Saturday, January 31, 2015

Poem: Picnic at Manzanar

Picnic at Manzanar

Twenty-eight rice balls
have gone in our bellies.
Now we sit swapping licorice
on shaded park benches

in a place where the desert
crashes into the mountains.
But had we arrived
just seventy years sooner

we might have dined on
Jello served on steamed rice
and listened to teeth chatter
in the cramped, hot mess hall.

How strange this quiet tragedy
has brought us all together
in a place where barbed wire
lies on the other side of the river.

--Rebecca Lang
January 27, 2015

* * *

I originally wrote this poem back in 2013 and even posted it on the blog. (You can see the old version here.) This week, I happened to glance at my old poems and decided to revise it. I'm not a poet by nature, but I do appreciate the craft of putting a feeling into words and then reducing those words to their absolute essence.

Manzanar is an old internment camp in central California, between the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevadas. Back in World World II, Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and imprisoned in this and many other camps across America. They had to share barracks with other families, endure public toilets (some without stalls), and dine in communal mess halls. Some of the cooks didn't know how to prepare Japanese cuisine and gave them things like the Jello rice slop. Life did improve, though, as the Japanese set about turning their sparse surroundings into a community.

I'm half Japanese American on my mother's side. My grandparents came from Hawaii, and my grandpa actually saw the planes fly toward Pearl Harbor. They were never interned, but they had to hide their culture. My grandma, for example, stopped going to Japanese school and get her hair permed to look more America. I don't actually think she minded that in the least. 

My mother spent much of her childhood denying that she was Japanese. She was and is very much American. It wasn't until she heard about Manzanar and other Japanese internment camps, that she began to connect with her Japanese heritage and even embrace it. I always thought it interesting how such a terrible event could bring out a sense of pride.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Weekly Update: 1-30-15 Yay for the Weekend

But a brief hour ago, I was spinning and dancing like a mad ballerina, I was so happy. Tomorrow, I go to the Fowler Museum with my cousins and dine on Indonesian food for the first time. Obsentisibly, this trip will give me a chance to research for Counterfeit Diamond, an upcoming story I'm setting in a magic society loosely based on Dutch-colonized Indonesia. But I also get to spend time with my cousins, who are awesome, by the way. Some of them took time off of work to go on this Geeky trip with me.

Honestly, I love to plan and go on these little travel adventures. I don't know why. But I feel like a kid in a candy store with a fat wad of cash in his hand. I want to taste everything. 

This week, to be honest, has been fairly glum and gray, much like the weather. I got much-needed, but boring stuff done, such as planning out my business model and going over my short story markets. I even got work on Friday, which is hopeful; maybe the jobs will perk up in February. On the whole, the same old, same old, so I can't wait for tomorrow when I get to do something different. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Short Story Review: Beyond the Waterfall and A Glimmer of Perspective

Title: Beyond the Waterfall
Author: Ryan K. Stansifer
Genre: Short Story, Fantasy


There's something strange about Waterfall Canyon Library. It was on the verge of shut down before a mysterious donor saved it. Now people come and go at odd hours of the night, and some disappear, never to return. Liam Applejack shrugs off these rumors as urban legend. Then a cute volunteer from the Waterfall Canyon Library offers him a chance to work there. His friends are convinced she's part of a cult. Liam must decide whether to heed the warnings of reality or dive into something that's beyond his imagination.


I connected to Liam Applejack almost instantly. He's a nice librarian who suffers from panic attacks, made worse by his overbearing, almost sadistic boss. When dealing with Cherie, the cute volunteer from Waterfall Canyon library who Liam has a crush on, he's adorably awkward, trying (and failing) to look at anyone but her. I appreciated the fact that Cherie wasn't some glamorous fantasy figure, but a rather down-to-earth girl, who wore faded comic con shirts and realized how strange her library must look to Liam.

The story flowed nicely, from one event to another, and I was never bored. There wasn't a lot of action, persay, but more of an internal struggle. Normal, everyday events causes Liam anxiety. How can he deal with something like this? A crucial scene, where Cherie gently confronts Liam about the nature of his fears, really resonated with me. I think it formed the beating heart of this story.

It is a short story, though. By the time the mystery of the library starts to unfold, the story is over. "Beyond the Waterfall" introduces the audience a new fantasy world, but cruelly deprives them of the chance to play there. And I did think that, at $2.99, it was a little expensive for my taste.


Title: A Glimmer of Perspective
Author: Ryan K. Stansifer
Genre: Short Story, Fantasy


The Weaver waits until the humans are gone to begin his task. He must gather tendrils of magic, tame them with his cries, and train his young apprentice in the way of the craft. The humans may have welcomed the Weaver into their home, but little do they know the true work he does while they are away.


This story is short. Really short. A little over 8 pages on my iPad's Kindle. At $2.99, I would have liked a few more pages and maybe more than one line of dialogue.

To be honest, I had trouble getting into the story. The main character's identity is shrouded in mystery until the very end, making it hard to see him. (In fact, I use "him" in the neutral sense, because I'm not entirely sure the Weaver was male.) The notion of Weaving is also very abstract. The first time I read the story, I couldn't visualize anything and had only the loosest idea of what was going on.

That said, when I got to the reveal at the end and read through the story for a second time, I did get... perspective, so to speak. It gave me a glimpse of a world that might be, a world close enough to touch, but just out of reach. I think if the main character's identity had been clear from the beginning and if the world had been a little more developed, I would have liked this story very much.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Weekly Update: 1-23-15 Water Fowl and Worries

On the far end of the pond, little black birds gather on the grass. I call them black, but in fact, their bodies are more of a smoky gray, and they have orange eyes and wide blue feet. They are rounder and plumper than ducks. They travel in groups but evenly spaced apart, like elementary school children lined up on the playground, and they ripple when I walk through them. I smile.

I think I see a dead duck underneath the brown, murky water. Its wet, ruffled feathers look like algea or maybe the spiky leaves that fall from the nearby trees into the pond. But it's the neck of the bird that really catches my eye, the way it twists up at an angle and then back down, like the start of a pretzel. I see a flash of its beak. Just this and no more.

And there's this great ugly bird. I can't tell if it's a big duck or a small goose. It has black and white feathers and a mottled red face, like some sort of bumpy scarlet mask, and when it walks past me in clumping old-man steps, it doesn't so much quack as grunt. It arrives at the side of the lake and drinks, fluffing its neck feathers and gargling. The water has enlivened its mood. Its tail wiggles back and forth, like a puppy.

* * *

I wrote down these observations in my journal last Tuesday, during a walk to Tri-City Park. I had gone there partly to get exercise, but mostly to try and ease my nervous mind. The ducks calmed me down while I was there, but the anxiety has since returned.

I haven't gotten work all week.

In fact, so far the month of January has yeilded only two substitute jobs. I had a good run in October, November, and December, and I hoped it would last, but it didn't, so now I'm broke again, right as the holiday bills are due. This only confirms in my mind that I will need to make a drastic career change very soon.

Now, lest you think I've been so bored this week I've been reduced to writing about ducks, let me tell you, that break was wedged between four hours of working on my Coffin novel and five hours of grappling with various problems converting my digital novel into print. In fact, I've been working frantically just to keep on pace with my regular weekly To-Do List, and I'm still not sure I'll get everything crossed off.

And this also troubles me because if I have 5 days off and can still barely keep up with my schedule of writing, how the heck am I going to do it, when I have subbing jobs to attend to, marketing campaigns to run, and classes to attend?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: Warriors: Into the Wild

Title: Warriors: Into the Wild
Author: Erin Hunter
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy


"Kittypets can't be warriors! They don't have warrior blood!"

So says the wild kitten that attacks Rusty, a young orange house cat who's wandered into the woods. But Rusty knows he's different--he dreams of hunting mice and finds the life of pet stifling. When a group of wild cats offer him a chance to join their clan as a warrior-in-training, he leaps at the opportunity. Soon Rusty is engulfed in a world of deadly fights, fierce friendships, and mystical visions. Will he fulfill his dream of becoming a full-fledged warrior? Or will the weakness of his kittypet blood win out?


One of my students recommended this book to me, so I decided to give it a shot. Even though I'm not a kid and I don't have a cat, I did find Warriors an adventurous and enjoyable read.

Into the Wild, the first book of the Warriors saga, follows Rusty's journey, as he grows in strength and finds acceptance among the other cats. Food is scarce and cats must compete for hunting ground, so the clans have developed a warrior society, complete with codes of honor, ranks, and ceremonies. It's a well-developed world and fun to learn about. One of my favorite aspects was the idea that the leader of each clan takes a mystical journey and is bestowed with nine lives--literally.

Because of rivalries and border spats between the clans, there's always lots of action to keep the plot moving. The fights are surprisingly violent, and characters do die. I was taken aback when cats I'd grown to care about met a sudden, unexpected end. No one is safe in this world.

The one thing that really bugged me was that the bad guys were so obvious. One cat in particular could have, should have been dealt with much sooner, if Rusty puts the hints together and exposed the villain when he had the chance. Though by the end of the book, Rusty's warrior journey is complete, none of the villains are really dealt with, so the story feels incomplete. There are a lot of threads left hanging.

But I guess that's why it's a series. If you really want to know what happens to Rusty and his friends, it's off to the next book.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weekkly Update: 1-17-15 Little Annoyances

My laptop is being eaten alive by a series of deadly viruses. My uncle, in a drastic last attempt to flush out the disease, is going to reformat the computer. I have no idea what this means, except that the laptop is off-limits until he gives it a clean bill of health.

No problem. I primarily use my tablet anyway, and since my old iPad (the original version) was deleting my documents, I bought a brand new iPad Air 2 and a keyboard case. This week, I typed up 10,000 new words on my Coffins story. Still, the laptop being out of commission has been annoying, because there's one or two things I just can't do on my tablet. Printing, for instance. Or loading photos on this blog. Little annoyances.

But little annoyances have been adding up. Today, for example, I spent the whole day doing chores and felt extremely frustrated for not getting more done. Not more chores. More writing. More business-y stuff. More figuring out my life. It's the beginning of the year, and I want to do everything. But now limits are kicking in. I'm getting tired. I'm getting frustrated. My self-imposed deadlines are looming and I'm getting nervous.

I feel I should have my life figured out by now. I'm annoyed I have not.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Weekly Update: 1-10-15 New Year, New Routine

No subbing jobs this week, but that's all right, because I had plenty to do between writing and trying to implement all my New Year's resolutions.

Writing hit like a deluge. I finished new drafts of Chapters 2-5 of my Coffins story, right on schedule, but then I decided to sit down on Wednesday and re-write all of Chapter 1 of The Originals (about 20 pages), which was not planned. Then on Friday, I revised one short story, wrote up another one, and tinkered with a couple more. I don't know if I was just full of ideas or secretly procrastinating all the stuff I didn't want to do (like thank you notes), but at any rate, my writing cup overflowed.

At the same time, I was slowly phasing in new life improvements.

Phase One was learning German, which I actually got a head start on in December. I've been faithfully visiting Duolingo every morning, and I've downloaded "Lass jetzt los," the German version of "Let It Go" off itunes. I've even found a favorite German phrase: "Morgen, Morgen, nur nicht huete, sagan alle faulen Luete," which sounds like a nursery rhyme and literally means: "Tomorrow, tomorrow, just not today, says all the lazy people."

Phase Two has been uncluttering my mind from addictive junk. I got rid of Candy Crush (all 600 levels of it) and stopped watching TV. It's actually weird to have so much silence and stillness around me. It lets in the doubts and the fears and the guilts that the blare of the TV numbed. I'm still adjusting to that.

Phase Three is health. I assembled a new crop of low-calorie recipes from and Cooking Light and planned out the rest of the month's menu accordingly. Today, I started counting calories on the MyFitnessPal app and took a long walk to the park.

I'm still working on getting my publishing business in order and figuring out my career path. But I can only inact so many changes at a time. What worries me more is whether or not the changes will stick. It's very hard for me to be disciplined without a tangible goal in mind. Right now, though, I'm feeling pretty good and I hope I'll be able to continue on this newly plowed path.

Monday, January 5, 2015

My First Novel Published

My first novel, THE CHANGELINGS, was published on January 2, 2015 exclusively on Kindle for Amazon. You can get a copy for $2.99 today.  For those of you who prefer physical books to digital ones, a hard copy will be coming out on June 2, 2015.

First-time author Rebecca Lang takes us into a war-torn world steeped in political intrigue, shifting alliances, and breath-taking civilizations in the first volume of Matthew’s Prophecy, an exciting new fantasy saga.

For as long as she can remember, 21-year old Sylvie has embraced her role as the priest's daughter, content to marry her fiancé and lead a quiet, normal life. But between droughts, food shortages, and the slow invasion of her desert homeland, even those modest dreams seem out of reach.

Then one sweltering summer day, her best friend Matthew reveals a devastating secret. Sylvie is a Changeling: a fantastical creature given human form and switched with the priest's real daughter 17 years ago. And she's not the only one. Four other Changelings remain hidden in the desert—including Matthew himself.

Once a child prophet, Matthew foretold a world-wide catastrophe that only the Changelings can prevent. But when an unexpected cost brings heartache to Sylvie, she begins to wonder: Should she follow the prophecy’s instructions like the obedient girl she thought she was? Or does being a Changeling mean a different side of her is about to come out?

Click here for sample chapters:

* * *

I have to say, I was actually terrified to have my novel up for sale. It's ten years of toil and a good chunk of my heart and soul up for display. But I felt it was time to put aside my fears and release the story to the world.

I wrote the story I love epic fantasies with three-dimensional characters, plot twists, and complicated world-building, so I tried my best to incorporate those elements in THE CHANGELINGS. I want the reader to think they know where they're going and suddenly be surprised.

 Did I do my job well? Please let me know. I appreciate any reviews you leave. The more you write, the better chance new readers will give my book a shot.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Weekly Update: 1-1-15 Christmas and New Year

Christmas Eve Morning.

I found myself in my old kitchen in Victorville, slowly braising a pork roast in a soy-sugar-sake marinade, chopping up apples for a last minute crumble. Nothing unsual. Until I felt an overwhelming sense of sleepiness overtake me. I had to take a nap. When I woke up, signs of the flu were upon me.

Christmas Eve.

Flashes of heat and chills overtook my body. A vague feeling of nausea churned in my belly. I didn't eat my braised pork. I hardly ate at all. We were supposed to play games all night, open presents, and talk about what we're grateful for. But I was too sick to participate. Instead, I called it a night early, curled under a mass of blankets, and gave in to the wracking pains of a nasty flu.


Mom was counting on me to help her with Christmas dinner, but with me starting the day by heaving bile over the toilet, that wasn't going to happen. I didn't even have the strength to pop the cinnamon rolls into the oven. Most of the day, I sat like a lump on the couch, encased by blankets, watching kid's movies. By afternoon, I was starting to recover. I even opened some presents, which included money soap, a dragon in a cage necklace, a mug bearing Shakespearean insults, a Nintendo DS, Jane Austen cards, story dice, and some books.

New Year Eve.

By this time, I was long over my flu. All that remains is a long, lingering cough. However, the bug moved to my ipad decided to delete my documents. For the last time. As part on my birthday present, my mom and dad helped me buy a new ipad. That was the most exciting thing I did. I ate Little Caesar's Pizza, watched Mythbusters, and played Pokemon until the midnight countdown. The fireworks scared the puppies.

New Year Day.

It's my last day of being 29. Considering that tomorrow I turn 30 and publish my novel tomorrow, I've had surprisingly few anxiety dreams. Maybe because I've been stressing about my third decade since I turned 28 and now it's mostly out of my system. Also, I'm too busy anticipating all the stuff I've got to get done in the upcoming year. I spent all day typing up my goals for 2015. 

Tomorrow's my birthday. Wish me luck.

Goals and Challenges 2015


The Originals

  • ·         Rewrite Prelude, Chapter 1-4 by July
  • ·         Brainstorm “Ending, Part 1(North), Draft 2” in June
  • ·         Write “Ending, Part 1(North), Draft 2” during July Nanowrimo
  • ·         Brainstorm “Ending, Part 2(South), Draft 2” during October
  • ·         Write “Ending, Part 2(South), Draft 2” for November Nanowrimo
  • ·         (If extra time, continue Gryphon “short” story)
  • ·         If time, rewrite Chapter 5-7 by December

Three Floating Coffins

  • ·         Finish Rewrites of Chapters 1-14 by end of July
  • ·         By June, make minor corrections of 14-41 and identify places for re-writes
  • ·         Extensive re-writes in summer (June-September)
  • ·         Get critiques (OC Inklings, Brea, Michelle, Others)
  • ·         Hopefully, should be mostly complete by 2015
  • ·         Start thinking about Agents or Self-Publication and Promotional Material (Synopsis, etc.)

Counterfeit Diamond

  • ·         Brainstorm in March
  • ·         Create a draft for Camp Nano in April


  • ·         Go through all the critiques
  • ·         Draw/ work out setting
  • ·         Start writing second draft (pre- “Blind Man’s Bluff” chapters)

Short Stories, Blogs, and New Work

  • ·         Decide what to do with blog
  • ·         Keep doing travelogues, book reviews (those are good for me)
  • ·         Publish “Bad Days”
  • ·         Try to get at least 5 new short stories out there (for marketing purposes, too)
  • ·         Fill up Idea Notebook
  • ·         Turn Ideas into Stories (Maze, Box, etc.)


  • ·         Plan by January (February at latest)
  • ·         Create Email List
  • ·         Revamp website and blog (?)
  • ·         Active Search for Fans (at least 3 things)
  • ·         Brea Library Presentation
Hard Copy of Changelings
  • ·         Go to Createspace, get Proofs in January
  • ·         Get Proofs to Line Editors (Alydaughter, anyone else?)
  • ·         Cover Design, Pricing, Mailbox, etc
  • ·         Amazon Promotion in June
  • ·         Get Hard Copy Out by June 2
  • ·         Send Copy to Library of Congress
  • ·         Income Taxes in February
  • ·         Keep Track of Expenses
  • ·         Think about/ Ask about getting an accountant
  • ·         Sales License
  • ·         Do I want to keep making/ selling them as a fundraising tool?
  • ·         If so, do I want to do it online or in person
  • ·         What sort of vendors would give me the best access?


Go Back to School
  • ·         Look into Teaching Overseas
  • ·         Decide on Program (Masters, Credential, Certificate?) and School by January, Feb max
  • ·         Put together application
  • ·         Apply
  • ·         Financial Aid
  • ·         If accepted, Begin Program


  • ·         Los Angeles Public Library
  • ·         Fowler Museum and Indonesian Restaurant
  • ·         Getty Museum

  • ·         Swallow Parade at San Juan Capistrano (March 21)
  • ·         LA Festival of Books (April 18-19)
  • ·         Lightning in a Bottle (Memorial Day) ?

  • ·         Lotus (Asian) Festival or Nisei Week
  • ·         Shakespeare (Griffith Park?)
  • ·         Redlands Bowl (Summer Concerts) ?
  • ·         Dad’s Retirement Party

  • ·         Huntington Beach Library and Old World Plaza (German food)


Learn about German Heritage
  • ·         Learn German language
  • ·         Read ½ of German Genius (history book, 944 pages), average of 2 chapters a week
  • ·         Read one novel by German author (preferably Faust)
 Physical Health
  • ·         Lose 50 pounds (15 in winter, 15 in spring, 10 in summer, 10 in fall)
  • ·         Change Diet: Cut meat (at least 2 vegetarian dishes a week), cut soda (only 6 per week), cut dessert (only on weekends), add fruits/ veggies (3 servings a day), add vitamins (calcium chews)
  • ·         Keep track of portion sizes via Fitness Pal
  • ·         Exercise: at least 20 minutes, 4 times a week; 40 minutes, once a week (walk to park)
  • ·         Floss daily
  • ·         Forgive failings and persevere
Mental Health
  • ·         Get rid of Candy Crush
  • ·         Reduce TV time to 7 hours a week (or less!)
  • ·         Set aside 1 hour a week for reading
  • ·         Listen to podcasts while cooking dinner (2 times a week)