Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: story: tell me no lies (page 1 of 3)

ROW80: Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

Glorious, glorious weather!

Glorious, glorious weather!

Happy Labor Day Weekend, friends! Here in San Francisco we are enjoying surprisingly lovely weather. The sun is shining, the sky is cloudless, and we’re all running around in shorts and tanks. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer, and while I’ll be sad to see it go, I’m starting to dream about the 1960s vintage wool coat I’m dying to buy for the inevitable cool-down.

I’m grateful for friends and family and good health this weekend, especially because this time last year I was nursing my boyfriend through a fever of 103 F, and because all of my coworkers have been ill. But I’ve had a chance to catch up with two of my oldest friends–always a joy–and time to take naps and relax. This afternoon I’m aiming to spend a few hours with my dissertation, but my motto right now is to move slowly. 

 

Blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’d like to revamp my blog. Over the past three years I’ve toyed with different theme days, but moving forward I think I’d like to do something that includes Guilty PleasuresBook Reviews, and maybe Midweek Poetry. I’ve got an ongoing list with ideas for over 15 posts, and I now have incomplete drafts of 4 different posts. I’m adding onto those drafts little by little, when I have a new idea and a spare moment, so hopefully I’ll have a few finished by my deadline.

For this week: I’ve been wanting to write about Penned, the new writing app for the iPhone, for a few weeks now. The goal is to get that finished and posted by Friday.

Dissertation

Dissertation writing is in progress, and proceeding slowly but surely. I am still trying to think less and write more, but that is hard work. I’ve added something like 500 words this week. Not terrible, but if I want to get these chapters written, I need to do more.

For this week: My realistic goal is to finish the section on the founders of religious communities. My epic dream goal is get this whole darn chapter finished (but that’s probably a huge reach). Sigh… We’ll see.

Fiction

I haven’t written anything new in the fiction department, but I have been toying with new ideas. My favorite so far? A character named The Peddler, who is loosely based on one of the vendors I see at the flea market each month. The first time I saw him he was standing on a table, dressed in a full-length fur coat, cowboy hat, and Ray-Bans. In TELL ME NO LIES, I think The Peddler will be one of the many unsavory sorts who hang out in the Barbary Coast, selling illicit (and, obviously, overpriced) items to the rich dandies who wander into “Hell’s Half-Acre” looking for debauchery.

For this week: I think it’d be nice to start typing up the snippets I’ve been writing by hand. I flipped through my notebook the other day and found a draft of the ending (!!!!) that I totally forgot I had written, so putting everything in a spot that’s easy to organize and find would be nice. Scrivener, here I come!

-oOo-

So that’s about it for me! Tomorrow I’m looking forward to checking out the Kings Mountain Art Fair, which is held in the lush, forested area of Woodside, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. It should be a nice way to close out a long weekend.

#NaPoWriMo Day 1: “Tales Twice-Told”

Happy National Poetry Writing Month! For all 30 days of April, Flights of Fancy is going to be filled to the brim with poetry, and I cannot wait to get stared. I adore prose, could write short stories and novels forever, but there’s something deeply visceral about stripping back language to its bare bones, slashing away till there’s nothing left but feeling and emotion. As poet Mina Loy once said,

“Poetry is prose bewitched
a music made of visual thoughts
the sound of an idea.”

That being said, for this first day of #NaPoWriMo, I’m toying with bridging poetry and prose, using poetry as a tool for fleshing out character and backstory. Today I draw inspiration from Tempest Dumont, the heroine of my steampunk tale, TELL ME NO LIES. While Tempest spends most of TELL ME NO LIES recovering from heartbreak and trying to track down a crazed killer, “Tales Twice-Told” explores a bit of her past, chiefly her chance meeting with a rakish, dashing, and an all-too-dangerous airship pirate. 

“Tales Twice-Told”

 

He told her once

that Home was prison

and she believed him

because Love had never grown

between the four walls where she had been born.

 

“Home is the Coward’s last refuge,”

he said,

“a fortress to hide from Nature and Neighbor.”

 

He’d found his Freedom in the skies

untethered

untamed

He answered only to the Elements

and thrived on their Chaos.

 

He called to her,

a Man freed from Fear,

and promised a life that could be her own:

“Clouds will line your Parlor;

stars will be

Blossoms

in your Garden,

the

Heavens

themselves will be yours.”

 

He gave to her

wings of Bronze

strong, stealthy and true

born from

Genius

and the need for escape.

 

She left the World of

too-weak

too-scared

never-good-enough

stole away

in his winged Chariot.

 

For the first time in her short life

she found Happiness

that was neither lie nor pretense

but was as real as the

Coal

fed to its Furnace,

the massive Gears that tilted and

whirled

in its Engine,

the scalding Steam that poured

from its Pipes.

 

But Dreams are not all they seem:

The Heavens can be cold

unforgiving

and Freedom from the world

may be a Prison in disguise.

 

The most dashing

Hero

can be revealed as Villain

and Tales

twice-told

may not always be True.

 

 

 

ROW80: The Train Has Left The Station

Hey there folks! I missed Sunday’s check-in because I was in the midst of a research trip (SUCH an awesome experience! More about it below), so I figured I’d post something today. Gotta keep working to stay accountable, right?

I know there’s only one more check-in left for this round, but right now I feel like I’m just gaining steam. Last week was a really good one in terms of stoking the creative fires and taking baby steps to integrate self-care into my life. I did a lot of thinking about TELL ME NO LIES, my steampunk murder mystery project, and realized that it’s not nearly as incomplete as I’ve been telling myself, and everyone else, for the last year. My mom and I did two days worth of Zumba classes, which means I’m starting to feel a little more fit and active. And I had the BEST RESEARCH TRIP EVER to the Sisters of the Holy Family’s archives.

The SHF motherhouse is located in Fremont, not too far from Mission San Jose, founded by Spanish missionaries in 1797. While the Sisters originally lived in San Francisco, they moved to Fremont in the late 1950s, and built their motherhouse on the property of Palmdale Estates, a historic property that dates back to the time of the California Gold Rush. The place is absolutely exquisite, and I got the chance to take a walk Sunday afternoon to clear my head before going back into the archives.

 

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

 

cottages

Two of the English Tudor-style manors on the property, built in the early 20th century.

 

ponds

A view of one of the ponds on the property.

I’ll be doing a couple more overnight stays this summer, and I’m really looking forward to it. In a lot of ways, I feel like this research trip (my first archival jaunt in almost a year) is exactly what I needed to get me back on track with my dissertation. Between the stresses of work and life and change and such, I’ve fallen into a real malaise when it comes to writing. It’s the usual–not feeling good enough, doubting every word, depending way too much on the delete key. But this past week I was also reminded of the glories of the zero draft, and how true passion for a topic can produce something that has crazy potential, despite inconsistencies and mistakes and huge gaping plot holes.

So I’m thinking of my dissertation as a zero draft, and reminding myself that there’s no pressure (right now, at least) to make it perfect. And hopefully that’ll help me lock my inner editor away, and liberate the creator in me, and I’ll actually get something done.

Here’s the week’s progress, in a little more detail:

Dissertation

  • Data Collection: Spent Saturday night and Sunday in the archives, read roughly 20 years worth of historical annals, and made some plans for how I want to start coding my data.
  • Dissertation Chapter: I didn’t read the 3 chapters I had planned to, but I managed to do a lot of thinking work. The new goal is to actually use my words this week. More specifically: Write 250 words each day, and GET THIS CHAPTER DONE.

Creative Writing

  • Poetry: I didn’t write anything new, but I did post an old poem in response to a really good prompt. Rereading my other old poetry reminded me that the only way I’ll be inspired to write poetry is to read it, and so I’m trying to add that to my reading repertoire. And I would like to write 2 poems in the next week, at least 1 haiku and maybe (if I’m inspired), something longer.
  • Novel: I’ve got a working outline of Chapter 14 of TMNL, so this week I’m going to finish the chapter. Woot!
  • Reading: I read THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brooks, and ohhhhh mahhhh gawwwd. So. Friggin’. Hot. So dark and glorious and wonderful and on-the-edge-of-my-seat action, along with scorching love scenes. I think I will start doing book reviews in April, and I can’t wait to write this one. For next week, I’m going to start Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I picked up the box set, so that’ll keep me busy for  while.

My main goal for this week: to try a new system where I  complete 1 item on my to-do list in the mornings, and 1-2 on my list in the evenings. The trick is to not overwhelm myself with the fact that OMG I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING I AM SO BEHIND, which usually results in me reading celebrity gossip columns for hours and hating myself. Self-hate = bad; self-love = good, therefore I am going to aim for fewer gossip columns, and more gettin’ it done.

Whew! That was a lot. How’s the week progressing for everyone? East coasters, has spring reached you yet? I’m dreading the drought that is currently spreading through California, but… ugh, I’m kinda loving the summer-ish weather, especially when it gives me sunsets like this:

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

Don’t forget to wave a friendly hello and cheer on the rest of the ROWers. We’re just about to the end of Round 1!

ROW80: Rollin’ Along

Happy Sunday, folks! Time is really flying; I’m not quite sure how we’re in the second half of July, but here we are. My week has been busy with a mix of really fun stuff and some work. The fun stuff included a jazz concert on Sunday, and the world’s most epic 1920s theme party, both held at the Filoli estate about 20 miles south of San Francisco. Filoli is basically California’s answer to Pemberley, and whoa, I definitely felt like Elizabeth Bennet as I wandered around the property. I’ve got a whole post planned about Filoli, but here are a couple of photos, just as a preview.

IMG_2923

The front of Filoli house. If it looks familiar, that’s because it served as the Carrington mansion in the television show, Dynasty.

One of the smaller buildings nestled in Filoli's extensive gardens.

One of the smaller buildings nestled in Filoli’s extensive gardens.

Gorgeous, huh?

If things look a little different around here, it’s not your imagination. I’m experimenting with different designs and themes at the moment, so if you’ve got any feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Anyway, onto this week’s progress!

DAY JOB:
Okay, I haven’t been very successful here at all. I’ve done a little brainstorming about how I want to expand my dissertation proposal, but very little (and by little I mean “none”) actual writing has been done.

To do this week: Buckle down and finish editing the proposal.

WRITING:
I’m way behind on my Camp NaNo goals, to the point where I’m actually starting to think that completing my goal of 15k on SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST is going to be an optional. The story is an exciting one, but TELL ME NO LIES has managed to snag my attention.

I’ve edited 2 chapters for TMNL, and outlined the next 10 chapters, taking me about half-way into Act 2. I’ve drafted most of these scenes, so all I’ve got to do is expand, clean up, and edit. I’m actually really darn excited to dig into these scenes, because the novel is finally taking shape. Whoo-hoo!

To do this week: Edit at least 2 more chapters; maybe write a little something for SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST.

BLOGGING:
This week I managed to add a “real” post, a silly commercial starring Hugh Jackman for Lipton Iced Tea. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here. As I mentioned above, I’m also working on an overhaul of my blog, starting with a new theme. And as far as blog-hopping goes, I got a chance to visit 10 ROWers this week. Yay!

To do this week: Writing my post about Filoli House, and visiting some non-ROW blogs.

How’s everyone else doing? Any fun summer adventures afoot? Don’t forget to check in with everyone who is ROWing along this round!

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ROW80: Better Late Than Never

ROW80LogocopyHeyyyy! Okay, I’m a couple of weeks late for Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, but I finally made it. Anyone have a cool drink to share? I need something to keep me cool during these unexpectedly warm summer days. :P

It’s been a crazy few months, as most of you have been able to tell. But I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to wrangle at least few things in my life into some semblance of order. As far as the dissertation is concerned, I’ve completed almost all of my archival research, and my committee has approved my proposal. I wrote my very first academic journal article (whoo-hoo!) and while it still needs to undergo the review process, I got an early thumbs-up that eases a lot of my anxiety. And as far as my creative writing goes, I’ve finally been able to dig into TELL ME NO LIES, my steampunk romance/murder mystery/thriller that I’ve been trying to finish for two years now.

Things are definitely coming together.

elmo-NPH-partay

With that, here’s my list of things to accomplish during Round 3:

WRITING:

  • Complete edits for Act I of TELL ME NO LIES, and create a detailed outline for Act II
  • Participate in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and write 15k towards SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST

DAY JOB:

  • Finish archival research
  • Complete dissertation proposal edits
  • Start analyzing all the data that’s already been collected
  • Draft dissertation chapters 1 and 2

BLOGGING:

  • Aim for 1 ROW80 check-in and 1 regular blog post each week
  • Visit and comment on at least 5 blogs each week
  • Brainstorm changes for my blog, to put into action during Round 4

My biggest goal for this round, I think, is to ease back into things without crippling myself with anxiety or fear or any of the other things that have been holding me back this year. I’m feeling a lot more positive and excited about the work I have before, so hopefully that’ll translate into getting lots done!

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Revisiting the Music of Tell Me No Lies

voicesToday’s post is brought to you by the voices in my head. Yes, my characters not only try to dictate my storylines and plots, but now they are conspiring to stage a coup and take over my blog posts as well. :) Because Tempest Dumont, the main character of my steampunk WIP, TELL ME NO LIES, has demanded it, I’m going to talk about the music behind the story.

For anyone who’s unaware, TELL ME NO LIES is my crazy steampunk romance murder-myster, set in 1890s San Francisco (the Barbary Coast, to be specific). Tempest is a popular saloon singer who finds herself targeted by a mysterious serial killer who is bent on murdering those scandalous “ladies of the stage,” Jack-the-Ripper-style. The police refuse to believe that the murders are connected, and so she sets off on a one-woman crusade to find the killer and bring him to justice. Along the way, she receives the help of Adam Davenport, the one detective who believes her claims and wants to see justice served. The two of them are like oil and water, and they struggle to set aside their differences (and ignore the growing of attraction between them) to solve the murders.

Tempest is one of those characters who just won’t shut up. She’s incredibly different from my other main characters — loud, brassy, and cynical. She had a rough upbringing, ran away from home when she was 15, and ended up falling in love with a ne’er-do-well airship pirate who eventually broke her heart and tried to frame her for one of his crimes. Now she thinks that she’s heartless and incapable of love… but she just might be wrong.

The playlist has a distinct folk/country feel to it. Even though the tale takes place at the end of the 19th century when San Francisco has become refined and urban, there’s this residual “wild west” vibe that I can’t quite shake.

The first song that I’ll share with you is “Tennessee” by Gillian Welch (Lyrics). In so many ways, this is the definitive Tempest song, just from the first verse alone:

I kissed you ‘cause I’ve never been an angel
I learned to say hosannas on my knees
But they threw me out of Sunday school when I was 9
And the sisters said I did just as I pleased
Even so, I tried to be a good girl
It’s only what I want that makes me weak
I had no desire to be a child of sin
Then you went and pressed your whiskers to my cheek.

That scandalous, whiskered man? Gillian Welch is of course referring to Jack Davenport, the rakish airship pirate who broke Tempest’s heart and double-crossed her. In all seriousness, however, I love Gillian’s voice, and I am sorta convinced that this song was written for Tempest. It’s the perfect theme.

The second song is “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars (Lyrics).

Tempest is the sort of gal who doesn’t really believe in redemption, and who carries around a lot of baggage when it comes to dealing with her past. The chorus resonates with all those themes:

Ain’t going back to Barton Hollow
Devil’s gonna follow me ‘ever I go
Won’t do me no good, washing in the river
Can’t no preacherman save my soul

The final song isn’t folk or country, but pop — Pink’s “Glitter in the Air” (Lyrics).The entire album, Funhouse, is on the playlist, but this song is my favorite. Incidentally, I’m convinced that this may be the best awards show performance I’ve ever seen. Pink kills it here:

I love this song to the marrow of my bones. It is achingly beautiful, and the last lines of the song move me to tears sometimes:

Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and hold that rope tight
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself
Will it ever get better than tonight?

This the song that plays in my head whenever I think of Tempest and Adam’s romance. They’re two souls who have been scarred, who are a bit bruised and broken, yet somehow fight their fears and allow themselves to be vulnerable to one another.

So there you have it, the music of TELL ME NO LIES. It’s not a definitive list by any means — I’ve provided that below, courtesy of Spotify — but I think these three songs capture the overall vibe of the novel. Just listening to them makes me want to drop everything and start working on it again — or maybe that’s just Tempest talking. ;)

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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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ROW80: We Are The Champions

First, a heads-up: I am doing my first guest post ever over at Nicole Basaraba’s blog. I’m chatting about the basics of the steampunk genre, so if you’ve ever been curious about the ins and outs of steampunk books, swing by and check it out.

-oOo-

All right, all right, I know — Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is such an over-done anthem theme these days that it almost verges on cliche and corny, but it is still such an awesome song. Better yet, it captures the sentiment that I have as we close out Round 1 of A Round of Words in 80 Days.

This is the end of my 3rd round of ROW80, and I’m more grateful than ever for participating. I’ve faltered on a few of my goals here and there. The bottom line, though, is that I have done more writing — and more learning about writing — in the last few months than ever before.

What Went Well:

  • TELL ME NO LIES isn’t finished, but I’ve made a lot of progress in plotting and rewriting the first 1/4 of the novel. The new characters and subplots that I have introduced are going to make the book a lot stronger, and give it more depth.
  • For the most part, I’ve managed to integrate exercise into my weekly routine. I’ve had a few slip-ups here and there, and I’m trying to learn how to exercise when I’m feeling stressed out, but I still count this as a win.
  • The day job still saps most of my energy, but I did manage to defend my MA thesis, which means I can sign my name “Lena Corazon, MA.” Squeee!
  • I’ve succeeded in being social during this round, which is a huge shock. I was such a loner last round that I thought I would really have to work at reminding myself to go out and see people, but apparently not. :D

What I Can Work On:

  • Ugh, blogging on a regular basis still seems to elude me. I have to be in a specific mood and frame of mind to write blog posts, and I still haven’t learned to summon it on a whim. I’m hoping to try and build up a cache of posts over spring break, but… we’ll see how that goes. Next round, I may try to set aside 1 writing sprint each week to work on blog posts.
  • I’d like to make time for reading. After my delicious book binge over Winter break, I’ve been reading in dribs and drabs, and it makes me cranky.

Things to Eagerly Anticipate:

  • Finishing my last class ever, and moving closer to narrowing down a dissertation topic.
  • Enjoying my last few months in Santa Barbara, and prepping for the big move back up to my parents’ house in San Francisco.
  • That tattoo I mentioned during the last check-in? It’s one step closer to becoming reality. I snagged an appointment for May 4th (the only opening the artist had before July), so now I’m just busy counting down the days. For those of you who have asked, I am getting my inner right forearm tattooed with my favorite quote from POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt: “Words have been all my life.” It will be accompanied by a peacock feather quill, similar to the one below.

So rock on, ROW-ers! From what I’ve seen over the last 80 days, you are all doing an amazing job, even if you have experienced some rough patches here and there.

Because we’ve all worked so hard, wouldn’t you say that it’s time for a PARTY? 

Our first ROCK THE ROW was simply epic (if you need a reminder, check out Jenny Hansen’s recap of the shenanigans and mayhem that occurred), but I think we can ratchet up the crazy even more for our next ROCKING celebration!

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Barbara McDowell and I are taking on hosting duties from our glitterific predecessors, Jenny Hansen and Nicole Basaraba. Plans for further madness are afoot, but for the moment, mark APRIL 4, 2012 into your calendars. More details to come!

ROW80: Spring Break is (Almost) Here!

Happy Sunday, ROW-ing loves! I trust everyone is doing well?

After my big ol’ thesis win, I sort of unintentionally dropped off the radar. I went from prepping for the defense to prepping for a guest lecture the following week — my third of the quarter, and the first time ever that my advisor has seen me present (no pressure, right?). It went really well, and I even got a chance to show a short clip from Kate and Leopold — fitting for a lecture on “Love, Commitment and Ambivalence” in American films from the 1970s to the present-day.

Once all was said and done, I was a little exhausted. I’ve spent the last week and a half doing nothing but grading papers, playing Mass Effect, and streaming television shows on Netflix. So far I’ve learned that Downton Abbey really IS phenomenal, that Friday Night Lights is just as brilliant as all my friends promised, and that I should’ve been watching Supernatural since the day it premiered in 2005, because it was MADE for me. Supernatural is kinda like crack, and I can’t get enough; I watched the first season (21 episodes, folks) in under a week.

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester (left) and Ja...

Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) are my new favorites. Image via Wikipedia

But it’s the end of the quarter, and once I finish grading term papers, spring break begins! Better yet, my mom is coming to visit me next weekend, and she’ll be here for a week. We will embark on our usual adventures of shopping, drinking, and eating out, along with a trip to see my sister and head to DISNEYLAND. [Insert major squee here]

Anywhoo, here’s a review of my goals from the last couple of weeks:

Day Job: I’m on track to have final grades finished by Monday or Tuesday at the latest. I’d like to do a little dissertation research/thinking/planning over spring break, but I’m not sure how realistic that goal is.

Writing: I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t have a full draft of TELL ME NO LIES finished by the end of this round, which was my original goal. One of the hardest things about all of this is the fact that I am trying to learn how to write a novel, and that sort of thing takes time. I’m trying to push myself, to make sure that I am moving forward and not wandering in circles (I realized a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been rewriting the same 3 scenes over and over again — whoops). However, I’m also trying to be patient with myself and enjoy the process.

In the past week, I’ve taken time for (1) brainstorming and plotting, (2) research, and (3) character development. I’m really excited about #3, because I’ve finally taken advantage of the character profile pinboards in Scrivener.

Squee, so pretty! One of the best things that I can say is that I think I am achieving greater depth as far as this story is concerned. There are growing layers of complexity, and both my characters and the plot are getting more interesting (in my opinion, anyway).

Exercise: I actually fulfilled my exercise goal and used my glider 4 times this week.  Yay!

Social Time: Last weekend was the department’s “recruitment weekend,” so I had way too much social time: dinners out and movie nights and a department beach bbq, among other events. I’ve been hiding out the past few days, and it has been lovely.

50/50 Challenge: Last weekend I saw John Carter (fun, and better than I expected), as well as Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, starring Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, Thandie Newton, and a host of other amazing actors (abso-freaking-lutely awesome). I also read two books: Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception and Gabrielle Kimm’s His Last Duchess

I have lots of fun things to look forward to this week, like the midnight showing of The Hunger Games. And I just might get myself a tattoo next week, ’cause my mom finally gave me the green light (!!!). My current idea is to have the phrase, “Words have been all my life” (from A.S. Byatt’s Possession) tattooed on my right forearm, with a peacock feather quill… but we’ll see what happens. I’ll keep you all posted. :D

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ROW80: Burn, Baby, Burn

Yes, folks, that’s right. I’m on fire this week, as far as my ROW80 goals are concerned. Overall, I’ve been doing a decent job with structuring my day so that I have enough routine to get things done. My day is now built around early morning exercise and the ROW80 writing sprints (11 am PST!), with something research and/or dissertation-related in the afternoon.

I’ve been keeping my apartment clean, cooking myself meals most evenings, and feeling like a sane, healthy individual. I’m not 100% sure how long this is going to last, but in the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy myself.

Here’s how the week played out:

Writing: I managed to take part in the daily ROW80 writing sprints Monday-Thursday (Friday I was foiled by my dying laptop charger, sadly), and wrote between 1000 and 1500 words each day towards TELL ME NO LIES. I had a minor breakthrough on Wednesday, when it occurred to me to start focusing on individual elements of the novel, rather than try to edit and write linearly. At the moment, I have laid out the major plot points, and I’ve started to fit the milestones for individual character arcs and romance subplots on top of those.

Pulling apart each strand of the novel is proving to be incredibly helpful, as it allows me to do a better job of pinpointing how characters evolve and change, as well as understanding how their problems relate with the larger social context (yeah, that’s the sociologist in me talking). There are all sorts of “factions” in my steampunk Barbary Coast circa 1895: politicians, crime lords, industrialists, moralists, law enforcement… My brash, loud-mouthed saloon singer is caught up in the midst of them, and while it’s her story I’m telling, I can’t ignore the other tensions at work.

In the week to come, I hope to work my way through both romance subplots (as much as I tried to resist, there’s a love triangle in this story), as well as give some thought to the actual murder mystery itself. How do my hero and heroine go about hunting for a killer? I’m actually not all that sure, so figuring it out is top priority.

Day Job: I started brainstorming dissertation ideas on Tuesday, but haven’t had a chance to do more than read through half an article, and thumb my way through a book (actually, it’s the book that I wish I had written, and am kind of bitter that I didn’t) for research purposes. However, I did get a lot accomplished for my research assistantship, which my advisor is quite pleased about. I’ve tracked down a few locations for pertinent archives, and taken notes on a couple of journal articles and books. The gauntlet of grading begins next Thursday, so I will try to get more dissertation stuff beforehand.

Social Time: I’m still going strong here. I went to a concert Sunday night and met up with some grad school friends for drinks Friday night. Even better, I had a chance to visit with my friend, fellow writer, and former high school biology teacher, Eva Gordon, on Friday afternoon.

Eva is writes paranormal romance and science fiction (I’m lucky enough to be one of her beta readers), and we had a great talk about books and writing, as well as all those things she taught in her biology class that still stick with me today: werewolves, forensic investigation, viruses and plagues, and countless other things. It was definitely one of the highlights of my week.

Exercise: I am shockingly on target here. I worked out 5 days this week, and mixed up my routine with a 4 mile walk (Monday), my 50-minute at-home Pilates routine (Tuesday), and thirty minutes on the glider for the remaining three days.

I’ve also been tackling nutrition as well. I took some of the advice that you all gave me last round when I asked for healthy snack ideas. Instead of buying chips, pretzels, or cookies on my last grocery shopping trip, I picked up baby carrots, apples, almonds, and crystallized ginger. Better yet, I’m upping my water intake, having at least one super-tasty salad a day (spinach, strawberries, avocado, and goat cheese is my current fav), and trying to limit portion sizes.

50/50 Challenge: I devoted most of my efforts to research and writing this week, so my reading rates have declined quite a bit. However, I read THE STORY OF THE SISTERS OF MERCY IN MISSISSIPPI, a 1933 history of the order of Catholic nuns and their experiences as pioneers in 19th century Mississippi, along with AGAIN by fellow WANA-ite, Diana Murdock. I definitely recommend AGAIN for anyone who enjoys romance, time travel, and reincarnation, as it was beautifully written and incredibly enjoyable.

No new movies to report on, though I did start watching the 2006 BBC miniseries, The State Within, about terrorism and conspiracies, starring Jason Isaacs in a rare non-villainous role. Better yet, I am off to see the latest Underworld film tomorrow. Nothing like vampires and lycans and action to complete my weekend. :D 

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