Machine Work by Hopie Chan

Meet the Characters: Zoya Orlova

(Image Credit: Machine Work by Hopie Chan)

For this series, I’m going to delve into the characters of Grigory’s Gadget in the style of those fun/silly surveys that pop-up on social media from time-to-time. I’ll also include name pronunciation, because I know a lot of people have been asking about that! (That being said, you can pronounce the names of my characters however you like, I’ll just be listing the “official” pronunciation) First off, the main character: Zoya Orlova.

WARNING: Mild spoilers for Grigory’s Gadget contained in this post!

Name: Zoya Orlova (ZOY-ah or-LOH-va, alternatively ZOY-ah OR-loh-va)

Name Meaning: Zoya – Russian form of Zoe, meaning “life”; Orlova – feminine form of Orlov meaning “son of Oryol”, oryol meaning “eagle”

Age: early 20s

Physical Appearance: Pale freckled skin, violet curly hair, gray eyes, thin but muscular

Hometown: Lodninsk, Morozhia (LOHD-ninsk, moh-ROHZH-ya)

Family: Only child and orphan; mother was murdered when Zoya was young, father committed suicide not long after; she was raised by her grandmother, who passed away from lung cancer while Zoya was in college

Relationship Status: in a relationship with Demyan Volkov

Education: studying engineering, with a focus on steam engines

Religion: None

Greatest Strengths: Loyal, quick-thinking

Greatest Weaknesses: Rash, quick to anger

Favorite Color: Teal

Hobbies: Tinkering, “dance lessons” (secret code which actually refers to sword fighting lessons)

Biggest Goal in Life: Settle down somewhere peaceful, warm, and free surrounded by friends

How to Tackle Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block is something most writers deal with, in one form or another, and it’s something that’s been plaguing me these past couple months. It can take on many forms, from a lack of motivation or time to paralyzing indecision with regard to where you want your story to go.

The first step to defeating writer’s block? Deciding that you HAVE to write SOMETHING, regardless of the block. The next step, of course, is figuring out how.

I’ve gone over some of my anti-block techniques in my post about winning NaNoWriMo. Here’s what works best for me:

  • Don’t Stop at a “Good Stopping Point” – this is more a technique for preventing writer’s block before it happens. If you stop writing at a “good stopping point” then the next day you have to come up with a new scene or a new direction from scratch. Instead, stop yourself in the middle of a scene, in the middle of action, so that the next day you can start with that momentum.
  • Write Only What You Feel Like Writing – so you’ve stopped writing in the middle of an action scene, and it’s time to pick up writing again today. But maybe you’re just not in the mood for action? Maybe you just want your characters to chat over a cup of tea. Maybe you want to describe the scenery in incredible detail. Maybe you want a character to go on a wild rant about dragons or krakens or medieval politics. DO IT! If you’re stuck on what you think you *need* to write that day, move on to something else. That action scene will still be there later, and that conversation over tea might turn into a central plot point.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Write Multiple Versions – if you’re at a crossroads and not sure which direction your story should take, feel free to experiment. Just choose a direction and go. Maybe you’ll wind up at a dead-end. Who cares? Discovering what doesn’t work for your story can be just as valuable as figuring out what does. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and backtrack until your story feels right.
  • Unleash A Little Chaos – sometimes it’s easy to get caught-up in the outline of our story (if you’re a planner) and we end up feeling caged-in. The creative juices just stop flowing. In this case, throw in something crazy that your characters have to react to. Trap them in a horrible storm, attack them in a dark alley, have someone fall horribly ill. I know, authors can be real monsters sometimes.
  • Alternatively, Outline Your Story – if you’re a pantser, sometimes it may help to make an outline for a change. Know you don’t have to stick to that outline, but it can help organize your thoughts so you can figure out where you want your story to go.

What tactics do you use to beat writer’s block?

Summer Events!

I’ve got some exciting new events coming up for the summer!

If you live around the Capital Region in New York, I’ll be attending two events there this summer: one in official author-ly capacity, and one as an attendee.

The first event is the Saratoga FanCon at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on June 18th. (Saratoga…SaRATOGAAAAA! Those who live in the Capital Region know that jingle…) Saratoga FanCon is a free, all-ages comics & pop culture event. There will be guests from a variety of fandoms including comics, manga, gaming, fan art, cosplay, and more! I will be one of those guests 🙂

The next event is The Enchanted City III: A Brave New World in Troy on August 27th. Now in its third year, “The Enchanted City” is an urban street faire, a spectacle of steampunk fashion, fantasy and fabrications that magically transform the historic blocks of downtown Troy, NY into a “cosplay” alternative reality where Victorian fancy meets modern technology. The Enchanted City is a real life fairy tale that you can experience and even become a character in if you wish. It is a steampunk Brigadoon that appears once a year. This free festival offers a family-friendly inspired day of music, games, performance, food and fantasy. Special events include a fashion show, historic tours, street performers and peddlers, storytelling, dancing, puppet shows, magic acts and more. It’s a really fun time!

The Enchanted City has also partnered with the Tech Valley Center of Gravity to sponsor a Troy “Mini Maker Faire” during the festival. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, a “Maker Faire” is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

I had considered vending at The Enchanted City, but honestly I feel like I’d be missing out if I were stuck at a table the whole day! There’s so much to see and do, I decided I’d rather just be an attendee – in costume, of course!

I also applied to vend at the 5th Annual Buffalo Bookfest on July 9th! The Western New York Book Arts Center will host the 5th Annual Buffalo BookFest, a day-long festival dedicated to printing and the book arts. The festival will feature an artist’s market and a complete schedule of free indoor and outdoor hands-on demonstrations of the book arts for all ages, including steamroller printmaking! This event is free and open to the public, taking place inside both floors of the Book Arts Center, stretching across the newly opened Mohawk Street, and spilling into the adjacent parking lot–you won’t want to miss this festival. The 5th Annual Buffalo BookFest Artist’s Market will highlight Western New York’s most talented craftspeople, artisans, and writers. Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to browse through and purchase locally handmade goods including hand-bound books, letterpress prints, small press publications, zines, and loads of handmade crafts! The market will be held on the ground floor of WNYBAC and in an outdoors.

I hope to see you at one (or more!) of these events this summer!

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

I recently finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir on my brand-new Kindle (side note: I think I’ve been converted to eBooks…I never thought this would happen…but it’s just. so. CONVENIENT!) and long story short, I loved it!

I became interested in this book 1) because I like science fiction but especially 2) because it’s a self-published novel that BLEW UP in popularity and had a successful, popular movie adaptation (I haven’t seen the movie yet, but will watch it soon now that I’ve read the book). As a self-published author, this book represents a dream-come-true.

The book starts off with a team of astronauts on Mars who get caught in a sandstorm. The storm is so bad that they have to abort their mission and fly home only days (well, sols, in this case) after getting to the red planet. In all the chaos, astronaut Mark Watney is badly injured and lost in the storm, presumed dead and left behind as the other astronauts fly away. But, of course, he’s not dead. And now he has to figure out not only how to survive but how to get home.

This book is problem-solving session after problem-solving session, and it made my little engineer heart happy. If you’re a fan of the Apollo 13 movie (which obviously is based on a true story, not science fiction) imagine that but 1000x more complicated. The book is a roller coaster ride of “Oh, god, can’t Mark catch a break?” and “Oh yeah! Mark figured it out!” with a few “Oh no, Mark did NOT figure that one out!” thrown in for good measure.

My main criticism for the book is that the handful of chapters that are written in 3rd person (most of the book is in the form of daily logs from Mark) felt somewhat unfinished. They felt a little bare-boned (He said this then did that). At times it took away some of the heart of the story, as the only character that was really characterized effectively was Mark. But, we do spend the most time with Mark and he is the focal point of the story.

My only other criticism of this book is the ending. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the ending. On the one hand, it did make sense to end where it did, but my first reaction when I got to the last page was “Oh, that’s it?”.

Overall, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars, and would recommend to anyone who enjoys problem-solving!