FANGIRL FRIDAY: Get Your Words Out 2021

Hello, fam!

Earlier this week, the Sestra messaged me a link to a writing community of sorts. I read the words Get Your Words Out 2021: Writing Decathlon and my mind began a-stirring. When I had a chance to do a deep dive the following day, I was surprised to learn that it had been around for 12 years. Just goes to show how far-reaching the interwebs can be. There’s a community for and about anything. Bits and bytes for everyone.

I found myself perusing the site and I was immediately intrigued because this was right up my alley in terms of writing accountability, motivation, community and goals for this year and beyond. The community is free to join and the deadline for making your 2021 pledge is January 18, so I had to share this with you now.

What’s the pledge for, you ask? There are two pledge types: Word Count and Habit, each with multiple options. It’s certainly diverse enough to provide the opportunity to make a realistic goal for yourself. There’s plenty of information on the site but I’ve taken a couple screencaps for quick reference. Here are the breakdowns:

For those of you who feel that these word counts are daunting, like a NaNoWriMo meets Fast and Furious, I hear you.

Me trying to wrap my brain around maintaining the intensity of a monthly wordcount challenge for a full year.

I was glad–read: relieved–to see the Habit Pledge option. For me, that seemed to be more of a realistic and reasonable first go at this challenge. Of course, when I initially read the options, I considered the Master level. However, in lieu of gun-jumping or leaping before I looked, I decided to go for the Apprentice level. Approximately 10 days a month was doable, actionable. And when, not if, I exceeded the goal of writing 120 days in a year, I could gauge my goals for next year.

What I like about the Habit Pledge is that it can help me maintain the writing goals I restarted for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I don’t have to think of the quantity of my writing but establish the quality of a consistent writing routine. The main purpose of this writing community is to increase a writer’s productivity and output, so I appreciate that they’re giving us every possible chance at success.

Sign ups run until January 18, 2021 and you have the option to change your pledge up until that point. You’re only allowed to choose one pledge and after the cut-off date, that’s the pledge you’ve got until the year’s challenge is over. While, there is technically no penalty if you don’t reach your goals, having such a large community of almost 2,000 writers in the same boat as you is encouraging. Also, they said you can have a second unofficial goal. So, you can track your wordcounts with your habits and vice versa, in order to see what pledge is a more fitting challenge for you next time around.

I’m cautiously optimistic about my participation in this collective. However, I’m fully excited at the concept and intent behind what they’re doing here. It’s a beautiful thing.

I hope you join me this year. So much has happened on a global scale, I know writing can be a therapeutic and purposeful endeavour. Let’s come together to Get Your Words Out!

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things


In search of a shiny new year filled with creativity and awesomeness? I know just the year for you. Look no further. The hottest and most current year is 2021. This year has everything!

Oh, hello!

Welcome to the first in a series I’m calling Fangirl Friday. Posts on these days will cover anything from sharing things I love, discovering and learning about new things, and overall fandom of any topic. This may include upcoming offerings of some fanfic I’ve been working on.

After the ‘kiss off’ to 2020 in my previous post, I’d like to ring in 2021 with some of my favorite things that have helped me keep on keepin’ on during life’s ups, downs, and sideways moments.

Reading Apps

I love a good book. I miss the tactile sensation of turning pages. Last year, reading got kicked to the curb next to my writing slump for the better part of the year. But I know that to be a writer, it helps to read a lot on various topics, both fiction and non-fiction. As much as I’ve enjoyed having a book in hand, limited physical storage space has led me to increase my obscene ‘To Read’ pile a hundredfold with the use of handy dandy reading apps. Some notables are Kindle, YAC Reader, Apple Books, and Kobo.

There’s so much to choose from: novels, cookbooks, biographies, graphic novels, comics, self-help, humor. Something for everyone. I haven’t really gotten into audiobooks, as yet, because I find myself getting distracted more easily and/or falling asleep mid-chapter! I’ll keep trying because I know this medium is amazing.

Podcasts

Having said that, I do enjoy a podcast. I’ve taken to listening to podcasts when I’ve been out for a socially distant walk this past year. Podcasts help me focus on something other than the increasing condensation against my face as I breathe into the mask du jour (still on the hunt for a good and safe one that doesn’t annoy the bejeezus outta me!).

I’ve been into Apple Podcasts because it’s already on my devices. Any other suggestions?

It’s probably due to the format of podcasts that they seem to work better for me. It’s like listening to the radio, essentially. But hey, call me Flexigal. I’m open to diving further into the world of audiobooks.

Streaming Services

Binge this, because This. Is. The. Way.

If ever there was a year to catch up on a film or series, dive into a new series, or lose yourself in action, adventure, comedy, drama, home renovation, and great bake-offs, 2020 allowed us to do it. There are so many titles out there, so many reasons to suspend disbelief from the world around us. My mainstays have been Disney+, Netflix, and Prime Video. Thousands of hours of content upon which to feed your senses.

It gives me hope as a writer to see how much can still be done with storytelling due to all the advancements in technology. Streaming services certainly helped us escape in recent times and immerse ourselves in worlds other than our own.

Tech

Alright. We’ve touched on some software and now, let’s get to the hardware. I love my gadgets and have curated my collection based on usability as well as curiosity. I’ve been an Apple devotee since 2007. Currently, I’ve got their laptop, iPhone, iPad, Watch, and a partridge in a pricy tree. It pained me to have 2020 end with a busted phone. However, the angels at Apple Support are helping me get back on track. My laptop is an 11″ Macbook Air circa-2015, so by Apple standards, it’s a relic. I’m holding on for dear life to make sure they last for as long as possible because, while they do last a long time, I’d need a lot of magic beans to replace them. There are actually more things I have that fall under gadgety goodness but I’ll save them for another post. Suffice it to say, priciness aside, until someone can convince me otherwise, it’ll be Apple all day, everyday.

What were things you enjoyed to get you through the last year? Were there some that you just couldn’t get used to? Have you found alternatives to old faves and have you discovered new loves? Let me know in the comments below!

This is a new year. Let’s make it a happy and productive one. I hope that you’re doing safe and well and I’ll see you back here soon.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

Goodbye and Good Riddance

a.k.a. How Writing Saved My Life

This tumultuous year is about to exit stage left and it couldn’t come fast enough. 2020 was like the sweater you wanted to buy at the store. You went into the changing room all excited at how it would look on you. Under the garish lighting, you began to notice details you hadn’t seen before with your once hopeful eyes. The material was scratchy, there was a loose thread here and there, and when you tried to squeeze into it, you realized that it just wasn’t the right fit.

Still, you pressed on, pushing your doubts and arm flab aside to get a better view. When you stepped in front of the mirrors, however, you could see so many more perspectives of how wrong it was for you and you just needed to get out of it pronto. In an instant, you were surrounded by warped fun house mirrors that showed you images that were anything but fun. It was time to go and time to leave that deceptively ugly sweater of a year behind.

I made the mistake of messaging my best friend last year with the fateful words “is it 2020 yet?” I had been experiencing a craptastic last few years and 2019 was particularly strenuous in my ongoing battle. Several months later, while in the midst of the first COVID-19 lockdown, I chanced upon that message thread and gave myself the hugest eyeroll. It’s safe to say that I no longer texted my best friend any sentiments other than wishing him and his family a safe and happy holiday.

Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s transformed with me along with my penmanship–the Golden Years were when I was living in the UK. We learned cursive in school and my handwriting was exquisite. When I got back to North America, my writing evolved along with my personality. With my scrawl, I could very well be a doctor (not sure where that sterotype came from. I know many doctors with excellent and legible penmanship). I’ve since resorted to the clacking of a keyboard. Thank you, high school keyboarding class. While there is a methodology to physically writing out words, when it comes to storytelling, my fingers and the keyboard can keep up faster with my thoughts than the old school method.

Writing is a part of my identity. It’s in my DNA. Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I’m not writing, it affects other aspects of my life. This can be a particular problem if the other aspects of my life are also contributing to the lack of writing, or in some cases the lack of motivation to write. This year, I spent the first half doing anything but writing and while I feel a slight twinge of regret that I didn’t get back into it sooner, I felt a world of difference when the words began to flow once more. It was as though I didn’t know how to exist properly without writing. I couldn’t express my frustrations and concerns clearly when trying to communicate with others. I found that once I began writing again, it was as though I was getting rid of the clutter in the attic of my mind. Daily journaling had therapeutic effects. I began to articulate my thoughts more succinctly. I felt more confident to stand my ground. It was almost as though writing served as an oxygen boost that rejuvenated me, as a whole.

Yes. I can say with confidence that writing has and did, once again, save my life. It’s given me a purpose, a direction to focus on, goals to achieve. I’m dusting off WIPs that I’d shelved for years, excited to revisit and revamp. New ideas come to me more readily now that I’ve once again opened my mind to receive them.

After having such a heavy cloud hang over me and life being such a 2020, writing has been instrumental in helping me break through some of the things that have been weighing me down, holding me back. It would be naive to think that writing alone has been a fix-all in my life but it has certainly given me that push out of my complacency (let’s be real, there have been no true comfort zones this year). It’s an ongoing process but I know I’ll get there.

So long, 2020. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out. You will not be missed. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

I can’t wait for this year to be over. 2020 represented so many hardships, so much loss. We went stir-crazy with quarantine, tried to adjust to a new normal with social distancing, and really found a new appreciation for the ‘social’ in social media. No matter what we tried to do to get through the year, it felt like the days dragged on even slower than we could imagine. I know making a change isn’t limited to a particular date and time, but knowing that a fresh and shiny new year is just a few days away gives us something to look forward to, a tomorrow that’s brighter and filled with promise. 2020 can peace out. I’m excited for what’s to come.

Memes aside, though my nephew will tell you how important they are in this day and age, it’s not as simple as saying goodbye. So much happened to turn our lives upside down. Many of us are still reeling from the aftermath of losing loved ones, losing a job, worrying about our health, uncertain about our future. It was a tough year. If there’s anything to take away from 2020 is that every moment we suffered through was also a life lesson. We are stronger now because of these moments and we need to have that mindset as we look ahead.

Yes, another year has come and is almost gone. I hope that you and yours are safe and well. I look forward to starting 2021 with positivity and renewed energy that writing has provided. It’s a good reminder to never stop doing what you love, doing what drives you to be a better person, even when life goes a little sideways. I hope you have something to fuel you to keep going as writing has done for me. See you next year, bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

Represent!

As a child of the 80s and 90s, I was privy to the dynamic evolution of media and social media, as a whole. When it came to seeking out my people on such platforms, however, it was sorely lacking. In researching for today’s post, I found myself immersed in nostalgia and the absence of relatable content.

Years later, I see big moments for Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC) and we’ve come a long way. I feel that as a POC writer, I have a responsibility to provide relatable content that was missing for me when I was looking for ways to understand who I was in this world. That journey continues to this day.

There are the token minorities in books, tv, or film or the headlines that make novelty of who we are. For instance, in a recent article, the headline included the phrase Black Batman. Did they mean that the comic would be about a black man taking on the persona of the Caped Crusader or were they actually now qualifying the superhero himself? “Look! It’s the Black Batman!” doesn’t have that catchy vibe. Why is this even news? Why can’t we be telling stories about complex and flawed characters and not have to point out the person’s ethnicity in order to drive the story forward?

Shouldn’t we be able to tell a captivating story that can reach millions of people without bringing race into the equation?

I, myself, am part of the problem, to a degree. I grew up reading and watching certain characters that I began writing what I knew. Margaret asking God if he’s there, the twins at Sweet Valley High, the spy named Harriet. All girls at different times in their lives and all people that looked nothing like me.

At least in a couple movies, I had Short Round and Richard ‘Data’ Wang (incidentally played by the same actor, Ke Huy Quan). But for the most part, if I were to follow a certain show on a regular basis, the person I connected with the most was the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Appsh!

But where were my people at?

For most of my life, I thought I was of Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish heritage. However, thanks to Ancestry.ca, I’ve learned that my lineage breakdown is as follows: 58% Southern China, 37% Northern Philippines, 5% Southern Philippines with a fluctuation in percentages in Myanmar, whatever that statistic means. Outside of programming I watched while I lived in the Philippines for a decade or so, I didn’t see or read much about people like me to feel a connection.

It warmed my heart to discover that Blue’s Clues & You (a reboot of the popular Blue’s Clues I watched with my nephew and niece when they were younger), returned with a Filipino character. In a recent episode, he introduced his grandmother and they ate a Filipino dessert together. They also showed a traditional sign of respect to one’s elders. This was a perfect example of how people should be able to see the lives of others unfold in the story with the cultural references or ethnic-related issues woven into the narrative in an organic way.

Yes, I was thrilled with Mulan and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But what about stories in the more recent here and now, of it all? With great works such as The Joy Luck Club, Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther, Andi Mack. and the heartwarming Over the Moon, I was starting to feel a better immersion of relatable storytelling.

Prior to that, I was more into stories with talking animals, robots, or other entities, because I could just dive into a story and focus on the characters rather than the literal color of their skin. In upcoming posts, I’m going to talk more about the novels I’ve been working on and how I felt the need to make some serious changes because of this current hot button issue.

When I searched for Over the Moon on Netflix, it was under a category called the Representation Matters Collection. Representation does matter, but we need to work towards an era where the discussion of it won’t matter anymore because it’s a common occurrence.

As I posted to my POC writers’ group, I’m proud of how far we’ve come when it comes to representation in books, tv, and film, but I hope that one day, representation in these and other forms of media is no longer breaking news, but just another facet of intriguing and relatable storytelling.

As always, stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

The Games We Play

a.k.a “Tag, You’re It!”

A couple months ago, I received an email about Yahoo Groups shutting down after 20 years. Boy, does that take me back. I don’t even have my Yahoo or Hotmail email addresses anymore. I had rejoined some writing groups via Yahoo Groups within the last eight years, or so, using my Gmail account, but seeing that email was like hopping in the Delorean and punching it to 88.

I heard once more the melodic bleep blorps of dial up connections. Desktop computers weighed as heavy as the buyer’s remorse from Black Friday impulse purchases.

It was a time when you were filled with excitement at the “uh oh” notification in ICQ. All the cool kids hung out on Friendster before MySpace came in to dominate. The moments of reprieve came when the dial up connection was lost–or someone had to use the landline. Ahem… for those who don’t know, read the definition of ‘landline’ here. (Also known as the “I got it. I said I. Got. It. You can hang up now… I can still hear you breathing Carl! Hang up! Mom/Dad, he won’t hang up! Just a second, Becky, I gotta go maim my brother first.” device). Anyhoo, it gave you the chance to rest your eyes from the visual assault of electric blue text against pink background GeoCities websites.

A bygone era, indeed.

iPhone who? This was the bee’s knees for any tween back in the day.

You may be wondering why an email has caused me to wax nostalgic for online life many, many moons ago? I’ll tell ya. Online roleplaying games.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever participated in this collaborative affair. I’m not talking about the Massively multiplayer online role-playing games that are dominating the interwebs today. MMORPGs are to the more basic online RPGs as the Borg are to Humanoids. The online RPGs I’m referring to used little to no graphics (reserved mostly to the group web page, or Yahoo Group) and we, the faithful participants, used our words to drive the story forward.

Today, I’m taking a stroll down memory lane to recount my experience with these online RPGs and how it helped transform and evolve my writing and online presence.

My first foray into the online RPGing world involved storyline mashups within the Yahoo Groups. You had to audition for the role by writing a scene. Some crossover RPGs had everything from from Buffy the Vampire Slayer notables interacting with the characters from CSI: NY. You could play someone from Smallville playing opposite people from Charmed or The Office. It was glorious.

My regularly “played” characters were: Buffy, Spike, Angel, Xander, Clem, Lorne, Chloe Sullivan, CSI Flack, Dwight, Jim, Wyatt, and Piper among others. I was commended for the scenes reading like they were watching an actual episode. I was told that I nailed the dialogue and I even included song lyrics to add to the ambience of the scene. This was fans’ way of expressing how they wanted a series to continue when the show was cut short before its time.

In this type of game, you’d write your part and then end it with <tag>. Depending on the character(s) you were interacting with, you’d tag them and have intriguing subject lines to create a thread at that location. Some RPGs were very simple in nature while others had elaborate rules and infrastructure. It was technically how I got my feet wet with online critiques of my writing, let alone the fact I was putting my creative writing out there for the world to see.

After a spell, I began to venture further out from shore and joined Star Trek RPGs. This was more complex than the yahoo group iterations due to the more regimented vetting system, the necessity to respect the canon more strictly, and the overall Trek universe, in general. They had a separate server where the game was hosted and you could rise in the ranks, or face a tribunal, if the scenario and your character’s actions called for it. This was certainly more involved as it meant I needed to create my own characters. I still use my Star Trek character handle to this day. Other RPGs were completely made up so original character creation was even more of a necessity.

This was where more of the writing prep overlap came into play. Character bios, descriptions, quirks, etc., were steps that some people didn’t enjoy as much as I did. You had to come up with the character’s back story and do a deep dive into their traits so you knew how to portray them within the parameters of the game. This process is similar to tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons.

I learned quickly what people liked and liked less about my writing because I got instant feedback with each tag. It also kept me on my toes because my next post was dependent on the other player’s response. There were other opportunities where I could collaborate with one or more players on a joint post so that it read more fluidly, much like a chapter of a novel.

We’re in such a visual era, we now have streaming platforms where people just watch a person play a video game. Everything’s changing so quickly. With VR gaining even more traction, there’ll be a whole new way of gaming immersion that will thrill our senses faster than you can type “a/s/l” in a chatroom text box.

I miss the games of yore. Be it online RPGs or tabletop games with friends. The collaboration and creativity was pure enjoyment and inspired what was to become this website and the future projects I’ll be sharing here hopefully in the new year.

Oh, and for those who enjoyed ICQ, it’s still alive and kickin’ online. A newer platform was released this year. You can “uh oh” to your heart’s content. And when we can safely travel using public transit again, you can be sure to annoy your neighbors on the train with the various chirps the app has to offer.

As always, stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time… Game on!

T out.