Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Professional Bad Butt

My buddy Mike, who the kids refer to as Zombie Mike, is part of my Ninja Writers group. Oh yes, secret ninjas! Angus thinks Zombie Mike is so funny that she is really excited to read his super awesome amazing incredibly funny book Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities that will be published by Arthur Levine/Scholastic sometime next year. This is the same girl who told me that she doesn't think she'll read my book because it is too violent and not funny enough for her. Argh.

Now granted, she is right. Mike's book is lose your lunch funny, so I guess I can't hold it against her. And besides this is my Ninja Zombie buddie Mike we're talking about! How can I hold a grudge against someone who sends me this:

He only sent me the fabulous nameplate, the little woodland creature design was done courtesy of Youngest who felt that it would help detract from the fact that I was admitting to having a bad butt. I think her exact words were "Mommy, you're butt isn't bad. Not like Daddy's!" Ha ha! That's my girl.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random Funny Things My Kids Say - Part 48

I've been promising the girls that if I ever sold my book we'd get a new car. We were way overdue. My van and Da Man's CRV are both over 10 years old. So, with the fabulous news of my book deal, the first thing out of the girls mouths after "Hurray, that's awesome!" was "So can we buy a new car now?"

The new car is a Mazda CX9. We did a lot of research and test driving before finally settling on it. And we were smart. We got a great deal on a brand new 2010 just as they were bringing in the new 2011s. But the best part of the car is the seatwarmers. The girls call them buttwarmers and they are bummed that only the front 2 seats have them.

So as we were waiting outside for Da Man to come out, Angus sat up front and cranked up the buttwarmer.

Angus - Ah that feels toasty warm! You're so lucky, Mommy!

Me - Uh huh

Angus - Uh oh. My tummy is rumbling.

Oldest - Don't you dare!

Angus - Mommy! What happens if I fart while sitting on the butt warmer? Will I explode and die?

Oldest - No, but we will!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Tiger Mom is better than your Tiger Mom

What with all the hoopla about the Battle hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua I just want to say PFFFFFFTTTTTTTHHHHHHH to it all. So people think Amy Chua is the worst mother in the world. Ha! Sorry to burst your bubble but she's a typical Asian Mom. Ok, maybe extreme in some ways (3 to 4 hours of piano and violin everyday?! My Mom could barely force me to do an hour! But 2 hours of math homework every day! AGH! This is why I hate math!). But tough love is a very Asian Mom thing. I shall pass no judgment on it other than to say that it isn't the way I choose to raise my own children. But that doesn't make it bad, it's just a little messed up is all.

So I'm going to recycle an old post I did because it is a perfect example of what this whole ruckus is about. This is an actual conversation that occurred between my Mom and I after my second pregnancy.

Mom: Waaaaa! You got so fat! You look like a fat person swallowed your face!

Me: That's really nice, Mom. I love you too.

Mom: I love you that is why I tell you. Only mother who loves their child very much would tell them they are ugly. If I hate you, I would tell you you are beautiful and you should eat more food. Eat more chocolate. Person who tells you to eat more, they the one that hate you! Not me I love you so much so I put you on diet, help you keep your husband.

Me: There is nothing wrong with our relationship...

Mom: For now! But stay too fat too long and he gonna look for pretty skinny girl and what happen to you? Fat, ugly with babies and no man. Poor you!

Me: Don't worry!

Mom: Don't worry? How can I not worry? I the only who one worry for you! (long silence) Did he take life insurance out on you?

Me: MOM!!!!!

Mom: I just worry that's all!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Random Funny Things My Kids Say - Part 47

This post has been removed at the request of My Mom, who has offered me a million dollars to take it down. Although it is monopoly money, it was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Writer's Mantra - Shut Up and Listen Carefully

The one question that I've been asked several times lately is a very familiar one. It's the old "What's the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?" It's weird for me to even consider answering this question. I mean I just got a publishing deal. I'm not even a published author yet. Who am I to give advice?

You know who I am? I'm you, with a different set of circumstances. Maybe with better timing or more determination or a timely idea or better smelling shampoo, etc. Whatever it is, my point is I'm no different than you. I'm you just a little ahead of where you can be in your writing career. I'm your future you. So what would I, as your future you, say to you about obtaining your future goals? I say "Shut up and listen carefully" should be your new mantra.

Before you get offended or confused, let me explain. Writers can be very opinionated and defensive and yet at the same time really insecure and paranoid. This comes out in how you interact with other people, how you talk, how you act, and even how you write. In order to become a better writer, I had to tell myself to shut up already and start listening carefully to what's really being said.

How do you listen carefully? First, you have to take ego out of the equation. All the ego - not just the "I'm the best writer in the world" ego, but the "I suck and can't even write 'how to' manuals for a can opener" ego. This is the hard part, but it's doable. You gotta tell your ego and your critic to shut up and then you have to listen.

For example, earlier in my agent querying period I received a rejection from an agent that said my ms wasn't submission ready and not of the caliber of writing she accepted. My initial reaction was anger and defensiveness. Who the hell did she think she was? For someone who had gotten so used to rejection, this one stung my pride quite a lot. I was furious. But after I calmed down, I thought about her words and I looked for the kernel of truth that I sensed in my gut was there. I told my egotistical self to shut up and I listened to my gut who told me to take another objective look. When I did, I was chagrined to find that I had been a bit sloppy. A few spelling errors and even a repetitive paragraph in the first ten pages. She was right. I wasn't submission ready. In this new publishing era where editors look for the most polished manuscripts, I had more work to do.

It is inevitable that most of us are our own worst critics. It's just as important to tell your critic to shut up. You know the one that sounds like Joan Rivers and says you suck and you're ugly. That guy. You need to punch that guy in the face and tell him to shut up. Listen to your gut not your critic. Your gut wants to help you succeed. Your critic wants to make you stab yourself in the eye with a spoon. So who do you really want to listen to?

Listening carefully also means to weed out the negativity. To weed out the naysayers. The people who just want to bring you down (whether on purpose or unconsciously) and say things that undermine your confidence. Listening carefully means recognizing truth from untruths. Not easy to do when your inner critic is bitching at you about how badly you stink. He helps all that negativity take root and you begin to second guess yourself. He needs an ass whooping. And you need to listen carefully. When you take your ego and your critic out of the equation, then a negative criticism becomes easier to analyze. It's easier to consider whether it really has merit or if it's just trash talk.

One naysayer told me that my first book (which I shelved) was "too oriental for western sensibilities." After I kicked in his teeth (in my head), I listened carefully to what that criticism was really about. In my first book, I had some difficult Korean names. The kind that make you scratch your head wondering how to even attempt pronouncing them. Fair enough, I thought. I never did like the fact that I had no idea how to pronounce all the Elvish names in Lord of the Rings. I kept that in mind when I wrote Prophecy. Now I have names in my book that are easier to pronounce. Did I sell myself out to do that? Absolutely not. I listened carefully. I disregarded the inherent racism in the implied criticism and instead focused on how to address it.

As a writer, there will be many times when your ego and your critic will get in the way of your writing. Don't let them control you. Don't let them block your forward progress. Tell them to shut up so you can listen carefully. Only then can you find the truths that will work best for you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Random Ramblings or I couldn't think of anything else to blog about because my brain fell out of my head, rolled down a hill, and was eaten by a zombie

Thanks to everyone who gave me such wonderful comments, sent me emails, called me, texted me, and otherwise celebrated with me last week! You all are just fabulous and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated all of your kindness and excitement! It felt like my own private Mardi Gras. Especially because I didn't cook for 4 days straight. And then my best friend and her hubby, Syl & Stu, came down for the weekend and I didn't have to cook all weekend again!

So the great thing about S&S is that they are the biggest food lovers, like us. And of course when they came down, we had to go out to a nice celebratory dinner. During our fabulous meal, Stu spills red sauce on his shirt. Syl immediately whips out the Tide to go spot remover and he is able to blot out the spot, leaving a sparkling clean shirt behind. Marvelous stuff, right? Except it stinks of feet. WTF? Tide is the greatest smelling detergent in the world. How the hell did they make a stain remover that smells like a funky football locker room? Da Man's feet after a 10 mile run smell better than this stuff.

I have decided that Tide to Go will be my weapon of choice, not against stains - but against people I don't like. Like if you're standing in line at the bank and some jerk is talking loudly on the phone about his amazing stock portfolio and all the hot girls that keep calling him for dates. Simply take some Tide to Go and surreptitiously rub it all over the back of his jacket and he can spend the rest of the day wondering who the hell stinks like dirty feet and wondering why people keep backing away from him. Or some obnoxious woman that bathed in a bottle of cheap drugstore perfume stands too close to you, counter the perfume by covering her purse and coat with Essence of Stinky Toe Cheese, that way the two odors can cancel themselves out, or knock her out. Either way, you win! And what if you are being sexually harassed by some disgusting lowlife at the office. Simply lather Tide to Go all over your body and it should guarantee that the lecher won't come near you. Seriously though, how does a detergent company make a product that stinks so badly?

Ok so randomness aside, I've had a lot of emails asking me questions about my book, the sequels, Korean legends, where do I get my inspiration, how old I am, what's my favorite food, etc. I'm not sure what to tackle first and I don't know what is that interesting to my blog buddies. So I figured I'd approach some of these questions, but I want to also open up for more questions - interesting ones, random ones, that will help break up the possible boredom of me-centric questions. Like do I believe in reincarnation or why do I think fritos smells like feet. Ask me a question - any question, deep and meaningful, frivolous, shocking, etc. And I'll do my best to answer it.

And in the meantime, I'm going to go wipe Tide to Go all over Da Man's federal badge that he wears over his neck. Bet he gets halfway through his morning before he realizes where the hell the stink is coming from. he he.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life is Good

So today I have a major announcement, but before I make it, I realized that I wanted to think back to the path that brought me here. Back in the year 2000, I saw that Time magazine had placed Ghengis Khan on their cover as the Time Man of the Millenium. Intrigued, I bought a biography on Khan only to discover that I was learning more Korean history in a biography about a Mongol than I had ever known. I was so interested, I began to look for more books on ancient Korea and found myself at a loss. There were nearly none to be found in the bookstores or libraries. So began my quest to special order and hunt down all I could on ancient Korean history. In the process, Da Man said "with all that money you've been spending, you better be writing a damn book!" I was determined to prove him right. And that's how it started. But that was the easy part.

When I first started writing, I took several writing classes at my local writing center. During one of these classes, a published author told me that no one in publishing would ever be interested in a book on ancient Korea. I was determined to prove him wrong. 

Another instructor told me that I should consider shelving the book and starting with something more commercial so I could establish myself first. So I spent three years writing and researching a book  about World War II. But I couldn't forget all my ideas about a mythical book that would celebrate the fascinating history and culture of Korea.  When my old company got reorganized and I was unhappy with the amount of work that was loaded down on me and the excruciating bureaucracy that I had to deal with, Da Man got tired of my bitching and said "Go ahead and quit and give this writing thing a serious try. I know you can do it." I was determined to prove him right.

But no one at the old job could understand why I was doing it. Why I was quitting. Couldn't understand that I was serious about this writing thing. One of my colleagues actually laughed and said "Yeah, right. Keep dreaming!" I was determined to prove him wrong.

When I told my Dad about wanting to write a book about ancient Korea, he was so excited he wanted to help in anyway possible. He got me a ton of books and even translated ones that were only in Korean. My Dad told me that what I was doing wonderful and that he was proud of me. He said a book like this was needed and should be published. I was determined to prove him right.

During the agent query process, one agent actually wrote to me "Ugh, ancient Korea? Who would want to read that?" I was determined to prove her wrong.

Over the years, there have been so many moments when another person's negativity caused me to second guess what I was doing, but I never gave up. I still believed in myself and in my book. But I also had a family that believed in me even when the rest of the world didn't. And I owe it all to them that I never gave up and that my dream is coming true.

From Publisher's Marketplace - Ellen Oh's PROPHECY: The Dragon King Chronicles, in which an elite warrior and bodyguard to her cousin, the young prince, is feared and mistrusted by all except a select few in the Kingdom who know of her power as a demon hunter, and how she may be the vanguard in the coming war against invading forces, to Phoebe Yeh at Harper Children's, in a good deal, in a three-book deal, for publication in Summer 2012, by Joe Monti at Barry Goldblatt Literary (NA).

It's hard to believe that I will finally be published. I'm still in shock. It happened so fast that it left me reeling in a complete and utter happy daze. We went on submission the beginning of December and within a week and a half I had an offer. When I got the call from my agent, I did the one thing I said I'd never do. I vowed that if I ever got a book deal, I wouldn't scream in my agent's ear. I would be professional, cool, calm, and collected. Except when the call actually happened (which I had anxiously been waiting for since the night before when my agent told me we were going to acquisitions and that I should try and get some sleep, ha ha), my fabulous agent started the call by saying "So I'm sorry to say this... but I have a bad cold which is keeping me from emoting but... you have an offer from HarperCollins..." At which point I promptly blew out his eardrum (sorry Joe!). And when he told me it was a 3-book deal, my hand started shaking and I began to simultaneously laugh and cry like a crazy person.

Talking to my amazing new editor was like talking to an old friend you haven't seen in a long time and there's so much to catch up on and so much to talk about you don't want to get off the phone cause you can keep talking for hours and hours. And I'm not much of a phone talker!! I should have been intimidated, but instead, it was like a homecoming. Here was an editor who loved my book - in fact she loved it so much she read it on her blackberry! And then right before Christmas, she and her fantastic editorial assistant (Hi Amanda!!!), sent me a big pile of books to read, which was like a bonus Christmas present!! (By the way, I'm in love with Subway Girl by P.J. Converse. It's simply brilliant and poignant and the writing is fabulous and I'm jealous of the author for writing it. And Angus thinks Big Nate rules!)

To top it all off, my parents came down for Christmas and the timing was perfect because it meant I could tell them in person. When I told them the news, their reactions were all I could have hoped for. My Mom couldn't stop laughing and my Dad wiped away a few shaky tears. 

"You see I was right," my Mom said. "you're not a chicken. You're an eagle. But just remember, even though you got your writing gene from your daddy, you got your 'never give up until you drop dead' gene from me."

Oh yeah, I'm definitely just like my Mom. And that hideous screaming sound you just heard is the agonized wailing of Da Man who has just realized that his wife is turning into his mother-in-law. 

Isn't life good?

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