Welcome to Mercury Retrograde!

Ever notice that four times in a year, all communications go haywire? The subway stops running (moreso than usual), you accidentally reply-all saying YAS to afterwork drinks, or your date tells you he wants to see you again but you interpret it to mean he doesn’t want to see you again, and then months later he says you ghosted him when you thought it was his fault?

Well, my friends, that is called Mercury Retrograde. It’s when four times a year for several weeks, mercury, the mighty ruler of communication, travel and electronics, appears to be traveling backwards in the sky. And it is not friendly.

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Me, during mercury retrograde

The final mercury retrograde of 2017 runs from December 3rd to 23rd. Perfect! Let’s end this already shitty year with a disastrous bang.

It’s already hit me so far. On Thursday night, I was driving my brand new 2017 Chevy Cruze when something popped up on my display.

“Why is my car telling me to check my oil when I literally just changed my oil?” I asked.

My friend leaned over. “Oh, no.” She covered her mouth with her hand. “That’s the Check Engine light. That’s not good.”

My heart sank. I literally bought a new car in May for the sole reason to avoid the dreaded reoccurring Check Engine light that kept popping up on my 1992 Dodge Colt. This was supposed to mean no more problems. So how can I be six months into owning a new car, and already be having an issue with it?

So, the next day, I ditched out of work and brought it to the dealer. Which is the worst, since the dealer has the same coffee machine as we have at work, so the coffee tastes like being at work.

I was ready to yell and scream about how my brand new car should not be having problems. But they were really friendly, and they fixed it.

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Life would be better if dogs were mechanics

Now I’m still worried that I may have bought a lemon, and that I’m probably going to be screwed after the warranty is up. Hopefully this was just a manufacturing defect that was caught early, and it will be smooth sailing from here.

This is just the start of Mercury Retrograde….let’s hope nothing else wild happens.

Stay safe out there and make sure you double-check any emails you write!

Creating Characters Inspired by Real People

Recently, I started my next Work in Progress. Yes, I wanted to start it in October, and not in November during Nanowrimo. I got 6,000 words in and realized it’s just not working. It’s going straight to trash and I’m going to restart it. I’m going to wait until November to start it. I’m going to spend the next two weeks of October planning.

Because that was the issue here: pants-ing.

I’m sure it works for some people. And I gotta admit, I love pantsing, especially during Nanowrimo when the point is to word-dump, not necessarily to come out with a perfect manuscript. But I want to do it right this time. I’m getting old, and I don’t want to waste a month of my life. I’m going to come up with a solid outline this time, and solve what was my biggest issue in the 6,000 words I just dumped: character.

While reading this Nano Prep article, How the Ancient Art of People-Watching Will Make You a Character Pro!, I realized that’s what made my previous novel come so easily. Everything clicked for me when I observed someone in real life who was exactly who I wanted my main character to be.

It was a girl I worked with. I even named my MC after her! (which I changed later, of course). The thing is, everyone in my office hated her. Even I would get annoyed with her. It made me wonder, why? I realized it’s because she has absolutely no filter. She always speaks her mind about anyone and everyone, and she is very, very opinionated. Shell also never let anyone talk shit about her. Not only that but she is very bubbly, optimistic, and a huge lover of gourmet tea.

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(I just realized she’s exactly like Kelly Kapoor from The Office)

 

Boom! Instant character. Suddenly my main character came alive in my story. I sat down and all the scenes came easy because I understood her reactions and motivations in the scene.

I don’t know if this is a right or wrong way to go about creating a character. All I know is it’s worked for me before. So for now, I’m on the hunt for my next real life character inspiration.

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Unfortunately, everyone else at my office is dull so I need to go outside this time. To the mall I go!

2017 Invictus Games in Toronto

I have to admit, I’m the worst Canadian ever: I don’t love the Monarchy. That being said, I’ve developed a soft spot for Prince Harry. This past week and a half, Toronto has hosted the Invictus Games, and it’s impressive to see what he’s done for the war veterans-turned-athletes.

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During the games, I attended three events: the flag raising ceremony at City Hall, wheelchair tennis, and rowing. It was so inspiring to see all the athletes give it their all. Especially when you see athletes with no arms and legs pushing themselves to represent their countries. We were waving Team Canada and Team Ukraine flags, but we cheered for all the countries, because the country boundaries don’t matter anymore: this is all about the human spirit pushing through adversity. And surviving through healthy competition.

The moment that brought tears to my eyes was during the flag ceremony when one of the delegates told us a story about a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress, and how playing the sport helped him talk for the first time in six years. It’s easy to dismiss sports as just a game, but it’s great to learn how focusing on a goal can help you get over the memories and experiences that are haunting you.

The other moment that stands out was at rowing. A huge group of Ukrainians came out and would switch spots throughout the arena to be positioned behind the Ukrainian athlete. At the end, one athlete won a gold medal. Through tears, he saluted the crowd saying “Slava Ukraini” (Glory to Ukraine) and the crowd responded, “Heroyam Slava!” (Glory to the Heroes!).

We even got to see traditional New Zealand Haka. So we kept cheering for their team so we could see more!

Haka! #NewZealand #InvictusGames

A post shared by Zoriana Z (@ptc555) on

Thank you, Prince Harry, for organizing this special event in my city. Thank you for staying the entire week, and honoring the heroes with medals and support.

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It’s been quite a week, and I’m grateful that I was able to attend the games and cheer on these special athletes.

Music For the Masses – Happy 30!

Thirty years ago today, my favourite band, Depeche Mode, released one of my favourite albums: Music for the Masses.

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This album contains some Depeche Mode classics like Strangelove, Behind the Wheel,  and Nothing.

The American tour also featured the documentary movie 101, which is often known as The First True Reality Show.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I went through a summer of my life where I watched that documentary every single night. It’s weird to admit, but they all felt like friends to me!

My ultimate favourite song from this album, and all-time favourite Depeche Mode song, is definitely Never Let Me Down.

The chords from the start. The wheat field visuals. The lyrics.

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This is why I love this band so much.

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Book review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Why I Picked It Up

Not sure why I thought this was going to be a light and funny chick-lit type of book. Maybe because apparently Reese Witherspoon has picked it up to produce it into a movie, and my mind has unfortunately type-cast it into being something a bit lighter. I had just finished reading a real downer of a book and needed a pick me up. While a great book, this was not a pick me up, and now I need an even lighter pick me up with my next book!

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Finally, a book not set in New York City! It was refreshing to read a book set in Scotland. Eleanor grew as a character, and as a reader, I was really pulled into her world so that I felt like I was learning things about life that I already know in a fresh way. What I mean by that, is I’ve become a rather jaded, cynical person. When Eleanor discovered things about life that I already know, it was refreshing to see her unique perspective on that. I liked that she had a goal in mind and did not let herself get derailed. And even when life did knock her down, she pulled herself back up. I was really rooting for her the entire way, and happy for her ability to make peace with her past.

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At times, the book made me feel rather uncomfortable. But I guess that was the point.

Final verdict:

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Be different. Be headstrong. Be yourself.

Where do you get your ideas from? – Part 1

One of the best places I browse for inspiration is PostSecret.

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I remember back in the day when it was huuuuuuge. Me and my friends would wait every day until new secrets were posted on Sunday, and then we’d scroll through them all and discuss our favourites or ones that made us think.

I even submitted a few secrets once before that were actually published, and they had no idea! There’s this strange thrill of putting something out there that makes you feel free, like you are not the only person who knows about it anymore. And when someone says “that’s a silly thing to be worried about”, it makes you stop and think that maybe something that has had a powerful hold on you, might not actually be that powerful.

Anyways, I still look through it from time to time and save my favourite secrets. Ones that are shocking and others that are ordinary. Then, when I’m writing a new character, I have a look and see if it’s something I can use to create a psychological roadblock for my character.

You never know what will hold someone back. And how easy it is to let go!

Here is one of my latest favourites:

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Concert Review: Coldplay Toronto August 21, 2017

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Last night was my FOURTH time seeing Coldplay live. They are so worth it, every single time. Chris Martin is always so high-energy and has a way of interacting with the crowd in a way that even when you’re surrounded by 60,000 people, you still feel like it’s just you and him, while also drawing you into a crowd fuelled with nothing but positive vibes.

I don’t know what it is about Coldplay shows that are able to uplift my spirits. Maybe it’s all the glitter, the confetti, the smile plastered on Chris Martin’s face throughout the night. We had close seats but since they were on the floor, me and my short friends could barely see the stage. That didn’t matter though. Everyone in our section was dancing the whole time and jumping up and down and belting out our favourite lyrics. Thankfully, the Dome was open which gave us the chance to point to the sky during Yellow (look at the stars, see how they shine for you) and Sky Full of Stars (such a heavenly viiiiiew).

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Highlights include:

  • shout out to the CNN Tower
  • The Toronto song Chris Martin sang which included shout outs to Drake and the Blue Jays
  • Dancing my ass off during Hymn for the Weekend, Sky Full of Stars, Viva la Vida
  • When Chris Martin choked on confetti at the start of Fix You and had to start over
  • Christ Martin thanking the crowd for braving the crowds, lines, commute, expensive concert tickets to show up. Idk why but just having your favourite singer acknowledge the tough parts of attending a concert make him feel down-to-earth and makes it all worth it.
  • The pyrotechnics
  • Doing the wave before the show started!

Conclusion: great friends+great music = fab night out

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