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Farewell Stan Lee

Today the world mourns.

It is not the first day that we have done so, nor will it be the last. Sadly the time is coming where mourning will be quite frequent. It is the sad truth of the world as it spins and moves through space that we humans must grow older. Eventually, we all must die, and return to the Earth. Today, the Earth has welcomed back much-beloved Stan Lee.

I have never read a comic book in my life. I appreciate the art. I admire the story-telling. I love the characters. I just have a thing where I always feel the need to start at the beginning. A horrible thing to think about when it comes to comic books, but it’s something in my head nonetheless, which I can’t seem to get past. While I may never have read his works, I’ve fallen in love with the man’s creativity all the same.

I’ve preferred Marvel to DC for longer than I even knew the two were different. Watching superhero movies as a kid, I may have enjoyed Batman more than Superman, but it was Spiderman which really made me enjoy the genre. Then, of course, came the X-Men. Then Iron Man, and the current Marvel Cinematic Universe which we all know and love.

Since before I even knew who he really was, I enjoyed Stan Lee’s work. When I was younger, I was unaware of all the cameos he made. Now, every time I go to see a Marvel movie, I keep my eyes open, eager to spot him. I think the next few Marvel movies to come out will be the hardest to watch. Stan hasn’t been a spring chicken for a few years now, and has outlived many other much-loved celebrities. There have been rumours for quite a while now that even after his death, his cameos in Marvel films will be continued. That they have enough recorded footage of him to be able to keep him in his creations with the help of technology. I don’t know if this will happen, but I do know that it will be hard to watch regardless. Whether it’s a movie he’d finished filming his cameo for before passing away, or a technologically implanted Stan Lee cameo, or no Stan Lee cameo at all, the first movie will be the hardest.

Stan Lee isn’t the only notable name we have lost in recent years. We have lost many big names in the creative circles. From Robin Williams, to David Bowie. Alan Rickman, to Prince. These are people I grew up with. Watching. Listening to. I knew their work before I knew who they work. I was singing “Magic Dance” before I knew it was David Bowie who sang it. I was quoting Professor Snape before I knew Alan Rickman’s name. Hook, and Aladdin are both among some of my most beloved movies, before I ever understood who was playing my favourite characters.

It’s truly tragic, when we lose someone who has influenced the world so much in such a way as this. We have proved, however, time and again, that we can move on. They may not ever be replaced, not truly, but their work will live on forever. Much like Shakespeare’s works are still around today, and Beethoven’s music still celebrated.

I’d like to take the rest of this blog to have a moment of respect for the wonderful creatives we have lost. And to appreciate the ones we still have. Deaths can be unexpected, like Robin Williams’, or Kurt Cobain’s. Sometimes, you know it’s coming for a while. It’s still a shock, regardless. We need to love and appreciate the creative artists that we still have.

For today, farewell, Stan Lee, and thank you so much for everything you have given to the world. You have been so lucky to share your stories with the world as you have, and to have felt the love and appreciation that the world has for you.

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Welcome to October

It’s coming into October, my favourite month of the year. Ever since I was a child, I have always loved Halloween. Imagine my disappointment to have been born in Australia, one of the few big Western nations that doesn’t particularly celebrate Halloween. Naturally, all the Australia’s love for all things American when it comes to TV just made everything worse. After all, is an American TV show without a Halloween special actually an American TV show? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, Halloween not being overly celebrated in Australia never stopped me from trick-or-treating. My Mum and Nana would help me with a costume, and then my god-sisters and myself would walk around my Nana and Grandad’s neighbourhood. I have no idea how Americans always seem to have pillowcases filled with candy by the time they walk around a neighbourhood. I mean, sure, perhaps the neighbourhood I would walk around wasn’t quite as big as the American neighbourhoods, but that wasn’t the real problem. The problem was that no one was prepared for trick-or-treaters to come around. Not when I was growing up. Well, no one is an overstatement. A few people had some candy or chocolate bars. The vast majority, however, would just shrug and say “Oh, it’s Halloween? Sorry, I don’t have anything for you.” A couple of people were really nice, and they would give us two dollar coins instead.

The world is changing, and I like the way it’s changing. Now it’s becoming common for children in Australia to trick-or-treat. We still have a long way to go before it’s as normal as it is in other countries, such as America, but we have come quite far from when I used to be the only child in the neighbourhood to go trick-or-treating. There’s even a set of rules that are being generally acknowledged by parents, children, and just people living in houses. If you wish to participate and have trick-or-treaters come to your house to give away candy, you just leave your outside light on. So parents will take their children around neighbourhoods, going to houses with their lights on. One day it may even be as common here as it is in the United States.

I don’t go trick-or-treating any more. I’m a bit too old for that now, sadly, and don’t have any children to escort around. Maybe one day I might steal a child from a friend. That’s not to say that Halloween is any less boring as an adult. Now, I can just buy all the candy I want to eat and binge-watch Halloween movies.

Which is, of course, my plan for this Halloween. I have a bunch of friends who I plan to voice call while watching the wonderful world of Halloween movies. The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Hocus Pocus are naturally two of the first movies on our list. Of course we’re also going to be watching some Beeltejuice as well. There are just so many other good Halloween movies out there as well that I don’t know what else to add to our list. Especially since I’m trying to educate a couple of my friends, who haven’t seen some of these movies before. (I know, believe me, I’m just as shocked as you are. Don’t worry though, they have agreed to being educated.) Any particularly important must-see Halloween movie suggestions would be more than welcome.

There are three other things that I’m particularly looking forward to this wonderful spooky month. Firstly, there are Halloween events. I don’t necessarily mean at bars, or places like that. Although if I can find any events like that, I may very well do just that. However, what I am talking about is the wonderful world of gaming events. Okay, so, the one game in particular, although I can hope that other games might also have events. For example, I’m hopeful that the Harry Potter mobile game, Mystery at Hogwarts, might have a Halloween event. Given that it’s still a growing game and mostly in development, I would not be surprised if such an event didn’t happen this year, however they are doing some events for unique skins fairly regularly, so I think my hope may just pay out.

The game I’m particularly looking forward to, however, is Overwatch. Now, I haven’t been playing this game since it came out. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not good at it. I’d like to be, but I’m only a lowly bronze player. (In comp as well as border). Maybe upgrading to a better mouse and keyboard might help with that for me. Or maybe I’ll just find out that no, I’m still horrible at it. Though, my skill level isn’t the point I want to talk about right now. Instead, I want to talk about the Halloween event. I had so much fun last year when playing Junkenstein’s revenge. It was the first special event arcade mode that I played, since I joined at the end of the Anniversary event last year.

Overwatch is great, I’ve been enjoying playing it a lot lately. Although it’s one of those things that’s definitely better with friends. Even better when it has those Player vs Environment events, as opposed to constantly Player vs Player. I’m just going to ignore the whole trend towards Battle Royale that games seem to be going to at the moment due to the popularity of some certain free to play ones, because let’s face it, those modes are undoubtedly my least favourite. The PvE modes, however, Junkenstein’s Revenge, Uprising, and Retribution are some of my favourites. Let’s face it, Overwatch players can get quite salty sometimes, whether you’re playing with them or against them. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing competitive, quick play, or arcade, unless you’re playing with a six stack, you’ll almost inevitably find a teammate who doesn’t co-operate. That’s not to say that you don’t find that in those PvE modes. In fact, sometimes you get players who either disconnect or purposefully leave, which results in a very unbalanced group, since unlike other game modes, there isn’t any back-fill for these PvE games, which are designed for four players to work together.

The game mode isn’t the only thing that’s got me excited. I’m a pretty big fan of some of the skins that already exist in the game, but Halloween skins will always be among my favourite on any game that has such a mechanic. Some of the ones that I got last year during the event are still up there among my most-used skins. The Dragon Symmetra skin, and the Cultist Zenyatta skin in particular are absolutely wonderful. As someone who currently “mains” Moira, I’m naturally hoping and praying for a Goblin Queen Labyrinth-style skin. If not this event, perhaps I’ll be lucky next year.

The second exciting thing about this month is that it’s going to be my last month at university. Now, I’m not going to say forever, at this point. I know myself too well to say that. Maybe one day I’ll go on to do a Masters. For the moment, however, with what I’m currently studying, I am nearly done. This is both exciting and absolutely terrifying for me. Having to go out into the real world as an adult with a degree? What on Earth will I do? It doesn’t help that it’s a Fine Arts degree. I’m just going to be so employable!

The third thing that’s happening this month is connected to the second, and is essentially the main reason I’m writing this whole thing right now in the first place. I’ve just spent the past three years working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing. Naturally I want to go on to do something with this. Which is why I’m starting this blog. The blog is just a small part, of course. I’ve also taken steps to become a sole trader, so that I can begin getting paid for writing and editing. It feels like a big step for me, quite possibly because it is. I’m going to be putting myself out there, which hasn’t always ended well for me in the past. Not that such things have always ended horribly for me, but when you have anxiety, you always begin to expect the worst.

So here goes, the first blog for my site, talking about my favourite month, and letting everyone know that Marlee McDougall, writer and editor, is officially open for business.

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Self Sabotaging Spiral

Self harming isn’t always cutting oneself. Never in my life have I cut myself. Well, on purpose. I’ve cut myself plenty of times by accident. So many depressed people have scars, whether they show them or not. Sometimes it almost feels as though I’m faking, as though I’m not really as depressed as I feel, because I don’t self-harm. Not every person with depression fits into the same mould however. It would be silly to think that I should automatically fit into the hollywood-ised mould of cutting myself, when that’s not all there is.

Most depressed people harm themselves. It’s self-destructive behaviour which they may not necessarily do on purpose. It’s not always cutting yourself. Sometimes it’s as simple as staying up late when you have to wake up early. Eating when you’re not hungry, or not eating. We all utilise different forms of self harm that sabotage ourselves in different ways. It can often be a spiral of self sabotage.

In my case, I’m currently eating more than I should. I feel full, but I continue eating, because eating gives me some form of release. I know I shouldn’t. I know it’s bad, and that I’m hurting work that I’ve put in to lose weight. It’s so hard to stop, though. It’s almost a form of punishment. I feel like shit, so this is how I will punish myself.

That’s not all. I have tried sleeping schedules in the past. They’ve helped a little, if not a lot. What I used to use most was waking up the same time each day. However the worse I feel mentally, the more likely I’m going to reach over and turn my alarm off. At the moment, I’ve turned my alarms off entirely because getting out of bed is so hard, there’s no way I’ll be able to do it on command.

The other day I had a few drinks. By a few, I mean I had 6 cans of Little Fat Lamb cider. The next day was spent half lying down, half on the toilet emptying my stomach of any acid it had the audacity to keep within it. I tried to eat some dry toast around midday, not having much else that would be good for an upset stomach. I didn’t even manage to eat half of the slice I made myself, or drink half a bottle of water, for most of the day. It wasn’t until around 7pm that I finally managed a whole slice of toast, and almost a bottle of water. Alcohol poisoning is not a fun experience.

All this past week, I have been feeling useless and helpless. I mentioned in my previous blog my current experiences with centrelink which aren’t helping matters. There’s also the lack of jobs that seem available for what I want to do. It doesn’t help that those few jobs that do exist all seem to want people more experienced. Even those open for the new to the workforce are likely to accept someone with experience over me. I’m already racking up disheartening rejections, which doesn’t exactly do much for my mental health state.

There are so many things I could do right now which could make me feel better. Attending my graduation ceremony today. Going out for drinks with some friends from uni afterwards instead. Going to my friends’ place to play games or watch things and just hang out aimlessly. Unfortunately, all of those things require money which I simply do not have. What I could do instead, those things that I find enjoyable which requires no money, are sadly driving me crazy. I’ve been playing a lot of games lately. A lot of Overwatch, and Monster Hunter World in particular. Both these games can become very bad to play when you’re not in a good mood.

While I love Overwatch, and enjoy playing it with my friends, there are a lot of toxic people who play it. Whether on my team or the enemy team, it can become highly demoralising when someone starts abusing you… Before I started drinking on Wednesday night, I was playing a game with some friends, and we had one random on our team. I was doing what I could as a Reinhardt, trying to shield my team. Yet there were times when I needed to try to just get on point so that we wouldn’t lose it. At which point our random teammate started abusing me in chat, calling me the “worst Reinhardt” for “just charging in there”.

Another game, a few days later, we had a six-stack, and went up against another six-stack which completely rolled us. We tried to counter them, unfortunately when you lose a point as quickly as that, it’s easy to become demoralised, and tilted, and not do your best. The enemy team basically just laughed at us.

You can be trying your hardest, but still lose. It’s very much the type of game where the more you lose, the more demoralised you get, and the worse you do. Being in an already low mood makes losing all that much harder on me right now, unfortunately.

The same goes for Monster Hunter World, a game which can be quite difficult. It doesn’t help that while I like playing games, I’m hardly the best player in the world. I’ll never be the top player of any game, or able to do any speed runs. There are some (supposedly simple) games which I’m currently trying to play, but unable to figure out how to proceed. Which gets frustrating.

With Monster Hunter World, you’re up against monsters. The other week I was playing by myself up against a ratholos. Technically, I was playing with friends. Unfortunately, however, they were unable to join my quest because I hadn’t seen all the cutscenes. If I had pulled out of the expedition and started a new quest, they would have been able to join. Of course, I didn’t really realise that until I had already done what felt like a fair amount of damage. Besides, in an expedition I had as many faints as I needed.

Then, after many faints, and lots of frustration. After I had cut off the ratholos’s tail, and broken several other pieces of it. When it had to have been close to being ready to capture. It left the area. Meaning I would have to start again from the top with a new one.

I almost wanted to uninstall the game after that.

Thankfully, in the next few days, with my friends’ help, I managed to defeat it. Now a ratholos is one monster I can more or less handle by myself if I need to. (I don’t even want to think about the azure ratholos fights coming up.)

Apart from games, I have other entertainment options of reading a book, of watching something, or playing a different game. Unfortunately, reading can be hard when I crave some form of activity where I’m doing something. Watching something has a similar problem, along with a second that is shared by my difficulty in playing a different game.

There are so many options. There are entire libraries of movies and TV shows to watch. I have so much to watch which I’m behind in. And so many games to possibly play. It is so hard to choose when there’s such a large number of things to choose from.

It’s all too easy to sit in this self sabotaging spiral I’m in, staring at games I could be playing, or things I could be watching, and instead of doing anything, just keep staring. It’s too easy to want to curl up in bed and do nothing instead of something.

Life with depression can be very hard. I applaud all of you out there who are currently doing your best and keeping on going in spite of how hard your own self makes it.

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Unemployed Woes

Being unemployed is so fun, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it. There’s no job demanding my time. I’m able to just sit back and have fun on tax payers’ money. Said virtually no one ever, let me assure you.

Certainly, there are those out there who do work the system. They exploit what they can, so they don’t have to work. They almost make an art form of it, with Centrelink believing they live somewhere they don’t, they pay X amount of rent when they actually pay Z, they aren’t in a relationship when they are. They spend their money on drugs, and alcohol, and plead to their family for bread to feed their children.

Most people aren’t like that. Most people living off of Centrelink are out there, applying to every job they can. They’re forcing themselves to go to interviews to jobs that they don’t want, because it will be better than nothing. It would certainly be better than relying on a system that doesn’t care about you.

I’ve recently finished my study. This means that I have to make a transition from one Centrelink payment to another. I’m going from Austudy to Newstart. Just as I went from studying full time, to realising that I’m unemployed and virtually unemployable, I’m now having fun dealing with the monetary side of things that will allow me to keep myself under a roof, with enough food to live.

Barely anyone on Centrelink wishes to stay on it. I have many friends who have no choice, who are unable to work more than they do due to chronic illnesses. Most of those would much rather be able to exist on their own and cut out Centrelink entirely. If only it were an achievable option.

Going to work everyday can be easy compared to meeting the expectations of Centrelink. At least then your free time is actually free, and you don’t feel any guilt for spending your money on something fun, something truly for you. I know that right now I would certainly much rather have a job, or at least one waiting for me, than deal with Centrelink. At least if I had a job on the line, I’d know that I’m going to be paid sometime soon. Whereas I am currently sitting in a well of anxiousness with no idea if I’m even going to be able to pay my rent next time it’s due.

Centrelink is supposed to be a system that’s there to support those who are down on their luck. It should be there to lend strength to the weakest members of our society. As such, you’d expect that it would be easy enough for people to reach out and get help from them. If only.

My own tale is just one example of how hard it can be to deal with this system that doesn’t care about people. The fact that I have spent the past two weeks on edge and close to tears more often than not because of it. That I have another two weeks likely to be spent the same way.

Going from one payment to another should be simple. I already exist on their system. I’ve been on Newstart in the past. The only thing that has changed is that I am no longer studying, and instead looking for work.

Towards the end of my time studying, I had a “to do” task on Centrelink’s website. It wanted me to arrange a phone meeting, regarding my switch from Austudy to Newstart. Except, I wasn’t able to arrange the meeting. I tried, multiple times on multiple days, but it was only offering me two days for the phone meeting, and telling me that both those days were unavailable to have a meeting on.

I called up at 8am, to speak to someone. I have had issues in the past where if I try to call even a few minutes later, I will simply hear a busy signal, and not be able to get through at all. It has been a while since I have needed to call at all, perhaps they have fixed whatever issue was causing that. However, I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Over the phone, I managed to schedule an appointment for the next day, between 1 and 2. I spent most of that hour with my phone in hand, only leaving for a few minutes to hang my washing out, at 10 to 2. Naturally, that’s when they rang.

So, I rang Centrelink to try to make another appointment. I was told that the “to do” task I’d had wasn’t meant for me, that it was instead for people under the age of 22. The lady I spoke to this time told me that the phone call I’d missed would have informed me of that, and that instead of having a phone appointment, I merely needed to wait until my study finish date, then make a new claim for Newstart.

I did as much. This time, I had another phone appointment, which I made certain my phone never left my hand for the entire hour I waited for their call. It was short, simply making an in person appointment for me at my nearest office (after being convinced that an office nowhere near me was my nearest). The appointment wouldn’t be for another couple of weeks, and in that time I’d need to get a medical certificate (to prove my anxiety and depression to them) and a form because I’m now a sole trader trying to sell myself as a writer and editor (which is working so well that I’ve had one job in the past few months since I got my ABN).

I showed up to my appointment on time, with my forms in hand. I waited in a rather long line to see the person who was organising where everyone should go to wait for their appointments, or to help themselves at the self service stations.

When I finally got to see her, I was told that I didn’t have an appointment. She double checked with her team leader, who agreed that I didn’t have an appointment. They told me to go home and just upload the forms I had to hand in. I did so, though I was worried about not showing up for the appointment that I knew I’d had.

I missed a call from a private number while I was walking out of the Centrelink office. When I got another call from a private number yesterday, however, I barely gave it the chance to ring.

Hello, I’m ringing in regards to the appointment you had on Friday which you didn’t show up for.”

Can I see the future, to know that I was going to get such a call?

I was so miserable on Friday that I wasn’t able to write a review. The weekend didn’t help me feel much better. Even today, I’m feeling utterly miserable. I have another two weeks before my next appointment. My anxiety is convinced that something will go wrong. That I’ll be denied Centrelink. I have no money to my name until I get paid by them again. Any savings I had was spent on rent for the fortnight. On bills. I’m currently looking at two weeks of barely doing anything. Of existing on two minute noodles. I’m glad my cat has enough food to last the two weeks, or I don’t know what I would do with myself.

Anxiety is a horrible companion, and it only weighs heavier on me at the moment. I don’t know that I’ll be writing my Friday reviews for the forseeable future. Indeed right now it’s hard enough for me to get this written down, to explain why I can barely breathe, let alone write.

There are those who might exploit the system, and use Centrelink with no intention of ever getting a job. Those few are the reason the rest of us struggle to afford rent. To buy food.

The system is broken, and it’s not the only one. It’s a broken system that doesn’t care about those under its care, reliant on it in their moments of weakness. As a broken system it does its best to break those honest few who are reliant on it. It can be hard to realise the truth, to know that you are trying your hardest to look for a job, when people look down your noses at you, and the very system in place to help make this time easier for you is insistent on putting you down, on making you feel a drain on society.

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Blue Screening Mind

Without a routine, days can so easily bleed into one another. Outside of any university or work which can remind me what day is what, I completely forget what day it is. I can tell you the date, since it’s sitting there on the lower right hand side of my computer screen, but the day itself is a mystery to me. Which is how it wasn’t until I was lying in bed last night that I realised I’d missed my self appointed day to post a blog.

Unstructured days can be the enemy when you have a mental illness. I usually try to do things when I’m on holidays, so I have certain days to do certain things on. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to do those things when they require at least some level of money and you have none. As such, most of my days at the moment tend to be structured by incidental things. Whether one of the webcomics I read has updated. Whether the friends I talk to online are working. Whether or not my Grandad goes out for dinner.

Another problem I face with getting my Tuesday blogs out at the moment is that I’m finding it difficult to come up with topics when I’m not going outside and doing anything. Perhaps one week I might inform you of the struggles I face with playing competitive Overwatch in a low tier. Or I could discuss how easy it can be to open up a beautiful game, and realise hours later that you haven’t had a break.

I could talk about how hard it is for me to read these days, when that means pulling myself away from the only human contact I really have access to, which is playing games with friends. I have resigned myself to knowing that I won’t reach my reading goals for the year. There are so many unread books currently sitting in my room, calling out for me to read them, yet how can I do so?

My mental health is currently hanging by a very thin string. A single wrong word or loss in a game can send me into tears. I hate it. I feel so miserably weak. I’m working on it, I am, but it’s so hard to do so when the thing you’re trying to fix is the very thing that’s stopping you from fixing it.

A brain is very much like a computer. Except, it’s the only one you have. When you are unable to connect to the internet, there is no way for you to search for a way to fix the problem. When you face your fourth blue screen of death in a day without any improvement or way to get help, giving up can seem like your only option. For me, it’s not an option. Because when it works, there are other computers on the network that rely on mine to be functional. They can work in the meantime, but I don’t want to leave them without my computer in the long run. My computer has suffered sudden losses of others on its network, and I know how hard it is for people to deal with that. I can’t do it to other people.

I especially can’t do it to the people that I care about, who are of course the ones who would be most affected.

So this week’s update is that I’m working on my mental health, and struggling quite severely at the moment. Hopefully next week’s update will at least be on time. I’ll try to talk of happier things as well.

In the meantime, if you’re facing blue screens of death yourself, don’t forget you can always reach out to people. It can be hard sometimes, when your only means of contact keeps blue screening. You simply have to take those functional moments. Hell, sometimes you need to remember that before the internet there were other ways we talked to people. Try to reach out to those close to you when you’re stuck staring at that dreaded blue screen. Even if they’re not experts, they can often provide some sort of solace or distraction, which can help you get up the courage to restart, and try again.

Books Books

The Lunar Chronicles

I mentioned in my latest blog how I was originally sceptical regarding the quality of a finished NaNo product. After all, writing fifty thousand words within a single month is a lot, and given one of the core tenets of NaNo is not editing what you write until the month’s finished, I found it hard to believe that the finished product would be as good as something someone took their time to write.

Hardly the first or last time I’ve been wrong. Today’s review, in honour of National Novel Writing Month, is the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer. Not only did Meyer win NaNo, and go on to later publish a book from what she’d written, but during November 2008 she wrote three novels in a single month, which she later edited, and finally published, as the first three novels in the Lunar Chronicles. Knowing that made me eat my thoughts in regards to quality of a NaNo novel.

Of course, I know that much of the work that goes into a novel is done in the editing stages, though as a perfectionist who likes to get things write the first time, it can sometimes be hard for me to accept that. Yet I want to be an editor, involved mainly in that process. Yeah, I know I’m weird and illogical.

I have yet to read Fairest, but last year I bought Cinder on a whim. Once I’d finished it, I immediately had to go out and buy Scarlett, Cress, and Winter. I may have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. What can I say, I like to support fellow authors. While enjoying their wonderful words.

When I reviewed The Selection series, by Kiera Cass, I mentioned how I regretted judging the books by the covers, which is what lead to me taking so long to get around to reading them. The same thing happened with this series. Except, instead of expecting some sappy romance, I was expecting… Well, Twilight. The focus of red on the black cover for a Young Adult novel series gave me flash backs. Eventually, however, I bit the bullet, and I’m very glad I did.

On the scale of genres, I usually sit very far on the fantasy side, though now and then it’s nice to dip my toe into science fiction. I found that Meyer managed to blend both genres together perfectly. While there was a lovely science fiction setting, there was some classic fantasy tropes which worked together quite well. Then again, when you’re retelling fairy tales, the tropes are easy enough to fit in there.

I found the characters all amazing. As with Richelle Mead’s Glittering Court series, she manages to create four unique and strong heroines. Each heroine is strong in their own way. They all have their own goals and motivations, which are entirely different from each other. There’s Cinder, a genius mechanic cyborg, who also happens to be the lost Lunar princess. What starts for her as a pull towards a handsome prince, becomes a fight for the freedom of the people on the moon, whom she barely knew to begin with.

Scarlett lost her grandmother, and fell for the Big Bad Wolf. She stands up for the side of right, and for those who can’t stand up for themselves. While not the mechanical genius that Cinder is, she’s pretty handy with a gun.

Cress is a genius computer whiz, who grew up isolated on a satellite. She becomes attached to Cinder and her Prince, and dreams of her own handsome rogue saving her.

Finally, there’s Winter, the loving Princess, who’s equally loved by her people, although hated by her step mother (what is it with fairy tales and step mothers?). She has a strong attachment to a childhood friend, and an aversion to the glamour that is popular among Lunars.

The series is wonderfully written, with a cast of captivating characters, a compelling plot, and a fantastic setting.

I highly recommend it, and will almost certainly read it again at some point.

Not bad for something where three whole novels were written in the space of a single month.

Blog Posts

Stress and NaNo

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short, is an absolutely wonderful experience. I can hardly recommend it enough. When I first heard about it, I was quite sceptical how can something that someone writes in a month be any good? But that’s not the point the point is encouraging people to write every day, and to get into that habit.
It’s a great habit to be in as a writer. Sadly it’s not one I’m in at the moment. I’ve mentioned previously how I’m currently feeling quite overwhelmed with stress. I had initially been looking forward to NaNo, as I have for the past few years. The NaNo community in Brisbane, which I am lucky enough to be a part of, is truly wonderful. We have some fantastic Municipal Liaisons (MLs) who provide us with sugar, and cheap coffee, as well as organise memorable events. From the Kick Off party, to the Thank God It’s Over party, November is usually a fun month where I churn out the words. For the past few years I’ve managed to go above and beyond the 50,000 that designates “winning” NaNo. Last year I even managed to double that word count.
This year, however, I have been struggling hard. I usually enjoy writing, though now it’s a struggle to come up with words and ideas. I have a story in mind, with an idea of where it’s going to go. This has never failed me before. However I feel so overcome with stress at the thought of writing, that I can barely bring myself to do it.
I’m not going to win NaNo this year. Which is fine. I have accepted this, and in doing so felt at least one cause of stress leave me. It’s sad that something I truly do enjoy can be a cause of such stress, but that’s sadly something I have to live with.
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 18. Of course, being more aware now, I know that I was suffering for a few years before that. The anxiety diagnosis came later, and was more or less lumped into my depression. Again, it’s something I was struggling with long before the diagnosis. Knowing can make a huge difference though.
Of course, knowing why I am struggling to put words together doesn’t help me put them together. Even though I have given up trying to “win” NaNo this year, writing is still coming hard for me. I want to write. I have a novel I’m working on which I’m actually excited about. I have an idea for a visual novel, which I’ve started working on, and again am extremely excited about. However I look at tge words I’ve written, and I simply cannot find a way to continue.
Thankfully, the Brisbane NaNo community is truly wonderful. Even though I doubt that I will be able to write anything, I know that I will still feel so welcomed and supported at write ins. Sadly I haven’t been able to make the last few, though there’s one tomorrow I intend to go to.
I’d like to spend a quick moment now expressing my adoration for any of you with similar issues. It might not be writing. It might be spending time with your friends. It might be playing a game you like, or going to work. Often times we experience those moments we want to give up, or points we just can’t pass. Today, I managed to write this blog, despite how hard words have been to put together for me lately. Tomorrow, while I doubt it, I may just end up writing something at the write in.
Never be afraid to admit when you’re overwhelmed. Sometimes we all need to take a step back. We need to breathe, and take things one step at a time. I know I won’t win NaNo, and even writing this blog feels like a big step for me write now. That being said, here it is in black and white.
Just breathe and relax. Sometimes, a smaller goal might be necessary. Even when you’ve managed tougher ones before.

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Fantastic Beasts, the Crimes of Grindlewald (Spoilers)

I’m going to take a break from book reviews today, to give a movie review. It’s also going to be quite heavy with spoilers, so fair warning, if you haven’t seen Fantastic Beasts, the Crimes of Grindlewald yet, don’t read any more of this blog. Instead, go see the movie, and read when you’ve watched it, and feel you need to see the opinions of another person who’s watched it.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m a big fan of Harry Potter. I grew up with it, and the story is a huge part of me. Which is why when the first Fantastic Beasts movie came out, I made sure that I was seeing it as soon as possible, in a special screening. The same for the second film.

This won’t be me arguing about the casting choice for Grindlewald. I know it’s a very controversial topic right now, so I’m just not going to touch it. Instead, I’m going to talk about the film itself.

To start off with, I loved it. It was visually stunning, with great effects. Newt was just as adorkable as ever. Tina was wonderful. Jacob and Queenie were absolutely beautiful. Then of course, there are the stars of the film, the beasts themselves.

Everyone’s favourite niffler returns, this time with some babies who cause havoc in Newt’s home. The baby nifflers are absolutely adorable, and I’m not afraid to say that I’m probably going to buy plushies of them as soon as I can. I remember walking away from the first film talking with my friend, excitedly talking about how we needed a niffler plushy. Of course, they delivered. I have one sitting right behind me now.

Nagini is wonderful, although I can definitely understand the controversy surrounding her. The idea of a maledict is great, and of Nagini, the snake we’ve all grown to love/hate in the original series, being one is wonderful. However, I am somewhat worried because I instantly fell in love with her. Nagini is a lovely person, who’s clearly been hurt in the past. She spends most of her time in the film trying to help Credence on his quest to discover who he is. However when the time comes to choose whether to follow him and join Grindlewald, or to stay with the chance to fight against Grindlewald, she chooses to stay. This is where I have my problem. Well, let’s just say, potential problem. It will take a great amount of fantastic story telling to get this beautiful character to join Voldemort. Certainly, there’s an element of Voldemort having control over her due to her being his horcrux. However, Harry was able to resist, without even being aware he was a horcrux.

There are other wonderful creatures, of course, though many we only see briefly. There’s the augurey, who I would have loved to see more of, after everything in Cursed Child. Pickett makes another appearance, with his beautiful bowtruckle nature. We see some firedrakes in a cage, and a kappa in a bath. Of course we see the kelpie, who Newt and Bunty are helping with healing. We catch a glimpse of a leucrotta, and there are the matagot’s in the ministry. Thestrals make another appearance, driving the cart where Grindlewald makes his mistake.

Finally, a new star appears to try to steal the show with the zouwu. A beautiful creature, it is very reminiscent of a cat, with the way Newt manages to befriend it and calm it down. I feel one of my favourite moments may have been when Tina took the toy and caught its attention.

Now it’s time to talk more story things that I may or may not have been happy with. I loved how charismatic they showed Grindlewald to be. This was what made him such a dangerous person, how he managed to convince people that he was working for the greater good. It wasn’t that he hated muggles, but that wizards were better. He even convinced Queenie, a character who loves a muggle, to join him, for the betterment of wizard kind. They didn’t even shy away from showing how Albus loved Grindlewald, which made me quite happy.

Leta was wonderful. I was curious about how she would fit in with the story, and particularly with how she was going to fit in to Newt’s story. I was a little worried, after the first film, that perhaps she would be a Bellatrix clone. Instead, she was a lovely person, set to marry Theseus, Newt’s brother. Theseus was also quite an interesting character. Not gonna lie, there may have been some tears on my part when Leta died. Her story was beautiful. I loved how she was a perfect example of a Slytherin, without being evil.

I have saved what I feel as the most controversial and spoiler filled thing for last. At the end of the film, after it is revealed that Leta swapped her brother for another child on the boat, we (supposedly) discover Credence’s true identity, as a long lost brother for Aberforth, Albus, and Ariana. I was so angry when this was revealed, because it seemed like lazy writing and story telling to me.

Then I thought about it some more, and realised that it could be amazing story telling instead. The so-called proof that was offered up was a phoenix, (presumably Fawkes) who Credence had been taking care of as a baby, and was revealed to be a phoenix at the end of the film, when Grindlewald reminded us of a story that had been briefly foreshadowed earlier about a phoenix coming to a Dumbledore in need.

At first, I was angry, because of how this contradicted what we know about the Dumbledores. Of course, that’s when I started to really think about it more. Because it does in fact contradict what we know. Here’s what we know.

Ariana Dumbledore was an obscurus, much like Credence. She became one after muggles teased her furiously. This is when Percival Dumbledore killed the muggles who had hurt her, and was locked up in Azkaban for it, where he later died. Even in the wizarding world, it takes two to make a baby. Then there’s the little fact that Credence couldn’t have been more than twenty years old in the first film, which took place in 1926, a solid 27 years after Kendra passed away.

Sounds very contradictory of course, when you lay it all out like that. However, what if it is supposed to be? And this is where I decided to accept (at least for now) what happened at the end of the film. It’s yet another example of Grindlewald using his charisma to get others to do what he wants. He explained previously how he wanted Credence to join his side so that he could kill Albus for him, something Grindlewald couldn’t do himself because of the blood oath he and Albus swore.

Kendra Dumbledore was killed by her obscurus daughter. Grindlewald, being close to young Albus, and part of the cause of Ariana’s death later on, was well aware of this fact. Which further explains why he might want Credence to be the one to kill Albus, to hurt him all the more. No one ever said he wasn’t a cruel man. So, Grindlewald simply needed Credence to be uncertain about his heritage, and to prove that he couldn’t be Corvus Lestrange, in order to convince Credence to join him. Once there, he lies about Credence’s parentage, in an effort to make Credence hate Albus, so that he might kill him.

Of course, there’s always the chance that my theory is wrong, and that it simply was lazy story telling with an attempt at a shock factor. I suppose the only way to find out will be to watch the next film, when it comes out in two years time.