Two Teens with Social Anxiety, Evan Hansen and Me

If you’re someone with social anxiety, I think you will like the 2017 Tony-award winning musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” As an introvert diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD), I easily related to Ben Platt’s character, Evan Hansen, an awkward kid desperately wanting to make friends and connect with others.

Reading the musical’s plot and listening to the tracks on Spotify brought back some painful memories. Ben Platt did an amazing, honest depiction of what it’s like to have a crippling social anxiety: fidgeting, biting nails, poor posture, averting one’s eyes, trouble finding the right words to say.

Watch Ben Platt’s performance here:

Having social anxiety doesn’t mean we’re antisocial or dislike being around people. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We’re often lonely and misunderstood, yet we have trouble communicating and expressing ourselves.

A little background about me: in some ways, I am what you call a parachute kid. I moved to the U.S. for college when I was 17, while my parents stayed back in the Philippines. I lived with my two older brothers, whom I wasn’t very close to due to a 10+ year age gap.

I chose to be an English major, because I wanted to be a writer. America was a blank page, and I wanted to write my story.

But still, I felt alone in a new country and I longed for friends. The thought of having a diverse range of friends actually excited me. And I tried. In my classes, social clubs, at concerts, at choir or at work, I usually said hi to the person next to me and attempted to make small talk. But for some reason, I would always fail. I’d always be the shy, awkward guy. Smiling too much.

It was especially difficult in community college. During my two years, I’d say the closest friends I had were:

  • A mother of two teenagers. From singing class. She even helped me audition for the community choir. But she didn’t really have time to hang out.
  • A grandma from creative writing class who loved my short stories. Only lasted one semester though.
  • My professors. I would always go to “office hours” when I felt lonely.

Looking back, I think it would have been easier for me had I chosen the recommended 1st-year course plan, to meet other first years. But I was arrogant, and chose the advanced courses.

Or maybe I should have chosen more practical, science-oriented classes where I could meet other parachute kids and international students.

Instead, I ended up in classes where other students made derisive remarks at me for raising the curve – or classes where people made fun of my accent.

One time, I was in an American Studies class of 40+ students, and we were discussing Pop Culture and the idea of “Cool,” how people express themselves by the cars they drive.

The professor asked me, “If you can drive anything in the world, what would it be?”

I had just been to the LA Auto Show, and I was pretty amazed by the new Lamborghini, so that was the answer I gave. Except, I pronounced it as “Lambor Genie.”

The whole room erupted in laughter.

“You want a Genie?” The professor smirked.  “You mean a Lamborghini.”

Social AnxietyHaving social anxiety plus being an introvert, it took me awhile to process my mistake. I just laughed it off and slumped slowly in my seat.

There were a couple more instances like these, but for 2 years, I didn’t really have any close friends. I’ll save those stories for later.

This is why I related deeply to Evan Hansen’s I Want song, “Waving Through a Window,” which aptly describes the unspoken reasoning behind our anxieties:

Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0gMW8XpPFPjoApDii5Tj1u

I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me

Give them no reason to stare
No slipping up if you slip away
So I got nothing to share
No, I got nothing to say

Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned

Eventually, I started to give up. I learned to stop talking to classmates, and to just mind my own business.

Oh, and by the way, I also struggled with hyperhidrosis (really bad sweaty palms). Remember those fruit and vegetable plastic bags at the grocery store, which were so annoying to open?

My brothers would often tease me and ask me to use my superpowers. I can conjure sweat with my mind, and slide the plastic open with my wet fingers.

I went to see a few doctors to have my superpowers fixed. One of the doctors asked me a few questions, and diagnosed me with social anxiety disorder. He prescribed me Lexapro, an SSRI used to treat anxiety and depression.

Of course, when you’re in an Asian and Christian family, you’d quickly denounce any form of mental illness other than autism. In fact, I’ve heard from the pulpit that social anxiety was a sin because we think too much about what other people think, thereby putting our selves as idols.

My family quickly denounced the “quack doctor” and said I was fine.

But I wasn’t fine. Unable to make friends in real life, I found community in online games and books (like Isaac in my novel). This could be the part when I say video games spared me much misery, but I’ll explore that idea later.

Like Evan Hansen, I make stuff up (well, other than living lies, I write fiction, too). Of course, I escaped into video games. Evan Hansen’s escape is central to the plot of the musical – pretending to be the only friend of a boy who committed suicide, which launches Evan to become a motivational Internet sensation.

But his character’s transformation begins by being true to himself. Telling the truth. Giving up the lies he so carefully crafted to win the girl and family he always wanted.

“Words Fail” is the reprise of Evan’s “Waving Through a Window” I Want song quoted earlier.

Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/32bZDrurIGh2Cts0l2tRtL

No, I’d rather pretend I’m something better than
These broken parts
Pretend I’m something other than
This mess that I am
‘Cause then I don’t have to look at it
And no one gets to look at it
No, no one can really see

‘Cause I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me
I never let them see the worst of me

‘Cause what if everyone saw?
What if everyone knew?
Would they like what they saw?
Or would they hate it too?
Will I just keep on running away from what’s true?

All I ever do is run
So how do I step in
Step into the sun?
Step into the sun

I started stepping into the sun when I saw my first therapist, back when I turned 18. I mean, it was free in college, and I was curious…and I admitted to myself that I needed help. And yes, the counselor did confirm I had social anxiety, and that was causing my loneliness, along with other things.

Eventually, I did take the medication, which did help. Of course, I had to hide it. I succeeded for a couple of months. But when my brothers found out, they kinda flipped.

You have to understand, the Virginia Tech massacre just happened, and like the shooter, I was a quiet English major who had issues. And according to Google, Lexapro is an antidepressant. So you get what I mean.

I’m happy to say that I’m a lot better now, a decade later. I’ve made several close friendships that continue on for years. My palms no longer sweat (surgically fixed). I no longer need medication, and like Even Hansen at the end of the musical, I think I’ve learned to accept myself for who I am.

My road to self-acceptance and self-love was an arduous journey. I wish I could tell you I’m done with SAD, but honestly it’s a daily struggle. Being with people is very draining, even if I love my friends and enjoy intriguing conversations.

Like Evan, I often say the wrong things, appear awkward and aloof. I have the more passive, reserved type of SAD compared to Evan’s reactive one, so when I panic, it’s like the gate to my vocabulary has shut and I couldn’t think of anything to say.

So I just smile, fidget or lurk back into the shadows until my battery’s recharged and my brain could process the right words to say. But I don’t let that stop me from being with friends or meeting new people. It sure is draining, but it’s also rewarding.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, take a deep breath, wiggle your toes and be hopeful. Tell yourself, it’s all going to be okay! Like the last letter Evan writes to himself in the musical:

Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/7vU9VpbmB4ZoztAigpXLlJ

Dear Evan Hansen,​
Today is going to be a good day. And here’s why: because today, today at least you’re you and—that’s enough.​

All we see is sky for forever
We let the world pass by for forever
Feels like we could go on for forever this way
This way

All we see is light
Watch the sun burn bright
We could be alright for forever
This way

All we see is sky for forever

Things You Feel After Reading a Book

Story

I’ve started reading Michael Alexander Drake‘s book on creative writing, Dynamic Story Creation, and unlike all the other fiction books I’ve read, he instructs the writer to start with a good theme.

By theme, he means what the reader feels after reading your book or watching a movie. He calls this the “Invisible Layer” as opposed to the events, plot or characters (Physical Layer).

I finished two books recently, Arena by Holly Jennings (a Sci-Fi sports underdog novel), and Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha (a mystery exploring Armenian American culture). Both are set in Los Angeles and deliver different themes, and I got two very different emotions after finishing these books.

As I deal with how I I felt after closing the book, I will deal with spoilers. Before reading my conclusions, I suggest reading these books first.

Thematic Analysis 1: Triumph = Hope

Let’s look at Arena first.

The novel tells the story of a team captain raising her team to compete in a virtual reality e-sports arena. We see her struggle with drug addiction and the loss of her fallen teammate who died from an overdose.

Through the help of her lover, as well as therapy, she overcomes her addictions, leads the team to victory, and overturns an industry that centers on greed at the expense of the players.

At the very end, the protagonist decides to create her own team to influence the industry from the inside. Readers get a sense of awe and hope as we admire the protagonist’s determination and good will. We root for her and want her to succeed, the same way she succeeded in defeating their powerful opponents in the arena, and learned how nice/friendly they were in real life.

It’s a story of overcoming and recovering from one’s addictions, good triumphing over evil, the underdog defeating an oppressive force, and of course love and friendship. The end result is a lot of glee and hopefulness as we move forward with new challenges and goals to pursue. 🙂

On the other hand, Dead Soon Enough gives a different vibe.

Thematic Analysis 2: Unanswered Questions = Unease

The more I think about Steph Cha’s themes, the more I realize how brilliant the book is.

First off, to be honest, I felt that the ending was lackluster. The protagonist escapes danger at the very end. We never directly “see” what happens to Nora, or to Van. There is no “big victory.” No romance at the end either. The protagonist tells a white lie to spare someone’s misery.

But the book clearly deals with faults of the past, secret loves, deceit and white lies, and unclear morality.

The Armenian Genocide is a big topic explored in this book, but the real emotional impact comes from the choices people make. I felt a little puzzled/disturbed/uneasy about how things ended in the book.

  • We never find Nora’s body (She’s likely dead from inference; she was “taken care of”)
  • We never find Van’s body (Is he dead or alive or on the run?)
  • What happens to Rob?
  • What happens to Nora’s lovers?
  • Will Ruby and Alex never know the truth?

Lots of unanswered questions, but are these loose ends intentional? Were they supposed to match the ongoing controversy regarding the Armenian Genocide. Are there really two sides to the truth and we’ll never know the outcome? On the same token, would the protagonist ever find out what happens to the children that sprang from her eggs?

Very different emotional impacts indeed. I would say happy endings make for better commercial value, but these sad endings are necessary too.

Bittersweet or Ray of Hope Endings

As I figure out my “theme” and write my book, I need to figure out what kind of emotions I’d like to bring forth in the reader. It may be a mix of both perplexity and triumph, given that my science fiction novel is primarily a Mystery with an elemental sub-genre of adventure.

Thinking of my ending, it might be bittersweet. You gain something but at a high price. Then again it could be a ray of hope where villains win, but there’s still a way to win. Either way, my protagonist will lose something, but gain something better. I’ll need to think of this a bit more.

Latest Pokemon Go Updates from Comic Con

Pokemon Go

I was at San Diego Comic Con yesterday when thousands gathered to hear from John Hanke, CEO of Niantic.

Pokemon Go Blanche

Here’s a recap of yesterday’s pokemon news:

  • Team captains revealed.
  • Hanke was in Tokyo for an Ingress event when Pokemon Go was launched
  • More easter eggs like the eveevution hack still undiscovered.
  • Niantic to release pokemon go to more countries
  • Google helped Niantic to stabilize servers
  • Aware and fixing bugs and three paw glitch
  • The pokemon company working to deliver next generation pokemon character designs. Will be much more regional, hence the need to trade.
  • Trading most likely face to face like Gameboy cable to cable days
  • Trainers and businesses will be able to customize Pokestops via items. The word “poke centers” was used.
  • Gyms will also be customizable by teams to improve competitive play, similar to Ingress. Team captains will play bigger roles on team vs team.
  • Only 1/10 of the original plan had been released so far due to unexpected demand of the game and server issues.

They see the game as an MMO with long term potential. Just be patient, they said. 
That’s all i remember so far!

4 Ways Pokemon Go Will Change the World

Pokemon Go Mew

Pokemon Go has swept the nation, and it’s not just kids. While I was walking to the gym (a real one, to work out), I saw people on their phones obviously trying to catch some, and they ranged from teens to middle-aged couples.

As of 7/14, I am seeing trainers level 24 and beyond, with pokemon Combat Powers of 1000-1400. I’m just a meager level 9 with only one pokemon that’s in the 400 CP range.

What’s fascinating about this game is it’s opportunities. A lot of people complain how the battles suck, or how this game feels incomplete. But the developers Niantic are planning to do bi-weekly updates, such as trading and other ways to interact with pokestops. With investments piling up and this update schedule, I don’t think the hype will fade any time soon. I actually think it will speed up more augmented reality developers.

1. Pokemon Go Will Increase In-Store Traffic

Ecommerce and online shopping caused consumers to stay home and do their shopping. Why go to the mall when you can get everything for cheap on Amazon?

But Pokemon Go encourages consumers to go out and explore the world! And retailers are already thirsting to become pokestops.

Ingress, Niantic’s first games, monetized locations to pharmacies and places like Jamba Juice. PokemonGo already has that partnership with McDonalds…as if McDonalds wasn’t already so crowded..

I dont normally see so many people at a plaza on a weekday, but today it felt like a weekend with so many people outside.

Pokemon Go, and other Augmented Reality games, will boost mall and walk-in traffic, especially if sponsored pokestops turned into scavenger hunts! Imagine Black Friday traffic during MewTwo battles, right inside Walmart!

And instead of dragging your kids to grocery stores, you’ll have to drag them away… “Enough catching pokemon!” you’d yell. Or, you’ll be catching pokemon with your kids

If Pokemon Go is here to stay, then online-only stores will have to invest in physical space. The retail world is due for unexpected surprises.

Pokemon Go Mewtwo

 

2. Pokemon Go Might Build a “Faction” Mentality

We already joke about Red vs Blue vs Yellow teams. The competitive “fun” element Niantic developed here is gym battles – taking over “turfs” where you battle out other players with their pokemon.

This may be a far-fetched idea but what if that violence seeps into the real world? Like pokemon gangs for instance?? I mean, the point of augmented reality is to transpose virtual/game elements into the real world, then what if we transposed the violence itself?

I’m just waiting on 1-1 pokemon battles to be implemented – but thinking about it, will this in-your-face competitiveness result in violence (like the case of this guy who murdered another gamer for revenge?), or will it be benign like Magic trading card games?

3. More Exercise, Exploration & Scavenger (Pokemon) Hunting

This is a no-brainer. Maybe it’s too soon to say Pokemon Go has done what JK Rowling did to reading. Only this time is about exploring the world and putting to use all that photo-geo tagging Google Maps has been doing.

Ironically, if I hadnt been looking for pokestops, I wouldn’t have even noticed the murals, Masonic art and other quirky stuff on my way to the gym.

4. Data Collection and GPS Location Technology May Eventually Develop into an Orwellian Nightmare

We already know Google and Facebook are the Big Brothers watching our every move, be it through email or Messenger conversations. I’m tired of “personalized” ads invading my Spotify list and every damn unrelated webpage I visit just because I work in ecommerce technology and these Data Masters think my life revolves around that…Anyways, that’s a tangent..

Children with smartphones today will grow up being watched more closely. I want to say it’s a Generation X parental mindset thing based on my Howard and Strauss readings. The spotlight will be on the Gen Z “New Silent generation”.

It’s kinda weird for us millennials, but I think we’ll just accept this technology with a “meh” and eventually grow out of our childhood nostalgia.

Elements of the Blockbuster Novel

Writing Tips

As I was looking at my old notes, I found this interesting note I thought i’d share. What are the elements of a block buster novel?

Here are some qualities, by literary agent/editor Al Zuckerman from his book,  the Blockbuster Novel:

1. High Stakes
2. Larger Than Life Characters – do extraordinary things by what they yearn, they do crazy things
3. Dramatic Question
4. High Concept [can be far-fetched, like Da Vinci Code maybe?]

5. Setting – unfamiliar, exotic environments

Big Scenes have:

1. Startling surprise
2. Built around a powerful conflict
3. Substantially alters the situation, hopes and dreams
4. Extends over a few pages
5. Core action stems from a characters yearning from the other
6. Intense action and emotion

I remember some ideas when I was in UCR’s Creative Writing Program:

  • Color all description with emotion; stain words with emotion (according to Goldberry Long in Creative Writing 101)
  • Use Family stories – all people can relate (my screenwriting professor)
  • Drama = Desire x Drive + Danger
  • The goal of a story is to Reveal Character (hammered to us by Reza Aslan in Advanced Survey of Create NonFiction). In prose, there is DDAR: Description, Dialogue, Action & Reaction

Out of the Ashes: Social Media & Personal Branding

I need to start ramping up on social media and get them followers. I guess that’s one of the goals for a writer’s platform.

I’m still thinking of a good handle though. I’m thinking of ajongdaydreams but it seems too long. I chose AJ Ong as my pen name originally for gender neutrality (kinda like JK Rowling did, but I’m having second thoughts.

Daydreams because my novel series is related to dreams, nightmares, virtual reality and such – and my content is mainly on video gaming, anime and fantastic places.

So still considering.. ajongthedreamer or ajongdreams

Anyways, after thinking more, I’ve decided on a to-do list:

  1. Gain more followers on IG & TW
  2. Post more relevant content
  3. Update wordpress pages

By the way, the feature image is from an anime Grimgar of fantasy and ash.

 

 

Checking In: Why Blog?

I’ve always been a lazy blogger, despite that being my primary task as a marketing specialist in my day jab. I’ve been working for this tech company in California since March, and I’m enjoying it, though it can be stressful.

There’s a multitude of reasons why I don’t blog as much (aside from my many distractions). I guess I don’t have a concrete goal for this blog yet – so far it’s been a repository of thoughts and cool stuff I find – but there’s Instagram for that nowadays. In this day and age, I wonder what value does the blog provide for aspiring authors?

I started Millennial Folklore years ago when I was a young writer. I still do write fiction. I’ve been going to the North East Los Angeles writers meetup almost every other Saturday and submitting work whenever I can. I’m about 100 pages in my rewrite of a novel I’ve been trying to write since 2010. Despite the 4 drafts/versions, I think I have a clearer grasp of the story now.

Maybe the goal of this blog is to connect with other writers. The written form is still valuable after all. It’s how we transmit thoughts, ideas and feelings, while other mediums tell stories in different ways. It’s always challenging to find like-minded writers, even at a writer’s group since our genres can be so different.

Since I go to comic con and similar geeky venues, maybe I could blog about these:

  • video games
  • VR/AR and other fun tech
  • fantasy books
  • anime

A blog is definitely a time investment – I would need to change the images all over the site, update the pages and write content consistently.

And I’m also debating if Twitter is still any good. If so what twitter handle i should go with..

  • ajongbooks
  • ajongthedreamer
  • ajongdreams
  • ajongwrites

 

Ex Machina – Themes and Structure

I did a little writing exercise to reverse engineer a plot of a favorite movie. Here’s the result of it where I break down the movie, Ex Machina – but if you havent seen the movie, please know that these are major SPOILERS:

Opening (Orginary World)

The main character (MC) is a guy in his mid/late twenties, single and living a not so exciting life.

The Call to Adventure (Inciting Incident / Catalyst)

The MC “wins” a contest of sorts to work with the company’s enigmatic boss. He is actually selected by the boss to participate in a top secret project.

At this point, the audience asks – why was he selected? where is he going?

There’s the Helicopter ride to a remote place- why so isolated? There’s a contrast to the natural beauty of the place to life in the city.

Meeting the boss (the Mentor) – who is this guy? why is he so weird? Wouldn’t a normal boss be much older and proper? Why is he all sweaty (having just worked out) and drunk so early?

His boss is being casual, and the rooms are all so high tech / gated, which adds to the feeling that this is an underground vault.

Refusal of the Call – though not explicittly refusing, the MC hesitates because all of this is sooo weird. His boss makes him sign a nondisclosure, and he protests “shouldnt I have a lawyer?”

And the boss responds, if you dont like it, you can go back.

Ava Session 1 – First Greetings – how smart is AVA?
He meets Ava…beautiful and enchanting.

The protagonist chooses not to refuse because he is in awe of the idea that his boss has cracked the code when in comes to fully sentient artificial intelligence.

End of Act1 (Lock) / First Threshold / Plot Point 1?

While in bed, the energy shutsdown and the MC is anxious (and curious). Like the audience, we ask, what is going on? Then he sees/watches Ava in her room. He begins to have feelings?

He manages to go to the main room and tries to make a phone call. Then his boss startles him – why is he always drunk?

That morning, the MC is startled by a japanese AI freely walking. She’s dressed almost like a geisha and acts more like a robot.

This was like a WTF moment. Why is she there? So out of place and sick…

Ava Session 2 – Flirting – why does she flirt?

The MC is taken aback – why is Ava so interested in him now?

All of the sudden the power goes out again, and Ava tells the MC that the boss is a liar: dont trust him!

We then have to ask, who is the boss, really? What is the secret

The boss mentions that “Sex” is possible with the AI; and the MC aks why does it need to be gendered?

At Dinner – Boss asks MC what Ava said – he decides not to say anything (The MC lies!)

Ava Session 3 – Ava shows the MC a picture of what she’s draw; she suggests an equilibrium – to learn more about him; asks if he is a good guy (hero); then she reveals it’s her who shuts down the power. Her desire is to see the world.

Montage – we see that Boss tears up the picture ~ AI has emotions
Interacting with the Japanese bot, who is a sex slave and also a dancer

Boss shows MC Ava’s brain & body

Japanese bot shows MC what she looks like – and MC cuts himself; doubts if he’s really human.

I think above is the Midpoint of Plot Point 2: The protagonist is fully changed after these revalations. He trusts Ava more than his own species and now decides to help her / learn the truth. He becomes passive to active.

Outside again, the MC keeps offering his boss drinks. The boss hints at the ending – that AI will rule over humans one day.

The MC gets soo drunk. MC grabs the card key and goes to the forbidden room, watching all the videos of Ava’s sisters – the failed experiments.

We see how sick this man is – how he created an Asian woman, all naked, and she screams in her bad accent, why wont you let me leave?

Many other trapped women destroy themselves in the process of trying to escape – it gets very disturbing here

The boss wakes up

The MC walks out safe, pretends he found his card on the floor.

Next day – Ava session, MC tells her the plan. He needs to get the boss drunk, then she will deactivate the power.

Boss doesnt drink – but says it’s the MC’s last day tomorrow – MC tries again, then the boss confronts him.

Full disclosure now – the boss chose him because he is a good guy and made Ava’s face based on his porn habits. He says she’s deceived him well, but they deceived him.

I think this may be the lowpoint – when thhe boss knocks him out, and Ava finally escapes. Ava now becomes the protagonist and struggles against her maker.

She and the japanese bot kill their maker.

The MC is still trapped in the room while he watches Ava dress up as a human being.

Ava wears the skin and dress of her sisters

Ava escapes and leaves MC

Helicopter ride (Magic flight escape?)

She blends in society

The end, full circle.

Eat, Pray, Love Thoughts

I just finished listening to the Eat Pray Love audiobook by Elizabeth Gilbert. I never watched the movie and I only got interested in this book because I really enjoyed her more recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

I enjoyed her travel writing when she was in Italy, especially how she described the food, culture and history of the place – but I felt that the 2nd part (India / Pray) really dragged on, and her finding Love in Indonesia, though interesting, was rather serendipitous.

I’m not really into the whole New Age / eastern spirituality thing so I got really bored and wanted to stop reading/listening….  I’m probably not her audience anyways, male, single, turning 28 – but I appreciate her yearlong journey to reorganize her life. I forced myself to finish the book.

Maybe I’m not reading it right. Maybe my narrative expectations aren’t appropriate for this kind of book. After all, she seems to be telling a candid account of her life in these places. So I look at it as a model. Maybe I could do my own version of Eat, Pray, Love (and not the parody, Drink, Play, F@#k). I think it’s an interesting mental exercise.

So maybe this year I’ll add a few sub-goals in my journey. I’m going to:

Eat – try out all the good restaurants in LA.
Pray -take time to meditate, have some quiet time to clear the mind
Love – “find balance between pleasure and spirituality” and love others, do good – is what I got from the book’s third part, and I guess love will come naturally.

2016 Goals: Write, Invest, Learn and Finish

Good mother of cow pearls, it’s been more than a year since I posted anything! You guys (subscribers) must be wondering if I’m still alive. Well yes! I guess I took a looong hiatus. Partially because work’s been taking a lot of my time away (and the addicting game Heroes of the Storm)..

2015 was a crazy year – I no longer live in Torrance, CA.  I moved to the San Gabriel Valley (that’s where tons of Chinese people live), but now live closer to the Pasadena area. My brother and his family moved to Plano, TX – so I’m practically all alone here now in CA; the rest of the family is in Asia.

Anyways, this year I will strive to blog more, or at least write more.

2016 Goals:

  • Finish my new novel, Verdant Skies (a rewrite of my 2014 nanowrimo attempt)
  • Learn more about Personal Finance (Making proper investments, including investing in myself!)
  • Career change (I’m thinking front end development and got a backlog of courses to finish)

***

So it’s the 2nd half of January now. So far what have I been doing?

#1 Goal – To Finish a Novel

It’s been 6 years since I last finished a novel (a 300+ page mystery that never saw the light of day). I’ve learned that writing is just like any art, like playing an instrument – you gotta use this muscle or else it will atrophy! So that’s what I’ve been trying to do more often.

I am on my 2nd revision of Verdant Skies. I figured out what my problem was back in 2014 and before that – I didn’t know what the overarching goal or plot was. I just jammed all my cool ideas together.

So now I’ve simplified the story to “A group of teenagers go on an adventure to find a mysterious lost city within a massive multiplayer virtual reality game”. It’s a mystery adventure in a nutshell.  Like Ready Player One meets .hack  or James Dashner’s Mortality Doctrine meets Tad William’s Otherland series told in a Sword Art Online novel.  But really, I want to think of it as a bunch of kids inside the Jules Verne novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Anyways, I recently joined the North East Los Angeles writer’s meetup (formerly known as the Pasadena Writers) so I’m hoping I’ll get spurred to finally finish this book. I’ve also been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast more. I’ll write more on these later.

Books I’ve recently read or listened to in audio book –

Big Magic –  Elizabeth Gilbert

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan

Maoyu (manga)

Clockwork Princess – Cassandra Clare

You’re Never Weird on the Internet – Felicia Day

~ I’m currently too lazy to write reviews, but if you comment below, I *might* attempt to do so~