Archive for the ‘ Literary ’ Category

Favorite Things: Paprika Hendle

I first read Dracula in seventh grade. Back then, it was good, but not great (I hadn’t fully developed my literary tastes then. Why, just a few years prior I thought Goosebumps was the height of literature). Back then I felt it suffered from something a lot of classic source material does: It had been done so much by other people who either improved, elaborated, or just plain gotten wrong. It felt derivative even though it was the original. Know what I mean? Anyway, I gave it another go my senior year of high school and loved it immensely. I’ve read it every year since then (nearly a decade) every October. It gets better every time I read it, and I’m always finding some little detail that just adds to it that I hadn’t seen before.

I love that book.
Anyway, several years ago during my annual reading I went online to investigate the Paprika Hendle that Mr. Harker spoke so fondly of in his May 3rd journal entry while traveling through Hungary. This was the original recipe I found and tried. It was amazing, and became one of my top dishes. I’ve made it every Halloween (seemed fitting) for the last six years.

Making it right now as I write this. To me it seems perfect for fall and winter. It’s a very hearty and flavorful dish.

This last September I traveled through Budapest and had the opportunity to try it in its native environment.

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Shameless Self-Promotion Hour

The print edition  of my book is now available on Amazon.

Check Mate, Bucket List: I’m Published

So I wrote a book once.

Last November I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo. I’ve always written for fun, and have folder after folder filled with shorts and half-finished projects. Thing is, I rarely tend to finish them.  Nanowrimo was the motivation I needed. Thirty days to get at least 50,000 words. The prospect seemed overwhelming, but I dove in and did it anyway, capping out at just over 55,000 words. Not bad, considering I work, have a social life, and was also involved in the thirty day drawing challenge that month. I suppose November is the right month for thirty day challenges. I complete both, after all, with flying covers. It wasn’t easy, and sometimes I wanted to quit, but I persevered.

I didn’t look at my manuscript until the end of December, when it was snowing and I didn’t really want to leave the house. I did some editing, and tidied it up, but the story was just too fresh in my head to make a new impression. I set it aside, and returned to it a couple months later in March. By this time, I’d had so many things going on, that I’d forgotten about most of what the story entailed. One Saturday, when the ice was thawing on the brick walkways, I went to the corner coffee shop for an Americano on my lunch break, and plugged my USB into my laptop.  I read the story for the first time with a pair of fresh eyes. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. That’s what matters. I set out to write the book I wanted to read, and I succeeded. By the end of the week I had finished reading it, making notes, and editing it. I came back for a second round to check the technical stuff, and it still held.

I was sitting on a perfectly good story. Having a book published has long been an entry on my bucket list. I now had the means to scratch a satisfying line through it. I researched into how to find a publisher, and how to avoid vanity publishing (where you pay a lot of money for the service, etc). I figured that getting an agent and a traditional publisher was a lot like getting a job: You have to have experience to get a job, and you need a job to get experience. In this case, I figured if you didn’t have a catalog already, you’re paperwork would get shuffled to the back in favor of someone more impressive. It makes sense. It’s a business. They want what has already proven to sell.

My research pointed me to CreateSpace, the self-publishing branch of Amazon. It was a crash course in learning how to format and prepare a book for publication. It was quite easy, and the site offered lots of helpful feedback during the process.

My Kindle version is live, and my print copy will be out shortly.

Success is counted by how many marks on your bucket list.

Dicking Around With Writing Prompts #2

Today I found this bad boy, which suggests that I write what I would do if I had ten copies of myself to use today. So it here goes:

Clone 1: Go on that awful blind date I got tricked into agreeing to instead of me.

Clone 2: Hold up the short end of the kitchen table so I can know what it’s like to solve a puzzle on level ground for once.

Clone 3: Open up a rickshaw service outside of the local bars

Clone 4: See above

Clone 5: Get started on next year’s tax return

Clone 6: I’d like to use Clone 6 & 7 to break into some home alone kid’s house and do a sort of Cat and the Hat situation.

Clone 7: See above.

Clone 8:  Clones 8, 9, and 10 I would send out on a mission to really unsettle a random person of my choosing. They shall follow the selected individual around, never appearing together, but always popping up in crowds and corners, and really wherever the person goes, just to give them that horrible feeling that they’re being watched and followed. Because they are. And no one will believe them since when they relate the story it will be mocked, for how could it be the same person in Baskin & Robbins waiting at the counter watching you as the person who sat next to you on the subway less than ten minutes ago and didn’t even get off on your same stop??

Clone 9: see above

Clone 10: see above

You know what, I really should have assigned one to go to work for me… Oh well, it’s too late for that.

Dicking Around With Writing Prompts: #1

Today on my evening of dicking around on the internet, I decided to do something a tad more productive than scowling at celebrity gossip and decided to look up some writing prompts. Back in my bookstore days we had this fabulous book called Writer’s Block, that I actually used for the occasional topic for my daily sketch across the daily schedule. I wish I’d picked up  copy for my personal library. Oh well. So it goes! There are a few websites around that serve the same purpose, so today I decided to tackle a suggestion:  My topic du jour is to write an excuse for why I can’t make it to work. Enjoy~

                The two men sat in the coffee shop. How could no one else notice this? There was something odd about them, they certainly weren’t ordinary. They weren’t…

One was thin and pale, with solid black eyes and a slit mouth full of sharp teeth, looking right at me, grinning like a skeleton. He very much could have been, if my eyes weren’t deceiving me. He lifted his cup with a bony hand, translucent skin hugging his tendons and veins. Long, sharp, brass claws tipped each finger but one. “Sit down.” He said. Should I obey?

“Sit.” The other one growled, hunkered down in the vinyl chair, smoldering like a volcano. He wasn’t as horrible as the first. Broad in the shoulders with flaming red hair and a rough hewn, badly scarred face. “Sit.” He commanded again, glaring at me with honey colored eyes.

“I’m dreaming.” I stated.

“You’re not.” Hissed the first.

They made me uneasy, the way they looked at me, knowingly, it made my skin crawl. “I-I don’t feel well, I have to go, I’m late for work, anyway, I-“

“No.” Barked the second., disarming me completely.

“Sit. Please. What will you have to drink? Coffee? Tea? I’m fond of these caramel ones, myself. Excuse, me, miss,” He waved a hand at the young girl in the purple apron. “Can you bring our friend here a…” He turned his soulless black eyes to me.”

“Mocha.” I sputtered, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.

“Mocha.” He repeated, grinning at the waitress like a madman.                 She nodded, tucking the cleaning rag into her back pocket, and headed behind the counter to wash her hands in the stainless steel basin.

I stared at her, flabbergasted. “Why…”

“She doesn’t see this at all.” He motioned to his macabre face.

“Sees a pair of businessmen doing businessman things…” The burly one added.

“Oh…” I suppose that would explain why no one else seemed concerned about these peculiar men in their midst. “Then why do I-“

“Have a seat, you look ridiculous standing.” Black eyes burned into mine. I obliged and sank into the cushioned chair. The coffee shop girl set a steaming cup in front of me. I looked between the two figures sitting at my table, then at the old man reading a newspaper next to us, then at the girl, trying to wrap my head around it. I locked my eyes on the melting spiral of cocoa dusted whipped cream trying to make sense of it all. When I looked up they were both had their eyes fixed on me, looking amused, black eyes to my left, gold on my right.

“We were just talking about you.” The pale one said softly, politely, like a parent delivering bad news to their child. “We were so pleased that you decided to come.”

“Is that so?” I stammered, my blood turning to ice in my veins.

The red one grunted something in response. We stared at each other across the table for what seemed like an eternity. “So… Will you tell me what this is all about?” I asked nervously. “Or are you just going to stare at me?” I immediately regretted that comment. Red’s face twisted, like he was a heartbeat away from snapping my spine in half, but after a beat, he laughed.

“Oh my word, I’m sorry, I forgot to introduce us, haven’t I?” The skeletal one placed his ghastly hand over his thin chest. “I’m Death. And this is my friend and associate. War.”

My mouth formed a silent oh. What was I supposed to say to that? I didn’t have any words.

War grunted and looked to his companion, grunting. “Stupid. We shoulda gone with someone smarter.”

“Hm…” Death sipped his drink. “Don’t have anything to say to that?”

I shook my head, eyes fixed forward.

“Hm…” Death seemed slightly disappointed. “Most people are more impressed when they meet the horsemen.”

“I think we were wrong about this kid…” War tried to say quietly, his booming voice failing him in that respect. “Should I make the call…?”

“Wait, let’s ask him first.” Death leaned forward. “Did you speak to Plague, yet? Maybe you didn’t know who he was either.”

“No, I have the feeling I would recognize him if he looks anything like you guys…”

“No one looks like us.” War corrected me sharply.

Death looked to his friend seriously. “Better make the call, then.” War reached into the pocket of his leather jacket and produced a cell phone. I giggled, I couldn’t control it. It was funny to me, the absurdity of it all. Here were…beings? Here were beings from the beginning of time drinking ridiculous beverages and abreast of technology. Sign of the times. Death gave me a sideways look, War ignored me completely.

Death leaned an elbow on the table and tapped his clawed fingers on the glass table top. I watched each sharp point fall to the glass with a tick, save for the index finger. “What happened there?” Curiosity got the better of me. I pointed to the missing claw on his left hand. What was the worst that could happen? Well, I suppose he was very capable of killing me, but I had a feeling that fate would be a billion times better than whatever scheme they were plotting.

Death stretched his hand in front of a face, like a lady examining a fresh manicure, tilting his head slightly. “I used to… Let’s just say that I used to play…. Games.” He emphasized, giving the word a sinister tone. “With people very much like yourself…” I suddenly became very aware of my beating heart and would very much regret if it stopped. “One lad, ages ago, wasn’t it… Got quite close to pulling one over on me.” He smiled nostalgically. “Our deal was a game of chess, if I won, I took his life of course, if he won he would take Death’s claw. He was under the impression that pieces of me held special powers, or something of the like, that if he ran off with my finger he would be like a… A god, or something… Can you believe it?”

“It didn’t.”

“I got him a few years later.” He smiled broadly, warmed by this memory, “The look on his face…”

“Got the last laugh, you did.” War smirked.

“I always do.”

“Ever hear of Atlantis?” War addressed me, and for once I didn’t feel like he was seconds away from bashing my skull in.

“I’ve heard of it.”

War chuckled. “This guy…” He jerked a thumb towards the grinning skull.

“Moral of the story, don’t make bets you can’t back up.” Death laughed darkly.

“Flattened it completely.” War was lost in a warm, fuzzy, no doubt bloody memory.

“Do you understand?” Death raised an eyebrow, fixing me in his steely gaze.

“Is that a threat?”

“Yes.”

War’s eyes darted to the door with the tinkling of a bell. “Here comes our lil’ princess…”

A dark shadow fell over my shoulder. I looked up, and had to force the words out, “You must be Plague…” This one was beyond foul. The smell… His skin was a clammy pale green with purple and black scabs, pits where entire pieces had fallen off, sunken jaundiced eyes, and yellow rotting teeth. I gagged, a bit of bile coming up the back of my throat. I set my coffee down, my taste for it immediately vanquished.

“It’s been a busy year for me…” He lisped since half his front teeth were missing. He jerked his head towards me. “Is this him?”

“Yep,” War leaned back, crossing his massive legs.

“Famine here yet, then?”

“He’s currently otherwise engaged, but will be joining us just in time.” Death smiled at me.

“Sounds about right.”

“Anything to drink for you?” Death asked the newcomer.

Plague shook his head, a chunk of stringy hair fell loose and drifted to the floor.

“You didn’t tell him.” War accused, pointing a finger at me.

“Was I suppose to?” Plague blinked, confused.

“Yes.” War growled.

“Right.”

“So get on with it.”

Plague peered down at me. “You’re going to destroy the world. Everything. Everyone.”

I shifted awkwardly in my chair, trying desperately to not breathe through my nose. “Excuse me?”

“You, you’re the catalyst. You’ll be what your kind call the patient zero, these days. You will bring forth an unimaginable plague into your world, one that your science will find impossible to stop.”

Death looked pleased. “Famine’s already been hard at work, gearing up for the big event.” He stirred the dredges of his cup with a small wooden stick.

“Famine, of course, leads to bickering over resources, which of course, leads to war. That’s where I come in.” War grinned broadly, showcasing a set of iron teeth.

They looked at me, waiting for me to say something, anything. My lips had trouble forming the words. No, this was insane. This was… I don’t know what this was, but I refused to believe it. “No, no, no, this is bad, this is really bad, wake me up, wake me up…” I repeated stupidly.

“You’re already awake.” War knit his ragged brow, perplexed.

“Oh that’s cute.” Death told his comrades. “He thinks he’s dreaming.”

“You’re not.” Plague hissed coldly.

Death set his empty cup on the glass table. “Most people are quicker to ask how they can stop us.”

“How can I stop you?” I shot back.

“You can’t.” War roared, sending me cowering in my seat. He laughed, “Kidding.”

“We do this all the time, for a bit of fun, really.” Death said casually.

“So the question remains, whether or not you will be the one that fails the world.” Plague’s gray lips curled in a foul impersonation of a smile.

Death smirked. “Better cancel all your plans for today.”

30 Day Drawing Challenge: Day 6

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Day 6 of the challenge has passed, and I was to draw a picture about my favorite book. Picking a favorite book is a really muddy apples and oranges situation, but I decided upon a book in my top ten: The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. If you’ve never read it, bookmark this page, get in your car, find a bookstore that hasn’t been shut down by ebbing corporate trends, and buy a copy immediately (or library, or amazon, whatever works for you).

Pictured on the right is Woland, the devil himself, who came to Soviet Russia to stir up trouble (well, it goes deeper than that but I’m not here to write a thesis on the book) with a pack of demons: Azazelo, a possible rider of the apocalypse masquerading as a wall-eyed, fanged man, and Behemoth, the vodka swilling, chess playing, gun slinging gigantic black cat.

Charlie Hawthorne And The Case Of The Mad Deucer

“Charlie Hawthorne And The Case Of The Mad Deucer” would be the title of my best-selling British young adult novel. I imagine it would be the pioneer of a series.

Charlie Hawthorne, of course, is the titular character.  Even on the cusp of turning 25 I can’t write “titular” without giggling aloud. That’s the current state of affairs.

The tale of Charlie Hawthorne’s origins would pull out all the hackneyed stops: tragic past, orphan, fall from grace, abusive school masters, he solves mysteries, etc etc. All the same old garbage we know and love that sells books off the shelves.  Did I mention he would always be full-named? There would be a  lot of “Charlie Hawthorne this” and “Charlie Hawthorne that.”

Now you’re probably wondering about this “Mad Deucer” aspect of the story. Or maybe you’re not. I don’t care, as long as you buy my book. SPOILER ALERT: It’s the villain. I presume you know what a deuce is, yes? SPOILER ALERT: It’s poop. As in “to drop a deuce.” Mad, as you know, means insane, or angry. Until chapter 7 you shan’t know which I mean.

Perhaps you’ve inferred that the “Case Of” part of the title implies that this is a mystery story. It is. Charlie Hawthorne, the afore-mentioned tragic hero must solve the mystery of the rogue deuces purported by the Mad Deucer.

And that, dear friends, is literature.

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