Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I rated it 5 out of 5 stars.

Overview: “Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Review: I have never read any of Stephen King's books. This was my first. You see, I can't do horror or anything remotely scary. I'm such a big baby when it comes to that kind of stuff. Last week, however, I was perusing Barnes and Noble's writing section when I came across this book. I've always heard about what a great writer King is so I picked this one up relieved that it didn't have anything that would freak me out.

After the first few pages, I could see what all the raving was about. He is no doubt an amazing writer and because I knew little about him, the tales of his childhood to adult hood were extremely captivating. I gave it five stars because I was hooked all the way through, reading it in just two days. It had a great story feel and down to earth advice with a unique perspective. It's a book that I'll constantly refer to and continue to be inspired by. This is a book that every aspiring writer should read or anyone who has a dream and the courage to chase it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Post Birthdays

This week has been crazy busy, making the weekend very much needed! On Friday, Michael took me out to Nishino's for dinner, one of his favorite restaurants. As usual the sushi was excellent and the dessert insanely good!

Green Tea Tiramisu

Afterwards we went to Ballard for Cristine's Birthday celebration where I discovered a new go-to drink: Tom Collins. It's so refreshing, just like lemonade.

Me, Michael, and Cristine
The next day was super laid back. We finally did some grocery shopping and spent the rest of the day working on personal projects--revisions for me, web design for him. Michael was sweet enough to set up my very own writing space in our apartment.

Manuscript, laptop, notes, pens, and music. Everything I need.

Afterwards we headed to Cristine and Tim's for a family get together with the Armfield cousins and their rents.

Being goofy during the game time!

Sunday was cleaning day with more work on my revisions. I'm a quarter done with draft three, but it was the easy part. I anticipate difficulties as I head to the middle chunk of the story. It's great tightening the story and connecting everything cohesively. Tons of hard work, but worth it. 

Only one more month until my workshop and my beta readers get to read M2! Just thinking about that gets me all nervous and excited. The whole time working on it, it's always been about doing it for myself. Now with revisions, it's all about making it come alive for the reader, hoping that they can get lost and in love with the story I've been dying to share.

To close, here are a two other goofy photos I found on Michael's phone that should have made it to my Whistler post, if I only knew! Here's to another week of life!

strawberry daiquiri after 5 hour snowboarding lesson

hiding in my scarf because Whistler is c o l d 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

23 Birthday Wishes

Hazelnute Cake with a Chocolate Ganache and an Orange Cookie

 Another Birthday for the books! Thank you to everyone who sent me Birthday Wishes via text, social media, phone calls, cards/gifts in the mail, and most of all by simply thinking of me. It's so comforting to know that although I'm away from my California home, I am not far from your hearts.

My first Birthday in Seattle was definitely one to remember. My co-worker and friend was sweet enough to take me out to lunch and after work Michael took me to my favorite spot in town, Bottlehouse. We drank great wine and ate great food which always makes for a good time.

Best board I've had so far! Wild Boar, Cheese with Truffle, and Wine Soaked Irish Cheese

Recommended flight by our server. It was absolutely perfect.
The staff was amazing and knowledgeable as always with great recommendations for us to try. They were kind enough to put a candle in my dessert so I could make a wish and complimentary glasses of sparkling wine to celebrate.

Afterwards, I had this unexplicable craving for mac n' cheese (weird I know), so Michael and I got some on our way home and relaxed for the rest of the evening, and sometime around 9:37 p.m., I fell asleep (I guess I am getting older if I can't stay up past ten!).

Cheers to another year and hopefully another Birthday Wish come true!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whistler Weekend & Birthdays

For the past week I've been sick with a very viscious cold right before my Whistler weekend. I was majorly bummed and still am since I'm still constantly coughing and sneezing. Nonetheless I toughed it up and off to Whistler I went. I was really out of though, so sadly, I don't have too many pictures to post, so I stole a few from Cristine ;)

Photo Cred: Cristine

Can you see me?

Before hitting the slopes! Photo Cred: Cristine

While at Whistler, I tried snowboarding for the first time by taking a 5-hour lesson. It was extremely fatiguing since my body was drained from recovering, but a lot of fun at the same time. I fell a lot as expected. Hopefully it'll turn out to be a new hobby next season, that way winter won't be as much as a bummer!

Later that night we went out for drinks in the village before dinner. Somehow Michael got this weird/creepy photo of me:

 After dinner and more drinks we met up with Michael's friends. By the time we got back it was the next day and Cristine's Birthday! Unfortunately I really dropped the ball on the whole photo thing :(

The next day Michael, Cristine, Tim, and I had a quick brunch before heading back home. The trip was a quick one, but very memorable.

The past few days I haven't done much. Just the standard resting and binge watching that accompanies a cold. Yesterday Michael and I ended up going out to dinner since we were out of groceries. Below is a photo of my last dessert at the age of 22:

Ginger Cheesecake at Tallulah's

And today, I'm 23. It's funny how you don't really feel any different. Nonetheless, 22 was a great year. I fell in love, got a job, I moved, wrote a manuscript, and did some traveling with Michael. It was also a difficult year though being away from my family, putting down my dog, and living in a new place. I am extremely lucky that my family have been supportive and understanding, and that the Armfield's have been extremely welcoming.

I'm not sure what to expect of being 23, except that I find the number 23 very awkward. I can only hope that it's another great year filled with happiness, health, love, and new adventures.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Writing Update: Reflections, Read-Through, & Revision Notes/Process

One year ago was my first day post-college. I remembered the strange sensation I had after completing my last final. Excited and so afraid of what was to come. I didn't really have a sound plan. I just knew that I wanted a break. So for about three months after I simply wrote, hoping to complete my first manuscript. I had this silly notion that I could break out into writing with this one book straight out of college. Maybe that happens for some people, but that didn't happen for me. My first novel I worked on centered on a very depressed protagonist. Being so wrapped into it, I, myself felt depressed. And the farther along I got into the manuscript, the more doubt I had in my silly notion. The doubt made me feel like I was just playing out something that would never happen.

A series of life-changing events followed that I won't get into, but once those three months were up, I put that manuscript away, got a full-time job and moved to Seattle to be Michael and to start a new life. I stopped writing for a long while through this transition. For once, attempting to write filled me with dread and anxiety. The doubt continued to plague me, even though I wans't aware of it.

After awhile, I started to miss writing. My dream of being a writer, no matter how much I tried to stifle it, never went away. So one day I printed out my manuscript, went to a cafe, and read it. I didn't even get past page 30. It was truly awful. I knew then that this wasn't the manuscript that would take me where I wanted to go. Sure it was disappointing, but it was also a realization that 1) I still wanted to be a writer and 2) it was time I got over the dread and anxiety.

So I started on a completely new idea, M2, printed out the second draft and read it. Though it needs tons of work, I can say that after my read-through, I was not disappointed. I was proud. This was such a change compared to my read-through of M1. M2 had a story I was falling in love with. M2 had characters I cared about. And last of all, I enjoyed writing M2 and continue to do so despite the difficulties.

I'm now making tons of revision notes too take me into my third draft. There's still a lot of work ahead, but I finally feel like I'm going somewhere with it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Rated 5 stars out of 5


Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.


Cress is probably my favorite out of the three books so far. Meyer definitely picked up the pace on this one with such a great plot line. Not to mention, the perspectives of all the characters were all distinct, making it enjoyable. Meyer definitely took the time in this book to show character growth. The character Cress as a new edition to the gang was very delightful. She definitely represents the romantic in all of us and her relationship with Throne was very interesting to see. I love how Thorne's character got more of a spotlight in this book, his anti-heroism just makes him more of hero without him realizing it. As for Cinder, we finally see her step us as a leader and accept her responsibility as a revolutionary. And of course, Kai's growth as a selfless emperor.

I've enjoyed this series so much, I can't believe I'm going to have to wait another year for Winter!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

Rated 4.5 stars out of 5

Overview: Cinder is back and trying to break out of prison—even though she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive if she does—in this second installment from Marissa Meyer.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother, or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.
An NPR Best Book of 2013

Review: Just like I finished Cinder in two days, Scarlet was no exception! Meyer brought everything back beautifully. Though I down rated it .5 due to the fact that I'm not too much of a fan of Scarlet and Wolf, these two new characters were interesting of course, but they were nothing compared to Thorne and Cinder. I liked watching Cinder and Throne's friendship grow more than Scarlet and Wolf's. Nonetheless, it was still a great story and it was thrilling to read how Meyer wove the Little Red Riding Hood tale into the plot line. The Lunar Chronicles has been such an entertaining read for me. It's been such a while since I've read such an awesome series!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer

Rated 5 stars out of 5

Overview: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Review: A retelling with a neat twist, you won't be able to put this book down! I mean, a cyborg Cinderella? Yet Meyer does it well with such engrossing writing. Though you already know the fairytale of it, you will still be surprised with all of the worldbuilding and enthralled with the characters. I read this in two days! As I write this review, I'm already starting book #3 in the chronicles. I'm that hooked. So why five stars? Well for one, the writing was great. Very fluid and clear in its details which is a must since this is set in New Beijing in the future. Second, though it's a classic fairytale, Meyer brings novelty in to it with cyborgs, an evil Lunar Queen, and Kai a new emperor (move over Prince Charming!). Third, I thought the pacing was very well done keeping the tension close enough to keep you reading.

If you pick this book up, you will not regret it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So, it's been a week...

Since I've read or worked on my M2. It kind of feels... weird. I was thinking about it this morning and was suddenly overwhelmed. I lost a week of writing time! I could have been farther along if I had just kept writing. These were my thoughts as I stood in line this morning at Starbuck's waiting for my coffee. It took me a half a minute later to realize that my thoughts were nonsense. There was a reason I was putting distance between my story and I.

I needed to see it with fresh eyes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Palm Desert

This past weekend I got to relax in the sun! It was amazing and I already miss it! Michael and I visited his parents there and enjoyed our time immensely! Next year, we will definitely have to do longer than four days. I won't go into too much detail in this post, rather I'll just post photos below! It was a good time of relaxing, eating, reading, spending time with the Armfield's, and a nice break from my manuscript!

Our first time on a plane together :)

Flying close to Mount Rainier

California! Such a change from Washington

Palm Desert!

Backyard view where we stayed .


Michael's parents took us out to La Spiga where we enjoyed this dessert! YUM.

Getting ready to watch the sunset! Photo Cred: Denise

Michael enjoying beers.

Being goofy at Arnold Palmers

I just get too darn excited when it comes to desserts!
Many thanks to Michael's parents for making this trip happen and Michael for taking me with him :)

Hoping you all had an awesome weekend. More book reviews to come!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Divergent Movie Review - Divergent Movie Tour (Seattle)

So I know I said I would post this yesterday, but I was traveling to Palm Dessert and got swept away by the beautiful sunshine!

Alright, so here it goes. I was lucky enough the get an event pass to the advanced screening of DIVERGENT! So they gave me this:

 A wristband! Michael and I arrived three hours prior, because I wasn't sure we had to wait in line for seats, but luckily we didn't. So we went to an italian cafe for a bit to wait for the movie.

When we came back there was a large group of people waiting for the red carpet to begin. I'm so sad I didn't get much photos, but it was just too darn hectic and what I really wanted to see was the movie. Though I'm sure I missed out since Jai Courtney and Miles Teller were there. The staff there was also handing out tons of swag too! I got a pin:

Once we went to get out seats however, we had to check in our phones and what not. When it was finally time for the movie, Miles Teller and Jai Courtney did a short intro and yay, finally! The wait was not in vain.

Alright, so movie review:

I really really really loved it. I mean, you know it's great if the author, Roth, likes it. But being a fan and falling in love with the book and seeing it replicated true to the story was beautiful. I think it was the best adaption of a YA novel to screen, so far.

The cast was exceptional. The casting was perfect, it was just like how I imagined it in my head. The visuals were great and the adapted screenplay really nailed it. If you're a fan of the book, you will not be disappointed. Already I want to watch it again.

An aside, but still relevant:

It's funny that even at twenty-two I can still get swept in fandom. As I sat in the theater watching these tweens and teenagers, mixed with their parents and some adults all having a blast even though we were all spending essentially almost half a day to see a two-hour movie, the energy was without fail, electric!

So what is it that turns books into fandoms into movies?

Well this is where Summit Entertainment, excels. It's a beautiful formula really. They take a book with a fan base already, then they make the movie that creates another type of experience for the reader (they allow the reader to fall in love with the book once again, but in a different medium). Summit did this with Twilight, Hunger Games, and now Divergent. They key to the success, however, is to keep true to the book. The fan base is already loyal to the book, try to do something creative and go off the mark, you'll be face with an angry mob. Instead, make the fans happy by giving them the story and bring that to life, because that's what they're looking for. A lot of us our visual, so when we finally get to see what we imagined in our minds, it's a great movie experience.

Also, a kick-ass soundtrack doesn't hurt either.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Draft Two of M2, and the start of my mini vacay!

So this happened.

Please excuse my tired looking self, but today during my lunch break I went and printed this baby out! Second draft of my Manuscript #2!!! Though it's craptacular and needs tons of extra work, can I just say how accomplished I feel right now? I'm one draft closer to being done!

 That's my current word count. My 158 page manuscript equals approximately a 356 page book. And guess what! I'm going on a mini vacay to Palm Dessert for a four day weekend to visit Michael's parents tomorrow! I can't wait to do revision notes while soaking up the sun! And of course, for more additional reading material I got this today to get pumped up to query this summer!

 Also, this is tonight! Hopefully I can get into the advanced screening and right a review for you guys tomorrow.
 So excited for this weekend to start after such an exhausting work week!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Review: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Rated 3.5 out of 5.

Meet Frenchie Garcia, a character who loves Emily Dickinson, spends her time in a cemetary, and who's secretly dealing with grief after Andy Cooper, a boy she's been in love with for four years, commits suicide.

The story takes place the summer after her senior year of high school a few months after the suicide. Life is bleak for Frenchie. She doesn't get accepted to the art school in Chicago that she's applied to, her best friend is focused on his girlfriend, and her other friend is convinced that all she needs is a boy to take her mind off things.

But Frenchie could care less, consumed with her fixation of death. But there's also something that Frenchie is unable to reconcile with: the last night of Andy Cooper's death. The night that she and Andy had a night of adventure that no one knows about. Thus, Frenchie attempts to relive the night in hopes of making sense of it.

This book was a quick read and enjoyable. I found Frenchie to be a great character and I like how Sanchez portrays Frenchie's grief without making it to overwhelming. It was just a nice touch. I found this book similiar to Paper Towns by John Green. However, I think the difference between the two are the little insights that Green subtly brushes into the story. Sanchez attempts this with a few Emily Dickinson poems. Green's device adds depth, whereas it's easy to glance over the Dickinson poems, making Sanchez's story more on the surface. By glance over, I mean that Dickinson's poems are amazing stand alone poems that it's too easy to keep the story and poems separate. Or at least I do anyway.

That's not to say that this book isn't amazing in itself. The writing was great, the story line interesting, but I wanted more depth in the story and the other characters, which is why I rate it a 3.5 out of 5.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscars 2014, Divergent Movie Tour, and New Deadlines

So how about the Oscars last night? Can I just say I abolutely love Ellen hosting it. That opening monologue was great. My highlights:

Best acceptance speeches by Leto and McConaughey.
Best dressed Nyong'o.
Best performance, Pink!
Twitter crashing from Ellen's retweeted photo.
Photobomb by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Also, special mention for the pizza delivery man.

Whoo! That was great, but I cannot wait for the day when Leonardo DiCarpio receives an Oscar, not that he necesarily needs one because he's great and we all love him, but because I would love to hear his acceptance speech.

In other news, I received an RSVP for an advanced screening of the Divergent movie this Thursday. It doesn't guarantee me a seat since it's overbooked to ensure maximum capacity, but I'm going to do my best to get there early so I can post a review for you guys. Roth herself just posted via Tumblr her thoughts on it, which you can read here!

Lastly, I've created new deadlines for myself for my Manuscript #2 (which I will now refer to as M2) in hopes that I can finally start querying at the end of July:

Mid-March: Finish draft two
Rest of March: Review and Regroup for draft three
April: Revisions and Rewrites for draft three.
May: Beta Critiques and YA Workshop
June: Revisions and Rewrites for draft four
July: Line Edits, develop first batch of queries to send out

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rainy, Writing, Sunday

On Sundays, Michael and I usually go to brunch then come back home and do some apartment cleaning. Today, instead of going to our usual brunch place we went to The Wandering Goose then Victrola for some coffee.

Biscuit Sandwich-The Ultimate Breakfast Indulgence
On our walk home, it started pouring and has been constantly so for the entire day! This weekend we'll be heading to Palm Desert to visit his folks, and I am just itching to be done with my second draft so that I can print it and read it while soaking up the sun. 

So I put on my game face aka writing face, turned on my tunes and got to work.

Then after a few hours, this happened:

Title really isn't Marjorie, just a place holder ;)
I just hit my word limit, but the story isn't done! I foresee tons of cuts during my revision process. Nonetheless, I have like five more chapters to write in just four days. It's doable, though (at least that's what I'm telling myself). For now, I am in need of a break, some fuel, and some much awaited Oscar time.

How Michael puts up with me when I am in writing mode, I have no idea. I seriously stay on my hiney all day guzzling tea and snacking throughout.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Young Adult Fiction Workshop

In Michael's words, "I've been frantically writing this week." 

It's true. I've been quite obsessive kicking my writing in full gear. I just want to produce a quality draft I can be proud of, and I think after every draft I can feel myself getting closer and closer to it. I'm almost done with my second draft. And I think once I finish the third draft I'll be able to start sending it on to my beta readers for feedback.

As some of you may know, I just recently moved to Seattle. Though it's great and I have a support system here, one thing I feel like I'm lacking is a sense of community. Thinking back on my past experiences, I found that the one place where I truly connected with people and felt like I belonged were in my creative workshop classes in college. I loved it. I loved getting to know other people and their work and watching their craft progress. I loved learning and listening to other people's insights. I loved talking about books and the process of writing, and making friends. So because of that I decided to sign up for a Young Adult Fiction Workshop at Hugo House. I think it'll be great for me and it'll help my manuscript immensely with some critique. Though it doesn't start until May, I'm pretty stoked and can't wait!

Now that I've posted this and had my breakfast and coffee, time to kick it into gear for another writing session! BTW, if you haven't gotten Scrivener, I highly recommend it!