The Copy Editor is Not Your Enemy!

More than Just Proofreading

Image from www.yourfictioneditor.com

A publishable manuscript has to go through several edits and editors. There are developmental editors, line editors, substantive editors, and copy editors. Their job is to make your manuscript shine. Indeed, they are not your enemy. Although some of my writer friends may disagree.

Contrary to popular opinion, the copy editor is more than a proofreader. They review and correct writing material for grammar errors, syntax, punctuation, and style. Moreover, they check for inconsistencies and ommissions. Before the digital era, they use to make corrections in red ink pens. Yes, your beloved manuscript would end up looking a bloody mess.

The truth is most beginning writers and indie writers are not used to having their work edited. How do you deal with that? By keeping an open mind.

Copy Editing Common Mistakes

Ask any copy editor what are their main pet peeves.

They will cite most of the following:

  • You are working for two clients; the author and the publishing house. It is hard to please both.
  • Less than half the re-writes requests come back in publishable form.
  • The most common problem is a story going on too long.
  • Punctuation and verb tenses are inconsistent.
  • An extra burden of editing science fiction and fantasy is that every detail has to be documented, particularly in book series.

Wow! Those poor copy editors do not have it so easy. Remember, they are not trying to be mean or disrespect your work. They are trying to improve it.

What can writers do?

Again, the copy editor is not our enemy. Think of him or her as a friend or supporter. They take their job seriously and they get paid for making our work better. There are a few things we can and must do.

Here are a few:

  • Change your thinking. The copy editor is not our enemy. They are our allies.
  • Google or Bing everything. Do not assume, especially with proper and real names and places.
  • Betta readers are wonderful. Use them!
  • Check your verb tenses for inconsistencies.
  • Self-edit. Ask yourself, honestly, does this makes sense? Will my readers understand it?
  • If your story (and paragraphs) are going too long, cut at least 10%.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, we need to keep an open mind when dealing with editors. They understand the readers and the industry better than us. Copy editors, in particular, get paid to fix those typos and inconsistencies which would be embarrassing in the final product.

We cannot spot the errors in your own writing. A first-rate copy editor could be a luxury but also a necessity. For people like me who are not native English speakers, it is a must. Do you remember the ABCs of Writing? I mentioned editors are our gatekeepers. Make sure they help us cross those gates.

Finally, let’s remember reading is like a trance state. Do not break it! Readers may forgive a typo or two. Too many on one page will pull them off the page and turn them away from your book. My advice? Make the copy editor your friend.

What are your experiences with the copy editing process?

 

 

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The Three Fs Rule: Time Management for Writers

Because Life Happens

Image from the Miami Herald

In a perfect world, writing is your job. Your only job. But the world we live in is not perfect. Nope. You wish you could sit and type eight hours a day and end up with an outrageous world count. Except again, life happens. You have family and relationship commitments. Not to mention church, school, and that four-letter word: work. Indeed, most writers I know have a day job. The 8:30 am to 5:00 pm kind. Yes, it sucks. Believe me, I know.

Moreover, authors today are not just writing. No. They have too many commitments. Authors today are writing, editing, marketing and busy being an entrepreneur. Indie authors have it worse, since they have to be copy editors, cover and art designers, and just wear too many hats. I admire them.

If you are anything like myself, you are a procrastinator (guilty!) and you hate deadlines (they at least keep me focused). Hence, time management is a primordial skill for authors.

Here are a few tips I learned from listening to other writers at conferences and NaNoWriMo‘s forums. I call them the three Fs: Focus, Flexibility, Forgiving.

Focus

How much writing can you get done in an hour? Despite my not so pleasant experience with NaNoWriMo, I must confess their word count helpers do keep you focused on your writing. Having goals, even a word count goal, also helps to track your progress.  Also, their word sprints work. Granted, you would spend twice as much time editing and polishing your manuscript, but you will have a manuscript to polish.

Also, having writing buddies and accountability partners would guilt you into finishing your manuscripts.

Finally, if you want to focus, really focus, you need to remove distractions. Trust me, the world would not end if you stay away from the internet and social media for an hour a day.

Flexibility

Finding time to write requires also flexibility. You would need to balance your wants and your needs. For example, playing Overwatch and Rocket League it is a want. Finishing my first draft it is a need. Ask yourself honestly, what it is getting on your way from meeting your deadlines?

I want to make a point: I do not believe in multitasking. To use a Puerto Rican expression, those who cook two pigs end burning one. Work on one thing at a time and give it your complete attention. Don’t try to do several things at once. Your writing will suffer. Balance is key.

Prioritize specific days for specific times. Some writers I know swear by ‘time blocks‘. They break their day into time blocks. Some tackle the hardest stuff first. I do the opposite, I rather get the easiest tasks out of the way first. Again, do whatever works best for you.

Forgive Yourself

Once more, see the first paragraph. Life happens. We do not live in a vacuum or a perfect world. You may get sick, busy, you may have an emergency or five, you may have to attend a funeral, a wedding or a work event. You may miss a deadline. You would miss word count goal or it may decrease some days. It’s okay.

I used to think finding time to read is hard. These days it seems finding time to write is harder. We are humans. Therefore, we are not perfect. Pray about it if you must. Complain, get it off your chest. And then, forgive yourself.

Better to complete a publishable manuscript than to finish a mediocre one in your rush to publication. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Ask for help. Reward yourself when you meet your deadlines. But moreover, forgive yourself when you do not. Remember, the best thing God created was another day after another. There is always tomorrow to try again.

In conclusion, these are my three Fs of time management.

What works for you? What doesn’t? Share in the comments.

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Great Cities in Science Fiction

Urban Living is the Future

futuristic city landscape from es.123RF.com

Overpopulated, noisy, complex, stressful, polluted. Today’s major cities are hardly a utopia when it comes to living. Despite all their problems, humans prefer to live in cities. There are more people living in cities than in rural areas. China alone has over one hundred cities with one million people each. Urbanization is here to stay.

Ever since the first humans built the first city, called Eridu, fifty-four centuries before the current era, urbanization has been the preferred way of living. It is not my intention to start a debate about the city versus the country. Nonetheless, since science fiction deals with possible futures, cities are prominent.

Science fiction and fantasy, but particularly science fiction, uses cities as setting. However, Sci-Fi’s cities are sprawling metropolis full of advanced technology. This post is not about which cities are better, utopian or dystopian, but about what makes a great city in science fiction.

 

Space Cities Resemble Earth Cities

Fans and readers know well science fictional cities are huge metropolis with impossibly high skyscrapers and monuments. The technology is like nothing we have today. And yet, they are recognizable to us. Why? In part, Sci-Fi’s greatest cities are modeled after New York City and London, and to a lesser degree, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

There may be flying cars, heliports, roof landing pads, robots and AIs, and other strange ways of transportation. Space may be at a premium. There may be domes or force fields surrounding them. They could be high-tech, claustrophobic megacities; or they could be harsh, dangerous, artificial constructs. Regardless of the type of world building the author chooses, what they are is artificial.

Cities are not a natural thing. Sci-fi’s cities are usually an extrapolation of modern concerns and problems. However, in science fiction, more than other genres, setting is like a character. Hence cities are important. A city’s characteristics will reflect whether the regime is authoritarian, democratic or plutocratic. Moreover, don’t get me started on wealth disparity in futuristic cities.

Some of the Best Cities in Science Fiction

Trantor City image from Pinterest.es
  1. Trantor, Foundation series, Isaac Asimov, The so-called center of the galaxy
  2. The Sprawl, Neuromancer, William Gibson. The Northeast utmost mega-city (Boston to Atlanta).
  3. Solaria, Naked Sun, Isaac Asimov. The isolationist city dependent on robot labor.
  4. Lusitania, Speaker for the Dead, Orson Wells. The home city of the Pequeninos.
  5. Gethen, Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin. The winter city of androgynous aliens.
  6. San Angeles, The Courier, Gerald Brandt. The corporate cyberpunk city.
  7. Arrakis, Dune, Frank Herbert. The harsh city of the desert planet.
  8. Bellona, Dhalgren, Samuel Delany. The city cut off from the rest of world.
  9. Armada, The Scar, China Mieville. The floating pirate city.
  10. Diaspar, The City and the Stars, Arthur C. Clarke. The forgotten city run by a supercomputer.
  11. Magrathea, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams. The superrich planet orbiting twin suns.
  12. Terminator, 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson. The fascinating moving city on Mercury.

Nobody knows for sure what the city of the future would look like. No one. Regardless, I am sure science fiction authors would continue to imagine the future. The writers of the nineteenth century got the twentieth century wrong in many regards. In other predictions, reality surpassed them. Indeed, nobody knows the future but the fun remains in imagining it.

What is your favorite fictional city? Do you prefer a dystopian or utopian city? Share in the comments.

 

 

 

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Sword and Soul: Why Afrofuturism Matters?

What is Afrofuturism?

Mermaid in the desert artwork by Mr. Synnerster/Deviant Art

Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic encompassing film, art, music, fashion, and literature. It explores the experiences and concerns of the African Diaspora through a techno-cultural and science fictional lens. The term was coined by Mark Dery in 1993 in a series of essays.

Afrofuturism is hard to define. I’d done plenty of reading on the topic and the definitions are contradictory at best. Here is my take, and I may be wrong. Afrofuturism is a movement, a cultural movement. In a sense, it is more of an African American experience. One which explores the intersection of race and technology in interesting and compelling ways.

Nonetheless, do not take my word.  Let’s go straight to the source.

Black to the Future

Have you read the original essay titled Black to the Future in which the term “Afrofuturism” was coined by Mark Dery? If you haven’t, click on the link above and do it. It is a short 23 pages which are a real eye-opener for someone like myself who did not grow up in the continental USA.  Several interesting questions are asked which are as pertinent today as they were back in 1993.

For example, (I am oversimplifying here) can a community whose past was erased imagine possible futures? Does black nationalism have a place in science fiction? Why hasn’t the African-American community made more use of science fiction? And, most exciting to me, how do cultures respond to social ruptures? Again, relevant questions with no easy answers.

Finally, I would like to discuss what Afrofuturism is not (as per mister Dery’s words). It is not ‘black people in space’. Moreover, it is not a stereotype of Africa as 3rd World and its people as savages or poor. On the contrary, it is about African self-awareness and expression exploring class, race, and identity using science fiction’s tropes.

Why Afrofuturism Matters?

Afrofuturistic image from Pinterest

Why Afrofuturism matters? Yes, I know I am not black. You are probably asking what do I know about the topic? But hear me out. Speculative fiction in general and science fiction in particular benefits when it is inclusive. Representation of all races, classes, and cultures is important for several reasons. Namely, because they are also readers and writers. Because they have voices which enrich the science fiction pantheon.

Afrofuturism is about African-American writers subversively pushing back against the mainstream. Also, let’s not forget, diversity sells. Readers want to read about people who look like them and everybody they know. For this reason, it was Lightspeed magazine’s issue 73 (People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction) was so transgressive and challenging.

Moreover, we should remember Africa is the second biggest continent on the planet and the fastest growing in population by 2050. Also, African-Americans are roughly 18% of the population of the USA. Ignoring them is a disservice not just to them but to science fiction itself.

We need more representation. Science fiction is a literature of change and big ideas. Science fiction can be aspirational and optimistic. The future will be brighter. With all colors and shades under the sun.

 

 

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Sci-Fi’s Ultimate Fantasy: Time Travel!

The Ultimate Wish Fulfillment

time traveler wallpaper from HispanTV.com

As a genre, science fiction has accumulated in his short existence many tropes. Time travel, the ability to move backward and forwards in time, is one of its most popular ones. Indeed, you could say time travel is science fiction’s ultimate fantasy. If you are anything like me, your life is full of regrets. Don’t you wish you have a time machine to go back in time and change them?

Moreover, who wouldn’t want to visit classical Greece and listen to the Iliad on its original Greek? Who wouldn’t want to meet Marilyn Monroe or Ava Gardner in the flesh? Can you imagine meeting Copernicus, Galileo or Francis Bacon? I would not mind sharing a beer with Pedro Albizu Campos or Ingmar Bergman.

What about the future? Who would not want to know next week’s Powerball winning numbers? Better yet, aren’t you curious about what the world would look like in fifty, a hundred, five hundred years from now? Wish fulfillment indeed!

Forget Astronauts; Give me Chrononauts!

There is an ongoing debate among scientists about whether time travel is possible. On one hand, general and special relativity make it somehow possible. Not to mention quantum theory. On the other hand, the amount of energy required to power a time machine or ship is not realistic. Of course, this has not stopped writers from writing about time travel and Chrononauts. From H. G. Wells The Time Machine (1895) to Isaac Asimov‘s The End of Eternity (1971) stories abound about intrepid travelers through the fourth dimension.

Wormholes, time vortexes, time machines, time dilation, grandfather paradoxes and the butterfly effect are almost part of our lexicon thanks to science fiction. Nonetheless, it is not my intention to romanticize time travel. If you recall your history lessons, the past could be quite violent and dangerous. Plague, wars, poverty, piracy, slavery, et cetera; and none of our modern comforts. And who knows if the future would be better? Can you imagine traveling centuries in the future to find a nuclear winter?

However, despite its inherent dangers, most of us would jump at the chance to become chrononauts.  No wonder Doctor Who remains so popular fifty-five years later.

Time After Time

time machine prototype image from Taringa.net

In conclusion, it does not matter if time travel is possible or not. There are plenty of smarter people than myself working out the math. Einstein himself said time is an illusion, it is relative. He also said gravity can bend time. Perhaps the key to making time travel possible does not lay with the hypothetical faster than light tachyons but with another particle; the elusive (as of this writing) gravitons.

The job of a science fiction writer is not to make science but to imagine the future. To make the impossible possible. Science fiction is, after all, a literature of ideas and change. Consequently, just because time travel is not possible today does not mean it won’t be possible one day.

I love a good time travel story. However, I have stayed away from them on my own writing with one small exception (Breaking the Laws).

Do you want recommendations? Here are three of my favorites: Octavia Butler’s poignant Kindred (1979); Joe Haldeman’s cautionary tale The Accidental Time Machine (2007); and Jack McDevitt’s excellent Time Travelers Never Die (2009).

Just as nothing in the universe ever stand still, time travel stories will be with us, either as a trope or plot device. There are a cynics constantly asking “where is my flying car?” I rather ask, “where is my time machine?

Happy reading, happy travels. Make sure not to step on any butterflies. You’d been warned.

 

 

 

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On Sparring

I Believe in Sparring

Tiger versus monkey! Sparring A. J. Fernandez

The essence of martial arts, any martial arts, is sparring. Indeed, you cannot have a martial art without philosophy. Hence the reason I do not consider MMA or wrestling a martial art. Therefore, no philosophy, no martial art. But on the other hand, sometimes people forget the martial in martial arts stand for combat.

Also, since twenty-first century USA martial arts are practiced more like a sport or a hobby, we forget martial arts were born in ancient times on the battlefield. For combat. The life or death type. Perhaps modern times are not as dangerous as five, six centuries ago. Maybe guns and modern weaponry have made hand to hand combat not as necessary as it was at the time of the samurai or the Warring States Period. But everyone needs to be trained in the arts of self-defense. Everyone.

Back when I talked about Chinese martial arts and me, I stated you cannot have kung fu without fighting. This statement applies to any real martial art. Because if you do not intend to defend yourself, why are you doing it?

Yes, there are many lessons and benefits of practicing martial arts. But self-defense is their main purpose. And is while sparring is where you get to practice and test out those techniques.

Point Sparring or Continuous Sparring?

me sparring at the 2012 Wong People Tournament. I got my @$$ kicked

If you ever competed in a martial arts tournament, you will notice they have separate sparring divisions by age, weight, belt rank and genders to keep it fair. They also divide sparring between point sparring and continuous sparring. I will admit I am not the best fighter in the world, or on the top hundred. But I’d done both, so I know a little about sparring.

Continuous sparring has time limits and rounds and is non stop combat. The judges keep count of legal hits to the body. Speed and stamina are the two most important skills to be successful. You got to get in and get out before the opponent hits you. Moreover, you must try to outlast your opponent. Those three or five minutes seem much longer when you are inside the ring. If you are not sweating badly afterward, you are not doing it right.

Point sparring may seem like a game of tag. It is not. Point sparring is like a game of chess. Tactics and fast reflexes are fundamental in order to persevere. Point sparring may not be as exciting as continuous but it is also worth practicing.

Both styles of sparring are worth pursuing and are valuable, although kung fu tournaments only use continuous sparring.

Sparring Matters

You cannot be a complete martial artist unless you spar regularly. Sparring should be part of the curriculum. If you are not sparring in class, you are probably attending a McDojo. You are not learning self-defense, you are wasting your time.

Sparring matters. Granted, we practice martial arts for more than just fighting. Self-development and fitness come to mind. Nonetheless, sparring should be at the heart of any martial arts training. How else would you know if those self-defense techniques work? How would you get over your fears? Forms training alone cannot do it.

Finally, some would argue sparring for competition and controlled sparring in class is not realistic. Although that may be true, neither is practicing CPR on a dummy. The idea is when, or if, a realistic scenario happens to be prepared and not freeze. Yes, you do practice trying not to hurt your uke or sparring partner. But if the needs arise on the street… The gloves are off.

I rather spar in class and never need to defend myself than not spar in class and find myself in a situation that requires it. What are your thoughts?

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Are You Goal Oriented or Process Oriented?

Goals Are Important

Goals process chart from 3Naves.com

It’s the first week of the new year and if you are like me, and most people, you made resolutions for 2018. There is nothing bad about it. A new year offers a clean slate to begin and better ourselves. Nonetheless, if you are like me, you may have failed at most (or all) of your resolutions. Does it mean we should abandon the practice of making resolutions? Absolutely not!

Goals are important. We admire goal-oriented people; we look down on aimless people. Moreover, we need goals in our lives to keep us moving forward. “Think big, aim high,” they say to us.  Earle Nightingale said it best: “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going”. Hence, goals are important.

Except having goals alone do not make you succeed. Let’s see why.

Goal Oriented People

Goal oriented people make goals who require them to grow. However, growing is incidental. They can be single-minded in their pursuits of their goal. They focus on what they want and how to get it. Goal oriented people are willing to make sacrifices and work hard for their desired outcome. But is all about the outcome.

Process Oriented People

On the other hand, process-oriented people are not as focused on the outcome. Their main focus is in the process. Yet, they do attain goals and grow. However, this happens because their process takes them there. They are more interested in continual personal growth and improvement.

Goal Oriented Versus Process Oriented

Are they really that different? Yes and no. They may have the same end result in mind but the difference is how they get there.

For example, you have two individuals whose goal is to become a black belt. Individual number one is goal oriented and will take karate lessons until he or she acquires the desired rank. Individual number two is process oriented. He or she will break down the goal into smaller goals and behaviors to reach the goal. He or she will work towards a white belt, yellow, green, purple, et cetera. They may focus on taking lessons two or three times a week for a year and continue building from there.

Whereas both individuals are working towards the same goal, the process-oriented individual has a more realistic way of getting there and would be less likely to quit when obstacles appear.

No Goal, No Process

Finally, let me make clear that a person who has goals in life is way ahead of those who do not. However, remember that old saying, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Consequently, as we begin this new year, let us make goals and resolutions. But also let’s break them down into incremental steps. My goal is to be published. My process is to continue writing, editing and submitting. To continue learning and improving. To revise after each rejection. It does not have to happen this year. As long as I keep learning and growing as a writer, the process will take me there.

Happy New Year! Keep moving forward in 2018 and beyond.

 

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Welcome 2018!

Happy New Year 2018

A new year means a new beginning. New opportunities. A fresh start filled with goals, resolutions, and motivations. There will be celebrations, parades, and fireworks. Don’t forget the confetti and noisemakers. Most people would be impossibly happy and joyful. No, it’s not the champagne.

Regardless whether the past year was good or bad, we humans love to look forward towards the future. We put our hopes in the future. The future would be bright. The future would be better. The Earth, our home planet, finished spinning around the sun. And we celebrate it. Because we want 2018 to erase our unpleasantness and let the past behind. We took a review of 2017, then moved forward.

I want to wish everyone a happy New Year 2018 full of health, peace, joy, fun, and especially success.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks display over Center City, Philadelphia. Image from RockonPhilly.com

One of my favorite songs by Mecano is “Un Año Mas” (One More Year), a song about expecting the new year. The song states for once we all do something simultaneously. Meaning we all count down from ten to one at the same time. I pray the unity and joy we fill on New Year’s Eve and day never go away. Let’s always remember we are one. One species, one people, one family.

We don’t know what the future will bring. But for one night, we welcome it with our best clothes, our most cheerful, and our best attitude. We survived our more go around the sun. Hope we keep going and going. Let’s never lose today’s joy in the coming months.

If you are in the Philadelphia area, go watch the fireworks from Penn’s Landing and the Art Museum. Also, make sure to attend the Mummer’s Parade.

I wish 2018 will erase terrorism, war, and poverty. I pray for zero natural disasters. I am still hoping for a cure for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer and other diseases. Am I optimistic? It is a new year. I am allowed to be. Optimism is kind of my brand. What do you expect? I love and read science fiction.

Repeat with me: 2018 will be the best year ever!

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My 2017 Year in Review

What a Year!

2017 free image from Shutterstock.com

2017 is almost over. This is the last post of the year, so what better time to look back at the year’s highlights. Remember, I am not an expert, just a fan. The opinions are entirely my own. I won’t recommend something I haven’t read, viewed, played or experienced myself.

In retrospect, 2017 was a mixed bag kind of year. Not excellent, not awesome. But it was not that bad either. ‘Speculative Tertulia’ grew in readership, views, and shares. A few post went viral, others remained evergreen. Thank you!

Best Movies

Everyone is talking about The Shape of Water. Wonder Woman proved female lead superhero movies can be hits. Blade Runner 2049 returned with three shorts and a big screen feature film who was excellent.

However, the best film of 2017 is definitely Your Name. Months later it still lingers in my mind. I can watch it over and over again. The story, characters, animation, and music still resonate. Yes, it came out on 2016 but it was not shown in the USA until May of this year in the big screens.

‘Your Name’ was easily the best film of 2017.

Best Anime

A great year for anime. From the long-awaited return of the second season of Attack on Titan to the disjointed narrative of Kino’s Journey, to the biggest surprise of the year, March Comes in like a Lion, it was an excellent year for anime fans. But, the best anime of 2017 was easily the second season of My Hero Academia. To say My Hero Academia is a big hit is doing a disservice. This show has captured the imaginations of the fans. No easy feat to beat Attack on Titan but they did it. Season 2 was stronger than season one and the villains felt more like a threat.

‘My Hero Academia season 2 was the anime of the year.

Best Science Fiction Books

Do I have to pick one? This was an excellent year for readers and fans. Waking Gods by Silvain Neuvel is the rare sequel that’s better than the first book. A review will be forthcoming. Walkway by Cory Doctorow and Andy Weir’s Artemis are also great reads. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty does for cloning what I Robot did for robotics. My favorite book of the year. Except Kameron Hurley’s Stars are Legion combines three of my favorite things: space opera, biopunk, and military sci-fi.

‘Stars are Legion’ is the sci-fi novel of the year (with Six Wakes a very close second).

Best Video Games

The Nintendo Switch launched and it is a huge success. However, I don’t own one yet. My biggest complaint is the majority of its games are ports of Wii U games. But Super Mario Odyssey looks so amazing.

My most played game on PS 4 is still Rocket League. It is that addictive. But it was a great year for gamers. Tekken 7 (wish it had Lei Wulong) returned and Injustice 2 is better than the first one.

Nier: Automata is easily the cyberpunk game everyone needs to play. Except a little gem came and made me fall in love. A J-RPG by the name of Persona 5, with loveable characters, dungeons and demons to battle and fused.

Persona 5 was my video game of 2017.

Writing

I am a writer and writer’s write. However, I still remain unpublished. What is that? Four years and counting? My stories keep getting rejected. My literary rejection pile keeps growing. No worries, I will keep trying. I am still waiting to hear back on my two most recent ones.

On the other hand, I attended the Philadelphia Writer’s Workshop and learned a lot. I also entered more webinars and continually improving my craft.

My short story The Devil Does Not Speak Latin received an honorable mention at the Writers of the Future contest, 3rd quarter. I hope I can find it a suitable publisher.

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and failed at it.

My goals for 2017 are three: be published, be published, be published.

2017 Biggest Highlight

Doctor Who is now a woman! Let’s welcome Jodi Whitaker to the Tardis as the 13th Doctor. NASA kept making discoveries, including more planets that may support life. AR overtook VR in the short run but the race continues. Harry Potter turned twenty years old! Moreover, it remains just as popular as ever. Philcon, J1-Con and Boskone were lots and lots of fun. Participating on the Hugo Panel was a learning experience.

Notwithstanding all these, the biggest highlight of 2017 was the August’s solar eclipse.

For one day, we put all our differences away and we became one. Mother nature put on a show and we could not help but be awed, humbled, amazed and astonished. The joy and fellowship brought by the eclipse were what the country needed to remind us we all people.

Agreed? Disagreed? What were your personal highlights of 2017?

 

 

 

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Your Lie in April: Teenage Musical Elegy

Striking an Emotional Chord

I met a girl under the full-bloom cherry blossom tree, and my fate has begun to change.” With those words begin one of the most moving pieces of writing and animation I had seen.

Kaori and Kousei

I have reviewed several other anime and manga. Most of them are related to speculative fiction, the main theme of this blog. Your Lie in April is not one of them. Known in Japan as  Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, the original manga by Naoshi Arakawa is a slice-of-life part drama/part tragedy story with some comedy in it to save us viewers from depression.

As a matter of fact, there are no giant mecha, spaceships, time travel plots or artificial intelligence at work. Instead, you get a very human story about four friends. There are no monsters present, except the monsters of guilt, abuse, and terminal illness. There is no magic present, except the healing power and magic of music.

Oh, and what music it is! From Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovski, Maurice Ravel, Fritz Kreisler, Camille Saint-Saens, Alexander Scriabin and other composers, if you love music, you are in for an audial treat.

This anime strikes an emotional chord with its viewers and you may want to have some tissue in hand while watching. You had been warned.

A Duo Sonata

Your Lie in April’s main characters

Your Lie in April follows four main characters and several secondary characters. However, this is a true duo sonata between  Kaori and Kousei.

Kousei Arima is a former piano prodigy who could not hear the musical notes after his mother’s death. Hence, he stops playing the piano. As you watch the anime, you realize his inability to hear the notes is psychological and hides an abusive past and guilt (spoiler: his last words to his mother was “I wish you were dead”).

Watari is the captain of the school soccer team and Kousei’s best friend. He is a bit of a player but it is shown as supportive and caring, as well as full of insight. His new conquest is Kaori.

Sawabe Tsubasi is Kousei’s next door neighbor and childhood friend. She is a bit of a tomboy and a skilled softball player. She is in love with Kousei but does not show her feelings until he started to develop feelings for Kaori.

Kaori Miyazone is a free-spirited violin player who is terminally ill. She enters musical competitions and breaks the rules. She only cares about being remembered for her performances. She makes her mission to bring Kousei out of his self-imposed retirement and make him confront his reluctance to play the piano again.

Adagio/Allegro

Kaori and Kousei performing

As stated above, this show is a duo sonata among Kousei and Kaori. As the first episode makes clear, he lives in a world of monotone. She lives a colorful and impulsive world. In keeping with the musical theme of Your Lie in April, I rather describe them as adagio and allegro.

Like an adagio movement, Kousei’s world is slow and full of sadness. In contrast, Kaori, despite her illness and progressive loss of physical movement, is emotionally an allegro, fast, full of joy and whim.

Despite their contrasting natures and personalities, they influence each other for the best (even when they don’t quite match together on stage at first). Their friendship and musical partnership will be tested by forces beyond their control.

These opposites are more alike than they think. Music is their common link.

 

Finale

Your Lie in April wallpaper by Alpha Coders

Your Lie on April was first published on 2014-2015. Again, I am late to the party. But how glad I am I finally get to watch it completely. The animation and colors are vibrant and the special effects in describing Kousei’s inability to hear the notes are true highlights. If you are not in love with classical music, prepare to become one. The plot points build to a crescendo that turns into an elegy. Once you wipe your tears, you would feel better and may want to watch again.

Finally, some have argued Your Lie in April is about discovering your passion for something. Others have argued it is about love, friendship, heartbreak. Moreover, some even argue it is about coping with death. No way!

For me, Your Lie in April is not about dying but about living (and enjoying) every moment. It is also about the struggle of being a musician. Even faced with death and guilt, our young musicians rather perform and let it all out on the stage, seeking the audience’s applause as their only reward. Not unlike the writing process.

Highly recommended. A must watch. I will rate it a 9.5/10.

 

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