Entries in art (3)


Depression, Life and Art

I have neglected this blog right along with almost everything else in my life for a couple of months now, in large part due to being utterly busy and also because of depression. I'm sure people who don't have to muddle through the dark cloud of depression would have been able to get through my days with more time for a blog (and a lot of other things). But this is my reality, and I have to cope with it in what ever way works.

I've learned over the years that when depression starts to weigh me down, I have to cut away obligations until I can get my head above the surface again. And this blog is definitely expendable.

It didn't help that I just didn't have anything to say. The books I've read the last little while have all been the children's books I read to my daughter, or an epic re-read of the Murderbot diaries, which helped me through last week's epic low point.

In the last two months, I've mostly just struggled to exist, to pass the time until the seasons warm up again and the days get longer and I know I'll feel better. I bought a SAD lamp, though so far it doesn't seem to be doing much. I'm going to therapy regularly. I'm trying to engage in only the things that bring me joy.

I did NaNoWriMo again, as an ML again, and it's one of the things that brings me joy, even if it was a little stressful this year trying to keep on top of all the events plus my writing when I was struggling through physical and mental illness. I had this low-grade but draining cold for most of a month. By the time I shook it, the SAD had settled in for the long haul.

It's still hard most days, even days like today where the sun is shining and it's a little warmer. I haven't done any writing since NaNoWriMo ended. I've been doing some research for my current project. I've done some revisions and sent more of my writing to publishers and agents. But no actual writing yet. I just don't have the spoons for it right now.

I've weathered this before. I just need to do my best to hibernate. To surround myself with the people and things that bring me joy and fulfillment. Sometimes that means writing difficult letters to politicians. Sometimes that means binge-reading my favourite series. Sometimes it means going back to bed.

I fight the good fight when I have the energy, and I do my best to recover when I don't. This is winter for me and I've learned to accept it.

One thing that absolutely does not bring me a single ounce of joy is my continued presence on Facebook. That website is evil. There is real and actual evidence to show the role it has played in the radicalization of good people and the degradation of democracy. I have never liked that website or how people tend to interact on it, and it's long past time for me to delete my account.

I have tried to curate a better experience on FB. I've blocked shitty people. I've used software extensions to block out shitty content. But none of it helps, and as the Cambridge Analytica investigation continues, it becomes clearer and clearer that I cannot, in good conscience, continue to use that site. So I'm working on an exit strategy.

Twitter is not much better, but I have at least been able to curate that experience more deeply. But as I (and many others) pull away from social media and the devastating effects it's had on society, I expect this blog to get more active again. I might even resurrect my newsletter.

So this blog will probably start seeing more activity again. It will also likely get more political. I got a lot of bad advice early in my writing/editing career that I should refrain from politics in regards to my business. But to be frank, I do not want to be associated with clients or bosses I find politically adverse. I'm not going to work for fascists. If you don't like my politics, I'm perfectly happy for you to take your business elsewhere.


Shadowhouse Fall

This is the second book in Older's Shadowshaper series, and I highly recommend checking out the first book if you haven't already. This is a YA series about friendship, family, heritage and race, following a group of magical teenagers on an epic urban adventure to save everything they love.

The fight continues in the second book, with the stakes raised and fascinating new characters introduced. Some of the last book's side characters have been given deeper roles in this book. There's a lot more romance in this book too, even a dreaded love triangle. Sort of. It slows the pace down a little, but it's still interesting and well done. Exceptionally high praise from someone who hates love triangles as much as I do.

For me, the most horrifying thing about this book isn't the ghosts and monsters, but the things people do to each other and all that the teens in this book go through on a daily basis. From being searched and abused at school to the high risk of being gunned down by police, Older doesn't pull any punches. It's a worthwhile look inside the lives of kids of colour growing up in America right now.

It's a fun story too, full of lots of what one reviewer dubbed "zippy teenage banter" and great, complex and complicated relationships between the many characters. I love some good banter, and it doesn't get much better than this.

While the voice isn't as strong in this series and in his adult novels, the Bone Street Rumba series, it still stands out. Especially once MC Sierra's friend Izzy gets going. There is some really interesting crossover, just little intersections here and there, between this series and Bone Street Rumba. I'm really curious to see if there's more, if there's a full out crossover in the future. That would please me beyond words.

Anyway, check out the first book if you haven't. If you've read Shadowshaper and enjoyed it, this book will not disappoint you.



At this point, Daniel Jose Older could fart ink onto a napkin and I'd probably read it (and it would probably be awesome... crude compliment is crude). Dude is talented and his stories are excellent. I don't always go in for YA, it doesn't always work for me, but this book is one of the exceptions.

The story follows Sierra, a young artist just starting summer vacation and who notices that the murals in her neighbourhood are fading. And changing. And things get weird from there. Sierra learns about shadowshaping, imbuing art with the power of the dead, as she learns about the danger it's in. She enlists the help of her closest friends, including a new friend and fellow artist named Robbie, to stop the destruction of the shadowshaper community.

It takes her deep into her family's hidden history and into powers Sierra never could have dreamed of, and deep into a dangerous world of spirits.

The book is beautifully written with a smooth rhythm to it, carrying the narrative forward to a stunning conclusion. It's full of the poetry and music-come-alive that I've come to expect from Older's work. And as much as this book is about magic and friendship and self-exploration and identity, the sorts of things easy to find in YA, it's also about microaggression, race and cultural appropriation.

This story offers a look into the life of a young WoC and the sorts of challenges she faces daily, both external and internal, all woven into the backdrop of a story about magic. As a woman, I face regular discrimination, but as a White woman I'm also shielded from a lot of discrimination. So Older's books, and this one especially, allow me to see just how damaging that discrimination can be, how subtle it often is. Not that subtlety makes it any less harmful.

The book is full of uncomfortable little truths, but those are usually the kind most in need of examination. Plenty of opportunity for some empathetic growth and understanding here, as well as a fun, imaginative story full of awe with a superb cast of characters.  Have fun AND learn something about humanity?

I highly recommend this book to adults and youth alike.