The next thing & Iconiq.

In my last post, I talked about wanting to do more and be more after being inspired by K&K. How to go about it was another matter. I had to dig deep, had to question my actions, the path I was on, and really figure out what I wanted out of life.

I know that I want to write books, but I didn't want to stall my career either. The past couple of years, I had been feverishly writing, hoping something would stick, and when nothing did, I had to ask myself, Can I do this again for the next three years if it resulted in the same outcome? No, I couldn't. Not if I had no growth to show for it. Yes, I learned a lot the past three years about writing, but not enough to share my work with the world, and worse yet, I felt like life was passing me by.

So it brought me to these conclusions:

1) I do want to write books. But more so, I would rather write that one great book than a lot of stories that end up in the trunk. It's easy to write books in a short amount of time, but harder to write one of quality. One that reaches out and touches the soul of the reader. So maybe I'm not actively writing a bunch of stories, but that's okay. I'm going to chip away at the one that matters, even if it takes me a while.

2) I don't want to feel like life is passing me by. I used to feel guilty for spending my free time doing non-writing things. I had this mentality that if I wanted it enough, I should eat, sleep, breathe writing. Not the case anymore. I've always kept a list of places to go for a reason. I didn't write up my travel bucket list only to leave it on the wayside. I want to get back to it.

3) If we spend most of our lives working, then I want to do something that has an impact. I'd been toying with the idea of learning how to code. So three weeks in, I've been self-studying with Michael's help. It's been frustrating, overwhelming, and brain-numbing, but also a challenge. So challenge accepted ;)

I don't know where life is going to take me, but coming to these conclusions, I know I have to change in some way to get myself out of the rut I find myself in so that I can move onto the next thing. The next chapter of my life so to speak.

So yeah, I've done a lot of soul searching lately. It's been a lot of moments of being up and down to this point, so Michael surprised me by planning a date for us at Iconiq, an awesome restaurant that fuses Japanese and French cuisine.

It was absolutely amazing and probably one of my top meals of the year.  The ambiance was minimal yet bright, the chef incredibly welcoming as he spoke to the tables, the service impeccable, and the food delightful, delicious, and inspiring.

It was just what I needed, and funny enough, our date landed on exactly six months after our wedding. Michael and I made it half a year into our marriage, and boy, has time flown by. But not anymore. I intend to make the most of my time.

TGw9L - Week Five & Epiphanies/Inspiration

High-five! Because I completed week five! Okay, that was corny, but hey! I made it! And I'm posting early instead of waiting for Friday. So go me!

So my progress...

Week 5: 13,388
Total: 60,128

It was a really great week for me! The 18th especially because I had an epiphany about how to end my MS in a way that ties everything together, so I couldn't be happier! I wrote up to 3K that day so I could get closer to writing it, but even ending the week at 60K, I still have a ways to go. So much farther to go, I found myself procrastinating on the 21st. A part of me just wants it all to be perfect, but I have to accept that this is only a first draft and I will make it better. I just need to get it out, finish--while still keeping the flame I have for this book alive--before I run out of stamina. And also, another part of me just wants this done, done, done! So I can hold this precious, but dark story in my hands.

So to fuel up for the finish line, I'm using some inspiration. If you follow me on twitter, you may remember this tweet from my first week of drafting:

The song is 'You and I' (stripped version) by PVRIS. It basically captures the relationship between Elias and Delilah (who is actually Jane, and who actually doesn't have a 'real' name--long story). Anyway, the thing is, when I draft, it's usually done in silence. Usually I'll create a playlist to listen to when I work out or take lunch break walks to get me thinking about the story. This time, I found myself gravitating to PVRIS's 'White Noise' album all the time.

Like, seriously. It just speaks to me. Lyrics written for the album were highly inspired by ghosts and spirits, so I guess it's fitting that I would connect my MS to this album, since my MC is akin to a ghost/spirit herself. Now, I've been listening to the album non-stop to get me in the zone as I finish up the MS. 

But get this! I found out on Monday that PVRIS has a concert this week in Seattle! Must be fate, right? So I got tickets, and now I'm so excited because I get to see these songs--that have filled me with inspiration for the past month and a half--live! It's like a pre-celebration bash before I knock out 'The End'!

Gahhhh! I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself. Just for funsies, I've listed some of my favorite songs and what they mean to me in respects to my MS:

You and I (stripped & regular version) - My two MC's courtship/romance.
Empty - My MC's character ARC.
My House - Delilah's dark thoughts that lead to her demise.
Holy - Eliza's 'poor unfortunate soul'.
Fire - My MC's dark past/confrontation. 
Eyelids - Bittersweet moment scene for my two MC's.
Only Love (Acoustic-not on the album) - The ending + epilogue of the MS.

Really though, I love the whole album <3

In other good news, I've accepted a job offer and will be switching to my new role in July! May has been very good to me, and I am so grateful.

To end, here's some epic brunch pictures this past weekend at The London Plan (which was delicious. I have to say, it's my new fave brunch place!).


 

 

 

An interview, a read through, and some writing inspiration.

Happy Monday Everrrrryone!

I cannot believe that it'll be October soon and the Agent Round of Pitch Wars is about 5 weeks away. Eek! If you haven't seen it already, check out my Pitch Wars interview with my amazing mentor Brianna Shrum below!

 
#TeamSparkleShine

I spent the majority of my weekend working on first round of edits and I finished on Saturday, whoo! So now I'm going to do a quick read through and I'm planning to tweak one of the chapters a little bit more before I turn it in to Brianna. So for now, I've loaded it onto my Kindle and making changes on the computer file whenever I see something that needs to be corrected. I highly recommend you reading your ms in a different medium. It helps point out things you wouldn't normally notice on the computer screen.

To end, one of my mentee mates Cindy Baldwin shared a great blog post by Robin LaFevers this weekend with the rest of us so I decided to pass it along. Check out Surviving Nearly There for some writing inspiration!

Two Years, Chopped Hair, Urgent Care, SCBWI, Shelving M3 = Roller Coaster Week

Hi friends,

I have so much to catch you up on. This week has been a stressful roller coaster ride. It started off on a good note. I celebrated my 2 year anniversary with Michael by recreating our first date (it's now become a tradition of ours).



To see how it unfolded last year and how our relationship began, click here.

He surprised me greatly by getting me a guitar and I, him, with a symbolic ring he's always wanted.


I don't have a good singing voice, nor am I skilled in music, but growing up music became a part of my life. I played flute for three years, piano for two, and learned some chords on the guitar by my ex-boyfriend in high school and it stuck through college. I was never really that good though, but I enjoyed putting simple melodies together and writing lyrics, but when I moved to Seattle, I literally gave away all my belongings, including my guitar and put it in the past. So it was very thoughtful that Michael had thought to give me a piece of California, and a creative part of me back.

What a wonderful way to start the week!

But unfortunately, work has been pretty busy, and I found myself pretty stressed with all that I needed to do, not just in my work life, but personal and writing life as well. I was overwhelmed by all the stuff I had to do and the non-progress in M3. It drove me insane. Why couldn't I get this story out as I did M2? Was life really so busy and chaotic that I couldn't handle it all? Would I have to give something up?

This overwhelming feeling festered within me, and I had hoped that maybe the SCBWI conference this weekend would give me some sort of direction in my writing life. As for the work and personal, I would just have to trudge through it. So I rush ordered my business cards and put on my can-do attitude.


But my attitude about work didn't change. I'm the kind of person that likes to get my stuff done so when software issues or last minute changes come my way, it ruffles my feathers a bit. But I had planned it out and I would finish my project by Friday.

On Thursday I had a haircut scheduled during my lunch break. I was long overdue for one, and had planned to keep my length and get my split ends trimmed, but when I sat in the salon chair, that overwhelming feeling came over me again. The reflection in the mirror looked so haggard, so sloppy, so stressed. "Just chop it all off," I told my stylist, not wanting another worry, no how matter infinitesimal it was.

And so she did.


With the weight from my hair off me, I was starting to feel better. More refreshed. I could handle the three facets of my life. Surely I could. I was a new woman now!

And then that night I got sick. A severe allergy attack. I couldn't sleep all night. And come morning, I wasn't any better. I was worse. I called in sick to work. I would not finish my project. That devastated me. Like I said, I pride myself in getting my work done, especially when I made promises to meet certain deadlines. Then I broke out into a fever. I started crying. Whatever this illness was, it didn't seem likely that I would be able to make it out to dinner that night with a friend and to a writer's networking cocktail hour like I had planned. Would I even be well enough to make it to the SCBWI conference the next day?

When Michael got home from work he took me to urgent care. Turns out my severe allergy attack turned into a sinus infection. I'd never had a sinus infection before so this pain was new to me and unbearable. The doctor prescribed me a nasal spray along with some other suggested OTC drugs. I went home, followed the directions, but didn't feel any better. I tossed and turned all night, getting snippets of sleep, and improved enough that I could rally myself and go to the conference.


I'll make another lengthier post about my experience as a first time conference attendee, but long story short, it made me realize that M3 needed to be put on pause. Perhaps I was overthinking it which stunted my progress. Or maybe I had fallen out of love with it after taking too many breaks with traveling and moving. Or maybe, M3 wasn't ready to be written and wasn't fully yet realized. Maybe it's one of those stories that takes years to cook, a story that I'll come back to, adding some spice, adjusting the taste, until I get it just right.

For now, M3 will be shelved, and I'm moving onto my next idea. 

It's been a roller coaster week filled with many ups and downs, twists, and turns. I was never one for roller coasters so I'm kind of glad to be off the ride now. I think it's time to leave the amusement park and get back to the steady humdrum of life.

Have you ever had a roller coaster kind of week? Comment below!

Yours truly,

Michelle


A girl's kind of weekend.

One thing I really missed when I moved was having that solid group of girlfriends. If only it were possible to pack them up with you too! For me, I had a hard time finding friends when I first moved to Washington. I was no longer in the environment where everyone was in my age group, or people going through the same thing I was. Soon the distance between California and Washington became more apparent, and phone calls from my old friends less frequent (though we are still good friends and able to pick up right where we left off when we do see each other). It was a huge adjustment period.

Personally, I prefer having a small handful of close friends than a big network, as I find it difficult to really get to know a person otherwise. This past weekend I was able to do just that and have one-on-one time with a few gal pals.

On Friday, Cristine and I went wine tasting in Woodinville and had dinner afterwards to calm our spinning heads. We encountered really cool people at the tastings, sparking conversations with strangers we may never come across again. Before I knew it, it was already past ten and time for me to make the drive home.


Photo Cred: Cristine Peters

Saturday was a bit different. I met with my writer friend Lisa for a hike and we were rewarded with an awesome view. Afterwards we headed to Din Tai Fung for some much needed dumplings and drinks and nachos at Tavern Hall.


In the evening, my friend Hyojin came over. She made cocktails for us and I made dinner. Afterwards we did some facials, gabbed all night, and ate dessert. The morning after we went to brunch and drank tea and talked all afternoon.


Throughout all these separate encounters, the big takeaway from it all were our conversations. If you can talk about anything and everything, and also be okay with comfortable silences, then you know they're the real deal. Conversations that are reciprocated is a big indicator of a friendship's success.

I feel the need to write about successful friendships in this post, only because I went through a period of my life where I was really social, always had a bunch of people around me, but never did I ever feel more lonely in my life. It was a rude awakening realizing I didn't even know them. Yeah, I could spout superficial facts about them, but that was it. Nothing under the surface.

I am lucky in the sense that I have permanent friends. Though sisters by birth, I have a friendly relationship with all of my sisters, but friends outside my family allow me to get a different perspective on things.

One thing my friends and I contemplated was about the future. What's planned, and what is not. What do we want out of life. How to achieve personal happiness. Though I hardly had any writing time this weekend, it made me think a lot about how my protagonist would answer these questions, and how I should convey her friends.

Since the characters in M3 is loosely based on people I knew, I find myself thinking about the real life versions of them a lot. What are they up to now, are they happy? And how do they remember themselves in the time where our lives crossed?

I'm rambling into a tangent now, but it's strange how different friendships come across certain periods of your life, and even more amazing when some friendships can endure all of life's changes. There's one friend in particular that I am oh so very fond of. He is my oldest childhood friend. And though I've moved over three times since we first met, he has been the one constant (besides my family) in my life.

Who is your oldest friend? And would you ever write them into a book? Answer with a comment below ;)

Asia Vacation: Day 4

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Happy New Year!


February the 19th marked my 4th day in Vietnam! And better yet it was the holiday. The new year is like the biggest holiday in the culture. It's equivalent to the American Thanksgiving. All about family, food, celebration, and hope for the year to come. I was beyond excited since it was my first time ever celebrating in the homeland with the extended family.

My sisters and I all woke up and got dressed in traditional Vietnamese dresses and met the rest of the family at my grandpa's house. My mother had rented a van for the day to take us to the temple, the village where she grew up, and then onto Hue.


The main temple in Da Nang sits alongside the water facing the city. With the temple and neck bending monuments, it's a very beautiful and serene place to be--but not on the holiday. It was buzzing with people. We quickly went around saying prayers before going crazy with photos.











After that it was off to my mom's home village Vinh Hien. We had gone there too during my first trip, but going again, with fresh eyes it really struck a chord within me. This little town is based off one little dirt road with little houses pressed against each other. There are no streetlamps, no gutters. Just yellow sand and dirt, with the exception of green rice paddies in the distance.





We passed by my mother's old house, the school she had gone too, and houses where she remembered her friends. It was a very different upbringing than the opportunity she had given us in the states. As a sign of respect, my mother paid visits to relatives and friends, and those that had passed by going to their gravesites.


It was hard not to imagine my mom as a young girl just like the little kids I had seen the day before. Odds stacked against her. Living in conditions we hadn't. No power, no electricity, no creature comforts. It makes me respect her even more.


Our final and last stop was Hue to see the imperial palace. It was huge. Bigger than I remembered my first time around. Here there were a lot of tourists from many different places as well as locals. The city was bustling with people.







 






 


Michael and I walked side by side holding hands and it was the first time that we got more than the occasional glances. People were staring and it made me uncomfortable. It wasn't like it was rude stares or anything, more like curiosity. I could only imagine what they thought: mail order bride. Ha! I brushed it off and made the most of it. When we got back to the Van, I knocked out, and before I knew it we were back in Da Nang at my grandpa's house for dinner.

[[photo credit: all amazing and clear photos were taken by Michael. All the fuzzy ones were from yours truly on my iphone :P]]

4th of July Weekend, and Writing Progress

This year was Michael and I's first time spending 4th of July together and I can't believe I didn't get any photos! And Michael only had this one from the weekend:

Top of Poo Poo Point

For 4th of July we went to a friend's barbeque in the afternoon then had a couple over for dinner before going to Volunteer Park to see the fireworks. Michael never know this about me, but I love fireworks. There's just something magical about them and looking at them that night, they reminded me of something from my book that I created.

The next day I met with my critique partner. We're halfway done critiquing each other's drafts! My 4th revision is definitely getting stronger with all of her help. Once home, Michael and I decided to go hiking at Poo Poo Point (Yes, that's actually the name!). We did it last year and decided to do it again this year. Maybe it'll turn out to be a yearly thing for us. I, however, am not athletic as Michael. It was such a breeze for him. I was huffing and puffing the whole way up, but he was sweet enough to encourage me the whole way through.

That evening Michael's parents took us out to Tulio's in downtown Seattle. They spoil us, seriously they do, it was such a treat eating there and it was such a pleasure being in their company as always.

On Sunday Michael and I went out to brunch and then I spent the whole day writing/revising from 10:30 a.m. to 5:40 p.m. That's like a 7-hour shift! If only that could be my full-time job! Perhaps one day.

Though good news is I finished my ending. I've wrote it differently all four drafts, and I finally landed on one that I love. It took me awhile, but I finally got there.Whooo! I still have a lot of editing and revising, but I'll definitely be ready for Pitch Wars and #PitMad in August and September.

I've also been working on my query letter. Man, is that a toughy. I think I've gone through 10 drafts of my query letter now. It's still not quite where I want it though, which is a good thing I'm working on it early. I've also started researching agents to query so that I'll be ready to go when my MS2 is complete.

With all this progress being made, my head is spinning, which means I am in need of a good read. So I'm currently rereading one of my faves, Stolen by Lucy Christoper.