Why So Serious?

“Here...fix my watch. Your kind made it,” a bully had said, shoving his Casio watch at me. Thank tha lawd this wasn’t a recent event because sometimes my big mouth writes checks I can’t cash. This occurred during my junior high years. Obviously, what the bully said was racist.

Somthing's In My Ear
Somthing's In My Ear

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger." – Buddha

A friend of mine watched The Wolf of Wallstreet, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, directed by Martin Scorsese. My friend said it was racist because one of the characters was named Chester Ming “The Depraved Chinaman".

Are you fucking kidding me?

My sensitive friend was serious. I stated that maybe in real life that was Ming’s nickname, and given how the movie ended, Scorsese wasn’t going to make the PC choice and rid him of his moniker. Shit. None of Scorsese’s movies are PC.

"Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe." – Flannery O'Connor

“Learn to laugh at yourself,” I stated.

He argued that I hate my own culture because I mock Chinese accents, often greeting people with “Herro”.

“How important is your culture to you, buddy?” I asked. He rambled on with no clear answer.

“I know more Chinese than you do,” I said.

“And that’s the real shame,” he admitted.

When people spout about how important culture is, I usually never cry out against it. But I will analyze their lives and see how important it is; my friend talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. He doesn't speak a lick of Chinese. 

It’s like anything in life. If it’s important, you’ll do something about it.

Why Are We All Bald
Why Are We All Bald

When my niece gave birth to her daughter, she had read books, blogs, articles on how to raise children, researched the potential causes of autism, and began cooking every meal so she could control what her daughter ate. Diet was a strong suspect as the cause of autism due to the chemicals in processed foods.

My serious pal, however, stood his ground, assumed I hated my own kind, and we moved our conversation topic to women.

“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” – Marilyn Monroe

Jimmy's Got a Gun

Tis the season for agent hunting. I gots me a gun and am trudging through the vast wilderness that is the Internet, stalking agents like a jealous boyfriend. Dat don't sound right. Part of the process is reading interviews that agents sometimes do, as it may reveal something that could help me make a connection through my query letter. One agent had this to say, "You're writing not to get published. You're writing because you love the act of doing so, and you cannot imagine doing anything else." I love that.

I Have a Headache

I Have a Headache

I've heard people describe writing as an incredibly solitary act. Tell that to the voices in my head. If we as writers want to get published, or somehow get our work out there, then we need people. And to lure them into our trap, we need to do some research on how to write a query letter, how to write a synopsis, even how to write a book. Shocking!

I've also heard that writing the book is the easiest part of publishing. I've already gone through a round of rejections about four years ago, so have some idea of the difficulty. And most people don't even know that getting an agent is the first of many steps before a book is even released into the wild.

And every time I visit my brother, he asks me: What's my plan. My response never changes; I shrug my shoulders.

Career Planning

Career Planning

Like so many things in life, hunting in the wild takes a lot of patience, following your intuition, and preparation. If I run into the plains of Africa with my gun, I'll most likely scare away my prey. If I run into those same plains without being prepared, I'll get eaten alive. And if I rely solely on my instruments, then I may blind myself to the real prize.

A friend of mine didn't do any research or get any feedback on her query letter before sending it out. She received her first rejection and sent it to me, and it was obvious why she had been rejected. The premise of her story, as she had  presented it, was cliché, an innocent young woman meets a mysterious man. She didn't give away the hook; for example, the lurking overbearing vampire (Twilight), or sex addict deviant (50 Shades of Grey). I've not read my friend's book, she may be afraid of my honest feedback and it may not help in the end, but she relied on her "intuition" alone to write both her book and query letter. 

It just doesn't work that way.

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I don't care how wise a person is, I ain't lettin' anyone perform open heart surgery on me unless they know what they're doin'. But that doesn't mean that the most qualified doctor has all the answers. Many alternative and new treatments are being worked on every day. So doing at least some research is always a good idea, take in what you learn, then let that inner part of you create, or help make your choice. 

And this is the hardest part of all, I think. It's trusting that somehow everything will work out, something that my brother doesn't understand.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a party at some remote place where the bus only showed up once an hour. I use public transportation as much as possible. But by the time I realized the last bus back had left, I was having too much fun, I was stuck without a ride back to BART.

I didn't consciously say everything will work out, but I tend to live my life this way. After walking around the hotel where the party was held, I found an hourly shuttle that went to the San Francisco Airport, a BART stop. Had I panicked and yelled and cried and complained and pounded my fists, I might not have found my way home, or at the least, made the whole process difficult.

So when agent hunting, I can only do my best with what I know and learn and query these elusive creatures, and if I'm able to bait one in and form a great relationship, then great. If not, great. Either way, I'll trudge on.

Dats Some Big Ass Footprints

Dats Some Big Ass Footprints

All of life is a long road. We can't see more than a few hundred feet, even less in the jungle, but the only way to reveal more of the road is to just keep going. Sometimes the road ends quickly. Others will lead us for the long haul. All we can do is find our passions and follow them until it takes us to where we need to be.

Rest In Peace Paul Walker

Back in 1996, I had bought the seminal vehicle that would shape my life for the next few years, the Honda Civic. It was beautiful. Red, shiny, manual transmission, and the entry-level car into rice rocket folklore. My girlfriend at the time was Japanese, my car was Japanese, I was into Japanese cartoons (anime), and totally into Japanese air fresheners. Fellow import car enthusiasts will know what I’m talking about.

Damn Thats Shiny

Damn Thats Shiny

Much like the main character in The Fast and The Furious film of 2001, I worked in a car shop that specialized in ricing up, or fixing up, or modifying imports (there were many names for what we did). Though, the focus seemed to be Hondas and Acuras because most of the kids doing this kind of thing could only afford those cars.

Meeting some of the car clubs, I was led to the illegals. These were races that took place mostly in industrial areas that had long straight-aways and no prying eyes. Bets were taken, egos bruised, and accidents often occurred. We were—are talking Asian drivers. Time doesn't erase slanty eyes. Kidding aside, anyone who had partaken in the illegals was at risk because it wasn’t just the drivers but the bystanders who gladly crowded the sides and watched the loud raspy motors speed down the road. When the police showed up, hundreds of people rushed to their rides and escaped the wrath of tha popo. The routine would be to find the next meet up and continue the races. Often, this would continue into the early morning hours of the next day, and the crazy thing was we had wanted the cops to come because the excitement of the escape added to the rush of the illegals. It was impossible for them to catch most of us because there could be hundreds of cars winding through the streets away from the few who got caught.

Race Is On

Race Is On

Most of the illegals occurred in the South Bay, what most people know as Silicon Valley, and it got so bad that a special task force was created by tha popo to try and subdue the races. Undercover cops dressed as racers would report where the races happened, and a tactical force would block all the escape routes. I know this because my friends and I were caught one time and were forced to pop our hoods open. The cops ticketed for every mod that was done, increasing the fine, even if the parts were street legal. We were a little more intelligent in that we always observed and never raced, and we had gotten wind of a task force trapping our fellow ricers, so we brought a stock car, a car that wasn’t modified. As a result, we were let go. Obviously, what the police were doing didn’t really avert the racers, so they started to give out tickets to the observers as well, even if they had brought a stock car. I stopped going to the illegals at that point, as with most of my passions, my love for hot imports dwindled and died.

Before that happened, the shop that I had worked for sponsored my car, which led to other sponsors, and off I went on a tour of the import shows that had imbued California at the time. I’m not sure how popular they are now, given the economy, and most tuners of that time have grown up and spawned kids, not to mention the wives. Despite my engine being stock internally—no work was done on pistons, bore, etc—my rice rocket edged closer to a rocket. I had all the bolt ons—cold air intake, header, cat back exhaust, suspension, body kit, etc. I even had stickers on my car of all my sponsors along with graphics to liven the color scheme and joked that it added five more horsepower. However, my Civic was transformed when I introduced it to force induction, an Eaton supercharger. It was like driving a real sports car.

Dat Thang Is Huge
Dat Thang Is Huge

So the natural next step was to see how fast I could go. I had a friend at the time who had a supercharged Integra GSR, so we decided to go to Sacramento and run the quarter mile. On the day that we were supposed to go, a Ford F250 Super Duty truck decided to kiss the ass of my car, hard, like French kiss it. The truck hit my car so hard, the impact broke the rear wind shield into the back seat. Anyone sitting there would have been seriously hurt. I don’t know if the universe was telling me it was time to move on, but that ended my import car days, and unfortunately, my red hot Civic.

Tha Man Tha Car

Tha Man Tha Car

One of my fondest memories of those years was meeting Paul Walker. Many of us had heard whispers of a movie being made based on the huge tuner scene, but we didn’t know who was involved and what the story was going to be. Along my tour that led me to Southern Cali, my friends and I were walking around, checking out all the modded cars. We happened upon one, a Nissan GT-R R34. At the time, GT-R’s were the Holy Grail of sorts because they were only sold to the JDM, Japanese Domestic Market. One wants what one can’t have. I couldn’t afford one then and was left to drool on this particular one that had been imported from the motherland, Japan. On the window was a blurb describing who the owner was and that Paul Walker was starring in the upcoming The Fast and The Furious movie.

Having little filter, I said out loud, “Who the hell is Paul Walker?” I looked over to a table next to me, and this good-looking guy, six foot two, was signing a poster for a fan.

My friend said to me, “Ask him where the Asians are.”

By then, we had seen trailers of the new movie and my complaint was Where are all the Asians at? I wasn’t a writer at that time, so ending a question like that with ‘at’ was all right. Most of the attendees at these import tuner shows were Asians of all kinds, hence the term rice rocket—aside from the fact that they were modding Japanese cars.

Nervously, I sauntered up to Walker and said, “Where all the Asians at in your film?”

He smiled and said, “They were cut,” then shook my hand. Man that guy was tall.

He spent the next ten minutes talking to us about the movie, when the sequel was being filmed, and allowed us to take a picture of him next to his GT-R. He was incredibly gracious.

Rest in peace Paul Walker.

Straight Bashing

Ever have dinner with a bunch of assholes? Couple weeks ago, I went to dinner with some acquaintances. I didn't know the woman, a financial planner, who had been on a hike I'd gone on would be there, otherwise I would have bailed like hay. Unfortunately, she was not the worst of the six peeps around the table in the grimy hot pot restaurant.

One of the main themes I explore in my book, Nightfall, is ego. I had gotten a real lesson of what ego really was during my stint teaching at the martial arts school that I used to attend. Of course, they taught not to have one, but they were of the school 'Do as I say, not as I do', which was one of the main reasons I left.

In Nightfall, I don't preach about not having ego, nor do I preach about having one. Certain characters will fall due to their ego, and certain characters prevail because of it. And as a writing guideline, I don't lecture about it, but show how ego can affect each characters' actions and the consequences that befall them.

Knocked Tha Eff Out

Knocked Tha Eff Out

In real life, ego plays out in different ways. I'm a huge UFC fan. By his legacy, Anderson Silva is considered the greatest of all time MMA fighter. He holds the longest winning streak in the UFC, is one of the most feared fighters, and seems to have skills beyond the normal human being. According to him, his showboating in the cage is just who he is. I think it's part of his mental game, taunting his opponents' mind to make a mistake. I always attributed that to his ego, and he's been successful at it. That was until he fought Chris Weidman, who knocked Silva out while he showboated. Now, Weidman had admitted that Silva's showboating pissed him off and caused him to throw caution to the wind and sling punches, something that Silva wanted. But this time, Silva got caught. So is ego bad?

Ergo
Ergo

At dinner, the guy who chose the restaurant was a total dickwad, DW. He asked a new transplant to the City how long he'd been here. A couple months, but he'd been to San Francisco six previous times to interview for jobs. DW asked if they flew him here, and the new guy acknowledged. Laughing, DW stated that if he'd been the interviewee, they would have flown him out dozens of times, touting his intelligence. I knew that DW thought he was smarter because he stated so and even called the guy stupid. If this was DW's sarcastic attempt at joking, he fucking sucked at it.

Then he turned his attention to me. Ooh, a challenge. Somehow we got on the subject of same sex marriage, and I told everyone at the table that I supported it. DW asked me why. What business do I have telling someone what they can or cannot do, especially when it doesn't affect me. He scoffed and stated that a lot of things people do don't affect me. Whoa, he is smart.

"What if someone shoots and murders another person," DW asked.

I wanted to tell him that it still didn't affect me, because I assumed the threat wasn't immediate to me. But I didn't think he would have understood that, so I stated that's an extreme situation, and the threat is real if that murderer turned their attention to me. Even then, he didn't quite accept my argument, but agreed it was extreme, and was upset that it didn't support his stance.

The financial planner then argued, "Well, they're stealing money from me?"

Crazy Ass Byotches
Crazy Ass Byotches

Since Thelma and Louise, I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to gay couple criminals, and asked what she meant. I know. They weren't lesbians.

DW applauded her and threw her argument in my face. She explained that married couples have tax benefits, and therefore, are stealing money from her by not paying more taxes. Geezus Kryst.

"Couldn't you say the same thing about heterosexual marriages?" I threw back.

"No, because men and women have been getting married for thousands of years," she assured. What do you call a female dickwad? Dickwaddess?

DW aplauded again, then asked me if I was gay. Before I could answer, he accused me of being gay. Before having the opportunity to react, DW then asked if I like butts. What ignorance. I couldnt believe he was gay bashing me. But I admitted I was a butt man, as that is my favorite part of a woman's body.

fuck u jerry
fuck u jerry

"You better stay away from me, man. I don't want a reputation," DW said, showing me the hand.

At this point, about a thousand thoughts barged into my mind. One being that I could kick this guy's ass, and I don't say that unless I feel that's a real possibility. I know, I'm a pussy. More importantly, I chose not to defend myself, and the reason was simple:

To do so would mean that I at some level affirm that homosexuality is deviant, and that I would have to lower myself to DW's level and swim in the garbage that is his mind. Homosexuals may not be socially acceptable in some circles, which is complete shit, but that doesn't fucking mean it's wrong. Again, the thought of punching this guy in the face blared in my mind. I just don't think the public defender would do a good job on my behalf.

My ego was bruised, not because someone accused me of being gay, I mean, I am what I eat, pussy, but that this guy was so full of himself, I wanted to be Weidman and knock this asshole out. The financial planner too, but she's naturally a bitch and couldn't help her own stupidity. And both these assholes live in the City, the capital of Gay Pride. What a couple of putz. Putzes? Putzi?

The Curse and the Cure

Shake my hand, dammit

Shake my hand, dammit

From my experience, having an antagonist that seems or is very distant can present the small issue of conflict and tension; the chosen one may not always have direct contact with their antichrist. So having someone that is a little closer, aside from circumstantial disasters, to provide some conflict with the main character is important.

One good example is Draco Malfoy. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, For He Who Shall Not Be Named is somewhere off in the Forbidden Forest, which is forbidden, and doesn't provide direct conflict until the end. Given Malfoy's name and Harry’s alliance with Ron, Draco is in direct conflict with Potter. We as the readers realize this immediately.

In Nightfall, my hero has to fight a war with his former teacher. Problem with that, geographically, they're a continent apart. Though, the antagonist does affect my hero even through the distance, I like to have other characters that constantly give the hero issues. That along with circumstantial disasters allows me, the author, to put my hero in constant conflict by different means. I’m hoping that keeps my readers’ interest throughout the trilogy. Aside from the fact that Draco was the constant heel of Harry, my hero will have some that are constant, some that will turn on him for a good length of time, while others will represent red herrings, like Professor Snape.

I did this because the story required it, that somehow it needed it, and it wasn't a conscious requirement on my part. What got me thinking about it was a hike that I’d done with a group in Point Reyes, located in Northern California next to the coast. It’s an incredible area, known for secluded beaches, immense hikes—ours was 15 miles—and shaded trails that bode well even in the summer (see gallery below).

Fuck with me not

Fuck with me not

Around twenty of us went, most were very friendly, and I’d known a few of them from prior hikes. There was one woman who seemed to be my heel for the day. Why? I don't know exactly, but maybe because after I introduced myself I had left without continuing our conversation. I felt no connection to her whatsoever, I usually don’t know why when that happens, but most of the time my intuition is right so felt no reason to talk to her further.

Half-hour into the hike, a group of us were talking about something, and she made a point. I disagreed with it, and she kicked dirt at me. So being immature, I kicked dirt back. I know, childish. Then, like a thundercat, she reached for the ground and grabbed a fistful of dirt, twigs and leaves, ready to throw it at my face. She demanded why I kicked dirt at her, and I’m like…what? Like a third grader on the playground, I said, “You kicked dirt at me first!”

“Oh, we’re even then,” she agreed. 

Don't mess wit me sucka

Don't mess wit me sucka

At this point, I began to see my intuition was correct.

Throughout the hike, she kept taking jabs at me. Somehow, we stumbled onto the conversation on height, and I jokingly stated she was short. She pointed her finger at me and said, “Hey! You’re short. I’m average.” She’s 5’2” and I’m 5’6”. Sorry little girl, but we’re both short. I said nothing, thinking my immature behavior earlier might have prompted the wrath from this woman before realizing maybe it was me leaving abruptly when we met.

Everything makes sense now

Everything makes sense now

Toward the end of the hike, I was flirting with a girl, and I had said something she didn’t understand. So when I tried to explain, she had laughed and told me don’t even try. So I said,” You’re gonna play me like dat?” Sometimes I get ghetto without knowing it. The woman with the wrath turned around—she wasn’t even part of the conversation—and said, “She knows you’re full of it,” and high-fived the girl. Since the short comment, I decided not to joke with this woman because she definitely can’t take it. She had found great comfort and camaraderie with people who seemed to agree with her philosophies of life, nothing wrong with that. But I knew she was a person who was very closed. Her ego dictated her every emotion and action. Not saying mine doesn’t have some effect on me—kicking-dirt incident—but when it happens I’m aware of it, which was why I didn’t react to the many jabs she’d taken.

All of this is to say one thing: trust your intuition. Well, how do you do this? Simple. Whenever you have confirmation that your intuition is true, you thank it.

I began to realize this when I kept cursing myself whenever I forgot my keys, or my bag, etc. I forgot more and more and more. So I tried something new. Whenever I remembered something, I thanked whatever part of my mind that remembered. And I forgot less and less. Do I still forget things? Sure. But not to the degree when I punished myself for it.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Let go. Things will get better.

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Forever and Ever and Ever...

I was watching part one of the season finale of The Bachelorette. Wait. What? No. I didn’t choose to watch this. Common! Psh. My sister was watching it and I was like, yeah, I’m just gonna get something to drink and relax and since I was enjoying my drink I was like, yeah, I’ll just relax and hang and spend time with my sis and was like, whoa, The Bachelorette is on. Yeah.

Now watch as I break these apart

Now watch as I break these apart

Anyways, the bachelorette had mentioned that she wanted to make the right choice from the last three men because she wanted her marriage to last forever. Nothing wrong with that. I think that’s what we all want at some level. But…I feel that we focus so much on the forever, wanting it to never end, needing that security that that person will be there forever, to never leave for any one else that we miss out on what’s truly important.

This potion will make him love me forever

This potion will make him love me forever

As writers, we know one thing for sure. We toil away in some dark corner of a cafe for literally thousands of hours, thinking, rethinking, agonizing over every single word, words that the average reader will nonchalantly read over, and we wonder, in those moments when we take a break, whether anyone outside of our circle of friends and family will read this incredible story. Hell, none of my family has read my books. So why write?

In life, there’s no guarantee. Even in death, we don’t know if we are truly dead. Do we have a soul? Where does it go once our bodies end? And even if we don’t have a soul, and death is the end of our existence, does that really matter? Regardless, to focus on death, like focusing on the forever, is a waste of time. When we hone in on something that is in the future, be it tomorrow or many years down the road, we miss out in the moment.

You built a time machine out of a Delorean?

You built a time machine out of a Delorean?

What? Psh! That’s it? The MOMENT. Don’t tell me. Live in the present. What other choice do I fucking have? You see a fucking time machine here, buddy?

Living in the moment has been a tenet for many, if not all, artists. It’s the only place where we create. It’s the only place where truth comes from. Even if we use our past as inspiration, we’re bringing it to the current moment to use in our creation. And there’s nothing in the future that we can bring back because it hasn’t happened, yet. So to focus about the future is like that proverbial over filling the teacup. Empty it and live. We’re all gonna die, we can’t stop it, so why worry about it? Same thing with marriage and relationships. They’re all gonna end either by choice or death do we part. So why not just enjoy the moment?

Nothing else in the world has taught me about living the moment, enjoying the process, more than writing. Because such a small number of writers ever make it, and even less make it big, to think about the possible “wasted” time I’ve spent working on my books is useless. The pure fun of telling these stories is exhilarating. The excitement of plotting, seeing the story write itself, develop, and watch the characters growing, or not, is an experience I can only imagine to be like watching children grow. And I guess that’s why so many writers refer to their works of art as their babies. In many ways, it takes a life of its own.

In life, living in the moment is important because that’s all we really have. The past is gone. The future has yet to arrive. And in the moment, we choose whether to be happy or not by how we perceive things. So why not just be happy?

You Pointin' to Me?

Do I look fat?

Do I look fat?

You pointin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you pointin’…you pointin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here.

When world building, indicating or explaining, using dialogue or exposition, is necessary. One of the biggest criticisms a published author indicated to me was my world. (Why do people say published author? Like that validates my work, their advice, or me.) That I had to give more details, really go into how politics work, are there classes in society, where and how do they live, etc. All the nitty-gritty stuff that helps ground the world into reality.

However, once you get passed that, indicating too much is too much. Cause it’s too much. I think that’s what writing folk call writing on the nose. I tend not to write on the nose cause there’s not much room there. The basic premise is not to be so obvious, to dictate, to indicate story to the point where it’s not fun.

You smell

You smell

An example of this was The Lost Symbol. Part of the premise of the book was how thought helps create and manipulate our world, something that I’ve been interested in for most of my life. As I trudged through the book, I felt like I was being lectured by one of those new age preachers asking me to give my lifesavings and body to the better good. Not sure if that’s an example of on the nose writing, but Dan Brown’s overuse of italics seriously annoyed me. Not because it was italicized. But because he was trying so hard, it felt to me, to indicate what these people were thinking and feeling. Why not use expository sentences in between dialogue to do that? But who am I?

I think a great way of showing what your character is about, or how your world works is layering different things that point to a certain idea.

The martial art school I used to go to played favorites in a big way, without explicitly showing it by hiding it in meaning.

Upon entering the school, a row of black belts’ pictures lined the wall above the mirrors. The center portrait was of the owner, the master of all masters, the one. Flanking him were black belts in descending degrees. When I was there, I had noticed that my personal teacher, who was third highest rank in the school, slowly moved farther and father away from the center until, ultimately, his image mysteriously disappeared. At the same time, new black belts edged their way closer to the center. It was explained that these individuals were contributing more to the school, while others who didn’t got axed from the wall of fame.

We be cool

We be cool

Automatically, you the student in the mirror was below the instructors of the school. And those who followed remained on the wall of shame, while those who didn’t were thought to be outsiders. But it’s those outsiders who usually make the biggest marks in the universe. Bruce Lee anyone? Whoppah! Now, of course, the author should not explain what was really going on, nor lecture his thoughts on being an outsider, like I did with Bruce. That’s for the reader/audience to figure out for themselves, if they so choose. And their interpretation is a good indication of who they are. Isn’t that the fun of reading?