Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ballad of a Halfie

Today I am Asian: small eyes, dark hair
In an hour, I am white: strong hooked nose, pale skin
When I speak a foreign language you don't know, you gape.
But when I wear green on St. Pat's Day, you chuckle,
"Irish? You're not Irish."

You say I must speak Spanish--I look Spanish.
Whatever that means.
Or, no, I really don't know Mandarin? Cantonese?
What kind of a Chinese-American am I?
Well, that's easy--I'm not.
Surely I understand Yiddish?
Only as much as most New Yorkers do, ma'am.
But Russian? You don't speak Russian?
Nyet. I am not Russian.

I am a mirror
Of whatever mesh of cultures and features you want to see.
I can drink Guinness with aplomb and sing "Carrickfergus" 'til you weep.
I can make mochi and drink sake and belt-sing "Kawa No Narage."
So which am I? Irish-American? Irish from four generations ago?
Or Japanese? No, not really Japanese though--

And I say, "I am both. At the same time."
And your mind explodes. As if I should choose my father over my mother.
As if I should choose my grandmother's memories of the atom bomb
Over my family's stories of potato famines and Atlantic crossings.
 I am not an Asian with a white father and I am not a white girl
With an Asian mother.

One drop does not wholly make me either.
And I am fully half of both sides.
So see what you want to see.
Chuckle and gape and be confused.
Because I am the future--
The future that's already here, under your eyes.
A mesh of race and culture and language
The true melting pot.
A whole halfie.

Friday, October 24, 2014

2014 Reading Challenge: A Breakdown

As you guys know, I recently hit my 40 book goal in the 2014 Goodreads reading challenge, which I assigned myself.

It's really the first time I've kept track of what I read over the course of a year and it has been an interesting exercise. A college friend had posted about her 52-book reading challenge on Facebook and I grew interested. I felt like I hadn't been reading as much in the past few years or at least, the reading I was doing was research for my book.

Part of the reason I wanted to track what I read was that I suspected my reading tastes had stagnated into a pool of historical fiction and historical romance. I love those genres, but when you read too much of one thing, everything gets kind of samey. When things get too samey-samey (or I'm not reading much), it shows in my writing. I wasn't being as descriptive in my prose or inventive with plots and characters or going in depth as I wanted to.

On top of that, in reading the same genres often, I was missing out on a wider range of writing, stories, and a diversity of characters.

You can go back and look at the lists and my ratings and links to reviews, if you like. But here's a statistical breakdown.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 Reading Challenge: 40 Books Read!

Early this year, I joined Goodreads and decided to challenge myself to read more. I initially gave myself a 30-book challenge, then upped it to 40.

I closed book 40 a few minutes ago! Woohoo! I'll do a more comprehensive roundup of what I read in my challenge this year, but for now, books 31 to 40:

31. The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go--Historical fiction, literary fiction, dual narratives, WWI, 1920s--2 stars--review

32. The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien--High Fantasy--3 stars--review

33. The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas--Young Adult, Historical Romance, China, England--4 stars

34. Blameless by Gail Carriger--Fantasy, Supernatural, Steampunk--3 stars--review

35. My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas--Historical Romance, Victorian--3 stars--review

36. The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris--Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction, WWII, dual narratives--3 stars

37. Heartless by Gail Carriger--Fantasy, Supernatural, Steampunk--3 stars

38. Timeless by Gail Carriger--Fantasy, Supernatural, Steampunk--4 stars

39. Corona by Bushra Rehman--contemporary, diverse, LGBT--4 stars

40. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn--American history, Non-fiction, politics--5 stars

Friday, October 17, 2014

NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us

It's mid-October, which means November will be here soon and November, for many writers, means NaNoWriMo time.

This would be my fourth NaNo. My first was in 2010 with the Tudor-set Iggy, the second was with the first draft of what became The Keegans of Banner's Edge, the third (last year) was a contemporary New Adult story that was so much fun to write, but I never had any intention of continuing it on. I've won with all three, though last year's was the earliest and probably the easiest win.

This year, I'm doing NaNo for the first draft of my next novel, which doesn't have a title yet. But it's half historical and half contemporary and I'm really excited. It's hard to write as much as NaNo requires and do the research necessary for a historical fiction book, so I think NaNo will help me get scenes and ideas down, but that the contemporary half will be easier to throw down during the month.

I don't want to say that I'll get to 50,000 for granted--but I am hoping for 50,000 coherent words that won't take another three years to polish.

I learned last year that I can, actually, outline an entire book and write it, so I'll be spending the last week of October doing an outline for the project.

I put up the basic summary for the story on my NaNo page yesterday:

In modern day New York, Nicole Avila is a stressed-out teacher with a neighbor who likes to vacuum his tiny strip of a patio at odd times of the day. In 1893 England, Victoria Ponsonby-Courtney is a beautiful, accomplished, elegant young lady, the daughter of an aristocratic family that any man would be lucky to have as his wife--except that Victoria is penniless. But that's no matter; Victoria is going to marry her cousin Conrad. 
And then Conrad brings home Ursula, an American heiress, propelling Victoria to swallow her anger, squelch her burdensome attraction to Ursula's brother Simon, and make the choice of taking the first man who'll propose...or make her own way in the world.
The Victorian world, the lives of distant British aristocrats, is one that Nicole knows nothing about, so she is shocked when she finds out that she has a link to this world and these people, one which is so far removed from her reality, but which gives her the courage to break out of her self-imposed parameters and chase her dreams. 
The picture up there has nothing to do with NaNo. I had my first Guinness last night and being half Irish, it felt momentous enough to take a crappy camera phone picture of my drink. Or not.

What are you doing for NaNoWriMo?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Random Poetry

A while back, Krystal was talking about a writer's conference she attended. There was talk of poetry there. And then just a few days ago, Michelle Tran posted a poem on her blog.

I was sitting, listening to music and reading through an awesome source on Project Gutenberg for my story (seriously, seriously awesome source) while also turning around some ideas for the story.

Instead, this came out. I've never been able to write "serious" poetry, by the way.

Poem #1

Your activity is out of doors
The noise frightens me
Dear neighbor, take the vacuum inside--vacuum your floors!
Because no sane person sucks leaves off an outdoor patio during a wind storm.

Ode to a Snooze Button

You squawk
I groan
You insist
I glare
But that's no matter.
You herald that I must awake
I must rise, open my eyes
Leave dreamland--where I am a princess, a rock star, a witch, a wizard, a wife, a blonde
For the smooth touchscreen of existence
But another few minutes beckons.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A New Idea for the New Idea

I've been mostly lying around these past few days, with this annoying dry cough--it's allergy season, the only time of year my lungs remember that they're technically asthmatic--and I've been reading. And listening to The Script a lot. And watching stuff on YouTube. I've also been thinking about the new story.

I've read a few historical novels this year that had dual timelines--in a couple of cases, the timelines went in between two different historical periods, but others went from modern day and period. I like those kinds of stories. The ones with a modern day/historical storyline also, incidentally, seem more marketable--they could be considered historical fiction or women's fiction, if the characters are female, or even literary.

I've had some ideas going toward that--the historical portion being, obviously, the Victorian idea I've had and a modern story connecting to the Victorian one. On the one hand, I think it might be cool. Only half the story needs to be historical!

On the other hand, I wonder if I'm just overcomplicating the story again. I tend to do that. Because if I'm going to have a modern day component to the new idea, then it needs to be as strong and conflicted as the Victorian story.

But in actuality, I'm inspired not only by the clear market for those kinds of books or books like The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Pieces We Keep, but in particular by a novel I read a few months ago--the historical portion was in WWI/during a 1920s expedition to Mt. Everest and the modern day protagonist was a possible descendant of the historical characters. It should've been right up my alley, but so much about that book annoyed me and frustrated me...

...and yet, the prose was really, really lovely. Even though there weren't quotation marks telling me what was dialogue. Instead, there were em-dashes. Annoying! To say that I'm reverting to "Oh, yeah? Well, I can write that story better" mode wouldn't be a stretch. That used to happen to me a lot and it always sparked rich ideas for me.

I was telling my friends about that particular novel last week and Meta the Beta asked, "Why did you give it two stars then?"

(Answer: The prose. And the title.)

Also, in proof that The Script are the soundtrack to my adult life, I want to share their song "Flares" from No Sound Without Silence. To me, it speaks to the stuff writers (and other creative types) go through--the insecurities, the loneliness, the anxiety. But it's also a reminder that there are people like us out there.

Sending up a flare,


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Script--No Sound Without Silence

The Script is one of my favorite bands--and a band that two of my best friends also like. They're basically an auto-buy for me. I've now been to four Script shows (one for each album). For whatever reason, The Script always seem to be in New York when their albums are released.

Well tonight (that is, October 1st), Jess, Meta the Beta, and I went to Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan to see The Script, the day after their fourth album No Sound Without Silence was released.

The opening band was good (they played Steve Earle's "Galway Girl," which was pretty sweet), the bathroom line was short, the people who sat in our seats while we went to the bathroom left as soon as Jess glared at them, and The Script were amazing, as usual. They started with "Paint The Town Green," which will probably be my new St. Patrick's Day song.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG: Queryland

This post is for October's Insecure Writer's Support Group, a group which posts their insecurities and releases them out to the world every first Wednesday of the month. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating IWSG. If you haven't already, don't forget to send in/link to your articles for the IWSG anthology. I already sent in mine. Also, happy one year anniversary to the website!

So, this month: I'm not actually writing. I'm in a post-story state, but it's a different post-story state because I'm querying The Keegans of Banner's Edge. It's the first time I've gone through the query trenches--and I'm not expecting anything. But I did strongly feel that, after years of writing and rewriting that novel, it was time to dip my toe out there. Usually, the last story has been shelved or is being read by someone while I work on the next one. Right now, Queryland feels like a strange sort of limbo because while I'm mentally trying to shape and assemble things for the next story, I'm also digging up more literary agents, sending out more queries and synopses, logging information down.

But that's what it is to be a writer.

In the meantime, I'm developing the next idea--- I'm happy with how deep I've gotten into my protagonist and I'm reading for research. I hope to have an outline and then plan on using NaNoWriMo, as I've done in the past, to launch my first draft out. Or I might want to start writing parts of it earlier than November; we'll see.