September 30, 2011

Doc, Is The Dinosaurs’ Extinction Contagious?

(Still) doing research for my book, I fell on this really interesting article that explores several possibilities for the dinosaurs’ extinction.

The one (and only) possibility that had been floating around in my head since I first heard of dinosaurs was of a Huge Catastrophe: imagine meteor crashing down on earth, causing supervolcanoes to erupt around the world, starting wave after wave of tsunamis and earthquakes…

I much prefer the ending of The Land Before Time
But “What Killed Dinosaurs?” brings up a good point: 

“Extinction is not a simple event; it is not simply the death of all representatives of a group.  It is the cessation of the origination of new species that renders a group extinct.”

So... what if it wasn’t Huge Catastrophe that came a knocking but instead, oh, I dunno, Massive Epidemy?  If so, what kind was it?  Dinosaur Flu?  Or something so far out there it could’ve come from outer space…  like global radiation from gamma rays that destroyed their reproductive organs, pretty present from our Galaxy’s Ever-Generous Center?

And if the latter, could we catch it too?

September 27, 2011

Strange Sky Creatures

In doing research for my Epic Story (hu-hummmm, do I hear laughter?), I ran across this interesting set of stories about sky people, storm wizards, and their demonships (yes, yes, there are such stories, dating back to the 9th century).

And I ran across this terrifying picture:

Can you imagine a world where our sky would be populated by creatures as monstrous as those found in the ocean?  They would prefer to sail high above terra firma, in the stratosphere and mesosphere where the air is exceedingly scarce so that if those creatures were to get too close to our own sea level, they would "drown."  However, they would occasionally be known to descend upon us and cause terror (kinda like how whales beach and no one knows why). 

You know what?  I'm really glad our skies are (currently) monster-free!

September 26, 2011

The Art of Creating Realistic Goals

One thing I abhor, is when I'm not being productive.  If that's the case, I end up going to bed feeling guilty, then I can't sleep properly (a fact that's exacerbated by the fact that I have crazy dreams). 
So a way to get rid of that yucky feeling, is to set goals for myself.  Goals that are reasonably achievable.  It's also a great way for a writer to progress through his/her work:  set a goal to write so many words/pages a day/week, and you're good.  Soon enough, you'll find yourself with a mass of paperwork that requires loads of editing (well, that's what happens to me).  Key, of course, is to keep to your goal.  You can also set yourself goals for the mid- and long-term.

Here's an example (taken from my list of mid-term goals--so over the next year or so):
  • Finish planning out my sff series.
  • Finish book 1 (pre-editing).
  • Make at least 1 person laugh every day.

Here's another example (taken from my longer-term goal list):
  • Get published.
  • Live young, happy and healthy for the next 400 years.
  • Meet aliens (so long as they don't use me as a lab rat).
See, isn't it fun to plan out your life?  What are your goals?

This is not the alien type I wanna meet.


This is!

PS:  I didn't show my daily goal breakdown because, frankly, it's not quite as exciting as the longer-term goals...  It mostly consists of work, study, reading, and writing, with some fun with friends interspersed here and there.

September 15, 2011


The lesson I've learned this week as a writer (though I'm sure it can be applied to many other subjects) is the following:

Don’t write when you’re uninspired.  For if you can’t see the story, and if you feel no passion, then how are you going to make the readers see and feel?

And thus do I continue to make progress on this long road to becoming an author.  Cheers!

~The Writing Apprentice

September 14, 2011

From Dreams To Story – Part 1

I’ve been trying to wake up at 5:15 every morning for the past week, but every time my dreams (nightmares?) intervene and the result is...  Epic Fail.  I just get so caught up in them, even though some hyper-buried consciousness of me knows it’s just a dream.  But I want to know the ending, and I want the ending to be good (aka I get the hot guy and all the monsters are out), so I struggle with Mr. Sandman to get what I want… and keep on snoozing till 6:20 am.  Big sigh.

Here’s a small taste of what I dreamed last night.

Belgium, the sun’s actually up before I am.  Now that is a surprise.  But not a happy one, ‘cause it means I’m late for work.  Again.  I mean, I’ve had to skip work a bunch of times lately:  once because I claimed to be sick so I could go on a long-planned trip with some friends, and a second time because I was really sick.  There may have been a couple of other times as well, but with the memory of a rabbit, I don’t quite recall.

I rush down the stairs of my house, my footsteps as heavy as jackhammers on cement.  Which, of course, draws my dad’s attention (my dad always wakes up on time, and certainly never runs late).
            “You’re late,” he says from behind the living room door where he’s probably drinking a cup of coffee.
            Now tell me something I don’t know. 
            “They might fire you,” he adds as I make my way down to the ground floor.
            Well there you go, that’s something I didn’t know.  My guts knot up in a way they haven’t since I gave my last piano recital.  What will I do if I lose this job?  I have so many debts to pay off!  My student loans, my car loan, my credit cards, and I barely have a dime saved up at the bank on the side.  What if I can’t even make rent?
            Ok, so you probably think that, living with my parents, they probably wouldn’t kick me out.  But this is my dream, ok?  And in this dream, my parents would make me pack my bags and tell me to see if the sun shines brighter on the other side of town (though they would be more correct saying that I should check what kind of greys are on the other side).
            I scramble to put my Inspector Gadget raincoat on, don’t even bother to lace my shoes and storm outside to my beat up car.  It’s a relic that car, truly.  Grey (hey, not much color here, ok?), elongated, kind of squat.  In short, not very pretty to look at, like a fish that’s been left out for too long (a week, perhaps).
            The motor coughs to life like a rheumatic lion (sorry, it appears to me that there are just way too many animals in my story, but it’s too late to undo), and I floor the pedal.  My car lurches forward, pauses for a second, then continues on its merry way, towards work. 
          “Thank God,” I exclaim under my breath.  If this box on wheels can make it all the way, I might manage to get there on time.

            But there’s lots of traffic, and just as I'm about to cross one of the main avenues, the light turns red to let a darn tram through.  I love public transportation, don’t get me wrong, but only when it doesn’t inconvenience me.
            Finally, the light turns green for me, and I speed off.  There’s a small road that cuts through a portion of the woods that abut the street I’m taking, and if I can make it, I’ll be able to pass all these other crazy drivers that are slowing me down.  The side road is made of gravel that shoots out from under my wheels like bullets from a machine gun.
            “Sorry, sorry!” I shout at some poor pedestrians taking cover, despite the fact that I know they can’t hear nor see me.
            Something explodes, and my car dies.  Just like that.  There’s no smoke, no grinding of the engine, no last whimper.  It’s like the engine's been euthanized right before me.
            Biting my lower lip, I get out of the car, pop the hood open and take a look—not that I’m a mechanical whizz or anything (in fact, I’m not a whiz in anything), but I have learned how to add more fluids to my car when needed (any fluids: oil, coolant, transmission, brake, you name it.  And yes, this isn't the first decrepit vehicle I happen to have owned).
            But there’s nothing I can do about the horror that’s staring me in the face right now.  Well, it would be staring at me if it weren’t dead already.  For there, taking up a big portion of my darling motor (everything is darling to you once lost, even if you were never really happy with it beforehand, unless it’s a severe case of diarrhea, in which case I’m more than happy to kick it to the curb--apologies if I’ve offended any sensitivities), is a giant shrimp. 
            Yes, you’ve read me right.  A giant, orange-pinkish shrimp has managed to weasel its way into my car and has eaten a crucial part of my motor (don’t ask me which or how, I don’t know).  My car still ran fine just so long as the shrimp was alive (somehow the pieces were still working from inside its digestive tract—hey, this is a dream, it doesn’t have to make sense).  But one of those gravels must have accidentally killed the monster and now I’m out of a car.
            Tears well up in my eyes—my dad was right, I’m so gonna get fired!  And then I won’t be able to pay my bills, and I’m gonna end up on the streets, and everyone’s gonna hate me!  (Hey, you try to be reasonable when you’re faced with some of your worst fears.)  I grab the shrimp still stuck inside my car, pull it out with a pop, and fling it in the bushes.
            “It’s all your fault!” I scream, outraged that such a pathetic little creature could create so much trouble for me.  “You've ruined my life!”
            I notice then the two little ladies I’d nearly killed, frowning at me with utter contempt, whispering to each other what must be a thousand curses against me, my reckless driving, and my trashing the neighborhood with sea monsters.
            Cowered, I pick up the dead crustacean.  It’s all slimy and all those paws (legs?) ick me out. What am I supposed to do with a shrimp that’s the size of my hand?  Will someone get mad if I toss it in the trash?  It is biodegradable, isn't it?  Unless...
            An idea forms in my head and I smile despite the tension that pervades my body.  I swing the shrimp before my face as if it could understand me.  “With you as evidence, there’s no way my boss won’t believe me when I explain why I couldn't make it on time.”
            “Alessa!  What are you doing here?”
            I swirl around at the rumbling voice that's called out my name.  It’s none other than DeeGee, one of the principals at my company, on his way to grab his daily coffee.  He waves hi to me with a bright smile. 
            “There’s no need for you to go to work,” he says.
            “Really?”  I can feel my eyes light up.  The huge weight of Responsibility lifts from my shoulders.  I can breathe again!  Did the office unexpectedly close?  Maybe they had a prawn infestation that's killed all of their servers.
            “Yeah, they fired you this morning,” DeeGee adds without missing a stride.
            I stare at his retreating back.  The whole weight of the world comes crashing down on me like an anvil.  I drop my shrimp for the second time that day.
            As I contemplate my remaining options—tough thing to do when brain is functioning as proficiently as my late car—DeeGee looks over his shoulder.  “You may try to plead with the Board,” he yells over the traffic din.  “Maybe if you beg well enough, they’ll let you come back.”
            A shudder runs through me.  No one’s ever seen the Board of Directors before, which has only added to their mystique.  Some say they’re these super old men who oversee the running of the city from their church spires.  I don’t know why they live there.  Perhaps they’ve always been fans of Victor Hugo.  Or perhaps, like Quasimodo, they’re so horrible to look at that they’ve decided to hide there (of course, considering their impressive age, I can imagine their ghost-white flesh sagging off their faces would gross out most of the population). 
            But if that’s the only way I can get my job back, then I don’t care.  With a renewed sense of hope, I turn to the cross street where another tram is now stopped and stare at the large, gothic church in the distance.  If I can face down a giant, metal-sucking shrimp, I sure as hell can take care of a bunch of gaga men.  Right?

Of course, this isn’t the end of my dream.  There’s more to come (and it will, in my next post, promise… unless I forget about it, I told you I had a rabbit’s memory).  But at least now you can understand why I had to stay asleep to finish my quest, right?

September 13, 2011

The Tree Frog's Fable -- A Korean Children's Story

I've finally finished reading/translating my first Korean children's story, and I have to say, I'm quite excited about it (though I have to admit I don't remember half the words I learned while doing it).

And reading this story reminded me of all those tales I loved hearing and reading while growing up.  They're simple, colorful and usually have some kind of lesson at the end.  Kind of like Les Fables de Jean de la Fontaine, or those Full House episodes (and no, not the kdrama one)...

So here's my translated version of the story, with below (for those of you who are curious) the Korean version.  Enjoy!

Word of the day:  gaegul (개굴):  ribbit.

The Tree Frog's Fable

     Once upon a time, lived in a Korea village a tree frog and his widowed mother.  The tree frog loved his mother, but he was a troublemaker.  He was a child who went West when his mother told him to go East, and did this when she told him to do that.
     Mother tree frog said, "Ribbit, ribbit.  Today's warm and sunny.  Go play with your friends in the stream. Ribbit, ribbit."
     So then the tree frog went to play alone in the mountain.
     The next day, mother tree frog said, "Don't go too far today.  I've heard a snake has come."
     However, the tree frog went to find his friends.  "Ribbit, ribbit.  Don't you want to go on an adventure?" he said.  "Let's go find a snake."
     This kind of behavior continued on and on.  The mother tree frog's heart was troubled.  Eventually, the mother caught a disease.  Even then, the tree frog didn't listen to his mother. 
     Mother asked, "What did you do to that plant tree?"
     That's right, he'd cut the tree.  The mother tree frog's health gor worse, and she knew it wouldn't get better.  Before she died, the mother asked a request from her son, "When I'm dead, bury me by the stream, don't bury me in the hill."
     Actually, the mother wanted to be buried in the hill but because she knew her son well, she told him the opposite of her wish.
     "Ribbit, ribbit.  Mom, please don't die.  Ribbit, ribbit."
     But it was already too late.
     The tree frog was sad.  "Ribit, ribbit.  Because of me, mom is dead," he thought.  "Because I never listened to her words, she got sick.  I will listen to mom's last wish."
     The tree frog did what he though was correct and buried his mother by the river.  Then he came to see his mother's grave every day.
     One summer day, heavy rain started to fall down.  The rain didn't stop and cotninued to fall for many days.  The rain grew the river all the way up to the mother tree frog's grave, until it was covered in water.  The tree frog got worried and with a sad sound cried, "Ribbit, ribbit.  My mother got washed away!  Ribbit, ribbit."
     That's why, when it rains, frogs cry by the rivers.  And that's also why when people in Korea do the opposite of what they're told, they're called Cheong Kaeguli, tree frog.

청개구리의 교훈

     옛날 옛날 한국의 어느 마을에 청개구리가 홀어머니와 살고 있었어요.  청개구리는 엄마가 시키면 뭐든지 반대로만 하는 말썽장이였여요.
     엄마 개구리가, "개굴 개굴.  오늘 날씨가 따뜻하고 화창하구나.  친구와 냇가 가서 놀으렴.  개굴 개굴." 하고 말했어요.  그러자 청개구리는 혼자서 산에 가서 놀았어요.
     그 다음 날 엄마 개구리가 "오늘은 멀리 가지 말아라.  뱀이 나올지도 모른단다."  하자 청개구리는 친구를 찾아가, "개굴 개굴.  얘들아, 모험하러 가지 않을래?  우리 밤 찾으러 가자." 핬여요.
     이런 일이 계속 되자 엄마 개구리는 속이 상했어요.  결국 엄마는 병이 들었어요.  그래도 청개구리는 엄마 말을 듣지 않았어요.  엄마가 나무를 심으라고 하자 청개구리가 무엇을 했을까요?  그라요.  나무를 베었어요.  엄마 개구리의 건강은 나빠져만 갔어요.  엄마는 병이 낫지 않을 것을 알았어요.
     엄마가 죽기 전에 아들을 불러 부탁했어요.  "내가 죽으면 냇가에 묻어다오.  언덕에 묻지 말고."  사실 엄마는 언덕에 묻히기를 바랬지만 아들을 잘 알기 때문에 소원을 반대로 말한 갓이었어요.  "개굴 개굴.  엄마, 돌아가시지 마세요.  개굴 개굴."  그러나 이미 늦었어요.
     청개구리가 슬퍼서 "개굴 개굴.  엄마가 나 때문에 들아가신 거야.  내가 너무 말을 안 들어서 병이 나셨어.  엄마의 마자막 소원은 들어드려야지."  하고 생각했어요.  청개구리는 엄마를 냇가에 묻고는 자기가 옳은 일을 했다고 상각했어요.  그리고는 매일 엄마 산소에 찾아왔어요.
     어느 여름날, 큰 비가 내리기 시작했어요.  비가 그치지 않고 며칠 계속 내렸어요.  이 비로 냇물이 불어 엄마 개구리의 무덤까지 차 올랐어요.  청개구리는 엄마 산소가 물에 잠길까 봐 걱정이 되어 슬픈 소리로 크게 울었어요.  "개굴 개굴.  우리 엄마 떠내려간다.  개굴 개굴."
     그래서 비가 오면 개구리들이 냇가에서 운답니다.  또 그래서 한국에서는 뭐든 반대로만 하는 사람을 청개구리라고 부른답니다.

September 9, 2011

The Life Of A Swordsman

Barely have I finished The Darkness That Comes Before that I'm already plunging into another book. Well, technically, I'd already dived into my current book, Lev Grossman's The Magician King, when I decided to do a side trip along Bakker's shores.

But fear not!  It's not because I don't like TMK. Au contraire! I actually find this adult fairy tale (for it has all the elements of one, truly), and its sarcastic undertone. I suppose Harvard and Yale do produce excellent products, such as this writer...

     'A frigid spitting mist was blowing in from the ocean. [Quentin] could see After Island clearly now; they'd be landing soon. He decided he was done. He should at least change out of his pajamas before he set off in search of the golden key.
     "I'm knocking off, Bingle," he said. He placed his practice blade on the deck next to Bingle's other two. His arms felt like they were floating.
     Bingle nodded, not breaking his own rhythm.
     "Come back to me when you can do half an hour," he said. "With each arm."
     He performed a spectacular no-handed roundoff that looked like it was going to take him right off the forecatle deck, but somehow he swallowed his inertia just in time to stick the landing. He finished with his blade jammed between the ribs of some imaginary assailant. He withdrew it and cleaned the blade on his pants leg.
     That was probably a few more lessons own the track.
     "Be careful what you learn from me," he said.  "What is written with a sword cannot be erased."
     "That's why I have you," Quentin said.  "So I won't have to write anything. With my sword."
     "Sometimes I think I am fate's sword. She wields me cruelly."
     Quentin wondered what it was like to be so unselfconsciously melodramatic. Nice, probably."'
The Magician King, by Lev Grossman

A definite read for those who are interested to see what would happen if adults found themselves in Fantasyland.

September 7, 2011

Gambling According To A Harlot

'So many men, [the harlot] had found, harboured a void of some kind, a place accountable only to other men. Then the real seduction would begin.
"Tell me," she sometimes purred, "what have you seen that makes you more... more than other men?" Most found the question amusing. Others were perplexed, annoyed, indifferent, or even outraged. A rare handful, Achamian among them, found it fascinating.  But every one of them answered. Men needed to be more. This was why, she had decided, so many of them gambled: they sought coint, certainly, but they also yearned for a demonstration, a sign that the world, the Gods, the future--someone--had somehow set them apart.'

The Darkness That Comes Before, by R. Scott Bakker

The book, first in a trilogy, is quite philosophical through and through, though that may have to do with the fact that the author studied philosophy.

Though it starts off somewhat (at least in terms of action), it has managed to somehow implant its barbed hook in me and reeled me in not just with its interesting thoughts on human actions and interractions, but also with its events of epic proportions.

I definitely recommend the book, but only to those who find pondering over the intricacies of the human mind interesting.