Calming Emotions, Exciting Stuff, Mindfulness, Uncategorized, Writing

Nervous Excitement of Achieving Your Goals

You know that feeling you get when, after years of concentrated effort, a thousand wishes, and mindfulness-challenging patience, you finally achieve your goal?

When every nerve in your body sparks with excitement and waves of conflicting emotions batter you from all sides? When you can’t stop pacing and smiling and trembling?

That moment when you realize that…now…the real work will begin?

The nervous excitement of achieving goals happens to everyone at one time or another. At least, I think it does. I can’t be the only person on the planet to react this way. Although, when it happens, it feels so personal. The details of our experience seem so specific that it’s hard to believe anyone else will relate.

But people are more alike than different.

The stories we share, no matter how specific, often feel familiar to others.

So, perhaps, my story will remind you of your own.

A month ago, I received some amazing news: my debut novel, The Ninja Daughter, would be published by the new Agora Books imprint of Polis Books.

I received this news from my agent while at lunch with a friend. Thank goodness. Because when the call finally ended and the negotiation progress conveyed in nerve-wracking detail, I was ready to jump out of my skin.

Had it really happened, just like that, seemingly out of the blue?

Seven years ago, I made a big commitment: I stopped training and teaching ninjutsu in order to pursue a career as a fiction writer. For me, there was no other way than complete immersion. I had done the same thing to achieve my fifth degree black belt in To Shin Do and knew I’d need to do the same with writing. So, I jumped in with focused intention and dogged determination.

This wasn’t the first time I had switched directions in the midst of success. I did the same thing when I left Cats to move to Los Angeles to try my hand at television and film. I did it again when I stopped acting, after eighteen episodes on The Love Boat and a guest-staring role on a television pilot, to raise my sons. And again, when I stopped training and teaching to write.

People around me thought I was nuts, but I knew it was the right thing to do for me–mind, body, and spirit. Each time, I made the leap and tried not to think about what might happen if I failed.

So there I was, on the phone with my agent, pacing outside the restaurant, getting the much hoped-for and slaved-after news–and out of all the emotions vying for my attention, the single greatest emotion that hit me was relief.

Can you relate to that? I’m positive you can.

When you put everything you have into an endeavor with no guarantee that anything will come of it, the relief is overwhelming. There’s joy and satisfaction, certainly, but there’s also a teensy bit of anxiety.

Every goal met marks a new goal begun. Click To Tweet

With every new job, there are new expectations, work, and deadlines. That can be scary, especially when the new job is in a new career.

Questions arise that you never thought to ask. Your mind is assaulted by things you need to do. And, although you only just got the news, time feels of the essence.

So that’s where I am on this mid-December day: scheduling work flows for two books, planning events, addressing marketing issues, starting an author page on Facebook, writing content, and preparing to leave on a trip of a lifetime to Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

What makes those cities so important? Oh, so many wonderful reasons.

But that’s a topic for another day.

Photo credit by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Relationships, ShowBiz, Writing

Why I’m Crazy Happy for Crazy Rich Asians

I don’t often cheer in theaters. So when I do, I take notice. Four movies in particular have had that effect on me in recent years, the last of which was the insanely wonderful Crazy Rich Asians. I laughed, I cried, and I went back the next week and saw it again. And you know what? I loved it just as much. But first, let me tell you about the other three.

I was sitting in a fold up chair in the Malibu Jewish Center where the Malibu Film Society was hosting a pre-release screening of Hidden Figures. No IMAX screen. No surround sound. No popcorn and Coke. Just an astounding story about remarkable women, not shown as a side note to the well-recorded achievements of men, but as the heroes in their own right. There they were, captivating our attention and inspiring us with struggle, contribution, and achievement. I gotta say, it made my heart sing. And when the credits finally rolled, I wasn’t the only person in the audience to stand up and cheer. We all did.

The second movie to jolt me out of my seat was Wonder Woman. Weren’t those Amazon warriors a marvel, leaping and slashing with such strength, vigor, and grace? And when little Diana watched her heroes train below then leaped off the turret to join them, well—I soared right along with her. No thought of pain or failure entered her mind. She didn’t even know about her godlike powers at that point in the story. She just leaped off that wall to go after her dream. In that moment, Diana was me. And with that connection, I became Wonder Woman.

I felt that same exhilaration when I saw the women of Wakanda shine in Black Panther. From the smart and spunky tech-genius sister to the fearsome Dora Milaje warriors, they were all so fabulous. Powerful. Spirited. And to have those attributes personified by women of color? Even better.

And then came Crazy Rich Asians. Crazy, right? I mean, Wonder Woman and Black Panther are both super hero movies, so that makes sense. And Hidden Figures is an untold story of American heroes. So what’s the big deal about an over-the-top romantic comedy? What could these films possibly have in common?

As it turns out, quite a bit.

All four movies feature strong, courageous women who think for themselves and act with conviction. Each has their own style, attitude, and expertise. Some of them aren’t even nice. Because you know what? Women don’t have to be nice! Women make awesome villains. And colleagues. And friends. And family. And heroes. Women are inspiring and courageous and confounding. So when I see movies that resonate with who I feel myself to be and celebrates how I strive to live, I cheer.

Hero movies—whether they star women, men, aliens, or talking animals—give us all a chance to fight those great fights, vanquish evil, and right injustice. They remind us of our inner warrior and inspired us to be the best people we can be.

So what about that romantic comedy?

As a woman of mixed ethnicity, I relate strongly to ethnic characters. The Hawaiian in me adored seeing my brown face reflected in those beautiful Wakanda women. I related to their tribal ceremonies and exotic otherness. And while they weren’t created from my heritage, they spoke to me loud and clear.

Crazy Rich Asians, on the other hand, hit close to home. Not because of the ridiculous opulence or soap opera drama. Crazy Rich Asians hit close to home because I saw my mother, her friends, my friends, our families, our heritage—up on that screen. And in that moment a silly romcom became powerful.

Those faces. Those personalities. Those relationships.
I knew them.

Those women, each so different and yet bonded by ancestral heritage, reminded me of my Chinese mother and her friends, some of whom were so closely knit they discovered they were cousins. First, third, eight times removed—it didn’t matter—they, we (I) were all connected. We knew those aunties, friends, and cousins. We had that mother, father, and Ah Ma. We were on the receiving end of those veiled comments, inscrutable looks, and fierce love too often hidden and cryptically conveyed.

Which is why it’s so important to have movies like Crazy Rich Asians, Hidden Figures, Black Panther, and even Wonder Woman—with its empowerment theme and women-centric culture—scoring big in the box office: It encourages film studios and financiers to take a risk. And it empowers writers (like me!) to tell stories rich in culture that celebrate differences and resonates deep in our core. Their success reaches out to an audience that might never have considered them.

Regardless of how different the notes,
commonality always strikes a chord.

Writing

Editing Advice from Editors

As every seasoned writer knows—and most aspiring writers discover in horror—completing a novel is only the beginning of the work.

Sometimes, it can take longer to rewrite a story than it took to write it in the first place.

And it doesn’t just happen once.

The writer’s initial round of rewrites—which hopefully includes story, character arcs, pacing, prose, copy editing, etc.—is followed by more rewrites based on the feedback from beta readers, agents, and freelance editors. And that’s before the grueling process of rewriting with your publisher’s editor.

Editing is hard work. That’s why it’s important to have realistic expectations and to enjoy the process.

Here are some words of wisdom, caution, advice, and experience from three of my editor friends.

Tom Monteleone – Bram Stoker Award winner for writing (BLOOD OF THE LAMBS), editing (BORDERLANDS anthologies), publishing (Borderland press), and lifetime achievement (!) – offers three potential weaknesses to watch out for during your editing process.

BAD DIALOGUE

“This is one of the most obvious flaws in a story because you can’t hide it, and it just kind of calls attention to itself like your shirt-tail sticking out of the unzipped fly in your pants.”

He suggests reading your dialogue aloud.

“Maybe for years . . . until you are certain you have developed a great ear for the way people really talk” and reading stage plays because “the dialogue in an effective play carries the plot, creates the characters, and controls the pacing.”

CLICHÉS

“All writers get lazy once in while and drop in a cliché or a shop-worn phrase . . . just to keep the narrative going. If you’re reading an otherwise good piece of fiction, just excise them like the tumors they are.”

STRUCTURE

Specifically, slow beginning, sagging middles, and unsatisfying endings.

“If the story starts digressing, adding subplots, too much backfill and flashback, it will lose energy and direction. This is the kind of writing that causes readers to put a story down, and “forget” to pick it back up again.”

I’ve suffered from this sort of forgetfulness while reading, and I definitely don’t want to cause it in others!

“There can be lots of reasons why an ending doesn’t work. A very common error is when the writer wraps things up too fast and too neatly. Another occurs when the ending just kind of fizzles out with people dying or disappearing and no real resolution is at hand.”

I’m with Tom. As a reader, it drives me nuts to have invested my time and emotion only to have a story unresolved or, worse, wrapped up like an after thought.

“Endings must resolve enough questions and problems to satisfy your audience’s need for (some kind) of order in the universe. A common error is to assume it had to be a SURPRISE! ending. Big mistake, that.”

And one I will take to heart!

Janice Gable Bashman, freelance editor and Bram Stoker Award nominated author of PREDATOR, adds these cautions to look out for in your manuscript.

OVERWRITING

Janice says that a common challenge is

“not trusting the reader to understand what is happening in a story. As a result, the author overwrites and explains more than is necessary.”

SHOWING AND TELLING THE SAME THING

“For example: Mary was cold (telling). Mary shivered, pulled up the collar of her fleece jacket, and shoved her hands into her pockets (showing).”

It’s astounding how often this happens. Seriously. Check your work and you’ll see what I mean. I sure did!

OVERUSE OF DIALOGUE TAGS

She recommends reducing the he said, she said monotony by interspersing dialogue with action.

“Use beats to indicate who is speaking wherever possible. Example: “Leave me alone!” Tony said. Revised: Tony slammed his fist on table. “Leave me alone.”

A great way to see if you’ve overused the tags is to read your dialogue aloud as if narrating an audiobook. If you start sounding like a tennis match, you’re in trouble. *wink*

EMOTIONAL JOURNEYS

“A novel is not about events that happen to a set of characters. It is about the events that happen and how the characters react and change as a result of those events.”

Great advice!

Lisa Kastner, owner and editor for Running Wild Press offers insight on submissions from an editor’s point of view, including some insight on why she chose my Life After Breath short story for RUNNING WILD ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES 2.

WHAT QUALITIES LEAD TO A PASS?

“The narrative is illogical or the characters aren’t believable.

The story has a clichéd climax or ending or plot point.

The story stays too long in a section such as a flashback or in description so it drags the story down. Although, this can easily be addressed through editing.

The story needs too much editing, meaning I can see this will take at least three rounds of concept edits before it’s ready.

The author hasn’t decided what the piece is. As an example, the author may have begun writing a mystery and then switched to a romance and then switched to a thriller (Yes, we’ve seen this). In this case, we’ll point out what section is a typical mystery opening, what section is more along the lines of romance, and then when it switches to a thriller structure and then we’ll suggest that they take a hard look at what they want the piece to be and revise based on that.”

WHAT QUALITIES LEAD TO ACCEPTANCE?

“When my team reviews submissions, they primarily look at voice and story. When the pieces get to me, then I’m looking for an engaging voice, a narrative (believe it or not, not all stories have narratives), solid writing, and an eye for craft.

For Life After Breath, the original version, I loved the strong voice and that it flipped from very cerebral and moody to action oriented. I loved that the first narrator realized that she could impact another’s life and chose to do so.”

“An invaluable lesson I had from some brilliant workshop leaders was that if the author can divide a room, then the piece is successful.”

Very encouraging!

WORKING WITH AN EDITOR

“When you get feedback from an editor, please remember that we want the author, the story, the press… everyone… to be successful.”

So there you have it my Mindful readers—insights on why some stories are accepted and declined and solid advice on how to make your stories and your writing the best it can be.

Thanks to my editor friends Tom Monteleone, Janice Gable Bashman, and Lisa Kastner for taking the time to share their wisdom.

Health, Motivation, Perspective, Writing

Self-Discipline: Enemy of a Good Time or Key to Achieving Your Goals?

Say the word discipline and watch those around you either cringe or nod in sage agreement. At least, that’s what happens to me. And I use this word all the time.

For many people, the D-word brings up visions of tyrant drill sergeants and habit-wearing nuns snapping wooden rulers on the fingers of unsuspecting (and clearly undeserving!) students. It’s the killer of creativity, a crusher of spirit, and the rigid antithesis to fluidity. Sticking “self” in front of “discipline” only means we’ve agreed to do it to ourselves.

And then there are the people like me, who credit self-discipline for their greatest creative achievements, most notable successes, and continued youthful appearance. Am I nuts? Very possibly. But in case I’m your kind of nuts, read on for tips on how I use self-discipline to self-motivate, self-inspire, and otherwise kick my own self into action pretty much every day.Read more

night watch
Calming Emotions, Mindfulness, Relationships, Writing

Night Watch

I wrote the notes for this poem on my father’s bed during the wee hours of the night, pen in one hand and his fingers curled around the other. Writing is the best way I know to process emotions and pass through challenging times. It helps me arrange my thoughts and get to the heart of what I’m experiencing. When I arrive at what I feel is a finished poem, essay, or story, I feel a great sense of peace about what has transpired.Read more

may
Mindfulness, Perspective, Writing

Yay for May!

Yay for May with flower leis, mommy love, and special days…
For Spring and breath, reflection and life,
To start anew and shed the strife,
For all the hope our hearts envelop,
And goals our minds and guts develop
Hurray for May! I say with glee,
to all of you from all of me.Read more

Gung hay fat choy
Mindfulness, Motivation, NINJA, Writing

Year of Calm, Smooth Efficiency

“Mom, you’re moving too fast,” my eldest son said, as I chopped, scooped, and tossed a butcher knife full of veggies in a sizzling wok, nearly slicing my wandering husband in the process.

I froze, mid-step, in the center of my narrow kitchen and assessed the scene. Sure enough, I had been zipping like The Flash from one cooking station to another in frantic dash to get my gourmet dinner on a perfectly set table before any of the seven courses dropped in temperature. However, as my son so accurately pointed out, I was not The Flash. No one is.Read more

Hapa girl in bali
Exciting Stuff, Relationships, Writing

Hapa-Girl in Bali

One week home from Bali and I’m still flying high from my visit to the Island of the Gods. It’s more than exhilaration from a grand adventure—although my trip certainly felt both grand and adventurous—it’s that Bali dug deep into my Asian-Hawaiian roots. Six-thousand miles of ocean separate us geographically as our rituals, beliefs, and customs distinguish us culturally. However, both the Balinese and Hawaiians effuse heartfelt aloha and respect for the world in which we live.Read more

Stay calm and get it done
Exciting Stuff, Motivation, Writing

Stay Calm and Get It Done

I began this Mindful Musing in the Tom Bradly International Terminal on my way to Bali for a long awaited book-research trip. Since then I’ve enjoyed a thirteen hour flight on EVA Airlines, during which time I stretched much, slept little, watched movies, and ate jook for breakfast—a rice porridge also known as congee made with minced pork, and in this case, sprinkled with dried bits of fish. The jook was a particularly auspicious treat since it’s comfort food for the heroine of my ninja vigilante thriller. All in all, a good beginning to my real life adventure that now, apparently, includes a typhoon in Taipei!Read more

Tribe
Empowerment, Exciting Stuff, Motivation, Writing

Finding Our Tribe

Even when engaged in a solitary endeavor such as writing, community matters. Perhaps more so. How else can we truly connect except by helping one another, sharing stories, and rejoicing in each other’s success? It is far too easy to lose ourselves in the obsessive passions that drive us forward or to succumb to the demons and worries that threaten to hold us back. Whether we are consumed with career, school, exploration, creativity, or mastery, our lives are benefited by meaningful interaction with our tribe.Read more

Warrior Women
Empowerment, Motivation, NINJA, Writing

Warrior Women – An Essay on Empowerment

You probably know I’m a writer, but did you know I’m a ninja?

I’m not using the word in the popular sense—as a synonym for awesome or as a generic term for any skilled martial artist. I’m using the word in the literal sense to describe someone who has studied, trained, and earned a master’s rank in the modern evolution of the ancient art of the ninja. Yeah… it’s pretty heady stuff.Read more

Dumpling Happy New Year website
Exciting Stuff, Mindfulness, Motivation, Writing

Starting the New Year with Discipline, Inspiration & Momentum

Gong Hey Fat Choy!  Happy Chinese New Year!

Are you ready for the Year of the Fire Monkey?  I certainly am.  In fact as I write these musings, I’m sprawled in exhaustion from cleaning the last bits of Wood Sheep energy from my house!  It’s just one of the many rituals I do to focus my intent on the New Year.  Why?  Because coordinating mindful action with a significant occasion leads to powerful and meaningful results!Read more

Energize the Waiting
Calming Emotions, Empowerment, Motivation, Perspective, Writing

Energize the Waiting

“I love to wait!” said no one, EVER. And yet, we can’t seem to a avoid it.

We check our emails on the hour (or minutes) for responses from agents, editors, and casting directors. We stare at our phones (and test the connection), willing them to ring with news of that hard earned promotion or the house of our dreams. We pace our floors (or pound our heads) waiting for test results and customer service, plumbers and computer techs, heartthrobs and children. And no matter how fast we work or how efficiently we manage our affairs, every series of actions seems to be followed by an even longer and more grueling period of waiting for some omnipotent entity to say YES!Read more

Essential Writing Tools
Empowerment, Health, Mindfulness, Motivation, Writing

5 Empowering Things to Do While Walking

In this age of sedentary occupations, busy schedules, and convenient modes of transportation, most of us do not exercise as much as we would like. Every option seems to take more time than we have and/or more money than we can afford—except walking. Once we get up from our desk and head out the door, we’ve begun. It’s as simple as that. But it can also get boring. So here are five empowering ways to keep you engaged and motivated.Read more

Owning Our Fantasies
Perspective, ShowBiz, Writing

Owning Our Fantasies

I, like all of you, having been watching a media firestorm concerning the film, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.  I have read and heard the shaming and condemnation.  (And yes, when we tell women that what they feel is silly, corrupt, or damaging to the future of all women, we are shaming and/or condemning.)  I have seen the Facebook posts, the boycott petitions, and the open letters to our daughters.  But here’s the thing… this film did not emerge out of nothing.  Millions of women responded to and enjoyed this story.  Given those numbers, I think it is safe to assume that some of those women are people we like, respect, and perhaps even love.  Think about that for a moment.Read more