The Power of the (Toilet) Plunger and the Pen

Have you ever witnessed a backed-up toilet explode? Let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight (or smell!).

During my last two years of college, I had the pleasure of living with three girlfriends. We shared a lot of things in that two bedroom apartment – meals, laughter, tears and, of course, a bathroom. And it was in that tiny bathroom that I got the shock of my life one spring afternoon when I pushed down the lever to flush.

Sputter. Gurgle. WHOOSH.

Before I could blink, the water in the bowl had risen to the rim and began rushing over the edge like a mini Niagara Falls. I jumped back as far as I could as the contents of the toilet seeped onto the linoleum and threatened to touch my bare feet. Half holding my breath and half praying, I considered my options: A) Run and hide! or B) Unclog the toilet. No matter how much I wanted to go with the first option, I knew I’d have to deal with the mess sooner or later. The only problem was that none of us girls had thought to buy a toilet plunger.

Oops.

Thankfully, the landlord lived upstairs, and after explaining the situation to him, he ventured into the toxic waste zone known as our bathroom and restored the porcelain throne to working condition. After thanking him profusely, I cleaned up the floor, disinfected my hands and said a prayer of thanks for whoever invented the plunger. (The fact that I used three forms of the word thanks in two sentences should tell you how thankful I was!)

Image courtesy of Mister GC/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/freedigitalphotos.net

Who knew a simple rubber device like a plunger could be so powerful? πŸ™‚

I think the same can be said of the pen.

You’ve probably heard the quote “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Have you ever thought about why that’s true?

As someone who writes every day, I can testify to how amazing words are. They have the influence to make or break a person, the force to change a situation and the power to evoke laughter or tears. Most importantly, I believe words have the power to heal.

How do words heal? By taking the unspoken and unsettled things in our hearts and bringing them to the forefront. By pinpointing the reasons behind our emotions – our joy and sadness and fear – and making us reflect on them. Taking the time to put our thoughts and feelings into words forces us to stop … to feel … and to be.

We spend so much of our days doing and fighting and stuffing and, basically, hiding away the experiences we go through. This is especially true of the negative situations we face. It’s so much safer to push the bad memories and emotions down and not deal with them. But the truth is that sooner or later, all the gunk and refuse and waste we hide away gets backed-up in the recesses of our hearts. And it cuts off the life that should be flowing through it. And as we learned from my bathroom story, a clogged toilet – or heart – is not a pretty sight.

I recently read some old essays that I wrote a few years ago. These pieces were penned when I first began my writing journey and was still processing through a lot of “life stuff” from the past. As expected, the words I jotted down were a little on the emo side and even a little dark. Reading those essays probably should have brought me down, but they didn’t. I felt nothing but relief and freedom.

It was through the power of the pen (or in my case, the computer keyboard) that I was able to dig through the stuff that I had hidden away. When I formed those experiences and emotions into words, I began the process of unclogging my heart.

Writing is seriously one of the best (and cheapest) forms of therapy. You can do it anytime and anywhere, as long as you have a pen and a piece of paper. So, take some time to listen to your heart and write down what it’s telling you.

Also, take a listen to Rachel Platten’s song, “Fight Song”. I hope it will inspire you to fight for your freedom from the stuff that’s clogging up your heart.

What experiences or emotions are clogging your heart? Write about them today.

Behind-the-Scenes of Self-Publishing a Book

I am currently experiencing a …

919233aa-8328-4a28-8aca-b248aaf21750

You know the feeling of waking up from a late night with bleary eyes and exhaustion running through every cell of your body? Multiple that by 9 months’ worth of nights, throw in a strong caffeinated drink, and you’ve got yourself one big book hangover. My heart is pumping with excitement over the fact that I’ve finished writing my second novella, but my brain is woooorn out. πŸ™‚ I’m now in the aftermath of things and waiting for my book cover to be finalized and for the content to be formatted for publishing.

So as I’m recovering from my book hangover, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at what goes on behind the scenes of self-publishing a book. If you’ve ever thought about self-publishing, this will give you an idea of what to expect.

Step 1: Write the book. Easier said than done, but trust me, if I can do it, anyone can. And if writing a full length novel (40k+ words) scares you, write a novella. πŸ™‚ Or even better, write a children’s picture book (in which case you’ll also need to draw pictures or hire an illustrator).

Step 2: Edit the book. You could hire people to edit and proofread your work or you could do it yourself (and save money). I used the free Hemingway Editor App and edited my book page by page. It was a slow and painful process, but well worth the effort.

Step 3: Find beta readers. Choose some fellow writers, as well as some bibliophiles (aka. lover of books) to read your book. Ask for their feedback on the characters and the storyline, especially if the characters stay true to their personalities in their words, thoughts and actions and if the story moves at a good pace and has enough tension and resolution. This is a crucial step because as a writer, we get caught up in our own “book world” and need objective eyes to tell us what works and what doesn’t work in our story.

Step 4: Polish the book. Take the critiques you have received from your beta readers and make any necessary changes to improve your book. Add the fun parts to your book, such as a dedication page and acknowledgements page (to thank your peeps!). Read the book again from start to finish and make sure you are happy and satisfied with it!

Step 5: Choose a publisher. There are several sites you can use to self-publish your book. For print books, the popular choice is Amazon’s Createspace, which is what I’ve gone with. They do POD (print-on-demand), which means your book is only printed after it has been bought, so there’s no need to shell out money to print the books first. For e-books, there are more choices: Amazon’s KDP, Nookpress, Kobo, Smashwords and Bookbaby. I went with Amazon again just to make things less complicated and also because they give authors more royalty (up to 70%). Create an account and go through the steps to set it up (which will include getting an ISBN number for your book!).

Step 6: Design the cover. If you’re Photoshop-savvy, you could design your own book cover. If you’re not, you could hire someone to do the work for you. While we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, we also know first impressions are everything – and the first impression of a book is its cover. So I chose to find a professional to help me and I am so glad I did! Deborah of Tugboat Design did an amazing job with my first book (see below) and I asked her to design my second one as well.

download

At my request, Deborah changed the guy’s shoes from plaid to brown (which I thought was more fitting for his character).

 

Step 7: Format the content. If you are patient and computer-savvy, you could format your book content yourself. If you’re not patient (like me!), you could hire someone to do it for you. Formatting the content means getting the document ready for publishing. This involves choosing the font, setting the margins and spacing correctly, and doing whatever else to make the inside of the book pretty and readable. I also asked Deborah from Tugboat Design to help me with this.

Step 8: Publish your book! After you have your book’s cover and content ready, you’re all set to upload the files to the publishing site. E-books go live fairly quickly (after about a day). For print books, you’ll need to get a sample sent to you to proofread and approve before the book can go live (the process takes 3-5 days).

Whew! I’m on step 7 now and can’t wait to get to step 8 in the next week or so. I’m super excited to share my second novella with you all!

Until then, here’s a cute song, “Bright” by Echosmith to get you in the mood for reading a love story.

What kind of book would you want to write?

 

Bovine Animals & Illegal Drugs

Question of the day: What do bovine animals and illegal drugs have to do with each other?

The short answer is this: They are both mentioned in my personal essay (appropriately) titled, “A Dairy Cow on Steroids”, which can be found in the new book, I Am Here: The Untold Stories of Everyday People.

I-Am-Here-Book-Best-Shadow

I’m super excited to share with you that my essay was chosen to be included in this book published by StoryShelter.com, a cool website that offers “the social space to share life’s stories”. I Am Here is a collection of true, funny, heart-wrenching, and inspiring stories told by everyday people. Its format is similar to Chicken Soup for the Soul (but a slightly edgier version), so if you like those books, you’ll probably like this one, too.

It’s available now on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle versions. The publishers at StoryShelter.com are making the Kindle version of the book free for the next 4 days (April 15-19). I would really appreciate you downloading it and then writing a review – this will help spread the word. Each of the writers will get a share of the profits, which is kind of a big deal for those of us used to doing freelance work (pun totally intended). πŸ˜‰

So please …

Download the Kindle book for FREE (until Sunday, April 19th!): http://bit.ly/imherebook

Or Buy the Paperback Version: http://bit.ly/i-am-here-book

And Check out the Book Trailer (with my first ever appearance on YouTube!): https://youtu.be/0HKJBfuO24Q

Happy reading! πŸ™‚ And if you have a story to share, check out https://www.storyshelter.com/!

Writing in the Dark

Most nights you can find me propped up on my elbows as I type away on a laptop which sits on a small folding table beside my bed. Pop music flows through my earbuds as my fingers dance by the light of the keyboard and screen. For a few hours I get to be in my own world and develop story lines and create conversations between imaginary characters. Sounds fun, right? But the best part is, I get to do all this in the dark.

Who else can say they have a job they can do in almost complete darkness? (Okay, so maybe writers and engineers do have something in common.) πŸ˜‰

It dawned on me that writing in the dark has grown from being a literal process for me to a figurative one as well. There’s a quote I came across that explains this:

BvcRUoKIgAAncLV

While some authors like to map out their whole book ahead of time, I prefer to (in my short stint thus far as a writer) go with the flow. (I wish I could say I’ve changed my perfectionistic, controlling ways, but I think this spontaneity is due more in part to laziness!) As I write, I have a general idea of where I’d like the story to go and fill in the details as I head in that direction. I’m discovering that as long as I stay true to each character’s personality, I can find his/her motivations for doing and saying things and develop the storyline accordingly.

What I’ve come to realize through this process is that while people are complicated, they are also predictable. We tend to stay on the same road we’re used to traveling, especially because we live in the “dark”, seeing only one day at a time. We rarely consider changing our ways due to a fear of the unknown. It’s only when something pops into view in the glow of our “headlights” and grabs our attention do we realize we need to slow down, swerve or switch lanes.

I’m all for those attention-grabbing moments of life because that’s when change occurs in a person’s heart and mind. That’s why I love writing about internal makeovers and second chances on this blog, as well as in my fiction books.

Yep, I typed the plural form of books because I’m currently working on my second novella. Somehow, by God’s grace and the fuel of caffeine, I have been cranking out a story in the wee hours of the night for the past seven months. This time around, however, the process has been much faster and easier (for the most part) in comparison to the first time. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I’m a tiny bit more experienced. I don’t find it so intimidating to put words down because I know it’s better to have something written than nothing written at all. I’ve also learned how to navigate around those bumps in the road (aka. writer’s block) and what to do to get those creative juices flowing again. Most importantly, I realize that if I persevere and keep my foot on the gas pedal and my eyes on the lit path before me, I will eventually arrive at my destination.

I’m on the last stretch of this book, which features two characters (Ben and Melanie) from my first book. I’m even more excited about this story than my first one and, oddly enough, actually want people to read it! So, stay tuned for a cover reveal in the next month or so! πŸ™‚

Now, take a listen to one of the pop songs I’ve been playing on repeat this week, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You”. It features Tom Hanks (Wilsoooon!) as the lead in the music video!

What life experiences have you been through that have been similar to driving in the dark? 

What to Do When Your Creative Juices Run Dry

It’s been wet, wet, wet here on the west coast! I’m talking about non-stop rain the whole day yesterday, from morning till noon till night. School closures all around the Bay Area, which is something I have never witnessed (or ever had the pleasure of partaking in when I was a kid!). Lots of big puddles that the munchkins had a blast jumping and sloshing around in yesterday when we ventured out for lunch. And about 2-5 inches of total rainfall, depending on where you live. It was not exactly the #stormageddon or #stormpocalypse that the weather channels had been predicting, but there was a whole lotta water pouring down from the skies.

Yes, we Californians have a sense of humor.

Yes, we Californians have a sense of humor.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if our creative juices could flow just as freely and heavily as rain? That ideas – and not just ideas, but brilliant ideas – would pop into our heads as soon as we picked up a paintbrush, placed our fingers on an instrument, sat down in front of a keyboard, took a look into the refrigerator or peered into a microscope? Wouldn’t it be great if those brilliant ideas would then turn into a beautiful painting, a moving song, a breathtaking story, a scrumptious meal or a cool scientific discovery?

It wouldn’t be great, it would be awesome.

Like water, creative juices have a tendency to ebb and flow. Sometimes creativity comes like a downpour, other times like a trickle. Every once in a while, however, our creative juices just run dry. I’m talking about cracked, sun-scorched, no-liquid-in-sight kind of dry. Something like this picture here:

Image courtesy of numanzaa/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of numanzaa/freedigitalphotos.net

When I saw this image, the first thing that popped into my head was, Was that tree photoshopped in? How could any living thing grow out of and survive in such dry earth?

Thanks to the power of Google, I found out the impossible can be possible. According to this article from USA Today, plants that live in the Sahara (the world’s largest hot desert) do so thanks to their extensive root systems. Their roots have the ability to suck water up from deep under the ground, to as far as 150 feet below the dry surface. Talk about ingenuity! (God thinks of everything. :D)

This got me thinking that plants in the Sahara know a thing or two about thriving. Since water won’t come to them, they find a way to get to the water.

So how does this apply to us as people? Well, when our creative juices run dry, instead of waiting for inspiration to strike us, we need to go out and search for it.

The best sources of inspiration that I’ve found are other people. People who are creative in the areas that you excel in and enjoy, as well as people who are creatively different from you. Because when it all comes down to it, creativity comes from a need to explore and invent. If you look around, you’ll find countless people in your life who have that same need. Allow their work and enthusiasm to tug at your heart, tickle your creative bone and move you to tears or laughter, so you want to start dreaming again.

Although it’s been raining in California, I’ve been experiencing a creative drought (aka. writer’s block). This dry spell had me feeling constipated (artistically speaking!) and shriveled up like a prune for days. But thanks to a good conversation with a creative friend and some episodes of The Voice, I got inspired again to write. And I’m happy to announce I’m working on my second novella and am finally making good progress on it. God willing, I’ll be publishing it during the spring of 2015.

Here’s one song that tugged at my creative heartstrings recently. I love the different take that Damien (one of The Voice contestants) puts on Paula Cole’s song, “I Don’t Want to Wait”. (Any fellow Dawson’s Creek fans out there? :P)

Who inspires you in your creative quests? Do share, so we can be inspired together!

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. πŸ™‚

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 …

AP_Blog_LewisQuote

 

2) More good …

10559873_10152567292876291_3519502712701810963_n

3. The Bad …

writing-quotes-best-wisdom-sayings

 

4.  More Bad …

Badge_EditingQuote

 

5. And the Ugly …

 

10653640_542779809156919_1072085002658268807_n

 

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. πŸ˜‰

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!

Dear Potential Readers of My Novella

Dear Potential Readers of My Novella,

It’s official! Today, my brand new book-baby, “Straight To You” is live on Amazon.com! In case you were wondering, this is how I feel … πŸ˜‰

2072143462_0519fe962b

First of all, if you do buy the book (or borrow it via the Kindle lending program), I want to say THANK YOU! πŸ˜€

If I could throw you a party …

The Adicts Party

or send you on vacation …

beach-84533_640

I would! But please know you make me feel as happy as this doggie (without the scary fangs)!

smile dog

YOU are a big reason I wrote this book. If my words are able to make you laugh, cry or ponder – even for a moment in your busy, stressed-out, everyday life – then I’m a happy camper. πŸ™‚

As promised, I’ve posted the first chapter of “Straight To You” on the “My Novella” page of this blog for you to read (click HERE). I hope it will give you a sense of what the story is about and help you decide if it’s your kind of thing (I won’t be offended if you choose not to read it because you are a sci-fi or horror buff, haha).

For those of you who like warm fuzzy romance books, I hope think you won’t be disappointed by Ashlynn and Jeremy’s story. And if you would be so kind as to spread the word to your friends or write a review on Amazon.com once you’re done reading, I would be totally and completely grateful! And give you a virtual hug. πŸ™‚

need_a_hug__by_ruxydeva-d15rsb2

So, it’s time to celebrate because it’s Friday and “Everything is Awesome” (this cool video with Tegan and Sara’s song includes Australian Sign Language)!

What’s awesome about your day today?

Straight To You: Q & A

In anticipation of the upcoming release of my first “book-baby”, Straight To You, I’ve put together a brief Q & A about the novella, as well as the self-publishing experience.

So here are the answers to some questions you may (or may not) have wanted to ask. πŸ™‚

1. How long did it take to write this book? What was the process like? It took longer than a human pregnancy, but shorter than an elephant one (which is 22 months!) to complete this book from start to finish.

Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda/freedigitalphotos.net

I use the metaphor of pregnancy because the process of writing this book was very much like one. There were moments of worry, excitement, impatience, frustration and joy throughout the whole experience. When I finally, finally finished writing and editing the book, I felt like I had gone through many hours of labor and given birth to a brand new baby. πŸ™‚

2. Is the book really based on real life? Yes, and no. Many things I wrote about, such as the themes of second chances, grace and redemption are lessons I have personally learned and grown from, and ones I hoped to share with readers. Some of the characters have qualities similar to people I know, but none of them is an exact replica of any living person. πŸ˜‰ Moreover, the story is a work of fiction and anything about it that may have been inspired by real life has been dramatized for entertainment purposes.

3. Why choose to self-publish? The simple answer is impatience. πŸ˜‰ I looked into the pros and cons of both traditional publishing and self-publishing and decided the latter is the route for me. It’s a lot faster to get a book out with the message you want when you do things yourself. (Hm, yes, I admit the control-freak part of me typed that last sentence.) But the bottom line is that times have changed and self-publishing is a very viable option for writers today. (Yay!)

4. Any suggestions for those interested in writing and self-publishing a book? My number one encouragement is to just do it! Do it for your personal enjoyment and satisfaction. Do it for your growth as a writer. And put in your best effort. Above all, get constructive feedback from other writers, as well as and those who read books similar to the one you’re writing. Once I got over my fear of putting my work out there for others to read, I really appreciated the feedback I received. Without input from others, this book would have been a half-baked cake – gooey and raw on the inside and unappetizing. But thanks to my beta readers and proofreaders, my story spent more time in the “oven” and came out more scrumptious than I could have imagined. Oh, and get a great cover designer (mine was the amazing Tugboat Design) for your book because readers do judge a book by its cover – I know I do!

Okie, that’s all for now! Come back next week to read an excerpt from the book. πŸ™‚ Remember, the release date is August 1, 2014!

P.S. There’s no song I could find about self-publishing a book (LOL), so I’m including a love song in celebration of my romantic novella. Check out this feel good tune, “Love Never Felt This Good” by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake.

What are your thoughts about self-publishing? What books have you read and would recommend by self-published authors?

My Novella’s Cover Reveal!

Okay, so following last week’s blog post, I’ve been making an effort to pin down that monster inside my head (or at least attempt to squash it by sitting on it!), so I could get enough courage to share more about my novella with you.

First of all, you might be wondering why am I referring to my book as a novella? That’s because a novel contains over 40,000 words, while a novella has anywhere between 17,000 – 40,000. Since mine is about 5,000 words shy of a novel, it falls into the latter category. I don’t mind though because for an introvert, 35,000 words is a lot to squeeze out. πŸ™‚

So here is a look at my book’s cover, which was designed by Deborah Bradseth of Tugboat Design. She is super talented, professional, and easy to work with. I highly recommend her services!

Straight to You (1)

Straight to YouStraight To You

ISBN-13: 978-0692245576

Release Date: August 2014

And here’s the book in a nutshell:

Wanted: A modern knight in shining armor (white horse optional)

Young, sweet and naive, Ashlynn Peters is ever the optimist when it comes to love, but even she is surprised when she crosses paths with a real life Prince Charming. Jeremy Adams, her childhood crush, is back in town. He is even more sweet and handsome than she remembers, and also much more intriguing than any man she’s dated before.

Ashlynn finds herself falling hard for Jeremy, only to discover that he may not be the perfect guy she thinks he is. Will she make the choice to look past Jeremy’s tarnished armor or will she give up her chances of ever reaching happily ever after?

Inspired by the author’s own love story, this romantic novella will have you laughing, dreaming, and wondering if fairy tales really do come true.

———-

The book title is based on the song God Bless the Broken Road, sung here by Carrie Underwood.

Whew, now that that’s out in the open, I’m looking forward to getting the whole book out there for (gulp) all to read. πŸ™‚

What do you think of the cover? Let me know!

The Monster in Every Writer’s Head

UPDATED (on October 19, 2014): This post was originally published in June as a submission for the β€˜Writing Contest: Overcoming Writer’s Doubt’ held by Positive Writer, and I’m thrilled to say it was awarded 2nd place!

You know how under every kid’s bed is a monster? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. In every writer’s head exists a monster, too. I’m talking about that hairy, slimy and drooling creature that taps you on the shoulder with its sharp claws as you type. It’s the one that snarls and stares down at you with its two – or three – googly eyes when you finish a blog post, an article or a book. It’s the monster that was conceived in a corner of your mind, then grew and grew to the point that it began crowding out all the good thoughts in your head.

Do you recognize this monster yet? If not, let me introduce it to you.

Please click here to read the rest of the post!

I chose Francesca Battistelli’s song, “Free To Be Me” for this post. I love how the lyrics talk about battling perfection and doubt, and ultimately believing in how God sees you.

What doubts have you faced in your life and how have you overcome them?

Related Links

Partner Links