Hello, everyone! Long time, no blog! I’ve been taking it easy, enjoying my new place, intermittently battling the great depression beast, as you do. I haven’t been writing at all, something I hope will change soon, but I have been editing and preparing for a couple of new releases, as well as preparing for GRNW in September! So, to that end, I have a bunch of stuff to share with you guys! Hold on, lemme get my camera.
Okay, so first off, these babies arrived:
They are gorgeous, and I wish I could bring them with me to GRNW, but they don’t come out until November! *pout* But I think I’m going to see about maybe doing an advance giveaway possibly maybe. We’ll see. Anyway, next up is these!
Please ignore the typo on the back. Oh great, now you can’t because I drew attention to it. Go me. I seriously can’t believe I didn’t notice that but… ah well, what can you do? Nobody’s perfect. They are still glorious and rainbow, and I’ll probably be handing them out at GRNW (with candy bribes attached!)
ALSO, I’m going to be on a panel at GRNW! It’ll be Trans Authors on Characters, Stories and Industry. We have an amazing line-up of trans authors, and it should be a pretty great panel! I’ll also be at the book fair selling books and just hanging out, if you want to come and talk to me!
So JUNIOR HERO BLUES is coming out November 7th (go pre-order!) but I also have another romance novella coming out sometime after that! No blurb or release date yet, but I just got the cover, so I have to show it off! It’s by the wonderful Aisha Akeju who like, takes images directly out of my brain and turns them into covers (she is obviously a witch) and this one is no different!
Perfect, right? Sea Lover is a fairly low-key, sweet romance between a seal-merman and a reclusive fisherman who finds him on the beach. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I can’t wait to share more!
And finally, in personal matters, I finally got a new tattoo!
Taking pictures of your right arm with your left hand: surprisingly difficult. Anyway, it’s based off of the designs at Newgrange, and I couldn’t be more in love with how it came out. The placement, the size, even the fact that it looks like it was drawn by a human, and not a machine, are all exactly what I wanted. I actually didn’t know the exact placement I wanted going in, so I let the artist (Deborah at Unicus Studios) decide how it would look best, and she came up with this kind of off-centre position that I think looks so great and organic.
This one hurt like a mother-fucker too. Inside arm, and she had to start with a thin line and then go over it multiple times to thicken them. Ouch. It’s still quite tender and sore today, but it seems to be healing well. You can tell in the picture it’s still at that awkward healing, slightly swollen stage, but I’ll post photo updates on my twitter to show how it comes out!
Thanks everyone for reading! 2016 has been an awesome year so far, and I hope it continues that way. Stay tuned for more info about Sea Lover, and a Junior Hero Blues giveaway.
Oh, and one more thing. No blog post is complete without this face:
Hello everyone! Welcome to my giveaway to celebrate the release of my new f/f fantasy novella Witch, Cat and Cobbwhich comes out October 14th! I’m going to be giving away a collection of fun Halloween-themed goodies plus a free copy of the Witch, Cat and Cobb ebook!
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment with your email address on this post. You can also get multiple entries by sharing (or reblogging, retweeting etc.) this post on any social media platform you like! Just leave a comment with a link to the place(s) where you shared it (your twitter, tumblr page, facebook etc.) and your username on that platform so that I can see and add your entries.
Have a look at the photos and list of giveaway items below and please leave a comment and share!
-One free copy of the Witch, Cat and Cobb ebook, any format -Spiced Elixer ‘Liquorice and Snake Weed’ mason jar candle
-Wood Craft ‘Cracklin’ Fire’ candle
-Halloween-themed mug with adorable owls
-Set of handmade aluminum earrings
-Light up paper lantern
-Orange glass candle holder
-Witch’s hat with headband
-Ceramic witch’s hut figurine
-Halloween socks. They are very cute and have pumpkins on them.
Here are a few more pictures of the goods:
Finally, here’s the cover and blurb for Witch, Cat and Cobb:
Witch, Cat and Cobb Available: October 14th, 2015 Wordcount: 20,000 Price: $3.39 Genre: Fairy Tale, Lesbian, Trans
Destined for an arranged marriage she wants nothing to do with, Princess Breanwynne decides that the only option for escape is to run away. Upon the announcement of this plan, her trusted pet cat reveals he can talk by asking that she take him along. Listening to his suggestion to venture into the lair of the Swamp Witch proves to be a very bad idea, but Breanwynne would rather face a witch any day than be forced to marry a prince.
Limit one comment entry per person, but you can share as many times and in as many places as you like! The draw ends October 14th, which is when WC&C comes out, and that’ll give me time to ship it to you hopefully in time for Halloween! You must be willing to provide me with a mailing address by email to enter obviously, too.
Hey guys, remember when I was blogging every week? *gun fingers* Yeah… so much for that.
Well, I thought I’d post an update, about what’s going on with me and writing news and such. First off, the reason I’ve stopped blogging. I have a tendency to burn out. I push myself too hard, and suddenly I’m unable to do anything for months. I think that’s what happened here. As most of my readers probably know, I do struggle with depression, and that can sometimes affect my productivity. In this case, it was happening so slowly that I didn’t notice how bad it had gotten until I started disassociating. I would have episodes where I felt completely disconnected and like my brain was malfunctioning. Those episodes scared me enough that I decided to see my doctor about them.
I talked with him for a little bit, and then I asked him if I could try out anti-depressants. He didn’t push me into it or anything, it was my decision. For a long time I was really afraid of taking medication. I was sort of afraid that it would change me as a person. I’d gotten used to living with depression, the idea of existing without it seemed scary. But the real big reason I think I resisted going on medication for so long was our cultural perception of anti-depressants.
On a whole, I think people see anti-depressants as a sort of crutch. Like something people take to make them artificially happy, that’s ultimately bad for them. People without depression find it hard to understand how someone can’t just choose to be happy. How positive thinking and healthy living can’t just solve everyone’s problems. But the truth is, there are some people who just need medication. People with diabetes need medicine for it, people with low iron need supplements. Many transgender people need hormone replacement therapy. They have a medical condition that causes their body to not produce a certain chemical that they need, so they supplement it with medication. Most people can understand this, but when it comes to someone’s brain being low on a chemical and needing a supplement, suddenly they don’t like the idea. (As a side note, there actually are people that don’t even like the idea of sick people taking the medication they need, which many chronically ill people can attest to, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)
And it’s true that depression and anxiety can sometimes be caused by outside sources, and sometimes it’s better to treat it without medication, but honestly, I tried for years to alter my lifestyle, get rid of stressors, get to a point in my life where I was honestly happy. And I was… or I would have been, if it wasn’t for my depression. So that, combined with the fact that depression runs in my family, led me to the conclusion that my depression was not caused by my lifestyle, but by a lack of chemicals in my brain. So I decided to try anti-depressants, and see if they worked.
Guess what. They did. I’ve been on cipralex for a couple of months now, and I’m definitely feeling better. I still have down days, but they’re interspersed with days where I just feel happy. Not happy about anything, just a sort of satisfied, peaceful relief at the lack of constant sadness and despair. On top of that, my anxiety is loads better. I actually do feel like a different person, but in a good way. Suddenly I’m not scared of things the way I used to be. I can talk about personal things, casually discuss LGBT issues with people without panicking and shaking. And it’s big picture stuff too. I’m thinking about medically transitioning. Something I never before considered, because the idea of talking to medical professionals, and explaining the changes in my body to acquaintances used to fill me with terror. Now it feels like something I can handle.
What else? My energy levels are up. I’m not constantly sore. Instead of needing to spend days in bed to recover from work, I can actually go out and do stuff on my days off. I’ve got ideas about starting an etsy shop. And hey, I’m writing again. Not a lot. I seem to go through phases where I write 6K a week, and then stop entirely for a couple of months and slowly get back into it. I’m hoping that if I continue to improve and get more energy and motivation, I can become more consistent and productive. Until then, I’m happy to produce what I can, and write and publish books on my own time.
So… that’s the first topic covered… this post is gonna be a doozy. I’ll try to keep the rest pretty short. The big news (that’s not really news at this point) is that I’m going to be attending Gay Romance Northwest this year!
I’ll be travelling down with my good friend and fellow LGBT author Alex Powell, along with my supportive boyfriend. Unfortunately the LT3 Press crew aren’t going to be able to make it this year, but I have a bunch of paperbacks en route to me, which I’ll be bringing along to sell. I’ll have copies of The Fairy Gift, Ink & Flowers, To Summon Nightmares and Geek Out for purchase. On top of that, I’m also going to be on a panel (yikes!) although I’m not sure which one quite yet. I’ll announce it on twitter as soon as I find out.
I’m so excited (and significantly less anxious) to meet some of the readers and fellow authors that I’ve known online for years and never gotten the chance to meet in person. If you’re going to be in Seattle in September, please drop by, and if you see me, please feel free to come and talk to me! I’ll do my best to be friendly and non-intimidating.
And finally, with this blog post nearing 1K, I have to remind everyone that my darling f/f fantasy, Witch, Cat and Cobb is available for pre-order, and release day is October 14th!
I’m really, really excited about this story. It’s funny, light-hearted, and I basically just let loose with my love of Harry Potter and Diana Wynne Jones. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I’m super excited to share it with readers. The release date is right around Halloween too, so I’ve got all sorts of witchy giveaway ideas brewing. Anyway, have a look at the official blurb and cover, and please consider pre-ordering if runaway princesses, talking cats and grumpy swamp witches seem like your cup of tea. (Also, trans characters, yay!)
Available: October 14th, 2015 Wordcount: 20,000 Price: $3.39 Genre: Fairy Tale, Lesbian, Trans
Destined for an arranged marriage she wants nothing to do with, Princess Breanwynne decides that the only option for escape is to run away. Upon the announcement of this plan, her trusted pet cat reveals he can talk by asking that she take him along. Listening to his suggestion to venture into the lair of the Swamp Witch proves to be a very bad idea, but Breanwynne would rather face a witch any day than be forced to marry a prince.
Thanks for reading! And thank you to my readers for putting up with my absence and silence while I work on recovering and building up my strength. I hope to have more content (of both the book and blog variety) soon. Thanks guys! Have a picture of my cat!
I know, I should probably wait until I have a release date and a blurb and all that jazz, but I just couldn’t wait to show this off!
Check it out!
Isn’t it amazing?? It’s by Aisha Akeju, who also did the covers for Ink & Flowers, Geek Out and Double Take. I’m so consistently impressed by her skills, especially her uncanny ability to create covers that fit the stories so perfectly. This one is no exception!
With a cover like this, I don’t even feel like I need to explain the story too much. Suffice it to say, there’s magic, elves, a talking cat, and a princess and a witch who fall in love. I’m just so excited for this story, and thrilled with the cover! ^-^
To celebrate, I’m giving away a $15 gift card for LT3’s book market! Leave a comment with your email address by the end of May to win!
Update: Giveaway has ended. Congrats Lore Graham!
Thanks for reading! Oh, I almost forgot, this month I’m Less Than Three Press’s featured author! You can save 20% off all my ebooks using the code PENDRAGON in LT3’s book market! Check out my books here!
Cheers, and don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered!
A raffle! For every book you buy in April, you’ll be entered to win a prize! The grand prize is a Kindle Fire, and then there’s books and gift cards as well.
And finally, the flash sale, which is what I’m here to tell you about today! Each day of April there will be a new book on for 50% off. I’m not allowed to tell you when all the books are going to be available, but Sasha has promised not to smite me if I tell you that:
A Touch of Mistletoe will be 50% off April 2nd! It’s a cute collection of Christmas stories about people falling in love with the help of mistletoe. What do you mean you don’t want to read about Christmas in April? Of course you do.
Geek Out (the whole collection!) will be 50% off April 8th! This collection is absolutely fantastic and like, groundbreaking and stuff. It features a whole bunch of diverse stories about trans (including genderqueer) characters, and a lot of the authors are trans too, which is awesome. Just a really great collection of stories that I wholeheartedly recommend.
To Summon Nightmares will be 50% off April 12th! This is a pretty good book, if I do say so myself. ^-^ It’s gotten some pretty awesome reviews, including one by KJ Charles (which I’m still squeeing about, lemme tell you.) It’s creepy and dark, but also full of magic and an adorable trans main character, and basically you should read it. But like, don’t let me tell you what to do.
If you follow me on my twitter or tumblr, I’ll be squawking about them closer to the dates too, to remind you. Also follow LT3’s twitter, facebook and tumblr to keep up with all the other flash sales! (Wow that was a lot of links. This blogging thing is hard, guys.)
Aaaand I think that’s it! Thanks for reading. Go forth and buy many books!
So lately I’ve been seeing a lot of writing advice that seems to be suggesting that if your first draft isn’t a steaming pile of absolute crap that you wouldn’t show to your dog, you’re not doing it right. “Write with abandon!” they say. “Don’t worry about the writing quality, or whether everything makes sense, or whether your grammar is any good! Just get the words down, and you can go back and fix everything later.”
Which is great if that’s what works for you. I know a lot of people have problems with staying motivated and getting through their first draft without stopping and nitpicking forever. But the problem, for me, is that I absolutely hate having to go back and fix everything later. When I’m done a first draft, I want it to be something resembling a book. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t do developmental and line edits, because I absolutely do. But by editing as I go, I mange to reduce my line edits humongously, and bring my developmental edits down from what would be catastrophically awful need-to-rewrite-three-quarters-of-the-book edits, to oh, okay, I can change this and add this and the book will be much better kind of edits.
What I’m saying is, it is absolutely possible to edit a book as you write it, and come out with something fairly clean that you’re not incredibly ashamed of. The actual process of writing the book will be harder. It will take longer, and it will be very frustrating at times. But in return, your editing after the fact will be much diminished, and you can focus on making the book even better, instead of just focusing on making it good.
So, without further ado, here are my tips of editing as you go.
1. Set measurable goals for yourself.
Obviously the number one issue with this method is the temptation to just keep editing and picking at the first chapter forever, and never move forward with the story. I’m usually incredibly impatient to get the story down anyway (“I don’t like writing, I like having written”) so I don’t have too much of a problem with this, but I do have a wordcount that I try my hardest to achieve whenever I sit down to write. Sometimes I’ll write 800 words that don’t work for the story, and in that case, I’ll scrap them, but I’ll still count those 800 words towards my daily wordcount. And then I’ll write another 1200 words. Even if it’s two steps forward, one step back, you’re still moving.
2. Edit every session.
This one is simple. Every time you sit down to write, read through what you wrote last time. Fix any grammar mistakes, awkward phrasing, etc that you see as you’re reading. Try to get a feel for how the story is flowing, what kind of pace it’s moving at, what direction it’s going, and what your instincts and/or outline (don’t be afraid to pit those two against each other either) tell you should be happening next. Then start writing, and keep going until you hit your wordcount.
3. Develop your ability to sense when something isn’t working.
I’m still working on this myself. Sometimes I’ll write up to 2000 words, the whole time completely ignoring that little nagging voice in my head that’s telling me: This isn’t right. This isn’t how the story is supposed to go. Then I’ll finish and wonder why I’m not satisfied with the day’s writing. For me, it’s essential that I listen to that voice. If I don’t, everything I write after that will be flawed. Pushing on with the knowledge that that one scene is wrong will colour everything else in the story, and when I do have to inevitably go back and fix it during edits, there will be a million other little things in the story that I’ll have to fix in order for everything to line up. Sometimes it will have changed the whole course of the story! Instead, I prefer to stop and rewrite before continuing, so that my path is clear. Unfortunately, this requires you to be really in tune with your story. It also requires a lot of patience, and a touch of perfectionism. But if you can do it, you’re saving yourself a lot of time and frustration later.
4. Don’t think this gets you out of editing later.
I know, I said it already, but I mean it. Writing like this will keep you from having to spend too much time getting your story submission-ready after you’ve finished the first draft. But you should be prepared and willing to make it even better with the help of a professional editor. And that’s a good thing. Having a professional editor is a great privilege, and listening to them and being willing to rip your book apart and put it back together for the sake of the story is incredibly rewarding. Going through and fixing all the typos and grammar mistakes you made the first time around? Not so much.
So there you have it, a peek into my writing/editing style. Let me know in the comments if you write like this too. Or if you’re the type to write without doing any editing until after, let me know how that works for you! It’s fascinating how different writing styles can be, and what works for some authors and doesn’t for others.
Thanks for reading! Oh, and have a picture of my cat. She loves to sit like this. It’s the weirdest thing.
So, with the #weneeddiversebooks movement still going strong, and everyone tweeting about their hopes and desires for #Romance2015, I thought I’d take a minute to take stock of how I’m doing diversity-wise with my books.
I’m doing this both because I want to highlight and promote my books in the hopes of getting them to people who want to read them, but also because I talk a lot of talk about writing diverse fiction, but at this point I don’t feel like my books 100% back me up. I want to see where I’m lacking, and how I can improve going forward.
I also want to encourage my author friends and followers to do this as well, because I want to read and support all your diverse books as well! So, without further adieu, here are My Diverse Books 2015:
None! In fact, I don’t currently have any books published with a female main character. This is something I really hope to remedy in the future, and I currently have two books in the works with female main characters. I’m very excited!
None! But people fall in love later in life too, so I want to write about that as well.
So, most of these lists are pretty sadly short. I especially need to make more of an effort to write female main characters, and more trans characters! And the two can definitely intersect. I also want to write more characters with disabilities, and who aren’t traditionally attractive and/or young.
I’m a little worried about this list though, because I don’t want to make diversity in my stories into something that I can check off and then go back to writing perfect white cis dudes. I want to throw out the idea that those characters are the default, and that everyone else is a special alternative. Writing diverse characters means that every time I come up with a new character, I’m drawing from the complete well of human experiences, and getting a new, unique person every time. It’s not about creating a character and then arbitrarily assigning them a minority. It’s about allowing my characters to be that way in the first place. If I chose human beings at random, and asked them to tell me their stories, I know those lists up there would fill up pretty fast. So I hope that in my writing I can reflect that.
Please let me know in the comments if you think of any other categories to add, and let me know the stories that you would like to see in 2015. Thank you for reading, and I hope everyone has a wonderful new year!
What a question! So much happened this year, not all of it good. I struggled with depression and anxiety, and for a few months I didn’t do any writing or social media, and considered whether or not writing was actually something I wanted to do. In the end I came back to it, of course. Because I didn’t really wanted to quit. I just wasn’t sure if I could do it. I’m still not sure if I can. Being online, putting myself and my work out there, it’s incredibly stressful and hard on me. But it’s also incredibly rewarding and meaningful. So I’m keeping on.
Mental illness is so often invisible. You fight, sometimes every day, just to be at the level of normal that other people take for granted. But I know that I’m not alone in this either, since so many authors struggle with things like depression and social anxiety. For all the drama that goes on in the online publishing community, I still get to feel like I get to have a community of people who understand me and support me, and that’s pretty amazing for me.
Anyway, despite all the down moments, 2014 was still pretty awesome. I feel like I became more confident in myself, especially in my gender identity, and I continued to put myself first and try not to feel guilty for doing what I need to to make myself happy.
I had two books come out this year! Ink & Flowers in June and To Summon Nightmares in November. The positive critical reception to them has been wonderful! Both of them are on a level of quality that I don’t think I could have achieved in years past. I really feel like I’ve improved as an author, and to know that I’m constantly improving and becoming more and more able to tell the stories that I want to tell is really rewarding. I also did a lot of writing this year, and, as a “LGBT author”, I’m making an effort to write more novels that aren’t just cis m/m. I’ve been writing almost exclusively stories with trans characters this year, and I just finished writing my first f/f!
All in all, my life is pretty good. I have a wonderful partner, and a stable job, and a place to live with enough food to eat, and a little bit of money left over. I got to take a couple trips into Vancouver earlier this year, one to see Wicked live, which was totally on my bucket list, and one to go to the Pride Parade! I haven’t been able to make it the last few years, so it was absolutely lovely to be able to go and have that sense of community and support that you don’t really get in a small town.
So, plans for the new year:
Keep on writing! I’ve found that there’s real value in pushing myself to continue, even when I don’t feel like it, although I’m going to have to keep my mental health in mind and take a break if I really need one. I just started a m/m superhero story that I think is going to be fun to write. It insists on being about teenagers though, so when I do finish it, deciding what to do with is going to be a challenge. But I’ll deal with that when I come to it. After that is a blank slate, but I hope to be able to get Skylark Tower and Witch, Cat and Cobb published sometime next year. Double Takeis also coming out in January, which will be a lovely start to the year.
With luck, the bf and I will be able to get a mortgage in the new year and buy our own condo sometime next year! So that’s where the majority of our $$$ will probably be going, although I do want to get another tattoo, since I didn’t get one this year. Oh, and I’ll be travelling south to Seattle to attend the Gay Romance North West convention! My first author convention, and I’ll finally get to meet a bunch of people that I’ve known on the internet for years. I’m one part excited, and one part terrified, with a dash of absolute panic about the whole thing, but I do think it will go well. Which reminds me, I need to get a passport.
Anyway, if this post comes off as a little bit discombobulated, it’s because I’m still recovering from this!
Christmas fondue! It was lovely! See my tumblr for more photos. I also got some wonderful presents, including a freaking awesome Spider-man mug. (My love for Spider-man runs deeeep.)
So here’s hoping everyone had a very merry Christmas, and wishing everyone best of luck in the New Year! Love you all!
Yesterday I dragged myself out of the house in the rain and did quite a bit of walking and standing at bus stops in order to get myself to the theatre to see Mockingjay: Part 1. I almost didn’t go – my bed was really comfy, and I’d already endured a pretty scary doctor’s appointment earlier. But I really wanted to see it, and my holidays are almost over, so I made myself go. And I’m really glad I did.
This isn’t really a review, per se, but I just wanted to gather all my thoughts together about the film. First off, I want to say that I really enjoyed it. The Hunger Games movies (and books I assume, though I haven’t read them) are an incredibly complex and nuanced look into what an oppressive regime looks like, and what exactly is necessary for a revolution to occur. It also manages not to get lost in it’s grand scale, taking time to explore the characters and quiet moments that are necessary to make us care. There’s also no Hunger Games in this movie, which is really a blessing. The story focuses on the real world, and it’s all the better for it.
Normally I don’t like the practice of splitting one book into several movies, because it often feels like a bid for more money, and it can awkwardly break up the arc of the story. But in this case it worked, because the filmmakers used that extra time to develop those quiet moments between the characters. The film didn’t feel 100% like a complete film, and a lot of things have definitely been set up for the sequel, but there were some satisfying character arcs, and it still felt cohesive.
It’s definitely a “girl power” movie. I’ve got some praise and some criticism for this aspect, and I’ll start with the praise. First off, you have all the wonderful female characters. They definitely feel like the focus of the story, with the male characters definitely there, but slightly more in the background. The Bechdel test is blown out of the water as well, with Katniss routinely conversing with her mother and sister, Cressida, President Coin and Effie. The POC representation was … okay. There were diverse characters there, for sure, and no one doubts that Panem is a multi-cultural country, but there’s still a pretty strong lack of non-white main characters. The POC were mostly side characters and background characters (spoiler: a whole bunch of which die.)
The thing I’m slightly divided on is Katniss herself, and her treatment in the film. And I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, because there’s something to be said for writing minority characters and keeping in mind that they are a minority. But there’s also something to be said for allowing the character to move beyond that. Katniss is never allowed to forget that she is female. While the Hunger games (and the horrible fake parade for the Capitol) is over, she’s still being coerced into dressing up and performing a part. This is really something that is almost explicitly stated as being motivated by the fact that she is female, and the fact that she’s still trapped playing this part even when she’s supposed to be liberated sort of rubs me the wrong way. And that’s part of Katniss’s tragedy, I suppose, that’s she’s really a very introverted warrior type who is now being forced to stay out of the actual battles and instead be paraded in a costume. And maybe this is something that gets addressed in book three and we just haven’t come to it yet, but by splitting it between two movies, there’s definitely a lot of frustration felt for the limits being put on Katniss.
Something I really want to crow about though, is the amazing self-awareness these movies have, and the way they’ve circumvented the public’s preconceived notion of what a movie with a teenage girl as the lead is going to be about. I know that when The Hunger Games was first being advertised, I wasn’t that interested. I think this is partially because of my own prejudices and partially because it was being advertised as “the next Twilight.” You had a lot of focus on the love triangle, and not a lot of focus at all on what the movies are really about, which is rebellion against an oppressive regime.
And the brilliant, brilliant, brilliant thing about this is that is is exactly what the Capitol does within the movies. They focus on Katniss and Peeta’s love story, force-feed it to people, tell them that this is what it’s all about. All the while drawing attention away from what’s really going on in the real world. And the paralells between the Captiol and our world are easy to see. The most poignant example being of course, the way our media latched onto the love story and downplayed the revolutionary aspects of the movie. Because of course, this is a story about a teenage girl, an the only thing teenage girls are good for is being silly and falling in love … right? There’s no way they could be interested in overthrowing a dictator, fighting for their freedom or changing the world. The popularity of the series with teenage girls really says otherwise.
Again, the revolutionary aspects of this story are great. I love how the world of Panem is obviously a dystopia, but it is purposely made to be almost indistinguishable from our own. I love how the concept of sacrifice and making the hard decisions is explored and allowed to play out fully. I love all the strong female characters, and the brilliant, subtle character arcs. I don’t love how Katniss is constantly being controlled and made to play a role, and I don’t love how weak her love of Peeta makes her, although I understand that she’s meant to be a flawed character, it just seems to be too convenient of a flaw, considering that she is a teenage girl. And these are all comments on the world-building itself and the basic storyline, which may be more about flaws within the books than the movies. I think the movies, including this one, are absolutely excellent, and are a testament to how well books can be translated into movies if in the right hands. I kind of wish the later Harry Potter movies had been in the hands of these filmmakers. They absolutely know what they’re doing.
So there you go. Mockingjay: Part 1 is an excellent movie. Good, solid film-making, nuanced, complex characters, immersive world-building. It’s not very long, just over two hours, I think, which is probably another plus of the book being broken into two movies, and it’s two hours well spent. If you’ve not seen the other two movies, I recommend watching them all.
Let’s talk about college. There’s a lot of pressure in life to attend college, especially if you do well in school. People say that you don’t need to study creative writing to be an author, but most of the authors I interact with do have a degree in something, or are studying to get one. I’m always incredibly impressed when someone mentions that they have a degree in something. But I also always feel a bit guilty and uncomfortable. Everyone around me seems to be this accomplished graduate, and here I am, a college drop-out. Is there something wrong with me that I couldn’t finish university? Am I not very smart? Am I lazy, or pathetic? It’s taken me a long time to convince myself that those things aren’t true. There are a lot of factors that contributed to me not enjoying or completing college. It wasn’t for me, and at the end of the day, I have to allow myself to believe that that’s okay. That it doesn’t make me any less important or intelligent. But sometimes it can be hard.
I always expected I would go to college or university. It wasn’t really a question, just something that was in my future. I assume it’s this way for most kids who do fairly well in school. I was smart, I liked reading and writing, I wanted to be an author, but I’d been told from every angle that that wasn’t a valid career goal. I knew I liked writing though, so an English degree seemed like the next logical step for me after graduating.
I was offered a scholarship for the first year of university in my hometown, but I declined it against the wishes of my parents, in favour of moving to a different town and staying with an aunt and uncle while I attended college there. At the time I was closeted, and terrified that my family would find out that I was queer and punish me. I lived in a constant state of stress and terror. I still have anxiety talking about my queerness because I was so terrified that someone might find out. Moving away seemed like a way to relieve stress and escape. Unfortunately, living with my aunt and uncle was even worse, with my aunt becoming extremely controlling and manipulative. Eventually I had no choice but to get away. I rented a basement suite with my partner and got out of there.
Of course then I was suddenly thrust into trying to learn how to care for myself, and save up enough to pay for school, all while knowing that if I somehow ended up with not enough money, I would either be out on the street or have to go back to my family. The idea of having to do so still fills me with incredibly anxiety. So I started working 24-30 hours a week, while still attending school in the next town over, carpooling in every morning and spending 8 hours a day on campus.
If you went to university and had someone paying your tuition and/or living expenses during, I can’t really ask you to understand how incredibly physically and emotionally draining it can be trying to support yourself while also putting yourself through school. You work long hours for minimal pay, only to turn around and give all that money away again so that you can do even more work for free. Maybe some people who are stronger mentally than me might have been able to do it, but I don’t handle stress well. Even now, I have to very carefully limit how much I do, so that I don’t burn out and fall into a dark chasm of depression and exhaustion that is incredibly hard to drag myself out of.
University for me was just one long haze of dark, early mornings, constantly feeling sick to my stomach, trying to force myself to be enthusiastic about the subject matter when all I could think about was how cold and sick I felt, and how much I wanted to sleep forever. I didn’t eat enough, usually just heating up a frozen lunch halfway through the day and then falling into bed when I got home without bothering to cook anything. One of the things my abusive aunt had impressed into me was that it was bad to spend too much money on food, and that buying food from a restaurant, or basically eating anything besides what she chose to feed me was bad. It took me years to get over that and allow myself to spend enough money on food to keep myself properly functioning. Sometimes I had to take the greyhound home and would walk half an hour (in the dark and cold in winter) to the station and stand there in the cold outside the closed station waiting for the bus that was often extremely late. I also often worked late hours at work and had to walk about an hour to get home afterwards, again in the cold. (I know, I sound whiny, but my point isn’t really about how horrible it was so much as how physically exhausting it was, and physical exhaustion for me, is what makes me unable to fight depression.)
In the middle of all this, out of desperation and a need to escape our reality, my partner and I started telling each other stories. When we should have been working on our school work, we hid ourselves away in one of the few pitiful lounge areas at our small community-college-turned-university and told each other sexy, fun stories about magical people and worlds. One of those stories was what would become The Fairy Gift. I told it quickly over a couple of days, and liked it so much that I decided to write an outline of the plot. Then, on a whim, I started writing it. I hadn’t written anything in years, too busy with work, too stressed to imagine anything. But I was inspired. I wrote the Fairy Gift, and then I kept writing, more cute stories, with fairies and magic and sex. They kept me going.
Then, out of sheer dumb luck, I found myself redirected from deviantart to a yaoi website (yaoifix, I think?) and saw an advertisement for Less Than Three Press, and that they were accepting submissions. I clicked through and looked at a few of their books, and thought that The Fairy Gift seemed perfect for them. I decided why not and submitted a horribly edited draft, but they must have seen something they liked in it, because it was accepted for publication. So cool! I was damn excited and even more damn skeptical. I’d had a friend who submitted a piece of poetry for some kind of publication that turned out to be a scam, and I was terrified that this was something similar. I also at the time had this idea that publication was something that only happened to one author in a million and, as I said, I didn’t believe that it was a real career goal. I didn’t realise that I’d been lucky enough to stumble into the publishing revolution that is romance ebooks. So I was skeptical up until the moment I received my first paycheck. Then everything changed for me.
I realised that this was something that I could do and make money off of. It was a real career goal. Suddenly my priorities shifted away from school, away from the dream of a degree with which I would get some nebulous English-related job that I didn’t really want. I wanted to keep writing. I wanted to publish more books. I needed to make writing my priority. I was slowly drowning in schoolwork, losing weight and falling into a depression that it’s taken me years to crawl out of. I ended up dropping out of two of my classes, and barely passing the other two. That summer I came out to my family, over the safety of the internet, and felt a huge weight lifted off me. I was still writing, and I decided to take a “semester off” school.
I haven’t gone back yet.
And I’m better now. Better than I have been for years. School didn’t work for me. Certainly I had the triple handicap of being poor, queer and mentally ill. But also (and it’s incredibly hard for me to say this, because it’s usually such a source of pride for an intellectual) I’m just not in love with learning. I’m in love with creating, and often learning is an important part of that, but it’s not the end goal. I spent so many years as a pretentious asshole, thinking I was better than everyone because I loved to read and was “going places,” and there’s an incredibly strong culture of superiority amongst students and intellectuals that encourages this. But for me it’s really freeing to finally be able to say this: I’m happy working in customer service. I’m satisfied emotionally with a simple life and a non-prestigious job. I’m not strong enough emotionally to push myself to my limits like some people are. I just want to live and support myself, and write and create worlds. Probably I’ll never write a great, thought-provoking classic. But I want to write stories that make people happy, and maybe one day I’ll be able to do it full-time.
And I want to say this to other young people who might be struggling with school: It’s okay. It’s okay if it’s not for you. Everyone might be saying this is what you have to do, but that doesn’t mean it is. If you’re truly happy learning, then that’s wonderful. If you hate it, but you really want that degree and that job, then keep going. But if you can feel yourself dying inside with every essay you write, if you feel like this thing is sucking away your life, then you have permission to stop. If you need to stop to preserve yourself, and your mental well-being, then stop. You can always go back, if you want to. Maybe you’ll want to, and maybe you won’t. If you’re happiest with a simple, low-stress minimum wage job, then there’s no shame in that. If you’re a writer, and you’re doing this because you feel like you’ll never be a great author if you don’t, please know that that’s not true. College isn’t everything. You can still be an amazing, smart, happy person without a college degree. I know I am.
This is long and dense, and I don’t know if anyone will read it. But I do think it’s important, so I’m going to post it anyway. Love you all, and if you read this far, thank you for reading! In thanks, have an advertisement for my book, and then a picture of my cat.
Three years ago, Cohen Brandwein was “Ireland’s Favorite Daughter”, a popular teenage author and internet celebrity. But ever since he came out publicly as trans, the media’s treatment of him has been less than golden, and these days, Cohen is desperate for escape.
When he inherits an old house in the country, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to escape the press and work on his new book. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a small town murder mystery and falling for the primary suspect, a man whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…