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From The other side of the world!

I'm sitting in a hotel room in the Ramada Inn in Hong Kong, on the fifteenth floor. I've got 25 more minutes on the hour of internet I bought, so I'll spend that chronicling my adventure. Aren't you all so lucky :)

Yesterday I flew in on a fourteen-hour flight (although the term "yesterday" is somewhat misleading, since the flight BEGAN two days before it ended) and arrived in Hong Kong at 5:30 in the morning. Their time. It's rather telling just how shellshocked I am to be in another country, that I have stronger feelings about the flight itself (SO fun! Watched 3 movies, had 2 tasty meals, finished a book and a half, AND got to sleep, as well as meet a nice lady sitting next to me) than Hong Kong. This city is... well, really both like and unlike anywhere else I've ever been. It's noisy and crowded like you wouldn't believe; even when you aren't in the midst of a crowd it feels crowded, because everything is vertical and absolutely no space is wasted. The hotel, which is theoretically a really expensive hotel, is only so-so by American hotel standards; the lobby has 2 couches and the beds are single-person, incredibly firm. It's weird, getting used to a different standard of living. I feel so disgustingly spoiled, realizing all the stuff we take for granted. Especially privacy, and space. Oh, and being able to understand everyone.

That's the weird thing for me, I guess. This city is more like Seattle, Manhattan, and Chicago than I thought it would be (it really IS incredibly modern, wherever you go you will always hear the sound of construction), but little things just make you realize you're not, metaphorically AND literally, in Kansas anymore. Especially the language barrier. In Hong Kong it's not so bad since this city is an old british colony, so everything is in English and Chinese, but trying to speak to a salesperson who has no idea what I am talking about... that was odd.

Oh! Funny story. My friend Tiph and I were out shopping (she, for the record, speaks pretty passable Mandarin and winces whenever I try to say something) and we came across a store selling traditional chinese dresses/shirts. A boutique of sorts, since all the dresses were brightly-clothed and modern variations on the old styles. Nice stuff, though. She found a gorgeous red dress (she IS asian) that was 2430 hong kong dollars, on sale for 1800 (which is about 180 american dollars). But she didn't want to spend more than 90 american dollars, so she was kind of "I don't know, I don't know". But these salespersons were VICIOUS. With kindness. She kept plying my friend, over and over and over, and my friend kept being like "no, it's so nice but I just don't want to spend that" so eventually they, seeming really kind of upset even though they were smiling, agreed to drop the price to 810 hong kong dollars. My friend got a $2400 for $800, at a store that looked like a chinese Charlotte Rousse. And even though we will probably NEVER be allowed back in there (I certainly made no friends, since I was telling Tiph to say no to a price she didn't like) it was such a steal I can't help but feel successful.

Today I'm going to go out shopping for a bit, then I have class in the afternoon. I find myself looking forward to the classes; we really focus on trying to understand WHY China today is the China we see. Every time I go into them I feel so utterly stupid but I think that, as long as I keep learning and staying open, I may stop being so.

My time's about up, so I'll have to wrap this up. More than anything this trip has made me wish I knew Chinese. I have forgotten everything I learned over the semester :( I can't wait until I get to China proper, so I can get a less westernized feel for the land. Hope to talk to all later! Miss yalls terribly, and I'll be sure to find something nice to bring back. There's lots of stores that sell sort of campy, cute souvenir type things, but I want to wait until I find the real deal.

Talk to ya in China!
-Woods

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Ramble On, Gotta Sing My Song!

It's one of those lazy sundays, when you wake up at noon and every hour feels about five hours prior to what it actually is. One of those days where you throw on something soft and baggy and spend all day trying to build up the momentum to actually be productive. One of those days where you amble around outside in the sun, listening to something smooth on your ipod or car stereo, letting whatever little chore you're running take hours because you're just enjoying the feeling of being alive.

Or maybe that's just me.

I think I mentioned how much I love being productive lately (is that workaholicism?) - but I still can't deny my roots. Once in a while I just adore the aimless feeling of having no commitments, no time limits, nothing but hours of time to kill doing nothing of importance. Good for the soul.

I'm sure there are lots of little things I COULD do - the bathroom needs to be cleaned, I could get ahead on my tasks, I can study more chinese. I'm surprised at how well Chinese is going, actually. I thought it would be completely impossible to understand, and I would be floundering, not understanding a thing. And while I've only done it for like, a month, I think I've got a good handle on it. It's really just a matter of vocab-building. Learning the sounds, the characters, and then plugging them in. The grammar is SO AMAZING. SO understandable. I'm looking forward to learning more.

Although, admittedly, I like how japanese sounds much more. Chinese... sometimes to me it just sounds a bit ridiculous. All vowels strung together, and not in a pleasant way like French. Japanese has a bit of flow to it. A bit of punch, a little kick. But I don't get paid to learn Japanese. And chinese history IS pretty dang cool, to be fair.

I finally figured out what was going wrong in my story. I couldn't get the next part of my novel started; I was frittering away, adding on extra pointless scenes, going back and shuffling scenes up, just basically wasting time. So finally I sat down and looked at one scene that was giving me problems, and I addressed the elephant in the room. "How ARE these characters supposed to find a supposedly mythical being in the midst of an endless desert when nobody before them has ever succeeded?" I asked myself. And it occurred to me that I had not actually GIVEN them any method of succeeding. So I brainstormed. And finally it occurred to me - I had already given myself the answer in the last novel. One of my characters actually said it - "mages can track demons' auras". Which was a bollocks line meant only to get the characters rolling, but it works now. So instead of jumping right on to the trail right away, my characters NOW have to take a detour. To find themselves a mage.

I think it'll be pretty interesting. And I'm hoping to introduce a plot twist that'll shake my main character's entire world view. >=) I'm so evil.

Oh MAN. My sister called me last night - first to tell me that she ran her first 5k yesterday, and secondly, to admit that she's reading my novel. >_< YIKES! Y'alls know I NEVER let anyone read my writing. EVER. And she is... well, I'm not particularly close with her, and I don't know if she'll like some of the themes I put in. I wrote it for Hanna, so I'm less than pleased. BUT. Hanna is so busy she's NEVER going to get around to reading it. And right now I'm starving for some feedback. I don't know whether my writing is good or bad. Genuinely cannot tell if I'm missing the ball completely or just being overly harsh on myself. I need someone to tell me whether me always falling asleep when I read my stuff is just a fluke because I'm so used to it, or if it's actually yawn-inducing.

But then again, I also kind of just wanted Hanna to read it, because... well, she's Hanna. And she ALWAYS praises things. And she sounds so EXCITED when she does it. It makes you feel like the greatest creator in the world. So now I'm confused. Do I really want honest feedback, or just the praise of "oh Lauren your writing is amazing! You sound like a real professional!"? I think if my sister Sarah comes back after reading it and is all, "uh, nice work, but this is kind of... really boring and poorly-written...." I would be kind of crushed. I don't know if I would have the heart to keep writing.

But then again, maybe I would. It's too important to me for me to just STOP. I think I'd probably just take a really long hiatus, break out a dozen "how to write" novels, a thousand "classics" for me to study, and start taking Creative Writing classes. Until I felt like I had STOPPED sucking. And only then would anyone get to read my stuff again.

Because, frankly, I feel like I'm a good author. My stuff isn't great, but I think I have a grasp of the basics. And each time I write, I learn. My writing now compared to some stuff I HAVE done is markedly improved. But I just DON'T KNOW. I can't get an outsider perspective on my own work, and that, right now, more than anything, is what I need.

Help. :P
Yes, I know I promised to update regularly. Yes, I fail utterly. But in my defense my life has been spectacularly boring. I think my Muse ran off and had some kind of insane binge in Las Vegas what with how uninspired I've been lately. XD

So. I actually ran out of things to do this weekend.

I know, weird – but I spent all Saturday in the library, went to bed, got up prepared to do it all again – and realized I had completely finished my homework. My CRR for honors was complete. I had memorized all the Chinese characters I needed to know. I was so far ahead in math they hadn’t posted any further assignment. I kind of just sat back in the chair and thought, “…NOW what?”

Heh. Last semester I was so ungodly busy in every moment of every hour of every day that I was constantly deciding between what my most important tasks were and what I could afford to let slide. Now I just have a couple “do it sometime” projects that are nice and all but I’m not particularly interested in working on. I promised a friend who is starting up an online service that I would check out the legal aspects for him (paid via a small cut of the profits, but I’d do it for free anyway), while I promised the ROTC that I would make an ASU page for them and I’d create an inventory system for the hopelessly messy supply closet. UGH. Why can’t it be fun chores?

Eh heh heh. I’m just bored. That’s why I’m whining.

I guess one of my concerns is that I’ve hit a rough spot in the novel. It’s a transition between two major sections, but I have no clue how to tie the two together or how to elegantly include character development short of having the two characters chatting at each other for page after page. I know the first draft is supposed to be terrible, but I’ve been hit by a sudden attack of “oh my god I’m the worst writer ever”. Mainly because I’ve realized that my writing is all dialogue, description, or action. Any given time, my next line will either be a description of the surroundings, what somebody does (like “Character X huffed, crossing their arms”) or a line of dialogue. Once in a while broken up with swordfights for an actiony feel. There’s no narrative, which I think is why it feels so flat and unapproachable. I need to figure out how to weave tension into a scene on multiple levels, and how to approach narration-writing. And for that I need good reference. But all I’ve been reading lately are 1st-person (what can I say? Percy Jackson is LOVE) children’s series or analytical works on the lines of Machiavelli and Descartes. HAAALP!!!

But I don’t want to give up on this novel. I’ve totally fallen out of love with it, but I think if I can just get to the climax, I’ll enjoy that enough to make up for it. And then I will NEVER write swords-and-sorcery fantasy EVER again. Realistic Fiction here I come!

But otherwise, I’m doing fantastic. Lately I’ve adopted a phrase for myself – “wherever you are, there you are”. There will always be things about your life that you don’t like, and things you wish you could change, but one of my biggest faults is constantly living in the future or the past, in a rush to get somewhere or have something happen. I need to remind myself that I’m here, in this moment, living this life, and love it or leave it that’s what I’ve got. And that’s what makes it amazing. Because you can always look forward to the future, but once you actually get there, what will you have? A lot of wasted memories, that’s what. So I don’t want to ever regret a single moment spent.

And that’s all the philosophical I’m going to get today. Suffice to say this has been a weird semester so far, but hey – here I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Peace out.

:(

So. I might have to quit ASU.

It's all about stupid billing. Since my parents moved and I'm their independent I'm not technically an in-state student despite my being classified as one. And I thought it was going to be okay because the grandparent's house on Safari dr. was going to be transferred to our name so we had a residence in the state, and even though I thought it was a pretty good plan mum keeps saying that it doesn't count... and she just spent about 10 minutes explaining how she wasn't okay with breaking the law and whatever. Well. Point is that out-of-state tuition is $20,000 a year as opposed to $7,000, and I would automatically lose my $9,000/year scholarship (it's in-state only), so I would be graduating about $40,000 in debt. For an undergraduate degree. I wouldn't be able to go to law school.

So I might have to go to a Texas school instead.

Three years. Three and a half years and I would have my Barrett honors degree, which would let me in to most any law program I wanted, and I would still have $30,000 in the bank to start on my law degree. And I would have money flowing in from the government to help. And then I could join the Air Force, be a lawyer for the united states government, and I would be set and everything would be grand.

And now what?

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For Heather.

Watch this video. (Apologies for the swearing.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0IVuGK7sAw&NR=1



:) Love you

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Happy Christmas - oh, wait.

Hello my darlings. Had a major allergy attack yesterday; decided to spend it curled up in bed with my new presents (a writing program, a fuzzy pirate-themed bathrobe, and an electric tea kettle. I am in HEAVEN.)

What I did on my fabulous Saturday.Collapse )

A Quick Announcement.

Firstly: Percy Jackson and the Olympians is the best series I have read in a good while. If you liked Harry Potter and you like Greek mythology, read it .

Secondly: This song pretty much sums up how I feel about christmas. Gotta love the holidays.

That is all. Holidays don't make for particularly interesting updates. Went looking through my old drawings earlier; I felt 10% amazement at some of the things I drew back then (no way I still have that skill), 10% nostalgic, and 80% embarrassed. I'm so sure my parents have gone snooping through my drawings in the past. I really should throw out the more incriminating ones. :) But now I'm drawing centaurs on the back page of one of my old journals, which I discovered I never completely filled. It's an uphill battle. XD

Happy Christmas, all. I hope to goodness that you don't all read Livejournal on Christmas, but if you do, I'll probably be here posting a mushy contemplation on life in general and the good feelings in the air and how sometimes - when for just a moment, everything is perfect and quiet and good - you can imagine how beautiful this world is, how perfect and divine and miraculous. And I'm not even religious. But sometimes it's enough to make you :) <3

Effin' FINALLY!

As of ten minutes ago, I sent off for a copy of my nano novel from last year, "The Moon and Its Keeper". I think I'm pretty happy with it; there are a couple parts where I purr in satisfaction over a clever turn of phrase, or a well-crafted bit of characterization. But there are a lot of parts where I wince at a ham-fisted attempt at dramatic tension, or an overly-contrived plot twist. I still like the advice I got once, which was that you're never done editing a novel. There will always be lines that could be snappier, scenes that could be inserted to make it flow better, changes to the overall narrative structure to be made. You're only done when you can no longer bring yourself to look at the word processor.

In a way, I'm sad to be done with this huge project. It was the largest project I've done to date (that is, the one I've taken most to completion. Adrift was actually much bigger of a project, despite being about half the length, and 15th Avenue is likely a larger undertaking). But though I started the novel as an experiment into Grimm's Brothers-esque fairy-tale high fantasy, it ended up becoming very dear to me. I love Sayir and Resa, and I thought Yunri was a pretty good character. I can't wait until I can give it to Michelle/my sister to get feedback. That's what I'm nervous about; that the characters are in reality Mary Sues and so what I think are compelling, likable characters are actually boring and I only think that because they're mine. :) I bet a lot of authors feel like that.

In fact, I'm considering writing a sequel, in the way Castle in the Air was a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Set about 10 years in the future, so the annoying perky little girl who was sort of a semi-main character in the first one is now an adult, and ready to actually confront the darker morals in storytelling. It would be fun, but I'm concerned that I'm not letting go. Maybe I should just let sleeping dogs lie, and move on to other ground?

Here's what I'll do. I'll spend tomorrow brainstorming the sequel, and if it goes well I'll get back to you on that. If not, I think I'll spend the rest of the month pounding my way through to the end of one of my unfinished novels. I would LOVE to purchase a copy of all the stories I have over 120+ pages.

God, I love being a writer :D

oooh look, an update :)

So. I'm sitting here on my couch and right now there's a rather nice tile guy standing in the kitchen, ripping out our floor and walls. It's... entertaining. (Yeeeah, I kind of forgot to be here when he came so when I got home he was already hard at work and fortunately, not stealing stuf... my bad.) He just told me something interesting, though. Apparently in England, they actually DO take tea breaks. At noon all the construction workers and everyone else would stop and literally, seriously, go have tea. For like two hours.

Wow, I love the Europeans.

So yeah, the house is a total mess. It's been hilarious living without a kitchen, I must say. We don't have a dishwasher, so we have to wash dishes by hand, except- oops! We don't have a sink, either. Or countertops. But at least we now have a front door WITH AN ACTUAL DOORKNOB AND LOCK (NO WAI) and blinds. That was probably my favorite- getting dressed for bed in front of an open window with the road looking in on it. Fun times ;)

In other news, I is missing my Tully greatly lately (hey, it rhymes, proper grammar or no). Just the other day I read a script that she had sent me over the summer, and wow... that gal is HOT with a word processor. Uh, figuratively. I think. :) As I'm in the middle of rewriting my own work, I'm suddenly struck with overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and envy. Oh, would that I could write like that!

It's just like something I said to Heather the other day. Or maybe she said it to me. I think we were talking about electricians, and how... oh yeah, how Richard was planning to become an electrician, but we figured you kind of have to have some kind of talent for that. Sure, you can learn a lot from books, but there's some element of innate ability that really separates the good from the great. It's why I can't pick up a recipe without burning it, but other people (like Hez) can just play around and make wonderful beautiful creations. Likewise, Angus could be a great electrician- he just "gets it", whereas Richard... doubtful. But I think everyone has at least one thing that they have innate talent for. Be it music, or pottery, or public speaking, or taxes- everyone has something that just makes sense in their head. At least, I sure hope so. Me, I think my talent would be writing, since I'm not good for a whole lot else. :) And while I may not be the best writer ever (in fact, I would probably place myself somewhere between Stephenie Meyer and the writer of "My Immortal"), I think my passion for the craft more than makes up for it. After all, writing IS revision. And if it turns out that I don't actually have a spark for writing... well, fuck. That would really be uncool.

Anyone else out there got their own "innate ability"? I could hazard a guess at y'alls, but it's much more fun to see what you think it is. :)

AAAAARGH!!!!!

I'm pissed. I know I'm being a total whiny rich white girl, but it's not been a good day for Woodsalicious.

curse-laden ranting below.Collapse )