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?