101 Goals, 1001 Days: Learning Japanese

I’ve been watching anime for a long time and with Netflix including more foreign programs, I’ve been watching more drama shows and reality series as well. Through watching that, I’ve learned some basic Japanese phrase, but it’s not nearly enough to survive a trip to Japan.

When I first met my brother’s girlfriend she was impressed with the phrases I knew. Most of what I know are the oneliners from anime and manga.

Ohayou, konbanwa, hajimemashite, aishiteru, oyasuminasai.

That’s nothing special, right? That’s why I’m slowly expanding my vocabulary with Duolingo. It’s become easier for me to recognize words in sentences, although the sentence structure is still hard to understand. Grammar (no matter what language) has always been my weak point.

I don’t think Duolingo is the perfect tool to learn Japanese. After the first basic lessons, you will learn harder words and phrases which use those words. But they don’t talk about the words used to connect nouns. So the one thing that I’m struggling with, they don’t explain.

Luckily, through my interest, I’ve already bought some books on learning Japanese. Combining these source has been a great way to increase my mastery of the language and I notice that when I’m watching Japanese series, it’s easier to recognize what they’re saying. I still need subtitles to confirm what they say, but I can look away for a second and know that I haven’t missed much.

I hope that by the time we go to Tokyo I will know how to ask my way, understand directions, know how to order food and read a menu.

The Path I’ve Walked

This post appeared on Narratess first. I wrote and posted it on my thirtieths birthday, last June. I thought it would a great get-to-know-me post since I don’t think many readers here know about this part of me.

Turning thirty means different things for different people. Some are scared of it, getting old. Others see it as their second twenties, but with more wisdom. And there’s a third group that mostly confused about how they should feel about thirty. I turned thirty today and I have no idea what it means to me, but I do know that the past decade has contributed the most to who I am today.

Life is nothing without its ups and downs. Highlights are earning a bachelor and a master degree, finding a full-time job, quitting said job, have stories and articles published, becoming a dog mom, and getting married. Low points are getting my chronic pain diagnosis, getting hit by a car and rejection letters. (I kept adding things to the highlights, which is a good sign.)

For my writing career, these were the years that I knew what kind of writing I wanted to do. During my years at the university, I received a lot of criticism on my writing. It wasn’t academic enough and I struggled with that the most when I was writing my master thesis. That was also the moment that the pain attacks began, so I was distracted most of the time as well. Academic writing wasn’t for me, especially in the humanities. The extra courses I picked during my bachelor were for the computer science, linguistics or history department. All of them were more relaxed about writing style. These were the subjects where I got high grades and also the subjects that still interest me to this day.

I still enjoyed writing during my university years. Most of my stories were beginnings or summaries of stories that would come to me at weird times. Those moments started in high school, but I never managed to quite finish a story. I wanted to develop my writing since I knew I was lacking skill. I started a blog about the games I played. I even started writing fanfiction for one of my favourite games, Guild Wars 2. The fanfics were probably the first real stories I finished.

Writing on my blog actually led to my first paid writing gig at MMOgames. I had a column about Guild Wars 2 for a while, but it was hard to keep up with my fulltime job and gaming. My continued struggle with chronic pain had me drained most of the days. I didn’t play enough to keep the column going. My involvement in the Guild Wars 2 community led to an invite for a short story in a fanzine for charity. Raven and I both worked on the fanzine with the wonderful Mel Sayre at the helm. It was a great project to work on with 70 other very talented people, artists and writers alike.

The job that I landed was much easier than I had anticipated and I managed to get my tasks done on time. I used the free time I had to do creative work. I wrote short stories and worked on a game design document. That’s where I got my energy from. My creative juices kept flowing and I needed an outlet, but once I opened the tap, they kept coming. Writing fiction (and using a fountain pen and paper specifically) had become therapeutic. If I wasn’t able to take that time for myself, I would have burned out. The nearly two-hour daily commute and the increasing stress from a management with no sense of leadership were enough for my health to become worse. Quitting was my best option. It was one of the hardest decisions to make and also the easiest one. Health comes first. My husband told me to take this chance and pursue my dream of a writing career. I launched Narratess while I was still working and wrote one article a week to post.

One and a half year later and I’m still blogging here. My selection of short stories is being read by the first readers and I hope that soon I can share more information about my first book release! I’ve used my twenties to realise what I wanted to write and do my words to get to a level worthy of publishing. My first book release will be in my thirties and it won’t be the last. I’m sure I’ll need a few years to learn more about publishing and book marketing, but I’ve got time to learn.

Learning Calligraphy

My interest for calligraphy isn’t new. In my early childhood my fascination with fountain pens and calligraphy was already apparent to my mother who bought me a Parker calligraphy set and a book on popular calligraphy (cursive, not hand lettering).

I still have the book, although I’m not sure where the pens are. I now have a wide range of fountains and dip pens with various widths. I have a few brush pens that I can use for practicing line variation. No flex nibs yet, but that might still be too advanced for me. I need to learn my letters first.

I hope to get better at it so I can make my own cards with inspiring quotes. Even though I have learning calligraphy as a goal for my 101 Goals, 1001 Days challenge, I know that this is a skill that takes years to master. It would be weird if I mastered it fully in three years.

Below are a few pictures of calligraphy and handwriting practice. I’m by no means any good (average at best), but I’m working hard to get better. Follow me on Instagram to see more pictures of calligraphy practice, bookish pictures and fountain pens.

Planning My Tokyo Trip

It’s been a long time wish to go to Japan and my brother gave us the tickets as a wedding gift. His girlfriend is Japanese and she even offered to show us around. I’m really looking forward to the trip, but we still have to save  up for accommodation, transfers and public transport and food. But my shopping list is growing as well.

Right now I’m looking at what I want to do and see. My husband is okay with everything. He will let me guide him to all the awesomeness of Japan. We’ll probably only go to Tokyo for now (we don’t want to leave our dog with my parents for too long).

Places

Karaoke and visiting an arcade are high on my list. I know the guys won’t like the first, but they’ll enjoy the second. Tokyo Tower is a must see, since chances are slim that I’ll ever go to Paris to see the real one. Tokyo has another tower, Skytree. It also has an observation deck, but I’m more interested in the shopping area around it. A Pokemon Center is located there and there’s an aquarium. I always love going to one when I can.

I want to go to Asakusa as well, the more traditional side of Tokyo. The temple there is a huge tourist attraction because it’s big and beautiful. See how crowded it is?

I want to see the traditional and the modern Japan, so a visit to Akihibara is a must. Maybe we’ll go to an arcade hall there.

Food

Most people will say that you just have to have sushi while you’re in Japan. We’re no fish eaters though, so we’ll skip the sushi bars. I’d like to go to an izakaya and have curry rice, I want to taste delicious ramen, and sweet snacks.

I watched Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman, a Japanese show about an office worker who loves to check out desserts around Tokyo. All shops in this show are real and I hope to visit some of them. In particular the parfait shop in Shinjuku and maybe the pancake shop.

In one of the episodes Kantaro is craving a melon parfait, and my, does it look delicious! All of the fruits are high quality and are served with whipped cream and/or ice cream. The prices are high, but it’s worth it. There’s almost always a line for these delicious treats.

From fourtrive.com

In another episode Kantaro wants to eat pancakes. We have pancakes here but the Japanese pancakes are very different. Look at how fluffy they are! I’d soak them in maple syrup before I eat. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Shops

My fountain pen hobby is expensive. One of the pros of going to the Japan will be cheaper prices for the Japanese brands. The Iroshizuku ink is half the price of what I would pay here. There are also limited editions which aren’t sold outside of the Tokyo stores or Japan.

Tokyu Hands is very high one my list. People say it’s the place to get stationery. They have everything from vintage to cute to fancy. There are a ton of Youtube videos with stationery hauls. I could watch them all day, but it won’t be good for my wallet. I’m definitely setting a budget for Tokyu Hands so I can’t spend too much.

Itoya is another store for pen and paper lovers. After the renovation a few years ago, the look of the shop changed to a modern style and dedicated each floor to its own theme. The third floor is probably the place where I’ll spend most of my time, the one with over 2000 fountain pens.

This is just the beginning of what I want to do. I still have to look into things a little more and learn basic Japanese to I can find my way around when we’re just with the two of us. Have you ever been to Tokyo or have tips for travelling there? Please leave them in a comment below!

Makeover versus Makeunder

Netflix has all kinds of shows, but the shows that I enjoy the most are the makeover and makeunder shows. Queer Eye and 100% Hotter are two of such shows. In Queer Eye the Fab Five give men a make over, some straight, some gay, but all turn out fabulous. In 100% hotter a team of a stylist, make up artist and hairdresser give people with extreme looks a makeunder.

The reason why the participants agree to their nomination and selection is different for each one. In Queer Eye the men often want to do something back for their partner (look nice, take them on a date) or someone special (mother, future girlfriend). In 100% Hotter participants often want to look more presentable for the workplace or less embarrassing to their family members.

100% Hotter for a makeunder

In 100% Hotter the participants are nominated by a friend or family member because they think they need a little help with their style. A few even nominate themselves. The participants have extreme looks which make it hard to find a job or be part of society. Daniel, Melissa and Grace are the styling team who takes care of them.

The incredible team takes care of them, physically and mentally. The participants are coached to see themselves in a more natural way, without all the makeup and big hair. This helps in the process of becoming more like their true self.

Only a few participants reverted back to their usual ways, while the others learned from their 100% Hotter experience.

Queer Eye for a makeover

If you haven’t heard of Queer Eye, you better watch it now. I’m talking about the Netflix reboot with Tan, Karamo, Jon, Antoni and Bobby. Bring tissues. I binged both seasons as soon as they came on the streaming service and I just can’t get enough.

Each of the men have their own area of expertise, just like in the original show. They’re also all their own character and all of them are pure love. The Fab Five transform not only the participant, but also their house and help out in the kitchen. Karamo is doing coaching in the areas needed. For some it’s dating advice, for others it’s a heart to heart talk about coming out.

Each participant has their own touching story. I remember the talk between Karamo and Cory, a police officer, about police brutality and how he, as a parent, experiences it. It was so real and both parties talked about it in a respectful manner.

The whole series has these little nuggets of wisdom and touching moments. The makeover isn’t just in regards of the participant’s look, but their whole life. Coming out is a big step and not something you can undo. But also getting more in touch with yourself after undergoing surgery to become your real gender, is life changing. Some wives got their man back, the one they fell in love with years ago. Others were proposed to. If you need to watch something feel-good, this is an excellent choice.

I like both series in which it’s not just dressing up or dressing under, but that the teams are influencing the participant’s life in a positive way.  What is your favourite makerover or makeunder series?

101 Goals, 1001 Days: Recommend Me Books And Movies

I need your help for two of my goals. I need 20 books and movies recommended that I’ll read/watch. Will you help me out?

Movies

There’s a catch though. You can recommend me your favourite movie, but if it’s Saving Private Ryan or Victoria (the new Netflix Horror), I’m not going to watch it. I don’t watch horror movies or movies centered around wars. Especially the most recent ones. They just don’t appeal to me.

A few exceptions that I did watch are Pearl Harbor and La Vita E Bella.  I don’t think these movies are war centered, but tell a story with the war as a background. I loved Memoirs of a Geisha and it’s still one of my favourites. The war is ever present, but it’s still not what the story is about.

I have watched a fair share of horror movies in the past. Recently, just seeing a realistic zombie is enough to give me nightmares.

(It happened after I saw the zombie mask in a Loot Crate box and I dreamed about a zombie apocalypse that evening. Not fun.)

So please, no horror movies or movies with zombies. I will not watch them.

Besides these two, I watch nearly everything that isn’t too art house. I probably won’t finish a French experimental movie about two dancers who only talk using dance. I did watch Coco Before Chanel (2008) and liked it more than I thought I would.

Movie genres I enjoy: romantic comedies, drama, fantasy, science fiction, animation (Eastern and Western), historical.

Movies I enjoyed: The Lord of the Rings franchise, Harry Potter franchise, anything Disney, Shawshank Redemption (1994), Stardust (2007)by, Pride and Prejudice (2005), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Angels & Demons (2009)

Books

This is where it gets interesting. I’m a bookworm and I’ve read so many books already, but there are even more that I haven’t read. I’m looking for non-mainstream books. The hidden gems. The names that don’t get pushed by the Big Five. Self published books are very welcome! I review nearly all of the books I read and I’ll happily do so for any self published work.

Even in books, there are genres that I don’t enjoy. I don’t enjoy thrillers or crime. Unless they have something supernatural. I’m all for angels and demons. Zombies in books are okay, but preferably not too many. I don’t read much horror, but I won’t skip over it if someone recommends it.

I will not read erotica.

Genres I’ve been reading lately: fantasy (not the epic kind), romance, young adult, dystopian, science fiction (not the hard kind), historical.

Books I’ve enjoyed immensely: the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, the Dark Gifts series by Vic James, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, the Wicca/Sweep series by Cate Tiernan, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Abarat by Clive Barker.

If you want to know which other books I liked and/or have read, check out my Goodreads profile.

I already asked UnwiseOwl and he recommended Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and someone else said It by Stephen King. Please leave your recommendation in the comments. If someone already named that book or movie, reply to that comment so I can bump it up on my priority list.

I’m looking forward to all your recommendations and widen my view on books and movies, discover new authors, actors and directors.

101 Goals, 1001 Days: Inspiring TED Talk About Book Covers

Chip Kidd is hilarious. I watched his TED Talk on book covers, because book covers are, well, part of my job. I review books and write my own. The book cover is the first thing people will see when they grab your book from the shelf, but it’s also the thing that can catch the attention of a digital browser. I don’t think enough people realize how important it is and that self published authors don’t invest enough in. Chip Kidd explains how he designs covers and how he translates a story to art. I love his play with slip-on covers on the hardcovers. It made me look at cover design a little differently.

I’m a spoiled MMO gamer…

…and Guild Wars 2 is the reason why.

Over the years I’ve played and tried many different MMORPGs. When I saw a list and pointed out each one I tried to my husband, he was stunned. Most of them never stuck though. Except Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.

I liked Guild Wars because I was able to do most of it alone. The city hubs were the places where players gathered, but all the zones were instanced. I could play with my own party of heroes without being afraid of some numbhead running through my mob of event creatures, killing them all, or just plain messing everything up for me to succeed my quest. I liked that I could play an MMO game on my own.

Guild Wars 2 was something else entirely. It was the first MMORPG where I didn’t have to worry that I needed to do at least 70% of the damage to a creature before the kill counted as mine. That’s probably one of the few reasons I don’t mind other players that much. I can do whatever I want without being limited or feeling cheated by other players (unless you trade or use the action house).

That’s just one of the many mechanics of why Guild Wars 2 spoiled me as an MMORPG player.

Shared Loot – Never again

There is one thing that I really don’t want in an MMO ever again and that’s shared loot. I want my own bag of shinies without having to compete for that rare item that I desperately need for a quest or gear.

I don’t know if Guild Wars 2 was the first, but I know it’s no longer the only one, and I’m glad.

Tagging monsters

What’s worse than having your kill taken away as a low level by that max level player that just waltzed through?

Guild Wars 2 lowered the percentage of damage needed to gain the experience of the kill and loot. Although I do think that your loot has better drop odds when you do more damage, the experience is for low levels more important.

People are more considered of others as well in the dynamic events. High level/high damage players only spam their primary skill so others have a chance to tag the event mob as well.

This is one of the things that I’m sure promote cooperative play instead of competitive play. There are different game modes for that.

Better Quests

Guild Wars 2 uses hearts instead of traditional quests. They are still quests, but they become active when you enter a certain area. You don’t have to go look for that one NPC. If you do want to talk to them, the heart on the mini map is an indicator where to find them. Upon completing the heart, the NPC turns into a vendor and sells items related to the heart. These hearts also count towards world completion.

I like the idea of hearts. I’ve done the world completion for Central Tyria (the core game) two times now and I’m working on a third. By doing the hearts, you’ll get a better sense of the world and what’s going on. Most hearts also have different ways to resolve them and many have dynamic events which can speed up the process of completion.

In other MMOs, I just find the NPC with a question mark above their head, see how many slimes I have to kill and where I can find them. I rarely bother to read why they need the slime goo or why the slimes are even there. Often these things aren’t even explained that well.

Quest difficulty

I’m a casual player. I don’t need to be the best, have the highest rated gear nor do I need to know that specific combo that makes me unbeatable. I like to stroll around, kill the mobs that get in my way, salvage my loot and move on.

I haven’t tried to do raids and I doubt I ever will. That’s why I’m glad that everything in the zones is doable for players like me.

The one exception to this might be the jumping puzzles. There are a few that are notoriously difficult and I suck at them. Especially the ones that require timing.

I’m glad there are players willing to portal others to the end of the puzzle and I always drop a donation when I make use of their portals. That’s the polite thing to do.

I don’t know there will be another MMO that will change me as a player as much as the Guild Wars franchise did. I’m hoping that one will come a long soon, and Riot teased me with that question if they should make an MMORPG (HELL YES!), but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Guild Wars 2 – Inventory Full

The nightmare of every RPG player, seeing the text “Inventory Full” appear on screen when you just killed a monster, loot is scattered and there’s a rare or unique item laying around. This happens to me quite often, especially in Guild Wars 2. My main’s inventory is filled with event and quest items. Things that I still have to turn in, but I don’t find the time. Every time I log in there’s a new event with tokens or new buff items (which I also rarely use). During a dungeon run or fractal I need to clear my inventory a few times, salvage all the rare items and of lower rarity.

Now, you have to know that I have about a dozen alts on who I can store everything, but they’re also full. My bank? Also full. I have too much crap laying around and I save everything ‘just in case I need it’. I have so many transformation potions which I don’t use. Tons of the best salvage kits which I don’t use since I have Salvage-O-Matic for my daily needs. Why do I save everything? Why do I not finish my quests?

I’ve taken a break from Guild Wars 2 since the beginning of the year and only recently started playing again, but I made one big change. I’ll leave the new stuff on the side while I focus on the old stuff. Finish a legendary, get my crafting to level 500, do some achievements for the old maps. Maybe finally do world completion for the Heart of Thorns areas. Who knows. I have mounts now so I know I’ll experience everything differently. Maybe I should try to get my griffon mount first. Since that will make things even easier. I can just fly to the top of canopy. I want to try to clear my inventory, even if it’s for a bit. I want to use my buff items. By the time it’s Halloween, I’ll have enough inventory space to farm the labyrinth again.

101 Goals, 1001 Days: Books To Read And Read

Since I’ve started reviewing books on Narratess, I’ve been reading much more. This year so far I’ve read 27 books and I hope to finish at least 40. My Goodreads Reading Challenge says I’m ahead of schedule, which is good. So I know that I’ll can complete my goal of reading 100 books with the 43 I already have as of this writing. Probably not this year, but I’ll get there next year or early 2020.

I’ve read 5 non-fiction books since I started, so I don’t think my goal of reading 20 non-fiction books will be a problem either. I still have a biography to read (my pick was Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance) and I still have a few books on writing that I need to finish (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer among them). If you know a great non-fiction book which isn’t political, war-related, but preferably creativity, inspiration or business related, please let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for more great books.

I still have It by Stephen King down as my horror book to read and the one for “Read book, then watch the movie”, since I can both quickly. But there are so many book based movies I might pick another one to read first, watch later. I still have The Circle by Dave Eggers and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett which is nearly done as well.

Here are the last 20 books I read. I don’t know which books I’ll be reading the rest of the year, but Warcross by Marie Lu is one of them. I’m really excited about reading another book which features gaming.

The 20 books I read recently

Bright Ruin
it was amazing
tagged:
recommended, dystopia, fantasy, and young-adult

The Things We Said in Venice
it was amazing
tagged:
recommended, dutch, contemporary, and romance

Sworn to Conflict
really liked it
tagged:
fantasy and young-adult

The Book of Peril
it was amazing
tagged:
fantasy and romance

The Reckoning
really liked it
tagged:
contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and young-adult

And That's When It Fell Off in My Hand
liked it
tagged:
young-adult, romance, and contemporary

The Awakening
really liked it
tagged:
fantasy, young-adult, and paranormal

Sworn to Raise
really liked it
tagged:
fantasy and romance

Nib + Ink: The New Art of Modern Calligraphy
really liked it
tagged:
language and non-fiction

The Summoning
liked it
tagged:
fantasy, paranormal, and young-adult

The Underwater Ballroom Society
it was amazing
tagged:
fantasy, historical, and science-fiction

School for Psychics
it was amazing
tagged:
fantasy and paranormal

Awakening
really liked it
tagged:
fantasy, romance, and young-adult

Dark Magick
really liked it
tagged:
fantasy, romance, and young-adult

Blood Witch
really liked it
tagged:
contemporary, fantasy, romance, and young-adult

The Coven
really liked it
tagged:
fantasy, romance, and young-adult

Book of Shadows
really liked it
tagged:
young-adult, paranormal, romance, and fantasy

The Gatekeeper's Sons
it was ok
tagged:
contemporary, favorites, romance, and young-adult




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Guild Wars 2 Fiction

Miira Lightbringer:
Fried Moa Steak
Quiet Before the Storm

Young Miira:
Tail Tugging Part 1
A Promise Made Part 2
Night Falls Part 3
Grawling Preparations Part 4
Badazar Incarnated Part 5
Graduation Part 6 - Final

Savyrius Belain:
We Meet Again...

Naella Ysangwan:
Dogs and Ogres

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