Thursday, February 20, 2014

Homeless and the Search for That Something


Two nights ago, I had dinner with friends in San Francisco. The restaurant was on 19th and Mission and on that one block alone, there were five maybe more homeless folks roaming the darkened street. I peeked around the corner and there were several more coming out from the shadows.

They were on the hunt for something: money, food, companionship, perhaps their sanity, but mostly they were looking for things left behind—forgotten, and ignored just like them. That night, I clung tightly to my boyfriend’s hand. The street had suddenly taken on a look of desolation made more eerie by the fact that it was far from empty, and there were people littering about. The sort of denizens with a look of hunger that made you wonder briefly over your safety. The streetlamps cast a harsh yellow glow, never enough to fully illuminate. There could be someone standing beyond its shallow ring of light, and you would never know. I tried not to catch the gaze of the passersby; carting what few belongings they had as they continued on their search for that something.

I’ve written a few snippets here and there on my Facebook Page of my encounters with the homeless. I hate to see them living the way they do. Tears me up, makes me angry, shameful, and feeling like I must immediately consider my life and be grateful for all the little things I have. I never have to worry about my health or having someplace to call home. I never have to worry about where or when I’m going to find my next meal. So if you ask me if I give money to the homeless, the answer is yes. It doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t make any real, impactful changes, except give someone a meal, or a drink for one night. The same man I gave ten dollars to the other day will be out on that street begging again tomorrow. And yes, that does hurt me to some degree. Sometimes I give them food. A few have turned it down. That begs the question: is my effort a waste? Just a way to assuage the guilt I feel? And why do I feel guilty?

I’ve thought about it. And thought about it some more. Sometimes it keeps me up at night. I can do more. I can volunteer—spend weekends giving food to the homeless at some shelter. Or something much less time consuming, like giving minutes of my time listening, being that one person who decided to be kind, to notice them for the human beings they are instead of walking a wide arc around them, being rude, or insulting. But I don’t. I haven’t. I want to, and I know one day I will.

Where does this empathy come from, I wonder? It must come from somewhere deep.

Maybe it’s because of my roots. Where I’ve come from. You see, I wasn’t born in the U.S.. I was born in a little forgettable province in a third world country, the Philippines. I won’t bother to name the particular province because no one knows it and it makes for a convenient answer to security questions I’ve made to all my bank accounts. (GAH!) So now, I really can’t say.

I moved to the U.S. when I was six, and thus have a unique blend of cultural views being of Filipino heritage crudely reshaped by an American upbringing. My parents worked hard to spare us from a life of struggle in the Philippines. And I guess, along with the natural Catholic guilt embedded by my religion, and constant reminders of “how lucky I am”, it’s easy to see why I’ve developed this high level of empathy.

But I digress. The real truth is, I don’t like to see suffering—animals and humans alike. And honestly, who does? As a writer, I see the world around me a little differently than most. I suppose, it’s just a whole lot harder for me to look away unscathed and unaffected. I see, and I look away, and for several minutes, my chest feels tight, like my heart has swelled, eating up the space where my lungs are supposed to be. I take in all of the emotions, the mood, the faces, the movements, and short breaths between words—because as a writer, I’ve trained myself to be that way. To collect and inspect, and to file away for later use.

Despite all the belongings we have on this earth, all the money we accumulate: one aspect we can undoubtedly all relate to, is that no matter the course of our lives, we’re all searching this world for that special something. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Unstuck Creative Hump: Dolls, Dolls, Dolls

With a majority of the planning running smoothly for Violet Storm's release in late March, I've begun to focus on completing my next story, Snow Dolls, which I hope to launch in September 2014.

I do various exercises to inspire my muse. One of the easiest for me, is using powerful images. Seems to get my muse the jolt it needs to find its way to my consciousness. 

I stumbled across Hiritai has photographs of some of the most captivating dolls I've ever seen. If dolls could look so real as to be animate, they would look like his dolls. Hiritai has captured the moment just before they're about to smile, look up at you, or wink "hello". There is an anime quality to them that I'm a big fan of.

I grew up watching a lot of cartoons (I read a lot too, but not much until my late high school years). Some of which included anime, mostly Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and other titles like Project A-Ko, Akira, Ghost in a Shell, and a few others. I would say that anime absolutely influenced my budding creative mind.  In fact, it took it to a whole new level. Anime has inspired parts of my work and I turn to it when I'm feeling uncreative, and needing help to envision the world I'm trying hard to create.

I still watch anime today. Some of the new concepts I'm seeing, validate just how limitless the creators imaginations are. I'm always on the hunt for good, visually compelling stories.

Tonight I looked for images and inspiration to help me contextualize the world of Snow Dolls. I got to looking at Japanese dolls, and next thing you know, I've stumbled on Hiritai's website. Below are some cool images that made my jaw drop.

Image by Hiritai at

Yep...that's a DOLL. Image by Hiritai at

Image by Hiritai at

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Power of a Properly-Constructed Routine

Love this logo (though, it's not mine)
I knew several years ago that despite my adventurous spirit, the very core of me functioned in a well-constructed routine with studiously-planned adventures in the hopes to experience spontaneity.


I suppose one can say, that spontaneity in my life is a lie, and is more purposeful rather than unconscious.

When things get busy, I become the master of routines. With my endeavor to self-publish in the coming month, the continuous busy-ness of my day-job, sustaining my great love (an actual person and not a cat), and getting my body back into some semblance of a shape other than round: a routine equals salvation and a greater chance for success.

This morning, I was up at 6am, resentfully watching the clock hit 7am when my alarm is set to remind me that I promised to hit the gym for an hour. My chiropractor had advised me to strengthen my core, and after my masseuse asked me about how my newborn "baby" was doing...I realized, I probably should do something about my stomach. It apparently confuses people. By 8:50am, I am showered, guzzling coffee and my after-workout milkshake concoction, grabbing my laundry, and running to the train station.

Work flies in a dizzying speed--a welcome reprieve from my fears of all the self-publishing work, nicely disguised as excitement for the unknown venture. By the time it's 6pm, I've managed to drag myself home from the train, pick up a book, and read until hunger starts making me think that gnawing on my arm is a perfectly sane thing to do. I watch Modern Family, laugh over my company-provided dinner that has been hastily packed into a to-go box, and eating it using chop-sticks because I like to challenge myself. Then it's another shower to wake me up, a cup of hot cocoa, and my also-very-round butt sits comfortably in front of my computer doing something related to writing from 9pm to 11pm. Until my eyes can hardly stay open.

Sleep finds me. I dream weird things--which I wish I didn't have the uncanny ability to remember in the morning. I don't think one is meant to remember their dreams. All sorts of weird shit happens, I stuff puppies in my shoe and in my bra; I dream of zombies, other peoples babies, and being sat on by paranormal things.

Work on publishing the novel is moving along. The soft-launch and hard-launch dates have been solidified, I've gone through the first round of logo designs, and by 11pm tonight, I should have my novel fully edited and ready for e-formating. The the latter alone, deserves a fist-in-the-air Woohoo!

Are you a creature of routine too?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Self-Publishing - Part I

Happy Lunar New Year! And what a great year it's looking to be so far.
I've begun the preliminary work on the launch to self-publish Violet Storm. I haven't picked a specific date for the launch quite yet, and may in fact do a "soft" launch prior to a full, heavy marketing blitz so that if anything comes up in the first round, I have the chance to correct it without feeling like it's the end of the world, and that I'm going to have to crawl under a rock and hide my face until everyone forgets my uber failure. Just kidding.

But not really.

The date I have in mind is mid-March, because that's when busy season and travel for my day job winds down and I can have consistent evenings with little surprises to be able to focus on the work it will take.

bath writing tableI've got a mean list, and by mean, I mean, really freakin' horrifically enormously daunting. Phew. That's what it feels like--when you've expelled all the air from your lungs and you struggle to breathe it all back in. It's a long task list of things I have to work on to properly prepare for as smooth and successful of a book launch as I can hope for.

Right now I'm focusing on the platform, like creating a website (with the help of my amazing and talented cousin, Chanelle Ates) and an author page for Facebook, Amazon, and perhaps Goodreads. I'm working with a family friend, Jason Rought, on creating a personal logo and additional design support for the cover photo of my FB author page, Twitter, and website. I'm also hoping to create a fun postcard to share with family and friends, and any interested readers.

What else is on my action list? 

Well, I used Scrivener (my primary writing tool) to compile my story into a .ePub file and am doing a final edit by reading it like an actual ebook on my iPad. From there, I can tweak the ebook formatting and work on the cover and a release poster with Kyle. Also, because I'm worried about the tax implications should my book actually become profitable, I've opened a separate checking account, so I can file my taxes with clear and accurate information--something I would advise all my fellow entrepreneurs and aspiring self-publishers to think about.

There is so much research needed in choosing the right distributor. My heart is set on Amazon's Createspace (primarily for its print-on-demand option) and Gumroad (as my personal website eStore). Gum road only takes 5% of your books retail price while Amazon takes 30%. The ebook will be available on Amazon for Kindle, GooglePlay, iTunes, and Nook.

Lots of moving pieces, but this is probably the most work I'll have to do since it's my first launch and I won't have to replicate every action item for future book releases.

So how do I feel?

I'm excited. Almost deliriously excited. I haven't been this excited about my writing and my future as a writer in a long time. After Violet Storm is ready, I'm going to continue writing White as Snow (which I think I'm going to re-title to Snow Dolls). World building and work on Snow Dolls has been picking up speed and I hope to finish it in a couple months and publish it by the end of September this year. :)

More to come!

Before I conclude, I just want thank you for your support. Your enthusiasm and energy is what has helped motivate me to pursue this path. I promise I'm working really hard to write you a great story, one that I hope you have a hard time putting down until those fateful words, THE END.