January Afternoon Tea + Meet my MC

Good afternoon!

It’s that time of the month already where I sweep off a shelf of tea boxes and hunt my imaginary pantry for confectioneries and sit down with you…It’s January Afternoon Tea with SJ! *inserts cheers and hurrahs*

I think 2021 is starting off pretty well, but first off, let’s set the scene for today. 

We’re up in the mountain lodge where a great fire is roaring and from the windows, we see a snow storm raging. Yesterday was a fairly good skiing weather, so I’m a little sore. There’s tea from Murchie’s ranging from Canadian Breakfast, Maple Sugar, and Rocky Mountain tea. For our sides, we have mini-pancakes and waffles (with maple syrup), assorted berries in glass cups, chocolate fudge, and the likes! 

Ready? 

For today, I’m sliding  into the last day of Meet My MC tag from Maya Joelle. I’ve been wanting to do it since I found out last week, so I’m glad I made it! Since I have quite a few WIPs underway, I debated which MC I should introduce, but settled on my first WIP ever–Juliet the 1100th. The title keeps shifting around quite a bit, but the story itself is solid, and it’s definitely my favourite story. (Yes, authors are  allowed to have favourites.)

So, without further ado, I introduce to you my MC!

1 // Introduce your MC. What’s their name? Age? Appearance? (Sharing collages/inspiration photos encouraged!)

Meet Lisa Joule Johnson from Juliet the 1100th! Never read her name as Lisa but as Liza. (I know, weird technicalities.)

She’s 14 at the beginning of the story, and grows into 16 by the end of part three–or SE, if you will. 

Lisa lives in Tokyo around Roppongi area, is half Korean, half American, and is a sarcastic genius. 

2 // Explain how your MC fits into the plot of your book (as best you can without spoiling it all…).

Umm, I think the story hinges on TRUTH and RECONCILIATION, so Lisa’s arc is mainly about those two things. I have a large cast for Juliet, but most of the characters are study cases in these two themes, which I find highly entertaining. 

3 // What’s the first thing your MC says in the story? The last? A random quote from the middle that you like?

First Line of ETT (Part 1): “Just shut your big mouth, Schwartz.”

First Line of ZWEI (Part 2): “If you try anything or even a hint of something, you’re dead. I will personally make sure you are erased from the face of the earth and the entire universe. Believe me, I can.”

Random Quote from SE (Part 3): “My ‘friends’ will one day destroy you and everything you stand for.”

So yes, you get the idea. 

4 // Which other character would die for your MC?

Karl Schwartz, the aforesaid bane of Lisa’s s existence. 

5 // Would your MC die for them?

Uh, maybe? Like, 0.005% chance? (I know, this already tells you so much about this Lisa person. Not someone you can really rely on to have your back.) Except, *spoiler alert* Lisa grows into her character more and becomes a more sensible person willing to sacrifice herself for others. 

6 // Have any major details about your MC changed since you first created them?

Not that I know of…

Lisa popped into my head one day in a dream, and she was one of those recurring dreams and she just wouldn’t stop. So, as all writers do, I went and wrote a story after her. 

I think she was initially more snarky, then became mega-snarky, then softened up a bit, then turned into a queen of snark and sarcasm. #theevolutionoflisajjohnson

7 // What characters (from books/movies not by you) remind you of your MC? Why?

Maybe genius Edmund? Or, sarcastic tech-crazy (beardless) teenaged Thorin Oakenshield. Yes, that sounds a lot like her for obvious reasons she’s kind of too haughty about things, but really values the people closest to her deep inside. 

8 // Share your MC’s favourites!

[colour, food, type of clothing, place, type of music, season, smell, etc. ]

Colour = Monotone, Purple,

Music = None at all or any Classics

Hogwarts House = Slytherin

Food = Her mother’s Naengmyeon

Aesthetic = Clean minimal

9 // If your MC wasn’t involved in your story, what would they be doing? (Basically: what’s their dream life? Where do they want to live, what do they want to do?)

Lisa would be tucked away in a personal laboratory doing researches 24/7. She would probably stick to the city in a high-security condo that overlooks Sumida-river with floor-to-ceiling windows on the forty-something floor. Movie theatres and department store underground delis are her soft spots, so she might escape every now and then to meet up with her inner circle friends. 

10 // Share a fun extra (another collage, a playlist, a scene from the story, a drawing, etc.).

Juliet Playlist

Juliet WIP Page

I also draw her incessantly…So this is my more recent fanart.

I know, I’m probably this ship’s biggest fan.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Lisa. (Or not, just tell me if you’re offended–I perfectly understand.)

Mini-January Update

How about another cup of Rocky Mountain blend? No? Maybe the Maple Black Tea? (It’s one of my favourites.)

Okay, initially I was thinking I’ll skip the monthly update for this month, but I thought I’ll give you a quick run-through of the books read, current WIP, life, &c. 

Bibliotheca

I think I did well here after I drastically changed my reading ethics, and I’m glad of the results. I read a grand total of 18 books this month. The only thing I kind of regret (and don’t) is reading extra indie published books I wasn’t planning on. I’m currently reading A Deadly Education whose MC reminds me of Lisa. Plus, it’s the dark academia magical school genre I’d die for, so I’m enjoying it so far. 

Academics

I quit my online upgrading course once I realised it wasn’t helping me. So now I’m planning on taking it easy and study things that are actually interesting to me, not because I *have to* do it. 

Writing

I’m working on my secret project, which I might do a reveal soon! It’s been a slow writing month, but I’m learning it’s okay to take it easy here as well. Although, I’m not sure if I’ll keep writing this project in February. We’ll see, we’ll see…

Life

Life has been also leisurely well. We had to scramble last week and this one to find a new car because our lease was up, which was kind of a hassle but that’s about it! I worked BG again on Riverdale but they didn’t end up using us so I sat there and read four more books. I literally sat there and got paid for it. Go figure. 

But that’s about it for this month. 

Thank you for reading! How was your January? Who is your MC for your current WIP? Do you have recurring dreams with the same character in them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

December Afternoon Tea with SJ: 2020 Reflection

Good afternoon to you!

We are back for our monthly Afternoon tea series, of which I am extremely excited about. It’s hard to believe that I only started this series in February this year. Since then, so many things have changed it’s frankly hard to say what changed how. 

Today, we’ll have a classic tea party with an assorted chiffon cake buffet and various black, white, and green teas! We are situated in a parlour with a large fireplace illuminating the place with warmth, a glass top table with comfortable chairs, and a white winter scene peeking from the windows. 

Are you there yet?

Okay, here we go…

Bibliotheca 

I’m having matcha chiffon cake with layered whipping cream, fruits, and red bean paste  inside. Care to have a bite? *inserts blissful smile*

Well then, onto the topic of books! 

SJ’s 2020 Books Breakdown

The total (as of today) is 161 books out of 120 planned. (See my Goodreads Year in Books)

A bibliomaniac in possession of books.

I know, that looks like a lot of books, but having read that, I feel as though the amount one reads and the quality of it are two different things. Sure, I have read more books in one year than I probably ever did. But was it a quality reading? 

Of the books I read, I’d have to say that 128 of them were quality reads, or books that were really well-crafted even if I didn’t give it a five-star rating. 

But that leaves 33 books I read this year that were simply awful or not up to par or one I regret having read. Just let that sink in. 

Last year I read 74 books, but they were mostly (if not all) books I don’t regret reading. With that in mind, I’m coming up with a way to rethink and revamp my reading ethics. I’ll be talking more about  it next year, so hang on tight if your reading life this year was  something that left wanting. 

Academics 

Anyone want a tea refill? How about some Lady Grey? (Or better yet, remember potato-chive tea?)

Wonderful!

The next thing that really shook me this year was my Academics. 

I know, I sound melodramatic since there were so many other people who also had their life/academic plans messed up. Let’s just say things with me and Academics were highly personal. 

For one thing, I’m one of those over-achiever Asians who would accept a perfect ACT score or nothing. (FYI, I got nothing, given I got 33.) For another, I’m a homeschooler. Combine that with my desperation to get into a high-tier college, this year has literally kicked my butt. (Or knee-kick gutted me, seeing as being kicked in the butt isn’t an effective move if not a hard target to acquire.) *excuse my language*

Anyhow, I ended up not getting into an Ivy league, not getting to the wonderful private college that accepted me with scholarships, and wanted to quit life for a while.

Me after everything had “ended”

Which I sort of did.

I spent the summer moping about my estranged college plans and trashing my intellect (if I had any at all) and doubting God almost everyday. Waking up became hard for me. Going out was hard for me. Eating was a struggle. 

My summer in a nutshell.

And then.  

It slowly dawned to me that God’s plan is never our plan. I know, it’s common sense (have that, Paine!), but until you know it through experience, it’s just  head knowledge. Just  another Bible verse stock inside one’s head. This was a test of  whether I would trust God through all things…or not. 

This was where I came back to Ecclesiastes 12: 12-13, my central verse. 

Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

Now all has been heard;

here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesisastes 12:12-13

And this, my friends, is what I decided to believe in. 

Writing 

Wow, I’ve completely forgotten to drink my tea! And now it’s stone cold! (Natural sequence of consequences, alas.) More tea? Or another slice of cake? The London fog chiffon is truly my favourite, you simply must give it a try…

After that profound revelation, it seems funny to talk about other topics, but there’s more to life than reading and studying. 

Which is writing. *sips tea and nods*

Despite my mental health taking a nosedive in summer, I had one of the most excellent writing years. To break it down, it looked like this:

DateTitle of WIPWordcount
Jan-JuneJuliet 1100th [SE] 30 K
April-NovemberWoodstone125.5 K
OctoberElijacomb 17 (a side-fling before MeNo)11 K
DecemberSecret Project (just started a week ago!!) 10.5 K
Jan-Dec. Blog50 K
177 K (in WIP) + 50 K (in blogging) = 227 K

I know, I wrote almost my goal of 200K this year! *flails incessantly* Although I couldn’t see a major project through completion, I started Woodstone (which I didn’t realise would become this huge project), put a hold to my five-year WIP, Juliet, after getting to the climax setup (I know, weirdness), outlined and journaled Elektriem incessantly (hoping to get to this soon), and found my obsession with my current secret project. 

Overall it was a good writing year, and I’m looking forward to what next year would bring!

Life

And that’s that! I did a bunch of other things this year like starting to bujo (which I won’t shut up about), spent time in nature with first-ever camping trips (which sounds nice but still isn’t my thing), going to the beach, hiking, & c. I also got a lot of job opportunities after crying profusely over the fact no one was hiring (until they were). 

I thought 2020 would be this special year, and it was, although in a way I didn’t expect!

Me opening the door to 2020 be like:

There’s still the matter of COVID in the world. We need many prayers for our neighbouring country, the USA for their election and healing in all the communities hurting. Life is uncertain, and we certainly have no idea what 2021 would be like. 

But that’s okay. 

Because in the end, God is asking us if we trust in His plan for us, which we know to be the best thing He has even if we don’t understand it at the moment. And that’s where I’m going to rest my year. 

What did you think? How was your 2020 experience? Did things go as somewhat expected or totally the vice-versa? Where did you see God working in your life? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

November Afternoon Tea with SJ + Know the Novel Part 2

Good afternoon!

I can’t believe a month has already passed and I’m typing up this post. (TBH, I actually don’t want to think about this month ending.) But anyhow, November’s nearing an end and it means I get to sit down with cups of teas and chat about my life. 

Except. 

This month I’m snagging Know the Novel tag from Christine. I know Merie Shen was doing it and a couple of other bloggers I know, and it looked so much fun I couldn’t resist! So here I’ll intrude with my current WIP for Meno-Wrimo and start from part 2. 

But  before I carry off with this, pour yourself a steaming cup of herbal tea. I’m having Camomile which is an excellent antidote for my nerves (!) and will probably have rosehip later as well. 

Ready?

Here we go…

1. How’s the writing going overall?

I wish I can say it’s been amazing, which is not true at all… *insert sad face*

In fact, this month’s writing has been slow. For every day I hit 2K or more, there would be a day I barely scraped in a few hundred. So at this point, I don’t think I’ll be able to complete my goal of 50K.

2. What’s been the most fun aspect about writing this novel so far?

Finding out mysteries I didn’t know existed! For example, my MCs (they’re siblings) come across information I didn’t know about in their search for this Spell called the 9th Chart. There’s an uncle I didn’t know about, there’s a confession that wasn’t planned (which is exactly what confessions are), and murders (okay, that was totally planned) and a myriad of things like that. 

3. What do you think of your characters at this point? Who’s your favorite to write about?

When I started out, I didn’t really like Sion, the older brother, since I had to literally exert myself to write in his POV. But now that I’ve been writing, I find I’m super fascinated by his story and how they’re intertwined with his sister’s.

4. Has your novel surprised you in any way?

You mean the scandalous family history I uncovered that had another secret layer to it with as much necromancy in it as the first?

5. Have you come across any problem areas?

Have you come across any problem areas? (You know when I start answering questions with another question I have a problem.) Well, there is this one problem I have in that I’ve reached almost 130K into the novel and finally got to the start of the midpoint…

6. What’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?

Consistency. I’m proud to say that although I haven’t been able to write as much every day as I would have liked to, I’ve only missed a couple of writing days in this month. Simply showing up to my catastrophic WIP surely counts as a victory. 

7. If you were transported into your novel and became any one of the characters, which one do you think you’d be? Would you take any different actions than they have?

I want to say Lystra because she’s so much fun, but I would definitely be Sion. And no, I’d probably not make different actions since he’s practically based off me. #sorrynotsorry

8. Give us the first sentence or paragraph then 2 (or 3!) more favourite snippets!

Since I started this novel in April, I guess I’ll go back right to the beginning…

When I was twelve, I failed the entrance exam of a prestigious magical institution known as Woodstone Abbey to some. This academy, located in the Mirrored world where everything was the same as the world you and I live in but–you guessed it, yes–it had magic. And surprise, we’re stuck in the non-magical side of the mirror, and we have to try extra hard to get into a magical institution. I know, it sounds pretentious. 

But it really wasn’t in our situation. 

S. J. Barnard

9. Share an interesting tidbit about the writing process so far! (For example: Have you made any hilarious typos? Derailed from your outline? Killed off a character? Changed projects entirely? Anything you want to share!)

I’m handwriting this novel, which comes with mishaps like cramped hands, mostly legible (but sometimes not) handwriting, & c. The most interesting thing that happened during writing is that I’ve created another secret society on top of the three I had and sabotaged the blooming friendship between one of the MCs. Again, #sorrynotsorry!

10. Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looks like. Where do you write? What time of day? Alone or with others? Is a lot of coffee (or some other drink) consumed? Do you light candles? Play music? Get distracted by social media (*cough, cough*)? Tell all!

Writing looks like anything these days, since I write whenever I can. I usually try to block out my surroundings listening to my Woodstone or mood. soft-intense playlist drinking teas and hot chocolate and apple cider by the litres. I try not to distract myself on the phone by playing music on it so that I can’t wander off to use other apps, but Instagram is always interesting to wander off into…

And that’s it for today! 

Thank you for reading!  How was your November? Did you do NaNoWriMo? If so, how did it go? What WIPs are you working on currently? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!