad school, though, since sometimes I have to finish two novels a week and be in mental shape to intelligently discuss them or at least try to sound intelligent while discussing them (two different things, people, two different things), so skimming and skipping aren't such great ideas even when the books are excruciatingly obtuse, boring, or stupid.

What more usually happens is that I end up reading moderately crappy YA and/or romance novels as fed to me by Krispy, such as the Twilight series and, more recently, Hush, Hush.

So since Krispy made a list of books she wants to read (and wants me to read, yes yes, dear, I have Havemercy as one of the top three books I'm to read this time around), I shall follow up with a list of some of the books I have read this year.

1. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick: Krispy brought this book to my attention because it looked like it was trying to be the next Twilight, only with fallen angels instead of vampires. (Plus it has fantastic cover art.) We didn't expect it to be very good—but we weren't expecting it to be as bad as it was, either. (Edit: I stand corrected. Krispy actually expected it to be good; I was the only one not expecting much. She has also reminded me that, despite my disappointment, I'm still interested in reading the upcoming sequel, Crescendo, in the miniscule hope it will get better.) It's a sad thing when a book doesn't live up to your already low expectations. The story suffered from the loathsomely annoying and criminally stupid main character's BFF, a "bad boy" love interest who was so bad that he…skipped school once in a while in order to play pool at a pool house (and at the bar, he drinks…7-Up), gratuitous use of…ellipses, a lack of sufficient fallen angel backstory, implausible and incredulity-inducing circumstances that were meant to be funny or dramatic but only ended came off as crudely forced and badly written, an overabundance of badly-done and not-funny clichés, sundry other writing problems, AND, most importantly, an extremely large plot hole. No spoilers here, but suffice to say that it made it so that pretty much the entire plot failed to make sense. Whoever was the editor for this book did a sucktastic job, sorry to say. The main thing I liked was the purported bad boy's name: Patch.

2- 5. The Deepgate Codex Series by Alan Campbell: A darkly atmospheric, amazingly-written series of books set in a beautifully developed and lavishly detailed fantasy world with its own mythology and cultures. The first book was the best, the second one was still good, and the third one was good but got a leeeeetle bit weird. Okay, a lot weird. But even though I still have mixed feelings about the third book (God of Clocks, and featured on Krispy's list), I salute the author for taking a risk and plunging ahead where he wanted. The series includes Scar Night, Iron Angel, and God of Clocks, and is apparently ongoing. There is also a prequel novella called Lye Street that was released as a limited edition hardcover and is now sold out, but for some reason my local library has a copy. An autographed copy. What the hell.

6. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: I confess that I haven't actually finished reading this book yet. I started reading it, er, a long time ago—many months, in fact—on the recommendation of a friend. The reviews for this book are stellar and my friend also loved it, and I just could not finish reading it in one go, as I often do. I found the story to be very slow, with a lot of dramatic buildup that never sees surcease, and I had very little sympathy for the main character; at the point where I left off reading, some bad things had happened to him and I lacked any amount of sympathy or empathy for him because I felt like he'd had it coming. There were also a couple inexplicable plot contrivances that, rather than having a reasonable or even lame explanation, have no explanation at all. The world is beautifully crafted, and the writing style is nice and even occasionally lovely, although overall it is not amazing. The main problem seems to be that this book is mostly setup for the next book, and while there are amazing descriptions of how Kvothe has rescued princesses and killed angels and been kicked out of this super awesome school younger than most people are admitted—well, none of that happens in this book, apparently. I'm still interested enough to keep on reading and am determined to finish reading this book, but—we'll see when I get around to it.

7. The Penguin of Death by Edward Monkton: A picture book containing a poem about the penguin of death. One of the most amazing books ever written about penguins of death. Srsly.

8. A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami: Uh, I had to read this one for class. It was interesting. It was first-person narration featuring a nameless protagonist who is threatened by some yakuza-esque organization's number-two man and is forced to go running across Japan in pursuit of a magical sheep from Mongolia or wherever that can possess people and make them immortal and also wants to take over the world. This makes it sound more exciting and thrilling than it actually was, because it wasn't really a pulse-pounding adventure or pulse-pounding at all. Apparently the book was also about fascism, although I was not aware of this until my professor announced it in class; although bemusing, he supported this announcement with explanations and citations from the book, so I bought his interpretation. Did I enjoy reading it? Well, it was okay and interesting enough, but not anything I would've picked up on my own and not something I'd really want to spend time rereading either.

9. Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami: The sequel to the book above, although it was published five or six years later and the author wrote a book or two in between. Can be read as a standalone work, though reading it after the first book makes it make more sense. Despite the whole magical sheep thing in the first one, I found the second book to be more puzzling and kind of random, although this could be because I read this one first (also for class). The ending was a little unsatisfying because there were about a hundred dangling loose ends and a lot of weirdass surrealistic WTF-ery going on and no real immediate resolution. I mean, sure there was resolution—the protagonist finds himself and understands Deep and Meaningful things!—but it's that kind of, hmm, "literary" and "intellectual" resolution where you have to interpret things and draw your own connections in order to find any of it at all. Again, it was an interesting book, but once again, not something I'd read on my own or want a copy of. (Except I had to buy my copy since no libraries nearby had one.)

10. Modeling in Wax for Jewelry and Sculpture by Lawrence Kallenberg: I feel like such a jewelry nerd. I actually sat down to have a leisurely skimming read-through of this—skimming the parts that I already knew or wasn't as interested in, and more closely reading those sections pertinent to my interests. Between this and what I've gleaned from research online and from other books, I feel fairly well-informed about the basics of carving wax and would like to try it some time over break. I don't have the facilities to do casting myself (not yet—but someday…) but there are casting houses and services available to do all that stuff. Even if you're not interested in the actual nitty-gritty, this book is still great to peruse because of the 5 or so color inserts of finished jewelry, including the fancy silver-and-gold unicorn featured on the cover.

11. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: The same friend who leant me Name of the Wind leant me this one too. This YA fantasy was highly acclaimed and she really loved it, but I was less than impressed. I found the pacing to be incredibly slow—they set out on a journey at the beginning of the book, but due to plot contrivances and the limitations of first-person narrative, you don't even find out where they're going or why they're going there until 3/4 of the way into the book. The preceding 3/4 is basically them walking or riding along the way and getting tidbits of the world and mythology—which was very well-crafted, beautifully Greek-influenced, and enjoyable—up to a point. I guess I'm impatient. Also, I didn't really like the narrator that much. Also, there's a point where first-person trickery comes into play wherein the narrator is perfectly aware of something very important but the reader doesn't find out about this obvious thing until the end of the book, which I found to be unsurprising and unimpressive.

Why does it sound like I'm bagging on all the books my dear friend gives to me? I LOVE most of the books she tosses my way. In fact, to do her justice, I'll just list a few here, regardless of whether or not I've read them this year:

12. Beauty by Robin McKinley: Another YA fantasy and another angle on the whole Beauty and the Beast tale, this book is brimming with lush description, luxuriant detail, and a practical, down-to-earth narrator who finds herself frequently at odds with her surroundings. Beauty's attitude coupled with McKinley's attention to detail and the flow of the story made it quite an enjoyable read. I like a lot of Robin McKinley's books and Beauty is one of my favorites.

13. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: One of the most classic science fiction novels evarrr, and simply astonishing. Pacing, character, plot, worldview, politics, psychology—this book exceeds in everything. What is it? It's the story of a boy named Ender and how he deals with being trained to—never mind. I can't do the story justice in a simple summary. Suffice to know that it is a story that will tug upon your emotions and grip you until you stay up all night reading and your eyeballs are bleeding from not blinking. Or at least that's what happened to me.

14. Enchantment by Orson Scott Card: Another marvelous book by Orson Scott Card that takes on Russian fairytales (including, of course, Baba Yaga) and connects the past and the present in the way that only a master storyteller can. Time travel in a fairytale? Why, yes. Yes, please, thank you. Explanations for how certain details came about in fairytales, such as Baba Yaga's chicken-legged house? Why, yes. Yes, thank you, please. Humor and emotion and an engrossing tale? GIVE IT HERE.

Okay, I'd better stop there because my friend has loaned me so many great books and if I don't stop now I'll go on forever. So here are a few books that I recommend, a few that are meh, and a few that I didn't personally like so much even though they had potential. I must note that with The Thief, at least, I did finish it, and even went on to read the sequel and have the (borrowed) third book sitting on my shelf awaiting my attention. The sequel picked up a bit, but I still had Issues of Implausibility with it. But still! Interesting enough that I wanted to find out what happened. And hope that it will get better.


Lists of Things: Books Revisited

I've caught a cold again, sort of. My sister's done with finals and back, but she brought a cold with her and I think I caught a bit of it. In any case, I was not feeling all that well today.

However, a trip to the library late in the day when I was feeling better brightened everything up. You see, I went a little crazy and put a bunch of YA books on hold, and uh, most of them came in at the same time.

So I'm revisiting and revising my list of books, just like how the colds of the season keep revisiting me. Dear Cold/Illness, please go away. When did my immune system become so weak? I think it's time to move EXERCISE to the top of my New Year's Resolutions.

REVISED Book List aka Crazy YA-ish Book Binge:

1. Percy Jackson & The Olympians Series: I'm about halfway through Book 3 right now. I just brought back Book 4 from the library since my friend doesn't have the books past #3. I'll need to put Book 5 on hold at some point, so I'll have it ready to go when I finish #4.

2. The Demon's Lexicon: My friend recommended it to me, and I've been meaning to read it. Plus, it's about 2 brothers running away from magic, and my friend says it reminded her vaguely of the TV show Supernatural and I LOVE Supernatural.

3. Silver Phoenix: It's new! It's an Chinese fantasy story! My NaNo was an attempt at a pseudo-Asian fantasy! Mostly, I've been curious.

4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth: I keep hearing about this book and have been very, very curious.

5. Fell: This is the sequel to The Sight, which I rather enjoyed, but I remember feeling a little unsatisfied with the ending. Been meaning to read the sequel, but I think I might need to re-read the first one...and these are large books...

6. A Great and Terrible Beauty: I've been curious about this one too for a while. So I'm finally getting around to it. Yes.


7. The Hunger Games: Keep hearing about how good this one is, and it has the Merc seal of approval. I put it on hold and am slowly moving up the queue.

8. Fallen: Um, fallen angels and also the main character's name is LUCE. After telling this to my friend Luce, we decided we MUST read this book. Must.

9. City of Bones: Also something I've been curious about. Friend used to read the author's fanfic works and was curious also about her original fic.

Whether I get through these books or not is another matter. Holiday and health permitting, I shall do my best. For now though, I'm going to go listen to Lady Gaga's song "Telephone" while playing Bejeweled. IT'S SO CATCHY.


Lists of Things: Books

I am 99.5% done with Christmas shopping (0.5% is because we just got our Secret Santa picks today at work). No, seriously. I know it's only December 8. I can scarcely believe it myself, especially since I'm a self-proclaimed Procrastinator and a notoriously indecisive shopper. I think stock-piling presents 2 months in advance helped. I'm not crazy, but I do have a lot of friends with birthdays in November, which makes the end of the year a double whammy of gift-contemplating and piggy-bank breaking. (It's ok, November children. I forgive you because obviously, I adore you.)

So while I am relieved that bit of holiday madness is out of the way, I also came to the rather troubling realization yesterday that I no longer have this thing called "break" - as in Winter Break, Spring Break, glorious glorious Summer Break. It is troubling because having been working full-time for a month now, I can tell you there are days when I miss my part-time status 3-day weekends, and with the cold weather (it's pretty dang cold for LA) and my sister freaking out about finals week to me, I'm really starting to itch for Winter Break. EXCEPT I NO LONGER HAVE ONE.

Normally during Winter Break, I like to curl up and catch up on the things Academia tended to keep me from - like TV shows (this is a half-truth since I had DVR and thus watched everything), my non-college/"home" friends (who I now see all the time: hi peeps!), and READING. Leisure reading. Fun reading. Non-dry reading. Reading I'm not doing for a grade or sticking post-its in for quotes or thinking up theses for. Reading that has nothing to do with test subjects, how experiments are set up, and what the results were (though psych experiments are quite interesting to read about).

So now I'll have to scrounge for time to do that since cold weather is ideal weather for reading. I do the bulk of my reading during Winter Breaks and Summer Breaks, and now I'll just have to adjust for lack of breaks. Plus, lately it seems people about the Interwebs have all been in reading mode (or otherwise doing tons of book giveaways). So taking a page from the lovely ladies of Nayu's Reading Corner, Inkfever, Merc Rants, Myth-takes, and From Elysium, I'm going to post about reading/books.

At least, I'm going to post a list of them that I'd like to read or finish reading on my days off. I think maybe Alz and I should do random Lists of Things more often. It is a sadly underused tag/label. In no particular order:

1. Percy Jackson & the Olympians series: I'm in the middle of Book 2, have Book 3 somewhere, and I'll get the rest when I need to. I started the series when I was tutoring. This one and the Keys to the Kingdom series were recced to me as series an 11 year old boy might enjoy. I finished Keys to the most current book (the last book isn't out yet), and it's about time I caught up with this, especially since I LOVE Greek myth so much. Plus, the movie's coming out soon, which has prompted my sister to read it. My sister's the opposite of me. I usually read books for books. She reads books for movies. I'm competitive. I must finish first.

2. God of Clocks by Alan Campbell: It's the third book in the trilogy, and I'd like to know how it ends, even though book 2 got reeeeeally weird. Also, this book belongs to Alz and I think I've had it for a few months...

3. Pride & Prejudice and Zombies: because nothing says holidays like Jane Austen and the undead.

4. The Graveyard Book: I forgot I bought it. It was recently unearthed, buried beneath a mountain of jackets and stuffed animals.

5. The Bone Doll's Twin: I took this to Taiwan last summer and took it all the way back without ever cracking the cover. It was a Christmas present from last year.

6. Assassination Vacation: This is the 2nd Sarah Vowell book I've taken hostage from my friend. I should read it and give it back, and I like US history too! Speaking of which...

7. Take the Cannoli: The 1st Sarah Vowell book I took hostage. How many YEARS have I had this now??? I'm sorry!

8. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow: This is a biography of Alexander Hamilton I've been reading since, well, practically since the 6th Harry Potter book came out. It's not that it's not interesting. It is; it's a great read. But as my friends can tell you, I love the dude on the $10. He is my favorite Founding Father. I have the nerdiest, geekiest AP U.S. History crush on him, and I blasted through this monster of a book fairly quickly (I'm a slow reader by nature). It was the last less than 100 pages that slowed me down because, well, I think you know how the story ends. Uh, Spoiler Alert, Mr. Hamilton dies in a DUEL with Aaron Burr. I know, I know. It happened like 200 years ago and I know it is inevitable, but it kind of sucks having to read up to it, knowing how it's going to end, seeing it can't be stopped, and seeing how MAYBE it could have been avoided. I'll get over it. Eventually.

9. The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix: I read this and loved it back in high school. Luce recently started reading it (she's on the last book) and reminded me how good it is. My usual elephant's memory is failing me on the details, so I think it's a good time to re-read.

10. Various manga I've neglected to keep up with.

11. Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett: Actually, this last random entry is for Alz. YOU SHOULD READ IT DURING YOUR BREAK.

I think that's a good list. Now, to figure out where I'm going to fit in massive TV/anime series marathoning into my lack of Breakage. (Yes, I'm a series marathon-er.)

What are you all reading or planning on reading? How are your holiday plans coming along?

P.S. Anyone want a holiday card/email from A Nudge?

P.P.S. Tere at The Lesser Key has some posts with linkage to nifty book contests if you're interested!


'Tis the Season for Greetings!

There is a reason I'm blogging instead of sleeping off this cold. It's December! The holidays are upon us, and frankly, I'm in a giving mood.

I would like to send holiday Greeting Cards out to people this December. I did this once with some Critique Circle peeps, and it was quite pleasant. These cards will also be personalized - as in Alz or I (or both!) will doodle a little something in your card or scribble a funny anecdote or rec a book or fancily write your name on the envelope. I'm not sure yet what we'll do. It kind of depends on time.

Everyone will get a fancily-written-name though because I love doing that. No seriously. I do. It doesn't even have to be YOUR name that is fancily written. You can request a name for the fancy treatment.

So if you would like Alz and I to send you a greeting card this holiday season, please comment below with your email OR you can email us at nudging[dot]along[at]gmail[dot]com. We shall be in contact for a mailing address OR if you're afraid we're creepy stalkers, I will be happy to scan you a card.

You may also make a request like "Can I have an awkward turtle doodle?" or ask us a question like "how many times have you been to Disneyland?". BUT I make no guarantees those wishes will be granted. We're not Santa Claus. We do not have his magic powers or his flying reindeer. I don't even have a celestial quadruped, though there are a few cosmic serpents slithering about...

If you would like a book rec from us, please give us some idea of what you like to read. We might not be able to answer, depending on the genre.

Finally, you are in no way obligated to send us a greeting card back (though we would love it if you did, even if it's email/e-greeting).

Um, I want you to get your cards within the month, give or take a few weeks. So please let us know by Dec. 12, 2009.

And this is getting long, so I'm going to leave you with this contest my sister showed me where you can win AN AWKWARD TURTLE. I kid you not. It's cute too! Contest and turtle are from the talented and fun WongFu Productions, and you can check it out at Awkward Turtle Contest. What are your awkward moments?

P.S. How prolific is this whole awkward turtle thing anyway? Is it more mainstream now? During my internship in summer 2008, only fellow Californians seemed to have any idea what I was talking about when I busted out the awkward turtle hand gesture. Talk about awkward.

(P.P.S. There's also lots of other awkward things - snowmen, moose, turkeys, jellyfish... Yes, time for bed I think.)


The Holiday Spirit!

I should have paid attention when my horoscope said the start of this month for me would be a doozy. It seems after the excitement/stress of NaNoWriMo and Real Life, the universe decided to reward me with a kick in the immune system. Yes folks, I caught a cold in the afternoon today. I was really hoping I was just allergic to something in my cubicle. No such luck.

In any case, I did not win NaNo, but I did get more words down than usual. I'll probably do a Post-NaNo post later in the week when I'm not feeling so groggy.

The real reason for this post is to give you a HEADS-UP for a post coming later in the week. Why? It's December. The mini-tree in the office is decorated with office supplies and lit! I love the holidays and I'm in a giving mood! More on what this means in the next post. Later!


Happy Thanksgiving!

I couldn't think of anything clever for the title, so I went with straight forward. Haha. I'm pretty full to bursting right now, so I'm going to make this short and sweet.

I can't believe this is the last full week of November. OMG. Alz validated her word count for NaNo yesterday and posted below. I'm still trucking along very slowly. I'll be lucky if I get anywhere near my word count from last year, but I'm kind of not freaking out because this year's NaNo had its own unique challenges. What I mean is, last year was my first year after graduating from Berkeley. I was job-hunting and tutoring once a week, but other than that, I had a lot of time on my hands. Getting into the NaNo thing was easier because of more time, and I kind of didn't have an excuse to NOT attempt writing a novel. Haha. This year, I started working full time pretty much right as NaNoWriMo kicked off.

It's not really an excuse, but for anyone who has never worked full-time before/commuted to work/school, it's frelling tiring that first week or two. Combined with the amped up social schedule of November, uh, let's just say it is a challenge for me every day to find time and energy to write. Oh and did I mention my parents decided to fix-up the house suddenly THIS MONTH. Um, yeah. Also, I just write very slowly. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Getting 500 words per day out of me is an accomplishment, unless we're talking academic paper and deadline. So since the end is nigh, my brain might kick into gear! Yay!

In any case, I still think NaNo's awesome, and I'm very very thankful for my job. It was kind of rough not having something tangible to do after the awesomeness of being graduated wore off.

I'm also thankful for my family, my amazing, amazing friends who seem to become more awesome every year, and of course, for all of the awesome people I've met online through blogging and writing. You guys are great. And I'm using the word awesome a lot, but it's an awesome word and I'm from California, so it's ingrained in my every day language and I really can't help it.

So I hope all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving eat up! This is the day when pigging out to your heart's (or stomach's) content is totally approved! For those of you who don't celebrate this, you should eat up anyway. Food is awesome.



The End Draweth Nigh

'Tis November 25th--but five more days left of the glorious endeavor known as NaNoWriMo. Today the NaNo site activated the official wordcount verifier, so I verified my wordcount and collected my shiny new reward graphic, which doth looketh thus:

The product of blood, sweat, and tears.

I will admit that once I did hit 50,000, the urge, the haste, the pressure petered off some, and as a result, I wrote less. I did make an effort to write everyday, but some days I barely wrote at all. I entertained myself by instead nagging Krispy every night to write more, and everyday to write more, and every twilight to write more. I have not seen New Moon, but I may very well let my curiosity get the better of me and actually pay $6 for a before-noon showing. But no more than $6, my friends, and even then but grudgingly.

But back to writing--my NaNo novel this year is perhaps the greatest mess and in general the worst NaNo novel I've ever written. It's slow, and goes nowhere fast, and features a lot of walking and talking and sitting around and talking, and very little gets accomplished. But for all that, it was fun to write, and is still fun to write, for it is nowhere near done. Of course, that could be said of most of my writing projects.

Krispy, on the other hand, gave me a tantalizing taste of her story the other night (or was it last night?) and I must say this: I just churn out the wordage without care for anything such as style, lyricalness, or sense. From the couple of paragraphs I've read of Krispy's story, though, it is marvelous and far more beautifully written, and sounds like a real story with intent and purpose instead of an excuse to write about magical ninjas glomming onto a most reluctant knight.

I only wish she'd give me more. And write more. And faster. And these desires holds true year-round, not just for November. Write, Krispy, write! There is still time! The future is not yet decided! At dawn, look to the east!

Also, when I'm not writing or living life, I do other fairly useless things a lot. I therefore created a blog to document the creative results of my frequent bouts of procrastination, mostly involving shiny things, which I've named Sparkling Rampage because I thought it was a cool name and which I totally didn't steal at all from Legend of Mana's 2-handed axe technique of the same name.


Middling the Week

'Sup peeps. So I obviously calmed myself down and took a step back from blogging every time I looked at the calendar, looked at my word count, and started freaking out. I think bi-weekly is a good pace for this blog, especially considering we're going from once a month to twice a week in November. Trust me though, I've been holding back.

It is now Wednesday, November 18, more than halfway through the month. To tell you the truth, I thought things would calm the eff down by now, mostly because the many birthdays are over (omg, I just remembered one more right now...must text her...). As usual, I was wrong. I think this will be one of my NaNo lessons for this year:


On the other hand, it's been a happenin' November, full of pleasant surprises. Yesterday, for example, I squeezed in a mere 100 words or so, but it was totally okay because I had tickets to a free secret concert. My sister apparently has amazing Twitter and email skillz0rs and scored tickets to OK Go's secret show last night in LA. It was at the Grammy Museum at LA Live, and it was being filmed for Last Call with Carson Daly. Sadly this meant no pictures, but the show was AWESOME. Small crowd, small room, and pretty much a full concert set (and FREE). They said it'd only be 45 min, but it felt longer. New songs, old songs, random hilarity. Oh man, I had no idea they were so good live. The one downside was parking at LA Live.

Um, I had no idea parking there was $25. Yes. $25. Seriously had a ridic moment with the parking attendant when she said, "It'll be 25," and I stared at her and said, "Dollars???"

What does this have to do with writing? Nothing, to be honest, except that NaNo is all well and good, but so is your social life sometimes. Yes, it's November. Yes, this is possibly the only month in the year you set aside exclusively for mad writing with the excuse that thousands and thousands of people are dedicating themselves to the same crazy dream. But, sometimes life also hands you a pair of free concert tickets, and you really just need to take them. Really.

Now, time to distract the Inner Editor and get back to NaNo-ing.

(But I'm still really boggled by parking costing 25-freaking-dollars.)

(P.S. In case you missed it, Alz has been done with NaNo word count-wise for like a week now. That boggles my mind as well and I should be used to this!)

P.P.S. I almost forgot to share this random but fun name generator thing. Make Me Mighty. This one's mine: Princess Krispyhawk, the Firemaster: Judge, Jury and Executioner, Impeacher of Immutable Souls.


Krispy is forcing me to write this post.

Krispy said that if I didn't post about it, she would, and she said it in that very Krispy-ish, venemous, menacing tone of voice that makes absolutely everything sound like a threat, even something as innocuous as, say, "Let's go get frozen yogurt." When you say it that way, it sounds like you're threatening murder.

I hit 50,000 words today--however, let it be said that my NaNo is a mess of inaction, and what little action there is is mostly walking around and talking, and the story is so ill-paced that it does not limp along as much as it does stagger in drunken circles before falling to the ground and spasming. I do not believe I've ever written such a long story in which so very little happens.

Also, with regards to editing, I have done none. For NaNoWriMo I make it a policy never to edit, revise, or delete anything, and because of this there are many instances where sentences just don't make sense or metaphors peter out before actually flowering out into a full image. It is an embarrassment of a plethora of mistakes and loose ends and unexplained developments and undeveloped tangents. Let's face it: my NaNo story this year is a total mess.

But that, my friends, is that crazy, cathartic joy of it. Writing without care for editing or sensibility, without worry of review or critique, without concerns for publication possibilities and potential. Writing just to write, and surprising yourself with an occasional amazing tidbit here, a striking image there, a poetic phrase here, a dramatic moment there. Ah! Every NaNo has its moments. Some more than others. This one in particular, not so many, but still--some.

Reaching 50,000 in 12 days is a new record for me, and as boggling to me as it is to everyone else. I don't know how I did it. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it again. As Krispy noted previously, reaching 10,000 in one day was also a new record--though as I've told her and shall now tell everyone else, I had literally nothing else to do that day but sit and write, still fired-up and rip-roarin'-ready to go, plus it was daylight savings so I had an extra hour. And I really did literally spend most of the day writing. So it is possible, and unfortunately now that I've done it, I'm going to have that dreaded realization dangling over my head all the time now, singing that seductive siren-song, ♪ It's possible...so why aren't you doing it?~♪♫

Krispy has been writing, slowly but surely, and I await in anticipation the first glimpse I'll have of her story. NaNoWriMo is about deadlines and pressure, about pushing yourself to write more than you normally would, and so I'm grateful for any writing this month manages to squeeze out of Krispy--because I love her writing so and it is my iron-clad belief that she should always write more, more, more, and give it all to me, because I am a whore for her writing and unashamedly so, right down to my literary core. See, Krispy? You even drive me to poorly-rhymed randomness. I expect you to be NaNo-ing right now, even as I write this.
Write more, Krispy! Write more! Crank up that wordcount and go for the gold! There will be ice cream at the finish line--or maybe boba. ♥♥♥


November is a bastard or Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

So last night, Alz, Luce, and I got together and completed a massive art project. You think I exaggerate, but this was an art project the likes of which have not been seen since our days in elementary school when some of my classmates were eating glue (I kid you not). We had markers of different colors and sizes, colored construction paper, scissors and glue! What were we doing? We were decorating a large cardboard box for our friend's belated birthday present. The completed project was pretty amazing. Alz has pictures.

The point being, I ended up NaNo-ing like 100 words maybe after we finished that and I went home. That's not bad since some word count is better than NO word count, but uh, I'm almost 16,000 words behind. Ahah ha.

I'm not freaking out (okay, I'm kind of freaking out) because I knew November's a bad month for me. It's the holiday lead-in month, and on top of that, for some reason, I like making friends with people whose birthdays are in November. It means my Social Life in Real Life suddenly goes up a few notches, and not only am I using all my creative juices on trying to figure out what presents to buy (and apparently how to wrap them), but I'm also going for broke (no really...How much do I owe you again, Alz?).

So really, any amount of wordage I manage alleviates my guilty conscience. I'm going to truck along, despite November's attempts at derailing me. And I know he's trying to because he's a shady bastard - my character November, but the month too. The amount of words I need to get on track is daunting, but it is not insurmountable! If all else fails, I'm going to write gibberish or maybe I'll just let November run amok and do his worst if that'll get him to be nicer to me.

Also, I've decided to completely numb myself to Alz's word count. She's at 40,563 words. Um, yes. Word Monster, that is what you are Alz, stop denying it.

There's a guest post at Icy Roses' blog about word count freak-outs that I found heartening. See it at From Elysium. But I pose the question, what if freaking out is part of the fun? Oooor maybe it's only if you're slightly masochistic (like I apparently might be) or in denial (which I probably am).

Oh! I experienced my first mini-write-in and word race this past weekend! It was a private party - just me, Luce, and Alz - but it was effective. Mostly. I mean, Luce and I were right about Alz's click-clacking on the keyboard being kind of distracting, not to mention stress-inducing and a reminder of AP Exam days. But we got over it after Luce and I decided to race each other to 100 words (baby steps!). I won that round, but she won the 500 words round. I discovered that intense competition actually makes me crumble under pressure (like my college football team seems to do after they get my hopes up for Pac-10 glory). The first race wasn't that intense, so I did okay. The second one was more competitive and that just tensed me up too much. There are psychological studies that show people do more poorly on certain tasks when they think they're being watched/judged - basically when they're made to feel self-conscious. This is one of many common-sense-like gems I learned from 4 years of study on the subject of the human psyche.

Uh, Clash of the Titans teaser trailer. Looks pretty EPIC (or possibly awful but still EPIC). Hahahaha.

(Excuse the randomness and rife use of parenthetical phrases in this post. I haven't been getting enough sleep between work/commuting, NaNo, social life, and trying not to break my face in the mornings when I get up and have to navigate through the piles and boxes of stuff piled around my room because the family decided it was a good month to do major housework/cleaning. Oh November.)


NaNoWriMo Day 4 & Things that really Interest Krispy

Um, so it's Day 4 of Nano, and I am officially 6668 words behind. Yes folks. My word count is still nonexistent, but look at me blog! Procrastination does weird things to me. In any case, I am feeling intensely guilty & I'm way behind on my TV show-watching schedule (which I'll admit is gratuitous), but I'm sacrificing my shows (some of them anyway) for Nano! I just have to get to the writing part.

Unfortunately, November hates me. I usually don't have much of a social life, but November always manages to side-swipe me with events. What's up with that? I thought I'd be okay once I graduated since that put an end to the dreaded Midterm Season, but I was wrong. Score: Krispy - 0, Universe - 100000000+ Also, don't name your characters after months that are dreadful to you because they inevitably will turn out shady.

So speaking of distractions, my sister made me aware of a remake of the movie Clash of the Titans. I vaguely remember seeing the original on TV (at least snippets of it), and anyway, I love Greek mythology like maybe I should've been a Classics Major LOVE it, so I'm KIND OF EXCITED. I mean, this could be a potentially bad idea. Like the movie Troy sorta killed parts of my soul, but I did enjoy select parts of it, and I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Disney's Hercules (okay, but really I love Disney, so more love than hate).

But then my sister showed me this post at ohnotheydidnt, and the movie posters are PRETTY AMAZING. Also, RALPH FIENNES is playing Hades. That's He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named VOLDEMORT as Hades, and um, Liam Neeson is Zeus. LIAM NEESON. Granted, Liam Neeson is sort of already a god-figure in Narnia, but he's freaking ZEUS. Ralph Fiennes. Liam Neeson. EPIC!

Okay, I think I'm working myself up too much. Speaking of great posters, have you seen the movie posters for The Lightning Thief yet? It's pretty awesome.

And while I'm on the topic of things I'm in to, check out Racebending.com, a website about the controversy surrounding the live-action movie of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I've actually never watched this show, though I've seen it on TV and heard good things about it, but the issues brought about by the casting for this movie interests me. Plus, the world of the Last Airbender is really cool in that it's a "fantastical Asian world," which is what I'm going for in my Nano and what I kind of want to see more of in general. I can only hope I pull it off with some skill.

So to tie all of that back to writing, find things you're passionate about and write about them. Greek mythology has influenced a lot of my reading and writing; there are a lot of themes and stories there that I draw from. I mean, the myths never get old for me. I can read them again and again. The whole Avatar thing made me consider, among many other things, the richness of Asian folklore and culture and how under-tapped it seems to be. Well, I'm finally going to try to draw more inspiration from my heritage. I'm just not sure NaNoWriMo was the best time to attempt such a challenging undertaking.

I did mention that I'm 6668 words behind right?

P.S. The only picture of me in my other costume: Hogwarts student! My Sirius Black from a few years ago was better. (Also, my actual costume, the Alice in Wonderland, still blows this one out of the water. C'mon! I had a Monty Python killer White Rabbit!)


NaNoWriMo has commenced!

And I'm already behind! My word count as of right now is a grand total of 0. I blame this on having maybe a little too much fun on Halloween, major house cleaning on Nov. 1, and beginning of the month work madness today.

Oh and you know how I said I was going to outline? Um, that DIDN'T HAPPEN. So far, I think only 3 people have names in my NaNo, and one of them has 2 names. I DON'T KNOW HOW THAT HAPPENED, but it did. It's okay though because I think I have a better idea of the plot this year than I did last year, and I've always kept everything trapped in my head anyway (ask Alz; I tell her nothing).

Speaking of Alz, the Word Ungeheuer and Mind-Boggling OVERACHIEVER, do you know what that woman's writerly output was on the first day of NaNo? You ready for this? 10,515. Yes, that's 1000 words TEN TIMES, plus 500. I kid you not. I don't know how she does this, and frankly, I gave up trying to figure it out a long time ago like back in high school when I refused to sit anywhere near her during Advanced Placement testing in order to avoid hearing her page-flips as she blazed out those essay answers.

Anyway, I ought to go write now before I get even more behind. But it's okay guys. That's just how I roll. Apparently, I masochistically like having dead-heat races to the finish with deadlines.

My friend, who I badgered, coaxed, and begged into doing Nano is signed up. She and I sort of operate the same way with this whole starting off behind thing. Friend her and cheer her on here: Evaleva!

Oh and before these become too out-of-season, Halloween pictures since it was kind of epic, and no lie, I talked and thought about Nanowrimo while I was out being ridiculous. Also, I now have a cool new reference for settings, The Edison.

In which I found a killer White Rabbit and fell down a rabbit hole...

The Edison in Los Angeles is super cool, by the way. It used to be an electric plant, so it's still themed that way, which makes it very atmospheric. It's kind of industrial and old-fashioned and very steampunk - PERFECT for Halloween.

Indeed, I saw some steamers, including this awesome time traveler-type guy (or something?). There were cool decorations/displays (i.e. heads in glass cases) and dancers in costume, including amazing ones on stilts.

Oh and of course, no Alice in Wonderland story is complete without random meetings with these characters:

I don't know these people at all, but they pulled me in for a spontaneous photo op and it was awesome. Okay, and the kicker: my name is Alice. It was about time this happened.

That's all to my randomosity. Hope you all had fun and safe Halloweens and are being very productive writers. I'm off to name some characters!


Official NaNoWriMo Post!

As promised, here is my Official NaNoWriMo Post! Look it even has capital letters.

Anyway, I've signed up. I am LIVE on the Nanowrimo site here: Kangaru, and in case you missed it, Alz is live here: Shizalent.

My NaNo novel is going to be about a young man trying to break the long-standing curse on his family, and it's set in some pseudo-Asian fantasy land, which hopefully I'll be able to pull off with some amount of skill and integrity. XP I'm super excited because I kind of love all of this, and there will be many shiny things like but not limited to: creepy settings, mythical beasties, hidden identities, a luck demon, and the enigmatic Midnight Sun. (I'll come up with a better summary/update my Nano profile page once I get a better handle on the plot. Heh.)

Please follow our progress and cheer (or jeer?) us on during the month of November! Friend us too if you're also participating! I am using a lot of exclamation points!

In other news, I've also decided what I'm going to be for Halloween - a Hogwarts student for one event and Alice In Wonderland for the other.


Who doesn't love Chocolate? NO ONE, that's who.

Look at me, all posting more than once a month! Anyway, I'm just popping by to point out this AWESOME POSSUM* contest that Yunaleska is having over at her blog.

She's giving away CHOCOLATE. That's Theobroma ("food of the gods") cacao chocolate. Anyone who gives away chocolate gets a Gold Star in my book because that's like putting more rainbows in the world. It really is.

So head on over to the contest at her blog: Nayu's Realm.

Good luck!

P.S. I'm signing up for NaNoWriMo. I swear I am. Just...later.

*Possums aren't actually awesome. They're actually pretty damn creepy. I know. I've seen them creeping around like creepers along my wall and in my driveway and all bloody and SCARY on the side of the road as I drive by. Uh, yeah.


Alz is LIVE on the Nanowrimo Site!

It is as the title says--as of approximately ten seconds ago, Alz is LIVE and kickin' on the Nanowrimo website! I am registered and ready to go, baby, and actually, that last part is a total lie since I'm NOT ready to go, but I swear that come November 1st, I will be writing, ready or not. In the future, my progress will be documented here.

Okay, my darling Krispy. I've registered for yet another year of madness. And I registered right now because a couple of minutes ago you said, and I quote, "I'm not making the first commitment!" and "Maybe I will do it after you do it then." Well, I've done it. Now it's your turn. Come, O Krispy, and commit. Commit.

(As to everyone else out there, my words are the same: Commit. Commit!)


October is Death's favorite month

Well, she's the favorite month of one former Death god and presently still cosmic serpent, Vikenti. And only because she makes a mean pumpkin pie.

Welcome to October everyone. Yes, I know it's like halfway through the month already, but that's no reason not to be polite. October's a cool month because there's Halloween, and who doesn't like an excuse to eat candy and dress without fear of people judging you for your unusual appearance? Who, I ask? Also, it means it is almost time for National Novel Writing Month aka Nanowrimo aka OMG-isn't-this-unconstitutional-because-it's-cruel-and-usual-punishment- oh-crap-I-guess-it's-not-because-I-signed-up-for-this-madness, or OMGWTFBBQ for short. (November, by the way, happens to be the favorite month of another Death.)

All of this leads me to ask, what are you going to be for Halloween and what are you going to be up to in November? If you're doing Nanowrimo, what kind of project are you thinking of doing?

My answer to the first question is I HAVE NO IDEA. My answer to the second is I'm going to be doing Nanowrimo. There, I said it. It's out in the world, making it embarrassing if I back out last minute like a coward (which, I'm not gonna lie, I don't put past myself). I will make a full-on Nanowrimo post a little later as it will likely have proof that I have signed up and proof that Alz has also signed up. I blame my participation on her, by the way, but I've wrangled another of our friends into doing it to. Misery loves company. It really does.

The point of this post though, in prep for Nano, is to list the things I learned from last year's Nanowrimo. I meant to do a post on that earlier, but obviously that never happened. So it's happening now.

1. Wow, you can actually write a lot if your only concern is word count. I ramble a lot when I blog, but when I actually write, I tend to be more concise. My word count tends to be small, but I'm also slow. Why? I'm one of those constant revisionists. I'm wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist, but I'm one of those people who tweaks things every time I open the doc or reads back every few paragraphs. It makes for slow going but is possibly why I don't revise often/much. Don't judge me. This is how I write, period - revise-as-I-go and then a once over. It's how I wrote essays and papers throughout my academic career and I came out of that okay! However, it is slow and not conducive to getting out that first novel draft. I really didn't think I'd be able to get 50,000 words out of me in a month. I didn't, but I did get over halfway there, which was a surprise.

2. Momentum/Discipline is key. Ideally, writing every day helps, but if you can't (and let's face it, sometimes you can't), having a writing schedule helps. I did not do either of these, but I wrote way more and way more consistently than usual. When I did write for consecutive days, I got a lot done because even when I was stuck I just fought my way through. But once I stopped for more than a day, it was so much harder to get back on the wagon.

3. Characters will walk all over you if you let them. A problem with turning off the inner editor is that it's a lot easier for characters to gain control. They can and they will and it's not always a good thing. Case in point, Vikenti in last year's Nano. I love Vikenti, but his adorable sullenness and my love for cute things with the tendency to bite destroyed my ability to keep him out of the story and running every which way with the plot. Okay, he wasn't that bad, but he shouldn't even have BEEN in the story and suddenly he was and not even being a minor character about it.

4. Planning is not necessary... I went into Nano with a general idea, a very beginning, and an end. No middle to speak of. I winged it. Interesting things happened (like Vikenti). It's pretty cool to just see where things take you.

5. ...but planning helps...a lot. The coolness of not planning aside, my plot got way out of hand. In an effort to make sense of things and to make the plot more "interesting," I overly complicated it, which hobbled the entire story. I ended up with way too many characters involved and the story became more about supporting characters who I happen to like a lot than about my MCs. Also, I hate to say it, but the Nano-go-to rule of "kill someone" only works so many times and it doesn't necessarily solve anything! Needless to say, I'm going to outline this year (something I never do).

And there you have it. I'll post more if I can think of anything else, but until then I'm off to sleep. It's going to hardcore rain tomorrow, which means I have to be up and leave earlier for work because in southern California, any kind of rain causes people to forget how to drive and panic. All in all, very slow going.


Fantasy versus Fiction versus ???

Krispy's thoughtful post below has brought to light a new quandary from me: What makes a story fantasy as opposed to just plain fiction?

According to Wikipedia, "[f]antasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three (which are subgenres speculative fiction)".

As for fiction, Wikipedia says that it "is a branch of literature which deals, in part or in whole, with temporally contrafactual events (events that are not true at the time of writing). In contrast to this is non-fiction, which deals exclusively in factual events (e.g.: biographies, histories)".

From what Krispy has to say about the pseudo-fantasy but-really-straight-up-Japan culture in that novel, it would've fallen into the category of historical fiction if not for the pastiche of Asian names and the token oh-yeah-we-have-magic apparently tossed in at the end.

But since it is so predominantly Japan—from serenity (Zen) gardens to fried dumplings on sticks (dango) to etiquette and society—only with different names, I guess it's also like historical fantasy, only once again, since it doesn't seem set in a particular and specific time period and doesn't seem built around any significant and recognizable historical events, it fails to fit in there too.

This book defies categories. Normally I'd say that's a good thing, but the amount of bemusement, incredulity, discomfort, and WTF I've heard from my two friends has me convinced that in this particular instance, it is not a good thing. It defies categories, but not to any real purpose. It doesn't cross genres or break boundaries and it doesn't make a significant statement or commentary upon any of the abovementioned genres. If it stands out because it doesn't fit, then it should stand out for a good reason—not a bad one.

As I mentioned in a comment in the previous post, I don't think I've ever come across any instance quite like this, where a specific culture was transplanted into a fantasy world and the only thing to differentiate it from its source culture was to change a few names.

Recently in one of my classes, the professor criticized today's generation for wanting everything neatly pigeonholed and categorized. To which I say, "Your point is?" In this instance, I'm not perplexed because this book doesn't fit into a genre or category—I'm perplexed because of how it is perceived as a certain genre, fitted into said genre, and praised in reviews for its inventiveness with regards to its pseudo-Asian society—when in fact that society is just Japan.

Was it praised simply because the majority of the readership knew nothing about Japanese history, culture, and society? And a particularly prevalent problem in the US is that everything "Eastern" is lumped into one melting-pot so that "Asian" has become a blanket term for anything and everything Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, etc. Back when the pilot of the original Iron Chef USA aired (not the one shown on Food Network today—which is Iron Chef America—but the one that had William Shatner as the host), there was Iron Chef French, Iron Chef Italian, Iron Chef American, and Iron Chef Asian.

Iron Chef Asian? I remember quite clearly thinking, WTF. In the US, Panda Express might as well be authentic Chinese cuisine, all sushi consists of solely raw fish, and since it's politically incorrect, Chinese chicken salad has in most places been renamed to Asian chicken salad. "Asian" makes things exotic, and therefore different, and therefore creative. Yes, American culture is as subversive as it is expansive.

Of course, I am presuming (ethnocentrically) that those same reviewers were American—maybe they weren't. The book was written by two people, one who is Canadian but the other of whom is American. The perception of what is "fantasy" in literature is pretty widespread, though, if you take the Borders fantasy section at a glance—everything from Tolkien's traditional high fantasy to books like Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint which technically contains no magic at all but is set in an imaginary Regency-esque city, with its own society, rules, and manners.

The only fantasy book I can think of that comes close to what Krispy has described in the previous post is Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. As I recall, there is only one distinctly "magical" part in that book, although there are hints and indications that there are other magical elements at play in the background/in the past, not to mention they have their own mythology about how the people of Terre d'Ange are descended from angels—and Terre d'Ange itself, as might be inferred from its French name (along the lines of "Land of the Angels") and references to a Hellenic Age as well as Pictish people who live across the strait, seems based on early Western Europe and the Gauls.

But the d'Angeline politics, society, and religion are very complex, it has its own unique history/mythology, and a structured class society which includes indentured servitude and extremely high-class courtesans. The book is not a story set in early-France-with-another-name, the way the book Krispy discusses seems to be a story set in Japan-with-another-name.

At any rate, this is all just a few more tidbits for thought to chew over in your mind, with regards to what the fantasy genre entails as well as how creative (or not) authors can be when sourcing materials and basing worlds/societies on existing cultures.

(On one last note: I do feel a bit bad about criticizing a book I haven't even read, but when Krispy and our mutual friend both tell me the same thing with such vehemence, I have no choice but to believe them. They could tell me that aliens have conquered the earth, Glico no longer makes Pocky, and my shoelaces are untied, and I would believe them without question. But I feel less bad since I'm also broadening the topic to include generalities about classification and genres. So there. And I will read that book, after I finish the two three forty-two other books in queue before it.)


A Matter of World-building

My dear friend and I both recently finished reading a book and had a very thoughtful, stirring, and often unintentionally hilarious discussion about it. To put it lightly, we were both rather disappointed with key aspects of the book, especially since it was by authors we adore, whose previous work we very much enjoyed.

One of the issues we had was with the world-building and in talking about it with my friend and later briefly with Alz (briefly because Alz hasn't read the book yet), I got to thinking about something. In a fantasy, when does a setting that is BASED ON a real culture/society/people/time period/etc. become just that culture/society/etc. but with a fancy foreign name? As in, when your story is set in what appears to be medieval Europe, what makes it in fact NOT medieval Europe? When does Victorian England cease to be Victorian England and become instead something else that only reminds you of that time and place while not actually BEING that time and place?

My friend and I knew before we read the book that the setting - an empire in a fictional world - was to be mainly based off feudal Japan. We were also given indications in the preceding book that this empire was Asian-based (names of places for the empire indicated something of an Asian mixed bag, with locales sounding Chinese and Korean), but we knew very little about it.

This book was supposed to enlighten us about a fictional empire.

This book told us we had walked straight into Japan.

At first, my friend and I were willing to sit back and adjust to the, in a sense, culture shock; maybe we just weren't expecting the empire to be quite so Japanese and hey, it's kind of cool that there's so much detailed cultural practices and stuff in here. However, we realized as we continued reading that while the cultural tidbits and what not were impressive in terms of giving you a sense of this empire and its people, it wasn't anything, well, different. We realized we were in Japan and we couldn't see what made this fictional empire NOT Japan.

Sure, once in a while, a Korean-sounding or Chinese-sounding named character would pop up among the mostly Japanese named ones, and perhaps this was supposed to make us feel like the setting wasn't just Japan but in fact a holistic Asian super-empire, but those names just felt out of place. Because other than the names, everything else about that empire was incredibly Japanese: the social customs, the food, the government, the weaponry (oh yeah, there were katana), the theater, etc. Faced with this, my friend and I were left to wonder if this empire was just based on feudal Japan or if it actually was feudal Japan.

Plus, we both were at least a little irked by the Asian super-empire itself because of what it implies about Asians by tossing the major East Asians together into one big empire, but I'm not going to get more into that since the Asian American Studies Minor in me will probably get waaaaay off topic (and of course, we're sure it was unintentional, though no less bothersome).

So we talked about how a lot of fantasies are based in recognizable Western time periods and cultures (e.g. medieval Europe). We thought maybe we were just so used to such Western settings in fantasy books that we didn't notice it. Maybe lots of fantasies, when read with a specific time and setting in mind, turn out to sound like THAT time and setting and not terribly like an original fantasy place at all. Maybe.

Really though, what often helps to make a fantasy world just "based on" a real place rather than "it IS" the real place is that fantastical element. This book sort of had it, but never expanded upon it enough to give it any weight. It was like "Oh, it's Japan...plus magic...except not because we barely ever talk about it."

So I guess, the question is still what makes a fantasy setting "based on" a real time/place and what makes a fantasy setting just a real time/place dressed up in Fantasy clothes?

Because seriously, it was straight up Japan.


July is Summer-like

That being said, I am a happy camper. Yes, it is hot and I do hate sweltering, but it also means not having to wear jackets, eating icy desserts (which I love), swimming, and general chillaxing (yes, I do use this word in every day speech). After June Gloom, sunny sunny July is long-overdue.

With the return of SoCal sun, our dear friend Luce returned from her year abroad. She is the friend we wrote A Story of Very Questionable Origin for, and we were finally able to put the book in her hands (literally!) last, last Saturday. She was delighted and informed me Tuesday that she had begun reading it.

Tonight, she informed Alz that she had finished the book in which nothing really happens, and I believe the quote was "nothing happening has never been so glorious." I am thrilled; Alz was thrilled; and really, nothing happens in the story except for a very long, very crazy dinner party.

Anyway, perhaps best of all is that she also told Alz that she couldn't tell our writing apart later in the novel (structure in the beginning has something to do with this telling-apart business). Yay! Being able to blend two writing styles seamlessly is, of course, important in the collaborative process. So this was good to hear, especially from Luce since she's been reading our writing since days of yore (or some might call it high school).

I intend to interrogate her ruthlessly tomorrow when I see her for lunch. Perhaps more on her experience and what that means for Alz and me as a dynamic duo at a later date. Maybe after this weekend since I am insanely going to Disneyland in predicted-to-be 100 degree weather and then hosting a birthday party for small children on Sunday. Fantastic!

I do love the summer. Peace out.


Magnum Opus

Ne'er before have I beheld a thing of such beauty...

Krispy and I are beholden unto those who offered their comments and congratulations, for which you've our thanks. Nor shall we neglect requests to gaze upon the wondrous beauty that is our physical book, self-published courtesy of CreateSpace, complete with glossy color cover, black and white interior on white paper, and that CreateSpace-assigned ISBN our dear Krispy is so jazzed about. As if I'm not jazzed about it myself ~♪♫♪. (Also, I'm to blame for not posting this sooner—the physical copy of our book currently resides with me. I'm just a lazy bum when it comes to taking and posting pictures.)

Alas, but at the time of completion, my computer suffered a tragic, inexplicable, and sudden death, and so I lacked the tools with which to create a cover worthy of our masterpiece. (No Photoshop makes for a sad, sad Alz, because it is her number one choice for drawing and photo-editing.) Fortunately, CreateSpace did offer a range of moderately customizable cover templates, and so with a bit of fiddling and fooling and sending images back and forth, Krispy and I were able to put together a more than halfway decent cover.

Behold the glory!

Krispy's sister is a marvelous photographer and we were able to pillage her collection of holiday-ish photos and abscond with them for our own nefarious uses.

Ah, the holiday tree.

And here's the back, complete with author blurb and portrait (thank goodness I had a suitable image I could dig up that showcased our good sides).

Alz & Krispy: Criminal Masterminds or Despotic Overlords?

...and a closeup of our ISBN and barcode.

Srsly cool.  Frealz.

What can I say of CreateSpace's quality? This is the second book I've printed with them and the quality is very, very good. The first book I tried came back with a strange faded stripe that ran the width of the cover as if it the machine had messed up while printing, but since it was a free proof copy just like this one, I can't complain.

Fortunately, A Story of Very Questionable Origin came out beautifully--glossy cover, beautiful colors, looks quite professional. The black and white interiors are printed on white paper (they also have a cream option which allows for more pages becuase of the thinner consistency of the paper, but I chose white for ASoVQO because it looked great on the first book) and the text is clean. Illustrations are also printed clearly.

CreateSpace is also nice because you can order however many you want, with options to either sell privately just to yourself, or to actually list it on Amazon for a fee. I quite like what I've seen so far and would recommend CreateSpace as a great venue if you want something approaching professional quality, for the sheer joy of holding a physical object in your hot little hands, a labor of love, of blood and sweat and tears, is quite gratifying.


June Gloom

It's June! Weirdly enough, it is gloomy and sometimes threatens rain despite it being this time of year. I don't like that it seems like winter when it's supposed to be summer. What's this got to do with writing? Other than it putting a cramp in my mood, nothing really. I'm just popping in for an update and to take care of some belated business.

Firstly, Alz and I finished the Holiday Cookie! Yay! She already went into it a bit in the earlier post below, but it's kind of awesome. No, it's really awesome! Why? Because we have an effing ISBN NUMBER!!! Alz, being the Word Monster that she is, won Nanowrimo last year, and the reward was a coupon for createspace, which does self-publishing projects. Since she didn't want the coupon to go to waste AND because we had written this monster of a cookie for a friend, we thought it'd be cool to actually GIVE IT TO HER TO READ in BOOK form. It arrived in the mail last week, and it's kind of amazing. Mostly, I am psyched we have AN ISBN NUMBER.

Now may also be a good time to say that the title we settled on was "A Story of Very Questionable Origin" because I'm...not that creative and mostly because the story (if it can be called that) takes place in my Story of Questionable Origin storyverse.

Also, we have a back-cover synopsis now too, which I will now provide for those of you who are morbidly curious as to what this "cookie" Alz keeps talking about is.

The House of the Fallen is having a holiday dinner party. Who shall they invite? Why, their friends of course! Lady Lucia intends to throw a soiree to be remembered, and to make it extra memorable the guest list includes Crimson Imperator Banscray, Royal Knight Sincère Vrai, Lady Ciel Vrai, and Scarlet Kestrel Firalaer Firenight Phoenix; at the behest of Lord Lucianus, so too are invited Death herself—Lady Soleil Morana—and her companions Irihi and Vikenti; and Lucia's son Lucifer will, of course, be dragging his dear friend Michael into the familial holiday fray. Cross-dimensional travel presents no obstacle when there is the promise of fine food, fine wine, and even finer company.

Of course, this is the House of the Fallen. And what happens here stays here…

…or does it?

Secondly, the very sweet (despite her curious desire to bottle people) Danyelle at Carpe Mousa and Myth-takes awarded our blog with this very lovely award! She's so nice! I'm still so flattered, I don't know what to do with myself! So yay! Thanks!!! (And excuse me for taking so long to post this up!)


Oh also, HAPPY (June) BIRTHDAY to the cyber-twins Merc and David! And that's all for now!


Cookie Completion

Let this post stand as a testament to determination, literacy, contrivances, plot devices, randomness, creampuffs, and above all else, unmitigated genius—for last night, on the 27th of May of the year 2009, Krispy and I completed our first long term collaboration.

The Christmas Cookie is complete. It is baked. It is fragrant and delicious. There are further cosmetic plans for it currently underway, but the text itself stands alone as a monumental effort some six months in the making.

Final word count is ~105,000 words. It can be done. 80,000 is average novel length. We can do it. We did it. We are amazing. Yes, I am stroking our egos madly, but mostly I am impressed that we pulled so much off in such a short time span.

Collaboration works! It really, really does. I think that I'd been attempting to write this solo, it would have petered off any number of times, and gone in fits and starts, and eventually it would have trailed off while I moved on to something else and only came back a year later to work on another couple of pages before prancing off again. But the creative madness that ensued in playing page ping-pong with someone else served as sufficient motivational force to keep us writing on a regular basis, I think.

This is probably the most writing I've ever gotten out of Krispy on such a consistently regular day-to-day basis. Thank you, Krispy, and congratulations. KEEP IT UP. ♥♥♥


Character Chats

So recently through the wonders of the internet (Twitter-hopping in this case), I made the acquaintance of the lovely Danyelle (aka Windsong) at Carpe Mousa. A few weeks ago, she started a fun exercise titled Character Chats, in which a prompt is posted for characters to respond to.

I tried one out this last week and my entry was one of the ones chosen to my surprise and delight! :) The prompt was about Obligations and Duty. So if you're interested in meeting one of my favorite angels or just joining in on the fun, pop on over to this Character Chat post at Carpe Mousa and check out the other entry from Yunaleska - about a princess who must make hard choices - while you're at it.



So our Holiday Cookie has been slow-baking in Krispy's oven for a while now. Amazingly enough, we managed an amazing three-four months of cookie-ing back and forth nearly everyday! This unprecedented streak of sheer genius produced a whopping 155 pages of dinnertime story—97,603 words so far. That's nearly 2x as much as Nanowrimo demands! To our dearly beloved friend to whom this cookie is dedicated: You shall be amazed when you read your severely belated Christmas present in its entirety.

Alas, but we have slowed down during April. Krispy has Real Life and I am supposed to be doing Real Life things too, soon. The ball is in her park though and though progress has been slow, it is being made. (Plus she's been working on other exciting writing! Which she has yet to share with me, be it added. *cough cough*) I think we both needed a break—breatherspace!—time to reflect and recuperate and rejuvenate, and at any rate, I think our cookie needs only a bit more time in the oven before it's ready to come out and cool while sending out delicious wafts of sweetness.


Damn if Krispy hasn't posted just as I was writing this post! And more or less on the same topic. With some of the same terms and wording! Clearly we're on the same sort of wavelength.

Well, having read Krispy's post now, most of my random maunderings are redundant as she's already stated them so delightfully well down below. GO, KRISPY, GO!

I shall just add in my two cents. In my writing program, professors have encouraged me to take a break from writing for a while—told me to sit back and not write anything at all for a couple of weeks, except perhaps in a journal. They said it might help give me perspective and time to get re-energized and re-enthused about the material. They said that I just need to power over and through that (writers') block and then I would see the shining light at the end of the clear path beyond.

What I did not tell them was that I was not writing furiously every free hour of everyday like they seem to think I was doing—I work spastically, either in little fits and starts and drabbles, or enormous quantities of unexpected text all at once. (Cookie, mind you, is an exception for some reason. I think the energy of collaboration and the momentum cookie had gained over the weeks helped a lot. A lot.) Probably I should practice writing in a more regular manner, but, well, years of attempting to do so have only gotten me this far so far. Probably I just need more discipline.

At any rate, being in this so-magical writing program, I've learned several things:

1.) Nobody has the same process of writing.

2.) What works for one person might not work for another.

2a.) This includes everything from plotting a novel to actually writing to environment to, well, everything.

3.) Nevertheless, it's a good idea to try all suggestions to see if they work for you.

4.) But if they don't work, then they don't work. Don't force it.

5.) And don't let people force you into it either. This includes professors.

6.) This black sesame-flavored soymilk drink they sell down at the café in little cartons is actually pretty good.

Now seeing as Krispy is being so diligent as to post, bask in free time, and write, I can't let myself not compare to her and damn straight that's a double negative! I'm going to make good on what free time I've got right now and write too!

Krispy prefers not to get Burnt

Wow, it's been a while since the last post. I apologize since I was the one who specifically promised this wasn't going to be a once-a-month update sort of deal. Real Life has been throwing its fair share of curves at me of late, and sadly, much of my writing has spluttered to a halt (like my studying for certain dreaded standardized tests), which actually brings me to the topic of this post.

Getting burnt out.

We've all been there, whether it was working on a project until you never ever wanted to look at another keyboard again or cramming for finals during that one excruciating week between you and glorious, glorious summer. We come out of these situations, usually, exhausted and possibly zombified. I know I'm not exactly the brightest crayon in the box after a grueling all-nighter or three.

The stress is there in Real Life, Unreal Life, and yes, even in Imaginary Life. And lately, it's been all over, up and down, and inside outside everywhere in mine, and my confidence and my writing have been affected by it. After a particularly trying week or two, I came to realize as I started new habits and reassessed some things that I was burnt out in an encompassing, general way. I was too tired to write. I couldn't concentrate on studying. My kankles made a nasty reappearance, apparently an indication of my physical exhaustion.

In response, my brain (and muse) checked out and went on a break. What essentially started out as my bad habit of procrastination (eh, don't feel like writing tonight) turned out to be just what I needed. A break.

Yes, we have priorities and responsibilities. Yes, we make time for writing/working/sleeping/sports/exercising/watching-tv/etc. if those things are important to us. Yes, we shouldn't just drop a project because things are not going our way. But it's also okay to take time for ourselves, to take a step back and breathe. Man is not machine, and it is possible to work oneself into an early grave (see President Polk).

More importantly, taking a break lets your mind and body rejuvenate. It lets you take another look at things - see the forest and not just the trees, if you will - and rethink the situation. It also helps you cope with the stresses and writers' blocks of life.

The wise Ms. Inkblot had a post a while back about the importance of having fun, where she makes the point that letting go isn't just great for writing, it's great in general. It's essential for not getting burnt out.

Perhaps one of the best things I learned from my meditation class at Cal was "unstructured free-time." My instructor emphasized the importance of giving ourselves time in the day to do whatever we wanted, to have fun, to relax. She told us to write it into our schedules, to willfully set aside that time for unstructured free time.

So, why don't you pencil into your planners some unstructured free time for yourselves. I'm going to go bask in the present moment, and then I'm going to write.


Stories within Stories within Stories within...

I'm sure that there's some specific literary term for stories that contain stories/narratives that contain narratives, but despite my long literary history, I have mostly failed at term-retention except for "hubris" which was one of my every English teachers' favorite words since freshman year of high school.

Anyway, in our Holiday Cookie, Krispy and I have boldly set forth to accomplish exactly that! No, not hubris, of which I'm sure I've plenty and probably Krispy has a healthy portion because we both lead tragic, tragic lives that incite fear and loathing in many and hey, every hero needs a tragic flaw—nay, but stories within stories! The Holiday Cookie has become the nesting ground for separate little tales contained within the larger narrative.

Why? Because I bullied Krispy into doing so. Our characters are finally at the dinner table and dinnertime conversation has drifted towards tale-telling. Also, it's a midwinter feast, and the grand tradition of Christmastime/wintertime ghost stories is a long and celebrated one—although, well, there haven't been any ghosts in the stories so far. Except for Krispy's, which had zombies. Zombies count.

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights is, of course, the most iconic example of stories within stories. Some crazy-nut of a king discovers that his wife is a bitch unfaithful and has her put to death, and then decides that he's going to marry a new virgin every day and have her put to death the next morning. Ah, the benefits of kinghood. This goes on for an unspecified but very loooong time, until eventually the daughter of one of the king's closest advisors decides to volunteer her pretty neck for the chopping block.

Nay, says her father, who loves her and incidentally does not relish the prospect of her imminent decapitation.

But Scheherazade is as clever as she is pretty! She has a plan! And so her father reluctantly yields to her will and she marries the king. That night she tells the king a fascinating story—but when the sun rises, like Battlestar Galactica, 24, and Heroes, Scheherazade ends the story on a cliffhanger, and the king decides to put off her execution until the next morning so he can hear the rest of the story. This gives her ample opportunity to continue weaving the tail of each tale into the next tale, until lo and behold, 1001 nights have passed and the king decides his earlier decision to execute his wives the morning after is bunk, and he keeps Scheherazade as his queen and they live happily ever after. Hooray.

Alice in Wonderland is a slightly different example more along the lines of what Krispy and I are doing. The novel is a novel, not a story collection with an initial story acting as a frame for the individual tales within; in Alice, the little mad tales of the Wonderland folk tend to be incidental rather than integral to the main narrative.

I know I've read quite a few other stories which incorporated further stories within their structure but for the life of me I cannot remember authors or titles except for Jane Yolen, who wrote at least two such short stories: "The Five Points of Roguery" and "Dream Weaver."

The first story contains the three much shorter and fairly clever anecdotal stories regarding the titular five points of roguery, including "One: The Eye," "Two: The Hand," "Three: The Voice," and the framing story which contains the other two points. The frame is essential for the final punch line.

The second story contains a blind dream-weaving woman who, for a coin, weaves visions and stories for passersby. The stories she weaves are fairytales and folktales ranging from humorous to dark to touching. In order, they are "Brother Hart," "Man of Rock, Man of Stone," "The Tree's Wife," "The Cat Bride," "The Boy Who Sang for Death," "Princess Heart O'Stone," and "The Pot Child." In this case, the frame is a little less essential compared to the other story; the individual tales can stand alone fairly well. The frame, however, pitches the stories in a deliberate context and allows for commentary and insight via the characters who receive the woven dreams. I daresay the stories are richer for the framework around them.

In the Holiday Cookie, well, the stories (there are four of them so far, each told by a different character, although two of them are actually the same story, just from different points of view) are nonessential. They don't have to be there, I suppose. Krispy and I started this whole shebang with a pretty basic premise—what happens if we throw all these people together for a dinner party?—and have been exploring and exploiting the situation for all that we're worth. Our stories within stories serve two basic functions: dinnertime conversation and personal entertainment.

Actually, the entire Cookie is for personal entertainment, ours and others'.

Upon such fragile sheets are monstrosities of literary confection half-baked.


Congratulations are in Order!

Like the title says, there are some congratulations to be made. Let's go chronologically backwards.

Back on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, it was our dear Val's birthday. Val is sort of the reason for the name of this blog and he is a character in the novel Alz and I have been discussing (though not recently because we've been sidetracked by a random side-project and the ever nefarious Real Life). He is sweet and a little bit of a pushover and he is entirely too easily overwhelmed for the task he has been assigned, but it's okay! We believe in you, Val! You will rise to the challenge! (or gloriously combust with the effort...) He was created more or less on Valentine's Day one year ago, which also accounts for his name. However, Val is not short for Valentine.

Now to go further back. On Feb. 5, Alz got her first paid acceptance for publication! The story will be in the 4th Jabberwocky anthology. So CONGRATS! to her. :)


Savory Scenes: Food where?!

I promised more posting for the New Year, yet here I am lagging. Anyway, I'm here to make up for it with a post about food and writing.

When you think of some of your favorite memories or best experiences, what do you think of? What makes up your recollection of that dreamy trip to France, that exciting cross-country road trip, or that amazing study abroad in China? What did you enjoy most at your last birthday party, Christmas, that family trip to wherever?

There are lots of things that come to mind I bet. The sights and sounds – the Eiffel Tower at night, singing 90s pop songs with nothing but road stretching ahead, laughing at your baby cousin playing the drum set in Rock Band even though she can't reach the foot pedal and barely knows what's going on.

Okay, but seriously, did you think of food?

No doubt you are thinking up some memorable Food Moments right about now. Some of my best memories are food-pervasive, and indeed, there are lots of holiday/family/socio-cultural traditions and behaviors that are at the very least held down by the kind of food served. What's Thanksgiving without turkey? In my family, that's the only time of year we EVER by a turkey and a huge slab of honey-baked ham. It just wouldn't be the same without those things present. For Lunar New Year (which started on January 26 this year), there are a number of "lucky" foods you're supposed to eat for good fortune and health in the coming year. One of the dishes should be a whole fish, and you aren't supposed to eat all of it so that you have leftovers, signifying an abundance of wisdom/wealth/fortune/etc. for the new year. My memory of this most recent Lunar New Year? PIZZA. 3 delicious creations I made at home with my sister and friend.

And when you leave a foreign country or different state/province/city after you've stayed, played, and eaten there, what do you miss? Honestly, I miss the food (if it's good, needless to say). I spent the past four years of my life at Berkeley, and yes, I miss my friends, the campus, bits of college life, but I also really miss the food – chicken tikki masala at Curry House, Lion King rolls at Sushi House, pizza from Cheeseboard, Chai Lattes and fluffy foccia-bread sandwiches from Sufficient Grounds, freaking love-of-my-college-life Bianca Mochas from Café Strada. They were part of what defined my experience at Cal, and I capped off my graduation with dinner at ritzy Chez Panisse with my roommate of four years.

Two months in Taiwan this past summer and among the many amazing things I experienced, I miss the abundance of cheap and delicious foods, especially snack foods. But especially, especially, snowflake shaved ice. There are so many Taiwanese people around where I live, but why is there no snowflake shaved ice?!


So the point here wasn't to make you drool (and if you are, watch your keyboards!). It's to show that food is an integral part of our experience, sometimes a definitive part. It's obviously necessary to our survival but it's also in our psychology, our societies, our cultures, and thus in our literature. It comes as something of a surprise to me then that I find very little time spared on food in my earlier writings and even now in my "serious" projects (there's tons of food in silly things I write). When food is mentioned, it's mentioned in passing as an environmental detail or note on perhaps the direness of a situation where characters find food scarce. On a somewhat higher level, it might be used as a personality quirk/indicator for a character. Basically though, where there is food, its use is very functional.

But as we discussed, food can be and actually is so much more. It's evocative, romantic, metaphoric, sentimental, and culturally significant: tea and tea traditions in various parts of the world (e.g. UK, Japan), everything about chocolate, the pomegranate that sealed Persephone's fate, the famed Apple of Eve's eye. So, I wonder why I'm having a hard time thinking of creative uses in fiction for food, especially in speculative fiction where all sorts of crazy magical things happen, but what? No food? In SciFi/Fantasy, off the top of my head, I can only think of the drink klah from the Dragons of Pern series, and lambas bread from LotR but honestly, I haven't read all of the LoTR trilogy and only remember that from rather hilarious outtakes/fandom crack from the movie franchise.

Of course, this ignorance may be due to my own limited reading and imperfect memory, but food and food traditions seems to be an underused part of world/character-building.

In other genres of fiction, I can think of more interesting or at least more prominent roles for food. There's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where the setting and candy are practically characters themselves, and there's Chocolat, which I'm going to admit now, I've never read but I loved the movie. The chocolate in that story was used both in the literal sense and as a metaphor for passion and the richness of life. Jhumpa Lahiri uses the specific ingredients and process of making Indian food to help characterize her protagonist in a short story (the title of which escapes me) from Interpreter of Maladies; the smells of the spices is a key part of how the young boy in the story remembers her. The food not only speaks of the woman's past and culture, but it draws parallels to the scope of her life and is indicative of gender roles.

This under-use of food seems at least kind of related to how taste is less used than sight or sound in descriptive writing. Taste is just kind of hard to describe, but food isn't and I think all our worlds would be richer if there was just a little bit more of it. After all, our memories and experiences certainly benefit from the presence of food.

What are your best memories of food? What are other examples of great food/taste usage in fiction? When have you creatively written about food or used it to enrich a character/world? I'd love to hear about it because I'm a big fan, and I'm sure you are too.