An origin story and series discoveries, anime edition

As I mentioned last week, I’m on Gabriela Pereira’s DIYMFA launch team (yes, the book is coming out shortly). In preparation for the launch, Gabriela has been asking us weekly questions related to DIYMFA (the site, the newsletter, the course, and the book).

This week’s question is: What is your origin story?

How this ties into DIYMFA: Gabriela has recently asked what our writerly superpower was. For the record, mine is character, which I consider to be the well-spring of all things story. In keeping with that theme, all superheroes have origin stories.

Here’s mine.

Author origins

Even pre-origin, I was a creative wee bug. Read, I was a big fibber. The other kids were more honest. They called me a liar.

It wasn’t anything big or flashy. When I was a kid, in grade one (five years old), I really wanted a pet. I was obsessed with cats and took those books out of the library to read, well, gaze at longingly. I was just learning to read.

In show and tell every day (practically) I’d tell the tale of the latest stray cat I’d found and taken in. When the other kids (and teacher) asked me about the last cat, it invariably, and conveniently, had run away.

By the time I was in grade three, I wrote a little essay (well, I was seven), on my puppy, Friskey. I named her and misspelled her name. I’d like to say it was purposeful, but I rather think I just didn’t know how to spell.

Also in grade three, there was a special presentation by the grade five students. They’d all written and illustrated story books.

The moment I saw Siobhan Riddell’s version of St. George and the Dragon, I was hooked. Hard. I made my first submission, to the CBC’s “Pencil Box,” later that year.

And that was it. I’ve been writing—and in love with writing—ever since.

Series discoveries: Anime update

Series Discoveries

Phil and I have eased off on the anime, but we still watch Fairy Tail, and now World Trigger, as they are released (weekly). Actually, they are both now in hiatus as the animators work on the next seasons.

Fairy Tail went through some backstory in this season with Fairy Tail: Zer0. It is the tale of how a young Mavis met with some intrepid treasure hunters and through a series of adventures founded the wizard guild, Fairy Tail. Zeref even makes an appearance.

Next season promises to be about the rebuilding of the guild, which, after the Tartaros arc, had disbanded and all of its members departed for parts unknown.

The storytelling is decent, but, as with most anime, there are gaps in logic or plot that irritate. It’s still all about the power of friendship, though.

World Trigger focused mostly on rank wars, which is where the manga dwells these days as well. Osamu, Kuga, and Chika are trying to make it to A-rank so they can go on away missions to the neighbour worlds in the hope of rescuing Chika’s brother and friend, who disappeared and are assumed abducted. They’re also in search of Kuga’s companion, Replica, an autonomous trion soldier, who’d sacrificed himself to save Osamu and Chika when Aftokrator, a neighbour world, attacked.

As the season ended, not one, but two other neighbour worlds would be coming into contact with Mideen, where World Trigger takes place. Rank wars were to continue, but the A-rank Border teams  would have to defend against the neighbours.

Osamu and his team of three are in a bit of a crisis as well. Osamu, though a good strategist, has very little trion, the energy that allows Border agents to use the neighbour triggers. He also has very little experience and has come up against a wall. He is struggling, and holding his team back.

Chika, though she has an amazing amount of trion, is young and kind enough that she can’t bear to target people.

Kuga, a neighbour himself, has lots of trion and lots of experience and so the team’s success has rested largely on his shoulders.

Osamu has tried to recruit a fourth member for their team, but has so far been unsuccessful.

Log Horizon has still not returned.

We watched the second season of RWBY and the story is getting darker. The huntresses in training have watched their academy, and their world, come tumbling down around them.

At the end, Yang had her hand cut off and she and Ruby were recovering at home with their father after the attack that destroyed their academy. Blake had run away after her confrontation with her former boyfriend and his terrorist faction ended disastrously. Weiss had been recalled to her family’s estate in the city.

The enemy, still a little too amorphous and mysterious for my liking, controls the beasts of Grimm and has stolen the powers of one of the four maidens, Spring.

Ruby, unwilling to let the enemy’s apparent victory go unanswered, takes off with two other former students from the academy to try to set things right.

We’ll see if the third season appears and if it answers any of the outstanding questions the series has so far left viewers with.

A new addition to our viewing line-up has been God Eater.

Post-apocalyptic Japan has been overrun by the Aragami, fearsome beasts that seem to revel in mindless destruction. With the exception of a few huge, very powerful Aragami, they don’t exhibit much intelligence.

To combat these fearsome beasts, scientists isolated the genetic material that mutated animals into Aragami in the first place. Though early experiments were disastrous, they eventually figured out that there were certain humans who would be enhanced by this genetic material rather than be taken over by it.

Lenka Utsugi is one of these humans, a God Eater. He is trained and given a weapon called a God Arc, which bonds with the wielder.

When an Aragami is killed, its ‘core’ is harvested. These cores can be used to power God Arcs, but are more important in the construction of Aegis, a domed settlement in which the remnants of the human race are to shelter.

There’s a lot more to it than that. Suffice it to say that Phil and I are enjoying it and watching the show while we wait for the others to return. We’re getting a little deeper into backstory, but the conspiracies in this series are still a little hazy for my liking.

And that’s it for this week.

I’ll see what the next DIYMFA question of the week is, but I may tackle that and midseason follies (to date). The week following is Ad Astra, and so I probably won’t blog that weekend. I’ll be too busy taking notes of the sessions I attend so that I’ll have lots of reportage ready to go after April’s next chapter update.

Series discoveries: anime edition

This weekend, I’m going to talk about the anime series Phil and I have been watching. Next weekend, I’m going to finally put forward my fall series review, even though some of them won’t have premiered yet (Supergirl) or returned (Grimm) yet.

The reason for this is that over the Hallowe’en weekend, Phil and I will be travelling to Ottawa for Can-con, so I won’t be blogging that weekend, and then, for the month of November, weekend blogging will be deferred in favour of NaNoWriMo (!)

Since I will be once more be working, and travelling for work, during the month of November, I don’t anticipate “winning,” but I certainly hope to improve upon last year’s word count.

So the next two weekends are a countdown to November’s reduced posting schedule. I’ll keep up with curation, but that’s it.

Onto the anime!

Last time, I’d mentioned that Phil and I were enjoying Log Horizon. We were, and then the show suddenly stopped production. With in a week, we learned the reason. The creator of the show was charged with tax evasion.

LH was, at the time, the most popular anime in Japan. Fans were demanding that the show’s creator be allowed to continue producing the show while he waited for his trial date. The creator announced publicly that if there was a way to continue to do so, that he would.

We haven’t seen an episode since.

It was getting to a crisis point in the current story arc. We are disappointed.

We watched the full run of Deadman Wonderland.

Interesting premise. In a society that incarcerates its citizens for the smallest infraction, a young boy finds himself in prison. Before long, he learns that by entering a deadly competition (televised for an elite, high-paying clientele), he can earn a pardon.

Very Hunger Games.

Then, joy of joys, Netflix picked up the licence for Inu Yasha. Just the first two seasons, but we watched it all. Yum.

Phil continues to watch Gintama, and started watching the live action version of Death Note. The live action DN diverged a bit from the anime storyline, but it was popular enough that the second season is in production.

We watched another new show, RWBY. It’s American, and animated a little differently, cell style, but done by computer. RWBY stands for both the colours red, white, blue, and yellow, and for the characters’ names: Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang.

They’re huntresses in an academy and they are training to hunt the Creatures of Grimm, with which the human race is fighting a pitched battle. Huntresses use dust to fuel their magic and fight the Grimm.

There’s a bit of a story around this series, as well. Marty Oum, the creator, died, but someone on the project committed to seeing the work through and the next season will be released next week. After that, who knows?

We’ve continued watching Fairy Tail, which continues to be entertaining. I find it a bit frustrating that we have to wait a whole week for the next episode, though.

We also started watching World Trigger. A world receives extra-dimensional visitors, called Neighbors, who seem bent on conquest. To defend themselves, they adapt the Neighbors’ weapons, called triggers, which can only be used by people who have large stores of a substance called trion, and create an agency called Border. Border agents train to defeat the Neighbors.

The anime focuses on Osamu and his team. Osamu does not have a lot of trion, but he is an amazing strategist. His friend, Yuma, is a Neighbor (if you want the back story, watch the series) and has a lot of combat experience. Chika’s brother (also Osamu’s friend) and best friend were abducted by the Neighbors. She has a lot of trion.

Trion and trigger use also endow some users with side effects. Yuma can tall when someone is lying. Chika can sense the presence of Neighbors. Osamu doesn’t have enough trion to have a side effect.

The threesome is a team and currently in a competition to see who will be chosen to go on away missions into the Neighbor dimensions to rescue their friends and family.

This show is also still in production, but is on hiatus now.

We tried watching Fate Zero, but weren’t keen.

And that’s all I have for you with regard to anime. See, I told you we’d dialled back 😉

Have a great week, and I’ll be back to review the fall season of TV for you. The stuff I watch, anyway 🙂

Series Discoveries

Series discoveries: Anime

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while. I’ve basically become an anime junkie.

The backstory part

A number of years ago, I can’t actually remember exactly how many, I’m that old, now (not), I used to stay up late on the weekends, Friday and Saturday nights. Not terribly late, but 1 or 2 in the morning.

As Mr. Science used to say, sleep is the enemy (he’s since reassessed that particular opinion, stopped drinking coffee in the evenings, naps on weekends, and is generally more pleasant for it).

It was my way of trying to make the most of my weekends, but I’d sleep in the following mornings, so I really didn’t gain any time. I’ve since just decided to use the time that I have more efficiently 😉

But one of the things I used to do at the end of those late nights was to watch YTV. At the time, they were playing Inu Yasha, and though it was cheesy in spots, I thought it was great storytelling.

After that series ran its course, they played Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach, and then Death Note. I loved Fullmetal and Bleach even more than Inu Yasha, but Death Note not as much.

Even earlier, I’d watched anime movies like Vampire Hunter D, 3 X 3 Eyes, Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed, Akira, and others. A friend of mine owned (and still does) the local comic store, and would order the videos, video discs, and finally DVDs, and brought them gaming nights, parties, and so forth.

So anime was nothing new. Loving it was, though.

New toys, new obsessions

Last year, Mr. Science purchased a Roku stick. For those of you who don’t know, a Roku stick will allow you to access all sorts of free and by-subscription content. You can access BBC World News, Canada Film Board shorts, and other nifty stuff for free. You can set up Netflix on the Roku.

You can also set up anime channels like CrunchyRoll and Funimation. Now these require a subscription fee, but it’s quite reasonable.

We wanted to watch something together. I chose Bleach, largely because the run on YTV had stopped in the middle of the second season. We started from the beginning and burned through the entire series somewhere in June or July.

We kind of went into withdrawal and Phil resorted to a Shonen Jump subscription and buying the continuing manga. I’ve read up to date on the manga as well, but it’s not the same as the anime. There’s something about the form that draws me in more so than the manga.

From there, Phil’s watched Attack on Titan, Death Note, and he’s currently addicted to Gintama. There are a few others that he enjoys as well.

We tried Claymore, Souleater, and Spice and Wolf, and didn’t enjoy them. Claymore and Spice and Wolf didn’t hook us in the first couple of eps, and Souleater was aimed at a younger audience. Though we gave it several eps, it just didn’t appeal.

I wanted to watch the newer version of Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Phil joined in part way through and we both found that we enjoyed Brotherhood more than the original.

We wanted to continue watching other series together, though. So we selected Fairy Tail, which we burned through and are now waiting for the weekly instalments (getting our fix tonight). Next, it was the short-lived enjoyment of Blue Exorcist, which was only one season, and then Log Horizon, which again, we are now watching weekly after having watched all the existing eps.

We’re now watching Akame ga Kill in between waiting for new eps of Fairy Tail and Log Horizon. It’s quite graphic in its violence and main characters get themselves killed all the time.

I don’t want to get all spoilery on you and there are so many anime reviews out there on the web that I’ll let you look into all of these series yourself and you can decide if you want to partake. What I will do is let you know what I’ve learned from watching anime.

The takeaways

  1. The power of friendship trumps everything else.

Though we’re not opposed to dark storylines (the protagonist of Death Note is a right bastard who perpetrates all kinds of evil), Phil and I find we don’t enjoy them as much as the ones like Bleach, in which Ichigo Kurosaki continually learns and grows because he wants to protect the people he loves.

Not that Bleach doesn’t have its dark moments (the revelation about Unohana in the manga blew us away), but Ichigo always manages to make the noble choice. Everyone likes him without things getting too saccharine because he’s a flawed and relatable character.

Other series, like Fairy Tail and Log Horizon focus on the power of friendship in a more obvious fashion. The only thing that bothers me a bit about those two series is that the power of friendship often takes precedence over all other considerations.

Mind you, most of the series we watch are intended for tween and teen boys, and so romantic overtures are often set aside (despite the ample breast size of most of the female characters), even when they (the overtures and the ample breasts) are boldly thrust at the protagonist, as they are in Akame ga Kill.

  1. Story arcs predominate.

They could be as short as two or three episodes, or as long as two seasons, but the writers of anime have their plot shit wired tight. There’s always a payoff and it’s satisfying even if there are aspects of the story arc that I don’t enjoy.

Redemption is a big theme. Heroes become villains, and villains become heroes. Sometimes you’re not sure which is which.

  1. Humour abounds.

There’s always a ridiculous argument or reaction to something. Erza, in Fairy Tail, for example, though she’s an awesome wizard and warrior, is socially inept and often obsesses over silly ideas to extremes that her friends find embarrassing. Even so, they support Erza in her obsession not only because they’re her friends, but also because they all have a healthy respect for her power.

Though I don’t watch it, Gintama is constantly parodying other anime (the protagonist reads Shonen Jump and wants his own Bankai – Bleach), and goes to great extremes with scatological humour. If a weapon can find its way into someone’s ass, it does, people are hit so hard their balls fly off, and shit flinging monkeys often foment chaos.

It’s a bit much for me, but Phil laughs himself silly.

  1. It’s good to be surprised.

Just when you think that the story can’t go anywhere else, it does, and it goes to a completely unexpected place.

The concept behind Bleach is that an otherwise normal boy who can see the spirits of the departed has to assume the powers of a soul reaper. In order to save his friends, he is constantly breaking the rules, achieves greater and greater power, and then, because his enemies are so much more powerful than he is, new dimensions and risks open to him in his quest.

In Fairy Tail, the celestial wizard Lucy, though not very powerful on her own, is the key to a greater adventure that everyone in her guild becomes involved in.

It’s all about the creativity in the storytelling.

For better or worse, I’m addicted to anime now, and happily so. I enjoy it more than most of the television I watch.

I watch it like I watch anything, as a writer looking for lessons that I can take to the page.

Next week: Ima write about my literary mothers 🙂

Be well until then!

Series Discoveries

The next chapter: January 2015 update

Technically, I could have written this post last Saturday, but I was still writing into the evening and I count everything up until go to sleep on the last day of the month. As is often the case, better late than never, right?

January 2015 progress

As you can see, I’ve continued to work on Marushka, the project I started for NaNoWriMo 2014. I had indicated in last month’s next chapter post that I wanted to work away at finishing my first draft of Marushka (total goal 75k words) and figured I’d manage this at about 5k words a month.

Well colour me blown away, I wrote almost 10k new words in January alone (!)

I continued to blog, but have stuck to my weekly curation posts and posting on Saturdays. I like this amount of output and time dedicated to the blog. It’s reasonable.

I also restarted my final pass on Initiate of Stone. It’s interesting. Back in December (I think), I shared a post in Tipsday by another writer who uses Jamie Raintree’s Excel worksheet. He had some excellent suggestions for tracking revisions.

One of them was that two words of revision = one word on the worksheet. I’ve implemented this, but in a way, it feels like cheating. In any given chapter I revise, I might, at most, change 500 words.

For example, I one chapter I revised, I cut out a page and a half to two pages of a battle scene that was a little long in the tooth, plus a few words here and there, tightening things up, etc. The chapter was over 3,800 words, however, and so when I entered my 1,950 words in the IoS column for that day’s revisions, it felt to me like I hadn’t done the work to earn that entry.

I’m still struggling with the idea, but revisions and editing are their own beasts. There has to be some way I can recognize the effort without artificially inflating my word count. I think the two-for-one word scheme is the closest I can come to doing that for now. We’ll see how that works out as the year progresses.

I also revised one short story for submission to an anthology call.

Totals for January:

  • IoS: 7,789 words
  • Marushka: 9,462 words 😀
  • Short stories: 34 words
  • Blog: 8,432 words
  • Grand total: 25,717 words (17,928 without IoS revisions)

Even without considering my revisions, it’s one of my best months outside November since I started tracking my word count. I’m amazed.

Progress summary as of Feb 7

This is something new that Jamie added to the 2015 worksheet that was not in last year’s: a place to put goals and track overall progress. I think it’s cool.

With IoS, I halved the total current word count of the last draft and entered that number as my goal in the drafting progress table (as per the two-for-one word scheme). This table pulls data from the monthly sheets, so I kind of had to do that in order for the table to make any sense.

I did the same thing for Apprentice of Wind and Figments. I do intend to proceed to those revisions after I’ve settled IoS. Because Marushka and Gerod and the Lions are still in the drafting process, I subtracted the word count as of the end of 2014 from my goal word count and entered that in the table.

I intend to write a few new short stories this year in addition to revising my existing ones for submission, so I figured 5k would be a good number of new words to aim for. NaNo is and always will be 50k.

Seeing how many words went into my blog last year, I thought 100k would be a good, round number to aim for there.

There is also a separate table for tracking revisions, specifically, this in pages. This table does not pull data from the monthly sheets. So I’ve entered the number of pages revised and the total number of pages manually. I’ll only be tracking IoS, AoW, and Figments in this way.

Because the table pulls data from the monthly sheets, the following progress reflects everything I’ve done up until today, not including this blog post.

  • IoS: 10,145 words/72 pages, or 16% of goal
  • Marushka: 10,522 of 40,192 or 26% of goal
  • Short stories: 46 words, or 1% of goal 😛
  • Blog: 9,078 words, or 9% of goal

That’s pretty awesome.

In other writerly news

January saw the publication of “Downtime,” the short story On Spec purchased back in 2013. And, yes, I’m going to put that sexy Skeksis in your way again. As they say in one of my associations, I’m chuffed.

On Spec Fall 2014

Days afterward, I received a rejection of another short story, which, despite my best efforts, took the wind out of my sails. I know I should cultivate rhino-skin, but I’ve tried and I don’t think the goal possible. For me. At this time.

I missed one deadline for a special speculative issue of another magazine. It kind of blew right past me.

I did get my story submitted to Tesseracts 19, and I’ll be waiting on tenterhooks to see if this time will be the charm. I’ve been submitting to the anthology since 14, and I keep trying.

It’s what you have to do as a writer, keep writing, and keep trying.

And otherwise

Work has been a bit of a grind and it does not show signs of slowing up. For February, anyway.

I signed up for a five-session yoga class, and finished the last one this past Thursday. I enjoy yoga, but not the expense, or the time it takes from my already hectic life. So this is the only treat I’ve given my poor old body for now. I may well join up for the summer, if they offer the discounted membership again.

But life is good, overall. I’m making greater progress toward my goals that I thought I would, especially with the work hell.

Today, after I post this lovely thing, I’m progressing to IoS revisions, more Marushka, and perhaps working on one of those brand new short stories I told you about. Plus, the new season of Bitten (based on Kelley Armstrong’s series of novels) starts tonight, and I may fit in an episode or two of Log Horizon.

Tomorrow, another meeting of my writing/critique circle will take place, and I’ll be writing some more.

I’ll say it again. Life is good.

And so the chapter closes. See you next month!

The Next Chapter