Healthy living is actually good for you? Gross

I am a writer. I’m also a reader, podcaster, tv critic. And I have a day job where I work on a computer. None of these activities encourage much physical activity. All of these activities mean that the busier I am, the less likely I am to get any exercise at all. Honestly, at one point I just stopped wearing my fit bit because it was depressing to see I’d walked less than 1,000 steps in a day.

I didn’t have a lot of motivation to do anything about that for a long time. Things would happen that worried me, regarding my health. My doctor told me I have some cholesterol concerns. I couldn’t walk upstairs without breathing hard. It was difficult to even get to the end of the block on a puppy walk. And the less I did, the less I was able to do.

Then the scale told me a weight I never wanted to see. And it kept climbing from there. 

Now, I’m not a vain person, but certain things I just cannot abide. So I decided I needed some help. I signed up for Noom because their ads were all over the damned place.

This isn’t sponsored by Noom. It’s just really helping me so I wanted to tell you about it. 

And it turns out, all the dumb shit people tell you about getting in shape is true. Gross, right? Do you mean doing a little bit of working out and eating a little better has benefits besides my weight? As a lifelong workout avoider, I was pretty sure that was just something skinny people said to make up for the lack of Oreos in their lives.

But it’s true. I’ve been sticking with Noom for two months now. And I think I’ll keep doing it. First off, I paid for it and it was kind of expensive. But also because my whole life has improved in ways I was not expecting. 

I’m getting fewer headaches

I’m having less joint pain overall. I think the headache thing is because I’m taking hourly breaks from the computer to get up and dance around a little. But the less joint pain thing surprised me. I was expecting quite the opposite. But I’m not overworking myself. I’m doing just a little, then a little more the next day. So, I hurt less.

I’m sleeping better

I never used to have trouble sleeping, until about three years ago. It’s been a struggle. Most of the time, it’s that waking up in the middle of the night thing. I just cannot go back to sleep once that happens. Now that I’ve been eating better and moving my body more, I don’t do that as often. It still happens sometimes, but not nearly as often.

I do have more energy

And I did right away. Again, I wasn’t working out too much at the start. I was just walking around a little more often. 

I think when we start exercising, we make two big mistakes. We don’t start with our diet and we go too big on the workouts. If you’re still eating like a teenager and you decide to start running 30 minutes a day, you’re not going to feel good. You’re going to feel like hell. But by starting with my diet and then slowly upping my exercise, I felt alright. I felt like I could do this thing.

My depression and anxiety haven’t been as bad

Look, I’m going to say this right off. If you have depression, anxiety, or any other mental issue, exercise isn’t going to cure you. I have anxiety, and I’m still on medication for it. I have not lessened my medication. I have not suddenly found that the world is a beautiful place. Anyone who tells you that your mental health can be cured by exercise and you don’t need the medication your doctor prescribed for you is an idiot. Unless that person is your doctor.

That being said, my symptoms have become more manageable since I started taking care of myself. I think it has something to do with being tired, feeling unwell, and then adding anxiety to that. It’s just one less thing for me to be anxious about when I’m not panting walking up the stairs.

I am losing some weight

This almost seems secondary at this point. But yes, I have lost nine pounds at the time of writing this.

Nine pounds in two months might not sound like a lot. But it’s better than the steady increase I was seeing before that. And, here’s the big thing, I’m still going. I’m not sick to death of this whole thing and ready to go back to my old ways. So this isn’t going to be a short-term thing.

I feel like I can accomplish things

Yeah, okay this one is a little heavy-handed. But I never have had a lot of confidence in my physical ability to, you know, do things. Physical things, at least. I knew I could do some things. Writing related, mostly. I’ve written novels, started podcasts. But I was never sure that I could do things like a charity walk. Now, it’s something I’m maybe considering.

Look, I still don’t love working out. My greatest loves in life involve sitting at a desk or in a comfortable chair. But I want to be in better health while I’m doing it. And it turns out, I’m a lot better off by doing just a little bit to take care of me. 

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Camp Nano, 2021

It’s that time again. July is a week away, and I’m getting ready to participate in Camp Nanowrimo. 

I almost decided not to do it this year, to be honest. A lot is going on in my life right now. I’m working on some big projects for Haunted MTL. I have a pretty big personal project that I’ll talk more about early next year. And I’ll be going back to the office for my day job in July.

So why in the hell am I thinking of adding another major project to July? Well, as always, there’s a reason. I’m not just being self-abusive, stacking projects on top of myself until it all comes crashing down like Jenga bricks. This project is good for me. Here’s why.

I’d like to have some fun

Yes, writing is hard. Especially that second draft! But it’s also kind of the most fun thing? I don’t know, writing confuses me. The second draft has the bare bones of the story already there, but it needs so much work to get it right. 

And in that work, nestled like opals in a mine, are a thousand aha moments. Realizing the hows and the whys and the wheres of the story. It’s like the best puzzle in the world. And I live for it, despite complaining about it like crazy on social media.

I haven’t been working on my novel as much as I want to be

As I mentioned, I’m busy as hell. And I love that I have the opportunity to do so much good work. I even got a screener for a show! I’m like an actual critic or something. 

But I haven’t worked on my novel since I finished the rough draft in December. And that just doesn’t fly with me. See, this novel is important. And I’m going to be self-publishing it to get it right into your hands. And I think, I think, you’re going to love it.

So I want to work on it. And Camp Nano is a great way to make myself make the time. 

I love the feeling of community

Why will Camp Nano inspire me? Because the feeling of community is amazing. I love that feeling when you put in your word count at the end of the day and see how all your writing friends did. We’re all working on different projects, all working alone. We may never meet in person. But we’re still working together. And that just never gets old.

 I’m never really myself unless I’m working on a novel

I am a writer. And a critic, and a podcaster. Most of all, I am a writer. And I am just never, ever myself when I’m not working on a book. I learned this in the years before I started this blog. I am happiest when I have a novel.

And so yes, I am busy. And yes, I am doing all sorts of other writing. But this is writing that is just for me. One day, it will be for all of you. 

But for now, my novel is for me. And I need to take the time to write for myself. Even if it’s just during July.

I hope to see you at camp. You bring the chocolate, I’ll bring the marshmallows.

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Why Picard Works

We’ve come to the end of the Why Star Trek Works series, and it seems appropriate that we’d end with the latest of the shows, Picard. 

I’m not going to lie, I was worried about this show. When I heard they were getting Patrick Stewart to reprise his role, I worried this was going to be cringy. I worried it was going to be the science fiction equivalent of The Mule with that ridiculous threesome scene with Clint Eastwood. 

I should have known better, of course. Picard was great. It works exactly as it needs to. 

Picard is a direct follow-up to Next Generation. It begins with Captain Picard, retired on his family’s vineyard. Because of course, his family has a vineyard. He seems content, at first. We find out soon enough that he’s haunted by his past decisions. And when some of them come back, he finds that he must put a crew together and set things right.

If you’re expecting to see Captain Picard, the stuffy in charge man who always has a diplomatic answer for everything, you’re wrong. He’s older, and he’s grown. That’s one of the reasons this show works. Sometimes we need a reminder that even adults have things to learn. There’s always another stage in our lives to grow towards. And Picard has grown past his former bigotry, his coldness. He’s starting to see how always focusing on the mission has hurt people he’s loved. 

But he also sees the good he did, despite that. Which I appreciated. 

One thing Picard had going for it that a lot of other shows don’t was the age of the main character. We don’t often see heroes this age. And frankly, that’s a sad thing. I feel like we always get the same sort of story, and few of them have anything to do with people in the later parts of their lives. It’s no wonder we’ve got a whole society of people terrified of getting older. If fiction is to be believed, you stop being the main character of your life and take on a supporting role. Which deprives us of a whole collection of stories.

Another thing Picard did well was the fan service. No, I’m not talking about nudity. I’m talking about moments that only mean anything to the long term Star Trek fans. I like that it had these fan service moments, while still being its own story. We see old characters and old stories coming to their eventual conclusion. But we also see new characters, new lives. We see old battles from different perspectives. What this does is simple. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’re going to understand and value this show on every level. Moments that might be meh to a new viewer will break your freaking heart. But if you’ve never seen an episode of Star Trek before, you’re still going to like it.

There’s a problem with that, too. At least, if you as a writer hope to learn from it. Only a show with this foundation could have pulled this off.

As I said, there are moments in this show that made me bawl. Mostly dealing with the Borg. These moments weigh years of storytelling behind them. Decades. Two or three shows had to be successful, have beloved characters and set up long-term storylines for this to work. And that’s something that, if you’re just starting, you can’t do yet.

What you can do, though, is prepare for it. If you’re writing a series in a world you think you want to explore more, maybe prepare for this sort of thing. Write worlds that can be seen from multiple points of view. The best way to do this? Remember that no story is black and white. Everyone sees things from their perspective. And if you do things right, you can get your fans to see that too.

That’s really what makes Picard, and Star Trek in general, work.

Well, we’ve come to the end of our series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed revisiting some old, and new, favorite shows. Let me know in the comments which one is your favorite Star Trek show. 

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My favorite LGBTQ+ characters in speculative fiction

Representation matters. We know this. And as nerds, we know that the speculative fiction genre is full of great, and not so great, representations of the LGBTQ+ community. So today, I wanted to put a spotlight on my top six favorite examples. These are characters that are not caricatures, not stereotypes. They’re real, honest people who happen to also be LGBTQ+. I’m only talking about speculative fiction characters, so we won’t be talking about characters from Brooklyn 99 or The Loud House. Though both have several great examples.

Bess Till, Snowpiercer

If you want a full review on Snowpiercer, I’ll be doing that over on Haunted MTL later this month. But for now, let’s just talk about Bess.

Bess is a great character for a lot of reasons. She starts out being pretty much a pain in the ass. She, like everyone else, looks down on the people in the ‘tail’. Eventually, she becomes one of the main character’s strongest allies.

Bess has a relationship with a woman in the second class of the train. They’re hiding their relationship because Bess is from third class, and such relations are frowned upon.

But her character isn’t defined by this relationship. She’s defined by who she is, a badass fighter for equality. 

Jadzia Dax, Deep Space 9

Alright, this is a bit of a stretch but hear me out. Jadzia Dax might be one of the earliest transgender characters ever. They are essentially two (or more) souls in the same body. Many people see Jadzia and interact with them as a female. Some, who know Dax, see them as a man. But Jadzia Dax responds just the same to both. 

Taru, Savage Legion

I talked about Taru during my Why it Works post about Savage Legion, but I’d be remiss not to mention them again. They’re one of the first non-binary characters I’ve ever seen in fiction. And they’re amazing. They’re loyal, funny, smart, and scary strong. 

Yes, being non-binary is part of their story. But it’s only a part. The larger story is one of loyalty and struggles to protect the poor districts they were raised in.

April May, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

April’s a wonderfully flawed character. She’s quick to get caught up in all the craziness of THE CARLS. But she’s just as fast to sacrifice her whole life to save the world.

With her girlfriend, their potato plant, and CARL, they manage to save the world from something so much bigger than they could ever imagine.

Kisha, Alice Isn’t Dead

Well, and also Alice, I guess. But Kisha’s the main character. 

I talked at length about this podcast on Haunted MTL. But basically, it’s the story of a woman driving across America to find her wife. Well, as Kisha says, this isn’t a story. It’s a road trip. 

Kisha is in love with Alice, but soon enough her mission isn’t just about finding her. It’s about all the dark strange corners of the country that are hard to explain. It’s about fighting an enemy that is so unfairly equipped to beat us that we can’t help but battle against injustice. It’s about the magic of a rest stop at three in the morning, the shadows in the booths of roadside diners. It’s about America.

So what do you think? What’s your favorite LGBTQ+ character? What’s one that you think needs a little extra love? Let us know in the comments.

Why Lower Decks works

Premiering in August of 2020, Lower Decks is different than the other Star Trek shows we’ve talked about in this series so far. But also not as different when you get into the details.

It’s not set on Enterprise, but many of them haven’t been. Lower Decks is set on the U.S.S. Cerritos. Of course, it’s animated. But that’s not the big difference. No, the real difference is, in my opinion, why Lower Decks works so well. Let’s discuss. 

We should start, as I always do, with the characters. The four main characters, Beckett, Brad, D’Vana and Sam, are all beautifully flawed. They’re neurotic, annoying, party lovers. These aren’t characteristics we usually see in Star Trek characters. Sure, Kirk was a man whore and Picard had a stick up his ass. But they were never what I’d call relatable. I can relate to D’Vana in particular. She’s socially awkward and loves her work. She gets way too excited. But the people who can up with her energy are rewarded for it. 

There’s something great about looking at a character and seeing parts of yourself reflecting.

Lower Decks also shows a different part of the world than we’ve ever seen. This, I think is really where the show differs from the others. The main characters have always been mostly bridge officers. And, you should excuse me for saying, they’re kind of bitchy about it. We can even see this in an episode of Next Generation when Picard sees what his life would have been like if he hadn’t gotten into a bar fight while he was in the academy. He finds himself no longer a bridge officer and quickly realizes something. His friends are kind of dicks. And yeah, if you watch through the show, our beloved characters are not nice to the people who work under them. I think it’s great to see the lives of the grunts. The people who are doing the day-to-day work. Not the people living in the posh cabins and making the big decisions.

Finally, Lower Decks manages to do something that I always want to do. Something some of my favorite writers manage to do well. It has a sense of levity, but it can still bring emotional gripping moments.

It’s important for a character if they’re going to be funny, to have a depth to them. No one’s the comic relief all the time in the real world. That buddy you’ve got who always makes you laugh? There’s no way she’s always like that.

Creating a character like that is hard. You’ve got to start carefully, making sure that we see their pain without really seeing it. The best way to handle it is small warnings, little signs that are only really visible in hindsight. 

It’s hard, and it takes a lot of editing. But if you can manage it, it’s great. 

We’re almost done with this series. It’s been a lot of fun. Next week we’ll be talking about Picard. But if there are any Star Trek shows I missed that you’d like me to cover, let me know in the comments. 

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Full disclosure. All the other shows in this series have one of two things in common. Either they were a childhood favorite of mine or a recent love. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Enterprise. And there’s a chance that, even if you’re a big Trek fan, you haven’t seen much of it either.

Enterprise has a hell of a bad reputation. Trek fans kind of hate it. And so, for a long time, I didn’t bother to give it the time of day. 

I should have. Enterprise has all the same qualities as the other Star Trek shows. It’s got great storytelling, fun characters who grow and change as people. It’s funny, it’s smart. It has that same fast and loose hand with science that we’ve all come to love.

So why is it so disliked? And more importantly, how can you as a writer avoid these same traps? 

It only makes sense to begin at the beginning. In this case, we’re talking about the theme song. 

Oh, this theme song! It’s like someone ate the theme song for Full House and threw it back up. 

Not only is the song a bad eighty’s pop ballad, but it also has nothing to do with the show. It doesn’t fit the style at all.

This alone was enough to throw people off. Okay, well what does that have to do with writing a book? Let’s compare a theme song to a cover. A cover is something that everyone tells you not to judge your books by, but you do.

Don’t feel bad, I do it too. And at least two books I’ve loved recently have caught my eye because of their cover. 

Your cover matters. If you’re an indie writer, make good use of that. If you work with a publisher, then use whatever pull you have to make sure you love the cover. 

Now, let’s talk about the ending. And by that, I mean the last episode. And I’m not going to lie, you this is a problem that a lot of shows seem to have. No one seems to know how to end a show without pissing everyone off.

I’m not talking about endings that weren’t supposed to be endings, like Chuck or Santa Clarita Diet. I’m talking about endings that knew damn well they were going to be ending. Like Game of Thrones or Roseanne. Shows that decided the best way to end was to kick their fans square in the junk.

That’s the kind of ending Enterprise has. And a bad ending is always bad for business. 

I don’t mean a sad ending. A good sad ending can rip someone’s heart to pieces and they’ll thank you for it. Good examples of this are Flowers for Algernon or Lord of The Rings. No, I mean a lazy ending, that makes the reader or watcher feel dumb for putting so much time in. Or an ending that doesn’t make any sense. Anything that falls into categories like this.

It was all a dream.

The main character’s been in a coma.

The whole story took place in a little boy’s mind while he looked at a freaking snow globe.

It was all a playback on the holodeck. 

These are things that make fans hate you. They make fans want to hurt. Since that’s legally frowned upon, they will do the next best thing. Trash you and your work all over the internet. And word of mouth matters. 

Word of mouth, after all, is why I didn’t watch Enterprise for so long. I’d just heard too much bad about it to think it could be good. And that’s a really hard thing to get over.

That’s it for this time guys. Next week we’ll be talking about a new favorite of mine, Lower Decks. 

Thanks for reading! You can support Paper Beats World on Patreon or Ko-fi.

Five reasons you should care about the battle for minimum wage

Hey, you remember how I said that just because a Democrat is in the White House doesn’t mean we can all relax now? 

I was right, and I still didn’t listen to myself. We’ve got a lot of work to do still. So, speaking of work, why don’t we start with making sure everyone gets a livable paycheck for their work. 

That’s right, we’re talking about minimum wage. It hasn’t increased since 2009. And that’s a problem. 

But Nicole, you might say. I don’t make minimum wage. What does this matter to me? 

Today in this bonus post, let’s talk about why you should for sure care about minimum wage, even if you’re making a comfortable living. 

We all want to call frontline workers heroes. Now, we need to help them.

We’vespent the last year showering frontline workers with our praise. And they deserve it. Listen, I’ve worked fast food. I’ve worked retail. These are hard jobs, and they suck. And there’s no way our society could function without them. Could you have survived the last year without Amazon and Walmart delivery? How about takeout? I damn well couldn’t have. I swear the only person I had a face-to-face conversation with was the lady who works at Sheetz.

People who work these jobs deserve to make a living wage. They always have. We always have. Everyone, no matter what job they’re doing, deserves to make enough money to take care of themselves and their families. 

Kids trying to go to college cant make enough to go.

But, what about kids? This is always the argument of people who are against raising the minimum wage use. Surely teenagers working their first job don’t need to make enough money to support a family. They’re just making fun money, right?

Oh hell no. Teenagers who are working might be trying to earn money for college. And college is getting more expensive all the time. Maybe they’re raising a kid, or helping to support a younger sibling. Maybe even a parent who’s having trouble making ends meet.

And frankly, even if none of that is the case, I still think they should make a living wage. Teens are learning lessons they’re going to rely on for the rest of their lives. And one of those lessons should be ‘an honest days work for an honest days pay’. 

When I was a teenager, I worked as a dishwasher. I made okay money. And it taught me that if I work hard, I get a reward for it. This powerful lesson encouraged my work ethic for the rest of my life. Please don’t ever forget that a teenage job is about so much more than just the work. 

No expendable income means creatives are starving

Kind of obvious, this is a personal issue with me. But most of you reading this are probably in the same boat. 

All over creative corners of the internet, I’m hearing the same thing. Patreon subscriptions are plummeting. Sales are down. 

Art is a luxury. People living paycheck to paycheck don’t get to indulge in luxury things. I’m not talking about a Fossel smartwatch. (I want one). I’m talking about a two-dollar e-book. And people on minimum wage aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. They’re living hand to mouth. Do you think they’ve got the money for any art?

Don’t you think art is something everyone should be able to afford? Don’t you think everyone should have books to read? If you’re a creative, don’t you want your fans to be able to buy your work? 

CEOs are making more in comparison to their lower-level employees than ever.

But what about fairness? Isn’t it fair that people who work their way up the ladder make more money? 

Oh, for sure. At my day job, my supervisor for sure deserves to make more money than me. She’s earned that promotion. The CEO of the company deserves to make bank. People who succeed deserve to get rewards for that. 

But there are limits. Here’s a link to an article from the Economic Policy Institute about how CEO compensation has ballooned while day-to-day workers have not seen similar growth in their income. And it’s not just minimum wage workers here, folks. It’s everyone who’s not sitting in board meetings. So, probably you.

People can’t care for their kids. And that impacts all of us. 

 Finally, let’s talk about parents. When I was working minimum wage jobs, the majority of my co-workers were parents. So was I. 

Parents have everything stacked against them. And poor parents can feel like everything is trying to make sure they fail. 

Let me paint a picture for you. You have a child. You and your spouse both work full time. You cannot afford not to and still make your bills. Maybe you have someone around who can watch your kid when you and your spouse are working, but maybe you don’t. So, what if you can’t afford a babysitter? You can’t afford to quit, and neither can your spouse.

What do you do? 

If you’re not a parent, I don’t care. Every child is our child, our future. Our legacy. That’s part of the social contract we have with each other. It is in all of our best interests to make sure every kid has a good childhood that prepares them for healthy adulthood. And that means making sure their parents can be home for them after school, while still being able to put food on the table. Parents should be able to make enough money to buy birthday gifts, take their kids to the zoo, go to the pool. They should also be able to have dinner with their kids, take the day off if the kid is sick, and not work two jobs to just afford necessities. Kids deserve parents. And anyone who says people shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford them is advocating for financial eugenics.

I’m fully aware that lots of people reading this are actually in this situation. Hell, I know that a lot of people reading this are actually in the minimum wage range. And please, if you’re in that situation, listen to me.

While everyone needs to fight for minimum wage, dont feel like your powerless. 

Listen, being broke makes you feel powerless. I know it made me feel like that. It’s easy to when everything in the world is designed to make your life harder for the crime of not having a job our society deems respectable.

But we are not powerless. We have the right to vote. And we have the right to contact our representatives.

Here’s a link to a site that will help you find your local reps. Call them, write them. I know you don’t have a lot of time. But it’s about time that our politicians work for us. 

We pay their salary. And you can sure as hell bet they’re making a living wage. 

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