The Next Step

As I said in my previous post, “I Started with This!”, part of my homework from the fantastic podcast “Start With This” (see what I did there?) is to post what you created in your first week to whatever medium it is that you use. I am getting a bit creative with this one. What I wrote for that first assignment was the first few pages of a novel I’ve been trying to work on for about a year. It is nowhere near ready to publish anywhere, even in its roughest form, as a whole bunch of my characters don’t have names yet and are differentiated by >Character 1<, >Character 2<, etc.

Instead, I thought I would post my very first story from Furious Fiction. This is rough. And I broke the cardinal rule of short stories. The story should be complete on its own. My story definitely reads like a prologue to something. But still. I wrote it, I finished it, and I met a deadline. So now, I post it. I sincerely hope you enjoy it, but this is not the point of my posting the story. The point is to see something all the way through to the end.

I have not edited this story in anyway. What you read below is exactly what I submitted back in April for this competition. Be kind, please! 🙂

I set up my stall in the mouth of the cleanest alley I could find, off the main road. Very few puddles, no open bags of waste, and an almost graffiti-free brick wall behind me, blocking any nasty surprises. I snapped my table in place and smoothed my lavender cloth over the top. Pastels had fallen out of fashion in the years after the infection; they were too hard to keep clean. But now, when people saw the immaculate pale pigments of my stall, they felt safe. Clean meant disease free. The best quality of any illicit baked goods.

I tugged my apron back into place. I had copied the housewives of the 1950s; full skirt, kitten heels, and a sweetheart apron complete with ribbon ties and ruffled trim. Looking like an idealised version of the past helped remind people of the good things of the past. Things I was hoping to sell them.

Once happy with my stall, I unloaded the treats from my car (which was parked behind one of the skip bins, keeping my scene intact). Muffins, cupcakes, doughnuts, croissants, danishes, cookies, brownies, blondies, tarts, and pies; all housed under graceful glass domes. Not even I was crazy enough to leave food uncovered for too long. I sank onto my white-washed stool, straightened my skirt, and waited.

My usual customers trickled by. They slid my pink cards across the table to me. Only customers who returned more than twice ever received one. Customers gushed over the real lemon in my tiny lemon meringue tarts and savoured the cherries on top of my cupcakes. They all left with surreptitious paper bags and smiles on their faces.

Patrols crossed the opening of the alley a few times and whenever I saw them, my heart stopped. Discovery meant jail time. But the only patrols who approached the stall were ones I had already sweet-talked with conversation and free carbs. My patrols always helped keep the unfriendly patrols away. It wasn’t a guarantee of safety, but it was something.

As the sun set, and a cool breeze curled itself around my ankles, I began to pack down. It had been a rewarding day. Half a dozen new regulars, some large orders, and very few remaining desserts. While I started moving the empty domes to my car, I heard a splash behind me.

The man wore a high collared jacket over fitted black pants, which had been tucked into intimidating black boots. An icon had been stitched over his heart, reminiscent of a peace sign. Not the sign of a regular patrol.

He placed one of my cards onto the table between us, along with a plastic sleeve of actual banknotes. I hadn’t seen those in years.

“We require your services.”
I stared, dumbfounded, at the money. There were so many questions buzzing in my head that I felt as though I were vibrating.
“Who are you?” I finally managed.
“I’m with the government. Please, ma’am, we need your help.”

 

 

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I Started with This!

Double spread open blank pages in a journal with a pen above viewed from above on a wooden desk, with copy space

Through a series of strange and wonderful events (including, but not limited to, a quarter-life crisis and a global pandemic; neither of which fell into the latter category), I find myself working part-time and not studying this year. So I find myself having this odd thing called free time. And not in the sense that I had free-time in between semesters; that was my recuperating time where I did all the nothing I never had a chance to do during semester. A lot of Netflix gets watched and books get read in my recuperating time.

No. When I say “free time”, I mean that I now have the chance to explore hobbies. And not just baking (though I am getting a lot more opportunities to do that!). I’m finally doing two things I haven’t had the mental capacity to do for a long time: re-learning Italian (Ciao a tutti!) and writing.

If you have followed my blog for a long time (which, if you’re still subscribed after all these years of nothing, I sincerely thank you), you might remember my posting a few pieces of my writing from time to time. Unfortunately, when I began studying psychology, I lost all my creative drive. Any time I looked at a blank Word document, I had anxiety flashbacks of essays and literature reviews and studies and reports that I had had to reference and style in the merciless APA formatting. My brain refused to co-operate and allow me to write anything for fun.

But now my brain has some breathing room and it is ready to start being creative again.

This post has two parts. The first is just a few resources I used to start strengthening my writing muscles again. The second, which I will post separately to spare you, is the very first piece of writing I did with my newfound creativity. It is nowhere near the level of my writing a few years ago, when writing was almost a habit, but it was a start.

During my second last semester at university, I undertook a “Genre Fiction” elective, taught by someone who used to work at the Queensland Writers Centre. That gentleman gave such helpful feedback and tips that I thought the QWC would be the best place to start. So I had a look at some of their online courses. It was there that I found the “Kickstart Your Writing” course. This was just something to reconnect some of the neurons that allow me to get into the writing zone in the first place. The exercises aren’t too time consuming and they really do help. Especially one that has helped me really shape a novel idea I’ve had for a really long time, but couldn’t pull together into anything cohesive. Just a warning: the course does cost $19AUD. If you can afford it, I definitely do recommend this course.

The next thing that has helped me to start writing again is a monthly competition hosted by the Australian Writers’ Centre called “Furious Fiction”. A friend of mine actually asked me to help edit her entry for the March competition of this, which is how I found out about it in the first place. Essentially, Furious Fiction spans across the first weekend of each month. It starts on the Friday evening and runs until 11:59pm of the following Sunday. Only 55 hours and 500 words. With prompts. And the potential to win $500AUD.
This was a brilliant discovery. Not only are you given ideas to write about, but also no time to second guess yourself. You write, you edit a few times, you submit. Done, dusted. I’ve now submitted three times to this competition. I’m yet to be long OR short listed, but this is totally not the point. I treat this competition as a writing exercise and it really, truly helps. For anyone interested who might not be an Aussie, this competition is open internationally. I think an American won a few months ago! Plus, free to enter!

Another competition, held by the Queensland Writers Centre, is called “Right Left Write”. This competition is a little more involved. In order to receive the prompt each month, you need to be subscribed to the QWC e-newsletter “Pen & Pixel”. This might feel like a trap, but it’s actually wonderful. The newsletter is filled with tips, other competitions, and the achievements of members. I really enjoy receiving this newsletter each week.
Right Left Write is also a monthly competition, and the word count is also 500 words. But you get the whole month to come up with a story. It’s a little more high stakes (no prize money, I mean quality wise) as you have more time to hone your piece, but it is wonderful. The prompts are quite short and are either a theme or a word/phrase that needs to be incorporated into the story. This is another that I have completed over the past few months. Again, I have not yet been long or short listed, but I adore the ability to practice coming up with new ideas. I can get so stuck in my head about this one idea that I need to finish, that I don’t allow myself to just write. And that can be dangerous. Constant writing is needed to find your voice and strengthen your prose. Having these competitions has truly helped. Another PSA: this competition costs $5AUD to enter if you are not a member of the QWC.

Finally, another vital resource has been the Night Vale presents podcast “Start With This”. The tagline of this podcast says it all: Unsure where to begin? Start with this. This podcast is hosted by the creators of the hilariously horrific Welcome to Night Vale, Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink. “Start With This” is aimed at podcasters, but the exercises help anyone wanting to work creatively. At the end of each episode, Joseph and Jeffrey give you homework: something to consume (creatively) and something to actually do. The very first one? Just write for an hour, either in a concentrated session of split up into shorter sessions over the course of a week. And then post whatever it is you’ve written.

All of these things have helped me to get back into writing, something I have loved doing since I was about nine years old, when I wrote, illustrated, and published (read: stapled together and covered in clear contact) my very first novel. It feels so good to be doing this again. So good, that I wanted to share these resources with anyone who feels they might need them.

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“Charming” by Elliott James (Pax Arcana #1)

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Charming has been on my TBR pile for years. I think it’s safe to assume a minimum of five years. Potentially, the main reason is my commitment phobia for new series, whether it’s books or TV shows. The series, Pax Arcana, totals five novels and multiple novellas. What if I liked the book? Then I would be committed for the rest of the series. And, for whatever reason, the idea of that terrified me.

If I’m being honest it’s most likely because I’m running out of space on my bookshelves.

So a small part of me was hoping that I wouldn’t like Charming. Just to escape being sucked in.

Oh, boy, was I wrong. I loved this book. Which was such a refreshing change of pace after Deadly Hemlock

The premise of Charming is brilliant, which is why I have it in the first place. “What if there wasn’t just one Prince Charming, but a whole family line?”. John Charming, the narrator, is the latest Charming, sworn to protect the Pax Arcana, the thing that keeps all things supernatural hidden from regular people. 

The plot is quite complex, so I don’t really want to reduce it down here. But what you need to know is that John is being “hunted” by the Knights Templar for a **massive spoiler reason**. But, while John is trying to avoid the Knights, he gets sucked into the hunt for a new vampire queen and her twisted plans for the town of Clayburg.

This book is like Supernatural. But with the main character starting out with powers, rather than having a whole bunch of stuff happen to him. Charming is also like Supernatural in that the main character is one of my favourite types of characters: the rough diamond. The badass with a heart of gold. I love this type of character because it allows for so much flexibility. James often demonstrates John’s heart of gold through his actions, but has John’s inner monologue be snarky and sarcastic. It’s beautifully balanced.

Similar to Supernatural, all mythologies seem to be represented, not just the fantasy staples. I also sense a bit of a “monster of the week” vibe, where each book might involve a different “hunt”, but the main character’s journey happens in among these hunts. I am definitely here for it.

I think what impressed me most about Charming were the fight scenes. Often, I have trouble visualising fights in novels. They’re either too vague or too detailed to really help my imagination translate the words to images. I usually just end up reading the words with my brain visualising a fight scene from whichever action show/movie I’d scene most recently. But James actually somehow managed to keep John’s voice steady through each fight scene, while also having vivid details and procedural exposition. Such a tightrope to balance on.

I am pretty excited for the rest of the series to arrive. I really want to see which mythologies will be explored next time!

★★★★

 

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“Deadly Hemlock” by Kathleen Peacock

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Hello again blogosphere!

I haven’t forgotten you! Although, given that my last post was in February, two years ago, I forgive you for thinking I had.

So what happened over the past two years? I decided to completely fill up my time with work and study and almost nothing else. In those two years, I learned my limits (emotionally and mentally), I baked so I could cope, and I read a whole lot of books that I just didn’t review. 

Over the past few months, I’ve been itching to get back in to reviewing. I’ve been posting longer and more detailed reviews on GoodReads for weeks now and have been promising myself that I would get back into this. But, apparently, even during a global pandemic, I didn’t quite have the time. 

But still, I promised myself that I would get back into things eventually. I was waiting for the right book.

And oh boy, was Deadly Hemlock the right book. I have so many feelings about this, that I decided to spare GoodReads. I’ll pare down my thoughts for that platform. But here? I’m so sorry, but now you get to experience my complete and unadulterated opinion on the first novel in the Hemlock trilogy.

Before you ask…no. I will not be reading the remaining two novels. 

Don’t get me wrong, the plot was great. I loved it. Lupine Syndrome, or a disease that infects people and turns them into werewolves, has been confirmed by the US Government. People with LS are less than human in the eyes of the law. They don’t share the same rights and privileges as “regs”, or humans. And so anyone infected gets taken away to internment camps so they cannot infect anyone else. Standard fantasy rules apply: infection occurs through bites or scratches.
A group called the Trackers, an offshoot of your stock-standard white supremacy groups, makes targeting people with LS their main priority and makes it their mission to ensure all of these people are locked up. Even if not everyone with LS is actually dangerous. Prejudice at its finest.

In this world we meet Mac. And her best friend, Amy, was killed by a werewolf. Instead of working with the Trackers to find Amy’s killer, Mac decides to investigate alone. And what she finds makes her question everything she knows about her best friend’s death.

….

This sounds amazing, right? Like, based on what I said above, how could you not what to find out more about this world? Werewolves confirmed by official organisations? Vigilante bigots hunting them down? The idea of “good” werewolves? And a murder mystery? Sign me up!

But I have to burst your bubble. Although the plot is delicious, the story falls flat and this has everything to do with the main character. Our narrator. There are plot issues I will get into as well, but the narrator is the biggest issue.

People who grew up in the time of Twilight would be familiar with the character Bella Swan. It is widely accepted that she was written as blandly as possible so that female readers could insert themselves into Meyer’s story and be vicariously wooed by sparkly Edward. 
Mac is written the same way. I tried so hard to find her personality in this story, but I came up short. It seems as though Mackenzie’s entire personality is derived from her terrible upbringing. That is all we get. This gets mentioned every once in a while to explain why Mac is doing something in a scene.
In every interaction Mac is in, she seems to just exist to move the plot along. I honestly do not believe that her character influenced the story at all. However, her character is needed because she is somehow important to two of the other main characters: Kyle, her current love interest; and Jason, the boyfriend of her horrifically murdered best friend.
Apparently, both of these young men are madly in love with her. But for the life of me, I could not figure out why. Mac is described as tough (usually in dialogue, or internal monologue), but I did not get that impression at all. She stared down a few people who tried to intimidate her, and she took a few swings at some thugs (lupine and human), but all in all she was your archetypal damsel-in-distress character. Whenever she got into trouble, deus ex machina intervened and someone was always there to save her. Also, for someone who tells her reader that she hates anybody seeing her cry, she sure does a lot of public crying.
I don’t condemn characters crying at all. It is a legitimate response to stressful situations. But in every other scene, Mac started bawling her eyes out. After the twelfth time, it all felt a bit samey. Yes, her best friend was murdered; yes, she has been having horrific nightmares; yes, she gets brutally attacked by both Trackers and werewolves several times. But, could she not have reacted another way? Hell, even Bella stopped crying after Edward left and started doing weird shit like jumping off cliffs and speeding around on motorbikes.

I feel as though the rest of the cast of characters fared a lot better in their character development. Even Kyle, who is the lovable good guy in the love triangle. Jason, of course, is the troubled bad boy with a heart of gold. Yes, we had stereotypes, but the rest of the characters actually felt as though they had some depth to them. Mackenzie felt like a paper doll.

Now, for the plot. The only reason I kept reading was the murder mystery. And the whole idea of werewolves becoming a political issue. But the murder mystery felt very, very half-assed. At a point about halfway through the book, we discover that Mac had compiled a whole bunch of information about werewolves. It just appears. And it’s at this time that she asks Jason, who is the son of an incredibly influential man in town, for the police report on Amy’s death. And she gets it. There’s really no complication in this. Jason refuses at first, and then gives in a few pages later and hands it over.
In that file is a post-it with the name of the initial investigating officer.
Mac and Kyle eventually visit this guy who explains that “half the file is missing” and advises that there was some interesting details in the autopsy report that were omitted. They don’t ever find this autopsy report, they just take this guy’s word for it.
The next piece of evidence? A receipt found in a borrowed jacket. And this apparently is enough to break the case and make Mac the focus of a huge Tracker manhunt.

I mean…REALLY?

I did enjoy finding out who the real killer was (I had my suspicions, but I didn’t get it 100% right). But this half-assed mystery really annoyed me. We got a ridiculous fight between Mac and Kyle’s ex-girlfriend that spanned multiple pages and barely moved the plot, and yet a crumpled piece of paper Mac found by accident was essentially just a paragraph.

Finally, i just need to point out that, at one point in the book the author uses the word “mutter-asked”. This has bugged me since I read it. The “-asked” did not need to be there. “Muttered” would have been fine. 

So, to sum up, this novel promises a fantastic plot, with real intrigue and depth. But what we get is the worst kind of YA, with a nothing narrator and a barely-there mystery. And a hackneyed love triangle that honestly makes zero sense.


I have never read a book I didn’t absolutely adore this quickly. In hindsight, I think I wanted to get to the end so that I could be done with this whole affair.

★★

 

 

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Emerging from the land of myths and legends

Hello blogosphere,

I bet you thought I’d forgotten you. Nope, not even close. The thing is, I have been reading nothing but Rick Riordan since July of last year. I journeyed with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, met Roman demigods in The Heroes of Olympus, got introduced to Egyptian magic in The Kane Chronicles, visited Valhalla in The Magnus Chase series, and met Apollo in his mortal form in The Trials of Apollo. I have not stepped out of the realm of mythology in six months. Though, technically, I am still in the mythological realm as I have just started reading Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris. Hello again, Norse mythology!

The reason I haven’t written in so long is that I would be writing the same things over and over for every series. Every book in every series. So i figured I would wait until I completed my Riordan marathon before writing about what I have observed.
Last semester was also relatively trying. It was a cold, hard slog. And that’s saying something for a Queensland summer. I essentially shut myself off from everything but assignments and Netflix. I wanted a break from typing on my laptop, just for a while.

But I’m back now, so let’s get stuck in.

First and foremost, I just want to say that Riordan may be the most inclusive author I have ever met. In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, all of our protagonists have ADHD and dyslexia. These are two attributes that don’t often surface in YA. At least, not in the YA I’ve read previously. In The Heroes of Olympus, our cast is completely multicultural. And we meet our first gay character of the series, which I adored. Though I wish the reveal wasn’t as shocking to me as it was. But that’s heteronormativity at work for you. I am working on that. The Kane Chronicles  was made up of a cast of people who all descended from Egypt. The re were very few Caucasian characters. Protagonists, antagonists, bit players very few of them were white.
But I think my favourite cast of characters was in The Magnus Chase series. Our main character starts off homeless. In our main band of heroes we have a devout Muslim Valkyrie, a deaf elf who speaks in sign language, and in book two we are introduced to the very first transgender character I have ever read. This was so unbelievably amazing to me. There were so many different kinds of people represented in this series that my insides did many, many happy dances throughout the journey. This is YA at its finest. It was unbelievably satisfying.

Riordan is also exceptional with his characters. There are so many of them in his universe that it can be hard to keep track. But once you sit down and really pay attention, you see just how nuanced all of his characters actually are. This was particularly noticeable in The Kane Chronicles as both Carter and Sadie were narrators throughout the story. Their voices were very similar but there were very subtle variations in tone and turns of phrase that helped to identify brother from sister. Sadie’s phrases had the slight plummy tone that I associate with British narrators and Carter;s showed his unusual upbringing through his more mature turn of phrase, given that his only constant company for so long was his father.

One of my housemates also reads Rick Riordan and we had a brief discussion about the use of humour in these books. We found a lot of similarities between the narrative voice in Percy Jackson and the voice in Magnus Chase. However, I posit that there is a subtle difference that makes these voices unique. This difference is also rooted in characterisation. Magnus has had a hard life, living on the streets after his mother died with no family to care for him. Well, beyond the family he made for himself on said streets. he uses humour as a defense mechanism. In horrific situations, Magnus would always make some kind of joke or humourous observation. He needed to not let on how scared he was because scared is weakness on the streets. And the weak do not survive.
With Percy, though, his humour is not quite as abrasive, for lack of a better word. he has also been labelled a trouble maker, because of a mixutre of his ADHD, dyslexia, and his natural ability to attract any monster in a fifty kilometre radius. His humour humanises him. His is more of a “yes, all these scary things are happening around me but see? I’m a nice guy, I promise!”. Percy’s humour makes him more relatable whereas I always felt Magnus’ made him harder to understand. It is subtle, but it’s brilliant.

The pattern of every book is very, very similar. I think I only really noticed it because I read all of the books in sequence. These books follow the same pattern as the old myths and legends. The prophecy that kicks off the adventure, the time limit imposed by an all-powerful entity (Oracle, god, goddess, etc), and the overarching mission that keeps getting more and more convoluted as the heroes have to help this god, or this giant, or this mini-nemesis, in order to gain their assistance for the next part of the quest. These books read this the old ones, just with iPhones and denim, rather than papyrus and robes. It did become repetitive, but the structure was necessary. Riordan was writing new myths. But that doesn’t mean doing away with everything from the originals.

I could keep going, I want to keep going, but at just shy of a thousand words, I think I’d better stop.

I just want to say two final things:

  1. Rick Riordan is a fantastic author and you all should read at least one of his series. And
  2. It is good to be back.
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“Lord of Shadows” by Cassandra Clare

20170706_0624591.jpgHello, blogosphere!

It has been a long time since I’ve been here. Last semester completely wiped me out and it was one of the most stressful three month periods that I have endured in a while. When I wasn’t working or studying, I was sleeping. So, unfortunately, my blogging fell by the wayside. Since my last post, I have read all of the P.C. Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. That series is fantastic and shows a side to police work that we don’t often seen: the banality of it. So much paperwork.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. I have just finished Lord of Shadows and I need to talk about it.

Because I didn’t like it.

I actually found Lord of Shadows a struggle. Why? In two words: fan service.
Fan service is something I usually don’t pick up on. According to my friends, there was a whole lot of fan service going on in the last two seasons of Sherlock, but I couldn’t see it. “Sign of Three” remains one of my favourite episodes to this day. But in Lord of Shadows the fan service was everywhere. You couldn’t turn too many pages without some kind of reference to fan favourites Alec, Magnus, Jace, or Clary. Clare even threw in Tessa and Jem for good measure. Narratively, it always made sense why these characters were in Los Angeles with the Blackthorns, or in London with the Blackthorns, but the reasons were very flimsy.
Most importantly, though, was the fact that Clare seemed to place a lot more importance on the appearance of old characters rather than developing the new ones. Essentially, the two main characters, Emma and Julian, were thinly veiled rehashings of Jace Herondale and Will Herondale respectively. And I am mad about it. One of the reasons I loved Clare was her ability to create vivid characters, but these guys were not those characters. In fact, most characters were placeholders for the plot. And that pissed me off because Clare was always so good at creating unforgettable characters who leapt off the page. But, because Clare was so focused on making sure we knew that the old crew was around, her new characters suffered. And there was so much room for these characters to be just as magnificent as those of the previous series. It just seemed that Clare did not have faith in them.

Lord of Shadows was a story made up of fan service with a bunch of angsty love scenes thrown in, and a very small serving of an actual plot. The plot almost seemed to get in the way of Julian and Emma’s pining for each other, of Mark, Christina, and Kieran’s love triangle thing. Plus, why was it necessary to have the Blackthorn’s tutor Diana go on a date with Gwyn of the Wild Hunt? That did nothing for the story at all. And actually didn’t overly make sense. Not when the Cold Peace expressly forbade contact with fey. Diana just went. There was no debating the decision or even a glimpse into why Diana may have felt so comfortable breaking the law for a first date. It was this weird thing that we were just supposed to accept.
None of the story flowed together. It was a mess. Pacing and structure were all over the place. And dear Lord, the descriptions. When Clare was talking about Emma and Julian’s relationship everything was so unbelievably repetitive. Actually all love scenes (not sex, but when love was the primary focus) seemed to have a similarity to them. Which not only pissed me off because it’s lazy writing, but because all love is different and so should be represented as such.

What this all boils down to is a problem I have with a lot of mainstream authors; once the author gets famous enough and starts earning their publishing house lots of money, the editors seem to cower in fear of these authors. They stop with the constructive criticism and let the authors do as they please. But when this happens, the story suffers. When authors think they can do no wrong, that is when they need their editors the most. In the case of Lord of Shadows, I feel like an editor would have tightened up the story, gotten rid of some of the goddamn angst, and maybe helped the flow of the plot.

I’m going to stop here, because I feel like I could rant for ages and ages about how much this book let me down. And how I am now scared to go back and read The Infernal Devices for fear that there may be a whole lot of fan service that I missed.

I think I judged this book so harshly because Clare was an author I’ve loved for years and now she’s resting on her laurels by banking on our love of her previous books. That’s not how this works, Clare. We don’t have to continually love these books because we loved the old ones. Especially when this is the second book in a trilogy and we still don’t really know your new characters.

★★

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#LoveMe – Passion

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  1. Why are you doing #LoveMe?
  2. A photo of you
  3. A word that describes you
  4. A person who loves you
  5. A note to the past you
  6. A note to the future you
  7. One thing that’s just for you
  8. Share a scar
  9. Share something beautiful
  10. Share a secret
  11. Share a smile
  12. Share a flaw
  13. Share a quote
  14. Share a fear you overcame
  15. Something you have done right
  16. Something you like about yourself 
  17. Something that feeds your soul
  18. Something that feeds your brain
  19. Something you feel strongly about
  20. Something you love to wear
  21. Something you are proud of
  22. What makes you unique?
  23. What is your best feature?
  24. What makes you happy?
  25. What makes you laugh?
  26. What makes you feel beautiful?
  27. What have you accepted about yourself?
  28. What have you learned from doing #LoveMe these past twenty-eight days?

DISCLAIMER: THIS GETS A LITTLE POLITICAL. I AM ALWAYS WILLING TO HAVE RESPECTFUL DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THINGS, BUT ABSOLUTELY NO HATE. PLEASE.

Something I feel strongly about. Something I feel strongly about…

How much time have you got?

There are so many things about which I feel strongly. Each with differing levels of importance in the world around me. How do I choose just one?

I think most everything that I feel strongly about comes from one of my most fundamental beliefs:

Be Kind.

Our world has always been unfriendly, but it has become toxic. One of the bigger super powers in our world has elected a misogynistic bigot to power who is making it hard for people who aren’t white, straight, cis, or male to get anywhere. A man who has boasted about keeping out Mexicans and about grabbing women by their pussies is now in control of a country that influences so much of our popular culture. This is terrifying. It has become indirectly mainstream, because of this man, to be intolerant. His ridiculous statements have become commonplace and it is imperative now, more than ever, to remember that we are all the same. Race, gender, sexuality, religion do not matter unless they inflict pain on other people. And with so many politicians making policies that degrade people who are in any way different to the norm (also, who dictates this “norm” anyways?), it is now that we need to be as open-minded as we can be. As compassionate and warm as we have ever been.

There is an inordinate amount of truth in the statement Love Trumps Hate. We can absolutely trump the hate-and-fearmongering happening in our world at the moment. All we need to do is be kind.

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#LoveMe – brain food

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  1. Why are you doing #LoveMe?
  2. A photo of you
  3. A word that describes you
  4. A person who loves you
  5. A note to the past you
  6. A note to the future you
  7. One thing that’s just for you
  8. Share a scar
  9. Share something beautiful
  10. Share a secret
  11. Share a smile
  12. Share a flaw
  13. Share a quote
  14. Share a fear you overcame
  15. Something you have done right
  16. Something you like about yourself 
  17. Something that feeds your soul
  18. Something that feeds your brain
  19. Something you feel strongly about
  20. Something you love to wear
  21. Something you are proud of
  22. What makes you unique?
  23. What is your best feature?
  24. What makes you happy?
  25. What makes you laugh?
  26. What makes you feel beautiful?
  27. What have you accepted about yourself?
  28. What have you learned from doing #LoveMe these past twenty-eight days?

This is also kind of an easy one, much like yesterday’s. What feeds my brain is my studies. As much as I whinge and moan about my lack of spare time during semester (soon to be trimester, hopefully!), about not having time to do the things I want to do, I love my degree. I love learning about human nature and how people think. I also love seeing the ways in which I may be able to help people one day. There’s a reason why I haven’t dropped out yet. I earn a decent living doing what I do, and I do love it, but even though it can be challenging sometimes, I am not exactly stimulated by my work. I will be if I can build a career in psychology.

I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to help fight the stigma of mental health issues and the seeking of help for those issues. And in order to do that, I need to feed my brain up enough so that it is strong enough, and filled with knowledge enough, to be able to do the best work that I can.

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#LoveMe – what feeds your soul?

header-image-for-loveme

  1. Why are you doing #LoveMe?
  2. A photo of you
  3. A word that describes you
  4. A person who loves you
  5. A note to the past you
  6. A note to the future you
  7. One thing that’s just for you
  8. Share a scar
  9. Share something beautiful
  10. Share a secret
  11. Share a smile
  12. Share a flaw
  13. Share a quote
  14. Share a fear you overcame
  15. Something you have done right
  16. Something you like about yourself 
  17. Something that feeds your soul
  18. Something that feeds your brain
  19. Something you feel strongly about
  20. Something you love to wear
  21. Something you are proud of
  22. What makes you unique?
  23. What is your best feature?
  24. What makes you happy?
  25. What makes you laugh?
  26. What makes you feel beautiful?
  27. What have you accepted about yourself?
  28. What have you learned from doing #LoveMe these past twenty-eight days?

Surprising absolutely no one, the answer to this question is books. Books have always fed my soul .Ever since my mother bought me the first Harry Potter book, I have been in love with the world of words. I think being able to see the world through the eyes of someone else; through the eyes of someone who doesn’t live in our world, lets us see reality in new ways. Even if we don’t think the books we read have an effect, they all show themselves in someway.

I’ve honestly always felt that people who read are generally (emphasis on generally. I am generalising) more open-minded than those who don’t. People who read have already walked, metaphorically of course, in thousands of different people’s shoes. We’re already aware of people other than ourselves because we have lived so many fictional lives.

Books, to me, are pure magic. There is no other art form as all-consuming as books.

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“The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

I am ashamed of how long it took me to read this book. I never realised how much I needed my lunch hours and time before bed to get my reading done. This actually having lovely people to talk to at work and having to go to bed early for said work is really eating into my book time! Ah well, the things we do.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware of the BBC reincarnation of Conan Doyle’s infamous crime solving duo, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll be aware that I am a huge fangirl for this show. As such, I’ve been slowly buying up the BBC reissues of the famous stories. I have over half of the collections now I do believe which is very exciting.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes finally introduces some of the big names of canon to whom we are introduced very quickly in Sherlock: Mycroft Holmes and James Moriarty. The banter between Mycroft and Sherlock in “The Greek Interpreter” was beyond beautiful. It was exactly that scene where Cumberbatch and Gatiss decode the ugly hat in S03E01, “The Empty Hearse”. It’s been a while since I’ve read dialogue this delicious.

And finally meeting the original Moriarty? Forget about it. Creepy, genius, evil as all get out? Check, check, check. What is amazing is how much of the original dialogue Moffat and Gatiss actually used in the exchanges between Sherlock and Moriarty in their version of the stories. It made me so happy to make this discovery.

Guess what else made an appearance! Go on, guess!

The Persian slipper in which Sherlock keeps his tobacco! And the knife he uses to keep his letters nailed down. And the shooting of the wall in 221B! Every time I read these stories, I feel more respect for the BBC showrunners, while also gaining more and more insight into the original canon.

Something that does frustrate me, though, is how absent Mary is in the original stories. Her character is such a badass in Sherlock that it never occurred to me that she would simply be a background character after her appearance in The Sign of FourI suppose it’s a symptom of the times, that female characters were overlooked, but it doesn’t make it sting any less. Though, really, without that gap in Mary’s character back then, we wouldn’t have the fantastic Mary Morstan we know and love today.

You’ll have noticed that this wasn’t a review so much as a recount. To reiterate, for those who are unfamiliar with this blog:
1. I do not review classics. I am far, far below the calibre of reviewer necessary to critically analyse works that have stood for centuries and;
2. I do not review books I am emotionally attached to. I’ll talk about them, maybe even mention flaws, but I am far too positively biased towards some books to give an unbiased opinion.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a must for any Sherlock fan. This is where so many of the exciting things happen: meeting Mycroft, Moriarty, and the Reichenbach Falls. I implore you to read this, because it is an amazing compendium of stories.
If you don’t like Sherlock Holmes, it is still wonderful to see how people solved crimes before DNA testing and fingerprint dust.

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