Monday, June 15, 2020

Daughter of the Marmaros is out now!



Yay!


I'm so relieved.


I've spent far too long dreading and fussing over it. Now that the book is out, newsletters come out the 22nd, ads are rolling...it's done.

I really worked myself into a fit about it. The Novella Series is the first I've ever had sole control over as a writer.

In my mind, self-publishing is a different sort of writing career. It requires a sense of business and accountability that a traditionally published author doesn't deal with. Not to say that traditional publishing doesn't come with its own oceans to navigate, but they are two totally separate paths in the same industry.

I didn't think I had the capacity to do what so many indie authors do. I read, youtubed, podcast, and researched for the better part of the last six months and still found myself scrambling.

So, in this series, the novellas are about love. Romance, love for children, love for a town, wanting love, and having it be something different than we expect.


The next novella series will be a much darker group of stories. It will probably appeal more to those who enjoyed The Stink.

Being a writer who can't pick a genre isn't great for traditional or indie publishing, but it's what I do. It's hard to love horror if you don't have an equal love for humor. The badest bad characters are always played by the nicest people for a reason. There is a duplicity humans, and I just want to poke at it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Black Lives Matter - The experience of a white protester


Last night I attended the Black Lives Matter protest in my home town. It was hosted by five women who managed to arrange everything in about two days. Their Facebook Page can be found here.

I arrived an hour early to assess the situation beforehand. Given how many of these protests erupt in violence, I was concerned for my own safety. Before I left, I had to explain to my 7-year-old daughter where I was going and she cried, begging me not to go. I promised her everything would be fine, I wanted to keep my promise.

Auburn's streets are old and narrow, townhall is sandwiched between new construction and old, with awkward roads that confuse even the locals. As a SWAT Tank drove by protestors while staring us down, I decided I couldn't leave even if things did go wrong. I saw the cops surround the area and thought, I'm sorry, Lily.

The new apartments give heights to the radically changing downtown. The Sound Transit train station has been a game-changer for what was once just a suburb for Seattle commuters and Boeing employees. Everything was boarded up to prevent looters with the exception of a few strategic areas where police watched us. Garbage cans were removed. A town shuttered in fear of its own inhabitants.

I'd like to point out there has been looting in Auburn, however, the looters have often come from other cities. They leave a trail as they go and law enforcement has been tracking them. They know the looters are a separate entity, yet the mental link between protestors and looters remains synonymous.

The coordinators started the protest, emphasizing that it was a peaceful protest. They carefully outlined the agenda of the protest. We would walk from town hall to the police station and back again. This proved to be a much harder feat than anyone imagined as there were nearly a thousand people in attendance.

The Muckleshoot tribe came and shared their music and grieved for their own people lost. Missing and killed indigenous women are seldom talked about, but it happens far more often than white people realize.

I don't like the term 'woke' but I thought that I knew that I had no idea how Black and Brown people were treated. I thought that in my ignorance, it meant that I knew more than most. Still, in my mind, it was a distant thing. I live in a liberal state. The local police were not like those other racist places.

I.Was.Wrong.

The Mayor, Nancy Backus, appeared in the back escorted by two police officers. She made a speech that was celebrated among protestors, but when the families of those who were killed in my own town showed up, everything changed.

I didn't realize there were several people in Auburn who were killed without cause. That Auburn police were under investigation for them. When a woman stood up and detailed her own experience, stricken with a trauma that brought protestors to tears, the police officers remained cold and removed.

The woman invited the chief of police and the mayor forward to take accountability and bridge that gap between the people and the police, but they refused. When she pointed out that the mayor had seen the dashcam of her arrest without her consent, the Mayor shook her head and left a few minutes later.

It was a tense moment. The crowd was angry with the way the police behaved, but the coordinators kept things moving to prevent any chance of riots.

Not all cops are racist. We all know that. Obviously. However, there is something toxic in police culture that perpetuates protecting each other even when it's wrong to do so. There is a fine line that police must walk, and we all understand that. Somewhere between protecting others and each other, and racial bias and lack of de-escalation training, police officers are often left making these distinctions in a fog.

This protest was about raising awareness of this toxic culture in our own town and inviting police to reunite with the civilians. They had an opportunity to make a show of solidarity and refused in a bid for power and authority.

We walked with white people on the outside and Black and Brown, elderly and children in the middle. I'm here to tell you that Black people did not care where they walked. It didn't matter to them because they just figured they were a walking target anyway. When I first showed up in advance, I noted that everyone was white. I had some concerns that this would be the march of white saviors, but eventually, Black and Brown people rolled in.

Another thing I noticed while walking to the police station, were the police. All of them were white men. They were joined by the all-white SWAT, the all-white military. This only occurred to me as I drove home to discover that every cop (there were a lot) I passed on the way home was ethnic. They sent all the minority cops out to patrol while white men took on the protest. A bizarre power move that further confirmed just how tone-deaf Auburn police really is.

The streets were blocked off by police, which was normal to some extent if you ignored just how many police were waiting in the back alleys and smaller streets. There had to have been at least a hundred police officers if not more, fully equipped in riot gear.

I've been to a few protests. I showed up for immigration rights and for LGBTQ+, where there were a few police scattered around the vicinity. This was totally different. They came ready to fight. The tension mounted as we walked to the police station where fifty+ police waited for us with barricades. They were on the roof and in the windows. It was surreal. Between the barricades and the buildings, we had walked ourselves into a trap. If things went wrong, there was no way out.

The leaders of the protest approached police waiting outside the station. They talked about how while not all police are bad, there are some in Auburn that are not being held accountable. She invited them to kneel with the protesters and they refused.

Again, the Auburn police confused the plea for accountability and solidarity with questioning their right for authority. People were sad and hurt that the police refused for the second time, a chance to reconnect with the community. We kneeled and chanted for several minutes before the coordinators asked us to go back to town hall.

There was a little bit of confusion at this rate because we couldn't really hear what she was saying. The mic cut out and people near the front were not leaving, so the crowd in the back wasn't moving. This was probably interpreted as something more insidious, but it was really just a big boat trying to turn in a narrow channel. Peacekeepers in the back started telling people to leave, so most of us did.

A few remained at the front, but they were no longer with the protest. They were joined by people awaiting a spectacle, that I'm happy to report never came. The entire evening was successful and totally non-violent. I saw a few people that were more riled up than others, but they were quickly kept in check by others. We walked away. We proved the excessive show of police was unwarranted.

I walked away from this event with a further confirmation that our current system perpetuates racism. It's not a racist cop or a few cops on a power trip. This is a system set up to pit police against people, and this system has Black and Brown people set up for failure. It forces police who want to be the force of good to choose between loyalty and justice.

This system has failed. We need accountability for our police. Independent from the force and dedicated to keeping people safe in the justice system and on the streets. We need more de-escalation training. It has been proven effective in multiple cities. We need to bridge that gap between police and people. We have a lot of work to do.

Update: 6/4/2020

I had a conversation with the Mayor of the city. We talked about the significance of taking a knee with the protestors. While some officers did kneel, it was not visible to the crowd. She agreed that more needs to be done in terms of outreach with the community.

I learned that prior to the event, someone outside of the protest put garbage cans full of rocks, broken bricks, and chains around the area in hopes that they would be used by the protesters. The police numbers swelled in response to that as well as the fact that the Hospital was nearby.







Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Behind the scenes



The Novella Series is something I've been working diligently on for the summer. Currently, there are four for this series that are lined up. I will eventually make them into a box set in the future.

People always ask me "What are you writing now?" and it's a struggle to answer because I am doing multiple things at once. It's a chain process where one links to another and I work in tandem with other people's schedules as well as my own deadlines.

So what does that look like exactly?

This is my process:

Concept development for Story #1

I have a rough concept on hand that has been sitting in my think tank. I get these from dreams, from random thoughts, inspiration has yet to be a bottleneck for me. My reservoir grows faster than I can currently write.

I turn this into an outline using The Hero's Journey along with a character plot arc. This is my current favorite for the novellas.




So, once the outline is complete, I move on to Draft Story #1

Now, you'll see a lot of writers talk about "Pantsing" or "Plotting". Every writer is different. Some make it up as they go along from start to finish. Some, like to create detailed outlines. Others do something in between.

I started out as a panster, but over time I looked at my own writing and found that I tend to have a low word count. I am not a writer full of prose and wisdom or flowery description even when there needs to be some. I found that having an outline gave me a word count to aim for. If I'm short on words for a chapter, it probably means I'm missing some details that readers want.

As Holly Black once said, "You either outline, or your first draft is the outline."

I tend to agree with her. Outlining helps me write a first draft that I don't want to light on fire when it comes time to revise.

However, if you are a writer who tends to overwrite, you may want to try pantsing.

Okay, so Draft Story #1 is complete. It probably took two weeks to a month. Draft Story #1 then goes to my Developmental Editor.

A developmental editor goes through and points out the flaws in the story, characterization, they give feedback on what the story needs more or less of. You do need to hire a developmental editor if you can find a few good critique partners, but since I am doing Novellas, on a time-sensitive schedule, and I need consistent quality feedback, this is what I do.

If you can afford to be patient, a good critique partner can save you a lot of money in the long run. This is not to be confused with a Beta Reader. Those are readers for the finished product.

Ok, so with Draft #1 in the Developmental Editor's hands, we go on to Outline for Story #2. Which is the same as Story #1. I do an outline and the draft for Book #2

While this is going, it's important to note that I am also working on Book Covers, my Newsletter, and researching Keywords for advertising. I spend downtime on reading, researching, and learning more skills to better my writing.

Somewhere in there, the developmental editor sends me feedback for Book Draft #1. Then give her Book Draft #2 for a developmental edit.

Developmental Edits: What to expect.

Usually, a developmental edit comes with an editorial letter along with in-line comments in the draft itself.

I like to take the time to read the editorial letter first and let it digest for a few days. Once I go back to it, I reread it, break it down, and sometimes I even take notes to help me further before going into the line-edit.

This process takes the longest. Draft #2 will be returned and collecting dust because this is where I take my time and make the story.

Draft #1 is has been edited after several weeks to a month. I could edit Draft #2, but my brain is mush. Draft #1 now goes to a Line Editor.

A Line-Edit is when an editor goes through line by line and fine-tunes the story on a readability level. This process also takes a long time because it's so labor-intensive. For a novella, it can take up to 4-6 weeks.

So I take this time to restart my creative juices and Outline and Draft Story #3.

The juggling continues...

Draft #3 is created, goes to the developmental editor and I now begin revisions of Draft Story #2.

When Draft Story #1 has returned, there isn't as much work for me to do. I accept changes and comb over the manuscript for errors or typos. As a writer, you can't expect to catch all of these. You're eyes just glaze over. The Reading Out Loud feature on Microsoft Word helps a lot. Draft Story #1 now goes through proofreading, which takes a few weeks.

For folks counting at home.

Story #1 has gone through the proofreading stage. There have been 4.5 versions of the story counting the outline. By now there is a cover, a blurb, it is up on Amazon, I have sent out newsletters, and researched keywords.

Story #2 has been outlined, written, developed, and is now off to the line editor. I'm probably getting the cover lined up.

Story #3 Is just returning from the developmental edit, but I'm not going to touch it yet because...

Story #4 is being drafted.

So, that's it, that's my process. I'm working on developmental revisions for Story #3 and Story #4 is off to the developmental editor. Story #2 is with the line editor and should be back any day now.

Pretty fun right?





Saturday, May 23, 2020

Harry Potter and the Potty Chair



My husband is determined to read Harry Potter to our kids. I fully support this idea since they are 5 and 7, reading is imperative to their development.

It's also a way to relive the nostalgia of a book that captured our imaginations. Surely, our children will find the story about The Boy Who Lived to be as awesome as we did, right?

Okay, so we jumped the gun a little.

When my daughter was two, my husband would try to read with her in the rocking chair before bed. After being assaulted repeatedly, he decided to put her in her crib where he could read to her from a safe distance.

A toddler's rage is not to be trifled with. I could hear her screaming at him from the other side of the house. When I checked in to see if they were okay, he was often being pelted with toys, she was throwing all her blankies out of the crib, and getting ready to launch her diaper with her famous left arm.

At least I wasn't the only one who had to dodge the dirty diapers being thrown.

So, she hated this nighttime reading.

After some discussion, we decided she just wasn't ready for Wizarding school and went with small baby books with pictures. She hated them too, but no one got toy blocks to the head and she stopped trying to chew her way through the crib handles.

It's important to remember that at this time, my daughter had a severe speech delay and much of her frustration may have been because she was effectively mute. The following year she started speech therapy, but there was still a lot of screaming for the next few years.

With the speech delay heavy on his mind, dad was determined to speak a lot around her in hopes that she would try too. So once again, he picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, but this time, he only read it for a few minutes at a time while on the potty chair.

You can guess how Lilith, slayer of hearts, and ruler of the calendar felt about this.

There was more screaming. She would flee the bathroom to promptly piss on the floor. So, we decided she just wasn't ready for potty training, no big deal.

In hindsight, maybe if we tried potty training without reading to her, she may have been just fine.

At some point, Lilith found the book out of the seventy-five books on my shelf, she found it, and that morning we came out to find the living room covered in pages of our book. There would be no more reading Harry Potter to her.

Fast Forward to last night...

She is now 7 and dad has started up his Harry Potter machine again, only this time it's an eBook. We never replaced the copy she destroyed, I guess.

I could hear her in her room asking, "Are we done reading now?"

It seems some things do not change.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Newsletter is out!

I've upgraded to fancy pants author and started sending newsletters.

Don't get used to it, I won't be doing it all the time.

But...There are some free books and whatnot.


Check it out:
https://mailchi.mp/aa6a7a941000/books-and-more-books

And apologies, MailChimp cut off the last bit of the bottom link.

Here is the link in full https://storyoriginapp.com/swaps/7d4a01d4-9c48-11ea-8417-c367bd2340f4

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Soul Reclaimed on Story Origin

If you haven't read it yet, the first few chapters of A Soul Reclaimed are available for free at Story Origin!

https://storyoriginapp.com/giveaways/a091dd64-98a2-11ea-9422-93429fc1fd94

So, as I mentioned in the previous post that I am releasing a series of Novellas this summer. In order to reach more people, I am promoting and expanding my newsletter!

For writers, Story Origin is something that comes up a lot in the self-publishing networks. It allows you to integrate your email for newsletters, build reader magnets, find reviewers, and do cross-promotion with other authors.

Super interested in seeing how this plays out as I am self-publishing my novellas.

It's exciting but also nerve-wracking at the same time. So much to do, so much to think about...Hat's off to the self-publishing authors because this is a lot of work!

The writing industry can be frustrating because it's so slow but when things do happen, they happen faster than an author can cope with. Novellas are not really in the realm of traditional publishing, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to try it out.

The series I'm releasing range from fantasy on other worlds to modern-day settings with a few magical elements. In the time of Covid-19, I want to write funny, sweet, romantic stories. Love changes many of my characters in profound ways.

And as excited as I am to talk about Daughter of the Marmaros, I can't wait to tell you about the others!

Anywhoo, enjoy

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Novella Series



Due to Covid-19 (I'm sure you're all tired of hearing that phrase) the publisher of my A Soul series is experiencing some delays.

We are working on the contract for the sequel to A Soul Reclaimed, but these things can sometimes go slower than we'd like.

Until then, I am releasing a series of stand-alone novellas.

The first in the collection is slated for July 15th.

I'm beyond proud to introduce Daughter of the Marmaros!


Bernadette is the last resort for the survival of her race.

Torn between duty to her people and the desire for a strange man lurking in the jungle, Bernadette flees the safety of the Marmaros, where six little jungle boys come to her aid.

The deeper into the jungle she goes, the more Bernadette learns about herself and the people who ruled her with a marble fist for so long.

Join Bernadette as she embarks on an adventure of a lifetime!





Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Stink and totally unrelated cunnilingus


I just wanted to give a shout out to WriteHive for putting together such an awesome convention for writers.

It's totally free and all online for everyone to access.

https://www.writehive.org/about

^ That's their link.

I wrote The Stink for their short story horror contest and was one of the three winners!

This is almost the first contest I've won for writing, but my manager (AKA my husband) reminded me that years ago I won hundreds of dollars worth of sex toys.

It was a contest asking us to write about why our significant other is so sexy. So really, that contest was about him, but I won by detailing his cunnilingus skills that make us both winners.

Moving on!


The Stink is probably one of the most personal stories I've ever written, and it's based on true events.

My mother is mentally ill. Her anxiety has rendered her agoraphobic and has hoarding tendencies thanks to America's lack of mental care and crippling poverty. I also struggle with anxiety which is why this is particularly frightening for me.

Between her physical disabilities and a landlord looking to avoid a lawsuit over hazards conditions, my mother was evicted from her home of over 20 years. There were lawyers involved. It was awful and she was forced out without any safety net.

So I had two options, help her, or let my mother live in her car under a pile of lawsuits she couldn't hope to get out from under. Naturally, I chose the former.

I worked with the landlord. We cleaned up the mobile, and yes, it really did smell as I described in the story. The main inspiration was me coming home after a trying afternoon of throwing away my mother's belongings. If you've ever accidentally thrown away a hoarder's magazine collection, you'll understand. I got out of my car, went to put some things in the garage and I got a wiff of myself and my stomach churned. Some of the things in my garage still smell like that place.

Unlike The Stink, our story has a happy ending.

My mother is safe, happy, and living in an apartment she can better afford and maintain. Her mental state has drastically improved.

The Stink is really about how our society views mental illness as though it's contagious, even people who suffer from it, which is pretty much everyone. It's about how I use my wealth and resources as a shield to tell myself that I will never become my mother.

So that's it. That is the awful truth of The Stink.

Thank you to everyone who read it. Thank you to Write Hive and their judges with totally awsome and accurate feedback (the best part really), and thank you to people who take the time to read this blog and my work.





Friday, April 3, 2020

The Freak: Envie Magazine



My short story, The Freak can be found in April's Envie Magazine.

https://enviemagazine.com/

It's totally free, you just give them an email address and they give you a monthly magazine for free.

The Freak is about two young brothers who encounter a strange creature while staying with their grandparents over summer vacation.

It's a short story, so, that's all you're going to get.

What made me think up this story?

Like most of my stories, it was based on a dream. My dream was probably a compressed version of dealing with the loss of a cat, but not just any cat.

Her name was Mila, but Mila did not answer to Mila.

Thanks to an overly-attached breeder, Mila only responded to "Baby," which we then called her "Baby Kitty".

When my husband (boyfriend at the time) first moved in with me, I told him he could pick out whatever cat he wanted. He'd never had a pet because of his mother. She hated cats and didn't want to pay for vet bills.

So, he picked out a cat. Of all the things he could've had...he selected a hairless cat.

Twelve-hundred-dollars later, I was wrestling a hairless kitten out of a woman's arms and it went from a baby-hungry woman to a baby-fevered seventeen-year-old. (Yeah, he already wanted babies, but that didn't happen for another six years.)

That thing slept between us at night. She needed baths, she had a bigger wardrobe than I did, and she was the most pampered, obnoxious cat that I've ever met in my life. She would unscrew the caps off bottles with her creepy cat hands and wanted constant cuddles.

We started calling her the crotch barnacle because every time anyone sat down, she would ninja onto that lap and bask in the warmth.

One year we tried to host Christmas where she took one of her notorious, evil shits and stunk up my whole condo. Per usual, I had to chase after her with a wet wipe...because yeah, I had to wipe her ass after she pooped.

She needed sunblock.

Long story short, I had this weird, naked cat that had the mentality of a baby. People were generally horrified by her initially, but she was so sweet and affectionate that she would win them over.

Much like The Freak, Mila was a creature with her own spirit and will, and her bald, ugly ass found its way into my heart.



Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Cake Saboteur!


My son got sick over the weekend. With Corona virus being in the headlines constantly, even my son's flu symptoms prompted a thorough spring cleaning.

I took the bathrooms and upstairs while my husband tackled the laundry room and kitchen. He scrubbed everything down and even labeled my industrial glass jars of baking ingredients because if you don't know, I am an avid baker.

 Not a professional by any means, but I bake just about everything. I purchase my ingredients where restaurant owners buy their foods in bulk because I really go through a 25lb bag of flour and 15 dozen eggs in a busy month.

The most coveted ingredient is butter.

I am a butter snob. I am stingy with my good butters, and when it's on sale I stock up the way boomers stock up on bottled water during epidemics that simply require washing their hands because tap water is for peasants (and millennials).

I don't eat it or use it in cooking, but I seldom bake a cake without it. If I do, I have a butter flavoring that I add to the recipe. I also have at least six different flours that I use at any given point in time. My husband likes to watch me bake but has no idea what I'm doing most of the time.

After the Sunday purge, my husband sweetly requests a Battenburg cake.


Cute right? It's a little almond or vanilla cake wrapped in an almond paste.

These cakes are pretty small, so I quickly whipped one up and dropped it in the oven.

I noticed that the top hardened into a shiny crisp top and the batter underneath was foaming. I thought it was weird, but dismissed it and went on to make the almond paste.

When working the almond paste, I noticed it came out rather wet. I figured it was due to not being precise with the ingredients and send the husband out for store-bought paste instead. 

A burnt smell was billowing out of the oven. It smelled like Peeps being nuked in the microwave. The batter had erupted from the tin and was now spilling over onto a baking sheet I had underneath.

I was taken back by how my cake seemingly went nuclear. I measure in grams and I was using my good butter, dammit!

So, okay. Maybe it was because I was compensating incorrectly for self-rising flour. I tried again and once more, my pink and white cakes turned into a volcano in my oven. Something was indeed wrong. My first assumptions were that the cake gods smiting me for not practicing as of late.

It could have been a curse. It was very likely my lost mojo was the result of pissing off the wrong person. Maybe my baking powder was expired? Nope, not that.

My husband pointed out that it had been a while since I baked anything. Maybe he was right.

The next day, I baked with all my 83% fat butter and the results were the same. The batter of doom once again coated my oven. While the oven was in self-clean mode, I pondered the situation. Standard butter is 82% fat. Could that 1% really throw results? No. I use 83% all the time.

I worked my frustration out on some store-bought almond paste until it dried and cracked as if there was too much flour...almond paste has 0 flour. I decided to let it rest while covered. I was at a loss. After 5 failed cakes, failed almond paste, and store-bought paste nearly unworkable, I was now staring down an oil-based batter wondering if it really had to do with the fat content.

Feeling defeated, I sat down at my stool beside my leathery almond paste and scoured the internet for an explanation. Nothing came up when typing "explosive disaster cake" or anything similar.

It was so weird. It was as if I were baking with no flour at all...no flour at all...

I stick my finger into the white powder under the almond paste I assumed to be powdered sugar and licked it. My mouth went gluey and my suspicions were realized.

I threw my head back and laughed, my laughter was only interrupted by profuse swearing.

My husband labeled my jars before rearranging them. My best friend told me about how her husband found a box from 10 years ago labeled, "half a dead hooker." My husband labels things even if he doesn't know what they are.


So, the Cocaine was originally my flour, my powdered sugar was labeled cocaine. All my cakes imploded in my oven like peeps because I was effectively nuking a buttery, egged powder sugar mess with enough baking soda to give that extra oomph!

RIP my good butter.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

When writing prompts go terribly wrong

**Write a scene using the last show you watched and the last video game you played**


The soft grass outside the white tent was a lush, vivid green. Scattered around the park were wildflowers and the occasional wild rabbit. An orchestra plays something cheery, you can only describe it as sounding British.

The camera sets on two women, opposite in appearance, but equally non-descript women. Despite the fact that they've already introduced themselves, you can't remember their names. One has short dark hair and thick black-rimmed glasses, the other is blonde.

"Hullo everyone, and welcome to the Great British Bakeoff!" The blonde woman greets with her hands clasped before her.

"This week we are joined by four special guests from the Continent!" The dark hair woman picks up seamlessly from where her co-host leaves off.

"Our contestants will be baking three distinct recipes," The blonde says.

"A signature challenge, a technical challenge, and the showstopper challenge," the brunette adds.

The camera focus goes from outside the tent to inside where four kitchen stations are set up. Standing at their stations is a white-haired man with a scar on his brow standing with his arms crossed. A pink-frilled apron is tied over his leather and chainmail. His eyes shift around his station as if he is trying to divine the purpose of the stand mixer.

Across from the white-haired man is a stunning woman dressed in a black gown. She has raven hair and you have a strong suspicion that she smells of lilac and berries. The woman keeps looking at the white-haired man and back at the oven.

In front of the woman in black is an overly-dressed man who seems far too confidant for his own good. He struts around the way a rooster would but his confidence is probably unwarranted. 

In front of the white-haired man is an ashen-haired woman who is also dressed in leather and chainmail. There are people who could only be the show's producers attempting to coax the woman's giant sword off her back, but she refuses.

The hosts are joined by Merry Berry and Paul Hollywood at the front of the tent. "Good morning bakers!" The blonde greets. She and her cohost rail off the rules and describe the tasks for the bakers.

"This first challenge is a signature challenge. Give us your best tea time cake!"

"On your mark," The brunette says.

"Get set."

They both shout in unison, "Bake!"

The contestants are on the move. Each begins measuring and mixing, poking buttons and setting to work on their tea time cakes. The music goes from cheery British orchestra to a more exotic tune played by mandolins. "That's more like it," the raven-haired beauty mutters.

The white-haired man becomes the focal point as the hosts narrate, "Geralt is a witcher from Kaer Morhen. When he's not dismembering monsters or looting from abandoned houses, he bakes for his fellow witchers and his daughter of surprise, Ciri. Today Geralt is making cheddar and sage scones."

You hear a producer whisper, "Say something." 
To which Geralt replies with a grunt while sifting his flour.

"Dandelion is a proud owner of the Rosemary and Thyme where he is always crafting new delights for his customers."

The camera cuts to a low-lit medieval tavern where Dandelion can be seen coaxing a scantly clad woman into taking a scone from between his fingers with her lips. A man with no teeth stares at a wall vacantly while he drinks his beer and ignores the scone placed beside him.

Vomit goes spewing, to which Dandelion dodges, preserving the platter of cakes. A rather robust patron stands and punches the vomiter, teeth and spittle go flying. Dandelion tries to defuse the situation by offering the brawlers his cakes as the camera cuts out.

"Dandelion will be making his pistachio and orange Madalines."

Dandelion winks at the camera as he deftly tosses a single pistachio into his mouth in the most suggestive manner. The notes of the mandolin's song are held for a painfully long time before bursting with satisfaction just as the nut skims Dandelion's lips.

"Oh, um, anywho, Cirilla, otherwise known as Ciri is Geralt's Daughter of surprise." 

The scene cuts to Ciri who is shaking a bag of almonds muttering to herself as she searches for a tray. "The heir to the Nilfgard empire has a zesty personality, and will be making a Morello Cherry and almond traybake."

The camera is seemingly pulled into the direction of the raven-haired woman as she motions for the cameraman to come closer with her index finger. Her coy smile causes the camera to shake as the cameraman's knees buckle. Geralt lets out a snort.

"Yennifer of Vengerberg is a sorceress who spent her off time baking for her fellow sorceresses at The Lodge. She will be making a Moroccan orange and Cardamon cake."

Dandelion is casually whistling a tune as he pops his Madalines in the oven. He turns around, undoubtedly proud of himself and watches his friends still at work. "How are you holding up, Geralt?" He calls.

Geralt is looking into his bowl as if he expected something else to be there. "Could be worse, I guess."

"Don't distract him," Yennifer's husky voice reprimands as the ingredients in her bowl swirl on its own. "He's trying very hard."

Ciri's mutters are frantic, but she finally figures out how to turn on the mixer. Her arms go shooting in the air as she cheers. Flour goes spraying everywhere, creating a chalky mist as Ciri lurches at the mixer to slow the device's speed. Geralt observes the whole scene and reaches over to flip the switch on his own mixer, but nothing happens. He gives little indication that he is disappointed, but he looks at Yennifer who laughs at him.

Dandelion motions to a little box on the side and Geralt stares blankly until Dandelion starts whispering, "The outlet."

"The what?"

The blonde cohost steps into frame beside Dandelion, "You can help him."

"Thank god, someone needs to!" He says before rushing to Geralt's aid. Dandelion picks up the cord attached to the mixer and plugs it into the outlet. "What would you do without me?"

Geralt's smile is sarcastic at best, "Not here, that's for sure."

"Bakers, you have fifteen minutes!" The brunette host shouts.

"Fuck," Geralt says.

Yennifer looks put-off as well. She grits her teeth before pouring her batter into a tin and begins manipulating chaos with her hands. The cake cooks before their very eyes. Ciri is ramping up the temperature on her oven in hopes that it will cook faster while Dandelion takes a peek at his bake. "Nearly finished," he tells the camera. "I don't think people realize how hard this really is. It takes a lot of grit to do one of these competitions."

Ciri is leaning against the oven facing Geralt while chewing a fingernail. Geralt gives her a shrug as he stands by his oven. "I hope the oven is on," he says.

"Is it warm?" She asks.

Geralt opens the oven and closes it again, "Feels warm, might even be edible."

"Bakers, five minutes!"

Dandelion's tray has already cooled, he is just applying some icing and finishing touches. Sweat beads his brow as he strains to hurry. Yennifer's cake is finished. She scrutinizes it from every angle looking for signs of weakness in the baked good.

Ciri removes her tray and flips it out of the pan and is fanning it with the tray itself. "I can't ice it until it cools down," she explains.

"Bakers! Time's up, step away from your bakes!"

First up is Geralt with his cheddar sage scones. He walks slowly before the judges, his armor clunks with each step as he places the plate before Merry Berry and Paul Hollywood. The judges' eyes don't fall upon the scones until the witcher is a safe distance away.

"Well, they look like scones," Merry starts as she breaks one apart. Paul is the first to take a bite before giving a nod. "Not bad at all actually."

Merry nibbles on a morsel, "Quite traditional flavors, but a lot of thought went into these."

"Up next is Ciri," the hosts narrate over a plate of cakes with runny icing and almonds clumped precariously on the cakes. 

Paul leans down to inspect the cakes, "It's a bit of a mess, isn't it?"

They all chuckle as Merry takes a bite, "I can't find any cherry."

Ciri's eyes go wide as she skims the table where a jar of cherries that remain unopened. "No," Paul agrees. "No cherries, it's just an almond traybake."

The judges' approach Dandelion's table to find a plate of beautiful Madaline's. He leans against the table and smiles.

"They look amazing," Paul says. 

"Very smart."

Paul takes a bite and says nothing, but Merry nods as she swallows a morsel, "Delightful, everything a good tea time cake should be."

Paul extends his hand and Dandelion shakes it. 

"Lastly, we have Yennifer's Moroccan orange and Cardamon cake," a host says.

Before them is a round cake with perfectly caramelized oranges embedded in the top that form flowers. "I've never seen anything like it," Merry admits.

"Not sure if it's fair, really," Paul says. "You have a distinct advantage with your sorcery."

Yennifer puts her hands on her hips, "What else would I use?"

"The oven," Paul says.

"How barbaric," she sniffs. "It wasn't in the rules."

"Didn't need to be, it's a baking competition," Dandelion reminds.

"And that is exactly what I did," Yennifer says as she gestures to her cake.

Ciri only shakes her head laughing, knowing full well where this will end up. She raises a brow at Geralt, but he shrugs, "I'm only here because I need a goat."

Everyone stops arguing to look at Geralt who uncrosses his arms and explains, "The pellar can't cast a spell without his goat, the goat is being held hostage by some guy outside the tent who won't give it to me until I say something on tv."

Yennifer looks in amazement. "Of all the reasons, that is why we came all this way?"

Geralt looks at the camera and says "Valerie, Bill loves you and is very sorry, please go back to him. I need that fucking goat."

"Well, then," Dandelion begins to quip.

"Shut up."

"Let's go get your goat, Geralt."








A Soul Fractured - A Soul Series



I'm not going to George R.R Martin anyone (yet), without any further due, I can assure fans of A Soul Reclaimed that the second book is in the publisher's hands.

What can I tell you about it? 

It's named A Soul Fractured

It picks up six months after where we left off with Nora.

She thought her problems would be over once she became queen, but is it ever that easy?

Aegis has his memories back, but it only serves to remind him of just how little he understands when it comes to Nora.

When is it coming out?

Next year-ish? I don't have a lot of say in that matter.


Other random details about the writing process.

Nora's story has been plotted out since 2016. I am a bit nervous to see people's impressions with the direction I went, but early readers were very supportive. I don't know everyone will like what happens next, but that's the risk you take as a writer.

The third installment is in early development, it is tentatively titled A Soul Aligned. That one will focus more on Hell itself and the space it occupies within the universe. At the moment I don't have a fourth story yet...they tend to pop up just when I think I'm done.

...And to think I came here to write a Witcher + Great British Backoff one-shot fanfiction.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Kung Fu Hustle Fiasco


When people try and impress me with their varying tastes, I try to not mock them. Oh, you like Gangster Rap and Death Metal? Who doesn't?

What makes music and film so special is that it can serve as your link to a certain point in time. It also can bond totally different people together. So when you say you like a variety of music and film, I assume it's because you've had life experiences and you're not dead...or my father (who falls asleep as soon as someone puts on anything that isn't mob movies or Foxy Brown).

Now, I've been cohabitating with my husband for the last 16 years. When you've spent as much time together as we, it's pretty safe to assume we share many of the same experiences and nostalgia. Right? It makes sense.

While we have shared many moments together, we do have different tastes in many things. I have a penchant for the obnoxious and campy and he does not.

Somewhere in our 20's, we were rattling down I-5 in a Pontiac Grand Am, blasting Gwen Stefani's "Wind It Up" (you really should listen). We had watched Repo! The Genetic Opera for the 50th time that month, and it occurred to me that my husband was lost in my rabbit hole, desperately clinging to a root of sanity in a deep dark tunnel.

He just couldn't go the distance. I needed to go a little bit slower and be a little more considerate. I made this conclusion after he yanked the CD player out of the dash and threw it in the back seat and said he couldn't take the "yodeling Mario music" anymore.

This is also why my best friend instantly ignores all my recommendations for anything, ever.

Okay, so...not everyone likes the stuff I like. I get it. Fast forward to 2020 where I decide to pop a few painkillers, give myself a Brazilian, and watch King Fu Hustle.

So, I'm sitting in a rather compromising position with hot wax all over my stuff, and I look over to see my husband watching this film with an expression I hadn't seen since he ate lemon oyster sushi (He said it tasted like a slug that had lived solely off of lemon rinds).

Oh no, my high ass broke him again.

I told him he could change it if he wanted to, it's only Bill Murray's favorite film. He sat up and said, "No! This is the most amazing movie I've ever seen!"

*Cue the head tilt*

Somehow, he had navigated the oceans of my strangeness and avoided Kung Fu Hustle island. He couldn't believe I had never made him watch it. I was shocked. He was hurt.

The next day, he proceeded to tell all his coworkers about how I had betrayed him. I had withheld information, which can pretty much be considered lying in a relationship. We can't take our drama to FaceBook because a cousin is going through a strange divorce and we don't want to appear to be mocking them.

So, he has been moping around with this grudge for few weeks now, and no one can hold a grudge like my husband, that's why I love him.

To make matter's worse, with the new puppy and work, Chinese New Year took us by surprise. We went to our friend Jason's house to celebrate and had a makeshift dumpling feast to which my husband then hears Jason and I discussing Kung Fu Hustle.

Of course, the Beijing guy knows all about it!

My husband is now demanding to know what else I've been hiding from him, and it's a game I can't win...because I don't know! I thought I was doing him a favor. I was wrong and our marriage has suffered as a result.


Friday, January 24, 2020

Cats: The Good, The Bad, and the really fucking ugly.


So, before we get into this. I love the Broadway version of Cats.

I had the 1997 London VHS, and apart from a few songs, I was enthralled with the singing, dancing Jellicle cats, and the written gospel about the Heavyside Layer.

It is an Andrew Lloyd Webber production, (Oklahoma! South Pacific, The King & I, basically, every filmed musical ever created.) which I had nearly his entire collection.

That being said: I find nothing strange about people dressed as cats singing and frolicking around.

If that's not your jam, I get it, but my review is based on the 1997 classic London recording of one of the most popular productions ever.

The Good:

There were a few good things about the reboot. Things I did like.

1. I loved the introduction of Victoria.

She is a cat abandoned by a shithead owner and the neighborhood cats introduce themselves and their world. It makes her interest in Grizzabella, the shunned cat, much more understandable than the original where everyone just decides Grizzabella is one of them.

Victoria is innocent, curious, and a little fearful, and we learn with her as she enters a very strange world.

2. Mr. Mistoffelees song (mostly). I like what they did with his character. While there was nothing wrong with the original magical cat, the unconfident magician tugged at the heartstrings.

The only problem I had with his song, was the very end. All the cats are singing in chorus "Oh, well, there never was there ever, a cat so magical as magical, Mr. Mistoffelees..." and Rum Tum Tugger is supposed to belt out this note over the chorus that just makes the whole song.

Why was this skipped? AGRRRHH!!! I need my correctly placed Diva note!

The Bad: 

All the actors. None of them had any business in this production apart from Francesca Hayward.

James Cordon and Rebel Wilson were the worst. They took up screentime where magical dancers and singers were trying to salvage what they could. Too many fat jokes, too much slapstick. The original Cats humor was about the humor of cats, not actors. There is a reason cat videos rule the internet. We would have laughed if a cat jumped at a cucumber...not Rebel Wilson pretending to lick her crotch.

At about the 40-minute mark, I had to start fast-forwarding. Judi was meh. Ian was meh. I hated that fucking train cat, but to be fair, I hated that fucking train cat in the original as well.

I was told that Taylor Swift's performance was the best in the film and found myself unimpressed. Mainly because the song she was singing is fucking hard.

Taylor tried to sound British, it was bad. The sequence itself wasn't terrible and was right up her alley, but Macavity is a robust Broadway show number, not something a singer/songwriter is capable of handling.

Taylor Swift is a songwriter first and foremost and as an entertainer, she has clearly worked very hard to strengthen her voice to sing those songs, but that is not going to cut it for this level of performance. So, I don't blame Taylor Swift for flopping one of the hardest songs to sing in the production, it was just the typical reboot that forces people into roles they cannot complete.

CGI. It was bad. I was able to work past it, but it was bad. It was overdone. If they did cat costumes and some CGI whiskers + tail, it probably would have worked. But the tiny heads looked weird.

They also put CGI on the dancing when it wasn't needed. Let the Dancers dance. Let them perform. They were beautiful and magical all on their own, just let them do what they do.

The Fucking Ugly

What the fuck was with Barge cat?

I'm glad McCavity had more presence aside from jumping out and scaring the cats, but man oh man, that took up a lot of time and gave Rebel and James the ability to take away from the whole point of the musical.

But Barge cat? That thing was gross, and weird and uncalled for.

I feel like this production would have been great if the actual cast mutinied against whatever executives or producers that needed fat slapstick in their lives and locked the special effects people in a dumpster.

I hope everyone aside from the singers and dancers feels deep regret and cringes every time they hear that tale-tell intro song because I can't stop cringing after watching that monstrosity.

Actors, do yourselves a favor, don't sign up for reboots of popular films. It's really that easy.

...Barge cat looked like Old Greg.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Stink



I did everything I could, but malaise played peek-a-boo with my consciousness. It wasn’t the thought of being a bad daughter, I was well beyond such notions. It wasn’t the thoughts of what could have been done—I’m old enough to know better. They say that all women become their mothers in the end. That was what kept me up at night.

Her response to life was a handful of chalky white pills and a vodka I wouldn’t serve to my worst enemy. She died in a smoke-stained trailer in the heat of the summer. My therapist says there are seven stages of grief. I skipped shock and guilt and went straight to redlining blood pressure. She wouldn’t even try to get better, not even for me. She was always so fucking selfish.

Police and paramedics all stood around with averted gazes. I wanted to scream that I did not grow up among her trash mounds and cat feces and that it happened after I left.

“What are those little red marks all over?”

“They look like rat bites,” the paramedic says. “She had been in there for a minute.”

Maybe if the house was clean, I’d remember her that way. No time was wasted as I set to work with a dumpster rental and a respirator that kept me from inhaling my mother’s sickness. Countless black garbage bags stood in the places where heaps of old clothes and moldy towels once lay. Amputee furniture splintered into the dumpster, forever releasing their hold on my mother. These things meant more to her than I did, and now I was throwing them all away.

I found some things I wanted to keep, though I knew better than to take them. An old milk stool and a few rose bushes, I unearthed and stowed into pots. When I brought them home that night, I couldn’t help but notice the scent of my mother’s home filled my car. It was the smell of old cigarette smoke and towels that had been left wet for too long. The smell was coming from me. Despite every precaution, every careful purchase, and every designer medication, I was tainted by her illness. Undressing in my mudroom, I threw the contaminated clothing into my washer.

“Alexa,” I said as I walked to the bathroom. “Start laundry load, soil level high.”
“Your device is not filled to capacity. Are you sure you wish to proceed?”
“Yes.”

Despite the chill against my naked skin, the heated floors made the sting of the cold a little less. The hot water blessed my skin as I scrubbed everything twice over. When the steam of the bathroom subsided, I noted the red splotches on my skin. I had repeated this process for the last two weeks, and I was beginning to suffer for it. It’s almost over, I promised.

The trailer was purged of junk and now fully exposed the level of decay and ruination. Tobacco stained walls with chipped laminate counters and mold growing over mold stains. When did she give up? I returned to the house with industrial-strength cleaners and once again sealed my face against the toxicity. This time, the poison would be my own.

When I got into bed that night, my husband embraced me. With his nose against my hair, he inhaled, and I could feel his face lurch away.

“You’re going to smell like that place for months.”

“But I showered and sprayed the house with cleaners. The house doesn’t even smell like the house anymore.”

“You still smell like it, though.”

I returned to the house and confirmed that the smell of smoke and mold was gone, but I couldn’t deny that when I pressed my nose to my clean clothes—clothes that I had never worn in the house—the stink was present. I never bothered to rinse the cleaners off the laminate surfaces. The plastic curled from the plywood underneath, revealing the rotting stench that somehow made its way through.

It must have been coming from my car. The smell infested the carpeted panels of my Lexus and was latching on to my clothes. I simply needed to have the car detailed to stop the spread of the odor.
The man stuck his head inside the car and his face pruned, “You smoke in here?”

“No.”

“You probably shouldn’t leave any wet clothes in here.”

I bit back the snide remarks and reminded myself that another shower awaited me.  

 That night in bed, my husband gently shifted away from my advances. The rejection felt unwarranted, yet when I pressed my face to my pillow, I could smell the stink and understood why he denied me.

“Now that it's clean, we should think about selling it.”

“Fine.”

The laundry set was at full capacity all the next day. I stared into the washer and supervised the soapy water sloshing around in the drum. I scoured the path from the mudroom, through the kitchen, and into the bathroom from top to bottom so that no trace of the smell could possibly remain. My husband came home with my freshly detailed car to find me sitting in the tub with laundry bleach sitting on the rim. My skin was tight and red, but it was untainted by my mother’s illness.

The telltale stink of rot and carcinogen emanated from my hair as it dried. It was then that I knew I could never escape. My mother’s illness had infected me. My therapist says that mental illness is hereditary and that it was stress brought on by my mother’s horrid death. My therapist says many things because I say so little these days.

“Can you smell it?”

“If you can promise not to scratch at yourself, we can undo the bindings,” she said.

“Can you smell it?”

She doesn’t answer. I laugh and rail against my restraints. Even in the most sanitary conditions, I can still smell it, and so can they.