Hallo, Willkommen!*

Thanks for subscribing to Lexical Gap, a monthly newsletter named for a linguistic phenomenon and JJ's fascination with how other languages (usually German) has words to describe experiences and feelings that English lacks.

Anyway, this is my inaugural newsletter, so I'm still testing and trying out what should and shouldn't go into one. Personally, I like newsletters from authors with a bit of this, a bit of that, but I realize that my subscribers (I have subscribers!) might not. I would appreciate feedback, if'n y'all would be so kind to take the time to send. (If not, I still love all of you!)

*Can you tell I've been playing Duolingo German?

Why Lexical Gap?

Those of you who have known me for a long time will know that I have a thing for German compound nouns. A few of my favorites include Sitzfleisch (lit. "sit meat"), meaning "the ability to sit through something boring", and Backpfeifengesicht (lit. "slap face"), which means "a face that cries out for a fist in it."

I figure every month I will introduce y'all to a new favorite word that covers a lexical gap in English. You got two this month; go forth and use them in a sentence!

E.g. "This conference is going to call for a lot of Sitzfleisch."

In this issue:

1. LEXICAL GAP: Sitzfleish and Backpfeifengesicht
    - On David Bowie
    - Der Erlk
3. RECIPE: Crispy Tofu with a Brussels sprouts salad
4. DEAR JJ: Let me be your personal agony aunt!


A drawing of Liesl, my protagonist, that I did for Inktober last year.

On David Bowie

I never did foresee a world without David Bowie. When I awoke to the news he had passed away at the beginning of this year, I almost didn't believe it. Bowie was the ultimate chameleon, an artist who lived several lives as different personae: Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, etc. He was as immortal as the Goblin King, and I simply could not believe he was gone. I wrote a Tinyletter about what he meant to me and how much his art has had a profound influence on me. He was a man for whom everything was art, including his death.

As I write this, I'm listening to his last gift to us, the album Blackstar, released on his 69th birthday. More than "Lazarus", the song I hold on to is "I Can't Give Everything Away".

Seeing more and feeling less
Saying no but meaning yes
This is all I ever meant
That's the message that I sent

He's saying goodbye, and I still can't listen to this last song on the album without tears.

In the days since David Bowie's passing, I received a lot of condolences from friends and family, almost as though Bowie were mine. (And he was a Jones; I could have claimed him as kin. ;-)) And in many ways Bowie was mine. And yours. And everyone else's who has been touched by his art.

Der Erlkönig

If you've subscribed to this newsletter, first, thank you! Second, I imagine you subscribed because you are one of two things:
  1. My friend
  2. A fan of Labyrinth
I've made no secret about Wintersong's relationship to Labyrinth (as detailed in my Origin Story post), but I want to talk a little about the central figure of the film, the Goblin King (and I don't mean David Bowie).

There is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called Der Erlk
önig which tells the story of a young boy haunted by strange, inexplicable, otherworldly sightings and presences while his father continually hand-waves away his concerns (either to reassure his son, or ignoring him; the text is ambiguous) as they both travel through a forest. When they reach the inn, the father discovers his son is dead.

I love this story for many reasons, not the least of which because the ending creeps me the fuck out. But I also love this connection between the fey and death. While I never particularly cared for fairy stories, I was always about underworld tales. Orpheus's journey to Hades, Inanna's travels through the Underworld, stories of the Wild Hunt, et al. Labyrinth is also an underworld tale: Sarah travels to the Underground to rescue her brother from the Goblin King. By nature, underworld tales are about death and rebirth, and are therefore transformative.

So the Goblin King in my story is also referred to as Der Erlkönig. But he is also the ellekonge of Danish folklore, the hellequin of medieval French tales, a psychopomp, a resurrection deity, and more than a little bit the gentleman with thistle-down hair from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and the Opera Ghost from The Phantom of the Opera.

A Lied (or song to be sung) composed by Franz Schubert based on Goethe's poem.

RECIPE: Crispy Tofu with Brussels Sprouts Salad

I went back home to LA for over the Christmas holidays to see my family, and while I was there, we took a trip out to Death Valley and Las Vegas. Death Valley was pretty awesome, Las Vegas less so. (If you grew up in LA in the 90s, you went to Vegas on vacation a lot, back when it was kinda sleazy and cheap and actually fun.)

We were in the desert to admire nature and Vegas to watch Cirque du Soleil's O (which was excellent by the way), and before the show, we ate at Michael Mina's in the Bellagio. There was an amazing Brussels sprouts salad on the menu that I had as an appetizer that I was eager to try when I got back to my own kitchen. My salad isn't actually the same (we use different ingredients), but I took my inspiration from its combination of slightly sweet, crunchy, roasted elements.


PREP: 15 minutes
COOK: 30 minutes

Extra firm tofu
Brussels sprouts
Gouda cheese
Asian pears
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
apple cider vinegar
white vinegar
olive oil
sesame oil
soy sauce
green onion
garlic powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).

2. Rinse and pat tofu dry. I usually like to rest the tofu on paper towels to soak up excess moisture while I prep the rest.

3. Wash and trim the sprouts, then halve or quarter them so they are roughly bite-sized. 

4. Toss the sprouts in olive oil with kosher salt and cracked black pepper until they are lightly coated, then spread them on a flat baking sheet. Put them on the middle rack in the oven and roast for about 30-45 minutes, or until tender enough to stick a fork through.

5. Heat a skillet on high, and lightly coat with olive oil. Slice extra firm tofu into pieces roughly about 1 inch thick and place on pan.

6. Lower heat to medium high and cook each side for about 15 minutes. When you flip the tofu, you can also go in and turn the sprouts over so they cook evenly.

7. While the sprouts and tofu are cooking, you can peel and slice the Asian pear as well as shred the Gouda. You can also make your dressing.

For the salad: whisk honey, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper together, then slowly drizzle in olive oil.
For the tofu: Mix soy sauce and teensy bit of sesame oil and white vinegar together. Add a pinch of garlic powder and some sliced green onion.

8. Once the sprouts are done, you can assemble your salad! Toss the sprouts with a handful of pecans, the Asian pear slices, and shredded Gouda in the vinaigrette. 

9. Once the tofu is finished, you should have a nice crispy tofu on the outside with a slightly chewy middle. (It will look thinner once fully cooked as all the moisture will have evaporated.) Dress with the soy sauce dressing, add the salad, and voila! Your dinner. Or mine. Nom.

ASK JJ: Let Me Be Your Personal Agony Aunt!

Have a writing question? Want to know what your Hogwarts house is? How to handle your odious roommate who orders Chinese takeaway but leaves all the containers half-eaten in your fridge without ever throwing them away? Let me answer all your questions and offer you some questionable advice! You can contact me here, send me an ask through Tumblr, or just tweet at me!


As a thank you for subscribing, I've entered y'all into a giveaway for the chance to win the following books:
  1. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  3. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  4. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  5. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
And the winner of the subscription giveaway is:

Janet! (rockcoulture08)

Thanks so much again for subscribing, and I will be emailing you shortly so I know where to send your prize!

And if you didn't win this month, never fear, there will giveaways in future newsletters. SO STAY TUNED, FOLKS.

Further Reading

My name is S. Jae-Jones, but JJ, if you please. I'm an artist, adrenaline junkie, and author Wintersong, forthcoming from Thomas Dunne in Fall 2016. 

Mailing Address
Uncreated Conscience
c/o Jill Grinberg Literary Management
392 Vanderbilt Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238

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