Friday, July 22, 2016

I Am An Immigrant

Calls to end immigration are growing louder. This is the case in many countries. My home country, which used to pride itself on the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty, has citizens demanding an immense and impossibly expensive wall be erected to keep foreigners out.

I am an immigrant.

For two decades, I've lived in my adopted country. I love it as much as my home country, just in different ways, like you might love each sibling differently, but still to the bottom of your heart.

Sometimes, when people talk about banning immigration, they tell me things like, But we don't mean you. You're different.

I disagree. Now, years after arriving, I am established.

When I first moved here, I entered the country as a tourist, but intending to stay (for love, but that's another story).
  • I had no residence permit and no work permit.
  • I had just enough money to get me through a couple of months.
  • I had double-digit-thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt.
  • I lived in my boyfriend's student dorm "illegally"*. The facility manager's apartment was two doors down from my boyfriend's room, so she knew what was going on. Lucky for me, she turned a blind eye.

  • I'm married with two children.
  • I have a residence permit and a work permit.
  • My student loan debts are paid in full.
  • I am a house owner.
  • I am a Senior Project Manager at a well-known international company.
  • Which means I am a taxpayer.

What did I need to get to this point?
  •  A good education, funded to a high degree by parents who worked hard and long to provide it.
  • The willingness to take a risk.
  • Hard work and often long hours.
  • Support from both loved ones and strangers.

But also—and I know this is true—the "right" skin color and the "right" home country so that there was little to no prejudice. Not for my parents back home. Not for myself back home. Not for myself in my new country.

So when you think something like, But we don't mean you. You're different, consider what you are really saying. I was poor, jobless and basically homeless. So, is the biggest difference really skin color?

Interested in more on immigrants in the US in history? Check out this post.

*living in the dorm "illegally" = dorms are for students only, no additional rent paid for an additional person. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Word Nerd

Once upon a time, I visited Noah Webster's house.

Today, Merriam-Webster liked one of my tweets.

Word Nerd Heaven.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Love and Puzzles and Triangles

Describing two people in love as "puzzle pieces that fit" is pretty common. I find it a very apt image, and I'm going to go into way to much detail to show you why. ;-)
image by Horia Varlon via Flickr
First, I like the thought of the jigsaw pieces coming together to make something bigger and clearer than they were alone. Since I've never believed in the idea of "one true love," I also like that each piece has at least two to four others that would connect properly. Each individual piece is still the same, but then, the "big picture"—the couple's dynamic—would be a slightly different one.

Taking this one step further...I know a lot of people don't enjoy love triangles in books (but if you do and you haven't read The Grisha Trilogy beginning with Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, you should, because love square!). A good love triangle just means there are two different puzzle pieces that fit, maybe on opposite sides. Each piece gives the main character something important, completes them in a different way. Each side offers an aspect the other side of the triangle is incapable of.

So how do you explain those amazingly unlikely couples that somehow work? Well, this morning in the shower (best thinking place, right?), I realized puzzle companies probably print their images on cardboard stock, then run a standard cutting die over them. Meaning many different puzzles most likely share the exact same cut lines.

So you could have a King Tut burial mask puzzle with the same jigsaw shapes as a jelly bean mixture puzzle. King Tut's lower lip and the blueberry jelly bean might physically be a perfect match. Maybe the pictures don't make sense to everyone around them, but that doesn't mean they don't feel perfectly right together.

The final thing I think makes the puzzle a perfect analogy? Unless you're a puzzle mastermind, it takes time to find the pieces that fit together. Especially when life offers you a 15,000 piece box.

Whether you're writing a story with romantic elements or looking for a special someone, I wish you the best of luck in finding a piece that matches.

Monday, June 27, 2016


It's mini-celebration time for me! I just finished the first draft of a new manuscript. Normally, I can write one in two months, three max. I've done it seven times before. This time...I needed eight months.


It felt like an eternity.

It felt like I'd lost the ability to create.

It felt like I was no longer a writer.

One day, I even invented negative writing. Go me.

There were all kinds of good reasons why my WIP (work in progress) took so long. A scary, chronic illness in the family. A brain pre-occupied with worry, with what might happen and with what else I could do to help. A day job that ate into my free time. A change in the kids' school schedule that meant they came home earlier, and that I had less time alone to write.

For weeks at a time, I created no new words. But I wasn't doing nothing. Instead of writing, I read a lot. I also watched TV. It might seem like only a means of escape, but it's also a good way to study the craft of story-telling. And it can be a source of inspiration.

Beyond that, I plugged away whenever I could. Instead of 2000 words per day, sometimes I wrote none. But sometimes, I managed 100 or 300 or even 1000.

It took me until the final twenty-five percent of the manuscript to feel like I was really "into" the story. The words finally began to flow.

Considering how stretched out the writing time was, revisions are sure to be brutal. But as they always say, you can't edit a blank page. I have my rough plot and my characters, and that's all that matters.

So if you're struggling with your WIP like I was (or any bigger project!), know you're not alone. Sometimes life takes over. I think the only thing you can do is to give yourself some time, do things that inspire you, and ultimately, keep trying.

Even if you're slow. Even if you think the day's work was crap.

You can't edit a blank page, but you can edit an eight-month-old, 50,000 word rough draft. And you can be proud as hell you managed to get that far.

Have you ever been blocked from writing or other creative work? What did you do to get going again?

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Future is Here: Virtual Reality for Your Living Room

You may have seen one of my popular posts on near-future technology. Well, this weekend, I had the opportunity to try out a virtual reality system that isn't merely "near-future," but on the market today—the HTC Vive.

I didn't have my phone with me, so there are no embarrassing pictures of me waving in the air. Too bad because I may have looked like this.
image by Rusty Blazenhoff via Flickr

Anyway, I played two VR games:
  1. Audio Shield: where I used hand shields to protect myself from orange and turquoise blobs flying at me (to the tune of the Imperial March, of course).
  2. Job Simulator—Gourmet Chef: where I played a cook in a cartoony, yet futuristic, restaurant.
I preferred Gourmet Chef because I could work at my own pace. My son also played several games and was instantly hooked, regardless of which one. His favorite was also Gourmet Chef, but for other reasons. He could throw tomatoes and bacon across the restaurant, burn steaks and put them out with a fire extinguisher, and use a whisk to smash bottles of grape juice. Heh. Isn't that nice?

Based on my short experience, what are the downsides of VR? Not every game is for everyone. I saw some people become nauseous during one game, but be fine with others.

Also, I wear glasses, and it was suggested that I just leave them off because it's difficult to fit them under the headset. I was told I could read the text if I went up close enough to it. Unfortunately, that was a little optimistic. I'm quite blind without glasses. Next time, I'd try to squeeze them under the headset.

As for the upside of VR, it is absolutely amazing how quickly you adapt to believing the world is real. I only played for about 15-20 minutes, but when I was done, regardless of how child-like, animated, and clearly not real the environment was, I tried to lay the plastic controllers on the kitchen counter. The virtual kitchen counter. It's easy to imagine tech like this taking over the gaming industry.

If you're interested in how Gourmet Chef looks, click here for a demo.
And this is Audio Shield.

Have you tried VR before? What did you think?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Flash Fiction - My Clone

I've been fighting with the manuscript I'm currently writing, so when I saw Operation Awesome's latest flash fiction contest, I decided writing a short piece might be good – like a palate cleanser.  And—yay!—I was picked as the winner.

So without further ado, here was my flash fiction piece (up to 250 words) based on the writing prompt "clone".

image by Neil Hester via Flickr

My Clone

You aren't supposed to move like that. Clones are supposed to sleep until revived. Not flutter their eyelashes when I stand before your pod. It's bad enough seeing my inanimate face through the milky glass. Seeing you move, seeing you twitch, is worse.

A knock. Your right pointer finger banged against the pod. I'm sure of it.

My hands shaking, I call the hotline, pressing 6 for I think my clone is waking up.

"The pod is filled with a sedative, nutrient gas that keeps the clone alive and in a coma-like state," the recording says. "Less than 0.000001% of clones awaken prematurely."

A scraaaaape fills the air behind me—I whirl around but you still—and the telephone voice rambles on. I press 7 for My clone is making noises.

"The gas filter in the pod makes a hissing sound once per hour. Beyond that, you may hear a pop when a new canister of sedative is punctured."

That wasn't a hiss or a pop. Now your hands are sliding against the glass, pressing so hard I can see your fingerprints.

You're crying. I have to help you, get you out of there. I press 4 for Emergency revival.

I fetch the transponder and—click!—the door swings wide.

"Do not attempt to revive your clone on your own. Improper revival can lead to dangerous results.

With a deep breath, you emerge from the pod. Your eyes are focused. Your stomach growls. You open your mouth.

I hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award

Heehee - that's kind of a complicated blog post name ;-)

image by happy_serendipity via Flickr -> relevance explained in question 10 below ;-)
Nicole Evans was sweet enough to nominate me to answer ten questions about writing and my life. Click here to see her blog, and the questions she answered for the Sibling of the World Blogger Award. 
So, basically, I answer ten questions Nicole gave me, then I ask ten other writers from all over the world ten new questions (Ten nominations is a lot, so I think it's more than fair to reduce this number to 3-10! ;)

Here are my answers to Nicole's lovely questions!

1. Why do you write?
The stories are inside of me anyway, playing in my head when I drive or shower or take a walk. I love seeing the details come to life when I actually write them down.

2. What would be the hardest part about surviving the apocalypse?
Ugh. I like modern comforts, so all of it. But the worst would be the lack of modern medicine.

3. What author has inspired your writing the most?
I can't possibly choose just one, so here are two: I adore Leigh Bardugo's worldbuilding and the relationships between Maggie Stiefvater's characters.

4. Your top five animated films?
Places 1&2 go to Tangled, which is my absolute favorite; 3. Brave; 4. Cars; 5. I don't love Frozen, but I do like the Let It Go moment.

5. Have you ever read any books on craft? If so, which was your favorite and why?
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks really helped me with plotting!

6. Which fictional land would you have to visit and why?
A beautiful island setting in a WIP I read by Carissa Taylor because I love the water and the lush foliage there.

7. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?
Listen to all the "rules," and then see what works best for you. Every suggestion doesn't work for every writer.

8. Which element do you wish you could control?
If I could control air, could I fly? If so, then air.

9. What is your current writing project about and what about it excites you?
I'm currently working on a YA sci-fi novel with a priest-in-training as a main character, and I'm enjoying how deep his faith is, and how it collides with a situation he gets into.

10. Most importantly: favorite type of cheese?
Impossible question, like choosing only one book – gah!  But I'll mention one many people probably haven't heard of: obazda, a spreadable camembert-mixture popular in Germany. Amazing with crusty, dark bread or pretzels. See picture above!

That was fun! In return, I nominate the following amazing writers, and I highly recommend you also follow them on twitter!
Ava Jae: blog  & twitter
Carissa Taylor: blog & twitter 
Caitlin Sinead: blog & twitter 
Mariam Kobras: blog & twitter 
Linda Sienkiewicz: blog & twitter 
Emma Adams: blog & twitter 
Patti Buff: blog & twitter 
Jennifer Austin: blog & twitter
Kimberly Ito: blog & twitter 

My questions for my nominees are:
1. Are you a plotter or pantser (or a combination)?
2. What are your favorite tips for beating writers block?
3. What are your drink-of-choice and snack-of-choice while writing?
4. What are some of the most interesting things you've researched for your writing?
5. Can you recommend a good blog for writers to follow?
6. Which twitter accounts would you recommend writers follow?
7. Which newly released or upcoming book are you most excited to read?
8. What book character would you love to meet?
9. What author has influenced you the most?
10. Name a place - real or fictional - you'd love to travel to and why. 

I look forward to reading your answers!