Cats, Snow, and Bucket Lists

Snow in Nashville meant one thing: I finally got to cross “throw Rascal into a snow bank” off of my bucket list. Well, actually, we didn’t get enough snow to make a bank so I had to make do with “gently place cats on snow-covered grass.” Cats plural because I have three and Rascal isn’t the only one who got to experience the magic of snow this week.

Rascal

Rascal is my nine-year-old Siamese-Tabby mix. He is a big ol’ love bug, except when you scold him, then he back talks with more sass than a moody teenager. He’s pretty and he knows it, which is good because he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

Hobbies include: lizard hunting, stealing people’s seats when they get up, watching people shower, seeing how far he can carry a Dixie cup full of water out of the bathroom before he spills it, and eating cookies (what we call cat treats).

Likes: cookies, back scratches, belly rubs, being told he’s pretty

Dislikes: Harley invading his room (AKA my room), people touching his tail, snow.

Snow: I’ve wanted to throw Rascal into a big pile of snow ever since I realized that his gorgeous fluffy white coat and huge paws with their extra-long toe hairs make him perfectly built to romp around in it. Unfortunately, my big dumb snow cat hates the snow. He squirmed and clung to me when I tried to put him down in it and when I finally did succeed in setting him down he immediately wanted to get back to the snow-less safety of the house. He is currently holding a major grudge toward us for subjecting him to the trauma of it to the point of looking seriously offended if we so much as ask him if he wants to go outside. Drama queen.

Harley

Harley is the baby of the family at seven years old. If you’re a person he’s a total sweetheart. If you’re a cat, he’s an asshole who likes to pick fights and steal your food. He’s the reason our cats’ food bowls look like something out of a science fiction movie.

Hobbies include: eating, bird watching, cuddling, sleeping by the fireplace, eating, playing with string, burrowing under blankets, and did I mention eating?

Likes: food, string, fireplaces, being picked up

Dislikes: children, car rides, not being fed promptly at 6 (am or pm)

Snow: Harley minded snow the least of the three. In fact, if he can still eat the grass underneath it, it might as well not even be there.

 

Shadow

At 15 years old, Shadow is a grouchy old man. To anyone who isn’t familiar with him, the noises he makes whenever anyone picks him up sound like he’s being tortured and mistreated. Truth is, he’ll scream and growl and errf till he’s blue in the face but he’d never hurt a fly and as soon as you put him down he might even be rubbing against your leg asking to be scratched. He’s just letting you know he’d rather be loved while his feet are firmly on the ground.

Hobbies include: sleeping, playing with toy mice, screaming till he gets what he wants, howling in the middle of the night.

Likes: face scratches, cookies, chicken, being brushed, water from the faucet

Dislikes: being picked up, closed doors, his cat carrier

Snow: Shadow had no interest in the snow. He wasn’t as freaked out by it as Rascal but he also really didn’t want anything to do with it or with going outside in this weather.

Christmas in Boston

Christmas Eve began with me bundled up in front of an Italian bakery at 7:30 in the morning with my mom and aunt, as we stood in line in the twenty-degree Massachusetts air waiting for the bakery to open so we could get some cannolis for the huge family dinner we were having later that night. It was my first Christmas in Nashville and I was spending it in Boston. My Mom, Dad, and I flew up the day before Christmas Eve to stay with my aunt and uncle for the holidays. I’d never been to Massachusetts before and I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in my entire life; over the ten days we were there, there were times the temperature dropped below zero and I found myself fantasizing about the California sun. I was very glad we spent most of that time curled up in front of the fire watching movies and the Punisher Netflix series.

Still, as dreadful as the cold was, there was something magical about waking up on Christmas morning to snow lazily drifting down onto the winter wonderland that is my aunt and uncle’s backyard. That’s something I’ve never had in California: a white Christmas. I’ve got some vague memories of a Christmas or two spent up in Big Bear with my other aunt and uncle and that uncle’s parents many years ago but while there may have been snow on the ground I don’t think it actually snowed on Christmas day. Of course, spending Christmas somewhere I’ve never been before meant missing a couple of Christmas traditions this year. Stockings and Christmas presents—at least those given between my parents and I—were opened on the Friday before Christmas instead of Christmas morning. There was no homemade coffee cake—a staple in my house for the morning of every major holiday—on Christmas (or New Years) morning but my aunt did make potato casserole—another holiday tradition for my family—for the huge Christmas Eve dinner the night before. Instead of a big ham dinner on Christmas day we had homemade spaghetti with family members from my uncle’s side of the family—whom I had either never met or met when I was too young to remember meeting—and had the big ham dinner—complete with potato casserole and my uncle’s famous Jell-O casserole–with a bunch of that same part of the family on Christmas Eve instead. I missed my cats but did get to curl up with Roger, my aunt and uncle’s pit bull, on the couch a couple of times.

As different as it was from my usual Christmas, I loved getting to have the traditional White Christmas you see in movies and on TV and getting to spend it with family I don’t get to see very often and even meeting some family I’d never met before.

Dear Readers

Wow, so the whole “I’m pretty much recovered” from the cold thing was a huge lie apparently. I had about three days of feeling almost 100% better only to instantly get hit with five days of fever, chills, coughing and sneezing pretty much the second I hit publish on my last post. So that was fun. But, barring another whack over the head by the Flu Fairy, I should be getting back to a more regular posting schedule this week starting with a new Town Line Tuesday tomorrow.

Thank you for your patience,

Kelly Amber

Kelly Amber’s Top 5 TV Shows

Hi there! So last week I came down with a nasty cold and although I tried to keep up with my posts, trying to write while sick is a bit like herding cats where the cats are my creative ideas, cohesive thoughts, and motivation/creative energy; the moment I got one under control another one went running off in its own direction. But I’m pretty much recovered now so I thought I’d post something simple that would let you get to know me a little better. So without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite TV shows (most of these are off the air so I shouldn’t have to worry about spoilers but I’ll do my best to avoid them anyway)

Continue reading

Motherboxes and Infinity Stones: Or Why Character Development is Crucial

As a storyteller, one of the most important–if not the most important—elements that make up every great story are its characters. If plot is the backbone and setting the skin, characters are the heart and soul of a story. Without interesting, well-developed, loveable (or hate-able), and relatable characters a story is little more than an empty shell. This is a principle I believe wholeheartedly in whether I’m writing a story or consuming it. Plot may be what drives me to pick up a book or start a TV show but characters are what keep me from putting it back down or abandoning it in search of something new. So when the excitement over the Avengers: Infinity War trailer that dropped last week had subsided I was struck with just what, exactly, sets the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far apart from the DC Extended Universe. First, let me preface this post with: I will try to avoid spoilers but if you have not seen Justice League yet (or any of the MCU or DCEU movies for that matter) and want to avoid being spoiled, you should probably stop reading now.

Continue reading

Tantalus

Grapes hang low on the vine above your head. Low enough that they brush the tips of your hair. Low enough that the sweet smell overrides all other senses, making your empty stomach rumble. The pool you stand in is deep, the crystal clear fresh water is up to your neck. All you would have to do to take a sip is to dip your head and you are so thirsty. But every move you make, be it toward the water or toward the grapes, satisfaction makes an equal and opposite movement away from you. The grapevine climbs far out of reach. The water recedes till you stand on dry ground.

The eternal punishment of Tantalus is forever having satisfaction within reach and never being able to grasp it. I’ve become familiar with this situation myself over the last few months…though perhaps in a less dramatic manner. I mentioned before that I play an absurd amount of Pokémon. It is far and above my favorite video game franchise and one of the few that I haven’t eventually lost interest in over time or abandoned out of sheer frustration. That being said, Pokémon Go has come very close to causing the latter over the last few months.

When Pokémon Go released over 80 new monsters in addition to the original 150 back in February, one of the Pokémon to make an appearance was Unown (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), a species of Pokémon that comes in 26 different forms: one for every letter of the alphabet. As any Pokémon Go player knows, Unown is the rarest Pokémon in the game. Rumor has it the spawn rate for Unown is one in six-million (though based on my experience the last three months perhaps that’s a bit exaggerated). Now, as obsessed as my dad might think I am, I know a futile search when I see one. I took one look at the insane spawn rate, sighed, mentally lumped Unown in with the five or so regional Pokémon only obtainable outside the U.S. as Pokémon I would probably never catch and moved on with my life…until three months ago.

I moved to Nashville Tennessee with my Parents in July, leaving my friends behind in California. In August, I discovered Discord, an app for video game players to connect with each other and on it, a group for Pokemon Go players in Nashville. Now I had high hopes upon my initial discovery of this group that it would be my key to making new friends in my new home and while that didn’t quite pan out (turns out when Pokemon Go players meet up it’s more of a Wham, Bam, knock out the Raid Boss, Thank you M’am and disperse with no further conversation till the next Raid) it did offer something I didn’t expect. With a simple command to the moderator bot of the group I could have the app send me an alert whenever someone in the group found an Unown in the area. Great idea right? I mean, it would probably never go off, but what’s the harm in setting it, it might just get me one of the few Pokémon missing from my Pokédex. What followed was three months of Tantalusian torture.

Turns out, Unown actually quite like Nashville. You’d think that would be a good thing but well… The first notification I got set my heart racing and my hands shaking right up until I saw that it was at a location 45 minutes away from me. At Dinnertime. With only 25 minutes left until it vanished. Unown, apparently, are mischievous little monsters. In the last three months I must’ve gotten thirty notifications that Unown were in the area. About 50% of those were after midnight. Another 44% were either at a location too far away for me to get to in the allotted time before they inevitably vanished or when I was in the middle of something else and couldn’t get away to go searching (such as the time one spawned about 10 minutes from me with 20 minutes left on the timer but I had an interview that afternoon I needed to prep for). Or Both. One time, one spawned about 15 minutes away from me with about 25 minutes left on the clock. It was only around 8 o’clock at night. Desperately, I got up off of the couch and all but ran to my car. I drove to the location, making a stop in a nearby parking lot to re-check the location before driving back out. I saw the spot as I passed it. Four cars were parked on a little dirt outcropping from the road. Maybe ten people stood by the very closed gate designating private property, their phones lighting their faces up in the dark. I made a U-turn at the next light. When I came upon the spot again, five more cars were parked in the median, their hazards illuminating the silhouettes of people jay-running across the street. I kept driving. Stories about people risking life and limb to get that coveted Pokémon littered Discord that night.

I despaired of ever finding one myself. My phone buzzing with the alert soon drew rolled eyes and exasperated sighs rather than excitement and crushing disappointment.  However, as with all things, patience is key. Today, I got three Unown alerts. The first two, like the many before them, were too far away with too little time left. The third. Well, the third was 18 minutes away with 24 minutes left on the clock. After two minutes  of hesitation–unwilling to drop what I was doing for yet another disappointment–and two minutes rushing to get ready I ran out the door with barely any cushion time between when my GPS said I would arrive and when Unown would vanish. I arrived at location at 11:37am, Unown set to disappear at 11:39, still it did not show up. I got out of my car and walked across the parking lot toward the Pei Wei Discord said the Pokémon was near. 11:39 came and still no Unown. I kept walking, determined not to give up until there could be no doubt that I was once again too little too late. Three more steps. Buzz. There it was. A little black capital A floating on my screen. One Razzberry and one Ultra Ball later and finally, finally, my seemingly fruitless quest was at its end. I don’t usually nickname my Pokémon but I’ve named Unown Tantalus in honor of the trials and tribulation I went through to get it.

 

Lucky Part 1

Author’s Note: First Fiction post on Words Become Her! Real quick, a few things before we dive into the story. This piece is part one of a short story I wrote for an experimental fiction class I took my last semester of college; there are two parts total and I will post part two within the next couple of days. What’s experimental fiction? Experimental fiction is essentially any work of fiction that breaks away from traditional storytelling forms whether in structure, point of view, language, etc. (for example, one girl in my class wrote a story in the form of a word search). While I much prefer to stick to traditional storytelling techniques, experimental fiction is a really great way for writers to push the boundaries of their comfort zones and break free of the usual rules of writing and I definitely had a lot of fun writing this piece. 

Continue reading

Sunshine and Tacos (or Lack Thereof)

Hailing from the mystical far-off coast of SoCal: the land of sunshine and tacos, one of my biggest worries upon learning that I would be moving to Nashville, aside from the dramatic change in climate (goodbye 75 degree winter days you will be missed), was the loss of good Mexican food. While abundant in Southern California, Mexican food in Nashville is… sorely lacking. That’s not to say there isn’t any, in fact there are several places in the vicinity of my home and I’ve begun a quest to find the best tacos in Nashville with limited success… but that’s a story for another day. However, in my quest, I’ve stumbled upon a treasure of perhaps equal value: Nashville Hot Chicken.

Nashville hot chicken is chicken battered in a variety of spices, fried, and slathered in hot sauce and to a girl raised on Mexican food with a taste for any and all things spicy, it is the best thing since… well, tacos (side-note: this morning I discovered there’s a restaurant somewhere around here that has hot chicken tacos and my head nearly exploded). Understandably, hot chicken is kinda a big deal here with several restaurants dedicated entirely to the art of cooking this fiery poultry where they offer several levels of spice from no-heat to melt-your-face off. Some of these places even have food challenges where people can earn money/t-shirts/eternal glory in the form of your picture up on the restaurant wall for all to see if you can eat a certain amount of the face-melting variety. Personally, I’ve never felt any desire to intentionally melt my face off and I think any food so spicy you need to wear gloves to prevent from burning your hands probably shouldn’t be put in your mouth to begin with. However, I pride myself in having a pretty high spice tolerance and I tend to go for the fire-breathing spice level that stings your lips and clears your sinuses (in the best way).

While I have no intentions to stop my quest for quality Mexican food (a girl needs to get her taco fix, hot chicken or no hot chicken), I’ve found a new quest that I am beyond excited to experience: the quest for the best hot chicken Nashville has to offer. If you ever find yourself in Nashville, Tennessee I highly recommend you try it for yourself.

Once Upon a Time…

…No that’s not right. Hang on. A long time ago in a galaxy… wait that’s not it either. Every great story needs a great beginning. Problem is, beginnings are hard. There’s so much pressure for them to be perfect. It has to introduce the protagonist and/or the world being built (without getting bogged down by exposition of course), It has to be exciting (but not so exciting that the rest of the story is downhill from there), it should be funny and smart and shocking and heartfelt, but, most of all, it has to grab the audience and grab them quick or else the audience will never make it past the first line. At least, that’s what they tell you in creative writing class. So where do I start? I guess right here.

Hello. I’m Kelly Amber, a creative writing major fresh out of college and Southern California girl born and raised who’s just had her entire world uprooted and replanted in Nashville, Tennessee. My hobbies include reading a never-ending list of novels and comic books, going for long walks, listening to music, playing an absurd amount of Pokémon, and getting too emotionally invested in an also never-ending list of TV shows. Stories are my passion. Whatever the medium–whether it’s a book or a video game or a show or a podcast or a song–if the story and everything that makes it up (characters, plot, setting, emotion) is solid chances are I’ll consume it like it’s the oxygen I need to breathe. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve longed to be part of a story like the ones I love so much. A story full of adventure, romance, and magic; of good versus evil. Unfortunately, my life isn’t quite that exciting. So I’ll settle for telling stories instead.

All that to say I’m not sure where this blog will go. I might talk about things that happen in my daily life and I might post some flash fiction here on occasion. I’m also in the process of writing a novel so I’ll probably talk about that at some point too. Anyway, welcome, it’s nice to meet you and I look forward to sharing this adventure with you.

–Kelly Amber