April Showers Me With To Do Lists and Goals

Hi guys!

It’s a bit of a personal post today, rather than a certain topic. I need a good written ramble though, so please bear with me.

This month is going to be a chaotic one in my life for a number of reasons:

  1. I’m back in school, working to become certified for a specific job in the medical field. Anything related to that area means studying, sleeping if possible, more studying, a bit of crying, and then studying again, as I have learned the last few weeks. I loved what I’ve learned so far though, and I am glad I chose a career change.
  2. I’m trying to complete a whole manuscript with Camp NaNoWriMo. It is only a first draft, but the pressure is on, because I chose this MS over one I’ve been working on for ten years and now I feel like this is a monumental decision, because I shelved my dream project(s) for one I hadn’t planned on writing for another ten years. However, I wanted to do an OwnVoices novel, so that is what led me to this one instead. More news on that later, as time progresses.
  3. I’ve assigned myself a massive TBR to complete, because my hope is that I can read enough books to populate posts for every single day of Pride Month in June. Will it happen? Who knows. However, I am still going to try. I’m an ambitious sort, what can I say?
  4. Outside of this, I am a parent, and a person who has to do other things related to being a human. I also have other goals I won’t list here, but ones that could potentially be difficult given that every single free moment from here on out must be scripted or scheduled.

Reading over this you might wonder, why on earth would you take on all of that at once? The answer is short – I’m tired of wasting time where I don’t want to be, career wise. Also, I have stories that need to be told, and ones I want to boost because representation matters, and those seeking it should find it. I’m working towards a better future for myself and my family, as well as my little corner of the world. Sometimes that means making sacrifices, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.

As for the blog, the schedule will retain its normal routine. I’ve got scheduled posts that will drop while I’m busy. In a month I’ll let you all know how this craziness goes, and whether I’ve gained a few gray hairs or not.

So, readers, what about you? Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? What are you entering? Have you got a big TBR, or no? Let’s talk in the comments!

I hope each person who reads this has a swell day!

Until next time,

T.J.

Unbroken: A Book Review

Given the trigger warnings and the fact that it is Erotica, I will be honest and say that I did not expect to enjoy Unbroken by Brooklyn Ray as much as the previous novel of this series. However, raw and real, this book is the sequel to Port Lewis Witches, Volume One that we all deserve.

Unbroken follows the story of Michael Gates, a travel blogger who is transplanted to Port Lewis by his parents’ collective insistence that he do something with his life. Tucking tail and escaping Arizona, he follows his sister Janice to Port Lewis, Washington where they find themselves renting a house with two other roommates; one human and one demon. That is not even the half of the strangeness that begins to infiltrate itself into their lives after arriving in Port Lewis.

Outside of Michael Gates, there is Victor Llewellyn, Michael’s sister Janice, and their roommate Corey, as well as the occasional appearance of other Port Lewis regulars introduced in book one. Those I felt were tastefully done, and did not feel shoe-horned in whatsoever. Regarding the new characters, I felt that each were well-written, with not a single one feeling hollow or incomplete.

Furthermore, I adored each of the characters that are added to this world with the addition of this book to the series, including the main character. Michael is by no means perfect, but his character arc of learning to accept himself and the love he deserves is poignant and harsh, but relatable. I connected with him in ways I was not sure I would upon first glance of the novel.

As for the world building in this book, given the genre, it did take a back seat. However, it was still woven in so that those who read the first book will learn more about the magic system and world that Ray has created. I did not feel like it was lacking in the slightest.

Overall, for those who enjoyed Unbroken’s predecessor, and can handle darker subject matter, I recommend this book. Though it may be heavier material, I believe it is tastefully done, and well worth the read.

I rate this book 5/5.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this by NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

Why Harry Potter Is No Longer Relevant To Me

There was a time period during my earlier youth when I was obsessed with Harry Potter, as were a large majority of children around my age at that point. It began around seven or eight, and lasted up until about 19 or so, for me. I fancied myself an aficionado on all things Harry Potter related, and indeed I was knowledgeable about it in a certain factual sense. However, until The Cursed Child came into existence, as well as the subsequent casting of an actress of color for Hermione, I did not realize how ignorant I had been up until then. After much thought and research, I will explain why this series does not stand the test of time for me.

At the time of inception of this seven book series, matters regarding the LGBTQIA+ community had only really became mainstream in recent years. The Stonewall Inn riots had been a turning point, but there was much ground to be made still in regard to national and international media in the U.S., and worldwide respectively. The Philosopher’s Stone, after all, was published by Bloomsbury in London just a scant three months after Ellen had announced that she was indeed gay, back in 1997. Harry Potter, at its core, is a children’s series that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is, however, a product of its time. One where those who were not what mainstream media expected them to be, would more than likely flop. Ellen’s show, after all, was cancelled shortly after her admission. While that seems a world away, as well as not that long ago, times have changed much since that pivotal year.

In recent years though, J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her lack of diversity in the books, which as an adult well into their 20s, is not lost on me. However, had it been brought up years beforehand, I would not have understood the condemnations properly for what they were, because as has been pointed out, it is not simply about lack of LGBTQIA+ diversity, but of all sorts of missing representation for a series that supposedly has people in it from all over the world.

Moving back to The Cursed Child – it opened in the same month, ironically, 19 years after the first book in the original series had been released. To long time fans, given the casting news it had been a shock to the system, as we all digested the newest lore and content that had been released, albeit knowing that it had not been Rowling who singlehandedly had penned it. While the actors and others who created the play, I have no qualms with, I do however, reserve a certain frustration with the original series author, Mrs. J.K. Rowling herself.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s plain and simple. Her excuse of the political climate as a reason she did not create a single drop of LGBTQIA+ diversity in the series might have flown back then, but in this day, it is a lack luster one, bordering on insulting. The Cursed Child, which was released in 2016, easily could have been imbued with some of our community’s flair. Was it? Of course it wasn’t, because her ally ship only goes so far as her tweets.

Talk is cheap, they say, and she has done a hefty amount of that in recent years. Back when the series concluded, collectively, the fandom was heartbroken, as it had been a part of our lives for years. That, was understandable. However, if we had known then what we do now, I wish that we had bit the bullet, and thanked her, then moved on our merry way to other books that actually represent a larger portion of her reader base, rather than continuing to harp on the point of wanting more. I owe that time period in large part to what my favorite childhood author has done thus far publicly.

Bear in mind, that I do not believe an author must include LGBTQIA+ people or people of color, various religions, etc. in any work. However, I find it disturbing that given the diversity of the world, that one could wish to sideline or exclude these narratives all together, or add them in after the fact as an aside, rather than have canon text to back the claim up. In that same vein, professing that the only characters who are queer, happen to be a Nazi, and a deeply flawed man? It’s ludicrous, as well as a dangerous message to send to future questioning children, or those who are straight and viewing queer people through media, as well as their own lens. That is a topic for another day though.

So, where does that leave me, a parent, who wishes to pass on only the best of literature to my daughter, who is learning about the world around her, including history of those who came before us? While I have two choices, I can only condone one – shedding the attachments of my earlier years, in hope that I am able to find and boost works that show people of all kinds, rather than exclude them as so many other media forms have done before.

J.K. Rowling and the series of Harry Potter is not inherently bad, and I do still find value in it. Likewise, I did indeed learn from it, both what to do and what not to. However, given the lack of diversity across the board, it is one that I no longer care to uplift.

One Day At A Time and What It Means To Me

One Day At A Time and What It Means To Me

Disclaimer: First and foremost, because there has been some confusion, I just want to set the record straight and mention that I am not Latinx. I married someone who is, and that is where my last name comes from. It does not bother me that I am confused as someone who is, except that I refuse to falsely portray the narrative of someone I am not. To me doing that is the same thing as stolen valor, which is not okay either. So with that being said, I will continue this ramble.

As a good portion of the universe knows at this point, Netflix announced on Thursday, March 13th, 2019, that it cancelled One Day At A Time. To say that I am heartbroken is probably an understatement, to be honest. This show means so much to my family of three, who have two Latinx individuals in it, excluding myself, as I am Caucasian. However, in a show that was made primarily for Latinx people, I still see myself in the character of Syd, who is the only Enby I have ever encountered in on screen media. Being able to see myself, but also the fact that others found representation for their own lives, is why I am distraught at this decision.

In a world where there seems to be so much geared toward those who are not only straight, but also cisgender persons, finding someone who is transgender on television, much less almost exactly like me, was a profound moment. Likewise, to see someone with not only the same gender as me, but the same pronouns, was life altering. I cried over it, to be honest, because I never thought I would see the day when that would happen. So much of my viewing experience has surrounded seeking myself out in people who are only similar to me in certain aspects. At least that was the case, until Syd. Now that I have experienced this, I am only more insistent that it not be the last time I, or other enbies alike, do.

Whether Lin-Manuel Miranda and every other person who has pitched in pulls off saving this beloved show or not, I will be forever grateful that it allowed me to see myself in a positive light, through the inclusion of Syd. The script could have easily been written differently, as has been done many times before. I can only hope that the networks who may be considering picking up the show understand that beyond Syd, there is so much more to love about One Day At A Time, and that it deserves to dance its way into the hearts of more people for years to come. For now though, all we can do is take life as it comes – one day at a time.

The Weight of Years

The Weight of Years

Nearly two months ago, I sheared off over two feet of my hair. Relief was instant – I felt lighter than I had since I last did that over four years before. The first occasion that my hair was shorn, I equated it to the fact that in my life, I have always had bulky, and at times, disagreeable hair, which necessitates cutting off portions of it to varying degrees every so often. Now, as I’m older, I realize it was much more than that.

With locks that were over half the length of my body, it was difficult to believe that someone would not equate my appearance to a certain binary gender, rather than the way I wish to be seen – otherwise neutral, or non-binary. Dysphoria became the norm, as vulnerability encompassed a part of my mental state, which made each day or social outing that much harder. As each strand descended to the floor, I felt an extra breath of life fill my lungs.

Free from the burden of the weight of years, I have found a peace that only exists within me as I allow myself the room to be who I am, rather than what the world wishes me to be. However, I am far from where I want to be as a whole, but each change helps.

Interview With The Editor Of The Upcoming Nonbinary Anthology ‘X Marks The Spot’

‘X Marks The Spot’ is an anthology being put together by fellow enby, India Kiely. The collection will include various works, such as art, personal essays, and poetry, all from Nonbinary content creators. Each creation will be focused on what the individual creator’s experience with gender means to them. The deadline to monetarily support this project is March 3rd.

Though they are busy with this project and more, India was gracious enough to give me the time of day, as well as the interview below.

Question #1. What sparked the initial idea that led to the creation of this upcoming anthology?

I’ve always been very passionate about representation in the media, and through my own coming out as nonbinary it became very apparent that there is almost none for us. I started my YouTube in part because that was the only place I had ever seen anyone like me – but in the mainstream media, it’s almost nonexistent. So I knew I wanted to do something to change that. And then one night at about 3 am I had the sudden realisation that ‘X Marks The Spot’ would make an excellent pun title for a nonbinary anthology. Everything that’s happened since has come from that one random brainwave.

Question #2. So far, what has the process been like for you as you’ve worked to put this title together?

It’s been an incredible process. At times a little overwhelming – like when my tweet asking for essay submissions went semi-viral and I ended up with over 400 pitches in 48 hours. But overwhelming in the best way possible. When I first started, the submission deadline was a month earlier and I only ended up getting two responses. At that point, I thought maybe the project wouldn’t happen after all and I was prepared for disappointment. That tweet was kind of a last-ditch attempt to save it – I could only dream of getting this kind of response and yet it happened. The best part by far is the number of people who have told me how needed this anthology is, how much it means to them. That alone makes all the work going into it more than worth it.

Question #3. As you looked through the submissions, how did you end up narrowing it down to the ones that will be incorporated into ‘X Marks The Spot’?

Narrowing down the submissions was by far the hardest thing. Every story sent to me was so incredibly personal and moving and I would have included so many more if I could have. Ultimately though, it was so important to me that I be able to pay everyone fairly for their work so I knew I had to get it down to around 30. I cut them down in rounds and in the final round, I made a rough plan of the topics I want to include in the anthology and how each of the essays I had left covered those topics. When some of them covered very similar things, I was left with the really tough choice of trying to pick one of them. At times preference was given to more diverse voices – if we had five coming out stories and only one of them was about coming out in a non-Western cultural background, then I would make sure to include that one and one of the other five, rather than two Western narratives for example.

Question #4. For those Nonbinary content creators who did miss the cutoff, given the overwhelmingly positive reaction you’ve received so far, would you consider creating a Volume 2 in the future so that more may be involved?

I would love to be able to do something like that. I think I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, particularly with managing the Kickstarter and it would be great to have the chance to try again and to be able to learn from those mistakes. Or perhaps when I’ve finished my Creative Writing degree, I could pursue traditional publishing and see if I could put together another anthology with the backing of a publisher to get us an even wider audience. That would be the dream!

Question #5. Is there anything you’d like to say for those considering picking up this title?

If you’ve ever been curious about nonbinary people but don’t want to Google it in case you get the wrong info and don’t want to ask in case you say something rude – this is the book for you. You can get all the information right from us, in a way that we are happy to share it. And if you think maybe you or someone you love is somewhere outside the binary – I hope this will help. There’s an amazing community of us and you’re more than welcome to be a part of it.

Question #6. At this point in time, the goal has been exceeded with the help of 326 donors on Kickstarter, as well as the countless number of those who reblogged on social media. For those who already have, or for those still wishing to help this project gain traction and renown, is there anything you’d like to say to them?

I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for helping us to hit that goal. It means so much to me and to all the voices included in the anthology and to all the nonbinary people who have been sitting watching this happen. To have our stories respected and wanted in this way is incredible. I cannot put into words how much it means and I hope it lives up to the expectation.

Question #7. What do you hope readers across the board, no matter who they are, take away from this book?

That it’s okay to be different. That we don’t have to be frightened of something just because we haven’t heard of it before. And that it’s best to listen, to learn and to love with an open heart. Because I promise you we’re not so different. We just have a different experience of gender than you. We still laugh at the same jokes, enjoy the same foods, say aww at a cute dog. We’re your friends and your family and your colleagues. I think this book will show our differences and our similarities, both inside and outside the community. There’s no one way to be human.