Archive for November, 2009

My First Novel

Monday, November 30th, 2009

This past month, I participated in NaNoWriMo 2009, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to write a work of fiction that was at least 50,000 long. I started a few days late, but actually managed to finish a complete story with 50,162 words before the deadline!

The end result is Jumpgate Blues, a science fiction story about Sascha Lopez, a jump pilot in the year 2253 with amnesia. (You can read the whole thing online by clicking the link or from my website through the links on the right under Writings -> Jumpgate Blues.) I decided on a main character with amnesia so I could work out her background as I was writing it. It’s very rough and it’s just a first draft, but I’d like to think it’s still fun to read. I also learned a few things in the process:

  • Characters often do things you don’t expect. This might sound strange since you would think that the writer has ultimate control. But as you write, you find that some things that you thought would work, don’t. For example, I thought the Captain would have a really emotional heart-to-heart with Sascha in the beginning of the story but as I started to write that, I realized, no, she wouldn’t say something like that in that situation. And Kyra sort of came out of nowhere.
  • Writing about stuff you don’t know is hard. I know almost nothing about the military. So I spent a lot of time talking to friends into military stuff and looking up things like military ranks, size of ships, forms of address, to base my space navy on. But it was also fun learning new things.
  • In science fiction and fantasy, it’s very important to establish your rules early and to stick with them. One of the fun things about writing speculative fiction is that you get to make things up. But one of the dangers is that if you do it too much, the audience starts to feel that it’s arbitrary. Where’s the sense of peril if you feel the main character will just whip out a deus ex-machina phlebotonum gun to wipe out the bad guys?

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Someday, I’d like to be a writer,” I heartily encourage you to give it a shot next year! I’m not there yet, but this event gave me the chance to see what it might be like. And hey, if you end up reading my story, let me know what you think!


Friday, November 27th, 2009

I had Thanksgiving Dinner with a group of friends and I made a couple simple dishes. One was mashed potatoes. The other was canned cranberry sauce. Okay, I didn’t really make that last one, but it’s a perennial favorite of mine. But I also tried making sujeonggwa, a traditional Korean dessert drink. I’ve had it before at a Korean bbq restaurant and it’s really good there. I found a recipe from, drew a visual version of it (so it’d be easier to remember and harder to mess up), and tried making it. It turned out a little on the strong side but it was fun to make and still pretty good.

Also, I’ve finished Chapter 16 and Chapter 17 of Jumpgate Blues. The NaNoWriMo deadline is Monday (!) so I’m going to try to finish this over the weekend. Only 11,219 words to go! Will Tarseron get blowed up? Will the crew of the Medusa survive? Oh, the suspense…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

So, yeah … I was so busy writing last night that I forgot to set up a blog post. But Happy Thanksgiving and all that!

Vampires Should Not Walk in Daylight

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

There’s a reason vampires are classically portrayed as having pale complexions. They cannot abide the sunlight. And in film, this works well visually. Their pallid pigmentation provides a sharp contrast to the night, when vampires are free to roam. But if you’re going to have vampires just walking around in the daylight, they really should have natural skin tones. Otherwise, it makes them look … well, judge for yourself:

In other news, I finished Chapter 14 and Chapter 15 of Jumpgate Blues, my attempt at writing a novel in a month. I poke gentle fun at the Twilight series but I find that I do share one thing in common with its author, Stephenie Meyer: we both write for the pure love of writing and if others enjoy it, then that’s just a bonus. Of course, her readers number in the millions and mine can be counted on one hand. But hey, you gotta start somewhere…

Halfway There

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Chapter 13 of Jumpgate Blues is done and I started chapter 14. The last couple days have been pretty busy so I haven’t done as much but I’ve written just over 25,000 words so I’m slightly more than halfways to getting to the 50,000 word goal! It’s quite a bit more than halfway through November so I’m a little behind. But I started a few days late and I’m hoping to get a lot written over the weekend and Thanksgiving so hopefully, I’ll still make it. Now I just got to figure out what happens to Sascha next…

Writing vs. iPhone Development

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

So I’m nearly halfway through my novel-in-a-month, Jumpgate Blues. Trying to write 50,000 words in a relatively cohesive story on such a tight deadline has been a lot of fun and also quite educational. One of the things I’ve learned is that planning is very important, just like it is when developing an iPhone app. In fact, I’ve used my notebook again to try to work out the details and to take notes. Another similarity is that both projects end up taking up all my free time!

But one major difference is that this writing project has a one month deadline. That’s pretty demanding but one good thing it does is to focus my time. When you’ve only got a month, you really learn to make decisions quickly. Maybe I’ll give that a shot with my iPhone apps and try to finish an update in a week.

As for the Jumpgate Blues, I just finished Chapter 11 where it looked like someone was going to die! And in Chapter 12, yup, they sure did.


Monday, November 16th, 2009

For the longest time, I’ve wanted a device to help me learn Japanese. I’m pretty decent at the spoken language but I’m almost completely illiterate. I can read the 92 letters of the phonetic alphabets but written Japanese also uses tens of thousands of Chinese characters for the bulk of the written language. I know, like, 10.

What I wanted was some device that would let me draw a Japanese kanji character (the characters that come from Chinese) and then have it tell me what that character meant. Now, with my iPhone and the free app “Kotoba!” I have it! In the image, I have drawn the character “Kotobuki” which means felicitation. If you’ve got an iPhone and you’re interested in Japanese, check it out.

In other news, I’ve finished Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 of Jumpgate Blues. A couple of characters are being held against their will by the military! Will they be able to escape? The funny thing is, I’m not totally sure myself. Only time will tell…

No Time to Think!

Friday, November 13th, 2009

I’m still working on my novel-in-a-month project, Jumpgate Blues. I managed to get Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 done and it’s been a blast to work on. But I’ve just about hit the end of what I was sort of planning on. Actually “planning” is probably too strong of a word. It’s more like I had a couple ideas and as I started writing them, the ideas took a shape of their own. I’ve discovered that the sheer speed that I need to write at to get to 50,000 words by the end of November is such that there’s no time to go back and edit things. In fact, there’s no time really to think about what’s coming next. It just sort of has to come out. So, there are lots of inconsistencies and such in the story, but I hope it’s still interesting and fun to read!

By the way, have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned Brian at all since Chapter 6? Is he dead or is he alive? I have no idea…


Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I’ve been playing this puzzle game on the iPhone called Unify. It’s sort of like Tetris or Lumines, except that you have to match colors (it starts with two and then goes up to a bunch) and the pieces come from both the left and the right side. If you’re into puzzle games, it’s definitely worth checking out. See if you can beat my high score! At one point it was in the top ten… =)

(Also, I’ve finished Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 of my novel-in-a-month, Jumpgate Blues. I was tempted to write “The End” after the last sentence in Chapter 5. But I’m gonna try to keep going. It’s a bit crazy writing a novel without really knowing where it’s going to go, but it’s been fun so far.)

Weekend Writer

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Man, writing is hard! I had to go into work on Saturday and something came up on Sunday so I didn’t write as much as I was planning. But I managed to get Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of Jumpgate Blues written over the weekend. I learned that it’s important to have at least a little bit of an idea of what you’re thinking about writing. Sometimes it’s like a bright beacon of light that guides you towards a certain destination. For me, it mostly feels like a tiny candle that I’m holding in front of my feet to make sure that I don’t walk off any cliffs.

My biggest fear so far? That I’m really only a couple pages away from writing, “and that’s when they made it back home, safe and sound. The End.” I mean, what if I run out of stuff to write about before my 50,000 and the end of the month? Well, I guess writing posts on this blog for every Monday, Wednesday, Friday has given me some practice against that.