Behind Glass (section twenty-eight)

‘Ch-chance … to see … her,’ he forced out determinedly, gesticulating, forming signs as he spoke. He found it helped, somewhat.  ‘W-w-why … w-waste? W-why … n-not w-w-want … look at … h-h-her? Even if … c-c-c-can’t … h-have …’

Pan choked, muffling his coughs in his elbow.

‘Don’t misunderstand, of course they want to see her: Jacyntha’s a celebrity, someone special and exciting. But men aren’t romantically interested in women, we haven’t been for centuries. You know that. That was wonderful, by the way,’ he added, smiling praise for Pan’s verbal efforts.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-seven)

Finished sharpening, Pan arranged her arrows neatly in the propped up quiver and jumped backwards, standing at attention as Jacyntha raised her bow. In emptying that quiver, she struck dead centre twice, then scored eight, six, nine, four, and eight, hit the centre four times in a row, and scored eight with her final shot. Pan was sure every single arrow, every score (except perhaps that four), was calculated. Between shots she’d turn to her spectators, flashing confident smiles and laughing.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-six)

From three-thirty, the castle began to fill with rich and powerful men, many come from wards right at the edge of the country. They had arrived days before, and stayed in private suits arranged in the sunniest corners of the castle, or else at their own stylish townhouses. Those who’d enjoyed appointments with pretty and popular women joined men just arrived from the city, congregating in parlours, libraries, and at the Shelves where they exchanged greetings—gentlemanly cordial handshakes between acquaintances, and boisterously enthusiastic hugs and back slaps between close friends long unmet.  From four, taking their tumblers of amber whisky and pungent smoking pipes with them, they began to flow out onto the castle grounds, crowds of common men falling back to let them pass.
Continue reading

Personal Fails and More General Internet Ones

Just when I’ve written that my blogging calendar’s looking all bare, I miss a day. Terrible reason, too. Came home from choir yesterday with every intention of blogging something – hadn’t quite decided what, yet – but instead wound up catching up on the two episodes of The Hour that I missed while in Adelaide. And today … I’m using my 3G. Internet’s been out since late yesterday night. So, I suppose even had I gotten around to blogging last night, I might not have been able to.

Argh, I generally avoid this at all costs. This is the third time I’ve started this post – the iDevice has been having serious disagreements with WordPress. Not the best way to blog … but I’ll make do. I hate the term first world problems, but …

Not a great deal exciting to report, anyway. Send out a few query letters to agents. Editing the NaNoWriMo novel. Working on Behind Glass, which I was going to post today when the Internet came back, only it didn’t. Contemplating an older story that’s next in line once I finish up everything I’m working on now. Should probably be drafting the next Treading Twisted Lines and writing the last six or so chapters of Tom, but may wait until I’m done seeing to the NaNoWriMo creation. The story isn’t as terrible as I was afraid it would sound when I read it again, but still needs a fair amount of adjustment. About a third of the way through, now.

So ends another highly uninformative, not very useful post. Sorry about that. Should probably start blogging about something I know heaps about and could actually be useful for others. Sadly, though, the thing I know the most about is my own writing, just as it was when I started this blog. And I can’t even give good advice on writing. Sorry, again.

Blog content’s probably not going to change any time soon. If it does, though, you’ll probably be the first to know.

Homecoming Gifts and Long-Awaited First Assessments

Woke up after arriving back in Brisbane yesterday evening to a lovely homecoming present – my first book review.

A fellow Smashwords author called Sam Seudo – I read one of his short stories last year, and really got into it – wrote a wonderful review of The Chosen Voice, giving it four out of five stars. His assessment was extensive, drew attention to both good points and less-well-executed aspects, summed up his overall opinion … pretty much everything someone could want in a first review. He even helped me realise something important about one of the lead characters, which will affect how I write her again. If she pops up in the story cycle again. She probably will. I at least want one more appearance from her, even if it’s brief.

Think I’ll have to up the number of reviews I write for my fellow Smashwords authors. It’s just such a lovely thing to find in your email, that someone you’ve never met has read and honestly appraised your work. Something all writers should have the true pleasure of experiencing.

Adelaide was fine. Hot, though. But dry. Spent time with some good people, a few of them even quite like-minded to me. And the concert went reasonably well after a week of intensive rehearsals, though the first half was better than the second, I think. A good festival, all in all. Nice to be blogging again, though. My poor calendar’s looking so sad.

Until the Twentieth

Tomorrow, shall be boarding a morning plane and travelling south-west for Adelaide to partake in a choral festival, ten days worth of singing and frivolity. Much of it in a castle. It has turrets.

Needless to say, given said castle, the likelihood of my continuing to post in a (generally) regular fashion shall be hindered from tomorrow until the twentieth, when I return home. Castles, I believe, are not known for their wi-fi. Particularly those with turrets.

If my evaluation of the castle wi-fi situation proves inaccurate, perhaps I’ll try for a quick post now and then. However, such posts probably would not be worth reading, as I could not promise them the degree of effort they deserve, given my time will be pretty well occupied with rehearsals and the above-mentioned frivolity. More, they would make the title of this post rather redundant. So, even if there is internet access, I’ll probably take a break, and stay absent from the doll thermometer until the festival is over. Any truly free moments should probably be devoted to getting the bare bones of the next Treading Twisted Lines story finalised. Had a bit of a moment over my notebooks, before: didn’t like the notion of bringing them, liked the notion of leaving them at home even less. So they’re coming. They may just be extra weight, but … can’t really do much about it. And I’ll be glad, if I need them.

So. Until the twentieth.

Good blogging to you all.

Behind Glass (section twenty-five)

All with early afternoon appointments scheduled, Jacyntha and a few other archers chose to pass their free hour after lunch together, starting in a sunny parlour and progressing to the sunnier rose gardens by the castle’s tightly guarded front gate. Apparently immune to the tense atmosphere the extensive castle guard in black created, armed with pikes and rifles and so many knifes they bristled with silver, the archers amiably discussed the next day’s tournament, though Jacyntha and Jenna in particular chattered in an anticipatory, challenging fashion, making bets as to who would score highest with their first shot, and trying to prise and trick the others’ tactics out into the open. Jared, at Jenna’s side, shot Pan an occasional disapproving, apprehensive look, warning him not to do anything controversial before the other escorts.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-four)

‘You shot with her, and you almost won?’

After one gibber of disbelief, Jared was reduced to a state of mute shock. The others needing only a moment to digest the unexpected news, Merrick grinned and Mal smiled and shook his head, grabbing a few beef sandwiches and a pear from the escorts’ spread.

Downstairs, the woman had already finished plucking morsels from a delectable array of raw and lightly baked finger food, dipping them in an even greater variety of sweet, spicy, citrus-infused, honey-based, and soy sauces, and bathing their hands in the warm water their escorts held, wiping them on white towels hanging over their forearms. Once every platter was cleared, the escorts were momentarily excused. Needing to get back a hurry, given only fifteen minutes to eat as their women drank tea and socialised to a live string orchestra under the watchful eyes of several Masters, a Director or two, and a squadron of castle soldiers, the four claimed the end of the nearest table and began to wolf down their lunches.
Continue reading

Distractions, Desire, and the Art of Playing Demi-God

My greatest distraction right now is Sims 3. I think I got the game late in the year it came out (2009) as the store-bought disc version, but then received the Steam version while I was in Japan, so I could have a bit of a play on my laptop now and then. Unfortunately, whenever I do anything leisure-related, I tend to do it hard, be it TV show watching, reading, or simming. I can very easily sim for up to four or five hours at a time without noticing at all how long I’ve been building houses, forcibly forging friendships, and in general playing demi-god. Not as bad as some of the tales I’ve heard from past Guild Wars enthusiasts about their incredibly lengthy periods of non-stop play , but not the best situation to put myself in when there is so much to be written.

Luckily, it never seems to lasts. I sim significantly for a week or so, give or take a few days, and then don’t touch the game for quite some time; two or three months is the normal abstinence period. Then, the urge resurfaces and I’m again temporarily sucked back into the Sim world.

I’ve gone a little overboard this time, though. The Sim-urge usually doesn’t last this long. I think I can safely attribute it to the fact that I received two very nice expansion packs – Pets and Seasons – from sister Frannie for Christmas, and bought an items pack myself on sale in the Steam Store. I hope I’m not taking a leap of faith, trusting that this current Sim phase will not last. Otherwise, I may have to start being firm with myself, and actively fight the desire to play. That doesn’t sound like fun …

Should finish chapter 19 of Tom tonight, by the way. Tonight, or tomorrow afternoon after we get back from Stanthorpe . That’s a little country town around 220 kilometres from Brisbane quite well-known for its national parks and wineries – we’re off wine tasting in the morning. Came up with some excellent ways to round this chapter up in the shower after a rather extended period of simming. The simming itself probably had little to do with the sudden little crackles of inspiration, but perhaps the act of abandoning Sims 3 somehow improves the brain’s capabilities.

Good excuse for me to keep playing …

The Cheese Fondue Tiger Bread Cravings and the Fail Bread

On my ride home from the junior high and elementary schools in Minami Uji (South Uji) each afternoon, I would often stop at a certain bakery, situated just inside the doors of a large shopping centre called Aeon Mall. Rarely would I buy sliced bread here, unless I was in a pinch – a little sweet and shiny for my taste. The bakery a minute from my apartment well suited my loaf needs, though it also boasted some spectacular bread rolls – I think I blogged about them once, not long before I returned to Australia. It became a weekend routine, walking to that nearby bakery in the morning to acquire fresh and warm examples of my two favourites: one with cheese, and the other cheese and bacon, spiced with pepper. However, this bakery didn’t have what the bakery on my ride home from school did.

And what this place had were rolls of tiger bread stuffed with cheese fondue.

Cheese Fondue Tiger Bread

I had no idea, initially. The first time I bought them I failed to read the label properly, and thinking they were common tiger bread rolls, got them to eat with my beef stroganoff that night. Such a surprise it gave me, when I bit one open to find it full of some unknown dairy substance. Perhaps it was sour cream or soft cream cheese, I thought initially, but on closer investigation back at the bakery, I easily read that it was cheese fondue. Not something I ever expected to find in tiger bread.

Quickly recovering from the shock I’m sure any would experience on discovering fondue in their bread instead of coating it on the outside, I realised the taste was just incredible. The bread warm and soft, tiger’s top all crusty and crackly, glistening ever-so-slightly with oil remains, loaded with this amazingly light and flavoursome cheese fondue. I would ride home smelling it from inside the plastic shop bag dangling from my handle bars, the slightly greasy paper bag within catching my eye as I checked for oncoming traffic, full of anticipation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently, I’ve been experiencing some quite full-on hankerings for this bread. Unfortunately, I’m yet to see it in an Australian bakery. I’ve been trolling about the internet in search of recipes, but, unable to find what I’m looking for, more and more I’m lamenting the sweet girl in that bakery on the last day I was there (I was returning to Uji City Hall after the summer closing ceremony at junior high, and had to pause to buy a final roll. Devastated when there were none on display, I asked when the next batch was due and waited twenty-five minutes for them to finish baking, ensuring I was late for one of our final meetings) laughing apologetically and refusing to give in when I begged for the recipe. “You can’t buy bread like this in Australia,” I told her. Still, she refused to relent to my foreigner charm, keeping her bakery’s secrets.

Tired of longing, I put yeast on our shopping list and yesterday evening attempted to re-create the amazing cheese fondue tiger bread from the Minami Uji Aeon Mall Bakery. As the only bread I’ve made before was a basic flat bread to eat with spicy mince, attempting something like this without an exact recipe probably wasn’t the best way to go. At least, not while expecting something matching your wild hopes and imagination to come out of it.

Now follows an account of the Amazing Fail Bread of January 1, 2013:

It didn’t appear a lost cause. At least, not totally. It was definitely something resembling bread coming out of the oven. That  was some consolation.

Beth had been having some major concerns between kneading and shaping and leaving to rise, sitting back in front of “Perfume” in between stages: the yeast in water and sugar hadn’t fizzed and frothed, and she may have powdered the bench with too much flour for kneading. She may, in fact, not have kneaded the dough well enough at all. After the first hour of rising, in her hope Beth though the dough may have expanded minimally, but it wasn’t much to punch down, fist becoming quickly greased and slippery with olive oil as she struck the doughy blob, wet slaps resounding.

Patted into ten little rolls, after another hour again they’d failed to puff out to double their size. But still they were stuffed with spoonfuls of cooled cheese fondue and pinched closed, placed deep within 180 degrees. Fearful that the questionable products of her experimentation would catch alight, Beth checked the rolls periodically, and with increasing sadness saw that they did not develop the lovely tiger crust, nor even brown, remaining only dense doughy blobs on twin baking trays. After forty minutes they were still quite pale, so she left them for another fifteen, wondering if the cooking time should be lengthened to allow such dense bread to cook through.

Removed from the oven, though barely risen, they were now browned. But curse kitchen ineptitude and a lack of appropriate recipes to follow! She had created fail bread!

Fail Bread

They were tough little rounds, more like biscuits than bread and as heavy as lead, a challenge for teeth to meet through. Rock-hard and chewy, her head soon ached, temporal muscles working so hard to tear her sad creation apart. And the cheese fondue within had flattened and solidified at the base of each roll, reduced to a state even tougher than the bread itself.

‘The bread failed,’ she announced rather dismally, her admittedly childish hopes of presenting her family with something not identical, but alike enough to the legendary bread she remembered so well now totally dismantled. But at least the fail bread was edible. It hadn’t exploded, nor caught alight. And having been consoled by stories of professional-standard electric bread makers sometimes failing to produce the bread promised, Beth decided that her experimentation was not in vain. With experience and patience, and flour designed especially for baking bread and pizza bases, the future would surely see her produce a cheese fondue tiger bread roll that she could be proud of.

That future, she thought wryly as she wiped down the kitchen bench, had better come before I’m rendered legally crippled by these cravings.