Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Museum Pizza

Last weekend I had a great opportunity to do research for Sister Soul. The LACMA had an exhibit on samurai armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.

I'm not a good photographer, but here:







Many of these outfits weren't suited for war, but in the Edo Period (when part of my book takes place), the samurai weren't exactly fighting all the time. Most of them were busy making elaborate armor. And, apparently, Edo period armor was so beautiful that when armor from earlier periods is restored, the restorers often draw from Edo aesthetics, making useful armor less more brightly colored.

Prof. Luke Roberts from UC Santa Barbara gave a lecture about samurai lifestyles during the Edo Period, and that was very helpful as well. He is currently translating two sets of diaries from two samurai, and that will make for excellent reading when the projects are done, I'm sure.

Roberts is also translating some journals from samurai women, which will be particularly helpful for my book. So, please hurry, Dr. Roberts! He mentions that the calligraphy style and subject matter that the women use is so different from the men that he is having to learn it as if if were a whole new language.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Blue Apples and Spring Beans

I'm going on week 22 of my Japanese lessons, and we've been learning about colors. In Japanese, common color terms fall into two grammar categories.

One group, which includes red (aka) and blue (ao), acts like adjectives.

The red kimono.

The blue tea kettle.

The other group, which includes green (midori), pink (pinku), and orange (oranji), acts like nouns.

The kimono has orangeness, for example, though this is a bad translation.

As I was annoying my teacher with various philosophical questions about how the Japanese people might be categorizing these different color groups in their minds, someone volunteered that, in Chinese, green and blue were once both considered "blue."

In other words, people once saw the variation between green and blue to be smaller and not necessarily worth differentiating. Like the spectrum of musical sounds being broken into notes, we have used labels to categorize colors, and it's interesting how these categories have changed, and perhaps gotten more specific. The way the history of our perception is captured in language is fascinating too.

What's Peanut eating? Cucumbers.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Lunch dessert

Are you a fan of Frank O'Hara?

Or, are you a fan of poetry?

Or, are you a fan of interesting writing?

Or, do you have or have you ever used an electric fan?

Or a paper fan?

Or has anyone you know every used a fan?

Then you should check out a new book of poetry by Craig Cotter: After Lunch with Frank O'Hara.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Horsemeat on a shelf

Master Chef Scott G.F. Bailey tagged me on a blogger hop-skippity, and because I have not posted this month, I will hop along!

What am I working on? The majority of my writing time lately is spent on a fantasy novel for teens call Sister Soul that is based on the lives of my 4th generation Japanese-American sister-in-law and her sister. Both of these women are big readers and constantly talk about how much they wish they had magic powers. So, I'm giving them powers in fictional form. I'm also including a couple of other characters who I've always wanted to include in a story. I'm about a third of the way through the third draft, and have about 50k words. I'm hoping to get a polished draft done by Christmas to give to them as gifts. They would like me so much if that worked out.

How does my work differ from others in its genre? I'll talk about my writing in general. I think I tend to be more spare than other American writers. I'm often inspired by (translated) Japanese literature and Tolstoy. Also, not being a fan of plot maps, my work probably feels more flat and meandering than your average story. In a way my novels are more like a series of episodes instead of one big story. I also try to be very sensitive to emotion.

Why do I create what I do?  I think it's mostly greed. For the same reasons I sing along to songs, I think I want to participate in the act of art that gets me excited, and I want to be able to own art and have it on my shelf. Ideally, the art I make will be the art that entertains me most.

How does my creative process work? I constantly get ideas for things that I think are interesting, such as a world where the characters are all named after race horses or a character who is able to draw out negative emotions from people she is near. Or a man who volunteers to be eaten. Those little ideas accumulate, usually with no concept of story, beginning, middle, or end. Eventually, I'll have a handful of them and will force them to play together in an attempt at a novel--again with no concept of story, beginning, middle, or end. I'll just start writing and see what takes shape. I'm not saying this is a good idea. It's just how I work.

Can I just tag Michelle again, since she's already been tagged?

What's Peanut eating? Duck jerky and cucumber.

His nose is a little wet from having just had some water

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chocolate Lava Cake

Every once in a while I'll read a piece of fiction and recognize in it a writer's technique that I didn't (couldn't?) recognize before.

Recently, I decided to read through a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov, mostly due to this guy, and pay more attention to what makes Chekhov so influential.

As I read, I asked myself what made him different from other writers I admired and how his stories were different from my own. Several characteristics came up, including his impressively large portfolio of well-rendered and diverse characters and his wide range of endings with different emotional impacts and twists.

Another thing I noticed was how much character information Chekhov puts up front. In the last couple of days, I've read about a dozen of his stories, and in all of them the opening paragraphs are almost entirely focused on characterization. Many of the stories start with a character's name and go on to describe who he or she is. The stories may well start in the middle of action, but Chekhov slows the action down to get all of this information in.

This technique accomplishes a few things.

First, I think this creates more excitement for readers, as they have more information on which to see potential outcomes. They have more data and can guess at the results. I think this engages their imaginations and can create a different form of suspence.

Second, I think readers may have more of an emotional investment in the character because they know the character. It's the difference between seeing a friend versus a stranger getting hit by a car.

Third, this technique creates something that I think of as momentum. The confrontation of character to conflict is presented up front, and now the rest of the story just has to unfold. This is different from a situation where the character is still being revealed, in which case the journey of the story is a combination of both information gathering and outcome. When a character is slowly revealed, the tension comes in the form of questions about the character. When the character is revealed more quickly, the tension comes in the form of "How does life unfold?"

I don't know yet if I like this style of writing more than other styles, but it's an intriguing one. And I think I'll be rewriting some of my stories with this in mind to see how that changes the reading experience.

What's Peanut eating? Salmon and carrots.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Re-re-re-fried Azuki Beans

One of the sections I still need to drastically improve for Sister Soul involves an adventure in feudal Japan with the shugo daimyo Akifumi Katamori and a still unnamed ninja--I'm considering "Goro" or "Daisuke." The main characters will have to navigate their way from the Samurai culture to the ninja culture, and trying to figure out that pathway has been a challenge, to put it mildly. Warrior rules of conduct haven't been a big component of my beginning Japanese class. (Although I now know all of my Katakana and Hiragana!)

But, instead of being bogged down in logistics, I decided to just write the opening scenes of that section from the point of view of someone telling a story, introducing characters, describing the place, setting the stage. That helped me to make some good progress, and I hope it continues.

Meanwhile, our alien green castle has started to produce a bounty of crops. We've had tomatoes (cherry and heirloom), basil, and all sorts of green leaves, along with the beginnings of what we hope to be cucumbers, soybeans, corn, and other such. 



Our urban farming neighbor also gave us fresh chicken, duck, and quail eggs that look like magical stones.


I'm so ready for the zombie apocalypse, you have no idea.

What's Peanut eating? Bison.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
 
                                           -Maya Angelou
 

Monday, May 12, 2014

I forget

Okay, I didn't really forget. But, YOU should forget--or, rather, not forget, to check out Michelle D. Argyle's latest offering: If I Forget You!


Michelle's last book is Out of Tune, which is a great book that you should also check out. 

What's Peanut eating? Sweet potato wrapped in fish skin.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cake and Cocoa

I could make the argument that I have been working on Sister Soul, even though the second draft has been sitting on my cluttered desk, untouched, for about three weeks. Since the book is based on two Japanese-American teenagers and has a lot to do with both Japanese and Japanese-American culture, part of my work has been to do more research.

Last Saturday, as part of this endeavor (and also because I greatly want to read the works of Yasunari Kawabata and Haruki Murakami in their original form), I started taking Japanese lessons. My crazy, intelligent, happy friend, Marytza, is joining me, which makes it that much more fun.

Japanese culture has always intrigued me, and I'm looking forward to better understanding it. Fortunately for me, our Little Tokyo district is about ten minutes away from home. For this first course, we are learning two of the three Japanese "alphabets," depending on what you consider an alphabet.

Both Hiragana and Katakana have 46 characters (although I'm not quite sure how they are counting this), and each character represents a syllable, such as "ka" or "su." As far as I understand it, both Hiragana and Katakana have the same 46 sounds, which makes them seem very redundant. But, Hiragana is used when writing words that originated from Japan while Katakana is used for words that come from other origins. Sushi = Hiragana. Teriyaki = Hiragana. Ice cream = Katakana.

This strikes me as an interesting way to preserve the history of a language and the culture of the country. It also strikes me as a bit snooty, but I'm going with it for now.

So far, we've learned "a" "i" "u" "o" "e" and "ka" "ki" "ku" "ko" and "ke"

The ability to write characters that always looked so beautiful to me is also a great benefit. And I'll finally be able to determine if the characters seem less beautiful when they actually mean something.

In Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai, the main character argues that books should be written in multiple languages the way music is played with multiple instruments. That has always struck me as interesting. Japanese has that built in, partly. Prose can be a mix of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, which is a lovely idea. And soon, maybe I'll be able to write a story mixing English, Thai, Spanish, French, and Japanese!

What's Peanut eating? Raccoons. Or at least he's barking at them a lot whenever they show up on our deck. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Danish with Danger






The second edition of Scott G. F. Bailey's novel, The Astrologer, is available now!

About the book:

"As long as Denmark looks backward, there will be bloodshed."

It is December of 1601. Soren Andersmann, the Danish royal astrologer, has smuggled a trunk full of poisons, daggers, and a venomous snake into the royal castle at Elsinore. Though Soren knows nothing of the assassin's trade, he has sworn to be the instrument of vengeance. King Christian IV has murdered Soren's mentor and spiritual father, Tycho Brahe, the most famous astronomer the world has seen. Soren will see justice done.

The Astrologer takes us into the world of Europe on the edge of the Renaissance. It is a world ruled by the sword, where civilization is held in place by violence and blind loyalty. The birth of science is still overshadowed by medieval religion, but men are learning to think for themselves. In 1601, a man who thinks for himself is a dangerous man. Soren Andersmann, the astrologer, is becoming a dangerous man.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Outdoor Dinner

One of the perks of having a yard is getting to eat outside. So, last weekend we went shopping for outdoor furniture. We came across a place that advertised Moroccan hand-cut mosaic tile tables. The saleswoman was named Corinne and she had a strong French accent. It's probably this season of House of Cards that's making me feel empowered, but I want to propose a bill that would require the word "turquoise" to always be pronounced with a French accent.


The table arrived yesterday, and we celebrated with some sauteed salmon, rice, green beans, and tiramisu. (Okay, I had the tiramisu and Red had a Nestle drumstick.)  ((Okay, I had tiramisu and a Nestle drumstick, and so did Red.))

At any rate, if any of my blogger pals come to visit on a warm day, we can now enjoy rosemary and thyme pancakes outside...or tea and scones...or Thai barbecue with papaya salad, larb, sticky rice, and chicken marinated in lemongrass and curry powder!  

Our next goal will be to repair the ground beneath the table.

In writing news, I finished the second complete draft of Sister Soul. Draft trois is underway including a substantial revision of the feudal Japan section. I've named my shugo daimyo Akifumi Katamori, and every morning at 4 a.m. he greets his villagers by saying, "I am Akifumi Katamori. I rise before the sun."

What's Peanut eating? Strawberries and green beans.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Grocery List: Books I've Read Multiple Times

There are a few books that I return to over and over and over. Some are breathtaking, and I just want to admire them again. Some confound me, and I return to them to try to better understand what the author was doing. Some comfort me like a bowl of biscuits and gravy.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (possibly the book I've reread the most times)

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Light in August by William Faulkner (probably the book I've reread the most times)

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez which should also be on my last list

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (a short story collection)

Open Secrets by Alice Munro (a short story collection)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Lake by Yasunari Kawabata

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


What's Peanut eating? Socks.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Tiny Piece of Fish

Kathy Fish is one of the writer friends I admire most. She is an incredible talent. She writes a lot of flash fiction, and I often find that I can read the same piece by her multiple times and feel the emotion of that piece grow with each reading. Her prose is lovely and subtle, and she mines the complex emotions of our daily lives.

Kathy's latest collection is called Together We Can Bury It, and I missed getting my copy when the first printing came out. Luckily for me, and for the world, The Lit Pub has the collection back in stock! I just ordered my copy.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Grocery List

Books I wish I'd written (in no particular order):

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

The Lake by Yasunari Kawabata

Light in August by William Faulkner

The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Paste

I clearly remember Kenny B. in the 6th grade showing the class his tongue with a thick glob of Elmer's glue on it. He was making a face like he didn't like it. At the same time he was making no attempt to wipe it away.

I'm stuck at the moment. The characters in Sister Soul have reunited at a location that brings them dangerously close to facing their final challenge. The problem is, they aren't ready for that challenge yet, and I am trying to come up with a graceful way to back them out and get some distance. My worry is that the needed setting change will make the structure of the book too obvious and pull the reader out of the story. I worked for a few hours last night, but I didn't get 1,000 words written. It was one of the stare-y days.

What's Peanut eating? Aged cheddar.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Shabu shabu and trail mix

My brother and sister-in-law entrusted me with the well-being of their only son for a few hours on Saturday. I decided to take him to shabu shabu, mostly because I tend to choose activities that I think a kid would like when I really have no idea what kids typically like. He couldn't reach the broth in the middle of the table. He complained that the steam was getting in his eyes. But, thankfully, after he got the hang of it, he had a blast and wants to go back!

Sunday I went on my first decent hike in probably over fifteen years. Some co-workers and I climbed Mt. Baldy (or Mount San Antonio, altitude 10,000 feet) as part of a 10.8 mile loop in the San Gabriel Mountains. The first few miles of the journey included a mental conversation with my younger self that went something like:

YS: You can't do this old man. You used to be in shape, but you're no spring chicken anymore.

OS: Maybe you're right.

YS: Of course I'm right. Take your joints for example. They can't possibly survive this. And your lungs. Do you really want to faint in front of your boss?

OS: Hey, we've been going for a couple of miles. I feel good! So, maybe you should just shut up and leave me alone!

 
As a result of my activities, though, I didn't complete my 1,000 words a day over the weekend. The wagon has been fallen off of. I hope to get back on it today, but there is the slight chance that I will get to go see a free showing of the great Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises."

What's Peanut eating? Turkey burger.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bulbs

Back in late 2008 or early 2009, I was very excited to learn that one of my favorite writers, Jhumpa Lahiri, would be speaking at a local Parisian bookstore. The reason for her visit was partially because she had written the foreword for a collection of stories by a writer named Mavis Gallant, someone I had never heard of before.

Lahiri and Gallant had a duel reading, and I was honored to be only a couple of meters away from them. Lahiri even gave me a smile! Though I didn't know Gallant's work at all, she quickly won me over with her intelligence, depth of emotion, and humor.

I felt very lucky to have met her.

Afterwards, Red and I lined up to get books signed by them. Gallant started writing in Red's book and then scribbled over the first line. "I was about to give you my phone number and address," she said.

Gallant passed away this week at the age of 91. Read more here and maybe here.

What's Peanut eating? A cobweb.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pickled Green Tomatoes

I headed out to Joshua Tree for the long weekend with the intention of resting, reading, and writing. I've been a big fan of the place the last few years, as passing by the strange trees always makes me feel like I'm entering an alien world that keeps my normal routine at bay so that I can be creative.

Red, Peanut, and I arrived at night, so on this particular trip I didn't see the tree upon entering, and maybe that's why I ended up doing more resting and less reading and writing than I had intended.

We also stumbled upon a farmer's market and met a woman who had some of the most unusual preserves I have ever seen.

(And, thankfully, we saw several Joshua Trees the rest of the weekend.)

I have been sticking to my daily challenge of writing 1,000 words a day, and over the weekend I wrote about 6,000 words. I'm hoping I can stay steady until I have so much momentum behind me that I won't be able to stop even if I wanted to.

I've reached the middle section of the book, where the mystery of the sister soul has been revealed and one of the main characters travels to purgatory to try and put things back in order. I'm excited about this section because of the contrast the setting has to the rest of the story, which takes place in and around Los Angeles and the Little Tokyo area. I'm trying to create a serene place, full of white plains and softness; at the same time it's a brutal place, as souls discover that they've died and have to move on. I can feel Thornton Wilder's Our Town influencing my conception of the afterlife. Most of the souls have no drive, and resisting that suck is part of the character's challenge.

"This place doesn't welcome the living," Shige said. "Resist the temptation to stop."


What's Peanut eating? Little bits of filet mignon, hot dog, and chicken.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

IV Drip

Soon we won't need our imaginations anymore! Those pesky things probably cause cancer, anyway. MIT engineers are creating augmented books.

I'm going to start working on a new novel that doesn't include any words. It will just have cues for electrical impulses that control how the reader feels. Or, maybe I should say it will just have cues for electrical impulses that control how the "reader" "feels."

I'm feeling good about my revisions. Two days ago, I wrapped up Chapter 1, and what was originally a loud and vague ending has became a quieter and more precisely described ending. I'm really happy with the result.

I'm also finding opportunities to make my characters more distinct from one another. Four of them are currently in a room, and my challenge is to make sure each one has his or her own personality.

What's Peanut eating? Something in the dark that I probably wouldn't want to know about.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Secret ingredients

To explain or not to explain.

I've been working on the next draft of Sister Soul, and I'm wrestling with how much explanation I should provide regarding some Japanese mythology that adds an extra level of intrigue to the story.

The opening scene of my book takes place in L.A.'s Little Tokyo district on the first day of Nisei Week. The main character is watching a taiko drum performance while she waits for her dance performance to start. Things don't go smoothly, as one of the drummers falls into a trance and drums away to his own beat.

On its own, I think the scene is working to hint at some supernatural intervention. The taiko performance is something that's always popular at Nisei Week, so, on a surface level, I'm not reaching too much to include that in the scene.

But the mythology of how the taiko drums were created adds another element to the story that isn't necessarily obvious to people who aren't that familiar with Japanese culture. The maker of the first taiko drum is said to be Ame no Uzume, who used the drum to summon out the Amaterasu, the goddess of sunlight.

It so happens that, in my story, the goddess of sunlight plays an important role, and it's her absence that leads to much of the main conflict.

I've tried adding some hints to the myth among the characters' banter, but everything I've tried so far has felt awkward. So, I'm wondering if this is something I should explain, or if I should simply leave it as an extra information nugget that only a few people would understand.

Thoughts?

What's Peanut eating? Ham.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Champagne

I finished the first draft of Sister Soul this weekend. Writing the end of a story was a new experience, since I've known how everything would wrap up for weeks now. It was just a matter of moving to that finish line step by step.

Next: revisions.

Because the plot is more linear, I find myself able to concentrate on other elements of the writing, including subtext, character, dialog, and scene. I think this book has been what I needed to improve on some skills.

What's Peanut eating? Toothpaste. He got a good brushing last night. He's learned to tolerate me scraping his teeth with a weird bristled object.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tsukemono and miso soup

For now, I've only got three major scenes left to write before I'm done with the first draft of Sister Soul. This will be a pretty rough first draft, with several sections still written in outline form.

The nice thing is that this is a fairly linear story (linear for me, anyway, although I warn you that time jumping is involved), so I don't see a lot of rearrangements in the second draft. I think it will be a matter of defining characters more clearly and fleshing out details about action and setting. The story has a lot of fantasy elements that have to be described more clearly, otherwise I fear they will seem too random. It's turning out to be a combination of Quantum Leap and Charmed with a little Joy Luck Club thrown in.

About three quarters of the way into the book, I threw in two side characters that I initially figured would be rather insignificant. One of them remains that way (he's only in the story because he went to a bar while his bride was waiting for him at their expected wedding), but I keep coming back to the other one, whose name keeps changing. She started out as Gemini, and then Astrid, and now I'm exploring Marytza. She has ties to Topanga Canyon here in CA, if anyone is familiar with that (think dreamcatchers and crystals).

I think I might be able to finish this draft this weekend as long as I don't get distracted by the Super Bowl...and I won't get distracted by the Super Bowl.

What's Peanut eating? Beef stew.




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pulao

Here's an interesting article and video about Jhumpa Lahiri from the New Yorker. I've always liked that she thinks of each new project as an experiment that may succeed or fail. In this video, I like that she says it's natural for some ideas to burn out.

Lahiri also has this nice article that I read a while back on her father and pulao.

By the by, yesterday I went to a fantastic concert at the Disney Concert Hall featuring Emanuel Ax and Anne Sofie von Otter. They performed about ten short Brahm's pieces, and it was a perfect evening.

What's Peanut eating? Carrots and kibble.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Corn on the cob

Does anyone know who Heckle and Jeckle are anymore? Whenever I think of eating corn on the cob, I think of Heckle and Jeckle pecking away at it type-writer style. That's how fast I've been writing this week!

I wrote about 5,000 words for Sister Soul. It's a bit of a vomit draft in some areas, as I'm just getting scenes in the right places as fast as I can. But, so far, I don't see any major missteps, so it will just be a matter of fleshing things out in the next draft.

I'm wrestling to keep from being formulaic. As the girls discover their powers and try them out for the first time, I'm trying to avoid repeating similar types of scenes I've seen in the past.

I'm proud to say that I haven't been making things very easy for my characters. As I transition from one conflict to another, I'm getting better at not dropping the tension. I'm avoiding down time between obstacles by overlapping the obstacles.

The characters are also becoming clearer to me. One challenge of writing about two sisters who spend a lot of time together is that they start to become interchangeable. But I'm trying to define major needs that they both have that are different. At first they both missed their mother. Now, only one misses the mother. The other will have a different need that hasn't been defined in my head yet.

What's Peanut eating? He stole a big lump of soft cheese off the coffee table at our last dinner party. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Compressed sushi made by amateurs

I was in Washington D.C. for most of the week for work. Because of the cold, I stayed indoors in the evenings and was quite productive in my writing, reading, and the third "R" exercise.

Also, I spent a great deal of time working on Sister Soul, which feels like it has crossed over from the "Tentative Projects" list to the "Yes, I'm going to finish it!" list. I've got about 15,000 words written, but, more importantly, I can envision many more scenes. When I sit down to work on this, the words come out quickly. I have a better sense of the characters and the plot. I just need to get it down.

Over the last couple of weeks, I made some changes that I'm excited about.

First, I compressed some real-life events into a shorter period of time, and that has injected more heated emotions into the story.

Second, along with a scene in the Santa Anita "assembly center," I'm including a scene in 13th Century Japan that will include samurai and ninjas.

Third, I made a change among two of the characters that I'm excited about. Originally, they were this old pair that new everything and were just waiting for the right moment to tell the main characters. Now, they only know somethings, but they are trying to convince the main characters that they know everything. This pair feels much more complex to me, and I like that they are hiding this bit problem that will lead to complications later.

I'm currently stalled on a long monolog that I don't want to be a long monolog.

I also read The Family Fang, which is a very decent novel that made me laugh a lot because of phrases like "They spent their evenings sharing medicine."

What's Peanut eating? Tender blades of grass.




Thursday, January 2, 2014

Nothing solid

My mom met a Buddhist psychic who told her that my new house is occupied by the spirit of a previous owner. To deal with this, Mom asked me to keep a Buddha shrine in my home and offer it water and ask that the spirit be cool with us. I'm not a believer, but I am doing the offering and the chant because I find comfort in the ritual.

As we approach the year of the Horse, Mom read that I (being born in the year of the Horse) will have to deal with a house fire and a break in. To combat that, I had to light incense to the Buddha and then go vegetarian for three days. The vegetarian rule is fun, and I'm on the third day now.

Yesterday, I also decided to do a juice fast, which was something I had never tried before. I'm not sure that it should be called a fast, because I didn't exactly feel like I was fasting at any point in the day. The juices got boring by about noon, and though I wasn't hungry, I found myself craving cornbread by 7 pm, which I didn't give in to.

That's that.

Books I've read this year are listed below. I kept the list because of Scott G. F. Bailey. I was surprisingly varied in my choices this year, mostly because I read a lot more than I usually do.  The Last Samurai still stands out for me because it was clever and emotional.

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín
The Last Samurai by Helen De Witt
The Laws of Evening by Mary Yukari Waters
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Astrologer by Scott G. F. Bailey
Betrayal by Harold Pinter
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Light Years by James Salter
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Go Home, Miss America by Scott G. F. Bailey
The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
White Noise by Don Delillo
Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
The Interesting by Meg Wolitzer
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

2013 was not a productive writing year for me. I think balancing writing and reading was a challenge, especially given that my last job got really stressful near the end, and then I changed jobs, and then I was shopping for a new house. I was also so motivated to read more than ten books this year that whenever I had spare time I picked up a book rather than working on my own.

This year, I want to dedicate half the year to reading and half the year to writing. I haven't decided how I'll break that down yet, but so far I've been mostly writing for the last couple of weeks. I'm working on two books:

Sister Soul - a fun book I'm writing for my Sister-in-law and her sister

and

The Pagani Project - With this book, I've been experimenting with different points of view and different structures, but I think I'm going to stick more closely to my initial vision and just work on making that vision work.

What's Peanut eating? Pumpkin treats. He got a lot of loot for Christmas!

(Note: I edited this post slightly to include my list of books eaten in the actual post.)