Wrapping Up 2019

I didn’t plan to write one of these posts, but as I sat in front of my computer this morning and thought about working on the current draft of my novel, my procrastinating brain told me to write a blog post instead. And so, here I am.

Highlights of 2019

  • Visiting the Philippines in January: My family and I rarely visit the Philippines. In the 18 years since we’ve immigrated to Canada, we’ve only gone back twice, this 2019 trip included, so I always consider it a Big Deal when I get the opportunity to go back.
  • Passing my G Driving Exam: This August, after failing once, I have finally passed the last stage of my driving, and I am now fully licensed! I don’t have to think about driving classes anymore. I don’t have to worry about exams anymore. I can finally put it behind me.
  • More stable environment at work: 2018 was a stressful time at my job, because my team dwindled down to 2 people. There was a lot of restructuring and many senior engineers left. This year, although we have not replaced the members we’ve lost, I have learned to manage the things that caused me stress last year.
  • Finishing 2 drafts of my story: This year, I finished drafts 4 and 5 of my WIP, and I received valuable feedback from beta readers, and even an editor. I feel like the story at its current state is so much more polished.

There might only be 4 things on the list, but it’s also important for me to acknowledge that I have a lot of blessings in my life. When I go to bed each night and pray, no matter how bad my day is, I try to remember that I’m one of the luckiest people on earth. I try to be grateful for the simplest things. I live in a decent home, I have three meals a day, I have a good and steady job, I am financially comfortable. Not many people have all of those.

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My Favourite Books/Series

I often compare the books I read to the ones I enjoyed before, so I figured I would compile my favourite books here as a reference.

It was difficult for me to choose my “favourite” books, because we tend to judge how much we like a book by how many times we’ve read it. Unfortunately I’m not a big re-reader. While there are a few books I’ve read multiple times, there others I’ve only read once that still gave me a phenomenal reading experience. I included those ones in my list as well.

None of these are in order, by the way. (Well, with the exception of the first one! That one really is my favourite book of all time!)

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No NaNoWriMo & An Early Look At My 2020 Plans

Since I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2016, I have participated in every single WriMo challenge, including the camps in April and July, up until last November. I got to the point in my novel where I didn’t find the fast-paced, get-your-words-down-at-all-cost objective of NaNoWriMo helpful anymore.

That’s still true this time around, so I’m a little sad to say that I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Even though my participation spanned less than two years, it still feels odd not to be gearing up for it. I remember how I used to prepare all of my notes and outlines just in time for the challenges, and studiously keeping up with my word counts when it was time to crunch them. In some ways, even though they were exhausting, I miss those months. It gave me something to focus on outside of work, and my consistent progress made me feel very productive.

Now I’m working on my sixth draft of The Malicious Wind. I’ve submitted the previous draft to an editor, and the revisions I need to make are highly targeted to certain areas. So the 50,000 word goal just doesn’t make sense. I started writing draft 6 halfway through October, and I’m only on chapter 6. That means I’ve taken an average of 3 days to edit a single chapter. (For reference, each chapter is below 3K words, so if I were doing NaNoWriMo, I would already be very much behind.)

I’m hoping to finish draft 6 by the end of this year. Early next year, I will submit it for copy-editing, and perhaps another round of beta-reading. Once I get feedback from those, I will write the final draft.

Yup, that’s it. I’ve decided that I will stop after that.

A part of me feels like perhaps I should work on it more, especially because this is my first original novel I intend to share with the world. But another part of me feels like I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.

When I was still in school, I had a (very wise) friend who told me of a story or proverb about two novice potters. One of them spent an entire month making one pot, trying to get it to be as beautiful as he could. The other one spent one day each month making a different pot, with improvements on the one he made the previous day. In the end, on that final day, both their pots were just as beautiful as each other’s.

I mean, okay, perhaps this story cannot be applied to everything. Perhaps not even writing a novel. But I do feel that because I’ve been working on The Malicious Wind for close to four years, I have squeezed as much learning experience as I have from this novel. Maybe it’s time to move on to the next, to hone my craft on a different project. Goodness knows I have so many ideas lined up. I will try not to worry if TWM is not the best story out there. First novels rarely are.

I’m still not sure how I will publish this novel. At this point, I’m really just thinking of posting it on Wattpad, or building my own site to house it. It would be nice to eventually monetize my writing, but my goal right now is to just share it with people. Which is hard, because I have very little marketing skills. And lately, I’ve even been lamenting my art skills too, which I’m increasingly afraid aren’t enough to attract people to my work. (I’ve just seen a lot of poorly designed covers recently, and I just thought, “There are authors out there who think these are good covers. What if the design and artwork I feel are good actually…aren’t?”) So I’ve just been experiencing a lot of self-doubt. Even if I’m taking an unusual publication route, I do want my story to appear professional.

Back on BetaBooks

Hi guys! I have uploaded the newest version of my novel on BetaBooks here. The previous one is disabled (not deleted, so I can go back and reread readers’ comments), so if you’ve signed up to read the old one and can no longer access the link, this is the new one.

I know that I have been negligent in giving updates, but part of that is because I’ve been focusing on working on the product, and I’m unsure what would be of interest for me to share. Not to mention, I have been incredibly distracted lately by… of all things, Idol Philippines, hahaha! Oh man, what a poor excuse.

To get me back on track, I have picked up several books that will hopefully allow me to focus on building a brand surrounding my novel, and to a certain extent, my author persona. I think the main reason I can never get traction in making official artwork and setting up that website I’ve been planning for many months, is because I don’t really know how to present this product yet. I don’t know how to design my site, or what feel the artwork should give that will be consistent from piece to piece.

For a long time, I’ve been intimidated by the marketing and branding field, feeling like I know too little for a bit of reading to help me get better. Now I feel bad that I didn’t pick up this book sooner. How to Style your Brand lays down the basics of branding in such a straightforward way that is incredibly helpful for newbies like me. Certain sections are formatted like worksheets, designed to really get you into the right mindset. Working my way through this book, I already feel incredibly inspired.

Another thing I’m struggling with is just writing posts on my blogs (which you can all probably tell, considering how infrequently I do it, heh). When I learned of this book, I bought it right away, because I really need help figuring out how to leverage my blogs into something that will be helpful for me as an author.

So hopefully these books will help, and during the next few weeks, I will really try my best to polish up my online presence.

Winding Down

You know, I never really thought about it until now, but Canada Day marks the 2nd half of the year, doesn’t it? Since it’s on July 1st and everything. And I guess I didn’t think about it that way for a long time, because for most of my Canadian life, I’ve been a student, and I only thought of July as the start of summer. But now that I’m working, and I tend to think in quarterly, or even year-long milestones, July 1 seems a lot more significant.

That also means I have a day-off today, and because I work for a nice, very Canadian company, we’re given extra long weekends during the summer. So I spent the last 4 days mostly at home, recovering from the epic failure of my driving test last Tuesday. I watched a lot of YouTube and I ate at a lot. I tried to do things that would make me feel better.

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General Update

Hey guys! It’s been a little more than a month since my last post. Sorry about that, but lately, I’ve been trying to re-examine this blog’s purpose. I’m a little less into writing book reviews, and since posting my latest draft up on BetaBooks I don’t really have anything to say about writing. I mostly post my artwork on Tumblr or DeviantArt, and I suppose I can post them here as well, but I don’t know if WordPress is really the best medium for art. I know it supports “portfolio” style posts, but I don’t know if it’s going to help me much.

Reading

So, what have I been up to lately? Well, February was a great month for my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I finished 5 books!!

I finished the entire Percy Jackson series (read the first one some years back). I also read the newest from one of my favourite authors of all time, Frances Hardinge. I tend to write short snippets of my thoughts on Goodreads now, because I can control the privacy settings there. Don’t get me wrong, I try to be open and honest about my opinions, but like I said in my previous post, I’m trying to tone things down a bit. Trying to write my own story has given me a bit of perspective on the difficult, tooth-pulling process, and I don’t think I can write book reviews with as much hyperbolic expression as I used to do.

And I mean, like, you guys already know what I tend to rant about most anyway. Love triangles. And I’ve gotten better over the years in avoiding that, so there’s really not much passionate teeth-grinding to do. (Teeth-grinding that happened while I read the last 2 books of Percy Jackson, but like I said, I promise to tone things down, so let’s not get into it…) I also have less time for books I don’t like or get into, so I just move on to something I like.

Writing

I am currently on hiatus. I have posted the entire draft of my story on BetaBooks. A few people have signed up and are reading it. Once I get some more feedback on the entire story as a whole, I will rewrite again, and then hopefully will be able to send to a professional editor.

My goal is to get this released in some way, shape or form by the fall of this year. I think I’m in a good place to say that’s a reasonable goal. The only thing that’s holding me back is marketing. Like, it’s easy to post this on a personal website, or on Wattpad, but how I’m going to get people to read it, I don’t know yet.

Art

I breezed through Victoria Ying’s Visual Development course in Schoolism. I signed up as soon as the class was available. I never knew that the kind of artwork I really enjoy seeing on Tumblr and DA, and the kind I strive for in my usual posts, fall under the category of “visual development.” For some reason I always thought that term referred to something else. I’ll be doing a couple of the assignments from my favourite lectures. I wish I had time to just focus on art and really get better at it, but between work, real life, reading, and writing, my attention is quite split.

While I’m on writing hiatus though, I’m focusing on just churning out more artwork. I’m currently active in the Lockwood and Co. fandom, so expect some fanarts from there.

A hip hop AU hehe

Some of these are from a few months back.

I’m also trying to make more original artwork, because most of the art I had done for my story is now outdated, sadly. Also, I want to get a site up and running and I need some graphics for that.

I discovered a problem with my new laptop screen while working on these. It emits a blue hue that makes all my drawings look garrishly yellow/bright on other, normally tinted computers. I’ve tried a lot of things, but I think this is just a result of me getting a cheaper laptop with an otherwise top-notch CPU/GPU specs.

Anyway, this is getting quite long, but I’ll leave with some colour practice I was doing this weekend. Each one of these is a 10-min render of a landscape image from Google.

I’m Still In One Piece

So, so, so. This is totally unrelated to writing or reading or any of the things I usually post.

I’ve been driving to work for about a week now. I’m still very much a beginner — I only received my G2 license at the end of May, after all, and I did pretty limited driving since then. At the beginning of this month, I was able to secure a parking space at a train station on a line that has a stop 5 minutes away from work. Very convenient. The drive from my home to this station is about 30-40 minutes, but it’s in one straight line.

You know, I’ve always been one of those pedestrians who shake their head at drivers who do stupid things, and I also live in an area with an inflated insurance rate because people here are supposedly “bad drivers,” so I’ve always sworn I was going to be a Good Driver!

Well, easier said than done, especially when you’re a beginner, apparently. Since I started driving last week, I’ve had about… erm, three reckless driving experience so far, and honestly, I come home with my knees shaking, just being thankful I’m alive. It’s strange how all these instances happen on my way back home. My drive to work has thankfully been pretty uneventful (and believe me, I’d rather keep it that way). I don’t know what it is about the afternoon rush hour — is it that people are just more impatient to go home than get to work? Or is it that my northbound route just a little more disorganized?

Just to give some examples…

My northbound route is a little different than the southbound, because on the street that I would usually take, there’s a section under construction that squeezes the northbound cars into one lane. The traffic there during rush hour is pretty bad, so I take a parallel road home. Last week when I first decided to do this, I had to make a left. I didn’t realize that the left lane had its own set of lights, and I was already in the middle of the road. Once the north-south lights turned red, I knew the east-west lights would turn green before the left-turning cars would be given a go, so in the split-second in between, I zoomed out of the intersection. Yup, I can already imagine the heads shaking.

Another incident, a less stupid one, but still quite dangerous: again on another intersection. I was trying to make a right, but a car from the lane that had the right of way approached really quickly, honked obnoxiously at me, and zoomed right past. Okay, I know this was my fault (I mean, all of these silly mistakes are my fault for being not aware), but I was *this* close to hitting him. I had to slam on my brakes and my bags fell off the seat. Couldn’t he have slowed down and given me the space? I was already on the lane anyway. Again, I admit it was my fault, but I feel like sometimes people care less about actually driving safely than exerting their right to be on that spot when they want.

Not that I can brag about safe driving… so today, let me tell you about this side street I usually turn right into to get home. It has four lanes, two for the cars going right, and two for the cars going left. For the past week, the two lanes for the eastbound were blocked by some construction, so they turned one of the westbound lanes into the eastbound lane. That meant I had to go further than usual to make my turn. Today, they moved the construction, so it was the 2 middle lanes that were closed off! I did NOT notice until I was about to turn into the usual lane and found that it was closed. I couldn’t go back since there was a car behind me, so I used the westbound lane to go east. Ughh! Fortunatley there weren’t any cars in it, but as I was driving down, some cars started to appear. I must have confused the crap out of them, and I could practically feel the shame oozing from me in spades. I just accelerated so that I could move back to the correct lane past the construction, and I wouldn’t block them. But man, I must have appeared exactly like the kind of reckless driver I shake my head at.

Well, I came home, absolutely astounded that after a week of driving, my car and I are still in one piece.

 

May 2018 Books and Other Updates

Oh man, I haven’t posted in quite a while! And here I thought that after Camp NaNoWriMo, I should have more time to take care of this blog. It didn’t turn out that way, sadly, but I do think that May came with some developments.

7235533 The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Remember when I started this book earlier this year? Well, guess what? The impossible happened! I’ve finally finished it! Yay!

I don’t think it surprises anyone more than me that I took this long to read a Sanderson book. I usually gobble them up in a couple of weeks, and all of them are pretty much doorstoppers.

I don’t know what was up with this one. I felt like the plot was too slow; there were too many diversions (such as the constant flashbacks to Kaladin’s childhood, and the multiple chapters dedicated to extraneous characters). I know this was done for the sake of worldbuilding, but one of the things that always pulled me in Sanderson’s books is his twisty plotlines. There wasn’t much of that in this book — there wasn’t actually much of a well-contained plot, to be more specific. We just follow the lives of several characters, and sort of hop along for the ride. Which was why it was so difficult to pick up the book after a diversion happened or I’ve put it down — I know that when I picked up the book, I’ll just be going back to one of the character’s every day life.

I did care quite a bit about Kaladin, and the twist that happened at the end was nice; I saw it coming, and hoped it would happen some time in the middle of the book. It came a little too late for me. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series. I might just continue on with the next trilogy in the Mistborn saga instead.Read More »

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 3 Update

campnano

It definitely seems like I’ve been nothing but consistent during Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I’m on track to finishing my second draft. I only have two chapters left and an epilogue to write in the final 8 days of the month. (Though one of the chapters is going to be extremely long). I’m actually surprised that I didn’t regress too much, especially because at the beginning of this week, I had an issue with a package I bought that prevented me from writing more than a hundred words.

I keep reminding myself this is something to be proud of even as I look at my second draft as a whole, and feel the staggering amount of work I have to do for the third draft. Moreover, April has just been a weird, stressful month for me, so the fact that I can churn out a steady stream of words is something to be happy about.

There has been quite a few stressors in my life lately. I’m taking driving lessons again, aiming to get my license in May. For those who have known me for some time, you probably know I’ve failed my G2 road test twice now. I am under a lot of pressure during my refresher classes. Also, the project I’m doing at work is in a weird state right now. My partner for the project went on a short-term disability leave, and we haven’t been able to find a replacement who can help me. It’s really looking like I’m the only developer who would see this to the end. (Though one guy said he’d help me when he has time from his two other projects. I really appreciate his help.) The project manager role also switched between two people late last month, and we’re still trying to organize the release plan.

Because of the anxiety that these two things are causing me, I find very little enjoyment even in the things I used to enjoy. I dread the days when I have driving practice even though it only takes up an hour of my time. I don’t know why I get so worked up about it. I also don’t feel like reading when I’m on my commute to work, because I just feel lethargic about the project I’m working on. Every book I tried reading on the train these last few weeks have bounced on me, which is sad, because I did look forward to reading some of the ones I picked up.

Anyway,  I don’t want to be such a Debbie Downer. I do wonder how much of my anxiety is caused by me worrying too much. I want to have a positive outlook, and hopefully that would help me get my energy back. I’d really like to be the kind of developer who can face setbacks on a project, and somehow manage to turn it back around and make it successful. I’d also like to be the kind of developer who can drive. Hehe, yeah. It would make my life so much easier if I can just drive to work.