A to Z Manga

After reading my first volume of manga I was not excited. Yup, I hated it and didn’t really see the point. The pictures confused me and seemed to want me to read a lot into a little. I didn’t touch another volume for a couple years. I wrote off the manga book format as a fad for fanboys and nerdy girls (no disrespect for nerdy people or fans of pop culture icons).

Yet here I am a fangirl of manga. How’d that happen you ask…? I’m here to share A to Z of manga! If you have the right information, you too can fall in love with the wonderful worlds from Japan’s popular comic style… manga.

A

Anime many times has been adapted from beloved manga series.

B

Boy’s manga are called shônen and they have stories targeted at male teenagers.

C

Children’s manga are called kodomo and generally are single volume story arcs.

D

Dialogue is spaced into often short bits contained in text boxes so it’s easy to blast through an entire page of manga without actually looking at the mangaka’s (or artist’s) work. So pay attention!

E

Everyone (not most people, but literally all sorts and types of readers and non-readers alike…) can find a manga to love!! In Japan manga is read from the very young to men and women in their 40s.

F

Fusion is what manga is… a combination of a book, movie and television show… There is a distinct book beginning, middle and end to the story over the entire series. The movie comes in through the art. There is no space wasted… The television show is in the volume nature of manga. Everything isn’t resolved but some sort of progress is made just like an episode.

G

Genres range widely just like with novels, from fantasy and science fiction to slice of life and mecha. Often, these genres have blurred lines that allow for very imaginative stories and plot points.

H

Hello Kitty is an example of kodomo manga! The brand started out as a story and has spread to all sorts of goods and products.

I

Illustrations tell the majority of the story through careful, beautiful emotions (or for comedies, extreme exaggerated emotions) and distinct actions. Either way the art will tell you it all…

J

Josei manga are for women and have more mature themes. Many times depicting the reality of romantic liaisons. Seinen are the same thing for men!

K

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You is one of my all time favorite shôujo manga about an awkward girl who finally makes some friends in high school. New to interactions with classmates she’s unaware of the boy right by her side who quite likes her but who stays quiet about his feelings as she comes into who she is as a person.

L

Library Wars: Love & War is another fun shojo manga for those who want a more familiar story… In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves–the Library Forces!

M

Many different styles are a part of the manga art world… some you will be immediately attracted to and some will turn you off the story entirely. BUT there is a style for everyone and when you find that groove it will be a sweet story time…

N

Nodame Cantabile is a great example of a Josei manga. Nodame”, is a piano student who prefers to play by ear rather than according to the musical score; thus, is regarded as sloppy and playful. When she meets Chiaki, an arrogant, multilingual perfectionist, and the top student at Momogaoka College of Music She helps him grow so he can fulfill his secret ambitions to become a conductor.

O

Oh My Goddess! is a seinen manga that many will have heard of… Keiichi Morisato is a college sophomore who accidentally calls the Goddess Help Line. The goddess Belldandy tells him that her agency has received a system request from him and has been sent to grant him a single wish. Believing that a practical joke is being played on him, he wishes that she will stay with him forever, and his wish is granted.

P

Printed, originally, in a magazine with other story lines then gathered into their own volumes to sell once they reach a certain length. These volumes are typically what Americans are referring to by manga.

Q

Quick is the name of the game with manga… it’s fun to finish a volume in one sitting then go back and quickly read it over again!

R

Read right to left, all manga, translated or otherwise start at the back of the volume.

S

Shôujo are girl’s manga and they center on women empowerment and romantic connections.

T

The Ancient Magus’ Bride is my favorite shônen series of all time!! It’s new and taking the world by storm with its magical beauty and the beast retelling story. Chise and Elias have an unusual relationship that will challenge the idea of what it means to choose for oneself.

U

Understand that manga has taken the world by storm and is now translated into many languages including English. For Americans, like comics, manga is seen as aimed for child or people who won’t grow up, i.e. for those of us too lazy to read all the words in a novel.

V

Viewing manga this way simply isn’t true! It’s dynamic form of story telling that simply needs an open mind!

W

Webtoons are similar to manga but published as digital comics online originating from South Korean. They are in full color and have many fans…

X

X my heart… The best thing about manga is that it is for readers who LOVE comics and it is for readers who DISLIKE comics.Yes, a manga is a type of comic in that it has panels of illustrations and dialogue bubbles but the feels as you read a manga as compared to a comic are TOTALLY different!

Y

Yaoi and Yuri are words you’ll see thrown around in the manga world referencing homoerotic stories about men or women in love for any audience.

Z

Zip on out to your local library and try a manga for yourself! Aware of the growing popularity of this form of media libraries are dedicating more of their budgets to fulfill the need!

Obscure Mythological Monsters

Mythology is one of the best premises a book can offer me when I’m looking to read something new! Many people use mythology, legend and folklore interchangeably… Did you know that a myth is simply a story created to explain natural phenomena? Today we have science but ancient people relied on myths to understand their natural environment. Everyone knows about Greek and Norse mythology but instead of nature taking part in the explanations gods and deities were used.

Now legends are a little different in that they don’t explain so much as relate events from a culture’s past and can get rather large in the telling. Folklore are more down to earth, are meant to entertain and almost never reference gods. The world is a very big place and there are all sorts of stories from mythology, legends and folklore that can be tapped into for inspiration… The more obscure the better! Lets meet some of the obscure mythological monsters I found for inspiration…

The Aztec culture comes from Central Mexico from 1300-1521 when three tribes banded together. They are technically a specific ethnic group but share many traits with the other people from the time. They believed in a pantheon of gods and many legendary creatures are associated with the Aztec mythology.

One is the ohuican chaneque which are small, sprite like beings similar to fairies but which are connected to elemental forces as guardians of nature. They make their home in the underworld and come to earth through a dry kapok tree. They confuse people who wander in the jungle and you must yell Juan 3 times to break the spell or become lost or worse.

The ahuizotl has fur which clumps into spikes due to the waterproof nature and is of a dog-like size. Due to its raccoon like hands it is supremely capable especially with the added benefit of a third hand on the end of its tail. If you appear near their watery lairs they will grab you with their tail and drag you down into the depths of their home to eat your eyes and feast on your nails and teeth. It is a natural creature who does the work of the god Tlaloc as those drowned by it are destined for paradise.

Hawaii is full of legends that mingle islander folklore with Japanese myths. Many of these revolve around water.

One of these are the nanaue, shark men who come from Hawaiian mythology. Nanaue was the son of the shark king and a maiden. He was born with a gaping fish mouth on his back but his mother hid it from the people. The king warned her not to feed their son meat. One day she gave in to his desire for meat and he shape-shifted into a shark man then went on a rampage around the islands eating maidens.

Another is the Mo’o, a giant lizard dressed in jet black scales that glisten. Thought to be guardian deities, they can shapeshift from huge dragons to small geckos and even to seductive women thus their ability to elude capture. Making their homes in underwater caves, pools or deep ponds, you can find their remains in the rock formations left behind as their bodies rotted. As a final protection they have the power to control water and the weather plus they aren’t afraid of using those for defense. You can check before entering water by offering a branch or flower and if it flows away swiftly then the area is occupied.

Iran is the birthplace of Persian mythology and has many similar legends and folklore as associated with medieval Europe.

The shadhavar is a creature whose bones gift music. Similar to the unicorn but with the body of a gazelle their horn has 42 hollow branches that when wind passes through them produces a sound so pleasant and seductive that animals come from far and wide to listen. When such a horn is taken it can be played on like a flute with one side producing an upbeat cheerful tune while the other a mournful, depressing shriek. Rumor has it that shadhavar attack their audience for food but it is believed that they can’t possibly be carnivores hence it is discounted.

Another they have is a phoenix like relative. The simurgh is a giant bird able to carry off an elephant with the plumage of a peacock and the head of a dog and the claws of a lion. It’s female and benevolent roosting the the Tree of Life, in the center of the world sea. When she took flight the seeds of all plants that had been deposited on it dropped out and floated on the winds all across the world. She gives out golden feathers to those she loves so she may be called to their side in times where they need her aid.

Japanese Folklore has a huge number of creature stories centered on yokai or supernatural monsters whose purpose range from the malevolent to the mischievous, but if the human reacts appropriately can bring them good fortune.

One fascinating yokai is the enenra which literally means lightweight fabric smoke and you guessed it is composed of smoke and darkness. It lives inside bonfires and when the time is right emerges in a human form. There is a legend that when certain people have died they’ve turned into a rare form of enenra who people have mistaken for a grim reaper.

The raijū is a legendary thunder beast from Japanese mythology whose shape might mimic that of a wolf, dog, fox, cat or weasel. It’s body is composed of lightening and can fly about like a lightening ball. It’s cry is the sound of thunder. It is a calm beast and harmless to humans except during thunderstorms when it will leap about trees, fields and building agitated until the weather calms.

There are many different myths surrounding the varied Native American nations but a few of these even cross tribe boundaries as belief in them spread far and wide.

The tah-tah-kle’-ah is a race of monstrous owl-women, by the time the Yakama Indians came to know them there were only five of the women left. They live in caves and enjoyed the flesh of children but would eat all manner of vermin that are considered inedible to most other animals. They lure in humans by mimicking their language. Legend says that when one of these owl-women drowned an entire species of owls were created using her eye and that owl is now an omen of death universally to almost all Native American tribes.

Teihiihan are thought to be child-sizes monsters, strong, bloodthirsty and fierce fighters who can outrun an Arapaho warrior. These cannibal dwarves often attack in large numbers and appear in many oral stories from many different Native American nations. One of the most dreaded of figures it is said that in a previous life these were fearsome warriors who died in battle and now must return to fight again.

Africa is filled with many different nations and communities each with their own folklore and legends.

The tikoloshe comes from Zulu mythology. It is an evil-spirited gremlin sent by a shaman to vex his enemies. They are much shorter than the corpse from which they are made, hairy, withered and grey which you can rarely glimpse as they can become invisible at will by swallowing a pebble. Their eyes have been gouged out but it is able to use its other senses to move around. They can be used to simply scare you, cause an illness or even in extreme cases cause death!

The adze comes from legends of the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo. It is a vampire that can take the form of a firefly. When you capture one though it changes into a human appearance all the better to attack you and eat your organs. Of course if you are mightier you can slay it in this form… as an insect it will suck your blood and spread malaria and other diseases. Those who are victimized by the adze are possessed by them and become a witch.

Artificial Intelligence in YA

Robots have long been a favorite of fans all across Asia. Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro was not considered successful at the box office in the United States, yet it became de Toro’s most commercially successful film to date earning a worldwide total of more than $411 million—$114 million in China alone. In the young adult genre we have been seeing an increase of all sorts of artificial intelligence in the sci-fi sub-genre.

What is the allure? As we plunge into the future robotics technology is becoming more and more integrated into our society, from self-driving cars to robotic pets. This is a fascinating way to explore our humanity and what it means to have compassion, feel love and experience sacrifice. By the same turn we can juxtaposition what it means to have unlimited power, intelligence and authority. This is a gold mine for stories and we’ve had some really great examples…

Cyborgs – Cinder by Marissa Meyer

noun. 1. a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

Cinder is 36.28% augments of mechanical means from an accident when she was young. Her brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. When her stepmother sells Cinder for plague research she learns a mother load of secrets about herself plus meets Prince Kai who doesn’t look at her the same way as most 100% humans.

Applicable now… Can you imagine if we can fix failing hearts, augment brains or other wise repair organic parts of our body with synthetic? This is the holy grail of modern medicine, a lot of research is done every year to try to make advances.

Androids – Partials by Dan Wells

noun. 1. (in science fiction) a robot with a human appearance.

A war with engineered organic beings, called Partials, identical to humans except for the weaponized virus they carry, has almost extinguished humanity. Now the last tens of thousands of immune humans fight a losing battle to lift population levels as their newborns are not born with the immunity. Kira is on a deadline to save her friend’s child and sets out to find a Partial to study. She finds Samm, but will she find her answers?

Applicable now… There is a faction of scientists who feel there are many applications for robots with the organic appearance of a human. And the Japanese economy is in desperate need of viable workforce, but are androids the answer?

 

 

Robots – The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

noun. 1. a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.

In this middle grade story, Roz opens her eyes to find herself tied into a box with the shattered remains of other robots. She is the only survivor on an island in the sea. While not built for the outdoors she learns the language of the forest animals, but is rebuffed harshly. When she accidentally orphans a gosling, together they become valuable members of the forest. Then when Roz has to face her mysterious past her gosling and new friends come to her aid.

Applicable now… Almost all military organizations use the help of military robots to carry out many risky jobs that cannot be handled manually by soldier, liked dealing with bombs and handling aircraft carrier fires.

 

 

Drones – Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

noun. 3. a pilotless code-controlled robot, aircraft or missile.

Essie fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines in sub-zero temperatures. A mysterious man, Dane, crashes near her home and she offers to repair his ship. Unknown to her he will pull her back into a war that she gave everything to avoid as Princess Snow… with her drones to back her up she’s wade back into the fight!

Applicable now… Amazon is testing drones that could deliver packages in as little as half an hour after an online purchase. They can also be used in hurricane hunting, charging into the heart of a storm without risking human life and limb. Precision application of pesticides, water, or fertilizers in agriculture can be identified and delivered by drones in hard to reach locations.

 

 

Supercomputer AI – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

noun. 1. the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Kady and Ezra live at the edge of the known world (which is more advanced and is no longer limited to our galaxy) in 2575 on a secret mining planet. They broke up that morning not realizing that a few hours later two rival megacorporations would go to war in the space above their heads. The fleet that helped the miners and their families to escape is evacuating, their ship’s AI supercomputer mind, AIDEN, is damaged with the after effects of a biological weapon to deal with and an enemy warship chasing them down.

Applicable now… Supercomputers today are capable of performing incredible feats, from accurately predicting the weather to uncovering insights into climate change, as well as other pattern recognition and sensory processing tasks.

Artificial Intelligence is not going away anytime soon. More and more applications are being sought out and applied. And robots, androids, cyborgs, drones and AI supercomputers are all fun and thoughtful additions to sci-fi and dystopian world building in the young adult genre!

Is there a book that has you favorite artificial intelligence that I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!

Teaching Grit

Recently I read an article* about the characteristics of grit and how important it is for success. In the article it says: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behavior is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Strength is a much touted personality trait that is a part of nearly every protagonist you read about these days. Sadly, grit seems to be a dying quality, but it can be taught… Seeing as we have Father’s Day this month I thought I’d examine some of the fathers who teach the essential characteristics found in grit…

*Forbes online leadership article: 5 Characteristics Of Grit — How Many Do You Have? By Margaret M. Perlis.

Creativity taught by Mr. Vulpin in Hundred Ghost Soup by Robert Chansky

When Jimo is adopted by two fox spirits he finds himself at the center of some plot that includes a construction site full of ghosts. As he works through the challenges Mr. Vulpin lays for him he’s forced to call on every bit of imagination until he concludes the Vulpins were the most unique of parents…

When Jimo is adopted by two fox spirits he finds himself at the center of some plot that includes a construction site full of ghosts. As he works through the challenges Mr. Vulpin lays for him he’s forced to call on every bit of imagination until he concludes the Vulpins were the most unique of parents…

Optimism taught by Mr. Song in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Laura Jean’s widowed father attempts to guide his girls through the traumas of being a teenager. With a positive air, he makes sure they gather for family time and bond together sharing the joys and the hardships.

Courage taught by Hans Hubermann in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Liesel’s foster-father teaches her to read, and defy the Nazi regime in his own quiet way. Despite her fears and everything she has to lose with such an example she can’t help but take action herself…

Follow Through taught by Ove in A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The father figure himself is the protagonist and he has staunch principles, a strict routine, and a short fuse. When he finds himself in situations where he has to extend himself he takes that step regardless of his reluctance.

Resilience taught by Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

This dad gets into all sorts of trouble working for the Ministry of Magic and as a member of the Order of the Phoenix who loves Muggles. Nothing keeps this man down though and he bounces back in the epitome of toughness.

Dependableness taught by Pete Zinker in Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

The father in this middle grade story is the dependable acceptance that Beatrice needs for her upside down ways. Learning of her tough day he sweeps in with a treat to end the day right.

Conscientiousness taught by Issac in Bleed Through by Adriana Arrington

This stepfather isn’t sure that he wants his wife’s 25 year old son, Liam, around until his schizophrenia is under control. Yet he stays true to his convictions about how Liam should be treated even though it threatens his career and his marriage.

Endurance taught by Colonel de Luce in Flavia de Luce mystery series by Alan Bradley

We learn Flavia’s father has gone through the terrible trials of war and losing one’s spouse yet he soldiers on for his girls. A stiff upper lip is a requirement for an English gentleman after all.

Confidence taught by Daniel LeBlanc in All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure’s father spends long hours crafting elaborate models of Saint-Malo to teach her how to walk through the city without her eyesight. That nurtured the confidence she needed to survive once he was gone.

Excellence taught by Father in Prophet of the Badlands by Matthew S. Cox

Althea is chased across a desolate landscape certain that her sanctity for life is the oddity not the norm. Its only after a loving father and daughter takes her in and fights for her that she can accept such distinction as a good thing.

Courage, conscientiousness, dependableness, endurance, follow through, resilience, optimism, confidence, creativity, excellence these are the building blocks of grit. A father is the right man for the job of teaching these essential traits. May we find these and other positive characteristics in the dads and fathers populating our fictional worlds.

What did you learn from your own dad?

 

Loving Mothers in Fiction

Mothers have been on my mind this month… it didn’t start with Mother’s day though. As a book blogger I participate in a popular meme where predetermined prompts gather the thoughts of the (mainly YA genre) book community every week. This month we were asked what we wanted to see more of in the books we read. A very popular answer was more present and aware parents with positive roles in their children’s lives. My mother was #1 in my life growing up and we are very close still today. She didn’t keep me from making mistakes but she was bedrock to my making wise decisions even after I mess up. Recently she helped me with a list of the best mystery detective series and you can check the list here.

I started to wonder about mothers and how media like books, movies, and television are portraying them. Do we really have a deficient number of mothers doing their best and succeeding? Being more aware of mothers this month I performed a little experiment. I didn’t search out lists to find these but looked at the media I was consuming or had recently consumed and not thought about the mother’s effect on the protagonists’ life. I found many books where a mother’s loss was front and center to motivations but I was truly surprised by how many mothers out there go about living quietly and without fanfare.

Animation Movie… Ponyo

Brunhilde (Ponyo) and Sōsuke’s mothers make a deal so their children can be happy. This was actually an incredible view of motherhood from two different perspectives. One mother is sacrificing her relationship with her daughter for another. And the other is agreeing to become the mother of that girl.

Chinese Television… Bromance

Du Zi Feng and his mother lost the most important person to them… his father. The worst was that he didn’t die but was lost and didn’t return. As Zi Feng and Ya Nuo fall in love his mother is greatly worried about who this man/woman is and will he/she be the center of her son’s world like his father was for her. I’d say more but too many spoilers!

Middle Grade Book… The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Xan and Luna’s story is an homage to mothers everywhere, both to those women who adopt children, those who give up their children and those who fight to defend the future of their own children. The crazy woman in the tower so inspiring – its never to late to be a good mother.

Japanese Manga… Oresama Teacher series

Mafuyu is a delinquent and so her mother sends her away to a school in the country to mend her ways. Mafuyu does her best to follow her mother’s desires for her but is a little too much her mother’s daughter… we don’t see Mafuyu’s mother often but when you do you know right away why Mafuyu is a force to be reckoned with!

Adult Movie… Terminator

Sarah Conner didn’t actually know she was a mother before she became what is now the common stereotype of a strong woman. We see her having to make major judgment calls before she even totally understands the consequences. What a testament to how John felt about his mother.

Korean Television… Secret Garden

Moon Boon-hong is a chaebol mother to her son and heir Kim Joo-won; she’s a cold woman who opposes her son’s choice of wife. Sometimes mothers aren’t supporting us so much as being the force that propels us to make good decisions… even though the end leaves her acceptance up to us to decide it left me with the hope that one day she’d soften due to her grandsons.

Adult Book… My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

Elsa’s best friend and grandmother dies when she’s 8 years old. Granny and her mum disagreed on a range of subjects and Elsa and her mum aren’t much different. As she mourns her Granny through the series of letters she delivers we see that mothers and daughters will always have common ground.

I love the different media types out there from books of all genres to movies and television. They do a decent job covering mothers… but did you notice one sub-genre I wasn’t able to find a significant alive mother? Seeing as how I read mainly YA books I should have been able to write this post about mothers in the young adult genre, but such was not the case…

Publishers and authors, we do need more books with positive mother role models! They don’t have to be perfect women but loving ones that do the best they can without fanfare and succeed in having an effect on their children… and through them on the reader.

Trying New Things: 5 of the Funniest K-dramas

K-drama is short for Korean drama, a scripted television show made in South Korea that fans from all around the world now stream over the internet. You’ve probably already heard about Japanese anime or manga or know a friend that is just rabid about it. And you don’t get it. How can something in another language make you happy? Let alone excite you to fandom?!

As a type of television show I love the many types of moments to be found in a k-drama. These moments highlight a dearly held love of mine– culture. I have long been fascinated with how other people live and it became quite clear after my very first k-drama so are Koreans. They love to explore all sorts of class divisions and love delving into different careers and professions and all manner of lifestyles from the countryfied, to the working woman to the fabulously wealthy chaebols.

A universal element to be found in all k-dramas as well as beloved by Americans is humor. Everyone can relate to those funny moments that break tension and lighten the soul. I’ve gathered 5 of the funniest k-dramas to tickle your funny bone…

 

#5 – Oh My Ghostess

The Funniest Premise

A lustful virgin ghost. An assistant chef with a crush on her boss. An arrogant chef thrown for a loop when his frustratingly timid worker comes on to him in an aggressive manner. This is the most creative love triangle I’ve ever seen and it makes for some hilarious moments. The premise just works to incite the best changes on our chefs and in the funniest ways possible. It isn’t all fun and games as we solve the mysterious death of the virgin ghost; our assistant chef will have to learn to come out of her shell to help save her from a dark force.

#4 – Oh My Venus

The Funniest Couple

A 33-year-old lawyer used to be semi-famous in her teens for her pretty face and enviable figure… not so much now much to the dismay of her ex-boyfriend. Overweight she passes out on a flight home from a case in the U.S., right into the arms of personal trainer to Hollywood stars, John Kim. Returning home to Korea after a scandal with his latest client he shies away from helping our rejected lady until she blackmails him. Shin Min-a and So Ji-sub, the actors portraying this couple, make the best comedian and straightman couple as they get into one funny situation after another. You’ll totally ship this OTP as he falls for the girl before they transform her into a Venus.

#3 – You’re Beautiful

The Funniest Hijinks

A nun-to-be poses as her brother who recently won a competition to join the band A.N.Jell but whose botched plastic surgery could ruin the deal. As she assumes her brother’s identity she can’t help leaking all the helpless innocence she posses as she learns about the modern world. Her bandmates, the arrogant lead singer, the gentle guitarist and the bubbly drummer all fall under the spell of their newest member but when the lead singer learns she’s a girl it could get her the boot. Jang Keun-suk, who portrays our arrogant lead singer, is one of the most uninhibited actors in k-dramas today and as such is one of the funniest. This is arguably his funniest role as an emotionally stunted pop star who does the funniest things all due to Go Mi-nam. He makes the best faces and even transforms a rabbit into a pig-rabbit.

#2 – Moonlight Drawn by Clouds

The Funniest Historical

A girl has lived all her life disguised as a boy. When she counsels a man on dating and writes a love letter for him she meets the Crown Prince who is trying to protect his sister. When she falls into debt and is sold she manages to become one of the prince’s eunuchs. As she serves the crown prince she can’t help but be moved by his struggles. This is what is called a fusion drama. That means it is set in a historic time period, this time the Joseon era, but uses modern thinking and knowledge. In other words this isn’t your parents historical drama. The cute bickering and pranks between this couple as well as the totally unlikely circumstances add the perfect touch to this squee worthy drama!

#1 – Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo

The Funniest Heroine

A college romance between two athletes. A promising female weightlifter. A top swimmer plagued with numerous false start disqualifications. They meet again after knowing each other as children and become friends when he realizes she is crushing on his cousin, a doctor. As she is forced to deal with the lies she told her crush he begins to recognize his own feelings are more than that of a friend… Kim Bok-joo is not your typical thin, pretty doll like heroine and she is fine with that. Instead she pursues an inner beauty that is attractive and alluring to our swimmer. The romance in this is perfect due to the unexpectedness of our girl. Also one of the best depictions of friendship in a drama. Modern, funny and touching if there is one drama to try it’s this one!!

Trying new things has so many benefits for us: opens up the possibility to enjoy something new and keeps us from boredom plus it allows growth. There are several streaming services that are free plus now you have a short list of the funniest k-dramas!

Opposition: Why We Need Villains

A trope is simply a common or overused theme or device in a story. Some people like the word cliché to describe them and some like the word stereotype instead. It’s all the same thing and simply means that a story element has become popular and now everyone knows about it. A trope is not something you should avoid but before you use them you need to apply your creativity. Since an antagonist is necessary for every story many villain devices are seen as overused. Your villains don’t have to be that way!

You’ve probably read reviewers say that there wasn’t enough conflict in a story or the conflict was contrived. Opposition is needed in a story because it helps the protagonist grow. Growth in a hero helps the reader to relate to the character and want to take their journey with them. Growth only happens when the right kind of opposition is provided for the protagonist. Many times the wrong antagonist or villain trope is at the root of conflict problems. When conflict arises naturally from the relationship between an antagonist and protagonist a story becomes more enjoyable and satisfying.

It’s important to understand the difference between an antagonist and a villain. An antagonist has goals that actively oppose the protagonist’s goals. They aren’t necessarily evil so much as the opposite of the hero. A villain is a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot or a person or thing responsible for specified trouble, harm or damage. An antagonist opposes and a villain causes trouble.

There are many kinds of antagonists: nature, society, self. These sometimes don’t even have a human face to them, they can be a mega-storm, a dystopian government or dealing with jealousy, shyness or guilt. In fact most stories deal with some kind of internal struggle with your self and many are set in a society that causes conflict. Today we’re going to talk about the human variety of antagonists and their benefits for your story!

#1 – Mastermind

-Identity is a secret and must be learned by the protagonist

-Leads other villain types to oppose the protagonist

-Shares similar skills and abilities as the hero but differs in morals and ethics

-Example: Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes

-Perfect for a series

#2 – Anti-Villain

-On the opposing side of the protagonist but not an evil character

-Creates questions about morality and ethics due to the positions of the hero and villain in society

-Traditional Example: Inspector Javert from Les Miserables

-Non-traditional Example: Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent who captures Frank Abagnale, Jr. in Catch Me If You Can

-Perfect to use opposite an anti-hero

#3 – The Redeemable

-A shadow of the protagonist who is allowing their negative traits to dominate

-One focused goal of taking out or disrupting the plans of the protagonist

-All sorts fall in this category: bullies, good characters who are corrupted, entitled characters, constructs or creatures ruled by their programming or urges

-Example: Professor Snape from the Harry Potter Series

-Perfect when the protagonist grows by understanding and trying to redeem these villains

#4 – Charming Traitor

-Preys on the protagonist or someone the protagonist cares about like a love interest

-Uses their charm, good looks, sexual prowess, cunning and creativity for their own gain

-Manipulates and deceives protagonist into believing they are an ally

-Example: Truman Capote from The Swans of Fifth Avenue

-Perfect to build suspense or to create a twist ending

#5 – Savage Predator Menace

-The protagonist gets in the way of their base lusts, or provides challenge that amuses

-Option for the villain to be ruled physically by bloodlust and brutality or mentally through psychological manipulation

-Physical Example: Shere Khan from The Jungle Book

-Mental Example: Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca

-Perfect for stand alone books or for stories set in a particular location.

When we know what is common we can use it as a starting place to get creative. The important thing is to find the right balance with the protagonist for your story. We don’t just want to see a character in conflict with another character. The wrong type of villain won’t create the opposition a protagonist needs to grow. Experiment with these tropes and the benefits of each for your story. Using the best villains will create the best stories!

Relationship Wars: Unique Couples

You’ve just finished a book. You think: wow, that rivals my favorite “book of all time.” You can fill “book of all time” with any of your favorite relationships, story troupes or genres, but you get the idea, these are your favorites! It’s understandable when this happens, there are writers giving us incredible stories all the time. Enjoying many types of story I find myself frequently warring inside over which is my favorite fill in the blank as each type highlights differently.

I love relationships of every kind, color and make-up. Those between siblings, a parent and child, two friends – either of the same sex or of the opposite sex. There are also ones where strangers become allies, or enemies must work together for a common goal. Then there is the pièce de résistance of relationships, couples. So in honor of Valentine’s Day I’ve gathered a list of my favorite unique couples – the quirkier the better… Bring the war on!

Sci-Fi Pick…

Harrison and Glimmer in Prelude to Mayhem

I found this title right here on Curiosity Quills Press, set in a world where current day has jumbled with a world of future tech as well as a world of magical creatures. If you’ve read the book, you may argue that these two only loosely meet the requirements of a couple. I agree Glimmer’s wardrobe is made up of outfits literally stolen from Barbie while Harrison can’t double for anything other that a full grown human man. We follow them from their first meeting to their end destination across the country as the pair grow closer during their travels. What makes this couple work is the undertone of love and sacrifice between the two as they struggle against the dangers of their new world.

Film Pick…

Monkey/Sariatu and Beetle/Hanzo in Kubo and the Two Strings

This isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s excellent stop animation and historical world make the perfect setting for a quirky couple. Monkey is a wooden charm brought to life with the last of Kubo’s mother’s magic. Beetle is a cursed samurai, without his memory who followed Kubo’s father when he was younger. As they squabble the pair bond over their mutual affection for Kubo, the boy they are trying to protect as he fights to save the life his parents died to protect. What makes this couple work is the rich texture of monkey’s fur to Beetle’s hard tactile shell, visually and emotionally we believe in this odd pairing.

Fantasy Pick…

Meg and Simon in Written in Red

Meg Corbyn is a cassandra sangue, a human who can see the future when her skin is cut. In the Others book series she gets mixed up with a group of supernatural beings that rule an alternate earth. Enter Simon Wolfgard, the shape-shifter leader who hires her to be the others’ human liaison. When this glorified mail lady touches the lives of every one of the others in the courtyard Simon finds his instinct is to protect his own and Meg has become one of them… The biggest thing going for their relationship is she doesn’t smell like prey, i.e. the residents have no desire to eat her. What makes this couple work is the totally unique reinvention of a much beloved troupe.

K-drama Pick…

Grim Reaper and Sunny in Goblin: the Lonely and Great God

This is a mega-hit where it runs on TV in South Korea and weaves Asian traditional beliefs of reincarnation and death ceremonies into a modern story. If you search out a subtitled streaming version of this 16 episode series you can see what the hype is for yourself… A grim reaper guides souls to the after life due to the great sin he committed when he lived. His past is a mystery to him until he meets Sunny, a stunning modern woman who causes him to cry when they first meet. What makes this couple work is the visual contrast between the couple’s history in the distant past to the present day situation. And this isn’t even the main couple!

Manga Pick…

Mafuyu and Takaomi in Oresama Teacher manga series

Oresama is a Japanese term meaning you are putting yourself and what you want above everyone else around you. Takaomi Saeki is the title character of this Japanese comic and Mafuyu Kurosaki’s homeroom teacher. He has a history with Mafuyu as her delinquent next door neighbor who taught her to fight and defend in spite of her being a child at the time. There is a large age gap between them which could turn you off at first as well as several other men in her life, but she can’t help but assist Saeki in all his endeavors at the school. What makes this couple work is the expressions of our couple as illustrated by the mangaka coupled with the almost innocently platonic tone to their relationship.

Young Adult Pick…

Oren and Lark in the Skylark series

Forced out of the dome city she’s lived in her entire life, Lark develops agoraphobia, the empty presence of the sky above too much for her. Oren a wild boy she meets in a pocket of magic starts to follow her and she eventually realizes she couldn’t have made it without him… but what now? There are no easy answers for these two whose bond has become one of life and death. What makes this couple work is Oren makes sure to remain the one constant in Lark’s life as she’s chased across their magiked steampunk world.

To be completely frank this is a war I can’t win… I love all of these unique couples, book series and other forms of story included. Favorite “anythings” manage the perfect balance of elements to touch our hearts and make characters come to life.

5 Life Lessons from Video Games

Video games are seriously addicting. For whatever reason you play, the game world mimics one thing better than real life: success. As we reach each level, our advancements in the game imbues us with the power to keep leveling. We seek this power for our real lives. Every year we set goals to reach, but accomplishing them can be hit or miss. By applying 5 skills you learn gaming, we can level up our ability to succeed in the real world.

#1 – Commit to the Best Things

Video games are designed so that everything we do in the game will work toward our leveling up. If we are committed to our goal we must set up our activities so they work the same way. Real life is full of distractions, many of them aren’t bad things, but by seeking those things that best benefit us we are motivated to continue. If a quest’s experience or loot is not good enough, we don’t throw down the controller and abandon the game. Instead we find a better quest in the same area and keep leveling. Commit to the best things and reach your goal!

#2 – Practice What Works

It takes practice to advance through dungeons so we can take on more difficult opponents. Our experience is one of our best assets as a gamer and as a human being. If we are attacking at a distance, and its a single enemy, we use magic missiles, there’s no need to try our new fireball spell. In life, it’s easy to get so caught up in what is making us struggle that we forget what our experience has taught us. Yes, we learn new skills and are given opportunities to expand and grow, but we can’t forget to keep doing what has proven to work effectively. That’s the first rule of leveling up, but the hardest to remember.

#3 – Try Things Differently

Even when we start a new mission or enter an unknown dungeon, we basically know what to do. We confidently stride forward and practice what works. What happens though when we’re hit with a situation where our battle strategy isn’t working, where the struggle is eclipsing the rewards? We pull out that new fire ball spell. We back track and approach the boss from another direction. We use a potion we’ve been saving for just such a moment. This all adds up to trying things differently. If we aren’t completing our mission, defeating the boss and winning the treasure we change our tactics until we overcome the obstacle to our progress.

#4 – Shed What No Longer Serves

Whether a rogue or a sniper, in a video game we have access to a select group of abilities. Every one of these skills contribute to the aim of the character: annihilation of whatever stands in the way of our goal. In life priorities change, we learn new things. Just as we abandon abilities when we re-spec our characters we need to shed what no longer serves our best things. There’s no shame in letting go of methods that while still efficient, lack effectiveness. Doing this allows us space for more powerful and advantageous methods moving forward. If we don’t shed what no longer serves it weighs us down like too much cheap loot and we can’t make progress.

#5 – Be Who You Want to Become

In a game we choose who we want to become before we even start playing. We choose skills and abilities based on what type of player that is: rogue, sniper or elementalist. In order to use these life strategies effectively we must have a vision of our future self. It’s not enough to desire specific rewards. Unlike a game we don’t all receive the same loot when we reach the same goals. By making choices that will lead us to become what we envision, we do get to keep the changes we’ve made to ourselves. Everything in life is our own choice. Choose to be the person you want to become and the rewards you seek will follow.