NaNoWriMo: Fri 17th, 2017

NaNoWriMo

Take a breather. Five minutes. Get up, stretch your legs, take your eyes away from your screen or paper. Take a walk in the woods. Play with a ball of string. Get something to eat.

NaNoWriMo is a taxing time. It’s stressful. We’re attached to our writing utensils and we can’t part ways for long. But honestly, we really have to do that, once in a while. But taking our breaks is important. It lets our minds rest, distracts us for a few minutes. But the thing is, we’re very rarely actually not progressing forward. I’ve taken time to catch a breather and my brain has pieced together parts that I was struggling with, despite doing a completely unrelated thing.

Sometimes our brains can make logic leaps when we’re paying attention to it… and sometimes it only makes those connections when we’re not actively focusing on it anymore.

I know it seems like we have to hammer away hard at what we’re working on, and that we can’t do anything else. But between NaNo and our responsibilities– housework, actual work, chores and remembering to eat and sleep– there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time left just to take a wedge out for ourselves. And we really need that. The human mind isn’t designed to focus hard-wire on one thing without distraction. Single-mindedness is great for short term and drive, but after a few weeks you really just need to take your moment.

Take your moment. Look after yourself. Let your brain have an moment off, to do nothing except rest. Maybe you’ll thank it for the help.

–Natasha

Wordcount: 31,898/50,000

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NaNoWriMo: Fri 10th, 2017

NaNoWriMo

About this time last year, I had some truly awful breakups. And at least one of them was caused by speaking different languages.

I don’t mean English versus French or anything like that. I mean, the words we use don’t quite mean the same thing to the pair of us. I’ve talked about the phenomenon before, but never for NaNo, I think.

Last year was hectic for everybody. It was a difficult time, especially for hermits who don’t get out much, and I won’t rehash what went on in the world at the time. There was distance between my friend and I– and maybe it was on me, maybe it was on them, it doesn’t matter. But when everything came to a head, the distance had cost us our understanding of one another’s nuances. Or perhaps we had never truly known them. But I said what I meant, and they said what they meant, and both of us heard what those words meant to us, which wasn’t either of us had quite meant, I think.

That’s going to happen to characters, too. Especially those who don’t know each other well, or come from different walks of life. Of course, on the other hand, there’s always going to be those characters who just know one another. They know every little twitch and nuance of their partner, they can practically read one another’s thoughts. They don’t have to have words, anymore, to know what would have been said and follow through with the words that weren’t.

Drift compatible, anybody? You’d be surprised how often that happens in real life.

Maybe you have characters like the first set, or maybe you have characters like the second. Both are super fun to write and even more fun to read. But everybody isn’t going to go without having errors all of the time, and those errors might help boost your word count and enhance your story rather magnificently. Can’t hurt to try it, right?

–Natasha

Wordcount: 11,246/50,000

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NaNoWriMo: Fri 3rd, 2017

NaNoWriMo

We’re three days into the biggest writing ‘fest of the year, and it’s kind of a nightmare already. But one of those awesome nightmares; it’s hard, it’s grueling, but it’s so, so worth it, just you wait.

One of the things that is hard for me, especially in the month of November, is time.

Now, time is a nebulous concept, but I get paid by the hour to whittle away at it. Some days it takes forever and a half to get through my work schedule, and some days it’s like it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Some days I have a whole wealth of energy, and some days I just can’t barely move. (Ironically, on the days of the second, it almost seems like I get more work done.)

Time is something we all likely find tricky in November. It’s the holiday season, just after Halloween, coming through the crunch for Thanksgiving, ready to steamroll on through Christmas and New Years. A lot of us are home, preparing for all of this nonsense; family dinners, gifts, end of the year bills, trying to figure out how to wrap everything up for Tax Time next year.

(I need a filing cabinet.)

How do you find time to write in all of that?

I cheat. I cheat like a boss. I have scrap papers everywhere, in every pocket, I carry a pen in my hair to scribble with. I inch out spare moments in the lulls between work, I write ferociously on breaks and lunch, and I subsist on nearly nothing but sugar and water throughout the month. Sleep? Sleep is for the weak. Writers don’t need that.

(Pro tip: yes we do.)

Some days, you’ll find time to write. It’ll just happen. Some days– like most of mine, because adulting is hard– you have to sink your teeth into it and not let go until you’re ready. Real life doesn’t always accommodate you, but you would be amazed at the measure of words you can get if you train yourself to quickly scribble down a few half-dozen lines during your luncheon. You don’t have to horrifically neglect real life and responsibilities for it.

And if you can, try to write more on the days you have the time, so you can get away with a little less on the days where you just can’t snag more than a handful of moments.

I know not hitting the goal isn’t the end of the world… but we wouldn’t all be here if we weren’t hoping to hit it.

–Natasha

Wordcount: 2,247/50,000

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Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

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Wonder Woman (2017)

So, for my birthday I might have gone to the store and splurged a little. I might have bought a whole lot of superhero movies. And one of those movies might have been Wonder Woman.

I have a lot of respect for how they did this movie, but there are some things about it but did not trip my trigger. Or rather they hit the ‘no’ button, and they hit it hard enough said it’s hard to get over. Of course I can’t tell you about those because they’re spoilers but they do exist.

So to start I loved the graphics of this movie and the character design. The costuming was on point, although I admit I don’t know enough about that era say how accurate it is. Still everything looked excellent from a design point of view. Interestingly I finally discovered what the eagle motif on Wonder Woman’s costume is supposed to represent. As a girl I thought it was supposed to represent the eagle of America, however growing up and having researched more of the Amazon mythos and Greek mythology in general, I realize that it’s supposed to be the eagle of Zeus.  I’m still not sure what the colors are supposed to represent besides looking super pretty on her.

The other characters are likewise done very nicely with subtle details that hint at larger portions of their personality, which is good because we don’t really get to see that much of them. I could have spent another two hours learning purely about the rest of the cast, but I understand that it is a movie about Diana, so at this point it’s really just me being nitpicky. Nevertheless the lack of them leaves me feeling like something is missing in the movie.

The fight scenes in this movie are absolutely epic and there are quite a few to be very proud of. Wonder Woman is designed and comes off as a very powerful and sophisticated combatant and the way the other characters respond to this is amazing to behold.

One of the things I could have done without in this entire movie, however, that I can mention because it is not actually spoiler, is I could have happily gone without a romantic subplot anywhere at all. I understand that’s not true with a lot of people, but to me it felt awkward and extremely uncomfortable to witness.  Perhaps it would have bothered me less if we had more time of them interacting, or if a particlar segment had been removed, but as it stands it was just really strange for me personally.

I would have also been more gratufied for a longer ending. Something more satisfyingly conclusive, but that could just be me being greedy for more content, as is one of my flaws.

I cannot wait to see more of Wonder Woman.

–Natasha

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The Mutant Gene

That’s what we’re calling it, in my house. Because that’s what it is, and calling it ‘the mutant gene’ makes it seem somewhat less horrific. There’s no way to make it harmless.

Last week, my mother went to the doctor for some to get the results of some of her tests. One of those tests discovered the above: a mutant gene. It’s hereditary, because of course it is, but unfortunately it’s not one of those genes that will permit my children to fly or control the weather or spew fire. It’s one of those genes that will permit my children to die horrifically at basically any point in time, all the time. Yay for the un-fun genes.

Oh? More info? Well. Apparently there’s a mutant gene that causes your body to, for no specific reason what so ever, to just randomly create blood clots. Anywhere in the body, for any reason, at any time. Great, huh? Of all the un-fun genes..

My mother has the activated gene. It’s possible one of my grandparents had or has it activated too, or it’s possible they’re just carriers. My maternal grandfather’s dead, so there is simply no testing on that side, and my maternal grandmother has a lot of things wrong but I don’t think random blood clots is one of them. There’s a fifty fifty shot of myself and my siblings carrying the gene, too, active or otherwise. There’s a test that can be run to check for it, and now that we know it’s a thing, we do need to get tested.

Not that there’s anything we can do to prevent it from happening, of course. Randomly spawning blood clots. What can you do for preventative medicine against that?

But at least we can know. Knowing is something. My mother had been trying for years and years to get someone to even want to help her figure out why her blood work was so wonky. She’d have blood clots, and her blood would be too thick for her to feasibly be alive, and her blood would be too thin for her to be alive, and no one could figure out what the cause was. Nobody really wanted to know, I guess. Nobody was interested except for us.

Now we know. Mom has a mutant gene.

On the level of things that frustrate me, this is a pretty chill one. At least we know. What’s eating me now is there’s nothing we can do about it. At any point in time we could randomly spawn a clot in our brain, or our heart. It’s just one more thing we have to live with, but that doesn’t make it easy. I don’t like having things like this out of my influence, but that’s what it is. Unfortunately gene therapy isn’t a big thing yet, and even if it were, it would probably be only for the coming generation instead of us adults.

…not sure I’d subject my child to gene therapy, either. There’s a certain measure of heebie jeebies that come with the concept. But maybe when my children are old enough to make informed choices, if I do have the gene to pass on, there will be options for them. That’s all anyone can hope for, I suppose.

Mutant genes. Why couldn’t it have been the cool one? I would have taken can make plants grow any day of the week.

–Natasha

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Movie Review: The Great Wall (2016)

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The Great Wall (2016)

So even adhering to my no-spoilers rule, there is so much I could talk about in this movie that I could vomit words at you for days and still, somehow, find more. I’ll try not to do that. But where to start?

Let’s try with what it says on the tin.

“The Great Wall tells the story of an elite force making a valiant stand for humanity on the world’s most iconic structure.”

The opening covers, also, how long the wall took to build and asks the question: what were they trying to keep out?

I’m sure there are a lot of mythos about why the Wall was built, and some were true and some possibly weren’t. No one currently alive lived in that time period, so no one can say accurately that any myth or legend is wrong, only improbable.

We do know a lot of people were hunting for black powder at the time the movie is set, and anyone who brought it home would have been set up for life, which is what starts are opening scene: possibly the only white guy in the movie and his cohort are heading for China and dealing with bandits along the way.

And that’s one of the things I love about this movie. Not because it’s got diversity– and let’s be realistic here, a movie set in China about Chinese legends is about Chinese people, so the Chinese people don’t count as part of the diversity for the movie, the non-Chinese people do– no, that’s not it. But the movie deals with very serious, realistic hazards of the time period: bandits, long stretches of limited supplies, and how very dead you can be if you lose your food. Also the hazards of native fauna.

Although native is somewhat subjective, given the movie…

The ‘elite force’ in the movie is a massive army based entirely on the Wall, which I can gleefully tell you without spoiling makes an amazing fortification. That’s part of the reason the wall exists, right? Fortifications. The army is carefully designed and fully functional, and if they existed in that context today, nobody would dare dream of invading China. Or, you know, anywhere else with similar fortifications.

I kind of want to build those fortifications. Between those and the army, they’ll make a mean reference for tabletop campaign.

I think everything the people in this show pull off is within the human limits, given proper training and equipment. And I mean a lot of proper training. Please do not watch this movie and then try it at home. I’m serious. If you want to try some of this, go find proper methods of doing it. Bungee jumping, wall climbing, learn you some martial prowess. And then remember that even this army doesn’t do it without safeguards unless they have no choice.

The graphics for this movie were superb. I know a lot of it was computer generated and much of this likely took place in front of a green screen, but unless you know for sure which is generated and which is animatronics, it’s unlikely you’re going to guess it. I can’t say for sure animatronics are in this movie, but considering the huge comeback they’re making, I also can’t say they aren’t. Terrifyingly everything in this movie looks real enough, and plausible enough, that I should be very suspicious of alternate realities where they went over and filmed this nonsense occurring.

The plot of the movie is good too. It’s not a “hero from another land” — or at least, not in the traditional sense. Sure, he’s great at warfare. Sure, the movie focuses on him. But all movies have to have a lead point of view somehow, even if that’s just you. And it’s unlikely actual traders would have gotten very far, why not send a mercenary who knows how to fight and keep himself alive?

The characters are real, intrinsically human instead of two-dimensional cookie cut-outs. And for William, the POV character? His redemption arc is pretty solid.

Bonus for those of you who get twitchy? No romantic subplot!

–Natasha
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Guest Post: Anime taught me how to live.

Guest poster Vinayak writes a post that I can fully agree with. Read on! -Natasha

Vinayak writes:

When I was a little kid, I was very shy. Easily intimidated. Afraid of my surroundings. I never liked talking to people all that much, and as a result of that, I had little to no close friends. I was even bullied, for a little while back in fifth grade. Not because of me watching anime, but because I seemed to be easy prey. I didn’t let it last long, but it did happen. But I was okay with that. I had something which I, to this day consider to be better than any friends I could have had.

No, I didn’t play sports to let out any frustrations or energy. No, I didn’t passionately play an instrument that allowed me to express my emotions through sounds. I watched anime.

I was first exposed to anime when I was about five years old and Naruto aired on cable television for the first time in my country. I absolutely loved it. From there on, I went on to watch more and more anime. I watched Capeta. I watched Bleach. I watched Death Note. And before I knew it, I had fallen in love with a medium, which in my humble opinion is the greatest medium of all time.

I didn’t need friends, rather I didn’t want them, by that point in time. I had anime. All of the shows that I watched, all of the characters that I got the opportunity to meet… they mattered more to me than anything else in the world. And they weren’t just characters to me. They were my friends. I had friends who I cared a lot about.

I remember having cheered on ‘Capeta’ during his races harder than the animated crowds ever could. I remember having spent hours memorising the words to the ‘Naruto’ opening theme just so I could sing it each time it was played. I remember having jumped with excitement when I saw Ichigo turn into a shinigami for the first time. ‘Death Note’ successfully turned apples into my favourite fruits. During classes, instead of focusing on a word my teachers were saying, I remember spacing out while thinking about the Elric brothers and where their fate would take them next. I remember that I was on the verge of tears during and after the last couple of episodes of ‘Angel Beats!’.

To be very honest, I owe a lot to anime. If it weren’t for those fictional characters who I considered, and still consider my best friends, I honestly don’t think I would be half the person that I am today. Anime taught me to be empathetic, to listen to people. I surely will not be  the nicest person if you were to ever talk to me, but I will listen to you, and I will be your friend if you need me. Anime was there for me, for a lonely little kid who was so very much intimidated by the world, and it taught me to be there for other people, and I want to be.

I want to be there for people, like the anime characters were there for me. I want to help people, like the main character from ‘Yahari Oregairu’. I want to encourage people like the characters from ‘Naruto’ encouraged me. I want to cry for real people, like I cried for the characters during and after the end of ‘AnoHana’. And someday, eventually, I want to watch my own love story unfold, just like I have countless romantic sub plots.

You know what the best part is? It’s not just me. There’s the possibility that somebody reading this may be nodding their head in agreement and understanding. Anime is a medium which has brought together people from all over the world into a singular community. And in that community, I am not the only one who has been so greatly influenced by anime. There are literally thousands of people who would stand behind me when I say that, ‘Anime has made me the person that I am.’ And you know what? They would be right. Because all of us, in this little niche of ours, are what we are… because of us the single happy accident in our lives: stumbling across anime.

-Vinayak
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