Review: Deadline by Stephanie Ahn

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Title: Deadline

Author: Stephanie Ahn

Genre: Urban Fantasy, LGBT

Rating: ★★★★

 

 

Deadline by Stephanie Ahn is an urban fantasy novel about a magical detective/blood witch by the name of Harrietta “Harry” Lee. Harry takes a job to search for a magical sword that belongs to a powerful mage family in New York City. Of course, in true urban fantasy fashion, Harry gets a lot more than she bargained for. Deadline was just so much fun to read and I walked away from it impressed, very impressed.

The author of this book is only nineteen, learning that fact blew me away. The amount of skill she shows here feels more fitting for someone twice her age. It’s better than some authors I’ve read that are older than her. If she writes this well at nineteen, then I can only imagine what her prose will be like when she hits her thirties and forties. I love seeing younger people going out there, and pursuing writing careers. It’s always good to see.

The novel itself is a fun, breezy read. It’s very fast-paced and had a well constructed plot line. All the pieces fit in the end, but leaves plenty of things open for the series to continue, which I’m glad. I am definitely excited for the next book. I can admit, at first I was a bit skeptical that everything would wrap up at the end, but it did so, nicely. It’s been such a long time since I’ve truly enjoyed an urban fantasy novel, and this was an unexpected treat. I have seen this book be compared to The Dresden Files, and the comparison is apt. It is a lot like that particular series, but it lacks the rampant sexism and misogyny that turned me off of The Dresden Files years ago. This was very welcomed.

What really makes this novel so good is Harry herself. Harry is the type of female character I love seeing in fiction. Her flaws are on full display, and she makes plenty of bad choices along the way. She’s very human, even though she’s a blood witch. At the same time, Harry has a lot of charm, and is very likable. She is definitely someone to root for. It was also nice to see a POC lead. POC can be a bit rare in lesfic, so her presence was refreshing. I also liked that she was butch, and working this sort of noir aesthetic. Harry was a joy to read about, and the crown jewel of the novel. The other characters in the novel were also very well-developed, and carried a lot of personality as well. Besides Harry, I also really liked Miriam, and hope to see more of her in the series.

I also enjoyed the world -building that was utilized. The focus was more on the secretive supernatural community, than the setting, and the lore itself is presented piece by piece, which I like. I like having room to speculate. One of my favorite bits of world-building is the special creatures that are linked to the Meristi family. I thought they were wonderfully unique, and in a weird way, cute. The world-building may come off as simple, but simple can be good. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to make something work.

Deadline is a real treat for anyone who likes urban fantasy, and is looking for a change of pace.

 

Buy Deadline @ Amazon.

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An Evolution of Sorts

It’s Pride month, one of my favorite months of the year. I always look forward to it, and I love seeing queer people being proud and vibrant. Pride is important, maybe more now than ever.  So, how did I get here? I’ve looked at is an evolution. I started in one place and ended up in another, and along the way, became comfortable with myself and made that actualization of what I truly am. And yes, I am proud of it.

I realized back when I was around eleven years old that I wasn’t straight. That revelation came in the weirdest of ways. It was watching the movie Clueless for the first time. Me as a preteen was mesmerized by Alicia Silverstone. I thought that she was the most beautiful thing I ever laid eyes on, and that I wanted to be Paul Rudd after watching it. That fact scared the living daylights out of me, and at the time, wished it wasn’t true.  I already knew at that age what “gay” meant. I had family members that were, and my parents never hid that concept from me. They gave me that particular talk when I was eight, since I got called “gay” by my classmates in second grade. They were honest and I knew, but it scared me nevertheless. Even scarier than that, was another movie experience from around that time. I watched the tacky, horror movie Bordello of Blood. In the movie, there was a particular scene where the vampire queen Lilith feels up the thighs of a preacher’s daughter, who was tied up to a black, iron grate. Sitting there alone, watching it, it was the first time I ever felt aroused. I got that tingly feeling and I quickly shut off the movie, more afraid than I ever been. Having several episodes like this, I was self-aware enough to know I wasn’t straight.

What was I? That was the question I was trying to figure out. I desperately didn’t want to be gay. I was already dealing with extreme bullying, that made being gay a worst-case scenario for me. So, I tried on the word “bisexual.” I had crushed on fictional men and male celebrities, and I thought that made me bi. Even though, I never had any real feelings towards guys. I never thought about dating them, or anything sexual. My attention was only on girls. At the time, bisexual felt right even though everything pointed against it.

By the time I got to high school, and my mid-teen years, the inevitable happened. I fell in love for the first time. I met this girl I was crazy about, totally head-over-heels. But, I was terrified of telling her how I felt. Even though, she was as weird as I was, I wasn’t sure. It was 1999, we attended Catholic school, and we lived in Kentucky. I didn’t want to take any chances. However, years later, I got back in touch with her, and learned that she too was gay, and she had feelings for me too, back then.  Even though this truth was told, there was little we could do about it. At the time she was married to another woman, and lived all the way out in California. It was a relationship that couldn’t happen this lifetime. Still, I might be a grown woman in my thirties, but I will always have a place in my heart for her, and I do see her as “the one that got away.’

After I left Catholic school, and got into my later teen years and early twenties, I started to embrace my queer self. I wasn’t at the point where I could admit that I was a lesbian. I still considered myself bi, but I was done hiding. I came out to my parents, and they were incredibly supportive, and my mom still is to this day (my dad is no longer with us, sadly). I came out to my friends in my creative writing class, who had my back.  I even came out to my former parish priest, who was also very supportive, and told me to “follow my heart.” I embraced my own form of butch: shirts and ties but with plenty of glitter and lipstick. I did activism work, watched Queer as Folk on Sundays with my mother, and covered everything in rainbows. I went to gay bars, and carried on a fun, low-commitment relationship in college. In some ways, I finally felt like I was being real with myself.

The last step came when I was twenty-five. I was engaged at the time, and the relationship was the most toxic I ever had. I wasn’t at my best. She wasn’t at her best. It couldn’t last. We broke it off, she went back to Seattle and I went on with life. Even though the relationship went south, I realized that when it came to spending my life with someone; I wanted it to be with a woman. That realization made me finally claim the term “lesbian” for myself, and I never looked back.

Here we are ten years later, and I am secure and happy with my orientation, regardless of naysayers, the people who tell me “I’m a pervert” and that “I’m going to hell,” and living in an oppressive society. No matter what, I’m not changing. It’s liberating and fulfilling to be open and honest with yourself, to live your own truth. It’s one of the things that makes life what it is, and in some ways, makes it better. In such a superficial world, it is indeed something to be proud of.

Happy Pride Month, everyone.

Taking Action

May is at an end, and we’re coming upon June, heading straight into summer, and I know what’s waiting for me there. I have the great misfortune of living in the State of Kentucky, in the U.S. Kentucky is one of the most terrible places to live. It’s archaic, backwards, and will cling to its bigotry and ignorance, no matter what happens. My state continuously votes Republican, regardless of the fact of being one of the more poorer, unhealthy, and underprivileged states in the nation. One of the biggest problems is that we’re a part of the Bible Belt. Yes, we may not be the belt buckle, but.Evangelical Christianity does influence the vote. So, as long as abortion is banned, and LGBT people have no rights, then they care nothing about the repercussions. One of my utmost desires is to finally move out of this God-forsaken state. It would be such a tragedy, for me if I have to die in this state.

So, what does this have to do with anything? Plenty. Our governor, Matt Bevin, was elected due to his Evangelical and Tea Party policies. The rednecks ate that up. His first target was dismantling our healthcare, even though ours turned out to be one of the best in the country. He tried before, and got nowhere, but since we’re living in the Trump era, Bevin finally got his wish. Starting on July 1st, there will be work requirements for Medicaid. Yours Truly will be losing her healthcare, because I can not work.

I’m devastated and terrified about this. For the longest time, having healthcare was what I wanted most. Getting it was a relief, and gave me hope that I could get better. I was fortunate to have healthcare when I was diagnosed with cancer. If it wasn’t there, I might have died. So, having it taken away from me hurts so much. What happens if the cancer comes back? Too many variables and worries. I’m losing the one lifeline I desperately need.

The thing is, I’m not lazy, or feel entitled. I’m just not in great health, physically or mentally. If I was, then I would be holding down a job, and what not. Before I ever got sick, I tried my best to better myself. I attended college, got a paying job, and even though I had to drop out of school and quit working, I focused my energies on helping to take care of my father, who was suffering from dementia. But, then I got sick and stuck. It’s not about laziness or entitlement. It’s about getting screwed over by circumstance, and not having a way to climb up. It’s my story, and the story of many others as well.

I can not go without healthcare, but I can’t exactly do as state government wants. This means, I have nothing to lose, and I’m going forward with my own writing career and finding alternative ways of bringing money in. It’s not going to be easy, and I’ll need to work my ass off, but I feel I can get a lot out of this. I can finally have that writing career I’ve always wanted, and I can find a way to get the medical help I need. Nothing left to lose, and I’m going all in.

There are four ways I’m thinking about going for. They are the following:

Patreon: I want to start my own Patreon account. I’m not exactly sure what I am going to offer. It’s something I’m brainstorming and considering different options. I’m thinking about chapters of novels I want to write, short stories, some fun with history, mythology, and fairy tales. I want to make it a showcase of what I can do, and hopefully find people who are as passionate about my work as I am.

GoFundMe: Yes, I am asking for donations, and it’s not easy to admit this. But I need all the help I can get.

Kofi: Falls under the Patreon stuff.A lot of the same reasons.

Selling Tarot readings: Pagan is as Pagan does. I’ve been reading Tarot cards since I was seventeen, but I’ve never done it professionally. I figure it would be a simple service to offer, and not something I have to invest a lot into.

Publishing that first novel: If I am doing this, then I’m going all the way.

These are the things I’m considering, and so much is up in the air. So, nothing’s concrete yet, but I am thinking of either a July or August launch date. I will definitely keep updating about it, until then. Any help would be so appreciated, and you would be a total rock star in my eyes of you did. Either way it goes, I just want to make that move, get in there, and really start going forward. I’m ready for this.

Review: All Out – The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Through the Ages by Saundra Mitchell

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Title: All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Through the Ages

Author: Saundra Mitchell (editor)

Genre: Historical, Fantasy, LGBT, YA

Rating: ★★★★★

 

 
Short story collections are normally a mixed-bag type of book. Some stories are stellar, some are okay, and some aren’t okay. All Out is in a class of its own. Even though there were occasional hit or miss stories, there was at least something good about each one, and as whole, it is so solid. Not to mention, the common thread that ran through this collection is one that is definitely needed. It was surprising to me to find such a queer positive book that was mainstream published, and I’m glad such a book is out there. And while I’m far away from the actual age-range for the audience of this book, I’m just very blown away by it. It’s definitely one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read, and I can’t recommend this book enough.

That said, here’s my thoughts on each story.

Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: I loved this piece. The story had such evocative imagery, passionate, poetic language, and was based on an actual historical figure. I loved seeing a Trans man being portrayed, since they seem a bit rare when it comes to representation. Supposedly, the story was supposed to be a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood,” but I actually didn’t catch that aspect until reading a review on Goodreads. But, it was amazing, nevertheless.

The Sweet Trade by Natalie C. Parker: A very cute Age of Sail story about two young women who run off to have pirating adventures together. The main character was a runaway bride, which I always adore the runaway bride trope. But, however, the story’s downfall was that I felt that the relationship between the two girls happened far too fast.

And They Don’t Kiss at the End by Nilah Magruder: I found this one a bit lackluster. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t stand out to me. I did, however, find the main character very interesting and her voice was very well defined.

Burnt Umbers by Mackenzi Lee: This story was a lot of fun to read, and definitely makes me want to check out A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by the same author. There was plenty of humor, and I liked the twist at the end. I really did think that it was going to end in a rather predictable way, but it didn’t, and I loved it.

The Dresser and the Chambermaid by Robin Talley: Another really fun story, and I found the ending absolutely perfect. However, this story does suffer from the same problem that The Sweet Trade did. I felt that the relationship moved a little too fast to feel authentic. I will give this story an additional prop, it did feature a favorite trope of mine: secret relationships involving servants to royalty, whether they’re with the royal or not.

New Year by Malinda Lo: A well-written coming-of-age story, but I felt that it read more like an excerpt from a longer piece than a contained short story. I questioned a bit why this was included, because with the other stories the queer factor was a highlighted aspect of the story, where this one dealt more with the main character’s race and heritage. But, I did love that a drag king did show up.

Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler: Confession time, this story almost made me cry. This story came very close to home, although my teen years began in 1997, three years after the story took place. But, as a teen girl, I did fall for my best friend at the time, and was far too scared to tell. I learned years later that she was as gay as I am, and she had feelings for me too. She’s my eternal “one that got away.” But here, the girls were able to fully recognize and act on what was between them, and I loved that. I love this story for very sentimental reasons, and it really was taking a step back in time for me.

The Coven by Kate Scelsa: This is where the book has a small break in being traditional historical fiction and flirts with light fantasy, and this story was the biggest dud in the collection. The story itself might be the worst thing I’ve read this year, so far, and I found it way too ridiculous at times. Also, for being a historical story, I never got the impression that this took place in a different time. The story might say it’s “Paris in the 1920’s,” but it sure didn’t feel like it. A nice idea, but bad execution.

Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake: This story was absolutely brilliant, and to me, one of the crown jewels of the collection (alongside another that I will mention soon). Here you have a queer retelling of Robin Hood. Robin’s in love with a disabled Will Scarlett. The Merry Men are a collective of queer and POC young folk on the quest for personal freedom. Robin’s past was a twist I never expected, and I loved the ingenuity of it. This story was just so amazing. The characters are well-developed, the prose was magical. One of the best short stories I’ve ever read, and really wished that this could be a full-length novel. Hell, I wish it could be a book series, it was that good.

Willows by Scott Tracy: I’ll admit it, I skipped this one. I found it too confusing, and there were no good explanations to be found.

The Girl with the Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe: Another story where there is a touch of fantasy, but it made it all the better. A very beautiful story, and yet again, it went for one of my favorite tropes: ladies falling for nature spirits. I have this weird fascination with women falling in love with something primal and natural, and this satisfied that.

The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy by Alex Sanchez: The ending was what really made this story. Since I mentioned before a certain problem with a couple of the stories in this book, having this kind of ending felt gratifying. Also, I found the main character really adorable, and loved the mention of how he liked to collect pin-ups of a shirtless Bobby Sherman.

Walking After Midnight by Kody Keplinger: I was in love with the dialogue. I could spend pages just reading dialogue with these characters and have such a good time. Their voices were so well-defined and engaging. I also liked that it finished off as a start of there possibly being more.

The End of the World as We Know It by Sara Farizan: I enjoyed the hell out of the author’s debut novel, If You Could Be Mine. It was such an emotionally gripping novel and talked about a topic that’s not often brought up when it comes to queer issues. This story was a bit lackluster. Not terribly written, but pretty average as a whole. The best part of the story was, oddly enough, the main character’s parents. I loved them for some reason. Also, after finishing this story, I couldn’t help but to wonder if the author gave a real play-by-play of the New Year’s Eve special on MTV at the time. It really rang true when it came to the late nineties.

Three Witches by Tessa Gratton: The other crown jewel of this collection. The writing was sumptuous. The prose style on this one felt downright lyrical at times, and the plot of it was deeply compelling. I really enjoyed the Catholic imagery, and the contemplation of what love and sin really are. I also liked that the story did touch on religious issues. Religion is one of the causes for homophobia, and seeing it portrayed here was fitting. Amazing story, and I really need to read some Tessa Gratton.

The Inferno and The Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson: Another one that was very sweet and fun to read. Yet again I found the young couple adorable, and their happy ending was a perfect, satisfying conclusion.

Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia: The story that concludes the collection, and ends it on a high note. A touching story about the healing power of love, whether it comes from the person you’re in with or if it comes from family. Very beautiful imagery and nice use of language. It really made this collection come full circle.

All Out is an amazing read, and something that there should be more of. But, if there is ever a sequel, like a Tyranny of Petticoats had, there’s two things I’d like to see. One, I’d like to see more stories that take place before the 1900’s and places outside of North America. There’s so much material, and I’d love to see the stories that might be told featuring them. The other thing is this, in this collection, we got stories that took place in the sixties, seventies, and nineties (twice), where is my eighties story? I really would love to see something like a young queer woman who wears sweater dresses and has a big crush on Debbie Gibson, or a young queer man that’s rocking a feather cut, and listens to too much Duran Duran. That would make my day.

 

Buy All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Through the Ages @ Amazon.

Two Mini Reviews

A couple of small reviews tonight, for a pair of shorter works. I’ve been meaning to post these sooner, but life has gotten in the way and I’ve been busy. A bad kind of busy and a good kind of busy at the same time. I’m still working on quite a few more reviews if I can sit down and get through that massive stack of books and games I’ve got sitting around. But away we go.

 

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Title: Moon-Bright Tides

Author: RoAnna Sylver

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT

Rating: ★★★★

 

Moon-Bright Tides is a novella that centers around the budding relationship between a witch and a mermaid. I was already sold when the words “witch” and “mermaid” were thrown around. RoAnna’s prose is incredibly beautiful to read and her world-building is top notch, given the short length of the piece. The world around Riven the witch is very bleak and watery, melancholic at best, which I love.

Also as well, I thought that the relationship between the witch and mermaid was well done, and left a huge smile on my face after it was finished. I loved how their growing love for one another was a very healing for the both of them. Also, it was nice to see some F/F romance without the obligatory sex scene. Another detail I loved was the fact that Riven, the witch was indeed a chubby woman.

One aspect, however, left me a bit curious. Riven is bound by duty to bring out the moon every single night. Towards the end of the story, she is relieved of that duty and it is mentioned that Riven always felt wrong about having the talisman that calls upon the moon.  I wondered if this was a comment on cultural appropriation. If so, the topic was handled in a very unique and graceful way.

Moon-Bright Tides was a lovely little story and truly a delight to read.

You can buy Moon-Bright Tides @ Amazon.

 

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Title: She Stands at the Crossroads

Author: Rhiannon Frater

Genre: Horror

Rating: ★★★

 

She Stands at the Crossroads is a tight, little story (only about fifteen pages) that focuses on one of my favorite North American myths/folklore/urban legends: La Llorona. La Llorona is known as “The Weeping Woman” and is normally the ghost of a woman who loses her children, and goes to look for them in the nearest river. They normally cause misfortune and death. So, seeing a short story based on that figure was an automatic draw for me.

The story itself is like I said before, tight and very fast paced. It was a fun little read, and it really made me feel like I was reading a story from one of those Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark books, but the adult version. My only problem was the ghost’s motivation. While it was obvious that she was broken-hearted that one of the men of the family left her, it felt somehow like it needed to be more filled out that it was, maybe a little exposition? I’m not sure.

But it was a fun little story, nevertheless, and it was great seeing a female author writing horror, which is always a great thing.

Get your copy of She Stands at the Crossroads here.

 

 

You Say “Self Published” Like it’s a Bad Thing

I know I’m tardy to the party, but I came across this particular article: “Self Publishing – an Insult to the Written Word.” Here’s the thing, I know that some people truly look down upon self publishing and there’s plenty of comments on the internet that rip it apart. It’s nothing new. But this article actually made me quite angry, and I’m not sure if it was the author’s high and mighty tone that got me, or the sheer lack of knowledge about the self publishing world. Either way, it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I find it hard to see traditional publishing in that sort of saintly light.

Publishing in general, regardless if it’s some big name publisher in New York City with a historic reputation, or someone who goes it alone for the first time, it’s about the same. There are plenty of good and bad that comes with it. The article, however, really pushes the belief that the traditional publishing industry publishes only good things, and self publishing is nothing but an endless sea of hacks. The author goes so far as to paint traditional publishers as “gatekeepers,” who makes sure that everything is of the best quality you could possibly read. I find this so hard to believe, especially when there are so many examples that contradict this. If traditional publishing is the sheer bastion of quality, then why do we have books such as Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James? No matter how you feel about that particular book series, it’s been said time and time again that Fifty Shades is terribly written. Then what about something like Eragon by Christopher Paolini? Yes, Eragon was originally a self published book, but it was bought by Knopf in 2003. By the article’s logic, then Eragon was given “masterpiece” status by the publishing industry, and lost that taint that self publishing gave it. No, it didn’t. It remained a poorly written book, and did receive quite a few bad reviews from professional reviewers. With books like these, there’s only one reason why they were published in the first place. The publisher wanted to make a quick cash grab. Traditional publishing these days is similiar to Hollywood in a lot of ways. They both will shill out terrible products to make a quick buck. Fifty Shades was to cash in on the popularity of Twilight (which is another questionable book depending on who you ask), and Eragon was to cash in on the success of Harry Potter. Never forget that publishing is a business, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to make money, regardless of anything else.

Also too, another thing about this article that it doesn’t acknowledge, is what about traditionally published authors who are, or have been involved in self publishing? What about an author like Ellen Kushner? For years, Ellen Kushner has been a well-respected figure in the world of fantasy fiction. But, she posted her Tremontaine serial online. It’s being traditionally published this year, but it started online first, and quite few other authors were involved with that project. Or what about Isaac Marion, the author of the Warm Bodies series? Self publishing is what landed him a book deal and is now publishing traditionally. What about an author like Chuck Wendig who does both traditional publishing and self publishing simultaneously? Are these authors mediocre at best? Are they not good enough?

Yes, it is true there are some questionable things in self publishing. Yes, you might have that thirteen year old who uploaded their novel that they wrote during summer break, because they were bored (I am in the thought that I would be kind of impressed by that teenager’s dedication), or yes, you might have someone who isn’t that great. You do get that, but there are so many self published authors that really do put in the work and the effort. I have come across so many self published authors who do meticulous research, pump THEIR own money into editing, promotion and other things, and spend so much time and effort getting their books off the ground. One of biggest perks that being traditionally published comes with, is having people to do that for you. When you’re self published, you don’t. So, it really bothers me that the article doesn’t realize how much work goes into self publishing, and really shows a lot of disrespect in my opinion.

One more important aspect that the author of the article doesn’t realize, and it’s one of the best things about self publishing, is that it gives an opportunity for marginalized people to get out their stories. Traditional publishing has been making an attempt at diversity, but they have miles upon miles to go. In self publishing, there’s been so much more, at least in my opinion and what I have seen. One thing that is so refreshing is since I do have an interest in LGBT fiction, is that there are plenty of stories with LGBT leads and it doesn’t have to necessarily deal with “the issues.” In traditional publishing, it always seems that if they’re going to publish a story that features LGBT characters, then it’s always contemporary and it’s always about either coming out, dealing with any kind of bigotry, or something that is so exclusive to the LGBT experience (such as adoption or what it’s like to be a drag queen). You really don’t get something like a mystery novel where the lead happens to be gay or bi, and they solve mysteries like any other lead in a mystery novel. You don’t really get a YA novel where the lead “chosen one” happens to be a transgender teen girl, and she leads the rebellion. No, instead, that gay detective will deal with coming out to his fellow detectives and whatever fallout that happens. The trans girl will be probably there to help a cis person understand what being trans means, while they go to a run-of-the-mill high school. That is pretty much traditional LGBT fiction,  but in the self publishing world, you do get that gay detective and the trans chosen one, and it’s wonderful. It’s also wonderful to see unfiltered LGBT material as well, such as literally seeing same-sex romance, which doesn’t really exist in traditional publishing. And this goes beyond just LGBT. I’ve seen it with different races, disabilities, different religious backgrounds, among others. It’s great and empowering to have an outlet for something like that.

Overall, they both have their good points and bad points. I just believe that self published and traditionally published aren’t markers of quality or that neon sign that declares a book good or bad. I believe that good and bad are highly subjective, and should be judged on their own merits, and not how they’re distributed.

A Bit of an Update

Today, I turned thirty-four, and I actually feel fine about it. Yes, I’m mid thirties, making me something of a mature adult, but at this point, I feel age is truly nothing but a number than a state of mind. Me, I plan on doing the things that make me happy, and enjoy life as much as I can. I plan on being that purple-haired granny that still watches horror movies, cries over superheroes, marathons cult TV and is still waiting for a vampire to sweep her off of her feet. If that’s the case, then I welcome growing older.

But anyways, that update, which isn’t much of an update at all, is that I’m currently putting my novel projects on hold. For the time being, I’m not writing Random Invocations or A Hollywood Affair. It isn’t a choice I make lightly, since I spent September through December of 2017 working on those projects, and I did do a lot of hard work, but it’s something I have to do. I read over chapters of both projects recently, and I wasn’t happy with how they were turning out. So, I have to start back at the beginning. Not something I wanted, but here I am.

Right now, I don’t feel like I have a novel in me. A big part of it comes from depression and my Fibromyalgia, and I see that clearly. It’s hard to create some that big when you don’t feel your best. Also, my life is rather hectic at the moment, which throws quite the wrench in my plans. I just find it hard to balance illness, the hustle and bustle of daily life, and writing a full length novel at the same time. I know when to step back.

That doesn’t mean I’m done writing, though. I’m just shifting focus. It’s really what I need.

Review: Literary Witches by Tasia Kitaiskaia and Katy Horan

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Title: Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers

Author: Taisia Kitaiskaia and Katy Horan

Genre: Literary, Non-Fiction (Gender Studies)

Rating: ★★★★★

I decided to close out 2017 with a book review. I wanted to do something that felt a little “full circle” to me, and I plan on doing a lot more reviews in 2018. So, thank you to everyone who’s followed me this year and made my 2017 a little bit brighter.

Literary Witches is a collection of profiles detailing various prolific women writers using a unique framework: portraying them as witches. The book brings forth the idea that women writers are indeed witches in a way, but instead of waving wands and brewing potions, they use words to create magic. Given the creative presentation, this book is deeply inspiring and a loving, whimsical tribute to the women featured in its page.

This is such a beautiful book. Taisia Kitaiskaia’s prose detailing the authors is lush and evocative, painting an amazing picture of whoever is being profiled. It’s part-poem, part-flash fiction, and it does show the highlights of that particular woman. Octavia Butler’s profile showed how visionary she was, and how she defied the odds in a genre normally dominated by white men. Emily Bronte’s featured the same melancholic atmosphere that matched her life on the English Moors. You get a glimpse of the woman while using prose to do so, and it’s so wonderfully written. Then, Katy Horan’s art is perfect for this book. Her illustrations feature a sort of folk-art quality, and really matches what was written about that author. I’d honestly love to have some of the illustrations in this book framed and hung on my walls. The foreword by Pam Grossman really set the mood of the book. It’s just a beautiful read all around.

One thing I really loved about this book was how varied the authors were. They came from various walks of life, places, and eras. They wrote different genres and some were more novelists, where others were poets. There were a lot of WOC profiled in this book as well, from many different groups. From prominent black authors such as Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid to Indian poet Mirabai, to Native American poet Joy Harjo, the book provided a diverse mix of women for all to enjoy. I did delight in seeing two of my particular favorites portrayed in this book: Sappho, and Angela Carter.

Another aspect I loved about the book was that there was suggested reading lists down at the bottom of each profile. After reading about some of the ones I wasn’t aware of; I would really love to read some of their work.  No doubt, this book will definitely inspire my reading list for 2018.

Literary Witches is a great, loving tribute to women authors, as well as a great source of inspiration for women who write. I can admit while turning the pages, that I wanted to close the book and pull out my writing supplies and get to work. Which, for me, is a sign that I’m reading a good book. I really recommend this if you love women authors, want a bit of inspiration, or to give as a gift to the female writer in your life.

Buy Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers @ Amazon

 

Fanfic for Your Saturday Night

I’ve made it no secret that I write fanfic, and tonight, I’m going to share a little thing I wrote. It’s been sitting in my Google Docs for awhile, and I figure why not post it.

Title: Feelings Unknown
Fandom: Dead by Daylight
Pairing: The Hag/The Nurse
Word Count: 880
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: None
Summary:  The Hag didn’t know this feeling. This growing, festering feeling that came into play any time The Nurse came near. She didn’t know, but at the same time, she welcomed it.

Read it at ao3 or under the cut.

Continue reading

I Lost NaNo but I Still Won

This November, I decided to give NaNoWriMo a spin this year and dedicate my month to writing a novel. I did put in the time and effort. I did more than I expected. But around Thanksgiving weekend, I gracefully bowed out and felt like my time doing NaNo was at an end. Yes, I didn’t finish and get that 50,000-word count. I got nowhere near that. Yes, I didn’t finish out the month. But winning NaNo wasn’t my goal in the end. My goal was more personal, and with that goal, I indeed won.

I’ve written about my situation before. I am a writer with illness, both physical and mental, and it has taken its toll on my work, surely and gradually. It’s been hard to write, although I do keep trying and I do pray that in 2018, things will be even better. My decision on trying NaNo was about focus and discipline. I wanted to push myself to focus on a project, to give it my intense dedication and see where it takes me. I proved to myself that I can do it. I proved I still have it in me, and that is a wonderful realization.

I can admit that sometimes, staying focus is one of my sore points. I come up with an idea that I like. I put effort into the project (I am a note-taking queen, after all), but I hit that wall, or my interest dwindles. I hate when that happens. I will say, no project of mine is completely abandoned, it goes more hiatus. For example, two projects from the past have recently popped back up. I walked away from them because, with one, I wasn’t sure what direction to take it in, and the other, I wanted to try a different format. That one started as actually a monologue. So, no project is abandoned in full. But, it does get tiring to not see a project all the way through to the end. By doing NaNo this year, I found a way to get past that.

One solution to that problem I have found is having what I will call “cues.” With these “cues,” they are little things to get me back into the story I’m writing. It can be anything, such as maybe keeping a picture nearby that makes me think of the project, or making a playlist. Random Invocations was my NaNo project this year, and I had two particular “cues” for it. One thing I did while writing out basic notes for the project, was create boards on Pinterest to help stimulate me. I filled them with pictures of succubi, New York City, celebrities that made me think of my characters’ physical appearances, and any kind of reminder of my characters and story. Anytime I needed that spurt of focus and inspiration, I went and looked at my boards. It helped so much, and I know that when I go to write other projects, I’ll make boards for them as well.

Music also became a “cue.” I’ve mentioned before that I like writing to music. I like creating playlists for my projects and keeping certain songs on hand that makes me think of my story and characters. Working on Random Invocations was no different, and I realized how much of help music is to me. There were plenty of times before I sat down to work, I would pull out my MP3 player and pick out a certain song to get me in the mood. Electric Feel by MGMT was my go-to song for Cassia, my succubus. Victorious by Panic at the Disco helped me write the girls night out scene after Jenna and her very human girlfriend broke up. Mika and Borns were staples throughout the month, and also, during this time, I discovered Hayley Kiyoko. Stating the obvious, but her music is a great soundtrack for writing lesbian romance. It was a nice reminder of the value of personal resources.

The other thing that I also learned was that sitting down and doing it, is sometimes the best option. As I mentioned above, I can sometimes have that waning interest feeling. I do blame my depression entirely for this. On the days where I felt like I wasn’t interested in my story anymore, or that my interest changed, I just sat down and did the work. It took a couple of minutes to get into it, plenty of deleted paragraphs, but after I got out the kinks, I was able to sail along and get things done. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of a work-out. You do warm-ups and stretches before you do the aerobics or weight training. Writing works the same way. After you warm up, you can do it. For such a long while now, I’ve let things slip through the cracks because of not pushing myself in that direction, but after seeing what I accomplished, it gives me incentive. No, it won’t be perfect, because I am still dealing with depression, but I still have that tool to use.

No, I didn’t win NaNoWriMo. No, I didn’t finish with an amazing word count but doing it was worth it. November may be coming to an end in a couple of days, but my work isn’t done. I am going to take what I’ve learned this month and utilize those little tidbits. Overall, I do consider myself a winner.