Hawaii 2018, Pass 2, & other updates

Hello 2018! Time for my first post!

I started off the year with a trip to Hawaii with the hubs and the in-laws (who graciously hosted). During vacations I usually want to do a lot of stuff, but my 4th quarter at work was crazy busy and I hadn't been feeling well (update on that below), so I made it my mission to decompress and relax. Besides a few posts on Instagram, I basically unplugged which was nice! I ate well, drank well, read well, and managed to get some writing done. 

While in Hawaii Michael and I got to celebrate our first year of marriage! It was nice for our first anniversary to go back to the place where we said our vows and got hitched.  It brought all the warm and fuzzies back, except this time was so much better because I didn't have a wedding to execute! So yeah, being married is great. Especially to this guy.

On the beach, I managed to read three books in a week. My favorite of the three was The Memory Book by Lara Avery. Where has this book been all my life? Why did no one recommend it to me? This is a laugh, cry, then sob kind of book with such lively characters. Easily one of my new favorite books that I will reread in the years to come. Pick it up. I dare you. Then once you're in the sobbing phase, come cry on my shoulder, and I'll feed you chocolates to lessen the gut-wrenching blow that is this beautiful work of art.


Anyway, this book, along with the others I read on vacation really got me thinking of MS7 and what type of reaction I wanted to invoke in my reader. After finishing pass 1, I decided I needed another major overhaul during Pass 2. More specifically: revising the voice, tone, and fleshing out the characters. My dear reader, I want you to love, laugh, and cry. That is the goal. :P It's a big change, but I think it'll make the MS better (that is, if it doesn't kill me first). Like seriously, this manuscript is so hard to write, but feels worth while, and one of my goals this year was to write the best book possible. There's still eleven months to go to make it SHINE.

Even though I've been agent-less for awhile, I'm starting to feel really good about my writing again. Last year I'd wrestle with so many doubts wondering if I had it in me. The thing about your low years? It really shows you what you want, and for me it reaffirmed my belief about who I am and what I'm meant to do. This year, I've been exploding with book ideas and it's only January! For the last two years, I kind of had a drought so it's kind of a relief to get drenched with all these ideas.

So yeah, the start of 2018 has been all about positive vibes! Something I've been doing is listening to upbeat music in the morning (Any FLOR fans out there?). If I'm am work, I'll jam out in my cubicle. If I'm at home, I put on my headphones and dance in my office. This new habit just makes me feel happier, and it makes me think about my story and what I'm trying to do, and how to bring more meaning into my story world.

To fully understand how much of an improvement I've made on my outlook, I should confess that the last three months I've been dealing with terrible pain from ovarian cysts due to hormonal imbalances. I haven't felt like myself at all, and there were days when I would just lay about because being away from the heating pad hurt so much. My writing took a hit, and I was such bad company I basically kept to myself. The good news is, I'm dealing with it and getting my hormones under control with natural supplements and cleaning up my lifestyle. It'll take a while to find my balance, but I'll get there.

Now, that I'm back home I'm really excited to dive back into my goals, my writing, life, and making the most of this year!


WWPR: MS7 Revision Notes & Pass 1 (Week 1)

It's been a whirlwind of a week! But I'm so excited to sit down and get into this WWPR, because it feels like a celebration. For one, I am fully functional now, and the cold I had is becoming more like a distant memory as each day passes. With the increase in energy levels, I gathered all my notes, scene cards, and my running list of problems in my MS, and focused this week on finding solutions!

Here's my week in writing:

THURSDAY: Reviewing the macro problems first (plot, character, setting), I placed all of my scene cards on the floor to rearrange them and placed my solutions onto the notecard with stickies. I'll save you the long spiel on how I did this by referring you to Marissa Meyer and Susan Dennard's websites. My method is basically a combination of their revision process, and they provide a lot of info on how to go about revisions if you want to read up on it.

I worked from 4-8 p.m. (make sure to follow my instagram @michelletranwrites to see my insta stories), but it was so worth it because by the end of the night I knew where I wanted to take this MS, and most importantly, how.


FRIDAY: I began my first pass of revisions by making the changes I wanted directly on the printed manuscript. My goal is to finish this relatively quickly (2-2.5 weeks) and then type in the changes on my computer while concurrently doing a second pass of the manuscript afterward.

Pass one will focus on getting the plot nailed down with all the scenes in the correct order and roughly putting the character arcs in place to compliment the plot.

Pass two will be to get the character arcs fully fleshed out while also fixing the flow/transitions of the story since I had to move a lot of scenes around.

Depending on where I'm at with pass 2, I anticipate a pass 3 and 4 to focus on setting, dialogue, and prose. Maybe then I'll feel confident enough to ship out my MS to some CP's.

SATURDAY: I flew back to Sac to celebrate my nieces birthday! It was a quick trip, but I still brought my manuscript, just in case. I was able to get one chapter done on the flight there.

SUNDAY: Since my niece was just too cute and wanted to play, I didn't get any revising done. I ended up having quality time with her and the family. I built her new birthday gift I had chipped in to buy. It took me about 4-5 hours, but her excitement for her play kitchen was worth it.

MONDAY: Since I didn't get much done during my weekend in Sac, I had to turn it up a notch and make up time for it. I ended up getting through 5 chapters!

TUESDAY: Pass one continues. I've made it to one third through of the write-in portion of the revision. To make things even better, I got some surprise holiday mail from 2 of my great CP's Mic & Krystal!!! THANK YOU!!!

WEDNESDAY: ALMOST HALFWAY DONE. Cue celebration with this WWPR post!

All of this planning and organizing during the revision process has really inspired me to keep myself on track--not just now, but for 2018. To do so, I'm using a planner instead of my typical spreadsheet or notebook so I can jot down my progress. Hopefully by the end of 2018, I'll have a full planner focusing on making 2018 my best writing year. Here's what the planner looks like reflecting this week! For the month portion, I quickly jot down my progress and what week I'm on. For the week portion, I also jot down how I'm currently feeling about the process to help me reflect.

Hopefully by next week, I'll be done with the write in part. Wish me luck, and happy writing!

What are your ways to stay on track? Comment below!

TIU LA Trip: Day 2

Hands down, day 2 was probably my favorite day of the trip, probably because I've been dying to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and this was my opportunity! 

Before we headed out to Universal, we started our day with a morning run and then went to Sunlife Organics for some Acai bowls.

Then we spent the whole day at Universal where I got to drink butterbeer, go one rides, and enjoy the sun. It's been so long since I've been to an amusement park, and I really enjoyed this one. It's a good size that you could do it all in one day (as long as it's not too busy). We definitely lucked out too because we barely had to wait in any lines for the rides. I thought it was worth it just to do the Wizarding World, but that's just me.

To end the night, we had dinner at Perch and watched the sun set from the rooftop bar. All in all, it was a very good second day in LA.

Santa Barbara Wine Trip

This past week I've been literally throwing myself a pity party. I've had my 5th oral surgery in the past two years. I won't get into the nitty gritty details, but you'd think after the 5th one I'd be a pro at dealing with it, but alas, I'm not. In addition to mouth pain, a soft-foods diet, and no exercise regime, I've found myself really fatigued, unmotivated, breaking out in rashes, dealing with back pain, and in general dealing with suckish-vibes.

My poor husband has had to deal with all my whining and complaining (I'm the hugest baby when it comes to ailments or being sick), but keeps reminding me that this is temporary. It'll pass, I'll be back to normal, and I'll be able to put this whole ordeal behind me.

So, today, I've decided to blog about Santa Barbara to give me a boost of positivity and to remind myself what life was like prior to surgery. And plus, it was long overdue post. Am I right?

Santa Barbara was perhaps one of the last major wine areas on the west coast we had yet to explore. It's up and coming, but still fairly new. We were able to find some gems though and had a blast.

If you ever find yourself exploring the area, here are my top recommendations:

Place to stay: Fess Parker in Los Olivos

Best Winery: Dragonette Cellars

Best dinner/meal: First & Oak in Solvang

Best tour: Sustainable wine tours

Best Wine Bar: Les Marchands in Santa Barbara

A New York Kind of Celebration.

My last vacation for the summer has come and gone, and I'm already mourning it. But at least I can write this blog post and look back fondly on my time in New York.

So why New York City? Though Michael and I have already visited the big apple (both on our own), we decided to go back together to celebrate Michael's 29th birthday. For me, it was also a chance to connect with writers I'd met through PitchWars, visit old friends, and splurge on all the deliciousness NYC had to offer.

So my trip in a nutshell:

Michael and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. Pacific Time to catch our flight. We arrived in the early evening and connected with Michael's friend, Josh, for drinks and dinner at Olmstead (in Brooklyn, which was amazing btw). Afterwards we went to a few bars in Greenwich and stayed up until midnight to celebrate Michael's birthday. Before crashing back at the hotel, I tried my first slice. For someone who doesn't care for Pizza, it was delicious. Now I understand the hype. Also, the NY slice totally beats the deep dish pizza of Chicago (IMO).

For Michael's birthday we visited The Natural History Museum with Josh and my PitchWars friend, Michella. After a year of knowing each through out PW class, we were finally able to meet IRL and it was awesome! Afterwards, we went the The Strand for a drink and the view before we all separated.

For dinner, I snagged a rez at Le Bernardin a month ago. Michael's been wanting to go here for the longest time. It has 3 Michelin Stars, and it's currently ranked 24 in the world. For Michael, chef's are his rockstars, and Eric Ripert didn't disappoint. It was one of the best meals I have ever had in my entire life, coming second to Alinea (Chicago wins on that ;)).

After the life-changing meal, we ended the night with a night cap and a view from The Press Lounge.

This day was spent as a date day! Michael and I stopped at Ippudo for some ramen for lunch (check out the smile in my bowl) before we headed to The Met. Though it was my second time there, I still felt like I didn't see everything. Ancient Egypt and American Art were my favorites though this time around. 

After, we took a stroll through Central Park even though it was so humid and hot. We didn't last long though and headed to Laduree for some macaroons before the hotel to clean up for dinner.

It was just before dinner that I got my first celebrity sighting! I saw Heather Lind (actress who plays Anna Strong on TURN)! She ended up eating at the same restaurant we were going to (Maison Premiere).

I started the morning with brunch at Jane with Michael and Josh before meeting up with Michella in Brookyln. She took me to Smorgasburg in Prospect Park and the food was amazing (except the raindrop cake which really didn't taste like anything--total let down, but it looks pretty!).

Afterwards we met up with Kat (another PitchWars friend I got to meet IRL) at Books of Wonder for Beth Revis's author event. When it was over, we headed to Michella's favorite bakery, Breads, where we talked books, publishing, and life. We had so much to discuss we continued it over dinner. We would be the best panel to listen to ;) Just saying.

I got to reconnect with my fellow Aggie, JH Yun, who I haven't seen since our days in 100F (Creative Writing Fiction course at UC Davis) three years ago. She just received her MFA in poetry from NYU, so it was a pleasure to catch up and talk about all the time that had passed since we'd last seen each other. She's an amazing poet! If you haven't checked out her stuff, you really should.

The humidity that day was unbearable. I remember getting ice cream at Popbar after and it literally melted before I could eat it. And then, what do you know, a thunderstorm rolled in.

Trapped at a wine bar with Michael and Josh, we passed the time drinking wine before dinner in Korea Town.

Before I knew it, the trip was over. Michella was sweet enough to drop by my hotel before I left with a farewell gift (I MISS YOU MICHELLA!). She really is the sweetest. And she let me borrow her ARC of HEARTLESS. *heart eyes everywhere*

For Michael and I's last day, we decided to go to the One World Observatory before heading to the airport. I still can't wrap my head over what happened 15 years ago, but I found the memorial to be hopeful. 

Now that vacation is over and I'm back at home, I know I have to get my butt into the chair and start on revisions (so wish me luck!).

On a last note, the PitchWars submission window is opening next week! I'm crossing my fingers for all you hopefuls!

Napa, A Wedding, & The Rest of My Trip

Day 3. We left Sonoma and crossed over to Napa. Michael and I had a wedding to attend in Santa Rosa where we would finally get to meet up with my family. We still had time to kill though, so we headed over to Napa to do more tasting!

Our first stop was Caymus. It was always on Michael's list to try, and we missed it the last time we were in Napa, so it was nice to finally go. The outdoor seating was lovely in the nice weather. Next, we went to the futuristic Palmaz, where they showed us their new tech and how they used gravity instead of pumping to give their wine some smoothness. It felt like a James Bond movie, and the wine was amazing. I totally recommend. To end, we did a tasting at Wine Country Connection where we got to chat with a Master Somm which was a neat first for us!

Afterwards, we met up with my family in Santa Rosa for a wedding! It was the first time I met my niece, who is absolutely adorable. No wonder my mom says I've been replaced!

Of course, my family proceeded to take a zillion selfies since it's a rarity for all of us to be together (unless it's Thanksgiving). Who do you think I look the most alike?

I also just realized that I wear the same dress to almost every wedding. I need a wardrobe update asap!

When the wedding was over, Michael and I hitched a ride back to Sacramento to spend our remaining days of vacation with my family. There, I got to hang out with my cousins, eat amazing home-cooked meals of all my favorites, spent time with friends, and I even fit in some reading time (I'll save my thoughts of BLOOD FOR BLOOD for a 'Bookish Feels' post).

Getting back from vacation is always rough for me. Heck, it took me almost two weeks to even blog about it and for Blaire to warm back up to us. For me, I took a few days to adjust, and then even a couple of more days to get the motivation to work off my vacation weight (the food and wine, was all worth it though ;)).

Currently, I've been obsessed with 'Poldark' (thanks to Michella), which has helped with my book hangover and vacation withdrawals. I loved it so much, I spent the last week reading the first two books of the series it's based off of. But with June almost over, and my next vacation around the corner, I know I need to get back to my WIP and revise, research, and read!

Sonoma Wine Trip: Carneros & Valette

Before I get into my trip, I just want to say, LOVE IS LOVE IS  LOVE IS LOVE IS  LOVE IS LOVE<3. Let us not forget that.

As for my trip, it's been almost a week since I landed in Oakland, California, and drove up to the Sonoma/Carneros area with Michael. Our yearly summer wine trips are my favorite, and I was especially excited to do the Sonoma area! Deep down I have this dream of Michael and I with our little own vineyard and a small home on a hill with a wraparound porch. I'd pen my latest novel and he'd cycle the rolling hills. We'd make delicious local food and great wine. I can dream,right? Not to mention the location would be perfect; about an hour and a half from my family, the coast, and the bay area.

But alas, I should snap out of my day dream and get on with my post! We started at Gloria Ferrer to taste some sparkling wines. I loved it so much, I became a member of their wine club.

For lunch, we went to OSO Sonoma to fuel up before heading for our wine taste/tour at Domaine Carneros.

After, we went to Arrowood for our last taste, but when we got there I was like, whoa! Dream home right here ;)

For dinner, we went to Valette and did the chef's tasting menu. It was AMAZING. A must-go if you're in the area and want a fancy/romantic/date night, or if you just want some delicious food.

By the end of the day, I was totally wiped. We got up at 4 a.m. that day to head out to the airport and did a full day of tasting. You bet I crashed by the time 9 p.m. rolled around.