Life in the time of COVID

I hope you are all staying healthy during this strange time. 

It feels like such a weird way to start off this post, but I don’t think there’s any other way for me to begin posting on here again without putting that out there first. Living in NW Iowa during this pandemic is much like living here when not in a pandemic — I have no idea how some people make the decisions they do but life demands I work around them anyway. 

So like most responsible members of society, I wear a mask while out in public and hold up in my home 99% of the time. My time on social media is limited to messaging/supporting friends because anything more than that lights a fire under my rage for people who care so little for the rest of humanity… but I digress. 

This quarantine has been oddly healing for me and I know there’s a lot of privilege in being able to make that statement. I don’t really have to worry about bills due to my service-related PTSD and my being a chronic introvert keeps most feelings akin to cabin fever from developing. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much internal work that would result from this much time alone in my own thoughts. There’s no distractions to get lost in to avoid old wounds that never quite healed properly. 

Since the quarantine began, I have moved apartments, been admitted to a college to start finishing my degree (starting this fall), and started querying A BANSHEE’S SCREAM, the first book in the Aeon series I’ve been rewriting. All these things held up different mirrors that made me reassess what I think I need versus what I actually need. I plan to do an entire post on the inner child work that sprouted as a result of me preparing to enter the query trenches again, but I wonder how y’all are fairing during this time. 

What has this pandemic brought up for you? 

Much love!
– B

Resolutions for 2020

Not going to lie. I wasn’t sure about posting resolutions — mostly because I haven’t done so in quite some time. With PTSD and depression ruling much of my life these past couple years, the concept of goals seemed too intangible to consider putting any thought into. 

But here we are, the start of a new year, a new decade, and I’m ready to start moving forward and creating a life that is my own. 

Writing Resolutions: 

  • complete the newest revision of current manuscript (Aeons: Book 1) to send back out into the query trenches
  • draft short story for creature anthology to submit to editor
  • begin adult revision of Aeons: Book 2
  • begin drafting non-Aeon novel

Professional Resolutions:

  • begin classes to complete degree
  • post to blog more consistently 
  • be more active on social media

Personal Resolutions: 

  • get back into weight lifting
  • establish more healthy habits
  • post (at least) 3 singing videos

Really, what this all comes down to is me trying to hold more space to love myself this year. So here’s to a year of self-love, growth and acceptance. 

Cheers, everyone!
– Bree

That’s a wrap on 2019

Hey clan, 

Life can change quickly, can’t it? A lot has happened since last I posted, but sometimes all you can do is live in the moment and take each lesson for what it is. But with 2020 launching in a few days, I figured this would be a good time to catch you all up. 

My 2019 managed to be one of the most wide-ranging emotional selection of months – unexpected success, devastating loss, and a lot of self-worth work to try and navigate everything in between. The sad thing is it’s taken me five months to find words to discuss both extremes on that spectrum. 

So let’s dive in!

I’m getting published! I was accepted into a short story anthology slated for release Halloween 2021. The anthology features stories from aromantic and aro-spec authors. Each story takes place in a magical university for creatures – so expect some cameos from your favorite critters from horror, fantasy, and mythology.

Moores Academy

The announcement! 

The anthology is through NineStar Press, a publishing house centered around serving the LGBTQ+ community. This opportunity means so much to me for so many reasons. First off, my fiction will be published for the first time, which is beyond exhilarating. Second, and possibly more importantly, this opportunity was available because I was able to own my sexual/romantic identity publicly without reservations. It was kind of surreal because so much of where I live currently has revolved around me not being worthy of love (or success) because of my orientation. The acceptance into this anthology was a swift kick to the self-deprecating depression demons. *VICTORY!* 

Speaking of the glory that is the LGBTQ+ community, Orange City Pride was sweet enough to invite me to sing again this year. Being able to share my voice in a forum of resilience and self-love will always be one of life’s greatest blessings. I sang six songs in total during a storytelling event that provided a platform to feel cradled while recounting some of life’s harshest lessons. The stories shared sparked a conversation with my dad that I didn’t know I needed. Somewhere in my soul, I thought that if my dad knew who I was, he wouldn’t love me anymore. We spoke about LGBTQ+ youth being abandoned by their family and my dad replied, “We would never do that. Ever.” 

They were words that I desperately needed but couldn’t fathom receiving, which leads me to the devastating part of 2019. My grandmother passed suddenly and we’re all still reeling from that loss. 

Nanna was our strength, wisdom, compassion and love… and the occasional much-needed swift kick in the logic pants. She was the first family member I came out to who didn’t try to make an excuse for why I was bi. I was her grandkid and that was all she needed. 

Even now, writing this, I want to cry because I miss her so much. There are so many things I wish I could tell her, so many things I crave her guidance for, so many experiences I’d hoped to share with her.  

She had the best sense of humor and was possibly the strongest person I know. I keep a picture of her on a sideboard inside my front door. She’s dancing with my grandfather, smiling up at him, blissfully unaware of the photographer. She reminds me to be resilient and kind and not take things so seriously. I had a wooden jewelry box made with the inscription, “Love you to the moon and back.” written on the inside of the lid. It was what she told all of us. So every morning as I’m walking out the door, I grab a necklace from the box, read the inscription, and smile at her photo. I’m blessed to have gotten to call her Nanna. 


Me and my gorgeous Nanna.

But she’d be pissed if she saw me wallowing, so I’m going to close out this post here. My 2020 goals will be posted soon, and who knows, maybe I’ll even post more regular content on writing and my projects. After all, we’re beginning a whole new decade. 

Much love!
– Bree

Women’s Fiction & my relationship with it

The older I get, the easier it is to get swallowed up by my frustrations far before I consider my joy. Whether that’s because of mental health issues or the fact that the U.S. is attempting to survive in a post-2016 Election reality, who knows. But the benefit of recording your thoughts is seeing some of your own fallacies (aka. Calling out your own bull-honkey). 

Recently, my friend and I launched our podcast, The Shiny Squirrel, where we talk about all the creative nerdy things along with the social impacts of being involved in that space. Monday, we published an episode getting into the nitty gritty of being a woman in these different creative fields. 

While I stand by everything I said, there’s one item – in regards to publishing – that I failed to give justice to. And that’s Women’s Fiction. I’ll still argue that books like Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness should be shelved in fantasy and Gillian Flynn should be in thriller (sorry, I’ll die on this hill). But Women’s Fiction plays a very important role in the lives of not only female writers and readers, but also the industry. 

No. 1 – Women’s Fiction is more than just “beach reads”

Women’s Fiction is first and foremost stories surrounding the female experience. Yes, there is a large market for “beach reads” – your romcoms and self-discovery stories with lighter subject matter. However, there are also books that are so devastatingly profound and raw that make you feel ‘seen’ for the first time. 

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You comes to mind. Not only is her writing absolutely stunning, but the way she captures the human experience in relationship to identity, family, society, and everything in between, leaves you in tears. 

Another brilliant example is Halsey Street by Naima Coster, who captures the complexity of healing internal and familial wounds against a backdrop of cultural and economic clashes and the harm gentrification causes. 

There’s also swaths of complex stories that handle the topics we don’t want to talk about with incredible humor while maintaining brutal honesty about the characters’ experience. 

Here, I’m drawn to almost anything written by Liane Moriary. Summer Heacock’s The Awkward Path To Getting Lucky is also on my list here. It handles the constant pull between personal and professional while also dealing with the painful issue of vaginismus. 

No. 2 – There’s nothing wrong with “beach reads” 

No one can read devastating story after devastating story and maintain any kind of sanity. Sometimes, you really do just need something to make you laugh and leave you feeling empowered when you turn that last page. 

Everyone knows Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – this is one such book. For those of us with body conscious issues, this was one of those stories where you could laugh about the frustrations while also cheer on a woman who is determined to feel sexy regardless. 

A more recent example is Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Olephant Is Completely Fine. Eleanor is one of those MC’s that you connect with immediately. She’s intelligent, lacks a filter, and is completely fine… that is until she realizes she’s not. The book takes you through her journey of self-realization and rediscovery. 

No. 3 – Women’s Fiction has done some of most innovative genre bending I’ve ever read

Because the focus is on the character’s experience, it clears the path for crossing genre lines strictly maintained by the rest of the industry. Historical romance with time travel? Yup! Magical Realism, Romance, and Science Fiction? Definitely! Cross-generational mother-daughter stories with different historical settings and plenty of magic to go around? I’ll escort you to the shelf. 

To give you titles and authors to the above examples… 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

The unfortunate reason Women’s Fiction tends to make me flinch…

Here’s the thing about these incredible genre-bending books… they aren’t marketed well. Mostly, because I don’t think the industry has figured out how to market them just yet. With the exception of Outlander because of its recent success with its TV show, these little nuggets of literary innovation get lost amongst the shelves. As a reader, you have to DIG to find them. 

And that’s the frustrating bit of Women’s Fiction. It allows this brilliant space for all these incredible stories, but because you have such a wide range to choose from as a reader, finding what you need is so incredibly difficult. You might be looking for something like Anders’ unique flavor of fiction, but after picking up twelve different titles in the vein of Moriarty or Honeyman, you give up and walk away without buying anything. 

The impact of this? Publishers are less likely to invest in books like Anders or Morgan because “the numbers say there’s no market for it.” 

I know this blog post is getting super long, so I’ll finish with this… Support your female authors. There are so many brilliant novels written by talented, intelligent storytellers shelved in and out of Women’s Fiction. I’ve pasted a few more authors to check out below. 

V.E. Schwab

N.K. Jemisin

Amal El-Mohtar

J.L. Gribble

Karin Slaughter

Lori M. Lee

Jasmine Warga

Elicia Hyder

Let me know who your favorite female authors are in the comments! Load up my TBR! 

Much love.
– Bree

Short Story: Brownie takes on Tag-a-longs

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a short story featured on another blog last October.

Which was a lie… it was October 2017… because I can’t time well I guess.

Anyhoo, my lovely friend, Melanie, put together this month of creature features leading up to Halloween, and (because I’m a goon) I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share one of my favorite mythological creatures: the Brownie.

I’m relatively obsessed with mythology in general (sorting out Celtic/Irish/Germanic is an on-going battle since the Romans destroyed so much of those ancient cultures, grr), but for whatever reason, the creature that brings me the most joy is the British Brownie, which is somewhat adjacent to goblins or fairies (specifically house elves – think Dobby in Harry Potter).

But before I ramble on too much, here’s what happens when a brownie faces off against Girl Scouts…

Brownie takes on Tag-a-longs

Brownies are one of those few creatures that maintain a benevolent relationship with humans. They attach themselves to homes and to families and take pride in taking care of both. From cleaning to baking, Brownies take responsibility, so when someone or something invades their space, they tend to go a little crazy.

Enter Barry. Barry the Brownie has been with the same family for years, and nothing has ever swayed his confidence in them… until he returned from the grocery store one day to find a box of cookies sitting open on the counter.

As you can imagine, Barry struggled with this. His family didn’t buy cookies. He baked them. He’d always baked them. There was no need to buy pre-made pre-packaged cookies. So he set the bag of groceries down and picked up the box. At the top was the logo of his enemy: Girl Scouts. Every year, those little girls in their brown sashes and gappy smiles knocked on the door selling their blasphemous goods. Usually, Barry’s there to send them packing. But they must have come while he was out. Evil little demons.

He turned the red box over in his hands. Tagalongs. The box had already been opened, so someone in his family had already tasted non-Barry baked goods. Irritation reddened his cheeks as Barry pulled the plastic wrapped tin out. Three cookies were missing. Three! Who’d betrayed him? Was it Frank? Frank never appreciated the work Barry did. It was probably Frank.

Barry opened the trashcan to throw the box inside, but curiosity stopped him. Well it wasn’t so much curiosity as it was hubris. He needed to be 100% positive that his baking was superior, so he took out a Tagalong and bit into it.

The box dropped from his hand. The cookie was delicious. Peanut butter. Chocolate. A tiny touch of buttery shortbread cookie. It was perfect. And Barry hadn’t made them.

Panicked, Barry rushed to the cabinet and took out everything he though he would need – peanut butter, butter, flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate – and began experimenting. He started with the shortbread cookie because he knew shortbread. But once he had to turn his attention to the peanut butter filling, that’s when things took an unfortunate turn. Over and over again, he mixed peanut butter with powdered sugar, peanut butter with granulated sugar, peanut butter with brown sugar. Nothing worked. Through the French doors off the kitchen was the family office. Barry stared at the computer a moment, then shook his head. No. Brownies don’t use Pinterest. Only humans resort to Pinterest. So he tried the filing again, returning to the first mixture of peanut butter and powdered sugar, added a touch of vanilla extract. Closer.

He swiped some of the filling onto each of the cookies and began to melt some chocolate on the stove. When he took it off, he went to dunk his first cookie and the filling separated under the heat. Barry hadn’t ever been violent, but he wanted to throw the bowl of chocolate at the wall. He restrained himself, put the cookies into the freezer, and tried his best to calm his simmering temper. He failed.

For ten whole minutes, he sat on the floor in front of the freezer, glaring at it, cursing the box of Girl Scout cookies that still sat on the counter. When the filling was finally set up, he dunked each cookie in the melted chocolate and set them out to dry.

Have you ever watched chocolate set up? No? Well, it’s the baker’s equivalent of watching paint dry. It’s useless, nonsensical, and Barry did it anyway. All the while, the red Tagalong box mocked him in his peripherals.

He kept his hands away from the chocolate (he didn’t want fingerprints on the cookies). But the wait was excruciating. Were his cookies better than the Girl Scouts? Or would he need to hang up his Brownie apron forever? Barry didn’t know what he could do outside of being a Brownie. Taking care of his human family home was his pride and his joy. Stupid Girl Scouts. Stupid delicious Tagalongs.

With the chocolate coating finally set, Barry picked up one of his cookies and took a bite. It was delicious. The buttery shortbread. The sweet peanut butter. He’d out done those evil Girl Scouts. He just knew he had. Still, he took another Tagalong from the package and bit in.

And then he lost it. The Tagalong was still superior. Screw impulse control. Barry threw the box. It hit the wall and cookies went flying, littering the yellow paint with spots of brown chocolate. Barry flinched at the mess, then realized he didn’t need to clean it up. It was no longer his job to. His family had replaced him with pre-made, pre-packaged witchery. So the flour bag went flying. Then the sugar. The chocolate chips. The carton of eggs. Everything sitting on the counters – sans his cookies – got thrown into the air.

A gasp stopped his tirade. Rebecca, the mother of the family, stood at the edge of the kitchen, eyes darting around, trying to take in the mess. Barry straightened himself, fixing his plaid vest and retying his moss green bow tie.

“Barry?” was all Rebecca said, looking for an explanation.

Barry pointed at the Tagalong box near her feet.

She sighed, picked up the box, and walked it over to the trash. A weight lifted from Barry’s shoulders. Rebecca hadn’t even checked to see if any cookies remained. She then turned to the tray of Barry’s cookies on the island, grabbed one and popped it into her mouth.

Barry waited in anticipation. Regardless of being replaced, he still ached for his family’s approval.

“These are delicious,” she said after swallowing.

“Not as good as Girl Scouts,” Barry scoffed.

“Is that the reason for,” Rebecca motioned her hand toward the rest of the kitchen, “all of this?”

Barry nodded.

Rebecca shook her head but said nothing as she went to the closet and retrieved the broom.

“I guess I’ll get my things,” Barry said, defeated.

“Now why would you do that?”

“You’ve replaced me with Girl Scouts.”

Rebecca laughed.

“You think this is funny? I’m being serious. You don’t appreciate me.”

“Oh Barry,” she began, putting the broom down. “No box of cookies could ever replace you.”

“But I failed.”


“My cookies. They’re no good.”

Rebecca took hold of Barry’s hands. “Okay. One: you know that’s not true. And two: you’re family. Anything you make will be better than something bought simply because you made it.” She let go and walked to the office. She lifted a wrapped box from her desk drawer and handed it to him. “I was going to wait to give this to you next week on your anniversary with us, but I think now is a good time.”

Barry – not wanting to destroy the wrapping paper – glided his finger beneath each of the tape pieces and unfolded the wrapping from the box. A new digital kitchen scale rested in his hands, capable of reading both grams and ounces.

“I noticed your old one was fritzing the other day and thought you’d appreciate a new one.”

“So you’re not trying to replace me?”

Rebecca shook her head. “Of course not. Like I said, you’re family.”

Barry clutched the scale to his chest. “I’m sorry about the mess.”

Rebecca shrugged. “I worried when my coworker gave me that box to bring home.”

“So you didn’t buy them?”


Barry looked around at the mess he made. “Sorry.”

“I tell you what: I won’t bring outside cookies home again if you promise to not jump to conclusions. Deal?”

All Barry’d wanted was his human family’s appreciation. That stupid red box had just burrowed beneath his skin and discredited everything he’d ever done for them. He hadn’t slowed down long enough to even consider how those cookies got there. Brownies weren’t exactly known for their rationality. Still, Barry nodded and helped Rebecca clean up the kitchen.

Moral of the story: if you’re lucky enough to house a Brownie, don’t bring home baked goods… especially not Girl Scout cookies.

Thanks for reading!

– Bree