2017 Recap and 2018 Plans

2017. Politically…bleh. But, on a personal and professional note it had a lot of highlights.

  • I went to Yellowstone National Park for the first time and experienced -25F temps…
  • I went to both the Arctic and the Antarctic. I saw polar bears and penguins and lots and lots of beautiful ice…
  • IMG_0065
  • I went to beautiful Assiniboine Provincial Park and photographed in weather from overcast and snowing to blue skies and dry…
  • I turned thirty…
  • I got published! Multiple nonfiction pieces, and my first short story sale: linkies here
  • I finished my novel…
  • I pitched my novel at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference to two fabulous agents, and they asked for pages!…

I’m probably forgetting some things, and there are others that I can’t quite share yet, but overall, a big year for me.

Going forward…

Week 1-Open Posting

Week 1- Open Posting. A shot of Lake Magog and the mountains surrounding it. Taken in September 2017, a few days after the featured photo up top.

I’m going to focus on only one photography challenge, the Bob Noble one (not sure how well that link will work as it’s a closed facebook group, but I think people are still welcome to join?). I made it a about 2/3 of the way through the 2017 challenge. The schedule is more relaxed this year, which will hopefully help me get all the way through it.

This year, a personal photography goal is to get through processing photos from my trips. I have a woefully neglected smugmug site where I’ll be putting some photos, as well as some on my facebook page. I haven’t been on flickr much so I’m hesitant to point people there to see my photos.

2017 was the year I devoted to the Tempest Challenge, where you “take One Year off from reading fiction by straight, white, cisgender male authors and instead read fiction by authors who come from minority or marginalized groups.” I very much enjoyed this challenge and could/should devote a post to my picks from the last year. I highly recommend it.

This year, I’m doing two reading challenges that somewhat overlap. The Book Riot 2018 Read Harder challenge, and the #BadAssReadingChallenge2018 (facebook group). A tentative plan for the blog is to do monthly recaps of what I’ve read. I got back into comics/graphic novels during the Tempest Challenge, and am happy to see a few themes in the Book Riot challenge devoted to them.


Onward into 2018!

This is 30


I said goodbye to my twenties today. The last decade holds some of the best moments thus far in my life, and hopefully what will prove to be the worst.

I went to undergrad. Got married. Went to law school, and while it’s not a secret that I ended up hating most of the experience, I can never fully regret it because of the wonderful friends I made through going. I decided to pursue a career in writing, and saw my first pro-sale at twenty-nine. I’ve done two things that would have my mother throwing up her hands in (good) exasperation because they’re things she tried so hard to interest me in when I was younger: music (violin for the last four years, piano sporadically for the last year), and making baby steps in seeking out other Asian American adoptees. I’ve taken up photography as my latest hobby, and it’s led me to amazing places and people.

Those are the good things. I’m probably forgetting some, but I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished so far.

But, the (hopefully) worst moment of my life also happened in my twenties. It’s hard to describe in a way that conveys all of the meaning it holds for me. December 21, 2012, a tree fell on my family’s car while we were driving on the highway. My parents were killed. My family was broken. It’s the day that changed the way I look at my life. That last is a bit dramatic, but they’re all true. The accident changed the way I see my life—it’s all either pre- or post- accident now. In some ways, my brain is still stuck in time. I default to thinking we’re all the same age as we were that day.

Beth May 2015

Another low point of my twenties was losing Beth. It was inevitable—she wasn’t going to live forever and eighteen years is a good run for a cat. She died two years after the accident, and it’s hard for me to separate the two simply because she was the only thing that didn’t change, the only crossover from my “old” life into the post-accident days. The accident changed everything else about our family—the house, certainly the people, even the dogs, and that’s understandable. The dogs were taken in by our beloved neighbors who welcomed them as a part of their families, but it hurt to see them change and view someone else as “their people.” A long-time friend of mine and her family took Beth in after the accident and both Steve and I were jealous-scared that she’d forget us. She didn’t. Old Beth the Iron Kitty moved something like three times in three months without batting an eye, and when we were finally reunited she moved back into our apartment like it was no big deal. She bridged the gap after the accident, unchanging, constant, and for that I am grateful.

I hope my thirties go well, but if they want to be a bit less eventful I’m quite all right with that too.

A Roundup of Links

Let’s be real–you’re all here because you want photos. Here’s a polar bear from my recent trip to Svalbard, Norway.


Happy now? I took 2400+ photos on the trip and have barely scratched the surface on culling or processing, so it’s going to be a while.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick roundup of links for some of my recent essay publications.

“My Family Isn’t Built By Blood,” an essay on the representation of adoption in speculative fiction. Available in the Invisible 3 anthology co-edited by Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj.

“From Able to Disabled: Seeing Disability on FOX’s ‘Bones,'” an essay that expands on my earlier blog post about how acquired disability and the grieving process is represented on the TV show “Bones.” You can find it at The Learned Fangirl.

“Disabled or Just Broken?” published as part of Uncanny Magazine’s Kickstarter campaign for the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special issue. This essay will also appear in the issue when it comes out next year. The Kickstarter has already reached its second stretch goal! Please consider backing this amazing project.

We’ll close now with Sleepy Bear.


Invisible 3 Cover Reveal!

Psst. My name is on a thing. Huge thank you to Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj for this opportunity. My essay on the representation of adoption in spec-fic will appear in the third installment of the Invisible anthologies, due out soon. Click the link to see the cover and list of contributors.

Invisible 3 Cover

My apologies that the blog has been a bit quiet as I have news I’m bursting to share but have to be vague on the details for now. I recently signed the contract for my first pro short story sale to a SFWA-accredited market! More details to come when I’m able to share them.

In photography news, I’ve been plugging along in both weekly themed challenges, but am lagging behind when it comes to the Dogwood one. I’m still behind on getting all the photos from my Yellowstone trip edited (and rather unmotivated since I hate processing).

Here’s a funky shot of one of my angelfish for the Bob Noble challenge. Week 21: Shoot something ordinary and make it extraordinary. Not sure it’s “extraordinary,” but I like how almost bug-eyed the fish looks from this head-on angle.

Week 21- Something Ordinary Made Extraordinary

Thoughts on Disability

Header image is my submission for Week 15- Hard, in the Dogwood52 Advanced challenge. Seemed fitting for this post.

I’m currently finishing the final season of Bones, and have a few thoughts on how it handles the disability of one of the main characters, so hopefully a blog post on that soon.

In the meantime, here’s a Storify of some thoughts I had on twitter about an article on ableism in writing and my able–>disabled perspective on one of the points.

Storify Link

Erm…ignore all the misuses of your instead of “you’re” *hangs head in shame*.

A Recap of Some Photography Adventures

How is it already mid-February? My 2017 started off with me getting what I thought was a really bad cold, but in hindsight it was probably the flu from hell that seemed to be everywhere in Washington. I recovered (mostly) in time for my trip to Yellowstone with Jared Lloyd (I went on the wild horses workshop with him last spring), and co-led by Doug Gardner. They’re both fabulous and if you’re looking for a wildlife workshop I can’t recommend them enough. They’re excellent photographers as many photog workshop leaders are, but they’re also excellent teachers—which some photog workshop leaders are not. For my fellow writers, it’s similar to how just because a person can write well doesn’t mean they’re automatically a good editor.

I haven’t managed to get through all of the photos I took (a few thousand…), but I have a few to share. Yellowstone in the winter is so fun and pretty! And cold, imagine that. I’d never been to Yellowstone before, or in negative degree temperatures, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Since my only frame of reference for “cold” was the 16-17 degrees Fahrenheit I’d experienced during undergrad out in eastern Washington, let’s just say that -20, -25F on our first morning in the interior was eye-opening. Actually, icicle-on-eyelash-inducing.Photo courtesy of Jared Lloyd Photography.

Frosty Morning

Also, don’t be the person who forgets her snow pants in the hotel on the first morning. Frolicking around in Polartec 200-weight pants when it’s -20F out is a poor life decision.

I’m compiling an album that you can find on flickr, and will eventually get one up on facebook. We saw plenty of wildlife despite the heavy snow in the interior. Bison are everywhere, which can actually make it challenging to get an interesting photo of them. The first morning where it was super cold was pretty lucky for us, because you need the temps to get down that low or lower in order to get images where the bison are covered in hoarfrost. Which was the kind of shot at the top of my list to try and get. Pretty happy with it.

Frosty Bison

Bison don’t quite have the “look of eagles” that horses possess, but they make a good go of it.

The Look of Eagles, Bison Version

We were also really lucky to see a long-tail weasel in its winter phase coloration. Apparently only the short tail weasel gets to be called an ermine when it turns white. Photographing this guy was an exercise in frustration because he was so fast, small, fast, white on white, did I mention ridiculously fast? For legs that are only a few inches long these things can fly across the snow. We were fortunate to get about 20+ minutes with him as he hunted for rodents sleeping under the snow.

Long-tail Weasel

Others that I don’t all have up yet are foxes, river otters, coyotes, bald eagles and a bunch of other birds, bull elk, bull and cow moose, mule deer, bighorn rams…and I’m probably forgetting some others.

Week 6- Anything Blue

On the writing front, draft zero of the novel is nearly done. If all goes according to the outline (ha!), then there’s three chapters left. I was able to get into session 3 for Rainforest Writers in early March, so the plan is to have the draft done and start typing it up (2/3 of it have been handwritten because I’m weird like that) at Rainforest. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve never been to the Rainforest retreat/workshop before, or Lake Quinault, and I’m looking forward to both the writing and photographic opportunities.

Onward to 2017

Took a look at my “resolutions” blog post from January, and thought I’d do a bit of a recap/goals for next year. As far as my resolutions for 2016 went…well, the blogging once a month almost made it. I think I missed twice, but also posted more than once a few times too. So, let’s call that one fulfilled.

The Writing Goals. I did succeed in having at least two short stories on sub at all times. Yay. As far as the whole, have an entire draft of the novel written and polished and out for querying. HAHAHA. I’m a sweet summer child. In fairness, I ended up scrapping the novel I’d started earlier this year, and started fresh in May. I’m almost finished with the last chapter in the second act, and according to my outline, Act 3 chugs right along. Not that the outline has changed…a lot…during the process… I wanted to have at least the second act finished by the end of the year, but I’ve been hit with a nasty cold/fever and there’d probably just be pages of characters sitting around being pissy that I’d have to fix in post. I wrote a tiny bit of flash, but that’s a goal that will carry over into next year.

Read More. I’ve read a lot more this last year than in previous years, I think. What I might do is start keeping a list of what I finish in 2017 so I have hard numbers to look back on. I have a ton of YA and novellas stockpiled, so 2017 might be the year to tackle those. I was terrible and didn’t do any reviews on goodreads…bad me. It feels kinda weird reviewing books of people I know/might know in the future. Fellow writers, do you have this issue? I need to make an account that doesn’t use my name.

Weight Goals. So, that was a total fail. Oh well. I think I gained two or three pounds over the last year. I think I also need to accept that the way I exercised in my teens doesn’t apply anymore. I’m not too down about this “failure” though because I’m not upset with how I look, and I’ve accepted that post-accident my activity levels can’t be the same. Also, I should probably eat out less. Should. Might. Maybe.

2016 was a great year in exploring my new hobby: photography. Had a blast on two big photo trips, both of which I covered earlier in the blog (wild horses in NC, and the Palouse). 2017 should also be an exciting year when it comes to photography. I have two trips already booked: Yellowstone in mid-January, and Norway in June. I’ve got some photography goals for next year which include two separate weekly themed challenges. Even though I petered out about halfway through the Dogwood52 2016 challenge, I am much more inspired by the “advanced” 2017 challenge list. I’ve also joined a second challenge run through facebook, put on my photographer Bob Noble. It looks a little more relaxed and personal than the Dogwood one since the group will be capped at 150 people (sitting at I think 110 now). As a way to try and stay motivated and keep the blog active, I’ll probably start doing roundups of the photos taken with notes about the images on the blog.

The writing goals from last year pretty much all carry over into this year. I’d like to do a few more writing-related posts. I’ve said before I’d “review” some of the online classes I’ve taken (Gotham, LitReactor, Cat Rambo), and I’d like to get those written. I’d also like to do a post on my slush reading experience (I’m a slush reader for Uncanny Magazine).

Hard to think about weight goals right now when things like breathing and swallowing hurts (curse you, cold) but I’m going to vary up the workout routine more, try and get some more HIIT workouts in, etc. Finding workout videos and routines I can do post-accident has been a process, but I’ve started doing more barre workouts and like them a lot.

Ok, this ended up being longer than I expected. Off to drown myself in tea. I leave you with my first photo for the Dogwood2017 challenge: tell a story using the Rule of Thirds compositional rule. Cogwheel loves watching the fish get fed. Thankfully, we’ve never had a cat that tried to go fishing (though both Beth and Cogwheel have fallen in).


SIWC 2016 Recap


So, I gushed a bit after my first time attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference last year, which I blogged about here.


I still love this conference. As a second-time attendee, there was still a huge variety of workshops to choose from. Not each one was a winner, but I enjoyed the majority and would like to go back again. SIWC does a good job of having several recurring workshops as well as adding in new variety each year. This is a fun, inviting, professional conference that is certainly beginner-friendly. No matter what your skill level is, everyone there is welcoming and comes with a similar level of commitment to the craft.

Great keynotes all weekend long, kicked off by Canadian author Angie Abdou on Friday morning and followed by authors: Daniel Jose Older on Friday night, Jael Richardson on Saturday morning, Larry Brooks on Saturday night, Cat Rambo on Sunday morning, and closed out by literary agent Donald Maas at the Sunday luncheon. Food was fine, just like last year. I can be a bit of a picky eater but always found enough to eat in the buffet, plus the Sheraton’s restaurant is pretty good too (though pricey…it’s hotel food). I bought a full conference package which included lunch/dinner in the ballroom, but there was also a small snack bar set up near the room where the Blue Pencils and Pitches were held that sold coffee, bagels, pastries, etc.

SIWC has four sessions a day, each an hour and fifteen minutes long—great for having enough time for the presenters to go a bit deeper than 101 level and still have time for questions. Each session has 8-9 different workshops going on at once, so there’s plenty to choose from—both a good and a bad thing! If one workshop isn’t panning out, the conference encourages you to try one of the other ones. The Blue Pencils and Pitches run throughout the day all weekend so people are always quietly coming and going (thank you, door monitors) and it’s not awkward if you get up to leave.


View from the hotel. I don’t think I left the building all weekend.

I had an informative pitch session with Moe Ferrara this year. I went in more for practice/experience than anything else since my novel isn’t complete, and I almost chickened out and canceled the pitch, but I’m glad I went through with it. Moe was great and gave me some tips on how to tighten up my phrasing, and invited me to send a query when the novel is finished.

I got in for a second Blue Pencil this year in addition to the one included with registration. You can try to get extra Pitches or Blue Pencils if there are openings with the presenters (I think there usually are), and I got in with Daniel Jose Older on the last day. My first Blue Pencil was with Cat Rambo, and both were great. You can bring a maximum of three pages to the critique session, which is only fifteen minutes long. I brought the beginning of a new short story and got some good feedback on how to mete out the backstory better, as well as some markets to approach when the story is ready. The fifteen minutes goes fast, but I’ve gotten valuable feedback within it—especially helpful in the beginning of a short story.

It’s a big conference, but I’ve made some amazing writing friends both years that I’ve gone. A real “finding my people” kind of event. It’s not inexpensive being a three-day conference, plus the convenience of staying in the hotel, though it being in Canadian currency does help. But, if you can afford to go, SIWC is a wonderful experience. Next year is the 25th anniversary! I wonder what they’ll have in store for us…

Able to Disabled: My Thoughts on Bones Season 11

It should be apparent from the title that there are going to be some spoilers. Here’s my SPOILER ALERT warning. Also apparent from the title—I use the term “disabled.” That’s what works for me. You do you.

The eleventh season of Bones recently came to Netflix, and I was surprised by the show’s decision to severely injure one of the main characters—and even more so by how it was handled. To quote the Netflix description: “A forensic anthropologist teams up with an FBI agent to investigate crimes that have left scant evidence behind: namely the bones of the deceased.” I’ve also heard it called forensics porn because the show doesn’t shy away from showing gross-out, grisly bits. Not particularly violent, but it does like to show dead bodies, bugs, all that goodness.

I love this show. It has a decently diverse ensemble cast (I freaking love Camille Saroyan), has great humor given the subject matter, and generally has good singular/episodic plots interwoven with a season-long problem. My thoughts on the disabled character and that arc only pertain to what happens during season 11.

To give the spoiler-free crowd a chance to depart, I’ll go into a little bit of a background bio to shed some light on why I’m blogging about this. Near the end of 2012, my family was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of my parents and left myself, my husband, and my older sister with a varying degree of disabling injuries. My younger brother escaped with minor physical injuries. I’m being deliberately short here, but I presume readers can imagine the emotional trauma involved.


It’s usually easiest to sum up that I broke most of my lower half from the ribs down: multiple ribs, pelvis (I think in two spots), both femurs, right knee, right ankle, left wrist, surface abrasions, plus internal injuries. I was fortunate in that of the three of us, my injuries had the largest margin for recovery. Today I can walk without an aid, though I still keep my cane in my car. To the casual observer I probably don’t “look disabled,” because I can walk unassisted and usually without a limp. My husband and I had eerily similar breaks, though he had several in addition to mine. He lives with chronic nerve pain that will most likely be a continuous battle to manage, and he walks with a forearm crutch. My sister is a quadriplegic, and blogs about her experiences at Jessie Thinks.


Almost hallway through season 11 of Bones, the character Dr. Jack Hodgins is injured at a crime scene and ends up a paraplegic. When we find out at the end of episode 10 that he’s paralyzed, I inwardly cringed. I adore this show and was not optimistic about how it would handle disability in a primary character. Were they going to turn him into this morose recluse who can’t possibly have a meaningful life? Have him magically cured after one episode?

Neither. For the next 5 episodes, we see Hodgins’ arc of dealing with becoming disabled. Based on my experience, on so many levels the show nailed it. Not perfectly; I have some qualms with where the season ends that I’ll address in a bit. The grieving process is sped up a bit more than I think is realistic, but honestly I was amazed at how much time the character and his injury received.

I related so hard to some of the things Hodgins goes through/does/feels. The first episode after we find out he’s been paralyzed, he’s actually really upbeat. But, we find out it’s because he thought his nerves were re-growing, and at the end of that episode he finds out that he was experiencing phantom pain and that in fact his MRI shows nerve decay. The next 3 episodes show him going through an intense grieving process, and the rest of the season follows his journey to come to terms with where he’s at.

What Hodgins goes through—that was my family’s life. I’ve never related to a show so much; where I watched and could say “that was me,” or “that was us.” The scenes where Hodgins is looking around his workplace and noting all the ways it isn’t ADA-friendly. How he enviously stares at people as they trot up and down the stairs. Easily. Carelessly.

I’ve been there. I remember sitting in the ambulance, then the cabulance, then finally a regular car while at the James Street exit, watching people rushing up or down Capitol Hill to catch a bus. Glaring at strangers as they hurried along, blindly trusting their knees to hold them. I remember staring at people as they ran down the road, or jumped over a puddle, thinking to myself, “yea, don’t take that for granted, motherf*cker. You don’t know what you have.” I remember being so jealous and angry and knowing that it wasn’t logical but I DON’T CARE BECAUSE I’M BROKEN. I rode horses and played recreational soccer for 10+ years. I ran on my high school cross country team. I played IM flag football in undergrad, and screw modesty: I was pretty damned good at it. So that sense of loss, and the anger, and the desperation/desire to find a way to be unbroken again—I get that.

I went from able to disabled to now somewhere in between. I can’t run anymore. I can’t jump. Kneeling and crouching are slow, painful, and usually inconvenient. I can climb stairs but can’t remember what it felt like to do it with ease even though I know I used to be able to take them three at a time. It wasn’t even that long ago, but I’ve no memory of what effortlessness feels like. But, I can walk. I’m no longer stuck in a bed, ticking off the days, weeks, months until my doctor removes the “non-weight bearing” restriction from my whiteboard. As freeing as the wheelchair was, I’ve graduated from it, the walker, the crutches, and even the cane. For now, anyway. It took a long time, but I don’t stare, green with envy, when runners go by.

The arc Hodgins goes through rang true to me. The desperate hope that he was getting better; the anger and jealousy and grief over his loss—and how that affects everyone around him; how he tries to get into experimental programs, something, anything that will bring his legs back. And, eventually to how he grows to accept that being disabled is who he now is, but also how he’s more than just a guy in a wheelchair. He has to find what the “new normal” is for him, and thankfully the show does that well too. We get to see a once able-bodied man now in a wheelchair, and his life ultimately doesn’t change. He’s able to continue at his job, and though there are certain limitations due to being in the chair, for the most part he’s able to do everything he did before—AND the show doesn’t make a huge deal of it. Yes, he gets a motorized lift so he can join the team on the examination platform, but the last quarter of the season he just zips around and goes about his business. We see how he gets to keep his normal life—wheelchair and all. I love this.

Now, there’s a bit at the end that I don’t like, because after all that time showing the realistic struggle (to me) of an able-bodied person becoming disabled and still managing to figure out their life, the show decides to hint that Hodgins might “get better.” He starts to get nerve flares and muscle spasms in his legs in the second-to-last episode. I have problems with this. It looks dangerously like the show’s going to fall into the whole “disability is bad” deal by making Hodgins able-bodied again, because omg we can’t have someone disabled on the show. It also doesn’t really make sense since we were told that his nerve ends had already begun decaying, and he didn’t end up putting himself into any experimental programs—they claim it’s just the result of all that PT. That’s also a bit of a slap in the face to spinal cord injured people who know that not all the PT in the world can undo their damage. Whatever. It’s unclear by the finale if he’ll fully regain his legs or not. I’m hoping not. I know, it’s a TV show. The Hodgins character is also very wealthy and has access to therapy and aids that most people don’t. Overall, I think the process of able to disabled and coming to terms with life are handled well.

I have serious misgivings about the finale unrelated to Hodgins, but that has nothing to do with disability.

Anniversary Trip to the Summit House Restaurant


Husbeast and I celebrated our five-year anniversary last weekend with a trip to the Summit House Restaurant near Mt. Rainier. It’s a bit of a trek out there, but the drive is pretty and it was a gorgeous day. We got there a little early and checked out the base area of the resort before taking the gondola up. There’s a gift shop (with lots of high SPF products—yes! Snagged some lip balm with SPF +30) and a café, though the café was closed for a wedding. Looks like there are some nice hiking opportunities in the area too, though we didn’t investigate. Restroom facilities are located at the base, and I don’t know if there are any up at the Summit House. I commented to Husbeast that there are a lot of “don’t feed the wildlife” signs, but I didn’t see any animals—not even birds. More on that later.


The gondola ride is fun, and Husbeast managed it fine despite not being fond of heights. You’re fully enclosed and it’s actually surprisingly quiet once you get away from the landing/receiving points. I can also report that it goes at a pace conducive to hatching Pokemon Go eggs. It’s not entirely ADA friendly, but Husbeast didn’t have a problem with his forearm crutch. The gondola can come to a complete stop if need be, so someone capable of standing transfers with a mechanical/folding wheelchair may be able to make it work. The gondolas themselves are pretty spacious, and the gondola operators were all respectful and accommodating.


Food was pretty good, and this is the first place where Canadian Husbeast gave the poutine a passing grade. He only needs to go to 6,872 feet to get it again. Pictures of the mountain didn’t turn out great because it was super hazy that day and I didn’t have a polarizer.


Oh, and remember the “don’t feed the wildlife” signs? The reason resides up at the Summit House,  and people completely disregard the signs: saw a woman dump a pile of seeds in front of her so she could video her kid trying to pet the chipmunk.

Not an inexpensive day trip once you factor in the drive and gondola fee on top of the food, but it’s a fun excursion for people looking to get out of the city.