Imagining the end of the world is a popular pastime for many writers, and it never feels that hard to do. I think we as a species are all too quick to write off the planet or ourselves as doomed whenever it seems like things aren’t going well enough or too many bad things are happening at once.
I appreciate people who, when faced with such bleak outlooks, persist nontheless rather than just throw in the towel and call it the end. It’s not easy in the slightest, and sometimes it doesn’t even pay off, but I personally think it’s brave, and I admire them.
The main character in this story, for me, is one such person. Even when faced with an altogether bleak outlook, when it seems they have days to live at the most, they still find ways to fight back.
This is the song I listened to while writing this story, and sometimes I have no idea why, as was the case with this song. I think maybe it was just the mood of it that helped me write.
The story came to me when I was camping out in Gunma Prefecture last year. Most of the time I like camping where the car is right next to where you set up your tent (which should tell you I’m not properly camping in any sense of the word), but this particular campsite had a parking lot down a slope away from where the campsite was. They offered little wagons to shuttle stuff back and forth, at least, and I guess it helped give a more secluded feeling to be away from the car. Still, the feel of that campsite was eerie, at best. It was way too quiet, way too still, while I camped there.
And like in the story I wrote, there was a rundown building standing off to the side where the bathrooms were. I used the bathroom in the middle of the night, and just the vibes coming off the building made me regret that decision.
I left the campsite the next day feeling like I’d escaped a horror movie, though nothing had happened.
I couldn’t help but put my favorite guide, Celea, into the story, though she’s not named. I love her random adventures saving people from the supernatural.
For anyone following along, this is the fourth time she’s appeared in one of my stories. You can read the other stories featuring her below:
I’m almost done watching Season 2 of Loki on Disney Plus (I know I’m behind. I hate waiting every week for a new episode so I’m in the camp that waits until every episode is out before beginning to watch), and episode 5 struck a nerve with me.
There aren’t any spoilers, so don’t worry.
One of the characters in episode 5 is at a bookstore trying to buy a book that won’t scan. The cashier insists she has to be able to scan the book for inventory control while the character says he could just pay for the book with cash, without need for a receipt. The cashier then checks the book jacket and sees the character is the author of the book, and another person working at the store chases him out of the store, saying, “You again? Stop coming here! No one wants to buy your books!”
There is horror, and there are traumatic scenes in movies. Sometimes they can be both, too, which this scene was for me.
Because I could see myself doing something like that all too well. I finally get one of my books published, only for everyone to unanimously agree they never want to read them. I’m, thus, stuck wandering from bookstore to bookstore (or the book sections of Big Box stores) surreptitiously dropping my books off onto the shelves and praying.
The greatest fear for me, anyway, as an author is not that people won’t like what I write. I don’t care if someone reads my books and says, “Give me my time and money back. This was the worst thing I’ve read since that counting book I read to my kid last night.” I don’t care if reviewers say absolutely horrible things about me as a writer. None of that would matter, because at least it meant they’d read even some of my book.
No, the worst fear for me is no one wanting to read the books in the first place. I don’t know if every author shares this fear, but I would have to imagine they do. What author wants to pour their heart and soul into a book, only to be met by a world that won’t even read it?
I’m going to continue plodding along, writing and trying to get these books I can’t stop writing published, all while praying there is at least one person on earth who wants to read them.
This is the last in a sudden string of publications, I think, but I had a short story called “Marella” published in issue 3 of Lit Sharkon Halloween as well. I wanted to give the two stories published on Halloween a little space in between, which is why I’m posting about this one now. You can read the story here.
I know I wrote earlier that at some point I would like to remember what songs I was obsessively listening to while writing each story, and I finally wrote down the song for this one. It was Placebo’s cover of “Running up that Hill.”
I’ve loved this song for years for the mood it gives while writing dark stories, and I honestly didn’t even know it was a cover until Stranger Things fans went nuts about the original a little while back to the point where I, who has never seen Stranger Things, knew about it. The lyrics for the song make me think Placebo’s chilling rendition is better than the original, but that’s just my humble opinion.
Anyway, if you feel so inclined, please listen to the cover song while reading the story.
I decided to write “Marella” because I feel like pop culture has moved mermaids firmly into the realm of being good creatures (I’m looking at you, my beloved “The Little Mermaid” movie). My understanding is they were actually feared creatures when tales of them first spread, I’m sure by sailors who wanted to have something to blame when things went wrong at sea. I thought it’d be nice to add another dark story about them to their lore.
I had fun writing this from the perspective of the mermaid, too, who doesn’t see what she’s doing as being necessarily wrong. For her, the drowning is a means to an end, and I’m not sure if that makes her a pure evil villain or not.
Marella, in case you’re interested, comes from Latin and means “star of the sea.” More often than not, I’m extremely careful about the names I choose for my characters.
I’m excited to share I had a short story published on the Coffin Bell literary website just in time for Halloween (in America, anyway). You can read the story here.
I’ve noticed a pattern among some of my short stories where they’re villain-origin stories more than anything else. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always found it a fascinating study to determine what makes someone decide to throw their moral compass away.
For this story, I also took the superstition I’ve learned since living in Japan about how mirrors can be evil. The only magical concept I had about mirrors prior to living here came from Alice in Wonderland, and The Matrix. However, I noticed one day while visiting my friend’s apartment that she kept a cloth over her full-length mirror tucked in the corner of her bedroom. When I asked why she covered it, she said something along the lines of how the cloth helped keep out evil spirits at night. Until that point, I’d never thought of mirrors in such a dark light before.
I thought it was an intriguing idea, and I wanted to do something with it in a story. Hence, “The Remaining Ashes.”
This is also my second interpretation of an “oni,” or demon, in a short story (the other was in “The Chains“). For this story, I thought of this particular oni as one who had lost its physical form and needed someone with the potential to do dark magic to help it.
After writing this story, I toyed with the idea of making it Chapter One of a longer book, but I’ve since gotten distracted writing other books. Maybe someday I’ll revisit it, but until then, I hope you enjoy it!
I’m happy to report I got a short story called “The Birthday Cake” in issue 2 of Lit Shark. You can read it here. There’s also a paperback version coming soon if you’re interested in buying a copy!
This story is a departure from my usual dark fanfare, and I really hadn’t meant for that to happen. I wrote this story fully expecting the main character would go home from shopping feeling defeated and angry at the world. I know it’s crazy, but the character kind of fought back as I was writing. I can best describe it as I was watching her in my mind’s eye in the parking lot taking her groceries to the car after a horrible experience at the grocery store, and I saw her stop by the bumper of her car and just push back against everything I had planned for her.
The woman in question is a mixture of my mom and my mother-in-law, and the story came to me when I was at a grocery store with my mother-in-law, who can’t see the tiny coins very well in her purse. The cashier was incredibly impatient with her inability to distinguish the coins, and my mother-in-law walked away from the experience slightly shaken at how brazenly the cashier had wanted her to stop “being in the way of everyone.”
My mother is the more playful, childish sides of the character who punches back at me, as usual. Together, they form the kind of woman I hope I end up being when I get older.
I think far too often, cultures the world over make us all believe our lives reach their zenith at around 20 and decline from there until we simply are pushed into oblivion by the younger generations. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, and I think we would all benefit from having this stigma erased from our consciousnesses. I’m hoping to contribute however I can, though all too often the characters I write are young, too. I’m working on it.
There are certain shows I like to watch when I don’t particularly feel like thinking too much, which is not to say the shows are stupid – more that the premise is sweet in its simplicity. I love baking shows for this reason (my favorite is “The Great British Bakeoff”), and I’ve always been a fan of Netflix’s “Nailed It!” series.
While I would love to think I would hold my own in that great tent of “The Great British Bakeoff”, the truth is, I’d be way more at home on the “Nailed It” set presenting one disaster after another to the judges. I think maybe that’s why a lot of people love the “Nailed It” series – they can see themselves doing a lot of what the contestants do.
The opportunity to binge-watch the latest incarnation of “Nailed It” presented itself when I was taken out by the flu this week and completely bedridden with a high fever on Wednesday, I think it was. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track of the days when you’re sick.
For “The Big Nailed It Baking Challenge”, which is like a cross between “The Great British Bakeoff” and “Nailed It”, the show took 12 people who are relatively bad at baking, gave them two baking teachers, then had the contestants create masterpieces in cake in a limited time frame.
While the first few episodes were entirely relatable (except for spreading buttercream with your hands on a cake), it felt like viewers weren’t given all of what was going on because it went from contestants saying things like “I have no idea what’s going on so I’ll just grab whatever I can find in the pantry behind me” to “Today, I’d like to make a ganache with a complementary raspberry reduction and a coconut buttercream that will hopefully really play up the chocolate notes of the cake” in a matter of about four episodes. The contestants went from “We shall all make vanilla cake and that is all we know” to things like “Today, I thought I’d try passionfruit in my cake, which is going to have orange blossom extract and a little bit of pretzles and freeze-dried strawberries for that added flavor and texture.”
How are they able to just wildly come up with these flavor combinations? My fever-addled brain concluded that we the viewers aren’t being shown all of the conversations between the contestants and the teachers, and that surely those teachers are severely helping them progress at such lightning speed and are teaching them these flavor combinations. I know I would never think to pair the flavors they suddenly do in the latter half of the show without some sort of guidance.
It’s an enjoyable show to watch, though, and I love the Baking 101 they do at the beginning of each episode. I don’t think I’m ever going to air-brush a cake, though, and I’m fine with that.
My last comment about this show is that I adore what they do for people who get booted off at the end of each episode. Normally with these shows it’s “Sorry, you’re out” and then sometimes hugs are exchanged and the poor person leaving gives a heartfelt speech about what a great experience this was for them. Then, they just leave.
On this show, however, those booted contestants get a 1-minute “pantry raid” on the set, where they can take absolutely anything they want and shove it into a tiny golden shopping cart before their time is up. If I were them, I would grab about 10 of those mixers – each one costs about $300, right? I’d gift them out to all my friends and family. And what about some of those extracts and emulsions? Or, above all, vanilla beans. I would dump all of them into my shopping cart. I like that the show doesn’t simply make the contestants leave empty handed, which too many shows do.
For this story, I wanted to change the traditional and frankly annoying trope that men save women, who are always in distress. I liked the idea that the woman in this story is both in distress and her own hero. I also took out any male presence in the story since it strikes me as a story that would otherwise be traditionally rife with male characters.
It was quite frankly refreshing writing this as flash fiction piece, which I don’t do that much of at all, because all too often I’ll get ideas that are nothing more than a scene from a story, and my task then becomes to flesh it out on either side so it becomes a story. It was nice not having to bother padding it out, though the challenge then became making the story stand well enough on its feet without that padding. I have no idea if I pulled it off or not, but I do have to say that I really love this story. I can picture it all in my head – a knight on the ground struggling to just get up while the villain starts to lose it because that knight was her last hope. It makes me wish I could draw better.
I have to say I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t write down what song I listened to while writing this story – I always end up listening to at least one story on repeat while writing stories. I’ll try to remember them from now on and include them in these entries should I ever hopefully get anything published again.
I’m extremely happy to say I have a short story being read on a podcast called “Kaidankai.” If you have a minute, please give it a listen!
For those of you following along at home, this is the third installment in my series involving a person named Celea, whose job it is to guide lost souls on earth. I have to admit I’m having a lot of fun writing these episodes involving her. The challenge has been to make sure the stories can stand on their own while also being able to be connected to the series for anyone interested in reading them in a row, but I love these kind of challenges.
This story is also a villain origin story for the girl in the story, who is supposed to be a guide like Celea but who might go the other way out of hatred. I haven’t written any stories involving this girl yet, but I might in the future because I’m really curious to see how far she’s going to fall.
If you would like to follow along in the adventures of Celea, I would love if you would read them in this order, but obviously it’s entirely up to you:
While my main focus is on Japanese dramas, every now and then the story of a Korean drama will catch my interest.
It wasn’t until quite recently that I discovered many of the Korean dramas I’ve really enjoyed have been written by the same pair of writers, Hong Jung-eun and Hong Mi-ran (apparently known as the Hong sisters).
I’ve had my eye on Alchemy of Souls (also on Netflix) for a while, too, after reading the summary for it on Netflix, but the preview made it seem like the entire show would be about a woman with the soul of a mighty warrior being forced to work for a spoiled man who doesn’t know she’s really a warrior and how one day she’s going to take him out. The preview made the plot sound ridiculous, but maybe something lighthearted to enjoy.
The preview gave the entirely wrong impression; the spoiled man finds out in the first episode and within about 30 seconds of meeting her that she’s actually a warrior trapped in another body. That alone had my attention and kept me going for the first few episodes, at which point the overall plot had me wrapped up in it, and I couldn’t wait to get to the next episode, then the next.
Both dramas I mention above were written by the Hong sisters, long may they write great dramas. Gumiho is a lot lighter, though that vet seriously needs to cool it with the melodramatics.
After years of casually watching Korean dramas, I’ve learned a few things about them.
They are ridiculously long. Each episode is at least an hour, and there are at least 16 episodes. Alchemy had 30 episodes.
At least for shows the Hong sisters write, seemingly unimportant conversations among minor characters will have a knock-on effect to the overall plot and can prove to be fundamental plot points later on, so there is no skipping in these things.
There will be heartbreak, often set to singers wailing ballads. Several times I thought the ballad ruined the scene. One death scene in Alchemy, for example, I thought would’ve been so much better in complete silence, but I had to listen to a singer hitting those high notes as the character’s hand falls limp.
Metaphors run rampant. Alchemy had people being referred to as bird’s eggs, room-warming stove things, turtles and dogs throughout. And these metaphors will not go away; the main characters will drag the metaphors through their heated, passionate arguments with each other until the end of the series. (“I guess I really am as useless as a room-warming stove thing in summer,” says a character before storming away. That kind of thing)
The fan base for every single actor seems to be absolutely rabid, and it makes me want to not even look up the names of the actors because a lone Google search reveals so much fans have tried to dig up about them that I’m a bit scared.
At least with Hong sisters’ series, viewers are given all the information except in a few rare ocassions. This makes it frustrating when characters do things simply because they don’t have the whole story (most of watching Part Two of Alchemy was me screaming at the screen, “I can tell you who she is!”)
Despite some of the cheesy tropes (I’m looking at you, “Characters who always have tearful breakups because they don’t have all the information” trope), I really liked the relative tightness of the story for Alchemy and how, like in life, seemingly unimportant things turned out to be crucial.
I liked the acting (admittedly I speak about three words of Korean despite the hours and hours of watching this series), and the special effects were sometimes good. The soundtrack was magnificent, as were the sets. All of this made for quite an enjoyable series that hardly ever went the way I thought it would, which I always appreciate.