About Me

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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

30 December, 2013

My Best and Worst of 2013

New Year's Eve is tomorrow and, like many of you, I'll probably stay up counting down to midnight and ring in 2014 while saying goodbye to 2013. And, like many of you and many media outlets, I'll look back on the big moments of the year; at least in terms of my life, anyway. Honestly, the year is gone and nothing can be changed but I suppose I look back to remember fond moments, to try and learn a lesson or two not to be repeated in the new year and, perhaps, even to see what might make for good writing material and story ideas. It's also interesting and, I think, worthwhile to see if I've changed in any way with regard to how I view things or in how I respond to things.

So, without further ado and not in any particular order, here are my moments, good and bad, happy and sad (in some cases both), of 2013.

1. Meeting Rod Dixon. I try to go to the New York Marathon Expo every year and this year I brought my son with me. By chance, as we strolled the aisles looking for the Timex booth and the adidas and New Balance shops, I came across a guy who was handing out 3x5 postcards of Rod Dixon, his arms raised, when he won the New York City Marathon in 1983. When the guy asked if I wanted to meet Rod (I'm going to call gim Rod and not Mr. Dixon because runners are very intimate people), I was more than enthusiastic. You see, I've run the NY City Marathon (NYCM) twice. I was supposed to run it in 2012 but Hurricane Sandy derailed that. I've also, in the late 1990s and early 2000s (there was a gap year from about 2000-2001 when I didn't run much), been a very serious runner. Apart from work, I scheduled everything else around my running. Well, I owe a lot of my devotion to running and my passion for marathoning and the NYCM to Rod. In 1983, when I was growing up in Hong Kong, I watched a sports program on a Tuesday night and it featured that year's NYCM, obviously via tape delay. Well, Rod never led at any point in that race but, when he burst through with just yards to go and won, it was - and still is - one of the most exciting moments in sports I've ever seen. He showed athleticism, persevarance, courage and good old fashioned "To hell with it, I'm going for it!" gusto. Seconds after watching the clip, at the time not fully aware what a marathon really was, I pointed to the television screen and said, "I'm going to run that race." And, like I said, I have twice - in 1995 and 2005. Unfortunately, I was undertrained in both occasions and not as fit as I wanted to be. So, I'm determined to run it again, properly this time, and after meeting Rod and speaking with him I'm reenergized to do so. Rod was at the expo promoting his Kids Marathon Foundation and having my son with me, he gently reminded me that I need to get back to fitness so my son never falls out of it. "What you do, he does," Rod said and ever since then it's become one of my my mantras. Thank you Rod. It was a pleasure meeting you. 

2. My son entering kindergarten. This, and all the paper filing and appointments to get it done, was one of the most momentous moments of 2013. For one, from a practical standpoint, it meant no more day care which, in turn, meant less money out of pocket. And, who cant stand to keep money from going out? More than that, however, it was - as obvious as it was - a sign that my son is growing up. The last five years have gone by in a flash and I can only imagine the next five going by just as quickly. Kindergarten has seen my son grow in all aspects - physically, mentally, emotionally, socially - which is expected but it's his love for school that really makes an impression on me. He sincerely enjoys his teacher and classmates and he loves learning. Making his lunches everyday, checking the work he brings home, attending Back-To-School events and Teacher Conferences, watching the winter concert are all warm blankets around my and my wife's hearts that our son is becoming a 'person.' They also make me look back when I was that age and the things I went through and, as parent, being able to guide and advise him, not from gut reaction or because a parenting book said to do it a certain way, but from experience and wisdom. From the moment my son was born, I became a father. Now that he's in school and has his own interests and friends, I'm becoming a dad. 

3. Pope Francis. Can I say it or is it too soon? I love Pope Francis. His approach to leading the Catholic Church is fresh and openminded. I love how he's focusing on the individual and not on issues. When he said that a person doesn't have to believe and can still be a good person, a spark lit inside me. His deemphasis on abortion and homosexuality is refreshing, too, as is his approach to let local churches manage their own congregations. For me, he's rejuvenated the Catholic Church and humanized it. This year wasn't the first time a pope resigned and a new one was appointed but it's the first time in my lifetime and, in many ways, it's made me feel that the Catholic Church has become more accessible and approachable. Growing up, the Catholic Church was - and I guess still is - this large, enigmatic entity with secrets and hidden practices and, of course, God. The pope, too, was someone who was supposed to lead his flock, whether he wanted the position or not, until he died. In my lifetime, Pope Francis's appointment is the fourth I've been through. For the first two - the appointments of John Paul I and John Paul II - though, I was eleven or twelve, maybe ten, and I remember my mother making me get down on my knees, with her, and pray for the pope each time. I didn't even really know what was happening. As an adult, though, watching CNN and EWTN coverage of Pope Benedict's and Pope Francis's appointments and with Pope Francis's humility and openness, the Catholic Church has, for me, been demystified and isn't as sacrosanct as it once seemed. And that's a good thing.

4. Review and endorsement by IndieReader.com. IndieReader.com is a major website that promotes independently published books. In 2013, I managed to link up with IR and my book, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, was read and reviewed by one of its staffers. Back Kicks got a 4 star rating (out of 5) and received 'approved' status to boot. This wasn't the first review my book received and it wasn't the first positive review either but it was the first review from an outlet that is seen widely by the writing, literary and publishing communities. It was also highly validating to read such a positive review and to know that this, my first novel and a very personal labour of love, has value outside my own mind and heart. The reviewer called Back Kicks "a pertinent novel" and that, to me, is much more meaningful than being told my book is good or liked or written well. Click here for the review.

5. and 6. Invitation to enter my book in the Asian American Literary Awards (AALA). This gets two spots because it impacted me in two ways - one positive and one less than positive. I don't want to say negative because, really, it wasn't but it did bum me out. The AALA is run by the Asian American Writers Workshop (AAWW), the main outlet for Asian American literature in the United States. When I received an email from one of the AALA's organising team members inviting me to enter Back Kicks And Broken Promises, naturally I was elated. I wouldn't say I felt that I'd arrived but I felt that my work was starting to get recognition. In the email, the words "your book needs to be considered" - without a doubt, an emphatic endorsement  - struck me hard. The AALA, a arm of the AAWW knows my work! For sure, some kind of breakthrough into the world of Asian American literati had been made. But, here's where the bum out takes place. The AALA does not accept self-published books; at least not those from a print-on-demand (POD) outlet. If my book was self-published through a small indie press it would still have been considered. The fact that it's POD disqualified it. I wasn't sure what to feel. I knew about this rule when I'd received the invitation and I was the one who brought it to their attenton. Part of me wishes I hadn't, to be honest. In a way, I wish I'd never gotten the invitation because, in the end, it was an unintended tease. In a way. Honestly, I'm glad I did. Having gotten it and with the strong endorsement that it came with, I did feel a win of sorts. I knew, again, that someone other than myself values my book and, as an Asian American author, who better than to value it than the AAWW and the AALA. Hopefully 2014 will see me get an agent and a publisher so my books are traditionally published and, if considered again by the AALA, they can actually be accepted. 

7. and 8. My son starting Taekwondo lessons. This is another double-edge sword of an event. I'm ecstatic that my son has started Taekwondo lessons and that he loves them. I'm also glad for the school he's going to. It's local, the masters teach a great curriculum and are excellent in their demeanour and technique, and the school is current with how things are done in The Kukkiwon (the world Taekwondo headquarters in Seoul, South Korea). The school is also affiliated with USA Taekwondo (USAT) and The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) so, in addition to getting quality martial arts training, my son will also have the opportunity to enter the world of sports Taekwondo if his so desires. The bum out here, though, is that I am also a Taekwondo master but my son is not taking lessons from me. I don't have my own dojang (training hall) so finding a place to teach him is difficult. Also, I wouldn't have any other students and having other kids in his age-based class does help. It's a martial arts tradition, though, for a father who studies martial arts to pass his martial arts down to his children. It's a tradition, since I got my first degree black belt in 1989, I'd hoped to continue. My father didn't study martial arts so it's also a tradition I'd hoped and planned to start with my family. It was also one of my goals and dreams. Like I said, I'm overjoyed that my son is doing Taekwondo and that he's doing it where he is - there are few other places I'd prefer for him to go - but it is heartbreaking that it's not with me. A time may come when I am his teacher but, having gone through dojang changes myself, it's not the same. I've trained under many masters but I will always consider myself the student of Grandmaster Kwang Jae Lee, my first Taekwondo teacher and the one who awarded me my first degree black belt.

9. 100 and 101 wins. Of the many hats I wear, being a volleyball coach is one of my favourites. I enjoy sports and I enjoy developing athletes and, having just conpleted my thirteenth season (over four programs) coaching volleyball, I like to think I have an idea of what needs to get done on the court. Due to personnel turnover (we graduated eleven out of fourteen of the 2012 varsity squad) and other personal issues with players, the 2013 season was a struggle but it was nice to finish the second half of the season strongly and, in doing so, I earned my 100th and 101st career wins. This really is a small accomplishment when you consider other coaches have wins in the 500s and some coaches have reached 100 in less time than I did but it's still a milestone and athletes are always looking for them. It feels good, though, to have joined the century club so it's made this list of my ten most memorable or impacting events of 2013. Maybe I'll get to 200 in less than the next thirteen seasons.

10. The Collective. I'm referring to Don Lee's novel. It came out in 2012 but I didn't get to read it until this year and, boy, what a read it is. I don't think it got rave reviews publicly but, for me, it's probably my favourite and, perhaps, the best book I read in 2013. Rarely has a book tugged at me mentally and emotionally as this one did and, rarely, has a book made me cry. I cried in parts when I read Sung J.Woo's Everything Asian and, as a father, how could I not have cried during parts of The Road but Don's book just hit me at the core. I related so much with both male protags and, as an Asian American writer trying to produce meaningful work and find significance in the Asian American writing community and significance within himself, through his work, it was like The Collective was written for me and about me. When I emailed Don and shared my brief review with him, he thanked me. HE THANKED ME! What an honor  He said that my response to his book was what he was hoping to elicit from its readers. If you're an writer, especially an Asian American one, you have to read this book. Click here for Don's site.

Honourable Mentions: I could probably find numerous events to put on this list but it would turn from a Top Ten to Top 100 and just become ridiculous. There are two other things that happened in 2013 that stand out for me that are worth mentioning, however. 1: I was featured in an article (click here) with other writers, about self-published Asian American authors in Hyphen Magazine and 2: I made a nice connection with YA author Alex London (Proxy). I wrote a review about Proxy (click here) and shared it with him. After that, we exchanged a few emails and he's agreed to look at my current manuscript. Incidentally, he sequel to Proxy, Guardian, is coming out next spring. Click here for Alex's site. 

So, that was my year of memorable moments of 2013. For 2014, there will be new ones; hopefully progressing my writing career and hopefully all positive. Congratulations to all of you on your accomplishments of the past year and good luck in the next. Happy writing, happy living and happy new year!

28 December, 2013

Failed But Not A Failure

As 2013 comes to an end, like most people, I’ve been thinking about the events of the past year; the ups and downs, successes and failures I’ve experienced. I look back too on the goals I’d set for myself for 2013 and think ahead to the goals I will set for 2014. Looking back, while I have a roof over my head, a shirt on my back, food on the table and a beautiful wife and amazing son by my side, in terms of what I wanted to accomplish in 2013, sadly, I have to say there were more downs than ups.

Looking at my blog post on January 2, 2013, in which I wrote about the five main things I wanted to accomplish, I have to ‘fess up that I scored a resounding F! Of the five, I completed only one. I didn’t succeed in completing a finished draft (one that has gone through a couple of revisions that I’m ready to send out) of Sage Of Heaven. That was my main goal. I also failed at writing a first draft of the second book in the Sage Of Heaven series and a first draft of my Filipino-American short story collection, Five Corners. I had a weight loss/back to fitness goal that went by the wayside as well. Although, there were some stretches when things were going really well in this area. The only goal I completed was to read at least thirty books in 2013. Well, I’ve done that. I’m at forty-two or forty-three.

I think my failure at fulfilling my goals wasn’t due to a lack of desire or discipline. I get up regularly at 3am, regardless of when I go to sleep, to write. And, God, my wife and all my friends know there’s nothing more I want than to be a fit working writer. Instead, I think my failings have to do with my overestimation in my abilities to get my personal goals completed while also trying to get my family goals and current work goals in. I’m a teacher by day and writer by any other time so I have other duties and responsibilities that still need to be met. When I do become a working writer, my personal goals and my work goals will, finally, mesh. There are only so many hours in the day and, more importantly, there are only so many hours in the day that are truly yours. In my case, those hours tend to be the early morning ones before dawn.

In setting my goals for 2014, I’m going to have to remember that. I’m going to have to be less ambitious, more realistic in regarding my situation and, perhaps, even reduce the number of goals I want to achieve. I’m going to have to do this because I’ve come to realize, maybe later than I should have, that my life isn’t my own. My parents will say it never was because it belongs to God. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to my life in earthly terms. My life isn’t my own because parts of it belong to my wife, my son, my dog, my students, my athletes, my co-teachers, my friends. And, while I’m still trying to get my life to be the one I want it to be, before I get there, I’m going to have to accept where I am, which is in a life that I hadn’t planned – at least not wholly. There are parts of it that have gone just right but there are many parts that haven’t.

So, as you make your goals and resolutions for 2014, if you’re anything like me and think big while your situation, resources and the time you have are small and you've been less than full successful in 2013, take stock of what you want to achieve for the next twelve months and be realistic about getting them done. Some of those goals may be able to get pushed back a year or two. Accept, too, who you are and where you are. I’ve failed in meeting all of my goals for 2013 but I’m not a failure. Neither are you.

Having said all of the above, here are my main personal goals for 2014.

1.     Finish a final draft of Sage of Heaven, book one and get it in agents’ hands.
2.     Improve my fitness.
3.     Read at least thirty books.
4.     Complete the first draft of either Sage Of Heaven, book two, Five Corners, or Aliens Among Us, book one.
5.     Get back to and maintain regular Taekwondo training

27 December, 2013

Keeping Christmas In Christmas

Keeping Christmas In Christmas

Well, Christmas has come and gone for 2013 and, for many of you, so too are your Christmas trees and decorations. As for us - my family and I - we’ll be taking down our tree and decorations and restoring our home back to normal after the Feast of the Three Kings. In the Christian calendar, at least the Catholic one, Christmas ends on a week later with the celebration of Jesus’ baptism and, while I do celebrate Christmas secularly and socially like everyone else, there is part of me that, thanks to my Catholic upbringing, celebrates Christmas for what it really is - the celebration of Jesus’ birth and the resulting hope and joy that a long-awaited messiah brought the then Jewish people who would eventually become the first Christians. I’m not a ‘holy roller’ by any means. You can ask any of my friends to verify this but, let’s face it, we wouldn't be exchanging gifts and saying “Merry Christmas!” or putting up trees if there was never that first Christmas with a manger, a donkey, Mary and Joseph, a star, three wise men, and shepherds over two thousand years ago. 

I mentioned in the previous paragraph that Christmas ends on the feast of the baptism of Jesus. Some of you might be saying that it ended at 12:01am between December 25 and 26. That was Christmas Day. Christmas is a season that runs from Christmas Day to the Baptism of Jesus. And, it’s a season that fosters good will and kindness between people - although sometimes I’m hard pressed to see that at the malls and other shops during long checkout lines and around crowded display cases. I’m not perfect by any means. Don’t get me wrong. I get impatient and frustrated too but I’m proud to say it’s not because of long lines or crowds. One has to expect those things this time of year. What I get impatient and frustrated about are the fact that consumers and retailers are so quick to push the holiday season upon us for a buck - Christmas decorations have been popping up in stores earlier and earlier every year - and they are as equally quick to shut it down. A New York radio station, from about three weeks before Christmas Day, plays only Christmas music. Once Boxing Day comes around, it’s back to normal. Yes, the songs at the top of the charts help pay the station’s bills but there’s nothing wrong with playing occasional - more than occasional even - Christmas songs after Christmas Day. 

And, there’s nothing wrong about saying “Merry Christmas.” Society has become so anemic and so politically correct I have to change what I say just to keep everyone happy! Christmas is (a) a religious celebration, (b) a social celebration, (c) a frame of mind (and, dare I say soul) and NOT exclusively a Christian frame of mind, and (d) a celebration of family. The phrase “Merry Christmas” isn’t always delivered from a religious perspective and it doesn’t need to be taken with one either. When I say it, how I mean it depends on whom I’m giving it to. And, in fitting in with the season, the receiver could just take it as a wish of general good will.

So, whether you’re a Christian or not, religious or not, don’t forget about Christmas 2013 just yet. ’Tis the season, as they say, and the season doesn’t end until January 12, 2014. When you greet someone, say “Merry Christmas” and mean it. Better still, keep “Merry Christmas” in your heart and mind even after January 12, 2014. Christmas might end religious on January 12, 2014 and socially it ended yesterday (Or, did it? There are ‘after Christmas’ sales going on everyone right now, after all.) but it doesn’t have to end inside you and how you greet and interact with your family, friends and coworkers. 

To that end, I offer all of you a heartfelt thank you, for stopping by my blog, and a heart, mind and soul filled greeting - Merry Christmas!

26 December, 2013

Review: "Champion" by Marie Lu

Daniel Altan Wing isn't the only champion here. Marie Lu is one as well - of the YA dystopian genre. She has managed to conclude the Legend series without declining the intensity of the story and without deviating from the core of her characters' - Day's and June's  - identities. She's maintained the tone of the series throughout all three books - something I felt was lost in the final books of The Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies (just for the record, though, I did enjoy those series as well; just not the third books as much I did in this one).  

Lu also manages to keep the genre fresh. With more and more YA dystopian novels coming out, and many with strong female protags and with the Legend trilogy coming out so soon on the heels of The Hunger Games and side-by-side with Divergent, Lu's voice and vision avoids the reader from developing a feeling of 'been there, done that.' 

Great stuff! I'm very much looking forward to what Lu gives us next; perhaps a Legend spinoff with Tess as the protag or something new set inside a video game. Whatever it is, I know I'll be getting a copy on release day.

05 December, 2013

Maraming Salamat! Bangon Pilipinas!

Maraming Salamat! Bangon Pilipinas!

Thanks to everyone who bought and/or promoted my book, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, the last couple of weeks. Its sales rank in Barnes and Noble went up over 100,000 places last week (I don't how many units sold that is) but every unit makes a difference since, through 2014, I will be donating all royalties towards Haiyan aid. For those of you who Liked, Reteweeted, and Shared my pages and blog posts and for those of you who shared this effort in your work places, I greatly appreciate it. The people of the Philippines need our help and will do so for a long time to come. The TV news may have simmered  down somewhat but the suffering has not. Maraming salamat! Bangon Pilipinas!

25 November, 2013

Thanksgiving And The Americanization Of An Immigrant

Thanksgiving And The Americanization Of An Immigrant

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It's a little early, I know, but what the heck! I'm in a holiday frame of mind and Thanksgiving may be my favourite one.

I don't know whether I'm a patriot or not. I know I'm not a 'rah rah' jingoist.  But I do  live in America and have dual citizenship (US and Philippines) and I have a lot of love for this country. So, last week, when I heard reports of how Black Friday has actually turned into Black Thursday, I was saddened. This is not new, however, with stores opening its doors at midnight for early Christmas shopping deals in recent years. This yearm however,  shops are opening as early as 8pm and, for me, this is just not cool.

Holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are largely family affairs. It some cases, family from parts near and far, but whom you don't see on a daily basis, come by. It's a great time to spend with these individuals and for one's kids to really get to know their relatives. One can argue that going shopping as a group can be a family outing but, come on, let's get real. And, for the United States, Thanksgiving is such a unique holiday. It's one of THE important national holidays - like July 4th (when the country became its own) and Columbus Day (when it was discovered), which, sadly, seems to have gone by the wayside.

I find it a little funny, then, that I, an immigrant, is blogging about the glory of Thanksgiving. Most immigrants, I think, form a bond with July 4th. That day, after all, is when America became its own nation, independent from Britain, and meshes perfectly with the immigrant ideal of coming to America, breaking away on some level from the immigrant's native land, to form his or her own way in 'the land of the free and the home of the brave.' Thanksgiving, though,  is something I didn't grow up with in Hong Kong. I'd heard about it and studied about The Mayflower and The Pilgrims but that was it. Hong Kong, in my youth, was a British colony and I'm Filipino so Thanksgiving wasn't something we celebrated. (We did, though, take some of Thanksgiving's traditions such as eating a turkey with stuffing, which my mother learnt from her German-American father,  into Christmas).

So, perhaps, since it was something new to me, it became something special.

Every year, going back to when I was single and still living in my parents house in South Orange, I watch The Macy's Parade on TV. It's fun, exciting and helps bring in the holiday season. Now, married and a father, I do that with my wife and son. We're establishing our own traditions and, maybe, my son will continue them. Who knows? After the parade, we watch the dog show and then, as the bird is cooking, we go for a long walk. I think, for me, Thanksgiving became extra special because it was a holiday when my parents and I got to be together. Being the youngest, with two married sisters in other cities and a brother in Manila, a lot of the years before I got married and before my folks moved back to Manila were spent with just the three of us. More often than not, they would be in Manila for Christmas with my brother so Thanksgiving became our time.

I think becoming a father, too, made me appreciate Thanksgiving; not just as a family holiday but as an American holiday. My son, like me, has dual citizenship but he was born and is being raised in the United States (unlike me). He's the first generation of natural-born Americans in my immediate family (one my sister's has three daughters, all born in the US, and while she is part of my immediate family her husband and children are not). Add to this that I am an immigrant who has difficulty in knowing where to call home - Philippines (where I was born, hold citizenship, and I see myself ethnically as a Filipino), Hong Kong (where I was raised from 9 months to 16, where my heart calls home, and a city that tugs on the Chinese blood given to me by my paternal grandmother) or New Jersey, USA (where I've lived the last 28 years, hold citizenship, and experienced many of life's defining moments) - and who has  a strong sense of loss and displacement, I feel it's imperative that I forge a sense of belonging and roots for my son. My son was born in 2008, in America, and I want him to be able to say, unequivocally, where he's from. When I'm asked where I'm from, I'm always uncertain how to respond.

Also, in 2008, the first minority president was elected. Barack Obama, half black and half white, became our president and, yes, I voted for him. I liked what he had to say. I'm not a die-hard Democrat and I'd vote Republican if I thought the candidate would do the best for me and if that would, in turn, be the best for my family. In 2008, Obama made me believe he was that candidate. I felt the same way in 2012. But, more than his goals and policies, I felt a connection to him - as a biracial human being. In a way, I felt there was finally someone who would, on some level, put minorities and multi-ethnics somewhere close to the front of his thoughts. Furthermore, he has a strong Asian connection, having lived in Hawaii and Indonesia and he has Asian relatives. So, again, he was someone I, as an biracial immigrant citizen of this country, could relate to. Lastly, Obama spoke about - and speaks about - Americans taking care of Americans, crossing the aisle from the Democrat side of government to the Republican - and that is the kind of world I want my son to grow up in and, hopefully, influence. No man is an island and we should all watch each others' backs.

So, it is with this view of America - a 'new' America, if you will - and my American-born son and the special quality Thanksgiving has for me that I count down to Thursday and celebrate what I regard as the best of American holidays and usher in the holiday season. Thank you America for all you are and all you've given me and for what you will give my son.

God bless America and Happy Thanksgiving!

16 November, 2013

Philippines Relief Efforts

Hi readers! I hope you're all doing well. Sadly, many of my countrymen back home in The Philippines are not. I am pleading for your help. Buy my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, and I will donate all royalties to relief efforts in The Philippines through 2014.

Clck http://www.filamkickingscribe.com/4/post/2013/11/giving-back-to-my-homeland.html for details.

Thank you for your help and Lakas Sa Pilipinas!

15 November, 2013

Class of 2026 - A Father's Hopes

Yes, 2026. 

Earlier this month, I had my first parent-teacher night. That's not entirely true. I had my first parent-teacher night, and conference, as a parent earlier this month. (Being a teacher in my twenty-first year, I've had many parent-teacher nights.) And, even though I'm a big believer in lettings kids - especially kindergartners - be kids, I couldn't help from feeling some trepidation, amidst my excitement, as I headed to the school. It seems that the pressure surrounding kids today and the (over) specialisation they undergo in academics and sports and other extracurricular activities they are put through at much younger ages than kids were in my day, reared its ugly head into my psyche for the night. Heading to my son's school, I hoped that my son's teacher would have only good things to say about his behaviour and development and that my son, of course, would be the cream of the crop and the standard against which all other kindergarten students get measured. 

As it turned out, my son's behaviour is well within his teacher's expectations - and my expectations - and in adherence to her class rules and the school's code of conduct. Also, developmentally, Jude is doing just fine. His reading is better than some and not as advanced as others but such is the world of kindergarten. Numbers seem to be his strength - hold the jokes about numbers and Asians (which I can hear some of my Caucasian friends making) - and among his favourites are PE (well, his dad is a PE teacher, after all), music, technology (again, hold the chuckles) and his weekly visit to the library. 

Once that was settled, his son's teacher gave my wife and I a sheet of paper. On it was login information to an educational website where she'd set up separate accounts for all of her students. In each account are online books that help with reading and learning sight words. My son and I have visited that site and read many of the books and it's a joy to see his excitement when he sounds out the words and gets them right. 

What slapped me in the face, however, when his teacher gave us the paper, was the login name. It's a combination of parts of my son's name with 2026. That's the year he's scheduled to graduate from high school! High school! My son only started kindergarten two months ago and already thoughts of high school graduation are popping into my head. I guess it hit me because of how fast the last five years have gone. It's still vivid how I held my son in one hand, shortly after he was born, and when he began preschool and when he started to talk and....I could go on. Now, he's in kindergarten, which is flying. Before my wife and I know it, he will be a high schooler and a graduating one at that. 

I suppose what I'm experiencing is nothing new and common to what all parents experience especially, perhaps, with their first child. My wife and I only have one child and, probably, will only have the one child. And, while all children are precious gifts, for now, all our eggs are in one basket, so out speak. I just hope the time doesn't go by too fast and that I'm able to be a good role model and guide for my son; to help him avoid the mistakes I made, to be more fearless than I was, to be his best regardless of what 'best' means to the rest of the world. There were many things I did and choices I made that were good and right for me and I wouldn't change for the world. There were also many I regret and many more I wish I had made that I didn't because of fear and uncertainty; and my own fear and uncertainty gave in to the fear and uncertainty of others so those things I never did will always be a bit of a 'what if' for me. And, for me, the 'what ifs' are in many ways worse than the mistakes. 

I love you son. 

03 November, 2013

Falling Back An Hour

I don't get Standard Time. I don't understand it. I don't see why it exists.

Why would anyone want - why do we need  - to have shorter days and longer nights? When I was a child, growing up in Hong Kong, we used to fall back an hour in the autumn and move ahead in the spring. Now, and I must confess I wasn't aware of when it stopped happening, Hong Kong and The Philippines (where I was born) don't change their clocks. Now that we've gone back an hour here in New Jersey, my parents and other family members in Manila are ahead thirteen hours. In the summer, it's a nice and easy twelve. One of my sisters lives in England. They don't move the clocks over there, either. 

So, why do we do it here in America? It doesn't seem to make sense to me and if anyone can explain it so it's as clear as the daylight I miss, I'd be very grateful to hear from you. It just seems that people are happier and more productive when there's more daylight. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) would be suffered less, for one thing. Also, less electricity and other energy resources would be used up because, simply, we wouldn't need it. Now, by 4pm, I 've got to open my outside light. During Daylight Savings Time (DST), I  can leave it closed until about 8pm. That's four hours less of resources being used and money I'm putting out. 

Just a few moments ago, a little after 6pm, my wife told our son that in a few minutes it would be time for bed. When she saw the actual time, she laughed and said, in Tagalog, "It's still early. " I smiled but with the switch of clocks and seeing how dark it is already, I don't blame her. We're not chicken who sleep depending on when the sun goes down and awaken when it comes back up. 

So, again, what's the pointof Standard Time? I'm just glad that, before he left office, President George W. Bush signed a bill that delayed the falling back weekend by a couple of weeks and moved the return to DST up by the same time frame. I'll adjust to the longer nights, as I do every year, but I'll be counting the days and waiting with excitement for March 9, 2014 to arrive. That, if you haven't guessed or don't already know, is when we go back to DST and when we get back to seeing the light. I just wish that those who decide when and if we say goodbye to DST see it light too. 

02 November, 2013

A Writer's Editor - RIP Monica Harris

It's strange how people affect us, impact upon our lives and leave some kind of indelible impression. And, I'm not referring to the people we've known the longest or the most intimately. Sometimes, more than we might realise at the time, these individuals are people we've met only a few times or, in some cases, only once.

I was reminded about this just a week ago when I checked my email and found one from Twitter. I get these often, as I'm sure many of you who have a Twitter account do. It's an email suggesting people for me to follow; the suggestions generated by some program that analyses trends, hashtags, followers, those who follow you, etc. Well, one of the suggestions was MHM Editorial Services (@mhmedits). It'd been a while - probably a year or so - since I'd last thought about MHM but I recognised the name immediately and my initial thought was "Don't I already follow this account?" So, I logged into my Twitter account and checked it out and, just as I suspected, I already follow @mhmedits. I further learnt, however, that MHM's account is no longer active due to the death of its account holder. Likewise, MHM Editorial Services is no longer operating.

Upon discovering this, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut and slapped in the face. MHM Editorial was an editing business run by Monica Harris. I met her at the 2009 Book Expo America and a few months later we met at the lobby of a New York hotel where my sister-in-law and her husband were staying. My wife came into New York with me. She had breakfast with my in-laws and I had a meeting with Monica. 

A few weeks before our meeting, I'd emailed Monica the first ten pages of my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises. She was more of a content editor versus a line editor but she did offer suggestions in syntax and caught some typos as she made useful comments on the various red flags she found in the book's plot, character motivation and dialogue. As most editors do in this kind of situation, Monica went through these pages for free. To edit more would've required a proper business arrangement which, after considering my self-publishing budget, I could not pursue. In spite of this, Monica more than welcomed my emails that were full of general questions on publishing. She also, even months after our meeting, willingly accepted and promptly answered my questions asking for further clarification of the comments she'd made on the pages she'd read. To me, this showed a true dedication on her part of being a writer's editor; being more concerned about the writer creating the best work he or she can produce and understanding what he or she needs to do than performing quality editorial services and writer support just for a buck. 

As insightful as Monica was with my manuscript, she was also ahead of the curve when it came to self-publishing. In the last ten years or so, independently publishing one's own work has grown and become less taboo. Anticipating the growth of indie published books, Monica specialised in serving the independent author, leaving her editing posts at traditional publishing houses and forming MHM Editorial.

I didn't know Monica very well, at all. I only met her once. But, the integrity in her approach to my work and the dignity she offered me as a green first-time author, has left a lasting impression on me; so much so that, when I found out she'd died, tears pooled at the bottom of my eyes. I felt like a friend had died, albeit one with whom I'd lost touch.

I'm an indie author hoping to break into the mainstream with an agent and a traditional publishing house. Thanks to Monica, I'm less ignorant about the entire process and I feel more secure about my work and vision being my work and vision. For that, I thank her. And, whether you're an indie or a traditionally published author, I hope your editors possess the character and love of her craft the way Monica did. 

RIP Monica Harris. The publishing world, especially that of the indie author, misses you deeply. 

01 November, 2013

November - The Writer's Month

November - The Writer's Month
It's November 1st and, in addition to it being All Saints' Day, it's National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I participated in NaNoWriMo last year and I 'won' it. I wasn't the sole winner. If a participant finished the first draft of a novel, at a minimum of 50,000 words, you were considered a 'winner.' Most novels, really, are 70,000 to 80,000 words long but 50,000 is absolutely doable in thirty days and becomes the seed for revisions, which can include making the novel more complex and reaching the bench mark 80,000. I'm actually in the process of finishing revisions for the novel I first drafted during last year's NaNoWriMo (Born From A Stone, book one of my Sage Of Heaven series) and I'm challenging (pressuring?) myself to also finish the first draft of another novel, Aliens Among Us, which is book one of my series of the same name.
I discovered earlier today that November is also NaBoPloMo. (Say that out loud a few times. Doesn't that sound like you've just come back from the dentist, tongue swollen and numb from novocaine?) Anyway, NaBoPloMo stands for National Blog Posting Month. If you're reading this, you're likely a blogger also. And, diligent bloggers, of which I am not one during the months of August through October because of a packed schedule, put up new posts several times a week, if not daily. Well, just as NaNoWriMo helps me with the discipline of sitting down to write and work on my current projects, NaBoPloMo will help me keep in touch with my subscribers. And, the goal of NaBoPloMo is for participants to post a new blog everyday. Like NaNoWriMo, NaBoPloMo has a site where you can register and get more traffic to your blog and through which you can make connections. Check it out here.
Really, NaBoPloMo is, in my opinion, an extension of NaNoWriMo. While WriMo is focused on writing a novel, both are about writing. That's why, with two global reaches to promote writing and reading (let's face it, both are reaching all areas of the world thanks to Twitter and other social media), November has become, for me, 'the writer's month.' Add to this that I took my first Gotham Writer's Workshop in the fall and this time of year is truly all about writing. Of course, I write all year long but there's something special about this time of year that jump starts or adds an extra spark to my involvement with words; not just as an author but as a reader, too. Maybe it's because we're going to be falling back an hour and enjoying less daylight and spending more time indoors. Maybe it's because it's getting colder and we'll be cozied up with a blanket, a warm dog at our feet, logs crackling behind you in your fireplace. Whatever it is, the next few months we'll all be spending more time inside and for many of us that means more reading and writing.
Good luck to my fellow writers, whether you're participating in NaNoWriMo and/or NaBoPloMo or not. After all, it's about showing up and putting the words down that gets the job done.
Happy writing!

21 October, 2013

Semantics, turns of phrase or outright confusion?

I was having a chat with someone recently and I said something that alluded to me being in my fifth decade. My friend commented how I'm in my fourth decade, being that I'm in my forties and not my fifties. I countered that I was, indeed, in my fifth since birth to age ten was my first decade. My friend went on to say that birth to age ten didn't count because a person is too young to at that age to know about things (relationship of self to the world, etc) and, essentially, because there are no digits in the tens column until a person reaches age ten.

This got me to thinking about other terms and phrases that cause confusion and the word 'birthday' came to mind; particularity recalling my son's first birthday party, at age one. I remember someone saying "Happy first birthday!" and I knew what she meant. My son had just turned one but, really, it wasn't his first birthday. His first birthday was when he was born, after all. 

Another one that I often have debate over, and which has caused missteps in planning get togethers, are phrases like 'this weekend' or 'next Thursday.' As many of us do, when we get together with work friends on a Monday, we share our weekend exploits with one another. Some of us use the term 'last weekend' and others use 'this weekend.' Well, which one should it be? The weekend did just end so it was the last one we all enjoyed. Or, perhaps it should be thought of as 'this weekend (that just ended).' The confusion continues when, for example, we're talking about what's going to happen in the next week or so. If, on the same Monday for example, discussion of Thursday comes, someone may refer to the upcoming Thursday as 'next Thursday' because it's the next Thursday coming up while others may say 'this Thursday' because it's the Thursday of this (the current) week.

I suppose a lot of how we think of things and refer to those things comes from our own personal preferences and the lingua franca of where you are. But, is there a 'proper' way that the above examples should be regarded? I've often wondered that. Maybe you have, too. If you have a definitve answer or know where I can find one, please let me know. If you have your own vocab conundrums, share those in the comment section.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great, today, this Tuesday and enjoy your time off this coming, next, weekend, whatever decade you're in and have a great birthday whenever it may be. 

06 October, 2013

Writing Progress

This time of year is usually my busiest. The start of school (I'm a teacher in my non-writing life), catching up with any and all changes to how things are happening at work (this year, it's all about Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) and International Baccalaureate (IB), coaching volleyball (in New Jersey, volleyball is a fall sport) and trying to find time to write. This year, there's the added responsibilities that come with kindergarten, which my son just started, and I'm also exercising more.

So, it's with equal amounts of enthusiasm and relief that today - actually, less than an hour ago - I finished going through my WIP, Sage Of Heaven, and making revisions. My manuscript will go through more revisions as I make the changes in its Word file but, nonetheless, it's getting closer to what I call a working draft; a draft I will feel comfortable workshopping to willing readers (Alex London, author of Proxy said he'd be willing to read it so I know it'll go through, at least, one exceptionally talented set of eyes which are, in turn, attached to a very talented and creative mind) and one with which I can solicit agents.  

I'm planning on having the new Word doc ready by - hopefully before - the end of this month so I can devote November to NaNoWriMo and get the first draft of book two of the Sage Of Heaven series writen or book one of my Aliens Among Us series completed. The volleyball season will be over by the time NaNoWriMo starts and I'll have more time to devote to writing so this is doable. I did write the first draft of Sage Of Heaven through NaNoWriMo, after all.

There's still loads more work to be done with my current manuscript, especially if it does successfully garner me an agent, but I am breathing a sigh of relief that its current round of revisions is completed because, honestly, I wasn't sure they'd get done before the end of the year. So, for you fellow writers out there, especially those like who are not (yet) fulltime writers and who wear multiple hats that it's difficult to reconcile each one, rest assured that if a slow poke procrastinator like me can finish something then all of you can - and some.

Happy writing all!

23 September, 2013

My Darth Vader Moment

I love the Star Wars movies and I can't wait for the new ones to start coming out in theatres and, I believe, there's also something going to happen on television. In the meantime, however, I can get my fix from watching DVDs with my son and catching the marathons that happen on TV during Memorial Day Weekend.

This past weekend, however, I got to have a real life Star Wars moment, of sorts. I call it 'my Darth Vader moment' and it refers to Darth Vader's showdown duel with Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope. In that scene, Vader says, "We meet again at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now, I am the master."

My Darth Vader moment came, of all things, during a volleyball tournament. I've been a volleyball coach since 1999 (I took time off from 2002-2003 and 2007-2008) and I got my best education under legendary multiple winning state champion high school coach Christine Drevitch, now the coach of Warren Hills, when we coached the Hunterdon Central boys team in 2001. I worked under her for just one season but I learnt so much that, to this day, I still use many of the principles she taught me. And, when I've had a rookie volleyball coach work  under me, I've taught the same principles to that person. I worked with Christine in the spring of 2001 and, after changing jobs, I'd had one or two occasional contacts with her. That was until Saturday when our schools were placed in the same pool of teams for the round robin part of the tournament. 

The way the pool rounds were set up, each match between schools ran for twenty-five minutes or best of three sets, whichever came first. If each school won a set after playing two and there was still time on the clock, they'd continue to play until the time ran out. Well, that's what happened between us. Christine's team beat mine 25-12 in the first set and we beat them 25-22 in the second. With time running out, Christine and her girls won the third set 11-9. Having lost, maybe I didn't get my Darth Vader moment. He won the duel with Kenobi after all, albeit at Kenobi's willingness. Maybe I was more Kenobi than Vader on Saturday and the next time Christine and I meet, as in the Star Wars films, I'll be the victor; although in the movies it's not Kenobi who triumphs over Vader so much as it is good beating evil and neither Christine nor I are evil.  Either way, there was a little bit of that classic student versus teacher moment and, while I did lose, I did give a good showing of myself and, without having asked her, I'm sure she was proud of her student on some level.

So, what about you? Have you had a Darth Vader moment like this? Do share.

29 August, 2013

Knock, Knock! Who's There?

On the way to mass last Sunday, my son told me a joke. When he asked me if I wanted to hear a joke, I replied with an enthusiastic "Yes!" I was curious to see at his age - he's five - what kind of joke he was going to tell and it also made me think of how old I was when I started to understand what a joke is and tell them to those who'd indulge me. I couldn't recall when I told me first joke but I'm sure they weren't very good or well delivered. 

Anyway, my son began.

"Knock, knock," he said.

On cue, I replied, "Who's there?"

"Banana," he answered.

"Banana who?"

"Knock, knock."

"Wait! Huh?"

"Just play along, Daddy," my wife interjected.

"Okay," I said. "Who's there?"

Smiling, our son said, "Banana."

Dutifully, I said, "Banana who?"

"Knock, knock," he said one more time.

"Who's there?" I asked.


"Banana who?"

"Knock, knock."

And so it went on for a full minute or so and I really didn't know where it was going. You, however, reading this post, surely knows. Eventually, it did end and the final round went like this:

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"


I smiled, taken aback slightly. "Orange who?" I said.

Then, with the biggest smile I've seen on a five year old boy and in between giggles, my son said, "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?"

I was very impressed with his timing and delivery and in his complete understanding of the pun. But, once we'd gotten to church, had mass and over the next few days I hadn't thought about it at all. Until today, during the tour of my son's kindergarten.

When the three of us - my son, wife and I - arrived we were greeted by our son's  teacher. She showed us her classroom and his cubby. Then she directed us to the cafeteria where all the kindergarteners and their parents were going to congregate. From there, the kindergarten teachers  gathered us according to our students' assigned teacher and took us around the school.

Naturally, not knowing the lay of the land, I paid attention to where my son's classroom is and it's relation to the exits, stairways, main office, gym and cafeteria. I looked up when the teacher pointed out the fourth and fifth grade rooms but I didn't make any kind of special note of them. Additionally, as a public school teacher myself, I felt a certain kinship and comfort in the school. Even though I didn't know the exact locations of things, I felt like I knew my way around. It's like that saying that goes something like, "he (or she) knows his way around a (fill in the blank)." Someone who's a great cook, it might be said of that person that he or she knows his or her way around a kitchen. That's how I felt. 

Anyway, as we toured the halls, I noticed that each classroom had its own bulletin board just outside its door. Each board was nicely decorated. On one, there were cutouts of fish and on each fish was each student's name who belongs in that classroom. The heading of the bulletin board was You're O-Fish-Ally In Fourth Grade. When we got back to our son's teacher's classroom, I noticed her bulletin board. It had a yellow background and spread out on it were cutout illustrations of halved oranges. On each half was a student's name. I found my son's in the bottom right area. Seeing his name like that - the way I'd seen so many other parents' children's names on bulletin boards in schools I've taught - naturally give me a chill and a feeling of warmth. My son's heading into a brand new phase of his life and, just like the end of the summer and the start of a new school year, it's one full of opportunities in which he - and his mother and I - can grow, laugh, cry, marvel, learn.

We were then directed to the playground outside, where the PTO was sharing some refreshment. As I turned to enter the stairway, I noticed the title of my son's classroom's bulletin board - Orange You Glad You're In Kindergarten. Instantly, I recalled my son's joke. To most people, it's just a coincidence. Perhaps I'm too much of a dreamer because I took it as something else. There was something prophetic about it. My son's apparent understanding of a pun - and not just simply saying something because it sounds funny - coupled with an identically themed tongue-in-cheek greeting by his teacher has to be more than a chance occurrence. To me, it's a reminder that my son is growing older and smarter everyday and that his world - via his own imagination and via the lessons he's going to learn and the friends he's going to make - is getting even bigger. I hope, too, it means the next year is going to finally be our year; a year in which dreams come true.

Whatever you think it might mean, just remember that there is change around us. Graduated students are - and have been since last May and June - beginning to forge their own way. Younger people are entering new and challenging arena of their academic lives. Parents whose children have graduated and moved on are experiencing their own changes - 'empty nest syndrome,' perhaps - and others, like my wife and I, are seeing their children embark on entirely new endeavours. Whatever situation you're in - and it's easier said than done but it behooves us to try - remember that change is what you make it out to be. It can be everything you've ever wanted or it can be a chimera. Regardless, change is an opportunity. What you do with it, now, that's up to you. Just don't waste it.

Finally, for those young people entering another school year, especially the older ones of you who may be so focused on what's ahead - a final year of college, high school seniors filling out college applications, a stressed twenty-something studying for the bar exam - don't forget to let go sometimes and let your imagination take you to far away places. It is, after all, your imagination that got you thinking about what and who you want to become and how you want to become him or her. Never turn your back on your imagination and  it will never cease to be there when you need it the most.

Good luck everyone and have a great year.