Monday, February 25, 2008

The Treatise To Test Top Thoughts

I'm preparing my reviews for Philippine Genre Stories' Christmas Issue right now. I'm aware that I'm already three months late for this, but everybody probably knows about my present concerns at work. Ironically, I picked up my copy of the issue to read over the long December weekends, only to find that the little digest would sit unopened inside my laptop bag while I mollified German, Italian and Japanese clients over the state of their servers.

It turns out that a few people have been doing their own assessments in the past couple of months. I refer specifically to Electrick Twilight Boogaloo and the Bibliophile Stalker, both of whom saw fit to post their lists of outstanding Philippine Speculative Fiction that came into publication last 2007. I'll admit that I'd like to see other peoples' lists as well, but I'm looking at some obvious limitations there: Dean Alfar and Kenneth Yu, for example, organize their own anthologies, so their favorites are already up on the shelves for us to read. Moreover, Banzai Cat feels that he hasn't read a lot of the local works from last year, so a list from him might not make for a very accurate impression. And of course, a lot of other people have their own jobs and deadlines to worry about, so I'll just have to be satisfied with what I can read right now.

As for a list of my own, I'll have to beg the same excuse as the aforementioned grimalkin: I don't think that I've read much of the local speculation fiction from last year. Sure, I've gone through all the PGS issues so far... but I've only gone through a few of the stories from Dean's third anthology, I haven't picked up a single copy of Story Philippines, and I have yet to check out other outlets for these short stories. I don't know how many pieces I would have to read before I can conceive of a "top ten" among them, but forty seems like a nice round number. Or fifty, if you want to stretch it a bit.

I did see a few familiar titles among the two existing lists, however, and I'd like to go over those. It seems that there are places where I will most definitely agree with the list-makers, and places where I'm likely to raise an eyebrow in curiosity. That's not to say that I'm contesting their opinions -- they're welcome to their own thoughts, after all -- but I'd like to have a look at them nevertheless.

Electrick Twilight Boogaloo's list
(Titles in bold are those that I've read.)
Dreaming Valhalla (Douglas Candano, Story Philippines)
2. The Saint of Elsewhere (Chiles Samaniego, PGS volume 2)
3. The Flicker (Ian Casocot, PSF volume 3)
4. Excerpt from a Letter by a Social Realist Aswang (Kristin Mandigma, Clarkesworld Magazine Oct07)
5. Brigada (Joseph Nacino, PSF volume 3)
6. Tell it to the Sky (Luis Katigbak, Rogue Magazine Dec07-Jan08)
7. The Ascension of our Lady-Boy (Mia Tijam, PSF volume 3)
8. Reclamation (Angelo Lacuesta, PSF volume 3)
9. MaMachine (Dean Alfar, The Kite of Stars)
10. Homer's Child (Paolo Chikiamco, PGS volume 3)
HM: Carmen and Josephine (Elyss Punsalan, PSF volume 3)
HM: The Scent of Spice (Crystal Gail Shangkuan Koo, PGS volume 2)
HM: Noche Buena (Andrew Drilon, PGS Christmas 2007)
HM: The Music Child (Alfred Yuson, PSF volume 3)

While I did like "The Saint of Elsewhere", my problem is that I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly why I liked it. I don't know if it felt symbolic, or if its plotline was revolutionary, or if I could personally relate to it. In any sporting event where you'd have ten judges holding up a bunch of scorecards, this would be a technicality. For me, though, it's a huge technicality -- I have to know why I liked a piece, in addition to feeling that I liked it.

"Brigada" was very interesting. I felt that it fleshed out a pseudo-post-apocalyptic Philippines very well, and it was very easy to understand, for a world that the author had to create from scratch. It had the remarkable aspect of focusing all attention on the main character by leaving a very high body count among the supporting cast.

"Homer's Child" was quite good. It's one of the few stories that gives me hope for the mystery genre around here, despite a flaw in the attention it devotes to needless detail. I could be biased here, though, seeing my personal affinity for stuffed toys.

I felt that the primary strength of "The Scent of Spice" involved the intertwining between two different stories, giving us the impression that each was based on the other and somehow creating a larger, cohesive work in the process.

As for "Noche Buena", I won't give away my review just yet. I did like it very much, though, and I think it should place better than an Honorable Mention. But I haven't read the other works, so don't take my word for this just yet.

The Bibliophile Stalker's list
(Titles in bold are those that I've read.)
1. Beacon (Nikki Alfar, PGS volume 2)

2. Logovore (Joseph Nacino, Fully Booked 2nd Graphic/Fiction Awards)
3. The Death and Rebirth of Nathaniel Alan Sempio (Alexander Marcos Osias, PSF volume 3)
4. Frozen Delight (Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon, PSF volume 3)
5. The Datu's Daughters (Raymond G. Falgui, PSF volume 3)

Charles puts together a list that is entirely different from the previous one. In a way, this is both a blessing and a curse. For one, it indicates the presence of different schools of thought on the quality of Philippines Speculative Fiction. On the other hand, it also implies that there were no truly good stories that can be elicited from a consensus of readers.

With apologies to Nikki Alfar, I must say that "Beacon" never really did it for me. I didn't feel as though it renewed the fantasy genre (which I think that a good creationist universe should be able to do), and I didn't see anything really interesting with the general plot. I still think that "Beacon" actually runs on its style and characterization technique... both of which were truly original, but not altogether story-defining in my book.

"Frozen Delight" raised both of my eyebrows, and it kept doing so until the very end. I felt that it was new, that it was refreshing, and that it deserves its place on the list. It was cute, funny and eventually quite morbid at the same time, and that's no mean feat.

While I'm not about to make a list of my own, I do have some pieces that I'd like to see in one: "Beneath the Acacia" (Celestine Marie G. Trinidad, PGS volume 2) still gets my vote as the best melding of mystery and traditional folktale to come around in a long time. "Muse" (John Philip Corpuz, PGS volume 3) marked its author as somebody for me to watch. "The Magic Christmas Box" (MRR Arcega, PGS Christmas 2007) is likely to see some very good feedback from me in a later post. And if you can find it, "When They Think They Can Fly" (Petra Magno, Heights volume 55 issue 1) has a setting that is executed in the most subtle way that I've ever seen.

But of course, everything here has been my personal opinion. You're entitled to yours as much as I am to mine. And as long as we all have our own stories that we like, then everyone benefits.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Phase Three: Profit!"

I am reminded of a saying that describes two types of people in every situation: Those who rise to defend their beliefs, and those who remain by the sidelines. In these times of political uncertainty, I can take a lesson from this saying and bring up the two different kinds of people here: Those who want change and are willing to take to the streets for it, and those who cannot reconcile the idea of change for the lack of alternatives.

It seems that the twin concepts of life and meaning are fickle, however, and in a single e-mail to one of my mailing lists, my eyes were opened to the presence of a third member of the grand audience. Witness, if you will, the excerpt that amused me earlier this evening:


Wear your indignation at our ugly ugly excuse for a government by sporting
one of these smashing, original t-shirts for only 350 pesos each.

Yes, that's right: You will have people who stand at the forefront of the crowd, screaming their names at the riot police. You will have people who mill around the back, wondering exactly how much longer they have to stay. But both of them pale in comparison to the third aspect: People who will somehow turn a profit out of the whole thing.

I don't mean to insult these people. In fact, the idea amuses me greatly -- the gap between rich and poor may be getting wider, our government officials may all be falling into corruption, the president herself might be involved in a conspiracy to hold power for as long as she can -- but all that will never suppress our ability to find opportunity wherever it can be found. Think of them in any way that you want, I suppose -- they can either be solidly entrepreneurial or remarkably crass to you -- but they're certain to make good money either way.

You're welcome to pass by their site and have a look, of course -- it's at In the interest of timing (which is everything in a country where political issues and scandals come and go in the blink of an eye), if you place an order before the 20th, then they'll actually make sure that you receive your shirt before the 25th. You're going to want to wear it to the rally that will inevitably occur on that date, after all.

No, I'm not connected with them. They just happened to be the high point of a day when I really needed something to make me laugh, and I might as well give them a bit of attention in return. The shirts that you order will most likely lose their relevance in time, and your grandkids will probably give you some strange looks when they dig them up twenty years from now... but at least they'll know that when the chips were down and tensions ran high, we still knew how to do business. That, I think, will still get a laugh out of me no matter what happens. :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Title Paradox

Some people have written about the process of creating titles already, so I won't tread old ground too much. That, and it's late at night from where I'm sitting, which means that I'd just like to pose this line of thought before I go to bed.

Assuming that you've written something at least once in your life, I figure that you normally assign titles to your works. You could have gotten creative a few times, or you could have just picked the first phrase that came to mind -- either way, you must have chosen titles for any of your works at some point, even if they were sometimes as cheesy as labeling something "Untitled."

I won't ask where these titles come from. More than a few people have written about this precise topic already, and I suppose that we all know that titles are a pseudo-intuitive exercise. We know that titles will come from words or phrases that strike us about the content of a piece -- they may be taken directly from the work itself, or they might be a peripheral observation that has something to do with the content at hand. Whatever the case, these titles are chosen to entice readers, drop subtle hints about the nature of a story or an essay, or merely serve as a placeholder for when everything has to be collated. In short, we know where titles come from.

What I ask, then, is when do they come about? And, for that matter, when do we actually put them in place? I mean, assuming that a title will come in a flash of inspiration (or a knock on the head, take your pick), they can strike at any time. One can have a title in mind even before one begins writing a story, or it might suddenly appear right in the middle of one's writing process, or one could very well end up struggling to find said title even after the story is finished.

Back when I was in high school, I assumed that the best method involved looking over your work once you were finished, and choosing your title only at that point. I mean, this method would basically ensure that you would know your entire work from beginning to end, and thus you would be in a perfect position to choose a title to encompass everything that had been written.

After a while, though, I realized that this wasn't necessarily the case: Sometimes I was already getting hit by a few good titles in the middle of my writing. In fact, as I went on, I found it more and more difficult to come up with a title only after I had finished my work. I can see a definite catch with this method, of course -- finalizing your title might result in your stratifying the remaining parts of your work just for the purpose of fitting it -- but I've had a lot of good titles come up in this way.

Then there are the times when I literally start off with a title and move from there. There's actually a term for this -- "top-down design", I think -- but the logic behind it is a little unstable. Starting with a title to begin with implies that you'll be able to write at least a thousand words about it, and that it'll all somehow make sense when you're done. I find this to be the equivalent of gambling: you make a bet, you roll the dice, and you pray that the sevens come up. I'm not sure if this really works on a regular basis, but I know that I've been able to do it before.

What I'm really wondering here, mind you, is if there's a solid and appreciable method out there for coming up with good titles. My base logic dictates that we really need to finish writing something before we can find the best title for our needs... but this clearly isn't the case all the time, and I'm pretty sure that we've been able to find some really good titles even without the ability to scrutinize a complete piece.

This bears further observation from my part. Or it could just be the product of a fevered mind, running on very little sleep.

And if you're wondering... I came up with the title for this post about halfway through the second paragraph. It's quite a strange thought.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fifty More Things About Sean (Only Twenty of Which Are Absolutely True)

No, that sense of déja vu that you're feeling is not an error in the Matrix. It does not indicate that something has changed.

This is an obvious sequel to the original list of Fifty Things About Sean (Only Twenty of Which Are True). It's not a meme (although you can try it for yourself), and it's not here for any particular purpose. I just happen to be bored at the moment.

It's easy, really: I have a list of fifty self-referential claims below, only twenty of which are indubitably, undeniably true. It's up to you to figure out which is which, and I'm not about to confirm anything as a result of this post. That's left for you to freely speculate on, and perhaps you'll lose some precious sleep in the process. :)

(only twenty of which are absolutely true)

1. Once acted as a potted plant in a class presentation.
2. Once addressed a crowd of 200 for a seminar.
3. Once ate two pounds of cheese in one sitting.
4. Once attached refrigerator magnets to somebody else's CPU casing.
5. Once believed that the world would end on December 31, 1999.
6. Once blew up a microwave oven by placing a packet of soap inside.
7. Once brought the proverbial knife to a gunfight.
8. Once built an origami figure that could support five pounds of weight.
9. Once burned a hole into a laboratory table with sulfuric acid.
10. Once collected comic books.
11. Once constructed a working battery-operated motor.
12. Once cut himself with a pair of ice skates.
13. Once danced a can-can with six or seven other guys.
14. Once did lead vocals for a startup musical group.
15. Once dressed up as Godzilla for a childrens' party.
16. Once drew a political cartoon that was eventually published.
17. Once fell asleep in a Ferrari. (No, it wasn't mine.)
18. Once filled an entire attaché case with salted popcorn.
19. Once fixed a computer by hitting it (with a good hard smack).
20. Once got a piece of candy stuck up his nose.
21. Once had an eye operation to correct blurred vision.
22. Once "improved" a jigsaw puzzle by cutting up the pieces.
23. Once jumped off the third floor of a building.
24. Once killed a goldfish by pouring talcum powder into the fishbowl.
25. Once made a shot from the half-court line in basketball.
26. Once maintained a collection of G.I. Joe action figures.
27. Once offered witness testimony for a convicted criminal.
28. Once owned a Trapper Keeper.
29. Once performed a voice-over for a commercial.
30. Once ran with scissors.
31. Once recited background speech for a music video.
32. Once said, "I'm just a lazy peon in the Warcraft of life."
33. Once scraped an entire layer of teflon off the frying pan.
34. Once scripted a twenty-four-page comic book.
35. Once shaved his armpit hairs.
36. Once shot an imaginary arrow from an imaginary bow.
37. Once sold life insurance.
38. Once spoke with a stutter.
39. Once stole a license plate for a scavenger hunt.
40. Once stripped on stage.
41. Once submitted an English essay for Filipino class (and got an "A").
42. Once superglued his hand to his face.
43. Once swallowed a paperclip.
44. Once took six hyperactive dogs for a walk, all at the same time.
45. Once traded an entire collection of stickers for a single playing card.
46. Once tried out for a TV game show.
47. Once used a priceless diamond antique as a paperweight.
48. Once won a years' supply of Ovaltine.
49. Once worked for three hours on a single math problem.
50. Once wrote erotica.


7 Personal Rules for Fantasy Writing

I think that I've been delving into the high fantasy genre for almost as long as I've been writing.

For the uninformed, "high fantasy" involves your basic, medieval, knights-and-wizards-type of setting. These are the kind of stories where people like Conan, Legolas and King Arthur hang out, a sort of alternate Middle Ages where Renaissance Faire garb would probably be the norm. (This lies in contrast with "low fantasy", which twists the modern world as per Harry Potter, the Spiderwick Chronicles, and the Highlander movies.)

Sixteen years after I first started out, my memories of my first works are more than a little hazy. The first "serious" short story that I ever wrote was actually set against a biblical background, and placed a slight spin on a quasi-religious event. From there, I went into science fiction because it seemed as though nobody was writing it at the time. I remember actually avoiding fantasy for the first couple of years or so because I felt that it needed a lot of work in order to pull off: Setting counts for a lot, after all, and it's the sort of thing that takes time to craft.

I think that the one primary inspiration, the one thing that motivated me to write fantasy was David and Leigh Eddings' Belgariad series. I had read a couple of other fantasy novels before, yes, but the Belgariad gave me the idea that there was more to the genre than merely putting together a universe and creating some characters to play around in it. In a sense, I hit upon the truth that makes most fantasy works palatable: In order to immerse yourself in them, you have to be able to empathize with them.

One decade, three fictional universes and more than a few attempts later, I have more than a few guidelines to work with. At this point, I'm proud to say that I can probably spin off a short piece of the high fantasy genre without first having to spend ages working on a setting and a history. That's not to say that I've stopped toying with universes of my own creation -- as evidenced by the number of "Antaria" links on the sidebar -- but I feel that I can work on both long- and short-term fantasy work as of the moment.

I try to follow a strict set of rules for high fantasy in this regard. These, I think, are "rules" in the sense that I try to break them as seldom as possible -- I feel that they're too critical to what I feel is the underlying logic and structure to a plausible work. As a result, I try to stick to these rules whenever I put the physics of a fantasy setting together, and I inevitably look for these personal standards when judging a work of the genre. In a sense, this is why I feel that high fantasy is so difficult to get right: I have all these unwritten requirements in my head that give me something to look for whenever I read somebody's work.

I suppose at least now I'll be writing them down for once. I'm aware, of course, that any of these rules can change with a simple paradigm shift. More likely than that, however, I'll probably end up adding more to this list over time.

1. Cut down on the details.
High fantasy requires a lot of details. These stories usually involve completely imagined settings, after all, and most of them are spun from nothing but empty air itself. Beyond that, you have to get the physics, history, and sociology right... and considering that you'll have a lot of gaps left over after you're done, you're going to have to explain those away, too.

As a result, it's extremely tempting to overburden a reader with these details: I mean, you spent months figuring out the politics and economy of that nice kingdom you put together, so why let it go to waste? You created an entire history, description and set of drawings for that suit of armor your protagonist wears, so how could you tell the story without describing it?

The catch is that all of these details ultimately amount to highbrow "fluff". It's all interesting when taken in a scholarly context, I'm sure, but you're not aiming for that here -- you want to tell a story. Unless something is absolutely critical to the story -- or unless something helps contribute to atmosphere or characterization -- I try to leave it out. I mean, I ramble on for long enough periods of time, and I'd rather not run the risk of boring readers further.

2. It may be a different setting, but it's the same humanity.
Humans are humans wherever they may exist, I suppose. Most high fantasy involves humans in some way, presumably because it's easiest for us to foresee and narrate their actions. I believe, however, that this also gives an opportunity to make the work speak to the reader and get him to put himself in the characters' shoes.

Empathy is the key word here, I think. When presented with a story that takes place in an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar events, I believe that a reader will immediately try to latch on to its most familiar aspects. With most high fantasy, I think that this involves character empathy more than anything else: They may be looking at a completely different universe, but they'll still expect the human characters to walk, talk and act as humans would normally do. A reader may not know how it feels to, say, hold a two-handed broadsword, cast a spell, or fight a shambling throng of undead... but they'll understand situations where a character makes a promise, talks to a superior, or comes to the aid of friends.

3. The nonhumans must have a purpose.
One of my greatest pet peeves involves the use of nonhuman races in a human capacity. I mean, I don't see the point of having elves, dwarves, and orcs walk around in the same universe as a human contingent, especially when they're characterized according to existing aspects of humanity. Why have a graceful, fragile, long-eared elf when you can just as easily have a human character with those precise qualities? Why have a short, tough, bushy-beared dwarf when you can just as easily use a human counterpart? The whole thing just confuses me.

While I'm willing to accept the presence of sentient nonhuman races in high fantasy, I feel that there should really be some purpose to their presence there (apart from acting as set dressing). Tolkien, for example, used an alliance between humans, elves and dwarves to emphasize a united stand among completely different cultures. I'd like to see a little more thought go into the use of such races in fantasy literature, other than the "they just happen to be there" argument.

4. Use magic.
If there's anything that makes fantasy "fantasy" for me, it's the use of magic. Magic is the duct tape of literary concepts: You can mold it to whatever definition you choose for your setting, and you can use it to plug any gaps that you might find. You can leave it as part of the background so that you can focus on other concepts (as Tolkien did), or you can give it some significant screen time (Jordan's The Wheel of Time series comes to mind). Without the use of magic, a high fantasy universe runs the risk of being relegated to a purely medieval setting.

That's not to say that you literally need magic to write a plausible fantasy story, of course. (George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones series practically doesn't use the stuff, as far as I know.) But I find it difficult to pass off high fantasy as "high fantasy" without it -- it's the sort of thing that I simply don't find in any other genre.

5. Some technologies are indispensable.
One of the things I realized a long time ago was that, while fantasy literature might usually reflect a medieval setting, it simply does not provide an accurate picture of what medieval times were really like. Inns were not built like hotels with taverns to match. Dungeons with hidden treasure most certainly did not litter the countryside. Female adventurers did not go around wearing skimpy costumes that supposedly passed for "armor".

What I mean to say here is that I find it difficult to consider a plausible high fantasy setting without working some modern innovations into the picture. I'm not saying, of course, that people should try to work cars and trucks and vacuum cleaners into their feudal kingdoms. What I'm saying, however, is that we can sneak in a few contemporary concepts and technologies without breaking our stuff in two.

I know that scissors have to exist in any proper fantasy universe, for instance. I mean, without scissors, you wouldn't have proper clothes and costumes for the characters to wear. You wouldn't have proper hairstyles. Heck, you wouldn't have such things as ribbons or tassels or bows. I can make arguments for a few other things: Dental floss (otherwise your characters wouldn't have all their teeth), disposable paper or parchment (for all those books and scrolls), and gunpowder (because even if you don't have guns, you're likely to have explosives in some form).

We don't have to go into the details of why the stuff exists, to be honest. I think that we can -- and should -- suspend belief for these small things just so that our worlds can work the way we want them to. I don't think that the readers will mind, just as long as everything makes a sort of sense.

6. Equalize the genders.
Granted, the concept of gender equivalence obviously isn't limited to the high fantasy genre. I think, however, that the genre finds great benefit in using gender equivalence, perhaps more than anything else out there. When a high fantasy story turns an existing convention on its ear -- say, a female warrior as a main character -- then we're far more willing to accept it as part of the imaginary setting than we are, say, a female CEO of a major software corporation. Or, if you will, a male editor-in-chief for Cosmopolitan magazine.

The opportunity to perform a good bit of role-switching, I think, is too good to be ignored. It can result in some unprecedented casts of characters, or some situations that have never been seen before. I feel that stories that revolve around stereotypical archetypes (male barbarians, female sorceresses, and so forth) are missing out on a lot, as a result. There's some real potential here to shake things up and explore uncharted territory in terms of character interaction.

7. The stories should work by themselves.
Finally, I'll admit that it's not easy to cut a work of high fantasy down to size. Considering that you've created an entire universe and its corresponding population to play around with, it's easy to plot out some grand epic and start scribbling it down.

While you can probably accomplish such a task (and novelize it, to boot), I feel that it's not a very attractive way of going about things. First, you have an enormous task ahead of you -- it's like working on your first book and deciding right off the bat that you're going to put together two thousand pages of text. Second, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to finish it -- and if you suddenly lose interest three months and three hundred pages later, you've effectively wasted an entire setting. Third, the readers are almost certain to find that later installments of the story will make no sense unless they've read through several previous installments.

The only solution I can think of at this point would be to make sure that the individual stories can stand on their own. If you can finish a novel in one go, then that's all the more better for you. Otherwise, I think that we're better off serving our stories in bite-size pieces. Knowing that any story can conceivably be read independently of the others doesn't just take away a restriction on the part of the readers -- it also gives new readers an avenue to jump in.

Beyond these rules, however, I must consider that these are personal standards more than anything else. They're guidelines, and innovation often means scrutinizing these same guidelines for new and interesting ways to break them.

I might follow these items to the letter right now, but for all I know, I might be spending my next seven years figuring out how to make their exact converses work for me. After all, any genre is in a constant state of evolution. That the fantasy category happens to reward anything that is newer and more different than any previous works is an even better prospect for the rest of us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

This Post Has Cake In It

Yes, Valentines' Day is coming up next week. As nice as I imagine it might be for couples around the world, that still doesn't change the fact that it's a corporate-manufactured holiday designed to sell overpriced flowers, hawk overly expensive chocolates and, in certain cases, force a general overbooking of local hotel rooms. In addition, it's an agonizing holiday for single people all over the world, which means that while dozens of men and women out there are enjoying the fruits of massive spending, an equal number of people are organizing "singles-only" tours where they can go out, drink themselves silly, and then go to bed feeling sorry for themselves.

Being one of those creative bakeshops that is nonetheless willing to take advantage of the unfortunate masses, my family bakeshop offers a special something or Valentines' day every year. This year, it happens to be a small circle of pastries meant to be given as a gift to peoples' loved ones. Or failing that, you could always eat them yourself. They might not ease the pain of utter loneliness or the shattered consequences of a bad breakup... but hey, you'll at least have something to chew on? Right? Er... right?

Seeing that I am a single man who has unfortunately fallen in love with these pastries (this is an appropriate figure of speech, yes), I planned to pick up a few of them as giveaways this Thursday. The only question involved who was supposed to receive them. Giving one of them away to everybody in my office (a crowd of more than thirty people) would be a trifle expensive; Counting out a small number of recipients would leave me open to post-Valentines' demands ("What do you mean, you didn't get me one?"), and considering that these wouldn't be available after Thursday, I definitely have some thinking to do right now.

Complicating the matter is that I have at least two choices on the table right now. The first one is a solid-looking candy-shell heart, which looks like the samples below:

Yes, they're nice. We offered the same thing on Valentines' Day last year, and they were so popular that we decided to give them a second go.

The large candy hearts are actually hollow -- they're essentially a sugar- and gum-type candy shell that, although non-chewable, are perfectly capable of melting in your mouth for a while. The insides are filled with miscellaneous hard candies, which means that even if you have to break your heart (so to speak), you'll still find it a sweet enough prospect in the end.

What I particularly like about these is that their shelf life is a lot longer than the other "pastries" I encounter. The hearts are likely to last for at least a week before they start getting stale, and even then the candies inside will still be edible -- you'd just need the simple expedient of a jackhammer to get them out. Still, they're pretty good for people who want to display them a bit before breaking them up.

The second choice I have is the cake whose picture you see at the start of this post. I have another picture here, in case you'd like to have a look:

These cakes are actually a little small -- about the size of one's fist -- but they're made of lemon chiffon covered in strawberry fondant icing (I think), so I imagine that they taste fine. They're not bad for occasions where you expect the recipient to eat them immediately after the gift-giving. In short, they'd be perfect for the perpetually-hungry co-workers in my office. They're cheaper, too.

Of course, being a single man, I'd normally be nursing the (alleged) pain and loneliness of my situation by chewing on these myself. It's too bad that I don't have the sweet tooth that forces me to take advantage of the family bakeshop. As a result, well, I'll have to see whether or not I'd like to give these out.

And, just in case I turn out to be too busy this Valentines' Day... I wish you all a nice holiday, whether you have someone to spend it with, or not. Chin up, and don't eat too much of the sweet stuff for your own good. You'll want to look good for next Valentines', after all.

* No, I haven't suddenly sold out and gone commercial on you. But I am bragging that I have access to almost limitless amounts of this stuff for a good price. That's got to count for something.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Within the Next Five Minutes

Someone decided to point out that a good number of my posts from last month involved descriptions of my love-hate relationship with work. In short -- I spent a good chunk of the last thirty days being a whiny little person.

As a result, I made a little resolution with the coming of the first days of February: For at least this month, I'll hold a moratorium on any mentions of my day job. That means that I'll force myself to find more interesting fare for people to read about, and you won't get to listen to me whine for at least a good ten posts.

When I realized this resolution, though, it brought my mind back to the fact that I never did post my resolutions for the New Year. For that matter, I think I wrote them all down somewhere and then promptly forgot about where they were... which means that I've obviously gotten a head start on what most people do about their resolutions. Nevertheless, this post could serve as a nice substitute.

So what I'll do right now is organize my goals for the next few spans of time. Make of them what you will, but beyond my preventing myself from constantly complaining about my day job, these are as close to resolutions as we'll probably see:

Within the next five minutes: Organize thoughts properly. Finish answering e-mail.

Within the next thirty minutes: Finish writing this post.

Within the next one hour: Get some leisure time in, for once. Continue reading that novel on Alexander the Great that you keep putting off.

Within the next twenty-four hours: Get some sleep. Finish the week's work in such a way as to not worry about it over the weekend. Scribble down notes for a short story.

Within the next week: Pick up a good book for one's collection. Get some more sleep. Organize an initial list of venues for story submissions and start planning things out. Reserve plane tickets and a hotel room for that trip to Bacolod City that you're planning for later this year.

Within the next month: Write at least one short story for the blog. Get some more sleep. Stop spending so much money on trying to forget about work. Play a few more board games. Get together with friends more often.

Within the next six months: Get more involved with the family. Set aside some vacation time (most likely for Bacolod City). Talk to the Philippine Copyright Office regarding standards and practices. Submit something to the Palanca Awards.

Within the next year: Write more stuff. Submit more stuff. Attend at least one workshop or discussion-type group on modern literature. Get my name in at least two books somewhere. Organize life properly -- tell myself exactly what I want out of it.

Well... I never said it would be easy.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Disclaimer: February 2008

I sense much fear in you.


Remember... fear is the path to the dark side.

Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? A flaw more and more common among writers. Too sure of themselves they are. Even the older, more experienced ones.

A writer's strength flows from the Source. But beware of the dark side. Ambition, desire, jealousy; the dark side are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will.

Property of Sean are all things here. Created, website was, by his own two hands. Dreamt, maintained, held. All original. All things written here, written by Sean. His writer's strength flows from the Source.

Still acknowledged here are those things not written by Sean. Names they have, links if possible. If use by Sean offends writers, then writers may contact Sean. Remove works, perhaps. Save works, perhaps. A mysterious thing for all, the Source is.

But fallen, the shroud of the dark side has. You must unlearn what you have learned. Copy others' works to pass as your own, you should not. Steal others' works, you should not. Misquote for selfish purpose, you should not. Words are free for all, and must be shared. Must not be taken.

Control... you must learn control. Take things from this website, but ask before you use it. Rule of honor, that is. Ask before using, or use and then ask. Lenient, Sean is. Compensation, he usually asks not.

No. Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.

You do not believe it. That is why you fail.

Steal things from this website, careful you do not. Too far Sean's eyes see. Catch you, he will. The way of the Source, revenge is not... but demands, the law must have. Justice there must be. Chase you to the ends of the universe, he shall... for Sean's ally is the law of copyright, and a powerful ally it is.

License of Creative Commons lies below and to the right. Read it, you must. Know it, you must. Live it, you must.

No more training do you require, I hope. Already know you, that which you need.

May the Source be with you.