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.

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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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Happy Halloween

There’s a cauldron with a cat’s face near my feet which is filled with many delicious sugary treats, and while I am happy to give it away to trick-or-treaters, I imagine that come tomorrow the only subtractions made from its insides will be when I crave something sweet.

I talked about Halloween in my first blog post on this site, and now it’s time to revisit the subject. Today I plan to talk about how things compare now to then, as well as give a brief overview of my October.

Unsurprisingly, given I only just started this whole thing up, I haven’t exactly had an influx of people demanding my editing services. Although even one little email might have been encouraging. I’ll get there one day, I’m sure. At least I have had the chance to further practise my editing skill with one of my assignments at uni. So far I’ve edited eight short manuscripts, with two left to do by Friday. Definitely getting there. Similarly, I have only a few edits left of my manuscript, and once that and my peer reviews have been handed in, I am officially done for the year.

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely terrified to be leaving university. Of course, there’s still a part of me that’s worried that I might fail or otherwise not do as good as I might want to. Overall, however, I’m far more scared of what’s to come. I’m sure I mentioned before that I plan to move down to Melbourne eventually, where the publishing houses are… well, more. It’s not going to be an easy thing though. Which definitely sucks, because I’m actually really looking forward to being down there.

Moving is going to be hard. My whole life is up here, for starters. Not to mention, due to a certain four legged being covered in fur, and a bit of a hoarding mindset, I’m going to have to drive down. (The license is something I’m in the middle of working on. It will get there.) The move itself is going to be hard, but before that I’m going to need a job.

It is so hard to get a job today. It’s ridiculous. And getting a job that you can hold down? Don’t get me started. Recently, a friend of mine moved up from Sydney. Her area of work was in hospitals, but she didn’t really have an “in” up in Brisbane. Thankfully, I had that in for her. All I could really do was send through expressions of interest, passed on from someone who works in a hospital. But it was enough. She got an interview, and she got the job. That’s not exactly the end of her worries, however. She, and the vast majority of people she works with, are on 3 month contracts. Sooner or later, there’s a chance that her job might not be her job anymore, if she doesn’t get a permanent contract. Those aren’t exactly easy to get.

My friend was lucky that she had me. Sure, I have some friends down in Melbourne, but none of them are exactly in the position where they could help by sending me expressions of interest for jobs in my field. Or even any job, really. Which means that I’m going to be relying on Seek. Which is fine, I’m sure many people manage to get jobs through job sites. Or else the sites would no longer be active. Right? My biggest problem is that I might not get many places willing to do Skype interviews.

I’ve also recently had some fun determining how I’m going to continue getting Centrelink payments after uni is finished. To cut a long story short (perhaps I’ll get into the longer story one day) the Centrelink app was telling me to do something which it wouldn’t let me do, which apparently I didn’t need to do. Instead of sorting out to switch my payment over from Austudy to Newstart now, I simply have to wait until my Austudy expires, then make a claim for Newstart. At least hopefully that person was right, and I’m not going to have several weeks or months waiting for Centrelink to give me a payment.

So yeah, I’m not particularly confident about my future right now. But, for now, enough about me, and the void of uncertainty that I’m currently looking at. It’s my favourite holiday!

Not that I’m doing much for it. I have the aforementioned cauldron of sweets, should anyone appear at my door and utter the correct password. Otherwise, it has been and will continue to be, a relatively chill day for me. I have, however, seen some wonderful costumes today. There was an absolutely stunning Emily from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride when I went to buy my sugary treats earlier. Worm coming out of her eye and everything. There was also a lovely zombie there. I even saw a witch at the News Agent when I topped up on sugary liquid (vanilla coke) to get me through the day. Okay, so not that many, but all the ones I’ve seen were absolutely wonderful. Not to mention, I saw a Ravenclaw, and any Harry Potter costume will always manage to bring a smile to my face.

Now, costumes and trick or treating aren’t the only things that I have been excited for this spooky season, as those of you who read my first blog will no doubt know. Halloween events have abounded. I definitely enjoyed the Overwatch event while it was up. (Okay, so it’s still up for now. Technically. It will be down sometime tonight though, I believe).

The Mystery at Hogwarts app event, however, hasn’t really been inspiring me. I was right when I thought there would be one. Of course there would be one. The problem, in my mind, however, is that there were so many of them. I feel as though I can barely continue with the story line itself, lately, due to how many events they have had. Instead, I spend all of my time on the game just in lessons, earning whatever I need to at the time in a desperate attempt to obtain all of the limited edition pets and skins that they have on offer.

This isn’t necessarily possible for someone who sleeps, goes to university, (I can only imagine how a job would intervene) and isn’t willing to shell out money for the in-game premium currency which refills energy. At the moment, I am also particularly annoyed at the app developers who put a bunch of people against a bunch of other people for a single limited edition item. I can certainly understand the idea behind it, don’t get me wrong. However, the annoying thing is that some people who particularly care are bound to be grouped up with people who don’t, or even people who are no longer playing the game.

Okay, so maybe I’m just salty that I’ve been screwed over twice. I even did end up using gems to refill my energy a couple of times to try to get the exclusive spider pet. I didn’t bother with the cool goth skin, however, not when there was one person in my group of Slytherins who hadn’t earned a single house pride point. I’m rather disappointed in some of my fellow Slytherins right now, not going to lie. Most of my disappointment, however, is reserved for the developers who seem to just be happy with the money they’re getting from people desperate to get all of the exclusive items.

There have been some other games I play which have had Halloween events. Sadly, however, I haven’t been playing many of those games. Mostly due to a combination of university assignments, and my determination to collect all of the event exclusives in Overwatch. (Achievement successfully unlocked, by the way.)

So, this has been an update on October from your friendly neighbourhood book addict. Coming up next is November. The lovely month of NaNo. I would imagine anyone who is likely to read my blogs in this coming month should expect a lot of exhausted posts about writing. Or perhaps a continuation of the random blogs of whatever passes my mind at the time. Hope everyone who reads this (and, well, everyone who doesn’t as well, I’m not going to discriminate) has a happy Halloween. A truly wonderful Samhain for those of you who celebrate it in the Northern Hemisphere. And for those who celebrate such things in the Southern Hemisphere, happy Beltane.

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My Mental Health

So, I started writing this a bit later today than I originally intended to. Hopefully in the future I’ll be more on top of this, have blogs and Books books ready to go up regularly. Now, however, I am not that organised.

I already started writing the blog I intended to put up today earlier, unfortunately, I encountered the dreaded blue screen of death, and none of my work was saved. Thankfully, it was only a few hundred words, so it’s not as tragic a loss as some I have already suffered in the past.

Ultimately, the reason I ended up not posting anything last week, and why I didn’t start writing until later this evening (into this night, even… Okay, it just ticked over to morning), is due to my mental health. Those of you who know me, know that I am an open book. I am entirely unashamed to talk about things that other people might prefer to not talk about. Mental health and sexuality being among them. My sexuality may be a topic for a different blog. For now, however, my mental health.

I have been diagnosed with both depression and anxiety. Anyone out there who has experienced the same at any point in their life can understand me when I say how hard it is to live with this. Many of you will also be aware of how these illnesses aren’t just in the heads of those who are affected. My brain simply doesn’t produce the same chemicals that most peoples brains produce. No free serotonin for me. Similarly, my brain reacts to situations that are perfectly normal with a fight or flight response, pumping unnecessary adrenaline through my body. This is sadly a fact of life for me, just how my brain is wired. I will live with depression and anxiety throughout the rest of my life. Therapy and medication can help, though that’s really hardly an ideal way to live my life. For one thing, it can be expensive. For another, people can take it the wrong way when you say you have to take medication everyday just to exist in a way that some people could consider normal, or when you say you need to see a psychologist.

Living with depression can be very hard. Most days, when my alarm goes off, I just lay in bed with my eyes still closed, wondering if it’s even worth the effort of getting out of bed. Inevitably I do. Sometimes it just takes longer than others. On days when I have to go somewhere, or do something, I will sometimes feel compelled to get up because of this. Other times, however, even the necessity of getting up is unable to persuade me, and I feel overwhelmed by what I have to do. On these days I get out of bed, and don’t leave my house. Which is sadly how I exist most of the time when I don’t have to do anything or go anywhere. Chances are also quite high that if I don’t have to leave the house, I’m still in my pyjamas. (What can I say, they’re comfy! Particularly my onesies.)

I’m not exactly the most hygienic person, sadly. I don’t shower every day, although I know it would be good for me. I did, for a while, but then I just let the habit slip, and it’s really hard to get back into it. My room is quite messy (a kind of organised chaos most of the time, although sometimes it does delve into straight chaos) because I can rarely find the effort to clean it. When I do my washing, my clean clothes will sit in my hamper for a few days before I can be bothered to fold and put them away. Which inevitably means that my old clothes lie on the floor waiting for my hamper to be free. It’s a whole cycle that I go through.

My room isn’t the only thing that’s hard to clean. I am so lucky right now that I live with my amazing Grandad and that he’s able to put up with me. Because I know that I’d hardly be the best roommate. (One day I’ll probably get into a story about that, but today is not that day.) Sure, he might make pointed comments now and then about the fact that I don’t always do the dishes, or tidy up, or that I buy too many books, but he still puts up with it, and understand that things can be hard for me sometimes.

With the cleaning though, a lot of it isn’t just my depression. That’s one of the things where my anxiety kicks in hard. So, a story for another day can be summed up in that I used to live with a neat freak. Who would yell at me if I did even the slightest thing out of the way he thought was best. To this day, dishes are my worst enemy, due to how many times that would have started an argument. (The water I used wasn’t hot enough. I used too much soap. I used gloves which meant I couldn’t feel that while appearing clean, some of the dishes were still greasy… The list goes on, and repeats a fair bit.)

I also have anxiety catching public transport. To be fair, I’ve had a few bad experiences of falling off of public transportation. Including that one time, often told, when I broke both of my ankles (and dislocated one) while stepping off of a bus. I’m a clumsy person. Stepping down almost always gives me a miniature heart attack. Stairs are my absolute nemesis.

The small step to get off of public transport isn’t my only problem, however. I also have quite high social anxiety, and being around too many people can be incredibly draining. When I get on a bus or a train, I need to find a seat where I can sit by myself. I always feel uncomfortable when I sit next to someone I don’t know. It gets worse when there are more people, and during peak hour I find myself unable to even get on trains. They tend to be so full that I can hardly breathe.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m in my final semester of uni. Not just for the year, but potentially for life. It’s quite scary. And I want to do well. Or at least, I want to pass. I want to have it all over and done with. But I have to rely on other people because three out of four final assignments are all group assignments. Always the worst part of any uni coursework. I’ve got a couple of decent groups, but then I had another where the communication was miserable, and teammates contributions felt quite weak to me.

Last week, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with all of that, and with my fourth piece of assessment, which while an individual piece, was also quite upsetting to me as I had to miss the tutorial where I could have gotten any feedback on my work due to the fact that I had to be on set for another assessment that day. Sometimes things can be annoying like that. The fact that there were only three face to face tutorials in the entirety of that subject really annoyed and stressed me out, as well.

This wasn’t the only reason, of course. As mentioned previously in this very blog, I’m not exactly the most organised of people. My medication ran out on the Sunday. Due to various circumstances, I wasn’t able to get it filled until the Thursday. For quite a lot of last week I felt oddly woozy and not quite myself. It likely exasperated my stress to the nth degree. Even though I still feel quite stressed now, I don’t feel nearly as bad as I did last week.

Again, apologies for the late post, and the lack of post at all last week. Hopefully things will change looking in the future. Posts in November may also vary quite dramatically due to the wonderful and terrible thing called National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) which I shall be participating in as I have for the past four years.

Anyway, for now, good night!