Sunday, July 5, 2020

Recognizing Myself in My Protagonists


I am not an author with any interest in writing a self-insert main character.  (How boring would that be?  Very.)  However, of course, all my main characters have part of me in them.  So as an exercise in self-awareness and reflection, and in order of date written . . .


1.     Maeron from The Fifth Tunnel is my loneliness and uncertainty.

2.     Mort from Swallowgate is my trust, both rightly and wrongly given.

3.     Logan and Alissa from Logic’s Emporium of Stolen Memories are my immovability, both positive and negative.  Both, in different ways, put up with/don’t act in situations for far longer than they should; they cannot be moved.  But then when they hit a breaking point and finally do move, they resettle themselves against their adversaries – and their adversaries cannot move them.

4.     Stephen from The Monsters of Stephen Enchanter is my expectation of rejection and my drive to create.

5.     Acacia and Quietus from Wizard: Deceased are the sorts of people I like to make friends with.

6.     Mercedes from Bargaining Power is my aggression and strength.

7.     The clockwork man from The Land of the Purple Ring is my honesty, optimism, and naiveté.



I think it’s worth noting that these traits get far more positive as time goes on, although all of them are forever true of me.  And also that The Land of the Purple Ring was written right after a time of trauma and stress and betrayal.  When writing that book, I swore none of the ugliness done to me would infect my book.  And I am very proud of the fact that none of it did.  That is my victory.

(Mercedes would approve.)

I do find it interesting that none of these are my academic self.  The closest to that would be Mervyn from Wizard: Deceased and Chancellor Thomas from Bargaining Power.  Then again, that’s not what I love to see in a protagonist, so . . .




Monday, June 8, 2020

Recommendations: Anime, Manga, Light Novels, and Adaptations

==Japanese Media and Me: A History==

A year and a half ago, I didn’t like manga or anime.  There are three reasons for this: 1) I don’t natively do well with graphic novels, being very word-oriented.  I don’t naturally really examine pictures, so I miss a lot when I read them unless I consciously force myself.  2) I find a lot of animation ugly—including the style in popular anime like Naruto.  3) Not having any understanding of either Japanese culture or media, a lot of it simply didn’t make sense to me.  So I couldn’t follow it, couldn’t understand it, and found much of it visually repugnant—not a promising start.

Then a year and a half ago, Netflix gave me a free month, and I ended up watching the live action movie of Bleach.  And I adored it.  I dearly wanted more, but what more was there?  Just anime and manga.  But I was desperate, and I could tell by the loving and subtle details that the film was almost certainly a very good adaptation of the source material.  (Note: I was right.)  So I grit my teeth and started watching the anime.

It took me a little over 3.5 months to watch all 366 episodes and 4 movies.  But by the end, I’d gained enough understanding to enable me to read manga—and I proved it by reading Descendants of Darkness.  I also discovered that although I couldn’t bear the art styles of some anime, there were other styles I liked just fine.

But I still preferred live action.  I went about devouring live action adaptations (see list below), and I kept coming across Death Note.  Willing to give it a shot, I tried watching the live action TV show . . . and concluded that the story was no good.  So I tried the other live action TV show and it was also dreadful.  I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to watch the cowardly, shriveling, dull Light as a main character. 

But I kept coming across Death Note, and I’d become more comfortable with anime.  It wore me down.  So I decided maybe, maybe, I’d just try the anime.  So I sat down and began it.  It seemed to start in much the same way as the live action shows, but then—but then—!!!!

Then, the end of episode 2.  Then Light being what he should have been.  A powerful, decisive, brilliant, deadly, devious, horrible, wonderful main character.  And I was hooked.

Hooked on the story—not on anime or manga (oddly, I found to my surprise I actually possibly preferred the manga, though that is of all forms the most difficult for me to consume).  Still, it seemed to end there . . . until two months ago, when Netflix gave me another free month, and I discovered The Irregular at Magic High School and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan.  And then I hurt my leg and I’ve had nothing to do but elevate it and watch anime and read the source material and . . .

Well. 

Here we go.

==Notes==


In all cases for anime and film, I’ve watched in Japanese with English subtitles.

I read all manga in physical book form (thank you, libraries!) but light novels as ebooks. 

My deepest gratitude to the fan translators out there.  Of the below, about half the films and light novels were fan translations, done simply for love of the source material.  I would never have gotten to read/watch these without you.  Thank you so much for all your hard work!

Within sections, I kept them in alphabetical order, not ranked.  Not rankable, frankly, due to the vast differences in length and genre.

I am relatively new to anime, so this is by no means a definitive list.  I may eventually post an update if it comes to that.

If any of you wants to track down one that is not commercially available (aka there are only fan translations), leave me a message and I’ll send you a link.


==Top Anime==

Criteria: I watched every episode and craved more, so I went on to find as much more of it as I could, including purchasing part or all of it and reading the source material.  These stories touched me on a deeper level; they spoke to me. 

BLEACH

A soul reaper gives Ichigo her powers so he can save his little sister . . . and then can’t get them back.  So he has to do her job and then some.  Action-adventure, light/dark mix; anime leans light but manga leans dark.

Why I love it: It has true heart.  I like almost all the many characters.  It has great action.  It managed to shock and devastate me (in a good way) with a brilliant twist.

Its flaws: um.  Some pacing issues: too slow for most of it and too fast near the end.  A few really annoying characters.

Other media: I’ve also read the first two arcs of the manga.  Due to the action-packed nature of the story, I prefer the anime.  Also, some of the fillers are quite good and one filler arc is excellent.  Though they do create a few pacing issues, the fillers do something very important: they let us get to know characters much better and make us care about them more and makes them care more about one another—so it makes more sense the lengths Ichigo goes for them.
See live action movies, below.  Of the four anime movies, they get better as they go along—with the third and fourth being the best.

(366 episodes + 4 animated movies.  More episodes coming next year!)


DEATH NOTE

Two geniuses battle to the death: one with supernatural powers, the other with greater experience and resources.  Cerebral thriller, dark.

Why I love it: Unlike so many stories about geniuses . . . Light and L actually act like it.  Aggressively.  There are moments of true brilliance.  And on top of that, they’re also deeply human and flawed. 

Its flaws: the second arc is bad.  Stick with the first one.

Other media: I’ve read the first arc of the manga.  I may slightly prefer it to the anime.  I do not recommend the live action TV shows, but see below in my live-action films section (no, not the Netflix film.  Don’t lynch me; I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to).

(37 episodes)


THE IRREGULAR AT MAGIC HIGH SCHOOL

A powerful sister and her seemingly useless brother enroll in magic high school—but the brother’s more than he seems, and strange things are afoot.  Action-school drama, fairly light.

Why I love it: it adores magic.  To a frankly ridiculous extent.  It treats magic like hard sci-fi treats technology.  It delves into it in detail that should be but isn’t dull.  And beyond that, it’s magic high school. Nuff said.

Its flaws: the real problems in the story don’t crop up until later in the light novel series, and those books haven’t yet been adapted.

Other media: I’ve read the first 16 light novels.  The first 15 have been officially translated, and 16–30 have fan translations of varying quality.  I decided not to read further.  The first 4 are very good, but it goes downhill from there as the series loses the high school element and OPs its characters too much and runs into/increases a few other issues.  So I’d stick with the first couple of arcs—which is what the anime currently is (but season 2 is coming soon).

(26 episodes)


NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN

Middle-schooler Rikou is 1/4 yokai (ghost/monster/bogeyman) and 3/4 human.  He’s also heir to the Nura yokai clan, and he’s going to need to power up both his human and yokai forms to defeat evil and protect monsters and humans alike.  Action-adventure, fairly light.

Why I love it: Rikou is a true leader in the best sense of the word.  Beyond that . . . um.  I love monsters?  And these have great designs.  This show is clever and has real heart and humor.  Of all the stories on the list, this is the one that makes me say, “I’d like to write something like that.”

Its flaws: only the first half of the manga was adapted.  I want more.

Other media: I’ve read the rest of the story in manga form and plan to read the earlier volumes also.  The manga is excellent.

(48 episodes)


==Honorable Mentions==

Criterion: I happily watched every episode.

AKASHIC RECORDS OF THE BASTARD MAGIC INSTRUCTOR

The new teacher at a magic high school is unmotivated and subpar and clearly wants to be anywhere else.  So why did the most powerful magician in the world recommend him?  And what will happen when baddies strike?  Awesomeness—but not OP, surprisingly enough.  Action-comedy, mostly light.

I’ve read light novels vol 1, 6,7, and 8, and am working on 2—the anime covers 1–5 faithfully.  Thank you, fan translators!  The LNs aren’t brilliant, but they’re quite decent.  This show is fun and occasionally clever.  I would watch more, and I’m reading further in the light novels to learn what happens next.  

(12 episodes)


ARIFURETA: FROM COMMONPLACE TO WORLD'S STRONGEST

Class of kids gets sucked into fantasy world a la video game with a labyrinth.  The deeper you go, the more dangerous.  Hajime’s powers are the weakest of anyone’s, and a bully makes him fall of the edge—far deeper into the labyrinth than he can possibly survive.  And yet he does survive. Action with elements of romance, starts dark but ends light.

So, this show is messy.  I ended up reading the first light novel because the show skipped over too much important information—but the light novel was pretty poor.  Also, it turns into a full-blown shameless harem anime.  But I watched all of it.  Why?  Because it has elements I love, and core potential that it doesn’t entirely squander.  (Finally, a protagonist who shoots rather than putting down his gun for the baddie!)  So while I wouldn’t watch more, I’m not unhappy I enjoyed this much.

(13 episodes)


SWORD ART ONLINE

10,000 players, including Kirito, enter a fully immersive virtual reality MMORPG . . . and discover can only leave if they win the game.  And that if they die in the game, they’ll die in real life, too. Action-adventure-romance-drama, light/dark mix leaning light.

The light novels for this are decent but really add nothing to the show.  Um.  This is fun.  There’s quite a bit of it, and some arcs are much better than others, but none are bad.

(86 episodes)


THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME

After being knifed, a man reincarnates as a slime in a magical world.  He gains new powers by devouring monsters and becomes a powerful leader.  Adventure, light.

It’s deliciously fun and very, very well done.  It’s clever and funny and shows an example of frankly good leadership.  I would definitely watch more.  Also, this wins my “best title” award.

(26 episodes)


==Best Live Action Films==

Criterion: I enjoyed enough to watch these again.

AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN

Kei is ajin, which means he resets every time he dies.  It also means he’s stuck between government experimentation and psychopathic ajin.  Action, dark.

I watched a fan translation.  This is by the same action team and lead actor as Kenshin (below).  Lots of great action, though not a whole lot else.


ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM

A light-hearted, life-affirming movie about a teacher training his class to assassinate him.  Action-drama, light.

I’m not being sarcastic.  It really is light-hearted and life-affirming.  It’s not a brilliant movie, but it is very fun.  The sequel wasn’t great.  If I remember correctly, I watched a fan translation.


BLEACH

A faithful and loving adaptation. Action-adventure, fairly light.

With plenty of good characterization and action, and mostly good casting.


DEATH NOTE: THE MUSICAL (Kakizawa version)

Death Note . . . but a musical.  Stage production that’s been filmed.  Thriller, dark.

Um.  Kakizawa version is the best (aka the version in which Light has black hair.  There’s also a brown-haired version, but that actor plays him out of character).  This is possibly as good as its source material.  I love the music.  I have only very minor gripes.  It’s really good.  I watched an excellent fan translation.


RUROUNI KENSHIN

The world’s best swordsman-assassin has sworn never to kill again . . . but he will always protect people.  Action, light/dark mix.

Seriously impressive action.  Lead performs his own stunts. (3 films; 2 more out in 2021)


TOKYO GHOUL

When a date goes terrifyingly wrong, Ken turns into a ghoul with a clawing hunger for human flesh.  Horror-action, dark.

I didn’t watch this for a while, because it’s R for violence and gore . . . but actually, it didn’t quite pass my threshold (which is pretty low).  The lead actor deserves an award.  Beyond that—good action, deep themes.  Thought-provoking.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Fearful Power: Chapters 1 & 2

Finished Bargaining Power and want to know what happens next?  I have a gift for you. :)  Here are the first two chapters of Fearful Power (aka Power Trips book 2).  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Short Story: Key and the Monsters

Key stopped with one hand on the front doorknob, plastic grocery bag swinging on the opposite elbow.

The lights were out.  The inner lights were no big deal; his mother and stepfather always liked to get to bed early, and Sapp had school tomorrow.  (So did Key, but that had never stopped his wandering the night, and eventually, his parents had given up).  But his family had never neglected to leave the porch light on for him, however much he protested he didn’t need it. 

Even laying that aside, there was something wrong with the silence.  It should have been a sleeping house, not one holding its breath in anticipation.

Key turned the knob easily, because no door was truly locked to him after dark.  He scraped off his shoes and went to put the groceries away without turning on the light.

Interested eyes watched him, and interested feet followed him—some webbed, some clawed or slimed or bloody.  Their owners forgot to stay silent, but Key ignored them as first his parents’ and then Sapp’s bedroom doors prang open at his touch.

Key put a hand on Sapphire’s empty pillow, slept on but cold.  “We had a deal,” he said.  “I won’t be seventeen for years yet.”

Someone cleared his throat, and then something like, but not very like, mist rose from the floor.  It went liquid and silvery and then solidified into a fine-featured man.  He was handsome, of indeterminate age, with blond hair and mustache down to his waist, and clad entirely in leather pockets.  In one hand, he held an old fashioned and extraordinarily heavy harpoon.

“Bridge,” Key said, not bothering to hide his irritation even before one of his father’s strongest generals.  “What has he done?”

“The king was not the one to abduct them,” Bridge said.  “Others came.”

“Then why didn’t you stop them?”

“They were powerful,” Bridge said, “and their appearance unexpected.  You were not here to lead us.”

Key’s fist clinched, but he couldn’t be angry.  Now that he looked, he could see the signs of recent combat not only on Bridge, but on the lesser monsters as well.  Anger steamed from his skin, and he didn’t suppress it.  “Noose is here too?” he asked.  “And Nix?”

“They are.”

Key’s lips peeled back, not in a smile.  His teeth had sharpened, and moonlight glinted in the whites of his eyes and along his talons.  “In that case,” he said, in a voice no human had, “it’s time to go hunting.”


Written 5/28/20

Friday, May 8, 2020

PUBLISHED! The Land of the Purple Ring

Here it is.  I personally recommend the paperback, because of the illustrations and formatting, but I also wanted to make you all a gift for my birthday -- so the ebook will be only $0.99 the 9th (my 32nd birthday) through July.

Please, enjoy it!  I wrote this to be fun, to be ridiculous, to play with language, and to bring joy.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Author Inteview for The Land of the Purple Ring


When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

The Writing Compulsion (genus: Inspiration) is one of the most insidious, inexplicable, inexorable, and intractable items in the construction site of Imaginarium.  Often mistaken for a jellyfish when isolated, the Writing Compulsion spreads out over its host’s brain, sending tendrils into every crack and crevice, merging with every lobe and electrical field, influencing every thought and integrating with every action so thoroughly that it soon can no longer be distinguished or extracted from its host.  Nor would many hosts wish to extract it, for though when ignored it causes agony, when its wholly unreasonable demands are fulfilled it exudes chemical satisfaction beyond any other accomplishment.



Where did you get the inspiration for The Land of the Purple Ring?

Give me a random word, please.  Now another. Oh, you want me to write about knitting and mountains?  Naturally, all mountains are knitted. There is an entire clan of oysters who do nothing all day but knit mountains.  That’s why mountains have so many trees on them: the yarn pills. The center of each mountain is, of course, a pearl—for pearls are formed by layers and layers of nacre.  The oysters who form mountains use a nacre-like substance, except that it extends from them like spider’s web . . .

You see?  Like that.



Who is your biggest writing inspiration?

​Walter Moers.  L. Frank Baum.  Norton Juster.  Roald Dahl.  Vivian Vander Velde.  James Thurber.  W.S. Gilbert.

But since this is supposed to be a singular answer, I’d say: the alphabet.

It just has it all.



Tell us one weird, interesting tidbit about yourself.

I have five fingers.

(on each hand)

(including the thumb)



What does your writing space look like?

It has no look; it has only sound.  The sound of my cackling laughter.



How long have you been writing this book?

Honestly?  I wrote the first draft in three months.  Then I rewrote it by the time six months had passed.  That was, oh, about a year and a half before publication, during which time I did some editing.

This book wanted to be written so desperately, it practically wrote itself.  Maybe it too had a parasitic brain jellyfish infection.



Which character do you identify the most with in your book?

The kheir, whose bones constantly pop in and out of alignment so that it terrorized chiropractors until they appealed to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe to put a stop to it.

Monday, April 20, 2020

On Beauty and Ugliness

As part of my research for Bargaining Power and the Power Trips series in general, I looked into beauty and ugliness.  Which is to say, on the psychological studies that had been done on each, and what I found was interesting on a number of levels—the first of which being that it was easy to find studies on how differently beautiful people are treated and extremely difficult (although I did succeed) to find information on how differently ugly people are treated.

To put it another way: there is a stigma not only against being ugly (and shame on you if you were born that way) and thus a politically correct denial that ugliness exists.  “Everyone is beautiful, because true beauty is on the inside!”

Yeah, except that’s not what “beauty” means, when we’re talking about physical attractiveness.  Not everyone is beautiful.  The vast majority of people aren’t beautiful.  The vast majority are ordinary looking or within a standard deviation thereof.  To put it another way, imagine we’re talking about race.  Let’s say there are two sorts of people, blue and green.  In their culture, there is a vast and deep prejudice against blue people, but everyone denies that prejudice exists because really, everyone is green.

Do you think this attitude will lessen prejudice against blue people?  The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one.

Another example.  After doing this research, I came to the conclusion once more that I am glad I do not have the sort of beauty that makes people act significantly differently toward me.  People don’t give me free things because I’m just so beautiful, for example.  Heads don’t turn when I enter the room.  I’m not habitually objectified by the people I meet.  But what fascinates me about this?  Whenever I mention this to someone, their INSTANT response is, “But you are beautiful!”  And then they proceed to lecture me on the meaning of true beauty, etc.

In other words, they are purposefully misunderstanding what I mean and telling me that I am, in fact, what I have expressed that I am grateful I am not—and acting as if I only made the above observation because I’m . . . what?  Low confidence?  Fishing for compliments?  Do they think that because I acknowledge that I’m not instantly stunningly gorgeous I must think I’m ugly (and we mustn’t admit anyone is that!), and that nothing less than thinking myself “beautiful” will allow me to live a fulfilling life?  Are people's self-worths entirely dependent on thinking themselves beautiful?  Rather than, for example, beloved by God?

In the Merlin mini-series with Sam Neill, Morgan Le Fay uses magic to make herself beautiful.  Merlin pityingly tells her that her beauty is only skin deep, and she scornfully replies that beauty is always only skin deep.

Some people are better looking; some people are worse looking.  Acknowledging that, and acknowledging your own prejudices, will help you overcome them.

Lying will not.


Own Your Face