I-suck

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andiamtotallynotintothis

Published November 24, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

When you find yourself writing the above word, you know something’s wrong.

I know I’ve been delayed by a lot of stupid stuff on this year’s (unofficial) NaNo project, and much of it’s actually, you know, valid stuff that would get in the way of any writing project. Like the chair thing.

But this is…I don’t even know what this is.

I’m not gelling with this project, for whatever reason. I love the idea behind the world of it, but I just don’t have any feel (or feeling) for the characters, and I don’t even know who the baddie is or what his/her agenda is or anything.

So for tonight I’m calling it quits at a measly 201 words written (for 44,974 total so far) and doing something I should have done on Thursday, since the universe was clearly telling me I should.

That, of course, is to watch Velvet Goldmine.

See, on Thursday, I went to see Ford v. Ferrari. Which stars Christian Bale. And there was a trailer in front of it for a new movie directed by Todd Haynes. The only way the universe could have been more obvious about it would be if there had also been a trailer for Birds of Prey in front of it, too. (I wish there had been; I don’t go looking for trailers online, so I haven’t seen any trailers for it yet. Not that I want to see Ewan as a bad guy (like, ever), but I do hope the movie will be good, ’cause Harley’s a great character I’m really fond of…when she’s written well…)

If everything I just said sounds like nonsense, then click on the Velvet Goldmine tag on this post (I’m on the phone app right now and can’t figure out how to do links to old posts) and find my Netflix review of it, and then all will make sense. 😉

Anyway, I hope watching my favorite movie will reenergize my writing juices (ew, that sounds gross), and that tomorrow I’ll get plenty of writing done. Even if it’s on some other project.

So, I’m an idiot…

Published November 16, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Yup, all that stuff in yesterday’s post about the sound on my computer being dead?

I…um…didn’t notice my music player had its own volume control set to zero.

*cough*

I mean, it explains a lot; I had been listening to it and my hand accidentally rubbed against the touchpad in such a way as to count as a click of the mouse button (I hate that it can do that!) and then the music had suddenly stopped, but…

In my own defense, that does not explain why the volume adjust sound didn’t play, but at least it turned out to be something I could fix myself!

At least that let me get writing done today. I finished the first chapter and moved on to the second one, with a word count of 1,472, for a total of 33,429.

Which is still under the daily recommended word count, but…well, it’s ’cause I wasn’t able to write in the morning again. (My breakfast keeps disagreeing with me.) Once I can get some writing done in the morning again, I should be fine.

Finally, first day on the actual project!

Published November 11, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

LOL, only took me ten days of other stuff before getting to what I would have started on the first if the NaNo site hadn’t been such a train wreck!

Anyway, so today I’m gonna get to the word count first, and then the actual talking about things.  I wrote 1,886 words of the first chapter of the official November novel, making my word count for the month 26,340.  Or possibly 359 words more than that, because that’s how many words I wrote finalizing some plot details.  (Actually, I wrote a few more than that in other parts of the document, but I forgot to count those.  And technically I also wrote down a couple of plots for things I want to write later, but I don’t want to just count every single word I write without any rhyme or reason, y’know?)

The annoying thing about today’s word count is how small it is.

You may be thinking that it doesn’t seem all that small.  I mean, it’s over the official “how many words you have to write a day to reach 50k” after all.  But the thing is…between one thing and another, I didn’t actually start writing until almost 4:30 this afternoon.

Which’d be fine if I’d, say, had to go to work today.  Or had to leave the house to go to lunch with my parents.  Or had a doctor’s appointment.  But no, I didn’t leave the house all day.  Didn’t even get out of my pjs.  (Yes, I’m that lazy.)

It’s just that I slept late, and then I’m reading this really interesting book, and I had a couple of figurines I wanted to finally debox but then I had trouble getting them correctly assembled with each other, and…just all sorts of little stuff kept happening.

Aaaaaanyway…about that plot summary.

I think I mentioned before that I had bought this book called Querent, which has a system to use tarot cards to help DMs for tabletop RPGs come up with storylines.  And that I was going to use it to help out with coming up with the story for this project.

Using it was actually slightly derailed because although I’ve been collecting tarot decks lately, they’re all actually really hard to shuffle because the cards are too big.  (I have no idea how people do it!  Maybe I should look up a how-to video on shuffling tarot cards…)  But then I remembered those cheap little racks of square book-and-bonus things at the checkout at Barnes & Noble and how one had a deck of small tarot cards, and I picked that up.  (Formerly, they had had one with a smaller version of the standard Rider-Waite-Smith deck, but they one they have now is new art only inspired by that deck.  But the important thing is that it’s the same size as standard playing cards, so I can successfully shuffle it without hurting my hands.)

It’s kind of interesting how it turned out.  Some of the results really played beautifully off each other.  Trying to write down the results as they come in is actually really hard (the Querent book is huge) so instead of doing that this time, I just took phone pictures of everything.  I don’t want to bog down my blog with all those pictures, so I’m putting them in a Google album if anyone’s interested.

I’m going to go ahead and retype the plot summary, though.  It’s kind of entertaining how vague it is.  Also I like how it’s both clearly inspired by the results I got and yet also totally my own thing.  So here it is:

At the start of the main story (ie after “Before the Flood”), Merlynne has just dropped off the career path she embarked on after being accepted to the wizarding academy (as it were) she’s writing the application for in class in “Before the Flood.”  Most likely, she’s done the equivalent of dropping out late in a PhD program.  Wolfgirl will also have just given up on something, but I’m not sure what yet.  They meet at rock bottom in a pub.  Something terrible and tragic happens in that pub, and they get swept up in events together because of it.  Probably what happens is that the pub gets flooded, destroying that section of town, causing untold harm to thousands, but because they were in exactly the right place when it happened, they not only survived but gained new abilities.  They’re hoping they can somehow trade away these new abilities to undo the flood, or at least reverse it a bit.  They will eventually learn that they could, in theory, undo the entire flood, but that would wipe out dozens of sentient species and destroy the economies of pretty much every civilization the flood has touched, and they know they can’t do that.  Before they set out, though, it’s a local nobleman who tells them about the way they might be able to undo some of the flood’s effects, though he begs them to stay on at his court, offering such great rewards that they’re sorely tempted to stay.  The proferred rewards include things they’ve secretly wished for.  By the time they learn that they can’t undo part of the flood without undoing all of it (perhaps by visiting the equivalent of the Southern Oracle), they should have learned about the villain and the threat he poses to…um…whatever he poses a threat to.

It went on slightly longer as I theorized about what he posed a threat to, but I’ve omitted that part because a) I’ve decided what it was and b) it would sound really weird.  I mean, like, more so than usual with me.  (Like weirder than what I said yesterday about drunk velociraptors.)  “Before the Flood,” obviously, is the first chapter.  Or possibly prologue.  Or maybe it’s the first of a series of short stories if this doesn’t really turn out to be novel length.  Dunno.  (Oh, and as you may have guessed, the flooding in question in the plot summary does not involve water.  It’s a more magical type of flooding.)

Oh, and no, the secondary character’s not actually named Wolfgirl.  It’s her nickname.  Because…um…actually, I forgot why.  I came up with something really fun on that, but…I thought I was going to remember it so I didn’t write it down only then I didn’t remember it.  I think maybe she’s part werewolf.  Or something.  I really don’t remember.  I’ll figure it out when I get to her introduction.  (I know, I’m such a pantser, even when I plot.)

A couple of other things about today’s writing session.  So, this was the scene I mentioned in the summary, because it was always how I planned to start this chapter, wherein Merlynne is applying to a magical university (no, it’s nothing like Hogwarts) and working on her application in the middle of a history lesson that gives the reader a bit of background information about how our world became her world.  (I won’t go into full details but I will say that elves from outer space play a part in it.)  I was getting a giggle out of writing the history lesson, because it’s a full-on Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off type of thing.  ;P  Because why not?

I agonized briefly over what to name the university she went to, because as soon as I got two words into it, I realized I wanted it to have a stupidly generic acronym.  I thought about trying to contort the English language to give it an acronym that was pronounced (even if not quite spelled) “school” but eventually I settled on CAMPUS:  Centauri Academy of Magical, Pseudomagical and Unknown Sciences.  Because ridiculousness is its own reward.  (In fiction.)

I also had to invent the name of an alien, magical, or future animal of some sort.  (I haven’t decided any details about it yet, only I wanted to have her say something less sweary and more creative than “bullsh*t”.)  I’m terrible at making up names.  Which is why I used this:

This is a Dice Coin, which spins like a top, and you stop it with your finger then use whatever’s to the side of your finger.  This one has the alphabet on it (and sometimes it has given me brilliant, almost Adamsy results, and other times it’s given me gibberish), but most of them have numbers and function as ordinary dice.  Today, it gave me only consonants, so I inserted a couple of vowels and got “wigvadh.”

I’m not 100% satisfied with that, to be honest.

But I’ve come up with worse in the past, so for the moment it’s staying.  (It did, at least, serve its purpose of letting me keep moving with the scene instead of sitting there agonizing over what to name the beings whose tripe the rumor of Merlynne being part-elf was a load of.)

Not a good day for writing

Published November 8, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Not that there was anything wrong with today.  I just couldn’t really get any writing done.  I’m still having trouble finding a way to write comfortably.  It’s partially the same problem I had over the summer, but it’s mostly a new one in that my recliner’s seat decided it didn’t like holding me up anymore and has sunk down, so now it’s really uncomfortable.  Which is a problem, since it’s almost the only chair in my house.  And also where I sleep.  (Which is probably why it’s giving up the ghost already…)

My back’s also acting up, and my arm problems are back in spades (even inside out, the seam in this particular shirt is so painfully rough I think I’m going to have to change again as soon as I finish this post) and my new bra isn’t holding me up as well as I’d like.

So, basically, the problem is that I can’t write because I need to lose about 150 pounds.  Which is a lot easier said than done, and I’d go crazy if I stopped trying to write until I succeeded in losing all that weight.  (Unless I did something insane like having liposuction.  Though I’m not even sure people still do that.)

Anyway, I did get at least some writing accomplished today.  I finished the scene I was working on yesterday (eventually changed that “I” at the end to an “If” which made it work much better for the scene and the character who was speaking), and the one after that.  In fact, I’m on the last scene of the piece.  But it’s always hard to write that last scene for me.  My endings are usually either abrupt “hey, it’s over!” or a strangely abbreviated summary of things that a more skillful writer would be able to draw out longer and narrate properly instead of “the rest of the world read the article and realized he was a criminal jerk and kicked him out of office” or whatever.  That tends to be the result…though in this case, since it’s set in an election year, he’ll probably just lose the election.  And then get arrested.  Though I’m not entirely sure what the charge would be.  Is censorship a crime, as such?  I guess in the situation, it’d be an abuse of power, but I don’t know what the criminal charges there are, specifically.  He can’t get charged with abduction since he wouldn’t have played a direct part, and it was being done by an entirely-overreaching-its-power branch of the government.  The very fact that I can’t even figure out precisely which of his acts were illegal and which were merely excessively immoral probably has a lot to do with why I have to end the story in such an abbreviated fashion, of course…  (Thankfully(?) no one particularly reads them, so it doesn’t really matter.)

Today’s word count:  1,775, giving a total of 19,930.

IWSG – Querent

Published September 4, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Ack, totally forgot about IWSG this month!  But it’s still Wednesday, so I’m not completely late!

*cough*

Anyway, my writing has hit an odd snag this month in that I’m still trying to be going strong — wanting to be going strong — on my current project, only it’s near impossible to get comfortable while writing.  It’s the summer weather building up on me over time or something.  😦  I hate it.  I cannot wait for the cold weather to move in!

So…besides that…um…well, I have an idea of my project for this year’s NaNo novel.

It’s not fleshed out yet (well, it is only September, after all), but it’s going to be space fantasy.  The main way I came to this decision is that I’ve been watching the Netflix seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000 lately, and there’s a line from one of the bots during Starcrash about how it would have seemed amazing if it had come out before Star Wars instead of after it.  (Which is not true, of course, because that was an awful movie and would have seemed like an awful movie regardless, but…)  It made me think about how there really has been a trend (more in visual media than print media, of course) to make any fusion of science fiction and the mystical into a Star Wars rip-off, or at least heavily influenced by same.

So, I thought “I want to write a space fantasy that has no Star Wars influence at all.”  (Admittedly, Star Wars is properly more of a science fantasy than a space fantasy, but…same diff to most people.)

From there, I quickly came up with the most core concept of my heroine.  Which is to say her name, and the fact that she’s a wizard in the traditional Earth sense, who happens to operate in space.

Then, from a comment my brother made this Monday, just joking around, I came up with a slight aspect of the story, just a funky species with an absurd power.  (And I’m not actually going to use it quite the way he intended.  Sorry, bro.)

But the question is, where do I get the rest?  Since, after all, things like deeply developed characters, plot beyond the most basic premise, and the more basic aspects of setting are all my weaknesses.  (OMG, do I have anything I’m not weak on?  Other than sometimes enthusiasm?)

Well, one thing I thought of in terms of world-building is that to really distinguish my space fantasy from Star Wars, I need to use a very well defined magic system, and to make it easier, I’m probably going to crib off of Dungeons & Dragons (though I’ll have to look up its rules first, lol) and create a system very similar to that one.

From there, I realized what I wanted to do to help me create the missing preparatory elements of my story.

A while back (like long enough ago that it’s been fulfilled already), I backed a Kickstarter to create a book called Querent, which is a tool to create story elements using tarot cards.  The intended purpose of the tool is to help people create new scenarios, characters, etc., for their tabletop RPG sessions, but they did say that it should work just as well for people just plain writing stories.  (I feel like I may have mentioned it here before, but I can’t be sure…)

So, I’m gonna use it to work up the rest of the basic plot, characters and world-building for my NaNo novel and see what happens.

Worst case scenario, either I don’t come up with anything workable by November and just utterly wing it, or I write garbage and then ignore it once November is over.  (Both of these have, after all, happened in the past.)  And if it’s just not working during November, I have various fan fiction plots waiting that I could write instead.  It’s not cheating to change projects mid-month, right?

IWSG – Campin’

Published July 3, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Camp NaNo is here again, and I’m really hoping it’s going to jumpstart me back into regular writing habits.  I’m pre-writing this last night, so two days into camp.  The first day was sort of “ehhh” in that while I did get something written that I’d really been meaning to (specifically, the dream sequence intro to a fanfic that’s been awaiting editing for about six months) it wasn’t anything long or important or even, you know, particularly good.  (Though in my own defense, it wasn’t precisely bad, either.)

Today was better.  I started work on the crossover fanfic I’ve been wanting to get to for…I don’t even know how long.  Months.  (I could check the NaNo forums to find out, as I posted about it pretty soon after coming up with the idea.)  And it’s starting out pretty well; in fact, one of the characters I’ve loved for years but never written for is behaving differently than I had planned, and what I wrote is actually much more in character for her than what I had planned, so that’s good.

What’s not good is that I kind of wanted to use this time to work on the first-in-a-series novel that I’ve worked on for the past two proper NaNos, and both of last year’s camp sessions.  (Ooh, that looks weird when I write it out.)  So November 2017, I wrote the first draft.  April camp, I worked on revising the first draft, mostly just replacing some stuff that really didn’t work.  Between April and July, I got it in the hands of a beta reader, and started July doing basic work on the draft until I heard back from the beta.  It was one of those good news/bad news kind of reports.  Good news was he liked the basic story and the world.  Bad news was the characters weren’t very distinct from each other (even though they were like night and day in my head), and one of them was utterly useless.  It was the “total lack of agency” point that really made me step back and see that he was totally right, my character was just this utterly passive shell tagging along after the other two characters.  So I spent the rest of July ripping him out and replacing him with a different character who shared a few of his traits, and also trying to make the other two characters’ on-paper versions match the versions in my head better.  A long and laborious process, but the new version is infinitely superior to the old one.  However, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to differentiate the cultures in the book from the ones in reality that had inspired them, so for November of last year I decided to write up a book of that world’s mythology, complete with introductions and footnotes by one of the minor characters from the novel, who happens to study that sort of thing.  And then after that I integrated the myths into the book where I could (I’ll probably have to do a full new draft for a complete integration), but I realized I had left out a major one who had been directly referenced in the novel, a mortal hero comparable to Cu Chulainn.  (Fortunately, I have total freedom as to what to have the hero’s myth contain, because the novel’s reference was just to his birthplace.)

Anyway, long story short (too late!), I was really hoping to get that finished up so I could polish up the other few major rough spots in this draft and send to to another beta reader.  Because I promised myself that I would eventually release this novel to the public, and I don’t want to do that until it’s actually ready for it.

Of course, there’s other complications.  I don’t write descriptions because my brain can’t really process them, so people always have trouble visualizing what I’m writing about.  And the majority of that mythological world building from the second year’s NaNo can’t be comfortably included into the novel without distracting from the story.  For that matter, there’s already extraneous stuff tacked onto the front of every chapter (largely the diary of an important historical figure which the heroes find and read late in the book) which already probably distracts from the story.

So what I kind of want to do with it is instead of just releasing it as a free ebook on LeanPub or wherever, work it up into a particular kind of “game,” the name of which I’ve forgotten.  “Dynamic novel” or something like that, I think.  There’s this kind of game called a “visual novel,” which is like a choose-your-own-adventure novel with constant pictures.  (Large sprites of the characters in a scene, backgrounds, the occasional full-screen splash illustration of a major event, that kind of stuff.)  The thing about a visual novel is, of course, that you make choices that alter what happens, usually heading you towards one of multiple endings, and sometimes (maybe even often) giving you the possibility of getting yourself horribly killed.  But there’s another kind that’s the visual novel format without any of the choices, and that’s what I’m thinking would be good for this novel.  Because as the player (reader?) went along, they could unlock diary entries, myths, and other flavor text which they could then read from a menu whenever they wanted.  The flavor text would still interrupt the flow, but less so, and could be omitted entirely if the reader (player?) didn’t care enough to bother with it.  Of course, to do that I’d have to get it all polished up and find an artist or five to create illustrations to go along with it.  And find some way to pay for said artist(s) and their work.  (A Kickstarter campaign would probably be required, sadly.)  So this is whole “dynamic novel” (or whatever it’s called) thing may just be me spinning my mental wheels fruitlessly, but it’s at least interesting to contemplate.

But I can’t even think about working towards that eventuality without first finishing up this draft to the point that I feel it’s read for another beta reader.  And I can’t do that while I’m writing fan fiction instead.  But I just feel so much more motivation for the fan fiction right now.

And it’s the right thing to do to just get writing first, right?  And worry about what I’m writing later.  Right?

IWSG – My Duty (Or Not)

Published February 6, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

OMG, I suck.  I started this post more than a week ago, hit “Save Draft” and then totally forgot about finishing it and actually hitting “Schedule.”  UGH.

And on to your regularly scheduled — and much delayed — IWSG post…

Okay, this is going to sound off-topic at first, but I went to see a movie…um…when was that?  Well, at some point not too long ago.  (Ugh, I may be losing my mind already.)  Anyway, there was a trailer for the movie adaptation for the first novel in yet another YA series.  In particular, this was for the adaptation of the first novel in the “Artemis Fowl” series.  Which I gather is the name of the boy who’s the main character.

The boy.

Artemis.

Virgin goddess of the hunt.

Who refuses the company of men almost entirely.

That one.  And people keep giving her entirely feminine name to male characters.

It’s not that hard, guys!  In Greek, an -is ending is feminine!  E.G. Thetis, Britomartis, Briseis, Chryseis, et cetera.

Even easier, when a name exists in a masculine and feminine form, don’t give them the one that doesn’t match their gender.  (Unless you’re specifically trying to make a point about gender with that character.)  If your character is male, then you need to use the masculine version, Artemus.  It’s only common sense!

But people keep doing this, abusing the goddess.

I’m just barely willing to overlook the Sailor Moon cat, because a lot of Japanese names are unisex, so when Japanese writers borrow names from other languages, they don’t always research whether or not native speakers would give that name to a character of that gender.  (This seems to happen especially with the use of feminine names given to male characters.  My favorite JRPG series has guys named Sheena, Salome and Lulu.)

But for a series of English-language YA novels?  Nope.  Cannot be forgiven.  I think there’s a character associated with D&D that similarly assaults the goddess’s good name.

With this movie coming out, this has now reached a boiling point of “this cannot go on!”

So in my desire to avenge Her, I realized the best method would be to spread the opposite, to popularize a god’s name as the name of a female character.  And whose name better to emasculate than Her twin, Apollo, such a symbol of masculinity?

The plan, therefore, is to write a YA series of novels with a heroine named Apollo.  She starts out a normal enough girl, but early on in the first book she gets told what it seems like every lead of a YA fantasy adventure is told:  that she’s “the special.”  In this case, that means she becomes the queen/princess/high priestess/what-have-you of a country/race/planet/religion/etc…but there are certain parties who won’t accept a teenage girl in that role, and they go to war to remove her from power.  Thus the title of the series of books is “The Apolleonic Wars.”  (Yes, I know “Apollonian” would be more proper, but I got the idea for the name on seeing the book I was reading with something in front of it so that the “N” was blocked in “Napoleonic”…)

However, not all is as it seems.  You see, young Apollo is not actually “the special.”  It would come out either at the end of Act II of the first book or at some point later in the the series (depending) that she was chosen for the role specifically because the people choosing her thought they’d be able to easily manipulate her.  So after that revelation, she’ll have to find a way to stop the war and do something about the people on her own side that instigated it by putting her in that position of power to begin with, despite that she’s just an ordinary girl with no special abilities or anything.

You may be wondering why I’m sharing this so publicly, giving someone else the opportunity to take the idea for themselves?  Well, the thing is, for this to be effective as vengeance for the wrongs done to Artemis, the books would have to be both professionally published and sell well enough to effectively feminize Apollo’s name, at least among the generation who might grow up reading it.  And let’s be real, that’s probably outside my ability.  No, scratch that.  It is outside my ability.  And yet I feel like this needs to happen.

Therefore, I’m sharing this in case anyone actually talented at YA-novel writing would care to have a go at it.

If you’re going to use this, tell me in the comments so I won’t do it, too.

Oh, or you could write something else using “Apollo” as the heroine’s name.  Or some other god’s name.  Again, let me know if you’re going to do that, too, so I can make sure to use the same one.  (And no, “Shiva” doesn’t count.  Because it has to be Greek.)

Finishing up Read Harder 2018 (the lazy way)

Published December 27, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Right, so, mass post to cover everything that didn’t get its own review.  Several of these are last minute replacements to make up for much longer books I didn’t have time to read because that stupid YA book held me up so long that my class started and things picked up at work, and all that rubbish.  Also some of these I read before class started, but I didn’t get around to their reviews because the review of the lousy book also held me up.  (Because I suck.)

Anyway, for laziness’s sake, I’m going to go by their order on the challenge list, starting with Challenge #2, “A book of true crime,” which I am skipping over as I’m embarrassed that I own the darn thing.  It’s something I bought in the school bookstore (with my parents’ money) back in the ’90s, relating dumb things criminals had done.  It seemed harmless at the time, but looking at it for the first time in more than a decade, I see a lot about it that’s unsettling.

Moving on to Challenge #3, “A classic of genre fiction,” I went with this:

The short version is “good books, horrible edition.”  Seriously, this paperback “classics” edition from Barnes & Noble is so bad.  I mean, I guess it’s okay if you’re the type to ignore endnotes entirely, but I’m in the habit of reading them.  Which I had to get out of pretty quickly for this thing.  It was bad enough when it gave endnotes explaining things that no reader would likely need explained (what a brontosaurus or a griffin was, for example), but when it gave a note that was a freaking spoiler, that’s when I said “no, screw you, endnotes!”  Ugh.

Uh, yeah, that was not relevant.  Also — still in the irrelevant category — wtf is up with that cover image?  It’s a neat image, yes, but it has sod-all to do with the books.  The future visited by the time traveler has no high tech anything, let alone this 1950s fantasy of the high rise city of tomorrow.

Back to what’s relevant, I was amazed at how little there was in common between these two books and my expectations.  The Time Machine has more in common with the opening sequence of Time After Time than it does with either of the films adapting it that I’ve seen.  The book’s future is very different from what any movie has ever delivered, and honestly it’s not even something a movie can deliver unless it’s going to be a very uncomfortable and relatively short picture.  In the movies, the Eloi have not evolved much from humans, while the Morlocks have become hideous mole-monster-people.  In the book, both species have become physically entirely distinct from human beings.  Which is much more likely, really, but not so easy to film.

As to The Invisible Man, it’s very different from other books of its sort.  Not that I’ve read a huge number of them (are there even a huge number of them?) but I’ve read both Frankenstein and Dracula, two of the works that pioneered the rather disparate genre that would create the Universal Monsters. 😛  It’s much less intimate with the title character…or anyone else, for that matter, if I recall correctly.  (Ugh, trying to review a book I read in August or whenever is not so easy in December.  Especially considering I’m sick.)  It was a really interesting read, though.  As long as you’re not reading this edition.

Okay, moving on to the next unreviewed book on the list, Challenge #5, “A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries.”

This is the sort of thing I wouldn’t have counted for Read Harder if I hadn’t run out of time.  “Rakonto” is the name of a project I backed on Kickstarter.  The idea of the project is that a group of teachers go to various countries and meet with groups of children who for one reason or another don’t get…okay, wait, rather than me trying to sum it up, I’m going to quote their campaign page instead:

Children love to tell stories.

However, in many places in the world, their creative voices are rarely heard or cultivated. Rakonto helps amplify the voices of these children by traveling to developing communities and implementing storytelling workshops that build on children’s natural potential to become storytellers.

In these workshops, we teach students the power of storytelling, challenging them to write their own original stories. In doing so…

  • We encourage students to take pride in their local heritage and to find their own voices
  • We empower students by sharing methods and tools for powerful expression, helping them grasp their potential as creative individuals
  • We help students imagine themselves as agents of positive social change

And it goes on from there about how there’s a global shortage of teachers, and how many children live in areas where they’re not getting the basic education that everyone should have the right to, etc.  They take the stories the children have told, illustrate one or more, and send them out to their supporters as books, with the proceeds from the books going to pay for more workshops in other countries, to keep the project going and encourage more children.

So, anyway, this one, The Power of an Idea, is by a tenth grader in India.  (Which is a bit older than I was expecting from their description, but…)  It’s about elderly homeless people and how to help them so they won’t be homeless anymore.  A bit naive around the edges, but very sweet, and definitely a different perspective than you get in America.

Moving on, Challenge #7, “A western.”  I had planned on borrowing a book from my father for this one, a steampunk western with all sorts of real people reinvented in steampunky ways, which I’m told is quite good.  But I didn’t have time anymore, so I went with

a single issue of a comic book I backed on Kickstarter.  (I am totally not a comic book person.  So why do I end up backing so many of them on Kickstarter?)  It’s about a bounty hunter named Veronica in 1885, who travels with La Meurte, who may or may not be real, but is most definitely her lover even if she isn’t real.  It’s short, being only an issue of a comic book rather than a full graphic novel, but it’s very interesting.  I’ll definitely be backing the later issues, too.  (Though only at the digital level.  I don’t want to try to keep track of flimsy little comic books.  I’ll go physical edition if they get collected into a book later on.)

Next, Challenge #9, “A book of colonial or postcolonial literature.”  I wanted to read Kim for this, because what could be more colonial than Kipling?  (Also, I bought an RPG based on it off itch.io a while back, and I wanted to read the book before I played the game.)  But I totally ran out of time.  So, in a measure of extreme cheapness and possible cheating, I’m counting one of the books I read for class.

I figure it counts as colonial/postcolonial because it starts out in Korea while it was under Japan’s colonial control, and then it’s postcolonial as we follow the family of displaced Koreans trying to live in Japan.  This is not a book I would ever have read on my own, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it.  It’s just totally not my thing.  The stuff in Korea was very interesting, and the early part of their time in Japan was also pretty good.  Near the end of WWII it totally lost me, though.  I can pinpoint the moment it happened, too:  when a long-gone character returned to the story suddenly to play the role of “perpetual plot device.”  It’s a generations long book which only really started to make sense to me after one of the children grew up and fell in love with the English novels he was studying, particularly Dickens.  Then I got it:  this is a love letter to and imitation of Dickens, with a Korean/Japanese veneer (and thankfully much less dense text).  As someone who gets annoyed with Dickens’ propensity for continual and over-the-top coincidences, this did not endear the book to me.

Additionally, the author’s research was inconsistent.  She did do a lot of research, but only into the major things like political movements, historical events, etc.  A lot of the details slid by.  I only noticed one particularly glaring one, late in the book, when we’re in 1968, and a three year old boy is soooo excited to go to the store and buy the latest “issue” of Tetsuwon Atom and then hurries home to watch the anime on TV.  Yeah, so that felt really, really wrong to me chronologically, so I looked that up.  Tetsuwon Atom (aka Astro Boy in the west) ended in 1968 with the death of the title character.  I don’t know when in the year that final chapter was published (and it would have been in a magazine, not in “issues” like an American comic; the collected volume likely wouldn’t have hit the shelves until the following year) but I seem to recall that scene being set in the fall, meaning it was probably already over, and given the way it ended, the father would probably have tried to discourage his little son’s attachment to the property.  But the son wouldn’t have said attachment anyway, because the anime went off the air in 1966, when the boy was about a year old.  It took me about a minute to look that up.  The author could have done the same.  And no, I don’t think she was using it for its recognizability factor, considering she was not only using its original Japanese title, but even going so far as to transliterate “Atom” as “Atomu,” as it’s actually spelled in Japanese.

So, long story short, when we discussed the book in class, the professor explained to us that there were a lot of minor errors all throughout the book, particularly in terms of when particular foods were available in Japan and what they were called at the time.  (I didn’t mention the anime thing, because I didn’t want to sound like the biggest otaku ever, but I’m sure she was aware of it.  She’s just more interested in food culture than pop culture.)

Now, do little things like that ruin a book?  Well, no, not to most people.  But as I said, I didn’t like it anyway, because of the whole melodramatic, recurring coincidence thing.  It’s just not my cup of tea.

And moving on to Challenge #24 (skipping over #20 to end with it) we have another class book, and this one feels even more like cheating.  That last challenge is “An assigned book you hated (or never finished).”  I didn’t hate it, but this is the last book we were assigned in that class, and I didn’t manage to finish it on time because I was too caught up in work and in research for my final paper.

This book is a sociological/anthropological study of Bethel, a service community on the island of Hokkaido which helps mental patients discharged from the hospital to live their lives outside the mental institution.  Most of the patients were, at first, schizophrenics, though that’s started to change in favor of emotional disturbances.  Anyway, it’s a very interesting book and written with very simple language, not a lot of technical terms from pyschology or anthropology.  It did need a better editing job, though; a lot of grammatical errors made it to the printed page.

Okay, so last one, Challenge #20, “A book with a cover you hate.”  And again this is kind of cheating, because this is something I would have read anyway.  But it does qualify, though in a different way than they likely meant.  My choice for this challenge is this:

I’m sure you’re looking at that gorgeous cover and wondering why in the world I hate it.  Well, let me tell you this:  if you have ever read any Black Butler and just haven’t gotten this far, or if you think you might want to read it in the future, then just stop right now.  Because I can’t explain why I hate this cover without completely spoiling the contents of this volume of the manga.

Okay, so if you don’t want to read further, hit the back button now!

Just gonna add a few more lines of buffer…

..

..

.

.

Okay, hopefully that’s buffer enough.

So, the reason I hate this book’s cover is because Agni there is my second favorite character in the manga…

…and he is horribly, brutally killed in the first chapter of this volume.

And in a later chapter we see a shinigami completing the paperwork on collecting his soul, so it’s highly unlikely (if not outright impossible) that he’s going to be magically revived.

Worse still, I had already paid to read that horrible, horrible chapter.  Because the last volume ended with my favorite character, Prince Soma (Agni’s employer/dearest friend), with a gun to his head, and then a page with nothing but a sound effect of a gun being fired.  I knew there were ways to buy an officially translated version of new chapters within days of their release in Japan, and I couldn’t possibly wait to find out if Soma was okay, so I had looked around and found that comixology sold the chapters for $2.99 apiece.  I bought the relevant chapter and found that Soma only got shot in the hand, but the assailant proved himself unnaturally powerful and…

…I ended up crying so hard that I had to call my brother, hastily assure him that nothing was wrong, and then continue crying as I explained I needed to get out of the house for a while.  (The worst part is, I have a fair chunk of Black Butler merch in my house.  If things go as badly as I fear they might in the next volume, and Soma gets himself killed trying to avenge Agni by going after the wrong person, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it all, because I don’t think I’ll want to keep it.  Or even keep reading.)

Needless to say, when this volume was released and I saw what the cover image was, I was really pissed off that they had the gall to do this.  I mean, there have been characters on the cover of the volume in which they die before, but those were new characters who were only introduced in that arc.  Soma and Agni were introduced very early on, before the story arcs got so long, and they’ve been around for probably about seven or eight years now.  (I believe the manga recently celebrated its tenth year.)  As long as they’ve been around, they should have become effectively immortal.  I accept that in a supernatural manga where the title character is a literal demon, there are plenty of human casualties, even ones that you would want to have survive and join the permanent cast, but if the permanent cast are suddenly no longer so permanent…

Not to mention that the “evil twin” became a tired cliche decades ago.  I mean, I think in this case there’s still something supernatural going on (at the very least, he’s been raised from the dead) but that doesn’t change the stupidity of it; there better be something more complex and deeper going on than that.

And I could go on about this for ages, but I’ll stop because I doubt anyone cares.

IWSG: NaNo time again

Published November 7, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Bah, I really wanted to write a non-IWSG post this month.  I even tossed some ideas around in my head…during the commute to and from work, when I couldn’t do anything about it.

*sigh*

Well, anyway, I actually finished the draft I was working on about mid-month, giving me some time to play around with a new fanfic (which I didn’t come even close to finishing) as well as time to do some prep for NaNo.

I’m pretty confident that I’d have super-duper no problem finishing this year’s NaNo novel if I had no other demands on my time.  But I have a presentation and a paper to prepare (and as of this pre-writing, on Oct. 30, I’ve only had my main source for 24 hours, and have read about five pages of it, max), plus the museum where I work will be decorating for Christmas, which will likely take away the majority of a day when I’d normally be free to write (probably two or three, actually, as I’m going to need at least a day to pull all the toys that will go on display, plus I’m supervising a display case we always fill at a local library for the holiday season), and as Christmas season approaches I’ll have to be working more days as we get more busy at work.  So…yeah, life is going to do its best to throw a wrench in my writing plans.

Maybe there’ll be a freak snowstorm and I won’t be able to go to work for a week.  That’d help me keep caught up on NaNo and my class work.  Might kind of suck otherwise, though…

(Also, I am totally creeped out beyond anything any Halloween-related movie is likely to do.  Not ten minutes ago, a mosquito landed on my computer.  Inside my bedroom.  This is all kinds of wrong, and has left me compulsively scratching all over myself as if it’s already bitten me everywhere (despite that most of me is covered with cloth).  How did it get in my house?  How did it get in my bedroom when I always keep the door shut?  How is it even alive?  I know it was unseasonably warm today (70+ degrees Fahrenheit), but earlier this month we had nights that were down below 40; it should have died of cold.  Even worse, I didn’t wanna squash it on my computer, and so it got away, and now I don’t know where it is…)

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