Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thai Red Curry

In yet another attempt to get the food I want without having to pay restaurant prices, I went on a quest to figure out how to make Thai Red Curry. Yes, a quest. I love curry—Indian, Japanese, Thai, everything—and so does my husband. It's kind of our comfort food, especially in the winter. Recently my husband has fallen in love with Thai curries (his first love was Japanese, as he spent time living there), so it made sense that I add this to my ever-growing repertoire of Asian-origin dishes instead of dropping 20 bucks on dinner out.

Well it turned out great! And it wasn't too hard to make as far as curries go.

Thai Red Curry
(Note: This recipe is spicy. I like heat, and this is about "medium hot" to "hot" for me. Heat depends a lot on the paste you get or the peppers you use to make your own, so it's hard to gauge just how much curry paste will make your curry too hot. If you're worried about heat, start with less paste and work up by adding more until it's right for you)

• 2 tbs. red curry paste (I got mine at the Asian store, which is where I have to get most anything "exotic" in Utah.)
• 2 cans coconut milk
• 2 tbs sesame oil (or any oil on hand, though peanut or sesame will create a deeper flavor)
• 1-2 tsp salt
• 1-2 tbs fish sauce (you can sub soy sauce if you don't like fish sauce)
• 3 tbs brown sugar
• 1 tsp paprika (optional: for color)

• 1 large chicken breast, cubed (other meat options: beef, pork, shrimp)
• 1 green pepper, sliced
• 1 red pepper, sliced
• 1 sm. zucchini, halved long-wise and sliced
• 1 onion, halved and sliced
• 2-3 cups bean sprouts
• 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
(Other veggie options: carrot, potato, bamboo shoots, peas, basically what you enjoy)

1. In a deep, large skillet, pour sesame oil and heat. Add red curry paste and warm, then add the coconut milk and stir until smooth.

2. As mixture heats, add fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, and paprika. Taste to adjust the flavor to your personal preference. Add more curry paste if not spicy enough.

3. Cut chicken breast into small pieces and add to curry, cook until chicken is mostly done. About 5 mins or so.

4. Add longest cooking vegetables first and fastest cooking last. In this recipe, that order is green and red pepper, onion (wait a few minutes for these to cook some), then zucchini, bean sprouts, and basil. Simmer curry until the vegetable are tender, but not too soft or mushy. Should have a fresh taste.

5. Serve curry in a bowl (preferably a large one, according to me) with a side of rice. Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Writers: Having Fun

My new favorite title in all existence. (via @sarahlapolla) Makes me SO HAPPY.

So it's been awhile since I've done a Happy Writers Society post. It wasn't that I was UNhappy, but I guess lately I've felt like I've covered many topics and I was having trouble coming up with new ones.

Actually, I've been a really happy writer lately! I almost feel guilty about how much I've been enjoying my work. Sometimes it feels like maybe I'm doing it wrong if I'm having fun. Of course that's not true, but you get that sense at times. We should be suffering for our art. It should be hard always.

I don't think so, honestly. I think we slog through the rough parts because we know how great the good times are. When we're having a good time? Dude, I say ENJOY it to its fullest. And, yeah, maybe other people will be offended by your happiness, but that really says more about them than you. I've had to learn about that lately, the whole not letting other people stop me from being happy with what I have.

So I'll admit it—I'm having FUN right now! I've been through a lot of hard stuff, and it makes this part all the sweeter. I've turned in revisions. I have another project I love to clean up. AND I have a new story I've just started writing. Things are flowing. I'm feeling really good about my work for the first time in...oh...two years? I want to hold on to this feeling as long as I can, because I know the darker ones are always lurking.

Have fun with your writing. I know it can be hard when writing becomes tangled up in the pursuit of publishing, but try not to let go of writing and what it gives you. Treasure the good moments. Don't waste them in worrying about what might come next.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So Predictable

While every novel has its own challenges, it's quite scary how I find myself repeating the same phases. (My friends, too. It's adorable, and I love reminding them that they freaked out about the same exact thing LAST time, ha.)

My phases go kinda like this:

1. Falling Fast and Hard
When the idea hits, I'm so a love-at-first-sight writer. I grab on and dive in with nary a thought to anything else. I just want to BE with my idea. We're in love. It's perfect.

2. What have I DONE?
And then Act I ends, and I'm fifty pages in, and I go straight into a panic. Seriously, every single time. I stare at my story, wondering if I was too rash, if it's really worth going further. There's a lot of whining to my friends at this point, and they are sweet enough to push me along and tell me to shut up and keep going.

3. Middles Suck
Even if I have a clear idea of how I want the story to evolve, the middle drives me nuts. I'm too far from the end to have faith that it'll come together, and I freak about going in circles.

4. Seeing The Light
Around 50k, I start to feel like I have an actual BOOK on my hands—a book that has an ending and everything! I really pick up speed around this point, and that first love comes rushing back full force.

5. First Draft High
There's a reason I have 13 finished drafts—I LOVE finishing a first draft! It's such a high. Every time. I float around giddily, mooning over my new baby book and how sweet it is, so full of potential.

6. Pre-Revision Melt Down
This quickly follows #5, with all its crushing reality. The book is far from perfect. There's still so much to do. Should I even BOTHER? Will this thing sell? Did I waste my time? Will anyone even like it? I can't possibly make this book what it deserves to be. Woe. Misery. Trepidation.

7. The Revision Cycle
• First 100 pages: THIS WILL TAKE FOREVER
• Next 100-150: This isn't so bad...
• Last 50 or so: Almost done just GET DONE BEFORE I LOSE IT

8. Post-Revision Daze
Symptoms include extreme exhaustion (probably due to brain over-exertion), a disastrous house, a realization of all the things you DIDN'T do while editing, no desire to do said things, and an extreme craving for bad food and TV binges.

9. Hey, That Might Be A Good Idea For A Book...
Then, as the haze lifts, something catches in your mind. A snippet of conversation. An image. A song. A news clip. A voice. You think, "I need to write that." And you start, having forgotten completely how hard it was to do the last time.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Not Going There

It's really easy to go there as a writer. And by "there" I mean that icky place where you feel miserable about your writing and career, and you look at what others have and wonder if it's better than what you have (or worse, truly believe it is better). It's easy, at any phase, to feel sorry for yourself, to wish for more, to be jealous.

Over the past five years I've let myself go there a lot. Once, I even wrote a book because I read one and thought, "Wow, I can do way better than that just you watch." (It wasn't better, by the way.) I have read book deals for friends and felt that twinge of jealousy. Heck, I've read book deals for total strangers and gone into jealous rages/massive pity parties. I've compared everything possible to compare—followers, comments, tweets, books, agents, editors, pub dates, covers, advances, conference attendance, book signing attendance, tours, swag, and on and on.

Frankly, I'm tired of going there.

It's taken me far too long to figure out that going to that place makes my life more complicated than it needs to be. It makes me unhappy with who I am, which results in a lot of nasty things like depression, anxiety, jealousy, overworking, pandering, ingratitude, insecurity, and eventually a severe lack of productivity. All of these things get in the way of my life, my work, everything. And I've finally figured out that I've basically been making it harder on myself.

I've been reading the Turning Points on Nova Ren Suma's blog, and I think I'm personally going through one of my own right now.

I've finally realized I don't have to go there.

I don't have to be jealous of the seven-figure deals. I don't have to wish my book was published two years ago. I don't have to try to be this author or that one. I don't have to worry about being mid-list or paperback. I don't have to stress over reviews. Or mourn the fact that I'll never get an award (yes, I panic over things not even on my publishing radar).

I can be happy with what I have. I AM happy with what I have.

The more I get to know writers from all publishing circumstances, the more I've learned that not a single one of those paths is easy. Not a single one will automatically make you happy. Trust me, there's always something wrong if you feel like looking for it. Which means the flip side is true, too—there's always something wonderful if you feel like looking for it.

For a long time I preached this attitude because I knew that was how I should feel, but deep down I was still struggling with it. I'd hoped that by writing it out maybe I could convince myself to snap out of it or something. It didn't really work.

But lately I've been able to stop myself from going there, and it's been so liberating. I never want to go to that place again. Life is so much easier when I let myself embrace what I have, enjoy what I do, and celebrate the victories of others.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Really Was That Bad

If you want a sneak peak into just how bad my early writing was, head on over to Friday The Thirteeners, where I have posted a video of me reading said bad writing.

While it was humiliating, it was also a bit of a confidence booster to see how much I have grown over the years. Sometimes it doesn't feel like the work is helping you improve, but it is. I may not be some amazing author people will laud when I'm dead, but I am a better author than I ever have been. I can live with that.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January Is A Beast

Writing is a funny profession. You can go months with nary a whisper of anything happening, and then all of the sudden about 10 things are dumped in your lap at once. I'm not complaining about this, it just seems to be the nature of the job.

January has been one of those months for me. On the writing front alone, I've had two books to edit, two proposals for my option to prepare, a new blog to launch, and that whole crazy reading challenge I got myself into. Throw in school troubles for Dino Boy, a particularly naughty Ninja Girl streak, and typical pregnancy fatigue, and wow, I'm still trying to figure out how I made it through the last two weeks.

But at least I've been making progress! I finished edits on SIDEKICK last week, so now I only face the behemoth that is TRANSPARENT. It's weird, how small edits can take so long to enter. I mean, we are to the point that it's a cut there, a word change there, but you have to consider each one and it takes up a lot of time. Other Life Things have to be shifted around for a little bit while this work stares me in the face (Like giving up Korean Dramas. *sniff*).

I think that's why it gets harder and harder for me to answer the question, "How do you find balance?" Honestly? I don't. The best I can do is prioritize what needs to get done and do it in a timely fashion. I'm not sure writing has ever been much about "balance." It's more like triage—you do what's most pressing first and work down the line, hoping you didn't miss something vital along the way.

The one thing that has changed for me throughout the years, though: I no longer see writing tasks as The Most Important Thing Always. It used to come first over all aspects of my life, and that really messed me up. I still get my work done, but now I have the right perspective. I can see that sometimes it's more important to get my kids out of the house. Or it's more important to make a nice meal for my husband to take to work. Or it's more important to be there for a friend.

So while January has been a crazy whirlwind this far, I'm managing just fine. I'm happy I can say this, because I think a month like this would have ripped me to shreds a couple years back.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday The Thirteeners!

I'm participating in a group blog! It's called Friday The Thirteeners, and it's a small group of authors debuting in 2013, ready to take your Truth Or Dares.

This marks kind of a new phase in blogging for me, which is strange to say after four years in the game. But. I have never joined a group blog! And it's been really fun to plan with these ladies for the past several month, to get to know them, and to meet more writers who are going through the same debut nerves as I am.

Please check out the blog! There are fabulous prizes (13 of them!), and you have a chance to challenge me to a Truth Or Dare. And don't worry, I'm not one to wuss out. Whatever I end up with should be utterly humiliating, and available for viewing next week:)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All Day Q&A

Doing this a few days early because something BIG is coming on Friday. Get excited.

So ask away! I will sit here patiently. Or not patiently. When have I ever done something patiently?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pros and Cons of The Option Book

I've mentioned it before, but the second book in my two-book deal with HarperTeen is what they call an "option book." Basically, this means that Harper wants another book from me—except they haven't decided what, exactly, that book will be.

It's an interesting middle ground to stand on, honestly. It's not quite like having a series, where you know the next book you'll be writing is a sequel. And it's not like having just one book with your editor and pitching new ones in hopes that they'll buy. Instead, it's, "Yes, you have another book under contract, but we'll figure it out later."

So far, having an option book has been...weirdly cool. Most of the time I think of it as a good thing. I like that HarperTeen had enough faith in me to want another book, even if they didn't know for sure what kind of book. To me, it says they see something in me as a writer. That feels awesome. Seriously awesome. With awesome sprinkles.

I also really like not being tied down to a sequel for the time being. I've seen, through many friends, how hard a sequel can be. It's kinda cool that I don't necessarily have to worry about "topping" book one or falling into the "sequel curse." And I still have a little liberty to write what I'd like to, instead of being obligated to work on the same story whether I want to or not. I like that freedom—I feel like I do my best work under those circumstances.

But there are some things that are pretty scary about an option book, too. I mean, Harper doesn't HAVE TO take any book I write, you know? If you aren't familiar with options, it's still a little like being on sub, but with one editor/house as your audience. I give them a book as a possible option, and it's completely within their right to say, "No, this isn't quite what we're looking for from you."

Yup, my book can still be rejected.

Granted, I get to submit over and over to my heart's content (or until they like what I offer), but that whole possibility of rejection is still there. I'm starting to realize that it'll never go away. Putting your work out there never stops being scary, even when you have an agent and an editor and a book deal.

In the end, I'm totally happy to have an option book, especially because I love my editor and am excited to keep working with her. But like most things in publishing, it's not a perfect scenario. It comes with its own personalized bits of stress, different from other scenarios, but still valid. The more I get used to being "Future Published Author" me, the more I realize that no scenario is ideal. They all come with different pros and cons, and you deal with them as best you can. It's always better to focus on the good things about your personal path, instead of looking at what others got.

So yay option book! Even if you scare me sometimes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Roller Coaster Day

It was one of those days that started and never let up. I woke up to a crazy WTF email, and it went from there, alternating between bad and good every hour, it seemed like.

Bad thing!

Really good thing!

SUPER bad thing!

Good thing!



These days always remind me how much I LIKE taking it slow. Slow is good. I want to marry slow and spend my life with it. I want to go to bed, but I still have so much to do.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why I'm Proud That YA Is A Girl-Centric Genre

This post will probably get me flamed, but I've been thinking a lot about this and I want to share. So here it goes:

I am so freaking proud that YA is girl-centric.

Are there "boy books" in YA? Of course. Do I think there's room for more diversity in YA? Always! But that doesn't remove the fact that I'm very, very happy to see all these books about girls written FOR girls. Why? Because girls need these books—I needed these books, and I didn't have them when I was younger.

I vividly remember my personal frustrations with books when I was a kid. I know a lot of writers read voraciously as kids, but I was a picky reader. I had a hard time finding books that I could relate with. Wading through the old time MG waters was hard (Harry Potter came out when I was in high school, so it was very different back then [gosh I am old]). As it is now, MG is still largely targeted to boys (there's a lot more "girl books" these days, but you can still say the MG market is boy-centric).

I noticed. I wanted to read about girls like me, and it was hard to find a girl protagonist. The ones I did find often didn't strike my interest, either (i.e. Nancy Drew, Babysitter's Club, and Sweet Valley High, which were shoved in my face from about 8-14 yrs. old).

Sadly, the problem didn't improve as I got older—it got worse. When I got too old for "kids books," there was this wall. A wall I wasn't sure I wanted to climb. On the other side of the wall was Grown Up Books.

I still liked fantasy and fun stories, but Adult Fantasy felt daunting to me when I was 13. I tried out a few, only to find more boys saving some other stuff I wasn't quite ready to handle personally. I still wanted to read about girls, but there weren't girls in adult genre—there were women. The romance and historical novels scared the crap out of me based on covers alone (I was a timid child, not saying they were bad, just I was SO not ready). Adult thrillers/suspense were way out of my interests (I scare easily). And fantasy/sci-fi were dominated by the same things I'd seen in MG, just with older characters.

The truth? I stopped reading for fun after, like, ninth grade. After I read DUNE. I still remember enjoying most of that book, right up until the end when the main character decides to keep his "true love" as a concubine (the woman who supported him and had faith in him—heck, made him who he was and saved his life) and marries the empress as a power play. I felt betrayed, honestly. I really looked up to this guy, bought him as a hero, until that moment. It was the final straw for the "Girls play on the sidelines in books" crap. I was done. I read for school and that was about it (And most of that literary stuff was all guy, too).

My first experience with "new YA" was, of course, Twilight. Say what you will about that series, it blew my mind the first time I read it. But not for the reason you'd think—because it answered all my reading frustrations as a teen. This was a book for girls, with girl feelings and girl problems and girl fantasies. I started reading more YA, and each one made me not only happy, but jealous of the girls who now had so many choices in reading. I didn't have those choices. I couldn't find characters like me. Now? It feels like there's a book for every kind of girl. And we've seen both girls and women like me respond with the explosion of YA.

Finally, books for me. It makes me want to cry with joy sometimes.

I know we worry about the lack of boys in YA at times, but the truth is that the old system was always set up for boys. MG to adult genre fiction is what many boys still follow—well, that transition was always catered to them. Male-centered fiction has always been the standard. There has always been a place for them. Is it any wonder many guys skip YA?

Girls finally have a wide world of a genre to go. YA provides girls with the stories they've always been looking for—stories about them, stories for them. Girls don't have to be on the sidelines in YA. They are heroines. They shape the story with their choices, be they good or bad ones. YA reflects how different girls are, what they love and how they live and what they hope to be.

So while I will always welcome guys to read YA, and of course welcome more "boy centered" books, I will never apologize for the amount of girl-centric fiction in the genre. I would have killed for even half the selection girls have now. It's about time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My One Ridiculous Goal

I don't set a lot of goals, mostly because I know I'll eventually crumble under the pressure of too many. But I did want to make one this year:

I want to read a book a week.

To some people, that's nothing. They can read a book a day. Maybe even two. But I've said before that I'm a slow reader, and I certainly don't read as much as I'd like to. I don't think I'll ever be a fast reader, so I want to focus more on the consistency aspect.

If I can make reading part of my routine, if I can make it a habit, if I can add just a little to every day, then I'll at least read more, even if I still read slowly. I mean, that'll be 52 books in a year, and I've never read that many. Just thinking of that number feels overwhelming, but I think it's a doable goal. I've seen over and over through writing 1k a day that things add up even in little steps. It has to be the same for this.

I'm so much better at little steps than giant leaps.

So that's my one ridiculous goal. Wish me luck:)