The Sunshine Award, and 7 Random Writing Facts

It’s been ages since I’ve written a post for Fiction Fridays, but I have an awesome excuse to do so this week: I’ve been given the lovely Sunshine Award from a few of my wonderful writing friends, and I’ve been tagged to take part in the “7 Facts” meme. Somewhere along the way, the latter morphed into the 7 Writing Facts meme, and that’s what I’m doing with it today.

First up, the Sunshine Award. Lynette Conroy, Em, and Shah Wharton were all gracious enough to pass this cheery award along to me. Many thanks, ladies!

The award requires that I answer the following 10 questions, and pass the award onto 10 more recipients. I’ll be passing the award along on Sunday as part of my ROW80 check-in. In the meantime, here’s the required Q&A:

  1. Favorite color: It has, and always will be, deep, dark royal purple.
  2. Favorite Animal: One word: SLOTHS. I know, you are shocked.
  3. Favorite number: I rather like the number 9.
  4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Tea. More on that in the 7 Facts below.
  5. Facebook or Twitter: This is a toughy, ’cause I use them both but in very different ways. Facebook is where I find out about babies being born and childhood friends getting married. Twitter is where #teamsprinty gets into trouble and I catch up with my online buddies. Let’s call it a draw.
  6. My passion: Letting my imagination run wild and creating stories out of the wreakage. Also, submersing myself in research, teaching college kids how to hone their critical thinking skills, and working towards social justice.
  7. Getting or giving presents: Oh, very well, I’ll be honest — I LOVE getting gifts. So much fun. :D
  8. Favorite Pattern: I have a serious “thing” for art nouveau patterns of all kind, especially if they involve peacock feathers. The print below, taken from Eugène Grasset’s L’animal dans la décoration (1897), is a good example.
  9. Favorite day of week: Friday, because there is an entire weekend that stretches before me, filled with all sorts of wonderful possibilities for relaxation, merry-making, and potentially-disastrous fun.
  10. Favorite flower: Orchids, most specifically the phalaenopsis.

-oOo-

Next up, the Seven (Writing) Facts. 

Because I am feeling silly, these are numbered in Tagalog, or as I like to call it, the “Father-tongue” (my dad’s from the Philippines). Enjoy!

Isa. When I was younger, writing was like a grown-up version of playing pretend. It gave me the chance to explore different careers and life paths, and to envision a world beyond the mind-numbing dullness of middle school and high school (oh, the joys of being way more mature than everyone else). As a result, almost everything I wrote between the ages of 12 and 22 were self-insert fics. Now that I’m more or less a grown-up person, self-insert fics are unnecessary, and all of my characters are original. Each of my female protags, however, have a teeny bit of me in them.

Dalawa. I have a soft spot in my heart for fan fiction. My earliest stories revolved around 90s boy bands. This includes the only story I have ever finished, the creatively-titled “Fan Fiction #3,” where my 3 best friends and I (the multi-platinum selling girl band, Eclypse) go on tour with ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys only to have hilarity and chaos ensue. These days, I’m more likely to read fan fiction than write it — the Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and X-Men fandoms are my favorites — but I will admit to having recently penned a couple of DA stories. I will also admit that TELL ME NO LIES began as a fan fiction, but has been considerably revamped over the last few years. :P

Tatlo. Music drives my writing. I have playlists for every story, for individual characters, for relationships, and for specific scenes. There’s something really visceral about music that helps me to tap into emotion, and allows me to envision characters and their respective worlds. TELL ME NO LIES features an odd blend of late 90s alternative rock, Americana/folk, and country; PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE is all about Celtic music of the Loreena McKennitt/Cara Dillon variety; and STRANGE BEDFELLOWS is driven by ancient Mediterranean-inspired music, especially the Gladiator soundtrack and anything by Lisa Gerrard/Dead Can Dance.

Apat. In addition to music, my muse requires copious amounts of tea. Black Currant-flavored black tea is my absolute favorite, but I also love Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Jasmine Green, and Ginger teas. After 5 pm, however, it’s all about cocktails. Here, I defer to Hemingway’s advice.

Source: tumblr

Lima. Growing up, it always bothered me that I rarely found books with characters who looked like me or shared my background. As a result, most of my characters are people of color, and I try to create worlds (especially in my fantasy novel) that aren’t based on a western European model. I think a lot about the social location of my characters as well. Some occupy positions of relative privilege (Liandre from PPT and Alaia from SB, both royalty, fit here), while others, like Tempest from TMNL, find themselves on the margins of society. So social inequality, in whatever form, is something that’s always in the back of my mind when I write, along with the creative ways in which I can challenge those inequalities. Above all, I am deeply interested in the ways in which my characters draw upon their own strengths and agency to navigate worlds that attempt to constrict their freedom (that’s the feminist studies scholar in me, I think).

Anim. I used to think that my training as a social scientist, with all of its emphasis on method and theory, rationality and objectivity, was a roadblock to my endeavors in creative writing, but I’ve found that the exact opposite is true. The sociological imagination, as we call it, is really useful, especially when it comes to world-building. It allows me to look my characters and their personal problems, and understand how those problems are related to the larger social issues within their worlds. I am constantly thinking about the social institutions, practices, norms and values that structure their lives. Even better, those theoretical paradigms that I once dismissed are actually really handy. Marxist theories of conflict, along with issues of social location and position that emerge in feminist theory, are particularly relevant in TMNL; Emile Durkheim’s work on the “elementary forms of religious life,” as well as queer and feminist critiques of marriage, are instrumental in PPT.

Hugh Jackman, the man behind the character.

Pito. I’ve been obsessing over abusing writing the same character, Pierce, for the last ten years. He is an amalgamation of Hugh Jackman, the various characters that Hugh has portrayed, and my own devious imagination.

Pierce has been everything from an 18th-century Scottish warrior, modern day English duke, divine and omnipotent ruler of the universe, criminal profiler, brooding dom, sexy submissive, gentle painter and gardener, semi-perfect husband/father of five, and countless other things that I have doubtlessly forgotten. He is the (fictional) love of my life, and is currently more than a little put out that I have decided to place two other novels before his. But one of these days I will get to STRANGE BEDFELLOWS, where he is a rebel prince turned plaything to the imperial princess, and he will have his time in the spotlight.

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Wicked Wednesdays: The Importance of Community, And Blog Awards

Today’s Wicked Wednesday post is a little late, but it was one of those days where everything else seemed to take precedence to blogging. But according to my clock, it is still Wednesday, so here we are. Today, I’m thinking about the magical, wonderful online community of writers, and passing out shiny new blog awards!

Finding my way to the online writing community is probably one of the best things to happen to me. Not better than, say, finishing college or getting into graduate school, but pretty darn close.

See, I’ve always been something of a loner. It wasn’t necessarily by choice; I was labeled the Smart Kid in elementary school, and never really grew out of it. As many of you might know, becoming the Smart Kid is akin to social suicide: the cool kids think you’re lame, no one wants to hang out with you, and everyone assumes that you’re nothing more than, y’know, a pulsating brain in a chair — no personality, no wants or needs, just a vat of intelligence that’s there to dispense information.

“Lena, what’s the answer to number 3? Lena, will you do my homework for me? No? But you understand this book so much better than I do, and…”

No, I’m not bitter. Seriously, guys, I swear.

Anyway, as a result, I didn’t get much more social than hanging out with my tiny cadre of fellow outcasts during lunch breaks. I spent most of my time alone, immersing myself in make-believe worlds of books, poetry, and creative writing. That solitude became my refuge, and after a few brushes with clingy, toxic friendships in high school and college, being alone seemed far preferable than anything else.

But humans are social creatures, and we crave connection and intimacy with others. I tried to go it alone after my writing partner and I “broke up” after 5 years of working together (the relationship rather imploded in the messiest and most painful of ways). After close to to years of writer’s block, though, it became really clear to me that the Silent-Loner-Writer thing just wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want to collaborate again, but I needed people. I needed feedback. Better yet, I needed non-grad students who I could talk to about writing and books, about things that weren’t anchored in the dysfunctional dynamics of academia, or my thesis topic, or the other old conversations that make grad student gatherings feel so suffocating.

I started this quest for community just over 1 year ago, when I signed up for a Livejournal account and started poking at the world of fan fiction again. A month or so later, I broke up with my boyfriend of almost 2 years, and the imperative to write and connect became even stronger. I latched onto writing communities on LJ, and while that helped a bit, there were only a handful of people who were involved and committed.

Fast-forward a bit, to May 2011, when I accidentally stumbled upon A Round of Words in 80 Days. When I say “stumbled,” I do mean it. One of my LJ friends linked to the Plot Whisperer, and I went peeking at her site. I started poking at her blogroll, and eventually I found one that was talking about some ‘ROW80 check-in.’ I followed that link, and lo! History was made.

ROW80 led me to an amazing network of supportive, engaging, creative, and wonderful people. It also pushed me to dust off my long-defunct Twitter account so I could hang out over at the #ROW80 hashtag. In turn, Twitter opened the doors to the #myWANA crowd, and to an unbelievable treasure trove of blogfests, writing challenges, writing blogs, fun communities… Really, I could go on and on.

If someone had told me last November that, in a year, I’d be furiously writing my way towards winning NaNoWriMo, I would have laughed in their faces. If that same person had added that I’d have over a dozen flash fiction pieces and three novels in-progress to my credit, I would have laughed even harder. And if that strange, bizarre, crazy person also said that I’d have over 600 followers on Twitter and a Google Reader bursting at the seams with amazing blogs written by people I would call friends, I would’ve checked them for mental problems.

But it happened, improbably enough, and as we speed ever closer to Thanksgiving, I find myself more grateful for this community than ever. My mother, who knows me better than anyone, told me recently that this is the happiest I’ve been in ages. I know it’s due in large part to the enthusiasm, support, and genuine caring that I’ve found from all of you. So consider this blog post a sort of love letter to all of you, dear friends and readers.

As part of this mutual lovefest, I am passing out blog awards! It seems as though I’ve been accumulating them over the past few weeks, hoarding them up because I haven’t had the chance to pass them along, but I am sending them along at last. :)

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The End of Summer: A Recap

I’ve survived the first week of school, and October is looming before me, cinnamon and pumpkin-scented, filled with the promise of chilly, cozy nights and the inevitable march towards winter.

I really wish leaves on trees changed color where I live. Autumn leaves are so beautiful!

I’ve been a bit remiss when it comes to blogging, responding to comments, and making the rounds through my Google reader, but with my mom in town for a week and a half, and the various challenges related to packing, moving, and doing lots of traveling and sight-seeing, I suppose I was being a little ambitious, thinking I could maintain the approximately three million things I took on over the summer.

Certain things fell by the wayside this month: the awesome Dice Games flash fiction challenge that I had planned on tackling; visiting my fellow #writecampaigners on a regular basis; editing and rewriting TELL ME NO LIES. On the other hand, I’ve had the chance to visit with friends and family, including my mom, my younger sister, and other extended family members.

At any rate, October is almost here, and with school is full swing, I’m reevaluating everything that I have on my plate. I can’t quite give anything up; I refuse to go another semester without writing, and social media and blogging is something that nourishes me in a way that nothing else can. I’ve come to depend on the community and the connections that I’ve made over the past few months, and I don’t plan on walking away from it any time soon.

Instead, what I’ll be doing is retooling the way that I approach my various responsibilities. I’m using Google calendar to create a detailed schedule for myself, setting aside time for writing and social media, time to deal with the mountain of reading I have for class, time to work on my thesis, and time to prep for the sections that I have to teach.

I’m also rethinking how I tackle blogging. While I like the themed days I’ve been trying out over the past few weeks, I think I’m going to have to scale back a bit, at least until l can build up a decent queue of posts. Right now the pace of trying to write and edit daily is way more than I can conceivably handle, so the plan for the moment will consist of ROW80 updates, and one or two extra posts in addition.  We’ll see how it goes!

In the meantime, many fun things have happened in the past weeks. To recap:

Blog Awards!

My fellow ROWer, Em, over at Loves to Read, Wants to Write, as well as Miho Li (who I know from the writecampaign), both awarded me the Versatile Blogger. Sorry for taking so long to announce and link back, you two!

I won’t bore everyone with another list of 7 random things, but I will link back to my original post of randomness.

 

Writing Challenges

The 2nd challenge for the Writers’ Campaign was a doozy, one that asked us to use lots of obscure words that I haven’t seen since my SAT prep days, but overall, it was pretty enjoyable.

My entry is “Imago, Shattered,” and one day if I ever have the time, I am going to expand the scene. There’s much more that happens between Robert and Tessa that I couldn’t pack into 200 words.

I also entered Jenny Hansen’s “Dirty Fighting” contest, where we had to write a 150 snippet using any of the 23 Dirty Fighting Techniques she shared on More Cowbell (I encourage everyone to check out the list. It’s a fantastic resource for building tension in your writing).

My entry, along with 2 others, were chosen for an on-screen edit by none other than the Naked Editor herself, Tiffany Lawson Inman. Tiffany took my little drabble of a tale and kicked it up fifteen notches — so. darn. awesome. Check out the original top 3 entries, as well as Tiffany’s mark-ups – I learned a ton from all of her comments.

Rock the ROW!

Round 4 of A Round of Words in 80 Days begins next Wednesday, October 5th. To celebrate the general awesomeness of everyone who has been involved, will be involved, or has supported those who have participated, we are throwing a full-scale, 24 hour long Twitter party. Here are the details, via Jenny Hansen:

  • Theme: “Rock the Row”
    However you want to work that in is great. I leave it to your outrageously creative imagination!
  • Date: October 5th, 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM ET in the U.S.
    This also happens to be the first day of check-in so there should be a ton of ROW80 fun happening around the blogosphere.
  • Party will be held at the #ROW80 hashtag.
    Fire up your Tweet Deck or HootSuite and let’s get jiggy with it.
  • Photo Competition:
    You can start now…we won’t tell. Start digging for or taking photos that reflect the theme. We’ll do our best to gather them and decide on the best to spotlight in a post at the ROW80 blog. One the readers vote, the 1st place winner gets a copy of Kait Nolan’s latest book, Red, in e-book format!!
  • Friendly Blog Competition
    We will also post a mash-up of favorite ROCK THE ROW posts at the Row80 blog.

For my writing friends who haven’t jumped onto the ROW80 bandwagon, I encourage you to do so. The folks who are apart of this community are some of the most supportive I’ve ever met, and there’s nothing better than having a built-in cheerleading squad, especially as November inches closer. I credit ROW80 with helping me break out of a very long, very painful period of writer’s block, and I can’t wait for Round 4 to start. I’ve got some goals that I’m eager to share. :D

How’s everyone doing? Are you ready for autumn, or hanging on desperately to summer? (I’m part of that latter category, in case you hadn’t noticed. :p)

ROW80: Where Randomness Ensues

It’s been a busy few days for me, so I don’t have too much to report. The transition to new pen name and blog seems to be going smoothly. Instead of changing my WordPress blog address, I opted at the last minute to purchase a domain name and set up a self-hosted blog instead. I’ve also set up a Facebook author page, along with a Google Friend Connect widget, so it’ll be easier for folks to follow me (links for both are in the sidebar).

In other news, I received the Versatile Blogger award from Angela Orlowski-Peart, who I met through the Writers’ Campaign, as well as charitygirl and glitterlady, friends I made through Lady Antimony’s “Seven Virtues” flash fiction challenge.  I’m honored, as all three of them have blogs that I enjoy and admire. Stop by and visit all three — you won’t regret it!

There are three rules for accepting the award:

* Thank the person who gave her the award and link back to them in the post.
* Share seven random things about herself.
* Pass this Award to fifteen recently discovered blogs, letting them know about the award.I’ll have to ponder who I’ll pass the award to, but in the meantime, I’ll happily share a few random facts. Merry Farmer actually tagged me a couple of weeks ago to share 10 random things about myself, so I’ll combine the two.

1. My three best friends and I made our own “girl band” in junior high. We called ourselves Eclypse and sang in school talent shows, and I wrote amazing stories where we were a multi-platinum band that went on adventures with the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync.

2. I attended an all-girls Catholic high school partly housed in a historic mansion that may or may not have been haunted (that could be the basis of a novel, now that I think about it…).

3. I have a suspicion that my love for Byronic heroes may have stem from my obsession with the musical, The Phantom of the Opera.  My parents saw it when I was 8 and brought home the soundtrack, which I had memorized within weeks. Raoul always seemed a nice sort of guy, but I wanted Christine to end up with the Phantom. A tortured genius who lives underground in an awesome cavern — what’s not to like? (We’ll ignore the fact that he, er, kills people from time to time, and has a penchant for kidnapping young women.)

4. I’ve never lived more than 10 minutes from the beach, with the exception of the time I spent studying aboard in college.

5. Out of all my favorite literary heroines, I’ve always identified with Anne from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables the most. Like her, I love school, devour novels, have the unfortunate tendency to talk far too much, and dream of becoming a famous writer.

6. I love almost everything that can be made out of ginger: candied ginger, ginger tea, pickled ginger (with or without sushi). This is a little strange, since I hated ginger with a passion as a kid.

7. I’m an unrepentant girly-girl, and I love fashion, jewelry, high heels, and sparkly things. Living on a tight budget means that I have to find creative ways to keep up with trends, so I have mastered the art of sale racks, outlet stores, and secondhand shops. If I hadn’t gone into academia, I might have become a fashion/costume stylist.

8. I’m known in my family as the “old soul.” As soon as I could talk, I preferred the company of adults to kids my own age. When I was 15, I fantasized about being 35 because it meant that I would be out of college, through with graduate school, and well-established in whatever profession I would choose, with a husband and maybe some kids. It’s only recently that I’ve learned how to “act my age.”

9. Despite loathing college-level science (I couldn’t stand all of the memorization we were forced to do), I was the co-founder and vice president of the high school science club, “The Far Side of Science.” We ran fun experiments, obsessed over Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone (about the Ebola Zaire virus), and watched movies like Outbreak.

10. I spent the spring semester of my junior year of college studying in Oxford, England. It was a dream come true, and to date, is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I miss England like crazy, and I can’t wait to travel there again.

I’m not going to tag anyone to take the 10 Random Facts challenge, but I encourage all of you to participate, if you so desire. I’ve learned lots of fun and silly things from everyone who has played along so far.

One week remains of Round 3 of ROW80, so go and cheer on our merry band of writers. You’ll find the list here.

ROW80 Check-In: Chilling Out

Many, many thanks for all of the responses to my last check-in post. All of the support, advice, and hugs were most appreciated. You are all incredible!

In more blog award news, Gene Lempp and Heather over at My Demon Spirits passed the Liebster onto me, and on Monday I also received Appreciated Follower award from Marie Andrews.  Both Gene and Marie have been wonderful friends over the past few months that I’ve participated in ROW80, and I’m quite grateful to them both. Heather is a new friend that I’ve made through the Writers’ Campaign, and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

I love seeing all of these blog awards going around — it gives me a really lovely sense of community. Gene’s latest post provides an excellent discussion about the importance of blog awards, which I highly recommend checking out. In addition, Marie’s latest short story, “Iron Butterfly,” is available over at Nevermet Press, so swing by and read that as well. Finally, Heather’s delightfully creepy flash fic for our Campaign challenge is up, and you all must check it out.

I have done my best to chill out over the past few days. Not focusing on the WIP has helped me to feel a little less pressured, though I will admit that I am starting to go through withdrawal. I peeked at TELL ME NO LIES the other night, and had one of those lovely serendipitous moments where I thought, “Wow, I wrote this?” It is raw, it is unpolished, it is a bit like a diamond in the rough, but I might be able to get a decent novel out of it at some point. :D

Here are some other things I’ve done this week:

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