Monday, August 12, 2013

I Could Run Like The Wind Blows

The title of today's post is a quote from a famous movie (it does not describe me because I run like Roseanne Barr wheezes).  If you guess it before I reveal the answer at the end, you win 5 points! What those points are good for, however, I have no clue.  I guess you can spend them on whatever you like.

So things have been really slow with my writing.  I've got one story that's almost ready to face the firing squad (i.e. editors from various journals) and another one that's still in need of a few more revisions.  Other stories I'm working on aren't anywhere near finished.  That's left me with a big time gap on this blog because I don't have much to report on.

Monday, July 1, 2013

You Like Us, You Really, Really Like Us

Issue #5 of the Journal of Unlikely Entomology has been out for over a month now, and a couple of reviews have popped up on the web.  I'm happy to report that so far, nothing but positive things have been said about this issue.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  I'm honored to be a part of JUE and have my work featured alongside talented writers and artists.  And of course, none of this would be possible without the awesome JUE staff: A.C. Wise, Bernie Mojzes, Linda Saboe, Fran Wilde, and Cynthia Baumann.  Thank you all!

Click here to read

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Travel Journal #2: Boston (Wicked awesome!)

Boston is a city steeped in history.  I remember being a kid in middle school and learning about the American Revolution and all of the famous events that led up to all-out war with Great Britain.  Two of those events, the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, cemented colonial fury against the despicable King George III.  Being a fan of history (and angry mobs), I was very excited for my first visit to this great city.  For my friends who live there, Boston is home.  For someone like me, who only read about Boston in books, this place is history coming to life.

The view from our hotel.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Travel Journal #1: Toronto (Oh Canada! Our home and native land!)

This was my first time visiting Toronto, but my second time in Canada.  I visited Vancouver when I was just a kid more than two decades ago.  Times were different back then; my family and I didn't need passports to cross the border.  This time around, entering Toronto required a passport and some pointed questioning from a Canadian customs officer.  She wasn't rude or anything (it's against Canadian nature to be unfriendly, eh) but she definitely wanted to know where we were staying and what our itinerary was.  After providing said information, we went through without any problems.  Pearson International is a nice airport.  It's a lot cleaner than LAX (then again, most airports are), but the food is insanely priced.  That's to be expected in an airport.  The real shocker, though, was the city's 13% sales tax! Yikes! And, according to one sales clerk, we arrived at a pretty good time.  The tax was 15% previously.  I love how positive our northern neighbors are, always glass-half-full kind of folks.  I don't think I've ever seen such a high sales tax.  I thought LA's 10% was terrible.  Whenever I want to complain about that, I'll think about the good people of Toronto and just keep quiet.

The view from our hotel

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Just Flew In, And Boy Are My Arms Tired!

I just got back today from a much needed vacation full of food, friends, and sight seeing.  It was my first time visiting Toronto and Boston, and I loved both cities.  I'm hoping to put together a couple of posts about my trip (got to fulfill that New Year's resolution of keeping a travel journal).  Hopefully, I can get that done in the next week or two.

While I was away, I found out that two of my stories were officially published! First, "The Ressurectionists" was published in issue #6 of The Literary Hatchet.  This story explores some dark and disturbing themes.  That's to be expected, though.  The lit mag gets its inspiration from the Lizzie Borden axe murders!

Second, my SF story, "The Space Between," has been published in issue #5 of The Journal of Unlikely Entomology! This story is one of my favorites that I've written so far.  I worked on it for over a year, and I'm so glad to see it find the perfect home.  Both editors, Bernie Mojzes and A.C. Wise, were a joy to work with.  If I write another buggy story in the future, I know where to send it first.  :)

That's it for now.  I'm exhausted from an early morning flight and feeling a little jet-lagged.  Be back soon with write-ups on Toronto and Boston!

Monday, May 13, 2013

More Publication News

One of my flash fiction pieces has been accepted for publication in The Literary Hatchet.  This lit mag takes its inspiration from the Lizzie Borden axe murders, so you can probably infer what kind of fiction gets chosen.  The editor took a hiatus last year due to the overabundance of submissions.  Now, she's back and ready to get the Hatchet on its feet again.  I'm excited to read the upcoming issue!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Some (Late) Publishing News!

After the excitement of being published in a print magazine last week (The UCLA Beat), I'm riding another high as one of my stories will get published later this month in The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, a fun lit mag that centers on anything and everything bug-related.  It's also a great relief to me as a writer.  About two years have passed since my first story ever was published.  I spent most of that time gap finishing up my creative writing certificate from UCLA Extension.  I wanted to improve, and looking back now, I think it was time well spent.  Knowing that my stories are entertaining editors and an audience of readers helps to assure me that I'm doing something right.  Becoming a writer was a childhood dream; I'm excited to actually start living it.  Will I ever reach the same heights as J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin? The odds say "probably not."  However, I'm happy with what I've accomplished so far and will continue to work hard in crafting the best stories I can.  A writer wants to entertain.  That's what I hope to accomplish.

Oh, and as a bit of continuation with my previous post, here's a shot of my Wahoo's OC 5K finisher medal.  I'm not a very fast runner, but I managed to get a new PR of 41:05! That destroys my previous PR of 43:13.  Not bad for someone who couldn't even run around the block two years ago.

The race was great overall.  The course was flat and fast, and the volunteers were enthusiastic.  My only gripe about the entire experience was the lack of organization near the starting line.  There were no corrals or waves, so everyone was clumped together in one huge group.  That created a bottleneck situation at the start when the gun went off.  Still, once I managed to dodge around walkers (as a Walking Dead fan, that word cracks me up) everything was fine.  I'd recommend the race to any 5Kers, and I'd like to run it again next year.

Happy Friday everyone!

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Day at the Races

Last year, I made a New Year's resolution to get in shape and lose some weight.  I, being offended by the very notion of physical activity, put off any attempts at exercise until Easter.  At that point, I decided to be more serious about my health.  Thanks to the motivation from a fun workout website (Fitocracy) and my good friend Mr. Bill (1/2 of my current blogging audience... Hi Bill!), I buckled down and did the work.  I started eating better and hitting the gym about four times a week.  I lost a good chunk of weight: 15 lbs. and counting!

My usual routine consisted of lifting dumbbells and doing cardio on the elliptical machine.  Running wasn't one of my workout options because my endurance was terrible.  And frankly, running hurts.  It's simple enough that any toddler can do it, but to keep at it for 3 miles or more? That requires some determination (or insanity, depending on the length of the run).  With the encouragement of friends and family, I decided to give it a shot.  I ran my first 5K race, the Wet & Wild 5K, at Knott's Berry Farm in August of last year.  It was a great introductory race because about 1/3 of the last part consisted of wading through waist deep water.  In other words, I didn't have to run the entire 3.1 miles.  Naturally, I struggled during this race.  My cousin's coaching (read: yelling) helped me to keep going.  I was hurting and finished with a terrible time.  But I finished.  That's something I would have never dreamed of accomplishing three years ago.

Things have changed within the last year.  I've now run 5 different races (including the Santa Monica 5000, which didn't have finisher medals), and I'm about to run my 6th, Wahoo's OC 5K, this coming Sunday.  My endurance has gotten better, but my finishing time still isn't very good; I average about 44 minutes.  However, I know that just doing these races is helping me stay in shape and motivating me to keep trying.  Despite all the pain, I actually like running.  Perhaps not as much as getting shots, visiting the dentist, or being chased by wild dingos...  But running keeps me from sitting on my lazy ass all week.  That's important for someone who must sit all day in an office, and then sit all night trying to write the next great American short story.  So my take home message to the masses (well, Bill already does this, so I guess I'm referring to the other person that makes up my audience) is go outside and be active once in a while.  Whether you go to the gym or take a stroll around the park, being active will make a positive impact on your life.  It's worked for me thus far.  And if a former french-fried coach potato can do it, so can you.

See you at the races!

My current collection of 5K race bling: The Coaster Run, Live Ultimate Run, Wet & Wild 5K, and The Hollywood 5K/10K

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Technology And I Don't Get Along

***Okay, I originally tried to scan the magazine.  That didn't work.  Then I tried taking pictures of it.  That didn't work either, so I finally said, "screw it, I'll just post the text."  So here it is! Note: I own the electronic rights to this story, but this post will be taken down once the 2013 issue of The UCLA Beat goes online***

The story is now online at the UCLA Beat official site.  Please click here to read my story (it's in Volume XV with the zebra photo).  Thanks!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm Back... From Outer Space!

Okay, it's been far too long since I've updated my blog.  The last two months have been incredibly busy.  I managed to submit my manuscript to the UCLA Extension for a one on one consultation with the very awesome Daniel Jaffe.  Dan provided some fantastic insight on the short story collection that I'm working on, and I hope to continue revising/editing those pieces until I'm satisfied.  Then, maybe I'll begin exploring different avenues of publishing.  Traditional publishers remain the best route in getting a writer some major exposure.  Plus, the publishers will do all the leg work: they'll put the physical (and sometimes virtual) book together and do all the advertising/publicity.  However, there's also the new method of self-publishing, which is not very traditional at all (kind of like Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Tacos...  which now come in Cool Ranch flavor!).  I've heard many success stories with self-publishing, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to embrace this method just yet.  Anyway, I'm waxing poetic about a collection that's far from finished.  Let's discuss something that's more in the present, shall we?

Aside from frantically trying to finish my manuscript, I also spent the last two months editing some of my short stories for submission to different lit mags.  And, much to my surprise, I've been rather successful.  Last week, my short story "Mother" was published in print by The UCLA Beat, an annual magazine put together by med students to show off the creative and artistic sides of the students, faculty, and staff of the David Geffen School of Medicine.  I was told by one of the editors that the entire issue will eventually be available online on their website.  For now, I hope to post some high-res pics of the story soon so that people can read it if they wish to.

I have two other stories that have been accepted for publication in two different lit mags.  Unfortunately, I can't really discuss those in detail until I get more information from the editors.  If everything goes according to plan, both stories will be published sometime next month.

Again, it's good to be back! I'm sure you all (yes both of you) missed me during the silence of the past two months.  I'll return again soon and post "Mother" to the blog, and hopefully, I'll be able to continue posting on a more regular basis once again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cake or Death?

I discussed videogames in my last post as a growing field for writers, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts about another field that's become increasingly popular and even profitable: food writing.  This field has begun to evolve beyond the traditional, stale cookbook.  Back in the old days (I'm intentionally leaving that vague so as to lower my risk of being skewered by age-sensitive readers), aspiring cooks would clip recipes from newspapers and magazines or even from the labels of popular food products.  After all, there's more than one way to enjoy Campbell's cream of mushroom soup.  I prefer it straight out of the can, but that's a disgusting story for another day.

Recipes were just a set of instructions for a person to follow.  There wasn't any sort of excitement to go along with it.  Fast forward to the 90's, and the birth of the "foodie" culture, and recipes have evolved into more of an experience than a mere process.  It wasn't uncommon to find cooks and chefs hosting TV shows prior to the 90's, but with the launch of the Food Network, cooking and its close cousins (i.e. baking) received more exposure than ever before.  Follow that up with the internet where information is freely shared (i.e. food blogs) and people come to realize how much they appreciate good food.  Food writing has really picked up, especially within the last few years.  Have you picked up a cookbook recently? A lot of them now feature stories about the history behind the recipes, information on cooking techniques, and I've even seen a few experimental books that combine fiction with recipes sprinkled throughout the story.  Food writing has grown into a huge field, encompassing more than just recipes.  You've got restaurant reviews, recipe reviews, food blogs, novels with food as a central focus, etc.  Not to be outdone, traditional cookbooks still do incredibly well with the general public.  Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten was #22 on's list of best selling books of 2012.

What's awesome about this field is that anyone can enter food writing with relative ease.  I'm sure you've heard of  Posting restaurant reviews is a great way to get into the field and create a following.  Using that site as jumping off point to make your own food blog isn't that far of a stretch.

If you're very passionate about food, this field might be worth getting into.  Personally, I love all kinds of food and happily give restaurant recommendations to friends and family.  However, I don't think food writing is for me.  I've always enjoyed writing speculative fiction above all else.  You might be a different story, though.  Give it a try sometime.  Maybe you'll find a passion for writing that you didn't know you had.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Our Princess Is In Another Castle!

Ah, videogames, how my childhood would have been so different without you.  Like, I could've been all bronze and tanned instead of being pasty and pale.  Thankfully, I grew up in the 80's when arcades were still a predominant fixture in shopping malls, and Nintendo and Atari were just starting to show up in homes across America.  I remember receiving an original NES when I was about 6 years old because I had been a good boy.  Santa was kind enough to give me something that was on my wishlist.  Nintendo was second on that list, but in retrospect, that's perfectly acceptable.  A pet T-Rex would have been too much hassle to take care of.  I don't think they make appropriate sized pooper-scoopers.

Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt were my first experiences in gaming.  While Duck Hunt was fun (give little kids a gun to shoot animals... brilliant idea), the laughing dog made losing almost unbearable.  I ended spending most of my time playing SMB, stomping on turtles and eating mushrooms.  Too bad this game didn't come out in the 60's.  I think the hippies would've been all over it.  The controls were simple enough to understand, but the gameplay got more and more challenging as you progressed through the levels.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle to playing SMB, however, were my own parents.  I used to fight with them over who got to play with the Nintendo first.  I even caught the two of them playing late into the evening, which they deny to this very day.  After getting through all obstacles (both virtual and parental), whenever I reached a castle and defeated Bowser, I inevitably received this message:

Just when you thought it was all over, stupid Toad had to give you the bad news.  This went on for a while until you find the actual Princess.  Apparently, Bowser had no problem abducting half of Mushroom Kingdom on his way to storming the palace.

Looking back at Super Mario Bros. and comparing it to more modern videogames, such as Mass Effect or Assassin's Creed, one can see the vast changes that have occurred throughout the history of gaming: graphics, music, voice acting, etc.  One of those much-improved areas is the amount of story and writing that now goes into modern videogames.  In the 70's, games had very little text, some none at all (anyone for a game of Pong?).  But in the 80's, you start getting more scenes like the one above.  It has now gotten to the point that videogames require a lot of text in order to tell a story, and because of that, game companies have made it a standard to have a team of writers tackling just one game.  Think about RPGs that utilize a ton of text.  In addition to the important scenes that impact the main story, you also have lots of NPCs that someone has to write dialogue for.  Even a character that says "Welcome to BlahBlah Town, the biggest town shaped like a thistle!" has to have a writer behind him.  In this golden age of gaming, being a "game writer" is now a legit career.  The Writers Guild Of America just began to recognize the achievements of writers in the gaming world by including videogames in their annual awards ceremony.  Last year, Amy Hennig took home the award for "Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing" for the brilliant action/adventure title, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.

Writing is a very universal skill that can be applied to so many different media.  For those who wonder "what can I do as a writer?", I implore to you to delve past the usual forms of writing we're accustomed to.  Aside from novels, movies, and television, writers also work in the fields of videogames, medicine, science, sports, and even instruction manuals.  That's right.  Someone wrote that piece of paper that taught you how to set up your DVD player.  It may not always be clear ("Engrish" is pretty much its own language these days), but someone spent time to type all of that up for you.

Now, since it's Friday, I'll leave you all on a funny note (fans of Mass Effect may appreciate this more):

Please note: This scene is not in the actual game.  It's just a meme that someone put together for the lulz.
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Auld Lang Syne

Every year on January 1st, people sing this old Scottish song, usually butchering the lyrics because they're all drunk.  That's okay, though.  When you're watching people like Ryan Seacrest on television, I can imagine wanting to do a few shots of whiskey just so you can deal with his prissy hair cut until the ball drops.  Seriously, how does this guy find his way onto every TV show? The man should be run out of Hollywood with an angry mob carrying pitchforks, torches, and burning effigies.  It's his fault for getting those horrible Kardashians their show, and now that family won't go away.  Ever.  They're like a bad rash you pick up during a night full of debauchery in Las Vegas.  Or so I've heard.

Anyway, "Auld Lang Syne" loosely translates to "days gone by."  That's what Wikipedia told me, and since it's on the internet, it must be true.  A lot of people like to reflect on the past year and make resolutions so the following year will be even better.  I'm one of those sentimental people (but don't take that as a sign of weakness...  I won't hesitate to roar like a lion, which I assure you looks ridiculously scary).  Looking back at 2012, I've managed to accomplish a few of the goals I had set for 2011: I lost a good chunk of weight (14+ pounds and counting), I read 26 books when I pledged 25 for the GoodReads Reading Challenge, I traveled to a country I've never been to before (Mexico), and I barely survived an apocalypse.  I hope to do more of the same for 2013, perhaps with a bit more traveling (if I can stay on budget) and maybe dodging at least two apocalypses this time around.  Now that the Mayans have had their fun, a few other ancient civilizations should be allowed to scare modern mankind with visions of death and destruction.  What are the Sumerians up to these days? Still writing up rules? Or how about the Phoenicians? I hear they're really great with words.  I bet they could come up with a good apocalypse.

Since I'm trying to keep this blog more focused on writing, I thought I'd share some of my writing goals for the new year:
  • Finish that damn novella that has been hounding me for the past two years.
  • Get at least three short stories published (3 have already been submitted to various online lit mags, but I'm still waiting for responses).
  • Work on creating at least 6 new stories, including at least 1 in a genre that I've never written for.
  • Take at least one new writing course from the UCLA Extension.
  • Keep a travel journal.

The list looks ambitious and daunting to me, now that I've typed it up.  I hope that I can manage to accomplish most of those goals.  This blog should help to keep me focused and act as a constant reminder that I need to do more if I want to be a good writer (i.e. stop being such a lazy ass).

I hope you all have a fun and exciting new year.  Good luck fulfilling your own resolutions!