Archive for February, 2014

Last Saturday, February 22, 2014, CBW-LA was lucky to have middle grade mystery maven Kristen Kittscher, author of WIG IN THE WINDOW as its speaker.

After a short introduction (in which I struggled to read Kristen’s amazing bio from my smartphone’s tiny screen), Kristen immediately launched into the workshop.

kristen reading


Kristen began by reiterating that voice is a personal element, something that cannot be taught, but can be learned through experience. She set the tone of the workshop by inviting participants to actively explore the concept of voice with her. She asked participants to answer two questions:

  1. What do you think is voice?
  2. What are your fears about voice?

Participants gave a variety of responses. Some said voice had to do with perspective, or tone or feeling, others said it had to do with personality or knowing the characters very well, while others said voice is specific to the writer.

They also shared their fears about the concept of voice: having whiny characters or an unreliable narrator, of having to juggle too many voices within the story, and of having too much voice.

lecture voice


Kristen reminded us that despite our many fears, we do not have to worry about voice. She says:

“There is something in a person’s voice that is consistent in the background. You don’t have to worry about that because that’s in you already. It’s like worrying about your fingerprints. We want to demystify this idea that there is something outside of you that you need to learn today. Voice is already in you. This is something that only writing solidifies over time.”

She shared a favorite quote by Neil Gaman:

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”

—Neil Gaiman

Remembering this, Kristen says, will help us not worry about our fears too much.

“Worrying that the audience won’t like it is kind of like worrying that the people won’t like you, which we deal with on a regular basis over and over again, and that we probably should get over, because we are ourselves.”

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Kristen chose excerpts from 6 different middle grade books as samples of the different voices across the middle grade genre. Participants were assigned two excerpts each, and paired off with a partner. Each person read their assigned excerpt and wrote down everything they noticed about the group. Once they were done writing down their observations, each person would turn to their partners and share their discoveries.

A class discussion followed afterward. Kristen wrote down everyone’s observation on the whiteboard and broke each one down for the group. She emphasized that if we put voice outside of ourselves, that’s where the fear comes in:

“Everything has a voice automatically. It’s just what kind of voice is it? Maybe it’s a boring voice that doesn’t grab you.”  



Kristen shared some fun exercises to further illustrate voice.


A few participants shared their fun pieces, and some had the class rolling with laughter.

One of the things Kristen taught was the group was that one of the things that middle grade writers should be wary of, is using adult comparisons to describe an object.

To put participants back in the middle grade mindset, Kristen asked them to call out some memories from their childhood. A freewrite followed immediately afterward where participants wrote about a childhood memory. One tip Kristen gave in case participants got stuck was to write “I remember…” and finish the sentence with a childhood memory.


Towards the end of the workshop, Kristen shared her own personal journey to publication, along with tips and techniques on how to develop voice.

Here are a few of Kristen’s most inspiring thoughts:

“One of the most important things you need to do to get back to voice, is to not criticize yourself yet. Don’t look analytically at anything. When you’re feeling stuck—the beauty of writing is that nobody’s there in your room and nobody’s gonna see it. The other thing is that you don’t have a finite amount of material in you and it’s over. You can keep going and keep creating things. “


“A lot of people ask me how long did it take to write your book, and I don’t think I know the answer to that question. Because I would remember coming up with that idea, and then I took up golf, and then I played with my puppy and hung out with my friends. I feel like we call it time, we talk about having time, but writing has nothing to do with time (although it does take time). But we are making choices all the time about how to use it, and most of the time we’re worried. It has more to do with fear….It probably would have taken me nine months if I hadn’t wasted so much time. But I don’t like to think about it as wasting, but some of it was that I wasn’t in the right mindset. And the way to get yourself in the right mindset is to just practice over and over again, have rituals and just keep writing and keep on doing these exercises…”


“I like giving a voice to kids, giving them fancy words, because their emotions are bigger than what they can express. Part of what we’re doing in writing for children is giving names to things, and to do it in the way that it captures that wonder or excitement or confusion, but helping them give a name to it.”


“Kids see complexity, too. Even if the language is simple like in Linda Irvin’s Hound Dog True, the language is simple but the feeling behind it isn’t simple at all. If you can tap into those emotions and feelings, you’re never going to be out of date…Just take the things that you remember and find the equivalent. Like if you remember using blackboards, ask kids what they use nowadays—maybe a smart board with wires…”

 The workshop ended with a Q & A, and a book signing session immediately followed. We even had a short photo shoot so we could have a souvenir of our fun workshop.



All the participants came away inspired and ready to write, thanks to Kristen’s wonderful workshop.

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TWN WWW 300very Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Natalie Aguirre, blogger at the awesome Literary Rambles!

Welcome, Natalie!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

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Natalie Aguirre

 I’m an attorney at a pre-paid legal services plan for UAW workers who work for the auto companies. Our company’s contract was not renewed in the last UAW contract so we’ll be closing in 2014 and I will be making a career change next year.

I blog at Literary Rambles ( with my blog partner, Casey McCormick. I primarily promote debut MG and YA authors through interviews where they share advice and I give away their books. And Casey spotlights agents who represent PB, MG and YA authors.

I love to write upper middle grade and YA fantasy stories. My interests are writing, reading, and blogging. With a full-time demanding job, a daughter who is a high school swimmer, and a home to take care of, I don’t have time for any other hobbies, though I do like gardening and cooking. I don’t know if I have any talents except that I work hard just about every day.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I don’t have an office or a desk. Our house isn’t big enough for that. I used to write at the dining room table in the late fall, winter, and early spring.


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I’d move to my new sunroom for the rest of the year.


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But then I got my sweet puppy.


Ellie Mae Picture 3


And now my desk is a TV tray so I can sit on a chair or my bed with her. But I’m hoping to move back to my other work spaces as she grows older.


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2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

Sorry, but I just bought a cheap dining room table years ago and a fold up table for the sun room. We’re not big on spending money on furniture.


3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I really just need my laptop. I love it and couldn’t live without it anymore. I don’t really need anything else. I keep all my writing notes in word documents. I do like post-its to write notes to myself.


4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

The thing I like most about my space is that it’s mobile because it’s my laptop.


5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Coffee. I’m a total coffee addict. It’s how I survive my super long days.

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

Like many authors, reading the Harry Potter series inspired me to write. I had a snippet of an idea for a story and started it one day. That was all it took to hook me on writing.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

Because I work full-time and take care of the house, my daughter, and my husband who has serious lung problems, I don’t have a typical day. I have to squeeze it in between my job and taking care of my family. It’s usually early in the morning, during my lunch break, and a few hours on weekends.

My only ritual would be to make a pot of coffee before I start writing. And I do like to revise the last few pages I’ve worked on before moving on in the manuscript.


3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I write every day for my blog, which takes most of my writing time. I’m working on cutting back on my blogging next year to allow myself more time to work on my manuscripts. I can go for weeks without working on my manuscript because of the blogging and my other responsibilities. But when I do get into it, say I’m working on a major revision, I can write for an hour or more a day and a few hours a weekend.

I just have had to accept that right now this is the best I can do. Because I’m also working on new job skills for my job search next year and helping my daughter with her college and scholarship search.

I do hope to have more time to write when I get laid off from my job next spring/summer. And I know as my daughter moves through her senior year next year that I’ll start having more time to myself which I can use to write.


4. Why do you write?

I love finding a creative part of myself I didn’t know existed. Honestly, I wouldn’t write if I didn’t really enjoy it because it takes all of the little free time I have.


5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

Do persist and don’t give up. From all of my interviews of debut authors at Literary Rambles, I’ve seen that the reason they got published is that they kept writing and submitting to agents. But be practical too. If your family needs you to work, don’t quit that day job unless your writing career really takes off financially. You can follow your writer dream and take care of your family. And it’s okay if the journey has to be slower because you need to work to support your family.





Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Natalie!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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Writing is a Selfish Task But It Needs to Be

I’ve always put family and friend duties, work responsibilities, writing group tasks, and other schedules ahead of my writing. When a family member or friend calls for help, I drop whatever I’m doing and help out. Sometimes the task is simple and takes fifteen minutes. Other times, the task requires all of my mental and physical powers and hours later, the task for a loved one is done but I am left too exhausted to return to the task I was originally doing for myself –usually writing or editing. Same goes for all the groups I belong to. When beloved writing organizations and other social groups ask, I deliver. Whatever little writing time I have left is often taken up by menial but necessary chores such as keeping the house livable and getting the bills paid.

We all play different roles. As much as I am a writer, I am also a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend, a leader, a worker, a blogger, a martial artist. If I am to be happy, I must find a way to balance the time I spend on all the things that matter to me.

As it stands, however, the one role which I tend to set aside often is my role as writer. Why? Because it is the one role above all that directly relates to ME and me alone. All the other roles point to relationships I have with others.

I was brought up to put others needs before my own, and there really is nothing wrong with that. But when I started writing with the goal of publication in mind, I realized that this way of thinking needed to be changed. If I kept on putting everything else (dirty laundry, messy house, socializing, etc) before my own writing, I would never get published or I would never get published within the timeline I’ve set for myself.

Generosity and selflessness are traits I value greatly in myself and in others. But just because these are good traits we should all strive for, it doesn’t mean that the opposite traits are necessarily evil.

The thing is, life is all about balance. As bad as they sound, stinginess and selfishness actually have a use in our lives.

To be stingy means to be hesitant to give or spend in terms of time or money. To be selfish means to be dedicated to caring for oneself or primarily concerned with one’s interests. Both are necessary if one is one is to achieve success in writing.

Writing is a selfish task, but it needs to be.

To be a writer (or any creative artist, for that matter), one must put her art and craft above most things. Writers must demand time for themselves, away from loved ones and day jobs and adult responsibilities. Craft can get better only with constant practice. Voice can be instinctive, but needs to be developed and nurtured. Good art cannot be rushed.

Others may think of us writers as selfish people. They may not understand that the time we spend daydreaming, and reading, and writing is a necessary for our happiness. But writing for us, isn’t a hobby or a passing dream. It is for us, as essential as air and food and water. Writing fulfills an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual need. We may write to escape, to fulfill our fantasies, or to leave a mark in the world, but we all write because we need to.

Author Justine Musk explains this need beautifully in her post: why you need to write like a bad girl, part two: selfish


“The need to write isn’t about the desire to find meaning in the world, but to make meaning. If you have it, you know it; it’s lived inside you from a young age and will never leave. It will continue to call and nag and eat away at your soul until you start to do something about it. To deny it, to allow others to deny it, is to kill off a part of your personhood.”

Writing is not only what we do. It is who we are. And it is an injustice to deny ourselves the joy of being, simply because other people might perceive it as silly, or juvenile or meaningless or useless.

Writing is an important element of our personality, our spirit, and we must stop thinking of it as something we can set aside, simply because others around us may not understand its joys. Happiness is something we must all strive for, because the happier we are, the more productive we are as a part of society.

Balance is hard to achieve, but it is a must if we are to lead a happy, productive life. For writers, balance means making sure that the time we dedicate to ourselves and our craft is equal to the time we devote to others.  

Time is a writer’s currency. But unlike money, time is finite. It is something we cannot produce more of, something that once spent cannot be made again. Time is a writer’s most valuable asset and every moment spent not working on our craft is a moment we cannot make up for again.

We must make every heartbeat count.

This is a mantra which I strive to live by, a mantra which I’ve shared to all my students. (It’s the one thing I hope they remember above all the lessons I taught during their English classes.)

Steve Jobs once said:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

The reality is, we don’t know how much time we are all given on this earth, and we need to make sure every second of our lives is spent doing a task that means something to us. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones or spending time working on a craft we love.

Be a wonderful parent, a super spouse/partner, a good child, a great friend, an efficient leader and a studious worker. But also strive to be a real writer. Your relationships are all important, but YOU are important too. Your happiness matters just as much as other people’s. So go ahead and be selfish, and know that the people who truly love you will understand.

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I’ve been practicing Filipino Martial Arts for years, yet I never realized its global impact until I watched a documentary called THE BLADED HAND.


The documentary features many interviews with Masters and Grandmasters of the various styles, systems and schools of Filipino Martial Arts—both in the Philippines and abroad. It talks about the roots of Filipino Martial Arts and its rising global impact in both military and law enforcement and fight choreography for Hollywood films and television.

Many foreign police/military agencies actually import Masters to teach them Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) to use in their line of work.

As for FMA’s use in movies, I knew that Bruce Lee was friends with Filipino Martial Arts Master Dan Inosanto, but I didn’t know that Bruce Lee had trained in it and actually used it in his films. Many popular movies have used FMA in their fight choreography including Mission Impossible 3, The Bourne Identity Series, Blade, Equilibrium (one of my favorite movies), Chronicles of Riddick, The Book of Eli, Repo Men, Kick Ass and the most recent I, Frankenstein.

Here’s a video below showing some movies featuring Filipino Martial Arts:


Filipino Martial Arts has been used in many more movies and TV shows (like ARROW), but none of these films or shows tell you upfront what kind of martial art they’re using. You only find out when you watch the DVD extras or cast interviews.

The problem is that unlike of the more popular martial arts, FMA is relatively new and doesn’t have a recognizable Hollywood icon to promote it. Wing Chun has Ip Man and Bruce Lee, Muay Thai has the Ong Bak movies and even Tai Chi has Man of Tai Chi (starring Keanu Reeves). Whenever people see FMA in the cinema, they don’t recognize it as such. They think it’s just another form of kung fu or karate.

I think it falls upon Filipino Martial Artists to promote their culture and their art. I am fortunate enough to be one, so I’ve taken up the challenge to spread the word about FMA whenever I can. I use Filipino Martial Arts in my own stories and hope to blog about it whenever I am able. In fact, I’m thinking of devoting an entire month to promoting the sport. Though this is a writing blog, the knowledge of Filipino Martial Arts might spark stories and inspire writers to use it in their work. I know it’s tremendously impacted my own writing.

In line with this, I wanted to promote an event which will take place tomorrow, February 22nd, 2014 in Glendale, California.My FMA Master, Erwin Mosqueda, will take part in this epic seminar.  (I wish I had promoted this much earlier, but I’d already scheduled my posts ahead of time.)

Anyway, if you’re in the area, are interested in learning more about Filipino Martial Arts, and also want to keep on helping out the victims of last year’s Philippine hurricane, read on:


A FIGHTING CHANCE: A Filipino Martial Arts Charity Seminar


Announcing: “A Fighting Chance” A Filipino Martial Arts Charity Seminar

Saturday, February 22, 2014 8:15am – 5:00pm
Where: Incarnation Community Center Gym (214 W. Fairview Avenue in Glendale, California)

Fee: Tickets are $50 per person to join up to 4 workshops of their choice. $80 to join any workshops during the course of the day.

 For spectators the price is $10 per session or $20 for the day.

All proceeds to benefit the Hurricane Haiyan victims in the islands.

fighting chance

From event organizer Philip Oshiro:
Why is it called, “A Fighting Chance”? In FMA, we often drill ‘counter for counter’ and when someone is stumped they’ll eventually ask, ‘What’s the counter for that one?”. Considering the damage and incredibly negative impact Typhoon Haiyan caused the islands, it’s not surprising that many of the victims still need help. A lot of help. This seminar is our counter. We’re not alone here….

The Rotary Club of Historic Filipinotown, the Kombat Kali Klub, Gigie Alunday Baker and Celina Taganas-Duffy are working together to produce this event. The Rotary Club of Historic Filipinotown is working with a Rotary Club in Cebu to offer aid, (food, clothing, blankets, medicine, etc.), to those in need at a grass roots level. This means less administrative costs and more direct assistance, which mean each dollar makes a bigger difference. To see work that the Rotary Club has provided, please visit We’ve been grateful for all of the people who are coming forward to help us with this event. There will be food trucks, training gear for sale and we just found out that there’s a 90% chance the Filipino Club at UCLA will be performing a dance at lunch. We guarantee you’ll have a great time.

What instructors will be there? “A Fighting Chance” will be an all-day event. We have firm commitments from some of the most talented and skilled martial arts Grandmasters and Masters in Southern California. We did our best to come up with a diverse group. Each will be offering 50-minute workshops and some will perform demos. They are: Grandmaster Ramon Rubia, (San Miguel Doce Pares) Master Felix Valencia (Valencia Lameco) Master Joe Tan (Tapado Arnis) Master Erwin Mosqueda (Doce Pares Multi-Style System) Grandmaster Nonato “Nene” Gaabucayan (Balintawak) Grandmaster Felix Roiles (Pakamut) Guro Victor Gendrano Jr. (Filipino Martial Heritage & Inosanto Academy) Master Rino Balinado (Necopa-Balintawak Eskrima) Master Nick Papadakis (Pekiti Tirsia Kali & Dog Brothers Martial Arts) Manong Faustino Caigoy (Jack Santos Method)

Due to limited space, RSVPs are mandatory for this event. To RSVP, email with “A Fighting Chance” in the subject line and include all attendee’s full names in the email message. Tickets will be cash at the door or if you’d like to pre-register or simply make a donation, write a check payable to “RC Historic Filipinotown” and mail it to: RC Historic Filipinotown, c/o Ben Aranda, 1644 Royal Blvd., Glendale, CA 91207.

For more information, please contact the Kombat Kali Klub at or call: Philip Oshiro, Kombat Kali Klub (310) 383-7844 Thank You, and hope to see you there!
Rotary Club of Historic Filipinotown

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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Tyrean Martinson, author of Champion in the Darkness (The Champion Trilogy)


You can also find her blogging at Tyrean’s Writing Spot.

Welcome, Tyrean!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

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Author Tyrean Martinson


I’m a teacher, and a writer, but by the world’s standards and most tax forms, I’m a stay at home mom, a crazy homeschooling parent, a dance mom, and a volunteer. My daughters home-school, which means I am their teacher, or at least their coach. They are both older now and they don’t do all their lessons from my lap any more. I find curriculum, talk to them about their goals, and set up an environment where they can learn. I answer questions, discuss big concepts, and sometimes I teach them a little something extra that’s not covered in the curriculum we use.

I’m also a literature and writing teacher at a home-school co-operative where we attend classes once a week. I’m teaching three classes this year, which means I lecture, lead discussions, give writing feedback, grade papers, and assign homework for the week. I love teaching, reading, and writing, so teaching lit and writing classes is really fun.

My main hobbies are bicycling, skiing, reading, writing, volunteering with the youth at my church and singing once in a while with the praise team. Sometimes I think about joining a fencing club, or getting back into tap dancing classes, but at the moment I just fiddle with those hobbies at home. My only hidden talent is . . . hanging a spoon from my nose . . . er, I mean, goofiness. Most people seem to think that I’m serious, until they get to know me a little better, and then the goofy part of me comes out.

  Goofy Family modifiedTyrean’s “Goofy” family


On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

Usually I write at my laptop on our dining room table, although I also write in dance studio lobbies with my laptop on my lap. I have a desk, but it’s in a cubby in my room, and I rarely ever write there.

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Tyrean’s Dance Studio

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

When I’m at a dance studio, I just have my laptop on my lap, a cup of tea or a bottle of water by my side, and sometimes a notebook filled with ideas by my feet.

At the dining room table, which doubles as our home-schooling space, I have a notebook, scattered papers, sticky notes, and pens piled next to my laptop and behind it.

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Tyrean’s Workspace

I have a book shelf with writing books in a near hallway, but I sometimes get too distracted reading them, so I’ve learned to keep them shelved unless I’m completely in need of a writing prompt to keep going.

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Another view of the dance studio

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I have to have a notebook and pen next to my laptop, and a cup of tea. Oh, and I need a source of natural light, or a window into a dance room. For some reason, I have to have that sensation of being able to look beyond the room I’m in while writing. Those are the essentials. Sometimes I feel a need to scatter papers (usually loglines, character profiles or rough drafts) next to me, to feel like I have an starting point, or at least proof that I know where I’m going.


4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

Mainly I crave a source of natural light, and a sense of space and horizon – either a window to the outdoors, or a window into a dance studio lobby, for some reason having a window gives me a sense of wonder that spurs my imagination.


5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Vanilla Chai tea with coconut milk and honey, although Throwback Pepsi and Cherry Coke Zero work too.

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On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

This is tough. I don’t remember who inspired me to write at first. I’ve loved C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia for a long, long time,and his writing definitely inspires me.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I used to write every morning before my kids woke up, but lately I’ve been biking with my husband in the mornings and filling a need for healthy exercise so my writing time has switched to afternoons and evenings and at best has been sporadic.


3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I spend between ten minutes and 90 minutes a day on my writing. It depends on the day. I try to always fit in ten minutes. My biggest distraction is books. I love to read, and sometimes when my writing seems terrible, I would rather pick up a book that might cheer me up. I call it research, but sometimes it gets in the way of writing.

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Tyrean’s Writing Distractions

4. Why do you write?

I write because there are too many stories in my head, and books that haven’t been written because they are still stuck in my imagination. I’ve walked into book shops with money to spend and walked out with the money still in my pocket and a burning desire to write the story that I couldn’t find on the shelves, the one that’s living in my imagination at that moment. I also write because I love the concept of storytelling, in any form.

book on the bookshelf

Tyrean’s book “Champion” in  bookstore shelf

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

Just write. (Taken from Nike’s Just do it.)

Just Keep Writing. (a twist on Dory’s advice in Finding Nemo)


“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison (When I read this the first time, I thought, wow, someone else feels that way too!”






Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Tyrean!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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Let It Go

The main thing I love about my day job is that I get to write as long as I finish my work for the day. On a good day I can write about two chapters.  So this month, I set a schedule for myself to edit at least two chapters a day. If I follow this schedule faithfully, I’ll finish editing my YA book by the end of the month.

As of this writing I am 8 chapters behind.

Now that I’m at the two week mark, I honestly don’t know if my plan will follow through. On top of writing group assignments for CBW-LA and SCBWI and other personal duties, work has been crazy busy. I’m lucky if I even get to edit a chapter a day.

My martial arts classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays so I do have time the rest of the week to write or edit. But as soon as I get home I lack the mental energy to work on my manuscript. My body just wants to eat and sleep after a long day of work, and often I put other duties ahead of my own writing.

It does get frustrating. Mostly I get annoyed at myself for not having enough energy or discipline or willpower to stick to my schedule. But I’ve come to realize that I’m only stressing myself out further by focusing on the negatives instead of the positives. Instead of obsessing on the fact that I don’t get two chapters done a day, I should actually give myself props for doggedly working on my manuscript every day (even if it is only one chapter, or half a chapter).

My goal hasn’t changed. I still aim to finish editing my manuscript by the end of the month. But if I don’t finish the chapters I’ve set for myself from Monday to Friday, I’m not going to stress out. I’m just going to try and do my best to catch up on the weekends. And if that doesn’t work, well, I’ll still be happy that I managed to even work on my manuscript every day this month, despite my crazy schedule.

I let it go. I let the stress go by letting the expectations go. Because really, the most important thing is that I devote time, however little, to actually work on my craft.

Speaking of letting go, I do love that song from Frozen. Here are some of my favorite versions of the song:


Letting Go (Frozen) Africanized Tribal Version By Alex Boye, Lexi Walker and the One Voice Children’s Choir:



Letting Go (Frozen) Cover by Christina Bianco. Such a talented comedian and singer! She does one song using many famous voices (Adele, Brittney Spears, Alanis, Julie Andrews to name a few). 


Are there things you need to let go of?

Have you watched Frozen? Do you have a favorite version of this song? 



A Scene from Disney’s “Frozen”

Let It Go  – Lyrics from Disney’s Frozen (Sung by Idina Menzel):

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,
not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.
Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go!
Can’t hold it back any more.
Let it go, let it go!
Turn away and slam the door.
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.

It’s funny how some distance,
makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do,
to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
I’m free!

Let it go, let it go.
I am one with the wind and sky.
Let it go, let it go.
You’ll never see me cry.
Here I’ll stand, and here I’ll stay.
Let the storm rage on.

My power flurries through the air into the ground.
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back; the past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go.
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn.
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand, in the light of day.

Let the storm rage on!
The cold never bothered me anyway…


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Valentines Day Post: My Top 14 Romantic Movies

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m not one to celebrate this day, but I realize that Valentine’s isn’t just about celebrating your love for that special someone. It’s about celebrating LOVE. :0  So take this day to say I love you to all the people who mean something to you –whether it be your parents, your kids, your special someone, the friends who have been there forever, or the bloggers who never fail to spread the love.

That being said, to my wonderful bloggy friends whose support is so appreciated, I love you all!

And just because I feel like it today, I thought I’d share my Top 14 Romantic Movies.

Here they are in no particular order:







love actually





never been kissed


notting hill




the notebook






walk to remember



wedding singerimagine me and you



wedding singer


You've Got Mail


What’s your favorite romantic movie of all time?


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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Shannon Lawrence, author of that fun blog The Warrior Muse.

 Welcome, Shannon !


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

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Author Shannon Lawrence

I procrastinate for a living, or at least it seems that way these days. Actually, I’m a stay-at-home mom and consummate volunteer for local writer’s groups. At this time, I’m Director of Non-Conference Events for Pikes Peak Writers, as well as the Managing Editor for their official blog. I write horror and urban fantasy, in addition to freelance articles on various topics like parenting and travel. My hobbies include photography and hiking. I have many hidden talents, but they’re hidden for a reason. Okay, just kidding, but I’m having trouble thinking of what my hidden talents might be. This is why I was never Miss America (among other reasons).



On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing in my brand spanking new office! Actually, I do most of my novel and article writing here in my office, but my short fiction gets written out and about, for the most part, at places like Village Inn, Pikes Perk (a neat little coffee shop here), Blue Sage (a restaurant walking distance from my house), or yes, even Starbucks.


2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

My desk came from Craig’s List. Well, that’s just a website, so it would be impossible to get the desk from there directly, but we found it via CL. My office isn’t a perfect square, and it has French doors (I’m such a fan) and a nice big window, so we had to arrange my “L” shaped desk where it would fit best. Everything else was arranged according to the space remaining.

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This is my workspace. The little board on the wall to the right of the computer monitor is for daily word count.

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I have a statue on my desk of End of the Trail, the sculpture that inspired my blog name, The Warrior Muse. It always inspires me. I don’t see him as a beaten warrior, but one who has fought and survived. Also necessary on my desk is my mint and rosemary lotion, which I love to put on my hands before I start typing (the smell now signifies time to start writing), and my journals for each novel, as well as my overall idea journal.


4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I love most of all that there’s no longer a guest bed taking up ¾ of my workspace! Don’t get me wrong, I loved my old office just by virtue of having an office. My office used to be the dining room table. But I find it so much less distracting to really have an office that is JUST THAT. The aforementioned lotion and journals are favorite items that are used often.

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Some of my favorite things in my office, including my giant boring mug o’ water

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Oh man, I’m going to be boring on this one. I mostly drink ice water. I’m terrible at hydrating myself, so I keep a giant mug full of ice water on hand at all times so I’ll remember to drink. I also like various herbal hot teas and an evening snack of chocolate milk (Ovaltine and vanilla almond milk).

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One of my favorite pics (hubby and I)

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

My favorite authors right now are Stephen King, Kelley Armstrong, and Kim Harrison. Stephen King was my original inspiration to write. I’m not a squeeing fan-girl type, but I if I ever get the opportunity to meet him, I will squee my brains out (likely just in my head, but still). I actually missed getting tickets this past week when he was in Boulder and I’m still depressed about that. Sob.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I’m a sprint writer, so I don’t necessarily have a typical day. I may sit down to write every day, but I’m just as likely (if not moreso) to go days without writing then sit down and churn out thousands of words in one sitting. My ritual is to slather on my rosemary mint lotion.


3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I don’t necessarily write every day. When I do, I try to spend several hours at it. There are days where I write from morning to night, with breaks to cook dinner and such. My worst writing distractions are six- and eight-years old, but Facebook is a close second.


4. Why do you write?

This is probably a clichéd answer, but I don’t know how NOT to. The stories live within me whether I write them or not, but they want so badly to be written down. I love to put them down “on paper,” to read them again later. I enjoy developing the worlds I’m writing about. I’m at peace when I’m writing.


5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

My biggest tip is to do what you can to keep learning, but also to stay true to yourself. I firmly support attending conferences, workshops, free writing events, and writer/author gatherings. You can learn so much, and you also leave any one of these things feeling inspired, your creative juices flowing. The second part, though, is that no matter what you learn from others, don’t let it kill the way you write. These are your stories, not collective stories created by you and those around you. Advice and education are fantastic, but they don’t replace the story that lives within you. Ever.

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” E.L. Doctorow




Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Shannon!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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CBW-LA’s third Kickstarting Your Writing Career Workshop last January 11th, 2014, was divided into five parts:

I. Reflection: Where Are You on the Write Path?

II. Reflection: What Do You See at the End of the Write Path?

III. Publishing 101

IV. Tools to Kickstart Your Writing Career

V. Making a Commitment to Your Writing Career.

kickstarting writing 1

In Part 1, participants were asked to reflect on their writing past and present. They had to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What kind of writer are you?
  3. When did your writing journey begin?


In Part 2, the following questions challenged participants to look ahead into their writing futures:

  1. Why do you want to be a writer?
  2. Where do you want your writing to take you?
  3. How will you achieve the kind of writing career you want?

kickstarting writing 2

In order to achieve their writing dreams, participants first had to come face to face with publishing reality.

In the third part of the workshop, they were introduced to the publishing process and the key paths to publication: Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing and Other publishing options such as In-Progress publishing, Blogs and Websites, Fanfiction and Crowdfunding.

In Part 4 of the workshop, participants were given a list of tools to kickstart their writing careers. Worksheets also helped participants develop their mission-vision, as well as list down their writing goals. They were given templates to help them get started on a five-year writing career plan, as well as templates to get their schedules and goals organized.

With the many publishing options now available, all writers need to do is to figure out what kind of writing career they desire, and commit to it.

The final portion of the workshop encouraged participants to take their writing dreams seriously by fully committing to it. Committing to being a writer means keeping true to the “write” path and keeping the promises they’ve made to themselves. These promises can be as simple as finishing a draft or trying their best to get published.

 kickstarting writing 3

Workshop participants wrote the following words down as part of their personal writing contract:


I am a writer.

              I will commit time and patience into achieving my writing goals.

              This year, my biggest writing goals are:

  • List down your biggest goal/s for each role you plan to fulfill: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

I will do everything in my power to have the writing future I envision.

                I will become an author.


Once they’d written the words, they signed and dated their writing contract and asked fellow attendees to sign as witnesses.

Participants left with tons of handouts, worksheets, templates, a renewed passion for writing, and a sense of how to take their writing to the next level.

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Enders Launch

Last month , I went on a whirlwind blog tour to promote Story Sprouts: CBW-LA Writing Day Exercises and Anthology 2013, so I wasn’t able to tell you much about the happenings in my corner of the world.

So today, allow me to get you caught up on at least one of these fun happenings.

Exactly a month ago, on January 7th, I attended the book launch for ENDERS, the last book in Lissa Price’s Starters Duology.

It was a Tuesday night, and L.A. traffic was crazy as usual, but lots of fans and friends turned up at Vroman’s in Pasadena to celebrate with Lissa.




After being introduced by Vroman’s events manager, Lissa took up the podium. She shared the story of Starters, her journey to publication, and the whirlwind book tour in Europe that happened last summer.

Two high school seniors re-enacted a scene from the book between Callie, the main protagonist, and Hyden, her love interest.

renacting the scene


After the reading, Lissa gave away some raffle prizes. A few lucky people won books donated by Lissa’s author friends.


The signing line was long and filled with the excited buzz of friends and fans. Maiko and I got our signed copies, of Enders, of course.


with lissa


Lissa, being the generous person that she is, also invited guests to the after party at the nearby El Portal restaurant.

after  party


The night wound done with good food and good company.

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