Plain Kate

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By Erin Bow

“PLAIN KATE lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the woodcarver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade” – a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world but for her cat, Taggle. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the town that seems set to burn her, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes that she can’t live shadowless forever – and that linty’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.”

I’ve picked up this book from the author herself after listening to one of her talks set up by our local NaNoWriMo writing group. I enjoyed her talk and been meaning to read this book earlier – but you can guess how many books I have on my pile I need to read. It has also been a while since I read a YA book, I enjoyed the easy read and was able to get absorbed into the characters, setting and magic so easily. A great book with a strong heroine!

The story starts with a brief history of Plain Kate, how she received her nickname and her abilities as a carver. Able to carve before she could hold a spoon, she uses the knife as an extension of herself able to carve the charms the townspeople buy to protect their homes from dark magic and curses. Her relationship with her father, the carver of the town, is close and full of love. He teachers her to carve and she claims to be a master cover before she is twenty. But her father warns her of how people view her, a young girl with talent and skill with the knife is unusual and even at a young age many whisper ‘witch-blade’ behind her back. They believe her skill and talent is witchcraft. But Plain Kate decides to keep on carve despite the whispers and looks she receives. However, her peaceful life is short-lived when the town is overcome by a darkness, a fever that causes many to die – including her father.

Left alone, Plain Kate tries to keep her life moving by living in the town square in her father’s old stall, carving the charms that people need and are willing to buy. Not everyone in the town is against her, and she is able to make by for a couple of years. To help her with her loneliness is her cat Taggle, one of three kittens she found the first night she slept in her father’s stall.

Eventually a new wave of darkness and hard times approach the town Kate lives in, a fog that makes people sleep and never wake up. Soon, she is suspected again for being a witch. But before drastic measures are taken against her Linay enters the town, pale and white-haired, he offers her a deal, a way out of the town, her heart’s wish for her shadow. Eventually Kate gives in and he takes her shadow – and in exchange her heart’s wish comes true, her cat Taggle can talk.

Yup a talking cat which is the best thing in this book!

Plain Kate soon finds herself amongst a group of Roamers who takes her in. She carver her charms to sell in the next town they come across, she also begins to piece together the identity of Linay. She befriends a girl a little younger than her and for once Kate thinks she’s found a place to belong, but her shadow grows smaller, and soon she would be faced to tell them the truth of what she did. Before she can explain her true situation with the Roamers, the fog approaches them, and in the fog a being appears.

Leaving two of the Roamers on the verge of death, in the sleep that can’t be waken, Kate is assumed a witch and is burned – or tried to burn. She escapes and runs into the clutches of Linay once more. She pieces together the story, the revenge Linay has in store and why he needed her shadow. Appalled, Kate tries to stop him.

This story was so enjoyable to read, I loved Kate so much, her troubled life, her friendship with Drina, and even the feelings she had toward Linay, whom she blamed for a lot of her hardships. By the last three chapters I was crying my eyes out. Even though Kate is still just a young girl, maybe a teenager, she is compelled to save a town that burns witches. She is deterred to stop Linay from using her shadow to do harm to others. I find that admirable, and courageous.

I also extremely enjoyed the talking cat, Taggle. He gives the book a humours tone as he address situation as a cat would see, but also in humanistic ways. He gives Kate companionship that she desperately needs throughout the course of events.

Then there is the world, full of superstition and magic, the use of charms to ward these magics off, yet also condemning any sort of healing magic that might help them. It’s a fine line by the sounds of it. Despite much of the faceless people Kate comes in contact with, I like that there were still those who knew Kate and were willing to help her, to pay for her services and even give her stale bread or food if they had extra. The village we started in, you get the sense of community and you do get upset that despite growing up in the town Kate is still forced to leave it because of superstitions.

Overall, this book was an enjoyable read. I loved the characters so much and the magic in the world. For those looking for a light, fun read, I recommend this book. Let me know if you cry has hard as I did!

Ghost

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Ghost
By Piers Anthony

Back Cover:
Starship Captain Shetland feels like a ghost on his on planet: Earth is an energy starved madhouse of compulsory sex and forced interbreeding, where eating meat and casting shadows are felonies – and spacers are hated as power “wasters”. In fact, Shetland’s life is dedicated to finding new energy for Earth – a search that takes him into deepest space. And deepest time. For Shetland is commander of the Meg 2, a time-ship assigned to explore the void beyond the universe. What Shetland and his crew find are – ghosts. First the ghost of the ship’s dead chemist. Then ghosts of dead planets, dead stars, dead nebulae. A galaxy-sized black hole – the ghost of a cosmos, the ghost of all reality… and beyond it, beyond the spectre of Time.. The most powerful, terrifying, malignant ghost of all…

It’s been my mission for some years now to get my hand on ‘classic’ sci-fi, authors I’ve missed reading growing up, who have mapped out much of the science fiction genre before my time. I’m not sure if Piers Anthony falls into that category or not, but when I picked up this paperback at a used book sale I felt drawn to it. Ghosts and Space – two of my favourite genres together in one book. I had no idea who Peirs Anthony was, or what this book will be like. Overall it was an interesting read, a little over my head in places once the crew and Shetland began talking about time, physics and other heavy science theories, but I managed to pull myself through the hard sci-fi moments to enjoy the storyline and plot behind everything.

The book follows Shetland, a Captain from the space program of Earth. Earth is in an energy starved state, getting to the point where all public transportation has shut down. People now have to travel by their own method to work, bikes, walking, or a new peddle driven aircraft bicycle hybrid. (It’s only in the beginning but I still can’t get that image out of my head). People grow wheat in their front yards instead of grass, and vegetable gardens in the back. Even eating animals, meat of any kind has become almost unheard off as too much energy is used in the process of killing, butchering and cooking meat. At first when I read this opening chapter about the way earth has become, I wondered if this was some sort of dystopian/utopian environment! I have to admit, the idea of it all intrigued me and made me wonder if such a lack of energy resources would really cause such a shift in social outlook. Because of this shift, there was no pollution, people were healthier. Any extra weight would single you out as a ‘waster’. What’s more is the introduction of the ‘Miscegenation Act’, where it now became illegal to have offspring with a person of the same race. A government way of destroying the ‘racism’, but it is later talked of how the Act really prevents people from having kids another ‘waste’ to the social environment.

Now, sex is prevalent in this new society, as long as it is voluntary, age doesn’t seem as big of an issue either. Yet, sex is now separate than reproduction, and those that break the law in the reproduction stage can be dangerous, not just to be an outsider of the society, but incarceration, or worst. Anthony’s futuristic earth has an interesting balance of someplace that could be for the better for the human race, while also having several issues that seem almost too big to deal with. All this description of Earth seems a bit off at first, given this is meant to be a story set in space, but all the issues from earth are still relevant as the story develops as many members of the crew are young and grew up in this new environment. They bring with them the issues that cause a lot of strife and stress that can be detrimental to their end goal.

Their goal, or Shetland’s goal in particular is use the new time-ship (yup we’re time traveling!), the Meg 2 and search for the remains or find out what happened to the crew of the Meg 1, previously sent out into the void of future space to find a pocket of energy that can be brought back and used on Earth. Now time travel in this novel is different from any others I’ve read. The group can only go forward in time, then back to their present in order to avoid any conflict with interaction with their own time stream, and to keep them on point as to not go too far in time one way or another a psychic is used to hone in and keep his mind on the beacon. The beacon is their connection back in their present time. It was when the beacon of the Meg 1 went out that they knew something went wrong. Now the beacon is delicate and because of the mental connection can be influenced by stress and emotion from other members on the ship.

I don’t want to give too much away in this story, there is a lot of science and theories passed around through this book that are all very interesting but slightly out of my level of understanding. A lot happens to Shetland as he and his team travel through time, millennia at a time and the void approaches. There are disruptions, flickers in the beacon and a death on a crew member that Shetland has to cover up for the sake of the beacon to get everyone home. Even that doesn’t because easy when they pass through the void and encounter the ghost of galaxies, their answer, but also their downfall.

From here on out, it gets confusing.

This ghost entity/matter they encounter can conform to their will, which they test out by creating a fictional, but not fictional animal out in space that comes alive with this matter. After that the ship falls away and every member of the crew interacts with the matter both consciously and subconsciously as it twists and forms into whatever the person wants. Castles, armour, food, a chessboard…

I told you it gets confusing, but still enjoyable.

I’ll leave the end for you to find out if you choose to read it, which I hope some of you do. It’s a interesting story and will make you think. The issues of race, sex and an energy crisis explored in this book is enough I think for everyone to read at least once. This has been the first sci-fi book I’ve read with a ‘black’ main character (Shetland), yet because of the issues surrounding race, it is important that is brought up in the beginning of the book, Anthony even goes into detail on race on each member of the crew to signify future issues that could arise.

Like I said, this book was a great read and I’m so happy to have found it. I turns out my boyfriend has other books by him on the bookcase, so I look forward to reading more of his books in the future.

One of those days…

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… or months really.

I mean to say that despite a new growing deadline to finish the fourth draft of my Urban Fantasy/Paranormal by September – I have found myself working on outlines for other novel ideas. Some of my efforts are towards adding details to a first draft, prepping it for an overhaul of a re-write, while the rest of my efforts go back into a particular character that never leaves my mind.

*Sigh*

It seems my day job is finally starting to die down in hours and stress by July. I hope that means I’ll get into a better routine for writing. As it stands, being on my feet all day exhausts me and as much as my mind is ready to type, my body won’t let me most days. It doesn’t help that my schedule is all over the place. This is the first week that I’ve got the same hours 6 days in a row. Who knows, by Friday I may have tackled another few chapters if things continue as they are.

On a side note, I’ve discovered a new outlining program available on Amazon put together by an author named K. M. Weiland, called “Outlining Your Novel”. The program is based on her book of the same name. Basically instead of filling in the spaces she provides in the book, you now can create multiple projects, without working about filling out a book and having to buy a second. I’m new to her newsletters but find her articles and blog very interesting and helpful. I find this program a great way to put all those scattered bits and pieces of a novel idea together into one comprehensive outline. I’ve yet to see a project to completion, but I’m enjoying the steps i’m taking along the way.

As you can see, a new program means huge distraction from what’s really important. By inserting pieces of a past NaNoWriMo novel into it, I’ve found myself asking more questions and diving much deeper into the personality and characters of my story, not to mention working out a better structure for the all around plot. Let’s hope the second draft is much more organized and coherent than the first.

In other news I’m getting overwhelmed with games to play. I’ve been downloading a few games for my PC and there are so many for my PS3 and now PS4 I need to finish! Every time I feel that I’m satisfied, I find a new game that’s calling my name, or my boyfriend suggests one of his that I’ve never played before. Video Games are great for inspiration for me, but also a great distraction when time is already limited on my end.

Here’s a list of a few games I’m in the middle of:

PS3: The Force Unleashed, Deathspank, Final Fantasy 6, Life is Strange, Skyrim

PS4: Uncharted 4, Lego Avengers, the newest Star Ocean, Fallout 4

PC: Syberia 2, Knights of the Old Republic, Death in Paradise, The Falconers, Don’t Die Together, Stardew Valley

It’s a wide assortment of games, which I like but daunting at the same time. I’d love to finish a few first before starting something different, but doubt that’s going to happen. I should write out a few reviews though, some of these games are a lot of fun and would love to share my opinion of them. It’s my first time playing games like Fallout and Skyrim, so getting the hang of an open universe is problematic for me, so I’m sure my opinions of them my differ from everyone else.

It’s a lot to take in, but I hope I can find room to see to everything that’s on my plate. Summer has officially started, so maybe there’s a chance of moving my laptop outside for a few days. Will that help or be a further distraction? I have no idea. Take care and enjoy the nice weather!

Weight Loss Challenge – Update

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Back in January, I posted about my goal this year to lose weight and become healthier. It’s been over five months and I’m proud to say that I’ve lost just over 18 lbs and 42% towards my ultimate goal. It’s been challenging and these past five months included a number of set backs, of gaining a pound here and there and struggling to keep on track.

What really seemed to help me out was when I started working again. This time, I’m not at a desk all day, but in retail – on my feet – for a good 8 hours. I tracked my steps and on average I was doing close to 20k steps a day – I’ve since changed departments and am in an outdoor Garden Centre doing even more running around. I haven’t clocked my steps there yet, because I’m worried about breaking my fit bit with all the stones and bags of mulch I have to haul around, but I should try to see if I’m getting more steps in now or not. But the point is, I’m much more active. Meaning I’m burning more calories. Unfortunately it also means I’m able to eat more….

I’m still working on my snacking and food portions. When I’m working I don’t need to worry so much as I’m burning most of it off, but when I’m not working I do try to make a conscious choice of eating lighter and not so much starch and fats. I’m trying but it’s hard when you’ve bought a bunch of unhealthy snack food and chocolate to help you overcome the stress of your day at work. I’m still a work in progress… but I have noticed a change and so have others.

I’ve gone down a pant size and I’ve also managed to go down another belt hole. People (my parents) noticed an impressive change in my face and neck where the excess fat/weight has disappeared – always the place I’m least worried about – but my waist is getting smaller so there is hope that I’ll get to my goal by the end of the summer. Of course the challenge continues on keeping the weight off once I’m there.

I’m quite happy with my results so far, and I’ll be sure to share any more positive updates in the future.

Review: The Riddles of Epsilon

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The Riddles of Epsilon
By Christine Morton-Shaw

Back Cover:

Jess is not pleased when her parents drag her off to live on the weird little island of Lume. But then she encounters an eerie presence in an abandoned cottage, and her anger turns to fear when it begins to lead her through a series of creepy riddles. As she slowly unravels the mysteries of Lume, she finds the writings of Sebastian, a boy who lived one hundred years ago and to whose life contains unsettling reflections of her own. To her horror, the dangers he unearthed in 1894 now begin to threaten Jess and her family… and if Jess does not unlock the riddles in time, she may lose her mother forever.

I love finding hidden treasures like this book. I wasn’t expecting a lot out of it, a good mystery, riddles and some light reading. It is light reading, and has a strong YA feel to it, but I enjoyed it tremendously. Christine Morton-Shaw created a wonderful world and I love her all the riddles she placed in it. I envy that talent for I’m not the best with riddles as much as I would love to use something similar in my own writing. But what she did do that I have always wanted to and now have a possible structure/aide is how she had the book read in multiple diary entries and chat-room experiences. Set in the first person, through Jess’s eyes, we see what she sees and what she writes down in her diary as she puts together the riddles and clues she found, the mysterious person Epsilon, and her own problem solving skills as she works things out. We also see a lot of her teenage attitude, which can be annoying for some, but really puts an emotional feel into the book.

So the novel surrounds Jess as she moves to this remote island called Lume, away from her friends who has put her in a lot of trouble in the past. It is partly to get her away from them, but also for her mom to explore this large manor she inherited from her own mother. Right from the start, Jess is your typical moody, brooding teen, hating her parents for dragging her out to the middle of nowhere. She has no friends and feels very isolated. Thankfully she still has her computer and internet privileges that she uses to keep in contact with her friends from back home. But even then through the chat-room conversations we see how annoying her friends are and to me at least, am thankful her parents did take her away.

It is during one of her chat-room conversations that Epsilon first appears. But only Jess can see him when he logs on. At that point he is only known as ‘V’, but by probing Jess and poking her, giving her details of her day when she was completely alone and frightening her does she unravel the first of his riddles – that being his name. I’m not going to go through the process of how she discovered it, because well that’s part of the story and I don’t want to ruin it for potential future readers.

From then on, Epsilon warns Jess about her mother, about a prophecy and how if she didn’t solve the riddles in time her mother may be lost forever. At first Jess doesn’t believe him, thinking he is some sort of stalker, and rightfully so, but she notices changes in her mother’s behaviour, of her collecting multiple shells off the beach, painting only one portrait when her job is to paint other people’s portraits. We get a sense that something is not right with her mom, whether she be ‘mad’, or under a spell. Either way Jess begins to listen to Epsilon more and more. It is when she has the dream of a boy, writing about a dream he had about her – a mirrored dream of the two sharing parts of their lives with each other. She discovers the boy is named Sebastian, how he lived in her house over a hundred years ago and was facing the same riddles from Epsilon as she was. We learn his mother’s behaviour mirrored her own mothers. The riddles begin to frighten Jess, but so does the strange similarities between herself and Sebastian, forcing her to continue on instead of dropping the matter and forgetting it like Sebastian did.

I don’t want to spoil anything else, as from here on out, she begins to connect the dots, learn of the story behind Lume, the mythology and legends that turns out not to be quite so myth or legend as one may think. There are dark forces fighting against light, a secretive evil organization on the island to avoid, and several people warning Jess not to trust Epsilon. This novel has everything for a great adventure, full of excitement and some fun fantasy elements as well. It was a surprise how much I really liked the book and I guess it’s no wonder why I finished it in only a couple of weeks.

Like I said, this turned out to be a great hidden treasure. I recommend this book to anyone really, it was so much fun reading and I hope to find others by the author in the future.

Ghost In The Shell

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I’ve been debating on writing this post for a couple of weeks now. Debating because when I saw the movie – and enjoyed it. I’m a huge fan of the original anime and I wanted to watch the movie to see how well they handled it. There are several issues surrounding GITS including the ‘whitewashing’ and the ‘westernization’ of it. I understand and agree with it all and there is enough to fill another blog post, but I wanted to focus this post on the plot, visualization and themes the movie explores. At least at this point. I may work on a second related post talking about whitewashing in Hollywood cinema, but there are several of those out right now that are more informative, researched and presented than I could ever write.

Before I continue, please be aware there are spoilers! Many of the points I’m writing about deals with knowledge of both the original anime and the live action version. If you haven’t seen them and want to – avoid reading this post until you do.

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Plot:
In the live-action Ghost In The Shell the plot revolves around The Major, a cybernetic body with a human mind inside. Placed on a task-force called Section 9 that deals with terrorism and stopping terrorists, they face a new threat called ‘The Puppet Master’. While tracking down this terrorist, the Major faces her own suppressed memories and questions her existence and learns that Haka Robotics lied to her about her past.

This plot differs slightly from the original anime version. Though elements are the same, there is enough of a difference to change the outcome of the movie. In the original there was never any ‘origin’ moment. There is a well animated opening sequence of the Major’s body in development, but when the movie begins with the Major taking down a terrorist attack, we are to accept everything without explanation. We learn throughout the movie of her cybernetic body and Haka’s involvement with that but there was no story arc in that regards. She works for Section 9 and in all honesty there is little character development with the Major other than her curiosity over the identity of the Puppet Master that borders on obsession.

The new plot for the live-action GITS is interesting, once it gets to the point about the Major’s memories. In the early stages of the movie there are scenes with Major in her apartment injecting herself with Haka Robotics approved packets in the back of her neck (where she connects to devices and uploads information) to help her mind accept her cybernetic body and not reject it. At first it makes sense, but as Major has more and more memories surface – those that don’t line up with the story Haka Robotics told her what happened, she questions everything and also the Puppet Master. These sensations and flashbacks get stronger after the Major ‘dives’ into a robot the Puppet Master had hacked and taken control of in the earlier terrorist attack to find the Puppet Master, his identity and where he’s holding up. It is through this first connection and a few others later on that we get the pieces of the Major’s real past and the secrets behind Haka Robotics and her own existence.

The Puppet Master:
The main ‘villain’ of the movie is the Puppet Master. Believed to be a super hacker with the ability to ‘ghost hack’ – taking control of a cyberized person’s body without their knowledge.

Even the identity of the Puppet Master changed between the original anime and the new live-action version. In the new version, we discover the Puppet Master is just like the Major, a previous test subject of Haka Robotics by placing a human mind in a cybernetic body. To control them, they give them the same fake story of them being a sole survivor of a terrorist attack. Thus giving them a purpose to use their new power towards fighting terrorism for them. The story gets much deeper than that!
It turns out that to find the test subjects for this process, Haka Robotics took several runaway kids, the Major and the Puppet Master are just two of them. Once Haka learns that Major is rebelling against them, they order her termination, and threaten Section 9 with closing down their division if they don’t give up the Major. The Chief of Section 9 sides with the Major and against the president of Haka Robotics and we see some amazing scenes the show how bad-ass members of Section 9 are!

In the original anime, the Puppet Master is a program created by Section 6 called Project 2501. An advance AI that went rogue, escaping it’s firewall confines that Section 6 put in place by using a factory produced robot body. After being hit in the road by a truck and sent to Section 9, it surprises everyone by asking for asylum as a sentient creature. Claiming self-preservation of its programming does not differ from DNA. At the end of the anime movie Major links or dive with the Puppet Master and converses with it, learning it wishes to pass on its ideas and evolve like any other biological creature instead of just making copies. Before Section 6 shoots both the robot body of the Puppet Master AND Major, Major agrees and merges. Having her own body shot up and destroyed along with the Puppet Master, she wakes up in a new prosthetic body – a new body for a new being.

Ending:
As you can see above, by changing the identity of the Puppet Master the endings of the live action movie is different. Where Major gets a new body and a new identity in the anime, the live action avoids that and we see Major in her original body all fixed. How that happens when she’s on the black list of Haka Robotics – I don’t know. Yes, she has her original memories, a mother, but does that count as a new identity? Sorry, as you can tell I prefer the anime’s ending over the live action one. Maybe, just maybe had they placed her in a new body, made it Asian… could that have saved the movie from the onslaught of bad reviews?

Ghost Hacking:
The main theme, idea that struck me the strongest throughout the movie (both anime and live action) is the ‘ghost-hacking’ the ability or potential ability to hack a person’s mind. In the GITS setting, we are in this futurist world where cyber implants is everywhere and all the rave. Not just physical parts, but also it seems mental parts, downloading holographic images of the mind and so forth. But with that comes the potential of being hacked. In particular in this movie, the people don’t know their hacked. The only way to tell is the alternating of memories.
Given the way technology is moving, this feels like something to worry about. Not to mention how frightening it could be to not even be able to trust your own memories! How could you defend against that?
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Visuals:
The visuals of the live action movie was amazing. Full of large holographic images on sides of buildings for ads – the new build boards, the depiction of diving or linking with robotic programs, and the creation of the Major’s body – and to add to that the way the body is mended after being cut/broken. The entire live action movie had a brighter-cleaner sleekness to it. It was a little different from what I remember from the anime, both my boyfriend and I agree the original anime seemed to depict more of a ‘Blade Runner’ feel, so a little dirtier, worn in feel. But still, the bright lights and look of the technology used in the movie is spectacular.

Themes:
In the live action movie the main theme that seemed to come out is that of identity, and what a ‘ghost’ means. In the movie we hear reference to the Major to trust her ghost, or her soul. But being in a full cybernetic body with only a human mind, were does the soul come from, or where is it stored? I’m using ‘ghost’ and ‘soul’ interchangeably thinking they are meaning the same thing. So as the Major discovers the meaning behind her dreams, and her real identity she is also forced to deal with herself, whom she become and who she wants to be. Basic questions that hall humans experience and goes through. It is a better story arch than the anime – at lest in my opinion, but they could have gone further.

In the movie we learn that the Major was in fact Asian, and her mind placed in a Caucasian looking body. There could have been a theme surrounding that aspect – but I understand by then there was no time for her to dwell on that one aspect as the climax was approaching and ending in sight.

Another theme I wanted to touch on was the roles of woman in technological fields. I hear a lot about the lack of women in science fields and the lack of role models to help young girls get interested in such studies and fields. In this movie we see at least two prominent women in leading cybernetic and robotic fields. Dr. Ouelet and Dr. Dahlin. Outlet had direct correspondence with Major and deals with both her psyche and body, and shares almost a mentor/student or mother/daughter relationship. Although I still understand the issues surrounding the whitewashing, I still like seeing at least two female scientists in the movie with lines and a personality.

In Conclusion:
I enjoyed the movie, the visual and themes within the movie. As much as there are problems with the live action movie, if wish to avoid that, at least find the anime and watch it that way. There are now several new versions of anime relating to Ghost in the Shell, and I’m sure there will be other new versions like this western one. I hope if there will be a next live-action movie the makers of the first will learn their lesson and listen to the fans and treat their audience with respect.

Do you keep your old drafts?

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This feels like an embarrassing question.

I hear writers talk about all their drafts as they work to hone their story after edit after edit – and I wonder …. Do they keep all their different drafts? Really, I’m starting a fourth draft for one of my stories after having an editor and a few beta readers read over my third draft and I’m wondering what to do with my previous drafts. Given how easy it is to just write overtop of your first draft with your second, third and so forth – does anyone keep their original drafts or do they just take the electronic document and write over top of it again and again?

Right now, for this particular novel – I’m keeping all my previous drafts – well most of them. Draft 2 I started editing within that draft for half way through the story before taking a break and going back later to start a third separate draft. Having multiple drafts feel a little confusing, but given how much I’ve changed things – especially with my fourth draft I don’t want to get ride of for fear I may need to go back to a previous draft and pull up a scene once deleted but should be included again. Just trying to remember past scenes I’ve changed, deleted or just passed over is difficult so I’m glad I have an old drafts to go back to if necessary.

This is why I think this is an embarrassing question. It feels like many writers have old drafts around to keep track of what they’ve changed. But with today’s style of just deleting and re-typing have things changed?

This fourth draft has fallen to a snail’s pace. I’ve reached chapter 7 and hit a bit of a wall. I’ve taken out one of the secondary characters which has helped but this chapter doesn’t have a good flow in my mind in relation to scene structure. I’m not sure how to really fix it at the moment. I have the main goal of the chapter – which is achieved, but I think I’ve forced my character to stay in her previous characterization to leave feeling freaked out after confronting an evil spirit. Now in this new draft she is more confident and more in control of her choices. Given this change of my main characters personality, she wouldn’t just leave or run away. Maybe at first but after the walk from the haunted zone back to the headquarters she’d cooled off. So… now my chapters have really changed. This one chapter will really change the entire feel of the book I think. I’m not sure what that is yet so I’ve taken a break and tried to think of a better way to deal with the chapter and how it is affecting the rest of the book.

As I write my fourth draft, I feel I’ll be going back more to my original or second draft for help or to find old scenes that may help my novel get back on its feet. In the meantime any answers to my question, or suggestions how others deal with multiple drafts and where they keep the old ones would be great!

Utopian/Dystopian Worlds

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So, surprisingly enough this topic came to light while in discussion with my dad and my boyfriend’s dad. I’m not sure entirely how we got onto the subject, but I’m sure we were talking about the rising cost of hydro, gas and government both here and across the border in the US. Anyways, the topic turned to the future and perspectives we had towards it. Mostly towards the decline of knowledge in certain life-skills. For example how many people today actually know how the electrical grid works? Or the water treatment plants or sewage? What would happen if we lost that knowledge all together? Now, I may be more optimistic in certain areas – humans to me are adaptable. Even if we lost knowledge in a particular area, I feel that the human mind will find an alternative solution to achieve the same goal. It may take time – but I think it is possible.

The discussion continued on other areas as my dad began to talk about how he felt the world should move in – basically into more self-reliant smaller communities. They turned to me – the writer – and said I should write a book on that. Great… write a book on a self-reliant city where there are little to no problems – that’s not dystopian. Of course it’s closer to a Utopian, for which I know little about in the fictional world. Yet – their ideas did make me think and by that evening I jotted a few of them down.

Do I have a plot – NOPE!

Do I have any characters – NOPE!

Do I have a crises, or an issue to explore/exploit – NOPE!

I get what they mean. Hollywood has defiantly gone the way of dystopian lately, from the Hunger Games to Mad Max: Fury Road. All dark, depressing and showing a negative outlook with a few heroes that push the hope of a change or something different forward. I get those moves and books and I get why they are so popular at the moment. I also think the fad is on the decline and we may get a different outlook in the new future – I’m only guessing here. Anyways, their ideas that day did resonate with me and I began to wonder if there was a story in there at all.

My typically pet peeve about these dystopian novels is how there is a wall of some kind that keeps the character inside their surroundings. Just go and get out and explore the world around you! Of course by the sounds of the discussion we had such an idea wouldn’t fit for them. I’ll just have to save that for something else.

So… here’s my world so far. I picture it like a circle with three zones. The external are the agriculture fields, the producers of the food. There’ll be greenhouses and natural sources of water. The next zone will be manufacturing plants, water treatment and the like. The final zone would be the core where the city’s government, education and medical facilities are located. I don’t like the idea of getting rid of technology, there are enough minds out there that if something did happen with electricity and the internet, a new infrastructure should emerge with a new wave of technology that would fit with the needs of this new futuristic world.  Travel between countries will be limited, gas is highly expensive and out of reach for several, making these cities more close-knit. Population should be reasonable to support their needs. (This is the one issue that was brought up – that cities are too populated and can’t become self-reliant because of that). That could be an issue for the book – the population of the city is getting too high and something needs to be done. But the more I think about it, the more I feel there would be an underground, another zone below the city – perhaps living in the remnants of the old world that has mostly been forgotten as the city rose and was built on top of it. So, all together there are four zones now within this ‘utopian’ city, and only one issue I can foresee that could be a conflict.

But then again – who says there needs to be a conflict in the utopian? There are other stories where conflict happens between people, I could make a love story with this city in the back ground – but I don’t do well writing romances… I’m still spit-balling ideas around. What I have thought about is the idea of travelling convoy’s. Of a certain type of people who move from city to city in this futuristic world making trade. As much as travel is limited, it’s not impossible, and there would be some cities with deals with others and have to transfer goods from place to place. Having these nomads be there makes some sense – unless robots take over which I doubt I will have in my future world. ;-P

Having a character as part of this convoy nomad group may be the view-point I need to examine this new world, as she travels from community to community to see the differences across a country. I’m not sure if that idea would work, but it’s a start. Or, if anything start the story from someone within the community and switch to the nomad later on? Finding a conflict, or theme for this genre is difficult for me and it may not be my speciality. I’m still wanting to accept the challenge, but I obviously need to think about the world I’m creating and what my characters think of it.

I have gone online and found several other books written either in dystopian style or utopian style. I need to read them and see their ideas before I get carried away with this one. If any of you have a utopian or dystopian novel that would be good to research and read let me know and I’ll add it to my list.

Visual Novels – To write one or not….

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While exploring more games available through distributors like Steam, I’m finding new styles and indie games that follow a different path then just an action or first person shooter. I’ve explored Visual Novels in the past – though I’ve never thought of them that way. To me they have been ‘Dating Sim Games’, where the main character takes first person view and you as the main character watch/read on as your character make choices that will ultimately decide if you’ll fall in love with the character or not. These seem to be the most common style of visual novels – and the ones I’ve reviewed in the past have all been available as apps for phones and iPad. It only took me a brief search on Steam for me to find several other similar games if not different and more diverse ‘visual novels’ available.

The more I searched, the more I find that there are several indie style visual novels, some I will admit look poorly drawn or animated, but I don’t want to judge a book by it’s cover. Others have a sleek, more professional look if not a bit on the ‘adult’ side of things. At first I was just looking for what’s available, maybe find a sci-fi theme, or paranormal theme visual novel to explore – but those options seem to be rare, many are still romance based where I’m looking for more adventure style and want to stay away from romance. Which made me think how I would go about making my own visual novel.

I began researching that idea. I found software out there that are designed to help you create your own visual novel, including the coding, character art and templates. One of those would be a good starting point, if only to get an idea of what’s involved. But there would be other things I’ll need to consider, music, backgrounds, the story itself. If I want to put this up online and get money for it – copyright becomes an issue.

But that’s further down the line, most important I think would be the story. Given whats available there seems to be two different styles of stories Visual Novels display – a choose your own adventure/ending theme that many of the romance and dating sims fall under, then there is another called ‘Kinetic’ which has a pre-determined ending. Both seem to have their merits and as a writer, both have their challenges. I personally feel I would start with a Kinetic story, just to get the feel and work with the software on a decent cast of characters and visuals. But the choose your own adventure/ending sounds intriguing. I remember reading those books as a child and having a good time – but now as  a writer I can see how challenging such a project would be. Yet, maybe that’s something to consider in the near future.

Basically, after doing some quick research on the topic of visual novels, I feel that this is another avenue writers could choose to follow. I’m not sure about the rest of you but I do visualize my novels in my head – and they are typically anime style. Something like this could really take off for me – if I do it right.  It could be another outlet for my writing, a new platform to find followers or those interested in what I’m writing about. Ideally I’d love to do this the proper way with coders and illustrators and make it perfect, but just starting out I’ll settle with one of the software’s first and see how that goes.

This has definitely taken a hold of my mind and imagination. I will have to sit on this idea myself and think about it, even try to find a story that would fit with this style. In the end, this is something to consider for the near future. If anyone is familiar with Visual Novels, I’d love to hear some feedback,  either on suggested VN to read, or topics to research to help learn more about this industry and what stories are lacking.

Editing & Revisions: Take 2

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As many of you are aware, I’m currently in the process of editing an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Young Adult fiction novel. Wow, what a mouthful. I have sent out my third draft to a handful of people to beta read and paid an Editor I know to do a manuscript evaluation. I’m still waiting for a few of my beta readers to get back to me, but I have received the full manuscript evaluation from the editor. It was a lot to take in and digest! I am now just starting to use my editor notes to go back and fix a number of parts of my novel. Thankfully the overall assessment my editor gave me was positive, she enjoyed the story and at times couldn’t put it down. Great starts, but I need to work on my characters and making them more unique and noticeable, my tone and voice and research a few areas a little deeper from what I’ve put together so far.

Nothing too drastic, but here I am finding myself revising once more. I’m trying to make my main character more strong in her convictions, and decision-making. I’m also trying to make my second main character stronger as well, more confident and in control of the situation. It means I’m revising a lot – but I’m still keeping the basic essence there. Or at least I’m trying.

Besides those two characters, my editor pointed out two of my minor characters not having strong arcs or even necessary to the plot. I agree after she mentioned it – but finding solutions is difficult. I don’t want to kill any of them, one being the love interest the second being a member of the paranormal team. For now, I’ve removed the member from the paranormal team from most of the scenes, she’s mentioned but I’ve decided that there was an incident with another member playing a prank on her and she’s in a huff and not returning to participate in the group for the time being. I’m not sure if this is wise, but I want her to still be around in a support/advisory role when the team needs here – either later in this book or in future books. As for the love interest, I’m making him more of a jerk that my main character has a crush on as a foreshadowing of how incompatible they really are as a couple. I might throw him more into the fray, making injure him or something to make his purpose and arc more substantial than what I have it as now. I’m not sure if it’ll work or not.

So there’s my beginning of my fourth draft for you. More revisions then edits. I am worried now that I’m working on a fourth draft that after all that my editor has suggested and the more changes I make – that I’m ruining my novel in someway. I don’t know if I’m taking the right suggestions, making the book better and stronger – or really throwing it back down to the quality of my first draft. These doubts are really making this revision session longer. I’m more hesitant with changes, I’m rewriting sentences four or more times and staring at paragraphs wondering if it’s good enough of if I need to move elements around. Part of me thinks by really thinking hard on my sentence structure, vocabulary and scene structure – I’m making a stronger book – but the other part of me is worried that if I go back to my editor I’ll have even more edits/revisions to do.

There’s really no getting around this until I’ve finished going through all the suggestions and the fourth draft. I will then have to consider doing a second manuscript evaluation or just push forward to a copy-edit instead. I really do hope that each draft I create makes the book better in the end.