Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What I Learned At My First Public Reading

Hey everyone! It's been a looong time since my last entry. Luckily, I have a very good reason for that. I made it into Pitch Wars! I've spent the last 2+ months working with my mentor, the amazing Kellye Garrett, to revise my first novel. It's been a hell of a journey, full of stress and weight gain, but an absolutely amazing experience. I'll probably blog about it again once it's all over since I'm still in the middle of editing my manuscript.

In fact, I only took time out of my busy revising schedule to 1) talk about the awesome event I took part in over the weekend, and 2) distract myself from the fact that the Agent Round begins tomorrow, November 1, (and runs until the 7th).

Now on to the topic of my post!

This past Saturday, I read an excerpt from my work-in-progress, Death Comes to ComiKon, along with three other up-and-comers (Nancy Johnson, Cynthia Pelayo, and Heather E. Ash. Keep an eye out for these three ladies, they're going to be big!) and six more established writers. Look at this spiffy poster advertising the event:
Look! My name!

I spent a lot of time agonizing over which section of my WIP to read; in fact, I didn't make a decision til the morning of. I was sooo nervous while listening to these other amazing writers read their work, especially since mine didn't quite fit the theme, not being very noir-ish. It's meant to be a humorous traditional mystery, after all. However, once the event was over, I received quite a few compliments on my reading, so yay, SUCCESS!

Top: Jamie Freveletti, Sara Paretsky, Nancy Johnson, ME!, Cynthia Pelayo, Clare O'Donohue
Bottom: Julie Hyzy, Heather E. Ash, Lori Rader-Day, Renee James

While I was preparing for the event, I looked up tips on how to do a public reading, and while there were a few helpful sites, there weren't a ton. So here's my two cents:

My fantastic boots (and double chin; thanks a lot Pitch Wars stress eating) stole the show

1. When selecting what to read, make sure it gives a good feel for the voice and world you'll be introducing your audience to. For me, it was the opening since it was packed full of humor and geekiness, but others chose more dramatic sections that were scattered throughout their novel. Different books require a different focus.

2. Make sure your selection feels complete. Either end at a cliffhanger, have an arc within it, or close with a joke. Stopping at a random part just because your time is up is really jarring. Because I knew I couldn't reach the cliffhanger within my given time limit, I chose to end on a joke, which was perfect. I got a good laugh and it fit the tone of my story.

3. Know how much time you have and practice, practice, practice. I was given a 5-minute slot, and to me that translated to one chapter. I timed myself using my phone and my 8-pg first chapter took me 13 minutes to read! Which meant I had to end much earlier and slash entire sections. Which leads me to...

4. Cut, cut, cut! You don't have to (in fact, you shouldn't) read your selection word-for-word, exactly as it's written. What works well on the page doesn't necessarily translate to a live reading. When you practice reading out loud, you can feel/hear the parts that are unnecessary/awkward and can be removed without sacrificing the logic of your story.

5. Don't just read. You're not in class reading out loud to get the teacher off your back. You're performing. As such, you need to know which parts to emphasize, when to look at the audience, what voices you have to do, and how to use your voice as a tool. My day job as an ESL teacher has taught me how to project, enunciate, and even exaggerate my speech in order to make my ideas clear, entertaining, and engaging. You don't have to be a trained actor to read with feeling.

So that's my advice. How was the event itself? SURREAL. There was a fancy cake baked especially for the event! 
This is a cake! An absolutely delicious one


An audience of not just my friends got to hear my story! 



I got to participate in an event with Sara freakin' Paretsky! And yes, that's her given name. I always embarrass myself around her in some way.

Lady Crime Fiction Writers! Woo!


Thanks to Lori Rader-Day for pulling together this great event and inviting me to be part of it! Photo credits to John Thomas Bychowski.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Pitch Wars #PimpMyBio 2017 - Adult/Millenial Mystery

Hello Prospective Mentors and Mentees! This is my first time doing Pitch Wars and I'm almost finished with my first novel.

Go crazy?

It's a traditional mystery (amateur sleuth) set at a comic book convention titled Death Comes to ComiKon. The first few chapters have won the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship and also the William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers. I've been working on it for about two years now, and am finally ready to put my baby out there in the world.

I'm not great at blogging (hence my last post being 2+ months old), so there'll be a decided lack of snazzy gifs ( but waaay too many pics).

INSPIRATION:

I was at an anime convention in 2008 or 9, and an actor from a popular 90s children's show drunkenly hit on one of my friends after we asked if he would take a picture with us. It was nowhere near as bad as it happens in my book, but it was rather uncomfortable for my friend. We all laughed it off, but about two years ago, that scene came back to me. The wheels began turning and I started asking myself questions.

That actor was someone we looked up to as children. He was a hero to many children of color. How would it feel to finally meet your childhood hero, only to find out he's a jerk? Why do women, particularly young women, feel the need to laugh off their harassment instead of saying something about it? And finally, what if your childhood hero was murdered at a comic book convention and you became the prime suspect?

LOGLINE: 


After her childhood hero is accused of murdering a washed-up action star at Chicago’s largest comic book convention, Sunshine Salinas (geek girl extraordinaire) must race to find the true killer before her hero is thrown behind bars. If she’s not careful though, she might suffer the same fate, as Chicago PD is all too eager to cast her as the faithful sidekick.


WHY PICK ME:

  • I'm an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, so I know the importance of criticism and constructive feedback. This also means that my grammar, while not perfect, is the least of my worries.
  • I've pitched several agents, most of whom expressed an interest in my manuscript. This means I'm absolutely serious about putting in the time to make sure my work is polished enough for the query/submission stage in the next few months.
  • I'm very passionate about this story, which I believe is unique and will bring about much-needed diversity in the mystery genre. The majority of the cast belong to marginalized groups (often more than one), but the story isn't ABOUT their marginalization; it's just part of who they are.


WHAT I'M HOPING MY MENTOR(S) WILL HELP WITH:


  • Pacing. This is important in all stories, but absolutely crucial in mysteries. My story takes place at a 4-day convention, so a lot happens in a short time.
  • Tension/Conflict. I'm very passive aggressive, so this has been a problem for me. Feedback shows that I either pull away from these scenes too quickly instead of really diving in, or I avoid it completely.
  • Voice. My story is in 1st person, and many people say I've got a very strong voice. However, I worry that it's so strong, it carries over to the other characters and everyone all sounds the same.
  • Plot holes. Do my subplots, clues, and red herrings all come together?
  • Sensitivity reading. My story features LGBT+ and disabled characters, and the cast is majority PoC. Do they feel like real characters or do they read as flat/stereotypes/problematic?


10 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME: 


  1. I'm fairly introverted. My husband went on a 3-day road trip with friends and I spent that time eating, reading, writing, playing video games, and watching the Great British Baking Show while talking to 0 people. It. Was. Bliss.
    I heart Tamal
  2. I'm a huge geek and have been going to anime/comic book/pop culture conventions since 2005. I'm not big into anime/manga anymore, but I still loooove the older stuff (CardCaptor Sakura and Fruits Basket ftw!)
    I'm not super into shipping, but these two...no matter what incarnation they're in, these two always get me
  3. I taught English in South Korea for 3+ years and currently work in downtown Chicago at a private ESL institute
    Last Day of Class, Yesan Girls' High School 2014
  4. I'm married and (technically) have three dogs. The dog I brought back with me from Korea betrayed me and left me for my father.
    Gumiho (the betrayer), my dad the Dog Whisperer, Bayley Banks, and Max Power
  5. I have two tattoos, with plans for several more
    My First Tattoo = Matching tattoo with a good buddy from Korea
    Diligence

    NC = Non-Compliant symbol from the comic, Bitch Planet
    The quote is from the Kelly Sue DeConnick run of Captain Marvel 
  6. I believe there's a Simpsons quote for everything 
    Look, a GIF!
  7. I'm 30 years old but have the soul of a retiree; nothing makes me happier than a good cup of tea, a pastry, and a cozy mystery/good book
    BLISS
  8. I'm a sucker for female friendships and am SO SICK of the "women hate other women" trope
    These books give me all the feels
  9. My love of JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games), particularly the Persona series, makes me long to write a YA coming-of-age story with JRPG tropes. Someday...
    Absolute favorite game series
  10. Wonder Woman is everything (Best part? All these pictures were taken at work at one point or another)
    No seriously
    I'm not playing

    I LOVE HER





FAVORITES:

  1. Writers - Neil Gaiman, Amy Tan, Jane Austen, Gail Simone (comic book writer)
    My brothers really know me. Best Christmas present
  2. Books - Neverwhere, Pride & Prejudice, The Joy Luck Club, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, His Dark Materials trilogy, Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, When the Elephants Dance, White Oleander, Little Women, Jane Eyre
    Ravenclaw represent!
  3. Comic Books/Graphic Novels/Manga - Wonder Woman (Gail Simone, George Perez, and Greg Rucka runs), Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Lumberjanes, Bitch Planet, Monstress, Sandman, Fruits Basket, Honey & Clover, Mockingbird, DC Bombshells 
    A Justice League of Their Own? Crying
  4. Music - 90s R&B/Hip Hop/Pop, K-Pop (2004 - 2015, mostly), and Korean hip hop/R&B 
    DBSK
    I miss them so much sometimes
  5. Video Games - Persona 4 Golden (my favorite), Persona series, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney series, Professor Layton, Mass Effect, Dragon Age 
    I wanna solve a small-town murder mystery with this crew SO BAD
So there you go. Way more info than you'd ever care to know about me. I hope you choose me as your mentee! And if not, I hope to make lots and lots of new writing friends ^^

Monday, May 1, 2017

Malice Domestic 2017 AKA The Nicest Group of People in the World

I'm lying in bed, utterly exhausted, attempting to write about what an amazing weekend I had, while my dog Max does his best to thwart my efforts by demanding belly rubs.

LOVE ME!
Where do I even begin? I attended Malice Domestic for the very first time, which is a convention held in Bethesda, Maryland dedicated to celebrating traditional mysteries (probably my favorite genre). If you're wondering what constitutes a "traditional" mystery, it's loosely defined as a mystery with no explicit sex, excessive violence, or gore. The amateur sleuth reigns supreme in most traditional mysteries, and I just love reading about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances and seeing how they measure up (or don't).

I was lucky enough to be named the 2017 winner of the William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, which in addition to a $2,500 grant also includes free registration to the convention and the awards banquet, as well as a 2-night hotel stay. You best believe I jumped on that opportunity, and dragged along my poor husband who spent almost the entire weekend squirreled away in our hotel room writing or playing video games (we packed the PS4. Because of course we did). He did come out to breathe during meal times and was there to document the Agatha Awards Banquet, where I gave a short acceptance speech.

I'm in great company

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The most important thing about this convention (other than the books, obviously) is the people. I already knew that mystery writers were among the coolest and nicest people in the world, but Malice is like the purest distillation of these wonderfully kind and supportive people. The entire weekend, whenever someone saw (incredibly awkward and rather introverted) me standing alone, they would come up and talk to me. Ask me how I'm doing, where I'm from, what I'm writing, etc. And you could tell they genuinely cared about those things, they weren't just making small talk to pass the time.

After I gave my speech at the banquet and people realized I was the grant winner, the outpour of support was almost overwhelming. I spent the rest of the weekend grinning like a fool while thanking the many, many people who congratulated me. I know that I'm super awkward at accepting compliments, but I genuinely appreciated each and every person who reached out to me. Writing is such a solitary pursuit, and to receive validation from people whose opinion I truly respect is just...I have no words.

James and I arrived in Bethesda Friday morning, after being cooped up on a plane with an 8th grade class on a trip to Washington D.C. who had WAY too much energy for that early in the morning. The plane ride was blessedly short (about 2 hours), but did nothing to change the fact that the kid across the aisle from us got sick all over himself on the flight and the kids directly behind him were wearing "Make America Great Again" caps. Not sure which disgusted me more.

I missed most of the panels on Friday, but was lucky enough to make it to the New Kids on the Block: The Agatha Nominees for Best First Novel. I was excited about this panel because it was moderated by Harriette Sackler, the Malice Grant committee head (and overall amazing person), and included Marla Cooper (the first person I talked to at BoucherCon) and two previous grant winners. I wasn't familiar with Nadine Nettmann's work, but it sounded great (wine makes everything better). The panel was full of laughs and gave me something to dream about for the future (I can hope, right?)

Harriette Sacker (m), Nadine Nettman, Marla Cooper, Cynthia Kuhn, and Rosemary & Vince Keenan (as Renee Patrick)
Unfortunately, I had to skip the next panel about the historical mystery nominees because I needed to check into my hotel room (poor James had to hang out in the lobby alone since our room wasn't ready), and we both passed out until dinner time. I managed to rouse myself in time for the Malice Domestic Anthology signing, but then knocked out again almost immediately afterward.

I woke up stupid early (adrenaline kept making me wake up before my alarm went off) and got dolled up for the Sisters in Crime breakfast. In true Guppy fashion, I wore a purple feather boa which looked great, but shed feathers all over the place (including my plate of food).

Guppies (members of the Great Unpublished from Sisters in Crime) traditionally wear boas to the breakfast
I was lucky enough to be paired with Edith Maxwell as my Malice mentor, and we sat together at breakfast. Also at the table was Eileen Rendahl, who I met at BoucherCon, and I was so happy she remembered who I was! After we finished eating, all the Guppies got together to take a group picture, and I ended up next to Cynthia Kuhn, past Malice grant winner and Agatha nominee. When she found out I was the current grant winner, she got so excited, she literally started tearing up. She was just the sweetest, most enthusiastic and demonstrative person I met that weekend, and I couldn't be happier that she won the Agatha for Best First Novel.

Grant winner buddies!
After the breakfast, I attended a couple of panels, bought a TON of books and got them signed, and hung out with James for a bit. 

Just Die Laughing: Humor in Mysteries
Karen Cantwell (m), Donna Andrews, Jessie Chandler, Nancy J. Cohen, Nancy G. West

Thrilling Suspense
Doris Ann Norris (m), Lee Hurwitz, Lori Rader-Day, Eileen Rendahl/Kristi Abbot, Sarah Shaber, Judy Penz Sheluk

I bought ALL THE BOOKS
I also met up with Harriette and Janet Reid AKA the Query Shark so we could chat about what my next steps should be now that I won the grant. Janet was awesome; completely honest and straightforward, no BS, and happy to answer any questions I had about how to find/query/vet agents. As she left, she gave me her card, and I kind of held it gently in my palm for a moment and stared at it. I swear it was glowing. Then I put it in my card case and met up the MWA Midwest members for our happy half-hour. I enjoyed a tasty cocktail and shmoozed a bit, then went back up to my room to get ready for the Agatha Awards Banquet.

The food was good and the dessert adorable, but I was way too nervous about my speech to eat much (I KNOW. That's how you know it was serious). Harriette had to put her hand on my leg and tell me to relax because I was so jittery.

Some sorta yummy chocolate mouse cake

I had typed up my speech on my phone literally an hour before the banquet, so I kept checking my phone over and over, praying technology wouldn't fail me. When it was my time to go up, all I could think about was, "Why did I wear heels? What if I trip and fall in front of this entire ballroom? What if my phone magically deleted my speech in the last 15 seconds?" But I pulled it off! Adulting ftw!

After all the awards were presented (you can see the list of winners here), it was all a blur of people congratulating me and me congratulating other people and taking pictures and being handed business cards by people saying they loved my premise. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

Kellye Garrett of Hollywood Homocide (out 8/8/17)
Doing our best to represent for diversity in the mystery genre. Definitely check her out!

Rosemary & Vince Keenan (AKA Renee Patrick)
Previous grant winners and authors of Design for Dying

Me & my husband James
The best, most supportive person ever (he'd want me to add "funniest" too, but...)


Gigi Pandian
Previous grant winner and author of the Jaya Jones series and Accidental Alchemist series

Catriona McPherson
Agatha Award Winner for Best Historical for her novel, The Reek of Red Herrings

Lori Rader-Day
My former writing teacher (yes, she's the one who got me writing mysteries)
Author of The Black Hour, Little Pretty Things, and The Day I Died (get them all. You won't regret it)
Me and my Precious...


The Malice Domestic Grant Committee
My eternal thanks. You have no idea what this means to me

After the craziness of Saturday, I still managed to get up early to attend the New Authors Breakfast. I sat at Alexia Gordon's table, whose book Murder in G Major was on the shortlist for Best First Novel. It was really cool getting to chat with everyone and listen to all the new authors have their time in the spotlight. I added quite a few authors/books to my TBR list.

Alexia Gordon
Author of Murder in G Major

Radha Vatsal
Author of The Front Page Affair

Hank Philippi Ryan
Would've worn makeup if I knew I'd be taking a picture with Hank. Perfection as always.

Keenan Powell
Previous grant winner and author of the Maeve Malloy mystery series
After the breakfast, I attended two panels, ate way too much at lunch, then fancied myself up for the Agatha Tea & Closing Ceremonies.
Ghostly Murder
T.J. O'Connor (m), Alice Loweecey, Micki Browning, Casey Daniels, Alexia Gordon

Extra! Extra! Newshounds and Murder
Patricia McGlinn (m), LynDee Walker, Lynn Chandler Willis, Radha Vatsal, Christina Kovac 

Church lady hat! It's tea time!

Agatha Tea Party

Murder on the Orient Express movie coming out later this year
And so ends my enchanted weekend. 

Although maybe not so enchanted, because we somehow ended up on the same plane as the class trip from Friday. THE SAME KIDS. And one of the kids upgraded from a Trump cap to an American-flag-decorated bucket hat emblazoned with "Make America Great Again."

...yeah, I know.

In other news, I made sure to deposit my grant check during my lunch break today since I'm super paranoid. Which is good since I technically already spent the grant money. Next weekend, I'll be in San Antonio for the Writers Workshop Retreat from May 6 - 13th. A little nervous, but super excited to have such a long, intense period of time to dedicate to my writing. Maybe I'll make it after all...

How about you, dear readers (who I'm assuming exist)? What was your first Malice like? Have you ever gone on a writers retreat? What was it like? Let me know in the comments!

What I Learned At My First Public Reading

Hey everyone! It's been a looong time since my last entry. Luckily, I have a very good reason for that. I made it into Pitch Wars ! I...