Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Weekly Update: 8-25-15 Don't Panic

I made a huge mistake.

The email in my inbox informed me that I needed to complete an online seminar in order to teach at Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District. But at the time I read it, my mind was on my upcoming Author's Talk at the Brea Library. So I shoved it aside, reasoning that the deadline wasn't until long after my event.

Today I sat down to begin the seminar, and as I gazed at the deadline again, I realized I was supposed to get the certificate of completion to personnel by August 24th--yesterday. At this point my heart constricted and manic energy coursed through my veins as I imagined losing half a year's income because I misread one deadline.

Fortunately, I followed the advice of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and immediately sent an email to Erica (the one in charge of personnel), explaining the situation and asking if I could make it up somehow. Fortunately, Erica had mercy on my soul and told me to send it to her today, which I promptly did, as soon as I had a spare minute.
* * *

This panic attack, however, was minor compared to the one I experienced at precisely 6:30 AM  on Saturday, August 22nd, when the sheer anxiety of my upcoming Author's Event forced me out of bed. I felt flushed and my stomach churned, but I knew I wasn't sick. I felt too buzzed, too energetic.

On the surface, this Author's Talk shouldn't have inspired such fear. I'd already done my launch party, which had far more logistics to juggle, and I don't usually have a public speaking phobia. But this felt different. This wasn't a simple celebration of my accomplishments. This was a combination of hosting a party, selling my book, and talking about a deeply personal story. That trifecta danced on my nerves for the past two week, and time was closing in. It was do or die.

Fortunately, at around 7:30 AM, I managed to compose myself, and by the time I got to the library, I was feeling fine. Only once did my nerves show, when I had to read from my book, and my hand shook. But I kept my voice steady throughout the event. I even managed to joke from time to time. How about that!

(By the way, Jean Badoud-Riddell, a fellow writer, recorded the Author Talk for me and Michelle and plans to edit it for us in the coming months. As soon as I get hold of it, I'll post it.)

Afterwards, my family took me out to celebrate at Oasis Mediterranean Cafe on Brea Boulevard. Actually, we randomly stumbled upon it, but it turned out to be a good find. I ate the best baklava I'd ever tasted--just the right amount of sweet, and the floral mulberry mango tea and tender lamb gyros were excellent. To top it off, we made a run to my favorite place in the world--Barnes and Noble--and I came home touting two new fantasy books.

So a good day, all told.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Upcoming Events: Author Visit and Winning Nanowrimo

I'm excited to announce a couple of upcoming events I'll be participating in. These are free, so if you have any interest in them and happen to be in the neighborhood, be sure to check them out. 

Author Talk: Rebecca Lang and Michelle Knowlden

What: Fantasy writer Rebecca Lang (The Changelings) and mystery author Michelle Knowlden (Sinking Ships) discuss "Putting the Mystery in Fantasy and the Fantasy in Mystery." Free event. Signing, snacks, Q and A

Where: Brea Library

When: Saturday, August 22nd, 11AM

Michelle Knowlden is one of my dearest writer friends. I've actually had the pleasure of Beta reading (reading an advance copy of a manuscript to check for mistakes) her novella Sinking Ships, as well as the other books in her Abishag mystery quartet. So I'm very honored to be able to do this author talk alongside her.

Although she writes primarily in the genre of mystery, Michelle does have experience in speculative fiction, writing with author Neal Shusterman on Unstrung, an e-novella set in the Unwind series. As we talked about how to present together, Michelle mentioned that Sinking Ships does have a fantasy element to it, while my epic fantasy novel, The Changelings, has aspects of mystery. And so our topic was born.

We've been working very hard on our speech, but we should have plenty of time for questions afterwards, and maybe even a reading of our books. We'll see. As local and independent authors, we rely on community support and appreciate any chance we have to talk about our writing.Hopefully it will be a fun and enlightening event.

* * *

Strategies for Winning Nanowrimo

What: For those curious about National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo, Rebecca Lang will be presenting a special Writer's Corner on ways for first-timers to approach Nanowrimo, to maximize the chance of success.

Where: Brea Library Writer's Group September Meeting at the Brea Library

When: Saturday, September 5, 1:30 PM

The first time I heard about National Novel Writing Month, I was convinced that I could never write 50,000 words (200 pages) in 30 short days. It took me years to wrap my head around the concept. When I finally mustered the courage to give it a shot, I realized that it was a great way to give my writing a boost. 

Winning at Nanowrimo is like climbing a mountain for the first time. It helps to prepare yourself for the challenge and have a guide to help you out. In the September meeting, I'll share my strategies I've used for getting through a month of furious writing.

Depending on how much interest I have, I may form a support group to help people with this challenge, throughout October and November. I may also post materials and resources on my blog, so even if you can't make the meeting, you can check in on what you missed.

Brea Has a Library? Directions and Parking

It's funny, but even long-term residence of Brea has missed this little, local library. In fact, I almost missed it myself, and it was only because I spotted the bookstore sign that I saw it at all!

For this reason, I've included pictures and a painfully detailed description of how to get to the library.

But I Don't See a Library

The Brea Branch of the Orange County Public Libraries is actually inside the Brea Civic and Cultural Center, which is on the corner of Birch Street and Randolph Street, close to Brea Mall, across from the Post Office, and near the Target shopping center. You should see a gray stone building with a roof of solar panels.

Look for this building!
That's the place. Don't worry if you don't see anything that says library. Trust me, it's in there.

Look for this sign!
For those who prefer google maps, here's the address: 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea, CA 92821

The library is open from 10-6 on Mon and Thurs, 12-8 Tues and Wed, and 10-5 Fri and Sat. It is closed on Sundays. 

I'm Here. Where Do I Park?

In front of the Civic and Cultural Center, you will notice that the road turns into a circle and perhaps a few cars parked inside this area. Now you may be tempted to pull in, but be warned: the parking here is only 10 minutes. It's drop-off parking for people returning books. (The exception is that people with a handicap placard; they may park as long as they want.)

Your best bet is the underground parking. Where is that? Well, if you're driving on Birch, you'll see a cross street that either say Civic Center Drive or Marketplace, depending on which direction you're coming from.

It's between Embassy Suits and a bunch of flags.

Parking is in here!
 As you turn in, you may briefly see this sign.

You're in the right place!
As soon as you go down this street, you'll find it ends and you'll be confronted with a heart-palpitating decision. Left or right?

Help! The road is ending! What do I do?

If you see this, you have chosen wisely.

I'm Parked. Now Where's the Library?

Take the elevators to the Plaza Level (or walk to the ground floor, if you prefer), and you'll come across this curved wall.

The potted plants will guide you to your destination.
Follow it toward the bike rack, the tables, and the drop off circle. But don't go too far. When you see a glass wall with glass double doors and signs that say "Orange County Library" and "Ambassador Church," do not hesitate. Seize the doors and pull!

Even if the doors stick, THEY ARE OPEN! Don't let them intimidate you!

If you see carts in the entrance way and a volunteer sitting at a card table stocked with pamplets, Congratulations, you have found the Friends of the Brea Library used bookstore. Feel free to browse the carts or the shelves inside the little open room for awesome deals. All proceeds go directly to helping the library. If you don't see any bookstore, most likely there wasn't a volunteer that day to open the store.

Go through the second set of glass doors and you'll find yourself in the library.

Um... Where are the Bathrooms?

There aren't any bathrooms within the library itself. However, if you exit the library, make a right turn, follow the curve of the building once again, and head toward the art gallery, you'll see a sign for the bathrooms, hidden between the gallery and the elevators near the police station.

Look for the glass door with "Restrooms" on it.
Rebecca Lang volunteers for the Friends of the Brea Library Bookstore every week. She also goes to the Brea Library Writer's Group the first Sunday of the month at 1:30 and enjoys the variety of guest authors and events the library puts on.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Weekly Update: I'm Back!

Two months without a post. I've guess I've got some explaining to do.

I'm in trouble now.
I didn't actually intend to abandon the blog. It's more like it got pushed out of the way. After all the stress of publishing and launching my first book gave way, I just sort of collapsed. Mentally, not physically. I needed a break... and it just ended up being longer than I intended.

Plus, I was busy with other things.

You may scoff, You're a substitute, you don't work over the summer, how could you possibly be busy?

Let me reassure you, I find ways.

What I've Been Doing This Summer

Launch Party

You have no idea how stressed I was about this party.

School had pretty much ended the week before the launch, but I spent every single day either rehearsing my speech or figuring logistics or trying to get people to come. I was so nervous. Speaking in public isn't frightening to me (I'm a sub, I talk to strangers everyday), but I don't like having to talk about myself. Worse still, I was going to read a chapter of my book, which made me feel insanely vulnerable.

Reading doesn't usually terrify me, but in this case...
Fortunately, I had tons of support from family and friends. Before I even got to the library, members of the Brea Library Writer's Club had set up tables with beautiful book centerpieces, flowers, and balloons. They helped me as I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to greet people and put food on the table. Eventually, though it was time to begin.

A light, funny trivia game helped break the ice and then I gave a speech about why I had chosen to write this book and some of the obstacles I faced while writing it. Then, it was time to read. My heart pounded, but my voice--which had practiced reading for the last few days--came out smooth. I could hear everyone listening and that gave me confidence.

They applauded after I finished. That means they liked it, right?
After the reading, I signed books and we had a raffle. It was a little surreal, sitting at the author's table and trying to wrap my head around the fact that... well, I was, am, an author.

How funny. You'd think I'd be more prepared for that moment.

Thanks to Helen McCarthy and Kaleo Welborn, who helped plan and set up the event, Rita Haney and Ned Rodriguez for manning the sales tables, Sean Krinik for taking pictures, my cousin Kevin Ishizu for mc-ing, and the many, many people who chipped in for snacks and refreshments and who helped set up and clean up. Thanks, too, to Brea Library, for graciously agreeing to host my event. I really could not have done it without you!

Thanks to Sean Krinik's awesome photos, I look like a real writer.
For those who missed it, I have an Author Talk coming up on Saturday, August 22nd at the Brea Library 11AM.

Critique Partners

I already have, not one but two, critique groups: The Brea Library Writer's Club and the OC Inklings. But I wanted to try something new, just for the summer. Instead of having a large group, I wanted to work more intensely with a few individuals and get a deeper level of feedback. So I teamed up with Rita and Carmen from the Brea Library Writer's Club, and we began to meet every Sunday at Panera.

What critique partners turned into
It wasn't exactly what I expected. For one thing, we soon ended up spending an average of 6 hours, from lunch to dinner, going over our work. We began to move from the usual critique to brainstorming to helping each other plan out chapters to setting goals together and asking each other for encouragement and accountability. It's been an interesting journey, but so far, lots of fun.

Summer Reading

When you get bitten by the bookworm, there's no stopping you. And when your library offers a raffle for reading 10 books by August 1st, well that's practically daring you to drop everything and read.
 Here's my list:

Some of the books I bought, some I found lying on my bookshelf, some I borrowed from the library on a whim, some I found on my dad's bookshelf and read them to avoid actually doing work. It's an eclectic bunch of books, but I enjoyed most of them. They are now going to the compost heap that is my brain.

You want to know the saddest thing. This isn't even half the books on my reading list.

Gah! This was tedious and boring!

It took this many folders to contain my work.
Basically, this was the monumental task of shuffling through all my writing and trying to fit it into a new system of organization. This means various drafts of various manuscripts, agent information, articles on writing and publishing, financial records, formatting information, contracts... argghh! It was a mess.
Moving on.


So, unfortunately, no summer vacation for me. Boo hoo. But to make up for it, I went to various plays over the summer, and since they were free, it gave my wallet a feeling of relief.

One of my two favorite plays was the Phantom of the Opera, which took place at the Pantages Theater in LA. It was free only due to a technicality: my aunt got tickets for her birthday and brought me along. I shudder to think how much it actually cost.

Special effects like this cost money!
The Pantages was absolutely stunning--gilded to the ceiling and a perfect fit for Phantom. Apparently, the production had more special effects than ever before, like steps that moved out of the side of the building, creating a staircase where before was only brick wall. I thought the singing was beautiful and swept me up in the story.

After the play, I promptly purchased a soundtrack and began bursting into song at random intervals. My aunt probably regrets taking me.

 My other favorite play was Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, put on by the Independent Shakespeare Co at Griffith Park, and this really was free, although they do ask for donations. My cousins and I spread out a blanket to save a spot, wasted an hour exploring the graffiti-painted ruins of the old LA zoo, and then dove into our picnic baskets of spam musubi, cold KFC, mandarin oranges, pretzels, and popcorn.

Unlike the traditional version, this is set at the end of WWII
I really cannot say enough how much fun this was. The performance was so funny you forgot it was cultural. One of the favorite parts was when the reluctant lovebirds Benedick and Beatrice, in order to better eavesdrop on their friends conversation, went into the audience and attempted to blend in with the crowds. Performances are still going on until Labor Day, so if you have a free weekend, go see it.

I also saw the musical play of Mary Poppins presented by the Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival, which was great, except that we came late and got really, really bad seats, and The Tempest put on by Shakespeare by the Sea, which was more traditional Shakespeare. The Tempest was good, but I saw it right after Much Ado About Nothing, and the Griffith Park play emerged victorious.

But again, free plays, summer outdoor fun, cultural experience. Have a picnic, get entertained, feel smarter. How can you lose?


Of course, writing.

I didn't want to work on the tale I'm currently calling Isra and the Grim Fish, a story about a girl forced into a cave for a crime she didn't commit, where the only source of water is a pool full of skeletal grim fish, which will snatch her into the depths if she so much as touches her--or would, if Isra weren't prepared with magic of her own.

In my imagination, the cave looks something like this.

I didn't want to work on it, and I didn't want it to be so long--some 30,000 words, at this point, almost the size of a novel. But the story wanted to be told and my critique partners yelled at me to bring them more, so I write, and hopefully, I'll be finished with it soon.

I did want to work on Three Floating Coffins, the fairy-tale-like story of three princess caught in a web of family secrets, magic, and betrayal. It took a little while to get going, but I have the prologue done and I've been working on revising 6 middle chapters, so it's a good start.

The graffiti represents the inner workings of my brain.
For the first time, I actually completed Nanowrimo in July. Now I have 50,000 words added to Draft Two of The Originals, the sequel to The Changelings.