5 Things I Learned at Writer’s Digest Conference 2017

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  1. Stick To Your Story

It’s easy to get caught up in your writing and naturally drift away from the heart of your story as you start to navigate the world you are building. But, is everything you’ve written related to your story, at the heart of what you are trying to write? Or, are you just writing it and keeping it in your story because you’ve written it, regardless if it fits the story or not. I guess, as Hemingway says, this is the part where you must kill your darlings – delete anything that’s excessive or unnecessary to your story, which is probably the hardest thing to do but is also the most important thing you can do for your writing. But sticking to the story not only applies to your short story or your novel but also relates to your query letter. Don’t go on and on about your book, your experience, your credentials, etc. Stick to the story by only giving the agent/editor the first act of your novel. Give them enough to know what your book is about but leave them wanting for more. It’s not easy to make a perfect pitch, but aim for 50-100 words, because as I learned from agent Janet Reid, the whole query letter should be less than 250 words. So, stick to the story.

  1. Raise the Stakes

This was something new I learned at the conference about how to keep the story going and alive throughout your novel. Always put in conflict, especially at the beginning. If your beginning doesn’t have a type of conflict (emotional/physical/spiritual) then that’s not your beginning. Keep writing until you get to that point of conflict/crisis where your character must make a choice/ a decision about what they are dealing with – that’s your beginning. To make your story feel like a page-turner, throw in conflict every 20-40 pages to either add more conflict to your character’s journey or to raise the stakes for their current dilemma. As Laura DiSilverio said, work with the “what could be worse?” mindset. You must be willing to make your character’s lives miserable. To increase conflict in your novel, make sure to define your protagonist’s goals/needs in each scene, provide opposition to these goals, give the illusion of progress, surprise with setbacks, and when that’s all done then think “what could be worse?” You’ll be surprised with what you may come up with.

  1. Revise in Layers

This seminar by Gabriela Pereira has forever changed my outlook on the revision process. I felt like I have been editing my novel/work wrong my whole life, until now that is, which is why I’m sharing this process with you because I’m sure it’ll change the way you think about revisions and edits too. Instead of going through your manuscript one page at a time and tinkering with little changes, you need to revise your manuscript multiple times but each time only focusing on one thing. First, focus only on narration: can you distinguish between the narrator and characters? (The answer is yes; you should, even for 1st person) Is your voice consistent or does it change from scene to scene /chapter-to-chapter? Next, focus on just the characters: is it clear what protagonist wants/needs? Is your protagonist making choices, or do they seem more reactive than proactive? Then, focus just on the story: do you know where your characters are heading? Is that clear? Does your story rush up at the end in a giant rush with little room for closure? Next, focus only on the scenes: do they all relate to support the overall theme? Does the story feel real? Is there too much description? Is dialogue flat or does it ring true? And for the last layer of revision, focus only on the details: can I express concept/scene in a better way? Did I use right word/sentence structure? Are there typos/errors? It’s a lot to look over, but I feel that after doing this process of revision, your story will be as thorough as you want it and as clearly written as it is seen in your head.

  1. Never Give Up

One thing all our keynote speakers emphasized was to keep going with our writing and to keep being persistent in publishing our books. One of my new favorite writing quotes came from Pulitzer Prize winner, Richard Russo when describing how to keep writing when you feel like giving up: “Every time you think the tank is empty, (you’ll find) the writing was putting more gas in the tank.”

  1. Make Friends/ Contacts

The orientation at WDC17 encouraged us to go from introverted writers to extroverted social net-workers. And, in doing so, I feel that I have made great contacts with wonderful writers who get the difficulties of the writing process and truly understand the writing journey of taking ideas and voices in your head and creating worlds out of them onto paper. So, I’ve learned it’s really important to be engaging with fellow writers and hopefully you can be each other’s critique partners and/or beta readers in the future.

Vegan Eats San Diego: Part 1

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Last month, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego for Comic Con and while we were there we were told by both locals and friends to check out some of their favorite restaurants that they swear by. And lucky for me, not only did these places have vegan options, but sometimes they had entire vegan menus. I was most surprised when people who were not vegan, like our Uber driver, recommended their favorite restaurants which turned out to be entirely vegan. I wonder if my Uber driver knew that the soul food plate at Kindred didn’t actually have real chicken fried up. Either way, my non-vegan husband and I can definitely attest that the restaurants we tried in San Diego had the best vegan food we ever tasted and we can’t wait to go back someday to have seconds!

Click here to read more 🙂

Vegan Eats Right at Your Door

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With every post to this blog, I take you all over the world to a new city where I show you the delicious vegan food available as well as a few sights. Hopefully, after seeing how easy it is to eat vegan while travelling, you are willing to try some of the vegan dishes I’ve shared with you. If you are willing to give a shot at a vegan diet, then I have something that might help you with this dietary transition to plant-based foods. What if I tell you that you can eat vegan all from the comfort of your home? This week, I am going to share with you three ways in which eating vegan can be super easy and readily accessible to you.

I will break down my recommendations into three different types of service; the first one is a home delivery service with pre-made vegan meals; the second is a meal delivery service that provides you all the ingredients to cook a vegan meal; and, the last option is an online grocery store to help you find and purchase vegan options such as meat and cheese substitutes. So, if you find it is difficult to find vegan meals at your local restaurants or difficult to find vegan options for sale in your local grocery store, then click here to keep reading to discover how to get delicious vegan eats delivered right to your door.

If you missed my last Vegan Eats post click below to catch up 🙂

LA Part 1

LA Part 2

Affordable & Chic Back to School Supplies

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At the end of every August I feel the start of the new school year. Maybe it’s because I was a student for so long. But August, the start of a new school year, feels like the beginning of a new year. Forget January – August is my new year, my time of the year where I need a little reboot.

And with this reset, this new start, I like to find good deals on some very-much-needed supplies. I used to get back to school supplies as a student, but now I buy supplies at this time of year to restock my personal office.

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My favorite place to go for both stylish and affordable school supplies is the Dollar Store. I got these adorable holographic writing notebooks, these planning journals with beautiful, chic designs and inspirational quotes on them, as well as packs of pens and pencils. At only $1 for each notebook and each pack, it’s a great deal! Plus, there are a ton of designs and styles if these don’t quite fit your personal taste.

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And my biggest steal was this iMac computer. I bought this computer for only $50 using he app OfferUp. It’s an older Mac desktop, sure. But I wanted a desktop for my office work without having to pay hundreds of dollars for it. So, I thought about looking for a gently used one that’s been refurbished and/or updated. So, when picking out this computer, I checked if he specs were listed as well (see end of post for a checklist of what to look for in a listing) because I wanted to deal with someone whose familiar with the technology and I wanted to make sure that this older computer was updated to the newer systems. All an older computer needs are updated specs and it’ll run just fine.

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My seller, Tom, was an amazing gentleman who let me try it out (running online searches, opening documents, etc.) before buying it. All I did was simply ask if I could try it and out he more than gladly complied. Another plus about this purchase was that the mouse and keyboard were also included in the sale. When I took it home, all I had to do was buff out previous scruffs left behind from stickers and voila this computer was like brand new.

Turned out, this computer belonged to Tom’s granddaughter and he wanted to sell it at bottom line just to get rid of it. And like I had guess from his listing, Tom was a tech guy. He had been in tech before retiring and now he buys faulty computers for cheap prices, refurbishes them, and sells them at low prices. No hidden gimmicks or anything, just a retiree with a hobby/side-job.

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So, not only did I get a great deal for a nice desktop, I got to meet the guy who made/re-made it. How cool is that? And he’s not the only one doing this. You can easily look on OfferUp and see if anyone near you does this as well. Buying used electronics is such a good, positive step forward environmentally. Electronics don’t always get recycle and can end up in landfills. So, when you can, try using an older, working electronic. Like momma always told me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, in this case, “If it is broken, just fix it up.”

If you don’t feel comfortable testing electronics like I did, then try meeting in a public place (like Starbucks) and bring along someone you know who is tech savvy (I brought my husband).

Here is a checklist to help you feel more confident about buying a used computer.

Some things to look for and to ask when buying used computers

  • Does it have integrated WIFI or does it need an Ethernet cord?
  • What is its Operating System (OS)?
  • Does it have/include programs you need, like Word, Excel, etc.?
  • Does it include accessories (keyboard/mouse)?
  • Was the computer reset to manufacturer’s settings?

So, make sure to be smart this school year and find great deals and steals to help kick start a brand new school (or work) year for you.

The Cosplays of Comic Con 2017

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(My husband posing with these awesome Cosplayers)

Every year, San Diego’s Comic Con lures in all types of self-declared nerds and geeks to celebrate the art of comics and all things pop culture. With the love and appreciation for comics comes the creation of cosplaying.

You may ask, what is cosplaying? Cosplaying is when a person dresses up as their favorite character from a TV show, movie, comic, or video-game. But it’s not limited to just those things. As you’ll see from this year’s cosplayers, you can choose to be just about anything.

The real heart and soul of cosplaying comes from identifying one’s self with the character. And, like an adult version of Halloween, one can feel free to express this artistic aspect of themselves for a day. It’s a fun, creative form of self-expression that celebrates pop-culture and, more importantly, celebrates one’s self as well as the character they admire.

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(Me dressed up as Emily)

For Comic Con, my husband and I dressed as Emily and Corvo from the video-game Dishonored 2. Making these costumes together was a ton of fun (despite the few sewing mishaps we had) and it was a really great bonding experience for the two of us. Plus, it was really cool to be recognized at Comic Con by fans of the video-game. And it was absolutely an honor to have people ask to take our pictures. It was such a blast!

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(My husband dressed up as Corvo)

Here are a few awesome cosplayers we ran into. Look and see how amazing, fun, and various the cosplays were at this year’s Comic Con.

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(These cosplayers are dressed up as characters from the video-game Overwatch. The middleman is Cosplayer Mike Justice. Follow him on Instagram @mikejusticee or Twitter @mikeejustice)

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(another Overwatch Cosplay)

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(My husband posing with Pimp Darth Vader and Pimp Boba Fett)

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(A cool Deathstroke Cosplay)

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This beautiful Taco Belle Cosplay)

Review of San Diego Comic Con 2017 + 10 Tips for Attendees

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As you may know from my Instagram or Twitter, last month, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego and attend Comic Con 2017. It was our first time attending this particular Comic Con, but I have been to other Comic Cons in Seattle and in London. So, there were some interesting differences (both good and bad) between this world-renown Comic Con and the other ones I’ve attended. I thought it would be beneficial to you to create some tips if you plan on attending next year’s SDCC that can help you navigate through the crowds and get the most out of your time there.

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(The crowds inside the Exhibit Hall)

First, let’s start with an overall review of SDCC 2017. I can say without a doubt that this Comic Con is without a doubt the most interesting one I’ve ever attended. There is so much to do and so much to see, that no matter where you go or what you do you will surely be entertained. But given its popularity, this is also the most hectic Comic Con I’ve ever attended. With over 130,000 people attending, you can bet that this place was consistently crowded, which can be overwhelming to people with anxiety or for any normal person for that matter. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about San Diego’s Comic Con was their organization. In the past, I could easily find out which artists and guests were attending days/weeks before the event. However, at SDCC, they didn’t list artists/guests that were attending, which made it difficult to know who was even going to be there. For example, my favorite illustrator Dustin Nguyen was there and I had no idea he was going to be there. If I had known I would’ve brought the graphic novels he’s worked on and gotten his autograph. I feel like the only way I would’ve known he was going to be there was if I followed on him on social media (which I didn’t at the time). But, I’m sure the sheer amount of people, events, press, and exhibitors there, SDCC did have a lot to juggle in organizing this event. I just wished they would’ve given first-time attendees more info before entering the building so we could have an easier time planning our day there.

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(The Small Press Section in the Exhibit Hall)

Now, onto the specific tips to make the most of Comic Con. Here’s a list of Do’s and Don’t’s to help future Comic Con goers navigate through the crowds and really enjoy your time there despite the large crowds.

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(The Star Wars exhibit promoting the new movie and video game coming out this winter)

Tip 1: DO plan 1-2 items you want to do/attend/see for that day. Try to have one goal for each day your there, since this will help you arrange your schedule in what you need to do to achieve that. For example, if you want to sit on a panel, then make sure you give yourself plenty of time to wait for it (i.e. 2-3 hours for a popular TV show, or 1 hour for an educational/informative panel of the industry), and then plan your day around that huge block of time. That way, you known for those 3-4 hours you will be doing that one item and you can take it easy before and after the panel and still get to enjoy the rest of your day. A great way to manage your time is to try to get at least 2 days in. I know it’s hard to get badges for certain days, but try not to fit all of Comic Con into one day. It’s just simply not possible and you’ll feel very rushed and anxious trying to fit everything into one day.

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(This statue is made entirely out of Legos and was found at the Lego Booth in an awesome exhibit showcasing popular figures made out of Legos)

Tip 2: DON’T sit on a panel if you are not really that interested in it. Otherwise you will be wasting your time (about 3-4 hours of your day) just waiting, and later you will feel like it wasn’t worth it. And it won’t be worth it if you’re not really that invested or interested in it. Since panels procure long wait times, you better be prepared to wait a long time since there are so many people who are also waiting. Also, if you are not that interested in a certain panel, it’s best to avoid it and give your spot to someone else who really wants to be there. However, if you are interested in a certain panel but you can’t get in, just know they have replays of panels later in the afternoon in case you missed it.

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(This awesome Cosplayer decided to go for a pun and dressed up as Taco Belle*wink wink)

Tip 3:  DO take pictures with or of cosplayers. This is by far the coolest aspect of SDCC. So many people dress up in cosplay as their favorite game/movie/tv show/comic book character. And it’s so cool to recognize them and see the amazing costumes people come up with. Of course, make sure to ask to take their picture. Just because they are dressed up doesn’t mean you have the right to take the picture without their permission. Most of the time (almost always), cosplayers will say yes and allow you to take their picture. And since you’ve asked, they will be able to pose/model for you, which makes your picture even more awesome! (*Note: I will be posting an entire article dedicated to the cosplaying/cosplayers at this year’s Comic Con. Stay tuned for that.)

Tip 4: DON’T touch cosplayers or their outfits without their permission. I know it’s cool to see their costumes, especially the ones that require mechanical engineering, but remember to be polite and don’t touch them or their costume. They might be uncomfortable with that or their costume might be fragile and can’t be touched by people. Just a little reminder to pass on, especially a good remember for parents to pass down to their kids.

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(My husband and I dressed up as Corvo and Emily from the video game Dishonored 2)

Tip 5: DO feel free to dress up. Feel free to cosplay, whether it’s a costume you hand-made yourself or if it’s a costume you bought from a Halloween store. You get a free pass to dress up as basically anything you want to here. No judgement being passed here. So, find something you’ll be comfortable wearing and have fun.

Tip 6: DON’T bring little kids for a whole, full day. Comic Con is a long, all-day event, which is naturally very tiring and exhausting after a long day of walking around. So, keep that in mind if you plan on bringing children to this event. It might be too much or too long for some kids. But, SDCC has dedicated Sunday as Kid’s Day. It’s also a shorter day (from 9:30-5) and has more activities dedicated just to children. So, this might be the day you plan to be with your children all day.

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(Can’t meet a celebrity? Didn’t win the raffle to get a celebrity signature? Just pose with their wax figure! Here is Jason Momoa as Aquaman)

Tip 7: DO visit Artist’s Alley. This is another cool part of Comic Con is all the artists and illustrators there who are selling their artwork. It’s cool to just look around, and if you find something you like you can buy a print. Remember though, don’t touch the art unless the artist allows you to. Think of museum rules when walking through this area.

Tip 8: Speaking of kids, DO remember to be a little mom-like and pack snacks. This is a long day, and yes there is food available inside, but remember how many people attend this? Yeah, all those people get hungry around the same time as you do. So, there will be long lines for food. But if you bring snacks, it can help you while you wait to order your food, or to help stave off your hunger a little while until the lines calm down some.

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(Getting a feel for the Oculus Rift controllers at the Marvel Booth)

Tip 9: DO make time to just check out the exhibition hall and look around at everything there is to offer. The big companies like Marvel, Blizzard, Nintendo, etc. all offer interactive exhibits to do while you are there. Sure, there will be a wait, but they tend to be really fun and enjoyable (especially the video games). My husband and I got to try the Oculus Rift game made by Marvel. And it was completely awesome! We got to play for a whole 10 minutes, and we got the chance to try a virtual reality game that turned out to be really cool.

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(The Oculus Rift Marvel Game up on the screen. The four characters you got to play as were The Hulk, Rocket, Deadpool, and Captain Marvel)

Also, you can check out the small press section and see lesser known comics being released. My favorite thing to do was to look around and buy little souvenirs for my friends. They have really awesome fandom gear (T-shirts, art, gadgets) for sale which was a marvelous find.

Tip 10:  DO talk to people. While you are standing in line, get the chance to meet new people from all over the world (we met 2 nice girls from South Korea). And while you’re talking make sure to compare your Comic Con experiences, because it’s a really good possibility that you’ve missed something. We stood in line and met a nice guy named Sydney from the press (DCCOMICNEWS.COM) who shared with us his favorite things at Comic Con which is how we ended up at the Marvel booth playing the oculus rift game. So, it’s totally worth it to talk to people when you’re in line, because they might give you a good recommendation and they’ll help make the waiting time pass by faster.

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(Our Badges for the Day)

I hope these tips will help you in your future visit to Comic Con. I obviously created this tips with San Diego in mind but feel free to apply these tips to any Comic Con you may be attending. Out of the three Comic Con experiences I’ve had, I can say that these tips are pretty universal and transferable to any comic con no matter where it’s located.