Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Weirdest Holiday Traditions: the Tió

Look at this little guy. Doesn't he look adorable and toasty warm wrapped up in his blanky?


Hello! I'm the tió!


Now let's set the holiday mood: Imagine it's Christmas and the tree is all set up and glowing. The children are in the living room taking care of their pet log, feeding it cookies and milk like any normal kid would. In walk Mom and Dad holding sticks. "Okay, kids," Mom says. "If you want your presents you have to beat the crap out of the log--literally."

And so begins the pooping of the tió, one of the most beloved holiday traditions in Catalonia.


Say what?

Let's get the basics:

The Tió de Nadal (Christmas log) is a very widespread Catalan tradition (also celebrated in neighboring regions just outside Catalonia). During the month of December, families set up the tió as part of their holiday decoration (I got a small one just under my tree). Children feed it a little bit each day so that, come Christmas, it'll be fat and ready to poop. Yup. Poop. That's the whole point of the tió: you gotta make it real fat so it'll poop out tons of presents. Some families buy various sized tiós, in order to "make it grow" as the days go by. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (depending on the home), it's time to get together as a family and beat the crap outta the tió.


Say what?

Okay, okay, I swear people actually do this! A lot of people! Many city halls even set up tiós in parks and plazas so kids can go whack it. There are even several songs to go along with the whacking process. Here are a couple, along with loose translations:
Different types of turró.

Caga tió,
caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó!
Caga tió! 


Poop tió,

Poop turró [nougat candy],
hazelnuts and mató [type of fresh cheese]
if you don't poop well
I'll hit you with a cane!
Poop tió! [And the beating continues.] 

And another one:

Caga tió,
Delicious mató cheese with honey.
tió de Nadal,
no caguis arengades,
que són massa salades!
Caga torrons
que són més bons!


Poop tió,
Christmas log,
don't poop herrings,
they're too salty!
Poop turrons, [nougat candy]
they're more delicious!


So what does the tió actually poop? Smaller presents, similar to what we would call stocking stuffers in the US. Some also poop nougat candies, chocolates, or even a dried herring to indicate it's done pooping. All this, of course is planted by the adults under the tió's convenient blanket while the kids are distracted and out of the room. There's usually something for everyone, though the kids understandably get the big poopie haul. "Look, honey! Your Tió pooped out Dora the Explorer!" (This sentence was actually spoken at my sister-in-law's home.)

So let's just leave that there, mmmkay?

Let the festivities commence!


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: Kafka on the Shore

**SPOILERS**

I'm officially disgruntled. You might have seen my recent post Review As You Read, in which I blundered through most of Kafka on the Shore and wrote a vague summary (didn't want to give things away) along with my reactions (I was equally pleased and bored).

Now that the story is over, I'm neither pleased nor bored. I'm frustrated.

Let me be clear: I enjoy mythology, I enjoy metaphysical meanderings, I love riddles--especially existentialist ones... Pondering my existence and treading on the verge of non-existence are themes I also investigate (to a limited degree) in my work. So why am I so dissatisfied with Kafka on the Shore?

Basically, I find it too open to interpretation. Don't get me wrong: I do enjoy open endings, but everything has to have a limit. Take the ending of the film Inception, for example. I know no movie is without sin, but I particularly enjoyed the free-interpretation ending in this flick. In my personal version, the happy ending is no more than a dream within a dream--a lie the main character tells himself. Other viewers argue that the ending is reality--check Cobb's wedding ring, etc.

In Inception we have an open ending, an unanswered riddle, and to me that's fine. Let's look at another example: Life of Pi. There is a heavy religious element (which some complain is shoehorned in), but also a gut-wrenching tale of survival. Which version of the story should we believe? Animal? Human? What really happened to Pi? Is the tiger a representation of his inner self, or was he truly on a boat with this massive feline? All unanswered questions, but not remotely as frustrating as Kafka on the Shore because, one way or another, readers can choose their own answers.

Having said that, let's return to Kafka on the Shore. Just off the top of my head:

What the hell happened to Nakata as a child? What's the meaning/use of the flute made out of cat souls? Is Johnnie Walker really Kafka's father? If so, does that make Kafka's father a cat murderer and possibly a meddler in the dark arts? Did Nakata ever manage to recover the part of himself that he lost in that freak accident we still know almost nothing about? Why'd he suddenly die? Is Colonel Sanders the same "entity" as Johnnie Walker? Why can't we get to see the flute? What the hell is that white creature that tries to go into the entrance stone? What the hell is that town hidden in the forest? Is it a sort of limbo? Other dimension? Afterlife? Too...many...frustrating...questions!

As you might have noticed, these questions don't really refer to the big picture. They're book-specific, plot-specific, however you want to call it. These are the worst, in my opinion, because they can easily make a reader feel frustrated and lose interest in the story. Their abundance makes me wonder if I might have blacked out during a few pages...or chapters. What's worse is that, as the action progresses, the questions just keep on piling up--and never get resolved! When absolutely every plot point raises a question that never gets answered, my BS meter starts to go off.

All these loose ends and unfulfilled promises build up so that by the time I reach the end of the novel I'm far from awed. I'm frustrated and not in the mood to ponder any longer--not when the questions I'm left with don't have any life-enlightening meaning to me. Not when the promise of dark fantasy (initiated by the character Johnnie Walker and his infamous soul flute) fizzles out into a mish-mash of pseudo-philosophical representations.

The answers are always just out of reach: a page away, just one more page, just a little more, then we'll finally understand. Not this page? Turn another one. Oh... Not in this chapter? Then maybe in the next one. Yeah, the next one for sure. Or not...

Let me illustrate my frustration with a sample from the book.

The last chapter contained a true kick in the gut for me. Kafka has just returned from "beyond" (whatever, whenever, and wherever the heck that is). Two WWII soldiers apparently frozen in time guard the entrance and lead Kafka back out to the cabin in the woods where he was staying. Soon, a man called Sada comes to pick him up and take him back to the library, his usual residence. This is part of the conversation that ensues:

     "Did you run across the soldiers?" Sada asks casually as if he'd asked me what time it was.
     "You mean those two soldiers?"
     "Right," Sada responds, glancing at me. "You went in that far, eh?"
     "Yeah, I did," I reply.
     His hands lightly gripping the wheel as he manoeuvres it, he doesn't respond, and his expression doesn't tell me anything.
     "Sada?" I ask.
     "Hm?" he says.
     "When you met those soldiers ten years ago, what did you do?"
     "What did I do when I met those soldiers?" he repeats.
     I nod and wait for his answer.
     He glances in the rear-view mirror, then looks ahead again, "I've never talked about that to anyone," he says. "Not even to my brother. Brother, sister--whatever you want to call him. Brother works for me. He doesn't know anything about those soldiers."
     I nod, saying nothing.
     "And I doubt I'll ever tell anybody about it. Even you. And I don't think you'll ever talk about it to anyone, either. Even to me. You know what I'm trying to say?"
     "I think so," I tell him.
     "What is it?"
     "It's not something you can get across in words. The real response is something words can't express."
     "There you go," Sada replies. "Exactly. If you can't get it across in words, then it's better not to try."

Page 496 of my edition (last chapter).

My reaction:
Are you serious? Did that just happen?

It's scenes like these which make me wonder if the author isn't having a hoot at our expense. I've seen them in book forums: loyal readers discussing and debating and picking apart every meaningless detail in an effort to understand something--anything. To me, that's grasping at straws. I'm the kind of person that wants answers. More or less straightforward answers. Maybe I'm too pragmatic. Maybe I'm too literal, though I do understand things aren't black or white but actually an ample gradient of tones of gray. People can have different answers for the same question, and they can all coexist.

Being open to interpretation isn't really the problem--I already mentioned this with examples such as Inception or Life of Pi. The problem is being too open to interpretation. So open, in fact, that the story begins to resemble more a pantomime of a riddle than an actual riddle.

Unfortunately, this is the sickening feeling I get after reading Kafka on the Shore. As I mentioned in my Review As You Read post, I generally enjoyed Nakata's chapters more than Kafka's because they were more straightforward and the action seemed to be leading somewhere. However, I felt cheated. Chapter 16 was for me a turning point in the story. Johnnie Walker needed to murder cats and devour their beating hearts in order to create a flute with the cat souls. The question is WHY? Why, God in Heaven, WHY?

Walker cruelly murders three cats as Nakata watches, helpless. Johnnie Walker wants Nakata to kill him, and finally the old man snaps and does just that. It was a shocker of a chapter, and it promised many things--things which never really came to term. Sure, Walker does make a final appearance in which the boy named Crow pecks out his eyes while he cackles with laughter. He even taunts us by mentioning that he now has the soul flute, but it's in his bag and he doesn't feel like taking it out. *Disgruntled grumbling.*

It seems we readers are always left with a sense of "aaaaaaaaaaaalmost there!" I could go on for days. That's how frustrated I am right now.

Let me finish my long list of negatives and give a quick nod to the positives: the novel does offer several beautiful passages. My favorite is when Kafka enters the forest for the first time and realizes how dangerous it truly is. The descriptions of the trees, guarding their realm, really brings the entire scene to life. Another segment I truly enjoyed appears near the beginning, in which a person's torment is compared to a sandstorm raging all around, a natural disaster we must overcome.

But that's pretty much it.

Conclusion:

Want to wonder about where we fit into the big scheme of things? Want to have your existence blown? A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking took me for a much wilder trip than Kafka on the Shore. Period.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Soul Distillery

It's been a while (over a year...) since I published my first novel, Serving Time. Many things have happened since then. The novel's sequel, Making Time, is just about ready--I only need to rewrite a chapter or two (*muffled cry of utter agony*). The third novel in the series, which is temporarily titled Out of Time, is also well underway.

It's tough juggling all these projects, so sometimes a break becomes mandatory. And what better way to relax than to slip out of the full-length novel and venture into novella? Yeah, that just about hits the spot. Toss in the tragic past of probably the most dangerous character in my series, and I got myself one humdinger of an R and R session.

Without further ado, I'm proud to present to you all The Soul Distillery.


When Robert's wife passes away, he vows to bring her back to him—even if he has to chop up his soul and feed it to the Devil. Through trades and negotiations with demons, Robert uncovers the secrets of necromancy and constructs a machine capable of stealing souls from the living and inserting them into the dead. But when resurrecting his wife implies murdering a child, Robert must choose between abandoning his quest, or condemning himself to Hell.

The Soul Distillery is now available for just $0.99.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review As You Read - Kafka on the Shore

On November 21, 2014 I began reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I'm equally thrilled and bored by the novel, and since this is quite a strange combination of sensations I thought I would share it with you all in a special post: RAYR -- Review As You Read. This post is a sort of diary where I vent out my general musings as I turn the pages of this...fantasy?...drama?...literary? novel. I'll do my best to be vague, but I should still say (just in case) SPOILER ALERT.

If you don't mind spoilers and want a chapter-by-chapter timeline, this site is excellent.

November 21 to 24

Kafka (not his real name) Tamura runs away from home on his fifteenth birthday, under the shadow of a dark prophecy (which I still don't know). This might sound a bit bland (I mean, another prophecy kid, really?), but the truth is the story has its interesting points. For example, in the very first chapter Kafka is urged on by the slightly creepy "boy named Crow," a sort of invisible...guardian? Friend? Hallucination?

Sadly, though, the following chapters were a big letdown. Kafka travels by long-distance bus and the journey is excruciatingly boring--it's like you're there with him! I guess you could say that's good... Puts us right in the scene... *sigh*

Soon after--surprise! Kafka wakes up in a garden, covered in blood, and has no idea what happened or how long he's been passed out. News breaks out that his father was stabbed to death. Hmmm... *suspicious, ain't it?*

Another main character is the old man Nakata, who experienced a very unusual accident as a child and ended up a bit dim-witted. This character is introduced for the first time through top-secret interviews (yeah, there's a whole Area 51 feel surrounding this story...). To tell the truth, at first I didn't care much for the tedious statements. However, as the unusual story unfurled, I found myself wanting to know more.

After hearing about Nakata's childhood experience, we have the pleasure of meeting him. As I mentioned, he's quite old and his delicate mental condition has him living on a government "sub city." Don't underestimate Nakata, though: there's one unique thing he can do, and that's talk to cats. Any conversation with a cat is purrrfect in my book! So far, I find Nakata's story much more engaging than Kafka's, as the old man is searching for a lost cat and comes across a very dangerous character by the name of Johnnie Walker. I'm a bit hesitant to read on, since I'm pretty sure this dangerous guy kills animals (mainly cats) for pleasure--and animal cruelty is something I absolutely cannot stomach.

Finally, I have to warn you all about a certain chapter about a library. I don't know how I pulled through. It literally sucked away my will to live and I ended up skimming a few of the pages just to get it over with. It's somewhere around chapter 3 or 4. I don't dare look back because I have the feeling that once I open those pages again the boredom will drag me down into a puddle of despair. It might just be me, but it was the most boring chapter I've ever read as far as I remember. You'll know which one it is when you come across it. Basically, Kafka investigates a library. Oh, no. The memories.

November 25


Did I say the library chapter was bad? Wait until you reach Chapter 16. It's a completely different type of bad--it's EVIL. I'll admit it's powerful. It follows Nakata on his search for the lost cat Goma into the home of Johnnie Walker, who I will now describe as Satan personified. Did I mention I can't stomach animal cruelty? I've said enough. This chapter disgusted me so much I had trouble sleeping that night--and the following night as well. However, this is for now one of the most powerful scenes I've read in the entire novel, and Walker is especially interesting. I do hope we get to learn more about him because he added a deep touch of dark fantasy to the story.

I do feel sorry for Nakata. The poor old man has been through so much--though I feel much, much sorrier for Mr. Kawamura...

November 26 to 30

Fish and leeches rain from the sky. Kafka reveals the prophecy (and it's one most of us have heard before...). Nakata, after recent horrifying events, decides to leave his neighborhood for the first time in his life. He's searching for something--though he's not sure what. As if driven by some divine force, Nakata hitchhikes his way west and eventually teams up with a young man called Hoshino, who drops everything to be his loyal follower. Together, they find the entrance stone--and open it (basically, Hoshino has to turn it over and it becomes the heaviest stone in the world). Now that the door is open...what'll happen?

So what does Kafka do while all this is going on? Basically, he makes friends with Oshima, a librarian at the famous library we read about earlier, and ends up living in the library's guest house. He learns about Miss Saeki, the head librarian, and her tragic past. Monumental coincidence: when she was younger, Miss Saeki recorded a single called Kafka on the Shore. The lyrics are the most ambiguous thing ever, but I have the suspicion we'll understand everything clearly as the pages go by.

Once again, the chapters involving Nakata overshadow the Kafka chapters, at least as far as my own personal interest goes. Kafka tells his story in the first person whereas Nakata's chapters are told in an omniscient third person narrative voice. Even so, I feel much closer and much more empathetic towards Nakata than the teenage runaway. I believe this is because Nakata sparks a sort of tenderness in me: he's sweet and naive so I want things to go well for him. Most of all, I want him to recover what he lost in his childhood accident, and I believe--hope--that's where the story is heading.

His story so far is also much more straightforward than Kafka's. Kafka's chapters involve long existentialist paragraphs, quotes from Greek plays and philosophers, and repetition of the same metaphysical questions. All this is all right--up to a point. As a reader, I usually want more action and less metaphysical moping about.

So far, I've read up to the point where Nakata and the faithful Hoshino reach the library where Kafka has been spending his days--though Kafka is away at the time because the police are searching for him regarding his strange disappearance and the even stranger death of his father.

My next post will be the conclusion and final overall opinion. Not that many pages left! I hope all the loose ends get tied up!

Monday, December 1, 2014

More Cool Name Generators!

A long while back, I posted a list of some of my favorite online name generators.

It's about time for some more, don't you think?


Fantasy Name Generator by Samuel Stoddard

This down-to-business site offers a variety of choices and results. The simple interface already promises a ton of fun, as you can choose from a list of name types: default names, short names, long names, names with dashes, consonant heavy names, vowel heavy names, Japanese names, Greek names, Dragons, Pokemon and... my absolute all-time favorites... FUN NAMES. Some of the hilarious names you can generate are "Mushy names" (Snookiepie, Foofiesnoogylips, Mooglielove), "Insults" (Dorkclod, Airknocker, Nitdoof...), and even--brace yourselves--"Mushy Insults" (Anklelovey, Goofbunker, Poofcorn...).

See ya! I'm off to scribble some flash fiction with the mushiest, most insulting characters ever.




Seventh Sanctum

Seventh Sanctum offers an ample array of different generators; just check the tab "Generator Types" and you'll see what I'm talking about. Its name generator offers anything from usual names to extreme fantasy names, pirate ship names and even tavern names--but that's not all it can do. Seventh Sanctum also offers creative prompts ranging anywhere from descriptions of new alien races to lists of (humorous) evil minions. It's an excellent resource to get those sticky creative juices flowing, or just kill some time. A feature I particularly like is that, when you are working with one generator, it offers suggestions for other generators you might enjoy. That way, you can navigate the site, hopping from one fun stop to another.


Release the supersonic android hamsters!



(Haven't you always wanted to yell that?)


Chaotic Shiny

Chaotic Shiny is a random generator for gaming and writing purposes. You can use it to make random lists of character's attitudes (e.g. "Is disdainful towards the character, and has strong feelings about it. Their feelings spring from regional stereotypes."), names for places (from real-sounding names to nonsense names), and even superstitions. There are many, many sections in this site, so it's a great idea to check out the different possibilities. I'm sure everyone will find something to get their imagination boiling!

For example, let's use Chaotic Shiny to come up with a name for our own very special spaceship! You can tell the generator to give you ship names and stats, and it will create a random list of names, along with register numbers, crew capacity, cargo space... Here goes:


Proton Smasher (PRS-789)
Sensors: Average
Weapons: Average
Shields: Poor
Crew: 7-12 members
Speed: Good
Cargo Space: Good
Passenger Space: Average
Fuel Supply: Good
Extra: Comes in many versions; some say no two of this craft are exactly alike


All in all, there are many name generators out in the interwebs. It's up to you to find the ones you like most and HAVE FUN!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

NaNoWriMo Feature: Dianna Muircast

NaNoWriMo is coming to a close. For some, it's time to validate those 50k (or more!). For others...it's frantic scribble scrabble time to reach that humongous goal!

This week's NaNoWriMo feature is author Dianna Muircast, who you can see in the photo accompanied by an adorable ball of floof. :-)

You can follow Dianna on Twitter @DiannaMuircast and check our her NaNoWriMo profile.

You take it from here, Dianna!

Is this your first time participating in NaNoWriMo? What's your project?

I attempted this last year, because I had an image of a baby unicorn standing at a pool of water after a storm, but it all went flat, and I gave up after a few paragraphs. This year, I wanted to try again. I still had the picture of the unicorn, but it walked away as I wrote, getting replaced with a vision of a kind of scary world I hadn't foreseen, a world that supposedly has no religion, and is very controlled.

Basically many people in the world are blind, or they are very good at faking it. No one uses their eyes obviously, except, possibly for what I call the weather-people, but even that is not known for certain. Weather-people can predict the weather, and they claim to speak to Nature or to other gods. Their predictions, however, are not as accurate as people could wish, and so they are often mocked. My character has gotten exiled--her term--to go care for them. (Except I haven't gotten her there yet! She is on a moving train, an hour away from there. Wherever there is. I still haven't worked that out, either!)

How are you approaching NaNo? Are you in the midst of a writing frenzy, or do you have a carefully thought-out plan?

I just decided to write, write, write. I didn't think I would need an outline, so I didn't bother making one.

Have you learned anything from this experience so far? Is there any advice you would like to share with other NaNoWriMoers?

Next time, I am going to write out some ideas, at least, or notes that I can refer to if I need to. It might help. As for advice, the process of crafting is fun, but don't let the word count or lack of words in a given day depress you. As I often say to people on twitter, if you wrote some words that day, even if you did not meet your goal, you're that many number of words ahead. So don't beat yourself up over it! The trick is remembering my own advice! :) Also, remember that whatever we write this month is likely not going to be perfect. I am not entirely pleased with what I wrote, because I added more descriptions in some places and short-shrifted descriptions in others. Also, I have some run-ons. And all for word count. But the good thing is, that if it's a good enough story you'll want to look at it again in December, take a few deep breaths, and revise. And if you decide you don't want to do that, it's OK! :)

Finally, here's an excerpt from Dianna's current NaNo project. Go, Dianna!

It started with a storm. Not a dark and stormy night, but a sunlight-filled thunder-and-lightning day storm. Of course, there wasn't much warning, unless you paid attention to the weather-people.

Weather-people are ... special. They come in all ages and sizes, and they claim they can predict when storms will happen. The trouble is that not many of us believe them. Some people say they aren't entirely sane, you see, and can't be trusted to care for themselves, let alone predict the weather. But their carers believe in them and take good care to keep them alive and comfortable. Weather-people can use their eyes, too. Fully. The rest of us can't. Or don't. I'm not sure which it is. Well I know I don't use my eyes, but they say the weather-people do.

Myself, I'm not sure what to believe. Yes, I have to admit they've been accurate. They've even predicted stuff that the meteoroligists totally discounted. what I don't understand or trust is how they do what they do.

If you talk to one of them--and I have managed it with great difficulty!--they speak of hearing from Nature herself. Some even say they have seen her. Which is not supposed to happen. Ever. Gods, if there ever were any, were banned from this world a loooong time ago. You can't even talk about them now without risking ... Well, we don't know what we are risking, but gods? Religion of any sort? Dead. Non-existen. That’s the law.

But no one believes what weather-people say, or no one takes them seriously, except for their carers, and the few who do pay attention and listen. Reporters will ask a Carer for a statement on what a certain weather-person has said about upcoming weather, and if it sounds good, they'll put it under a large headline. You know what I mean. ON a clear day: WEATHER-PERSON SAMANTHA PREDICTS LARGE TIDAL WAVE THIS AFTERNOON AT 3:00.

It happens, but not in our area, somewhere else, and no one hears of any disasterous consequences, so she's laughed at. Mocked. Ridiculed. Used to prove that once again such people, while they should be allowed to live in the hopes of producing more sane offspring, should not be taken seriously. Which I find to be problematic. It's not like Samantha, or any of them, can help being the way they ar.

The paper was on my screen as soon as I woke up the morning of the storm. It always is on my screen when I wake up, because I always glance there first thing to get the time, weather, and a look at the headlines. I understand "glance" used to mean you used your eyes to "see" stuff. These days I reach out with my fingers and the screen is there, with Braille on it and I read it. Or I have it spoken aloud and listen at a fast speed. That morning, I was feeling especially irritable and didn't want to work with Braille, so I ordered the thing to speak to me, and quickly.

"Good morning, Tina," the voice said. "Today's weather is sunny with a high of ninety degrees, but it will be snowing by nightfall ..."

I only half-listened. Such radical temperature change was no news to me anymore. I was used to the extremes by then and didn't really care, because I knew there would be enough fuel to keep me going for the rest of the week. And beyond. I was over my ration, but who was to know or care in this bleak city?

Yes, I said bleak. Sure, the sun was shining, but it was very hot outdoors, and the air felt heavy. No one wanted to talk as I made my way to my office. And for all that the place was bleak, I felt oddly cheerful. I *wanted* to talk to people, but no one else was talking beyond the bare "Morning" and "Where to?" so I kept my thoughts to myself. It's dangerous to say too much, or to not conform to what's going on around you. It's been like that for as long as I can remember.

I got to my office. The building was air-conditioned today. I was surprised. Normally, the computers have their own air-conditioning units, but we humans aren't so lucky.

My, my! I would certainly keep working on these ominous "weather-people" because they sound very interesting! Don't worry about working out the details because you have all the time in the world to get that straight. ;-)

Thank you so very much for participating in the NaNoWriMo features, Dianna! It was great having you here and good luck in these (hectic) final days!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review - The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

A good book stays with you forever. Unfortunately, sometimes bad books linger in your unconscious as well.

Today I would like to write a review on the book The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (dare ya' to say that five times real fast!). I had been wanting to read it for quite a while, but when I finally got my own copy... You guessed it: me no likey. Of course, what I express here is nothing more than my personal opinions and frustrations.

Have any of you read this novel? Were you able to finish it? Did you enjoy it? My responses to these questions are: I tried. No. Sort of.

What does the novel have to offer? An interesting premise: On his one-hundredth birthday, Allan Karlsson decides he's had enough of the old people's home he's in and he does just what the title promises--he jumps out the window and (as far as the authorities know) disappears. From here on, he initiates a wild adventure that will, among other things, team him up with an elephant and make him a rich man. As the story progresses, we also learn about his past as an explosives expert, a profession which took him all across the world.


Sounds interesting, doesn't it?

It would be, if the author hadn't gone out of his way to make it BORING.

Let me explain. The novel starts out all right. Karlsson escapes from the old people's home (it's always called just that: "the old people's home." No specific name, no nothing.) and makes his way to the bus station where he encounters a disgruntled youth with bathroom and suitcase problems. In the end, Karlsson gets on a long-distance bus with the young man's suitcase (he just goes ahead and steals it). What's inside? The equivalent to hundreds of thousands of dollars. What happens next is what you'd expect from any centenarian with nothing to lose:


a cold-blooded killing spree.


(And he doesn't even have a shred of guilt about any one of the deaths. Wanna know why? Because good ol' Allan Karlsson is a freaking psychopath!)

Now, I'm not a prude. I've read my share of adventure, sci-fi and fantasy in which blood is poured over several pages. However, what startles me about The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man is:

1) The deaths are obviously meant to be the humorous parts of the story.
2) None of the characters--not Karlsson, not even the other people who eventually team up with him--seem to care the slightest that they are terminating human lives.

Now, you might shake your head and say "But Nadine, get your adjectives straight! You said the story was boring! What's boring about this?" Let me explain: the author apparently does everything he can to make the would-be adventure/killing spree dull.

Would you like an example? The vast majority of the story is told in reported speech:

     They had a late evening at Bellringer Farm with one and all in very good spirits. Amusing stories were trotted out one after the other. Bosse was a hit when he pulled out the Bible and said that now he would tell them the story of how he, quite involuntaringly, came to read the whole book from beginning to end. Allan wondered what devilish method of torture Bosse had suffered, but that wasn't what lay behind it. No outsider had forced Bosse to do anything, No, [sic] Bosse's own curiosity was responsible .
     -- I'm sure I'll never be that curious, said Allan.
     Julius asked whether Allan could stop interrupting Bosse for once so that they could hear the story, and Allan said he could.

This is a typical sequence taken straight out of the novel (page 237 of my edition--cover image above). The problem with using so much reported speech is that readers can't really get a sense of the characters because we can't hear them. We only hear the narrator--whoever that is--explain a story to us.

There are some rare instances where we readers can delight in morsels of direct speech, but the author can't even get that right... Now, this might actually be a translation error, but the dialogue starts off between quotation marks, and then suddenly shifts to em dashes (the same way dialogue is represented in Spanish). Why the sudden change in punctuation? Where's the sense in that?

If the use and abuse of reported speech weren't enough, the author rams certain character details down our throats so many times that "repetitive" becomes an understatement (Karlsson like to drink, Karlsson doesn't care about politics, Karlsson has no sex drive--I get it already! No need to hammer in the character profile every dozen pages!)

The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man has been compared to Forrest Gump in that the character blithely meets the most important political figures of his era and he's oblivious to the significance of the meetings (because he's not interested in politics! Haha! Do you see the hilarity of it all? Do you? ...You don't? Oh.). However, while Forrest Gump is endearing, Allan Karlsson is a self-centered scoundrel. One thing is for Karlsson to have no interest in religion or politics (the author repeatedly informs us of this--several times in each chapter--in case we ever happen to forget), but it's another thing altogether when that character demonstrates alarming sociopathic tendencies. Once again, let me give you an example:

Karlsson is the type of man who spends months (if not years--my memory fails me now) travelling across the Himalayas with a small group, sharing their food, drink and adventures. He is the type of man who befriends these people and goes on about how he loves them. He is also the type of man who stands by and watches as his friends each take a bullet to the brain and then reacts with a curious "I wonder why my friends always end up dying?" To my disgust, he is also the type of man who then shrugs off all love for his deceased companions and proceeds to make friends with the killers--for his own greedy needy benefit, of course.


I hate Allan Karlsson!

This novel has been sold to us as a heartwarming tale. It has even become a full-length motion picture... But heartwarming it is not. To me, it is the story of a man who doesn't care about anyone other than himself. A man who demands a glass of vodka every two or three pages (and that's supposed to be a "ha ha" moment. "Ha ha! A Swede drinking vodka! Brilliant!"). A man who, the way I see it, has lived much longer than he deserved. Couple that with the repetitive reported speech writing style and you've got a pretty nifty paperweight.

I must admit that so far I haven't been able to finish the novel (I'm a little more than halfway through). Even so, I felt the need to express my frustration in a review. I'll try to complete the novel someday, but I won't make any promises.

What about you? Have you read this novel? If so, what is your opinion?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NaNoWriMo Feature: Beth Overmeyer

Today I'm happy to have as a guest Critique Circle's own Bethywoo! She is the author of In a Pickle, the one and only Beth Overmeyer. It's great to have you here!

You can find out more about Beth on her blog: http://bethovermyer.blogspot.com

She's also on Twitter: @Bethyo

You can take it from here, girl!

Is this your first time participating in NaNoWriMo?

This is my fifth (or is it my sixth?) attempt at NaNo. What made me decide to participate this year? It's a good time with great support...and I get to write without the worries of perfection/editing as I go--huzzah! As for tackling yet another year, the excitement never really wears off--for me, at least. I am stoked...probably because it's still week one. Week two = Writing blues.

What's your project?

This year, my main project is called Things Heard in a Graveyard. It's a mainstream novel about a man who inherits several family journals, which he tries to transcribe into readable/saleable prose, whilst his evil great aunt sues for said tomes. The old witch has never shown an interest in her family's grave-digging history. Why now?

My second project is for in case I get stuck. It's called Murder in the Afternoon: A Sweets and Sours Mystery (working title. Very, very WORKING title.) It's a paranormal cozy set in a bar. That's all I'm saying for now.


How are you approaching NaNo? Are you in the midst of a writing frenzy, or do you have a carefully thought-out plan?

For the first project, I have a scene-to-scene outline. For the second project, I'm mostly pantsing it. So I'm a plantser!


Have you learned anything from this experience so far? Is there any advice you would like to share with other NaNoWriMoers?

My advice to all you new WriMos out there: Do NOT edit as you go. In fact, don't read back any farther than one paragraph, and only then if you've lost where you are in the story. And even then, you should probably improvise.


Finally, here's an excerpt from Beth's NaNo project. Enjoy!

Here's a very rough (unedited, unpolished) piece of tripe--I mean prose, all extracted from the mainstream novel:

Chapter One

We take in the breath of mourners,
Shelter it in our chests,
Then release it with a heavy sough.
Their air is alien to us,
So we don’t hold it in long.

Once upon a time, some people died…But before that, they lived, and here is a few of their stories.

My dad grew up in a household of gravediggers. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Some suggest and jest that he was born with a bronze shovel in his hands. But, as the proverbial collective of random strangers say: “You can’t take it with you.”

Pop grew out of the business before he grew out of bowl cuts and really bad bellbottoms. He traded in his shovel and calluses for a suit and a family, of which I am a byproduct. As he lay on his deathbed, I wondered if Pops felt he made the right decision. Of course he made the correct one: The boneyard wouldn’t feed three mouths like it once had, if ever it did.

Speaking of tools…

I’m a writer, and I have my own tools of the trade. Like a gravedigger—a nobody suit that my pop always preached agaisnt—I work primarilty with my hands. And like a digger, my hands can get callused. And, we have nothing else in common except maybe a few stories. I never thought I had a thing in common with this other world, to which my dad once belonged, and to which most of my extended family tree still clung to. And I was okay with that.

But death is a funny thing.

When Pops lay on his deathbed, rasping some curses as I took one of his vein-riddled hands in my own, he stared at me with not too-unfriendly eyes and murmured something that I didn’t catch.

It sounded like, “Rasputin.” And I looked around the room, wondering if Pops was seeing his escort to the other world. It would be appropriately poetic if it were Rasputin. I was certain at that moment that the pair would get on well.

“Who—” Argyle Augustus Bohn cleared his throat and licked his papery lips. “Who are you?”

I’d been warned of this. The last stages of any old timer’s illness can result in a form of dementia, I am told. At this moment, I thought the old man was just looking to spite his only son.

“Who are you?” he repeated, patient as a puppy for a belly rub.

It would’ve been easy to say “Arys. I’m your son. Arys. You know, the kid you raised with Mom? You remember Betty Bohn? She was okay when I wanted to change my name. She didn’t threaten to disinherit me. That angel left me with the devil.”

Excellent, Beth! I can't wait to read more! When are you posting on CC?

Thank you so very much for being a guest on my blog. Stay tuned next week for our final NaNoWriMo guest!

Monday, November 10, 2014

NaNoWriMo Feature: Richard Davnall

Well, it's the second week of NaNoWriMo and I bet everyone is feeling it in their fingers. How's that writing going?

Today's feature is author R.J. Davnall, who you can see in the photo on the right. What? You don't recognize him? He's the author of The Second Realm, an ongoing fantasy serial which you can actually download for FREE at Smashwords! Head on over to his blog and check it out!

You can contact Richard at:

@eatthepen

Blog: itsthefuturestupid.blogspot.com

Richard is also doing something I never saw before: he's live-streaming his NaNoWriMo writing on his own online channel twitch.tv/rjdavnall! That's a NaNo first for me! Now, let's move on to the questions.

Is this your first time participating in NaNoWriMo?

This is my fifth NaNo. I was actually planning to sit this one out and just edit, because I'm in very much the same situation you reported (lots of editing to do, plus more teaching responsibilities than in previous years), but then I ended up with the first week of November off from both my jobs, and a new idea emerged on Thursday morning to make sure I really had no excuse to slack off.

What's your project?

My project is 'The Air Itself'. It started life as a horror story, but it's also a sort of cyberpunk/speculative fiction superhero story. My pitch so far is this:

Jane thought they'd escaped. She didn't know what had happened in that derelict neighbourhood, but it had stopped. They'd survived.

But Amanda lost her phone in the process, and now someone's found it. The messages he sends Jane are strange, as if he thinks he knows her but has the wrong person. And they're getting more insistent, too...

How are you approaching NaNo? Are you in the midst of a writing frenzy, or do you have a carefully thought-out plan?

My approach to NaNo can best be summarised by the friend who once shouted at me 'You need to go and look up the definition of 'month'!' I love the pile-it-all-on-right-now headlong rush of NaNo, and it gives me an excuse, once a year, to devote my every waking moment to a story. The result is that I tend to hit 50k pretty quickly (my record is six days and fourteen hours), then slow down to regular NaNo pace after about a week to wrap the project up. This year I've gone even more mad; I'd love to hit 50k in five days. I think that's about the fastest I can ever hope to work.

Have you learned anything from this experience so far? Is there any advice you would like to share with other NaNoWriMoers?

What I've learned so far is that I think next year I'll take it a bit easier (he said, for the third year in a row). If I can make my 5-day target, I think I can finally take the chip off my shoulder.

As for advice to other WriMos, I'd say that 'week 2' (roughly 12-25k) is the hard part. It's the part where it can really pay dividends to pause, if time allows, and jot a few ideas down, whether it's for characters or events. This is the stage where you're developing from and expanding on your introduction, and planting good seeds at this point will mean never getting stuck for material in the later stages.

The other big piece of advice is that you're only in competition with yourself. Set goals based on what you know of your own ability, not what anyone else is doing.

Finally, here's an excerpt from Richard's current project. Enjoy!

Amanda finished her latest round of photos, looked up, and let out a pleased 'Ooh!' Jane followed her gaze to another narrow side street, barely visible from this angle. She set off, trying to match Amanda's stride and catch up to her at the corner, but the other woman, longer-legged, got there first by a good ten seconds.

She'd found the street she wanted. Arbour Lane, it was called, at least if Jane was making the right head or tail of the battered sign. Its paint was completely gone, leaving only sculpted, mottled rust. Not a long street, but longer than some of the linking alleys they'd walked down this afternoon. The terraces huddled close enough to the road that perspective pinched them together at the far end anyway.

And every one was boarded. Most had the gridded tin, but more than one had bits of corrugated sheet metal instead. There were loose and cracked gutters, trees growing out of chimneys, crumbling paint, crumbling brickwork. Someone had fly-tipped a pile of bin bags on one doorstep.

Halfway along, the steel door-board of one house stood ajar, its mangled catch gaping like a manta ray's mouth.

Thank you for appearing, Richard! Drop me a line and tell me if you completed your five day goal!

If you are also participating in NaNoWriMo 2014 and would like to be featured, follow the instructions on this post.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Catalan Problem

I live in a small nation, a triangle snuggled between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. It's a nation of opportunities and hard-working people, a nation of traditions and old, deep roots. Its name is Catalonia.



Catalonia might be a nation, but it is not an independent state. Millions of Catalan people want to change that, and independence is a collective dream which is spreading like wildfire throughout the land. I'm not Catalan-born, but I've been a resident in Barcelona since 1996, and I can fully understand the sentiment. The relationship between Catalonia and Spain is under pressure, and has been for many, many years. So many factors come into play that they're virtually impossible to explain without turning this post into a socio-historic academic paper. I'll just comment on two of the things that are always in my mind:


Economy

Josep Desquens explains the situation quite succinctly in his article Europe's Stateless Nations in the Era of Globalization. The Case for Catalonia's Secession from Spain:

Containing about 16 percent of Spain's population, it provides about 20 percent of its GDP and one-third of the total industrial production and exports. The region contributes about 25 percent of Spain's total taxes, but public investment in Catalonia is scarce when related to either population or GDP contribution. The regionalized investment of the Spanish state in Catalonia from 1982 to 1998 represented only about 8.5 percent of the total.

So, Catalonia gives about 25% in taxes yet only receives about 9% in investments. How is the autonomous community supposed to thrive when it's being bled year after year? The quote above might make reference to the year 1998, but don't think those numbers have changed much. Worse is that some journalists and politicians have the gall to go on mass media outlets and preach "you need to show more solidarity" when Catalans demand their tax euros. It makes my already-sucked-out blood boil.


Identity

Catalan people's cultural identity has endured several crises throughout the centuries, the most recent being Franco's dictatorship. As Josep Desquens explains:

Gen. Franco's dictatorial regime is key to understanding Catalonia today. While all Spaniards were victims of Franco's ruthless and institutionalized violation of human rights, Catalonia suffered a cruel and systematic attempt at cultural annihilation. It endured repression of individual and collective cultural rights, such as the prohibition of the use of the Catalan language, the public denial of the Catalan identity and the punishment for cultural expression.

We will suffer again,
we will fight again,
we will overcome again.
Desquens is not exaggerating, trust me. Here's just one example: the president of Catalonia during the Spanish civil war, Lluís Companys, was executed in 1940 by Spanish fascists after being caught in exile by the Gestapo. Companys is the only democratically elected president in European history to be executed. His execution is a wound in Catalonia's memory, and the fact that Spain still refuses to reverse Companys's judgment only rubs in more salt.


I promised I would be brief, so I'll close my exposition here even though the topic is understandably much more complicated.


The situation now

In recent years, Catalan people have taken to the streets on the Diada or National Day (September 11) to express their desire for independence from Spain. I was there. This year, we created a giant "V", symbolizing "vote", which crossed the entire city of Barcelona in the colors of the senyera, the Catalan national flag. Almost two million people participated. Let me say that again: out of a total population of about eight million, almost two million people got together in a peaceful demonstration at the same place, same day, same time--and we lined up in order to make the senyera. It's a logistics feat and an example of what Catalans are capable of doing.

This is just one section of the demonstration.
All those red and yellow dots? People.
So where is this all leading? In a nutshell: the Catalan government announced it would hold a referendum on November 9, 2014 to decide the future of the nation. Spain banned the referendum. The Catalan government decided to keep the date and hold what it called an "unofficial poll." Spain banned the poll. What is Spain so afraid of? Mariano Rajoy, Spain's Prime Minister, claims that the Catalan government's referendum (later, "unofficial poll") goes against the Constitution. He claims he is, therefore, defending the people's constitutional rights by banning all referendums and polls.

So... Denying the people the right to vote is now called defending our constitutional rights?
Give me an effing break.

November 9 is upon us, and I can tell you what will happen: civil disobedience. I've had enough of this farce, and so have millions of Catalans. We're not talking about an isolated radical group here: we're talking about millions of people--an ample part of the nation. It's not a matter of voting yes to independence, even. It's a matter of VOTING. Vote no if you want to, but vote! Catalans have the right to freedom of speech, even if the Spanish government is doing everything in its power to deny the people that right. Luckily, the Catalan government is holding its ground.

On Sunday November 9 2014, I'm going to vote. Salva, my fiancé, is going to vote. My mother is going to vote. My coworker and close friend Marta is going to vote. Her mother is going to vote. Her brother. Her brother's friend. And so on, and so forth.

I don't know what we'll achieve, or if anyone will listen, but I do know Catalan people will fight for as long as it takes. They've already fought for three hundred years.

Monday, November 3, 2014

NaNoWriMo Feature: Kathleen Sawisky

Happy first NaNoWriMo Monday, fellow bloggers and readers! Today I'm happy to present to you Kathleen "Swat" Sawisky, Esq. She's an incredible writer and beloved member of Critique Circle (go progress reporters!).



Is this your first time participating in NaNoWriMo?

This will be my 8th year (oh good lord) of doing NaNo. Normally I'd be raring to go and have everything worked out, but this is my last year of university and I'm swamped under school work. This is going to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of NaNo.

What's your project?

This year, as with every year since 2008, I'm doing a new draft for my series, The Code. This last year has seen the first book go through some serious changes, including my own style and abilities, so I'm excited to apply all I've learned to Book 2. My biggest joy is the multifaceted layers that grew in the first book - a lot of them come back in the second. Who was Angelo? Why did he disappear? What has he got to do with our heroine's father? It's all very thriller-suspense, with a dash of 'ermagerd deeerth' thrown in. I like killing characters. Maybe a bit too much. But above all else, I'm thrilled that I'm approaching this draft with a solid understanding of how Natalia (my protagonist) develops throughout the story. The first book ended with her in a very dark place. She's suffering from some serious PTSD that needs to be addressed, and over the course of Book 2 I get to play around with how she deals with it, as well as how the people she interacts with deal with it. Also there is a ghost and he is spooky. WooOoOooooo.

How are you approaching NaNo? Are you in the midst of a writing frenzy, or do you have a carefully thought-out plan?


Urgh, approaching NaNo? I have a pretty solid outline written, but there is a section early on that needs to be changed and I have no idea how to go about it yet, so there will be a little bit of pantsing probably around day five. That will be when I apply my own Swat's School of Writing and utilize an explosion or two. You laugh, but it's worked for a few people now. Swat's School of Writing. It'll be a thing, trust me.

Have you learned anything from this experience so far? Is there any advice you would like to share with other NaNoWriMoers?

My biggest advice definitely stems from my own general philosophy about writing. I think as writer's we get too caught up in our way of doing things. We think that it has worked before, so why shouldn't it continue to work? It's a fair point, but there is a lot to be said about challenging yourself and going outside of your comfort zone. Some studies on creativity suggest that when the creator (the writer, in this case) makes themselves uncomfortable, they are often able to push their creativity to new heights. We love being made to feel uncomfortable in art, so if you get stuck in your writing do something shocking and unexpected. For example, book 3 I kill a dog. With a machete. Yeah, it's awful. Like, brutal, awful. I shared that with some writing buddies and they were horrified, but guess what? We still talk about it. Shock and awe has staying power, so make yourselves uncomfortable! Either that or make something explode.

Finally, here's an excerpt from Kathleen's current project. Enjoy!

It had taken time for her to discern the difference between the dead that couldn’t find their way off of this plane of existence, and the man who whispered to her. Ghosts, Natalia had learned from her previous guardian, sometimes had a habit of sticking around where they weren’t always wanted. That was what she was facing now. An unwanted, unwashed. Sometimes his voice caught in the wind, and his shadow would reach out to her, urging her to come with him, to run away. She had wondered for some time if it was some remnant her guardian, pissed off that she had taken his jacket, but no. No, the Steven Delarno she knew would have been happy to lend it to her. This astral presence, corporeal and vindictive, was not the shadow of her old guardian, but someone else. Someone who wanted her to follow him to the edge of the black world he occupied.

She turned away from the Whispering Man, down the road and began the long walk towards town.

Thank you so, so much for appearing on my blog, Kathleen! I hope you keep having tons of fun with NaNoWriMo!

If you are also participating in NaNoWriMo 2014 and would like to be featured, follow the instructions on this post.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Call for NaNoWriMo 2014 Participants!

The leaves are changing colors... It seems no matter where you go, you'll encounter pumpkins and haystacks and dismembered limbs. Ah, yes. Halloween is upon us! However... Something else is lurking just around the corner. Yup. You guessed it. It's that time of the year again...

Yay!

Isn't it lovely? This year's poster is so beautiful! It really makes me want to participate--but I don't have anything new to write about! *sniffle* Now, you're probably wagging your finger at me and tsk-tsking. Since when has not knowing what to write been a reason to not do NaNoWriMo? The thing is, I just have too many open projects right now (Making Time, Out of Time, The Soul Distillery, Seven Sins...), plus tons of work at the university (50+ students) so I've decided to watch this one from the sidelines.

That puts YOU in the spotlight! I'd love to have you as a guest on my blog to talk about your NaNoWriMo project and progress!

If you'd like to be featured as a NaNoWriMo author, please send an email to this address with the following information:

nadinucca (at) hotmail (dot) com

1) Name or nickname + your photo (optional)

2) Blog and/or Twitter handle

3) Is this your first time participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, what made you take the plunge? If you're a vet, how do you feel about tackling it yet again this year?

4) What's your project? Include name (if any), genre, brief synopsis... whatever you'd like to share!

5) How are you approaching NaNo? Are you in the midst of a writing frenzy, or do you have a carefully thought-out plan?

6) Have you learned anything from this experience so far? Is there any advice you would like to share with other NaNoWriMoers?

7) Send a short excerpt from your project! I'd love to share what you're working on!


And the dog jumped over the moon... Wait. Dog?


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On writing, getting married, and saving lives

Hello readers and fellow bloggers.

As you might or might not have noticed, I've been away. It's been months since I posted on this site, and I feel a combination of guilt and embarrassment for letting so much time go by. I've just been really busy! It feels like a million things have happened, but let me boil this post down to three pretty big things:

WRITING

In the past months, I've been trying to finish Making Time, the sequel to Serving Time (almost ready for beta readers). I encountered an important hiccup and had to chuck an entire chapter, then rewrite and adjust the surrounding chapters. Don't you hate it when that happens? *Frustrated groan*

In recent months, I've also been trying to complete the short story Seven Sins, but have had worse luck with that (writer's block). Someday I will conquer that story, even if it's the last thing I do!

In July, I finished a novella called The Soul Distillery. It's just awaiting formatting and publication so stay tuned because I will update you on the cover reveal and the free download days--because there will be many, many free download days! The Soul Distillery is the story of Robert Westbrook (who you might know from Serving Time) before he encounters the goddess Time. More information on this novella and its release date in future posts!

GETTING MARRIED

Nope. Not married yet. But the preparations are well underway! Salva and I will get married on June 7 in the gardens of a restaurant called Can Baladia. The restaurant is actually a century-old house surrounded by gardens and Mediterranean pine trees. The reception will be right there, so we won't have to drive around from one place to another. We already tried some of the food at the restaurant and it's deliiiiiicious!


As a special treat, here are our fab wedding rings: white gold (and mine has a diamond!).




SAVING LIVES

One life, actually: the life of an itty bitty teeny tiny mister kitty (that's his unofficial name).

On May 28, I was walking from work to my car and I came across a tiny kitten who was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, gasping for breath. He couldn't even open his eyes because they were glued shut with a thick layer of pus. I scooped him up and ran to the vet (who luckily has his office right next to my school). The vet was pessimistic, but since he knows me and he knows how much I suffer over animals, he bit his tongue and didn't tell me to put the kitten to sleep (which was what he thought would be best).

Crying like a bleda (more on the meaning of this word in a future post), I took the kitten home and Salva and I spent the next five weeks taking care of him--ICU style. He suffered from severe malnutrition (total muscle loss: he couldn't even walk), herpes (which was destroying his eyes) and feline respiratory syndrome. More worrisome was that he was excreting coronavirus in his feces. Certain strains of this virus are deadly to cats and there's no cure. Since we have other cats, we had to keep the kitten in total isolation.

The whole experience was draining, both physically due to lack of sleep and emotionally since I became paranoid thinking that I'd walk in and the kitten would be dead. However, the experience quickly became rewarding as, slowly yet surely, mister kitten began to recover. Now he's a terrifying beast! He's had a couple blood tests and luckily he wasn't infected with the deadly strain of coronavirus. What's more, it seems he managed to excrete the virus because the concentration was minimal. So in July we finally let him run loose in our home and meet the other cats!

Here are a couple pictures of the kitten, named Taques (Catalan for "Spots" or "Stains"). The first pictures are actually of when Taques was already healthy enough to have his picture taken. I didn't want to take any photos of him when he was really sick since we all thought he would die any moment, so I can't show you the state in which I found him. Just know that it was really, really bad.


So that's what I've been up to these past months! Stay tuned because I will continue to post updates and new sections on this blog! I have completed several DIY projects I'd like to share with you, as well as book reviews and news about my own writing endeavors.

It's great to be back!
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