Dear Me Ten Years Ago: A Ramble of Reflection

A trending hashtag, which I promptly answered upon seeing it, got me to thinking about where I was ten years ago.

Looking back, I was lost and uninformed about so many different things. The younger generations that are growing up now, have the benefit of mass information at their fingertips, where I struggled to learn anything about my identity until I was well over 21. The internet of course had reached break neck speeds before I had crested the beginning of adulthood, but it was relatively new, and I was still getting the hang of the information super highway. Thankfully though, I did, because without it, I would not be where I am today.

Who I am, all of me, my sexual orientation, my gender, my neurodivergence, would have all been unknown to me in name, were it not for the internet. Likewise, I wouldn’t have had the vocabulary to describe them. However, with the help of the internet, I learned about other people like me, and figured out that who I am was not some weirdo, but a person with multiple facets to them.

Furthermore, given the sort of toxic messages I had learned from those around me and specific forms of entertainment, such as movies, books, etc. I would have never grown as a person, and realized that the partner I had at the time was all of those terrible YA tropes, wrapped up into a person that I thought I had loved. Once I realized this, I gave myself the agency to leave them, and begin anew. To this day, I celebrate the day I did, as it is when I really began doing what was right for me, and those I care about. It’s a personal holiday to me, honestly.

I say all of this to say that from fifteen to twenty-five, I grew, a lot. I still have a long way to go, but hashtags and reflections like this remind me of why it’s okay to be nostalgic occasionally, or pat yourself on the back. However, it’s also okay to look forward, knowing that you did the best with what you could. Also, I hope that as we continue on, that the generations after us will not have to struggle in that department, as they do have more likelihood of learning more so than previous ones before. How we all use that knowledge is to be determined.

Shadows You Left: A Book Review

There is something to be said for laid back novels, such as Shadows You Left by Jude Sierra and Taylor Brooke, which offers up an intriguing plot and the potential for great character development, then delivers. It is the sort of book that can keep a reader up at night with anticipation, urging them to continue until the end. A whirlwind romance with teeth and truth, this book is a stunner.

With that being said, this story revolves around two main characters – Erik and River – whose points of view alternate throughout. Erik is a cage fighter and mediocre bartender, while River is a talented tattoo artist. Right from the start, their lives converge, and the story begins. Even from the opening though, it becomes apparent that while this is a romance, each character has his own separate life to sort out, and live too. While it does indeed focus on their nascent relationship, importance is also placed on who they are outside of each other, including their friends or family.

Furthermore, well-executed prose and beautiful imagery populate this slice of life and love novel, which only engendered me to this narrative further. Those aspects, coupled with a well-constructed combination of fleshed out characters, and sub-plots that had believable resolutions at the end, made this easily one of my favorite books of the year.

If the premise of two imperfect people navigating their separate worlds alongside their budding romance draws you, then the following love story might be for you. It is not cotton candy, by any means, as it deals with darker topics, such as addiction and substance abuse. However, it is a novel that adds depth to the New Adult category and romance genre in its execution.

I rated this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I was given a free ARC of this by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.




Almost 21K the 1st Week of May

My latest experiment with writing productivity has proven to be a success, as the title of this post indicates. I’ve been a bit absent again from this blog again, and as of now I still cannot say it won’t continue to happen, but it’s safe to say that I have still been writing.

In the first 7 days of May I wrote nearly 21, 000 words. That’s an astonishing amount, considering in April I wrote about that much for the whole month. I can only credit that though to the fact that tracking my writing with spreadsheets has forced me to acknowledge when and where my consistency is dipping.

Consistency, as I tell myself and often others frequently, is key. While I say that, I am the first one to admit I rarely am able to follow the aforementioned advice. I try, and manage it for a time. Unless it’s ingrained in my schedule though, it won’t ever stick. I’m rooted in schedule and routine, and if I don’t force myself to do it at certain times every day, it just will not happen. I know this about myself though, and that is why my new system has increased my productivity exponentially.

As of now, I would like to project writing at least 50K this month. Given that I’m nearly halfway there, it would be a shame not to make an attempt to reach a higher goal. If I manage to reach upwards of that, then I will count that as a bonus.

On Writing Own Voices, and the Trajectory of My Future Storytelling

Lately, I’ve thought a lot about my writing, and where I want it to go. For years, I’ve toiled with different manuscripts, never being satisfied with how they turned out, so I trashed them, or filed them away to be perused in the future. At the time of writing this, I’ve come to realize that perhaps there’s a reason those past ones did not work out, and perhaps it’s time to leave those ideas behind for the writing I plan to do in the future.

For those who have been writing Own Voices works, they already know what I have discovered, which is that it is no walk in the park. Given that I became aware of who I am only in the last couple of years, I never had the chance to do right by myself and write about being me before, because until recently, I was not entirely sure who that was. Now that I am though, the works that I once held so dear mean little to me, and I find myself wanting to start fresh so that I can write characters that reflect who I am, as well as others who are not like me, but deserve to be at the forefront of stories, rather than left out or shoved to the back of countless narratives, as they have been before.

In the past few weeks, as I written during NaNoWriMo, I’ve contemplated what I want to write more than I ever have. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps even though I once loved writing fantasy, that maybe I don’t anymore? I have a hard time with change, so even thinking of this inwardly was shocking. However, as I sit down to write or read, I not ice what sort of works I gravitate towards now – romance and contemporary.

Does this mean I will cease to enjoy reading fantasy, or writing it occasionally? No, not at all. It’s simply that as I’ve grown older, I enjoy reading books that can tell a story without the added allegorical trappings, with a nice love story to boot. I still love fantasy, and will continue to write it as fanfiction. However, at this point, when all else falls away, I look forward to writing about love, and current social commentary in a setting that does not require creating fantastical creatures or menacing antagonists that may or may be derivatives of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, or one of that series’ contemporaries.

If you write or read, over the years, how have your tastes changed? Let’s talk in the comments!

Until next time,

T.J.

Being Marginalized Is Not A Free Pass To Avoid Scrutiny

There seems to be a gray area hovering throughout the lands of the internet, as well as outside of the digital world. It has materialized as controversies have arisen, and people have drawn their lines of what they will or won’t allow to come to pass without comment. However, this gray area of indecision, or decisively placed rose colored glasses, is insidious at best, and therefore should not exist.

An identity is not meant to shield, because actions determine your character, regardless of who you are. Furthermore, though every single person will make a mistake at some point, that does not excuse the action which remains erroneous in nature. To point to past decent actions as reason that you should be forgiven, is immoral, and also just as wrong as attempting to hide from scrutiny behind your identity.

Recently, after a slew of various events within the book community, this has been weighing on my mind. It is not easy to hear that you’ve committed an error, but rather than become defensive and point to your sexual orientation or other marginalized identity, it should be rather obvious that the best path forward would be to admit to wrong doing, and then commit to doing better going forward. We’re all human, and therefore pre-disposed to making mistakes. However, nothing can remove the blame for your own choices or actions. You, and you alone, are responsible. Being marginalized is not an eraser than can absolve you.

On The Come Up: A Book Review

After the release of a fantastic debut with The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas continues to astound in the form of her latest novel, On The Come Up, in which Brianna Jackson, or Bri, is a 16-year-old girl who desires to become a famous rapper, like her father should have been before he died. She has the skills and the drive, but when people continue to misjudge her, issues arise which could make or break not only her career but her family as well. Throughout the novel, she questions what she will and will not do to make it because breaking is not an option.

No story can function without characters, and this one is no different of course. The main character of this novel was outspoken, and witty, which I loved. Bri did not allow life to happen to her. Instead, she made her life happen, for better or for worse. Unlike Starr, no one could mistake her for a wallflower, that is for sure. Her character was a delight, and her voice leaped off of the page. As for the other characters, I loved each one for what they brought to the table. Whether it be her family or friends, each person that surrounded Bri only added more depth to this novel.

The plot was intricate in that it weaved multiple layers together throughout, with each plot line that was tied in only strengthening the narrative. From representation of a recovering drug addict, to issues that I have only read about, such as gang violence, systematic poverty, and police brutality, Thomas has written another novel that addresses each of these, without sacrificing the main plot, which is Bri’s own narrative. Like the main character though, these are part of real people’s lives, and it’s great to see them spoken of in young adult novels like these, rather than glossed over as past ones have done.

Though it treads in its predecessor’s footsteps, Bri’s story is by no means a sideshow. Thomas’ sophomore novel is a book filled with hard truths, lessons learned, as well as lines that could make anyone laugh out loud. After completing it, I could not help but wonder when her next book would release, because this author has become one of my absolute favorites.

I rated this book a 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book of my own accord, and was in no way compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Friday Fast Five: Why I Believe Writing Fanfiction Is Beneficial To Writers of All Genres

Thinking back, I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned it or not, but here it is – I am a staunch advocate for fanfiction. In fact, I still write it now, despite the fact that I am also working on my own original stories. In the time that I have been involved with fandom, the attitudes toward this particular genre have shifted, for the better, I would like to think. Still, if you had told my fourteen year old self, who had just begun their fanfiction writing career, that they would publicly admit that in a blog with their name attached, they would have thought you were crazy. With that being said, while I do have a number of posts that will eventually go up later this year on the topic of fanfiction itself, today I’d like to focus on the actual mechanics of writing it, and why I believe it is overall a help, rather than a hindrance to writers of all skill levels.

I come to write this post with the knowledge that I carry from having written fanfiction for over 11 years. In that time, I have roughly written at least 500,000 words, if not more. Given the sheer amount of words I have written, it would be hard not to learn a thing or two, no? In that same vein, if I were to look back and compare my first work of fanfiction against the most recently posted, I can visibly see how I have improved as a writer. I, of course, still have a long way to go. I am well aware. Every single day, I work to write better than the last. There are some who will argue that being a published author of a novel is the only way to carry any weight as a “proper” writer, but I disagree, wholeheartedly. To have strung words together, and evoke emotion in another, is to be a writer. This is not to say that I am some guru, or a person having acquired a large amount of knowledge. More so, I simply acknowledge that I have learnt enough that I can safely speak about why I believe fanfiction is beneficial to someone who is considering writing original fiction outside of fanfiction.

Now that we’ve established that, I would like to say that like with all writing advice, that mine should be taken with a grain of salt. I just have opinions, and like anyone else with some sort of platform, I state them. Not all advice works for every single person, but it can be beneficial to others. In this post, I will be pro-fanfiction. I am aware, as with everything else, that it has its own issues, too. However, for me that doesn’t detract from what one has to gain from writing and interacting with it.

Okay. We’ve gotten this far, and if you’re still with me, despite my wordy paragraphs above, then I thank you. Below, you will find a list of why I believe writing fanfic is beneficial.

  1. From writing fanfiction, I have learned how to take constructive, and even hurtful criticism. Likewise, I have learned to air my frustrations about the latter in private venues, rather than public ones. Publishing a book is like bearing a piece of your soul, from what I hear, quite like how it feels to press publish on something you’ve toiled over for hours, and possibly even weeks, months or years. Unlike with publishing a book though, the setting for giving feedback is more intimate, and you directly handle whatever you’ve been dealt, be it good or bad. That causes a writer to grow a thicker skin, and to learn that not every one can or will like your work.
  2. Writing fanfiction has taught me to dissect every choice that writers have made before me for strengths and flaws. Thinking critically about the original source material is integral to writing fanfiction. Not only do you have to hop inside the characters’ heads, but also be able to deduce where the writer erred or exceled, and how you can expand upon that in ways that does not take the realism of the world and or characters you are borrowing away from potential readers.
  3. Because I write fanfiction, I have learned how to research and be patient on a project that I would otherwise have sped through creating before. Last year, at some point, I discovered a post on Tumblr where countless fanfiction writers were discussing obscure knowledge they now held, because they had to research for their fics. Before I found that, I had no idea how universal of an experience that was. Furthermore, there have been countless times in which I wanted to plow through a story, only to realize I needed more information than what I had. Though this might seem mundane to mention, I do have a reason for it – a lot of writers have been guilty of skimping on research, when they should have spent more time exercising their ability to do so. Research makes a story stronger when used well, but without it, there will be plot holes and less believable scenes.
  4. From writing fanfiction, I learned how to market and advocate for my writing. As I prepare to work towards publishing original works, I have watched different videos and read a number of articles on the topic. In them, similar advice is employed and mirrors what I, and other fanfiction writers, do for our own work, such as cross posting to multiple sites, and when given the space, discussing with those who might be interested in reading. Of course, marketing in the world of book publishing will not be the same, but the advice is similar and does ring true in both areas.
  5. I learned how to finish novel length projects. The writing process will look different for each person. Regardless, if you have the desire to be published, then you have to first write your work. New writers find this inherently difficult because it is a bear to tackle, especially when you’re not sure what angle is best for you to come at it from. Writing, regardless of project length, it an act of perseverance. If a person cannot persevere, then nothing they write will ever be complete.

Well, there you have it. I could list a few more, because fanfiction has taught me a decent amount, but these are the few I chose to give a spotlight to because as I write my original drafts, I realize how important these lessons were. They have strengthened my skills as a writer and allowed for me to advance as I continue to learn about this craft that I love.

What do you think? Do you write fanfiction? Did I leave any out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time,

T.J.