The 4 F’s Every Good Romance Needs

Is anyone here a hopelessful romantic? 🙂

You know, the kind of gal (or guy) who prefers to watch sappy, predictable chick flicks, listen to boy bands from the ’90s, and daydream about that special someone with the blue/green/brown eyes that can light up your whole day?

Haha. Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m that person. I’ve always been drawn to love stories and still enjoy a good happily-ever-after. I just don’t get the same thrill from reading (or watching) a story where people point fingers, or things get blown up or are genetically altered—though there is a time and place for mystery, action, and science fiction (because certain folks don’t appreciate “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” as much as “Batman vs. Superman”—ahem, hubby). 😉

Since I love romance so much, I decided to write romance books. (Here’s my first completed series!)

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And through my experiences, I’ve discovered there are 4 things every good romance needs (which all happen to have the letter F in them).

1) Flawed characters. Okay, let’s be honest, the flaws I’m talking about are not physical. The main characters don’t have to be model material, but they do need to have some physical traits that appeal to the reader. But they need to also have something internal—such as a past mistake, a fear or a loss—that makes them relatable and realistic. Because nobody’s perfect, even in a fictional world.

2) The Feels. I once heard that readers read romance because they are buying a “basket of feelings”. They want to experience the spark that comes with an initial attraction, the sweetness of new love, and even the angst of lost love. It sounds like an emotional roller coaster, doesn’t it? But one that we can experience vicariously without any real side effects (ie. drowning your sorrows in a tub of Cherry Garcia ice-cream). A good romance story should let readers into the characters’ minds and hearts enough that they feel for them and want to root for them.

3) The Fallout. As with real life, fictional stories should not always go according to plan. There needs to be some kind of conflict that drives the story. Sometimes the guy you like doesn’t like you, so you swear off all relationships … until you meet the one who’s different from all the rest. Or if he does like you back and everything is fine and dandy, one day you find out something about him that’s hard to swallow. Whatever the scenario is, every love story needs some kind of conflict or fallout. Because a good roller coaster ride takes you in all directions—up, down, over and under—before you arrive at the destination. Likewise, a good romance should keep you guessing and surprised.

4) The Grand Finish. I don’t know about you, but I prefer happy endings to not-so-happy ones. Real life is hard enough, so I’ll take all the happiness I can get, even if it’s fictional. 😉 But even if a love story turns “Nicholas Sparks” on me, I can still appreciate it as long as there’s a grand finish. The ending to a romance story is what a reader turns the pages for. It’s the payoff, the result of all the lovely and angsty emotions you experienced and pushed through to see the conflict(s) resolved. It’s knowing that the characters you fell in love with changed and grew during the course of the book, just as we learn to do in real life. Whatever the ending turns out to be, a good romance should leave you wanting more. To go back to page one and reread the story again, to renew your faith in love, to hug your spouse or child or friend … or maybe even to write a book of your own.

Sigh. 🙂

All this talk of romance has gotten me in the mood to get back to work on my WIP (work-in-progress). Stay tuned for more details about it! My deadline to finish it is July and the publication date is the end of September. I can’t wait to share these new characters with you all. 🙂

In the meantime, enjoy Pentatonix’s beautiful and sweet cover of “Valentine” by Jessie Ware and Sampha.

What is your favorite genre to read or watch? Why?

Life is Like Waiting for Water to Boil

The kids and I stopped by a friend’s house last week, and she marveled at how tall they had gotten. I replied in an uncertain voice, “Oh yeah? I guess so.”

Considering we hadn’t seen each other for over six months, I figured she was probably right. Definitely right, however, was more like it. E’s pants which I had recently hemmed now looked unseasonably short as they skimmed his ankle bones. And C just mentioned that a shirt she had worn a few months ago no longer covered her tummy well. Even with this evidence of growth though, I had a hard time recognizing it.

I wondered why, and realized it’s because my perspective is so limited.

I see the munchkins day in and day out – that’s 365 days out of 365 days! And as any parent knows, every one of those days can feel long (though the years are short!). Trying to capture the kids’ daily growth is like waiting for water to boil. You stare and stare at the pot on the stove, even lifting the lid every ten seconds to look inside, but it still feels like it’s taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r for anything to happen. It’s hard to notice the tiny bubbles forming on the side of the pot as the water heats up. It’s also easy to discount the role of those bubbles because they appear so insignificant. But it’s that slow and easy simmering action that eventually produces bigger and bigger bubbles, ones so powerful that they “cannot be disturbed or disrupted by stirring or by dropping ingredients into the water” (thank you, www.wisegeek.org!).

That’s what it’s like for me waiting for my kids to “boil” (aka. mature). I witness their daily sibling wars, hangry meltdowns and homework struggles. I make them the same cheese quesadillas for lunch and the same pasta or fried rice dish for dinner. It’s like I’m running in a hamster wheel trying to keep up with them, and I see the same view of them every day. But the view is a lot bigger from outside the “cage”, and even bigger over the course of time.

Thinking about the kids’ growth shed some light for me when a good friend asked me the other day, “Do you feel like you accomplished what you wanted to this year?”

My immediate reaction was to answer, “No, not at all!” If I could have, I would have wanted to write more and publish more books. And, of course, to sell more. It’s easy for me to list all the “mores” that I wish I had accomplished this year. But when I proceeded to tell this to my friend, she shook her head and exclaimed, “You did a lot!”

Hmm?! Her words made me step back for a moment. Maybe, similar to the situation with the kids, my being too close to the action makes it hard to recognize and remember the progress.

With today being the last day of 2015, it’s natural to want to reflect on the past year. What did you accomplish? What did you wish you had accomplished? Are you closer to, or farther from, doing or getting or becoming _____?

What about regrets? I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and memes about forgetting the past and starting over. I’m sure these were written to encourage and motivate us to do better and more in the new year, but reading them just leaves a bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth.

What if when we reflect on 2015, we reevaluate the year through a wider and deeper lens? How about celebrating the baby steps of faith you took to do something out of your comfort zone (even if you were pushed out of it)? Or being thankful for the challenges you faced, and even those you failed at miserably, because you learned more about yourself through them?

And how about looking at the past year through someone else’s lens? Like that of a gracious and kind friend who doesn’t hold the same set of high expectations that you hold for yourself. Or that of a spouse who witnesses all your ups and downs, and still has faith in you. Or a parent who supports you in doing what you love and encourages you to keep going.

The great thing about a new year is the fresh start it offers. But let’s not forget or dismiss the days and years that brought us to today. All the life lessons God so patiently taught us in order to help us grow up. Those are the small bubbles simmering in us that will someday soon produce a rolling boil.

Image courtesy of khunaspix/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix/freedigitalphotos.net

And if there’s more that we want for this new year, let’s make that “more” count. Let’s strive for more faith, more hope and more love. 🙂

Cheers to a wonderful 2015! Thank YOU for walking along with me in this strange and amazing journey called life. 😉 I look forward to more blogging fun in 2016.

Take a listen to this cool song by Pentatonix, appropriately called, “New Year’s Day”.

What did you learn in 2015? What do you want more of in 2016?

Disappointment & Hope at Christmastime

The family and I ventured out of sunny and warm California this week to come to the midwest. When our plane touched down, C looked out the window and exclaimed, “There’s no snow!!”

Oops. 🙁

The trip we had been planning for months so we could visit our relatives and play with snow was not turning out the way we had expected. Both E and C were (and still are) very disappointed in the sunny and warm (according to the natives here) 40 degree F weather and lack of white, fluffy stuff. Even I’m disappointed, especially since I found a great deal on snow pants (thank you Target!) and managed to squeeze four pairs of them (along with gifts and all of our other clothing) into the luggages.

Although our bubbles have been bursted by this non-white Christmas, I know our disappointment is minor compared to the unexpected circumstances of the very first Christmas. Can you imagine being pregnant and having to travel miles and miles only to reach your destination and discover there was no place for you to stay? And what about having to give birth to your first child and having nowhere to place him but in a feeding trough for animals?

Talk about disappointments.

You’ve gotta hand it to Mary and Joseph for persevering through the obstacles and setbacks they faced. I can only imagine how surprised and frustrated and exhausted they must have felt as newlyweds and soon-to-be new parents. But through it all, something kept them going. I think that something was hope.

Hope that what the angel Gabriel told them would come true. Hope that the baby in Mary’s womb was the long-awaited Savior of the world.

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/freedigitalphotos.net

It was that hope that inspired Mary to sing this song (from Luke 1:47-55):

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. 

From now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Yes, in this world we will face many disappointments of all shapes and sizes and throughout each season of life, even at Christmastime. But we also, like Mary, have so many reasons to persevere and to hope.

Hope that each new morning brings with it new opportunities. Hope that we can make each day more meaningful than the last. Hope in the love of family and friends to sustain us. Most of all, hope in God’s promise to give everlasting hope to each one of us through Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

That certainly makes up for a snowless day any day. 🙂

So here’s wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas! Take a listen to this beautifully sung song, “Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.

What are you hopeful about on this Christmas day?

5 Must-Read Quotes About Being a Writer

I must admit I’m a bit brain-drained after the first week of school, so instead of writing a full post, I decided to put together some quotes for your viewing (and hopefully, laughing) pleasure. 🙂

So without further ado, here are 5 must-read quotes about the good, the bad and the ugly about being a writer:

1) The Good …

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2) More good …

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3. The Bad …

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4.  More Bad …

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5. And the Ugly …

 

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That last one is too funny! No offense to any Twilight fans out there; I myself watched two out of the three movies. Hubby told me today that he actually watched the whole trilogy – in his defense, he said he had to find out the ending of the story. 😉

Now, moving on from vampires and werewolves … here’s a much cuter and lighthearted song for your listening pleasure – Pentatonix’s “Counts (and Sings) to Five” that they performed on Sesame Street.

What is your favorite quote (about anything)? Please share!

The Preschool Days Are Over!

Yesterday marked the end of an era for our family. The end of driving the same ten minute route to a local church. The end of hubby signing in at drop off time and me signing out at pick up time (and sometimes forging hubby’s signature if he forgot to sign in that morning). The end of checking cubbies and coming home with an armful of glittery, dirt-y (literally dirt glued onto paper), and sequin-y artwork, which ends up leaving a trail of glitter, dirt and sequins in the car, on our bodies and throughout the house.

Yes, people, we have come to the end of PRESCHOOL!

(Insert cheers and hip hip hoorays!)

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C graduated from pre-K yesterday. We watched our baby and her classmates perform eight songs, recite two Bible verses, and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas (which she later realized with some disappointment was only a blank piece of paper rolled up and tied with a ribbon). We celebrated this first major educational milestone in her life with lunch out afterwards at one of her favorite restaurants and dessert at a frozen yogurt shop. I came home happy and full and grateful for a wonderful preschool, loving teachers and the knowledge that we now have two elementary school aged kids.

What?! How did that happen?

In between all the excitement of yesterday’s graduation, I have to admit I almost got a little teary eyed. I remember feeling proud and amazed when E graduated preschool two years ago, but not sad. So why was I feeling all emo about C graduating? I think simply because she is the baby of the family. And that means all the “firsts” that our family experiences with E – first preschool graduation, first day of kindergarten, etc.- will be the last “firsts” that we experience with C. Now that C is done with preschool, there will not be another preschool graduation for us to attend. When she starts kindergarten in the fall, that will be the last first day of kindergarten for us to commemorate. And all these final “firsts” just reinforce the fact that childhood is passing us by!

Not too long ago I took the munchkins to the mall on a Sunday afternoon; we were trying to kill a few hours while waiting for hubby to return from a business trip. As we were walking around we heard the sounds of a train chugging along behind us and saw that they were offering rides around the mall’s first floor. E asked if we could ride it and my first thought was, How much will this kiddie ride cost? and my second thought was, Who cares how much it is! Let’s do it! We lined up at the train stop, paid for the insanely expensive tickets ($3 per person!), and hopped into a yellow “cage” like we were circus animals. The electric train took off at a very slow pace (good thing cause I wanted to get my money’s worth, haha) and we enjoyed the ten minute ride with smiles on our faces.

In those ten minutes I realized this might be one of the last times the kids will want to ride this train. They are both nearing the age when the things that used to interest and excite them don’t any longer. Their limbs are getting long and lean and they are thinking more deeply and and asking more complicated questions. And someday soon it won’t be preschool graduations that we’ll be attending, it will be middle school and high school ones.

Sigh! It’s so ironic that I used to wait eagerly for them to grow up, but now that they are, I’m wishing time would slow down. 🙂

So here’s to all you parents with young ones. I know the days can be LONG, but the years are certainly short. Savor those days on the playground and those kiddie train rides while you can. I know I will … starting with today, the first day of summer vacation.

(Insert groans and choruses of “Mom, I’m bored!”)

With preschool being over, I’m reminded of the song, “Dog Days Are Over“, sung here by Pentatonix. Enjoy!

What kiddie things are your kids outgrowing that you find yourself missing?

Monday Mentionables: MLK, Jr. Quotes, Elephant and Piggie, Baked Salmon & Frozen Medley

Hi everyone, welcome to the start of a new week!

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr. In light of today’s holiday, I wanted to share 15 of MLK, Jr.’s most inspiring motivational quotes. He was truly a man who understood and lived out the power of love, change and perseverance. It’s hard to pick just one quote from this list that is the most inspiring to me because they all make me pause and reflect. Which one touches you the most?

2. Elephant and Piggie Books. My kids love these books by Mo Willems. In this series, you get to meet best buds Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie (the pig – haha). They are opposites in their personalities – Gerald is a bit high strung while Piggie is more laid back – which makes for lots of funny conversations. E and C both love We are in a Book and have borrowed it three times from the library already (which means I have read it at least nine times). 😉 You can check it out in this read aloud video of it here.

3. Easy Baked Salmon. I love baking because it’s the most no-hassle form of cooking in my opinion. I recently googled for a recipe that uses salmon, spinach and tomatoes (which I had in my fridge at the moment) and found a really easy and tasty one.

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The salmon came out super moist!

4. Frozen Medley. Have you seen the movie “Frozen” yet? I actually haven’t, but I feel like I have after listening to the soundtrack NON-STOP for about three hours at a Chinese restaurant yesterday (I was there having afternoon tea with a girlfriend). I think I know all the songs now, word for word – almost. 😉 Here’s a fun medley of several of the songs from the movie sung by three members of Pentatonix.

Alrighty, I’m off to rescue my munchkins from the TV! Have a great week!

Monday Mentionables: Pumpkin Chai Latte, Sing-Off & Carved Leaves

‘Tis the season for sneezing, coughing, aching and wallowing… 🙁 I love all the Christmas cheer in the air, but I hate the germs that accompany it. It seems I could only hold off the bugs for so long because I finally got sick over the weekend. Thankfully the rest of the family is holding up okay (probably cause they gave all their germs to me). 😉 Anyhow, my brain is a bit fuzzy so I’ll keep this short and sweet. 

Here are today’s mentionables… 
 
1. Pumpkin Chai Latte. I love Peet’s chai latte (sorry Starbucks’ lovers). The only thing that can match my love for that drink is their pumpkin chai latte. This is a seasonal offering though, so don’t wait to try it. 
Ahhh…I’m nursing my cold with a large one today. 🙂
2. Sing-Off. If you love good singing, you’ll love this show. It’s all acapella, which means no instruments at all. But the best part is that they use their voices to be the instruments. Last season’s winners, Pentatonix, are amazing. One of the members, Kevin, is a beatboxer who speaks Chinese better than me. 😉
 
3. Carved Leaves. I saw this link recently that shows just how creative and amazing artists can be. Check out these photos of art carved into leaves.

Happy Monday! Stay healthy everyone. 🙂

Sibling Rivalry 101

I hate conflict.

You could say that conflict and I have never gotten along and we likely will never become friends. I prefer hanging out with my pal, Passive Aggressive, over the other guy, Direct Confrontation, any day. But we know people have all kinds of different ideas and opinions, so conflict is (gulp) inevitable in relationships. This was a hard fact for me to swallow when I got married, especially since I married Mr. I-Love-Debating. :p  It’s taken me a good decade’s worth of work to be willing to look conflict in the eye, instead of avoiding it, but have no fear, I have plenty of more opportunities to face it. This is where my kids come into the picture!

I never realized how peaceful life was when we only had one child. Of course there was a lot of crying and screaming with our high need baby, but at least I knew how to deal with it (ie. meet E’s needs by feeding, holding him, etc).  However, three weeks after C joined our family and E realized there was a “no returns/no exchanges” policy on siblings, things began to get a little sticky.  This is when I got a crash course in Sibling Rivalry 101.  And ever since then, conflict has been a part of my every day life (faint!).

These are some of the things I’ve learned so far:
1. Siblings can fight over anything and everything.  Sometimes I think they just want whatever the other person has, regardless of what it is.
2. There is a resolution for every conflict, but cutting mom in half isn’t one of them (this was C’s suggestion for how she and E could share me).
3. Conflict can bring siblings closer (if they are taught how to work through it).  It’s amazing how E and C can say to each other, “I’m not your friend anymore!” and then, “You’re my best friend in the whole world” a few minutes later!

I’ve had to learn a lot of conflict resolution skills over the past few years.  It hasn’t been easy with my lack of experience in this area, but believe me, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have plenty of  opportunities to practice.  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to hear both sides of the story and to address each person’s feelings, especially if I was in the other room when the screaming started.  Once I know what’s going on, I can then give some advice on how to end WWIII and also prescribe a “make-up hug”.  🙂  I’m finding that the more we deal with conflicts, the less frustrating and emotional they are (at least for me) and the easier it is to move on from them.  But of course the fewer conflicts I have to deal with, the better!

I do have to say that I appreciate sibling rivalry for the good lessons that it teaches my kids.  Having a sibling means that E and C are learning how to share, how to wait and take turns, how to consider another person’s feelings and needs when making decisions, how to forgive when they are wronged, how to apologize, and most of all, how to develop lasting friendships.  They are light years ahead of me when I was their age in terms of their relationship skills.

Image courtesy of sattva/freedigitalphotos.net

Even though conflict isn’t my friend, I guess I shouldn’t consider it my enemy either.  It’s just one of those things that you can’t live with, yet you also can’t live without.

Check out Pentatonix’s cover of Sugarland’s song, “Stuck Like Glue“.  It reminds me of E and C’s bipolar friendship.  🙂

How did/do you handle sibling rivalry?