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.