Failure IS an option – by Kathrese McKee

Kathrese McKee is no stranger to the Scriblerians. Not only is she a great writer friend of mine, but we got to hang out with her at Realm Makers last year (the best conference for science fiction/ fantasy writers of faith). She also signed our slam book last year. Feel free to stop by that post to see the original cover of Mardan’s Mark and her high school picture. Two things she probably wishes weren’t still on the internet. 😉 

Now, please enjoy this wonderful post by a gifted writer.

During the Apollo 13 movie, Gene Kranz, the flight director played by Ed Harris, has this line: “Failure is not an option.” Then, he stalks out of the room, and his engineers scramble to find solutions. Man, I love that movie. And I loved that line.

In real life, Gene Kranz didn’t actually say that. He wishes he did, but he didn’t. In fact, he liked the quote so much, that he used it as the title for his memoir. I can appreciate the must-do philosophy in the context of the Apollo 13 emergency, but I disagree with it in the context of creative endeavors.

Failure is an option. I would argue that it’s the only option. How many authors write their tour de force on the first draft of their debut novel? How many painters create their masterpiece the first time they hold a paintbrush? How many screenwriters, sculptors, inventors, filmmakers, or dancers achieve the pinnacle of success before they have failed many times?

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas EdisonThomas Edison

Creative professionals must fine-tune their work, throwing out the pieces that don’t measure up and trying new ideas. That’s what happened to me on my debut novel, Mardan’s Mark. Actually, I think the writing is okay, but the cover is another story. If you want to learn more about the book or the original cover, you can see a post from a year ago on this website, “Swashbuckling Adventure, Anyone?”

There is no failure. Only feedback. ~Robert Allen

In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder my cover choice. Tim Akers, one of the Scriblerians asked, “So tell me, if this was written for boys, why is there a woman’s face on the cover?” Ah, Tim, why’d you have to bring that up? Yeah, I wrote it for both genders.
Floryie, another reviewer, wrote this: “I loved the look of the book cover. But I couldn’t relate to the ‘character’ on the cover. She looks too old to represent any of the female characters.” Srilani does look too old, and Aldan really does need to be on the cover. Okay, okay, you talked me into it.

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~Henry Ford

So the hunt for a different cover designer began, not because the first designer was bad, but because the cover needed a fresh set of eyes. I hope that you agree it was worth the effort.

2016-264 HANDOVER Ebook Kathrese McKee, Mardan's Mark

Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Enough about me, let’s talk about you. Are you in a slump? Do you have doubts? Those feelings are natural. Everyone experiences them. But our job as creative individuals is to push through those doldrums and accept failure as part of the process. The only ones who fail are those who quit trying. Put fear aside. Change something and try again.

C.S. LewisFailures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. ~C. S. Lewis

When you look back at where you’ve been, the mileposts are likely to be those points where something went wrong and you had to make a decision to keep going in spite of adversity. Think of moments when you learned a life lesson through failure. Think of those events that changed you, broke you, and molded you. Ultimately, those failures made you who you are. Fail forward toward success.

What past failure set you up for success afterward?

Kathrese headshotTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for anyone who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. In Mardan’s Mark: A princess must rescue the heir from behind enemy lines before war breaks out. The stakes rise when she accepts help from a pirate’s slave. Join the Crew to read the first five chapters for free.

Manga 101 by Kat Vinson

Kat Vinson, better know as SparksofEmber, is an avid reader, blogger, long-time subscriber to The Scriblerians, and my friend. Her dream is to someday live in Japan (or Taiwan), building relationships, immersing herself in their culture, and living God’s light. Please welcome Kat to the blog as she teaches us about one of her reading passions, Manga.

So, manga… Either you love them – or you just haven’t yet experienced the joy that is contained in them. 😉 Today I am going to share a crash course in graphic novels – because an informed reader is a happy reader, right?

Graphic Novels or Manga
Manga (pronounced Mhan-gah – both plural and singular) is the Japanese word for what we commonly call graphic novels. Similar to anime being the Japanese word for animated cartoon, “purists” can make a career out of distinguishing Japanese manga from Western graphic novels. However, there is more that distinguishes “manga” from Western graphic novels than just the name.

Left-to-right or Right-to-left
Japanese is read right to left and most publishers stay true to the original format. Back before manga were very popular, it was common for publishers to flip the panels to fit Western norms of left-to-right reading. This generated a lot of criticism, especially from the artists (mangaka) as the flow of the artwork was heavily effected, not to mention all the comic characters suddenly becoming left-handed and so on.

Korean manhwa, while not quite as popular as Japanese translations, are written left-to-right. And, of course, Western graphic novels are the same. Learning to read a comic from right to left seems tricky at first but it doesn’t take long to learn to follow the flow of the comic. Nowadays I’ve become so accustomed to reading manga right to left that I’m more likely to confuse myself trying to read an American comic backwards. 😉


Just like regular books are commonly divided by genre, manga (and anime) have genre, too. But instead of fantasy, science fiction and so on, they are categorized by intended audience. The most common genres are:

Shōnen –  Aimed at younger males, usually up to about 15-18 years-old. Shōnen manga traditionally has a young male hero and is focused on action, adventure, and fighting. Examples*: Dragon Ball, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Attack on Titan.
Seinen (Say-nen) – Aimed at men in their late teens into adulthood. Seinen manga are more mature and so tend to be more violent and/or psychological in nature. And they may contain “adult” themes. Examples*: Berserk, Ghost in the Shell, Monster, One Punch Man, Battle Royal, Vagabond, Hellsing, Gantz
Shōjo – Aimed at younger girls – the female equivalent of Shōnen. Shōjo manga focus on romance and relationships — though this does not mean they are necessarily without action or adventure. Examples*: Kimi ni Todoke, Boys Over Flowers, Vampire Knight, Ouran High School Host club, Skip Beat, Fruits Basket, Revolutionary Girl Utena, NANA, Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi
Josei (Joh-say) manga – Aimed at women in their late teens into adulthood. In general, these works tend to portray more realistic relationships (as opposed to shōjo’s often idealized ones) and can cover darker subjects. Like Seinen manga, they can have more “adult” content than the shōjo variety. Examples*: Loveless, Kimi no Sei, Paradise Kiss, Honey and Clover, Kimi wa Pet.
Kodomo (aka Kodomomuke) Manga: Comics/anime for little kids. Examples: Doraemon, Hello Kitty, Chibi Maruko-chan
Dōjinshi Manga: Comic publication that’s written by and for amateurs. Think fanfiction and the like.

(*I am not necessarily recommending these titles. They are just well known titles in each genre.)

*Head’s Up!*
Manga featuring “clean” same-sex relationships are referred to as Shōjo-Ai (girl-love) or Shōnen-Ai (boy-love). As such, they usually fall under the Shōjo category umbrella. Same-sex relationships under the Seinen/Josei umbrella are referred to as Yaoi (male) or Yuri (female). Also, if the book is covered in plastic-wrap, it’s a fair bet the inside has “Hentai” (pornographic) contents.

So how do you know if a manga is Shōnen or Seinen, Shōjo or Josei? Some stories might be obvious while some seem innocent until you stumble across a page that shocks your socks off. Which leads me to…

Rating System
I have often heard readers lament that YA fiction does not come with a rating system. Well, manga do (at least in the Western market.) But just because something is rated A (or E), doesn’t mean it might not be a Seinen or Josei manga – just like a G-rated movie doesn’t automatically mean it’s only for grade-schoolers.

A for all ages (or E for everyone)
T for teen
T+ (or OT) are for older teens
M for mature

At least one publisher also adds a Content Indicator to supplement the rating.
L – language
S – sexual situations
V – violence
N – nudity

The problem with mere ratings is it’s not always obvious exactly why certain books are rated the way they are. The content indicator helps but there is only one publisher who uses them and even they don’t explain everything. So a wise reader (or parent of said reader) needs to research or be prepared for surprises. You could end up buying Loveless because it sounds like a good mystery, it’s only rated T and there’s a boy with cute cat ears on the cover only to discover that the cat ears indicate his virginity and it’s a Shōnen-Ai (almost Yaoi) story about the relationship between a 12 year-old and a college-age man!
So What’s So Great About Manga?
All of this might be scaring you off of manga and I truly hope that’s not the case. For one, the pictures in manga and other graphic novels can be great for capturing the imagination of reluctant readers. Mangaka have also perfected conveying emotions and depth through art and dialogue. Screentones, backgrounds and illustrative speech bubbles can set the mood for a scene. Iconography lets you inside a character’s mind as much as their thoughts do. (A sweatdrop on a forehead indicating embarrassment or confusion, “cross-popping” veins indicating anger or frustration, etc.) And sometimes, the illustrations are just beautiful. One of my favorite aspects of manga are how they can be a window into Japanese culture, especially as many volumes have footnotes and cultural references at the end.
But what’s best about manga is how they can be just as powerful and moving as any novel. Full Moon wo Sagashite has an underlying theme of choosing life over suicide. Fruits Basket has strong themes about friendship, accepting differences, and forgiveness. Rurouni Kenshin revolves around atonement for past actions. Whatever your preferred genre, theme, and even art-style, there’s manga that will speak to you. If you haven’t explored that world yet, I hope you will soon.