04 May 2021

You're in for a Wild Ride: A Review of "Invincible" Season One

Image from the Invincible Wiki 
via Fandom.com
On March 26, 2021, Invincible premiered worldwide on Amazon Prime, and its first season of eight episodes wrapped April 30. As someone who has previously read issues of the comics and enjoyed them years ago, I was looking forward to seeing Invincible finally make it to the screen, and animated, no less! I was counting down the days for it to come, hoping and praying it would make it to Japan so I could watch it. 

It did. But as I suspected, it was only available in Japanese. I watched it anyway. There were some changes from the comics, but it followed them closely enough I could still understand the gist of what was happening despite the language barrier for me.

Then over the weekend, something magical happened. I went to rewatch the season finale again (it was so amazing!) and suddenly the whole series flipped over to the English. I didn't hit any buttons or mess with settings. It just happened!

Out of fear it would revert back to the Japanese on its own, I rewatched Invincible all over again in its entirety with the original English cast and decided I had to write a review of this season or else I'd explode. 

WATCH OUT! SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Premise:

Seventeen-year-old Mark Grayson is just like every guy his age, except that his father is Omni-Man, the most powerful superhero on the planet. As Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father's legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.
Story: I love that with Invincible we get a coming-of-age story with Mark (played by Steven Yeun) finding his way as a teenager and a brand-new superhero, while at the same time we have your standard plots that secure this series in the superhero story pantheon, with heroic teams fighting off superpowered villains, aliens, and everyday criminals. But the heart of this series lies with the characters and relationships with each other. Mark grapples with his identity as a regular teen, a student, a boyfriend, and hero, and tries to balance each identity with the people he cares about. Who he is is very much tied to his purpose, and he's trying to figure out both. Then you've got his father, Nolan (aka Omni-Man, played by J.K. Simmons), who's the greatest superhero on Earth. There's this similar current there. Mark thinks it's the same for his dad. His identity is tied to his purpose: Omni-man is a hero, therefore he is good and saves people. Omni-man is his father, and therefore his father loves him. It all seems crystal clear that people are what they do, and yet we learn through this show that it's just not that simple. There are many harsh lessons throughout this series, and they are learned in painful ways that tug at your heart and even fill you with horror. This is one of the most emotionally engaging superhero series I've encountered in a while. 

Characters: Here's an official clip from Amazon that gives you a peek at the type of relationship that Mark has with his dad. (Click here to watch on Youtube.)


I love the dynamic of the Grayson family. Mark and Nolan's relationship overall as father and son is touching, and I love that Debbie (Mark's mother, played by Sandra Oh) and Nolan have an active, romantic love life. I love that Debbie isn't afraid to call out her teenage son when he's being a jerk, yet can turn around and say "I love my asshole son" and still make it sweet. That's why when this family broke apart, it was so devastating to see. 

Image from POC Culture

I like that the series gave both Debbie and Amber (played by Zazie Beetz) more agency and made them more active heroines. In the comics, Debbie doesn't actually get into real estate until much later, but here she's already into it and is very good at it. In the comics, she doesn't take an active role investigating the deaths of the Guardians of the Globe. She's very much a reactionary character in the books, but here, she is continually suspecting something is wrong and is trying to do something about it. 

Image from CBR

And Amber was really just a pretty face in the comics, and later took on a victim role, whereas here in the series she has more fire to her and seems like a genuinely interesting person. Plus, they decided to make the character resemble her voice actress more, which added even more diversity to the characters, which is always good.  (As a sidenote, they made Mark seem far more obviously Asian here than in the comics, which is also good!!).

Image from Rotten Tomatoes

Atom Eve (played by Gillian Jacobs) is largely the same, but I like that they toned down a lot of the pining/unrequited feelings she had for Mark in the comics. You can tell that something is brewing, but it seems a little less...annoying? She also seems to have a lot more agency this time around, though I would say she was pretty powerful in the comics, though, too. 

Image from Den of Geek

William, Mark's best friend (played by Andrew Rannells), has also been improved. They skipped over the delay in William's coming out and pairing up with Rick, and made William openly gay immediately, his infatuation and relationship with Rick clear from the get-go. I liked how they handled this much better than in the original comics. And I like that they cut out the offensive gay jokes with William's love of flying. Those did not age well in the comics. 

Image from tumblr

When it comes to favorite characters, though, I have to go with the entire Grayson family. I truly loved their relationship, how they interacted with each other, their care for each other, and how all of that evolved over time, despite the painful surprises in Episodes 7 ("We Need to Talk") and 8 ("Where I Really Came From"). 

Image from Comics Beat

Animation: I like the look of the characters. They are more streamlined than what's in the comics (which usually happens when you switch to the animated medium) and their straightforward, colorful designs are a good contrast to the lovingly detailed backgrounds throughout the series (the universe, planets, cityscapes -- all are rendered with great care). 

I think one of the most incredible things the series pulls off is facial expressions and character tics. You can see Omni-Man at war with himself through the changes in his eyes. You can see Mark's hesitancy when he has a habit of looking downward and placing his hand on the back of his neck. These little details enrich the characterization quite a bit. 

The action sequences are also top-notch. For an example, take a look at this clip of Omni-Man taking out the Flaxans on their home planet (click here to watch on Youtube): 


There's a lot to enjoy in terms of animation, and yes, the series does get incredibly violent, but even that is rendered beautifully. You may disagree with me, though, and that's fine -- I'm somebody who likes horror so this aspect of the show satisfied that for me. There are plenty of horrific moments in the series, to be sure, and that's not everyone's cup of tea. 

Voice Acting:
 The reason why I was so overjoyed my Amazon Prime switched over to English magically was because as soon as I heard who was cast in this series, I knew I had to see it. Even supporting characters are voiced by a knockout group of actors, from Mark Hamill to Jon Hamm to Jonathon Goff to Seth Rogen to Djimon Hounsou...there are so many stars voicing characters in this cast and I knew I was going to love their work. 

Again, I have to give a shout-out to the cast of the Graysons, consisting of Steven Yeun as Mark, J.K. Simmons as Nolan, and Sandra Oh as Debbie, for rendering full and emotional performances. Zachary Quinto, who also plays Robot, gets a mention, too, for his excellent job voice acting. 

This was really a dream cast and I can't wait to see who else they bring into the fold in future seasons. 

Image from Screen Rant

Low Points of the Season: I had a hard time thinking of low points this season because this series is off to such an excellent start. But, to me, there's no such thing as perfect, so if I was going to choose something that would be considered a "low" point, it would be that some of the villains are annoying, like D.A. Sinclair. Of course, I'm pretty sure they are supposed to be, so...well done, I guess?

Image from We Live Entertainment

High Points of the Season: Guys. Guys. Guys. Episodes 7 and 8. Oh my God.

These are the episodes where everything changes. I knew what was coming, but the series added much more than what was in the comics, and so everything still shocked me to my core, especially the season finale. The first part of Episode 8 is the fight between Mark and Omni-Man, and the second half is the aftermath of that battle and a glimpse of the future. 

The battle between Invincible and Omni-Man had to be one of the most emotionally devastating, and violent animated sequences I've ever seen. There was true horror and pain there and I literally shouted at my TV the first time I watched it, "HOLY SHIT!" 

I have never seen a season closer like that before. I've watched the episode twice now in two different languages and I'm still thinking about it days later. What a way to end the season and what a great way to get us excited for Seasons 2 and 3! 

Image from Horror Geek Life

Final Thoughts:  As soon as I finished the first season of Invincible, I went ahead and purchased all three compendiums of the comics, so now I own the story in its complete iteration. Again, I read a couple issues back in the day (but never continued when I saw how many freaking issues there were), and I enjoyed what I saw. I know what's going to come but there is still much I don't know (as of writing this, I just started the third compendium and am on issue #97, but I know what's coming in issue #110 thanks to a spoilery internet). I don't know how things are going to end. Part of me wants to stop reading so as not to spoil my experience of the series, but now that I see how the show improves on the source material, I know no matter what, I'll be in store for some surprises. 

If you like stories that go deeper into what it means to be a hero, full of surprises and twists and turns, with a solid emotional core, then I highly recommend Invincible. This series made me laugh, tugged at my heartstrings, put me on an emotional rollercoaster, appealed to my taste in horror, and it isn't afraid to go to dark places, which I definitely love. A powerhouse cast, vivid animation, and a brilliant soundtrack rounds this out for a memorable viewing experience.

03 May 2021

#52 writing cards: Prompts from Shaun Levin's Writing Maps - no. 17

Image from the #52 Writing Cards Project. For all of their maps, click here!


I. 

Shoes for exercise
-- I've got my hiking boots that I purchased in the USA right before coming to Japan. I knew that I wanted to get back into nature, and hiking is my primary form of exercise because I love it so much, and it's always beautiful here wherever I go. 

Hiking isn't easy for me. I'm obese and really out of shape, and I have bad knees, so I have to go very slowly when I go out. My proudest hiking moment in Japan, though, was when I went to Yakushima to Shiratani Unsuikyo in 2018 and hiked for about six hours straight. And there is some legitimate mountaineering that happens on some of that trail, too, and I hadn't done any mountaineering since 2004 when I lived in Wales. 

I was terrified of strenuous hiking after so many years, especially because I definitely was not the shape I was from my 20s, and I remember packing my backpack like I was going to die. Lots of water, lots of emergency rations, a compass, an emergency whistle, etc. It was a serious endeavor and I made it! It was also my first significant solo trip in Japan, too, so there were a lot of things that had me nervous. But Yakushima may be one of the most beautiful places on the planet, with its primordial, lush green forests, and the effort was definitely worth it. 

Shoes for work
 -- I own four different sets of work shoes, but they are all in the lockers at my different schools (in Japan you have a separate set of shoes for indoors) so I don't have any pictures of them. So, these are my work shoes for going to work. 

Because I have to be somewhat dressed up for my classes, these are the shoes I wear everyday to and from work, and I never wear them for any other purpose. This is my third pair of "going to work" shoes. Something about the landscape here, and tons of concrete and gravel, wears my shoes down so easily. My last pair of shoes were completely destroyed. I can't find what I did with that photo of them, but I posted it on Facebook and people were like, "Those shoes are from The Grapes of Wrath." They were literally in tatters. 

We'll see how long these shoes last me!

Shoes for glamour
 --  I don't wear very fancy shoes anymore. I did when I was younger. But I did make sure to own a pair of fancier shoes while I'm here in Japan, just in case I needed to. 

I ended up wearing them for cosplay when I dressed up as a female Gankutsuou but haven't had any other reason to wear them for a special occasion. You can't really tell from the photo, but what makes them fancy is the fact that they are velvet and at the heel is some knockoff gold metal running through it. I got them from Modcloth, my favorite place to shop while I'm in Japan (because they have plus sizes and ship to Japan!). 

Shoes for leisure
-- This pair of sneakers is my official go-to in Japan. I've worn them all over the place here. I did buy them in Japan instead of bringing them over from America. I can't remember what happened to my American sneakers but these were purchased as a replacement pretty early on into my time here. 

They were originally my indoor shoes at my special support school, where we did a lot of indoor athletic activity with the children, but when they removed that school from my roster, I decided to make the shoes my regular everyday pair. This is how I found out I'm a size 26.5 in Japan! I can never find women's shoes here, so when I'm not ordering them from overseas, I'm buying men's shoes instead. 

Before we reached a Level 5 emergency here in Kumamoto prefecture (the highest level on the emergency scale for coronavirus), which we are currently under during our Golden Week holiday, I managed to travel to Itoshima in Fukuoka prefecture right before the travel restrictions to other prefectures were handed down. I still have sand in my shoes from that trip. 

II. 

As soon as this prompt came up, I couldn't help but think about my ballet shoes. I started ballet when I was six or seven years old and stopped at age fourteen when my ballet instructor retired. Then I took a long break from dance, and briefly enrolled in ballet classes again at Ballet Met in my twenties, then stopped again (I wish I hadn't ever stopped 😔). 

Photo by Merve Sehirli Nasir on Unsplash
In ballet, women wear two types of shoes. The first pair of ballet shoes are usually canvas or leather and they are form fitting on the feet. Then, perhaps the more famous pair of shoes are the pointe shoes, allowing ballerinas to dance on the tips of their toes. Made out of satin, hard glue, leather, and other materials, these shoes are not comfortable. I first danced en pointe when I was twelve and continued until I stopped at fourteen. I managed to dance in a recital in them in addition to using them in class. 

I have saved my pointe shoes, which are currently in America, and one of the key things about them is that they are filled with my blood. As in, my blood has stained the box inside the shoe, and it's not like a dab here or there. The blood is in noticeable patches. 

The toe pads I used as cushions for the pointe shoes were made out of cotton and not very thick, so they didn't offer much protection. And because my shoes hurt my feet, I have some souvenirs from my time en pointe. 

I have these very faint, circular scars near the knuckles of my toes where the skin was rubbed raw off of them. My pinkie toes are also completely turned on their sides from going up on my feet all the time. There are still callouses from my time dancing, and I have not danced for quite some time. 

I often wonder about the state of my feet, what would've happened to them if I ended up pursuing ballet professionally. I kind of feel like they would've become quite hideous, but that's the price you pay when you dance on the tips of your toes. 

Cue smarmy person saying, "I suffer for my art." 
 
  • 。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆   。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆ 

25 April 2021

55 Quirky Questions for Readers

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

Today's blog post comes courtesy of The Literary Lollipop. Considering I'm reading a lot of stuff to familiarize myself with the YA fantasy genre, I'm finally in a place where I can probably answer more than one question about books! Plus, it'll be nice to talk about things I read outside of YA, too. 

  • ✧・゚: *✧・゚:*    *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

1. Favorite childhood books: 

The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series; Goosebumps; Fear Street; Bad News Ballet, and many others. 


2. What are you reading right now?

The Invincible Compendiums. I'm in Japan right now and while Invincible is available on Amazon Prime for me to watch here, they did not include the original English cast that I want to see so badly -- it's all dubbed over in Japanese with no English subtitles. While I can remember the gist of the couple issues of it I had back in the day, I forgot most of it and never finished the series, so I decided to just read all of Invincible because I can't wait anymore to see what happens. 

3. What books do you have on request at the library? 

I don't use the library here because I don't know enough Japanese to figure out how to get a library card. 

4. Bad book habit: 

For a long time, I wrote my name in pen on the inner cover of all of my books. I did this for at least a decade. Dear God, WHY?!?!

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? 

Nothing; see answer to #3.

6. Do you have an e-reader? 

Yes, I have a Kindle Fire and I might invest in a Kobo, too, because I have books on the Kobo app that are exclusive to Kobo, and I can't access the app on my current devices here. 

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? 

I prefer to read one book at a time, but I do read multiple web comics at a time. Right now I'm actively reading 28 comics on a single app alone. I subscribe to five different web comic apps.


8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Yes. This blog is ten years old and over the course of its existence my reading has waxed and waned. When it started out as a homework assignment, I read all the time because we were required to, and I wrote about what I read in actual reviews. Then it became sort of a journal about my writing journey and I stopped reading for a very long period of time. Then I started reading more because of Speculative Chic, and now that I'm doing my YA reading project, I'm back to reading regularly. However, I don't know if I'll ever go back to writing book reviews like I've done in the past. This is largely because I dislike way more books than I like, and I don't want to put that negativity out there into the world. 


9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far):

Winterwood by Shea Earnshaw.  

10. Favorite book I’ve read this year (so far):

A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

I buy books out of my comfort zone all the time -- nonfiction and literary fiction, mostly. But reading them depends entirely on my mood. The last time I read nonfiction was over the summer...so it looks like I'll dip into something else once every six months or longer. 

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

Fantasy, horror, and comics (manga/manhwa).

13. Can you read on the bus?

Nope! 

14. Favorite place to read:

In bed!

15. What’s your policy on book lending?

I do not like doing it. Every time I have done it the book never comes back to me or it comes back damaged. I don't like to borrow books, either, because I think of the anxiety that I feel when I'm separated from my own books, and I wouldn't want to wish that on anyone else. Plus, I take way too long to read if I'm not overly enthused about a book being recommended to me, so I feel guilty if I end up borrowing a book for months on end. 


16. Do you dogear your books?

I did when I was little. *SMACK*

17. Do you write notes in the margins of your books?

Not unless they were textbooks for school, otherwise they're sacred!

18. Do you break/crack the spine of your books?

NOOOOO!

19. What is your favorite language to read?

English because that's all I can read. I have attempted to read manga in Japanese several times and I'm literally just sounding out noises as I do. I don't actually understand anything that's happening. Sometimes I can still remember a little French if it pops up, but I'm not fluent in anything except English.

20. What makes you love a book?

The characters!   

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

If the characters and story are memorable and the pacing is excellent. If the book has solid imagery, too, I'll recommend it.    

22. Favorite genre:

Fantasy.   

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did):

Romance. I've read maybe three in my life but I feel like we all have something to learn from romance authors when it comes to writing. 

24. Favorite Biography:

I don't really read biography so I'm just going to say My Life by Isadora Duncan because that was the first biography I ever read and my mother gave it to me as a present because I was a dancer.


25. Have you ever read a self-help book? (And, was it actually helpful?)

I read writing and publishing self-help books all the time. As I read them, I feel like there's power surging through me, and then when I finish the book, I instantly forget what I learned. 

26. Favorite Cookbook: 

I don't read cookbooks so let's just bless whatever cookbook or family recipe handed down through the generations that enabled my mother (and I!) to make the best damned cake frosting in the world.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction):

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron ended on a surprising inspirational note!

28. Favorite reading snack:

Popcorn, but only if it's light on the butter! (Don't want it on the Kindle screen or on the book pages!)

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience:

It didn't hurt my reading experience while I was reading it, but while I reflected on the work itself afterward -- Holly Black's Folk of the Air series, starting with The Cruel Prince. 

30. How often do you agree with the critics about about a book?   

I usually disagree with the "blurbs" authors put on each others' books for each other, and I disagree almost always with the "for folks who like Title of Book by Author" because I think those comparisons are almost always wrong and they're only connected in the loosest ways. I tend to avoid critical reviews from the New York Times and similar publications altogether, so the only other time I look at criticism is through Amazon and Goodreads. Reader reviews are very important to me. I pay attention the most to the two-star reviews because I think most books I've read lately have been two-star books, and I read those reviews for validation of any negative experience I've had with a book. I find one-star reviews and sometimes five-star reviews wildly off the mark. 

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

I used to be open about sharing how much I disliked a book and didn't really censor how I felt about it. Sometimes I got downright snarky. But I'm a writer and I'm friends with writers and now that I've seen behind the curtain I *know* how personal it is for writers when they are given any feedback whatsoever. So I think I want to curb how and where I criticize a work. I will still openly admit what I've liked and disliked, but I don't think I'm going to bash anything publicly anymore. I might razz heavily on a book in private, but I'm not going to devote time on my blog to negative reviews anymore. 

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?

I want to read in Japanese SO BADLY! I have soooo much manga on my Kindle that I can't read! I keep buying it without understanding any of it!

33. Most intimidating book I’ve read:

I was going to say Les Miserables but I just remembered I didn't read an original version, just an adaptation...so now it's The Lord of the Rings. If you haven't picked up on it yet, size is very intimidating.

34. Most intimidating book I’m too nervous to begin:

Every book in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I will probably never read them. 

35. Favorite Poet:

Edgar Allan Poe. He's the most-memorized poet, anyway.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out from the library at any given time?

Usually eight to twelve books.  

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?

 Pretty often, if the book doesn't grab me right away. But I do try to at least skim books before returning them. 

38. Favorite fictional character:

Josephine March   

39. Favorite fictional villain:

Loki   

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation:

Comics  

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading:

I've always been reading something, but good old-fashioned fiction novels had an almost ten-year break there.

42. Name a book you could/would not finish:

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker. I dumped this within a few pages. I could NOT stand the narrative's simultaneous pretentiousness and whimsy.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

Sound and movement.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel:

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation. I'm surprised it's still held up over all these years!   

45. Most disappointing film adaptation:

Ok, I *never* read these books but I couldn't get through about 20 minutes of the Mortal Instruments movie before finding it absolutely ridiculous, so I'm sure if I was a fan of the books I'd be devastated because the movie made those books look awful.    

46. Most money I’ve ever spent in a bookstore at one time:

Over $100, easy.  

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

Maybe just the first couple pages of the LOOK INSIDE feature online or physically in the book store. Sometimes I do skip to the end.    

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?

It's been happening a lot lately. I will stop halfway through a book when I realize all of the other things I could be doing with my time and that spending my life on something mediocre isn't worth it. It shouldn't be effortless, but it shouldn't take a huge amount of effort to wade through a book, either. If it feels like a punishment to get to a reward, or there is no reward in sight, I'm done.    

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

I do but I can never *keep* them organized.    

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once they’ve been read?

I prefer to keep them but over the years I've gotten rid of them by giving them to Half-Price Books when I've been in desperate need for cash. Hence my frustrations at writing my name in the front covers of my books for many years. I've essentially ruined them.   

51. Are there any books that you’ve been avoiding?

I follow book twitter and read Goodreads reviews a lot, and trust me, once I know an author is problematic, I avoid their work. 

52. Name a book that made you angry:

The entire Folk of the Air series by Holly Black.  I loved reading these books but they pissed me off.

53. A book I didn’t expect to like but did:

 Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

54. A book I expected to like but didn’t: 

Between the Water and the Woods by Simone Snaith. 

55. Favorite guilt-free guilty pleasure reading: 

Yaoi! 😘

18 April 2021

"If Your Dreams Do Not Scare You, They Are Not Big Enough"

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
The title of this blog is a quote from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which popped up in my inbox recently. It got me thinking about my big dream, which is to publish my novels.  

The good news, which sounds braggy, is I already hit some other writing dreams during the course of my life. I always wanted to write and produce a musical, and in my twenties I did that with Melancholia (2006). I always wanted my writing to be published, and I've done that through my poetry with various online journals. (It's been quite a long time since I've put something out, though, given all my free writing time is currently devoted to Son of the Siren). 

The next big whopper is seeing my books out there in print, on the bookshelves, in major bookstores across the nation, and maybe across the world, too. 

But I have some fears with this goal.

This post might take you on a different journey than what the inspirational quote intended. I'm going to vent about the biggest thing that scares me about publishing my work. 

  • ✧・゚: *✧・゚:*    *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

I'm writing YA and I feel an incredible responsibility towards my readers to be inclusive, to not tell the stories that do not belong to me or to appropriate cultures that are not mine, and to proceed with heavier content with the utmost care and consideration. There is the fear that my work will harm others, because I legitimately think the stuff I wrote in the past did harm people to some degree. 

I remember a friend of mine apologizing for leaving one of my plays before intermission, In the Hands of Mr. Hyde (2007), because his girlfriend was exceedingly uncomfortable with the attempted assault depicted on the stage. She had to leave because my work harmed her. There's no other way to describe what happened. 

We had no notice printed on our advertisements nor in the program that we were going to depict some adult themes, violence, and sexual situations, and we totally should have. It's one of my great regrets that the shows that I wrote -- which shared similar content -- did not contain these notices, and I did not consider my audience or my actors as I wrote these scenes.  

I see nothing wrong with content warnings. I don't think they encourage people not to read. I think they are a way of alerting readers to activate whatever coping mechanisms they have developed for themselves to handle topics that may be a challenge to them. A content warning is the mysterious old man in the cave who tells the hero, "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!" and the "this" is what you need to get through a text, the thing every reader determines for themselves to equip when they encounter heavier, darker subject matter. We should have had them with my work, and I should use them going forward when the situation calls for it. 

The book that I'm writing, Son of the Siren, contains similar sexual situations as in my earlier works, because it's based on the fairy tale Donkeyskin. In that story, the king tries to marry his own daughter and the implications of that are horrifying. In my story, the Queen goes after her own stepson, Lirien. I do not depict rape, but the Queen technically assaults Lirien by forcing her kisses on him, or touching him against his will. I am proceeding cautiously but there's still the fear that what I'm doing may be a lot to handle, especially for YA audiences. Sometimes it's even too much for me, as it's brought up a lot of trauma from my past as I write. But I'm working through it and I'm using it as a barometer for what readers may potentially feel. I hope I'm doing my readers right by the way I've approached this content, and it's part of the reason why I've been taking so long drafting the book. 

I have so many other fears about putting my work out there with the goal of mass consumption. What if I never get an agent or become published? What if my books won't sell? What if people hate what I have to say? How the heck do I write and publicize at the same time? How well known do I want to be? Should I have used a pen name instead of my real name? I was a shitty person in my past during the early era of my bipolar disorder  -- will my mistakes come back to haunt me even though I've worked through them, paid for them, and changed myself completely? What is the price of becoming a public figure, even if nobody knows who you are? And you can add 37 different et ceteras to my laundry list of fears. 

A lot of these are irrational. A lot of this is putting the cart before the horse. I get that. But sometimes when I'm doubting myself or going through imposter syndrome, these fears hit me hard. 

It's something I expect to be working on over the course of my life as a writer. 

Much thanks to all of my friends, family, and writing colleagues who have, over the years, listened to me ramble about this stuff. You've helped me cope immensely; now the rest of the work lies with me. 

  • ✧・゚: *✧・゚:*    *:・゚✧*:・゚✧


11 April 2021

The YA Fantasy Reading Project: Feb. - Mar. 2021

Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash
It occurred to me I forgot to update everyone about my the reading project. I got off to a great start in December and January, reading a total of 24 books! I was so ambitious I even made little graphs with a plan to statistically analyze the books I was reading to determine what I saw as trends in the genre!

As much as I wanted to continue reading at the same speed and in the same vein, something happened these next two months. 

Reading became really difficult for me again. 

I'm sure it's a couple factors. I was really sick in January so I missed a lot of work and had a lot of time on my hands. When I wasn't sleeping, I was reading in bed. Plus, the holidays meant more breaks from work in general anyway. 

I was also dealing with a huge case of writer's block. If I'm not on Netflix, my free time is spent at the computer writing. So, with that time freed up, I also continued to read. 

I read voraciously because I was looking for an answer to my problems with writing, and it was all with the goal of pulling me out of my writer's block. 

When February rolled around, I was back at work, back to the daily grind, and...back to writing! There went a huge chunk of free time. 

But that's not to say I didn't read during these last two months. I just also spent time reading things outside of the project. I read graphic novels like Flamer and The Magic Fish and  every volume of Given available. I read other YA outside of fantasy, like Ghost Boys

I also started compiling a list of DNF titles (Did Not Finish) for my own amusement, and this month, I DNF'd three YA fantasy titles (I've decided not to name and shame). 

After that preamble, here's what I managed to read in two months, with very little concentration and attention span for reading. 


I seem to have chosen books with beautiful covers, though! 

I've been reading in April but I'm still going very slowly. I haven't finished the book I started in March yet. 

Apparently my brain can only handle so many things at one time, and reading seems to be the first thing to go. I have to admit I'm disappointed in myself, but this project is going to last a year, so maybe I'll pick things up again in the later months. 

The good news is, this girl is writing again, so maybe the project was a great idea to help with writer's block. If you're ever stuck, may I suggest reading to get inspired? 

I'll update again for April and May...so stay tuned!

10 April 2021

"Writerlicious" is featured in Flipboard's Today's Picks!

I got some fun news in my email! 

Writerlicious, the Flipboard magazine I've curated for years and years, was chosen for the April 10th Today's Picks! 

I *think* I started Writerlicious in 2010 or 2011 -- it coincides with when I started graduate school, because my graduate school gave everybody iPads and Flipboard was one of the first apps I downloaded. 

It was originally a magazine for my own personal use, but I accidentally left it public, so when I started getting large amounts of subscribers I just thought, what the heck, I'll curate it for everyone. So I subscribe to numerous email newsletters, digests, and websites in order to find articles worth flipping into my magazine for others to read.

I didn't realize Writerlicious would grow to the size it has today. 

As of writing this:

Pretty cool, huh? 

I try to add articles everyday. You do not need the Flipboard app to read Flipboard or Writerlicious. So why don't you stop by and take a look at my magazine? I hope there's something there you'll find useful and encouraging. 

Thank you so much to the editorial staff at Flipboard for selecting my magazine as Today's Picks! It's much appreciated. 



27 March 2021

It's Time for Another Writers #Ask

By Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

Today's Writers #Ask meme comes from tumblr user M. Kirin, a fellow author and artist. M. Kirin's blog is full of all sorts of juicy, helpful things for writers, so take a look!

✧༺♥༻✧

01: When did you first start writing?


I was writing my own creative stories with original characters by age six or seven. That's the earliest I can remember. 

02: What was your favorite book growing up?


Books by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, the Bad News Ballet Series...I guess I can also say Harry Potter although I didn't start reading them until I was 14.

03: Are you an avid reader?


I was, then for a long time I wasn't, and now I'm back to being an avid reader again, though it is with great difficulty. I just don't have the concentration I used to to plow through books like I did back in the day. 

04: Have you ever thrown a book across the room?


To hurt someone, yes, in a fit of childish violence. Like, I actually think I was a stupid kid throwing a book at another stupid kid. 

05: Did you take writing courses in school/college?


So, this is going to sound funny, but even though I have two English degrees, I only technically took a single writing course, Playwriting, as an undergrad, and didn't actually take the official Creative Writing class there at all. It wasn't until I was in graduate school that I took formal writing courses. Everything else was in literature.

I did participate in the Young Writers at Kenyon Workshop when I was in high school, so maybe that should count as writing courses. But for a long time I didn't take any and just did my own thing. 

Now I want to take writing courses all the time. Over the years I have purchased several online courses from different places like EdX and Coursera and even directly from authors themselves, but have yet to actually take them because of timing. But I want more certifications and notices of completion, dammit! I want to learn to write all the time. I don't think I can ever stop learning.

06: Have you read any writing-advice books?


Yes. I had to read them for graduate school; I've read them for my own personal enjoyment; and then I own a ton of them just because I think I can learn through some magical thinking osmosis (as in the very nature of them being on my shelves means I have acquired the knowledge therein, bwa ha ha). I like Jeff VanderMeer's Book Life and  Jeff Gerke's Plot Versus Character.


07: Have you ever been part of a critique group?


Not formally. When I was in graduate school we were assigned critique partners every semester and that's where I got my critique group experience. Since graduating I've not joined any critique groups because the name of that game is reciprocity...which is a great thing for nurturing writing relationships and getting eyes on your work, but you have to be able to devote the time and energy to other people's writing beyond your own because the whole process is an exchange. 

I can barely get my own writing done right now as it is, so I've not joined critique groups because I can't hold up my end of the bargain with reading and commenting on someone else's work. Kinda makes me feel like a jerk, but that's where I'm at. 

08: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten?


I've been told on several occasions that my writing is beautiful or my imagery is beautiful. 

09: What’s the worst piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten?


I've been told that I was wrong about something I did copious amounts of research on, where my research proved that I was right or at least what I was talking about was possible. 

This is the whole "Tiffany/Theophania" thing -- aka Jo Walton's "Tiffany Problem" -- where reality is apparently too unrealistic for people. 

10: What’s your biggest writer pet-peeve?


Well, right now it seems to be authors using first-person POV like it's third-person. I wrote about it at length here (scroll down to #5 on the list), but basically I've encountered several books where the character is speaking in first person but third-person narration takes over -- suddenly it is The Author's Voice© invading the text. I'm talking about complete changes in voice, syntax, vocabulary, diction, and an emphasis on describing things that aren't relative to a character's thoughts or feelings but are simply the Author doing Authorial Things. I highly recommend clicking on my link to get a better recap of my argument. 

11: What’s your favorite book cover?


I don't have a favorite, but here are some to give you an idea of what I like. 




12: Who is your favorite author?


I don't have one. I like to list a few: Juliet Marillier, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Robin McKinley, N.K. Jemisin, Patricia McKillip, Ursula Le Guin, and more. 

13: What’s your favorite writing quote?


It's not a writing quote but it's still about being imaginative, and it's from Alice in Wonderland: "Some times I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast." 

14: What’s your favorite writing blog? 


Shameless self-promotion: I have several favorites, so I take all of their articles and compile them into a Flipboard, Writerlicious, which you can check out here. It has over 64,000 viewers and 13,000 subscribers.

15: What would you say has inspired you the most?


Fairy tales, more than anything! 

16: How do you feel about movies based on books?


I am always going to think the book is better because of how immersive books are. And nothing can beat the images you come up with in your own brain as you read. However, I do enjoy movies based on books and love to see how they interpret the things I love. Of course there have been bad adaptations, and sometimes I’ve watched them before reading the books. Some of them have been so bad that they turned me off from ever wanting to read the source material (I’m looking at you, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones).

17: Would you like your books to be turned into TV shows, movies, video games, or none?


I definitely want a TV series, but in particular an animated TV series done in anime style. The Name and the Key could be live action, too, but Son of the Siren I think would particularly thrive with animation. I would love it if Kyoto Animation or Studio Mir did it.

If a Hollywood Studio was like “we’d rather make a movie than a TV show,” I would not tell them no. And if a company was like, “we’d like to make a video game” I would not say no, although I think the books would be better as visual novels than playable games.

18: How do you feel about love triangles?


Not a fan.

19: Do you prefer writing on a computer or longhand?


I’ve answered this question multiple times, and my responses keep evolving slightly. I tend to use longhand in a notebook for research and type the drafts directly into Word. I do not rough draft by hand. But now, I’ve taken to writing dialogues with myself directly in my notebooks where I try to work out some issues with the book. It comes across like, “I need X to happen,” and me responding to myself with, “You could try A, B, and C, but here’s what works and doesn’t work with each,” and I write it all out. I’ve filled two notebooks so far with this method. I’m basically thinking on paper.

20: What’s your favorite writing program?


I bought The Novel Factory software within the past year to help with plotting and I loved playing with it. While I have since changed my plot, I still found it very helpful just trying to hammer something out in advance.

I also like Notebook.ai for worldbuilding and Angela He’s Live Portrait Maker smartphone application (Girls and Guys) for initial character creation.

21: Do you outline?


Usually, no, although I did make one with Novel Factory that seemed good enough for a while until I changed everything while in the process of writing.

22: Do you start with characters or plot?


I start with characters. The easiest thing is coming up with people and the hardest part is giving them stuff to do.
 

23: What’s your favorite & least favorite part of making characters?


  • Favorite: giving them names and coming up with their appearance
  • Least favorite: deciding how they should speak (I don't dislike this, it's just hard sometimes)

24: What’s your favorite & least favorite part of plotting?


  • Favorite: Choosing plot points that push characters to change or question who they are
  • Least Favorite: Everything in between that

25: What advice would you give to young writers?


Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing. There’s a lot of advice out there (and hey, here’s mine!) that says you should do X, Y, and Z to be a writer, and if you can’t fit yourself into that mold, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. You do you and be kind to yourself along the way (this is advice I need to follow, too!)

26: Which do you enjoy reading the most: physical, eBook, or both?


There’s been an ebb and flow with this. I prefer physical books because I think they are beautiful, but since coming to Japan, I’ve acquired a lot of books that I will eventually have to get rid of before returning to the USA, so I’ve basically done something very impractical by loading up on hardcovers and paperbacks while here. 

I started buying eBook versions of everything so I could “take home” these books easily, and I am reading YA now entirely in eBook form. And I love that you can highlight words and it’ll bring up the dictionary or wiki on the word or phrase. So at the moment, eBooks are very practical and are an easy way to grow my library and make it portable. Plus, some of the books that have been around rereleased versions with absolutely beautiful updated eBook covers that makes me glad I purchased electronic versions. 

27: Which is your favorite genre to write?


Fantasy. And I’ve pretty much decided now that it’s going to be YA fantasy.

28: Which do you find hardest: the beginning, the middle, or the end?


So, for most of these #asks I’ve always said the beginning and generally this is true, but I have to tell you that I’m in the middle of Son of the Siren and it is a slog, partially because I still don’t 100% know what I’m doing. I’ve consulted Midpoint Magic by H.R. D’Costa to try to jumpstart my brain in how to navigate this. I think going forward I have to amend my answer and say the middle of the novel is now the hardest for me.

29: Which do you find easiest: writing or editing?


Editing. I’m pretty good with developmental edits. I’d like to say I’m good with proofreading and line edits, and I would say so when I’m looking at someone else’s work, but when it comes to my own I tend to miss mistakes more often. 

30: Have you ever written fan-fiction?


Yes. I wrote fan fiction before it was a thing. Back in high school I wrote some Harry Potter spoofs and stories…and mind you, this is back when the books were coming out for the first time and you had to wait in between volumes. So, we’re talking the late 90s, early 2000s. 

I also have written dirty Dramatical Murder fanfic and an unfinished Darker than Black fanfic. 

I have never posted my fanfiction online. It’s too personal to me and I don’t feel comfortable sharing it. 

31: Have you ever been published?


Yes. Small stuff when I was in junior and senior high school not worth mentioning (and also not in existence anymore), plus some poetry I wrote after grad school that was published by Synaeresis Magazine, Ex Fic, and First Class Literary. I’ve been too busy working on the novels to write and submit smaller works, so my last publication was years ago. 

32: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?


I wish more of my friends read my stuff, but I don’t expect them to, and the few that have are already are smart, creative people in their own right, so any attention they’ve given has been like a treasure to me. 

My family reads what I write, and they’re all readers and critical, so I don’t feel like there is a bias there just because I’m a sister or daughter. I appreciate that they are willing to read my work. 

33: Are you interested in having your work published?


Yes. I want people to read what I write. I write for others just as much as I write for myself. I am interested in self-publishing but I can’t afford to do it to my standards, and there’s something prestigious and amazing about traditional publishing (plus, money flows to the author, not the other way around), so that’s what I’d like to do first – go through a publishing house. 

34: Describe your writing space.


I have two here in Japan. I have my massive writing nook which consists of a fancy desk made of metal and plate glass, with shelves holding manga and gemstones and little statues and figures from shrines, plus books on the writing craft and custom artwork of characters from my books. 

The desk is a little low (that is often the way of it when it comes to furniture here) and brushes against the top of my legs, so when it gets too uncomfortable, I will whip out a tray table and write from my couch bed on my laptop. 

35: What’s your favorite time of day for writing?


Evenings. My brain is at its best then

36: Do you listen to music when you write?


I usually do, but Son of the Siren has been different. I haven’t listened to music or made a playlist for it because the novel has lots of music in it that I must make up myself – song lyrics, descriptions of melody and singing, etc. Because I’m inventing my own music, I have not listened to anything while I write so that way I have a clear frame of mind. 

Not that there aren’t influences creeping into the work – I have a couple English folk songs whose syllable patterns have swayed the lyrics to a certain degree – but the tunes I’ve come up with on my own. 

37: What’s your oldest WIP?


It’s going to be The Name and the Key because I’ve decided to completely rewrite it from the ground up. Although I finished in 2013, I plan on rebooting it to get rid of the cultural appropriation in it (I came to this conclusion on my own; I lifted too much from Roma culture and ended up perpetuating stereotypes despite my efforts). This has been put on hold, but it’s still an ongoing project, so I reckon right now, it’s all 11-year old WIP because it was started in 2010. 

38: What’s your current WIP?


Son of the Siren. It started out as a graphic novel in 2013; was shelved for a long time because the project was too ambitious for me; then rewritten and replotted (and characters renamed, which is rare for me!) to be a novel starting in 2018. 

It’s influenced by three fairytales: Donkey Skin, the Little Mermaid, and The Six Swans (and its variants). Here's the rough premise:

Lirien is a half-human, half-siren Prince who calls on the power of the siren song to rescue his father the King, but the absolute worst person imaginable hears it and is bewitched by it – the Queen, who will stop at nothing to possess Lirien. Using forbidden magic to force Lirien’s love, the Queen’s spell backfires, stealing Lirien’s voice, and turning his siblings into wild animals. He has three years to break the spell to recover his voice and his family, or else they will be lost forever.  

39: What’s the weirdest story idea you’ve ever had?


A musical set in the 18th century in a gothic South with characters like Marie Tourniquette and Doc Carrion, filled with reanimated corpses throwing balls and falling in love with the living, among other things. It never got off the ground, and it’s probably best, because the concept was problematic for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here. 

40: Which is your favorite original character, and why?


Andresh, who is charming as all get out. Just a sexy magician, basically, who is fun to write. And everybody seems to love him. 

41: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline?


I let them do their thing and try to follow them down the rabbit hole. 

42: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?


Yes and no. I like giving them challenges that test who they are and bring about emotional moments, and sometimes those challenges bring about suffering. But I don’t smack my hands together and laugh evilly when something awful happens to them. A lot of times I feel kind of bad for putting them through the wringer. 

43: Have you ever killed a main character?


No. But I’m not averse to it anymore. I thought I would be, and for a long time I was, but now I think there’s a possibility there I hadn’t considered before. But I think it would be very hard to pull off.

44: What’s the weirdest character concept you’ve ever come up with?


In the fay realm in Son of the Siren (named Elythia), I have a vampiric walking-stick creature named Berach who wants to eat my lead character. He’s only there for a few paragraphs, but picturing him in my head was pretty funny and weird. 

45: What’s your favorite character name?


I’m really partial to the name Lirien. It’s inspired by Lir/Llyr/Ler, Celtic gods affiliated with the sea. 

46: Describe your perfect writing space.


I like the setup I have in Japan, but it would be perfect if the table was higher off the ground so I have room for my legs, and a really plush office chair. 

47: If you could steal one character from another author and make then yours, who would it be and why?


I really like Nathaniel Thorn in A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. He’s just a lot of fun. I don’t think I’d “make him mine” as in steal him, because I don’t know what I’d put him in, but if it meant I could hang out with him and go on adventures, I would. There’s something about charming magicians that really gets my heart racing.  

48: If you could write the next book of any series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?


I’d continue the Folk of the Air series by Holly Black and fix a lot of stuff with Cardan and Jude. I had a whole ramble typed out here about why it was problematic, but I deleted it because it got a little snarky. Let’s just say I’ve never loved and hated a series before like I have this one. 

49: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?


I have answered a question like this before and flirted with the idea of collaboration, but if I truly think about it, I really don’t want to collaborate with anyone. I’m too slow, too picky, too stubborn, and too selfish. 


50: If you could live in any fictional world, which would it be?


I have to give another shout out to Margaret Rogerson. I liked the world of An Enchantment of Ravens very much. Or I could see myself living in Erith from Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s Bitterbynde trilogy

24 March 2021

Why I'm Trying to Go Traditional

Greetings!

As I work on Son of the Siren, I figure I'd take a moment to talk about my eventual goal with the work: traditional publishing. I've thought long and hard about this and I've come to this conclusion for several reasons that narrow down to one huge reason.

The whopper: as much as I want to self-publish, I literally cannot afford to invest in it. I keep a file on my computer called "The Price of Indie" and log in expenses regularly to give me a rough idea of how much things cost, and while I haven't priced everything I need to, we're talking a least a couple thousand dollars, which I definitely do not have.


I know there are cheaper ways to go about getting things like covers, editing, formatting, graphics for ads, etc., but I have very high standards and I'm pretty set in my ways with who I want to work with and what type of things I want. To give you an example, if I want developmental edits on an 80,000 word manuscript, one of the quotes I've gotten is $695. For commercially licensed custom art commissions for covers, I've seen quotes at $500. So... just two things I want costs almost $1200.

Again, I'm aware that I can get it cheaper, but I've seen what cheaper has to offer and I'm unimpressed.

This is one of the reasons why traditional publishing is so appealing to me. Money flows to the author, not the other way around.

This infographic (used with permission) from QueryLetter.com breaks down the pros and cons of traditional publishing quite well:


The pros that appeal most to me:

  • Print distribution -- I want to see my books on the shelves in stores
  • Professional team -- I don't have to pay for the editors and designers who work on the book
  • No upfront costs -- I can't afford to invest in self-publishing so this is preferred
Now, self-publishing has always appealed to me largely because I'm a huge control freak, and if I am traditionally published I give up that control, which is something I have to learn to cope with (mostly I'm thinking about book covers and keeping the original titles of my manuscripts). I'm not altogether worried about letting someone else design a book cover, though, because I do believe we are in a Golden Age of beautiful book design.


I mean, take a look at some of these covers!



What about you, dear readers? If you are a writer interested in publishing, what route do you wish to take? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

14 March 2021

I hit 50% of the book!

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash
Just a quick post to give you an update on Son of the Siren.  In a recent post, I shared that I cut 78 pages of writing (not sure how many words that was). 

Since that major cut in February, I have recouped those missing page counts and I checked my word count last night. I'm at 40,707 words. 

My goal for the book is to reach 80,000 words, so this means I finally crossed the halfway point of the book!

Years ago...like 2013 or 2014, Son of the Siren was conceptualized as a graphic novel. I made a cover and the first page for it, and it took forever, and I realized the project was way too ambitious for someone of my ability. 

But the story never went away. I made lots of changes to it over the years, but basically I wanted to do some fairy tale retellings, blurring them all together, and that concept stayed throughout the work. 

In 2018, I started writing an actual novel draft. 

It looks like based on my writing history (I'm only judging this based on the other book I've written, The Name and the Key, which was my graduate thesis) that honestly it takes me three years to write a book. This is far too slow for my liking, but it looks like until I get more practice doing so, this is how I roll. 

My goal is to complete this draft in full before I go back to America, so that means summer of 2022. This makes it four years of drafting, but I want this baby to be good. Not just good. Excellent. 

I want this book to be the one that nabs me an agent and opens the door for me to traditional publishing. 

I'm full of big hopes and dreams, and I'm so glad I finally reached the halfway point of my book's word count. 

I don't think it's the halfway point of the actual story, necessarily, but again, I'm not done yet, so it's hard to judge where this book will take me. 

Wish me luck!