Meatballs

I have a confession to make – I love my crock pots.

There’s nothing more relieving than throwing a bunch of stuff in a slow cooker, doing nothing to it for the next six or eight hours, and then getting a complete meal or side dish out of it. Perfect for the lazy or those who have more productive ways to spend their time.

Part of my NaNo prep this year was finding ways to spend that free time more wisely. Over the last year I discovered I didn’t set enough boundaries for my writing time. So I fixed that – made a schedule, ran it by the husband, and bam. Writing time protected whilst still making time for chores and snuggling furkids.

I would’ve cut workout days too but alas, I’m doing pretty well on all the weights and it gets me out of the house. Massive amounts of free time + me = more ways to procrastinate and make excuses. I apparently need some kind of pressure other than just a word count goal, and leaving the other parts of my routine in place helps that feeling of having to fight for writing time.

Thinking about exercise led me to food. Workout days felt especially tight and stressful having to cook something after getting back from the gym. Hour at the gym, hour for dinner, then cleaning up, showering… it cut into my writing time pretty regularly.

Crock pot meals became the perfect solution.

Honestly, crock pot dishes are great for any week that’s going to be hectic.  I usually make a double batch of whatever recipe, ending up with ten to fifteen Tupperware containers worth of dinners for the rest of the week. Chili and pot roast are our go-to dishes. We’ve done pulled pork before too, but it takes a bit more manual labor than just portioning everything out to containers.

Of the three recipes I picked for NaNo this year, my favorite dish is one that will be on our menu probably every month. Behold- Honey Garlic Meatballs!

I kid you not, this is the best slow cooker recipe I’ve found to date, so I have to share. It knocks chili out of the water. Massacres pot roast and pulled pork. Makes potato soup look like thin and milky gruel. And no, that’s not because my recipes for those other dishes are bad – the meatballs are just so good.

They’re savory, a little sweet, and the garlic scent is mouthwatering. (If you don’t like garlic, I feel sorry for you.)

It’s pretty cheap to make, too, for as many meatballs as you get. You can get 32oz bags of frozen meatballs for $7.99/bg at Kroger. Many of the flavor additives are probably already in your cupboard. So let’s round up – for $20 you get a giant crock full of meatballs. Make a big batch of mashed potatoes (also an easy crock pot dish!) or rice to go with it, and you’ve got dinner (plus some lunches) that will likely last you a full week.

They’re great for work potlucks too, just sayin’.

So, for anyone in the final throes of NaNoWriMo fighting for ways to optimize your time – look into doing batch meals like this. Many of the recipes take 30 min or less to get going in the crock, and then you don’t have to worry about cooking for close to a week. Spending an hour for dinner per day may not sound like much, but when you consider that half of that time(maybe more) is often just cooking the meal, there’s a good chance stress will manifest just from other everyday things. Seeing how dirty the counters are, dishes piled in the sink, floors needing to be swept, TPS reports due… and feeling like it all falls on your shoulders alone. A crock pot meal won’t necessarily solve those other stressors, but it may keep them from being triggered in the first place.

 

What time saving practices did you put into action for NaNo? What are your favorite slow cooker recipes?

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NaNoWriMo – Week One

So it’s that time of year again. No, not the time of pumpkin spice everything and Uggs, but for NaNoWriMo. (For more info on NaNo, you can go here.) This is my second year participating, and I am loving it. Of course, I decided to do this year a bit differently by actually prepping in October. Said prepping led to accepting that I’ve done a piss-poor job on the world-building side of this project from the get go. The remedy will be an ongoing process that will require numerous edits and drafts to fix. Book one is a serious problem child, but it’s on the back burner for now.

What is this year’s NaNo project? Why, it’s book two of my urban fantasy series project. I started book one in last year’s NaNo, and finished up the draft just a couple months ago. I think I’ll be able to get book two drafted in a shorter span, though we’ll see how that goes when I dive back into revisions of book one.

Anyway, so far take #2 of NaNo has been a fun experience. The world and characters are starting to make more sense. I’ve been very adamant about my writing time, and it’s paid off (except for yesterday, thanks to a trip to an Irish pub and general exhaustion). I reached my highest daily words written today – 4588! Having NaNo start on a Sunday -Daylight Savings to boot – also paid dividends; I stayed up til midnight, got some words in, then continued on in the later afternoon, to the tune of 2500+ words for opening day.

Not going to lie, ending up with 4 – 6.5 hours a sleep several nights on end isn’t easy. But late at night is the best time for consistent writing that I’ve found. Until I can make a new pattern that results in similar productivity earlier in the day, it’ll stay that way.

 

Some things that have helped make this first week a success:

  1. better understanding of the MC and world I’m trying to make. (This ties into my Crimson Peak review/epiphany post that is still in-progress)
  2. a short list of scenes I know I want in the book, or at least want to write
  3. new music thanks to Spotify (spurred on by Delilah Dawson’s post on finding new music; I too had the same issue with using Pandora, but no longer!)
  4. asking a friend to give me an idea what to write and ditching it, but coming up with a plausible alternative that spider webbed outward
  5. coffee
  6. jotting down ideas, or at least thinking about the story every day (especially at work)

 

Short of the pre-NaNo meet and greet that was held by our local chapter a couple weeks ago, I haven’t gone to any write-ins. It makes me feel pressured – to be funny or charismatic, to write something off the top of my head. It’s an odd feeling and I don’t know how to tell my brain to stop, so I’ve just stayed home. Even though the cats bite my toes and plop in my lap to mess with my earbuds, the writing space finally feels like my zone. I’m in my groove. Characters are working. Things are breaking. The story is stitching itself together like a hodge-podge quilt.  That’s not to say I don’t get out and socialize with other writers, but that it takes me a long time to feel comfortable. And the more people you throw in that pot, the longer it’s going to take me to reach that point. Maybe towards week three or four I’ll try a write-in, but at the moment it just feels like a bad idea to divert from the pattern and expect the results will be less than stellar.

 

Anyway, week one tally: 15123 words. I’m ahead of NaNo’s goal by one day, and have been toying with the idea of trying to get to 60k instead of 50k by the end. It’s a stretch, I think, but would only take a bit over 2k / day to reach it. Hard, yes; do-able, I think so. Just have to keep writing with reckless abandon.

Its all going to be crap when it’s over, but there will be nuggets in there somewhere, too.

 

Are any of you out there doing NaNoWriMo? How’s it going? What are your steps to success, or, what do you feel like is pulling you down? Need any musical inspiration? I’m all ears, let me hear what’s going on with ya!

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Finished (first) draft stats

Draft one/book one of the UF project is done. It’s not perfect; the plot has little tears in its seams, and the main character continues to feel not quite right. But it’s done! The long slog to draft two (and three, and … however many more it takes) will follow after NaNoWriMo.

For now, though: STATS!

 

Word tallies:

  • NaNoWriMo 2014: 50,017 words
  • personal FebNoWriMo = 36,947 words
  • CampNoWriMo June = 12,131 words (this is what I actually logged on the site, but the file itself and the count sheet I used both have a decent variance from this number)
    Final count: *113k words

*About 5k worth of bonus scenes aren’t included in the total, and another couple thousand scenes’ worth were taken out that will be moved to book two.

 

Timeline:

  • conceptualized – Oct 2013
  • CH1 written/submitted to NTSFW in Feb 2014
  • made NaNoWriMo goal 2014 (50k words)
  • came up short of secondary NaNo goal (goal was 40k in February)
  • made CampNaNoWriMo goal (12k words)
  • wrote another 20kish July – September
  • 1st draft finish Sept. 24, 2015
  • concept –> 1st draft = less than 2 years
  • actual “drafting” phase (NaNo) –> 1st draft = less than 1 year

 

Just a refresher, it took ten (that’s right, TEN) years to finish the first draft of my epic fantasy, which weighed in at 128k words. That the UF took less than a year (depending on how you look at it) to draft, and is only 15k words short from that is kind of mind-boggling. If you had told me two or three years ago that I could draft a full novel in a year or less, I would have smiled and nodded, but inwardly been like Yeah right, there’s no way I can write that much in a year!

Finding a process that works to get the words down on the page makes all the difference.

 

Any burning questions about the drafting stage of this project? Any other numbers or stats you’d like to see? Want to know what song I played on repeat the most during this endeavor? Ask away!

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Writing with Music: A Careful Dance

Okay everybody, it’s that time again. Curse these stinkin’ Mondays, making you WORK. And now I’m going to make you do more. No rest for the wicked, no rest for the writer.

Fine, you can have one margarita before you start. ONE.

 

This week’s theme is: A Careful Dance. Today’s music courtesy of Lindsey Sterling –

 

Some prompt ideas:

– a character must tango, literally or figuratively, with someone they perceive as an enemy

– a thief steals something, is spotted, now must run for their freedom and/or life

– space freighter captain navigating through enemy airspace, barking commands at his or her crew while trying to keep the ship and cargo intact

 

For me, the song seems like it would fit a historical piece or section, especially if the character or mood needs to be a little sassy. Whether it’s a young woman who has to dance with a proposed suitor at a ball to make her guardian happy, or a sky-captain grappling onto another airship in a surprise attack, this song should work for both character or plot-driven scenes.

Again, don’t spend all your writing time today/tomorrow doing this. Ten to fifteen minutes, just enough to get your juices flowing. To grease your brain gears for your own project. To spark an idea. Seriously, there is no pressure! I won’t even tell my hundred-plus ponies if you didn’t do it.  I will tell the cat, though. He’s not so forgiving. He’ll be all up on your face wondering why you weren’t feeding him if you weren’t writing, either.

Enjoy!

 

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Writing with Music: Going Dark

While I haven’t talked much about my actual writing process, one thing is almost always a constant – music.

Music lets me see, hear, breathe the atmosphere I’m trying to get across on the page. It helps me pace a scene, lengthening sentences to build tension, or speeding up when a character is about to get into trouble. Sometimes, a song will crystallize a character or event so perfectly, that the rest of the scene flows around it like it has a life of its own.

TL;DR – If you’re having problems getting into a scene, or suffering from blank page syndrome, listening to music can be a good way to help you visualize the section and get started.  Don’t believe me? Well, it’s time to experiment!

 

Here’s how this works – I’ll post a link to a song on Youtube, along with a couple of prompts or ideas to get you started. This is not necessarily to make you write more, but to get your brain juices flowing. If it turns into a new idea you want to flesh out later, great! Practice is perfect, and this is just another method to help get the practice in. Think of it as a writing prompt.

I have some… eclectic musical tastes. Even if the song I post isn’t your style, it should jog your memory enough to spit out one that’s more your speed while making you think about the same mood/atmosphere/tone.  *Sometimes I may post a second song; this isn’t to make you do two exercises, but so you have another option if the main song is too heavy/crude for you.

Ready? Let’s go!

 

Vacuity by Gojira

(Side note: I personally don’t like the bridge that follows the second chorus, so I usually just repeat the first two minutes)

 

The theme this week is Going Dark. Here are some sample prompts:

– write a scene where a monster or beast hunts a victim; alternatively, a scene where a character is fleeing something/someone

– a scene where your antagonist (or protagonist!)  gets his/her hands dirty

– someone watching a violent storm or other act of god approaching a shore, destroying an island village, or ripping through a city

 

*Alternate video – Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace

 

Take five or ten minutes, and see what you come up with. Where does the song take you? What kind of scene did you write? In that scene, what does the character (or narrator) see, hear, smell, taste, feel? Did you get a sense of urgency or anger? Or did the song(s) bring out an atmosphere of fear or foreboding?

I hope this helps, at least to spur some new ideas if it doesn’t warm you up for a work-in-progress. Remember, too, that whatever you jotted down doesn’t have to be perfect, shouldn’t be perfect. Draft quickly, cut it all up and sew it back together later.

Since I’m the instigator of this, I’ll share a snippet from my messy tidbit.

 

“Up now. Time to catch the tide.”

“Have you lost your mind? Those things are out there!”

“Hah. That noise you hear is coming from behind us, gaining fast.”

“The floor is swaying beneath my feet, so much that I might not even make it to the boat without losing the fare my little coin could get.”

“Oh no boy. That smacking you feel b’neath you is the Lord of the seas ‘imself.”

“So he’s trying to kill me too?”

“Nah, he’s keeping them at arm’s length. But we hafta go now. I don’t have that much favor with the beast.”

“What kind of beast?”

“The Kraken, man. Who else could rule the seas?”

This is a really bare-bones example of my jotting. I mainly wanted to get the dialogue and important details down before I forgot them. It will be easy to go back later and add character names, action tags, and flesh out the scene since the gist of it is solidified in my head now.

*If you like the exercise, what you wrote, or have a suggestion for the next installment, feel free to leave a comment!

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Food Journal – Top 5 Restaurants in San Antonio

Remember that last post a few months ago where I talked about a food blog? Well, here it is!

Brief preface and/or disclosure – I have been to San Antonio exactly once in my life. In April. For three and a half days. Naturally we couldn’t try every restaurant, but picked based off of general TripAdvisor consensus and friends who live in the area. So if you get all butthurt because your super favorite isn’t on this list, let me know in the comments and I’ll try it out the next time we go.

 

#1 Ácenar

This was my favorite of the entire trip. A good friend recommended it as the one place on the Riverwalk that wasn’t overpriced or over-exaggerated, and she knew what she was talking about. The patio had a nice breeze coming in from the river, and a vibrant albeit relaxed atmosphere. Fantastic food and service, delicious margaritas. Just go, right now.

Acenar - Spicy ShrimpSpicy Shrimp – hubby’s dish. Not spicy in the least, but definitely creamy goodness.

Acenar - Duck CrepesDuck crepes –  I don’t know what’s happening on the top of it, but boy, that cheese was something else. It had a sweetness to it that brought the whole dish together. The corn crepes didn’t give have any chalk-like taste or texture that I usually get from corn tortillas.  This is definitely on my list of must-eats whenever we go back to SA.

 

#2 Bakery Lorraine

This little bistro/bakery is one of many gems nestled in the increasingly popular Pearl Brewery area. It’s quite the hot spot for lunch, so be prepared to wait for a table if you get there late. The sandwiches are huge — my husband and I split a Rueben (or some other such roast beef sandwich) and were almost too full to go to Cured (see #3). In addition to breakfast and lunch, they have a number of different pastries and baked goods. Make sure you try the macaroons!

Welcome to Pearl

I didn’t get any pictures of the building or food itself, so you’ll just have to trust me. Don’t skip this place on your next San Antonio trip.

 

 

#3 (Tie) Azuca & Cured

Ok, you got me. I couldn’t decide which of these I liked better. DEATHMATCH!

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Entry to Pearl, not Cured.

Cured – another neat little establishment in the Pearl Brewery area. Inside its brick walls, industrial-style lighting, and warm hardwood floors give it a cozy yet modern vibe. You can see their charcuterie meats hanging in a glass case right when you walk through the front door, and they don’t disappoint. Our favorite was the Mortadella and a citrus marmalade accompaniment. We also tried the Blue Ribbon Burger; it looked a little small, but is the perfect size for a second lunch.

Graffiti = awesome.

Azuca – offers another take on Mexican/Latino food. It’s not in the immediate downtown/River Walk area, which makes it a good choice if you want to try a less touristy place. Like #1 and #3, they have a diverse menu – pork belly, ceviche, and paella are just a few examples. Fair warning, you probably won’t have any room for dessert.

 

 

#5 Boudros

We went back to the River Walk for this one. Mostly because I’d read they had tasty drinks, and it wasn’t far enough into the trip that I was tired of drinking. I tried the Strawberry Caipirinha first, but it was a little too tar. Not enough strawberry. The Prickly Pear Margarita, though… well, have a look.

Prickly Pear MMarita

 

Almost too pretty to drink. Almost.

Food-wise, the Gulf Coast Seacakes we split as an app rivaled the oysters from Ácenar. Past that, I honestly don’t remember what I had. But even if you don’t go for the food, you have to go for the Prickly Pear Margarita!

 

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Skip it – La Fonda on Main

While it’s a lovely restaurant with wonderful service, the food really didn’t impress me. Compared to the other places we experienced the days prior, La Fonda doesn’t offer anything new or different. It has your standard Mexican fare – enchiladas, chile relleno, etc. – but nothing that sets it apart. The locals love it, so be prepared for the place to be packed and loud the entire time.  It’s a good place to get your feet wet in Mexican cuisine, but otherwise I’d recommend skipping it for better flavors around the city.

 

 

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Book Review – Schism by Laura Maisano

Behold! I have returned from San Antonius, land of river and tree and cement, and FOOD. Food like this –

 

It looks pretty enough not to eat, but don’t kid yourself. You will eat it, and then you will thank me later.  But we’ll have to save all the delicious reviews of grub, because today my friends, I have another review for you. Today, I’ll be talking about Schism, the new book-baby of my friend Laura Maisano.

 

The art therapy crap hasn’t done squat for Gabe Jones. A thousand sketches of his fiancée can’t bring his memory, or her, back to him. Nothing on Earth can. His past lies in another dimension, a world just out of sight.

 On campus, another student unknowingly shares Gabe’s obsession with the fourth dimension. Lea Huckley must prove this world exists. The monsters from the other side attacked her parents and fled, getting her folks locked up in the loony bin. Finding evidence is the only way to free them.

 She and Gabe strike a deal to help each other out, and together they manage to open a door to the world of Gabe’s true origin. She’d use him for proof—if she didn’t already care too  much.

 While Gabe tries to reconcile his feelings for Lea and his re-discovered memories of his fiancée, a much more sinister plot unravels. He uncovers his history, just in time to become the  unwilling linchpin in a conspiracy to start a war. His memory holds the secret the would-be conqueror needs to get the upper hand, the final riddle. Gabe must protect the riddle at all   costs, even if that means leaving Earth, and Lea, behind for good.

 

I’ll just admit it now – I love Lea. Seriously. She’s spunky, witty. An exceptionally loveable nerd who doesn’t give two shits how crazy other people think she is. But additionally, she isn’t dependent or constantly fawning over the guy she likes. Lea steals the show for the first half of the book.

Gabe, at first, feels simply there. It’s difficult to put into words; he’s actively helping Lea and hanging out with his roommate, but it was difficult to connect with him. It’s almost like his struggle to deal with his emotions, caused by the loss of his fiancée and memories, creates almost a fugue-like layer that keeps the reader at an arm’s length. But it’s glorious when that barrier disintegrates. His pain, anguish, love and above all, self-acceptance, become all the more real. Suddenly it’s not a college guy putting one foot in front of the other to get beyond loss and grief, but an otherworldly Winged whose life could keep multiple worlds balanced. As much as I love Lea, Gabe’s character arc might just be my favorite part of the book.

The twist is the other contender. I won’t spoil it, but it is quite fantastic. And it’s not just the contents of the twist, but how the reader is misdirected to not even consider it a possibility.

Though the story is mostly solid as a whole, there were some hiccups. The riddle is mentioned fairly early in the story, but not explained. Once we find out it’s hiding a relic called “the Stand,”  we have to grapple with what that means too. Only Nor seems to know what it does, which is a little strange considering the number of other councilmen entrusted to keep it’s location a secret. How does Illirin not have an archivist that can at least speculate on the Stand’s possible power(s)? Nor’s accomplice (a wizard who shan’t be named) also comes across a bit oddly. From their private conversations, the wizard sounds older, at least close to Nor’s age. It’s a bit jarring when his identity is revealed. Human or no, I’m still half expecting him to shed his normal form and… well I can’t really say without spoiling the twist!

As if parallel worlds, a brilliant dame, and a blue-skinned boy weren’t enough, Schism also throws Arthurian mythos into the mix. It, too, felt a bit rushed or glossed over, but I can look past it for now; tying Lea and her wizard nemesis to Merlin and Morgana was not a main part of this book’s plot arc. So for now all I’ll say is, “Cool!” and just watch that thread more carefully in the sequel. Definitely looking forward to see Lea getting more involved in saving both worlds!

 

That’s a wrap! I think I’ll take Tex’s advice and go back to Crimson Son for the next installment, just have to read it again. For some reason my brain didn’t quite know how to feel about Spencer on the first read-through.

Oh and if you’ve been hanging around this whole time waiting for more food pictures, don’t worry. I’ll get a post up about my excursion too!

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Book Review – One Night in Sixes by Tex Thompson

So shame on me, I’ve had Tex’s debut novel since its launch party, read it shortly thereafter, and am just NOW getting to the review. Still trying to find my blog-stride here, bear with me.

Appaloosa Elim is a man who knows his place.  On a good day, he’s content with it.

Today is not a good day.

Today, his so-called “partner” – that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has ridden off west for the border, hell-bent on making a name for himself in native territory.  And Elim, whose place is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn’t dare show up home again without him.

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day, but Elim’s heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner fast. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.

I was surprised that I liked this book as much as I did. Westerns are not my thing. Though it does retain an air of the old west with dust and sand, horse sales and gambling houses, it didn’t take long for those preconceived notions to get trampled by Tex’s world. Sixes, the primary setting of the story, is beyond the reaches of what one might consider civilized law. The city plays by its own rules, and only those “in the know” seem to decide who gets told how to play.

The characters are another plus. I wanted to punch Sil in the jaw for the first half of the book. Then Tex takes this unlikeable guy and turns him around. The entitled brat realizes what danger he’s put them in, and he makes a good attempt to the salvage the situation he caused. Elim acts as a good foil. I can’t help but feel bad for the guy. But his perseverance, and trust in Sil, get us through the latter half of the story.

The one [eensy] downside I can note is that once in Sixes, I found myself unable to keep up with the secondary characters. I was reading so quickly to see what happened next that I couldn’t keep track of everyone. The relationships between the Sixes inhabitants, and where they stand on the social ladder, are not explained very well. Or it’s entirely possible I missed the links there in my fervent reading frenzy.

Without spoiling anything, the ending got me. I guess everything else I read around the time had a HEA, and put me in the mindset that all would turn out well. No such luck here. Since this is the first book of three, though, I’ve got a lot of hope that Elim will catch a break at some point.

Book two of the series, Medicine for the Dead came out this week, so I’m excited to get the next piece of Elim’s story. You can find out more about Tex and her book-babies on her website: http://www.thetexfiles.com/p/works.html. Give it a shot!

To sum up other news, my February NaNo extension was somewhat successful. I wrote another ~37,000 words. Most of which were for a new beginning third. There will be a lot of cutting and stitching together in my future. We also adopted two cats (kittens, really) earlier this month. Next time we will think long and hard about getting young’uns, or make sure we bring them home at the same time. Oy.  They are starting to get along, but it has been a slow, stressful process.

Want to help pick the next review I post? Have at it! The ones on my list so far, are: Premonitions by Jamie Schultz; Clariel by Garth Nix; Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier; Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews; The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton; The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley; Crimson Son by Russ Linton; Night Broken by Patricia Briggs.   Leave a comment with your vote!

Until next time, write on!

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Rapid Review – Sailor Moon Crystal Arc 1

First thing’s first – I love Sailor Moon. I remember watching it and DBZ early in the morning when I was little, before going to my grandparents’ house. It was my gateway drug into anime. Unfortunately ,it went off whatever channel we had it on not too much later, so I missed pretty much all of the storyline of the first dubbed season after the Sailor Scouts were introduced. If I remember right, Comedy Central or Cartoon Network started showing the movies in the early 2000’s. We didn’t have cable or satellite, so I had a friend tape all them for me. I’m also lucky enough to have an uncle who’s big into comic books, who got me a good amount of the comic versions. They are gorgeous, by the way.

Viz.com has been showing (also producing/writing?) a whole new Sailor Moon series, called Sailor Moon Crystal. Here’s a rapid review of the first arc. Arc 1 consists of the Sailor Scouts getting together, Queen Beryl’s search for the Legendary Silver Crystal, and the big bad showdown.

 

If you haven’t seen it yet, be warned that I AM posting spoilers. This is your only warning.

Picture from: http://cdn3.denofgeek.us/sites/denofgeekus/files/sailor-moon-crystal.jpg

Spoilers Ahead!

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Verdict – disappointed.  Rating – 2.5

Problems:

  • the female empowerment built up through the first 3/4 of the arc is dismantled and beat bloody against Tokyo after Endymion (Prince Darien) is kidnapped and brainwashed
  • the storyline of the arc follows the manga pretty closely – this turns Beryl into a woman motivated by jealousy instead of just power in general, or wrapping Earth in darkness
  • the animation style or model design (a.k.a. super long legs and arms, weirdly designed scenes) becomes super noticeable at the end when Serena has her meltdown
  • Serena and Darien’s “deaths” that were prevented by the transformation locket and the knights’ stones, respectively
  • the Moon Kingdom’s reawakening or return, without any real reason why
  • there is no transformation of Serena into Princess Serenity at the end battle

 

The few highlights:

  • Sailor Venus acting as the princess until Luna is ready to awaken that part of Serena. This is the only good deviation from the original series (or at least the dubbed version that aired in the USA in the 90’s).
  • the glimpse of Luna’s human form (“Princess Kaguya” in the Sailor Moon S movie)
  • the love between Serena and Darien is, FOR ONCE, realized and shown early on
  • the story of Darien’s knights, and their relationship with the Sailor Scouts
  • in the end, it’s still Sailor Moon

 

 

There you have it! Arc 2 has already started, and brings in Chibi Usagi to the storyline. I honestly don’t know what that storyline will entail, since the only things I watched with Chibi Moon were the movies. When it’s over, I’ll be sure to give you another rapid review!

 

What did YOU think of Sailor Moon Crystal Arc 1? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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NaNoWriMo: Save all the things!

This past November, I took a giant leap and tried out NaNoWriMo. I didn’t expect to complete it. I mean, I spent ten years to get a 128,000 word first draft out of my brain. Ten. Years. Attempting to write 50,000 in thirty days sounded like insanity. And yet, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe do this every year. What was the harm in trying? At least I’d be writing, and any amount of writing would be better than the zero that I was doing at the time.

Spoiler alert: I wrote 50k words and “won” NaNoWriMo. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the process (okay, maybe not at first) and took a lot more away from it than I thought I would.

NaNo forced me to change my writing process, for the better. Previously, I would spend an hour or more making sure the wording was right in a particular paragraph or section. I would stare aimlessly at a blank page, stressed out on making that first sentence not sound like garbage. This hasn’t been conducive for a while. So instead, I started pre-writing the bare bones of whatever section I wanted to work on. Then I typed it up, adding description and detail. The results? Two to three pages of longhand got me between 600 and 1000 words a pop once I embellished. Once those were typed, a lot of times I just kept rolling. Whenever I got stuck, I’d return to the notebook and write out another couple pages.

The NaNoWriMo website has a built in word count adjuster and graph to show you are each day. A bunch of people also make word count calendars and excel sheets in case you want more personalized tracking. I found one such calendar online, and it really helped motivate me to make the daily goal.

NaNo Count

This is my finished calendar at the end of NaNoWriMo. So many boxes!

There’s just something about filling in little boxes that is, sigh, so satisfying.

I also learned how important it is to SAVE EVERYTHING, especially when working with Scrivener. You see that last week of November on the calendar there? Those three days of 0 words? Those are the result of my desktop keeling over. The computer blue-screened about half an hour after I finished writing on the 23rd. It wouldn’t restart, so I let it rest the night. Monday evening I tried turning it on again, no dice. Husband attempted booting it through BIOS, no dice.

You might be asking yourself, “Chesley, why weren’t you saving to a flash drive? Or to a cloud drive? Or both?” I don’t have any reason for not saving to a flash drive, other than I stood naively under the, “It can’t possibly happen to me!” umbrella. I did, however, save it to Dropbox. Except when I tried to pull the backups, Dropbox hadn’t correctly synced with the computer somehow. All I had was the skeleton of my Scrivener project. No text files whatsoever. So just a fair warning, if you are saving to Dropbox or Google Drive or whatever other cloud service, make SURE the Files -> Docs folder actually has an obscenely long list of .txt and .rtf files.

I got stupendously lucky.  We were able to access the hard drive with a USB cable from Amazon, making it act like an external drive. We had to search for another hour to find the files – hidden – in the My Documents folder. I cried a little. Those (roughly) 33k – 35k words meant a lot to me.

 

Another funny thing happened by the end of NaNoWriMo – I was (and still am) excited about the writing that came out of it.

Your first instinct is to think you’d hate the resulting tangle of words, because you’re (ideally) writing so fast that you ignore spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, and characters going off on tangential dialogue that makes no sense to the rest of the story.  When you let go of form and let your fingers fly, though, beautiful things can happen. You write so fast that your brain starts throwing out ideas like beads at Mardi Gras. Inevitably, some of the ideas will be bad, but there will be some gold nuggets in there, too.

Even though my MC needs a ton of work, and I have a number of consistency/world issues to iron out, I like the partial first draft. Little foreshadowing details and hints of future plot threads emerged out of nowhere, but fit so well with the story as a whole. It’s kind of awesome to let your writer-self off the leash, step back, and watch the cool things that come out of your psyche.

To top it off, I enjoyed NaNoWriMo so much that I’m going to try and do another 20k – 40k words in February. Who wants to join me?!

 

The one thing I regret with NaNoWriMo is that I didn’t get involved in the community side of it. I didn’t make it to any of the write-ins. I missed the end party because I read the date wrong, and was mighty pissed at myself for it. So for NaNo 2015, I’m going to stop being a chicken and go write with other people.

 

*Remember folks, save everything. For the love of your characters and sanity, save everything two or three different ways. A computer won’t always give you a warning before succumbing to the deep blue screen.

* The pre-writing (or outlining) I mentioned that I used for NaNo is explained better in Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k . It’s an insightful read, and gives good advice on not just writing faster, but writing better while you increase your word count at the same time.

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