The Next Master of Animation

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It is no secret that my favorite animation studio has long been Studio Ghibli and I stand in perpetual awe of Hayao Miyazaki’s genius. Ever since the rumors first began of him retiring, I wondered who would take his place as the master of animated magic? Now that Miyazaki has “officially” retired the question has become more immediate. Though Studio Ghibli still releases beautiful and captivating films, I haven’t felt the same stirring in my heart with the last couple of films which I did with all their earlier ones. I begin to think that it may be time for someone else to take up the mantle (not that I’m crossing Studio Ghibli off just yet, but it may be time for something new). I original assumed another Japanese animator would fill the void, but I’m beginning to think differently.

We’re becoming too familiar with anime, brilliant though it may be, it seems to me that a new perspective is needed, a new style. And to my surprise the origin of that new perspective is Ireland.

“Ireland?” you may ask, “Do they make animated movies there?”

Why yes, as a matter of fact in recent years a brilliant new animation studio has emerged by the name of Cartoon Saloon. There’s a good chance you’ve seen their first major hit “The Secret of Kells,” on Netflix.

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 I adored this film, it’s pure magic, with characters and images that linger in the mind long after the credits have rolled. Instead of competing with technology its creators tells its story in beautiful flat, 2d drawings. It draws on Irish Christian and Pagan legends and creates wonderful atmosphere with irish music, and scenes that could be right out of an illuminated manuscript. I loved the film and so was thrilled when I heard they were coming out with another animation called “Song of the Sea.”

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I was curious to see if their second film could hold up to the first one. I was not disappointed, “Song of the Sea,” though set in a more modern Ireland was just as full of wonder and magic as “The Secret of Kells.” It draws on the Irish legend of the Selkie, a seal which can shed its skin and become a human on land. But the film doesn’t loose itself in legend and magic, it keeps us grounded in the characters and their relationships, creating a rich story which I believe surpasses “The Secret of Kells.”

I love American animation, our studios have created masterpieces that will live on in children’s hearts through the years. But I believe that foreign film opens our eyes to new perspectives and new stories, and it’s important for children to have that. We need new stories, or we get stuck in the old tropes our culture has developed, that’s why foreign film is so exciting and I’m glad America has embraced amazing animation studios like Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon, it helps give us the breath of fresh air our stories need. I hope to continue to see foreign countries creating their own unique style of animation and storytelling.

I have high hopes for Cartoon Saloon and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Adventures

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Beit Shean and the amazing Roman city of Scythopolis.

Good day loyal readers. I apologize for not writing regularly for the last few months, I’ve been distracted by adventure. I spent a couple of weeks overseas in Israel at the end of February. This was my first trip over the Pond and it turns out that large scale adventures take up a lot of time before you ever take to the air and once you’ve had them it takes time to recover and acclimate to ones normal life once more. So put simply I’ve been distracted and am attempting to return to a regular writing routine.

I’ve discovered that there are things in life that we know in our heads, but don’t truly become real for us until we see them for ourselves. For me it’s easy for faraway places to seem obscure and nearly fictional. Israel was a place I’ve read about, seen pictures of, and seen in movies, but to actually go there was a little like finding myself in Narnia (minus the magic and talking animals.) It was strange to exploring this country which I had ever only known second hand.

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View of the Old City from The Mount of Olives

The landscape was very green this time of year and beautiful. I had more fun exploring ancient ruins than anyone has a right to have. I love old things and in Israel it’s hard to throw a rock without hitting something ancient. It’s amazing to see the remains of civilizations thousands of years old and get a small glimpse into how they must have lived. It made the past come a little more alive for me.

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Streets of Jerusalem.

I learned new things, saw new places, and gained a broader perspective of the world and I know some of that will seep into my writing.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Israel and I hope to travel more. For now I’ll continue to focus on my writing and see what the future brings.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

The Beauty of “Weird” Music

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According to some people I like weird and unusual music. This is true, I like a lot of non-mainstream music. I listen to steampunk, dark music, symphonic metal, celtic folk, indie rock, musicals, Japanese, instrumental and any other sound which catches my fancy.

I was thinking about why I love many of these genres today and decided the root of it is because they makes me think. For me good music teaches me something or gets my mind working. I’ve learned new words from steampunk songs, history and folk lore from celtic folk, and delved into the depths of human emotion and motivation with indie rock and alternative music. I love instrumental because it offers no restrictions except for the mood of the sound and allows your imagination to take off. But the common thread is it gets me thinking and challenges me.

What’s some of the unusual music that you guys like? I’m always on the lookout for new music (;

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Three Hobbies

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I found this quote awhile ago. “Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.” That quote has stuck with me ever since. I can see the importance of having variety in my passions. My hobby to be creative (hopefully one day my career) is writing. But if I only focus on writing than I’ll be sitting in front of a computer screen all day and that’s not healthy. That’s where my hobby for keeping me in shape comes in. I’ve been practicing martial arts since I was 13. I took a 2 year break and have recently gotten back into it, but it’s made a huge difference in my life. I’d decided that I’d just focus on my writing and sure I might miss martial arts, but I don’t really have time or money for it. Well some doors recently opened up, by the grace of God, and I’m back into it and I’m a lot happier for it. It’s important to exercise both the body and the mind. As for a hobby for money…well I’m still working on that one. I hope that writing will one day be my hobby of creativity and money, but I’ve also played with the idea of photography or making jewelry as a side gig to bring in a little extra cash.

Whatever your hobbies may be, it’s important to have duality and balance in our lives, it makes us healthier more rounded people.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Distractions

study_distractionsWriting regularly is a challenge. People who are serious about writing have to treat it like a job, a fun, amazing job which lets you create worlds and people, but a job nonetheless. When you have a job, even if it’s one you love, there will always be days when you don’t want to go in, days you’d rather watch Tv or hang out with friends. With most jobs you shrug off these feelings, because you have a boss and it’s not acceptable to just not show up because you didn’t feel like it.

In writing, or many of the arts, we don’t have the luxury of someone standing over us cracking the whip. At least not when we’re first starting out. Later on we might have agents and publishers breathing down our necks to meet a deadline. But starting out all we have is our self discipline and our dreams to keep us going. So many days, even though we want to create, it’s easier to get caught up in the immediate. But the problem is that if you’re a writer and want to get published you have to put the time in and that’s not easy. Somedays it’s the last thing you want to do. But the question becomes do you want to look back in ten, twenty years and say you watched a lot of tv and wasted time? Or do you want to look back and see a trail of books–or art–that you created through the years?

I, for one, have so many ideas running through my head that I know I’m going to have to writing more and faster if I’m ever going to keep up with them. I have ups and downs with my writing, as do we all, but rarely am I writing as much as I know I should. I know that I need to start treating my writing as a priority if I’m ever going to capture all those delightful–sometimes dark, sometimes beautiful, perhaps a little twisted–ideas running rampant in my head.

I hope that all of us, in the coming year, can say no more often to the distractions and yes to The Work.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Book List of 2014

This is a list of books I read during 2014, I’ve been making an effort to finish more books. I’m getting to that place in my life where I have trouble finding time to read, I remember when I was younger wondering how that was even possible, but I’m starting to understand. A lot of times it isn’t even that I don’t have enough time, it’s simply that I don’t have enough energy or focus. After a long day it’s so much easier to veg out in front of the Tv, instead of reading. The problem is I’m a reader, I love to read, and when I don’t read I feel like I’m failing myself in someway. So I’m working on regaining an attention span that’s been stolen by hours of tv and the internet. At the end of 2015 I hope to post a longer list.

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Supervillian Hunters: International

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Dreams and Shadows

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Supervillains of London

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Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator

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Writing your Novel from the Middle

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Fortunately the Milk

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Steelheart

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Chasing the Star Garden

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Emperor’s Soul

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S.H.R.A.I.D: Shadow Play

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The Alchemist

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Superhero of the Day

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Shadow and Bone

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Lady of Devices

download (6)The Girl and the Clockwork Cat

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The Night Circus

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The Book of Kindly Deaths

download (9)Ocean at the End of the Lane (reread)

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In Silence Waiting

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Alice and Wonderland

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Coraline

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Slow Regard of Silent Things

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Dragons of Dorcastle

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The Gift of Boredom

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In today’s fast pace society we rarely have time to be bored. There’s always something going on, something to do, something to watch or listen to. We avoid boredom and silence like the plague. But we forget that boredom can be a gift, it forces us to get creative. Forces us to think outside the box. When I was a child boredom fueled my imagination. There are few things as horrible as being bored when you’re a kid, so you make things up, you build things, and you imagine new worlds, anything to keep boredom at bay.
I’ve found that a little boredom is good for my creative life. It can be hard to take time to sit down and thinking about my writing, but a few hours of repetitive cleaning at work can really stir up my creative juices. A long walk gives my brain the silence it needs to work problems out, and come up with new ideas, long drives usually send my mind wandering in interesting directions too.
We need to allow ourselves the chance to slow down, to be bored and let our brain do its thing without a lot of over stimulation.

~Lady of the Pen~

Stormdancer

pressStormdancerUSI recently read a book called Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. It caught my attention because it’s Japanese steampunk and what could be more glorious than Japanese steampunk?—I mean seriously!

After reading it I have to give it 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it a lot, but there were elements that stopped me from liking it as much as I hoped.

Setting: The setting was fantastic! There’s rich, colorful world building, it’s something you can really sink your teeth into. The story is set in the Shima Isles, which would likely translate to Feudal Japan in the real world. But Shima has airships, Iron Samurai, and chainsaw katana. All of which is fueled by lotus flower, a plant which poisons the land and has turned the skies red. It’s a fascinating setting and one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Story: The main character is 16 year old Yukiko. Her father is Masaru, the Black Fox, the Shogun’s Master Hunter. They are sent on a mission to capture a Griffin—a creature of legend, a Thunder Tiger, that is said to be extinct—for the Shogun. Failure means death.

     To everyone’s surprise they find a griffin in the heart of a storm and manage to capture it. Masaru clips its wings to control the beast, but soon after the airship is torn apart by the storm. The crew abandons ship, but Yukiko can’t allow the Thunder Tiger to die like this. They end up stranded in the wilderness. Yukiko has an ability called the Kenning, which allows her to touch the mind’s of animals. She discovers that the Thunder Tiger has a very unique mind. Yukiko and the Thunder Tiger are forced to form an unlikely alliance in order to survive.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in a story full of corruption and intrigue.

Characters: I liked the characters. Yukiko’s character is forced to be the responsible one in her family, her father is a lotus fiend and makes a habit of smoking and drinking himself into stupor. Her relationship with her father is complex and interesting. She’s relatable and has strong potential. Yet I wasn’t entirely satisfied with her character arc. I didn’t feel like she did enough on her own, it seemed like she was always getting help from someone else and I wanted to see her stand on her own more.

There’s a cast of fascinating characters, many I became quite fond of, sadly most of them didn’t get as much page time as I would have liked.

Style: The author likes to paint a picture for the reader, sometimes this is a far more vivid picture than is necessary. The descriptions are often weighed down by elaborate metaphors and similes. While many of these helped add to the atmosphere of the setting, it bogged down the writing in places. The author also did a fair amount of character hopping. This doesn’t bother me as long as the changes are clearly marked, but there were times when I wasn’t sure who’s mind I was reading from. My final peeve with the writing was that during intense action sequences the author switched from third person past tense, to present tense, which was obviously an attempt to make the action more immediate, but I found it jarring and annoying.

Conclusion: I loved the setting and enjoyed the book, but not as much as I hoped. I have started reading the sequel and so far I’m enjoying it more than the first and I’m hopeful that it will rectify some of my complaints. Because I truly love the idea of the books and there’s so much potential there. So despite it’s imperfections I still encourage anyone who likes dark fantasy, steampunk, or Japanese culture, to give these books a shot.

Nothing is Sacred

This November I’m planning on re-writing last year’s NaNoWriMo novel. I am amazed and terrified to see how many things have changed for this story over the course of a year. I know this is a good thing, because first drafts usually are full of cliches and bad ideas, with a few hidden gems. But it’s hard not to second guess the decision to make these changes.

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I used to write a first draft and consider the story almost done. I cringe to remember how proud I was of some of those first drafts. But they were important stepping stones and there were some great ideas, but I now see that all those stories would need serious reworking before they saw the light of day. I’ve learned that editing is more than proofreading and re-writing a scene here and there. You have to be willing to rework characters, plot arcs, and concepts which seemed essential in the first draft. The truth is that nothing is sacred in a first draft. Everything is subject to change.

Hopefully these changes will strengthen my novel and move me closer to publishing.

I wish all the NaNoWriMo participants the best of luck. I’ll see you at the finish line!

Now it’s time to stop procrastinating and get back to planning for November.

~~Lady of the Pen~~