Archive for July, 2011

The Return of Rae!

Posted on July 13, 2011. Filed under: Editing, Musings, My Writing | Tags: , , , , |

Hello all you people in the blogdom!

I am exhausted, intrigued, excited, and thrilled. And I am home! After a year (more or less) abroad in the wide, wide world of China, I have returned to the wonderful US. It’s been a wild ride, but if you’ve kept up with my other, China-centric blog, you already know that.

After all that time away from home, I’m back and ready to revamp this blog of mine! I will probably be working on a few concepts that have been floating around my brain while participating in all kinds of things to keep me afloat. I have to get a job, of course, which could take longer than I really like to think about, but in the meantime I’ll be keeping up my online activity as well as my writing.

Speaking of writing, what was the first thing I did when I arrived home? Oh, that’s right: I gravitated instantly to the box with my CreateSpace proof copy, courtesy of the NaNoWriMo winner’s page. It arrived long before I did back in the States, and when I opened it up, I got my first taste of just what a book that I wrote could look like.

I would actually recommend purchasing a proof copy of a draft if you are an aspiring writer. It means so much more to have a professionally bound copy of your book with your name on the front in your hands, and it’s given me more motivation to edit and revise the book now that I’ve seen just how awesome it has the potential to be.

Fire & Ice Bound - Cover of my Proof Copy

As you can see, I decided to take a picture of my proof copy with my dog, Harley. Seriously, though, the cover was gorgeous. I will go ahead and admit I probably could not use the cover art if I were to self-publish the book because the amazing artist who designed it (another NaNoWriMo participant) mentioned the artwork potentially being licensed in such a way that I would need to pay for it. However, as this book is just for me at this point, I’m thoroughly enjoying the gorgeous cover.

Title Page of Fire & Ice Bound

I took quite a few photos of this to link to the NaNoWriMo forums, but the point is that seeing my name (or my pen name as the case may be) in print is enough to motivate me towards eventually ironing out all the kinks and making this shape up into a real novel.

The end result of this proof copy is a 333-page book on cream paper with few stylistic designs apart from the chapter font. The lines are spaced at 1.5, and the font is 11-point Times New Roman. It’s a little over 90,000 words long, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed rereading it since I haven’t read it since I finished writing it in February 2010 (written originally for NaNoWriMo 2009).

Random Inside Pages of My Novel

It’s stunning to see my novel in print. Like I said, I sincerely urge you to get a proof copy of your novel printed. With CreateSpace, you do nothing until you approve your proof for sale, which means you never have to approve your proof copy. So in essence, you can finish editing, revising, polishing that proof copy until you get it just right, and then you can start sending it in to agents.

A proof from CreateSpace is actually rather cheap when you get right down to it. Basic shipping will get it to most places in the States within a week of ordering, and I think it’s a definite investment in the future of my writing career to see what I’ve written in book format and really get a chance to read it like I would a novel.

The Back Cover of My Novel

I’ll probably update with a little more about how I’m using this proof copy to edit and revise my novel. I think it might be fun to do a few visual presentations on my editing process, especially if it becomes as “colorful” an experience as I imagine it will.

I thoroughly intend on doing a revision of the novel, printing it out on paper, revising again, doing a sweeping edit of grammar, and finally paying for a second proof copy from CreateSpace that will hopefully be the most polished version of the book.

Until then, there are novels to be written (in August), resumes to revamp (next week), blogs to write (soon and very soon), and other things that have to be finished.

I hope this visual blog post has warmed your little writer hearts and reminded you that I am, in fact, not dead. I will be around more soon, and hopefully we’ll see this blog revamped in the interim.

Looking forward to more posts soon –

– Rae

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Melt-In-Your-Mouth Fat

Posted on July 8, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

It’s the epitome of duckdom, the most succulent, sinful bit of roast duck I’ve ever encountered in my life. It’s exquisite, delightful, and certainly something I never would have expected to find so close to the Happy Dragon Hostel in Beijing. 

This is Beijing duck. It’s the way duck is supposed to be, and I give serious props to the chef, who trained with the best of them to roast a duck to such a degree that every bite is pure pleasure. 

Before I came to Beijing, I checked out my guidebook for information about where to go for great food, and I came up with a few suggestions for Beijing duck. According to the guidebook, the places to go were Da Dong’s Duck Restaurant and Made In China, both of which receive high reviews on The Beijinger, an English-language magazine that reviews restaurants and other things around town. 

I managed to find Da Dong’s the other night when I was out with Jana, a Missouri native who teaches in South Korea, and Rob. Da Dong’s is super classy and definitely not the place we should have walked in with capris and t-shirts. But it’s also ridiculously expensive. We were able to get hold of the wine list, and its extensive menu of thousand-kuai wines was enough to make you feel ill. I read that the restaurant itself had a 180-page food menu, which is just insane. Full ducks start at 199 kuai, and then you have to buy drinks (and let’s just assume buying water here is no 1-kuai expense) and side items since you won’t be just purchasing the duck. 

Needless to say, it’s a swanky place and one I was afraid I couldn’t afford. 

This is not to say that I wouldn’t pay premium dollar for good duck, but I didn’t want it that badly. And the place almost requires reservations unless you don’t mind a thirty-minute to one hour wait. So my vote was no to Da Dong’s. 

Made In China, the other restaurant listed in my guidebook gets even higher ratings on The Beijinger for slightly cheaper fare. Even so, I don’t think I need the reservations that much. I can probably find a good duck somewhere in this city, right? 

Last night, we went out for duck. I was with Rob and an Iranian who lives in Sweden and who has a name that’s rather impossible for me to pronounce. He was very nice, though, and it was cool to meet someone new again. We were originally going to follow the suggestions of David, one of the Happy Dragon employees, who told us about a nearby duck place we should try. 

We found the right street and were walking along. I have no idea if we actually found the correct restaurant or not because I’m hopeless when it comes to reading Chinese characters. We did, however, find a very pretty, tasteful restaurant that seemed a bit higher-end than the rest of the places we’d seen on the street. Feeling adventurous, we walked in and sat down. 

The menu was pretty par for the course. They had everything from roast duck (clearly a must!) to duck giblets to mustard duck feet to chicken with walnuts to mutton. It was a meat-lover’s paradise. And to be fair, they also offered a decent selection of vegetables as well, including one of my favorites from Wuhan: hand-shredded cabbage. The menu was a ridiculous number of pages long, and it took at least five minutes to go through the whole thing. 

The place had decent prices for duck, and I think it was around 158 kuai for a duck. So we ordered one duck, one set of pancakes, two sets of duck condiments, one order of chicken with walnuts, and one sauce plus drinks. Not a bad order and plenty of food to fill up three people very easily. 

We received the chicken with walnuts first, and as is par for the course here, we waited for about 30 minutes before seeing hide nor hair of the duck. The chicken with walnuts is definitely one of my new favorite dishes here in China, and we demolished that by the time the duck was almost finished roasting. 

Eventually the chef came out with the full duck on a platter. It was a crispy golden color with the head turned modestly down as if the duck were ashamed to be seen naked. The chef showed the duck to us, almost as if asking if it looked okay, and we all heartily agreed. Then he went off to one side and began slicing the duck into little bite-sized pieces. 

By the time all the food was laid out before us, we had two plates of succulent duck meat, one bowl of steaming pancakes, two condiment platters, a basket of greens, and a basket of crispy, thin rolls. Our eyes were a bit larger than our stomachs in hindsight, but we valiantly sallied forth and began eating our duck. 

Our waitress was kind enough to show us how to roll our Beijing duck pancakes and what to include with each pancake. The condiment platters had minced garlic, thick plum sauce, sugar, two kinds of minced pickled vegetables (one of which was pickled radishes), cucumber slices, onion slivers, and jelly-like vegetables that reminded me a bit of cranberry sauce. 

Another waitress pointed out that we were supposed to eat the duck meat pieces with the garlic and plum sauce while we were supposed to dip the skin and fat pieces in the sugar. I tried a piece of the fat in the sugar immediately after she pointed it out, and suddenly I found myself in duck heaven. 

I have no idea how this chef learned to make such delectable, tender, delightful duck, but the fat literally melted in your mouth. I don’t know how else to describe it. There was no need to chew because the fat and skin pieces just became a delicious goo that melted into your mouth, and when you put them in sugar, it was even more delicious. Even after they cooled off, the fat still seemed to just disappear, almost the way cotton candy dissolves into sweet nothingness. 

But duck this incredible has to be terrible for you. 

I don’t care. 

The meat pieces that he cut for us were also incredibly tender and excellent when paired with almost any of the condiments. Making the pancakes is a fun experiment, but honestly, I would just eat the duck with the condiments alone.

Either way, I have to say that if that’s the last truly Chinese meal I have in China, I am perfectly happy with it. I would go back in a heartbeat to this place and pay bookus of bucks to get them to make me duck again, but I am happy enough just living with having had this experience.

And now, sooner than ever, I get on a plane to fly home. Tomorrow morning at 6:55 a.m. my flight leaves Beijing for Detroit, and then it will only be a matter of time before I’m back on home soil. I think I’ve had a full trip, and I’m really happy that I came, but I’m also happy to go home.

There will be a few more posts before I end this blog to wrap up loose ends. And then I’ll be home and a new adventure will be starting.

Here’s to China and the best Beijing duck I’ve ever had!

– Rae 

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