Turning 25 & A Pre-Order Sale

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I don't want to get sentimental, but reflection often gives that glow. 

The last year has been one of lessons. It has seen friends come and go, it has seen loss in ways I never wished to see it, it has seen hurricane waves and sunshine mornings and everything in between. I don't know what the point of it all was, or if there was one at all, but I do know one thing: I'm grateful to have been here for it. 

I talk about mental illness a lot on this blog because it is something I live with every day. It clings to my shoulders, looms behind me like a shadow, waits around every corner. It's something that made me think, once upon a time, that I wouldn't be around to see 23, or 24, or 25 - or, perhaps worse, that I shouldn't. And while I can't say that I've slain this metaphorical dragon quite yet, and while I can't guarantee that I ever will, I have grown in spite of it. I've chained it down and forced it to watch me bloom in the light it tried so hard to hide from me. 

My upcoming book, Fictitious, is linked to these struggles in a deep way. It talks about fiction - about characters, about stories, about adventures had in books or on the big screen.

It talks about the things that saved me - or rather, the things that gave me the strength to save myself.

I've been thinking a lot about this, and about how I can use the book to do some good for mental health awareness and mental illness support. Earlier this year, I was grateful to be a part of the The Mind Poetry Project Please Hear What I'm Not Saying, an anthology compiled and published by Isabelle Kenyon to raise funds for the UK-based mental health charity Mind. Isabelle was kind enough then to allow me to use my piece in the anthology to raise some money for a similar organization in my own country: the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

I'd like to do something like that again.

Each year, I like to offer a discount on my books during my birthday month. This year that discount will be on pre-orders of Fictitious. In addition, all funds from pre-orders will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in honor of their annual Out of the Darkness community walks

Please use the code AUG18 on your pre-order of Fictitious for 40% off your purchase! Your money will go straight to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to support their ongoing research, education programs, and survivor support. Each pre-ordered book will be signed and will come with a personalized thank-you note from me. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me

Thank you all so much for all of your love and support over the last year. I'm incredibly grateful, and cannot wait to see what 25 has in store. 

What's Next For Fictitious?

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I can hardly put into words how excited I am to make this post. 

This book has been such a long time coming. It has seen two release dates come and go. It has been delayed because of mental health and school and work and life. I have been hanging onto it, tweaking it, adding to it, editing it, rearranging it. 

Part of what makes me so apprehensive about releasing this book has been the content. All of my books are pieces of me - Ready Aim Fire is about my struggle with major depressive disorder, Basket Case delves into my experience with generalized anxiety disorder, and Exit Ghost deals with the loss of a family member and allowed me to verbalize my grief for my brother and grandfather. But Fictitious is different. Fictitious is about the one constant I have always had in my life: fiction. It's about the books I read as a child, the movies that inspired me, the plays and musicals and video games that opened my eyes to worlds real and imagined. It's about the characters that inspired me, the narratives that challenged me, the stories that shaped and changed and taught me. 

Where my other books are all about things that have happened to me, Fictitious is about the thing that I chose,  and continue to choose over and over again. 

This book is my soul. This book is all the pieces of me I've held close. The pieces I've been afraid to show other, but that are integral parts of me. When I started to struggle with my mental health while working on this book, I think I panicked. I started to hold all of these things - these paper people and pixelated worlds -a little bit harder. I wasn't in a place to share it yet, as excited as I was when I started. 

I'm back in a place where I'm ready to share this. As I said during the Power of Fiction blog series, I know that I'm not the only one who has found solace in make-believe. I'm not the only one who has curled into the pages of a book when the world gets too loud, too scary, too heartbreaking, too hard. I didn't realize this for a long time. For so many years, I thought I was odd for being this passionate about pretend stories and people and places.

But why? Why would I feel that way when these stories are made from someone who needed an escape themselves, or who needed to find a new way to look at the world around them? Why would I feel that way when the intention of so many artists is to connect with people? To transcend their mediums and reach audiences they've never met. As a writer, I know how important it is that my work influence not only me but other people. I know that it's not strange to find comfort in words and images. And so this book essentially says: Fiction is important, is powerful, is meaningful. Fiction is a part of my life, and it's a part of me, and it can be a part of you, too. 

I'm ready to make that statement.

I'm ready to share this book that bares my heart so openly.

And I'm going to do it on August 27, 2018.  

The Importance of Being Authentic

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A few years ago, I signed up for a college creative writing course.

I didn't know what to expect. I had been out of school for a year, having taken time off to manage my mental health. When I considered returning to the classroom it was my mom who suggested that I take something I was genuinely interested in- forget the gen eds, forget the major courses. Just dip a toe into something familiar. I browsed the course catalog and found a Sunday morning creative writing class. I registered. 

On the first day of class, the professor handed out a list of writing prompts.

These prompts weren't like any I'd been given before. They weren't first lines, or settings for stories, or a challenge to write a poem with five obscure words that should never fit together. These were deeper. They were more intimate. They were letters to people who hurt us and admissions of high school embarrassments; they were designed to dredge up the darkest things inside of us and make us splatter-paint them on the page.

Each week, the professor would assign one of the prompts, and we would spend an hour  responding to it. Then, it would be time to share.

Now, this professor didn't put anybody on the spot. All sharing was done voluntarily. If you didn't want to read aloud, you didn't have to. But he did want someone to read. And in that first class, no one seemed to want to. The personal nature of the topics didn't  help anyone's first-class, public speaking jitters. We sat in silence after the professor's invitation to share. Everyone stared at their desks, fidgeted with their pens. We all avoided the professor's gaze.

And that's when he said something that's stuck with me ever since. He folded his hands on his desk and he said, "What you write doesn't have to be great."

That got everyone's attention.

We looked up, wary of what would come next, and the professor went on to tell us that we weren't here to write the next great American classic. We weren't here to turn ourselves into NYT Bestsellers.

We were here to hone our craft. We were here to practice, and to learn, and to grow. He told us that he understood that we were nervous to share, and that those nerves were good. It meant that we had created something real. We had written something authentic, and if our writing should be anything, it should be authentic. Our writing should be our blood, our tears, our breath. It should be us.

I went home with those words ringing in my head. The next week, when I went to class, I volunteered to read. And I volunteered every week after that. My classmates did, too, to the point were class would run an extra ten minutes just to squeeze everyone in. We spilled our hearts to each other, reliving our best and worst moments with a room full of strangers. From the trans girl who wrote stand-up routines about coming out to her family, to the girl who grew up in foster care and the boy who was kicked out of his house at seventeen; the eighteen year old who hadn't picked their major yet, thirty year old who was still finding herself, the girl who was abused by her mother, and everyone in between. We talked about the crushes we had in second grade and the scariest moments of our lives. We weren't trying to impress each other. We didn't need to. We were being authentic, being ourselves, and it was incredible. It was liberating.

I've kept that thought in the back of my head. It fueled my first book, and then my second. 

This isn't to say that authenticity was ever missing from my writing. This has been my outlet for such a long time, my means of release, that it wouldn't be possible not to let my own thoughts and feelings spill through the cracks. But after that class, I broke those cracks wide open. I poured everything I am and everything that I had into them. I made art out of them.

Because I'm not here to impress anyone. I don't exist to wow other people. 

I exist to be myself. I exist to share myself. And ever since I embraced that - ever since this professor encouraged an entire room of young writers to embrace that - I've felt myself improve. Not in drastic leaps, but in small ways. In my manipulation of language and use of symbols. Everything has more meaning, because every last thing is rooted to something inside of me.

I have been trying to bring this into other areas of my life. Into my conversations. Into my actions. I am trying to break out of the shell I've crafted bit by bit. To be true to myself. To honor myself. Because authenticity is the most powerful thing I have to offer.

I am the most powerful thing I have to give.

What Happened to Fictitious?

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Fictitious was set for April 24th. And then it was pushed to May 15th. And now it's up in the air.

This is not to say that I'm giving up on my second poetry collection and fourth self-published title. On the contrary, this is to say that I'm still plugging away at it. Still adding. Still editing. Still working. In an Instagram Live video last night, I discussed a little bit about what was going on: the renovations to my house, the preparations for law school, the mental health struggles I've touched on before. All of this has culminated in a great big, overwhelming mass. And here I am, with a book still unfinished and two publishing dates passed. 

I don't want to dwell on this. I want to work through it. So, that's what I'm doing.

This book, it's subject matter and what it stands for, is important to me. In a lot of ways, this book is me - a piece of me, at the very least. It deserves to be showcased in its best possible format, and getting to that best possible place is taking time. It's taking more time that I anticipated, especially with all else that's going on. I don't say this as an excuse. I say it as an explanation. I want you to be able to read this book and feel everything that it has made me feel. I want you to connect with it, and with me. I want to let it breathe. I want to let it shine. 

I'm not going to give a new release date, partly because I'm afraid to miss another and partly because I don't want to add additional stress to my shoulders. This book will be finished. This book will be published. This book will be in your hands. And all of this will happen soon.

In the meantime, I will continue to shout-out the amazing guest bloggers who have participated in the Power of Fiction series in conjunction with Fictitious's intended release. These people and their stories are the heart of the reason why I wanted to write this book. The way that we connect with fictitious places and people is so incredibly powerful, and so incredibly important. This is the conversation I wanted to start, and the conversation I want to continue having with all of you. 

I will also continue to post previews along the way. I will still be sending out advanced digital copies to those I've promised, though at this point I can't guarantee when they'll be sent. Once they were, I will set a proper release date, and host proper release events, and have a proper release celebration.

For now, I just want to thank you.

Thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you, thank you, thank you - from the bottom of my heart - for being here with me. 

The Power of Fiction: Samantha Stinehart on Harry Potter

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We've made it, friends. We're at the very last guest post for The Power of Fiction. We have heard some truly inspiring, empowering, and heartwarming stories from some truly incredible people. This last guest blog of the series is one that reached straight into my heart and squeezed. It comes from blogger Samantha Stinehart, and the first time I read it I found myself with tears in my eyes and a longing to reach through the computer screen and hug her - to tell her that I understand, that I've been there, too. Without further ado - here is Samantha Stinehart on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.


On Harry Potter
by Samantha Stinehart

During the months before the summer of 2005, I was twelve years old, wishing for summer to be out of school, and I was waiting for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to be published.

I was also planning my suicide.

Now, more than ten years later, I couldn’t tell you when or how, all I remember was I was
waiting for the sixth book in my favorite series to come out. One last thing to look forward to.

And then July 5, 2005 came. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released and I was
able to delve into the book, to return to Hogwarts and reunite with my best friends Harry, Ron, and Hermione for what I had thought was one last time.

Then I finished the book, closed it, and let it sit on my lap for a moment. I discovered who the
Half-Blood Prince was, I learned about horcruxes, I witnessed Dumbledore's death. I knew what was next for Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It was what I wanted. To finish the book so I could end my life. I thought about what I was going to do next, when I was going to do it, how I wasn't going to do it.

But... I needed to know what happened in the final book. I couldn’t die then, I needed to know.

In that moment, I found the strength that I needed to just hold on a little bit longer. For the next book, for the end of the series. I think in the back of my mind, I had been looking for something to change my mind about taking my own life and this series gave me what I needed.

It might seem silly to a lot of people, a fictional world of magic keeping me alive - sometimes it
even seems silly to me, but the magical word that J.K. Rowling came up with gave me the strength that I so desperately needed but couldn’t find on my own. Since then, I've been able to find my strength in other books and other forms of fiction – tv shows, movies, etc. But it all started with Hogwarts.


Samantha Stinehart is a blogger and writer based in the United States. She can be found on Instagram at @hartfully, or on Tumblr at hartsbeating.tumblr.com. I cannot thank Samantha enough for sharing such a deeply personal and intimate story for this series. It truly means the world to have her contribution, and to know that fictional worlds have touched others in such incredibly meaningful, powerful ways.


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious. This week, I would like to let you know that I will be hosting a virtual reading for Fictitious on its new release date, May 15, 2018! I will be reading some selections from the book and sharing a couple of my own personal experiences with the influence of fiction on Instagram Live. Time to be announced.

Please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application. Please note that the Advanced Reviewer Application currently reflects the original release date. 

National Poetry Month

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It feels like April has barely begun, but just like that National Poetry Month 2018 is over.

The month did not turn out exactly the way I expected. Between mental health and home renovations, I've hardly found a place to plant my feet on the ground. I feel like all I've been doing is going through the motions - constantly, endlessly, in looping repetition. And while the month didn't go quite as I had hoped, it was still a great one. Exciting things happened, and mundane things happened, and inspiring things happened. All in all, while I might not have written as much poetry throughout the month as I had wanted to, I feel like I'm walking away from this celebratory month refreshed and truly ready to take on whatever might come next.

To touch on the exciting things that happened this month: on April 5, I was interviewed by the always lovely Amber of YA Indulgences as part of her month-long Poetic Justice series and on April 15, my poem "White Knuckles and Broken Cars" was published in Issue 2 of Cagibi Lit. This marks both my first interview, and my first piece published in a literary journal!

Moving forward, I've mapped out a plan to catch up on and continue the Year in Poetry series. You will be seeing frequent poetry posts over the next couple of weeks until we find ourselves all caught up and back in the groove. I'm very excited to get back on this particular horse, as the project is something I'm very determined to completed and absolutely thrilled to share with you.

I've also pushed back the release date of Fictitious to allow more time to work out a few technical kinks and to ensure that this little book is the absolutely best in can be. I touched on this in a bit more depth in the latest Power of Fiction guest post, so be sure to check that out! The new release date for Fictitious will be May 15, 2018.

Over the past month, I have reached from a deep emotional low into something of a creative revival. Seeing other poets posting content throughout the month, being able to read and absorbed their words, has invigorated me. I have a lot of plans for the rest of this year, and some exciting announcements to throw at you over the next couple of weeks. 

One last thing: Ready Aim Fire is currently on sale in honor of National Poetry Month, and today is the LAST DAY to get it at this special reduced price!

I hope this month and the poetry it birthed as sparked in you hope, and courage, and empowerment - I hope that it has shown you the world through a new lens, and that you walk away from it feeling greater, and bigger, and stronger. Wishing you all the best on this last day of National Poetry Month 2018! I'm so very grateful to be on this ride with you.

The Power of Fiction: Melissa Jennings on Six of Crows

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At long last, we are back with The Power of Fiction! I want to apology for my sudden hiatus from blogging. If you would like to know more about where I've been, I invite you to look at this post. I don't want to discuss too much about here as I don't want to detract from Melissa's beautiful, and beautifully thoughtful, guest post. The most I will say here is that due to my hiatus and due to some technical difficulties, the release of Fictitious will be slightly delayed. More info on that will be after Melissa's piece, so if you would like to know more on the new release date, please stick around to the end!

We've explored a lot of different worlds in this series, from Neverland to Hogwarts to post-apocalyptic Georgia, and today we'll be delving into the fantastical sphere of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows as independent poet Melissa Jennings explores their special and powerful connection with the character Nina Zenik.


On Nina Zenik
by Melissa Jennings

I only recently finished Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology and having read quite a few books, the duology is the first series to present a character that represents me, Nina Zenik. Over the years of reading numerous genres and watching tv series and films, I hadn’t found a character worth rooting for as much as I have done for Nina. But the thing is, I’m 22 years old, and it’s taken me a long time to find such a character; personally, I find this to be a major issue as not everyone is represented in books, on TV/film. Thankfully, the book industry is changing gradually through some publishers pushing for diverse books, such as Angie Thomas’ The Hate You Give, which is another favourite of mine. I only wish Six of Crows and other books were present during my childhood. I wish I had met Nina Zenik sooner.

Bardugo’s book was recommended to me by the book community. It is classified as a young adult fantasy novel; fantasy is not normally my preferred genre. However, I delved into the ‘Grishaverse’ created by Bardugo and goodness, was I captivated. Without spoiling the duology, the reader meets Nina Zenik promptly in Six of Crows (the first novel in the duology), as a charming, mysterious, magic-wielding woman in a suspect establishment. As Six of Crows trudges on, Nina’s past is revealed to the reader and again without spoiling the novel, I never felt more understood by a fictional character. From a young age, Nina had been trained in The Second Army to use her Grisha abilities, specifically as a Heartrender (a type of Grisha who can control bodies/life), to overcome any potential threat to Ravka, in particular, the Fjerdan Drüskelle who deem Grishas to be “unnatural”. In the same way, I was integrated into a Catholic background from a young age and was indoctrined into Catholic sacraments. Throughout the duology, Nina is proud of her heritage and country, but through her growing relationship with a Drüskelle, Matthias Helvar, Nina changes her opinion on the Fjerdans. Around the same age as Nina, at 17, I denounced my Catholic faith as I no longer agreed with the Catholic Church’s teachings, and become agnostic and much more open to the world. Nonetheless, I still feel guilty to this day, but I am better for it. After reading this, I felt Nina’s guilt as my own. We both have this faith in the universe, however, that things will change, but we will always be reborn in some way or other.

Moving on to something more encouraging, for me, Nina Zenik represents body-positivity. In the novel, Nina is described as “voluptuous” and if I had to describe myself, that would be me. As a teenager, I was bullied for my weight; I was normally chosen last for anything as apparently being “fat” meant that I wasn’t capable of anything. Moreover, I never found myself attractive because of my weight, as in that I would feel uncomfortable if I wore a dress, a short shirt, or a low-cut top. Nina Zenik throws all of that out of the window and tells me that being fat is beautiful. For me, Nina’s character arc informed me that I can take up space, that “I am large, I contain multitudes” as Walter Whitman once said.

In Crooked Kingdom, Nina also struggles with addiction. Yet again, I’ve struggled with addiction in my past. In the second part of the Six of Crows duology, Nina contends with a powerful addiction as she wishes to be much more important to the Dregs. In a similar way, I have fought with an alcohol addiction as I’ve relied on alcohol to surpass my anxiety and depression to become much more sociable. Having experienced addiction, I know how difficult it is to let it go. However, reading Nina’s arc in Crooked Kingdom was not an easy read for me. Although I understood Nina’s addiction, I wish that I hadn’t. Connecting to a character in a book, TV series, or film can be good but also bad. It can trigger memories and awful emotions and feelings. Readers should be wary of recommending representations, for example, anxiety representation. No experience is a monolith. However, for me, Nina Zenik is a hero; with her fictional presence, I feel less alone.


Melissa Jennings in an independent poet based in Scotland. Their self-published works include the full-length poetry collection Afterlife and a poetry chapbook, Dear Judas. Their second chapbook, The Body Remembers, is available for pre-order on Kindle and is set for release on April 30, 2018. You can find Melissa on Twitter at @thebookishpoet and Instagram at @thebookishpoet, or visit Melissa's website at melissajennings.co. I truly cannot thank Melissa enough for sharing their story and being a part of this series.


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious. This week, I would like to announce the delay of the release. Due to technical difficulties, Fictitious will now be available on Amazon on May 15, 2018. I apologize for the delay! However, this change will allow me ensure that the finished book will be the absolute best that it can be.

Please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application. Please note that the Advanced Reviewer Application currently reflects the original release date. 

Let's Talk

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I've been absent lately. Absent from this blog, from social media; absent from this whole writer's networking game. And while I have touched on the reason why in a recent Twitter thread, I wanted to talk a moment to talk about it here as well. 

From previous posts, many of you may already know that I've struggled with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder since 2011. I was formally diagnosed in 2014, when I was prescribed medication and began talk therapy. I have continued to manage my symptoms through these means, and began to feel stable around 2016. In 2017, I cut my therapy sessions down to every other week, then as-needed, then stopped all together. I was doing well. Really, really well. And then...I wasn't.

We often expect mental illness recovery to be linear. We want it to be linear. And why wouldn't we? A straight shot from the worst feeling you can imagine to being happier than you've ever felt is ideal, no matter how long it takes to draw that line. When you start to feel like yourself again, when you have the energy to do the things you love again after months or years in a fog, you think you're in the clear. You should be out of the woods, right? You feel better, so you should be better.

Mental illness doesn't work like that. Recovery looks more like rolling hills than one straight line. You hit some peaks, and you slide down into some valleys. And over the last couple of months, I've been deep in one of those valleys. 

What started as a couple of bad days turned into a few bad weeks, and now it's been over a month and I feel like I'm stuck on a plateau. Nothing in front. Nothing behind. Just flat, and empty, and endless. I've had to force myself to do the most basic of tasks. I've felt overwhelmed by things that usually excite me. I've been irritable and exhausted. It's frustrating on a lot of levels. I was so proud of myself, and I felt like people around me were proud, for doing well for such a long time. I graduated college in December, I'm preparing for the LSAT in June, I've published three books with a forth on the way. Everything is going well! So why am I suddenly so unhappy again? Why do I suddenly feel something so akin to what was my lowest low? It makes me want to burrow into the ground and never come back out. But I won't. 

Recovery may not be linear, but the rolling hills it makes get smaller as you go. That's something I've learned over the five years I've been in treatment. It doesn't get easier, per say, but it does get more manageable. You learn coping mechanisms, and you figure out what to do. I've taken steps to get out of this rut that would have been impossible for me to take or even think about five years ago, or four years ago, or even just two years ago. 

I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started going volunteer work. I tried out a new gym. I've started going to more formal yoga classes, and I scheduled an appointment with a brand new therapist. These things aren't easy to do by any means, and I've had more anxiety attacks than I can count over each and every one, but I know that they'll be worth it in the long haul. They'll help get me where I need to be. They'll help get me up to the next peak, and when I get there I'll have even more experience and skills to tackle the next valley with, too. 

That's the reality of recovery. Absolutely none of it is easy. Absolutely none of it is simple. It's hard work, and it's every day, and it's draining and frustrating and full of twists and turns you never asked to take. But each time you push through something hard, you're equipped to handle the next step. The valleys get shorter, and the peaks last longer. You get stronger. It may not feel like it - I certainly don't feel strong right now - but it happens with time, and with patience, and with perseverance. 

As part of it all, I'm working to get back on track with this blog and with my social media. Networking with the writing and reading community is something I genuinely enjoy, and something I'm eager to take back after spending this time feeling bogged down and scared. I want to thank you all for your patience with me. I'm eager and excited to create some fresh new content for you. 

If you have any questions about my experience with mental illness and recovery, please feel free to reach out at lexivranick.com/contact. I'm happy to chat with you. Please note that I am not a mental health professional and can only speak from my personal experiences. If you are struggling with mental illness, please know that you are not alone. If you do not feel that you can speak to someone close to you, know that there are hotlines available by phone, text, and online. 

The Power of Fiction: Sabine Mathiebe on Jonathan Stroud

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Welcome back! We've already been on quite a journey together, and it's wild to me to think that there are only a few guest posts left before the end of this series and the subsequent release of Fictitious, a poetry collection dedicated to the fiction that impacted me, influenced me, and even shaped me. It's been remarkable to hear from so many people from so many different backgrounds- authors and artists, actors, and students -about how important fiction has been in their lives. Today, we'll be hearing from blogger and book lover Sabine Mathiebe on the series that both sparked her imagination as a child and became a cornerstone of comfort throughout her life.


Made by: Fiction
by Sabine Mathiebe

I read a lot of books before and after Bartimaeus – more after than before, but it’s not the series that started my love for literature. No, it did something way more significant – though I have only realised it now, years after I first read it. I say "first" because I read these four books again and again. They are some of my go to books when I feel drained, when I feel hopeless, when I want to feel like myself again… I read these books.

But that is also not the reason I love them. This is not the only way they influence me. This story is home to me, because it makes so much of who I am. Or basically helped make me in the first place.

For anyone who has never heard of The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud – it has been described as some kind of steampunk/fantasy novel series. There is the main trilogy and an extra book that works as a prequel to the others. The protagonist gives the series its title – Bartimaeus, a djinni. The story is told from sometimes two, sometimes three perspectives.

All in all, what the characters, the plot, all the witty, gritty pages told me was a lot but maybe the most important thing that these books sparked in me, before any other book or tv show or quote or anything else… that was the idea of unity in diversity. Unity in diversity. Yes, that's a mouthful, but what do I mean with it?

I have found this idea in other stories afterwards, for example in the tv show Sense8, but probably without Bartimaeus I wouldn’t have been able to understand. It makes so much of what I see in the world and in myself. The power of helping each other despite differences in times of need, that‘s what the conflict of Bartimaeus is about often enough. The story is shaped by the paths of people (or beings) who couldn’t be more different and it told me so much about what working together, getting to know others lives and opinions can change (and what doesn’t if you don‘t).

It also kind of sparked my interest in history. For any of you who haven’t read it yet, of course I’m not going to spoil the plot but the story is a steampunk alternate-reality with demons and power-hungry magicians. Most of the action happens in London which is still a colonial power in the narrative of the series and oppresses not only other countries but also their own people who don’t have control over magic. Well, and magical beings who they use as slaves. Doesn’t seem that unconventional or original? Well, magic in the sense of The Bartimaeus Sequence is just knowledge. And the lower-class people are being oppressed by the ones with the power (of knowledge) over magical beings. Minus the part with the djinni there is a pretty good connection to reality, right? Themes of oppression, corruption, slavery and rebellion are at the core of the story. It’s not your stereotypical dystopia – it is, though it is full of fantasy elements, one of the most realistic portrayals of world politics and shitty decisions of people in power I have ever read.

But that doesn’t make reading it hard or depressing – because it is just so, so, so funny! Just imagine, a tired snarky immortal correcting history books plus a sarcastic kick-ass teenage girl and a morally-grey overachieving boy with shitty life choices. You can imagine the conversations. I had my first huge experiences of sarcasm and ironic humor with reading these books and to say it bluntly I laughed my ass off.

But the heart of my love for these books probably is that I find myself in all of the protagonists, at different stages of my life. Wherever I am emotionally, I can find a connection. I can find myself.

In Bartimaeus, a djinni and a slave, who hopes and gives his all, though he doesn’t have to, who doesn’t give up on humanity though he wants to most of the time, who cracks so many jokes at the world’s end because there is always hope – or at least a last laugh.

In a "too powerful, too young" magician that started my love for anti-heroes. If I think of him, I think of redemption, of doing wrong things and right things, and at the end just trying my best. I think of the fight I put up against myself, the fight of not feeling loved and the feeling of always having to prove yourself, not only to others. In Kitty, a young member of the resistance movement who taught me to fight and to not give up even if I’m up against something I can not beat because you just have to try no matter what the chances are because the fight is necessary, even if it may get bloody.

In all the other characters losing their morality in their revenge, getting betrayed by their loyalty, trusting and using compassion as a weapon, or another one of thousand things, being nothing I taught they were at first.

This story taught me so many things. About failing myself and others, about losing and winning and sometimes not being able to say which is which. About the courage of kindness and compassion, love in unlikely places and how it is worth it despite the grief. About rebellion and that it is timeless and always on the way, and the power of ordinary people. About jokes and laughing, and how it can save you or at least make your day. About anger and that it is a weapon. About injustice, power and corruption and recognizing it in everyday life. About a thing that defines my all-the-time knowledge of other people – that bad things happening to someone may not excuse doing something shitty but that they can explain it. About helping each other, because only together we can save the world or at least the next day or the next person. About not being perfect but being good enough to change the world for the better, always.

I still tear up whenever I read the last page of Ptolemy’s Gate, the third and last book in the original Bartimaeus trilogy. Every emotion I had when I read it the first time, everything I feel now regarding the characters and the whole world Jonathan Stroud created… it’s too much and not enough at the same time. This is another thing Bartimaeus taught me – to love a bittersweet story. To love a story not for the candy-sweet happy ending, but for the tears I cried through the bittersweet last sentences. Because, at the end, that is what we have to love life for too. Not for the end of the road, but for the road. For the fight we put up. It is worth it. These books taught me to believe it. To find meaning in everything – in other stories as well as in the life outside of fiction.

There are so many stories I love with all of my heart, but this one opened my heart up and made me write and think and laugh and cry. I think what I really want to say is: thank you. Thank you to all the stories, especially this one, for keeping me alive and keeping me company, for helping me shape myself and giving me the anger and the heart to look at the world with courage. Thanks for giving me somewhere to land when I’m stranded, Jonathan Stroud – in your books I’m always able to find a home and a next you.


Sabine Mathiebe is a German book blogger and writer who posts reviews of books from fantasy to romance to new adult at fantastikworldofbooks.blogspot.de. Feel free to follow Sabine on Twitter at @s_mathiebe. I cannot thank Sabine enough for being a part of this series, and sharing a beautiful perspective on such a unique story!


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I'm pleased to share another selection from the book. I hope you enjoy ice dance., a poem inspired the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands. And please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application.


ice dance.

 

The Power of Fiction: Jasmine Edwards on Harry Potter

We have flown over Neverland, fought alongside the Avengers, and survived the walking dead. We've shaken hands with Harold Fry, and we've even discovered the power of narration through verse. This week, author and actress Jasmine Edwards shares the impact a particular set of magical twins had on her life and her own experiences as a twin. Welcome back to The Power of Fiction! 


Double Trouble
by Jasmine Edwards

Born to a book lover and professor, my twin sister and I were bound to become voracious readers at an early age. And we did, listening to children’s books read by our mom every night and flipping through those same pages on our own in the daytime. Amid all the fantastic fairytales and anthropomorphic animals, however, there was always something missing. I couldn’t figure it out, but I knew I felt my unhappiness ease when there was at least a dynamic sibling duo or trio featured. It wasn’t until I read J.K. Rowling’s The Sorcerer’s Stone that I realized what I had been missing in my life: the sibling relationship I was living. Not only did Fred and George Weasley change books for me—they changed how I thought about myself in the world. This piece attempts to convey the immense gratitude I feel toward Rowling for creating perhaps the most famous literary twins of all time, and for letting me and my twin share in the magic she gave them.

I was eight years old when I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998). By then, the first few films had been released, though I had not seem them yet. There was an unspoken ‘book first’ rule in our house—and besides, my mother was afraid the movies might scare me. Thus I journeyed first through printed pages with Harry from Privet Drive to Diagon Alley to King’s Cross Station. There, in chapter 6, I was amazed at what I read:

“I’m not Fred, I’m George,” said the boy. “Honestly, woman, you call yourself our                mother? Can’t you tell I’m George?”
“Sorry, George, dear.”
“I’m only joking, I am Fred,” said the boy, and off he went.” His twin called after him to          hurry up… (p. 92)

I burst out laughing and looked for my sister. Cody was reading a different book at the time, but I jumped up and shared the passage with her immediately. There we finally are, I wanted to say. The mysteries of twinhood had long since alluded my friends and even family members, so a mainstream pair was an obvious bridge to that gap.

It was a joke I’d played on my mother many times at their age. Although we look wildly different now, my twin and I were the same height and build when we were eleven, with the same shade of blonde hair and blue eyes. Being twins was vital to our identity, which had us dressing in the exact same clothes for years, though this trend was also encouraged by our grandmother, who was under the impression that that was what all twins ‘should do.’  People stared when we went out. There weren’t enough identical twins in our small town to stop the questions or out-loud recognition of our eerily similar appearance. No one actually understood.

I do not write this lightly, considering how representation often falls into a land of caricatures or vilification. Rowling never fell into this trap. Sure, her twins were funny, because a lot of people find near-clones funny. That’s not all they were, though. Lovable rogues, fiery redheads, bickering brothers; they were dynamic, inspiring, and real. She wrote a twin bond in the way I don’t think any other authors have so perfectly been able to capture, because so often they refer to some ‘unbreakable intimacy’ or ‘magical bond’ or wax poetic about never leaving each other’s side, missing the point entirely. Fred and George were never insulted like that.

Fred and George Weasley are the Harry Potter books’ pranksters. As mentioned before, their introduction uses an adorable joke. Their dialogue neatly introduced their relationship and personalities (the plural is significant here, considering the alleged truth that identical twins are basically the same person). Older than Harry’s best friend and their brother, Ron Weasley, they become mentors when they reveal Hogwarts’ secrets in books two and three: secret passages that let our golden trio roam the castle unseen. Not the best role models, Fred and George enjoy the sneakier joys in life and don’t mind roping Ron, Harry, Hermione, and other underclassmen into insubordinate actions. School bores them. They are never written as slackers, however; their brilliance is simply channeled into other fields of magic. The street-smart bunch, Fred and George excel most at showy spells such as fireworks, trick candies, and marauding maps.

As background characters, the Weasley twins’ careful treatment by Rowling may have gone unnoticed to you. Rowling accomplished an amazing task, though. She showed us twin love rather than plopping generic words about them onto the page and expecting the reader to fill in the rest. If you thought it was quirky to hear them speak in unison (I tried to count how many times Rowling wrote “said together” for them and I lost count), it’s not! That actually happens frequently with me and my sister and, I’m sure, countless other twins. We’ll answer a question with the same words and inflection, completely unplanned. My particular favorite moment of this is in book seven, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (2007). Harry’s friends all take the polyjuice potion, which turns them all into exact replicas of Harry Potter, an experience that causes the twins to exclaim, “‘Wow- we’re identical!’” (p. 51). Rowling wrote this so organically that it still warms my heart today, even after reading the books about thirteen times each.

These characters are rarely seen apart? Not a trope. If I read a page with only Fred but not George, I’d wonder where he went and how Fred was holding up. Twins understand one another better than anyone else can. We’re like hand-made best friends. Any distance between Fred and George would have been unnatural. Also not a trope is the ‘mind-reading’ conversations. I know what Cody is saying from across the room by just meeting her eyes; Fred and George have whole conversations, not pre-planned, where they follow each other’s train of thought without hesitation. They know what the other brother wants or needs because the feelings are mutual. Rowling put those connected minds to great use in developing their ‘ditch-school-and-get-rich’ plan. Inventors and innovators, Fred and George Weasley created the prank shop Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes right before the series’ darkest, saddest storyline unfolded. It could only run with the two of them there. That illustrates an unwavering love for each other as well as the author’s attention to abilities they share.

I only have one qualm with Rowling’s Weasley twin plot, but she’s apologized for it, and I understand why she did it. Killing Fred was far too much for me. I cried for days after. I actually had to sit The Deathly Hallows and come back to it in a few hours before I could move past it. The death of one twin while the other survives is so unfathomably cruel that I think most authors find it necessary in their books. To me, it comes across as more shock value for shock’s sake. It hurts actual twins so much, yet authors use it for a pathos grab. Rowling didn’t. She had to impact every single character with a death, and she had to push her child readers into the same fast adulthood into which Harry himself was forced. Do I believe Fred’s murder could have been avoided in her storyline? No. Still, that doesn’t break my heart any less.

When I finally watched the movies and saw James and Oliver Phelps in the frame together, so brilliantly identical, I had the same bubbling, overjoyed feeling that I did reading their introduction. Fred and George are part of me today; cinematic or literary versions, I adore them. Rowling practically gift-wrapped their whole storyline (minus Fred’s ending) for twins everywhere.

In 2016, I had the privilege of meeting James and Oliver Phelps with my twin. We gushed over how much their portrayal meant to us, but of course they already knew. A year later, Cody and I got our first and only tattoo—a matching one, of course. On my right shoulder, in the movie’s chosen font, I have Mischief and the map footprints, which run over to her left shoulder, reading Managed. J.K. Rowling’s story had such an indelible impact on me and my twin that we wanted their famous quote permanently inked onto our skin. Fred and George’s legacy lives on in those small decisions, in every kid’s laughter, in my heart, on my bookshelf, and on the days when Cody and I dress alike to confuse our friends.

Mischief managed, indeed.

Jasmine and her twin sister, Cody, show off their  Mischief Managed  tattoos.

Jasmine and her twin sister, Cody, show off their Mischief Managed tattoos.


Jasmine Edwards is an author, actress, and figure skater based in Newark, Delaware. Her work has been published in the University of Delaware Arak Journal. She is currently studying English and Women's Studies at the University of Delaware. You can connect with Jasmine on LinkedIn. I truly cannot thank Jasmine enough for sharing such a personal and beautiful story with us on this blog. I'm so, so grateful to have her involved in this project!


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I'm so excited to share that you can now pre-order signed copies of Fictitious via my online shop! Please note that at this time I can only ship books within the United States. All pre-ordered books will be shipped within the book's release week. 

The Power of Fiction: Jasmine M. Sarmiento on The Walking Dead

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Can you believe we're already half-way through this series? We've talked about Peter Pan, we've talked about The Avengers - we discussed the influence of writers like Ellen Hopkins and characters like Harold Fry. This week, we'll be hearing from writer Jasmine M. Sarmiento, who has been influenced from works like A Series of Unfortunate Events all the way to AMC's The Walking Dead. Like me, and like many of us, Jasmine has had a long-term relationship with fiction throughout her life. Today, we'll hear about how that relationship has shaped her, changed her, and affected her. 


Fiction
by Jasmine M. Sarmiento

Fiction is a strange thing – ranging from movies, television, to a made-up story spewed forth by a second-grade girl on a playground in some Midwest town – it's everywhere, but somehow, it's fantastical glow has fizzled out into background noise for most people. I've always been drawn to fiction and even now, I am a hopeless passenger to every word in a novel and every scene of a movie – being dragged forward by a desire to continue the creation of a new world that I otherwise would not know. This keeps me stumbling far past the pages and the end credits because a story is never really over for me until I've exhausted ever means of keeping that flame alive is consumed and this has brought me so much more enjoyment than just settling for what's given - it's the theories of what could have been (or in most cases, what should have been), it's the fan art that breathes new life into characters that have been tragically forgotten or underdeveloped for the sake of moving a plot forward, it's the re-runs and re-reads trying to discover more. Although there are thousands of people who engage with fiction like this, it's looked down on by most people who see it as a waste of time or more often, who see it as childish. I've always taken more than what's been given with most media since fourth grade – The Series of Unfortunate Events pushed me to make an elaborate system of pulleys and baskets to get my stuffed animals from up bed to the shelf of dollhouses above it because Violet Baudelaire was an inventor and I wanted to do what she did – and that never really stopped. It's become less hands-on over the years, but there's always a spark of inspiration when I finish something that I don't think will ever fade.  

Growing up, the idea of the first work of fiction that had a significant impact on my life was The Walking Dead, which is fitting considering that it was the show that first introduced me to Lexi. Anyone that knows me personally, knows that The Walking Dead held a significant place in my heart from when I was in 6th grade to my sophomore year in high school. Just about five years of my life, it was the only thing that I cared about; those characters and their stories became an odd little safe haven for me. W I'm not going to sugar coat or lie it, I used to write fan fiction for The Walking Dead when I was in 6th grade, but those stories are deleted from public view under an alias I don't remember, most likely nestled in some server permanently and hopefully re-purposed as some kind of paper product because I hand-wrote them in a series of about seven composition books before I started posting it online. It's was a weird time for me because I've never really had friends, I would talk to people but I've never had anyone outside my family to talk about the show with, and suddenly people were there. For the first time, I was a part of a community and I had friends, which is something I never really thought would come from just indulging my own little stories. After each episode, people would message me with their thoughts and theories and I would do the same, it was the first time that I had people to talk to about something that I actually was interested in on the same level of excitement that I had. It's hard to put into words the sudden relief that I felt when I was able to talk to other people about The Walking Dead and my own feeling about the show without the look of "You're a freak" that I would get in school. Not only did it help me make friends, who I still talk to today even after I stopped watching the show, I was honestly inspired to write because of the show. The whole fan fiction aspect died quite quickly, but I found myself writing more personal pieces – from short stories to attempts at full-length novels, and small collections of words that never fit into other pieces but I could never give up. The show inspired me to do something that I never really thought that I would love as much as I do. Writing has always something that I would try on and off throughout my childhood, but I would always stop because I was too embarrassed to continue it, let alone publish it for other people to read, which is why I owe a lot of my own confidence in writing to the show. Without the show, I would have never published any work of mine and I would have never gotten the encouragement from others to continue growing and expand as a writer.

Delving a little deeper into the reason that The Walking Dead is such an important work of fiction is the characters really inspired me. The words "My favorite Character" come out of my mouth frequently, an ever-changing and mood-based preference from every fandom I've been in since I was little, but The Walking Dead has the most important characters in my life. Merle Dixon, while he was sexist, racist and a bit hotheaded, is the most important fictional character in my life. If I had to pick one single character out of all my fandoms as my favorite, I will say Merle Dixon without hesitation because it was his character that inspired the most to write. His character was hated, both in the show and in real life, he was unlikable and he was complicated and I absolutely love him. I want to make characters with that much depth and I want to be able to make people see a character for their worst and in their dying moments make them rethink everything about them. It was that complexity that makes Merle Dixon my 'staple character' when I write, I want characters like him in my work; deeply flawed, emotional, ambitious, and human. Merle was really only in the show for a season, not even a full season at that, yet his entire arc is something that really pushed me to write.

Putting it into words - the impact of fiction on my life is something I never really thought about in terms of "this show helped me make friends" and especially not, "this show is the reason I found out writing is a huge part of my life." Yet, here I am, writing about a piece of fiction that still means the world to me despite the fact that haven't watched it in about two years. The characters and story gave me such a push out of my comfort zone and helped me find a place in a community. Fiction to me will always be more than just what I can observe, but it's what I take from it that really makes it such a special media.  


Jasmine M. Sarmiento is a student and writer based in the United States. I want to extend so much love and gratitude for Jasmine for taking the time to take part in this series and share her story. It's always touching to hear people speak so passionately about works of fiction that they love, and I'm so thankful that Jasmine shared her passion here.


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I would like to share the official Spotify playlist for Fictitious. Have a listen, and let me know what you think!

The Power of Fiction: Isabelle Kenyon on Harold Fry

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Once again, welcome back to The Power of Fiction! Over the last three weeks we have heard from Sinead Atkinson about her lifelong connection to Peter Pan, Fox told us about she found strength and comfort in superheroes, and Fida Islaih talked about how she found her narrative voice through verse thanks to Ellen Hopkins. This week, in the fourth guest post of the series, we'll be hearing from poet and editor Isabelle Kenyon on how we can learn from fictional characters and carry their lessons into our own lives.


On The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Isabelle Kenyon

When Harold Fry learns of his childhood friend, Queenie, falling terminally ill, he sets off to find his old friend. Harold is very elderly himself and frail, but he walks across the whole of the UK to get to her – he sees it as his pilgrimage to his friend. This is the most courageous thing Harold has ever done, living a sheltered life, but he takes the month or so long plunge for someone who he believes to be worth the risk – and sends post cards along the way! He even becomes something of an internet sensation with people tracking and following him along his ‘pilgrimage’. Harold is an inspiring character because he shows that it is never too late to change your lifestyle and that no mountain is too large to climb for a friend.


Isabelle Kenyon is a UK-based poet and editor. She is author of the chapbook This Is Not A Spectacle and compiled and edited the Mind Poetry Project anthology Please Hear What I'm Not Saying. Her books can be purchased here. Isabelle can be found in Twitter at @kenyon_isabelle, on Facebook at Fly on the Wall Poetry, or on Instagram at @flyonthewall_poetry. Her blog can be found at flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk. I truly cannot thank Isabelle enough for taking part in this project and sharing a character that is so close to her heart!


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I would like to share an exclusive preview poem from the collection. I hope you enjoy potter and the paper girl.;  And please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application.


potter and the paper girl.

Can I paint myself in parenthesis
and hide inside a book –

crack the spine wide enough
to fit myself inside, let the ink
stain my skin and let my heart
melt into the dog-eared pages
of a well-worn copy of a well-
loved book,

older now, but can I still wander
that castle, sit in potions class,
learn a charm – a curse – a spell

and, maybe, when the time comes,
defend it – save them – maybe –

know what it feels like for paper people
to love me back.

The Power of Fiction: Fida Islaih on Ellen Hopkins

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Welcome back to The Power of Fiction!  So far, we have heard from actress and cosplayer Sinead Atkinson regarding her lifelong connection to Peter Pan and from artist and blogger Fox, who shared her experience with finding strength in superheroes. This week we will be hearing from poet (and poetry editor!) Fida Islaih on finding herself in characters and making a connection with fiction through narrative verse. 


How Fiction Impacts Me
by Fida Islaih

I have always loved to write. I started out with short stories but all my characters were white non-Muslims. Eventually, I stopped because the stories didn’t feel like mine. I felt like someone else writing someone else’s story. Being an avid reader I always looked for books that interested me or somewhat represented me. The first book I found that I saw myself in was “Does My Head Look Big In This”. After reading it I wrote my own story about wearing the headscarf. But after that story, I didn’t know what else to write.

I felt more like myself in writing poetry about my experiences. That is when I discovered novels in verse. There weren’t known yet and Ellen Hopkins was the only author I read. It wasn’t the topics I was into but I loved the style.

I was busy with school so I took a break from writing long form but after taking a creative writing class I got back into it and write my first novel in verse. Being involved in the book community I heard about self-publishing and it took priority in my writing career. I’m a published author of several poetry collections. I don’t know if my novels will ever see the light of day but I will continue to write them.


Fida Islaih is a poet and poetry editor. She is the self-published author of several poetry collections including Hugs & Kisses and Blossoming Heart. Fida is the host of Poetteer Chat, which occurs each Wednesday at 7PM EST on Twitter. You can find her on Twitter at @PoetFida or on Instagram @poetfida. She keeps a blog at fidaisalaih.blogspot.com. I cannot thank Fida enough for sharing her experience and her connection with fictional characters and worlds. 


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I would like to share an exclusive preview poem from the collection. I hope you enjoy like father.; Can you tell what fictional world this piece is about? Take your guess in the comments below! And please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application.


like father.

she opened the earth for him,
helped him climb inside and closed the door
so he could find – peace

was never in her blood, but with
his spread over her hands she closed her eyes
and prayed – alone

again, without him now, she
turned a cross into a monument and gave him
to the sky – left

with scars on her knuckles
and an aching heart, swollen with the love
she didn’t – know

he loved her, without the
words to say, the words that crashed into her
teeth and begged her

(not to) stay.

The Power of Fiction: Fox on The Avengers

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Welcome to week three of The Power of Fiction! Last week saw our first guest post from Sinead Atkinson, who shared a beautiful story about her lifelong connection with J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and how the book returned to her when she most needed Neverland. This week, we'll be hearing from artist Fox on how she came to love superheroes, and how she has seen herself in and been guided by different fictional heroes over the past seven years of her life.


On Marvel Superheroes
by Fox

Before the summer preceding my first year in college, I wanted nothing to do with superheroes. I found them boring, unimaginative, not worth my time. That summer, for whatever reason, I picked up the first Iron Man movie, and immediately fell in love. I binge watched every movie out at the time, ending on the first Avengers movie during orientation week on campus. It’s been seven years now and I haven’t stopped loving them.

My favorite heroes have changed over the years and I’m only now just realizing how they have changed based on what hero I needed the most at the time.

First, Tony Stark. He got me into heroes that summer before college. He was my first favorite and I will always love him for that. I was going into a science major and his intelligence and resourcefulness was inspiring.

Next, Steve Rogers. I found him inspiring for his strength, perseverance and his stubbornness. Also, his idealism, goodness, and being the embodiment of the fucking American dream. He got me through the hardest three years of college and I clung to him as an idol and hope.

Third, Natasha Romanov. She's badass and strong and faces down impossible situations with a sarcastic comment. I started reading feminist theory at this point, changing my major to humanities and eventually gender studies.

Clint Barton has been my companion for the last 3 years. I found comfort in him. He is an amazing hero, but he was also depressed and anxious. He is a mess, but also kind and a dog lover and he pushed forward to be the best he could be.

Right now, my favorites are tied. Thor's happy and bright. He's strong and alien and despite all the hell he's be through he's like a bright golden retriever puppy. He is optimism and hope for a better future. I also think he is a lot more than he seems. Many fans characterize him as dumb and blundering at times, but to me, he hides his smarts. He’s calculating and intelligent and kind.

Finally, there is Bruce Banner. He's anxious and tries to take up as little space as possible. He's a kind soul who would give the shirt off his back if it would help someone in need. He's also the Hulk. He is angry and violent and brimming with emotion. They are different but they are the same. They exist within the same man and balance each other. One provides rational thought, the other protection and emotion.

Where I am right now in my life, I see myself in both Thor and Bruce. I’m ready for hope and adventure and bigger things. But I’m an anxious, angry mess at the same time. And I take comfort in both of these heroes because of it.


Fox is an American artist and blogger. You can feel free to follow her on Tumblr at FoxPrints and SpaceFoxen or on Instagram at FoxPrintsArt. Huge, huge thanks go out to Fox for sharing her story about these beautiful characters and how important they are to her. 

 


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I'd like to open an application for the chance to receive an advanced digital copy of Fictitious for review! If you would be interested in writing an early review of Fictitious, please fill out this form

The Power of Fiction: Sinead Atkinson on Peter Pan

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Welcome back to The Power of Fiction! Last week, I spoke about how important fiction has been in my own life, and how I wanted to use this series as a way to connect with others. Stories are human; stories offer comfort, help us understand, and allow us to explore. This week, we will be hearing from actress and cosplayer Sinead Atkinson, who will share the beautiful story of her incredible connection with the world, story, and characters of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and how she found comfort in that world years after she first ventured to Never Neverland.


Forever is a very long time, Peter.
by Sinead Atkinson

“So as soon as the door of 27 closed on Mr. and Mrs. Darling there was a commotion in the firmament, and the smallest of all the stars in the Milky Way screamed out: ‘Now, Peter!’”

My early childhood days were full of wonder and imagination. I read voraciously as a child and acted out stories of my own: one day, I was a mermaid sunning on the rocks, singing a haunting melody; the next, I was a knight, bravely charging forth into the heat of battle for honor and glory; still another day, I was a princess locked in a tower, devising an escape plan without a handsome prince. Magic lived within me, and my mom gave me the perfect fifth grade graduation gift: a copy of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

At that age, I had already seen the Disney version and the 1954 musical with Mary Martin, but was instantly enthralled with this version of our hero: my cocky, brave playmate. I, too, would close my eyes tightly to see the pale, pastel colors swirling in the darkness as they formed the colorful image of the mermaids’ lagoon. I belonged in Neverland: to me, the world sprung back to life whenever I opened those pages.

Over the years, the spine has almost worn away from its paperback cover, and its yellowed pages are soft and dented from constant dog-earing. However, it was the summer of 2013 when I turned to Peter again, when my mother was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. My whole world turned upside down. At the time, my sister was still in high school, so I was home alone the day my parents went to the hospital to hear what stage of cancer she had. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t do anything. For a while, I laid on the floor, shaking—and that’s when the battered cover of Peter Pan caught my eye.

I reached for it and began to read. Something in me just broke. I was twenty-one years old, no longer a child. I was an adult--I could never go back to Neverland. I didn’t want to grow up, but there was no turning back.

“I suppose it's like the ticking crocodile, isn't it? Time is chasing after all of us.”

My mom was lucky: the cancer was completely gone by January, though I couldn’t pick up that book until after I’d graduated from college. For a while, I held it in my hands and closed my eyes, willing myself to see the swirling colors of the lagoon again. Peter was waiting for me.

‘Hullo, Wendy,’ he said, not noticing any difference, for he was thinking chiefly of himself; and in the dim light her white dress might have been the nightgown in which he had seen her first. He was exactly the same as ever, and Wendy saw at once that he still had all his first teeth.

He was a little boy, and she was grown up.

‘Hullo, Peter.’


Sinead Atkinson is an actress, singer, dancer, and cosplayer based on the East Coast. Please feel free to follow her on Facebook at Fairwind Cosplay, or on Instagram at @fairwindcosplay. I want to extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to Sinead for sharing her story. I'm so honored to get to read and share other people's deep connections with fiction. 


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I'm pleased to announce that Fictitous can now be added to your to-read shelf on GoodReads!

The Power of Fiction: An Introduction

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I am a child of the Disney Renaissance, and an honorary member of the Justice League. I have wandered the halls of Hogwarts and sat in Professor Howlett’s history lectures at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. I have been dropped into the Hunger Games arena and raced through forests with werewolves. I watched Frankenstein’s monster blink awake for the very first time; I’ve hunted vampires, sailed on pirate ships, run from zombies; I’ve cast magic spells and time traveled and saved the world from alien invasions.

Along the way, I’ve made friends as real as any human being – though made of paper and pixels and ink instead of muscle fibers and blood. I’ve cried on their shoulders, and let them cry on mine. I’ve seen myself in them. Felt my heart swell and break for them. Ached to crawl into their worlds and cradle them.

I don't have many strong memories from my childhood. My younger brother was born when I was seven, was hospitalized when I was eight. He didn't come for six months, and in those six months I was shuttled between friends' houses, and my grandparents', and the Ronald McDonald House next to the hospital. I can recall only snapshots, and they are all out of order. I can't make sense of them. The years that followed passed in much the same fashion, and when I was eleven my brother passed away.

My life became split into befores and afters with a muddled middle I still can't make sense of. What I do remember are the stories that I clung to. I remember my mother reading me the first Harry Potter book, and not needing her for the next six as I devoured each one shortly after their releases. I remember sitting in the movie theater to watch the films one by one. I remember wanting to be one of Charles Xavier's X-Men, and memorizing every line of Spider-Man 2. I remember reaching for Violet Baudelaire's hand, because none of the kids around me knew what such a deep loss felt like, but Lemony Snicket and his unfortunate orphans surely did. I recall finding magic in Howl's castle and strength in Julie Cabernet's resilience. 

When my depression was at its worst, I kept my darkest thoughts at bay by buying comic con tickets and swearing to myself I'd hold on until I got to meet Jon Bernthal, who had, at that point, played characters like Shane Walsh and Joe Teague, characters I'd seen myself in, characters I held close to my heart. In the time between buying tickets and finally meeting him, I started therapy. I got prescriptions. I got help. I saw my anxiety reflected in Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 and was relieved to know that people out there got it enough to write about it, act it out, and put it in a movie for the whole world to see. It made me feel like maybe people in my life might get it, too, if I talked about it as blatantly as a filmmaker could.

I even wrote similar experiences into a character, and published a book in which she clings to Shakespeare after her father's death to find some comfort in a make-believe prince who might understand.

I know that I'm not alone in these feelings. I know that I am not the only one who has been raised and molded and saved by fiction. That is why I set out to write to Fictitious, and why I wanted to run this series alongside it. I wanted to share stories of fiction's impact in people's lives. For a long time, I thought that this obsession I had with places and people that weren't real was strange. I thought that it made me weird. But it doesn't. It just makes me, me. And I'm not alone in this passion. I'm not alone in this comfort-seeking in book pages and television screens. The stories you'll read in this series come from people like me, who have found comfort and strength through fiction from Peter Pan to Harry Potter to Six of Crows

Each guest post reflects the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the writers themselves, just as I've shared my own experiences here and in Fictitious. I'm so thankful to each and every writer who has agreed to share their story. Being able to connect with so many people regarding something that is so incredibly important to me is a gift. It's why I do what I do. 

Next week: SINEAD ATKINSON ON PETER PAN.


Each post will be accompanied by some new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018, at the conclusion of THE POWER OF FICTION series.

Today, I would like to share the cover. 

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Flash Fiction Friday: Five 55-Word Stories

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STARS

With his head turned toward the sky he asks, “Do you think it’s real?” Silence follows. He looks to her. When she does not answer, he says, “Heaven. Do you think it’s real? Do you think we really go there? Our spirits, I mean. When we die.”

She says, “I think we turn into stars.”

PAPER

Balls of paper stained with ink and coffee rings are heaped high in a pile. Steam has quit his lukewarm mug. He scratches another two words onto clean paper (my love—no, that’s not right; dear—no, he’s tried that already).

A heavy sigh. He rips out the sheet and crushes it between his hands.

MORNING COFFEE

Two cups of coffee sit upon the table. Steam rises in slow, lazy swirls. The clock on the wall ticks away seconds and every turn of its hands echoes down the hall. She paces up, down; up, down.

The door at the end of the hall is closed.

She sits and drinks one cup alone.

UNCERTAINTY

“Do you mean it?” The voice is small. A timid whisper. A strong hand closes around a small one. Fingers lace together. The wind toys with their hair as the two inch closer beneath the moonlight.

“I love you.” A sigh escapes. A head rests upon a shoulder. Muscles tense.

“But do you mean it?”

SKIPPING STONES

She runs her thumb over the smooth stone. The sand crunches beneath her boots as she walks along the shore. Water and seafoam lap at her feet. She breathes a sigh, hitch in her throat. She brushes her bangs off her face, winds up her arm and chucks the little stone across the glassy surface.

Mental Health & The Mind Poetry Project

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Once upon a time, my mental illnesses were thought personality flaws.

Depression was sadness, and sometimes laziness, and sometimes lack of sleep. Anxiety was a combination of student stress and an overactive imagination. They were fleeting feelings that would pass. They were emotions in my control, emotions that could be managed by deep breathing and time management skills. I didn’t have to worry, I just needed to get my act together.

I started experiencing mental illness symptoms in 2012. At that time, I thought I had enough to reason to brush off the feelings with a simple, “This, too, shall pass”. I was eighteen years old and bridging the cultural gap between high school and college. I was balancing a seventeen-credit schedule with a part time job and commuting forty-five minutes each way to my university four days a week. I was more stressed than I’d ever been, so why shouldn’t I feel sad and nervous and tired and overwhelmed?

One question I got this week was: When did you know that something was wrong?

It wasn’t until 2014, when these feelings had yet to go away and became increasingly coupled with a lack of interest in essentially anything I previously enjoyed (and a lack of energy and motivation to do those things, anyway) that my mom asked: “Are you depressed?”

I hadn’t thought about mental illness before that moment. I hadn’t considered that maybe what was happening to me wasn’t my fault, but was instead the result of something chemically wrong inside of me. I went to the doctor, an appointment which me forced me to face the reality of my suicidal ideation, a symptom which I had been nervously pushing aside since the thoughts first crept into my head, a symptom which made me terrified of myself.

My primary care physician provided me with a prescription to act as a fire extinguisher for my anxiety and negative thoughts and referred me to a psychiatric nurse practitioner, who he felt would be able to give me more adequate care considering the severity of my symptoms at that point and who diagnosed me with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I still see her to this day, and she has been incredible in working with me to find the proper medications to alleviate my symptoms.

This brings me to a second question: Did you experience side effects with any medications?

Side effects are truly difficult to escape from. When I began my first anti-depressant, I had to take at night to try to sleep through the nausea it caused for the first few weeks of taking it. I also had a sleep aid which worked so well the drowsiness it caused stretched far into my mornings, which made me often skip taking it on nights when I had to work early just to be sure I wouldn’t sleep through my alarm. About a year into being on these medications, I mentioned a return of negative thinking to my nurse practitioner. She added an anti-anxiety medication to my regimen to help counteract these affects, and although this helped for a few months, I found myself in the emergency room with suicidal ideation in 2015.

After this, I was switched to another anti-depressant. Although I experienced the same nausea that I did on my first medication, this one has made an incredible difference in alleviating my symptoms, decreasing negative thinking, and overall improving my quality of life. I remain on this medication to this day, though in the last six to twelve months I’ve began decreasing my doses in the hopes to eventually wean off it entirely.

I can go more in-depth into my experiences. I can talk for hours about how isolated I felt living with, or who high my anxiety got when I realized my initial therapist wasn’t helping and that I would have to start all over again with someone new. I could tell you about the days I spent fighting to get out of bed, or how it every step forward felt like trudging through molasses. In fact, I’ve written about all of these things in poetry and prose.

But for the PLEASE HEAR WHAT I’M NOT SAYING anthology, I wanted to offer hope. I wanted to peel back the shadows and show the light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to share how opening up about my struggles made me feel empowered, and I hope that this might help others who are suffering feel a little empowered, too.

“Concept” is a piece that reflects back on my thoughts during my first turn-around during therapy, the first time in my treatment that I felt like I could get better, and that I felt like this illness could somehow make me a stronger person. First published to my Tumblr page last year, I’m both honored and delighted to have it included in this anthology to benefit the UK-based mental health charity, Mind.

PLEASE HEAR WHAT I’M NOT SAYING is set to release on February 8, 2018.

Exit Ghost Book Signing Recap

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Last night, I sat in a half-vegan restaurant with vintage radios mounted to the walls. I ate over-salted barbecue chips and sucked down a bourbon tea trying to find the vanilla flavor my friends swore they tasted. Only minutes before, I stood in front of these very friends and read a selection from the first chapter of my debut novella, Exit Ghost. I signed books and snapped photos and smiled so much my cheeks still hurt. 

My heart still picks up when I think about standing at that podium and reading eight straight pages of words that I cracked open my own chest to write (figuratively, of course). I spent the whole day prior nervous and scrambling for distractions to calm my brewing anxieties. But I did it. For the second time, I stood in front of family and friends and read my work aloud. For the second time, I let my hand cramp from scribbling inscriptions on title pages of books. For the second time, I saw my dreams unfolding in front of me and, for the second time, I was overwhelmed with awe.

I don't think that feeling will ever go away.

And as I sat there in that tiny little corner eatery, the tension in my muscles finally uncoiling and my heart finally settling between my ribs again, talking and laughing with friends, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. 

I'm so relieved and grateful to finally be able to share Exit Ghost with the world. It's a story I've been working on for a full year now. The first in a trilogy, it's also a story that's very close to my heart and one that I have big plans for in the future. It means the world to me to send this book into the literary stratosphere. 

Thank you so much to everyone who came to celebrate with me last night. The night was made even more special my surprise visits from friends I haven't seen in years, whose excitement raised mine even higher, and whose support I'm so thankful to have. Thank you to the team at the Book Revue, especially to Loren and Genesis, whose hard work made the night run so smoothly and perfectly. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and helped bring me to this point. I couldn't be grateful. 

For those unable to attend last night's signing, signed copies of Exit Ghost are now available at lexivranick.com/shop! Please note that at this time signed books ship within the United States only. The book is available internationally on Amazon. 

The Power of Fiction: Call For Bloggers!

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I have traveled far-away lands and made friends with paper-people. I've dived inside cinema reels and slipped into comic book strips. I've gone on more adventures than my twenty-four years might suggest, and I have done it all through fiction.

At atlas of such wanderings is coming in the form of a poetry book called Fictitious this spring. In writing this book, and realizing just how many individual stories have influenced my own, I got curious. I've been part of enough fandoms to know that others have been equally affected by pretend people and lands, by the creators behind them, and the lessons within them. 

I want to hear your story. I want to hear about the book, the film, the video game, the television show or singular character that changed your life. I want to know about the piece of fiction that helped you through your lowest lows, or what brought you to your highest highs. And I want to share these stories to showcase the true power of fiction. 

I'm looking for contributors to a blog series about the importance and power in fiction! You do not need be an established blogger. In fact, you don't need to be a blogger at all. I'm simply looking for individuals who are passion about fiction, and you want to share that passion with others!

If you are interested in being a part of this series, please send a piece about a character, book, film, or other work of fiction to lexivranickbooks@gmail.com on or before January 31, 2018. Keep posts under 500 words! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.