Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On Pins and Needles

It's the feeling you get when you are waiting for news, for the birth of a child, or results of an exam you studied so hard for. You feel it in your stomach, a gnawing, twisting sensation that makes you reach out for something to distract you. Some people excercise (good for your body), some like to shop (not so good for your wallet), and others like to knit (not so good for your ass.)

I'm guilty of the last one (I compensate by power-walking from my car to work every morning.) Ever since I sent my revised manuscript to my agent, I have been knitting. A lot. Oh, I've been reading too, but sometimes the pins-and-needles thing would start up and distract me from my distraction.

So I mostly knit. Here is what I have made so far...

A pair of fingerless mitts for a friend at work. I made these with double point needles but I'm finishing up a second pair using the "magic loop" technique (love!)


The second pair will be dark gray and is for another friend at work. There are cold hands here in California!

The other project I finished was a Lucy Hat, a pattern from Knitscene Magazine, Special Winter Issue 2012. My daughter agreed to model the hat for me.


After I finish the second pair of fingerless mitts, I will make socks. Yes! Can't wait!

One great thing knitting does for me is it helps me think. When I'm sitting at my writing desk, staring at the words on the computer screen, stuck on a plot point or how to make a particular scene stronger, I pick up my knitting and think through it until I get that "aha" momment. It works for me about 90% of the time. I also like to brainstorm for my next book project while I knit.

Speaking of my next project, I need to get cracking and my knitting needles clicking! Pins-and-needles be damned!

Seriously though, I am so grateful that I have my knitting to keep me company and to help me cope with all the waiting that comes with the business of publishing. It feeds the fire of my need to create, to make something I can share with others. Most importantly, it keeps me writing.

Till next time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello 2013!

Happy New Year!

It's definitely going to be an interesting one. I'm finishing up my edits and hope to send my book to my agent TODAY. Yes, it will be the first thing I do in 2013. The perfect way to herald in the new year.

It's taken me nearly two months to complete revisions because life happens and it demanded my full attention. Holidays, a death in the family, and family visiting from across the country occupied most of my days in December but I managed to put in an hour or two of revising here and there. And finally, I am almost finished. For now.

Hopefully, my agent will give the manuscript a thumbs-up. Then it's off to the races! Or rather, to submissions, hehe. I hear this waiting period will be harder to bear than waiting to hear from an agent. That's okay. I'll just have to dive into my next book project.

But first, I must get back to work. Then it's time to catch up on my reading, and maybe a bit of knitting! And after that, some writing. :)

Cheers!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Writer's Journey: On Reaching the Next Milestone

I became a serious writer about seven years ago. I'm not sure why I decided to do it. The idea of being writer was always there I guess, just simmering under the surface of other creative pursuits. I began writing children's picture book texts and joined an amazing organization called the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

SCBWI was where I learned about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. It was where I made many friends, a lot of whom are published authors today. It was where I learned to have the courage to show my work and to accept critique with grace. It was where I discovered my true love.

Writing novels.

In the last four years, I've drafted and revised two novels with the encouragement and of course, honest critique of my writing group (you know who you are!) Then I began the arduous process of querying agents. The road has been bumpy and long, but I am happy to say that I have reached the next milestone in my journey as a writer....

I have an agent!!!!!!

Check out my happy dance here!

My friend and critique partner, Erin Fry (author of Losing It), congratulated me with these lovely flowers.


I am represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary. She's wonderful! I'm thrilled to have someone with her publishing experience as my agent. And she loves my book! She totally gets where I'm coming from and what I hope to achieve. I'm so excited to work with her!

With that said, I have some revising to do. :)

P.S. Sorry about all the !!!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

WOLF-GIRLS Book Launch Day!

I love book birthdays! Today, my short story LUNACY, has gone out into the wide world in an anthology published by Hic Dragones, in Manchester, England.

Early last year, a good friend and writing pal of mine, sent me an email about a "call for submissions" for this anthology. I had just finished drafting my second young adult novel and wanted a little diversion before diving into revisions. So I thought, why not give it a shot?

I searched the internet for everything I could find about werewolves, looking for something to spark inspiration for a story. The term "lycan" fascinated me. Googling the term led me to "lycanthropy", its psychological as well as its mythical meanings. I began to think about the power of the human mind and its ability to perceive reality, but also it's capacity to create its own.

Thus, LUNACY was born. A story of a young woman coming face to face with a horror that makes her doubt her sanity. Is she crazy? You decide...Wolf-Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny

My wonderful editor, Hannah Kate, created this cool book trailer for today's launch!



Happy Book Birthday!!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Love Brainstorming!

Yes, it is that time again! I recently finished another hefty revision of my novel, a young adult paranormal mystery. It's now in the hands of a couple of agents. The waiting has begun and so you may wonder, how do I keep from gnawing on my fingernails and obssessively checking email? Well, okay, I don't think I can stop myself from doing the second thing, but the sure fire way of keeping my fingernails ON my fingers is go to writing cons, join secret online contests (yikes!), and to brainstorm for a new book idea!

I love it. I do. I jot down notes on a basic plot line, decide on a premise, a theme, and a setting. And where do I  do all my jotting? This is the other part I enjoy. I take the time to pick out a special notebook for the project and carry it with me everywhere I go. My favorite kind is the Moleskine Cahier. It's nice and slim and fits nicely in my bag.

One of the stages I go through when braistorming a new book is deciding what my main character's name will be. Or rather, I should say, I wait for my character to tell me what his/her name will be. I sometimes forget this and try out random names, but they never feel quite right. Then I remember. I have to wait for the right name to come to me. When it does, it feels absolutely perfect. It's as if something inside me opens when I hear or see my new character's name. Sounds like mystical writer mumbo-jumbo? Maybe. There is certainly something magical about it for me. It's this magic that makes my characters feel real, to me and on the page.

On knitting news, I'm in the middle of a baby sweater project I have to finish in order to get started on my next project, a Knit-n-Swirl sweater.


Pretty ambitious, I know. :) I fell in love with the design and I love a challenge!

Did mention I like to knit when I'm stuck in a plotting rut? Knitting helps me relax and think.

This brings to mind another thing. All this but-in-chair, be it writing or knitting, has taken a toll on my caboose. Seriously. I need to start brainstorming while walking or running!

Like tomorrow!




Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Book and first ever (and probably only) Music Album Review

I will do my book review first because, well, that's how I roll (of course, of course). ;)

I recently finished reading two books actually. The first one was...


Here's the blurb from Amazon...

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

This book was named one of Amazon's Best Books of 2011 for good reason. Laini Taylor creates a world that will entrance you from the very first chapter. Her words are like brush strokes of a painting, igniting your imagination with color and life as you follow Karou through the story. The concept of the book is exciting and unique. I've read a lot of fantasy and science fiction in my time and I haven't come across anything like this.The story is otherworldly and yet so familiar. We see Karou's loneliness, her desire to know who she is and her love for those she considers her family. I just loved the book and was sorry it came to an end. Well, I was exasperated really because I KNOW the story continues. How do I know? Here's how...


I was lucky enough to meet Laini herself at a book signing in West Hollywood! She talked about her book and her process and yes, the coming of a sequel to DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE! I'm so excited!

So, read Laini's new book! You will not be disappointed. This is a young adult novel and I recommend it highly for kids 13 and over who love urban fantasy and a damn good read!

Did I mention we are co-contributors to FRACTURED FABLES by Shadowline Comics? I remember paging through my contributor's copy and my excitement to see her name listed sorta near mine. Unfortaunately, I forgot to bring it with me to the book signing. :( Oh well, maybe next time.



The second book I finished was...



Connie Willis is one of my all time favorites. I found this little gem after listening to another book of her's entitled BELLWEATHER. D.A. is basically about a teen named Theodora who receives the completely unexpected and unearned honor of select admission to the highly acclaimed International Space Academy. What happens next is comedy, Willis style, as you watch Theodora attempt to figure out why she was selected. I loved the theme she wove into this story on the need for catalysts for change. It's a fun short read for any scifi fanatic out there. You know who you are. :)

On to my music review. Music isn't something I normally review but I LOVE this album so much I just have to say SOMETHING about it.


This is their latest album. IT WILL ROCK YOUR SOCKS OFF. Let me just say that I haven't stopped listening to it since I ripped the cd (it belongs to my daughter hehe) onto my Ipod. The whole album is rock heaven. It is, that is, if you like hard rock. But it's so much more than just hard rock. It's atmospheric, symphonic, love-filled, heart-wrenching music. Amy Lee's voice and lyrics take you places in your mind and heart that you forgot were there or may not have discovered. Some of my very favorites are Made of Stone, My heart is Broken, The Other Side, Lost in Paradise and Swimming Home. Like I said, rock heaven.

Come on, give it a listen.

Rock on.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Book Review!

Last September, I received an ARC of Kathleen O'Dell's recently released book, THE AVIARY (Thank you, Kathleen!) I was in the middle of revisions when she sent the book to me and didn't begin reading it until October. It was well worth the wait.




Here's a little summary from Amazon.com:

Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. Clara has never known another home. In fact, she's confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it's a comfortable life, and if it weren't for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too.

But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old murder mystery—and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too. Kathleen O'Dell deftly weaves magic, secret identities, evil villians, unlikely heroes, and the wonder of friendship into a mystery adventure with all the charm of an old fashioned classic.

 
This was an amazing read! I’m a huge fan of historical fiction because I enjoy being transported to different times and places. I feel like an invisible time-traveler, able to visualize a certain period of time through an author’s storytelling. This book was no exception! I was drawn into Clara’s world from the very first page. The mystery and magic of the Clara’s life, of the Glendoveer house and the birds keep you turning the page until you reach the story’s satisfying ending.


Go on, check it out!


Read on.



Thursday, June 2, 2011

A BOOK REVIEW, SOME WRITING NEWS AND OTHER KNITTY THINGS

I’m at home today nursing a sore throat with chicken soup, lemon juice and of course, a good book. I just finished listening to book four in the Harry Potter series, THE GOBLET OF FIRE. Why listen to the book instead of reading it, you ask? I’ve wanted to read the HP series for a long time now and my hubby suggested that I listen to the books instead. I resisted at first, but relented when I looked at my towering stack of TO READ books on my bedside table (and in my Kindle). So he uploaded the first four books onto my IPod …

I WAS HOOKED. The story, the writing, is amazing, of course, but the NARRATION is SUPERB.

JIM DALE is the genius behind the many voices that inhabit the world of Harry Potter. He makes the story come alive in the most incredible way. The voices he uses for each character (and there are many!) are believable and true. He will keep you riveted to the story until the very end.




If you have never experienced the magic of listening to a story, you must try this one out. I listen to it in the car going to and from work. I listen to it while sweeping the floor (oh, it puts me in such a good mood to do chores!), and even while I cook (sometimes). I finished listening to book four today while I crocheted and rested my sore throat.

Listening to the series also frees up some time to read the books in my stack. I usually read whatever catches my eye whether it resides within the genre I write for or not. You can say that I took Stephen King’s advice for writing well and that is to read EVERYTHING. So I do. What I want to talk about today is a YA book I read recently, LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard.





It’s a story about a girl named Grace Carpenter, who lives in a small dusty town in Wyoming with her little sister Taffeta, and their beauty pageant obsessed mother. Grace longs to break free from her small town with its cowboy dances, its penchant for animal head trophies and the Little Miss Washokey pageants. She longs to be like Mandarin Ramey, a beautiful girl who does whatever she likes and doesn’t care what people think of her. When they unite for a school project, they strike an unlikely friendship and soon, Grace learns there is much more to Mandarin than meets the eye.

The story is beautifully written and wonderfully imagined. Grace and Mandarin’s friendship is both heartwarming and heartbreaking as it unfolds. The author shows with clarity and grace how presumptuous we can be about people we perceive as cool or popular or easy or slutty and how the truth can change us. Most importantly though, this story shows us how two girls from different backgrounds can learn about themselves by learning about each other. It’s a wonderful book. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

On Knitty news, I abandoned my knitted sweater project because, well, it was turning out bad. My calculations were off and my choice of yarn didn’t suit the design after all. So I switched gears. I’m making a crocheted summer sweater now. I will post pictures of the completed project soon since I plan to wear the sweater at my nephew’s baptism in July. I always work better when I have a deadline in sight.

On writing news, I’ve completed the first round of revisions on my book, Pathos. I’ve sent it out for a read and am waiting (in mild terror) for her feedback. Then it’s revision time again. This first round was hard because of the number of cuts and rewrites that had to happen to deepen the characters and fix any plot issues. There will be more tweaking to do after I receive her critique but I hope it won’t be too terrible. The process is fun but the work can be migraine-inducing.

Well, the waiting game still continues for me … I’m still waiting to hear from an agent on my first novel, from a publisher on my picture book, from someone critiquing my second novel … but not for my short story submission! At the end of May, I received great news! My short story was accepted for publication in an anthology that will be released in the UK! I’m thrilled because it’s my first venture into this art form and in dark fiction. My lovely critique friends gave me the encouragement to give short story writing a try. With their thoughtful comments on the piece and my family’s patience (daddy had to make dinner), I sent in the story just before the submission deadline, in early April. I will share more details about the anthology and it’s release when I know more. 

Have a great day, everybody!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feeding My Knitty Passions


I'm a firm believer in doing whatever makes you happy so long as it doesn’t involve hurting people, animals or Mother Nature (just sayin’).

My passions have always involved textile crafts such as embroidery, quilting, crochet and knitting.  I also have a passion for books, reading them and now, of course, writing them.  The focus for this post will be my latest textile obsession – knitting.

When I was a little girl, I used to watch my mom crochet.  I used to watch, fascinated, as she pulled loops through other loops to make something pretty.  At the time, my mother wouldn’t let me hold her steel crochet hook (the size used for lace work) because, well, she thought I would poke my eye out or worse.  So I improvised.  I took a pencil and some yarn and played around until I could mimic my mother’s movements and pretend I was “making something”.  And it looked like this …

 
I would cast-on until I ran out of yarn then pull it all off.  I did this over and over again until eventually, I got tired of it since it never actually "became" anything.  What I didn’t know, at the time, was that I was performing a technique called a Backward Loop Cast-on!  What this is, for all you non-knitters, is the method you use to create the base stitches of a knitting project.  I guess you could say I was born to knit but I didn’t actually LEARN how to knit until five or so years ago.

Flash forward to middle age (yikes!) – I taught myself how to knit using those kits you can buy from Micheal’s.  I practiced the basics and churned out a bunch of scarves, a pair of socks, hats, a couple of baby sweaters, a baby blanket, pencil cases and fingerless gloves.  I did knit a couple of sweaters for myself and both ended up completely unwearable.  The first of which was an aqua spring top, a size too small and the second, a charcoal colored cardigan a size to big (I looked like King Kong when I put that monstrosity on!)  I loved making all these things but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be – fingerless gloves (FGs).

There is something so comfortable and cozy about these knitted projects.  I guess I like them because, not only are they quick to make, they are also very useful.  I made some FGs for my awesome critique group last Christmas because, as everyone knows, warm hands are necessary for writing!  These were made with Malabrigo Rios yarn, a luscious, hand-dyed, superwash merino wool (yummy yarn!)  I ordered online.  Nothing’s too good for my girls!  Here are their nice, toasty hands ...



Well, now that it’s Spring time, my fingers are itching for another project.  I saw a really cute top in Interweave Knits Spring 2011 issue.


 

Cute, right?  It’s called a Ruched Yoke Tee.  I know, I know, I’m risking yarn and time and may end up with another disaster (another monster sweater?)  but I think I can pull this one off because, for one, it has no sleeves (yayy! Less work!) and two, well, I have to make one because it's just too darn cute!  The trouble with this pattern, though, is that the recommended yarn is a bit out of my price range so I’ve had to substitute it with something more affordable.  In order to recalculate the pattern to suit my yarn, I had to consult this …



It taught me how to do this …



Looks nasty, huh?  Sorry, it's a little hard to see.  It isn't complicated at all.  You just do a little math and viola!  You have a customized pattern!  BTW, this book and The Knitter’s Handbook by Debbie Stoller are a must have for both beginning and experienced knitters.

So, my new knitting journey begins …



This is how I feed my passion for knitting.  With beautiful yarn and exciting projects!  Next post will be about feeding my writing and book passion.  I’ll also share my progress on my knitting project.

Till next time. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Blog Name

I changed the name of my blog.

I had originally wanted to blog about my thoughts on writing, its process and the benefits it has on my creative mind but I find that my posts have been mostly about books I've read, music, knitting projects I've completed, and not much about my writing.  Only a very little on my writing, though I'd like it to have more.  So I decided the blog title or name should reflect the two creative endeavors I am most passionate about but not an absolute expert in.  Knitting and writing.

So KNIT WIT WRITER it is .... or until I can think of something better.

 On recent Knit Wit news, I did knit a pair of fingerless gloves for my niece.  She truly loves them and wears them ALL THE TIME!  I gave them to her for Christmas and according to her mom, she wears them at all times except at school and church (though I think it's probably okay to wear it there). Isn't that adorable?

On writing news, I finally finished the first draft of my second novel!  My manuscript is all printed out on my desk awaiting revision which I will begin (actually, I've already revised chapter one) as soon as I finish drafting a short story project I decided to do.  More on that later.  My hands are itching to continue revising but first, I must consult with .... the Plot Whisperer ...

I bought this ebook by Martha Alderson a couple of months ago and was so excited to dig into it only to be told in the introduction that I should have a finished draft of my novel before I begin taking the "26 Plot Steps to Revision".  At the time, I had written only about 75% of the book so I closed my copy of Blockbuster Plots (it was hard to do!) and got back to work.  So here I am, letting my book sit a little so I can tackle it with fresh eyes and hopefully, with the help of the Plot Whisperer, make it a better book than it is now.  AND my good friend and author, Erin Fry, highly recommends it. :)

So that's it for now.  It's past midnight and it's raining buckets outside so I better hit the sack.  

Nite.




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm back!


I have been a terrible blogger!!  Has it really been ten months since my last post?  Yikes!  I see cobwebs everywhere!  Just kidding ...  Anyway, since it's my day off and the rain is coming down in buckets, I thought I'd post (finally!) something. :)

Well, it has been a busy year of writing, SCBWI conferences, and Japanese rock concerts (yah!).  The first bit I'd like to share is the publication of my first short story!  It appeared in this anthology by Shadowline Comics ...
           

The story is called, The Secret Princess Society.  It's a retelling of a fairytale.  Can anyone guess which one?  :) I collaborated with comic book phenom Whilce Portacio, who illustrated the story.  Here is a little taste ...


It was great fun working with Whilce.  Challenging too, because even though I had creative freedom with the story structure, etc., I had to make sure Whilce's creative vision came through as well.

So what have I been up to since my last post?  Well, I've been working on drafting my second novel.  It's been a slow process for me because I was having a hard time envisioning the entire story.  I'm not a "pantser" (means writes off the seat of his/her pants) so I need to have an outline, even a rough one, to have a general idea of where my story is going.  Sometimes, well, I should say, most of the time, the actual writing takes the story to unexpected places.  I find this fun and exciting but I still need to have something down on paper as a guide.  So after a couple of months of brainstorming and note-taking, I knew my character well enough to know how the story was going to play out.  My goal was to write twenty-five chapters for this first draft and I'm currently at chapter 17, building up to what I hope will be a blood chilling climax.  Once I'm done with this first draft, I'll put the draft aside and work on a couple of short story ideas before I start with the real work, revising the new novel.  Believe it or not, I can't wait! 

I've also spent the past ten months subbing my first novel, Nora's Grave.  I've had a couple of encouraging nibbles from certain agents and an editor.  When I have news, I will definitely share it here. :)

2010 has been my year for Japanese rock!  I've been to four concerts in all, all of them, here in LA.  In June, my daughter and I went to see MIYAVI at the Club Nokia, a totally bad ass guitarist.  His guitar skills are unique and electrifying and he did most of the show with only a drummer!



At the Anime Expo, I got to see SOHPIA in concert at the Nokia Theater.  I had never heard of them until we saw them at the Expo but they did not disappoint!  They're a popular rock band in Japan whose lead singer is also an actor in movies, television and theater.  We actually had the opportunity to see him act in a play at the Expo as well.


Then in September, I saw XJAPAN at the Wiltern with my brother-in-law, my daughter and her friend.  They are a legendary glam-metal band that started the now popular Visual Kei style in Japan.  The crowd was unbelievable!  There were fans from Japan and all over the USA at the concert.  The drummer, Yoshiki, is my daughter's particular favorite.


This month I saw my new favorite band, LUNA SEA.  Talk about icing-on-the-cake!  Not only did I go to the concert (this time with my hubby) but I also had the exciting chance to go to the band's pre-concert Meet-and-Greet!  It was fabulous!  I got to meet the band members, get their autographs and shake hands with them.  I tell you, I was giddy for DAYS!  Anyway, they are also considered a legendary band in Japan and a great influence on many bands that followed.  Their rock is more my speed, more eighties punk/grunge style rock.  My particular favorite member is Sugizo, the lead guitarist.  He is also an accomplished violinist and his solo work is absolutely wonderful.



I've also been knitting a whole lot!  I've made a couple of beanies (yes, more hats).  Below is a picture of my young nephew modeling one I made for him.


Fingerless gloves are my present passion.  I made a pair for each of my critique friends (for warm writing hands!). I learned how to make them on two circular needles instead of using double points (I apologize to all nonknitters out there who have no clue of what these tools are) and found that I can complete a pair much faster that way.  I also found that I can now use up the odds and ends of my stash because it doesn't require much yarn.  I'll have to post a picture next time since I plan to make a pair for each of my nieces. :)

Well, that's all for now folks.  Till next time ...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Love Contests!

Especially writing ones.  And what a perfect night to enter one while I sit at my desk listening to the rain tapping and dancing on my roof.  It is the Dear Lucky Agent  contest held by Chuck Sambuchino on his blog, Guide to Literary Agents.  It's a great place to get the latest news and interviews of agents you may consider sending a query to.  I'm going to enter my wip, PATHOS.  It should be fun!

I'm currently reading this book ....
 

It is a haunting story of a young woman who must overcome the pain of her past in order to save a little girl.  The subject matter is compelling and the writing draws you into the main character's mind and holds you there.  I'm enjoying it and will be sorry when the story ends.  Next on my list is this book ...
 
 
Isn't that an awesome cover?  My friend Edith recommended it and is so enthusiastic about it that I just couldn't resist placing it  next on my reading list! 
 
Okay, time to put my mommy hat on and make dinner.  Then it's time to finish reading Tethered ... :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book Review

I just finished listening to an INCREDIBLE audio book!  Here it is ...


 The story is set in the 1920s and opens with the main character, David Martin, getting a chance of a lifetime to write a story for a well known newspaper in Barcelona, Spain.  David doesn't last long at the paper and soon goes to work writing horror novels under a pseudonym for a small press with a questionable reputation.  He rents an old abandoned house and devotes his days and nights to his work, churning out novel after novel that the critics denounce as sensationalism.  He continues to work but soon becomes obsessed with the history of the house he lives in and the mysterious circumstances of the previous tenant's death.  He soon gets an offer from a enigmatic French publisher to write a great work that will transform those who read it.  But things are not as they seem when David discovers the haunting connections between the strange history of the house and the book he is commisioned to write.

This story is amazing. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is amazing! (BTW I've also read/listened to The Shadow of the Wind)  The performance of the narrator, Dan Stevens, was incredible.  The prose is so musical that I found myself writing down lines that struck a cord inside me.  One of my very favorite lines is this ...

"He is a good man, but he drowns in a glass of water."

The meaning of the line has many possible interpretations but the sound of this line is just beautiful.  Another one is...

"Every book has a soul.  The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and dream with it."

When I think about the above lines I remember the book When you Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  It's no surprise to me that this wonderful book won the 2010 Newbery because when you read it, you will discover its soul.

Enough said.  Now I must get back to writing my book and do what David Martin advised a budding writer to do ....  To sit with my hands poised above the keyboard, squeeze my brain until it hurts and see what comes out ... ;)




Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Brand New Year!

Here we are!  I have many good intentions but no resolutions and I think I like that much better.  Less pressure you know.  I do plan to be more active, to eat better and of course, to continue writing my new novel as well as query agents all over this great country for my finished novel, Nora's Grave.  I may not always do the first or second thing but I will definitely write.  It would be impossible not to.  I'm always thinking about my stories whether I'm at work or at home, no matter what I'm doing.  :)

One of the great things about writing and being in touch with other writers on the worldwide web is getting to participate in contests like this.  Mary Kole, an agent for Andrea Brown Literary Agency is holding a contest for great novel beginnings!  Go on, check it out!  What a great way to get a good writing year going.  Well, gotta send my entry off.  Wish me luck!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Holiday Season

I can't believe Christmas is right around the corner!  I finally have all my shopping done, the house cleaned (well, the living room, kitchen, bathrooms and my room.  I don't stress about my teens' rooms. If they want it clean, they'll clean it ...) and our Christmas tree purchased and decorated.  But I can't relax yet.  I still have presents to wrap and desserts to make.  I'm just glad I won't have to go to the mall again.  The traffic!!!  I feel for anyone who has to brave that headache!

Every year, amidst all the rush and stress of the holidays, I think about how different my Christmas was when I lived in the Philippines.  My parents never seemed to stress during this period.  I remember my first Christmas there after my father retired from the US Navy (I was twelve).  We didn't have a Christmas tree.  We had these instead ...
 
These are called parols or Christmas Star lanternsThey represent the Star of Bethlehem and were once used to light the way to church for the Misa de Gallo, the early morning Christmas Eve mass.  To see vendors selling parols is usually the first sign of the coming holiday season ... aren't they lovely?
 

So, no Christmas tree. Then I was thrown for loop when my parents said there were no presents to open on Christmas morning (yikes!).   What I did instead was visit my grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles. I greeted them with a Merry Christmas and kissed their hands.  This is a traditional Filipino way to show respect for your elders ...


... I would say "mano, po", press my forehead to their hand, especially my grandparents, as a way of normal greeting.  And on Chritmas day, instead of wrapped gifts, I received CASH.  Cool, huh?

Another tradition I remember well is called Simbang Gabi. This is when Filipinos go to mass at dawn beginning on December 16.  It lasts for nine days and ends on Christmas Eve when the mass is celebrated to welcome the baby Jesus.  I remember hearing the church bells ring, watching people walking to church in the darkness of the predawn hours.

It was really hard to wake up so early in the morning to go to church so I don't remember ever completing the whole nine days.  But when I did go, I always bought these special rice cakes from food stands outside the church.

This is called puto bungbong.  It's made from a purple glutinous rice that is ground and steamed in bamboo tubes.  As you can see in the picture, it is served with a generous amount of sugar and fresh grated coconut. YUM! 



 
This is a bibingka special.  You could buy this delightful little cake freshly baked in clay pots over a charcoal fire (sorta like dutch ovens) right at the stands!  They are baked in banana leaves, which by the way, make food very fragrant.  These are like pancakes in a way with cheese and a slice of salted egg baked right in (trust me, the egg is the BEST part!). 

My childhood Christmases in the Philippines were tree-less and Santa-less but I learned a whole lot about how wonderful it was to visit with family, share good meals, take part in traditions my parents followed which was centered on the very reason why we celebrate this holiday.  The birth of Jesus.  It is my dearest wish that someday, my children will experience that kind of Christmas and the richness of their heritage as Filipinos.

Don't get me wrong, I love our American traditions as well.  I especially love the opportunities this season gives us to reach out to those in need.  I work at the City of Hope and every year, our department adopts a family who has a loved one suffering from cancer.  The families in the program are usually in financial hardship (especially if the patient is a parent and cannot work) which means they'll probably have a rather bleak Christmas.  When we adopt a family, everyone in our department will contribute a gift or some money so that the adopted family can celebrate with ease and happiness.  Doing things like this always makes me feel great and sets the stage for giving and helping others throughout the year ... well, I guess it's time to get back to my holiday tasks ...

I wish all my friends and family a happy and joyous holiday.  I hope this season finds you in the company of those you love ...  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Going Crazy for Hats!

I've been on a knitting craze lately, making small things out of the odds and ends of my stash of yarn.  Believe me, I have quite a stash.  I have a variety of leftover yarn from projects past that are begging to be used for SOMETHING.  Something useful, something cute.  A couple of years ago, I bought myself this book for my birthday ....
 
 
I've made a few things from this book, most recently, a pair of fingerless gloves for my friend Edith Cohn, to keep her hands warm as she writes (miss you, Edith!).  Sadly, I didn't take a picture of the gloves because I was so in a hurry to get them done ....  But I did take pictures of all the HATS I've made recently!  No, these patterns are not from the book above though my current hat project is (for my dear hubby).

Babies inspire me to knit and when my nephew was born, my knitting needles began to fly!  I found a really easy and cute pattern for an Ear Flap Knitted Cap online, modified it a bit and knitted the hat up in a couple of days.  This is Luca, modelling it, though it's still a little big, it will fit just right by January.  It'll keep that precious head and ears nice and warm when his mother takes him on her daily walks around their neighborhood.




This is a pair I made for a friend at work, for his brand new baby girl, Emily.  It became a pair because I actually didn't like the way the first hat turned out (the one on the right came out curly weird along the edges) so I tried again and liked the second one better (the one on the left is made the same way I made my nephew's hat).  I ended up "blocking" the hat on the right (basically spraying the hat with water and pinning it down until dry) and giving the hat to my friend anyway.

Both pieces were fun to do because of the color work involved (the right one has fair isle knitting).  The yarn for all three hats was a pleasure to work with.  It was an ultra soft blend of Merino wool and cashmere .... just right for baby ...  :)




Here is my daughter modeling her reversible double knit hat.  The pattern can be found here.  My daughter didn't want the stripe to be very big so I continued in black.  It turned out kinda cute, huh? :)




That's it for knitted projects!

On writing, I've finally found some focus for my work-in-progress and completed two new chapters!  I'm currently recovering from surgery I had last Friday so I'm hoping to catch some writing time while I heal.  Gotta keep the creative flow going. :)

ttfn

Friday, December 4, 2009

Itty Bitty Book Review


WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead is a book about the wonderful, confusing, and heartbreaking complexities of childhood friendships.

This is the story of eleven-year-old Miranda.  It begins with her struggles to understand the reason why her best friend Sal doesn't want to be around her anymore.  It is during this time that she receives mysterious notes that give her clues about future events.  It ties in really nicely to Miranda's love of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, which she reads again and again (Love this! It reminds me of how many times I've read Pride and Prejudice!).  Miranda gains a few more friends throughout the story and learns a lot about what it means to give or withhold kindness. I loved the setting of New York in 1979 because it reminded me of the time when I was eleven. I lived in Philadelphia back then and had to walk to and from school, passing someone very much like the Laughing Man and groups of boys who like nothing better that to tease girls.  The ending was heartwarming but tragic.  It will leave you reeling, and the heart of this story will stay with you long after you've finished reading the book.

What am I reading now?  HUSH HUSH by Becca Fitzgerald.

ttfn

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

I am thankful for all the usual  things like good health, my family, my friends (writerly and otherwise) and in these tough times, my job.  I am thankful that I can still pay the bills and buy books.  But most of all, I am thankful for the support I receive from my dearest hubby and kids when I write, revise, brainstorm, keep in touch with the writing world online, go to conferences, read subs from my critique group, write my critiques, go nuts over writing query letters and the submission process, listen to my disappointment when I receive a rejection, listen to my excitement when I get a request for a partial or full, and on and on and on....  They are the awesomest, coolest, simply the best family I could hope to have in my journey to be an author.  <3




Monday, November 23, 2009

I forgot to mention ....

I forgot to mention that Shen's books focuses on Cultural and Multicultural books and since my story takes place in the Philippines, I am jazzed at the possiblity that they might like it ....  :)

ttfn

Eureka!

Through the wonderful post of LJer Jama Rattigan, I have found a publisher to submit my picture book story to!!!  She had posted a review for this book ... 





 ... check it out!  So cool!!!  The publisher is Shen's Books and they are right in Northern California.  I was so excited about submitting to them that I printed out the most current critiques I had on my story and am now in the process of polishing it up to send out asap.  Well, that was my intention.  As I reviewed the critiques, one in particular stood out and had me thinking.  She brought up some very valid points to improve upon so now the revision and polishing is taking a little longer.  But I mustn't neglect my WIP!!  And since I want to be a good member of my critique group and submit on time, I will work on my chapters to sub to my group first and if time permits (and it will!), I will work on my picture book submission.

On another note, I've decided to resurrect my notes from the SCBWI Summer Conference and share some of it (whatever I can decipher that is) here on this blog.  I think I mentioned this in my previous post so sorry for the repetition.  The next post will probably be my notes from Jennifer Hunt's talk, "Finding Your Inner YA".

Till then ...

ttfn

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Finally ... another blog!

Yes, it has been a ridiculously long time. I actually have an LJ account as well and I haven't been blogging there either. But I think I'll switch to using this one for now as I journey through submissions and writing my second novel.

I haven't blogged about my submission journey for fear of jinxing it. Being superstitious though, doesn't do me much good. What will be, will be, and if someone out there loves my book, then they will love it regardless of how much I blab about it here.

So, in submission news, I do have fulls out to a couple of awesome agents. It's been nearly a month since I've sent them out and am trying to wait patiently. Having a new project really helps! I've been happily brainstorming and writing in between my compulsive email checks, which I have disciplined myself to doing only every two or so hours on week days .... yes, it still sounds pretty manic but I try ... of course, being busy at work helps. I work in the cytogenetics field, btw, so if you have any questions about chromosomes then I'm your girl!

About my wip, I was hemming and hawing over what to write because of something I heard at an SCBWI conference. It was something about writing a second book that is similar to your debut novel because the audience you build with your first book will be looking for something similar in your second. Not that I have a debut novel yet, but I thought I'd get a head start. Anyway, my writing friends say that I should just write whatever my heart is telling me to write at the momment. So, the decision was made. Unfortunately, my wip sounds a little like a novel that came out last September ... I've purchased the book and will read it soon just to make sure my wip isn't too similar.

On reading news, I'm reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. It came highly recommended by my good friend Stephanie so I bought it right away. I'll write a review on the book as soon as I finish.

On knitting news, I recently finished a pair of fingerless gloves for my friend Edith who recently moved to Boston. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of them. They are very cute and wonderful to have for writing in cool weather. I'm currently working on a hat for my daughter. I will post a picture of her modeling it soon.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I am in cooking mood. Yayy! I love the cooking smells of a Thanksgiving dinner .... Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!

ttfn