JAKOTAKONG PART 1

Japan + South Korea + Taiwan + Hong Kong = JAKOTAKONG, aka the best (author research) trip ever.  And our first stop is Hong Kong, so greetings from Hong Kong!

This trip has been in the works for two years, a result of watching Asian dramas for years AND beginning to work on Hart & Seoul.  Swag Master, my sister MC and I cooked up the idea, initially deciding to go to South Korea and adding on more countries as we got more ambitious.  I don’t know how many hours I spent scouring the internet for ideas of what to do, and it felt like it was so far in the future that I’d never actually go, so now I can hardly believe that I’m here.  Heck, I can hardly believe that I made it through the 15 hour flight (during which, might I add, I did not sleep, so I was awake every painful hour), but the swelling in my ankles is proof that it actually happened.  Some people need compression socks, I apparently need a compression body suit.  -_-

We finally emerged from the plane eeeeeearly the next morning, were given horrifically vague directions on how to get to our hostel, got lost in an upscale mall, and eventually wound up getting a cab ride in a car that was too small for all of our luggage plus us – all of our luggage was crammed in the trunk, and the trunk door was held down with bungee cord.  Thankfully we didn’t go over any big bumps, or else we would have been stranded in Asia without half my wardrobe.  Tragic thought.

Because we couldn’t check in until the afternoon, we came up with the brilliant idea to sight see all day in both an effort to pass time until we could check in and to stay awake.  In hindsight, this was a HORRIBLE idea, as I was literally walking into walls from exhaustion just a few hours later, but at the time we thought it was a good plan.

We explored Kowloon Park, which is this beautiful oasis in the otherwise extremely crowded city.  Seriously, space is at such a premium there, it’s $5,000 USD per square foot – it’s a wonder that anyone can afford to live in Hong Kong.  I for one was very grateful for the extra space and time to just meander through the pathways of the park before we hit our food tour.  Scheduled for 3.5 hours, we were supposed to try 6 different local food as we explored the city, but we made it half-way through the tour before my exhaustion hit full force.  Amazing how exhausted one can be after essentially 48 hours of no sleep.  Who knew?

After a restless night’s sleep on a very hard mattress, the next day we did a little shopping, rested, went to church, rested, and finished the day with a junk boat tour, which enabled us to see all the buildings on the coast light up as the sun set.  It was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, plus none of us got motion sick – win win!  And then we rested again.

The next day we got up early once again, this time to hit the airport.  The fact that we were clearly foreigners fascinated a group of people, who made it a point to pepper a lot of English words in their Cantonese conversation; one woman in particular listened intently whenever we spoke to each other.  Not that our conversation was all that stimulating, as we were all still jet lagged and had yet to have a good night’s sleep, but whatever we said must have amused her since she kept on eavesdropping until we reached the airport.

And that, my friends, was my adventure in Hong Kong.  Stay tuned for the next destination!  And for those who have Instagram, never fear, pictures are coming.  Till next time! 🙂

 

 

 

How to Survive Editing a Novel

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It has happened, dear reader.  It has finally happened!  I was toddling through my day yesterday, minding my own business and being occupied with getting stressed at all I had to do at work, when it happened.  An email notification popped up on my phone, and I automatically opened it, assuming that it was yet another reassurance from a cruise company that NOW was the time for me to run away AND save money (not a bad sell, actually).  But, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, it was not that at all; it was an email from my publisher.  More specifically, an email from the editor, complete with a manuscript absolutely dripping with red ink notes.  Do you know what that means?

IT’S EDITING TIME!!!!!  Duh duh DUHHHHH!

I love editing, I really do.  There’s something about the challenge of trying to tighten up the story, move parts around so that everything flows better, and take out unnecessary words while adding just the right ones that gets me excited.  Although, I’ll admit, I had to remind myself that when I opened up the email – what if the editor hated it?  What if the story was awful and I’d have to start from scratch?  *GASP* What if I was a horrible writer?!?!?

Just as I was about to spiral into an existential crisis of impressive proportions, my eyes zeroed in on key words in the message: “fun”, “enjoy” and, most importantly, “believable.”  Immediately my existential crisis morphed into a giddy whirl, and stayed that way for the rest of the day.

So where do I go from here?   What’s the editing process?  It varies for each writer, but I personally am a very linear writer.  Although ideas come to me randomly, I tend to go step by step through the story so that I can connect all the pieces, which is exactly what I did when working on Hart & Seoul.  I have that same mentality for the editing process, which is outlined below:

  • Have the nerve to open the file from the editor
  • Do an initial read through over all the notes to get a sense of what the overall changes are going to be
  • Get Thai bubble tea to fortify myself (preferably Kokee Tea)
  • Begin editing by working on grammar (it’s easy and I’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that I’ve made progress – yay me!)
  • Take the biggest thematic problem and see how I can weave it more into the story, which will impact the smaller critiques along the way
  • Have a home made cookie to refortify myself before delving into the smaller details of the story
  • Repeat as necessary

Editing shouldn’t be rushed – you want the best quality work to be presented to your readers, and racing to get through the edits only makes more work for you in the long run.  But at the same time, it’s important to stick with a schedule so that you don’t get distracted, or worse, discouraged.  Celebrate the fact that you actually have something to edit!  Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Ellen Oh, who was talking at a local high school’s book club.  She told everyone that the hardest thing to do is to actually finish a book, how so many gifted writers are not published simply because they did not complete a story.  But if you are passionate about your work, believe in it and don’t give up, you will be published – and she’s absolutely right!  My book, if nothing else, is proof of that; it took a lot of rejections and pep talks to get me to this point, but here I am, about to begin editing a story that will be published in just a few months.

EEEEEECK!!!!!!!

Before I go off to actually begin editing, I wanted to share another update: next week I’ll be going off on a grand adventure to several AMAZING countries.  This is technically a trip that I’ve been planning for two years, but it oh so conveniently will include one special country that I need to visit for research for my next writing project.  *HINT HINT HINT*  I’ll be sharing everything on Instagram, so feel free to click on the link in the sidebar to join in on the adventure.

While I’m traveling, my blog posts will be sporadic, but I’ll be posting updates and news whenever I can.  And hopefully I’ll have a cover design to share with you soon.  I’ll admit, I have no idea what they will come up with, but they did ask me for some ideas, and I have a feeling that the artist is going to do amazing things.

Now, I must go and submerge myself in all that cyber red ink – see you on the other side!

The Making of A Novel Part 2: To Plot or Pants?

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Before I launch into the whirlwind that is my writing ‘process’ (if you can call it that), I want to do a special shout out to the fantastic Torva at the Fair Oaks Mall Verizon location, who not only found me the perfect phone, but did it with a smile and infinite patience.  I was there for over an hour as she tried to find me every possible discount that a gal can get.  Plus, she’s a ONCER!  Obviously that’s why we got along so well.  #captainswan#ouat.  Because of her awesomeness, I now have a shiny new phone that’s lavender glow is perfectly off set by my brand new cell phone case.  Better yet, I have the perfect excuse to buy a BTS pop socket!  THANK YOU TORVA!!

Alrighty, back to the title of this post: to plot or to pants?  That’s the eternal dilemma of writers everywhere.  But what is plotting and pantsing?  Here is my quick guide to what those two terms mean:

Plotting = you map out everything that’s going to happen in your novel, and pretty much know everything before you begin writing the book.

Pantsing = the opposite of plotting.

Hey, I may not be subtle but I am succinct.

Remember Swag Master?  Well, she is absolutely a plotter.  Takes it to a whole new and impressive level – she doesn’t just do research, she BECOMES the research.  As a result, she is not only well prepared when she begins writing her story, she can also spout off the most random tidbits at the perfect moment (my personal favorite is when she informed me that the sound of the ocean is actually millions of bubbles bursting beneath the surface).  It’s like she’s the embodiment of Jeopardy.

I, on the other hand, am more of a Wheel of Fortune person, squinting at the screen and guessing which letter goes next before I can see the big picture.  Which is why I am, without a doubt, a pantser.  I happily throw myself into a project with absolutely no clue as to what I’m doing or how I’m going to do it.  You are literally flying by the seat of your pants as you write…and I tend to fly so high I’m practically out of the stratosphere.  Plotting, to me, is this uber mysterious and intellectual method that masters of writing have used for centuries.  Take Shakespeare, for instance.  He had to have been a plotter, what with all those hidden nuances and jokes that make up his works.  Shannon Messenger, who we’ve already established is my favorite author, has a process that is so beautifully detailed that it’s basically the book itself.

Being a pantser is not all that bad though.  I mean, yeah, obviously a downside can be stress.  Besides the fact that you may be just as surprised by the plot twist as your future readers, there’s that stress of not knowing where exactly your story is going.  But hey, that can be fun too!  And it gives you a flexibility to your writing that is quite freeing.  Case in point, after grappling with one character revision after revision, I essentially killed them off in the final draft I completed before submitting it to the publisher.  And this character had, up to that point, had a lot of screen time, so to speak.  But I was able to do it without completely derailing the story – muahahaha!!!!

I try not to let the power of being a writer get to my head.  Emphasis on the word try.

But one thing I learned while writing Hart & Seoul is that while jumping in head first might feel exhilarating at the time, when you are writing a novel it is best to do at least some research ahead of time.  In my defense, though, there was no small part of me that was convinced that I actually wouldn’t be able to finish writing a complete story.  When I did finish the first draft – in one month, mind you – I was so shocked that I immediately began working on the second revision…which I also finished in a month…and then I immediately started the third revision…which I also finished in a month…and then my brain fired me and refused to work with me for several months.

During that time I read all the YA books that I could get my hands on, taking to heart the advice one author (and I can’t for the life of me remember which one) who pointed out that reading books is the best writing class you can take.  Of course, I took that one step further by also watching all the K dramas that I could find – all for research of my novel featuring a K-pop star, you understand.  And yes, I’ll be posting my top dramas…once I can tear myself away from watching them.

I think moving forward, I’m going to try to combine the best of both worlds: instead of being a plotter or a pantser, I’ll try to be a planter.  Oh, that does sound good, doesn’t it?  And, really, it doesn’t matter how you tackle your writing, as long as you actually tackle it.  I’m glad that I was totally pantsing during those first drafts of Hart & Seoul, because I proved to myself that I could indeed string together enough letters to make into words to make into a plot to make into a story.  Honestly, I doubt I would have been able to do it if I had plotted it all out – my brain just doesn’t work that way.

And by the way, in a lot of K dramas, the episodes aren’t actually all filmed before the series airs.  The producers often wait to see what the audience’s reactions are to characters, and the writers adjust the storyline accordingly.  Know what that means?  They are TOTAL pantsers!!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy a Harry Potter day, complete with appropriately themed snacks and comfy Hogwarts gear, because what better way to spend a day off?

 

The Making of a Novel Part 1: NoVa Teenspiration

Over the past three years I’ve dreamed of my book being published.  Yearned for it.  And, in my more dramatic and giddy moments, pretended that I already was an officially published author and ready to talk to people about my book.  And one of the first questions any author gets is, “What inspired the story?”  And here’s where I’d always fumble.  Do I tell the truth?  That I’m a huge K drama (and now BTS!) fan and that the idea came through the exhausted daydreaming of someone who has a subscription to both Drama Fever & Viki?  Well, technically I just did, but there’s got to be more to it than just fangirling, right?
Although hey, it’s some pretty epic fangirling, I must admit.
But yes, there is a bit more to the story than just me wondering what life would be like if Goo Joon-pyo came to life.  Any BOF fans out there??  AAAALMOOOOST PAAAARADIIIISE!!!
Heeheeheee.  Now, on to the rest of my tale.
A librarian is used to getting up on Saturdays.  All of us, some more often than others, have to work on Saturdays, and we get up with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  No surprise to anyone if I confess that while I can manage to get up early on Saturdays, I normally loathe to do so.  So much energy…and on a weekend…ugh.  Just ugh.  But on that special Saturday three years ago, I all but leaped out of bed, with enough enthusiasm to make Pollyanna look clinically depressed.  Why?  Because it was NoVa Teen Festival Day!
Grabbing my special bright red volunteer t-shirt and getting dressed in my comfiest jeans and shoes, I skipped to my car and hopped onto the highway, gloating at the lack of traffic.  In just a few hours countless teens would pour through the venue doors, and this year I had been elevated from the status of door greeter to panel moderator.  Gasp!  It was for a small panel, yes, and no one else in the room would care, but my excitement could not be diminished.  In the immortal words of SpongeBob SquarePants, I WAS READY!
Hah!  Little did I know that a few short hours later I wouldn’t give two hoots for being a panel moderator.  How can you when you are hit with a meteor of a story idea?  But before I go into that, does everyone know what NoVa Teen is?  Probably not, especially for my international readers.  HI INTERNATIONAL READERS! *waves both hands in joy*  And no, of course I haven’t been stalking my blog stats, especially since I shared the blog’s link on Reddit.  Pfffft…what an idea.
Erhem.  Moving on.
NoVa Teen is, in short, awesomeness.   It’s this AMAZING (and I’m not just saying it because I work on it) free festival where YA readers can meet authors for free.  There are free breakout sessions, of course a book sale with all the authors’ books, free swag give aways, food trucks, and an epic book signing at the end.  It’s an amazing day for any who loves reading YA books, and kudos goes to all the volunteers that run it.
And it’s free.  There, my plug for NoVa Teen is officially done.
The next few hours went as I had expected, an interesting combination of exhaustion and boredom for the volunteers.  You can be working working working to get something done on time, and then wait around for an hour or so until the next assignment comes up.  I usually jump in and help with the book sale if needed, try my luck at all the food trucks, and try not to obsess over all the authors that walk by me – no promises if Shannon Messenger ever comes.  Favorite.  Author.  Ever!!
After running around doing I can’t remember what, I marched to my assigned room and got ready with my questions, fumbling with my little notes as I tried to hide my nerves from all the people pouring into the room.   I don’t know why I was so nervous, because really I’d only be asking questions if the audience didn’t have any, and they always do, especially since the authors are always so friendly and happy to talk with everyone.
There was that one moment of panic when I forgot how to pronounce one author’s last name, but other than that it looked like it was going to be just a regular panel.  The authors were funny, the audience engaged, the conversation flowing – I sat back on my stool and began to relax, the sounds of the group lulling me into a hazy daydream.
I need to start a new drama tonight.  Is there anything good that’s been released?  Am I in the mood for a historical drama?  Or maybe contemporary.  Definitely contemporary Serious?  No, need comedy…wouldn’t it be funny if there was a drama about a K drama star that moved to America?  No, not a drama star, a K-pop idol, since most of them are singers anyways.  Yeah, a drama about a K-pop idol who moves to America…oooh, to escape the media because of a secret…
 
OH.  
 
MY.  
 
GOSH.
 
That moment, right there, will forever be called my Charlie Brown moment.  Why Charlie Brown?  One of the authors was speaking, I know she was, but all I heard was “Wha wha wha wha”, just like the adults in Charlie Brown.  I’d like to think that I kept a calm, professional expression on my face, but I have a horrible feeling that I actually looked like this:
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Oh yeah, subtlety is my specialty.  Not.
Aaaand I’m pretty sure that I nearly fell from my seat to boot.  Not surprising, as I literally felt as though a lightning bolt had hit me over the head.  It’s a miracle I didn’t shriek and really embarrass myself.  Remember that story that I had been working on (or rather, the first three chapters) since college?  Completely gone from my memory.  All I could think about was this story and how to get it out of my head as soon as possible, and I couldn’t wait to get started.
I somehow made it home in one piece, which is no easy thing when your mind is racing with a million writing scenarios a second.  I also think I drove just as fast, because I made record time.  One of the first things that came to me was the title, and that’s about the only thing that hasn’t changed in the many many MANY rewrites of this story.  I got to work on it the next day, with a 500 word goal fixed firmly in my mind.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, since I was exceeding that by an additional 1000 words a day, I managed to get a first draft completed in exactly a month.
The book has come a long way since that first very very VERY rough draft, but I’ll never forget that day when the idea came to me.  Some ideas just demand to be written, and Hart & Seoul is one of them.
And dang it, but that song from BOF is now stuck in my head.  And so, dear reader, I must inflict the same fate on you.  Caring is sharing, and all that.

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BTS!!

A bajillion fans.  29,348 steps.  12.59 miles.  7 idols.  One concert.  It can only mean one thing:

BTS is THE K-pop group, so of course I had to go see them in concert.  Wouldn’t be responsible of me as a writer to do anything otherwise, right?  Right.  And it was 1000% worth every penny.

Don’t know who BTS is?  It’s hard to describe this Korean pop group to people who are not fans, but the closest thing that I’ve been able to come up with is this: imagine seven good-looking guys with the popularity of the Beatles, the dance skills of Michael Jackson, and the voices of *insert favorite singer here.*  That’s BTS (which is the abbreviation for Bangtan Boys).  They’ve performed at the AMAs, been guests on multiple night shows, and have sold out show after sold-out show while managing to put out record after record AND film music videos and what’s basically a reality TV show of their adventures.  Oh, and they just so happened to address the UN.  So, ya know, there’s that too.

I mean, the fact that their fans are called ARMY pretty much says it all.  And when I say ARMY, I mean ARMY; BTS has a fan base so big that every time tickets have gone on sale, the website servers have essentially crashed because of the sheer volume of people trying to access the site.  Every.  Single.  Time.

And yet, by some miracle, I got tickets.

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I know!

Well, technically, I wasn’t the one who got the tickets; that feat is thanks to a friend who has chosen the name Swag Master to be used whenever I refer to her.  While I was at a writing conference trying to learn all things authorly (and yes, I did just make up that word), Swag Master was hunched over her computer, typing away like mad as she managed to snag tickets for us, an endeavor worthy of the many exclamation marks in the texts that were waiting for me when I got out of one of the breakout sessions.  I remember doing a double-take at the messages, my mouth opening and closing in shock as I processed that fact that WE WERE GOING TO SEE BTS LIVE!!!!  Forget being authorly, this called for some conference ditching and Korean food eating!

A round of applause for Swag Master, if you please.

Okay, so fast forward several months to this past weekend, specifically Saturday, which in my mind will forever be BTS Day.  Since the performance was in Newark, NJ, Swag Master and I decided to spend the day in New York City.  We were hoping to go to a store called the LINE FRIENDS store, which has tons of cute merchandise featuring the characters of this free texting app…and, of course, the new BTS line of goodies.  A line of goodies that BTS ever so helpfully filmed looking at in a LINE FRIENDS store…so now the whole ARMY knows about it.  And I think they were all there by the time we made it to the store.  At first glance, it didn’t seem so bad.  Sure, it was so crowded that you could barely move, forcing you to charge to any available space that magically appeared.  But there was still stuff on the shelves.  Only the line for the checkout wrapped aaaaaaallllll the way around the circumference of the store, so even if you did somehow find what you were looking for, you’d have to wait in line for literally hours before paying for it.  So instead of spending money at the LINE store, Swag Master and I made our painstakingly slow escape and sought refuge across the street at the Disney Store, aka my home away from home.

After a very successful bout of shopping, I was ready.  I’d already faced the crowds of the LINE store; bring on BTS!!!

All I can say is holy guacamole.  These guys…and their singing…and their dancing…you know what?  Google them.  I didn’t record anything because I’m the goody two shoes in the crowd and took the warning of no photography to heart, but just about everyone else had their phones out and recorded everything.

They started with Idol, their latest release, the perfect song that had everyone screaming and jumping and screaming some more, and the crowd just got more excited over the next two hours.  We were so excited that when they did the ‘last’ song of the night, we all flat out refused to move, waiting a good five minutes before the guys came back to perform three extra songs.  They are just as charming in person as they are on camera, and you can tell how close they all are.  And at the end of the show, each one took a turn telling everyone how grateful they are for the support and love that they have received from their fans, and can I just say that I loved how they bowed to the audience?  Not one of those theatrical bows that we use at the end of a show, but a traditional Korean bow that shows how much they appreciate us.

And do you know how we showed how much we appreciated them?  Besides the screaming, of course.  Fun fact, many K-pop groups have a special light designed specifically for their fans, which can be synced up to be matched with the music’s tempo during the show.  So they provide the music, the fans provide the light show.  Here’s the BTS light stick, version 3:

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And thank goodness I shelled out the almost $60 bucks for it, because I honestly wouldn’t have known what to do during the show.  The line to buy one was long – but then again I’d come to expect that with anything even remotely associated with BTS- and at one point I overheard one man exclaim in bewilderment, “This is the line for the ball?!”  But the minute my ARMY light stick glowed in time with the others I was so glad I’d bought it, and soon enough was waving it around as enthusiastically as the rest of ARMY.

Now, this was a fun trip, but at the same time I was mentally taking notes.  One of my main characters is a K-pop star, so I’d be crazy not to.  So although I may not have been jumping up and down like most of the others, it was only because there were about a thousand ideas running through my head.  Well, that and my feet were killing me.  29,348 steps is no joke!

It took BTS forever to leave the stage, thanks to our impressive lung capacity and insistent waving of lights, but eventually they were gone, the lights were back on, and we were all shuffling out in dazed exhaustion/joy.  We had seen BTS live!  They weren’t just people on the computer screen – they were real people!  We all trickled out to find restaurants to refuel and rehash ever single moment over a plate of fresh pizza.  For the record, I had three slices.  #noregrets

And that concludes my BTS adventure.  Have any questions about it?  Comment away!  And tune in next Friday when I share just how I got the idea for Hart & Seoul, the first in a series of behind the scene info on the making of a novel…but first, there’s a slew of BTS videos that I need to watch.  And gear to buy, preferably with sequins.  Lots and lots of sequins!

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A Spoonful of Confidence…

Welcome back, dear reader!  Just give me a moment while I throw cyber glitter into the air to celebrate that not only have I survived my first blog post, but I’ve written another one.  VICTORY!!!

You should have seen me on Monday; I don’t know how many times I checked my WordPress app, cackling with glee as people viewed the blog.  I almost feel sorry for my family; I kept shouting updates to them, whether they wanted to hear them or not.  SOMEONE ELSE JUST VIEWED IT!  I HAVE ANOTHER FOLLOWER!  THIS IS LIKE HIGH SCHOOL BUT I DON’T CARE!

Thank you for making that Monday extra special for me! 😉

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Okay, onto the next post.  With a show of cyber hands, how many of you are writers?  Poetry, novels, flash fiction, fan fiction, memoir, sci-fi, graphic novels – if you pen it, you’re a writer.  Keep those hands up if you get the inevitable question, “Oh, are you published?”  I don’t know how many times I’d get asked that when I mentioned that I write, and a part of me always squirmed when I had to reply that no, I wasn’t.  I think it’s something that we all face, this expectation that you are only a writer if you’ve been published.  But, as one friend has pointed out to me, writers are those who create to help process – doesn’t matter if others are going to read your work, you just need to express it.  So, whether you’re published or not, or don’t even want to be published, wave that hand proudly in the air.  You ARE a writer.

Of course, I say all this on a blog that essentially is about how my book is getting published, but you know what I mean.  So why exactly did I decide to pursue publication?  Oh I don’t know – some might call it insanity, and there were definitely parts in the process where I thought I was insane.  But hey, what’s a little insanity among artists, right?

I always knew I wanted to write stories, had been doing it since high school…yet threw myself into pre-nursing classes as soon as I graduated.  Never mind that I all but bombed chemistry (believe me, I do not say that phrase lightly, given the subject; it’s a wonder I didn’t burn down the classroom), hate math with every fiber of my substantial being, and at times have the attention span of a gnat – I was bound and determined to save the world…although technically I think the world needed saving from me.  Seriously, you do not want a nurse who hates needles or blood working on you, right?  Right.

It took a year for me to see the light – thanks to a particularly dry lecture on kidney function – and then it hit me.  Maybe I couldn’t actually help in a medical crisis, but I could certainly write about it!  Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, oodles of cozy mysteries – I too could write like that!  After making the announcement to my relieved parents that I was not actually cut out to be a nurse, I immediately switched over to English studies, eventually focusing on Creative Writing at GMU.

I was filled with confidence as i marched to my first writing class…until I realized that people were actually going to read my stories.  Not only that, I had to actually finish one.  And to a perfectionist who could never get beyond the first three chapters of any story (write chapters, stop, obsess over flaws, give up in frustration, wait a few months, start from beginning, repeat), this was quite the daunting task.  Luckily for me, they were short stories, and were overall well-received.  And the more I wrote the more determined I grew to not only become a better writer, but to become published.  I wanted to share my story, whatever it may be, with the world.  Bonus if I actually got paid to do it!

But I just couldn’t get past my perfectionist ways, and for several years worked solely on those first three chapters of one story, getting frustrated with the flaws in my writing, giving up, then returning a few months later to start all over again.  I’d begun to believe that I’d never escape that rut, that I just wasn’t meant to complete anything, when I happened to stumble across a library’s online calendar of events and discovered that two of my favorite authors, Megan Spooner and Amie Kaufmann, would be doing a free event at the library to connect with their readers and sign their latest book, which of course I’d pre-ordered months ago and was just itching to have signed.  So I convinced my sister to come with me to keep me company, bundled us into the car, and drove almost an hour to get those coveted signatures.  I would have been completely happy with just that alone, but while I was at the event I heard the single most important writing advice that has probably ever been uttered.

Let me set up the scene for you: the library’s small community room was filled to the brim with YA readers, all of us perched on our hard plastic chairs as we geeked out over being near Amie and Megan, who are absolutely hilarious together.  They talked about their writing schedule and the adventures of being a writing team while living literally across the world from each other- Amie lives in Australia, Megan in the U.S. – dropped hints of the book, talked about upcoming projects…and then the inevitable question of what advice they had to young writers came up.

I nearly fell on my face as I leaned forward to hear some complex suggestion that only an experienced writer could come up with.  Truly, this was a moment of great importance.

Amie opened her mouth to speak first, and I held my breath, pen poised over my notebook to scribble down her words, ready for the writer’s cramp that I’d be sure to get jotting down the no doubt complicated writing procedure they swore by.

Ready for it?  Brace yourself, because this will blow your mind:

Just write.

….

Two words.  That’s it.  Just.  Write.  Yes, they sounded extra impressive thank to Amie’s accent, but still.  Just write.

The tension in me deflated, leaving me wilted in that cold plastic chair, my mouth agape as I struggled to take it all in.  Of course, she had more to say, something along the lines of writing the first draft is the most difficult part, because it’s easier to edit something that’s already there than to start from scratch.  And then Megan joined in by adding that one technique that works really well for her is to set up a daily word count goal.  The words she writes may be crap, but by golly she’s going to meet that goal.

Now, of course I’d been told this in college; all my writing professors had emphasized time and again the importance of practicing and sticking to a writing schedule.  But for whatever reason (I blame puberty), those two words had more impact on me than two years of writing workshops.  And as that realization sank in, a small bubble of hope took residence in me, a little germ of confidence that maybe, just maybe, I might finally be able to start that one story I’d been working on and *gasp* actually finish it.

Spoiler alert, it worked.

Setting up a daily word count goal did wonders; I lowballed it by deciding on 500 words a day, and more often than not would triple that.  So not only was I writing, but I gained more confidence as I exceeded my goals, which is how I finished the first draft in a month.  Now, that first draft was complete and absolute crap, but it was something.  And just as Amie had said, it was easier to edit something already written.

Second spoiler alert: that crappy first draft was of Hart & Seoul…which was 110% not the story I had promised myself I would finish.  If you had told me that I was going to write a contemporary YA novel featuring a K-pop star, I would have very nicely offered to buy you ice cream to soften the blow of informing you that you are insane.

But when an idea hits, it cannot be ignored, and I learned a valuable lesson: be open to change!  You never know where it might take you.

And no matter what kind of writer you are, whether you are pursuing publishing or just love to quell all those voices in your head (can I get an AMEN to that one?!), I echo the best advice a writer can get:

Just write.

fish_encouraging_meme1.jpg (500×490)

P.S.  I can sum up the topic of my next post in two words: BTS Concert.  This is going to be epic…

The Journey Begins

I love the heading that WordPress so helpfully provided: The Journey Begins.  Sounds like a chapter title from Lord of the Rings, all epic and important.  Plus, it saves me from trying to come up with one which, given how long it

took me to actually get the chutzpah to sit down to create this blog, would have taken forever.  Seriously, I have stalked other blogs, borrowed books from the library, read maybe a chapter from one of those books before losing focus and wandering around Pinterest, and sat before my computer and hoped that the words would just magically appear without me having to do anything.  Which they definitely did not.  But there comes a time when one must step up or ship out, so to speak, and since doing nothing wasn’t actually working I decided to be bold and try something new: actually writing a post.

I must say, so far it’s been shockingly effective; here I am, penning my very first blog post.  Be gentle with me, dear reader, that’s all I can say.

And just why, might you be asking yourself as you try to figure out how the heck you stumbled across this blog, am I now a member of the blogosphere?  Well, to put it quite simply, I’ve written a book.  A beautiful amazing awesome book (am I biased?  Nooooooo, of course not) that is going to be published in spring 2019.  PUBLISHED!!  Excuse me for one minute while I hyperventilate into a paper bag:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Erhem.  I mean, I’m very excited.  And happy.  And EXCITED.

Hart & Seoul is the result of the most random surge of creativity that I’ve ever been hit with – how that surge struck me is such a good story that it deserves its own blog post – and as a result has basically consumed my life for the past three years (and, by extension, the lives of my family and friends, who deserve medals for dealing with my endless begging for feedback and the emotional seesaw of a writer who has no clue what she’s doing half the time).  The end result of said past three years?

When a neighbor’s nephew comes over for a visit, high school senior Merilee Hart is not impressed.  Sure, he’s tall, darkly handsome, and obviously has a big secret he and his aunt are desperate to keep hidden – but he’s also the typical bad boy who immediately butt heads with Merri.  And, unfortunately, the one who is with her when her perfect world implodes with a betrayal that she never saw coming.  

 Lee offers surprising support, but it’s not long before his secret is revealed, and Merri is abruptly thrust into an international spotlight.  Because next-door neighbor Lee is really Lee Hyung-kim, beloved and runaway member of the hot Korean pop group Thunder.

 For Merri, the dizzying tumble down the rabbit hole of K pop is filled with culture shock and, well, just plain shock.  Feuding, zealous fan girls, a love triangle that is fast becoming a square, kimchi – and that’s all before the world discovers just where Korea’s most popular singing idol has been hiding.  Can this feisty American teenager withstand the pressure of global fame?

Yup, that’s my literary baby!

Officially, Hart & Seoul is a YA contemporary dramedy that explores cultural diversity and the hallyu movement, aka the Korean invasion of awesomeness.  But unofficially, the book is an ode to the numerous K dramas that I have watched – any guesses as to which one was the first to suck me into that wonderful and sparkly world? – and, more recently, K-pop music I’ve been listening to.

Now, the real question is, can I withstand the wait till Hart & Seoul is unleashed to the world?  50/50 at the moment, tbh.  It’s like when you’re on a rollercoaster that is currently going 90 degrees up in the air; you know that the drop is coming, are waiting breathlessly for it to happen…and are scared spitless.  But the journey to publishing is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, so I’ll just have to fasten my safety bar and hold on for dear life.

The emperors new groove kronk & yzma disney

For the record, as of right now I’m channeling Yzma more than Kronk, eyes zeroed in on a goal and all the steps to make it happen.   Maybe as I get my feet under me I’ll be able to relax and “PUT MY HANDS IN THE AIR!” as I barrel down the track…and learn how to make spinach puffs while I’m at it.  #cookingwithkronk#ironchef

As my bio so helpfully states, this blog is about all things that inspire, whether it be writing challenges, news on Hart & Seoul, travel photos, or me in a T Rex suit trying to make kimchi (or spinach puffs)… seriously, I actually own a T Rex suit, and I’m not afraid to use it.  You have been warned!