Category Archives: Writing and Reading

New Year’s Resol–

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I have enough opportunities to flagellate myself year-round without the added pressure of being aware I haven’t lost twenty pounds in two weeks, am more likely to be killed by a terrorist shooting lightning bolts out of his fingers than I am to get married,* and my chances for winning an Edgar Award are slim to none. In addition, in our gotta-have-it-now society, it’s easy to think if you don’t succeed in the first month, you might as well give up for the whole year. A few years back, I decided it was better to set goals than to make resolutions, and ‘they’ say it’s actually better to set concrete goals with discrete steps than to just say, “I want to lose a hundred pounds”, but it still didn’t spur me to actually meet the goals on my list. The last week or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about missed opportunities this year, and I’ve decided to revisit the idea of setting goals for next year. Some of them are concrete, such as losing weight (or inches in my case) and publishing a novel, but others are more nebulous like setting better boundaries and not being so hard on myself.

I’ve been reading some of my unfinished (and finished but not completely edited) novels, and they’re pretty good. They’re unique just by the dint of the protagonists being Taiwanese American bisexual women** like me. Toni Morrison said:

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

This is why I started writing prose in the first place, and I resent anyone who tells me that my writing is too niche or that I shouldn’t always write about Taiwanese American bisexual women.

But I digress. My point is that my novels have some value just because my protagonists are not ones you see every day or at all, really. Beyond that, my writing is solid. I write mostly mysteries, and I have a good sense of pacing and characterization. My dialogue is pretty spot on, and I’m really good at planting false, but believable clues. I’m weak on description–I hate scenery with a passion, and I sometimes bog down my writing with too much minutia. Still. I find I can breeze through one of my mysteries and still be engrossed in it. I’ve also notice that I’ve been writing different versions of essentially the same story for several novels. I’m currently working on two different trilogies–I like trilogies for some reason–and I’m trying to decide which one is better. Also, more palatable for a wider audience.

When I write a trilogy, I usually have some idea of the second and maybe the third as I near the end of the first, which is good because I can then go back through the first novel and plant seeds for the second and third. When I write a novel, I have the general outline in my head before I even start writing. Mostly. Usually. I don’t outline on paper because I find it to be a waste of my time. If I’m going to write something down, it’s going to be the actual novel. I usually know who the killer is from the very start, though I have changed the villain in a novel once or twice while writing it. Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of having a different protagonist for each novel in the trilogy, and in an earlier trilogy, I was going to kill off the protagonist of the second novel.

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Daring to Disagree

It’s almost mid-December(!), and I’ve decided to take stock of where I am writing-wise. My goal for this month was to publish a blog post a day, and so far, I’ve made that goal. The posts are not as polished as I’d like them to be, but I didn’t want to get caught in the trap of endlessly editing them and letting them languish in my draft folder. So, while the posts aren’t great, I’m pleased that I’m back in the groove of writing one post a day. It gets easier with each post, and I can feel the rust falling off my brain every time I start typing. However, I’m frustrated because one of the reasons I decided to publish a post a day* was because of the reason I stopped blogging in general. That’s a convoluted sentence, but I think you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. In explaining it further, I’m going to have to go own a side road that may take some time, so bear with me.

Twitter has been a boon for many reasons, several of which I wrote about in a prior post. It’s also been a burden, and one of the reasons is because the shoutiest voices are the ones who get the most traction. Even as I’m tying this, there’s an almost physical force in my head squeezing my brain saying, “Don’t write that. Keep it to yourself”, and I phrased it in the most neutral way possible. I used to have that defensive wall around myself all the time, keeping everything in and everyone out. I thought that I was so toxic, I didn’t want to affect everyone around me. I’ve gotten better at letting down my defenses, but Twitter has made me put them right back up again. I see so many people scolding and lecturing on a daily basis about what other people should and shouldn’t think, it’s causing me to pull away from politics** completely and to hunker down back inside myself. I don’t like the terms political correctness and thought police, but I do feel both of them have a germ of truth on liberal Twitter. There are certain trends of thoughts that if you don’t one-hundred percent agree with, you’re considered a traitor. It’s nativism at its worse, and we’re almost as susceptible to it as are conservatives.

In addition, there’s a smug morality to the scolding that doesn’t sit well with me. If someone doesn’t think the way you do, then that person is lesser and worthy of contempt. I’m not saying there isn’t any validity to that as I definitely look down on Donald Trump and his followers*** and think his ideas are contemptible, but I’m seeing it being applied to almost every idea these days, and it’s one reason I don’t use Twitter to express my political beliefs very often any longer. In addition, there’s a piling on mentality that I find distasteful. For example, a celebrity says something that the left deems loathsome. They pile on this person for hours if not days, demanding s/he apologize or get fired. Then, when they’ve dragged this person up and down Twitter, they declare it a job well done and move on to the next poutrage of the day. It’s not even a celebrity, necessarily, it can be anyone who’s hapless enough to get caught in the net. At the same time, these are the same people who decried Martin Bashir getting fired from MSNBC for expressing his views on Sarah Palin. You can’t have it both ways. If you want others to hew to what you deem is correct thought and speech, then others have that same right as well. Me, I don’t believe in getting people fired for their thoughts with some exceptions.**** I hate the recent trend of someone ranting about a barista at their Starbucks doing something questionable and then that barista getting fired because of social media pressure. It feels good in the moment, but it’s ultimately meaningless. I have an analogy I use often that fits this situation. Back when smoking was first banned from public places in Minnesota, you’d see smokers huddling outside the door, miserable in the cold, smoking as the people walking by glared at them and lectured them on the evils of smoking. This, mind you, as there were cars surrounding them belching out exhaust smoke and smokestacks streaming out their effluvia as well. My explanation is that the mass problem (environmental pollution) is so vast, the mind can’t parse how to solve it, so it’s easier to latch on to something concrete and discrete–the individual smoker. You may not be able to stop cars and factories from polluting the air, but by god, you told that smoker off!

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Daily Post December

fear me!
I’m back, bitchez

NaNoWriMo is over, and I ‘won’ it with ease*. Writing many, many words has never been an issue with me. In fact, when I used to write for ABLC, someone coined the phrase ‘pulling a Minna’ for writing any article over 2,000 words long. That’s like a sneeze for me,** so I don’t do NaNoWriMo the normal way. For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, basically, you write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November, which breaks down to 1,667 words a day. I can write that in roughly an hour and a half if I really concentrate, so I usually set a different goal for NaNoWriMo. This year, my aim was to write 5,000 words a day. I’ve had the same goal in the past, and I’ve met that goal twice, I think (out of two times). It was feasible without being terribly burdensome, and I managed to meet my personal goal with ten thousand words to spare. I finished one novel, started a second one, decided it was a crap a third of the way through, and started a third–which is much better than the second, thank you for asking. It’s still crappy right now as is the first one, but at least they are both down on paper.

Really, that’s the reason I did NaNoWriMo this year. I haven’t written much of anything in the last year or so, and I wanted to kick-start my writing again. Once I stopped blogging regularly, I wasn’t disciplined enough to to write daily on my own. I’m externally motivated, which is a bad thing, but once I fully commit to something, I’m all in–which is a good thing. This is the reason I’ve decided to commit to posting a blog post every day in December. I miss blogging, and I was quite good at it, which is a full-blown brag and not a humble-brag at all. I had a passion for it, which helps, but I also did my research thoroughly and edited the shit out of my posts. Editing my fiction is not my strong point, which is ironic since it’s what I do for a living (editing, not fiction, though). For whatever reason, I have a harder time chopping up my fiction than I do my blog posts. I think it’s because while I can be flamboyant in my posts and many of them are my opinion rather than hard facts, My fiction, on the other hand, is a delicate flower that blooms in the hothouse that is my mind. It’s my baby, and I am pretty protective of it. Don’t get me wrong: I do edit my fiction–just not as rigorously as I do my blog posts. If there’s a phrase I like or a scene of which I am enamored, I am loath to excise it, even if it doesn’t fit in the piece overall.

But I digress, as is my wont. My point is, and I do have one, that while I love writing, I don’t do it nearly as often as I should. Therefore, I used NaNoWriMo as a way to make myself write, and now that it’s over, I want to continue the writing train. For some reason, now I have this song stuck in my head. “Come on write it, train. Write it!” “I think I can; I think I can!” And, because I know myself well, I know that I have to give myself goals in order not to allow myself to fall back into…well, not writing at all. So. My declaration is that I will write and publish a post every day.*** If I don’t write a post, I will write 5,000 words of fiction instead. The latter will have to be on the honer system because I’m not going to publish unedited fiction–no one wants to see that.
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Shaken, and Stirred

I just finished Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Warning, if you have not read the book and are planning to read it, I am going to include spoilers in this post.  Huh.  I just read on Wiki that the original title in Swedish is Men Who Hate Women–which is a much more apt title.  Anyway.

I have had several people recommend this book to me, and I have been intrigued by what I’ve heard.  Plus, I enjoy the mystery genre very much, and I enjoy mysteries set in other countries, and there were tattoos!  (At least, I assumed there would be).  This book sounded tailor-made for me.  Because I was going to read it, I didn’t look to see what it was about.  I rather not read blurbs if I know for sure I am going to read a book.  If only I had read a bit about it beforehand.  Then again, I just read the Wiki entry, and it wouldn’t have been enough to put me off my feed.  A pet peeve of mine, but I will get to it later.

Now, I bought the book some time ago.  And I meant to read it at the time; I really did.  However, I kept putting it off, and then, I never read it.  Then, the books and the movies became a sensation, and I felt compelled to pull out the book and read it.  Someone at BJ jokingly asked if I was one of Lisbeth Salander’s alter egos (titular character).  Briefly, Stieg Larsson wrote three books (his Millennium trilogy) before dying.  People have mourned that he hadn’t been able to write more.  Intrigued, I dug out the book and started reading.

The first thirty pages were deadly dull.  I struggled to get through them, and I almost put the book down several times.  However, I plowed through, and I was soon glad I did.  The story really picked up steam, and the introduction of Lisbeth Salander was…well, let me put it this way.  I have not identified with a character like this in some time–and, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

I’m going to get all spoilery below the fold, so again, if you want to read the book without knowing what happens, leave now.

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Shining a Little Light

OK.  As some people have pointed out in the comment section, I don’t say much nice about myself.  This is true.  I have always been more comfortable with my negatives than my positives for many reasons.  However, even before reading <b>morzer’s</b> first comment today, I had been mulling over my next blog entry, this blog entry and about writing something positive.  Shocking, I know.  Surprised the hell out of me, too.

So, here’s the deal.  I took my first step to becoming an adult yesterday.  My fiction writing is very important to me.  I talked briefly about it at the party last Saturday, and I realized that I really miss it.  I have always looked at my ability to tell stories as a gift that was given to me.  I have characters living in my head most of the time, and they are the ones who narrate the stories–not me.  In fact, most of my best stories come to me intact, and I have to do very little tweaking on them once they are on paper.  Anyway, I went to Poets & Writers to look at the current crop of contests.   I found a few that I have decided to enter.  One is a Flash Fiction contest (under 1,000 words) due by the end of August.  I wrote a story in about an hour, and it was pretty good.  I looked through my archives (I have a shitload of old stories) and found two stories that fit the category and that were really fucking good.  Creepy as hell, one of them, but that’s only to be expected.

Then, I started reading other short stories of mine because the next contest is Glimmer Train’s (under 12,000 words), also due at the end of August.  Glimmer Train is an excellent and respected literary journal, and I will continue to submit to them even though there is no chance in hell they will publish me (I’m not literary enough for them).  Anyway, as I was reading my pieces, some that I have not looked at in years, I realized something:  I am a fucking good writer.  No, really, I mean it.  I used to say, “Well, I enjoy writing, and I think I have some talent for it, but, you know,” but really, y’all–I can flat-out write.

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Stuff and Nonsense

Hello.  Man, it’s dusty around here.  Haven’t been to the place for awhile, have I?  I’ll tell you why:  I’ve been boring the shit out of myself with my angst, that’s why.   I mean, I hate listening to the chatter in my head 24/7, so I didn’t see any reason to inflict it upon my gentle readers.   What, I’m not fucking Ann Landers?  Oh, all right.  Seriously, though.  My shit was old.  No reason to write about it yet again.  So, silence.  But, now I have something to say, so I’m back.  Grab your favorite beverage, sit in your comfiest chair, settle an animal on you lap, and read on.

So.  ScriptFrenzy has officially started.  I have the screenplay written in my head and ready to go.  Except, I had a therapy session today.  When I laid out my things I need to do (in rough format), I included ScriptFrenzy.  My therapist asked me why I was doing it.  In other words, was I just using it as another reason not to do the things I NEED to do?  I wanted to protest, but I had to check myself.  I thought about what she had said, and I realized that she had hit on something.

Doing Scriptfrenzy is something I want to do because it’s creative and gets my juices flowing, yes.  However, I tend to get obsessive about these things (shut up!) to the detriment of other things around me.  It’s like dieting.  I have good reasons for wanting to lose weight (health, for one), but I know that a large part of it is to avoid doing what I need to do and to feed my ED self.  By the way, fifteen pounds down and three inches off my waist in two months.  My second month wasn’t as good as my first, but I’m cutting myself some slack here.

Anyway, the goal of Scriptfrenzy is to write 100 pages in 30 days.  Last year, with my script The Year of Seven Penises (which turned out to be two and a half penii instead), I wrote roughly 150 pages.   The year before, I wrote over 225 pages.  In other words, I take their suggestion as a starting ground and run with it.

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My 2010 Fantasy Wish List

I don’t make NY Resolutions, so this is not going to be about that.  Instead, this is going to be about…well, you’ll see.

As I was driving back from the airport to my house, I felt some relief to be getting away from my family and the pernicious insidiousness of Taiwanese beliefs about women, family, etc.  One thing my therapist commented on before I went on my trip was that the culture clash of family first v. independence was something I would have to deal with now.  She said it much more eloquently, but it’s what she meant.

Now, I am not saying that putting family first is an inherently-dysfunctional thing, any more than I am touting the superiority of rugged individuality.  I think both have their pluses and their minuses.   What I am saying is that when you skew crazily to either side, then there’s a problem.  In my case, in my family, the boundaries between each person are nonexistent.  What I want isn’t a factor at all.  It’s not that my parents don’t care what I want or think–they simply don’t realize that I could possibly think or want something other than what they think I want.

I have written in the past that my father is a narcissist, so the fact that he can’t fathom a me outside of him doesn’t surprise me.  However, the realization that my mother is just as much a narcissist in some ways is really bothersome to me.  I have spent much of my life grappling with issues with my mother (I gave up my father as a lost cause many years ago), and this new revelation throws things in a different light.  In addition, her ability at revisionist history is comparable to that of a current GOP congressperson, which is really disturbing.

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Welcome Back, Bitchez!

Hello, bitchez.  Have you missed me?  I have missed you–and blogging.   I kind of took blogging for granted before I embarked on my third NaNoWriMo, and I didn’t realize how much I got out of it.  So I am back with a vengeance, though I cannot say better than ever.

First, housecleaning details:  200,220 words for NaNoWriMo!  I had to revise my original goal due to brutal sickness, and I was unhappy about it for a bit.  Then, yesterday, as I was struggling to bang out the final 2,000 words, I realized that 200,000 words was pretty damn good for a month’s worth.   I gotta tell you, those last 2,000  nearly killed me.  I kept checking my count, and it would only be up a hundred or two hundred words.  I was averaging 2,500 words per hour for most of the month.  The last two thousand took me three hours to write.

Then, I went to verify my word count, and I couldn’t get my whole manuscript through.  WTF?  I tried half the manuscript and that went through.  Three-fourths of the manuscript went through as well, but nothing more.  I freaked out because I had put so much goddamn work into it, and I wanted every word counted.  I emailed NaNoWriMo asking what the hell should I do?  I finally checked the forums and discovered that their verifier was only programmed to handle 50,000 words.  Now, I didn’t have a problem verifying in the past two years, but I didn’t go over 150,000 either year.

So, once I was verified, I had to manually change my word count.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to see 200,220 in my word count.   It felt so good, I didn’t even care (much) that I hadn’t met my original goal.  I gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back for a job well done.  Now, I just have to make sure I don’t do what I’ve done the past two years–lose all interest in my NaNoWriMo writing. *

This year, I finished one long-ass murder mystery that is filled with trauma, drama, sex, lust, intrigue, and lots more.  I need to cut a good portion of it, but I am pretty pleased at how it turned out.  For the second novel, I took one of the characters from the first novel (but not the protagonist) and made her the main character.  I have about a third of it done, and I pretty much know where I’m going with it.  The third novel is a little strange in that it’s a blend of fiction/nonfiction.  I just started on that one, but I’m liking the energy in the early goings.

So, NaNoWriMo ’09 is in the books, and it was a smashing success.  Yay, me!

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Mr. Writer*

Aaaaand, I’m back with more of my favorite literature.  First, a little more backstory.  There was a time in my mid-twenties when I couldn’t read any serious fiction.  I still read my beloved mysteries, but I eschewed literature.  I didn’t have any particular reason–I just wasn’t feeling it.

Much as I am not now.   Now, granted, I don’t go to actual bookstores that often because I prefer to order online, but when I do, I am dismayed at the drivel that is being published.  So much dreck and so little silver (fucking hate gold).  There is very little to interest me.  I don’t give a damn about any of the books people are reading right now.  I really don’t.  They all look the same to me, and they fucking bore me.  I do not read literature to be bored, people.

Is it too much to ask that authors write something original? I would rather an author take a huge risk and fail magnificently than write carefully-crafted books that are well-written, safe, tidy little journeys, and fucking boring!  We are not Victorian, England.  Fuck that shit.  No, seriously.  Fuck that shit.  On the flip side, don’t write something shocking just for the sake of being shocking.  I fucking hate that shit even more.  I am not easily shocked, and I resent people trying to push that button.  Just write an exuberant, dark, fantastical, engrossing, intriguing story, and I am there, damn it!  On with the show.

Ok, so that isn’t the title song.  It’s Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side as an exhortation to all the writers out there to let their freak flags fly.  Here is the actual title song/video of the day.

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Everyday I Write the Book*

So, ok.  My last three posts have been about all ways I differ from the mainstream when it comes to pop culture.   TV, movies, and music.  What’s missing from these lists, you ask yourself?  Well, you probably don’t, but I’m going to tell you, anyway.  Books, of course.  I am obviously a very verbal woman, and I loved reading since I first taught myself to read at a very young age.  I don’t know how young, but it was before I went to school.  One day I couldn’t read, and the next day, I could.  My mom loves to tell the story of how I would sit at the table when I was two, holding the newspaper in my chubby little hands and “read” it–upside down.

I was reading eighth-grade books by the time I was in first grade.  I started reading the dictionary for fun.  I made it to the “I” section before I stopped.  I got teased a lot in school for being fat, Asian, and/or smart.  Books were my solace, my escape, and my friends.  I read pretty much nonstop after I got out of school until I went to bed.  I would take a book with me to whatever lame Taiwanese event my parents made me attend.  I would find a nice corner and read.  I read The Scarlet Letter when I was ten (didn’t like it) and half of War and Peace before giving up.

I am embarrassed to admit that I devoured the teenybopper romance crap that were precursors to Harlequin Romances.  Girl meets boy.  Girl likes boy.  Boy is with another girl (or just oblivious).  Girl chases boy throughout book.  In the end, girl gets boy.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  As a younger child, I read all the Nancy Drew books, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden, too.  I read the choose your own ending books, and Encyclopedia Brown as well.  Yes, even back then, I liked mysteries.

In college, I started reading Asian women authors once I realized I could, and it was on after that.  I started reading anyone of color I could get my hands on–especially women.  I went to a Lutheran college (St. Olaf) in the early nineties, just as diversity was becoming a buzzword, so pickings were slim, to say the least.

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