Thursday, November 17, 2016

Weekly Update: 11-17-16 Books and Pondering Escapism

 Is fantasy just
an escape? No. We explore
life as it could be.

So last week the election happened.

It hung over me like a dark cloud. I was doing my unpatriotic best to ignore the whole thing, feeling rather poisoned by the bad atmosphere. But come Wednesday morning, I woke up to the news that the world had changed. Reality TV gave us Donald Trump as a president, and I really don't know what to do with that.

Between that and the slight break in homework, I decided to do something I hadn't done in a while and bury my head in a book. I read The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. In it, a vast Library acts as a portal to alternate worlds. Librarian Irene is sent to a steampunk version of Victorian London to retrieve a rare copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales, only to find it's already been stolen. Teaming up with an apprentice who is more than he seems and a meddling detective, Irene is soon plunged headlong into danger when an old enemy of the library emerges from the shadows.

The Invisible Library was a fun book to read, though I was a little underwhelmed by the mystery portion of it. I solved it midway through. Like so many books I read, it started to build on some interesting ideas of the notion of chaos, but ended up eschewing the debate for an action climax. This made the book fast-paced and enjoyable, but I felt a little sad that it did not trigger as much deep thought as I would have liked. It was a solid read, and I'd recommend it.

Since I feel pretty helpless about what's happening in my country, I decided to focus on what I could do, namely, write. My earlier fears about failing to make it to 50,000 words have died, so I decided to challenge myself with another goal. I want to write everyday. It seems like a simple thing, but I've never actually done it. So far so good. I haven't missed a day of writing, even if I don't always make it to 1667 words.

On Saturday, Brea Library invited three science fiction and fantasy authors to speak in a panel, as they unveiled their new shelf of Sci-Fi/ Fantasy books. Given my history with the Brea Library and my interest in fantasy, I had to attend, and I dragged three other Pendragons with me. Apparently, I was networking like no tomorrow. Or at least using the opportunity to chat with people and hand out a couple of my bookmarks.

At the panel, we met:

John Joseph Adams, publisher of Lightspeed and editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, an anthology of short stories. He spoke about the process of choosing selections and told us about the Clarion Workshop in San Diego. When I got to speak to him, he introduced me to a couple of veterans of the workshop and we exchanged information.

Kim Vandervort, a professor at Fullerton College and the author of The Song and the Sorceress and The Northern Queen. I was going to buy one of her books, but Rita bought the last copy. Kim spoke what makes female heroines both strong and different from men. She identified three strengths of women heroines: they use words as a weapon and communicate, they can't rely on their physical abilities so they use their brains, and they build networks of support. I really related to those qualities, which I often stick in my own heroines, and I told her as much.

Todd McCaffrey, the son of Anne McCaffrey, who wrote the Pern series and is probably the superstar of the group. He told us about some of his upcoming books and urged writers to enter The Writers of the Future contest and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (for 7th-12th graders). When I spoke to him, I asked him which of the Pern books to start with and he said Dragonflight.

Jill Patterson, a librarian, moderated the panel.

Among the intriguing questions brought up was why science fiction and fantasy are important as genres and why they don't seem to get respect the way normal fiction and mysteries do? The panel expressed the idea that SF/ F is "the genre of tomorrow," that it is not an escape, but a means of exploring ideas and possiblities. And I heartily agree with that. Most of the writers are dreamers and engaging in play, something that more pretentious genres may look down on. I think that play is necessary, though. There is so much that we don't know that if we do not use our imagination, we are limiting ourselves.
Todd McCaffrey said that as time passes, science fiction either becomes fact or fantasy. I leave that quote for my father, a budding science fiction writer, who has been noticing the merging of science fiction and fantasy. There you have it, Dad. A reason your genre and mine look so much alike.

When discussing trends, they spoke about how fantasy has become more international, both that settings are taking on a less Euro-centric sweep and that authors are emerging from other countries. Apparently Atlantis has been popping up a lot as well, which may have to do with Global Warming. They left us with these authors/books as recommendations:
  • Lois Mcmaster Bujold
  • Yoon Han Lee
  • Linda Nagata
  • Ken Liu
  • Red Rising
  • Leviathan

Monday, November 7, 2016

Weekly Update: 11-7-16 Monster of Productivity

I fear I have become
A Monster of Productivity.
My skin has hardened into
Scales of armor:
A prison for my soul,
Small and groaning
From the pit of my stomach,
Giving me indigestion.
I fear my hands have sharpened into
Claws to shred soft young skin.
I fear my tongue has become a slab,
My voice a gravelly rumble.
I fear my eyes have become
Deadened to sunlight. I cannot see
A duck fishing on a rippling pond
In autumn. My mind are gears
That crunch and crunch as they
Grind together.

I fear
I have nothing left to fear
But myself.

* * *

Today I had the sudden realization that this week might actually be--comparatively--easy. So easy, that I might be able to spend this morning doing something fun and spontaneous.The revelation shocked me to the core.

Last week, I was busy with three jobs, two projects, and one Nanowrimo. But I wrote up a schedule, calculated my hours, and executed like a 5-Star General. For all my angst and fear of Nanowrimo, I ended up ahead of my word count. (Incidentally, last Friday, I also got a letter saying I got into my Credential Program--so yay for me--student teaching, here I come.)

Having decided that I had some free time, I took a walk this morning and read some poetry by Pablo Neruda. My mind was filled with motion and took quite a bit of coaxing to adapt to stillness and contemplation. I thought about how the plants of So-Cal never seem to change, that the seasons are indistinguishable, that it seems so timeless. And yet, when I went to the park, I could recall the me of yesteryears, angsting about where my life was going.

I haven't felt that sort of angst in a while.

Which is good, I suppose. I feel settled, I have a routine, I'm happy. But I worry that I spend too much time doing and not enough time being. Does that make sense? Take writing, for example. I've developed a considerable set of skills. I can outline, knock out word counts, revise, and edit. But do I actually have anything to say? Have I somehow lost the art in the obsession to master skills?

Maybe what I really want is time to relax. A large chunk of time where I'm not juggling schedules, projects, and expectations, where I can walk and read and have adventures and not worry about the To-Do List waiting for me at home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 2016 Nanowrimo Word Count

The countdown to 50,000 words.

Week 1

Day 1: 2684
Day 2: 4787
Day 3: 6503
Day 4: 9165
Day 5: 12708
Day 6: 14199
Day 7: 17066

Week 2
Day 8: 18381
Day 9: 21076
Day 10: 22076
Day 11: 25134
Day 12: 26059
Day 13: 28610
Day 14: 30572

Week 3
Day 15: 31856
Day 16: 34554
Day 17: 35351
Day 18: 38410
Day 19:
Day 20:
Day 21:

And So it Begins

Weekly Update: 11-1-16 Getting in Touch with My Inner Sea Goat

I'm not a big believer in horoscopes, but they are fun, and I like to read them from time to time, especially when they say nice things about me. My birthday is January 2nd, which makes me a Capricorn, the legendary half-fish, half-goat, half-starchy-vegetable.

According to :

"The Capricorn-born people are the most determined of the entire Zodiac. The most prominent qualities of the Goats, as they are called, are that they are ambitious, conservative, determined, practical and helpful. They make good team leaders and organisers, because of their single-minded focus on their work, sense of responsibility and sincerity. They are perceived by people around them to be workaholics, unemotional and detached. Sometimes their negative qualities – suspicious, resentful, inhibited, pessimistic and stubborn – are seen clearly, but deep inside the Goat is a humble heart. They are soft, and their hard outer shells are meant to guard themselves against the hurt caused by rejection."

So there you have it. A personality, which runs almost completely counter to my Myers-Briggs type of INFP and is somewhat contrary to the typical image of a writer. And yet, I took a fiendish delight in googling "why Capricorns are awesome" and cherry-picking the best quotes to suit me.

So here is "My Top 5 Capricornisms Countdown (Plus a Bonus One)"


I think I can be a good listener and I do get asked for advice from time to time. As for putting people in their place.  Well... (smiles) I don't like to do it, but if I had to, I'd like to think I'd be damn good at it.


I have high expectations for those around me. If someone says they can do something and shows a modicum of commitment, I am there. But whatever I expect of them, it's nothing compared to what I expect of myself. If I can't do it and do it well (if I can't set an example), then I have no right to expect it of anyone else.

If someone I care about or someone I'm looking after (students, etc.) needs help, I will help. I cannot help it. If I perceive a problem and you invite me to fix it, damned if I won't try my hardest to fix it. That's why I can be the best or worse editor: I will put hours into noting and trying to fix every perceived mistake, and so you will get back manuscripts bleeding blue (my choice of pen color). This is great if you want to shore up your weaknesses, but bad if you wanted me to stamp it with my approval and move on. And for all this editing, I expect nothing. Heck, half the time, I don't expect people to even be grateful for it. I expect them to be horrified, angry, and defensive, because no one likes being criticized, even if it's done out of love.

 If you need proof of my need to matter, check out my poem "Ode to All My Murdered Trees" on my website, which is my angst about my writing not making a difference. I work hard, because, in the end, I want to make a difference in the world.


I interpret this to mean be the best version of yourself. It's not about being the best writer or the top student or the number one teacher--although I expect myself to write well, get good grades, and be pretty darned competent at teaching. That's subjective. But I try my best in everything I do, I give it my all, and I do not settle until I'm satisfied. That's part of my perfectionism, and it can have its dark side. But it also pushes me to achieve beyond what I may think I'm capable of. For better or worse, if I care about something, I can't not do my best. That's just how I am.


Hee, hee, hee.  That one made me laugh.

Now Capricorns are apparently analytical, and I, for one, was not content to just enjoy the barrage of compliments I fished out for myself, no, I had to sit and ponder why I spent several hours of my Halloween gazing at these quotes, when heaven knows I should have been calling my parents, cleaning the kitchen, or preparing my notes for Nanowrimo.

 And then, I thought, maybe it's because of Nanowrimo that I suddenly found the need to look up Capricorn traits. After all, I don't care how many times I've done it or how high I've achieved in the past, every time, you attempt to write 50,000 words/ 200 pages in 30 days, it is hard! It is hard when you have literally no other job than writing and it is harder when you are balancing school, subbing, and a social life.

I like learning about my personality and understanding how my brain works, and most of the time I identify with Myers-Briggs type: INFP, the idealist/ healer/ sensitive/ creative/ artist. But then you do a google image search, and you get pictures like this:

I do not want to be a happy little flower, child I want to be a hard-working, high-achieving, so-productive-it's-scary, do-not-get-on-my-bad-side-or-I-will-destroy-you badass MONSTER! In short, I do not want to be seen as awesome because I'm nice and caring, I want to be seen as awesome because I GET STUFF DONE!
 And when I'm already slightly stressed because I've worked as hard as I can last week and barely got everything done, and this week, I will need to work even harder because this is the month where I achieve my goals or crash and burn, I want to see this:

Capricorns: Making the Impossible Look Easy
And be told this:

And this:

And believe this:

In short, I need to shore myself up emotionally, because I've got a long road in front of me and it's going to be bumpy!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Awesome Stuff Happening This November

Why does all the awesome stuff happen when you're busiest? Here are some local happenings that I sincerely hope I get to participate in this November.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Event

Who: Todd McCaffrey, John Joseph Adams, Nalo Hopkinson, David Sander
When: Saturday, November 12th, 11:00 AM-2:00 PM
Where: Brea Library (
Cost: Free

Blurb: "Meet popular science fiction and fantasy authors! Join us for a special science fiction and fantasy event featuring guest speakers and a moderated panel. This program is provided by an Arisia Incorporated grant and is sponsored by the Friends of the Brea Library."

My Thoughts: Even though I haven't read these authors (I'm so bad, I know), I would love to go and see famous fantasy writers.

Pride and Prejudice--the Play

Who: Cal-State Fullerton Drama Department
When: November 4-20, 2016
Where: Young Theatre, Cal-State Fullerton  (
Cost: $14
Blurb: "The beloved Jane Austen returns to the CSUF stage in this refreshingly fast-paced, witty and wildly romantic new adaptation. Finding a husband is hardly independent-minded Elizabeth’s most urgent priority. However, with four sisters, an overzealous match-making mother, and a string of unsuitable suitors, it’s difficult to escape the subject. When she meets the handsome but enigmatic Mr. Darcy, she is determined not to let her feelings triumph over her own good sense – but the truth turns out to be slipperier than it seems. Is it possible for Elizabeth and Darcy to look beyond his pride and her prejudice, and to make the best match of all?"

My Thoughts: Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books and I would love to see it in play form. I might want to splurge on it. 
National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. Nanowrimo

Who: Writers of all ages and levels of experience
When: November
Where: All over the country (
Cost: Free

Blurb: "National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel."

My Thought: I participate in this every year, sometimes multiple times a year, although I'm not necessarily orthodox about it; I may get 50,000 words (200 pages) written in a month, but rarely do I complete a novel. Last year, I did an open Nanowrimo, writing blogs, sending inspirational quotes, inviting everyone to join. This year, I think it will be more casual. My group the Pendragons will be writing in Panera and that's about it. Still, if you want to do Nanowrimo, there are groups all over the area. Check out the website and consider dropping in on one.

Here are my old blog posts on winning Nanowrimo:

Weekly Update: 10-23-16 Skills, Sushi, and Awesomeness All Around

This week, I got it done.
This has been a roller coaster of a week for me, what with my usual boat load of writing and homework, plus my interview to get into the credentialing program next year, social visits with my cousins, and a hard-fought effort to gain in technology. I could easily have been swept away by the stress, but after last week, I decided nope, no more anxiety, I was just going to get done what I got done and leave it at that.

Turns out, I had an awesome week.

Gaining New Skills

Behold! I have created a video! And it is cuteness.

Well, actually, Magisto created the video, using my clips and pictures. I discovered the App while doing my homework for a video project. While I'd taken videos with my camera, I had yet to try editing and posting on YouTube. It was one of those technology skills I knew I should be aware of, but I had never gotten around to learning.

Why not?

We never had a camcorder in my house when I was growing up, and I only got a smartphone this year. Plus, it's one of those things that you need to either to have someone show you or else block off a long stretch of time and learn it yourself. Me being the stubborn independent type, it took all morning.

Not to make the puppy video--that took 5 minutes.

I actually filmed and assembled a fake newscast announcement for a media project my fake English class will be working on. By the way, that was my homework for my Technology in Education class; I do not normally make up assignments for imaginary students. I used iMovies to edit the clip and had to jump through hoops to resuscitate my never-used YouTube account. My phone kept giving me flack about storage space, which stretched out the time. In the end, it took me 4 hours to complete this one brief, simple 2 and a half minute clip.

Here it is, in all its amateur glory.

Actually, it probably makes more sense in context, so here's the full page:

By the way, all the stuff you see on the webpage? Put it together in one weekend. Didn't even break a sweat.

Appreciating Old Skills

Every Sunday I go to my meeting of the Pendragons, a critique group I started back in June 2015. his Sunday, however, our usual haunt in the corner of Panera was empty, for we had all gone to Rita's house with laptops in tow, in order to create our own author website.

Dragons are more comfortable with books. Computers hurt their heads.
I already have an author's website--I've had it, in some incarnation, for the last 5 years. Of the other three Pendragons present, Sean had an old, outdated website and needed to put together a more professional one fast, as he was going to be publishing a novel soon. Rita and Carmen had never put together a website and they needed to practice--I was hoping they could put together an intro, a bio, and a synopsis of the novel they were working on. I was hoping to put together a Pendragon website and maybe put together a video with my newfound skills (that I'd literally acquired hours earlier).

We had 5 hours to do to accomplish all this. It was not enough.

All my plans for an awesome website are not coming to fruition.
Oh, boy, Carmen didn't know how to drag and click or download images, and for the first two hours, she had a deer-in-the-headlight look. Rita's computer didn't like the website and kept freezing. Sean wanted elements in his website a certain exact way and kept asking me questions I didn't know. I spent the first 3 hours around acting like the teacher, bouncing from Pendragon to Pendragon, in an effort to cover the basics.

I don't think I realized how much technical skills I had gained on website creation until I had to sit down and explain it to someone who knew almost nothing about it. Not only did I know how to build the website, I knew what to fill it with and I could do neat tricks nesting webpages and the like. I don't consider myself very knowledgeable about technology, but I do have some skills and it's important to acknowledge it from time to time. All the hours of sweat equity were starting to show.

I've got skills. Who knew?
In the last couple of hours, I finally got to sit down and build the Pendragons' Website. Carmen just sat and watched me and I explained what I was doing as I put various elements together. We got our bios written and published the website.

Currently, it is the only website available for viewing.

If you want to put together an author's website on Weebly, I recommend you watch these tutorials, which are about an hour each.

Beginner's Guide to Weebly
Improve Your Search Ranking

I Lied About the Sushi

I didn't really have sushi this week.

But I did go to Izakaya Takasei and feasted on some authentic Japanese food. For years I'd been driving past the sign, wanting to visit. Finally, this Saturday, with my cousin Alyson dropping by, we decided to hit it up and try it.

Like being back in Japan. But with more English.
Ah, the memories.

First I got a White Peach Chuhai, a staple at Japanese drinking parties, which consists of Shochu (a potato-based liquor), soda, and syrup. This one tasted like peach gummy rings, as Alyson called it. (I let her sample the dished I chose, and she ended up wanting it for herself.) The alcohol was too faint to really taste, but it made me slightly warm and put me in a good mood.

When I saw Nasu Miso on the menu, I knew I had to order it. A seemingly humble dish of Japanese eggplant sauteed in a sweet miso sauce, Nasu Miso taste like savoriness personified. The eggplant bursts in your mouth and leaves you with sweet-salty drippings of juice. So yummy.

I cannot describe how delicious I find nasu miso.
My main course was zaru udon, basically cold white noodles dipped in sauce. I ordered it with a pile of grated mountain yam, not because I particularly like it, but because it's texture is so bizarre. When you grab it, it's like trying to pick up slime with your chopsticks, yet when you taste it, it taste of fresh vegetable, like yuca root, I suppose. Alyson had saba, or mackerel, and it tasted good, but I'm not into fish.

The last thing I ordered was chawan mushi, which literally translates as steamed tea cup. It's actually a savory egg custard. Dip your spoon in and it slices through like panna cotta. You slurp it up and its warm and smooth and delicious. As you cut away the custard, a clear broth wells up to fill in the cracks. But most interesting of all are the treasures you find buried inside: a mushroom, a ginko nut, a piece of shrimp, a sliver of fish cake.

Hidden treasures in chawan mushi
Alyson and I were supposed to have a nice talk about teaching (she's also pursuing her credential) and about books, but all we did was gush over the food. We went to Whole Foods and bought mochi ice cream for dessert. I ended Saturday feeling full and relaxed and happy.

Other Awesome Stuff

All this I've described is what happened on the weekend. But what about my week. Well, to put it briefly, I:
  • worked two and a half subbing jobs 
  • finished chapter 2 of Company
  • wrote a scene for The Originals
  • brainstorming and typed up information for Nanowrimo
  • interviewed to get into the credential program and did a pretty good job of it 
  • completed Beta reading Michelle's latest novella, Egrets, I've Had a Few
In summary,  I accomplish much this week and did so with a smile on my face.