six months

After six months, I’ve finally finished the first draft of Songs of my Mother! For some reason, the following song is the first thing that popped into my head upon completion.


captureThe wordcount ended up being just shy of 300,000 words, though this will expand at least a bit–if not a lot–over that when I edit/rewrite. Well, here’s the total wordcount and pagecount.

This has been quite an ordeal for me, as people who come to this site well know. But now the hardest part is over. What comes next is adding in scenes I didn’t know I needed, rewriting scenes that may not have turned out the way they should have, and just general editing.

Luckily, the first 120,000 words are more or less in final draft form. Or at least finalish form. So are most of the chapters that take place in the present. So the bulk of the work will be in the rest, which is probably like 150,000 words. Still a lot, mind, but a lot less than 300,000 words.

At this point, it’s probably time to write some kind of a synopsis or whatever.

The novel takes place in the same world and on the same continent as Twilight of the Wolves, though it takes place several centuries before that, so there’s no overlap. The bulk of the novel takes place in a single village deep in the forest that covers most of the continent and it deals with life there. It’s about culture, life, and relationships, really. What it means to be a member of this village and how this village changes when one of its people becomes a god.

Luna is a child. Her mother and fathers are outcasts in their clan and the first section of the novel is, in many ways, a family drama. What it means to be an outcast, what it means to watch your society not accept you because of the decision your parents made before you were born. More than that, it’s about what it means to be a family. What kind of love exists between men and women, between parent and child. How we try to protect our children from our mistakes and how our children are far more perceptive than we believe they are.

Then a dragon comes to the village and Luna’s mother kills it. This is really the pivot of the novel, and everything spirals out from there. In killing the dragon, she becomes a god to her own people and the rest of the novel deals with this event.

It’s sociological fantasy, in the vein of Ursula K Le Guin or Samuel R Delany’s Neveryona series. The novel deals with mythology, philosophy, art, culture, love, sexuality, social conventions and structures, mysticism, pacifism, violence, apotheosis, deicide, suicide, motherhood, childhood, love, death, and what it means to be a person, what it means to be alive.

There are characters who are gods who have lived for thousands of years and characters who become gods while still too young to understand what that means. There are tragedies, moments of humor, violence, and the grotesque.

Basically, there’s a bit of everything. All my various obsessions–including cooking–find a place in the novel. But I think, at the heart, it’s about a few things.

The impetus for much of this was the disorienting sensation of being confronted by power so much greater than what you can conceive. And then being forced to accept that power and live under its shadow.

But the novel really finds a heart in the relationships between people. People children and parents, between lovers, between friends, and how power can turn these people into opposition.

I’ve written some of my favorite scenes in this novel. Also some of my darkest and maybe some of my funniest. It’s an emotional journey, and it lasts Luna’s whole life.

We begin when she’s just a child, but we end with her thousands of miles away, much older and after much loss.


captureIt’s a novel in five main parts. There is a throughline that takes place in the present (Prelude, Interludes, Postlude), where Luna tells a person the story of her life. The story of her life happens over the course of four distinct sections (Dragonslayer, Savior, Goddess, Forest) that are broken up by scenes in the present. It looks like the picture on the left.

Despite the majority of the novel happening in the past, quite a bit of narrative movement happens in the present. It’s something I was uncertain about at first, this framing of the narrative, and I planned on abandoning it if it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.

Like, I didn’t want it to just be a story in the present and a story in the past. I wanted an interaction between the past and present that would make the narrative twist and bend into surprising directions, both for me and the reader.

I think I succeeded. I’m very happy with how it came out, anyway.

But, yes, I’m immensely proud of it and it’s taken me half the year to get it all written down. I’ve talked about the process a few times in recent months, so I won’t go through it again. But it hasn’t been easy! This is the longest I’ve ever worked on…anything. Not just a novel, but any single project.

And though it’s not ready for the eyes of the world, it will be soon. Hopefully sooner than later. But definitely by the end of November.

With that in mind, now’s the time to let me know if you want to be a beta reader! I’ll be reaching out to certain people, but I’m really looking for various eyes on this. I’ve never written anything even close to this long so I have all sorts of fears and concerns about pacing and structure.

But, yeah, reach out and let me know if you’d want to take a look at this monster.

I’ll be celebrating for tonight and probably the rest of the weekend, then probably taking next week off. But come November, I’ll be wearing my editor hat and trying to make this novel shine the way it should.

how do you solve a problem like my idea

Getting a real Sound of Music kind of thing in my head right now, which explains the title.

Anyrate, I may actually be finished with the novel I’ve been writing, but I’m not sure yet. See, I began Part Four about a week or so ago, but the further I get into it, the more I think it may actually be unnecessary. Or not unnecessary, but just a poor place to end a novel, especially one of this length.

It sort of feels entirely like denouement. For that to go on for 200 pages isn’t a good look, especially when you’ve already journeyed nearly 1,000 pages into a novel.

Either way, I’m going to finish this section, because it might still be worth it. But what if this is just a bad place to end a novel?

I’ve been thinking, too, about the possible necessity to write a direct sequel to the novel. This is all predicated on me actually selling the novel. The way I see it, a standalone 1,000+ novel isn’t an easy sell, especially from an author whose combined sales over three books is fewer than 1,000 copies. Maybe fewer than 500, which is depressing to remember.

Anyrate, if I do need to write a direct follow up, it makes sense to keep the novel ending I have planned, so that it will pick up right afterwards. I don’t know if the rest of the story will take another 1,000 pages, so it may be a very lopsided duology, but that’s just how it goes.

Of course, if the sequel isn’t necessary, I may just end this novel at the 260,000 word mark and call it a day.

As it is, I’m straddling 285,000 words. Staring down 300,000 words is still shocking to me, but it’s where I’m heading. I’ll probably be there by the end of the week, since that’s not so far from here.

I’m well on track to finish the novel by the end of the month, despite taking the previous three days off. I’d be ecstatic, actually, if I could finish Part Four this week. That would give me plenty of time to write the postlude, and then more than enough time to edit/rewrite this beast before the year’s over.

Because I do really want to begin submitting this before I turn thirty. It’s coming up fast and this novel will take a long time to perfect.

Anyrate, still looking for volunteers for beta readers. Maybe I’ll even give a full synopsis when I’m finished.

Later, gator.

you don’t need to write every day

Because that’s hard. It’s too hard, I think.

I wish I could write every day. I know people like that, who can sit down and just consistently get words down on the page. Day in and day out, week after week, month after month.

I can barely sustain that for longer than a week at a time. I’m constantly taking breaks. Constantly letting those breaks drag on into months or years, which is why I have more abandoned novels than I do finished ones. I’ve probably written 300,000 words total stretched over thirteen or fifteen different novels that are in extremely different states of completion. Some never get more than 1,000 words before my attention or time gets pulled away for the day. And then I don’t find the time to get back there until months and months later, by which time I know I’m probably never doing anything with those words.

Those are the good kind of abandoned novels.

But I have one that’s over 130,000 words. A few others that are around 30,000 words. Novels where I’ve put in 50%-90% of the work and something happened that caused me to just never get back into it.

All of those abandoned novels still kind of eat at me, though. I convince myself a few times a year that I’m going to go back and finish this one or that one.

It never happens.

My lack of discipline is why I write fast. It works for me. If I can knock out a novel in a week or maybe even just over a weekend, I know it’ll work out. Some of my best work’s been written over extremely short time periods. Because if I take a day off, I’ll probably never get back to it.

Of course, this current novel has been plagued by breaks. I’ve tried to be very workmanlike about it. Sit down and pound out a couple thousand words a day. Maybe just 2,000 because that’s not so much. It’s very doable. If you write 2,000 words a day for a month, you end up with a 60,000 word novel by the end of the month!

It’s easy! You should be able to write a novel every month!

There’s a reason most of us aren’t that productive. And a lot of it just goes into the individuality of the creative process.

Even those writers I know who write every day, most of them are lucky to finish a novel every year, which, in the grand scheme of things, is more or less the same rate I go at it. The difference is that I usually only put about a week of solid work in that year to writing the novel. The rest of the year is spent doing whatever it is I’m doing when I’m not writing.

But I think about how fast I can write a novel a lot. Because it should not be difficult for me to write, like, six short novels a year. If I spent a week every other month writing a novel, this would be how it happens. And it’s not lack of ideas! For every novel I’ve written or abandoned, I have a dozen more novels I hope to some day write.

The problem is a bit of laziness, a bit of procrastination, but also just the way I’m wired, I think.

A novel is draining. Whether it takes you six months or six days. It takes a lot out of you. It’s full of ecstasy and agony. It consumes bits of your life and exhausts you. But when you finish or when you finally get that scene written just right–it’s glory. You’re full of beauty and perfection.

I’ve tried to write every day. Often.

It never works for me. I’ve had to be the most persistent with this current novel. I mean, I’ve been working on it since January (kind of), which is a staggering amount of time to me. Even if we just put the start date at May, which is when I really started putting words down, that’s still five months of writing.

Some people will roll their eyes at that and say something flippant like, Five months is nothing! I’ve been working on my novel for five years!

Those people are dicks.

Thing is, five months is an eternity for me. If I averaged out the lengths it’s taken me to finish every novel that I have finished, I’d probably come out around six days. So me going into my sixth month of writing the same novel is a huge jump.

Imagine you’ve written several novels. Let’s say more than five. Each novel has taken you about six months, give or take a few months. Now imagine you start a novel today and don’t finish it until 2021.

It would feel like a big deal, probably.

And so even though I haven’t written every day of these five or six or twelve months (depending on how you count), there have been stretches where I have. Like, month long stretches. But then I look at last month. I wrote 120,000 words and probably took off at least two days of every week.

That’s just how things work for me.

I don’t know. I don’t have a real point here. I’m just thinking about something J David Osborne and I talked about recently. About productivity.

My novel is, at this moment, at 270,000 words. Most of my novels are between 40,000 and 50,000 words. This novel, by itself, represents the work of five novels. By the time it’s finished, it’ll be more like six or seven novels. But instead it’s only one.

I remember when I challenged myself to write 52 stories in a year (this was 2013). I ended up writing probably 70 stories that year, but it still felt like a really unproductive year. Partly because I didn’t know what to do with them. My short stories are not great (in my opinion) and so I had a bunch of little nothings finished, but no whole of something.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you, but it felt like I had a year’s worth of fragments with no complete project. Forget that I wrote a novel, three poetry collections, and two graphic novels that year as well.

The novel was too weird. Too…everything. The poetry collections are–well, I simply don’t know what to do with them. No one really wants a poetry collection written by me. Or at least I assume as much. And then the graphic novels will never see the light of day because of reasons that are strange to explain. But they just won’t.

So even though I had a lot of content, it felt like a year where I had done nothing.

Oddly, this year is the year I feel best about the work I’ve done. When I finish this big giant stupid novel, I’m going to be ecstatic! I’m already so excited to share it with people that I have to keep fighting the urge to send it to friends. But when I have a complete draft that I’m happy with, I’m going to be reaching out for readers.

The first draft should be finished this month. I have a hard time believing it won’t be. But then I need to add a few scenes to Part Two, a lot of scenes to Part Three, and who knows what Part Four will need.

I passed 1,000 pages today. I think the novel will end up being fewer than 1,200, but not by much, and possibly more than that. At this point it’s kind of silly for me to guess, because I’ve been consistently wrong on every prediction going back to before I even started writing it.

I thought I was going to write a trilogy! The first book (this one) would be around 80,000 words. The second book would be around 30,000 words. And the third would be around 80,000 words.

I still plan on writing those other two books, but it’s just ridiculous that this book is already bigger than what I thought the entire trilogy would be.

I think the second book will still be around 30,000 words, but the third book is probably more like 140,000 words. Unless, you know, they both balloon on me.

Anyrate, just some nightly rambling.

your brain still works when you’re sick

Sick. In my lungs. Makes breathing a bit of a struggle. Congestion is what I mean. Have a humidifier going and green tea coming.

The last time I posted, I talked about productivity, which is kind of appropriate, because I then went on to writing 20,000 more words before the month ended. I got 120,000 words in September, which is probably a record somewhere.

Anyway, because of that I ended up taking the first week of October off. Figure I deserve a break. Then this weekend, I was able to get another 8,ooo words into the novel, which serves as the last interlude chapter. Tomorrow, I plan on starting section four, which is the last section. Hoping real hard that it only runs about 40,000 words so I can finally be finished with this thing.

I’m currently over 260,000 words on the novel, which is, you know, a lot.

But everything just keeps getting longer. Section three was meant to be 50,000 words, but ended up at 70,000 words.

And then, in this week taken off, I’ve found scenes that need to be added to the novel, which might push section two over 100,000 words and section three up closer to 80,000 or 90,000. So the novel keeps expanding and expanding. A novel I never thought would be even near 300,000 words is now going to traipse right past that number.

But, yeah, big fat novel getting bigger and fatter.

Something else I did while I was not writing my novel is come up with a pretty solid definition of the next novel I’m going to write. It’s a world where two ancient species fight a war that ends when a human wizard obliterates all life on that continent. Then we jump forward about 500 years to an anarchist industrialized world without magic where people are super into occult techniques, though everyone knows they’re not real. A man who believes that the world now has a god is ridiculed and thought of as a quack. He wants to go to that other continent, where the ancient species were made extinct. The novel follows several people as they go to that other continent to find the wizard who annihilated whole species.

So that’s the gist of it, but I also developed a Tarot deck and a new set of Zodiac symbols.

It’s going to be fun to write.

But! I thought this would be a nice short novel to follow up this big giant one. I can already tell it’s going to be much bigger than I initially thought. Hopefully not more than 100,000 words, because that’s a stupid size novel.

But, yeah, just some dumb writerly stuff today. Don’t worry about it.



an unusual month

A lot has happened. Part of me wants to write about the travesty that was the first presidential debate. The solitary confinement of Chelsea Manning comes to mind too. Or maybe something real topical: the blatant and casual racism of Bill Maher.

But smarter people will talk about that. Have talked about it. Will keep talking about it.

So I’ll do something selfish and talk about myself!

It’s been a good month in certain ways and a terrible one in other ways. Discovered how much fixing our plumbing is going to cost. Meeting with my contractor soon. Had to have my deck painted, which also wasn’t nothing. So the bummers are mostly just financial, which is a big deal, but we’re fortunate enough to be able to come through and pay for it all. Oh, and our sweet little Viggo needs to be neutered.

It diverts us from our financial goals, but that’s just how it goes, I guess.

Anyrate, the novel has been going well, so there’s that. Also, I’m seeing Sigur Ros tomorrow, so that’s pretty awesome too.

Last night I reached and passed 100,000 words for the month, which is kind of a lot! It’s nearly half this novel. While I hoped to be finished with this novel by my birthday, there’s way too far to go for the two days remaining. But hopefully I’ll be finished next month. But, as is typical for this novel, everything gets longer. I’m already nearly at the point that I was certain the novel would top out at. I had a hard time thinking I’d reach 250,000 words, but here I am, just 15,000 away from that with a lot of story still to go.

My only goal this week now is to finish this section of the novel, which leaves me one more section–the last one–and one chapter between them, with one that follows section four.

So there might be upwards of 70,000 words to write, which means the novel is going to be even gianter than I ever could have expected.

I’ll also be crossing page 900 this week. Maybe even today, depending on how much I’m able to write today. Probably it’ll be tomorrow. Either way, I seem to be writing a brick of a novel, which is just the hugest bummer, but also kind of exciting.

Then comes the editing. Editing may take a while and the novel will either shrink or grow. Knowing how my editing usually goes, it will probably expand a bit, or significantly.

But, yeah, my only real goal is to have this completely finished this year. Sending it to beta readers as soon as possible and then rewriting/editing once more in order to send it out to agents and publishers next fall.

I’ve had a few offers for beta readers, but I’m always looking for more! If you have any interest in reading this giant novel about gods and demons and dragonslayers and kingkillers and the like, let me know!

on taking breaks and why robin hobb is my new favorite writer

After taking two months off, I’ve managed to write almost exactly 70,000 words so far in September. That’s a pretty solid amount! It’s not a record for speed, but this has always been more about endurance, which, previously, I’ve never had. The last time I wrote something even near this long was way back in January of 2013. In that month, I wrote about 130,000 words. Then I took a month off, and that month persists to this day and may stretch on for the rest of my life.

But this novel, I’m determined to finish it, if only to prove to myself that I can work consistently at a project, gradually chip away at it until it’s finished.

captureIn the past, anytime I took a break of longer than three days, it usually meant I was never going to finish that book. I have about a dozen of novels in various states of completion because of this. Way back in January, I thought that would be the state of this novel as well. And for nearly half the year, it was. Then I pushed into it, wrote about 120,000 words over two months. Then took a month off which became two, and now I’m here, my wordcount now tipping past 200,000, with so many more words to left to write.

It’s interesting to have written about 70,000 words so far this month. It’s roughly the length I thought the whole novel would be. As it stands now, it’s about one third of the novel. I’ve been able to push and fight and chip away at the novel, form it into what I want it to be.

I mention this because I’m taking the day off. It’s not the first day off I’ve taken this week. I’ve missed maybe three or four days. Usually because I was driving for 6-10 hours during those days.

I want to finish this before my birthday still, but there’s just no way. I have about twelve days(?) and just too many words to write. I’d have to average between 8,000 and 12,000 words a day, which isn’t impossible either. I’ve done it before! But it just won’t happen. I have a wife, a job, and a life I need to live, so I can no longer hole myself up with my computer for 20 hours a day. Now I’m usually lucky to have five uninterrupted hours to write spread throughout the day.

In some ways, that’s been useful. Quick, big creative bursts. Taking a break is useful to any creative process [assuming you come back to it], whether it’s a month or an hour, and so I’ve been able to hit 4,000 to 7,000 words pretty regularly, even with a truncated amount of time to work on the novel.

But that’s not the real reason I’m taking today off. And I may still come back and throw some words down later. The day off is because I only slept about three or four hours last night. I spent most of the night sneezing due to the most annoying kind of cold. I could have slept in, probably, but cats wait for no man and he slept like a baby while I suffered.

Anyrate, because I couldn’t sleep, I went back into the Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb and finally finished the third book in the trilogy.

Not that it took me long to read, but it feels like a long time, considering how quickly I read the first two books. Those first two books, incidentally, are why my break from the novel kept extending. I couldn’t put them down! And I finally willed myself back into my novel, but I still read from the third book in the trilogy almost every day. So instead of reading 1,000 pages in a few days, it took me a few weeks.

The kind of self control I’m not known for!

But, man, Robin Hobb. I think she’s my favorite fantasy writer.

You can find my thoughts on her Farseer Trilogy:




And the Liveship Trilogy:




These books are inexplicably amazing. The Farseer Trilogy is maybe my favorite reading experience of last year. FitzChivalry is my heart. He’s all my hopeless romanticism, my teenage foolishness and recklessness. That trilogy is all from a single perspective, in what amounts to a more or less european medieval society. It’s full of so much power and heart and beauty. Failure stands at the core of those novels. How we fail and in failing find success, even if it’s never the success we hoped to one day achieve. It’s the bittersweetness of understanding the harm you did when you believed you were doing your best. It’s accepting all that we’ve done. All the chaos and pain and torment. Rather than push that away and move past it, it forces us to embrace all the terror that we are.

I love it so much.

Because I loved it so much, I didn’t want to read The Liveship Trilogy, which follows it. It’s in the same world, but quite a far distance from the events of the Farseer Trilogy. Further, there’s a follow up trilogy that goes back to FitzChivalry. That’s what I wanted to read! But I was afraid I’d miss something important in the overall story of the world, so instead of choosing, I sat in indecision for almost exactly a year.

I finally picked up the Liveship Trilogy and literally could not put it down. It’s stupid for me to have waited so long. The setting is a bit different, showing a much more complex world with much more depth than you might have assumed from just reading the Farseer Trilogy. The focus is much wider. Rather than centering on one hapless hero who narrates his life, it bounces through a cast of about ten main characters. Most of them members of the same family.

I love it. I love it so much I can’t believe it. I almost want to skip the next FitzChivalry trilogy and move onto the follow up of the lives of these other characters in their corner of the world.

I won’t, of course, but that’s how good this trilogy is. Everything is so real. There are big ideas here. Bigger ideas than the Farseer Trilogy deals with. But there’s the same depth of emotion. Maybe even deeper. You come to know these characters–all of them–as intimately as you know FitzChivalry.

What I find most interesting about it is how hope suffuses so much of it. Failure is still key here, but this is a much more optimistic work, I think. However, there is some serious darkness here. Some moments that will haunt you and gnaw at your bones. It’s not as brutal a story as FitzChivarly, but it’s not exactly an easy life we come to know through these characters.

Also of interest is the shape the world begins to take. The Liveship Trilogy begins in a land that once had gender equality, but is currently as patriarchal as just about anywhere in our own reality. As the story moves forward, women must navigate this in a variety of ways. The world’s peril is not solved by the men who created it. Rather, the women of the novel take the world in their hands and work to make it better. By refusing to allow men to control their lives, they do more than find personal freedom. They save a nation (or four).

There’s so much I could say about Robin Hobb as a writer. She’s so confident. Handling action and adventure or political intrigue or family drama all with such skill that it feels effortless. Her plots are intricate and beautiful and dark and twisted but so full of love. Love love love.

And I love her writing. It’s astounding to me that she’s not known in the way that some of the other big name fantasy writers are. Surely it’s because she’s a woman, yeah. But she stands head and shoulders above so many of her peers. Her unflinching and grim reality with characters so real I can see them in my head the way I can recall the faces and voices of old friends. And her world is as rich and deep as anything any of her contemporaries have done.

Robin Hobb is a marvel and I cannot wait to keep reading her. Part of me wants to parcel it out, take on a new trilogy every summer, but I may end up jumping ahead into the next one before the end of the year.

Anyrate, she’s someone you should read if you have any interest in fantasy fiction.


on pardoning american heroes

This Op-Ed in the LA Times got me thinking a lot about something. I encourage you to read that first before reading on.

I think the author there covers the main reasons. Chief among them: Edward Snowden is a heterosexual man.

I fully support what both Snowden and Manning did, so it’s not really an issue of one being better than the other or more worthy of praise or pardon. I think they both should be pardoned. They both need to be pardoned.

The fact that Chelsea Manning is a transgender woman is definitely at the heart of this. While she was locked away for a few years pre-trial (something that is literally unconstitutional), the government worked very hard to smear her. They described her as having serious mental disorders.

As it turns out, her mental disorder can best be described as being transgender.

This matters a great deal for a few reasons.

First, the government outed her as transgender.

Second, they used this as a framework to explain that her motives were petty defiance stemming from her mental instability.

Third, and perhaps worst of all, this became the public narrative surrounding Chelsea Manning.

Fourth, Chelsea was not allowed to speak on any of this. She was often held in solitary confinement (torture) or was denied access to journalists.

She had to watch from prison (where she was being held without charge for well over the allotted 120 days, which is unconstitutional) as pundits picked apart her life. From her sexuality to her alleged motives.

It was, for these reasons, that she faced the trial as Bradley Manning. She and her lawyers decided they did not want the government to use her gender identity against her.

The fact that it’s even possible to smear someone based on their gender is astounding. The public’s discomfort with transgenders is well known. We’ve seen actual laws come into place regarding where they are allowed to use the public restroom.

So maybe it isn’t surprising that the US government used this as a tactic to attack her character. Maybe it’s unsurprising that it worked. But that doesn’t make it any less disgusting.

But let’s talk about the mechanics of a Hollywood biopic. Because, really, that’s what’s shining a light on Edward Snowden at the moment. But even before that, there was the documentary CitizenFour, which is an amazing film that I highly recommend.

Why was Chelsea Manning treated differently?

There are a few obvious reasons. For one thing, she made no grand escape. Chelsea Manning leaked information to Wikileaks, who then worked with several news organizations to release the information. It should be noted that Manning first reached out to news organizations. She wanted to disclose the information right to journalists.

She was ignored.

So she went to Wikileaks.

This isn’t exactly riveting screentime. Sure, they could make it that way, but Manning didn’t hack through government databases. She took readily available information and secretly sent it to Wikileaks, who then, in conjunction with places like the New York Times, released it to the public.

Once she was imprisoned, Chelsea Manning faced extensive cruel and unusual punishment for years before her trial. That’s not even an exaggeration.

Solitary confinement for months at a time. Sometimes she was stripped naked and left naked in her cell.

Human Rights organizations, world leaders, activists, and academics have written letters, pleaded, and demanded that she receive better treatment, but this was largely ignored.

Compare that to Snowden’s story.

Snowden learned an important lesson from previous US whistleblowers. From Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, he learned that he couldn’t just go to his superiors to let them know that what the NSA was doing was unconstitutional and illegal. From Chelsea Manning he learned that he had to be out of reach before he disclosed the information or he would sit in prison for years. Potentially the rest of his life.

So he made his escape.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I understand it has the feel of a spy thriller. And it kind of sounds that way!

Maverick government employee steals secrets, escapes abroad, then releases secrets to journalists, and finally puts his own name on those documents, in order to take control of the narrative before the US government could smear him, the way it smeared Manning.

I think it’s true that we wouldn’t have Snowden without Manning. That Manning’s actions seem daring and thrilling makes it all the more appealing to a mass audience. Add to that a love interest, in Snowden’s long time girlfriend, and the fact that Snowden has had the freedom to speak extensively about what he did, why he did it, how he did it, and has been able to be a regular commentator about privacy, national security, and human rights for years since his disclosure.

To put it simply, Snowden became a household name. Even people who don’t follow politics are aware of him. Some think he’s a traitor while others a hero, and still others are wholly indifferent to him as a person. But there was a built in audience for him. An audience that he is allowed to cultivate by virtue of not being in prison.

Add to that the documentary, which is thrilling and amazing and informative, and you have an easy road to make him a movie with a certain level of mass appeal, or at least mass interest.

But when I say Chelsea Manning, most people need to wikipedia her name to even know who I’m talking about. Even people who have followed Snowden’s disclosures may be unaware of who Chelsea Manning is and what she did.

Being imprisoned took the narrative out of her hands and into the hands of her captors. More than that, the collaboration of the pundit class with our military’s agenda makes this kind of story easy to ignore and hide from the general public.

So Chelsea Manning was ignored and continues to largely be ignored.

How do you film the last six years of her life?

One prison cell after another. Solitary confinement. Her trial, which was a military tribunal so no reporters were allowed to even take notes, seriously hampering any kind of transparency. In fact, many have described it as a kangaroo court. To many, including Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, it appeared that Assange was being tried in absentia along with Manning.

Without evidence–or rather, refusing to allow evidence to the contrary–they described Manning’s disclosures as aiding the enemy and seriously endangering the lives of US soldiers and intelligence officers.

None of which was proved because none of that was true. In fact, just the opposite. She made it safer for everyone by exposing US war crimes.

After her trial, she came out as transgender, was imprisoned in an all male prison. She had to petition and fight to receive gender transition medication, which they outright refused at first. For the last three years, Manning has been refused to be moved to a female prison. Refused to grow her hair out. Refused, at times, access to her medication and to be able to undergo gender affirming surgery. This led to her attempting to commit suicide, which she’s facing even more charges for.

This isn’t exactly a sexy narrative to play out on screens across america. A nation still actively at war in the Middle East. Now in even more countries than when Manning disclosed our war crimes. A public that believes we should continue these wars. A government that plans on expanding them still further.

To me, these are the reasons there has been no huge movement to grant Chelsea Manning a pardon.

  1. She’s a transgender female.
  2. Lack of visibility
  3. Her disclosures are even more damning to the US

My hope is that Snowden receives his pardon. But my greatest hope would be that Chelsea Manning also receives a pardon. Her plight is far greater than Snowden’s and she faces far more barriers to freedom.

If President Obama pardoned both, it would do a lot to lessen the great damage he has done to freedom of the press.

Sign the petition to free Edward Snowden.

Sign the petition to free Chelsea Manning.