Filtering by Tag: Boys and Bees

Cakepops and Writing Projects

I had been eating cakepops a long time before thinking of making my own. How could a mere mortal make a cakepop? They're always moist on the inside and seem to attract all kinds of experimentation. I've seen so many pictures of mouthwatering cakepops both beautiful and made of delicate ingredients like lavender and vanilla bean. 

I can't cook or bake and I get all trembly around an oven, but when I saw a Bella cakepop machine sitting on the bottom shelf in Tuesday Morning, my eyes grew big and I hugged the darn box. It wasn't until today that I opened the box, admired the happy-blue machine, and gathered my ingredients to see if... it actually worked. Yeah. That's kind of important.

With the help of my mom, who's been steering the family in a more healthy direction, we decided to go simple for our first try and cut back on the eggs. The cake mix was classic yellow (I didn't know that it had been elevated to "classic," did you?). Instead of eggs, we used soy flour mixed with water. Mom and I also made the executive decision of putting chocolate chips into the batter. 

The cakepop machine moved quickly - each batch bakes for five minutes; yet, after watching a video online, the baker said to observe the machine closely: you'll see steam coming out of the machine - when the steam stops, it's time to take the pops out. 

You'll see the first batch pictured above.  We, uh, had an interesting time with these egg-less pops. Some of them didn't rise, while others spilled over instead of taking the full round shape. But the taste? 

GUYS, the taste was spot-on. Moist in the middle. I mean, we may have created tons of cakepops that look like muffins / UFOs, but they were delicious. Next time, we're going to use eggs, though, and see if they turn out perfectly round. Also, I'd love to experiment with cookie batter... I have a mix of creamsicle cookies in the pantry that's just begging to transform into cakepops.

I'm in a wonderful experimenting mood. Not just with food, of course. But this is a new year and I want to put my best foot forward with everything I write. 

I ended 2013 by chugging along to meet a December 31st deadline for Jim Hensen's The Dark Crystal Author Quest. A few friends of mine told me about the contest while I was in the middle of writing my NaNoWriMo project. I got so excited about it that I carefully set aside everything and plunged into the world of The Dark Crystal. 

I grew up with Jim Hensen's work, watching The Muppet Show every night and doing the Magic Dance while berating Sarah for not staying with Jareth, the Goblin King, at the end of the Labyrinth. There was no way I was going to let this contest go by without tossing my hat in. I had less than a month and a half to submit a 10k entry that would best represent the story I wanted to tell set during the Gelfling Gathering, a time many trine (years) before the film. The winner of this contest receives the honor of writing that novel and being published under Grosset & Dunlap.

When I wasn't working, I was fully-engrossed in exploring the extensive mythology and history of The Dark Crystal. There was a lot to see, read, and digest before being able to create my own story. In the end, my 10k entry was the first three chapters of the would-be novel. I don't think I've ever written a story like it before; the process was like riding a roller coaster: a slow ride up, what with all the research, but once I started working in my Word document, it was all screaming and laughing, flipping upside down and bursting out of tunnels. Exhilarating stuff.

By December 31st, I was feeling a little like Emperor SkekSo (not to mention quoting him because it's fun):

Now I'm back to working on what was my NaNoWriMo project, We Could Fall in Love. It's refreshing to be working in this world where charms can influence weather, but more importantly love, and a motley crew of rebels are just getting starting with their plan to overthrow the head love fortuneteller.

I'm hoping to stay on schedule and finish my first draft in March (hopefully earlier. I love tight deadlines). When the manuscript's ready, you'll be able to read it... but that's all I'm going to say about that right now ;) *continues to be sneaky*

And then... there will be brand-sparkly new chapters of Boys & Bees. Oooooh yes. As I sit on the couch, ruminating over the possible cakepops I can make, I've also been mapping out the next few chapters so I'm ready when the time comes to return to Lorabeth and her bees. The circus tents are popping up, Caith's sneaking around with his double-face, and another disaster is slowly making its way to the school of apiary studies. March couldn't come fast enough, eh? :D

That Time I Was Stuck in Revision Hell

Stop the presses: I’m finally writing about writing. It’s been such a long time.

It’s the most important month of the year for writers around the world because, as soon as November 1st hits, the month dons its alter ego mask and cape and becomes… NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month is for writers big and small, new and old, who rise to challenge of writing a full-length manuscript within 30 days. In order to do this, we writers forgo mundane activities like doing laundry, eating, and taking the dog for a walk.

Yes, this happens every year.

The official goal is 50,000 words – the minimum length of a complete novel manuscript. In my experience, my novels usually go way over 50k, but most novels do. Reaching that 50k is a true achievement anyway. Like winning a marathon. Only in this case, the gold medal comes in the form of your own hand patting you on the back. Or on December 1st, having your mother yell at you to finally start dumping your stinky clothes in the washer.

Although I’ve written my fair share of words each NaNoWriMo, I haven’t “won” yet. This is because I had been in graduate school the past three years where November is one of the most hectic months. Academia is always on the verge of chaos at this time. As a grad teaching assistant, grading and planning classes became more important than ever. Students burst into your office, demanding that their tardy sins be forgiven and that the A- they got on their last paper should bumped up to an A.

I had my own graduate classes to worry about too. 20-page annotated bibliographies don’t write themselves. My short stories had to go through the writing workshop mill, again and again, only to always come out in pieces. During my last year, when the epic movie that is Wreck-It Ralph was released, I adopted Felix’s “I can fix it!” mantra while staying up late at night, taking turns critiquing my students short stories and revising my own.

Somehow, I managed to update my piddling word count at NaNoWriMo’s hub every now and then. And each year, I felt proud with what I had accomplished.

Fast-forward to now.

Kind of. Because before I tell you what my current NaNoWriMo project is, I should probably explain my mental state leading up to November. Because I’m not working on Boys & Bees this month… despite the bees that literally plague the palm tree outside my front door. I know they’re looking for updates (or the fruit growing on the tree. Or both). I feel like a have the mafia, in bee-form, staking out my house until I finish that novel. Gah. Nevertheless.

Let me explain you a thing. Remember the novella I wrote and posted on Figment back in May – Stella Over the Fireplace? WELL, I hadn’t written anything new since then. That’s almost four and a half months of no new writing. What was I doing?

Revision. REVISON (it needed to be in caps).

After taking Stella down and submitting it, I found out that two publishers were having open door submission periods… around the same time. For those who don’t know, open door submissions means that a writer can, for a period of time, submit an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher for consideration. This is a rare, wonderful thing since most publishers only look at manuscripts sent to them by literary agents (hence, the term solicited manuscripts). Since my hunt for an agent continues on with all the endless mountain-climbing and orc-battling of The Hobbit, I jumped at the chance to take advantage of the open doors. But I had to polish my manuscripts one last time.

And then I quickly sunk into the dreaded pit of revision hell.

Now, normally “revision hell” means that a writer is stuck in an endless cycle of revising the same manuscript over and over again. Yet for me, it was more like being constantly handed another manuscript to revise after the previous one was finished. It began with Tread Softly. I wrote the final chapter that I’d been putting off writing for a while. And then I shouted “I’m gonna wreck it!” and tore down the first three chapters, only to rebuild them into a shiny, much improved version. Then came tweaking and reworking the rest of it. After tying Tread Softly’s shoes and sending it on the bus with the other manuscripts, I turned by attention again to Birdcage Girl.

The opening chapter still didn’t sit right with me. And, between a few revisions on Pocket Forest, I realized that Birdcage Girl would probably need another overall round of polishing. That’s the thing with writers. We keep changing. We keep improving. Which means that as long as your manuscript is in your hands alone, you’ll always find something to revise. I shut off the lights, closed my bedroom door, and listened to the Pushing Daisies soundtrack until inspiration flew at me, saying, “Yes, this is the beginning. Right here. You were close, but this is better.”

Yay for soundtracks!

And so, I continued revising BG again too. When I had spare time at work, I edited and reworked sentences. When I came home, I stared again at another mess of words on the screen and revised some more. By the time I sent BG out again (I buttoned its sweater and waved as it boarded a plane), I was left wondering what else I had to fix / change / revise.

But all that was left was the blank page. A new story. And I was scared for the first time.

Imagine spending months on end doing nothing but changing words already written on paper. So when someone hands you a blank sheet and says, “create,” it’s not exactly a shining moment of freedom. Trying to write something new was like waking up from surgery without the use of my hands. Sentences dripped from my fingers, dull and jumbled, and I could hardly stand looking at what I wrote. I deleted almost everything I tried to write.

Me on a good day.

The thought of continuing Boys & Bees was very appealing for many reasons, but I knew that I’d want to revise all 30k before writing new chapters. Which was bad. Because I’d only be delaying the fact that I had to face the blank page again.

I had to force myself to use the other side of my writer-brain again. Turn off the internal editor. Awaken the dreamer. Nothing could shake me out of this stupor like starting a new project:

This title is shiny.
Planning WCFiL was fun because this new set characters are just… something. Really. They have interesting backstories, a stake in the novel’s main conflict, and when they talk to each other, I hardly know what to expect. Even though my writing is always fiction, the topic of this project is near and dear to my heart. I feel like, while I’ve been gaining back my writing-creating skills, I’ve also been exploring my own feelings about the topic. Expect magic, heartache, humor, and goose chases.

Say hello to a town that believes in the powers of love charms. The people of this town trust in their fortunes so fervently that they never question the mysterious woman handing them out… and how she can possibly know everyone’s romantic fate. A few hapless teens band together to form a rebellion bent on overthrowing the woman, but in the end, whose side is Love on?

However, like all of my projects these days, this one has a deadline too. So I don’t think I’ll be able to share it on Figment without taking it down quickly after. Hang on tight because you’ll be able to read this story soon, one way or another *cue evil laugh*

So this is NaNoWriMo... and I'm going to kick butt this year. I've got my headphones, Charlotte Bronte muscle tee, cup of earl grey. Today's NaNoThon is going to rock.

101 Fan Clubers

The theme of this post is most definitely celebration. The spinning vortex that is November has been sending me into a tailspin, but I wanted very much to grab onto something solid for a moment and post about this amazing thing:

*rubs eyes* Am I dreaming? No? Hurrah! It's official: my figment fan club has reached 101 members!

This is totally a big deal. Yes, I do have a lot of followers, but for someone to enjoy my writing enough to join the group does matter a lot to me. We all know what the figment groups are like; it's hard to check updates, new comments, etc., when there's no notification system. No matter what group you join, you're left in the dark (unless you have a shameless habit of checking the groups every four minutes... in which case, not many people are like that. Trust me).

So 101 fans... thank you. Thank you so much. And while I'm at it, a hearty thank you to fellow figgie Ben Chapman who created the group way back in '11 and the admins and mods that continue to look cool, haha.

You guys give me the honey glows something awful.

To celebrate, I rearranged my schedule in order to try (and it's working so far) to write, write, write and post. As much as I love the feedback on Tread Softly, I know what you all really want is more Boys & Bees - hence, the new chapter.

We're getting to a tipping point in the story. There's the looming circus, the dead-end clues, the mysterious helper and Hedda's secret... gah! Well, cool your heels. I'm writing when I can, but until then.. here's a formspring question to tide you over.

What are the school's uniforms on B&B? and if they don't wear uniforms, what do Hedda and Lorabeth usually wear?

Clothing. Yes. This is the perfect opportunity to create some visuals. In terms of the apiology school's uniforms, the descriptions have shown up within the early chapters of Boys & Bees. The colors are mostly black and yellow, though I think the combination isn't so jarring with majority of the uniform being black. The boys and girls have different uniforms. The girls wear yellow cardigans with black blouses underneath, a plaid skirt, and knee-high stockings. The shoes shoe be black, but Lorabeth wears her beat-up boots with her uniform while other girls have nice new shoes. The boys wear black cardigans with yellow collared shirts underneath, black pants, and yellow socks. Very charming, haha.

Lorabeth Frisch

I would say that Lorabeth is a uniform-wearing girl. She barely remembers to change out of her uniform, save for the weekends (when her dirt-encrusted skirts and cardigans have piled up for the wash). Lorabeth doesn't have much clothing, fashion being a thing that doesn't matter to her. 

Her clothes are boyish, like the pants and suspenders combo she wore the day after the fire. In the latest chapter, Lorabeth unearths an old dress in the back of her closet - her mother probably picked it out for her. When I saw the collar, I thought it was perfect for bees to hide under, haha. 

Hedda Sparling

Unlike Lorabeth, Hedda is very feminine with (likely expensive clothing in soft shades of pink, cream, and other pastels. Any trinkets she has are far from tacky; her jewelry is subtle, usually with thin chains and small charms. Hedda basically wears dresses and skirts - it makes me wonder if she would ever borrow Lorabeth's pants if she had to.

I included that poster in the collage, saying "A true love story never ends" because we're still guessing what kind of feelings Hedda has in terms of love and boys. Maybe she does have hope for love - but why would she need hope when every guy has a crush on her? Heh, we'll find out.

Lorabeth and Hedda

Where did you get your inspiration for Lorabeth and Hedda and how did you choose their names?

Wow, my first Formspring question! Thank you for asking, dear anonymous reader! I'm excited to answer. For anyone who reads my blog, and not so much my Figment work, this question is in regards to my newest project on Figment, a serial novel called Boys and Bees.

Lorabeth Frisch 

When I'm writing about Lorabeth, I do imagine her looking something like actress Hailee Steinfeld. There's a wildness about her hair (looks like it could hold twigs) and an unconventional kind of beauty about her.

Even though the first chapter of my serial novel, Boys and Bees, starts off with the angle of examining Hedda, the story began when I created my true main character, Lorabeth. I've always had a love for mori girls, a kind of woodland-inspired fashion trend created in Japan. To me, my main character had to be a little wild, untamed, but still lovable. I looked at a lot of old vintage photos of little girls with snarled hair and rumbled dresses and was, in part, inspired by the description of the little girl in one of William Wordsworth's poems called "We Are Seven." He writes:

"She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad;
Her eyes were fair, and very fair,
Her beauty made me glad."

Usually my characters are pretty straight-laced, always doing their homework and making sure they're on time for appointments. So I wanted to do something different with Lorabeth by trying to make her a slacker, haha. Lorabeth is a very determined girl but has a one-track mind: training her bees is what matters to her the most and anything that gets in her way is nothing more than a useless distraction. In that way, she's a oddball for sure, but it makes writing about her a very fun and interesting experience. 

Lorabeth's relations with her parents - the lion-tamer father and gardener mother - will come about later in the story and will hopefully shed some light on where she picked up on some of those traits, haha. 

Finding a name for Lorabeth was tough. I didn't want to give her name that sounded too dreamy or feminine. I usually search through popular names starting from the Victorian Era and on - rarely do I pick names that are popular now - unless they happened to show up in other lists, as most names do. I happened upon a website that listed popular nicknames for boys and girls, and that's how I found, buried in the L's, the name Lorabeth. 

There is no actually name meaning for Lorabeth, but it is a combination of two existing ones: Lora means "laurel" and Beth means "house." It will be interesting to see how these two meanings will collide or if, perhaps, she develops a preference for one of them. 

Hedda Sparling

Dakota Fanning is, in a way, how I imagine Hedda to look. Hedda is a pale beauty with a round face and luminous eyes. I think Dakota, especially in this photo, embodies that kind of energy :)

The story of Boys and Bees begins with love letters - and someone had to read them. Hedda was born from this need. However, she quickly stood on her own as a mysterious and alluring girl... with something to hide. Well, it took me a while to find out what that secret was. I couldn't pry it from her. "Okay," I had thought. "This girl has a secret. Fine. I'll let her have it."

 Hedda's secret, within a chapter or two of writing, finally became clear; I can't wait to fill you in on it when the time comes in the story.

Again, like with Lorabeth, I hadn't yet written about a popular girl. I like teen school movies as much as the next person (Mean Girls being my favorite), but I never created my own set of Plastics before. Nor did I do it here. I fleshed Hedda's character out and realized that she'd never be flat like that - her father's influence, along with her secret, plus those constant love letters from boys, created a potent character that has a lot more layers than I first expected. Hedda Sparling may be the popular girl, but she's not happy with what that actually means. 

She teams up with Lorabeth because she shares a deep love for the school - and I'm sure, along the way, she'll reveal more of herself to the readers. 

When it came to her name, I didn't think about meaning. I came across "Hedda" and it stuck. Simple as that. For the purpose of answering the question fully, I looked up the meaning: "contention" or "strife." Wow. How perfect, haha. 

Questions For You...

How do you imagine Lorabeth and Hedda when you read Boys and Bees? When it comes to naming characters, what is your process?