Wrap Up: March 2017

Lots of moving around during the month! I’ve been charged with apartment-sitting in the city, so I’m obviously going to take advantage of my current location and attend more NYC-related activities. Which means food and booze and books. Not necessarily in that order. Work hasn’t let up yet, and I may have gotten sick in the middle of last week, but I’m fighting it like a BOSS because I’m traveling in a couple weeks. Urgh, timing, I swear.

Books Read

It’s funny that I have so many book-related pics but I don’t even think I’ve read much in March! At least, nothing super-substantial, save A Conjuring of Light, which took up the majority of the last few weeks. And I mean to review a few others in April, but I’ll put them here because I technically finished them a few days ago.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda || Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson || A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab || A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston || The Velocipede Races by Emily June Street

Currently Reading

The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark || Portal of a Thousand Worlds by Dave Duncan || Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Writing

I started a few writing prompts here and there, but nothing substantial. It is a start, but it could still be better.

There is some writing progress on the publishing front, though! I managed to sell a short story I had been writing a couple months back, so that’s always lovely to see. Just got through line edits, too, though that’s as much I can really say about it, since the anthology doesn’t even come out until next year!

Movies and Television

Hah. I think the Academy Awards broke me, because I’ve seen a total of three movies in March. I hadn’t even bothered with putting up an image for it, because they were so meager (Hell or High Water, Miss Sloane, The Lobster, La La Land…again). No television shows, either, because I may have given that up for Lent. Um. Yeah. My Netflix has gotten very little activity on my part.

Video Games

Batman: Arkham Knight – I totally decided not to finish this game. It’s too rage-inducing, especially when one of the effing main quests makes you do a damn BATMOBILE CHASE. And the pace is merciless. So yeah. Not finishing this ever.

Final Fantasy XV – I gots me a chocobo! Clearly that is the important bit. And my gosh, the side quests and open world are much better than what I saw of FFXIII. Honestly, I haven’t played a FF game as fun as FFXV since FFXII, so that’s saying something. That said, I found myself listening to the old, nostalgic soundtracks as opposed to the new ones.

Fooding

Baking galore! There was clearly a lot of food I did in March.

Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookie || Laduree Macaroons || Jacques Torres Cookie and Hot Chocolate || White Russian Cupcakes || Spinach Artichoke Dip || Chocolate Ganache || Homemade Tortilla Pizza

Miscellany

Author signings galore! Amidst my work schedule I managed to squeeze in two Books of Wonder visits at the very end of February and the first week of March to see authors I loved (Schwab and Ahdieh). With them came other authors whose books I’ve been interested in reading for the longest time, so I also yoinked their stuff. All in all, lovely days, these author signings.

And then of course there was Dr. Seuss Day on March 2, and Reading Across America during the week. Because I work with older kids now, I had them dress up as fictional characters as opposed to Dr. Seuss characters. My own attempt at Delilah Bard was kind of conversation-starting, at best.

Nerdy News

I am so stoked for American Gods, I can’t even. So many yesses with the staff, and the pictures! Mr. Nancy looks awesome.

Doctor Who trailer! It’s been a while since DW has been on TV, and there’s some bittersweetness to the fact that this will be Peter Capaldi’s last season.

I mean, I already love Emma Watson so much, but gosh, I friggin’ love Emma Watson.

Video game making summer camp. For girls. I mean…WHERE WAS THIS WHEN I WAS A KID?

This is pretty exciting news, the fact that an African-fantasy got picked up as a TV series. Cannot wait for this, too!

Of NaNoWriMo and Writing Tags

I don’t know what fuels me to go crazy on November by signing up for NaNoWriMo, but there it is. It’s happened again. I’ve decided I’d do it. Even though in all honesty if I was trying to write another full-length novel I’d probably die because yes. It’s overkill. I really need to work on editing my other novels before hitting up a new one.

BUT ANYWAY.

Here’s a tag to stem the tide. Credits to Kristina’s video blog for this NaNoWriMo tag! I thought it might as well be an intro to my crazy world of National November Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo Tag

The Questions:

1. How many times have you done NaNoWriMo? – According to my account, six. This year would be my sixth time.

2. How did you first find out about NaNoWriMo? – Hmm…I know I’ve heard of NaNoWriMo years before I’d actually decided to take part. It was probably during college, though, and my writing during those years was shoddy at best. I really didn’t have the time! Big mistake on my part, but I’m glad I joined when I did.

3. What was the name of the first novel you attempted with NaNo? – I’d titled it “Falada” after the horse in the fairy tale, The Goose Girl. Because, surprise surprise, it was a Goose Girl retelling. “Falada” has since morphed into a story all on its own, and maybe I’ll dust it off and edit it once more so I can actually query it. This time, under a different moniker.

I learned a lot about horses writing this story...

I learned a lot about horses writing this story…

4. Give us a 1 sentence summary of what you’re writing this year. – Not so much writing, but editing. Severely editing. Like…pretty much half-rewriting this story. ATM, the title of my steampunk novel is “Amber and Tourmalines,” but yeah. It’s just a working title. My sentence summary:

Someone nefarious is blowing up airships, so one kingpin smuggler is having none of that nonsense and decides to take matters into her own hands by investigating the whole thing–and hiring a down-on-their-luck private detective.

5. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? – It’s always going to be “Write what you know.” It was something I’d been told in college, when I was often stuck trying to figure out how to start scientific essays. I think the advice is also fitting for fiction. I start each blank page just writing down what I know about my particular story. If I know a character’s motivation, I jot it down. If I know my setting the best, I plan an entire map on paper and start incorporating plot within the details of my world. If I know exactly what the next scene is going to do to my characters, I jot down outlines of the scene and fill in the blanks soon after.

Or this. Word vomit is good.

Or this. Word vomit is good.

6. Did you ever take a year off from NaNo? Why? – Yes. Well, officially, yes. Unofficially, I never really stopped writing. I did take a break in 2014, though, because that was the year I’d started full-time as a teacher. I wrote several short stories that year as my last “hurrah,” and wrote nothing I wanted to query or publish until the following year.

7. What’s your biggest inspiration when figuring out what to write? – Everything I read, really. Or play, or watch. The entire world is one damn inspiration.

8. Read us the first sentence from one of your novels. – Oh god. Um. Well, I mentioned “Falada” and briefly talked about “Amber and Tourmalines,” so I’ll pull the first sentence from my Arabian Nights-inspired novel, which I’d titled “Djinn Kissed”:

Daggers flew and scattered just as the music sped up.

9. Why do you love writing? – A question I ask all my creative writing students. They pretty much sum up why. I think writing is a celebration of words, and I like the taste of words in my fingers. I love reading it, I love the stories people tell. I love the worlds people create. Being a part of that kind of creation is a reward in and of itself, and it’s a type of fulfillment I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Unless I were drowning in a sea of strawberry shortcake, of course. *cough*

Yosh. That was fun.

Are you joining in NaNoWriMo this year? Consider yourself tagged! And add me as a buddy!

Chasing Volcanoes: A Czech Translation

seaisoursOnce upon a time (re: a year and a half ago), I wrote a steampunk story that revolved around a destroyed Northern Philippines (speculative volcanic eruptions and the like). I sent it out, I squeed about finding a home for it (many thanks to the wonderful editrixes Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng, and publisher Bill Campbell at Rosarium Publishing for the acceptance!), I squeed again when it got illustrated (by Pear Nuallak), and I practically did a funny little dance in the middle of my living room when it finally, finally, FINALLY got published.

(I did another funny dance at the local B&N soon after I saw it on a scifi anthology shelf…but I swear I didn’t cause that much of a scene!)

And while I am grateful that this particular story went out into the world amidst critiquing eyes and steampunk enthusiasts, I am still wonderfully surprised at the feedback over “Chasing Volcanoes.” I certainly didn’t expect to get an email about it–and the rest of the The Sea is Ours anthology–being translated into Czech. The fact that the title of said Czech book IS a translation of “Chasing Volcanoes” has gone above and beyond any expectation I have with the stories I’ve written.

But there you go. It’s happened. I’m squeeing again. I’m writing about it again.

Thanks to Jan Kravčík at Gorgon Books, “Chasing Volcanoes” has got a Czech coating. And honestly, that cover is beautiful. While I know nothing in the Czech language (well, correction, I now know what “Kroceni Sopek” means), I am truly astounded–and excited–at the increasing readership, both for my story (because honestly, why wouldn’t I be excited that my work goes out there?) and for the wonderful fellow Southeast Asian authors I’ve shared the anthology with.

Now, if only I’d known about this translation BEFORE I’d gone to Praha last summer. I suppose maybe next time (because there most certainly will be a next time!) I visit Prague I’ll try to find my way into a bookshop.

Anyway, for the Czech readers out there, watch out for Kroceni Sopek, coming to you in a few weeks!

Writing Wednesdays #6: Prompt Exchange

Of course it’d be me who ends up with a romance prompt. Leave it to my writing voldies to drag a kissing story out of me. And then make me end it in a TRAGEDY.

I’m getting way too ahead of myself, though.

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This week, I had the writing voldies think up different prompts, which would then be thrown into a hat (or, in my case, a basket), and then they would randomly grab a prompt written by either themselves or by someone else. To keep it interesting (since I have no idea whether their prompts would be vague, obscene, or uninspiring), I added some of my own.

Amusingly enough, a bunch of my own prompts got picked out of the basket, and I was right glad that one of my voldies had to do a poem about cookies. Right. Glad.

Anyway, I ended up with one of my eighth grader’s prompts. And I spent a great deal of time telling her how much I hated her for having me write a bad romance. With a tragic ending.

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Write a romance story that ends in a tragic event. What happens to the girl/boy that is left behind? What do they do after the tragedy? Or are they both dead?

Oath and Blood

“Better return that,” the knight warned, her dark eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. “I can see your scrawny shadow from all the way over here.”

The thief chuckled. “I should be flattered to be watched by you of all people.”

The knight grunted. “It’s my job, you cretin. Put it back.”

The “it” in question had been a priceless heirloom handed down from one Mage King to another. Strangely enough, while the artifact itself–a ring of potentially combustive power–had tons of magic, it couldn’t be protected by magic. Which explained why Cala was stuck guarding the Ring while the rest of her mates were at the new queen’s coronation.

How could she even explain what San was thinking?

“I trust none but the Queen’s Champion, Cala, you know that.”

Sure, Cala had seen the logic to that. The problem with guarding the most sought-after relic in the kingdom was that many thieves would test the waters and attempt a theft in the middle of the coronation. Guards would be too focused on the new Queen San, and rightly so.

The Ring was too tempting, though. Not even the most notorious thief could stop himself from its attempted pilfering.

Cala could take on any thief. She knew the one standing before her, much more than she knew the queen. And Cala knew this thief’s weakness.

She knew it because it was her weakness, too. Sort of.

“Come here, you felon,” Cala growled.

Corvin complied, taking the lady kngiht into his arms and placing a gentle kiss on her nose before crushing his lips onto hers.

Breathless didn’t even cut it. She was definitely in trouble.

“I’m sworn by blood oath, love,” Cala said. “You shouldn’t have come.”

“I know,” he whispered. “But it was time. And you were worth it.”

Cala was no delicate flower. Yet she couldn’t stop her tears. She pulled him down again for another kiss. She didn’t want it all to end. It would, though. It had to. She could feel the blood oath tugging at her, compelling her to do what she did not want to do.

“It’s fine. Do it,” he whispered, softly, sadly. “I forgive you. And I–”

The blade went through, silencing Corvin before anything else could be said.

Cala watched her lover slowly fall, and she looked at the Ring. The Mage Ring that needed protecting.

Damn the queenshe thought. Damn her and the bloody throne and the blood oath.

Damn the magic from preventing her to take her own life.

She looked at the ring again and shifted her stance. She could hear another thief coming.

It would be a long night ahead.


On a lighter note, the same eighth grader ended up with my “fairy princess wants to be an astronaut” prompt, and she totally drew the fairy princess character!

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I cannot with my writing voldies sometimes.

 

Writing Wednesdays #5: Continued Narration

This might possibly be one of the latest posts I’ve ever done, but it wouldn’t be a Writing Wednesday if I had it scheduled for the next day. Gods, no. All the same, I did just get back and I wanted to enumerate the lovely things I did with my little voldies.

Today we decided to take a field trip. And when I say field trip, I mean going across the hall to the library. Normally, I host my creative writing workshop at the 7th grade classroom, ’cause working Smartboard and the like. In retrospect, I think this was a better idea, because the minute I walked into the library, I’d gotten half distracted at all the books I could possibly take out (and almost did). Anyway, there really was a purpose to this writing field trip!

I’d decided to be calculating and random. Calculatingly random. So I told the little voldies to pick a book. Any book, really. Then, after picking said book, I told them to pick a number (which I asked them to do after I looked through the pages of their respective book). After they picked their number, I told them to go to that page number and read the first FULL paragraph, then continue the story from there.

fairestThe results were interesting. My scifi writer had immediately picked up a Star Wars book, which he then proceeded to turn into a genocide story (the poor Jedis never saw it coming). One of them turned a stalkery paragraph into a romance, another went all out in the romance, ending it with a damn punny knock-knock joke (which slayed me, by the way). My favorite–weirdly (or maybe appropriately enough)–was the one writing voldie who chose Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and chose to rewrite the ship in the book to Harry/Hermione (which tickled me black and blue, considering we had a conversation where I told her *I* ship Harry/Hermione XD). The wonders of my writing voldies never cease to amaze me.

For my part, I grabbed Fairest by Gail Carson Levine. I thought this was a good enough prompt for me, because a) I adored Ella Enchanted, but b) I never actually read Fairest. So I asked my kids to give me a number, and I wound up with the following (completely vague and short) paragraph:

Fairest, page 236 – “I wondered if it was morning.”

This may sound like a strange thing to wonder, but night and day were completely different in a world with two moons and a sun that flickered on or off according to its journey across the sky.

There was a story to that. My aunt Cassandra spoke about how our days were sometimes shorter and longer.

“It’s all about the birds, my dear,” she’d said to me.

Aunt Cass was a fae historian. No, she didn’t study just fae. She is fae. She liked to mention this to us non-magical folk whenever family gatherings happened. But as much of a braggart as Aunt Cass was, I have to admit that her stories were absolutely memorable. She always had one handy for the right occasion. Case in point, she had one that explained the sky.

There were these two birds, see. Well, there was one bird at first. And this one bird gave birth to this other bird. That other bird was called Sola. Translated, that means “sun” for us. So obviously this newly born firebird was emitting flames which pegged him his name. For thousands of years our planet had nothing but daytime, perpetuated by a streaming birdlike sun flying across the horizon.

But like any myth, things eventually change.

We got our moon when the firebird fell in love.

Aunt Cass loves this story because the firebird had fallen in love with someone from her neck of the woods. Like, literally, the forest fae that became the moon was a tree-way away from Aunt Cass’ old abode. Aunt Cass never knew the forest-turned-moon-fae personally, but she liked to brag about the almost famous proximity she had in the matter.

But yeah. We have a local moon goddess. And she had turned the sun around to dance to her tune.

—–

I actually based this off a writing exercise, where I’d talked about my firebird myth story. That exercise was a bit more polished, but then again, that also took me a lot more time to put together. The one above was a workshop result of 40 minutes and several blabbity-blabbing middle schoolers. All the same, I think I’m fleshing things out slowly!