Monday, November 20, 2017

A Story's Story

Last February, I sold a story to Ranylt Richildis of Lackington's Magazine while she was adventuring through Europe. Lynn Hardaker was showing us around Regensburg, and all in all, the pleasant company made it an amazing day.

I was talking about selling a story. It was a piece I had submitted to Lackington's more than two years earlier, and since it didn't fit in well with the issue back then, the piece had gotten a very nice rejection letter that lauded the "excellent picaresque pacing." What amazed me most was that it had left a strong enough impression on Ranylt for her to remember it, two years on, and to still want to buy it.

Of course, there are masks in that story, and masks can leave a strong impression.

At any rate, The Master of Hourglasses will appear in Lackington's #16, Trades, which will be released on Nov 22, and I am very excited about this. It is set in the same universe as another story I wrote, The Marriage of Ocean and Dust (in which there is a golem, and alchemy of course,) a piece Ranylt helped find a home for in Postscripts to Darkness.

I hope you'll head over to Lackington's and read a little bit (may I selfishly direct you to Hel?). If you like what you see, consider supporting that very special venue through a subscription, and be very sure to read The Master of Hourglasses once it comes out, it might just leave an impression on you as well. Enjoy the adventure!

ETA: Issue #16 of Lackington's is now live. Additionally, after reading The Master of Hourglasses, Lynn Hardaker said some nice things about it here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

From the Vaults: The Job Interview



The Job Interview
By Alexandra Seidel

Outside, fog was coming down like a curtain, stealing sight and sound. There were shapes almost visible in the grayness that might have been gravestones or angels cast in marble. The well-dressed man was holding a clipboard in his hands and a fountain pen too that was poised inches over the paper. Across from him sat another man, not dressed as well but much younger although that was not very obvious.

“So,” the well-dresses man began, “I see from your résumé you have tried your hand in many professions. Never stuck to one thing for long. Any reason for that, Mr. Grey?”

File:Cemetery in fog (335717947).jpgThe younger man, Mr. Grey, seemed to visibly squirm as the well-dressed man’s eyes punctuated that question. Beads of sweat were forming on his forehead.

“I just never found something that really…enthralled me, that gave me the feeling that I needed to get up every morning because else I would miss something important in my life.” That was an honest answer. The well-dressed man could smell lies very reliably and Mr. Grey knew this.

The well-dressed man made a few notes on the clipboard in what looked to be an elaborate handwriting of the sort you don’t see too often these days.
“So you hated what you did?” he asked.

“Oh no, not at all. Though I must say, the smell in the hospice was rather unpleasant,” Mr. Grey said, looking at his feet. His shoes were old and dirty.

“I see. Perfectly understandable too. People decaying in their own shit and puke, I have been in places like that myself and could not agree more that there are nicer ways to spend your time. The little time you have left, in particular.” He brushed at the sleeve of his tailored suit. There was nothing there that needed brushing away. “But you understand that if you sign up with us, you will not be able to choose your assignments, yes?”

Mr. Grey’s head jerked up. “Of course.”

And again the pen flew over the paper. “Good. As long as this is clear…How was your time in the war?”

Mr. Grey rubbed his hands together, unconscious of the gesture. “Well, I signed on as a medic.”

“And?”

“And there was a lot to do.”

“Like what, Mr. Grey?”

“Like clamping arteries when someone’s arm or leg got torn off by a bomb. Giving out morphine so people could sleep at night and the others wouldn’t be bothered by the moaning. Patching them up although I knew it was no good. Telling them they’d be okay although I knew they wouldn’t be. Sometimes we’d just have to cut bullets out, and that was easiest. Easier than shrapnel at least.”

The sound of the pen again. “I see. Let’s talk about the morphine. About the dosage.”

“A fair dosage, always, I would say.”

“Ah,” the well-dressed man looked up from his writing and his eyes shone at Mr. Grey. “But there is fair and then there is fair. What I want to know, did they beg you for the pain to end and did you give them a fair dosage then? Did you think you were doing something merciful but never dared tell anyone that you had done it? Did you, Mr. Grey?”

Mr. Grey was suddenly fidgeting uneasily. He looked left and right, but the well-dressed man’s eyes were focused on him like the eyes of a watchdog trained to draw blood.

“Yes. Yes, I might have done that,” he finally admitted in a quiet voice.

“More than once?”

“More than once,” Mr. Grey confirmed.

“And were you also fair to the decaying wretches in the hospice, Mr. Grey?”

“I cannot deny that I was.”

“Just a little sting, yes?”

“Very little. Minute.”

The fog seemed to be thickening around them. The fountain pen continued to scratch marks on paper.

“And you worked as a butcher?”

“I did.”

“What did you prefer, cattle or pigs?”

“Pardon me?”

“Cattle or pigs, Mr. Grey?”

“Actually, I mostly did lambs.”

“Ah, lambs. Tells you much about anatomy, butchering, yes?” The well-dressed man prodded while he was writing busily.

“Yes. Quick kill, the organs, how to drain a body, all that.”

“Shouldn’t you be saying ‘carcass’, Mr. Grey?”

“Didn’t I?”

“No. You said body, Mr. Grey. Not at all objectionable, just an observation.”

“I see. What I did mean was carcass though. You learn how to bleed a carcass and cut it up into pieces, you know.”

“I certainly do.” A delicate yet intense smile spread over the well-dressed man’s face. “Why didn’t you stick with butchering? Certainly not the smell?”

Mr. Grey waved his hand as if to shoo the fog away but this fog was persistent and it only grew thicker, if anything.

“No,” he said, “the smell was fine. I didn’t like the customers. Picking out this and that and smiling as they did. Dead bodies…I mean to say, carcasses, and they were feeding on them like vultures. Do you find that very weird?” He looked at the well-dressed man as if he needed his approval in the matter.

“I can assure you, I do not find it weird, Mr. Grey. I can relate perfectly. Tell me about work as an undertaker.”

“I liked it. I did a brief stint in the morgue before, but embalming, that was really like a passion. So very quiet, and the smell was not at all as bad as people often think. I have to admit, I came to like it quite a bit.”

“Ah, yes. Nothing smells like a fresh corpse now, does it? I can relate perfectly, Mr. Grey, perfectly.”

“And they didn’t ask me to cut them up, just drain and embalm, drain and embalm. I think that’s as dignified as it gets, don’t you?”

Scratch-scratch.

“Quite so, Mr. Grey. But you are aware that with us, you might have to cut them up quite a bit sometimes, yes?”

“Of course, I understand.”

“Splendid,” said the well-dressed man, putting away the fountain pen in his inside pocket. “I think we’re done here. Please sign on the dotted line.”

“So you’ll hire me?”

“Why, of course. You seem to be a perfect fit for our team, Mr. Grey, just perfect. The dotted line please.”

“Of course. May I borrow your pen? I don’t have one on me.”

At this the well-dressed man chuckled.

“With your blood, Mr. Grey, your blood, not ink. See that broken stained-glass window showing you The Savior? It will do just nicely.”

Mr. Grey turned and brushed his hand over the glass the well-dresses man had indicated. He could just make out the outlines in the fog. Red beads of blood shone on his fingers, bubbling up like boiling water. He traced his name on the dotted line.

“Why, we are pleased to have you, Mr. Grey, so very pleased. When can you start?”
File:Père-Lachaise avenue fog.jpg
Mr. Grey licked the blood from the cut in his fingers. He made a sucking noise before he replied, “I don’t see why I couldn’t start right away.”

“That’s the spirit, Mr. Grey, the true spirit! Don’t forget your angelic wings then, we consider them somewhat of a trademark. And remember, we don’t offer salvation, but sometimes mercy. And we do not accept checks, only cash. Have you got this down, Mr. Grey?”

“Yes, sir. I certainly do,” he said, shaking hands with the very well-dressed man and returning his wide smile.

~~~
(Images from commons.wikimedia.org)


This story was first published in The Red Penny Papers in 2011. If you enjoyed reading it, do leave me a comment or click on the woman in white to your left. She'll lead you straight to the Tip Jar. Thanks!

Monday, October 30, 2017

From the Vaults: Turns, Twists; Lost Things




https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/Mausoleo_de_Hafez%2C_Shiraz%2C_Ir%C3%A1n%2C_2016-09-24%2C_DD_12-14_HDR.jpg

Turns, Twists; Lost Things
By Alexandra Seidel

Around the first corner--left--
you find the sylph that governs the western winds
hair and limbs spelling out abandon

the sylph--neither man nor woman--
tells you a story
and half of that is lost on the breeze

another left
and a stone found lying on the ground
plain as onyx or jade

too heavy for your pocket
but warm in your hand
--some stones hold breath or life--

Your third turn is a right
and almost finds you tumbling down a well
set like a grave into the ground

the echo haunts you as you retreat
already lost. You take
another right (which might be left)

and find a beggar, open-handed
squatting there, eyes staring empty
you part with the warm stone

and you go right again
there is a dark cup
brimming with wine

thirst makes you drink (thirst? really?)
Back again and left
scattered peacock feathers on the floor,

and the shed scales of a snake, a leopard's skin
you take the skin and take a right
warm cake awaits

fresh from the oven that you cannot see
baked by no-one, filled; you lick
warm berry juice from your fingers (berry juice? really?)

and then again you turn--right or left, no matter--
and find a bed or a bench or a throne; a hat
or a crown; more warm things

filling your stomach
and the leopard's spots on your skin
and all the walls around you softly closing in

~~~ 

This poem was first published in 2010 by Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine which is unfortunately a dead market now. If you enjoyed the poem, do click on the woman in white to the right, she'll lead you straight to the Tip Jar. Thanks!
 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Fall Dessert

Desserts are the best things ever, aren't they?

I think I figured out one that is ideal for the season of shorter days and longer nights, it simple and pretty healthy at the same time, so here goes!


Apple-Mango Pudding with Ginger 




You will need:

1 medium apple, Gala or similar
1 cup Mango (I used frozen but fresh would also work)
1 small carrot
about 1 tsp fresh ginger
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup plant milk of your choice
cinnamon


Directions

Put the chia seeds in a bowl together with the milk. Let sit for at least 10 Minutes. Then add the apple, mango, carrot, and the soaked chia seeds to a blender, also add the ginger. You can play with the amount of ginger you use of course. Blend everything for a minute or so. The result will be a fluffy, delicious fall favorite. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top to serve and enjoy!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Random Thoughts on Feminism


So the other day I got hit with a comment about when I would finally become a mother. This came from a female family member, and at the time I didn't really know how to react properly, it just left me feeling deeply uncomfortable, angry even, though I wasn't exactly sure why that was.

But maybe it was more of a joke right? After all, said family member knows I don't want kids. It really wasn't though, she was serious about it. What revolts me so about this seemingly innocent comment isn't just that I never wanted children and that the person that said it is well aware of that. It's that I'm a human being first, not a woman whose purpose is child-bearing and rearing; it was disrespectful of the choices I made and make in my own life and negates, by way of social pressure, the right to make these choices. It was a sexist comment to boot, and it hurt, still does.

Of course it's easy to shrug these kinds of comments off because it's just something people say. Except that's not true. It's very entrenched sexism that's at work here, the kind that's so difficult to work against because it's self-propagating. Personally, it took me years to realize this and to actually call myself a feminist, and all time I was living in a country (Germany) that is certainly doing its part to maintain inequality on an institutional level. Yet, I thought I didn't need to be a feminist because things were already pretty good; they weren't then and they aren't now.

I am angry about being reduced to my gender, and rightfully so. I am angry because women's issues and feminism are still seen as issues that only concern women, something men had best not get involved with. I'm angry because it's socially acceptable still to expect motherhood of everyone born with a vagina. I'm angry because I grew up thinking I needn't be a feminist because feminism wasn't necessary anymore. Most of all I am angry because you feel alone in such situations even though you aren't.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Movie Review: Assassin's Creed (2016)

So I somehow ended up in a screening of Assassin's Creed. Such was not the plan, but I figured I might as well go ahead and make some lemonade here. If you enjoy the review, there's a tip jar to the right (follow the girl with the flowers and the white dress.)

~

To begin with I should mention that I am aware the movie is based on a video game, but I haven't played it, so whether the movie is doing the game justice will not figure in here. There are also a few minimal spoilers in here, most of which you already know from the trailer. None of them should lessen your enjoyment of the movie.

Plot: I'm sure there was supposed to be one. However, when something is so full of massive holes that it just falls apart in the softest breeze, I'm not quite sure you can call it a plot. The premise is that an individual's unique memories somehow survive in their genetic code. This simply does not get me anywhere near suspending my disbelief as it is just not how the brain works because that is where memories are actually stored. Even is I were to ignore that though, the fact that throughout the rest of the movie everyone wants this manzana de dios thingy which contains somehow free will (???) was just a little bit too much. Just made no sense. And there was something that I think was intended as a big reveal, except it wasn't. But it can be somewhat entertaining taking the pseudo plot apart after seeing the movie.

Pace: The pacing was actually not too bad. As is often the case in movies that rely on a lot of combat scenes, I felt that some of the fighting was superfluous and stilted, but that was something I could live with. At the end there was a major pacing issue where things should have been moving to a nice and tight conclusion, but they didn't. Lot of scenes with people running on roofs, standing on roofs, and jumping from roof to roof though if that's your thing.

Acting: The acting was ok, but there just wasn't a lot for the actors to work with I guess. The characters are not very well defined ones, even the main character was barely 2.5 dimensional, and he was supposed to be two people.

Writing: Dialogues didn't feel tight or even very natural for the characters. There was no proper conclusion at the end of the movie, which was annoying.

All in all, not a must watch kind of movie. As it's winter right now, the only good reason for watching this movie that I can think of is if you lock yourself out of your apartment and you need a warm place to wait for a locksmith and Assassin's Creed is the only movie you can get in because everything else is sold out, that's when I recommend you go watch it. If you can get your hands on some wine to go with that experience, that would be helpful too!

~

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Best Vegan Eggnog

This eggnog, or vegnog, is not just easily prepared, it is also super delicious, creamy, and quite versatile; add a shot or two of espresso or coffee to it, and you have a delicious vegnog latte. It's good cold, or warm. And compared to most recipes, it's comparatively healthy due to the fiber content.

For this vegnog you'll need:

666 g (23 oz) almond milk
400 ml (14 oz) coconut cream
3 to 4 dried figs
2 ripe bananas
0.5 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 to 1 tsp of freshly ground nutmeg
3 tbsp rum or spiced rum
additional rum to taste

Put the figs in a bowl, jar, or in your blender, then add the almond milk. Ideally, let this soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Now, add in all the other ingredients and blend well until creamy. If you need to make a non-alcoholic version, simply leave the rum out. Otherwise, add the 3 tablespoons now and add additional rum (we used 73 vol% for this) when you serve it, stir, and sprinkle some more nutmeg and/or cinnamon on top.

If you like your seasonal coffee based beverage, you can add one shot of espresso to about 200 ml of the vegnog, or you can adjust the ratio to you taste of course.

If you serve this warm, you will get a stronger banana flavor, serve it cold and you'll taste more of the coconut.

If you don't like your nog as creamy as this, just use coconut milk (or almond milk) in lieu of the coconut cream.

Enjoy this vegan Xmas drink!