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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Weekly Update: 10-16-16 Stress Dreams

an onslaught of waves
tilted roads I cannot drive 
dreams trouble my mind

Even my dreams are filled with anxiety.
It is rare that two of my reoccurring "stress dreams" occur on the same night, but nonetheless, that's what happened. 

In the first, I was attempting to drive a car, but I couldn't seem to control it. I kept missing my turns and forgetting to signal, and I couldn't seem to stop in time. My car kept driving, through red lights, like the brakes had been cut, and all I could do was steer. I tried to make a U-turn, but instead I found myself, much to my panic, headed for the freeway.

As the massive concrete bridge looped down, the road went from straight to tilted at a steep sideward angle, like the sides of a bowl or like a rollercoaster track. It was the kind of road you could only stick to if going at a very high speed. But I was slowing down. Since I couldn't brake, I had to stick out my foot, like a kid on a bicycle. It worked. The car ground to a halt and I burst into tears. There was a passenger in the car who said she'd drive and turned the car around.

Imagine if the camera weren't simply tilted and you had to drive at this angle.
The dream then transitioned to a beach of sorts. It was actually more like a canyon, with two very steep rock walls on either side, and between them was the ocean. I could tell it was the ocean because of the waves.  The waves were moving toward the canyon walls. I was with a mother and daughter and we were walking along the "beach"--a narrow strip of sand between the ocean and the canyon walls. But the waves were coming in more and more aggressively, consuming what little beach there was. We had to climb the canyon walls.

We were perched atop the canyon walls, watching the waves slap the rock and I became more and more uneasy. The mother was calm and the daughter was playing. I wanted to go back, but the problem was that our way back--the beach--had been consumed by water. The tides were consistent. Sometimes the waves would pull back, revealing the beach and we could walk it for a while. But then a huge wave would gather and we would have to climb. Once, I think, I didn't make it and I was suddenly underwater, slammed by a huge wave. 

Waves dreams are some of the scariest.
These sorts of dreams have been reoccurring--the wave one since at least elementary--and they leave me with a lingering sense of anxiety. I call them stress dreams, because they usually signal that I'm feeling overwhelmed. That seems to be the case this week.

I spent all of yesterday working on one assignment for my Tech class. Let me repeat that. ALL of yesterday. (From 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM). One one assignment. (Which you can see here: And I know what you're thinking, why didn't you work on it sooner. Well, I did! I worked on it for at least an hour on Thursday and at least 3 hours Friday. And this was not some big monthly assignment. We had one week.

Me, at the end of the week.
I've been Beta reading not one, but two novellas. Michelle Knowlden's "Egrets, I've had a Few" is 149 pages and she gave me two weeks to read through it. Sean Hogan's "The Crow Behind the Mirror" is 173 pages and I have one month. And bear in mind that if I see mistakes, I have to try and fix them, because these books are going to be published and I might be one of the last lines of defense between them and paying readers. On Tuesday, I spent upwards of two hours editing one 6-page chapter.

I finished off my 4-day teaching assignment on Monday and Tuesday, but I took the rest of the week off. I felt bad about that, practically hearing my mom scolding me for not making money. I felt really bad because on Wednesday, I didn't get anything done--and by that I mean, I Beta read for a couple hours, researched Counterfeit Diamond for at least 4 hours, and ended the day by re-writing my second chapter of Company.

Yep, research is going well. Have I read anything? Ha, ha, don't make me laugh.
 And that brings me to my poor, neglected writing. I have been steadily brainstorming Counterfeit Diamond for the upcoming National Novel Writing Month and it has been yielding good results. But I've hardly done any work on The Originals and my agent submissions have been dismal and I haven't even looked at Three Floating Coffins.

So, yes, I'm stressed. Stressed, stressed, stressed. Even in my dreams.

Just thought I'd share that with you.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Weekly Update: 10-9-16 A Hectic Week

So once again I
fly frantic from task to task
while wondering why

There's a strange paradox with this blog. I'm more likely to update on weeks when I am a ball of stress bouncing around the tennis court of life than on weeks when I sit sedentary in front of the TV for hours. Case in point, last week, I took no subbing jobs, did no writing, and couldn't be bothered to update. This week, I've worked hard at four subbing jobs (6th grade middle schoolers and high school), got significant work done on three stories, cleaned the kitchen, and am now frantically typing this blog between printing documents and researching agents.

Last week, I was burned out. When I burn out, I burn out hard.

This week, I was recharged. When I recharge, I get things done.

* * *

It finally clicked in my head the difference between elementary school students and high school students while subbing at Valadez Middle School earlier this week. With elementary school, the first thing you do is give them the rules of behavior. With high school students, the first thing you do is give them their assignments.

This may sound silly, but you win or lose the students in the first 5 minutes of class. Elementary school students need a system in place so that they know how to act, what procedures are in place, and what the consequences will be for bad behavior. Without this, they either assume there are no rules and go crazy or they get very anxious about what they are supposed to be doing.

High school students, however, have largely internalized these rules, so going over things like listening to the substitute when she is speaking is largely redundant. They need to know what their assignment will be so that they can get to work on it.

I find these two rules to be indicative of elementary and high school at large. Elementary school is more behavior-focused while high school is more work-focused. Junior high is tricky, because the students are in the process of transitioning from one to the other.