Sunday, November 10, 2013

Belated Halloween

I've complained before about how Korea doesn't "do Halloween right." Be aware that I'm biased. By many country's standards, Korea doesn't just do Halloween right, it actually goes overboard with parties for the kids, costumes in the stores, and the whole expatriate community throwing multiple celebrations all week long. But by American standards, Korea's Halloween can be a bit disappointing. "Why doesn't everything come in a pumpkin flavor?" we wonder, trudging through the non-spooky streets. "Where are the trick-or-treaters demanding candy? Why don't all the stores have at least five aisles dedicated to  costumes and Halloween home decor? In short, why is there still money in my pocket in October?"

I'm pleased to say, though, that Halloween: Korean Edition was actually quite nice this year. There was a pumpkin carving party, a costume party, a party at my university, and a Dia de los Muertos party. I received my usual fabulous Halloween Care Package from home, which included many artificial candles that are flickering around me as I write. Best of all, Linus and I got to do something we've wanted to do for years: dress as Gomez and Morticia Addams!
The creepy and the kooky!
Morticia loves her plants.

A less artistic shot, so you can see the bottom of the dress. The lace tendrils extend only from the back, for easier walking, but in this shot I have them wrapped around my feet.

So yes, Halloween was a success.

In other news, I've been thinking about doing some outfit posts. My style has a lot of incarnations these days, including Vampire Schoolmistress, Black Forest Mori Girl, Cozy Goth, and Laundry Day. We'll start with this shot, which was a selfie I took to show Linus my new hat.

The hat is Russian Princess, but the lace shirt and Victorian brooch are Vampire Schoolmistress.
So...Russian Vampire Princess?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"The Finger" from THE FROZEN WITCH

             Eric approached the table, then delicately lowered his backpack to the floor. Even the way he unzipped the bag bespoke supreme caution. When he lifted out the large, dusty glass jar, Hildr saw why.

             Inside the jar, something was moving--a human finger. It was an extremely dirty digit, to say the least. There was mud caked beneath the yellowing nail, and the wrinkles on the knuckle were black with ingrained filth. Splintered bone protruded from its end. More to the point, the thing was still animated. As Eric lifted the jar up, the pad of the dismembered finger pressed and pulled uselessly against the slick glass, causing it to flop about in place. Hildr thought the thing was trying to propel itself forward, inch-worm fashion.

             Eric set the jar down on the table with a decisive little thump. This bounced the finger, but otherwise had no impact on its behavior. It just kept scrabbling for traction, and twitching with--it was hard not to anthropomorphize--frustration.

             "Hello, Thing," murmured Adan, bending over the jar's strange contents. When both Hildr and Eric looked puzzled, Adan said hastily, "Old TV joke. Never mind."

             "Where did you find this?" Hildr asked.

             "On my grandfather's farm," said Eric. "You know where it is. I was thinking. Could it be part of that revenant we killed?" Hildr thought she caught a slight emphasis on the we, and smiled inwardly at the pride that warmed his voice.

             "It’s not blue," was what she said out loud. "This looks human."

             "Ugh," said Eric, making a face. "That's worse, somehow."

            "It is," Hildr agreed. Picking up the jar, she tilted it. The finger slid and fell silently against the side of the jar. It continued to squirm, its nail clicking frantically against the glass in a vaguely threatening fashion. Hildr hadn't the faintest idea what it was.

             "Adan?" she asked.

             "Not a clue," was his prompt response. "I've never seen anything like it."

             Adan had never seen it before--that didn't happen often. Underneath the headache and muddled anger and lingering sense of violation, Hildr felt a gut-clenching flash of excitement. Something new.

             "Where exactly did you find this?" she asked.

             "I can show you," said Eric. "I took a rock and made a sign exactly where Miriam and I--Miriam is my friend--where we found it. I tried to follow its tracks, too, but they weren't very clear. I think it came from the north, though. Which is another point against it being part of the revenant, because the grave is over to the east."

             Hildr lifted her eyes from the finger to Eric. He was still the same bespectacled, round-faced boy who'd come to her with a haunted sword. And yet, he wasn't. Amazing, what beating a dead monster into submission could do for self-confidence.

             "All right," said Hildr. "Show me."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Get Ready to Wriiiimooooo!

Nice chain.

I'm sure I'm not the first blogger to use that title.

November 1st is fast approaching--a little too fast--somebody make it stop! It's not that I don't love the Day of the Dead, but this year it marks the start of quite an undertaking: my first attempt at Nanowrimo.

I'm sure some of you are veterans of National Novel Writing Month, and are scoffing at my panic even now (preferably chewing on a cigar, scotch in hand: "Welcome to the frontlines, kiddo.") For those of you who aren't, Nanowrimo is an event in which hundreds of thousands of novelists agree to write 50,000 words in thirty days. That's 1,667 words a day, for those of you who don't like math (such as myself).

I'm a fast writer when I'm motivated, and I'm excited to finish my third manuscript, which is only 10,000 words in. But I've also been editing The Frozen Witch like a madwoman for the last month, trying to get her ship-shape before the start of November. It's left me a little burnt out, especially because it looks like I won't even have a few days to rest between this last novel and the next one.

Still, I've been waiting for YEARS to try my hand at Nanowrimo, and by gum, it's finally going to happen. I've got a profile on the site ( and some great ideas and, hey, it's only thirty days. As my Korean students would say, "Figh-TING!"*

Is anybody else doing Nanowrimo? I'd love to hear about your projects!

* That's Konglish. Rough translation: "You can do it!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Holy $*@*, I'm On Neil Gaiman's Tumblr!

Like the title says: Holy @#&$, I'm on Neil Gaiman's Tumblr!

I'm a big fan of both Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, mostly because a) they make awesome art and b) they actively encourage others to make awesome art. So when one of their friends held an art contest for All Hallow's Read, I talked my fabulous photographer, Marli, into holding a special shoot.

Three hours, ten mosquito bites, and a lot of editing later, these were the results:

Add caption

There were some other great shots, but I thought these ones turned out the most "Halloweeny." Even though it's October Korea is still quite warm and green, which was a bit of a disadvantage.

So yes, I am the model in the photos. I probably should have mentioned Marli by name in the submission, but I honestly didn't think the pictures would get much traction. If you like her work, this is her Facebook page.

Didn't win the contest, but still--Neil Gaiman's tumblr!

Monday, October 7, 2013

No Sleep For the Wicked

The train station

I haven't posted much recently because my life has been pleasantly boring. Even the advent of October hasn't shaken things up much. Unlike in the U.S., the whole month of October is not a madcap celebration of all things Ooky Spooky, and although the expat community gamely tries to compensate for this lack of holiday spirit, the celebrations haven't gotten rolling yet (which is a pity, seeing as I was ready to start doing Halloween in September).

So boring, yes, but in a nice way. UNTIL THIS FATEFUL CONVERSATION:

[Yesterday, in the train station in Seoul]

Me: "Hey hon, should we get our return tickets now, or just see how things go?"
Linus: "Let's just see how things go."


When we made this blissfully carefree decision to delay the purchase of our train tickets, we didn't know the following:

1) That weekend, Seoul was hosting a fireworks festival.
2) The last train leaves before eleven, not at one a.m. as we had previously assumed.

So around 11:00, when we and our cohort are wearying of sitting on a terrace, sipping drinks, and judging people's outfits, Linus and I decide to get on the train and go back to Jeonju.

"Uh oh," I say intelligently, looking at my phone. "This says the last train left fifteen minutes ago. Anjee, when does the last bus leave?"

"Midnight, I think."

The problem is, Linus and I hate buses--or, to be more accurate, bus drivers, who seem to be universally cranky men with secret death wishes and a predilection for skipping the bathroom stops. "Maybe we should get a hotel," I suggest. "I could use a bath and some TV."

This leads to a solid half-hour of calling every hotel we've ever even heard of in Seoul. All of them are booked, thanks to the aforementioned fireworks festival.

"Well, then, let's take the bus," Linus says.

I cheerfully agree, because at this point I'm still cheerful. It's like an adventure! We're being spontaneous!

When we get in the cab to drive to the bus station, we discover the other side-effect of the fireworks festival: traffic. We arrive at the bus station with thirteen minutes to pee, get tickets, and get on the bus. Of course we go straight to the wrong part of the terminal, and spend those precious minutes wandering around wondering where the hell we are and why we can't see the word "Jeonju" anywhere.

By the time we find the right ticket line, the next bus is at 5:30.

"The next train is also at 5:30," Linus points out. "If we have to wait that long then we might as well take the train and not the bus. So let's go back to the train station, get our tickets, and camp out on the benches there."

I agree, but not cheerfully this time. I am getting tired, and the train station is not my ideal place to catch a nap, as it's much hotter, smaller, and dirtier than the bus station.

Still, the evening doesn't really sour until we arrive at the train station.

"Sorry, we are closed," the man tells us, shooing us out with widespread arms. "Until 5:00."

"What kind of train station closes at night?!" Linus shouts indignantly as soon as we're back in the open air. I am trying hard not to cry. All I can think about is sleep.

So there we are, in the middle of Seoul in the middle of the night, in an area of town where you can't even find a coffee shop to hide in. Luckily, I have a bright thought. I remember that there's a movie theater attached to the train station, and that it frequently shows films as late as one o'clock.

They're all Korean films, with no English subtitles, as the helpful clerk tells us. It hardly matters at that point. We buy caramel corn and a chili dog to console ourselves and huddle into the plush seats of the theater to watch the historical drama.

Of course, despite the bright lights, cranked-up sound system, and idiot behind us kicking our seats, I manage to fall asleep. Linus wakes me up when the movie is over and we wander back out into the dark plaza.

Linus tries to explain the plot of the movie to me. "There's the guy and his brother and the pretty guy, and the madame with all the prostitutes. And there's the bad guy, who kills one of the prostitutes for some reason I can't explain, while they're all swearing allegiance to him. And then later the guy and his brother and the madame drug the bad guy and cut his forehead and draw three tiny dots on it, and then cover it with makeup. So when he visits the king the sun shines on his head and the king sees three dots and freaks out and runs to the library to look up what it means, I guess, and it scares the shit out of him. But then nothing happens to the bad guy!"

"Really? Nothing?"

"No, he's still in power at the end of the movie. But they killed everybody. They divided up the whole room and killed everyone who was on one guy's side and threw the bodies down the steps. But the one old magistrate had balls. I thought the bad guy was actually going to have to fight someone, but in the end one of his henchman got the old magistrate with a spiked club. They used the spiked club quite a lot, actually, in the second half of the movie."

Thanks to the caramel corn and nap, I have regained some of my happy-go-lucky attitude. "At least we're in Seoul in October," I point out, as we skirt a tiny little man, no more than three or four feet tall, who is passed out on the sidewalk. "It's Korea, so I feel safe, and it's still warm at night, so we're comfortable."

With an hour and a half left to go, Linus and I take up residence one of the benches just outside the train station. We're just in time to watch a spectacular fight between a couple, who are taking advantage of the relative solitude and silence to shout profanities at each other.

The problem is, they are doing more than just shout. Linus watches them earnestly as the boy begins to manhandle the girl more and more--grabbing her arm, pushing her down on the bench, and finally, it seems to me, twisting her wrist. At this point Linus gets up and walks briskly over. I see him shaking his fist in the boy's face before he comes back.

"How'd it go?" I ask.

"He seemed pretty shocked," Linus says. "I don't think anyone's ever intervened before."

The two argue in more dulcet tones after that. Before they leave they have clearly made up.

At about a quarter to five, we notice people walking into the station. We follow them and discover quite a crowd. Obviously, and contrary to what the guard told us, the station has been open for some time.

Without further mishaps we buy our tickets and get on the train, which pulls into Jeonju at 7:30. By 8:30 we're in bed. We had gotten up the day before at 9:00.

Yes, that's enough "adventure" for me. I'm pleased to be returning to my regularly scheduled boredom--at least until Halloween!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Turn of the Screw: Let's Not Talk About Sex

I was in the mood for some spooky fall reading, so I picked up Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. I've read it at least twice before but not for some years, and I was surprised that I'd actually forgotten quite a bit of it. The text is quite dense, even for me, the Victorian novel afficionado, so that might be why I couldn't remember how it ended. Oh, except that the little boy dies. I remembered that part.

Oh, is it too late for a SPOILER ALERT? Get over yourselves, the book's over a hundred years old! There's no excuse for not having read it already!

Of course, the main reason to read The Turn of the Screw is to decide the great question: are the ghosts real, or is the governess just crazy?

Yes, and hell yes.

To me, the textual evidence indicates that the ghosts are real. Even though she never met either Quint or Miss Jessel in life, the governess can describe them well enough that the housekeeper knows who she's talking about. Unless the governess was doing some serious sleuthing before coming down to the house, and didn't bother to mention it, there's no way she could have known what those two looked like.

Besides, the story is better when the ghosts are real. The real strength of the tale is how dry, brief, yet tightly wound her encounters with the spirits are. There's no rattling chains or blood running down the walls; the ghosts never speak, and neither does the governess. There's only the sudden encounter, always someplace vaguely precarious--a tower, steep stairs, the edge of a lake--and the mutual, understanding, yet absolutely silent stare. Bone-chillingly beautiful and perfectly executed.

I think most readers prefer the second explanation--that the governess is insane--because that makes the story more convoluted and psychologically intense. But I think in this case we can have our cake and eat it too. The ghosts are real, but the governess is just nuts. I don't mean clinically so; I mean she's a completely incompetent, sexually repressed weirdo with a Messiah complex. Oh, and she's a rotten teacher, too.

Obviously this isn't pure literary analysis, more of an emotional reaction. But after several years of teaching, I find myself wanting to drag the character out of the pages and have a little "chat" with her.

Governess: ...and then the letter came from his school and said Miles had been expelled. I didn't want to say anything, so...
Me: Wait, what? Did you ask Miles why he'd been expelled?
Governess: Oh, no! He seemed like such a beautiful little angel that I thought there must be some mistake!
Me: So you believed him instead of all his teachers and the headmaster. Right. Okay, what did his uncle say when you contacted him?
Governess: Oh, I didn't! Their uncle said he didn't want to be disturbed with their care in any way.
Me: So you handled the situation yourself? Punished him appropriately, made sure he learned his lesson, and then got him into a new school?
Governess: Oh, no! I never punished the darling little things. Not even when Miles sneaked outside the house at night, just to "show you that I could be bad!" I just tucked him back in and kissed him good-night.
Me: Wait, wait--your student was wandering around outside at night and you didn't do anything about it? Not even a scolding?
Governess: Nope, not a word! And I didn't find a new school for Miles, either. He seemed so content playing with me and his little sister in the house. Besides, those terrible ghosts were after them, trying to lure them into evil!
Me: How?
Governess: What?
Me: How were they trying to lure them into evil?
Governess: I really don't know, but I'm sure it was happening! My darlings needed me to protect them. I had to be with them every moment, watching their every move!
Me: Didn't Miles get tired of all this eventually?
Governess: Yes. It was terrible! He threatened to talk to his uncle, and insinuated that he was going to get me in trouble for not putting him in a new school! I was so distraught that I abandoned them at the church and raced home, intending to resign immediately.
Me: Wait, what? Your student gets a tiny bit uppity with you for not doing what you damn well know you should have done in the first place, and your response is to freaking run away and quit?
Governess: It was, but I didn't! I stayed with them until the bitter end, and at the very last I reclaimed Miles's soul from those horrible demons.
Me: How?
Governess: By making him tell me what he'd done to get expelled.
Me: mean the thing you should have done at the very beginning of the book? The thing that would have been the completely obvious response to getting that letter from the school? That thing?
Governess: Yes. But poor Miles! When he'd confessed his sin he couldn't see the ghosts any more, and his heart broke from sheer disappointment.
Me: I'm sure he was sad...
Governess: He died that very moment.
Me: What the fuck?! Your ten year old student dropped fucking dead in the middle of a conversation?
Governess: Yes. It was truly tragic. But the important thing is, I saved him!
Me: What was he even doing at that school?
Governess: Well, nobody ever states it outright, and there's all kinds of guesses as to how, exactly, the ghosts corrupted the children. But I think what happened was that Miles learned about sex, and he talked about it to some of his friends at the school.
Me: What. The fuck.
Governess: I know! So unnatural!

The Turn of the Screw. Great ghost story. Terrible teaching manual.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Honeymoon in Hawaii

The long-awaited Tropigoth episode!

Both Linus and I had been to Hawaii when we were young, but neither of us had more than fuzzy memories and, in my case, a coconut bra somewhere in the corner of my closet.
Can't leave Hawaii without a pair. Heh. Pair.
But we were both terribly excited because a) Linus plays ukulele and b) it's Hawaii. Sun, sand, and surf! Well, not sun, because I jealously guard my deathly pallor, and not surf, because we tried the stand-up paddling thing and it was rather meh, and not sand, because we actually didn't spend that much time on the beach.

Does that sound cranky? It shouldn't. I had a glorious time wandering around Oahu for a week, hiking and shopping and eating and shopping and sleeping in and just generally enjoying island culture. And eating. And shopping.

Linus got another ukulele: 

And I fleshed out my Midnight Island Princess wardrobe:

Eating delicious shave ice at the International Marketplace.

At the Dole Plantation, where we had Dole Whip. Not as kinky as it sounds.

At the Chief's Luau at Sea Life Park.

Because I genuinely hate to be sunburned, I always carried my parasol or wore my hat. For those of you planning to guard your epidermis in Hawaii, I have two words: hat pins. Those ocean breezes are stiffer than you think.
After years of searching for a hat that he liked, Linus finally found this one on the Waikiki strip. It was true love, and well worth tourist prices. 

That band was just for the luau. He doesn't walk around with leaves on his head, I swear.
We went to the luau on the last night of our trip. The Kalua pork was mind-bogglingly delicious and all the dancing was pretty incredible--especially when they brought out the fire.

You didn't think all the dances were done by skinny girls in coconut bras, did you?
But my favorite part was when the Chief called up all the honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries onstage and asked us to dance. Linus and I were in the back, well-shielded from audience eyes, and we felt quite comfortable slowly rocking back and forth in each other's arms. There hadn't been any dancing at our wedding reception, so that was our first dance together as husband and wife, and it was perfect.

Then we came back to Korea, and were cranky for a while, because as much as we enjoy South Korea it is decidedly not Hawaii. But now the weather has cooled and the school year has started, and our thoughts are turning to Halloween. Well, at least my thoughts, because I whole-heartedly agree with evilsupplyco.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Wedding

Haven't posted for a month, but I have a better excuse than most--I was busy getting married.

We started the day with early morning Go Karts and laser tag. Sure, it cut down on primping time, but it was a great way to relieve pre-wedding stress!

Me in the arcade, taking out my jitters on some poor, innocent hammerheads
The wedding was held at the Butterfly Pavilion, an indoor tropical home for thousands of butterflies. It was also the place where Linus and I had our first date.

This was our ringbearer. She took her duties very seriously, as you can see in the photo below:
I don't know why we all look bored. I swear I was happy.
I wore the red corset from Damsel in This Dress over a white, sparkling lace gown. My aunts made some beautiful hairpieces for me--unfortunately I don't have any good pictures of the back of my head at the moment. I carried a bouquet of paper roses that I'd made out of old books. My goal was to look as much like a fairytale princess as possible (though more Grimm's than Disney), and I think I succeeded pretty well!

Linus wore a black brocade vest with gold butterflies and a lovely red cravat, both made by Once Upon a Bustle. Here he is reading a poem by Neil Gaiman called "The Day the Saucers Came." He said it reminded him of early days in our relationship.

That's Tessa, Linus's "Best Person." Both she and my Maid of Honor, my sister Cassandra, wore black lace dresses.

For my reading, I chose a passage from Jane Eyre, because I felt it so perfectly described my and Linus's relationship:

I have now been married ten years.  I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth.  I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.  No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.  I know no weariness of my Edward’s society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together.  To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company.  We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking.  All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character—perfect concord is the result. 

Our officiant was Dr. Machalek, our former professor. He did a wonderful job--Linus and I felt good and married at the end!

Afterwards we had dinner and cake at my favorite Italian restaurant, the one I've been going to since I was seven years old. Our cake was red velvet with cream cheese filling, white buttercream frosting, and white-and-black fondant butterflies. (I kept joking that the cake was "Red on the inside when you cut into it. Just like people." I don't think anybody else appreciated my humor.)

My favorite moment of the reception was running down the street with "the girls" to grab a quick, after-dinner drink. The bartenders were pretty puzzled when I showed up in my wedding dress. Appropriately, the shot was called "Wedding Cake."

It was a wonderful wedding, followed by an even more wonderful honeymoon. Up next: TropiGoth in Hawaii!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Worst Goth Ever

I see so much anxiety on the Internet about goth: what it is, how we can define it, whether something is or isn't, and whether you are enough. (How does one measure gothiness? Is there some kind of "goth unit"? "I am twelve bat-pants gothier than you, so there!")

This doesn't strike me as desirable. Sure, the "Are You Goth or Preppy" quizzes are fairly harmless, but I've seen at least one excellent goth blogger driven off the Internet amidst accusations of her, in some mysterious way, doing goth wrong. Everyone has an opinion on the subculture, it seems, and most of them insist on sharing it with you.

Luckily I needn't worry, because I'm already The Worst Goth Ever. Watch! I can prove it to you.

Ten Reasons I Am the Worst Goth Ever

1. I didn't see The Crow until adulthood, and it's far from my favorite movie.

2. Though I can name some famous goth singers, I have no idea who else plays in their bands.

3. I've never been to a goth club (not for lack of trying, mind you).

4. I don't secretly wish to be a vampire.

5. I own zero velvet clothing items.

6. I think Horace Walpole was a terrible writer, and that The Castle of Otranto reads like a Monty Python skit.

7. I hate the way hairspray smells, and I refuse to tease my hair because it's damaging.

8. I can't stay awake at late-night concerts (even LOUD ones).

9. I don't own foundation.

10. And...this is the big one, are you ready?...I don't love goth music.

I make Robert Smith sad.

The horror! The horror! I can already hear the shrieking across the Internet: "Then you're not a Real Goth!"

I could carefully craft an argument in response to this--something that explains how modern goth culture actually springs from the eighteenth-century aesthetic and literary movement, which I know more about than you, which gives me +20 bat-pants, so there!--but it's pretty much pointless. Once this kind of person has decided that you're Not a Goth, they're not going to listen to anything you have to say.

So why waste your time? Especially when it's time that could be spent making awesome music or sewing gorgeous clothes or writing deliciously spooky novels or in so many other ways contributing to our somewhat hazy, beautifully big-tent subculture, rather than obsessively drawing lines in the sand about who gets to call themselves goth and who doesn't.

Don't like that idea? Or just don't like me? Feel free to bite me. Especially if you're a vampire.*

*I said I didn't want to be a vampire. I didn't say I didn't want to be with a vampire. Helloooooo, Barnabas!

Friday, July 5, 2013

"5 Things" Challenge

Uh oh! Both Underground for Tea and 1666 X 30 tagged me for this challenge. Now who will I nominate? Oh, well, at least I have time to answer, now that the Hellacious Grading Slog has finally been completed.

5 Things I Need Every Day

1. Breakfast. Do not get between me and my morning toast and tea.

2. The Internet. I am horribly addicted and spend hours on the Internet every day, yet somehow fail to blog consistently. Hmph.

3. My fiance. How do I know I'm in love with Linus? Because when we haven't seen each other all day and we're meeting somewhere and I look up and see him walking towards me, I get all warm and melty inside.

4. Music. I often make up stories using music as an imaginary soundtrack. Usually this results in self-aggrandizing rubbish (I am the heroine of my own mind), but sometimes I actually have clever ideas that I'll mine later for proper, on-paper stories. If I don't daydream to music every day, though--at least for ten or twenty minutes--I get horribly cranky.

5. Animals. We have two cats and a dog, and I spend most of my evenings pointing out to Linus how cute they're being. When I can't snuggle a real animal, I look at lolcats.
This is Vladimir Rasputin. As you can see, he is... different. 
5 Books I Recommend

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. My favorite book of all time.
2. Wise Child by Monica Furlong. I haven't read this novel since I was a child, but it made quite an impression. Only years later am I beginning to understand some of the wise things this author said.
3. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. My first introduction to Taoist philosophy. I've since read books that explain things better, but none are so charmingly written as this.
4. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. When I am having a bad day, I read a few pages of Practical Magic. Invariably, I feel better.
5. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. A fun and, to my mind, under-appreciated sci-fi series. How this has not been made into a movie yet, I don't know (though it's probably for the best).

And may I add, as a sixth book to this list, Tentacles in the Tea by R.M. Callahan? (The "R" stands for Rebecca.) This little collection of short stories is still in the works, but I'll let you know when it's available for sale!

This image is from MaryOMalleyCeramics at Etsy. 

5 Materialistic Wishes for Christmas

1. Lacy blouses with corset backs and stand-up collars.
2. A gorgeously spooky, black-and-white tea set.
3. Less ugly wallpaper.
4. More vacation for Linus.
5. A ball python.

5 Places I Want to Visit

1. Iceland
2. Italy (with my foodie friend Tessa)
3. Ireland (with my very Irish fiance)
4. Cambodia
5. Germany (so I can use what little, rusty German remains)

5 Adjectives That Describe Me

1. "Yepoda!" That's "pretty" in Korean. I hear this on a near-daily basis from total strangers, because--while I'm quite average in the States--my combination of pale skin, big eyes, and small face is solid gold here in East Asia. Another reason why I can't go home.
2. Creative
3. Neurotic
4. Absent-minded
5. Tender-hearted

5 Things I Have to Say to People About Life

1. The only thing you can ever do anything about at all is this moment. Right this second. Right now. Telling people to "live in the moment" is so--ugh--cliche. But seriously, if you  can slow your mind down enough to tackle life one. second. at a time, you'll feel a lot better. I always do. 

2. Never underestimate your capacity for evil. Always understand that, even if you have been "nice" and "sweet" and "kind" your whole life, you have the seeds of hatred and meanness inside you. If you acknowledge them, you can avoid them. It's the people who lie to themselves about how "nice" they are that are the cruelest.

3. Always have animals. I have a working theory that it is impossible to feel depressed with a purring cat in your lap. Unless you have allergies, of course, in which case try a ball python.

4. That imaginary world you want to escape to? That world is here, now. You don't have to go anywhere or change anything. If you look, you can see pieces of it all around, in the most mundane places. But you have to look.

image credit

5. You don't have to be afraid of death. Or life. Or success. Or failure. Or spiders. You have to work your ass off to conquer that fear, but you can do it, and it's worth it. 

Tag! You're It!

1. les pensees de la fleur
2. Lesthi
3. Chloe Noir
4. Where Foxes Say Goodnight

I can't find a fifth blogger with under 200 followers who hasn't already done this challenge. Any suggestions?  



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Three Things About Korea Guidebooks Won't Tell You

To be fair, I haven't read enough guidebooks to definitively state that these facts aren't mentioned. They are certainly things I never heard before I arrived.

The Food Is Fresh

During my first week in Korea, I ordered a strange-looking, spiral cut potato-on-a-stick thing from a small shop. It was relatively early in the day, and there was only one girl at the counter. Being the sensitive former-service-worker that I am, I felt quite guilty when she pulled the potato thing out of the freezer and put it in the deep fryer. "Wow," I told Linus when I emerged from the store, "I felt pretty bad. She didn't have any ready yet and had to make one right there for me on the spot!"

Actually, that wasn't the case. What I figured out eventually is that every food in Korea is made on the spot. Gimbap, fried things, bibimbap, barbecue, pork, it doesn't matter -- it is cooked right there, right then, especially for you. In fact, frequently they just bring you the food and have YOU cook it at the table (this is part of the magic of sangyepsal, galmeggisol, and all the other amazing Korean meat dishes). The sole exception to this rule is fried shops/street stalls. These do prepare food in advance and stack it up so you can see what is on offer. Still, even there they will usually dunk your order back in the deep fryer for a minute before handing it over to you. That way, it is nice and hot. Mmmm, fresh grease! However...

The Snacks All Taste Like Styrofoam

In Korea, nobody has to tell kids to share. They just do--especially when it comes to food. No kid brings any kind of snack to class and expects to have it all to himself! And quite often, the teacher is included in this largess. So I have had all kinds of Korean goodies popped into my mouth by tiny fingers*, and I can tell you now that, if you haven't tried these, you aren't missing out on anything. Nope, not a thing. In fact, you can make a pretty reasonable approximation of a bagged Korean snack just by sprinkling a little salt on some packing material. Not. Delicious.

Which is strange, because...

Koreans Do American Food Better Than Americans

Some day, a Korean couple is going to wander into an American country fair, and have this conversation:

"Honey, I went to go look at the food stalls, and everything is just...wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, they have corn dogs here, but they only batter and fry them once!"
"What? Not twice?"
"No! They are just sad, skinny little things."
"Do they at least cover the outside with crushed potato chips or cornflakes?"
"Not a potato chip in sight! And I saw some kids over there with chicken and soda. Their little hands were full! Haven't these people heard of Col-Pop?"
"You're right, this is just pathetic. Look at all that pizza. Not a single potato on any of them! Everyone knows that pizza and french fries belong together."

And then this Korean couple will go into business selling fair food, and within five years they will have revamped the whole industry, and we will all be eating Col-Pop and bulgogi hot dogs and chicken livers on sticks because holy shit those things are so delicious. The End.

*Don't overthink that sentence, okay?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Reading Red and Black

From my first manuscript, All the Gods' Children. The two main characters, Elizabeth Proctor and Tanqueray Collins, have black and red hair. So...


     It should not have been possible, given the night she’d had, for terror swell queasily in her stomach again – but it was. Tanqueray swallowed before asking, “Was it you, then?" Her voice was high and thin.


     "Did you kill all those people?” 

     “Which people?” inquired the man, looking at her sideways. 

     “The cultists.” 

     “I did that.” 

     Though her whole body trembled at the memory of that slaughter, Tanqueray raised her pointed chin. “You killed my friend,” she said accusingly. “Well, not friend exactly. But a nice boy who was helpin’ us out.”

     “Did I?” asked the man. 

     “You did.” 

     “Then I will repay your loss.” He held out his hand. “A friend for a friend.”

     Tanqueray hugged the rabbit closer, which wiggled in protest. “Like hell I’m--” 

     The rabbit bit her on her already cat-clawed forearms, and with a yelp
Tanqueray loosened her grip. That fast, the stranger’s rough hands snatched the kicking, wide-eyed rabbit away. Turning swiftly, he trotted up the road.

     “Hey, what are you...give her back!” shouted Tanqueray. Scrambling out of the car, she saw him already some little distance away, at the top of the hill. He’d pinned the rabbit to the ground with one hand and was pulling something out of his pack with the other.

     Tanqueray saw the gleam of the axe’s blade as he raised it over the rabbit’s head.

     “No! Stop!” she shrieked. Her hands sparked and snapped with blue lights, but he was too far away, and there were no helpful ghosts here.

     The axe came down. Tanqueray watched the little head roll down the road, spraying black as it went. Stupidly, she stopped to pick it up. The pink eyes looked blankly back at her. 

     The next blow came down upon the rabbit’s tail, separating the little bit of fluff cleanly from the round hindquarters. 

     “I’ll kill you!” screamed Tanqueray, as the man stood up from his bloody task. 

     “Calm yourself,” said the man. “Look.” He pointed at the tiny, still-quivering body. 

     From the bloody cavity of the neck, a slender white hand emerged. It became an arm, groping along the pavement. The head was next, black hair slicked over the face, mouth open and gasping. Tanqueray dropped the rabbit’s head and watched as, with grunts and groans, Elizabeth pulled herself fully out of the rabbit’s body. Climbing to her feet, she kicked what remained of the white corpse off her foot like a dirty sock, sending it flying into the trees.


     "Sorry," said Tanqueray, a little dizzy from lack of oxygen. She tried to hand the bottle back, but Grettir wrapped his enormous hand around her own and wouldn't release her.

     "Come here," he said. His tone was low, but the words hit Tanqueray like a shock, far more powerful than her own blue sparks. Almost shaking, she slid off the hard plastic seat and let him tug her nearer. Not until she was standing in front of his chair did he release her, and then it was only to slide his hands into her armpits and lift her into his lap, settling her astride his legs. 

     Breathing shallowly, Tanqueray turned her head to the side, unable to look him in the face. Grettir's calloused palms slid slowly over her shoulders, toying with her neckline, and up the back of her neck, to touch her red hair.

     "Wait, wait," said Tanqueray breathily. She'd had her hands braced against his chest. Now she leaned back and reached up to unpin her braid. Her hair was tangled and it took her a long time, in her general state, to pull out the bobby pins--and even then, she tore out some hair.

     "Sorry," she said quickly, embarrassed.

     Grettir effectively silenced her by putting his hand under her chin and bending down to kiss her. It was a chaste kiss, close-lipped and soft, but it stilled her completely. Her hands dropped from her hair. One fell upon his neck, and she moved it slowly down its length, feeling his warm skin.

     Grettir broke the kiss. She rested her cheek against his bearded one and felt his hands deftly undoing her braid. Soon the waves fell around her shoulders, reaching down past her waist, and she felt him bury his hands in it. To her immense surprise he gave a trembling little sigh, almost more of a gasp. 

     It was then that Tanqueray finally understood that he actually desired her. She pressed her lips to his stubbly cheek, until he turned and caught her mouth with his own.

     They kissed again, this time not nearly so chastely.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Red and Black, the Musical

I haven't been able to keep up with everyone's posts as much as I would like. It's finals time here at Jeonju University, which means I'm up to my ears in unfinished grading. So I don't know if anyone else has posted this...but I couldn't resist. Isn't it the obvious theme song for this event? I've been humming it all week!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Red and Black Week!

Today is the first day of Red and Black Week, as sponsored by the ever-awesome Victorian Kitty from Sophistique Noir. View the icon!

I thought I'd start with a bang. Behold my favorite red-and-black photo of all time:
Taken by Marli, our local friendly photographer
My fiance's band was playing at a new cocktail bar, and I had to get fancy. This was the first time I'd ever attempted red eyeshadow. I was afraid that it would make my skin look too rosy (pink and healthy? Heaven forbid!). In the end, though, I was quite pleased with the effect.

As I've mentioned before, I like my outfits to convey a little story, or at least deliver a definite mood. When I saw myself in the mirror, what popped into my head was, "I look like a baby vampire on her first night out." I'm pretty sure nobody else got that impression, but I enjoyed it.

Does anybody else think of stories to go with their clothes?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Wedding: Corset Edition

I'm getting married this summer, on a date which is approaching with alarming speed. This means I need to stop mooning over pretty things I want to buy and, you know, actually buy them. So after some credit card shenanigans (living in Korea is hard) I finally ordered my wedding corset:

This is the design that I ordered, though in a slightly different fabric. Lovely, isn't it? 

It's from Damsel in this Dress, a corset company that I highly recommend. I already own one of their waist-cinchers, and it's absolutely ideal: sturdy, beautifully made, and effective at making my waist look ridiculously teeny.

That is the secret plan, you see--by wearing a corset, I completely eliminate the created-by-the-Wedding-Industry "need" to diet! No deprivation for this bride-to-be. Since the thing is sleeveless I might swing the kettlebell a bit before the Big Day, but that's about it. No calorie-counting, no stress, no worrying whether the dress will fit just right. Tighten the corset a bit, loosen it a bit, whatever is required! 

Hooray for corsets!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On the Subject of Goths in Space

Linus and I have been watching Farscape recently. For those of you not familiar with the show, it feels like a poor man's Star Trek mixed with dashes of Firefly and set in the Labyrinth (not surprising, since it's a Jim Henson production). There are definitely pros and cons to the series, but there's one area in which Farscape absolutely reigns supreme: gothic space fashion.

First, there's the standard Peacekeeper uniform of black leather, red leather, and more leather.

Scorpius's coolant suit is especially fabulous. Black leather, shiny black alligator, and (though you can't see it) a protruding, molded spine in the back. If only there was a handbag version...

I don't know what he's holding, but I'm scared.

Scorpius would like you to shut up now.

Not now, woman! Scorpius has a headache.
Then there's these things that Jool wears. I'm not sure what I'd call them, but I want them.

Red velvet and low necklines can be VERY masculine. Just ask Ka D'Argo.

Give 'em a little chest, D'Argo.

But really, any show can pile on the corsets and leather. What clinches Farscape's gothic look is the hair.

This is Niem, Scorpius's assistant. Also known as "Peacekeeper Barbie."

And this is one of Scorpius's nurses. Hey, when you're a Peacekeeper commander, you're practically obligated to surround yourself with beautiful hench-wenches.

Finally, here's a picture of Scorpius and Sikozu grabbing each other's asses.

You're frellin' welcome.