Friday, October 30, 2015

Diamond Queen Inspiration (A Pitch Wars Mentee Blog Hop)

Q: What was the inspiration behind your Pitch Wars story?

Before I get into my answer, I just wanted to say a huge thanks to my fellow mentees, Brianna Shrum (my mentor), and as always Brenda Drake for this incredible experience. I can't believe our journey is coming to an end, but I look forward to 'life after pitch wars' with you all!

Now, onto my manuscript, Diamond Queen, a story close to my heart.

Diamond Queen was the story I was always meant to write, I just never got down to do it. Inspired by a Vietnamese oral folktale I've heard all my life, I never gave much thought about it until my recent trip to Vietnam this past February where I had heard it again for the millionth time. The folktale is a spin-off from the phrase, "ngu long con chua" or "five princesses of dragons".

The phrase is almost always uttered when a person realizes my mother gave birth to five daughters. In the Vietnamese culture, five daughters within a family is considered a sign of good luck. The luck, as I understand, stems from the fact that each daughter is 'blessed' with a certain attribute. Whatever that means.

Growing up, the phrase went through one ear and out the other, because I never saw much good luck around us. We were a poor immigrant family with a single parent trying to make ends meet. But when we were in Vietnam this past February and I heard the story again, I made sure to listen. From the awe in my relatives eyes, I realized how far my family had come. My mother raised five girls on her own in an unfamiliar country, sent us all to college (and we now all have stable full-time jobs), and oh yeah, she beat cancer.

Maybe there was some luck around us. As a child, observing my family through the hardships, I couldn't see it. But now, I do.

Thus the premise of Diamond Queen. Though my story can standalone, it's a planned four-part series about five princesses blessed--or cursed, depending on how you look at it--scattered across the globe who must come together and save their country from tyranny. Diamond Queen is the story of the eldest sister, Avere, who is the heir of a kingdom that wants her dead.

I hope one day this manuscript gets into your hands in book form, because I am dying to share this story with you.

To close, below are a few photos from my trip mentioned that inspired my imagined country of Vadierra.

Best of luck to all the other mentees out there and many thanks for stopping by! Can't wait for you to see my pitch and first 250 words at the agent round <333

Check out Vanessa Edward's (fellow mentee and host of the blog hop) blog here to check out more inspiration from the other Pitch Wars mentees!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pitch Wars Edits / Writing Progress Report 3


***throws confetti***

Hi All--

It's been awhile, I know. Before I delve into writing, I should probably explain why I've been more silent than usual. This past month I've had to do some follow-up medical testing after my annual exam at the doctor's. Nothing to be alarmed about, but it's always scary to get a phone call from the doctor's office asking if you can do another test, and another test. When I was in high school my mother had cancer, so the doctor's office really gets my anxiety going. My teenage self really thought she was going to die and I'd end up an orphan (not my best high school memories). Thank heavens everything turned out okay. Next month, I'll be going in for another test, yay (heavy sarcasm). But I'm not going to worry about it anymore, since nothing is seriously wrong or life-threatening. Anyway, that's why I haven't been up to blogging.

As the title suggests, I've been working on line-edits and I finished yesterday night. I sent in my revised draft to my mentor, Brianna, and I feel weirdly calm about the whole thing. This week Brianna helped me a ton on my pitch and the first 250 words (the entry that's posted) so I'm breathing easier (as long as I don't think about the agent round).

Line-edits weren't as bad as I expected, especially towards the last half of my manuscript. The first half ended up needing more work.

A few things I learned about myself during line-edits:
  •  I need a refresher on grammar rules. After seeing some stupid mistakes I made, I ended up rereading my copy of The Elements Of Style. Some common mistakes? Pronouns (Emperor vs emperor), the word capitol (when the whole time I meant capital), comma usage, dash versus semi-colon, noun matching posessives.
  • SHOW don't TELL mantra. There's always a place where you can improve a part by showing it vividly as opposed to filtering or summarizing. Idiosyncratic details are your friend.
  • Repeating words: and, but, that, just, etc.
  • Don't over explain.
I could list a ton more, but this is embarrassing enough.

When I had a break from line-edits I devoured this year's Pulitzer in one sitting:

It was SO GOOD. The writing and story so beautiful and poignant. I felt like I was reading a narrative through poetry. I annotated my hard copy as I read, and really digested Doerr's writing style. When I finished the book around midnight, I was stunned. Why can't I write like this? Maybe one day. For now, I'll just keep working at it.

Besides line-edits, I've been researching my agent list, revising my query and synopsis, and critiquing my CP's manuscript (loving' it so far ;)). In other words, keeping busy!

Can't believe the agent round is coming. Eeeeeeppppppp!

I'll leave you with some photos of Blaire to make your Thursday a little bit cuter.

How has your writing been going? Comment below!

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Date Night: Walrus and the Carpenter

I can't believe it's the middle of October. Really guys, where did the time go? I cannot believe the agent round of Pitch Wars is three weeks away. Excuse me a moment while I hyperventilate.

Last week, I agonized over my pitch, query, synopsis, and first 250 words of my manuscript. Honestly, I think I'm overthinking it, but that didn't stop me from having a panic attack on Friday and texting my mentor about my insecurities. Brianna, as always, was encouraging and offered to help, which really calmed me down.

That night, I hung out with my writer friend Lisa over happy hour and dinner which also helped. It's nice to talk to someone who 'gets' it, someone who's on the same (though different) journey. It also made me see just how lucky I am to get the opportunity to work with someone already in the industry (thank you Brenda Drake for creating this fabulous contest). I ended the night by hanging out with Michael and his co-workers a little calmer than I felt all week.

On Saturday morning I woke up to the first 100 pages of line-edits from Brianna. Just glimpsing at the track changes overwhelmed me. I'm a REALLY anxious person so I took the day to absorb it. The day turned out pretty awesome despite the rainstorm. Michael took me out to Walrus and the Carpenter (one of our favorite restaurants) for a date night and it was amazing. I love eating sea creatures ;)

Oysters with a beautifully paired wine = heaven. I still can't get believe that I get to spend the rest of my life with this handsome fella! My stomach does flips just thinking about all the future date nights we'll get to have.

After oysters we moved on to octopus! Sliced so thin with a zesty marinade, it was absolutely divine on the taste buds. After having it this way, I rather have my octopus sliced thinly all the time thank you very much.

This was my fave dish of the night. A savory crawfish instead of the spicy creole style crawfish is normally served in, I gobbled this up and licked my fingers with no shame. Crawfish, like quail and crab, remind me of my childhood, so dishes like these always make me happy.

I've said this many times, but I'll say it again. This maple bread pudding is the best dessert in Seattle.
After this meal, you bet I woke up the next morning and worked all day on my line-edits. Delicious food is the cure for anxiety ;) Ha! At least that's what I tell myself!
How was your weekend?

Monday, October 5, 2015


It's that time of year! Time to get pumpkins!

Michael and I go every year, and this year his sister Cristine invited us to go with her and her husband Tim. We were fortunate to get a beautiful autumn day which made the day even more picturesque. Because I was lazy and didn't take many photos, I stole the one's below from Cristine's facebook.


To start, we did a corn maze that supposedly takes 45 minutes to an hour to do. We did it in about 20 minutes thanks to the boys.

To be fair, we did have a map! So without it we'd probably be lost for awhile.

After, we headed to the patch to get pumpkins galore!

Now our home is filled with them! I still felt so festive the day after, I made pumpkin oatmeal balls the next morning before Michael and I hit our matinee showing of The Martian (which was super good btw).

How was your weekend? Are you into the pumpkin craze?