Fiction Writing and Mental Health Stigmatisation

You’re crazy. Delusional. Mad. Insane. Nuts. Psychotic. Loony. Off your meds. Around the twist. Freak. Psycho. Weirdo. Schizo. Mental.

Other.

We like to think we’ve progressed as a society. In centuries past, humanity liked to just lock away anyone who deviated from the norm, preferring to pretend they didn’t exist. Insane asylums and travelling circuses were where you’d find the humans too “delusional” for regular society. The Nazis aimed to eradicate who they perceived as deplorable and below the rest of humanity, with Josef Mengele, among many in his rank, attempting to normalise eugenics and wipe out what they perceived as defective human beings.

Creative spheres are typically full of progressive people, and literary awards are chock-full of stories about struggle in the human condition, about overcoming adversity and beating the odds. BookTube, BookTok and all the other literature-focused parts of the internet, are always sharing books and entertainment that attempt to fix some of the frankly shocking portrayals of mental illness. In the last few decades, a wealth of literature has come out trying to help with the dismal public awareness of both physical and mental health. Far from the days of WWI vets hiding their PTSD in a locked box and suppressing their emotions, newer generations (millennials and Gen Z) are supposedly more open with mental health and mental illness, proudly proclaiming their diagnoses in their Twitter bios and claiming to be all about empathy and compassion.

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Are You Distracted?

Can you believe the pictures that exist on Pixabay? I promise I’m not distracting you…or maybe I am?

Everything is trying to take away our precious time.

The internet and social media. Family and friends. Dishes. Lunch. Bills. That delicious tub of boysenberry ice cream in the freezer. The book that just arrived in your mailbox. The books in your bookshelf, calling your name, begging Read me! Read me! in an insolently nasal accent. Work. Zoom sessions. Grocery shopping. Perusing the latest news that You Season 3 will be out in October and predicting what will happen on Twitter and Reddit and random messageboards and to the neighbourhood bin chicken. When our time is all we’ve got, what happens when we’ve got none left to spare?

Back in May, I blogged about our deteriorating ability to focus in the current attention economy. The attention economy being “the business model of keeping our eyes glued to the specific apps and sites maintained by those with vested interests who do not care about our health and wellbeing” is one of the many things in life distracting us from using our time the way we want to, in our best interests.

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On Recovering Your Deteriorating Ability to Focus in the Attention Economy

The attention economy is destroying our ability to read books.

Of course, books aren’t the only hobby being destroyed by our inability to focus. How many of you reading this have struggled to sit through a Netflix TV series or whatever of the bajillion streaming services are out there, and just sat there, without scrolling IMDb on your phone or switched between 10 tabs of Twitter and Reddit and Tumblr (for the six people who still use Tumbr) and even Yahoo Answers (rip in pieces)? Have you gone to watch that VERY important YouTube video about ‘This 1 thing will stop procrastination in its tracks’ or The Ultimate Blog Post on Neat Writing Tips to keep you inspired, then suddenly you’re reading the Wikipedia article about Thomas Mayne, the inventor of Milo, then you’re scrolling down the endless loop of 1800s crazy cat ladies posing with their cats on Reddit, and holy shit, where have all those hours gone? It’s 3am and you’ve got to get ready for the day in a couple hours, and you haven’t written a single word of your magnum opus or read a single page of everyone’s favourite book of the minute, Madeline Miller’s Circe, and instead you got stuck on the Wikipedia article about 1800s Shakespearean actors who are the godmother of pre-WWI European poets.

Say hello to the attention economy.

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Do Writers Really Need Twitter?

The short answer: No.

When you first become immersed with the online writer/author community, one of the first tidbits of advice doled out is, to invoke the ancient wisdom of the meme gods and a cringey dead meme, join ALL the social media. Make a Facebook page, and share links to your writer’s website specifically designed to look like every other early ’20 minimalist Squarespace clone in sight. Share aesthetic shots of your favourite, specially crafted book collection on Instagram. Try to appear hip with the Zoomer and Alpha kids on TikTok. Shill your book on Reddit but act like you’re not advertising and accidentally just stumbled upon this awesome book no-one else has ever heard of until now. But the one you’re told you have to join, to see what all the other writers and authors and BookTubers and book bloggers and creative minds are saying…is Twitter. And, while there are some positives to joining Twitter, the net result appears only to be worthless.

There are positives to Twitter. Authors and writers can meet with like-minded individuals; if they’re willing to sift through the authors who’ve relegated their social media presence to Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, it’s relatively simple to find folks for networking and compassion of the creative struggle. It’s easy to keep abreast of publishing trends in one convenient space, if you’re not savvy enough to have an RSS feed or too broke to subscribe to publishing magazines or too busy/overwhelmed to keep track of seventy different websites for specific different publishers and agents and other industry types. It’s nice to hear what your favourite author and friends in the biz are saying.

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There Are More Sexy Scam Emails in Your Area: Yet Another Spam Email Compilation

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If you’ve ever ventured beyond the main inbox of your personal or work email address, you will definitely have clicked on that fated Junk Email folder at least once in your life. Sometimes you don’t even need to escape to the dreaded subfolders to even witness scam emails: Some of them pop right up into your main inbox, undetected by the spam filters, likely even undetected by you amidst your 4,305 strong unread emails. If so, lucky you.

Millions of people around the world are fooled by scammers and spammers every single day. You’ve probably seen some sad story of a newly-single grandmother looking for love online and falling for a Nigerian Prince scam instead. What about John Podesta–he fell for the Russian scam emails that were going around back in 2015 and were clearly based off your Facebook statuses and Google searches? Likely even someone you personally know–or even more unfortunately, you, have fallen for one of these scams. Fortunately for you, I’ve decided to soften the blow of these awful, awful people, by joking about said junk emails, and critiquing them. If you’d like to see my previous critiques of scammers, you can start with You have pending blog posts scammer: An Introductory Guide to Spam Emails and its follow-up Responding to Spam Posts on a Post about Spam: A Hate Story. If you’re done with those, however, how about you come along with me as we mock spam emails together in Current Year 2018?!

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You Shouldn’t Be Judging Books By Their Movies

An anonymous person, commonly quoted as J.W, Eagan, told us you should never judge a book by its movie. They have to be right, don’t they? A terrible movie will probably be based off a great book! Books are beautiful precious things that can tell a story with only your imagination to keep it thriving. The book is always better than the movie! How can a movie, which involves like barely any effort, be the same as a novel? The film is barely ever faithful, removes important characters (Peeves the Poltergeist, and Madge from The Hunger Games are the most important characters ever!!), and adds useless subplots that f*** up the beauty and the imagination. Not to mention the actors never look like who I imagined! Grr!

Or not. Books don’t have anything that immediately make them greater than films or even video games. There’s bad books. I’ve read plenty of them in my time. I can’t stand most straight romances except a bunch of my mum’s ones from the ’80s (Little Sister, The Popularity Plan) and those from my trashy YA stage in early high school (South Beach). I still remember the awful books I read in high school: Bypass by Michael McGirr and Deadly, Unna by Phillip Gwynne, that almost turned me off reading for life. I got through Fifty Shades of Grey and seven chapters of Fifty Shades Darker. Those are not good books. The later, ghostwritten Vampire Diaries books make me weep for the future of fiction. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…well, let’s not go there. Books, by virtue of being books, aren’t necessarily the greatest things ever. The same for movie aficionados, and video game enthusiasts. There’s good and bad.

Should we be judging a book by its movie? Well, of course not. I think that speaks for itself. They’re completely different mediums, interpreted in different ways. See: The Shining by Stephen King, and The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Shocking revelation: I dislike both of them. In this case, Stephen King really loathes Kubrick’s interpretation of The Shining, as it’s completely different to what he wanted. I can’t be surprised: I don’t think I’ve found a single faithfully adapted Stephen King movie. Both have a completely different vibe, and that’s because it’s by two different people who have different visions for the story. The film of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, has a bit of an indie, hipster vibe about it, which the book doesn’t. Popular opinion says the Azkaban film is the greatest one, better than the book. Others like me, prefer the Christopher Columbus vibe of the first two, and wished there’d been a mixture between Columbus’s interpretation, and the forgettable dude who directed Goblet of Fire.

Adapting from a book to movie can be quite difficult. Making it as faithful to the book as possible is impossible, especially if it’s a long book like Harry Potter with a lot of plot. Except if you’re Stephen Chbosky. Alternatively, the Twilight Saga is like seventy-bajillion pages  with little to no plot, and the films still managed to miss crucial plot details. In spite of all this, I thought I should go ahead and tell you some of the greatest film adaptations and some of the shittiest ones. Because we all know there are great books and terrible books, just like there are amazing films and God-awful films:

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Responding to Spam Posts on a Post about Spam: A Hate Story

In a sense of irony almost too good to pass up, my blog post from March—You have pending blog posts scammer: An Introductory Guide to Spam Emails—received an absurd amount of spam comments trying to make it into the comments section.

It all started quite simply. I was mashing out words on the keyboard for my last blog post, a simple post reviewing the ridiculous number of movies I’ve watched this year. That’s when I noticed my email notifications.

I thought to myself, “Hmm, probably some people who have enjoyed my rousing reviews of…wait, who am I kidding myself?”

Then I saw the emails from WordPress:

The Adrian Mole-slash-Poopy Butthole part of my brain immediately thought:

Oo-wee! Is this what fame feels like?

Alas, it was not meant to be. That sense of irony intermingled with the ugly, rearing head of a cliche, and I realised they were simply…spammers. For a blog post about spammers. The sense of irony was almost too good to pass up, so I passed it up. Until today, where I’ve decided the best thing to do is critique these people.

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You Won’t Read This Blog Post

According to studies, around 60-80% of you never read past the headline. That’s right, this one included. Congrats if you read past the aptly titled You Won’t Read This Blog Post, ’cause you’re in the minority! You’re only slightly more common than the guesstimated 0.01% of people who read the iTunes terms and conditions, those poor, poor souls. I mean, I read the entire Copyright Act of 1968 once for a university assignment, and I don’t even do that.

So, um…hello, I guess? Wow, I actually only had enough content to fill out that one paragraph. Hey, well since you’re still reading this well into paragraph two, I guess you’re here for the long run. Sigh. I guess I’ll start with the article that I first thought of when looking into the topic of, well, Reading Past the Headline and Read[ing] This Blog Post. It was April Fools’ Day, and I was one of those fools that spent the day mindlessly scrolling down the mine of endless time-wasting, Facebook. That day in 2014, I switched between Facebook and Twitter and back to Facebook. Then a wild article caught my attention. These were the wild days in which I didn’t have AdBlocker and F.B Purity, so I immediately reacted—probably with rage or annoyance or something–when I saw this headline:

Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?

With imagined fury running through my veins, I read through the comments, as they, 100% of the time (unless comments are disabled) are a source of lolcowery, entertainment and humour. This one was predictable, with the obligatory slew of comments about millennials destroying society by partying with smashed avocado instead of buying houses; As a non-American, I knew ‘Muricans were always stupid; those “LOL Debbie this is so true” with attached Minions image; and more. The truth: I didn’t even click on the link until I read a comment that gave it all away. And I’m not the only one. You do it too.

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You have pending blog posts scammer: An Introductory Guide to Spam Emails

Just click here. Or at least type “Click here” into Google Images, like I did.

You can’t go a second on the internet these days without coming across scammers, spammers, clickbait and malvertisements. If you haven’t discovered browser plugins like Adblocker, or you simply just accidentally clicked on an ad on the sidebar of the website you’re perusing—you may have seen this side of the ‘net. Liking and reacting to meme and celebrity pages on Facebook leads to the same insidiousness. However, the most insidious of these are those that appear in your email’s Junk folder. You may just think it’s full of Nigerian scammers asking for you to wire them money or “pharmacists” as fake as YourMexicanDoctor.com from Grand Theft Auto, but the junk folder is a minefield of entertainment. Granted you don’t click on any of their links!

A few years ago, I used to visit a site called SlushpileHell that critiqued terrible query letters to literary agents. The anonymous literary agent made snarky analyses and comments about the various aspiring authors and their entertaining, cringeworthy manuscripts. While the site has been inactive for a few years, I thought I would emulate the style of SlushpileHell by critiquing a few of the—what else can I say?—humorous junk emails that I receive.

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The Downfall of the Modern Media

I was scrolling down my WordPress reader recently when I came across this YouTube video that appeared in The Conversation Room‘s blog post and it got me thinking about the state of the modern media, especially in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration last month. Of course, Trump’s election win wasn’t the beginning, not even the catalyst, but it definitely awakened the truth to many people about the modern media. Far from the days of the eccentric, mostly honest, trenchcoat-wearing journalists of old, chewing on tobacco, and waiting for that early-morning call of “Extra, extra, read all about it!” from some overeager young boy—21st century media is a shadow of its former self, excuse the cliche.

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