A Year of Kung Fu

To understand how much I love Kung Fu, you need to understand how much I hate running. Seriously. I hate it.

My father loves running. He’s a retired Marine. He ran pretty much every day for twenty-five years. I’m uncertain if my mother likes it but she’s run two half marathons [1]. I hated running in high school. So I swam for two years.

I hated running in college. So I did Jiu-Jitsu off and on for two years [2]. In 2010 my sister (also a marine who does all this running crap) convinced me to run a marathon with her. I’d forgotten how much I hated running. Training reminded me that the Runner’s High Was Not Worth It.

In 2011 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I’d spent seven months training for a freaking marathon and now my body insisted on being permanently sick, every day, for the rest of my life [3]. Running was supposed to become a fixture in my life.

I hate running so I didn’t do it. I’d rather be cranky, achy, and sick, then spend 30 minutes, three days a week, running to control my blood sugar. After all, I wasn’t overweight, so medication should be enough [4].

Then I discovered Kung Fu.

It was during the beginning of 2012. I started out in a partnership. A friend said she wanted to start kickboxing and she wanted a partner. She looked into several places, mostly gyms, and finally a school prevalent here in SoCal that taught Choi-Li-Fut Kung Fu and Tai Chi. They advertised kickboxing so we looked into it.

I enjoyed it. It had an element that I felt was missing during my time doing Jiu-Jitsu. I felt powerful.

After some discussion we decided to do Kung Fu. After eight months we decided to split the partnership.

She had other priorities. Kung Fu was not the most important thing in her life and that was not only understandable but completely okay. She had other dreams and other goals that took priority. [5]

I fell in love with Kung Fu. In October had the opportunity to attend a seminar taught by Grand Master Doc-Fai Wong to learn the Small Leopard Fist Form. It was simultaneously the coolest and hardest thing I’d ever done with my body.

In November I had my first sash test and went from a white sash newbie (Level 1) to a yellow sash (Level 2). It’s much like that transition between middle school and high school–awkward and flaily but full of awesome highs and frustrating lows. I’ve loved every moment of it.

I threw myself into Kung Fu. I doubled my training schedule and participated in all the classes I could [6]. I earned all three of my stripes over the course of seven weeks. I’ve been formatting for my green sash (Level 3) for the last month. I should be ready to test in the next few weeks and I’m totally psyched to learn the green sash form I’ll be performing at tournament in May.

Because I upped my membership, one of the big highlights is learning the Butterfly Knives weapons form. It’s a brown sash (Level 6) form required for the black sash test and I’ve been told it is one of the most difficult forms to make look good. I just want to be able to flower my short swords knives at some point.

I wish I could say I never have to run again. After all, Kung Fu is the best thing [7] ever. But for some crazy reason I’ve agreed to run a half marathon with my father later this year. My only excuse for this insanity is a belief it will make my Kung Fu better.

I need to build up my stamina. The Black Sash Test is over two hours long. I want to be there in three years [8].



[1] She might’ve also run a marathon. My memory is fuzzy.
[2] Must be a theme. Two years and then quit. That’s not going to happen with Kung Fu.
[3] I had none of the common symptoms. It’s entirely genetics. I blame my parents and dead ancestors.
[4] It’s not.
[5] This story has three sides: My side. Her side. What really happened. I only know my side. I’ve tried to guess her side. I get sadder every time I learn something new about the situation. I’ve also learned that silence is the quickest way to destroy a weak relationship.
[6] Except for sparring. I avoided it as long as I could. We have a complicated relationship where I show up and sparring unmakes me. There have been a lot of tears. Despite that, I’m winning.
[7] It’s really the best martial art but some people, non Kung Fu people, get touchy about it >.>
[8] Four or five years is also acceptable, as mastering Kung Fu is not a race. But I like goals and deadlines. They make dreams real.

Tuesday’s Pitch Madness Prep

It’s five days into March and I’m certain I should be spazzing about something. I have intense goals scattered all over the place. I’m preparing for my next sash level in Kung Fu. I’m in charge of my ward’s Easter Program–Music and Speakers. In connection to Easter I decided to embark on a massive origami project involving small rabbit baskets. I’ve folded over 40 so far.

And a few days ago the submission guidelines for March Pitch Madness went up.
[Hands on Keyboard: March 5]

I looked at them and realized several things. My thoughts went a little like this:

  • Oh! I only need a tagline/pitch and the first 250 words! No query yet! Excellent! I can totally do that.
  • Wait. My tagline is all about Raquel. I mean, she’s the main character so that makes sense, but…she’s not in the first 250 words.
  • This is a problem.
  • *Frets*
  • *Spazz*
  • *Thinks*
  • I can fix it. I just need to get Brandon into the tag and Raquel into the first 250 words. No Problem.

I’m still working on it but I’m confident by this time next week I’ll have something. I’m not sure if I’ll make it past round one. Of course I really want to but even if I don’t, I’m certain there is plenty for me to learn. Every time I do one of these things, Chrysalis gets better and and my writing sickness gets worse. This also gives me motivation to step up my other projects, like website tweaking, blogging, and, you know, my query. >.>


Tagline Tuesday

[Hands on Keyboard: February 26]

I’m hard at work training for my next Kung Fu sash level. It will be green and pretty and symbolize so much awesome. It’s physically demanding and because this particular test requires sparring, emotionally and mentally draining as well. I feel like I’m fighting to keep all of my parts together and not shatter into a billion pieces.

Add to that my blocks and problems with Chrysalis. I love writing so much, even when I’m working of things that have very little to do with my professional goals, but the tagline and subsequent query haunt me like a specter from Ghost Hunt. Before I put the Tagline workshop up on Saturday, I’d made very valiant attempts to tag Chrysalis.

Every time I ran into proverbial walls. I listed those four things over and over. I couldn’t figure out a pithy way to explain the plot. Raquel wanted to grow up. Raquel wanted friends. Raquel wanted freedom. Raquel wanted so many things. She had to overcome falling off a cliff. She had to overcome a cave in. She had to overcome PTSD. She had to overcome so many things.

Or Everyone Dies.

At least I had two of the four. Raquel and Death.

Then I put up the workshop and changed the two variables. Raquel wants revenge and the boys are in the way. She wants to kill Brandon’s father but Devlin is the one really deserving of revenge. After some editing and parring down, I’ve gone from:

Raquel just stole a Severance, the only weapon capable of destroying the monster responsible for the massacre of her people, so of course she’s hiding out in high school waiting for the opportune moment for her revenge. As she discovers the truth of her past, she realizes that once more she’s put everyone she loves in danger of dying.


Raquel has every intention of using her stolen weapon to take revenge on the man responsible for the massacre of her people even though her path puts everyone she loves at risk of death.

It’s not perfect and still very unwieldy and doesn’t mention the boys but the complicated details can be put in the query. This week I’m drafting using Elana Johnson’s worksheets and my notes from LTUE. It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized there really is nothing stopping me from submission and agent games at the end of March.

And that feels good.

that awful, plague of a question

Have you lost weight?

I hate this question. It’s supposed to be a compliment. It’s not. Inside it are a slew of horrific judgements beating down upon you. With this question comes the implication that the questioner noticed your physical appearance “before” and compared it to “now” and decided the difference of their perception was how much poundage you carry on your bones. It’s a question that implies you were fat “before” and you are less fat “now” when the only real difference is their perception, which doesn’t take into account any number of other factors.

Like wearing your hair differently. Like wearing different clothing. Like having a healthier psyche that results in you standing a little straighter because you’re moving forward with confidence. Like wearing a smile because you’re having a great day. Like the million other little things that can affect your appearance that have absolutely nothing to do with how much you weigh.

Last year, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I had none of the typical symptoms. I wasn’t overweight and within the realm of normal for my BMI. I didn’t feel sick. I don’t look diabetic. My condition is entirely genetic and it sucks. What works for normal Type 2 Diabetics doesn’t always work for me. Medications always have side effects and dealing with them emotionally and physically is difficult.

Seven months ago, I started Kung Fu. Best decision of my life. Soon I will be learning how to climb up bamboo trees as I beat down bad guys. When I started, I was in an average physical condition. Two years ago I ran a marathon and while I didn’t run as intensely, I kept up an average amount of exercise. Over the last seven months, my body has gone through a physical change.

But I have not lost any significant amount of weight.

Because muscle weighs more than fat. Because what you weigh and how you carry it are complicated nuanced things. Because scales and your BMI can’t tell the entire story of who you are existing in this physical state we call life.

Can we stop asking such a rude question? If we must comment on the physical difference we see in other people, can’t we say something to the effect of:

You look so beautiful today! Tell me your secret!

My solution isn’t perfect, I realize this, but maybe, if we spoke with the intent to truly uplift other people, we’d find more personal happiness and the world would be a less awful place plagued by such despair.


Tuesday’s Romantic Statistics

Hands on Keyboard [September 18, 2012]

I am conquering my Editing Block, much the same way I conquered my Writing Block. Slowly. My biggest obstacle is my writing sickness. I love it too much and would rather write character histories than fix the scene I’m writing character histories for.

Let me put my writing sickness into perspective.

Yesterday, 750words.com informed me that I was on a 120 day writing streak. Ever since declaring war on my Writing Block, I have written over 750 words a day. My total word count for the last four months is 361,172. That’s an average of 3010 words a day. During the week I do about 2500 words a day. My weekends can be anywhere between 2500 and 7000 depending on how much sun I need. Clearly, writing consistantly is no longer a problem for me.

I don’t regret any of those words. Up until last week, I mentally and emotionally beat myself up because I wrote Chrysalis histories instead of working on the real reason to for those histories. I called myself a lazy coward with too much fear to actually step forward and move into the future. Last Week Gwynne was very rude and mean to herself.

In the midst of this unhealthy emotional flogging, I decided to watched a Korean drama Audrey recommended. It goes by the name of Queen In Hyun’s Man. I was hooked by the end of episode three. It’s a romance A plot with an action B plot where the hero is heroic, good, and kind, and the heroine is heoric, good, and kind and they treat each other with respect.

It hit all of my love story requirements. It hit everything I want to be inside a reader’s heart when they read any one of my books. I want the reader to love Raquel and Brandon and feel so very deeply for their plight that when they win, there is loud cheering that frightens the neighbor’s birds into squawking.

I want true love to conquer all.

So, with that feeling in my heart, I opened Chrysalis and intended to get to the scene that has plaqued me for over six weeks. I looked at it and realized that I needed to start from the beginning and put in the little changes I’d learned over the course of 250,000 words and two months. I expected to feel stupid, frustrated, and angry with my cowardly self, but found I couldn’t regret nearly 361,172 words.

In the next two weeks I’m going to finish editing. I’ll send it out to people and work on my query letter and website, so by the time the book is ready to be sent out, I will have no excuses or fear holding me back.

It’s also time to pick another project and introduce it to my writing sickness.

Sweltering Tuesday

[Hands on Keyboard: August 14, 2012]

There are two weeks out of the entire year where SoCal is not the paradise advertised. Sometimes they happen in July. Sometimes in September. This year it is August and I want to die.

These last couple of weeks I’ve spent a lot of time buried deep in the heart of one the social issues that is dearest to me–the treatment of women. It started with an article that former HoKer Mary Beth posted on Facebook, into several conversations with my friends and family, went through an intense hour with my church’s women’s group, detoured through my internet readings, and then up Angel’s Landing as I completed the most difficult hike of my life. I hung onto a chain attached to the side of a cliff.

It was a difficult journey. Not everyone I spoke with agreed with me. In fact, at least one of the conversations resulted in a complete dismissal of my beliefs. (It was very subtle, which actually hurt more).

As I came down from Angel’s Landing I was entrenched in a single thought: What is it that I look for in the books I read, the movies I watch, and the other media I experience?

The answer was easy–Do the heroine and hero respect each other?

I love reading about relationships, particularly the romance. Romance is the first thing on my mind–always. I seek it out in anything I read, watch, and experience. I really care about how the heroine and hero relate to each other. I looked for the obvious, I look for the subtle, and then I talk about it constantly. For example, my love letter to The Bourne Legacy.

That’s my thing. That’s what I want people to take away from my work.

I care about other things too. I really want there to be ethnic and cultural diversity in my writing. I want to care about ALL THE THINGS. But I always come back to this–women and men and love.

So, fellow HoKers, do you know what your thing is yet? It’s okay if you don’t. There are a lot out there. They’re all important.

a tiny love letter

Dear Bourne Legacy:

I went into you expecting fast action, a fairly typical plot, and Hawkeye’s origin story. I expected to watch your Kung Fu and make snarky comments on the impossibility thereof. I even expected to begrudgingly enjoy the burgeoning love story between soldier and scientist even if it was horrifically cliche. I knew exactly who and what you were and based my Saturday enjoyment on such.

So, when our hero and heroine went through their obligatory motorcycle chase, I did not expect our female scientist, who held on for dear life while our male solider drove over 90 miles an hour towards the port, to take control of the physical action climax.


I want pictures. Because I am in love.

You see, not many action movies have the guts to do that. It was really subtle, so I’m sure it won’t even be noticed, except maybe by girls like me, you know, the girls who are paying attention to how you treat us.

You are not a perfect movie. I don’t care. In that one moment, you won my heart. Because the movie was over and the girl had finished it. As a bonus, the boy didn’t need to prove his power and virility by doing anything else overtly masculine . Like I said, the movie was over.

Today felt like a step in the right direction.

So thank you. I love you.


Anonymous Tuesday

[Hands on Keyboard: July 3, 2012]

Hello. My name is Gwynne and I’m a writing addict.

For the month of June, I wrote 91,000 words. Half of that was in new!Chrysalis. The other half was silly stories about zombies, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and the occasional demon. I think I also managed a historical romance. According to 750words statistics, I’m averaging 1200 words an hour and a slow day for me results 4000 words. On Saturday, I hit 9000 words.

Lovely HoKers, I have a writing sickness. It got so bad that I used writing as my reward for doing chores around my apartment, yet, that was the day I hit my highest word count. On the one hand, this is great. I’ve increased my word count capacity. I love writing so much that I would rather do that than anything else, even watch television and you know, spend time with people. When I become a full time writer, I will have no problems making my deadlines.

On the other hand, I’ve stopped editing new!Chrysalis and that is unacceptable. I’m about halfway through, so this week, I need to finish the other half so I can have other people read it. I’m also going to be spending quality time on a road trip this week for the 4th of July holiday so that should facilitate editing or, you know, more historical romance. After that it’s query letter time because I really want to start submitting in September.

Also, Audrey, I think I’ve completed your 100,000 words for 2012 challenge >.> Because I am sick.

Acknowledging Tuesday

[Hands on Keyboard: June 19, 2012]

Pardon my meanderings. I have massage therapy brain.

So. I wrote a book. I finished at 87,890 words on June 16 at 2am. It took six weeks. I cannot stress enough how this was not an edit of Chrysalis where I changed a few sentences or added a few new scenes. I completely rewrote the book. Every scene is new.

This means it’s a first draft. More on what that means later.

I’ve kinda been in shock since I woke up on Saturday. I’ve spent the last month writing seven to eight hours a day. It hasn’t been consecutive, because I took breaks every 500-800 words to reset my brain. I would watch an episode of an anime and then go back to writing. Essentially, all I did was work, eat, sleep, and write for an entire month. By the way, half of new!Chrysalis was written in these last two weeks.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. I needed to take a break for at least a day but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I rewrote my editing notes and decided watching Higurashi no naku Koro ni (When the Cicadas Cry) was the best idea everI was in shock.

Then Charisse posted the weekend game and because I desperately needed to write something, I decided to play. If you haven’t looked at it, please do. She broke something within me and now I can’t stop writing zombie!Chrysalis. If Brittany hadn’t pointed out to me the potential in marketing it later, I might be hating myself just a little bit. You know, if I wasn’t laughing manically at all my inside jokes.

In the end, I think I did a few things right because new!Chrysalis is my best writing so far. I was able to get the muddy feedback I’d received through rejections, beta readers, and taking a huge break to help me craft and ultimately rewrite a better book. So, I acknowledge the follow:

  1. After declaring war on my writer’s block, I wrote every day. It started out slow. One week I only had 4000 words to show for my efforts. But, like any sort of consistent exercise, it got easier to do more. At the end I averaged 3,000 words a day. I found my inner turtle and she finished the race.
  2. There are three anime that allowed me to power through the hard parts: Hiiro no Kakera, The Knight in the Area, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. One is paranormal romance, one is about soccer, and I think the last qualifies as urban fantasy. I also have a huge desire to write a non-linear book. I rewarded myself for the little stuff.
  3. And most importantly, my little sister needs another shout out. I called her every day and read her the new material. She was the perfect beta. She liked most of what she heard, but if something didn’t make sense, or if it rubbed her the wrong way, she was very upfront about it. I’ve never had such a balanced reader before. Also, I made her cry. Lots. >.> I welcomed the feedback.

Now for the next step. As I mentioned, this is a first draft. It has all the problems of a first draft–spelling, pacing, plotting, lack of description, passive voice, and too many words. I have a List. These next few weeks I’m going work hard to make it into something I can show others.

Then comes writing a new query letter. I want to start submitting again in August, which is only six weeks away. This, too, will I turtle. I’m not worried.

And if all else fails, I have zombies to play with.

Tuesday’s Home Stretch

[Hands on Keyboard: June 12, 2012]

My post next week will be more exciting. Right now I’m approaching the last arc of new!Chrysalis and my heart is pounding as I work on destroying Raquel and Brandon’s world.

Oh, and I wrote 21,392 words last week. This is almost as much as I wrote during my Writing Retreat last October.