Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A New Hope For the New Year




Ahhh...

I've disappeared the past few weeks. A lot has happened since the last post!
I received VIOLET STORM back from my developmental editor who emailed me the following:

"You have HUGE talent.  Truly.  I just loved, loved this book!...let's go make you a published author in 2012!"


No seriously...


She said this. 


Ahhh!!!


Yeah, I was screaming for a while--doing the whole jazzercise-like routine, with my legs pumping up and down. My manuscript arrived last week on Thursday, and since then, I've been working like a mad-woman on the final edits. 


So where have I been? On cloud nine, that's where. 


If there's anything I can impart in today's blog, it's commitment. Our priest emphasized this in his sermon on Christmas morning, and it struck me. I'm motivated, sure. I'm driven, definitely. But I realized, that it takes more than that. It takes, as the priest said, commitment. Without it, I don't think we truly understand our priorities. Not that we don't know what they are, but that we don't always align them appropriately. And sometimes laziness gets the best of us. I know where my commitments/priorities are, and getting published sure makes it up to the top five of my list. Some days, it makes it all the way up to number two. 


Okay, before this gets too long, just wanted to share with you all the good news. I hope to get the second draft back to my editor within another week's time. You bet your @$$ I'm getting published! And that's not because my head blew up to the size of a watermelon, but because I'm committed


A big thanks to the people who've helped me this year: my amazing Willow Glen writer's group, my cousins Chanelle, and Cela, and Chris (who always gives me the hours I need in the days where there are always too few).


P.S. Chris got me a Nikon D3100 camera kit for Christmas. Another scream-fest ensued. Check out some of the amazing photos below!

Below: My cat Twinkie


Below: And that's Twinkie's big butt :)



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Storyteller


Today's words of wisdom: 
"Keep working. Keep trying. Keep believing. You still might not make it, but at least you gave it your best shot. If you don't have calluses on your soul, this isn't for you. Take up knitting instead."--Author David Eddings


I'm subscribed to Writer's Digest. If you're a beginning novelist/writer, you should be too. It's an amazing motivational tool; a great opportunity to escape from your current work and soak up some quick lessons, and learn more about the publishing industry. 

I keep reading over and over again about the hard journey of many authors to publication. My dream began in the winter of 2008, when I wrote my first fiction novel in the small quarters of my bedroom, on nothing but a tray table and an unquenchable desire to put into paper the world I'd been dreaming of. One and a half months later, a final chapter set of completing the manuscript, I was staring at a word count of over 100,000. I couldn't believe it. Except it was never finished. I didn't know how to finish it without fearing that it would suck. But the seed had been planted. 

I spent the following year writing on another work of fiction--even did something crazy, like quit my job and traveled across the world--totally alone. But I'd done it. This time I finished the story. I queried agents, waited, queried some more, waited. Nothing. I wasn't ready for publication. The work wasn't at its best. I hadn't reached my best. I needed more practice. 

It was back to the drawing board. I got even more serious. Soaked up every writing tip I could, joined a Writer's Group, bought books like "The Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel", and "Thanks But This Isn't For Us" all to make sure that this time I'd be ready to write my best. I knew I had the perseverance to write novel length works, but I had to hone my skills in the art of storytelling. To someone who was always told, "You write so well," and "That was good, real good work," it was hard for me to swallow the reality that I was good, but not good enough. But I'm still here, still trying. And at the end of the day, that's half the battle. 

VIOLET STORM is my third completed novel. I'm working on my fourth as I wait for it to be professional edited. In my heart of hearts, I know all of the hard work will pay off. Regardless of how long this journey might take, I hold onto the hope that I'll see my works published someday. If not the traditional route, then via self-publishing. 

The quote above is from the January 2012 WD issue and it put me into a fit of laughter until I was tearing up, stupidly sad and yet relieved at the same time. I don't know how many hundreds of hours I've poured into my writing "hobby". I'm  not used to working so hard at something and not seeing any "payoff". But I was wrong to think that way. Although, the stories I've created may not be the next ground-breaking American novel, they were incredible to watch rise out of nothing. My own world, envisioned and bound only by the limits of my creativity.

Today's another day to keep hoping, to keep working until I reach my goal. To quote The Ultimate Warrior, "Wake up sleeping beauties...Today is the day to take on any challenge that lies in this day...Today is the day you build your own wall of bodies..."


Well said, sir. Well said. It's easy to throw in the towel. It's much harder to keep going--to keep doing something that may take years to see come to fruition. Every day is a challenge to keep on working to make this dream come true, but every day is also a new day to work on making it come true.

I'm sure you can guess that I didn't find this motivational video by the Ultimate Warrior on my own. That's all Chris. The motivational stuff starts 0:47 seconds in. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY8-746t3YI

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When Life Requires You Keep A Bottle Opener in Your Purse

Okay, longest blog title in the world, I know. Things have been so crazy as of late. Mostly, it's work. I have a new role and it's taking some adjusting to. I know I will succeed in anything I put my mind to, it's just a matter of getting comfortable and managing the stress...

Here's my saving grace:

Above: At work we have a voodoo doll that gets passed around between myself and my colleague. This is what it looked it like when she gave it to me. 



Here's what it looked like after I got through with it. Don't get me wrong--I love my job. But some days (making hands-wrapped-around-my-neck gesture)....yeah, I'm sure you can relate.

We are in the thick of NaNoWriMo, people. And I am only 9000 words in. Clearly, I'm behind. With 41,000  words left to win it....Clearly, got a lot of work left to do. Hence the glass of wine and the probably nonsensical blog. 

I was hunting everywhere for my wine bottle opener when I realized that I had it in my purse. We have a weekly Beer Bash at work, and I wanted to have my own party...so... OK, anyway, my wine bottle opener was in my purse and you can thank Costco for my latest pink wine obsession. It all started with Peju--not a guy--the winery. And the discovery of my new love for blush colored wine. YUM. 

Anyway, I had a reason for my post tonight (as I'm laughing). I was driving to work this morning when I  realized a big piece I was missing for my story. Luckily I had remembered to bring my writer's pad with me and as I sat there waiting for the light, I jotted down my thoughts with a frenzy. I realized then, how valuable it was to have my journal with me at all times. This doesn't have to apply to writer's only. I'm sure everyone's been struck with a thought, thinking, I'll remember and get right on that at my earliest convenience. Except when that time comes, all we can remember is that there was something we were supposed to remember that was brilliant and was too lazy to write down. It's happened a few times to me and since then I've made a habit to keep pads and pens nearby for whenever such a thought strikes. 

There's definitely a value in not passing up on the opportunity to write down your thoughts! It could spark other brilliant ideas as you sit there jotting down that piece of information. 

OK. That's about as deep as I can get with this blog. Wish me luck on catching up with my fellow NaNoWriMo competitors. :(

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writer's Toolkit: Warming Up

I haven't been able to focus on my writing as much as I want to. But I'm now convinced it's my own mental block that's stopping me--aside from genuine fatigue, of course. I DO have a full time job that actually pays. So my priorities are obvious (smiles).

I realized something this morning about the proper way to warm up. I think after 2+ years, I finally have a system. Hey, better late than never, right? Hopefully, it can help my other fellow writers out there who suffer from a lack of consistency as I do.

Having a true, morning ritual is the first step to progressive and successful writing. I make coffee, turn on Pandora (internet radio) and listen to music that defines the mood of my story; eat something small, grab a book and read out loud for ten minutes. I get on the laptop, open a fresh, new word doc and think about my latest fantasy (nothing gross, guys), literally the last thing I caught myself daydreaming. Why? Because it's fun to write about it. I don't think yet on the actual story I'm dedicated to, because after all, this is just a warm up. Something to get the juices flowing before thinking about how to begin the next chapter, or finish where I left off in the last scene--because we all know how daunting it is to get yourself to write something you've put a lot pressure on yourself to complete. So, I write out my daydream/fantasy like I would a new story (absolutely, no pressure, it's fun, remember?). I write a few paragraphs and then suddenly, I'm warm. I'm really warm. I get this, "you kick ass" feeling and now I'm ready.

I hope this helps other writers out there, something to put in your Writer's Toolbox.  Every writer's got to have somewhere to start. Creating consistency is the key. I'm happy to say, that it's working for me. So now, I've got a solid ritual. Hallelujah!


Here's some photos I took yesterday and a handful taken from Seattle.


The first Starbucks! Location: across from Pike's Market, Seattle. 
Damn, I'd love another cup right about  now.

 I have a thing for sea otters. Location: Seattle Aquarium


Waking along the street, headed back home from the local coffee shop around the corner, La Crema - San Jose. 


I love how perfectly suited my house is for Autumn. Hard to take a single photo to capture all three stories. 


We have a budding maple tree in the front. It doesn't have the range of fall foliage colors I'd like, but at least I got to see some yellow. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fantasy is My Therapy


Something occurred to me a few days ago that when I fully grasped, hit me like a drug induced high. I got giddy, tense, and elated the way only real happiness can bring. What I realized was the awesome power I wielded as a storyteller—being my own storyteller. That no matter the happenings of the world around me, I could sink myself into a story, a fantasy, that would take me away for even a short reprieve. The most profound thing of it all was that the fantasy was just a daydream or a writing session away--and I can do with it anything that I wanted. I can always have my happy ending. I can always defeat the bad guys, rescue the prince (yes, you read that right) and eat a tub of ice cream, guilt-free.

Movie-goers, anime-lovers, and readers of all kinds feel this same sense of escape. Afterall, it’s why we do it/love it.

So here I am, currently obsessed in the new world of my making. Super-stoked. The last couple of days feel like a blur from the madness of my creative energy. My next work is titled From the Ashes (YA, Fantasy). It’s going to be one helluva ride. After my Writer’s Group reviews the preface and first chapter, I’ll post here for your reading pleasure.

Anyway, happy fantasizing guys…

BTW, it’s officially NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)!! Hooray! Are you game to write your novel in a month? I’m stocking up on my coffee.


Here's me and a few of my coworkers dressed up for Halloween in the office. Yes...I was a vampire...No glitter necessary. But fangs, hell yes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Job is an Adventure: Seattle, Washington


Seattle is a beautiful city. I'm currently situated in the heart of the University district, beside the massive  UW (aka UDUB) campus. From what the locals tell me, fall foliage seems to have missed the city altogether. Everyone figures it because of the late summer start.

Above is a photo edited using Snapseed, taken in front of the large windows of my hotel room. No surprise, it's drizzling and dark overhead. I've accepted Seattle to be this way. I kept referring to the weather as "charming".

My creative juices are flowing. I've begun writing the first lines to the new novel I'm working on, FROM THE ASHES. It's hard to find myself here again, starting a new piece of work and wondering how I'm ever going to get to "the end". It's funny how fun and yet painful writing can be (smiles).

My travels are finally slowing down. Below are some photo's I've taken along the way.


Downtown. Late night stroll.


Puddle jumper from San Diego to LA. I HATED this plane. 


The Universe is determined to shove me into the "mini-est" of things.


Airport food. YUM. Good way to wind down a day trip to USC.


Headed to Berkeley. My job is one adventure after another.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adventurous Grandma


I don't know why the thought occurred to me today that fast forward in time, I'm laying beside my grandchildren in their bed, relishing in the moment as I launch into a story of another one of their Grandma's crazy adventures.

When life speeds by you too fast, when one adventure begins to overshadow another, when work gets too crazy you don't have even the breath to appreciate how far you've come or even how lucky you've been--you're thankful for utilizing blogs, diaries, or even photo books to take you back to those moments.

I dont ever want to forget the peaceful, teal-colored waves of the Aegean sea, or the raucous, provocative streets of La Rambla in Barcelona; the old man shoving me--offended by my shorts in Madrid; getting sedated on a plane because I thought I was having a heart attack--which actually turned out to be heartburn; swimming with the manta rays in the Caribbean; snorkeling in Maui and almost getting mauled by a gigantic sea turtle; the blinding white walls and blue domed roofs of the homes in Mykonos; walking amongst the ruins of ancient Greece and then Rome; stepping foot on the holy grounds of the Vatican; seeing the Queen's "modest" home in London, stumbling drunk into a restroom in Cork, only to notice the urinals after I'd done my lady business; touching the porous graffiti-covered wall of Berlin; gazing out from a train to see the snow-covered tips of Switzerland's Alps; trying to hide from the downpour in Vienna and finding the magic of the city through the rain; smelling the succulent sweets and the smoke-filled air of Paris; staring down at the small world below my feet as I walked across the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto; and still, there's more. I don't want to forget the people I've met and the stories we shared.

Sometimes life passes by too quickly.

I never want to forget any of it. And I can't wait for when I can share these memories again with my children and grandchildren. What do you do to remember it all?





Friday, September 30, 2011

From The Ashes

This is a small flavor of the next novel I plan to work on titled, FROM THE ASHES. (I don't think it's going to be an actual insert in the book, but it's a glimpse of what I'd like to work on)

Enjoy...



THE OBSESSION

            “Doctor, I think I have a problem.”          
Dr. Rosenbaum takes my statement in stride, waving an elegant hand towards her fainting chair. I raise a brow at the lounge. How apropos for a shrink to have a fainting chair.
Dr. Rosenbaum closes the door behind me and I settle my purse beside the chair before sitting down, my shoulders stiff against the seat back.
“Clara, tell me,” Dr. Rosenbaum starts. “What is this problem you think you have?”  She sits in a chair across from me, her notepad lying across her lap. Her long cardigan opens to reveal a sharp blouse and a knee-length pencil skirt; her inquisitive eyes framed by rimless glasses.
I clear my throat. “I think I’m too obsessive.”
There’s a long silence before she says, “Go on.”
At the command, the words rush out all at once. “There’s a guy—tall, handsome, quiet. He’s…well, he’s young.”
One perfectly trimmed brow rises. “And I presume you’re attracted?”                 
“Very…” I say in a quiet whisper.
Her pencil scribbles across her notepad. “Please continue.”
My palms scrape across my jeans, aware of the clamminess; embarrassment and shame filling me.
“Clara, why don’t you get more comfortable. It will help you gather your thoughts more clearly and completely.”
I nod, not really hearing her, but complying anyway. I lay down. The fainting chair is comfortable. The muscles along my neck and shoulders seem to loosen.
“I met him a week ago,” I say. “He’s a student of one of my friends—a professor at the University of—”
“You don’t have to be too specific if you don’t want to,” Dr. Rosenbaum inserts.
I nod, happy to be released from giving explicit details. “Anyway, my friend introduces me. The kid is young, maybe six years younger. But god he’s gorgeous—exotic really. Clearly the quiet, brooding type. The kind of guy a girl would give everything to and get nothing but neglect from.” I small chuckle escapes me.
“Why do you think you’re attracted? Obsessed—as you say—if you believe he’ll hurt you?”
“God, I don’t even know. My hormones lately—off the charts.”
“Crushes aren’t bad, Clara. They’re healthy. Your body’s urges are natural.”
Natural—yeah sure. Can’t get the kid out of my head—not natural at all.
“So listen,” I say, desperation creeping into my voice. “Tell me to lay off. Tell me he’s going to be nothing but another disappointment—another heartache. And that maybe it'll drive me crazy, crazy enough to want to hurt him back.” 
“Clara, that’s not what I’m here for. And you don’t know that he’ll hurt you.”
I turn to look at her. “I DO know. He won’t know how to treat me. He won’t know…that I’m different.”
Dr. Rosenbaum sighs. “And why do you think you’re different? You can’t live your life afraid all the time. It’s okay to take risks. Rejection is as much a part of life as is victory and acceptance. We’ve gone over this before.”
I absorb this for a second. “Thanks, Dr. Rosenbaum.”

My knuckles rap lightly against the door and I brush my hair back for the hundredth time.
“Yeah?” asks a voice from the other side.
“It’s Clara. Can I come in?”
The door unlocks, opening to frame the tall figure that’s been haunting my dreams for the past several days.
“Hey,” he says, lips smiling uncertainly.
“Hey,” I say back. “Busy?”
His face remains stoic. The door opens wider. “Come in.”
I smile with relief, walking in and taking in the dorm-style room. The door shuts and I swivel to face him. 
Those mesmerizing eyes look down at me. “What’s up?”
The room suddenly feels hot, small and claustrophobic. I can tell he’s nervous too, but I can’t back out now. I need to get him out of my system. Just one night.
“I’ve been thinking of you,” I say quietly. Oh god, I should leave now. Let him go. Forget him. 
He swallows, eyes shifting away from me. 
A brazenness that feels too good overwhelms me, and I walk up to him. The temptation too strong to fight. 
“Clara,” he says, his voice hoarse.
But Clara is gone, replaced instead by the obsession. “Shhh…” I close the distance between us, the hunger filling me, stemming from somewhere deep.
Indecision crosses his face, but something in him changes. His chest rises. And then he steps into me, taking me into his arms before capturing me in his mouth.
I hadn’t expected this. I pull away. “You shouldn’t have done that,” I say between ragged breaths. I’ve crossed the line now and can no longer turn back. 
“Why?”
The change begins, starting in my chest, tensing every muscle in my body. “Because, my lovely boy, you’ve released something terrible.”
“What?” He frowns. He sees it now. My eyes, I know, have gone from blue to ink-black.
The fear molds his perfect face, reflecting back in his exotic, almond-shaped eyes. 
The obsession overtakes me, swallows me whole; fills me deep until I’m drunk with it. And the vortex opens, devouring his beauty—his essence. I take his stunned form into my arms, gripping him with the strength of a god; stripping him bare as the obsession captures him. “You’re all mine,” the being within me says, inhaling his soul until nothing is left...but ashes. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prompt: Playing with Fire

I've never used writing prompts before (a prompt is a creative tool to help get your juices flowing). 
Holy crap are they fun!

Here's the one I chose: 

PLAYING WITH FIRE

Rules: You come across a pack of matches that sets off a series of uncanny events. Start your story with “My mother always told me not to play with fire.” End it with “And that’s how I ended up in the middle of nowhere—naked.”

--------


My mother always told me not to play with fire. “You’ll get burned,” she always said. But the thing about metaphorical fires is that sometimes the flame isn’t always easy to spot. Flames can be so tricky.

I’m on a bench with my back to the 100 foot Ferris Wheel that is turning round and round dozens of people wanting to glimpse with their girlfriends, boyfriends, fianc├ęs, lovers—what-have-you—the immaculate view of the beach and the setting sun, painting the sky a heartsick blush.

I shouldn’t be here. The place where I’m reminded of her the most. Except I couldn’t find myself wanting to be anywhere else. I toss the silver coin in the air, catching and then slapping it over the top of my hand, taking me back to that moment I want to forget.

“Heads, I win. Tails you lose,” Lea says.

“Why do you get to pick?” The grin on my face widens.

The background of the dawning sky illuminates her perfect figure. Her hair whisks wildly from the ocean breeze. “Because you don’t even want to play. So what does it matter that I get to pick, huh?” She pokes me in the chest, a teasing smile stretching her lips into a beguiling cupids bow.

My eyes are drawn to those lips, imagining what they’d feel like pressed up against mine.

“Fine. Heads you win. Tails I…wait a second.”

But the coin is already in the air. She catches it, holding it tightly within a small-balled fist, and hides it behind her back. “Nuh-uh. Admit it, you want me to win.”

I move to reach behind her, the muscles in my stomach clenching when her hand moves further away, forcing me to close the distance between us. “Heads you win. Tails I win,” I say, gazing down at those large chocolate-brown eyes. “Now show me.”

Her brow quirks again, and I don’t miss her gaze lingering on my lips. I lean in, the tightness in my stomach now in my chest.

She pulls back, opening her palm between us. “Heads,” she whispers. “I win.”

The flare of disappointment hits me. Until her words sink in. “No. No. No. You weren’t supposed to win.” My arms rise up, waving her advance, her eyes full of victory—full of mischief.

“Take em’ off buddy. That was deal.”

I turn around, disbelief and exhilaration filling me. “No way. I’m not doing it!”

“Pansy!”

I swivel to face her. “Am not.”

Hands on her hips, she says, “Prove it.”

“Fine.”

“Fine?”

“You first.” I throw the challenge back at her.

Her shoulders stiffen and I think that maybe our little game is over. I’ve disappointed her.

Her delicate hands rise to the collar of her cardigan, and slowly she reveals the curve of one slim shoulder.

The flame reignites.

She quirks a brow as if to say, “Your turn.”

I unbutton my shirt, forcing myself to go slow, enjoying the sight of her catching her breath, and her cheeks flushing.

We play this game until we’re both left in nothing but our underwear.

“Okay,” she says arms tightly covering her bare chest. “I close my eyes and you close yours. And then, we’ll take the last bit off at the same time.”

I nod willing to agree to anything just to get to the part where I most want to be.

My eyes close, my fingers going beneath my waistband, yanking my boxers down and kicking them in her direction. I laugh.

She doesn’t laugh back.

“Hey, I hope your silence means you’re naked.” Nothing answers me. Frowning, I open my eyes, seeing nothing but the expanse of the ocean and the long stretch of beach beneath my feet.
My clothes are gone. And so are my keys and wallet. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”

The only sense of dignity the minx left me was the coin. Heads. I lose.

And that’s how I ended up in the middle of nowhere—naked.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Deafening Hug - in "How Not to Write a Novel"

I couldn't NOT share this. I was giggling so much tears sprang to my eyes.

In How Not to Write a Novel we learn many lessons. One that stood out to me the other day is known as The Deafening Hug. In this, as a writer, we need to be careful of creating an unintended love interest.

Author Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman point out three versions. I'll highlight two of the most  hilarious:

1. The Mayfly Fatale: A new character is described as a "handsome, muscular man with raven hair and a cheeky grin" or "a lissome blonde bombshell in a tight tank top." The reader immediately thinks this is a love/sex interest. While real life is full of attractive people who--let's face it--never look at you twice, protagonists live in a charmed world where it is assumed that all the attractive people they notice are already halfway to the boudoir.

And my favorite (having skipped the second version:

3. We're Going to Need a Bigger Closet: Male friends hug, toast their friendship, and later stumble drunkenly to sleep in the cabin's one bed. The reader is way ahead of you--they are secretly gay, and nothing you say later is going to change his mind. if you do not intend them to be secretly gay, let Alan sleep on the couch.

LOL. Yes. You heard me. I laughed out loud--really. The above pointers are so true!  Real life depictions can take stories in a different direction than intended. I think one of the biggest things I've learned from all of this is that writing what you see, hear, feel, in real life, needs to be carefully thought through.

Happy writing...

Travel Season

Ahhh, I'm a couple weeks into my busiest season at work. The weeks are flying by, goodbyes are being said to summer interns, and the luggage has been pulled out. I'm excited, elated, nervous, and anxious all at the same time.

I returned from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign last Friday, a little doozy of a 3 day trip. The mid-west has some funky weather. My body decided it already had enough and I fought my first head-cold of the season. Fun.

There are some new features on blogspot, which I was very happy to discover and add. I hope to spend more time writing in snapshots and posting more. Although, the goal right now is to spend less time writing other things, when I should be focusing on finishing the edits on Violet Storm.

It's such a painful process, I can't even tell you. My how-to books have been eye-opening experiences and I'm continuously learning about the art and craft of writing. It's certainly not easy. Even when you feel like you're a natural. It's disheartening at times, but mostly it's challenging and rewarding.

I'm off to Toronto, Canada on Monday to visit the University of Waterloo and then U of Toronto, staying the weekend to enjoy the city. It's not snow season yet, so the trip will be amazing.

The edits on Violet Storm are coming along. I'm up to chapter 3 now. It's morphing into something I can't believe actually came from me. I don't know if I've ever felt this proud about anything I've ever done. More to come!

I've added Chapters 1 and 2 into their own separate pages, so you can review my editorial progress.
Thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Busy, Busy Bee...


It's been a long time since my last post. The adventure hasn't ended. And I don't foresee it ending anytime soon. Work is picking up and it's simply crazy.

Violet Storm is always on my mind. And there's never enough time to work on it. Thankfully, the time away has given me an opportunity to hone my editorial skills; to review the work with a more critical eye. It needs a lot more revision before I'll be comfortable to send queries off again.

Boring right? I know. About a month or more ago, I started sending out queries. Tentatively at first. Then one weekend where I sent out a large batch, trying to see if I could snag a willing agent. I got one to ask me for the first 50 pages, and then another who quickly asked for the full manuscript.

I was elated. No really. I was BEYOND ecstatic. (Yes that deserved an all caps emphasis.) But two weeks later...and no good news. They tell me they weren't engaged enough in the story, there was too much exposition and I needed to cut down and speed up the delivery.

Some choice words rolled off my lips and I felt the heartache seep in. Thanks to my writer's group, the rejection didn't sting as much as it could have. "We have faith," they said. "This is publishable! Don't give up!"

I stopped my eyes from rolling, thinking "Of course I'm not giving up. I just hate getting rejected."

I moped around some. People at work noticed, asked me about it, and then asked, "You've never been rejected --never been broken up with, have you?"

"Yes," I stated, sniffing a little. "Yes, I have. In FACT, I had a guy break up with me even before he'd taken me out on a real date." Ouch, right?

Anyway, long story short. Rejection stinks. But I haven't given up. With the help of my writer's group, I'm hauling ass and revising the manuscript. Although, I miss the days when the writing was more fun. The exhilaration of knowing, "This is it. This is my story. This is THE ONE."

My cousin is currently in that phase of the process and oh how I envy her.

Well. Whatever. I'll be there again, I tell myself.

Just as soon as I get this one published.

Sigh.

Back to work. :)

It's going to be travel season again. (For my "real" job that is.) I'm anxious for the change of pace. Three months of back to back traveling, sleeping in hotels, eating awesome, not-cooked-by me meals. Just what I need.

The San Francisco Writer's Conference is in February 2012, and you can bet your ass I'll be done with Violet Storm by then.

If not.

If not...

I don't even want to know. I'm going to wallow in shame and stamp "quitter" on my cheek for the world to see.

Wish me luck.

Here's me in Berlin, Germany with the bears standing guard at the Olympic Stadium.
I had to go and be a showoff...and break a toe.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vienna, Austria: My version of "Before Sunrise"




It's a sunny day in Zurich and my workday is coming to a close. Just one last conference call at 7:00pm and I can finally call it a night. Last evening, I didn't click "end" on my cell phone until 8:05pm. After which my boss, who I'd been on the phone with, promptly stated, "You need to sign off and go stare at a wall for 30 min or something." I laughed. My boss is totally awesome.

It's my last workweek here in Zurich. This Saturday, Chris and I will be heading off for a week-long adventure through Italy. First destination is Milan, then Venice, with a short stop to Verona (and yes, just to visit Juliet's balcony, cus I'm a girl like that), then Florence, and finally a couple days in Rome.

When that concludes, I'll have officially visited 12 countries in my short 25 years of life: Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, UK, Greece, Philippines, Canada, The Bahamas, & Italy. I should include the U.S. Which thanks to my job, I'm flying everywhere all the time. My job description literally states that travel is required approximately 6 months out of the year. Gulp.

I remember almost perfectly, the moment I realized how possible traveling was. Like a seed that was planted just when it needed to be--just when I could do something about it.

I'd just graduated from college, started as an intern for a global software company in Palo Alto. My manager was a role-model for for bravery. From her, I learned about the possibility of traveling alone and at a young age. It certainly left an impression. She told me, "At 22-23, I didn't have it all figured out. I spent months in Ireland with family. And that was only the beginning." She's a world traveler in a class all on her own.

I learned from others on the team that they too had had the chance to explore the world: France, UK, India, Egypt, you name it. I was intrigued to the point that I'd begun to get fixated on the idea. That I needed to travel. And then it happened. I saw "Mamma Mia" with Meryl Streep (that's right, you heard me). And I said to myself, "That's where I'm going first. Greece!" I started watching all sorts of movies that were filmed in various locations within Greece, including "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants". In no time, I was officially obsessed. I Googled, top places to visit in Greece, and viola, I had it...my top two: Athens and Mykonos. But that was as far as I got. I didn't know where to go after that. So I let it sink in for a while. And then it hits me--I could get a travel agent.

After experiencing Greece, and crying over the hole it left in my wallet, I got to become a savvy traveler. I wanted more. I wasn't done. And next thing you know, I quit my job and backpacked Europe alone; heading to London and all across Spain for a month with nothing but myself to keep me company and whoever I came across at various hostels.

But even when that concluded, the itch wasn't gone. Not yet. After nearly two months here in Zurich, I'm happy to say...I think I'm done. At least for a while. I'm aching for the comforts of home, the friends, the family, and the predictable days. I miss BBQ's, Panda Express, and Chipotle. I miss my cat and my house. It feels like life sort of went on "pause", waiting for me to return back to the real world.

But most of all, I'd like to hurry and finish the manuscript, Violet Storm. The goal is still alive: sell by the end of summer. I hope I can accomplish this. But I guess I don't spend much time hoping as I do the actual "doing". So I'm doing it. Working on it with a ravenous hunger; allowing the looming deadline to invigorate me, to scare the hell out of me.

This past weekend, after returning from Cork, Ireland for business, Chris and I flew over to Vienna, Austria. It was magical, even though it rained for most of the trip. There was so much to see. I guess the one thing that stood out the most and is probably more significant to me (being Catholic and all) was that I got to see the Holy Lance. The spear that is said to have been the one that pierced Jesus' ribs. There was even a piece of wood, also reputedly to have been from the actual Crucifix. Everything else kind of disappeared in relevance, when I saw this. I'm not exactly sure why, but maybe it's similar to the reasons why people go back to their home country, to track their ancestry, to go to someplace meaningful or to just seek answers. Odd, I know. But I guess Catholicism is more a part of me--of who I am--than I thought.

Anyhow, I don't want to end on a dreary, serious note. On the steps of the Stephensdom we were accosted by a man wearing a classical costume. He holds a binder and flips through it, starting his sales pitch, that we'd already heard at least 3 times before.

"Young man, where you from?" He asks.
"California," says Chris.
"California?" The man glances down at me. "You, young lady, have you ever been to a concert?"
I laugh, anticipating the rest of the conversation to follow. "Yes," I say.
"To hear Classical music?"
"No," Chris and I answer.
"Oooh," he says with his big salesman smile.

That was the start of a 2o minute conversation where the guy gets Chris "not" to admit that the ballerina in the proposed show was beautiful. To which the salesman says, "This guy, he's good! But if you don't take this beautiful lady, I will take her."

I don't know if I've ever admitted this to anyone, but I'm scared of salespeople. Why? Well, I've fully accepted that I can probably be talked into anything. Terrifying right? So I usually steer clear of em'. I mean literally go-out-of-my-way to get away. So halfway through, I'm getting talked into paying whatever he's asking to go see this Concert. Thank goodness for Chris. This is why we make a good team. He can have these conversations and walk away, shrug, and ask, "What do you want for dinner?" While me on the other hand will spend the next 30 min talking myself into and/or out of whatever I'd been talked into. Confusing I know. Okay, so we don't do the concert thing. It would've been cool, I admit. Hearing great pieces that were borne from Vienna. Classical pieces from Mozart, Beethoven, Johann Strauss, Shubert--you name it. On top of that, there would've been some Opera and ballet mixed in. But we didn't have any formal wear and looking tacky isn't exactly on my list of favorite things to do.

The salesman was hilarious.

A friend and an old co-worker suggested to watch "Before Sunrise". A movie starring Ethan Hawke and a French woman who meet on a train and fall in love. I watched with enthusiasm, but I guess I was eeked out by the creepy way Ethan looked. So it made it hard to fall in love with him in the movie.

Here's me multi-tasking. Paused mid-way through the blog, jumped on a call, and now I'm back wrapping up this blog.

Thanks for the support. For the well wishes, and for the prayers. Even from across the ocean, across the continent, I can still feel it. Thank you.



Above: Salzburg, Austria for a PhD Conference for work. I couldn't finish my beer, but I did partake in the wine...


Above: The National Library -- Vienna, Austria


Above: Enjoying Vienna's favorite pastime--Midday coffee and cake


Above: Vienna's version of a carnival/boardwalk. This place was HUGE.

Me chatting with Pinnochio

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Berlin, Germany: Berlin & I





It's been tough to stay on top of this blog. I often lay awake at night thinking about it in bed, imagining what I'd write the next day. I think "this is going to be brilliant", "it's going to sound like eloquent thought; like I'm a born writer". Then of course, the next day comes. It's morning, I've downed my second cup of coffee, my work email is open, FB is up, my manuscript is hanging over my head, and the weariness of the weekend's travels clouds my thoughts. The memory of the previous night's ideas come out choppy, the sentences sloppy and unfocused. Usually, this is what causes me to discontinue the blog entry and move on to something more productive, thinking that I'll get to it on another day.

Writing does NOT come easy for me. If you think so, then I'm doing a better job than I thought. I've read over and over again that the best writing is often the most difficult, and that writer's who appear to seamlessly string together a storyline have in fact poured hundreds of hours, with the help of a whole team of editors to get it to the perfection your eyes and mind are unknowingly deeply appreciating.

But I'm determined to write today, mainly because of this past weekend's experience. The previous weekend was spent in Paris, which although would've been an interesting story, considering that I got pick-pocketed (right under my nose, 2 seconds after stepping into a Paris train), shoved into a closet sized hotel, with loud Italians for neighbors, and breathed in both Romance and cigarette filled air of sweet Paris, I didn't find enough motivation to write about it. If you ever find yourself traveling to the beautiful City of Light, feel free to give me a call for travel tid-bits. Otherwise, read on to discover the experience I had in Berlin.

There's a lot of disturbing history in Berlin, the capital of Germany. Chris and I made an effort to experience and learn as much of the history as possible, and visit the key historical sites. To name a few: we walked the Berlin Wall--that had completely cut off West Berlin from East Berlin; the Jewish Museum; the Holocaust Memorial; Check-point Charlie; the Olympic Stadium; and Museum Island. There was so much more, but these were the sites that stood out above the rest. The nearest concentration camp was 45 minutes away by car, which didn't leave us much time for the rest of the sites we wanted to visit--so we decided to forgo it.

To be honest, a part of me was thankful. In Paris, that had it's share of WWII and the Nazi reign, we'd gone to the Historical Museum and in a hallway, photographs were lined up all along the wall, blown up to enormous sizes--and I swear they're burned into the back of my eyelids. Images of men, women, children, wasting away in starvation, naked, and stacked up in heaps after being gassed to death. They were incredibly disturbing and I feared stepping foot on a concentration camp and feeling the presence of so much death, murder, torture, and...ultimately, evil. It's incredible to think that millions, literally 11 to 17 million people, were victims of the Holocaust.

We purposefully picked out a documentary on Auschwitz, located in Poland, that shouldn't be noted as a concentration camp but rather an extermination camp. Because that's exactly what it was. It's available for instant play on Netflix; watch it if you're interested in learning more. But what I wanted to note was the discussion after the first episode. A Professor spoke about how the act (the Holocaust) was so horrible, that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to learn from it. He explains that by trying to find an explanation for why it happened, we bring ourselves one step closer to justifying it, and that "is very dangerous", he says. I guess I agree. But it's human nature to try and understand the "why" of things.

Anyhow, I'm thankful to have gotten this opportunity to get an up-close lesson on history. All of these things weren't so long ago, you know? The Berlin Wall only came down in 1990, and the Holocaust--well, there are survivors still living among us. We learn of these things in school of course, but it's so much more impactful being able to see the history of it, walk on it, and learn from the source. We even got to experience May day (1st of May) which is a big day for labor rallies (I mean REALLY big). Lots of shops close down, cover their windows, lots of police presence, etc. There are of course lots of other, less somber parts of the trip. The culture is incredible. We went to see the most breath-taking works of art, sculptures so detailed, they were life-like.

This was an absolutely memorable trip.



Getting our passports stamped at Potsdamn. This are what you'd have needed in order to get through Checkpoint-Charlie.
Berlin Dom--basillica


Palace, Schloss Charlottenburg

Berlin, Olympic Stadium

One example of the magnificent sculptures in Berlin's museums


In memory of the victims of the Berlin Wall

May Day Labor Rally

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Zurich, Switzerland: Working & Traveling is Hard to Do




Most mornings I feel absolutely discombobulated. I think this is the primary reason why I miss home--and that is, having a daily routine. Routines are safe and predictable. You know how your day is likely going to go, what possible surprises are in store for you, and most importantly what your expectations are. I like to leave unpredictability in my stories...not in my life (most days). This state of being is a little like torture. A combination between business and pleasure. Half of me between work and the other half in travel/adventure mode. It's unnerving to someone like me who works off of plans, who functions on plans and having a structured day. Why? Well, because I hate experiencing anxiety, of course. I hate it so much that I can literally turn my back on something important if the anxiety level is more than I can bare. Most times, this doesn't stop me from meeting a challenge head on, but other times...like now...all I want to do is turn my back on it and crawl under a rock for a couple of days until the feeling goes away.

Being here, I have to step back and leave too many things out in the open. (I've accepted that I just can't operate any other way, not for long periods of time.) Whether it be work, traveling plans for the weekends, or even what the hell to do with my writing. Work (my real job) is hard to define, all on it's own--requiring ample amounts of motivation and some creative swimming through murky waters that are constantly challenging me. Every evening is trying to define all the minute details of the coming weekend's travel plans. And then there's the writing. Always hovering over me like a gnawing guilt, starting out the weight of a toddler until it's the size of a full grown man riding my back, when I've ignored it for too long.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I know this. I'm working on it. Being type A doesn't help. Sometimes the expectations we set out for ourselves are alarming high. At first we don't see this, not until we're standing beneath it, jumping for all we're worth and then do we realize, there's no way in hell I'm going to reach it. Okay, more pessimistic than I intended. There's always a way to reach our goals--like finding a stepladder, borrow one if you have to, or grow up (all metaphorically speaking).

Writing makes me happy. When I'm not writing, I feel out of sorts--purposeless. Trapped in a semi-angry state and confused about...everything. Slightly over-dramatic, but representative of exactly how I'm feeling on days like these.

Well, I'm happy to say that I've done a full manual edit (meaning pen on paper) on the manuscript of Violet Storm. I am working on incorporating those edits to the Word document which is as fun as hearing nails on a chalkboard.

All-in-all, things for the most part are okay. I think I need to see more progress with the writing and then I'll feel better.

This Easter weekend, I'll be heading out to Ville de Lumieres, Paris.

So, au revoir pour maintenant, mon ami! ;)



Friday, April 8, 2011

Zurich, Switzerland: Broke after Dinner


View of the river Limmat in Old Town

My mom inspired this blog after I told her, "When I asked for water at the restaurant, I'd just asked to pay 8 bucks for a bottle--no tap...Got two chicken breasts at the market that were 12 bucks. No kidding. And I went to the movies, spent $45 on two tickets...to which Chris added, 'Can I get a Sprite and some gummies?'--there goes another $12."
My mom said in response, "What are you eating then?"
"Cookies. Cookies are cheap. And there's chocolate everywhere."
"OMG. You should blog about it! Tell people that they can't afford to live there."

So here's me telling you, you can't afford to live here. Hell, I can't afford to live here. And I'm the queen of Frugality--your stretch every dime, friend; who eyeballs price-tags like they're the devil, and plays the luxury vs. need name game with every purchase.

For those of you who saw the video tour of my apt, this precious 700 sq feet of space I'm sitting on costs as much as my mortgage back home that's at a none-too-shabby 1700 sq feet in the sweet spot of San Jose. When I told my mom about the rent here, she said, "That's how they live there? But what if you have kids? It's so small." Well...the solution is that you get a bigger apartment, with an even bigger rent.

My co-worker Meagan loves the miniature--everything--of the apartment. Mini apartment for a mini vacay with a not so mini price-tag. Even the cups and glasses in the apt. are mini. I feel like I'm playing tea-party at every sit-down meal.

One of the hardest things is definitely grocery shopping. I spend a lot of time playing cryptographer; trying to uncover the clues on a package that will reveal it's contents, hoping that I haven't just bought a slab of liver or turkey links when I prefer good ol' pork and chicken.

The currency in Switzerland is Swiss Franks, aka CHF. Converted to U.S. dollars it's about 20% more expensive. I'm not the best at explaining this, but to give you a real life example, an average McDonald's meal costs 15 swiss franks...tack on another 20% and that's how much your MickyD's cost you in USD's--approx $18. Did you choke a little? Me too. {Update: Chris told me not to get my panties in a wad about the exchange rate. He says it's closer to 10% rather than 20%...maybe I'm just being extra cautious. LOL}

But cost aside, (which is not easy for most travelers to do) the landscape is gorgeous in Zurich. I laugh a lot at the street names. My street for example, is Mutschellenstrasse--which, if I've counted correctly is an astounding 18 letters long.

The weather's been sublime, and I'm catching myself wearing dresses like I' ve suddenly discovered that I'm a girl. Everything is easily accessible by bus, tram, and train, so you certainly don't need a car to get around. I'll be visiting Basel or perhaps Lucern tomorrow; only a quick train ride away. But it's not all play and no work. I'll be heading to Salzburg, Austria on Sunday for the Eurosys2011, a 3 day PhD conference. I recently found out that the local University in Zurich, known as ETH Zurich is considered to be Europe's equivalent to M.I.T. (a note-worthy alumni, Albert Einstein, attended ETH).

I'm definitely enjoying my time here. Thanks to the cost of food, and the need to walk to get anywhere, my waistline is making a come-back! S'okay that I'm addicted to coffee, practically vibrating all day from the caffeine intake. But I could definitely get used to this...

Beautiful day out and it's lunch time. I'm starting in on my edits...yeah that's a lot of edits to incorporate and I'm only 2 chapters in. Oh, and don't get too excited, that's sparkling apple juice :)


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Here's a tip...




I'm writing this blog in our sunny apartment in Zurich. Which should equate to an awesome start to the day. Except that's not exactly the first word that comes to mind.

A couple things you think I'd have learned from my previous travels: bring Pepcid AC--or anything that comes close, because it's a guarantee I'll get heartburn. You'd think that getting sedated on air plane for freaking out because I thought I was having a heart attack on my way back home from Greece was a lesson learned--idiot. But honestly, I thought that had been some kind of fluke. Even though, I did tell myself that from that day forward, I would never leave home without my antacids. It's day two in Zurich, and I've had heartburn 3 times already. TMI? Fine. I've had four hours of sleep and I'm on my second cup of coffee, because my brain decided that 3am was a perfectly superb time to be wide awake. Chris wasn't thrilled, and I could tell by his grumbling that he wanted to smack me with his phone the minute it told him he'd never willingly been up at this time before. (Here's where I miss my three story house, where I can escape somewhere without having to worry I'll wake somebody with my clanging utensils--I mean, booklight.)

Let's make this short and sweet then. I've finished my novel, Violet Storm. Woohoo! Except that doesn't really mean that I'm finished. It means the story has been told but now it's on to the fine-tuning, the make-it or break-it precision editing. I spent the better part of last week jotting down all sorts of tips on how to maximize my editing so that the final copy will be in its absolute best shape for the viewing pleasure of an agent (if it even gets that far). So I started thinking about my query letter. (For those who are curious, a query letter is a one page pitch to an agent asking them to read your manuscript.) Let me give an awesome, special thanks to my cousin, Chanelle for not laughing in my face when she read the opening hook for my query letter. Okay, clearly, I have lots of work left to do.

First tip you should employ when it comes to final edits, is to give you and the manuscript, two weeks of much needed space. It puts just enough distance to allow you to look at the work objectively, though it's still not as effective as having a trusted third party reviewing it. Note the word trusted. Because really, the last thing you need is to have the kind of person reading your work who enjoys nothing more than kicking you in the face with an insult--passive or not, no one deserves to be insulted after the kind of dedication and hours spent on a project such as writing a full length novel.

Another invaluable tip that comes close to making first: when you start the editing process, stay away from lighters and bins. There's no progress made burning your manuscript--and trust me, you'll be tempted. Yes...it sure would feel good--but the frustration that puts you on the precipice of employing this tip, usually comes while you're editing. Hence, it doesn't make it as the number one tip for final editing. Well when you get there, fight the temptation!

I'm still at week one. And that's why I'm blogging. Trying to keep my mind busy, thinking of something else other than heartburn, and the dizzying desire to get started on the editing.

More on this later.

Loving Zurich, but missing home and cuddly cat.

Do you have a tip you'd like to share when it comes to final edits?

Monday, March 7, 2011

So close, I can taste it.


Today was one of those days. The kind where you stepped into the office and seconds later you held nothing but a frown on your face. And as the minutes passed, the frown deepened along with your mood. Oh it was a shiteous day, and one that I knew well. I don't get those often, maybe once a month--is that often? Not sure, but I knew immediately that the best thing for me would be to go home, rather than direct my scowl at some innocent co-worker.

I'm not a scowler by nature. In fact, I'm known to be one of those, smilers--you know, pleasant folks. People you got along with and wanted to catch up with--people who you could talk to about anything.

I didn't have anything particularly upsetting to be pissed off at, it was just one of those days that you could probably attribute to getting less sleep than usual. So the frown stuck, almost all day. My thoughts kept wandering back to my book. I'm now 19 chapters in. An impressive feat considering I imagine that I'm about 3 chapters or so away from typing the words "the end".

And I'm grateful, sure I am. I'm just...frustrated. I think I'm bored with the story. And here I am a mere 3...let me repeat--3!--chapters away! I'm so close, I can't stop daydreaming about the moment I get an agent to call me and tell me they want to represent me, and voila another week later, a publisher!

I reread some scenes earlier today, drank an Arnold Palmer with a good dose of white Rum, plugged in one of those Twilight movies and started daydreaming like only a delusional person could.

I swear, each chapter is more daunting than the last. It's like I stare at those words "CHAPTER" and suddenly I'm frozen. Switching back and forth from Facebook to Thesaurus.com and thinking, "Fawk, how do I start...How do I continue in a way that doesn't fawking suck?"

The pressure can be too much. That's why I buy books. All those writer, self-help books from other writers who can't write a story but can write a self-help book, those "you're pathetic books". Pathetic because you don't trust your own natural instinct and because maybe, just maybe you really are delusional and you won't admit it?

Okay, okay, too self-deprecating. I'm in one of those moods. It's the Rum. I'm so close. One month and I think I'll finally be done. If i can just chug out a chapter a week, I'll be done.

Here's an excerpt from Violet Storm:

CHAPTER 17

“His majesty is going to personally murder me himself!” Quintas’ easy smile is long gone. I can hear his heart pounding strong but erratically in his chest.

“He doesn’t have to know, Quintas. And I won’t be hurt, so it’ll only be a verbal thrashing rather than your head,” I assure him for the third time. I cinch the tie holding up my hair in a secure ponytail, enjoying the slight and familiar pain from the tightness of it. Then I yank on the leather glove to cover my right hand, pressing into the pad on my palm. It’s the nicest glove I’ve ever worn and I intend to make very good use of it.

Quintas is walking quickly beside me, easily matching my hurried pace. “Of course you won’t get hurt! No one’s going to lay a hand on you in that field. They’re not insane!”

“Calm yourself, Quintas. We’re playing whether you like it or not.” I arch a brow, asking him to challenge me.

“But, Princess, this is not proper. If you get hurt—”

I raise a hand to stop him. “We’re only playing one quarter. My terrain of choice and if your men don’t play they’ll be the ones getting hurt.”

My eager legs carry me quickly onto the Fila field, leaving Quintas behind me. The players who’ve volunteered for the game look uneasy; each of them varying in size, height, weight and gender. No doubt, most of them were forced to play because they all look quesy and apologetic.

“Listen up everyone,” I shout. “On this Field, you will not think of me as the Princess. On this field I am either your enemy or your teammate. So I suggest you play for real. If you come across me, I expect you to do your part, hit the Fila ball from my hand—or wherever else would be effective—as my teammate, you can aid me to the goal rings.” I give a deep sigh. “Or I will happily annihilate you. And if that doesn’t seem punishment enough, I’ll see to it that you’ll be stuck for weeks with a humiliating duty, and carrying it out wearing one of my cousin’s ridiculous pink froo-froo dresses.” I could tell that even the girls on the team are mortified by the idea. “The winning team will name their reward and it will be handsome indeed.”

With that, I turn to the outskirts of the field and signal to Quintas. “Pull up the water terrain, no lower than three inches. Add rocks, and make it hail, Quintas. I want a storm!”

The players all look up at me with a mixture of horror, excitement, and a whole lot of fear. “You six,” I point to the players closest to me, “You’re on my team. And you seven, prepare for a damn good quarter.”

Before I leave, I spin to face our opponents. “Oh, and just between us,” I add with a confident smile, “Haven’t you ever desired to hit a pompous, rich, royal, who believed herself priveleged in every way? Don’t forget, my food’s real…for every meal.

“I’m a champion. So, prepare to feel some real pain, ladies and gentlemen.” I eye each of them challengingly and I can tell some of them are disgusted, just like I intended them to be.

With that, I walk with my team to our end of the field. Each step brings a rise of exhilaration pulsing eagerly through my blood. Already my fists are impatient to hold the Fila ball once more.

Water begins to rise up from the mat. Soon it covers my boots until both my feet are bathed in it. Rocks form from the ground and the spokes spread above us, down the length of the field. The rings on the end zones are brought up from the ground glinting gold in the light. The hailstorm starts slowly at first but I know that soon, it will be torrential.

This is exactly what I need. This is where I belong.

A growing audience surrounds the field, taking their seats in the rising bleachers that have been resurrected by Quintas. I hope word doesn’t reach the Monarch’s ear before the quarter is up. I need this. The desire to feel like myself again overthrows my fear of having this day abruptly ended before I can finish what I set out to do this morning. But this morning, I never thought I’d set foot in a Fila field again. And now that I’m on it, I’ll be damned if I don’t get to play one last time.

I turn to face my teammates and place a look of genuine trust and what I hope is comraderie on my face and in my posture. “You’ve all played before right?”

Some nod in assent. “Yes, Princess,” others say.

“Good. We’re going to have a good game—albeit a fraction of a real game—but it’ll be a good one. Just remember that we’re all on the same team. Play to your strengths and each other’s. Me, I’m quick on my feet, the fastest you’ll probably ever see, with an aim that is always true. You see that hundred-point ring,” I point at the smallest ring on the end zone behind them.

Everyone turns to look. To all of them, it probably looks like nothing more than an impossible illusion. A taunt that if met, will be a failed attempt and a waste of a throw that could’ve been used to score 25 or even 50 points.

“Only one in every thousand players can throw a Fila ball into that ring. And I’m one of them. If you get the Fila ball, know that if you pass it to me, I’ll score high and win us this game. And all of you are going to reap the rewards.” I give them a confident and assuring smile.

“Yes, Princess,” they all echo, some more doubtfully than others.

“Remember, I’m not a Princess on this field. Thinking so will get you hurt.”

“Yes, P—”

I level a dull stare at the blonde girl who almost calls me Princess again.

The opening of a Fila game always starts out with both teams vying to be the first to obtain the Fila ball that will be shot out from the center of the field, high into the air. Each team will start on opposing end goals, running to the center to retrieve the released ball. The team that gets to it the fastest can immediately make a play and run to the end zone to throw a goal. The defense will receive bats as quickly as the offense is identified.

This is my favorite part of the entire game. And it’s always the bloodiest.

My chest rises high and low as I suck in deep breaths, feeling the welcoming surge of adrenaline at the antipation. I lower my stance and spread my legs into a quick start position, my back leg twitching, impatient to race to the center. The buzzard rings and from the center can be heard the sound of a spring coiling tight, readying the contraption that will release the glass ball in the air. My ears strain to hear the spring release.

Now!

The spring releases. I propel forward; my entire body in harmony—in sync to the rythmn of my racing heart. I don’t feel anything, not even the beating of the pebble-sized hail as if they were dropping from the sky all at once, or the cold water splashing up, soaking me as I kick across the water. None of it. For I am a Fila champion. This is my home.

Across from us, our opponents are slow to react. But upon seeing me surging through the thick haze of hail and the slick rocky surfaced water of a field, they become mobile and race to meet me in the center.

The Fila ball bursts from the dark water, high into the air. It’s mine! Using a large rock, half hidden beneath the high layer of water, I kick off of it, and leap. The glass ball reaches its high point and begins to drop; my fingers reach out and guide it into my glove-encased palm. Hah! More coils spring, our opponents have been armed with their Fila bats.

Let the game begin.

Two opponents directly ahead of me, charge at me with raised bats. The first one swings crazily before hesitating as if suddenly remembering who I am. But it’s his mistake. I duck his wild swing and in one fluid motion, drive a fist into his solar plexus. Just as he hunches over, I follow my punch with a downward elbow at the base of his neck. The second guy, still running at me, slows slightly as he gapes, but he’s quick to recover and takes his bat with both hands. With a battle cry, he drives it down where my shoulder is. I dodge--just a quick movement to the right, before ramming him with that same shoulder he’d meant to injure. My momentum and Modi strength lift him completely off the ground and catapulting him into the air. He lands on a smatter of rocks. Ouch.

No time to pity him, but I do chuckle a little. Only six yards to the end zone. Someone rushes at me from the side, pumping his long athletic legs, hard and fast. He leaps, arms stretched wide to tackle me by the waist. I change course and run to meet him. He leaps, his whole body lifting like a missile to destroy me. But just then, I collapse to my knees, bending backwards and using my momentum to skid safely beneath him. The fool soars right over me, catching nothing but air. Amateur! My feet recover and I take off into a sprint. My team is doing well to oppose the defense who are all now coming after me. But it doesn’t matter because the defense is still too slow—too late to adjust to seeing what I’d done to their teammates.

Only three yards left. My arm swings, my lips smile, my body sings. I could practically hear the whistle of the ball as it soars into my target.

Goal!

The buzzard rings. “50” points go up on the board under the team name Violet.

I purposefully didn’t aim for the 100-point goal ring. Why shatter their hopes before we’ve even begun to really play?

From the audience made up of guards, trainees and bystanders, erupts applause and screams. That’s right baby, I say proudly to myself. From the sidelines, I hear Quintas curse. My personal guards look squeamish, gazing around the area as if expecting the Monarch to pop out and hang them at any minute.

I pass by the opponents on the ground, “You have some time to take Ubuu before we continue,” I say to them, knowing the ones who’ve fallen on the rocks wouldn’t be able to continue playing if they didn’t drink the elixir to numb the pain and quicken the healing. The rest of the players rush to us then, some of their faces bloody and bruised. But most of them ignore the fallen men, instead looking at me with admiration and a little bit of fear.

“What?” I ask, hiding my smirk. “I told you not to hesitate. Now, let’s keep playing.”

“I’ve never seen anyone throw like that,” the player in jersey #2 says aloud.

Some reply, sounding so much in awe, “Me too…”

“None of us have ever scored that quickly before. How did you do that?” asks another.

“What can I say?” I reply with a shrug, allowing my arrogance to rise at all the attention. Fila is the only thing I can rightfully claim to being good at.

“You gotta show me how you did that,” the blonde girl from before, says.

I wave them back, asking instead, “So are you going to play for real? Or do you want to end up like these guys?” I ask the last with a raise of my brow.

My challenge is met with smiles and nods. “Yeah! Let’s play!” one guy yells.

I laugh. “You heard the kid!” And then the buzzard rings.

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