FANGIRL FRIDAY: A Picture’s Worth

Hello, fam!

It’s been a few days into the Get Your Words Out 2021 Challenge and things are going well. I don’t feel the intense pressure of word counts, so I’m glad I chose the Habit Pledge instead. Though sign ups are done for this year, It’s worth a look to see what’s entailed in such a challenge. You can then decide if you want to partake next year. Meanwhile, feel free to do a variation of the challenge right along with us!

I’ve been continuing my dabblydoo with the planning software called Plottr, the software created by writers for writers. I think I need to do more than take it for a test drive before I can do an in-depth review, so stay turned for that in a later post. So far, I’ve found that it’s a robust program that can help you visually plan your stories more efficiently. Now, of course, most of it is visual in the strictest sense, but with the use of timelines and the ability to track subplots and every character’s journey throughout the story, you literally cannot miss a beat, because you’ll see everything laid out in front of you. More on that later.

What I did want to talk about today was the use of photos in story creation. As a visual learner and writer, I find that the ideas flow more readily when I have a face to go with a name or a visual representation of a place in which my characters live and explore.

I’ve gone through my WIPs and have created character sheets with corresponding pictures to help bring the characters to life. To do this, I’ve done a deep dive into the the interwebs to look up actor photoshoots, magazine spreads, or even more helpful, actual stills from television and film that show them in similar attire to what inspired the character I’ve created. In addition to the people in my “neighborhood,” there are a plethora of photographs, artistic renderings, and stills that capture the places I’ve visualized for my stories.

I’ve created folders on my desktop to organize these visuals. I have a folder called Story Settings that contain anything from landscapes, cityscapes, post-apocalyptic suburbia, ethereal forest dwellings, to mysterious and ominous castles. My Character folder has a slew of subfolders with some of my favorite faces from the big and small screen already attributed to characters for the different books and genres I’ve got brewing. Included therein are unique animal pics that go well with the Middle Grade Adventure that involves talking animals, because why not?

In recent years, I have made a conscious effort to do some recasting. I’ve mentioned in previous posts the lack of diversity in books, TV, and film I had growing up, so it’s my chance to be proactive in my writing. I do believe that a character’s ethnicity is secondary to the story. If cultural references are necessary to the plot, then I want to make sure those are woven in organically so that nothing seems forced upon the reader. And if such references are merely part of their routine, I have that earmarked as well to smoothly incorporate details where needed. To that end, having a visual of what these characters look like somehow switches on something as I write and things they would do in their daily life seem to reveal themselves more naturally.

Another way pictures have proved useful are as writing prompts. Whether it was an actor in a known moment from their show or film, to a visual that might set the scene in a chapter, these pictures are the spark that can ignite a very fruitful writing session.

How are things going on your side of the screen? Do you use actor photos as character inspiration? Do you have favorite websites where you curate the most beautiful landscapes to represent the world where your characters live and breathe? We’re lucky to be in such an evolving technological era that allows us to be everywhere and with everyone in an instant. That fact alone is truly inspiring.

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

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: An Apple (Device) a Day…

a.k.a. My Love Letter to Apple Support

My lil’ buddy (Nic, the Dragon Stompin’ Nephew) chose this logo off the interwebs.

Hello, fam!

It’s been a week now since I’ve been reunited–and it feels so good–with my Apple iPhone. I was worried when I got one email saying they were sending my phone back (a quick turnaround of less than two days versus the 10 business days I’d been expecting) and another notification that they were unable to repair the device. What did that mean? Would I be getting a replacement? Could nothing be done for my iPhone?

As luck would have it, they were able raise it from the dead when they opened him up and since they couldn’t find anything wrong during their diagnostic tests, they were sending it back to me, free of charge. I was ecstatic as I thought I’d be out many, many clams, as good ol’ Fred Flintstone would say.

I’ve had three device issues in as many weeks. Each interaction I’ve had with Apple Support members has been exemplary. While some issues required further steps, their collective efforts were outstanding.

TFW when everyone you’ve encountered is made of awesome.

Sure, it’s (validly) argued that Apple products can be among the priciest in their respective markets. However, for the longevity of the products and the superior after sales support–even when way out of AppleCare warranty periods–make these worthy investments and important parts of my writing toolkit.

The ease of use, the sleek designs, the amount of care that everyone I’ve interacted with has for the products and company overall makes me a loyal Applehead through and through.

I have no shame on this topic.

Friendly reminder that there are still a few days left to sign up for Get Your Words Out 2021. GYWO a great opportunity to, as the name suggests, get your words out and really commit to a writing routine this year and beyond.

We’re already halfway through the first month of a new year. A lot has happened this past week, some good, some terrible, but I remain hopeful. Let’s keep working towards positivity and productivity.

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

Until next time,

T out.

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.

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.


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, 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.