Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Lost Opportunity

Iris's Song 'O The Day: "Good Old Days" by Pink

I didn't advance in the ABNA today.  It was the same novel I submitted last year, albeit with a tighter plot and pacing, more front-end world-building, and (even better!) stronger voice and sympathetic character.

Did I mention that I advanced to stage three with the same novel, without all these changes?

So I'm on my way to the bar to drown my sorrows celebrate my bittersweet victory of having eluded the scary sight-unseen Amazon contract.  As with last year's lost opportunity (and yes, I do feel it's lost, as I won't attempt this contest again) and when the last of the agents came back to me with no's on the pre-changes made novel last year, I allowed myself one day of wallowing, then bounced right back on the wagon.  And what better way to wallow than with all you can eat hot pot and soju, watching my favorite baseball team play on one of 10 screens?

What will I do tomorrow after work?  Prepare query letters to the first ten agents on my List, is what--and send them out as soon as the Exclusive Reading Period is over with the agent who's got it now.  That would be... April 24.

Just in time for the month long birthday celebration--I was born in early May, and I plan on living it up this year! (If "living it up" means hitting all the bar/restaurants in San Francisco I've been meaning to try, heh)
to be continued

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Katamari Damacy

Iris's Song 'O The Day: "Katamari on the Rocks" from the Katamari Damacy Sountrack

Big Round Balls
Evolution according to the King of the Cosmos.
The Katamari Damacy (um..."ball spirits"?) series of games has been around for the past ten years, and like its predecessor on the PS3, a sequel may get me to buy a PS4.  It's a puzzle action game, if you will, and it's equal parts weird, quirky, and entertaining.

Picture this, if you will:  You are a Prince.  Your dad is the King of the Cosmos.  And one day, (whoops, "we have made a mistake") your dad wipes out all the stars in the sky.  What to do?  Oh yus, "we will give Prince a Katamari", a ball that conveniently sticks to things, and you go down to earth to roll things up to make balls that weigh as much as each of the stars your daddy wiped out.

Physics comes into play at this point...when tiny, you can only pick up paper clips and thumbtacks.  But when you get bigger you can roll up sandwiches, basketballs, furniture, people, trucks, whole buildings.....but the long skinny objects as well as too much stuff on one side will always make your Katamari roll funny. 

Did I mention this game was weird, quirky, and strangely entertaining?  Here's hoping they make another one for the PS4...  I know, this is a hard blog to comprehend if you've never played the game.  Here's some actual gameplay I found, so you can take a look. :)


to be continued

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Jelly (Coffee)

Iris's Song 'O The Day: "Nice Weather for Ducks" by Lemon Jelly

So Taasty.
Coffee Jelly, according to Wikipedia, is a Japanese dessert, wonderfully easy to make.  I never make it at home because when I do, I end up eating the whole batch in one sitting and being wired for days.  I personally like it in a cup, filled to the brim with whole milk and whipped cream.

I haven't been able to find it anywhere in San Francisco, but I've found an acceptable substitute... the Taiwanese version of coffee jelly, the texture gummier and chewier, but jelly-like nonetheless.  It usually comes in a tea or coffee milk drink in place of boba.

Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view) there's a bubble tea place on the way home that doesn't give me the weird fish eye when I ask for it with little (or no) sugar.  These things are usually as sweet as Starbucks Frappuccinos :( 

If I could have a cup of just coffee jelly, I would.
They even have a point card system; this place may very well be my downfall.

to be continued

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I is for Ice Cream

Iris's Song 'O The Day: "Ice Cream" by Sarah Maclachlan

I always use this peekture, I know.  It's because it looks SO GOOD.
Short blog today as I'm suffering a wee from lack of sleep.  San Francisco is a self-professed ice cream city, and I've been to all most a few.  IMO most of these places are overrated, although I can see how folks who aren't surrounded by a snooty ice cream shop run by bearded hipsters would find procuitto ice cream a novelty.  Here, very quickly, is a list (by no means comprehensive) with a completely subjective numerical score on a scale of 1 (meh) to 10 (phenomenal).  Enjoy! 
Humphry Slocombe: 5 for the Secret Breakfast ice cream only.  Most of the other flavors are "meh", but it's worth noting that whenever there's a line, these guys know how to work the line so that it's always moving. +1 for this.  Another +1 for the creativity involved in naming/flavorings. Total score: 7

Bi-Rite: 8 for the general smoothness and creaminess of the ice cream.  -2 for the eternal line (Iris HATES lines).  -1 for the limited flavors.  Total score: 5 
Smitten: 10 for concept (they freeze each batch of ice cream to order).  -2 for the lack of ice cream flavors (there were three, but by the time I got to the front of the line there were two, which brings me to...) -7 for the line.  Sorry I'm not sorry that the ice cream tasted nowhere as good as the two hours I stood in the hot sun to eat it.  Total score: 1
Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous: 10 for their Earl Grey ice cream.  Seriously.  It's the best Earl Grey ice cream ever.  EVER.  -2 for their wonky hours.  They're closed on Mondays, and, seemingly, whenever it strikes their fancy. When you're going all the way to the still-semi-shady Dogpatch district just to get a scoop, the lack of a heads up is kind of annoying. -1 for the really mediocre Bourbon caramel ice cream.  Where the heck was the bourbon flavor?  All their alcohol-tasting ice creams are lacking in flavor, IMO.  +1 for texture.  SO smooth and creamy, even though it's small-batch.  How do they do that???  Total score: 8

Three Twins: 7 for the flavor diversity, and the flavors all seem to work.  Even the cardamom ice cream works, and cardamom is a tricky spice to work with. They've got a real talented taster in their R&D department. And as for the other complaints, really, but no one flavor stands out... Total score: 7 
The Twirl and Dip Truck: 11, but ONLY for the vanilla bean soft serve hand-dipped in TCHO chocolate in their homemade cone, finished with Maldon sea salt. This, my friends, is the whole package.  I cannot resist stopping here if I'm ever in Golden Gate Park.  The line is manageable, so no negative points there.  Their ice cream is not made in-house, just the soft-serve, so a word of warning there.  -2 for the leaky cone.  It never fails; I always get ice cream dribble on whatever dry-clean only article of clothing I happen to be wearing :(  Total score: 9

to be continued

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

H is for Hawaii

Iris's Song 'O The Day: "Kawaipunahele" by Keali'i Reichel

Origins: Setting
More on these folks later.
If you haven't visited my blog when I wrote other entries in my "origins" series of posts, it's relatively simple to explain again here: I write about the creative spark that led me to generate certain aspects of my novel universe.  Previous posts have been about the creation of characters, we're going to do something a little different today. 
I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. While I didn't speak Pidgin often (mainly because I had my nose in too many books...being well-read = a head start in grammar class in middle school), I didn't realize I had a "Hawaiian accent" until I went to college and people kept asking me what country I was from.  I've been living in the Land of Fruits and Nuts for a while now, and if I were to go back home to visit I would inevitably get the "What part of California are you from" little brother's called me a "twinkie" ever since I graduated from college, heh.

They say "Write what you know" (whoever "they" are), and so I set my completed novel (and current WIP) in my hometown.  Part of it was laziness; I didn't have to make anything up, just write about the city I knew, albeit with weres, vampires, demons, and witches running around.  The other part was half vanity and half "giving back"--in the event that HBO picked up the rights to make a TV series about my novel universe (this is, if you couldn't tell, the "vanity" part), they could take advantage of all the myriad tax credits for filming in the Islands and generate a fair amount of jobs in the process.

And yet this got torn down to make way for a mall.
Clearly, Hawaii has an image to uphold.  Tourism is the largest money-maker in the state; if there's a global recession discretionary income is slashed for most folks, and travel to exotic places gets saved for another day, month, or year.  More importantly, nobody in the rest of the world wants to hear about Hawaii's Crystal Meth problems, or the Native Hawaiian Sovreignty issue.  To that end most of the movies and TV shows set in Hawaii play to the illusion.  But what of the people who live in paradise?  We may call it Eden, but did Adam and Eve realize they were living there before all that apple business? Conversely, as an American female I have a right to free public education, national healthcare, and welfare, as well as the freedom to marry and reproduce.  I consider these to be rights, but there are many women in the world who consider these luxuries...because they've never lived with free access to them.

But I digress.  My take on my setting is definitely from the viewpoint of someone who's lived there, and it's no longer exotic to either me or my characters, but it probably would be, to most of my potential readers.

And that's where my first and only argument with Bruce comes in.  Now I use the word "argument" here but that implies two disagreeing opinions.  I can't speak for him, but it was significant in that it's the first time since college that I've ever argued back..know that every suggestion he's ever given me has helped my writing improve by leaps and bounds, so it felt almost blasphemous to disagree.

Ubiquitous doesn't equal Tropical sometimes.
The scene involved the early descriptor of my opening scene that invoked a particular perfume of a particular flower: Mock Orange.  This is common in Hawaii, as common as Plumeria trees, and they're just as smelly.    I was going for realism, such as it was--Mock Orange bushes are ubiquitous.  However, Plumerias or Tuberose, or Hibiscuses were more...Hawaiian, per se.  Sounded more "tropical".

And then I had to open my big fat mouth and say that nobody who lived in Hawaii thought Lilo and Stitch accurately represented the Islands.  No one could call their kid Lilo, for one. "Lost"?  It's like you're courting disaster, there.  To which I was told that that's the problem with living in an exotic locale...and that setting was what I was supposed to be shooting for, not necessarily gritty realism.

I've been told that I play to the strength of making the exotic...commonplace in terms of setting, and it's because my characters live their lives there.  Heck, I lived most of my life there.  And with every page I write I straddle the fine line between making the experience as real as I can for the kama'aina who read my novels while maintaining the exoticism for the readers who've never been to Hawaii before.

Although one could argue that with magic and preternatural beings running rampant in my stories it's within my right to toss "real" out the window.  But that's a topic for another blog.

to be continued

Monday, April 7, 2014

G is for the Google+

Iris's Song 'O The Day: "End of the Movie" by Cake

I'm not on Facebook.  Or Twitter.  Or Instagram.  But I AM on Google+.  But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

First, let me explain why I'm not Facebooking my pals and my high school classmates...I have serious issues about what Facebook does with my personal information.  In addition, I'm not a big fan of jumping through hoops to make sure my settings are private, and also not real happy about people knowing my personal shopping habits online. I know that Facebook is a powerful marketing tool, and as such, I'll have a very private (read: limited to writing-based stuff only, not for "liking" marketing campaigns for a chance at that $20K trip to the Bahamas sweepstakes) Facebook site my fans can link to when I have novels to sell.

Going to have to up my data plan soon.
That being said I AM on Google+.  Why?  because of that stupid android game.  And anyone who knows me is shocked that I'm even playing this thing.  Because all it is really is a thinly veiled attempt to collect real-time, GPS based information from me for free, and if they really want, Google can locate me at any given time.  Maybe I've read too many sci-fi novels where the government tracks your every move and you set off on a silly quest to discover the truth.

Wait.  What?  Why am I playing Ingress, you ask?  Because it gets me to exercise (a two hour walk around my neighborhood last Saturday), and there's a weird social aspect of it too.  So yes, I guess you could say I've sacrificed my love of internet privacy for...becoming closer to the Western Ideal of Beauty. Okay, I kid.  There's actually a history of diabetes in my family, and my current BMI is very borderline, so I thought I'd get a wee more fit.
But I digress.  Ultimately the freedom of sharing and receiving information from anyone/thing on the internet... and even this blog...we're a lot more open than we used to be.  HOWEVER.  It doesn't stop me from being uber-paranoid about my internet privacy.  Have you ever Googled yourself?  Try it.  It's actually rather frightening.

to be continued

F is for Food Porn

Iris's Song 'O The Day: "Stars" by Fun.

No, really
There's an app word for that. So you go to a restaurant and you see those annoying people who take a photo of every dish on their table, and then they post it on the interwebs. 

I admit it; I'm one of those people.  I like looking at food porn, too.

I made this simple fish dish the other day and it's just so....pretty that I couldn't resist.  I love ordering this in Chinese restaurants, you see, but once I figured out how easy it was to make I couldn't justify the $20 price tag.

So you need:

1# fish fillets - ANY kind of white fish, preferably fresh.  I used swai, snapper, and cod, because it was on sale.

3 tbsp table sake (or whatever that red-label Chinese cooking wine is)

1/2 cup ginger, peeled, julienned

1 cup green onions, julienned

1/2 cup peanut oil 

1/3 cup soy sauce

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Make a foil envelope and lay the fish inside; alternately use a glass Pyrex container or something.  I'm wasteful about the foil because I hate cleaning up ;)  Pour the wine and the ginger over the fish.  Cover.
3) Bake for 35 minutes.
4) While waiting, slice up those onions!
5) Wait some more.
6) Catch up on the latest episode of House of Cards.
7) Remove fish from oven, sprinkle the onions on top. Set aside.
8) In a small saucepan, heat the peanut oil.  Pour over fish.  If at the right temperature the green onion should cook and there should be a delightful sizzle.
9) Pour that soy sauce on top.

Voila!  Mine looked like this:


to be continued