Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 24 May 2017

Things I worked on last week:
  • Chapter 9 of that story's sequel: 4279 words
  • Chapter 10 of that same story's sequel: 413 words
  • "As the Winds Blow" prologue: 255 words
Total word count for the week: 4947 words


What am I working on?

Same things as above. I'll also try my hand at try to get back into continuing The Blighted Earth. The muse isn't there at the moment, but I'm pretty sure it'll come to me once I settle back into my normal sleeping schedule. A.K.A. Sleep during the day and type during the night. My brain works best when the sun's not out for some reason.


How do I feel about the process?

Really excited since I'm back to my "normal" writing habits. School takes a lot out my ability to write, and since it's a priority, I've had to allow myself the irritation of doing schoolwork instead of writing. Lately, I've been handwriting what I've been working on more than typing them. Partially because I got an unfortunately placed paper cut on the tip of my pinky, right where the finger would make contact with the keys (why does something so little bother me so much?); partially because the "newness" has been helping me creativity-wise somehow. I even bought a new notebook solely to write one story in.


What am I reading?

Surprisingly, not a whole lot. Though I have made dents in Les Mis and The Magician's Nephew. I am checking back on the blogs every once in a while to see if there's anything new to read. I'm a bit sad that there isn't much now that it's not really an obligation.


What else am I doing?

Piano practicing in general has been put on hold because of this gosh-darned paper cut. At the very least, I did get to watch Moana when my family rented it over the weekend. It was nice, and there were some songs that were okay; but I couldn't really bring myself to enjoy it all that much. But then again, movie or television watching isn't really my thing. I wonder why?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 17 May 2017

Just because the semester is officially over for me, doesn't mean that I'm going to stop writing. These posts are helping me to stay accountable, so I guess this is now a part of my weekly routine from now on.


Things I worked on last week:

Nothing. Unless you want to count all the physics formulas that I wrote down to study for my finals.


What am I working on?

Now that my summer has begun, I can write as much as my heart desires. I'm going to work on that personal project that I've started before the semester started (which shall not be named) and that novel I've been working on that I've conceptualized because of the semester (The Blighted Earth). After I'm done with those, I'm going to have a crack at finishing that "As the Winds Blow" story that I've got as a bit of a shorter companion piece to The Blighted Earth. Or work on that Wild West fantasy idea that's running around in my head for a good month now.

Needless to say, I've got a lot of things I want to work on. At least I don't have to worry about classes and homework at the time being.


How do I feel about the process?

*clears throat* Woooooooo! Summer! Yeah! Let's get this writing started!

Even though I'm starting off this summer with a bit of a deficit in productivity due to trying and later getting burnt out from to catch up in my physics class, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief and get that finals-week jitters out of me. Because of this, I've finally been able to think of other things other than nuclear physics and the the different kinds of particles that can eject from a radioactive substance. Like earlier this morning after my shower, I was able to come up with an explanation behind the "big baddie" in that one plot I was working on for a while. I already knew his character and his background and everything. And I know it's fantasy and that it often doesn't follow the same rules of the world when it's magical.

But I wanted a reason behind it. "Because magic" isn't a good enough reason for me, personally. And now that I don't have to worry about studying anymore, I finally found that reason.

It's still a bit "because magic," but at least it's got a little more believeable. Maybe.


What am I reading?

Same as last week: Les Mis and The Magician's Nephew. I'll probably add more to that list in the coming weeks.


What else am I doing?

I'm still challenging myself by learning Fantasie Impromptu on the piano. I've got the first few measures, somewhat. Baby steps. Baby steps.

As for piano lessons themselves, they're going to be on hold for a bit as I wait for my piano teacher to come back from Denmark. Likely after recording a grade-A album no less. So cool.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Character Outline Development Thing - Mr. Mortimer

A character I'm thinking of being the central one in the weird idea for another novel I want to try my hand on working on. I'm likely not going to use a lot of this information, or I'm going to end up changing a lot of the minor details of his backstory as I actually get into writing the plot.

(I'm posting this here to prevent losing it for my portfolio later)

Full name: Preston William Mortimer
Alias: Mr. Mortimer, "The Grim Reaper"
Age: A few decades after 100, he thinks
Date of birth: Wintertime, a while ago
Current location: Hestworth (fantasy place inspired by American Wild West)
Gender: Male

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Brain is Weird

It's already a given fact in my family that I have a rather... peculiar imagination. "Active" for people outside of my family. "Over-active" if one were to look into it too closely.

There's nothing physiologically wrong with my brain, according to my neurologist. I get these strange migraines where my five senses get messed around with like smelling scents that aren't there or my tongue going numb or my writing from my left hand is a lot neater than the writing with my dominant right hand... just without the actual pain of a migraine. I get a long-lasting—but minor—headache, pain-wise, but that's it. But after having a CT scan of my brain and listening to the lovely buzzing sounds from the inside of an MRI machine, the doctor said there's nothing really wrong with the wrinkled mass of flesh hiding inside the calcium-rich dome that is my skull. I just need to watch my magnesium intake (which I've already had to do after getting diagnosed with PAC from my cardiologist).

There were a few therapists and psychologists that told me otherwise, diagnosing me as clinically depressed. Sure, that might have an effect on the "intricate" workings of my imagination. Then again, it might not.

Growing up, my mother loved to collect those porcelain china dolls. I hated them. I also hated the fact that, since she didn't have space in her room to keep them, she placed them on the shelf of my bedroom. For a while, these dolls didn't bother me. Yeah, they were kinda pretty. Yeah, I saw the appeal in keeping them.

Would I have stuck them in my eight-year-old daughter's room? Oh heck no!

At night, under the dim amber glow of a nightlight, their glass eyes would catch just enough light to glow a little. I would watch them stare at me as I slept. It made me so uncomfortable, I had to turn them to face the wall so I wouldn't see their faces.

Well... that ended up being worse since I had a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night. And being a groggy mess upon waking from interrupted sleep, my paranoid brain would then assume they turned around on their own, forgetting that I was the one who turned them around. My heart rate would speed up, adrenaline pumped into me, waking me further. When that happens, reason returns to me, then I go back to sleep.

My mother worked night shifts, so I couldn't just "run to Mommy" when I got scared in the middle of the night. And my dad was all the way on the other end of the dark, unlit hall. I was more afraid of the dark than those dolls, so I just learned to live with them.

I guess my experience with these dolls then leaked the tiny paranoia I ended up having with my stuffed animals. I used to sleep with them on my bed. I have no idea what happened, but I ended up thinking that they would get jealous that I would sleep with only one of them in my arms; so to prevent this I just shoved them into my closet so I wouldn't see them.

Okay, so you might be thinking, "Jodee, it's perfectly normal for a kid to think like that."

You know what's not normal? I do these "peculiar things" even in my adulthood.

I'm no longer afraid of the dark, but I do get these moments where anything flat and circular all of a sudden becomes "secret eyes" staring at me. Like the screws holding the plate covering my light switch. Or the circular logo on my fan. Or the clock. Or the buttons of my jacket. If it happened all the time, I would probably check myself back into a mental institution; but it doesn't so I just brush it off and go about my day. Or I play peek-a-boo with them if I'm certain I'm alone. It makes me feel better.

Or like when music is being played. Like at a party or some kind of school fundraiser or whatever, I purposefully force myself to walk off-beat of the music. I don't know why, I just do it. I feel uncomfortable when I'm walking to the rhythm of music for some reason. You'd think the opposite would be the case for me, considering that I've been introduced to music theory in elementary school and continue to play the piano even to this day. Performance-wise? Yeah, rhythm is very important to me and it irks me when people don't know how to clap on 2 and 4 instead of 1 and 3 with a song that's so obviously common-time. Walking is just... no. I walk to the beat of my own drum, not from whatever song's being played, thank you very much.

I have a few more of these strange things I do, but they're rather minor compared to the big ones like the circles and the music. Idiosyncrasies, if you will. Like my first step onto a set of stairs needs to be from my left foot or it just feels wrong. When eating ice cream, servings have to be in either one or three scoops; never two. I dunno why.

Stuff like that makes me, at times, feel like I'm crazy. But I've learned to just accept it as something tiny and carry on. I do have this tiny fear that if I do bring it up to a psychiatrist they will have me diagnosed with something else; but considering how little it's affecting my day-to-day functions, it's likely they won't.

My family may call it my brain being weird.

I like to call it "the spice of life."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 10 May 2017

Things I worked on last week:
  • Chapter 9 of that project: 1253 words (currently at 1491)
It's slow going, but at least it wasn't as bad as last week.


What am I working on?

Considering that it's finals week, probably not a lot. Or, if it looks like my grade for physics is going to hold up, then probably a whole bunch. If the latter ends up being the case, then I'm going to try to work on everything that isn't finished: The Blighted Earth, its companion piece As the Winds Blow (I'm trying to find a decent title), the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story that I started a while ago, the idea I've been hesitating to get started on, and maybe complete that "In Medias Res" experiment since I've gotten a bit of inspiration for it recently.


How do I feel about the process?

I'm still trying to recover from the sudden hit of "I really hate writing right now" from last week. It's slow going, the words aren't coming as easily as they usually are (which wasn't easy in the first place), and the inspiration to write is coming in tiny droplets instead of a steady stream. But the fire of motivation got rekindled recently after having this "can do" attitude from trying to learn a piano piece that has eluded me for years, which I'll get into in a little bit.


What am I reading?

I didn't do much reading last week. But my reading list remains the same: Les Mis and The Magician's Nephew


What else am I doing?

Okay, so I mentioned just a few paragraphs ago that there was this piano piece that I've had the sheet music of for years already, but never got the chance to master it. Well... I got really frustrated with the sudden wall of "I can't do this" I've encountered with writing that I decided to continue to wallow in my misery and plunk around on my piano trying to learn a piece that I knew would anger me in its complexity.

Well... it was like my hands had this little epiphany moment. For some reason, I finally could understand the notes. I could read and play through the composition. Just... really slow. But it was a lot more than I used to be able to do.

That piece, my friends, is Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu. I'll put a link of someone performing it once I get back home. The computers in the library have no audio, so I can't choose a proper recording.


I just might hate myself for even trying. Or I might finally master this thing.

Funny how Chopin told his friend, "Once I'm dead, do not publish this."

And his friend was like, "lol, k" and published it after Chopin died.

None of that was a direct quote, of course. But it's essentially what happened. Oh, friends. Can't live without 'em, eh?

So, here begins my journey to accomplish something I thought was impossible. I'll probably have snippets of recording my process to learning this song over the summer.

And because of this, I was able to jot a bit more words last week compared to the week prior. Stuff happens.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Monthly Showcase - April 2017

Totally forgot this was a thing on my blog. Whoops. Better late than never, right?

While the month of April has been a time where I've written the most in a short amount of time, there hasn't been a great number of actual posts I've made on this blog. Most of it were projects for either myself or for the children at church. But still, there was a good number of things I worked on in April.

Word Count Wednesday - 3 May 2017

Things I worked on last week:
  • A part of chapter 9 for that one project I had: 238 words
Yup, that's it. Kinda disappointed in myself since I was just able to write thousands and thousands of words in just one week not too long ago.


What am I working on?

Hopefully, I'll find the motivation to try to write out anything. If that happens, likely continue working on chapter 9, and then The Blighted Earth. And those poems that are going to be due in the portfolio.


How do I feel about the process?

It's rare, but it happens. I hate writing right now, plain and simple. More often than not, I usually suffer from pitfalls that I can easily pull myself out of if I give myself a bit of time. But as I mentioned in a rant I posted recently, this time it's one of those rare occasions where I can't bring myself to work on anything imaginative because the urge to tear it all to pieces is there. If I were to give it some kind of weird personification of this feeling, it's like this gigantic dragon that's blocking the way to where I want to go, but all I've got to fight it is just a dinky little pen and a piece of paper. Pretty much all I can do at this point is just wait it out. At some point the dragon will fly away to somewhere else in my life and the call to write will beckon me like an old friend.

Or something to that effect.


What am I reading?

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of writing is affecting my enjoyment of reading, so I'm not really up to reading anything that's longer than a paragraphs.


What else am I doing?

A whole lot of nothing. Even trying to get myself to play a quick song on the piano is hard for me to do.

Hmm... Maybe it's my depression rearing it's ugly head again. Lack of enjoyment of things I love? That's a big symptom I used to suffer from when it got really bad. Okay, note to self: get out more. Don't stay in your room too much before it gets out of hand.

Well, it's either that or burnout. I'll get myself out of it eventually.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ranting About My Current Hatred

Right now, it feels like writing is just this on-again-off-again thing. In the month of April, I saw this huge swing of inspiration coming my way, the words came so easily and the ideas wouldn't cease. I wrote all them down so I wouldn't forget them later and put them into either my current projects or future ones. I guess it was the closest thing I've ever experienced to what people like to call "young love."

But then, that dreaded ending that is cliché to young love.

Hatred.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 26 April 2017

Things I worked on last week:
  • Chapter 7 of that project: 1252 words (completed at 2962)
  • Chapter 8 of that same project: 3771 words (completed)
  • Fish story for the children: 408 words (completed at 797)
Total for this week: 5431 words


What am I working on this week?

I'm going to try to work on The Blighted Earth, but at the same time, I might not. It looks like the other project has taken much of the space in my head for inspiration, so I might as well not fight against it. So yeah, looks like I'm going to be working on chapter 9 at this point. Though, given that I don't have any other projects I want to work on (aside from that new idea that popped into my head for yet another fantasy-ish novel), my week is likely going to look like it's going to flip-flop between working on chapter 9 and The Blighted Earth. Now that I've been given some suggestions on how to move forward, hopefully that would be the case.


How do I feel about the process?

Despite how rocky non-school-life has been going for me lately (as I had predicted in March how my April will end up being), I'm pleasantly surprised to see that not only have I been able to keep up with writing, but surpass my expectations. (Take notes, Jodee, writing seems to be a good coping mechanism.)

I was also very pleased at how much the children enjoyed my fish story. I already knew they liked having stories read to them, but to know they got really invested in the little fish main character? It really warmed the cockles of my heart to see their endearing worry for when I got the fish to encounter Mr. Shark. So cute!

It's definitely a different experience for me, since I've pretty much known each and every one of these children since they were born and witnessed them grow up. I kinda see them as the copious number of first-cousins I have. (I have over 30 on my mother's side. My dad? Umm... since he grew up with 12 older siblings -- three are half-siblings, but still -- and he's the youngest... Yeah...) It felt wonderful to share the weird images I have in my head with them and have them enjoy it as much as I do.

But it also made me feel a bit sad. Never in my life have I ever shared a story I've written to my parents, even when I was as young as those children. Well, I tried but they seemed more interested in the fact that I got straight As in elementary school and middle school (and thus nudged me into being a doctor or something). I've tried with my siblings, too, but my brother isn't really into reading. My sister? Um... the less said, the better. Gah, I guess a part of the motivation as to why I've been writing a lot lately is kinda like some passive-aggressive way for me to say, "Don't care about my writing? Hah! I'll show you and write ALL THE THINGS! Muahahaha!"

Still, it's gotten me to pause a bit in the middle of the night as I write, making me constantly ask myself, "Why continue writing? It's not like anyone cares."

But then a scene keeps picking at my brain and then I just continue on as normal.

In all seriousness, I will admit that it's hard to pick right back up sometimes. It gets tiring. But at least I know the kids like my writing.

--Yeah right, like that means anything to someone wanting to write for older audiences.
--You know what? No one asked you. So shut up.


What am I reading?

I guess I'm on a roll on learning to manage my time better, since I've been able to split my attention between two books. Les Mis has finally found its space again next to my pillow (because reading helps me to fall asleep, okay?) I will admit that I had to start again from the beginning instead of where I left off when I began it close to the start of the semester, due to forgetting a lot of what happened beforehand.

Super glad I took those years of French throughout high school (and a bit of college). I'm pretty sure if I hadn't, a lot of the phrases would've escaped my understanding.

And then I'm also continuing to read along in The Magician's Nephew with that online group. Fun stuff. Very fun stuff.


What else am I doing?

I tried to find some series or something that interests me over the weekend. Keyword: tried. I must lack some kind of gene that makes me interested in television. Can you believe that I asked my parents to remove the television in my room when I was fourteen? "Because I don't use it, and I could use the space for other things." (A.K.A. more mess in my messy bedroom) Don't get me wrong, I was a normal kid growing up being obsessed with watching the colorful pictures burning their images into my retinas; but once puberty hit it's like the interest just... poof.

So when that didn't work out, I just went back to writing. Or playing my piano. Though I did finally learn how to fry lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) without getting first- and second-degree burns (thanks dad for the help). Adulting skill acquired: pan-frying.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 19 April 2017

Things I worked on last week:
  • Chapter 6 of that one project: 1410 words (completed at 3024)
  • Chapter 7 of that same project: 1710 words
  • A new idea I came up with over the weekend that was going to be for a turn in for narrative #2 but decided against it to develop the other story more: 1738 words
  • The children's fish story thing: 389 words
  • The Blighted Earth (mainly edits and stuff): a paltry 23 words
  • A Tale from the Stars poem: 271 words
I think that's everything I worked on this week (at least in a non-journaling capacity, since I'm always journaling/ranting about something). So that brings my weekly word count to 5541. Really disappointed in the word count with The Blighted Earth, but after seeing what I did this week, I guess I feel better now, hahaha.


What am I working on?

Now that I've got chapter 6 done and out into the world for my tiny audience to read and criticize (or enjoy, I guess), I'm going to continue working on chapter 7. I honestly can't believe that people are still reading that thing despite not updating it weekly like I used to since summer ended in 2016. The fun in writing that project has returned, especially since I've gotten to a point in the plot where a group of main characters are believing the worst of this other main character. Super cliché plot point of "a serious case of misunderstanding," but I got stuck, okay? At least I'm giving what the audience wanted for quite a while and having one of the characters find a reason to go out there and pursue that other person. Talk about delayed gratification, am I right?

The children's story is also something I'm going to continue to work on, since the deadline is this Sunday.

As for the new idea I came up with, I want to write that one so badly, but I also really like working on The Blighted Earth (when I can), so I guess it's going to have to be left to simmer for a bit. Especially since the idea came to me at 5 A.M., I'm going to have to decide whether or not the idea is even worth pursuing, despite how fun and weird I think it would be to try to develop it.


How do I feel about the process?

Pretty great! I was able to bump up my word count by dropping the amount of time I'm wasting playing video games (a struggle I've had for a while, actually), and spent it with writing or practicing whatever new skill I need to learn by the next piano lesson. Namely the former. (Sorry, piano teacher. I swear I'll get those dominant 7 inversions by down heart the next time we meet!) I've also been really inspired to continue writing that-other-project-that-shall-never-be-named-in-the-open now that the characters are in a bit of a tizzy that I have no idea how they're going to get themselves out of, though I have an inkling of how that happens. Nothing really concrete yet, but it's fun just writing something out and not caring what others think of my ability to tell a story because they don't know my real identity.

I guess because of that, I'm just really surprised at how many people like what I've written so far. I still cringe at how poorly written it is and how not-thought-out all the events are, weaving it into a tangled mess that I'm spending the sequel (which is what the project is right now) by untangling it and solving it at the same time.

And also doing a bit of "giving the readers what they want" kind of thing. I never intended there to be romance, but the readers wanted romance, and there they got it. Then I yanked it away from them.

I'm cruel. I know that.


What am I reading?

So many people don't know that I'm part of this group of people that play this one game that happens to be high-fantasy, so we decided to do a book-reading thing online. And because we all have this interest in fantasy (and all somehow happen to have the all the books), we're reading the first book in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Magician's Nephew.

I've read it many times in the past, but it's really different when it's being read out loud. Especially when it's being read out loud by people across the country and around the world. It feels different when someone with a lilting southern drawl reads it aloud, when someone with soft English accent, or a peppy Australian, or a valley girl accent (me when I'm excited), or all these different accents reads the same words I am. Really glad someone in the group came up with this idea. I feel like it makes the fantasy world Lewis created becomes even more magical by hearing the words in a way I'm not accustomed to.


What else am I doing?

As I mentioned last week, I'm taking up piano lessons again after not having them for... um, maybe eight years? My piano teacher's pretty impressed at how well I'm able to sight read (I'm pretty surprised myself), so there's that. But when it comes to modern music, the ability to sight read is a bit useless, so she's having me work on getting chord inversions down to muscle memory and instinct. It's posing a challenge I really enjoy so far.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Tale from the Stars

An attempt at terza rima, which ended up blobbing into some weird semblance of one near the end. Whoops.

she said she traced the stars last night
and found a tale that told her of
someone who chose to lose their sight.

their wont to see was not as loved
as touch, or smell, or taste, or sound;
and thought not of the stars above.

she said they thought it best and found
that much of life is not through eyes,
but heart and soul, not simply bound

to a glance or beautiful lies,
that out of sight meant out of mind;
and thought not of the midnight skies.

they loved the fact that they were blind
for life was easy when it's dark --
until the day the stars aligned

infatuation made its spark,
the only light that they could see,
the wants of the heart made its mark.

to love this person, they agreed,
was something special and priceless
she said, "and yet not meant to be"

"to love someone," she had stressed
"was to see them for all they were
they gave up sight with which they're blessed"

I said, "they're foolish, that I'm sure,
to choose to blind themselves like that,
to ruin chances for something so pure."

"my friend, you're blind," she had spat.
"this person is you, know you not?
you turned your eyes, and this begat

your folly to search what can't be sought
for foolish is they that spurn away
against a truth, which you forgot."

"what truth is that?" I asked, dismayed.
she said, "they love you, so blind to love
you thought not of the stars above."

she left me then, confused.
and then I remembered,
it was her I refused.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 12 April 2017

Things I worked on since last week:
  • Interactive story experiment (Ascend the Tower): 1174 words
  • The Blighted Earth: 1020 words
  • Chapter 6 of that other thing: 577 words (currently at 1614 words)
  • "Manananggal, or Hunting a Philippine Vampire in America:" 2061 words (I got carried away)
Total word count: 4832 words

I think I went a bit crazy over the week.


What am I working on?

Pretty much the same list as above, considering that none of them are completed. The screenplay one, concept-wise, is finished... but I'm still tinkering with it every once in a while. I guess I'll add in that fish story for the children for what I'm going to be working on this week as well. It's due in like a week, after all.


How do I feel about the process?

Really excited and happy, since the two projects that aren't novel-related that I worked on last week reminded me of the things I did because I was bored: write screenplays and write interactive stories. It revitalized this writing frenzy that made me write even more in my other projects since I would jump around from one to another when I got a little bored or stuck in one of them. Each project is so vastly different from each other that my brain was always entertained. It gave me the illusion that I was being productive.

I might not actually have been productive, but it was fun nonetheless. Most of the time when I have all these projects I want to work on all at once, I get intimidated and quit on a few of them to make it more manageable. While the word counts on the novels that I'm trying to write aren't the goals I intended for myself, at least the other projects were nice "distractions."

I'm really thankful for all the time I have this semester. I couldn't possibly be able to write anything substantial next semester since I'm taking up a full load of classes. Again.

The closer I get to the end of this semester, the closer the end of the fun of attending this Creative Writing class. Can I just be in this class forever?


What am I reading?

My physics textbook. I'll try not to cry as I read about light interference and diffraction, since it's so moving and motivating me to read even more about it. Thin films and slits and gratings? Wonderful!

Hah, just kidding. I'm crying because I hate it. If anything, it's grating on my nerves and the only slit I want to study the behavior of is the one I want to make right across my jugular. I have nothing against the teacher or the people or anything... I just really, really hate the subject. Can I go back to chemistry or astronomy, please?

I have a love/hate for this semester. I don't want it to end because of Creative Writing, but I so desperately want it to just keel over and die because of physics. Decisions, decisions.


What else am I doing?

I'm taking up piano lessons again, but not in the classical teachings, no. While that in itself takes years of discipline and study (years that I spent, with nothing much to show for), I'm going the... non-traditional route.

In other words, I'm learning how to play the more modern styles. While technique and music theory involved with the popular music of today isn't as complicated as the romantic era of classical music (I'm look at you, Debussy), it's posing a challenge that I'm finding that I really enjoy. I'm learning how to enjoy the simpler things in my performance.

In other words... I suck. But I love it because it's bringing me back to the days I first started playing the piano, when everything was new and difficult and that the end goals felt attainable. I mean, at the age of twelve, I wanted to master all three movements of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" after learning the first one. I expected to have this accomplished by the age of eighteen.

Six years to master it? Sure! Sounds reasonable. I knew the third and final movement of the sonata would pose the ultimate test of my piano capabilities, one that I was confident that I would pass. I mean, if I can read the sheet music, that means I could play it at some point, right?


First page, first impressions. Looks doable, doesn't it?


Beethoven, WHY?! I thought you were supposed to be deaf!

(I chose this video to make me feel a little bit better about not being able to play since I hear a few mistakes in the performance here and there, but still... why!?)

I am now twenty-two. I still can't. Oh, the naïve nature of children. How wonderful it would be to be a child again. This piece is a constant reminder of everything I can't do on the piano. Look at the stretch of this man's hands. The bias on having long fingers is real when it comes to classical piano.

My sister likes to hold my hands and tell me, "Oooh, they're so cute! So tiny. So delicate."

Thanks, sis. Thanks for telling that to a classical pianist.

But this new opportunity to break away from classical piano? That feeling of newness and excitement is the closest I can get to what I had when I was eight. At least this time, I don't have to learn my scales and chords. It's all technique from here on out.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ascend the Tower (A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure)

Just a bit of a taste of what I've got so far:
You have no idea where you are.

You vaguely remember going to bed last night. After that, nothing.

All you know is that you aren’t in your room laying on your bed, your limbs are tied to the stone floor, and it’s dark.

At least you’re still wearing the clothes you went to bed in. After all, who wants to worry about being butt-naked when they’re trying to figure out how they got themselves tied up in a dark, smelly, humid...

Room?

You think you’re in a room. There isn’t any other sounds or sensations suggesting that you’re outside. You’re about 99% sure you’re in a room of sorts. Where this room is, specifically – that’s where the trouble lies.

Come to think of it, the place is just giving off a vibe of... something else. The hairs on the back of your neck prickle at the undeniable sensation of someone watching you. Someone you can’t see.

The darkness doesn’t help matters either.

So, you’re supposedly alone-but-not-quite, you don’t recognize the place you’re in, and you’re tied to the floor in only your bedclothes.

Your first course of action?
It's a work in progress, but you can read what I've got so far by following this link. (Let me know if the link is still giving issues. I'm not sure if it's fixed or not.)

For this experiment, it ended up being a lot more fun than I anticipated it to be. I used to make choose-your-own-adventure stories, but they didn't really have much of a plot to them, and I didn't understand how to use the website that I'm using back then.

Now that I've tried to develop my writing skills a bit more since then, and now that I understand how conditionals work (after trying to teach myself how to code, bad mistake), I've finally got something that's actually working the way I'm intending it to.

It's not done, but I really want to finish this one. It's just too fun to write a story with branching choices!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Manananggal, or Hunting a Filipino Vampire in America

I decided to adapt my manananggal story into a screenplay to be my experiment/dialogue thing for class. Pardon the mistakes with the screenplay formatting. It's been a while since I wrote a screenplay and I'm forgetting a lot of the rules.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Blighted Earth - Chapter 4 (under construction)


We were walking for hours, and still the piles of bones didn’t seem to have an end in sight. I was so caught up in trying not to step on them where I realized I hadn’t taken my medicine for the day. I looked up at the sky to gauge how long it had been since my last dose. It didn’t help that my thoughts were clouding over as I tried to calculate while tip-toeing around the dead.

The crunch of a dried-up femur made me stop.

The Blighted Earth - Chapter 3 (under construction)


Eĵas and I parted ways as he went to talk with the saltkeeper while I went to gather the other necessities we would need in going out into the unknown.

"To ensure that brows won't be raised when you ask for a few days’ worth," he had said. "You might have been able to convince her to give you a pinch with little hassle. Getting a quantity that can’t be contained by your pouch? Imprisonment, easily.”

I didn’t argue since we were being pressed for time and that I was trying to calculate how much I could get away with spending for the rest of our supplies.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 5 April 2017

Things I worked on this week:

Only two and I'm so behind on my word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo. Really need to catch up on it.

Camp NaNoWriMo project (The Blighted Earth): 2474 words (it should have been at least 4000 by now)

Chapter 6 of that other project: 797 words

Manananggal story: 635ish words

Total word count for the week: 3906 words


What am I working on?

Same things as I have last week, though my fantasy novel thing ended up being my Camp NaNo project, so it's likely going to be taking more of my attention for the coming days again. As for other projects, I'm likely going to just hop between those as I run into writer's block. Or whatever blog post I feel like typing out because that's usually my go-to writing style when I lack the words for a story.


How do I feel about the process?

I find that it's a lot more fun to write when you have other people who will suffer with you, which Camp NaNoWriMo had turned out to be for me.

Also pretty amused at the fact that I said in my Word Count Wednesday for last week that it was only natural to write chapter 3 of my novel length thing, but it ended up not being like that. I ended up writing chapters that didn't fit that sequence because I was trying to grasp for words... and ended up spending a good amount of time writing scenes around the middle and end of the plot. Whoops.

I'm a bit intimidated, however, by what Stephen King said about how many words he writes in a day. Ten-thousand words!? It took me a span of writing two days straight being locked in my room doing nothing but writing and leaving only to eat and use the restroom to get that many words out. I barely got decent sleep during that time, too. I mean, just writing a thousand words out takes me a few hours.

So, with that in mind, I still enjoy writing, but man does Camp NaNo remind me that my meager goal of writing 30k words by the end of the month could easily be finished in three days if I were as prolific as Stephen King.


What am I reading?

The project that Sarah Covault is working on for Camp NaNo, which is her Mary, Queen of Scottsville Academy. I'm really liking it so far!



And shameless self plug: If you guys are interested, there are totally spots available for "The Scrappy Scribblers" Cabin for Camp NaNo. Just head over to the Camp NaNoWriMo website and sign up, then leave me a comment on either this post or this one that I wrote detailing a bit more of what it is with your username.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Monthly Showcase - March 2017

Oh shoot, I completely forgot to type this out the other day. Got caught up with the hype of Camp NaNoWriMo and lost track of the dates, hahaha.

Anyway, better get this thing out ASAP before the date of this post annoys me at how not-March it is.

As the Winds Blow - Chapter 1:
The first half of the month was filled with me upset at losing a lot of my work, so the first actual post from this month was my attempt at writing an adventure plot given its nuances detailed from the 20 Master Plots and How to Write Them that I was assigned to read in class. Its development is still in its infancy, and unfortunately it appears I won't be working on it this month as I'm preoccupying my time with "The Blighted Earth," the next items on this list.

The Blighted Earth - Chapter 1:
This is essentially a rewrite of the chapter one from here. C'est comme-ci, comme-ça. To be honest, I felt that this chapter was pretty bland.

The Blighted Earth - Chapter 2:
This chapter, on the other hand, felt a bit more exciting, though still not quite up to par in my opinion. Either that, or I'm being too hard on myself again.

Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor:
I think a good portion of how I felt about this project could read be on the post itself.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017

Guys. Guys. I just realized that Camp NaNoWriMo is happening in a few days.

Considering that it's mentioned many times in the semester, I think it's (hopefully) not too late to mention that, starting April 1st (and it's no joke) is Camp NaNoWriMo. Similar to the regular NaNoWriMo in November, you are given a writing goal to complete during the month.

However, 50,000 words in a month? Not everyone can do that (including me).

Camp NaNoWriMo is different though. You choose the word count goal that you want to complete. 50k words not doable? Change it to 40k. Or 30k. Or even 10k if you can't manage that. Or set your goal to be in minutes or hours instead of words (for those hurting for time). Or lines (for you poetically inclined people). Or pages, if you prefer to see progress that way. It's super flexible and you have no excuse for not having at least attempted it.

What's amazing about it is regardless of the goal you've entered in your settings for Camp NaNoWriMo, if you complete it you can still get the "winner's prizes" at the end of the month.

And what's even more amazing about Camp NaNoWriMo?

After filling out your profile and your project's information you have the option to get sorted into a cabin based on your answers to people who have similar writing tastes as you. Or completely random, if you're into that kind of thing.

Of even make up a cabin with people you know. (Hint, hint.)

There's a communal "shout box" of sorts that you have with your cabin mates, so if you want to ask the other writers for some advice? Feel free to use it. Want to rant about how Starbucks failed to spell your name right on the cup for the umpteenth time as you were just going to sit down and write your novel? Go right on ahead. Got a quote you think would help others? You know the drill.

If any of you guys are interested and want to join my cabin for a month of writing and crying about failing daily word-count quotas with the occasional word of encouragement (and trying to keep up with all the experiments for Creative Writing), you should totally tell me your username for your NaNoWriMo account (though make sure you create your profile and enter information about your novel and keep that bottom box for cabin options unchecked, since those are the requirements for me to send an invite).

Hello, my username is Arelle, and I am a part of cabin "INSERT COOL CABIN NAME HERE." I created a brand new account for this instead using my old account from NaNoWriMos past. None shall see the horror that is my old projects. Muahahahaha!

And don't worry, I can change cabin names. I just hate naming things.

You should totally do it. You're already writing for creative writing, right? Might as well get something extra out of it while you're at it.

Please. I'm so lonely in my cabin. I'm going to end up shoving all the bed bunks together and have my own bed-bunk fortress of loneliness.

And fret not should April come around and you want to join a private cabin. If you ever decide anytime during the month of April that you want to join, cabin administrators (like me) are still able to send out invitations.

EDIT: Just realized that I didn't put a link to Camp NaNoWriMo, for those lazy like me, haha.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 29 March 2017

Things I worked on this week:

Chapter 2 of my fantasy novel: 1839 words

Long journal post thing that I decided to take off my blog: 3230 words

That post detailing my script for my attempt at an audio recording: 913 words

Chapter 6 of my super secret sequel (still in progress): 240 words

Total word count for my week of writing feverishly: 6222 words


What am I working on?

Naturally, I'm working on chapter 3 of my fantasy novel thing, so there's that. I'm also working on the next experiment for class, especially with one of the characters of my fantasy novel since (like his character) he ended up catching me by surprise at how much he's manipulating his way into the story. I think it's a good idea that I figure him out before I continue the plot with him, don't you think? I'm also going to try my hand at one of the forms of poetry detailed in the handout in class today.

It totally escaped my attention for a good few weeks, but I'm going to work on that short story that I ended up not submitting to the Review as a backup. I think now's a good time for me to continue now that I've got a bit more information about how, culturally, my parents feel about the Philippine myth of the manananggal.

Still working on that chapter 6 thing from the list up above. Baby steps. Baby steps.

And now that my love of writing has caught the attention of one of my church members, I've been tasked with writing a short story that is underwater-themed for the Sunday School children. So that's going to be put on my list of projects I'm going to work on this week (if I ever really get to any of them). Just to make things more complicated, I'm making my partner-in-crime create puppets for the characters in the children's story.


How do I feel about the process?

Enjoying it, as always. Except for the poetry part. I need to work on my poetry skills, and I'm despising every moment of it. I'm half-tempted to have my brother or sister write poetry for me and turning it in as my assignment, but that's "academically unacceptable" and "cheating" and "stealing" so... I'm not.

I'm really liking how much I was able to get done last week. Here's to hoping that I'll be able to accomplish the same this coming week.

Also, the fish story (it didn't have to be about fish, but that's what it ended up being) for the children is a huge change and a sigh of relief for me right now. Considering that it's only for the little children, I don't have to impress them with convoluted plot development and turn it in for an assignment. I don't have to venture out into unfamiliar territory to get a story together, doubting my skills as a writer over and over every single time I type out a word.

I know these kids. I know what they like. I know what impresses them (they're easily impressed). I know what satisfies them in a story. And the lesson that needs to be taught within the story is something that spouted out dozens of ideas in my head when I first heard the prompt. I guess this just proves to me that if I know the answer to the question, "Who is your ideal audience?" it makes things a million times easier.

I guess I need to learn that sometimes, simpler is better.

Though, earlier in the week, I injured my wrist. I guess I'm just going to see how that's going to affect my ability to type. I fortunately don't move my wrists much when typing, so I guess not very much. My piano-playing on the other hand... that cuts me deep in my soul.

When it comes to round two at wrangling that horrible vacuum cleaner, I'm going to bring my old karate sparring gloves. I'm not going easy on it this time.


What am I reading?

Umm... nothing this week, sadly. I used up all my reading time to write, and it's likely going to be the case this week. I also spent a good portion of it trying to get that recording I posted on Monday. Dang, if only I knew someone else who was willing to read my script. At least then it wouldn't feel like it ended up being a waste.

I read some news articles, at the very least. But then I stopped because the news tends to make me angry, so then I escape into my made-up world to forget about it. Time will tell if this is an acceptable way of dealing with my problems.


What else am I doing?

In the form of watching things, I guess I'm the weird one out. I don't find watching anything movie or television-show related able to catch my interest. Instead, I'm either playing my piano and getting frustrated (Chopin and his weird penchant to write 22 notes in one measure in his 6/4 time signature--I can't count that in my head, you monster!--freaking Debussy and his lack of logical structure, Mozart and his boring logical structure, Beethoven and his ability to compose the most stupidly complicated things whilst deaf, and don't get me started on whenever I'm requested to play Bach. No. Please, for the love of... just... no. I'd rather bang my head on the keys, thanks), wondering why I didn't decide to go the jazz or rock route but then realizing that my hands are just too tiny for any of that stuff anything piano-related so I just take what I have and roll with it; or sleeping; or doing boring things with Physics; or playing video games (which, I'll admit, eats up way too much of my time best spent being productive).

So yeah, in other words, my life is revolving around writing right now, and so there's nothing else interesting that's worth noting. I'm actually okay with that.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor

As performed by yours truly. You may listen to it here with this very handy link.

I spent about thirty minutes writing a short script to accompany this recording, and then hours and hours and hours of tirelessly trying to record a piano performance that was perfect. Sadly, that didn't happen, or maybe ever. I've been playing the piano for going on fourteen years now. Never have I ever played a single piece that would fit the standards befitting of a classically-trained musician. I always make a mistake somewhere (and that is not an exaggeration).

But I finally got a recording that I deemed alright, and I got set to recording the words to accompany it.

It was at that moment, I remembered how much I hated the sound of my own voice. Ugh.

Because of that, I completely scrapped the audio to my voice and decided to just forego the audio recording experiment.

But all that work and effort I did to try to scrounge something together. I decided to just shove the script and the music recording here to commemorate the moment that I realized that podcasting or storytelling verbally just wasn't my thing.

Here's the script (with mistakes and personal notes and all):

The basement was dim and musky. The wallpaper molding and peeling under its own weight. Footsteps of mercenaries rumbled above. Cries of captives pleading for their lives, for mercy from people they knew would not show them any. Captives that I knew were lined up with their backs to a row of firearms. Captives that I knew would die today.

I knew, because I was one of them.

I was singled out. Out of hundreds, I was the only one sent to the basement to meet the leader. I feared the worst. I feared a fate worse than death.

But upon entering that foul-smelling basement, I almost cried tears of shocked wonder.

In the middle of the room, untouched by the lawless, apocalyptic destruction above, was a piano.

Its glossy finish was pristine, the whites of the keys free from grime. A preserved relic from an age I knew I would never see again.

"I heard you know how to play," their leader said. "You were once a student, no?"

"Once," I replied. "It's been years since I've seen one, much less played one."

"For your sake, let's hope you still can," he said.

I took my place on the bench before the instrument. I played a few quick scales to get a feel for the keys. It astounded me to know that the piano was in tune.

I paused and gauged the faces of my audience. Attentive. Interested. Impatient.

I closed my eyes and tried to recall the pieces I used to practice, the sheets of paper that I was sure to never forget since they were burned into my retinas through hours and hours of practice.

And then. I began to play.

(play first line)

It was at that moment I realized that my heart yearned for this. It had been too long since I was able to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes. It had been too long since I heard music ever since the botched end of the war.

Each note I played carried the years of worry and fear and pain through my fingers into the instrument before me. Each trill marked the height of my emotions. Each run eased the ache of my soul.

Every note brought me back to a time when the majority of my worries surrounded my next exam instead of being captured by heartless monsters.

But then my hands felt unsure upon the keyboard. I had made a mistake in choosing this piece to play. Never in my life had I perfected this piece. I paused in places I wasn't meant to. Slipped in notes that didn't exist in the sheet music I practiced with.

I grew tense, fearing the inevitable moment when I would falter and create a sour note.

There.

I expected to be shot then and there.

But the deed was done. So I continued on as confidently as I could, the intense desire to continue the piece despite the risk of death due to making more mistakes.

The last notes were played.

They placed a bag over my head. Hurried footsteps escorted me from the basement.

They removed the cover and shoved me to the ground.

"He liked your playing. Start running and don't look back." they told me.

I did what I was told, expecting a bullet to strike me in the back.

It didn't come.

I looked down at my hands. Despite years of their lack of care, my hands still remembered how to reach out and touch an era humanity had long forgotten.

And somehow, it was enough to save my life.

I based it off of an actual story that is attached to this particular piece by Chopin.

Natalia Karp and her sister were saved by her own rendition of this piece during the Holocaust, the Nazi officer she performed it for impressed by her performance.

I guess in a way, knowing that story, I decided to nix the project. Sometimes, a story like that is better left told plain as day with no fanfare or poetic license. I've wanted to research more about the event, but as it is, all I know of Natalia Karp and her life-saving performance are only a few sentences in her wikipedia page.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Blighted Earth - Chapter 2


The following day turned out to be just as aggravatingly cold as the previous one.

But at least the sun was out, and that meant that the lake was thawed and I could go back to the never-snowy city of Avamir. I could go back to the normalcy of tending to the royal gardens for the rest of my life. I could go back to living under the shadow of success instead of seizing that opportunity myself. I could go back to pretending that everything was alright and that the future of the kingdom wasn't under the threat of imminent destruction anytime soon. I could return home with a least a little bit of dignity left.

Could.

Instead, I decided to try my chances and speak with the duchess. I wanted to feel surprised as I told the maid that answered the door that Prince Ejas Avamir himself sent me back to the estate, I couldn’t. It was like attending the academy all over again. Except more intimidating.

The Blighted Earth - Chapter 1

(Title and the post's contents are subject to change.)

There were many things the Academy of Avamir had taught me.

How to write an abstract on my experiment of the effects of a magically-grown weed compared to a nature-grown one, how to circumvent sabotage of said experiment because a pyromaniac elementalist wanted payback for someone growing a topiary in life-sized caricature of her ex-fiancé, how to write a letter to the Headmaster of the academy that I was not the horticulturist responsible for the event.

For all that I’ve learned, nothing could have prepared me with the task of presenting the proposal of exploration of the Blight to Duke Azunas of Gavallande. The elementalist fiasco possibly, but she was nothing in comparison to the nobleman.

“No,” the duke said, setting down my written proposal onto the wooden desk in front of him.

“If I may explain further, Your Excellency,” I said, “I believe it’s prudent that I make this expedition. There are signs in the earth that–“

“Whatever your reasons are, Mr. Cael, no one has passed through the gates to the other side of the mountain in centuries. For your safety, I suggest you keep it that way.”

“Your Excellency, you know I–“

“You want my permission? I am not giving it to you.”

“But–“

“No.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 22 March 2017

Spring break has ended. School has started up again. Man, I really missed typing out Word Count Wednesday on the really "click-clacky" keyboards of the campus computers last week. I had to make do with my really silent Mac keyboard at home, and it just wasn't the same.


Things I worked on last week:

I tried my hand on the adventure plot, and, thanks to some prior inspiration from a fellow classmate (thanks Michael), got a bit of something going with this new character I've created to fit an adventure plot. After reading the Master Plots book, Alir is more of a person who would be more "quest-y" than "adventure-y." But given the idea that the story should have something to do about the sea, Alaellyn materialized into existence, practically begging me to tell her story.

Yeah, sometimes characters just waltz up into my thinking train and talk to me. Insanity? Perhaps, but it's only worrying if it's hindering my day-to-day functions, right?

I'm also working on editing my first narrative with the suggestions I got, and I've also started on chapter two.


What am I working on?

This week, I hope to get more done with my adventure plot (I've come to really like Alaellyn, whoops). I'm also still working on chapter two of my "quest" narrative I presented in class. Hopefully it'll be able to clear the air about Alir and his desires to go to a place no one wants to set foot in. Hopefully I'll be able to make it work.

I'm also trying to work on the next chapter of my little "fan series" that somehow developed a following I didn't intend. Did I say little? Actually, it's huge (at least in my perspective), approaching a total of over 200k words. And all of that is me just writing for the sake of writing and not wanting to create characters of my own because I was lazy.


How do I feel about the process?

The spring break was really needed, because now I'm feeling refreshed and ready to write a whole lot again. Look out, world, Jodee's going to bog you down with her long-winded superfluous typing extravaganza.

I'm feeling a bit worried, though, since for some reason during the spring break, I've been unable to hand-write anything legible. It comes and it goes, and it's happened before, so I'm not too anxious about it, though it is annoying. Thank goodness for the language I created, since it needs very simple hand movements to be written and doesn't need the concise loops found in writing English. Fortunately, playing the piano and typing doesn't seem to be hindered. I'm thinking it has to do with my weird kind of migraines I get that affect my five senses or something.

I am, however, feeling really paranoid about the tiny following I've gotten over the completely-not-intended-for-anyone-but-me fan fiction that I've picked up again. Now that these people have made their presence known and their desire for me to put out more and more, I'm a bit more concerned about the day when I lose the balance between the enjoyment of the story and the want to continue to entertain my audience. Sure, I could just ignore them and just drop it without considering them, but I've been on the other end of that exchange countless times in the past. Fortunately, that day has not come yet and it doesn't seem to want to end anytime soon.

As for what I'm working on for my Creative Writing class, I've come to appreciate the ways that characters "approach" me when I want to write a story. Alir was the kind of person who would ask me, "Can I have a moment of your time? I think this might interest you."

Alaellyn, on the other hand, seems more like, "Wow, do I have a story to tell you."

It made me realize that I built their personalities around how they would ask me to write their journeys, and I think it's come off that way in what their story formed around. They both have grown up and lived on the island of Sülkoras, both are educated at around the same level, both are (at least I hope to portray this correctly) self-made successes. Heck, Alaellyn is even an ancestor of Alir. (At least that's what I like to imagine. No telling if that might get hinted at in either of their stories.)

But that little thought experiment where I imagined them approaching me one day to write their biography or something, I guess I really like how it helps me in my "pantser" ways. It tells me a lot about how they would react to whatever situation I've decided to place them in. It also helped me decide that Alir's story was going to be told in first person (because he seems more thought-oriented) and that Alaellyn's story was going to be told in third person (because she seems more action-oriented).

It's amusing to me to know that, for quite some time, I've had this little inkling of an idea about a world the island of Sülkoras exists in and during this semester I've actually made attempts to develop it even further. After that was done, I struggled with, "Okay, you've got the place, Jodee. Now what story do you want to tell?"

Out of all the people I've imagined living there. Out of all the possible stories that I've followed in my head of the people that live there. (One time I followed a baker and his route to make deliveries around one of the towns for a good two hours of boredom while in Physics class.) Out of every moment in history that I've made of the island, for some reason these two characters "approached" me. Sure, others have, too, but they've hinged upon the actions of Alir and Alaellyn first and foremost. (Even one of the royalty of the island "approached" me, but even then it redirected back to Alir.)

I'm just hoping these two are able to carry the weights of their plots throughout every scenario I'm throwing at them. Because if they aren't, well... they're just going back into my file cabinet, never to be revisited until many years from now.

Hopefully you guys don't think me insane with how my thought process works, hahaha.


What am I reading?

I finally finished The Dream Giver with my youth group. Man, I love the feeling of satisfaction once you've finished a book.


Other things I've been doing:

Since my other main hobby is playing the piano, I've been working on trying to perfect Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor for the longest time. Oh, if only I had longer fingers. I'm considering posting a performance on this blog as a birthday present to everyone (and myself, since I've rarely heard myself play before).

Also, side note to any classmates reading this: if you want to hear me play something for you after class, you can head over to the practice rooms over in the music building on campus and I'll gladly give you personal concert by yours truly :)

Monday, March 20, 2017

As the Winds Blow - Chapter 1

(Ugh, not much to share, but it's what I've got so far. It's more of an exploration of character than anything right now.)

"That would be fifty."

"Fifty? You said thirty earlier!"

"I said thirty for the fare. You want room and board? Twenty on top of that."

The client rumbled a grunt of frustration from the back of his throat and pulled a coin purse out of his pocket. Alaellyn grinned in triumph and snatched the payment from the man. She leaned against the main mast of the ship and crossed her arms, smug.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Rose by Any Other Name

(Please don't mind the overused, cliché title.)

One of the most annoying and frustrating things for me to deal with in writing is naming things.

Naming the work. Naming the chapter. Naming the place. Naming the character. Naming this, naming that, yadda, yadda, yadda.

While naming the work/chapter has a weight to it that drives my anxiety into overdrive (Is it too cliché? Is it attention-grabbing? Does it make sense?), places and characters are a whole different world of frustrating that I must deal with.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 15 March 2017

Things I worked on this week:

Uhhh... nothing.

Hey, I wrote over 5000 words last week, I'm giving myself a bit of a breather and enjoying my spring break.


What am I working on?

While I did pretty much little to no writing this week, I am still working on my next experiment. I'm just seriously blanking on adventure ideas.

Okay, I have one idea, not a good one, but hopefully it will help me with building the world that my novel-length maybe-epic takes place in. And just so I don't forget (or lose any records like my other work I lost recently), it's going to be a "legend" of sorts.


How do I feel about the process?

Feeling good, though a bit iffy since I'm working as a "plotter" in this case rather than a "pantser." From reading the chapter on the adventure plot, it definitely calls for some (a lot) of planning so that it all ties in. I've come to understand that I'm more of a "quest" writer than an "adventure" writer, something about my writing abilities I've never known before. I'm really happy that I figured out the boundaries of my comfort zone and in writing an adventure, I can hopefully develop my skills further.

What am I reading?

I finished On Writing as well as the Master Plots book. Other than that, a whole lotta nada when it comes to the physical paper books that's the norm. While I was away on my "conference trip," I just read a lot of the blogs, and they are fantastic this week.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

J'ai fait un pet...

The world is exactly the same except your hair turns highlighter pink when you hear a fart.

***
...or what was supposed to be experiment number 6 but like my submission to the Review, it's now lost to me in cyberspace and there is no way for me to retrieve it.

So instead, my dear readers, you get an unplanned rant.

I had been waiting for the good part of a month for the day that I get news for my submission to the Moorpark Review. I lost even a little sleep over it because it's the first time I had ever had editors of any kind having their eyes on something I've written.

The day had finally come! A classmate from the Review announced that people would be recieveing emails whether or not their submission got in! Joyous day!

But guess what happened?

I didn't remember which email I used to create my account.

No matter, I'll figure it out.

In the chance that it didn't get in, I wanted to publish my submission on my blog for my own posterity. So I decided to log in to SuRePub and grab that copy I submitted since it was the final, polished version that I had (since prior to this the file got corrupted on my computer) and I was super glad that I am able to log in and view that copy at any time.

But then I couldn't remember my password.

Ah, no matter. They have a "forgot password" link. No biggie.

I knew my username, so it wasn't terrible.

It told me that it sent a new password to my email.

Oh good! Two birds in one stone: I get my document, and I figure out what email I used to create my account.

And then... an hour passed. Two hours. Checked every corner of every single freaking email that I own. Three hours. Nothing.

Then I suddenly rememebered my password! Yes!

Then... I figured out that it won't take it. Because it changed it and sent the new password to some email I'm beginning to doubt that I entered in correctly.

Oh well, might as well work on experiment 6.

Or so I thought.

I finished it. I published it. It turned up on my feed saying there's a new post on my blog. But blogger completely LOST my work. Ugh.

So I'm throwing my hands in the air and saying, "I give up!"

It feels as if the universe doesn't want me to publish anything. I'm not supersitious or anything, but I think this is probably an omen saying that I need to take it easy because this whole hoopla is getting my blood pressure rising, and I don't like that feeling.

Word Count Wednesday - 8 March 2017

Things I worked on this week:

A chapter of this... erm... "fan work" that I've written since the start of the summer last year (I'm embarrassed enough mentioning that I write things like this): 2000+ words

This really long journal entry that I considered not being a part of my word count, but it took me more time to write it than I'd care to admit so I'm adding that into my word count: 3000+ words

My "backup submission" for the Moorpark Review (which I ended up not submitting since I didn't finish it): 600+ words

Total word count from this week: 5600+ words

Oh, and I'm super disappointed that I don't remember my password or associated email with the SuRePub site for the Moorpark Review because I was hoping to post that thing I wrote to post on here should it have been rejected. (And I have no way to know if I even entered in my email right for that registration process for the account. Darn my luck.)

What am I working on?

I guess working on that... "fan fiction" thing counts, so I'm working on that right now. It helped me out of my writer's block, as much as it embarrasses me to admit, but whatever works, eh?

I'm also hoping to work on Experiments #6 and #7, but considering that starting tomorrow I'm going on a trip, I might not have enough time to write. Or I just might have too much time to write, since it's more of a "conference" type of setting than for actual leisure.

I'm also hoping to finish that short story I started on last week. I'm likely just going to publish it here on this blog at some point. It's about a girl who wants to hunt vampires but ends up with the task of hunting a "manananggal" instead. (A manananggal is the Philippine's equivalent to a vampire, but... different, which the main character is going to find out.)


How do I feel about the process?

Quite amazing, despite the huge dent in my sleeping schedule this week. While three hours of sleep on average sounds horrible, one needs to account that there were days I just slept for the recommended (I think it's recommended?) six hours of sleep for the night.

But then again, there are those nights where I just would forego sleep altogether. Ah well, I can function like this for a while (I'm having too much fun writing right now). That trip I mentioned earlier is definitely coming at the right moment for me since I can finally get back to sleeping rather normally. Well, as normal as someone who's habitually nocturnal could "sleep normally."

As for the fan fiction writing thing and my feelings regarding it, a big reason why I've gone back into it was that there was another writer on the site my account is on that told me (and I off-quote this so it's not as easily traced because I still hang my head in shame for being a fan fiction writer) "[Your series] actually inspired me to write these." And this was after me giving them praise for their writing talents because they were a magnificent writer.

Wow. Even more wow. This writer telling me this both honored me and humbled me. I don't know who this person is, or what their background is, or anything about them other than they're incredibly talented (even though the plot takes place in a copyrighted setting), and I actually took some notes on how they wrote to improve my own abilities.

And I guess this moment just encouraged me to continue my pursuits in writing, because at the very heart of what I ultimately want to do is to inspire, encourage, and also entertain the reader. To know that I've actually accomplished that for at least one person out there? Wow! (I say that a lot, but honestly I can't express this feeling in words, despite my tendency to be long-winded.)

In other words, that moment helped to crack that little cement block in my psyche that I like to call "Writer's block."

As for how I feel about my writing process this week (and I guess last week because it's overflowing into this week), I feel great! I've finally found the drive and energy to write like mad again, and there's no way I'm not going to take advantage of moments like these. And to add the little cherry on top of the banana-split sundae reminiscent of the time I went to the Santa Monica Pier for my 21st birthday (which I never got to finish because it was so magnificently full of ice-cream and toppings galore), the chapter my experiment #7 is on the "Adventure plot."

An enthusiasm I couldn't hope to contain in the middle of class today. Hey, at least I don't hide my excitement?


What am I reading now?

I really need to catch up on the On Writing book, and I can't wait to pore over the chapter assigned to me in 20 Master Plots and How to Write Them. I'm also still reading The Dream Giver with my church's college-aged youth group, and I feel like the chapter we just went over came at a pretty opportune time in my life since it was about pursuing your dream but staying careful to not neglect the other things that should come first in your life. Advice obviously directed toward young adults, but hey, better to learn that lesson earlier on, right?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 1 March 2017

Things I worked on this week:

A short poem that I posted earlier in the week. And that's it.


What am I working on?

I've got ideas finally buzzing around in my head again. So right now I'm working on those, as well as fixing my narrative that I turned in a few weeks ago. I'm also working on a short story I hope to turn in to the Moorpark Review. Yeah I know, last minute, but the other one I submitted felt a bit... meh, so I'm working on this one to hopefully increase my chances of getting something published. Or not, if my writing skills need to be developed further before I can get to that point.


How do I feel about the process?

I'm feeling pretty good again. Last month was filled with a lot of things that brought up a lot of sadness and dampened my creativity like crazy, but given that and the fact that I feel up to writing again, I'm really pleased. I'm predicting another cloudy month for me in April, but that's a month away. I'm cracking my knuckles (figuratively, since I hate the sound of popping joints) and getting things done as much as possible before that month swings around.


What am I reading now?

The usual: On Writing and The Dream Giver. Got a few more pages in to Les Misérables, but I'm certainly missing the first time I read it in class in high school. The helpful notes my English teacher would give the class during the reading are something I really need, hahaha. At least it's not feeling like that one time I read Gone with the Wind on my own. While I like reading historical fiction and period pieces, the romance in it kinda made me hate reading it. Interesting, but I don't want to read it again, no thanks.

At least Les Mis and Gone with the Wind isn't as long as War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, that's for sure.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Monthly Showcase - February 2017

Well, it looks like it's the last day of the month. Thank goodness I remembered before March 1st came around, or else it would annoy me forever to see this post on the wrong date.

So, let's get this thing started:

Monday, February 27, 2017

Beware the Gilded Light

My creativity seems to be centered around lights lately. Oh well. Work with what you got is what I always say. (And for those really bored or like hidden messages, there's definitely one embedded into this post.)

[hover here for spoiler]


beware the gilded light that shines
on shadows in the day

its glow is seen as priceless
but has nothing in its rays
You know
You know

its dreams and hopes at first will sound
like music to your ears

whispers bathed in auric brightness,
they may calm all your fears
it hurts
it helps

when life gets hard, and it gets rough,
and you left it to chance

the light will shine on nothing
if nothing's beneath your stance
to be naïve
to be optimistic

so take care where it will take you
along your dreamlike way

that gilded light may not be right—
it may lead you astray

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 22 February 2017

Things I worked on this week:

A short little thing that couldn't get out of my head when I was driving on my way home from campus last week.

Other than that, nothing else.


What am I working on?

I still have ideas and projects... I'm just not getting anything done on them right now. I'm currently a bit burnt-out with anything writing-related, unfortunately, and at the worst possible time, too. Curse you clinical depression! *shakes fist at ceiling*


How do I feel about the process?

I still love writing, don't get me wrong. It's just that at the inopportune times that my depression likes to poke it's little head in to see how I'm doing, it makes sure to turn everything very un-fun and a chore. It's definitely nothing like how it used to be when I was in high school (thank goodness), so I know it's just going to pass within a few weeks like every other time. It hurts a bit inside when I'm unable to write anything creatively of any sort, however. Thankfully that second narrative project isn't due around the corner for me. Ah, the perks of already having presented.

For the time being, I'm just jotting down really-really short snippets and scenes (typically one sentence of dialogue a character says) just so I don't forget them for when I'm feeling up to sitting at a keyboard and writing for any length of time. Even quickly typing this down is a bit of a strain right now, but I know that if I don't do it when I have at least a glimmer of productivity while I'm in this state, it just won't get done.


What am I reading now?

Same things as last week: The Dream Giver, On Writing, but not my first NaNoWriMo project because I finished that thing in one sitting.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

That Red Light

How easy it is to ignore that red light at the intersection. How easy it is to just drive off the edge of the overpass. How easy it is to just pound the gas pedal into the floor and crash into the face of the mountain. How easy it is to ignore any sense of self-preservation and public safety.

Easy. Too easy. Oh so painfully, tauntingly easy.

But she doesn't think like that anymore. She's better now.

She's changed.

Depression was what the psychiatrist called it. A monster that wanted to take their daughter away was what her parents called it. Her siblings called it just wanting attention.

She once called it a friend.

She doesn't anymore.

A friend wouldn't have caused her to get her sent to the hospital. A friend wouldn't have whispered lies and false promises of a bleak future. A friend wouldn't have taken and twisted her mind to think that all that was good was bad, and that all that seemed good was an illusion.

How blind she was, she thinks of this in hindsight. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

She remembers its soft, soothing voice: so facile and pleasant to listen to. But it was dangerous.

That voice almost destroyed her. That voice lied and told her that she had nothing to lose. That hopelessness and despair was at the end of the long tunnel of life. That there was no need to wait for oblivion – it was right at her doorstep. That death would be easy if she just tried again and wanted it with everything within her being.

How terribly she wanted it.

She doesn't anymore.

She's better now. She's found purpose. She believes wholeheartedly that it gets better, that life gets better if she just hangs on. She's finally found the beauty and love in living. She can make it. She can do it. She now sees that there are people that care, and that she finally finds compassion residing in her heart instead of the constant hate for herself and mankind. She's better now.

She's changed.

But at that red light of warning as she sits behind the steering wheel, an echo of the past taunts her.

How easy it is to ignore that red light...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 15 February 2017

Things I worked on this week:

Chapter 1 for my narrative project

Chapter 2 in continuation. I'm considering having that as my assignment for when we need to have another narrative to turn in. Though I'm still hesitant about it. See below for further details.

Finally found my muse to continue that sequel thing.

I also have this one post that I made to express where my inspiration came from last week. Wordy. As always.

Word counts? Eh, who needs 'em? Hahaha. (I promise I was working. Seriously.)


What am I working on?

Right now, I'm splitting my "inspired time" (as I like to call it) between the creative projects I've mentioned above. Though I'm mainly working on Chapter 2 and incorporating the suggestions House Wishword mentioned for the story. I'm also trying to work on deciding how to write in my "language" in the story where it's not gimmicky and confusing for the reader. Or if I should even put it in there in the first place.

I don't quite remember where I heard this from, though it's likely from my video production teacher in high school: "Writing is all about decisions."

He was also the same person who said "Get all the bad work out of you so you know what not to do next time."

Whether he knew it or not, I pretty much live by those standards when it comes to writing. Or I try.

Because of this, I don't really consider my terrible writing as wasted time. I've learned to see them as a lesson for the future.


How do I feel about the process?

I'm having fun, which is always a plus when it comes to working on a project. Feelings of inadequacy pervaded throughout my time spent at the keyboard, as usual. But as long as I'm having fun, I can ignore those thoughts pretty easily. Or at least I try.

Ugh, I feel so strange sharing to everyone this imaginary world that I created. It's the first time a large number of people have been exposed to the weird interest I have with languages and codes and fantasy all at once, though in a direct form. In the past, people I knew would just "happen" upon me writing in my weird language for notes during lectures. I've been mocked for it in the past, so sharing it in class brought those unpleasant memories up again.

Fortunately, no one called me weird at the very least. So... yay?


What am I reading now?

On Writing by Stephen King

My very first attempt at a novel for NaNoWriMo 2015. Confusing world I set that thing in, and a bit boring with the plot. Characters' personalities were all over the place. Definitely not going to touch that project again in the future. I "won" NaNoWriMo that year, at least?

Oh, who am I kidding, that thing sucked like that broken aquarium filter for my sister's angelfish. And like the filter, it needs to be tossed out into the trash heap. I got a few laughs in, that thing was so terrible.

***
If you probably couldn't tell by now, I've been having a "down" week. At least today I could drown myself in all the 50% off chocolates that I could've indulged in for Valentine's Day.

If I ever had a Valentine.

Don't worry, Noel. You could still be my Valentine!

(Noel is the family dog, FYI)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chapter 1 of the book I don't have a title for yet

The chill in the room bit into my lungs and escaped in puffs of valuable heat, dissipating to greet the winter air into oblivion. While the candles in their sconces along the wall drove away the darkness of the evening, they did very little to quell the frigid temperature. The collar of my coat rose higher against the nape of my neck as I tugged it to prevent myself from shivering in front of the town’s equivalent to a king. Not from intimidation, of course. It was just too cold.

Okay, maybe intimidation was a bit of a factor.

I thought it was a simple request: gather some samples of the blight from the other side of the mountain, send it off to be analyzed back in the city, possibly start on a solution to fix the land.

But as I continued to explain my intentions for making my proposal, it grew harder to keep my voice from cracking and wavering as Duke Dynn Azunas of Gavallande's visage contorted into one of frustration. My words were barely above a whisper by the time I was finished.

"Get out!" the gaunt-faced man ordered, slamming his palms against the desk in front of him as he shot up from his chair. "All of you!"

"If I may, Your Excellency–" I managed to squeak before being interrupted by the man.

"No, I've heard enough of your request. To think the king would approve of such nonsense coming from the academies. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He gestured to a uniformed guard that stood at attention at a wall before the nobleman disappeared behind a set of curtains behind his desk.

The guard approached me, a slight frown pulling his hardened features and an eyebrow quirked upward, silently urging me to comply with the leader's command. I sighed and shuffled out of the room, following behind the other exiting occupants, shivering as freely as I wanted. There was no need to keep up appearances anymore.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Inspiration and My Love of Classical Music

In trying to get some inspiration and ideas for the narrative I'm trying to write for the Monday deadline, I've reached out to many different sources. House Wishword, for one, helped me a lot with my doubts and ability to tell a story; but their stories also helped inspire that one little piece of the "motive" puzzle for a short little scene my main character would have for doing something.

"Because it's rare in the winter," one of them said. Annie, I believe. (Sorry, I'm terrible with remembering names.)

Then that lovely little power-wasting incandescent lightbulb just flickered on, and I was like, "Yes! Definitely!"

Another source for inspiration was my little sister, since she knew I was having a huge struggle with this assignment. While she's not too particularly keen on reading anything I write unless it's finished finished, I went to her knowing she would spout out the most random things that would get strange ideas in my head. While not as direct in inspiring ideas, it did help me to type a short snippet (about 300 words) of what it would be like if the family dog, Noel, were to suddenly become human.

And lastly, I've had to draw a huge amount of inspiration from classical music, which is the main purpose of this post. Namely Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" symphony.

Rimsky-Korsakov, while at first glance for most people not into classical music like me, would probably say, "Never head of him." Chances are you have. Ever heard of that "incredibly-difficult-song-that-any-master-musician-could-play" called "Flight of the Bumblebee?" (Google search, you'll likely recognize the tune anywhere.)

Yup, he's the one who composed it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 8 February 2017

Things I worked on this week:

Narrative project: 2,278 words and counting sitting at 1k+ words (will get an exact count when I get back home)


What am I working on?

Right now I am trying to work on my narrative project that's due on Monday. Nothing else writing-wise that I want to take note of this week.


How do I feel about the process?

During class time today, I've had the privilege to experience something I've rarely — if ever — had in my whole experience with writing: a peer support group, of sorts, with writing.

Before this class, I've had to rely on only myself when it comes to editing, and that comes with a lot of setbacks. Because I'm the only one who ever really sees the work before it is introduced into the world, I lack the ability to know if I'm not being clear, or if the pace is dragging, or if the reader is going to grow bored. Because of this, I've had to artificially attain "fresh eyes" by giving myself some space to the point where I almost forget what I've written before I do any real editing. It's still not as good as the real, genuine thing of having people completely new to the plot getting a read on my rough draft.

Plus, I love it when it's the other way around. Seeing a project that's still in the works before it is set off into the world is amazing!

As you can already probably tell, there aren't many people in my life that are too keen on writing or reading creative works.


What am I reading?

The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson

Great Minds by Shantea Gauthier

On Writing by Stephen King

That Grim Reaper story I keep alluding to that I've written and completed in the past (because of that "fresh eyes" thing I mentioned earlier). Wow, that thing, while interesting, is filled with plot holes. Definitely going to rewrite the whole thing once I'm done with other projects. Don't want to bog myself down by adding even more to all the things I'm already trying to work on.

All these wonderful blogs of my classmates. Some even have posts that helped inspire me and helped me with my own projects.

And my physics textbook, but that's not for my own enjoyment and enrichment, haha.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - 2 February 2017

Things I worked on this week:
  • Grim Reaper myth-retelling sequel: 15,000+ words (about 200 words written since last week, pretty sad about that number)
  • The "Sülkoras" project: 1,162 words unknown, to be updated after I get back home (I'm using the library computers as I make this post)
  • Submission to the Moorpark Review: 694 words

I have no word-count goal, since I might get obsessive over it and that's not a good place to be when I've got physics tests and homework to worry about.


What am I working on?

I am currently working on my actual "manuscript" of my first draft of the first chapter of the novel that is set in the Island of Sülkoras. While my little experiment helped me to get a bit of a start on how I want the story told, and which character I'd like to follow, it's definitely not in the form that I want to turn in for the following week when it's "drafting day" in the Creative Writing class, hence why I dubbed it a "prototype" of a chapter instead of being an actual chapter.

Currently having a bit of writer's block when it comes to the sequel of my "retelling of the Grim Reaper" myth thing that I've mentioned in my last Word Count Wednesday. Which is fine, since I've encountered writer's block before when it comes to that... thing. It was never well thought out to begin with and was mainly meant to amuse me when I'm bored.

Because of that writer's block, I typed a little scene for something completely unrelated for the time being (a little over 1000 words) and it sparked a little device idea for my plot for that Sülkoras story that's been eluding me for a while. Gotta love when that happens, because it rarely ever works for me that way.

I'm also super excited to say that I've made my submission to the Moorpark Review! Here's to hoping I get some kind of response, even if it's a "no." Preferrably with some kind of constructive criticism that I could work with. Wow, is it getting a bit warm in here, or is it just me?

Also constantly trying to jot out poems and hoping one of them is decent enough for me to post later. I love poetry, don't get me wrong. I just hate every single one that I make.


How do I feel about the process?

Writer's block is frustrating, and I'm fortunate that it's only affecting one of my projects instead of all of them. It took me a bit to acknowledge that it was happening, but I'm admitting defeat and letting myself have some breathing room for my myth-retelling. Sometimes I let myself get burnt out on a project because I would obsess over the plot and scenes throughout every waking moment (and sometimes in my sleep). It gives the illusion that I'm a productive and prolific writer; but if you factor in the amount of time that I spend just trying to recuperate, then it just averages out. A bit of a bad habit of mine, actually.

In a forty-eight hour period one time last summer, I spent a little over thirty of them just writing. Nonstop. The other eighteen hours was also filled with trying to write, since I did it when I was eating and using the restroom. (I know. Eww. But I'm trying to convey how bad it was, okay?) I think sleep was also added in there somewhere, somehow.

Over ten-thousand words in a forty-eight hour period. Afterward, about two weeks of nothing. I have this small fear that if I don't take advantage of every little drop of inspiration and drive to create, then when it comes time for me to take a step back and breathe, I might lose all of it or not get a chance to have inspiration like that again.

I've gotten better over the winter, and I've since kept a separate notebook that I keep with me every single moment filled with writing ideas and scenes in shorthand that I jot in to overcome that strange phobia of mine. (Thanks for the lovely Christmas present, little sister.) I don't get burnt out as often now, and in good time too, since having myself dried up from inspiration and drive to write while in a Creative Writing class? Big no-no.

Still, I love the whole process of writing, writer's block and all. My mother always did say that I like a bit of a challenge. While I hate the challenge itself, how it feels coming through to the other side is a feeling that I pretty much live for. As long as I finish something, I'm content. (Though being happy with the quality of it is a different story entirely.)

As for the attempts at writing poetry, I feel like a stumbling toddler when it comes to trying to write something worthwhile to share. For every "finished" one that I make, there are about seven scrapped ones that barely make it past the first few lines or stanzas. Or if they get past that, I end up deleting them because what I end up making made no sense to me.

Though I should probably stop trying to write poetry at three in the morning. Just a thought.


What am I reading now?

The assigned reading from Stephen King's On Writing, which I'm thoroughly enjoying. I can't help but compare his memoir with my own experiences that molded me and my own writing.

I haven't made much progress into Les Misérables this week, but I did make some headway into a novel a former classmate of mine had published not too long ago. It's called Great Minds by Shantea Gauthier, and it's a self-published sci-fi dystopian novel that's set in a world where water is extremely scarce. Like super scarce that it's illegal to drink it, so you have to have it injected directly into your system. I believe you can find a copy of your own on Amazon. (And Shantea, wherever you are, you're welcome for the free advertising, hahaha.)