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


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


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.)