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Sunday Six:

Six (eh, or eight) sentences this Sunday:

It was late and all my new neighbors were home, but as I walked down the five flights of stairs, knocking at every door I came across, no one appeared. On the fourth floor I heard someone approach the door and peer through the peephole, and then stayed there, quiet on the other side. I could hear televisions and kitchen sounds, smell food and smoke, but not a single person answered the door. On the first floor, I called, “Hello, I just moved in upstairs and I locked myself out. Can I borrow a phone?” Someone from inside the last room yelled back, “I’m calling the police!”

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The Golden Key Flash Fiction Open, Judged by Karin Tidbeck

Back in 2011, when we first launched The Golden Key and got on Twitter, we received a really friendly and encouraging tweet from the editor of Unstuck, just saying that he was looking forward to the launch of TGK.

Unstuck was getting ready to launch their Issue #1 around that time, I think, and they were sharing excerpts on the website. I gulped those down and couldn’t wait to read those stories and poems in their entirety. The excerpt that struck me the most, and the story that I turned to first when I finally got my copy, was “Cloudberry Jam” by Karin Tidbeck.

You grew steadily through the winter months. I sang to you and fed you small drops of milk. By Yule you were big enough that I moved you to a larger container, an old bucket. You started kicking then, I suppose because you finally had room to move around.

- Karin Tidbeck, “Cloudberry Jam,” Unstuck #1

It’s a wonderfully odd and kind of really touching story, and one of my favorites in Unstuck #1. (Unstuck is always great, and gorgeously made, and its print issues always sell out. So happy I have them on my bookshelf!) After that I kept up with Karin Tidbeck’s stories, getting a thrill every time I saw her name pop up.

Anyway, this is all just to tell you that I’m a huge fan of Karin Tidbeck, and I am HUGELY THRILLED that she is judging TGK’s first ever contest: The Golden Key Flash Fiction Open.

The contest is open to flash fiction under 500 words, and the grand prize is $200 and publication in Issue #6. And, because each of TGK’s issues are themed, the winning piece will also set the theme for our sixth issue. Plus, every entry goes towards supporting future contributors to the journal!

Finally, I am in love with the poster created by the insanely talented F. Lee. I love so much that we are PEEKING THROUGH A KEYHOLE.

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California Summertime

Spark Camera, made by IDEO’s in-house Toy Lab, is one of my favorite apps. It lets you create short videos with multiple clips, add music for a soundtrack, and choose a filter.

The video shooting/editing apps I used in the past were usually slow and overloaded. Editing, adding, and rearranging clips almost always crashed those apps, so for a while I gave up on video apps and just put my films together in iMovie.

But then I found Spark Camera, and it is everything all those other apps were not. It is a beautiful, elegant app. The tools are simply laid out but incredibly powerful. Uploading AND downloading a video is lightning fast.

I love documenting daily life, and I am in love with making slice-of-life films in this app. Over the past few months, I’ve captured moments like my best friend’s ring sizing, meals with friends, nice days out, leisurely walks.

Here’s the latest video I made with Spark Camera: California Summertime (part 1). It’s also currently featured in the Spark Camera gallery! The song is “Daydreaming” by Groenland.

In other news, I also love reading Issue 4 of Through the Gate, which publishes fantastical poetry. It’s a short issue, and one to savor.

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What I’m Reading Now—Japanese Tales by Royall Tyler

I was pretty fascinated by E. R. Warren’s blog posts—not to mention her fiction available on Figment—so I asked her for a few book recommendations on Japanese mythology and literature, as I didn’t know where to start. You can find her recommendations post here.

I biked to my local library this morning to pick up Japanese Tales, edited and translated by Royall Tyler. It was in a modest section of fairy tales, folklore, and myths, and I grabbed a bunch of its neighbors off the shelves. Then I realized I didn’t bring a bag, and my bike basket isn’t big enough. So I could only take back Japanese Tales and Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm.

Looking forward to reading the section on foxes—there are two!

Speaking of foxes…I miss Fox!

In other news: The Golden Key’s Issue #4: Hungry Things was released this week! It contains 20 hungry pieces from 15 amazing writers, all gorgeously illustrated by Jen Muir—a speculative feast, served up just in time for summer.

My first short story acceptance, “The Pocket Watch Prince,” has been reprinted as a podcast, and it’s up now at Toasted Cake!

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Spirited Away Love

Years ago in Taipei, I watched about 5 minutes of Spirited Away (the stink-spirit scene)—I don’t know how or why I only got that 5 minute glimpse. So many people around me love it, but I never got around to watching it in its entirety, until this spring. I never really had an answer for people when they asked me to name my favorite movie (I usually said Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—always a favorite). Now I do.

I fell in love with it from the first scene, which opens with a bunch of pink flowers filling the screen, accompanied by Chihiro’s voice reading the card that came with her flowers. Then her father’s voice calling her: “We’re almost there.” The bouquet is lowered from Chihiro’s face so we see what she’s looking at.

Then we pull out of her perspective to see how she’s lying in the backseat.

As her parents continue to talk, she turns her head and looks at them sullenly.

Her parents tell her to look at her new school, which they are driving by. Chihiro is displeased.

When she doesn’t receive any sympathy from her mother for her dying bouquet, she sinks back into the seat.

Her mother opens the car window, and we get Chihiro’s view out the car window. Everything is so much bigger and taller than she is. She has a very limited view from her position.

I was instantly absorbed into the movie because of how well Chihiro’s perspective is depicted. The art is superb and stunning, and there are so many wonderful details, like the train running across the tracks in the water at sunset, the different sized doors in the bath house, the boiler room, the rivers. Can there ever be another story set in a bath house?

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Interactive Fiction

Last Friday night (three days ago), I stumbled across Twine, the open-source tool for creating interactive stories. How did I land myself there? I was reading Unstuck’s Twitter. Came across this tweet:

Clicked over to that article, and then on to the official website for Choosatron. I skimmed the website and clicked on Writing Guide, which provides you with an overview of how to create your own stories—using Twine.

Twine’s main page showcases a revolving sample of interactive stories that are listed with the Interactive Fiction Database. AMAAAAAZINNG!

Suddenly I’m falling down a rabbit hole of interactive fiction. I bookmark a bunch to read in the morning. I especially liked these: “Howling Dogs”, “Town”, “a kiss” (be sure to check out The Map link in the side menu), “Alice Falling”, and “Corvidia”.

Then on Saturday morning, the rain wakes me up early. I start exploring Twine some more, and this time, one of the stories listed on the front page is “Inheritance” by Andrea Corbin. Here’s an excerpt from the starting passage:

The ring Yulia’s grandmother gave her wasn’t very pretty — an overworked silver band, rough black stone surrounded by an ill-thought combination of colored gems — but she wears it while Grandma Eva is in town.

Little presents from Grandma Eva make Yulia happy; a reminder that although Eva is impossible to please, Yulia is her favorite. Eva is Yulia’s favorite too. Eva always told Yulia the strangest old fairy stories when she was little.

Oooomph. I love this story. I only wish there was more of it! I won’t describe it because that would just be spoiling the experience. All I can say is: Go read/play it now.

Andrea Corbin’s other interactive story, “Digital Witnesses”, is even more involved and expansive. The flow in this piece is particularly remarkable because there’s a consistent path forward, but all the other links serve to reach backward and around, fleshing out the context and characters. So you could read straight ahead without deviation and still enjoy the narrative arc, but it’s those asides that really make this story memorable for me. Fun fact: “Digital Witnesses” was written in about 18 hours with only 23 passages.

Since Friday, my mind’s been wrapped up in interactive stories/hypertext fiction. I’ve browsing the IFDB, starting with going through user created recommendation lists, and I’m learning just how many different approaches there are to working with this form. My mind is boggling. It’s a whole new world for me.

From one list, I found “Bee” by Emily Short. Read it! And then check out the author’s blog because it is an astounding resource for interactive fiction. TREASURE. TROVE.

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The Surrealist Compliment Generator

The Surrealist Compliment Generator has been around the Internet for some time, but I just got around to playing with it this morning.

Most of the compliments are rather diminishing, but here are my favorites:

The tiny sounds of ancient bees resound forth from the forrested coercions between your toes.

Your presence reminds one of a blind jackal, eternally dependent upon misguided archbishops to provide instruction in bowling.

Your eyes are much like milky pools of pantyhose.

Ever do your tears shed forth an peal of epidermal thunder!

What beautiful negligence you wear!

Flies dance operas to your wisdom.

You have no socially redeeming value.

In your presence even my shadow acquires the sensation of touch.

You have the intrepid appeal of a carnivorous apple on its way to a pile of cadaveric stones.

Your tears evoke a taste as memorable as honey.

You enter while seven exits.

You foment graciously, as ever any dying monster did rot.

Ah! how the play of light upon your shoulders does bring one to reminisce of fallen lighthorsemen and gaseous trenches.

Fast blinking reveals the true visage of time pieces hidden within your eyes.

I see your loves in cloves.

You look like a million paces tonight.

You meander through love as a river delta contemplating levitation.

Luminescence breeds in your finest moments of desperation.

Your unexpected explosion entangles us in a web of premature umbrellas and precocious timepieces.

You are a banana moon subverting the sun.

Be still, my love, my watermelon rind. I am consumed with your collection of agile fans and pocked blades.

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“Sustenance”

Bitterzoet is a press that publishes a print magazine twice a year, monthly web issues, and “bonbon” chapbooks throughout the year, all chock-full of bittersweet work.

The first print issue is out, and it’s beautifully made. I’m delighted that my tiny story “Sustenance” appears in it!

Here’s an excerpt:

The border is obscure and very tenuous. Sometimes I find it when I am passing through a black forest with the trees on either side of me lengthening into the sky. Other times I land on it when I have driven into a neighborhood where the houses are divided by tall, impenetrable hedges, and smoke is continuously rising and unspooling on the wind. Once as I rounded an immense lake, its surface bare. Perhaps it is only accessible at five in the morning for people who are driving northeast.

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“The Pocket Watch Prince” to appear on Toasted Cake

My first published short story, “The Pocket Watch Prince” (it originally appeared in Hogglepot), will be reprinted as a podcast at Toasted Cake! I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am by this.

Toasted Cake is an idiosyncratic flash fiction podcast from Tina Connolly, author of Ironskin—and one of my favorite publications. The stories (many of them SF/F) are fantastic, and Tina is an amazing storyteller.

If you’re looking for a place to start, check out a few of my favorites: “Safe Road” and “Pageant Girls” by Caroline M. Yoachim, “The Hungry Child” by Romie Stott, “The Tides” by Ken Liu, and “Again and Again and Again” by Rachel Swirsky.

You can subscribe to Toasted Cake here.

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Friday Fiction: “Beyond, Behind, Below”

This week’s Friday Fiction is actually something I read last Friday and forgot to post here. It is “Beyond, Behind, Below” by Betsy Phillips, published in Issue 1 of Betwixt.

Out beyond the big house with its massive Greek columns, behind the brick kitchen, farther than the vegetable garden, below the slave quarters, past the new barn and the fallow lower fields, on the other side of the stacked stone wall, across a muddy lane, along a creek sat the old cabin—the first home place, now abandoned.

I love this story—so much so, I emailed the writer b/c I couldn’t contain myself. Basically, I love the way this story unfolds—the way it seems to dip in and out of time and feels like it is traveling a path that loops back. And the prose just hooks me some place vulnerable. Mostly I just found myself rereading it and feeling myself sink in time and then bobbing forward. It’s a witchy, beautiful, unsparing story.