October-November 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

I’m back to reading and here’s a summary of everything I finished in October and November! You can catch these posts on my Instagram @taylorrama.


The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Amazon.com: The Belles (The Belles (1)) (9781484728499): Clayton,  Dhonielle: Books

My life is finally feeling more balanced after going through hell and now I’m back to reading! I would’ve finished this book a lot sooner had my stuff not happened, but I’m so glad I finished it!

Camelia is a Belle, one of just a few in the entire kingdom with the power to make others beautiful. All her life she’s been hoping and training to be chosen as the Favorite and do beauty work in the palace. But when she gets what she wants, she gets pulled under the schemes of a conniving, manipulative princess (WHO NEEDS TO DIE OMG) and she can’t save the kingdom if she doesn’t first learn who to trust and who to betray. 

I really enjoyed this book! While this isn’t the first time I’ve read a book where beauty and image are a central concept, the magic is both really interesting and really easy to understand. Certain plot twists near the end I didn’t see coming at all and just from reading the summary of the next book, I’m excited to see the themes and concepts explored from different angles. 

I didn’t like that there was a sexual assault scene or that this book included the bury your gays trope. I hope the next book introduced some important queer characters who don’t die. In fact, I head cannon at least some of the Belles as queer tbh but nothing clearly confirmed in the text yet. This isn’t enough for me to NOT read the next book bc I really like Camille and the other main characters. Even Princess Sophia is a good villain yet I get really emotional about how much I want her to die lol. 

I def recommend this book if you like fantasies with more modern-inspired settings (I’d roughly place this in like the 1900s if I had to draw a parallel but it’s not 1:1) and you’re looking to read books with Black characters by Black authors!

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

Amazon.com: The Everlasting Rose (The Belles series, Book 2) (The Belles,  2) (9781484728482): Clayton, Dhonielle: Books

In the sequel to The Belles, Camille, Edel, and Remy are now fugitives and tyrannical Sophia rushes the preparations for her coronation and ascension to take the throne. After experiencing so much betrayal already, it’s hard to trust anyone for help, but there are many who would also gladly see Sophia gone. Among them are the Iron Ladies, an underground resistance group of Gris who refuse beauty treatment. Forming alliances and evading capture are near insurmountable tasks, but all the sacrifices are worth taking Sophia out of power. 

This is a great follow-up and probably conclusion to this series, but there’s definitely room for a third book. I loved the teacup dragons, all the revelations about Belle lore and powers, and the nuance of some of the different characters/viewpoints. For example, the Iron Ladies aren’t really that rebel group that thinks they could do a better job leading and not everyone who betrayed or lied to Camille is necessarily on Sophia’s side. The pacing is great and the ending especially was very exciting. Glad I read this and I definitely recommend! #bookstagram #thebelles #fantasy

Has the Gay Movement Failed? By Martin Duberman

Has the Gay Movement Failed?: Duberman, Martin: 9780520298866: Amazon.com:  Books

If you think that major organized queer movements have lost collective steam since the marriage equality ruling in 2015, you’d be very very correct according to Martin Duberman. And tbh you’d be hard-pressed to find queer folks who don’t think the same. In this book, Duberman aims to trace the history of queer liberation since the 1960s and where it’s lost its way. 

“Aims” being the key word here because after the first section, which is an interesting history of the GLF, this book starts to feel like a mixture of “old man yells at cloud” and Tumblr posts from the early 2010s. There are numerous rabbit holes, some interesting and some weird, and we don’t even get Duberman’s clear answer to the title question until the last two pages. 

I also have grievances with radical secular queers’ unilateral hatred and dismissal of religion without seriously engaging with its ideas or realizing that queer people of faith exist. But since Duberman only peppered in a few quips to make his point in this book, I’m not gonna spend time expressing my annoyance with that entire vibe I often get from non-religious queer folks. 

I did appreciate the detailed look at the early history of the queer liberation movement and I do agree that the singular focus on marriage equality makes it seem to the rest of the left like that’s the only thing that matters to queer folks. But this book is all over the place and reads more like the author’s Goodreads reviews of books he liked or didn’t like. Its saving grace is that it’s a short read, so I could tolerate the writing and organizational structure.

The Well of Ascencion by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension - Wikipedia

Elend Venture is now king. Vin finds herself one of the most important people in the city, and the rest of the crew now hold power they didn’t imagine they could have. But with two armies waiting for a siege, Elend has to learn what being a strong leader means. Meanwhile, the Well of Ascension calls to Vinn as she continues to hone her Mistborn powers, but her old demons of paranoia tempt her into selfishness. When the battle comes and the mists grow more dangerous, how will anyone protect their people?

This book didn’t start to really pick up for me until the halfway point when all the setup started to trigger the action. This was true of book 1 and I know is generally true of Sanderson’s writing so I’m okay with waiting for the payoff. And the payoff is really good. Several of Sazed’s passages near the end are downright poetic and I’m REALLY curious to see the ramifications of the several revelations that happen in the final chapters. 

I’ll keep reading the series, but I’m gonna read a few other books in between. It’s good, and I’ll probably read Sanderson’s other books but it’s also very straight and white and male and I need a break from that in my fiction for a bit lol.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne A. Brown

Amazon.com: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (9780062891495): Brown, Roseanne A.:  Books

Malik and his sisters seek safety in the city of Ziran, but his people are society’s most hated. Getting into the city is hard enough but when an old god kidnaps his little sister, Malik makes a risky deal: kill Princess Karina and his sister goes free. 

Princess Karina is plagued by migraines masking the trauma of losing her father and sister. She has no interest in courtly education or this grand festival of Solstasia that’s packing the streets of Ziran. But ancient magic lies behind this festival and its connection to her family. Karina finds herself at the center of this once in a generation event with the promise of a ritual that can bring back the dead. As Solstasia progresses, Karina and Malik get closer both to their goals and each other beneath a blanket of lies mixed with truths. 

This book is AMAZING. The dual POV works fantastically and the story is perfectly paced. Beautiful imagery, sympathetic and complex characters, and a familiar yet very fresh plot. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Some commentary I’ve seen has said this book is filled with overdone YA tropes. That’s why I said several aspects of this book are familiar. This isn’t the first tournament or love triangle or main character-will-do-anything-to-protect-younger-sibling story you’ve seen. It’s not the first court betrayal or deal-with-spirits story you’ve seen. But the execution is very well done and just because white people have exhausted certain tropes doesn’t mean they’re dead. This story is unique enough in its own right to not feel like a beat for beat rehashing.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Early Cringe Writing: My Awful Middle School Book Ch. 9

Welcome to the long overdue penultimate chapter of this hot mess! The drama and pettiness continues as our cast rides out their hospital stay.

Chapter 9

“Julia what’s wrong?” I asked.

“I thought you were over all this.” Jenna said.

“I just wish someone could say stuff like that to me.” She cried.

“Stuff like what?” I asked.

“You know like you look cute when you’re blue.” Julia said.

Ah yes, the most romantic compliment a girl could ever receive.

“Well it’s a part of life. I mean you’re going to have crushes on a lot of people and most of them probably won’t even notice you.” Jenna said.

We all need a Jenna in our lives to remind us of the truth.

I hope Senpai notices me!" - GIF - Imgur

“I guess I’m not really over what you told me yet Haley.” Julia said.

“It’s ok. These things take time.” I said.

“Now come on. We’ve got to get back to bed.” Jenna said. We walked out the door.

Jenna has the right idea.

Go the f**k to sleep, read by Samuel L Jackson - YouTube

“I think it’s time for you guys to go home.” I said.

“No that’s ok. It’s Friday and we can stay as long as we want.” Ryan said. 

What a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Looking forward to the weekend. - GIF on Imgur

Just then Karen walked through the doors.

“What are you doing here?” Kathy asked.

“Uh–

“Come on spill it before I call the doctor.” I said.

“I said you deserve this! This is what you get for all these years! I hope you die!” Karen shouted.

Karen is a 2003 internet forum troll.

“Actually you’re the one that was always mean to us, threw blocks at us in pre school and scribbled all over our tests after we finished them. Your punishment for that, we become popular and you become a loser.” I said. She left.

GIF schitts creek wow david rose - animated GIF on GIFER - by Mebar

I can’t tell who’s gaslighting who at this point.

“Oh, and here’s something I saved for you.” I threw a rotten apple at her.

“It really describes you!” I said. 

H A L E Y.

We got back into bed. The doctor came by.

“Excuse me boys but I have to inject this into everyone.” He said.

alexis rose | Tumblr

“Hold on! What is that?” Tyler asked.

“Oh just some stuff that’ll make them extremely unconscious. They’ll barely be breathing. I made this myself.”

Okay, Professor Tomoe.

Professor Tomoe's Greatest Moment on Make a GIF

“You mean you’re going to kill them?” Ryan asked.

“They’ll be awake within twenty four hours.” Ryan and Tyler left and by the way that shot really hurt!

I clearly had an advanced grasp on hospital protocol and how medicine works. Next chapter is the final chapter, the thrilling conclusion to my awful middle school book. Will Karen get what she deserves? Will Ryan and Tyler grow a brain cell? Will Julie ever get over anything? Stay tuned!

I’m In An Anthology!

I’m happy to announce that a flash fiction piece I wrote will be published in This Is What America Looks Like, a print anthology by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House due for release in February 2021!

This is my first time being traditionally published in print and y’all weren’t joking about how exciting it is to see proof pages. The typeface and page design look beautiful–I can’t wait to get my copy of the book.

This themed anthology is about exploring how America is and what it should be. I saw the call for submissions in the Facebook group for my local writer’s association and wrote a piece catering to it based on the principles of armature that I learned from the You Are a Storyteller podcast. It worked enough for the piece to be accepted, so definitely listen to Brian McDonald explain armature and give it a shot!

For my fellow writers who are querying/submitting: the process I went through was pretty straight forward. Read the submission guidelines and follow them exactly. But a couple interesting things were unique about this opportunity. We had to also submit a short bio and a brief explanation of our piece, why we were inspired to submit to the anthology, and how the piece fits into the theme. I haven’t submitted to anthologies before, so I’m not sure if this is a common practice, but it’s interesting and not something I’ve come across in publishing advice to be prepared for!

When I got the acceptance notice from the editor, she said she’d accept it pending revisions and notes. Thankfully, I nailed the revisions!

As these things go, I received the notice that my piece had been accepted during an extremely difficult time I went through over the summer. I really needed that win in that moment.

My piece is short so there isn’t much I can say about it without giving it away. It’s about water in some ways and America in other ways. I think it’ll read differently when once it’s published compared to when I wrote it given the outcome of the presidential election.

I have no idea what other pieces will be in the anthology, but I’m looking forward to reading them. The publisher is planning some launch events and readings, so I’ll certainly announce any of my appearances!

Once the anthology comes out, I’ll host an Instagram (@taylorrama) livestream where I read this piece and the short story that recently was a finalist in the BSFS Amatuer Writing Contest. Although I didn’t place, I was pleasantly surprised to be a finalist at all and it tempts me to make a novel out of the concept. There’ll be some Q&A time, too, so come hang out and hear some stories!

Characters I Connect With: Geralt of Rivia

Screenshot of Geralt in the Netflix series

Several months ago, I watched the first season of The Witcher and the thing that hooked me most in the first episode was this vibe I got from Geralt of being this intimidating figure who is actually very sensitive to the way people treat him. 

Geralt does not do well with emotional connections, but he knows what it’s like being treated a certain way because of what society believes about his kind. Witchers are both revered and disdained, which forces Geralt to be intimidating and keep others at an emotional distance. He is very used to people only treating him well because they want to benefit from his Witcher skills, but they will demean him at a moment’s notice if he angers them. But the few people who do choose to be close to Geralt get the benefit of his lowered guard, his loyalty, and his honor. Geralt has forged a defense mechanism and a morality based on his experiences as both outcast and accepted. So his tough exterior, soft soul nature has extra layers to it that I can relate to. 

I have a very serious natural facial expression. I’ve been told many times in my life by good friends that when they first started getting to know me, they thought I hated them. It can take me a while to warm up to people or open up in new social situations. So like Geralt, I definitely have this stoic front I can put on to guard myself. 

Going a bit deeper, society’s “what are you” treatment of Geralt in some ways hits my experiences of identity. Several of my key identities are things society deems as contradictory (even though society is wrong): gay and Christian, and Latina with whiteness are the major ones. In another essay, I might explain further my personal usage of “Latina with white privilege/whiteness” vs “white Latina,” but I’ll note here that it’s part of letting a part of my identity that was suppressed/denied breathe and come first in how I understand and talk about myself. 

Anyway, the “what are you” moments I’ve had in my life are pretty minor compared to mixed folks who really present in a way that makes people ask all the time. I’ve had that question asked of me, but never with that foreboding sense that the asker wants to tell me which country to go back to or anything like that. I’m not necessarily marginalized because of how my mixtures appear either. But there is that sense of feeling I don’t belong sometimes or of having a reality that most people just don’t really see. There aren’t a lot of Witchers around for Geralt to interact with, so he’s isolated from others who understand his exact experience. It’s a particular kind of isolation that I’ve felt at times that I see Geralt feeling and that’s the part I connect to. 

Geralt also takes his integrity very seriously. That’s another part I relate to. Integrity is a deep value word for me, a way that God actually told me to act years ago when I was struggling with identity stuff. So Geralt’s sense of integrity and morality appeals to me, especially when he deals with the targets of his jobs. I’ve really enjoyed watching how he handles every situation and am looking forward to season 2!

Early Cringe Writing: My Awful Middle School Book Ch. 8

In this week’s installment of my terribly dramatic middle school book, the girls are recovering in the hospital, Karen SUCKS, and the boys get a great idea.

Chapter 8

The first week was tough because it turned out we couldn’t feel our legs. So we were treated like toddlers learning to walk.

🤷 Person Shrugging Emoji on Apple iOS 10.2

Meanwhile, at school everyone was of course, wondering where we were.

“Class it seems that Haley, Julia, Kathy, Jenna, and Laurie all have hypothermia because of Karen.” Mrs. Layford explained to the class.

“Karen you suck!” Ryan shouted.

#ThanksKaren

“How did they know it was me?” Karen asked.

“Well maybe it’s because of the doctor finding notes written on the back of your history tests.” Mrs. Layford said.

Mrs. Layford is filleting Karen.

“Ryan you know why Karen really sucks?” Tyler asked.

“No dude. Why?”

“Because she did it to Jenna too!” Tyler shouted.

These are the stupidest boys to ever exist.

By the end of the week we became about three shades lighter so now we were kind of turquoise.

“At least we don’t have to take those stupid walking lessons anymore.” Kathy said.

“Yeah those were so annoying.” I said.

So annoying to have a physical therapist help you regain mobility.

“Haley?” Julia asked.

“What.”

“I’m not mad at you anymore.”

“Good because if you were then I would make sure you were an icicle.”

“Really?”

“No.”

Haley is a sociopath.

At school during lunch everything was quiet.

“Tyler! I have an idea!” Ryan said.

“What?” Tyler asked.

“We can go to the hospital this afternoon and like visit them!”

“Dude that’s a great idea!”

It’s a terrible idea, dude.

So that afternoon we had a couple of visitors. Ryan and Tyler barged through the doors of the hospital.

MACK-NEESE STATE...LEEROY JENKINS (m0resn0w) - CougarBoard.com

“We’re here!” They shouted. Jenna and me got out of bed and hid behind a wall.

“Where are they?” Tyler asked.

“Uh, I don’t know.” Julia said.

“They’re probably somewhere around here. Oh! I think I just saw them!” Kathy said. We came out.

“Thanks guys.” I said.

“It was nothing. We knew what they would do to you.” Kathy said. Just then we heard footsteps. It was Ryan and Tyler.

This is all written in a funny, light-hearted way, but it’s also terrifying.

“Hi Ryan.” I said sarcastically.

“You know you look cute when you’re blue.” Ryan said.

Ten years from now when Ryan knows what a smartphone is and gets Tinder, this will be his pickup line.

“Shut up losers.” I said.

“Stop! Stop it all!” Julia shouted and ran to the girl’s bathroom.

We thought Julia was over it. We were WRONG.

“Julia!” I shouted and ran after her. Jenna followed with Ryan and Tyler close behind. Obviously they stopped right in front of the door.

OBVIOUSLY.

We end here, obviously. Will Julia learn to manage her heartbreak? Will Ryan and Tyler grow a brain cell? Will Karen recover from being utterly eviscerated by Mrs. Layford? Only two chapters left until the stunning conclusion of book 1.

Early Cringe Writing: My Awful Middle School Book Ch. 7

Today’s installment of my terrible middle school book is now a 30 minute TLC medical special. Who needs Grey’s Anatomy when you have this?

Chapter 7

I was asleep for three hours. Meanwhile the doctor was talking to our moms.

HEADHOPPING.

“Yes they all have hypothermia but don’t worry they’ll be fine if they are put in a really warm room.” The doctor said.

Who needs WebMD? This is the cure for hypothermia.

“Will they be in the same room?” Laurie’s mom asked.

“Yes they will.” The doctor said.

Laurie’s mom asking the important questions.

“Oh and I found a note taped on each girl’s back. It said: All of you deserve this. I warned you. I told you I would be plotting revenge on all of you!” The doctor turned one of the notes over. It was a bad test grade with Karen’s name on it.

Karen, you blew your cover!

“Do your girls know this Karen?” The doctor asked.

“Yes.” Kathy’s mom said.

“Well apparently whoever Karen is she’s obviously trying to kill your daughters.” The doctor said. 

Soraya Montenegro | Know Your Meme

After that our moms left very upset.

Three hours later when we all woke up we saw each other in the same room.

Roommates GIFs | Tenor

I really fixated on this idea of all of them being in the same room.

“What are you doing here?” Laurie asked.

“Same thing as you I guess.” I said.

“I feel like an icicle!” Julia exclaimed.

“You were almost turned into one.” Kathy stated.

“Why?” Jenna asked.

“Why did this have to happen to us?” Jenna asked.

All these other girls are making basic observations while Jenna is having an existential crisis.

“Because Karen tried to kill us.” I said.

“What makes you think that?” asked Julia.

“Well I kind of overheard our parents talking to the doctor and first of all we have hypothermia but we aren’t going to die. Second the doctor found notes that had Karen’s name on the back. Third we’re going to be staying in the same room until we get better.” I explained. They were speechless.

Wow, Haley. You’re brilliant for recapping everything the reader already learned five paragraphs ago.

Later we were put in a very warm room. It had a blazing fire on each wall and heating vents everywhere you looked.

I told you I was fixated on this big room concept.

“Doc? When do you think we can go back to school?” Jenna asked.

“In about three weeks.”

“What!” We all had said.

“So what are we supposed to do until then?” Jenna asked.

“Oh we’ll be running tests and recording your progress.”

“Progress?”

“Tests?”

“Well sure like testing if you’ve lost the feeling in your legs and helping you walk.”

Portal came out in 2007. I wrote this in 2001. We are not the same.

gif portal g GlaDOS portal 2 replayed this game today jabura •

“So you’re saying that we’re going to be treated like goobers for the next three weeks?” I asked.

“Yup!” The doctor said.

That’s it! We just end right there!

Well folks, this was certainly a chapter. Events happened and things were said. I’d be lying if I said the weirdness stopped in the next chapter, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Stories I Connect With: Puerto Rico Strong

Puerto Rico Strong by Hazel Newlevant

A while back, I found out about an upcoming tone-deaf thriller film that takes place in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. Naturally, this film features white tourists in a hotel and Puerto Rico during this natural disaster is just an exotic, dramatic backdrop. The film is out now and appears to be bombing, which is great, but this whole thing made me want to revisit Puerto Rico Strong, a comic anthology that was created to directly support hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

I was happy to buy this anthology a couple years ago and read it, but I assumed I wouldn’t connect to any of the stories because I didn’t grow up constantly surrounded by Puerto Ricans or Puerto Rican culture. So when I did see some exact experiences I had, I almost cried because it made me feel like I actually counted as Puerto Rican. So here are some of the stories I related to.

Stories From My Father

The character heard about Puerto Rico growing up as this magical place, but she feels like a foreigner when she goes there. Big mood. When I’d go to Puerto Rico in my younger years, I felt I didn’t really belong there. Now when I do, I feel less that way because I’ve been working on owning this part of myself, but I still have a lot more reconnecting to do before I can go there and not feel like a foreigner. 

Fajardo

The main character notes that the older her daughter has gotten, the less interested she is in her culture. I went through the same thing as a kid. Before high school, I felt secure and proud in my identity. Middle school started to wear that down, especially as I learned public school Spanish and it didn’t help me at all in communicating with my family. Because my Spanish was bad, I was too embarrassed to speak it and no one understood me anyway when I tried. But in my adult life, I’ve swung back because if I don’t actively connect to Puerto Rico, my whiteness will gladly fill that space again. 

The Dragon of Bayamón

Juli is sent to Puerto Rico to live with his father and cousins for the summer. When he first gets there, he says that his family did what they always did and he did nothing. He also barely understood anything because everyone spoke Spanish and everything was in Spanish. Very relatable. Big mood. I can remember many trips to Puerto Rico after I’d given up on learning Spanish (even though I studied it for five years) where I spent time alone reading or playing video games while my family all talked to each other. Because I couldn’t understand or keep up with the conversation, I didn’t see much point in sitting out there. I’ve changed this attitude now and will sit with folks, even if I only understand half of the conversation, but it is always a conscious choice to be present and simply accept the wavering experience of my understanding.

Taino Online

In this comic, the main character’s mother randomly calls her up one day and says “By the way, your great grandparent was Taino.” I literally had a similar phone call with my mom once where she said “your abuela’s father was probably Taino.” I’m not 100% sure if this is true, since my mom says he could’ve just had darker skin from working outside all day, but that’s the story she got from the family. Even so, it was such a weirdly specific coincidence to have had that conversation with my mom and then read this comic. Also, the comic says “Taino wore their hair in bangs.” That’s how my mom wears her hair and how she had mine styled until high school when I said I wanted to grow them out. This is probably not an intentional connection since anybody can have bangs and that doesn’t make them Taino, but that hairstyle was the only way I got my hair done for years and it’s the only way my mother wears her hair.

Puerto Rico Strong is a great anthology and the first time I read it, I was so pleasantly surprised to see some of my experiences because I honestly didn’t think I would. I’m glad that I was able to have some personal connections to it because it helps solidify that this is something I should live into more intentionally than I have in the past.

Early Cringe Writing: My Awful Middle School Book Ch. 6

This week’s installment of my terrible middle school book needs only the shortest introduction: that escalated quickly. The rest is better left for you to experience without warning.

Chapter 6

Later at lunch we all sat with Julia and tried to make her feel better.

“You’re not going to feel any better if you don’t eat.” Jenna said.

“I don’t care!” Julia snapped. Just then Karen walked by.

“Surprised you didn’t get hypothermia.” She said.

“At least you don’t even have to worry about getting a small cold if you step outside.”

“Why?”

“You’re so fat you can’t even hide under the largest puff coat.” I said. The whole table started laughing as usual.

Haley was this weird combination of myself and an ideal self. So she was this skinny popular girl and real me was neither of those things. This is how that all came out lol. I also had an irrational hatred of puffy coats.

“Just you wait until I plot my revenge on you! All of you!” Karen shouted.

She’s getting ready to speak to the manager.

“Is that supposed to scare us?” I asked sarcastically. Karen just walked away.

“Do you think she meant it?” asked Jenna.

“With her intelligence I don’t think so.” Kathy said.

“You know she kind of sounded like one of those evil doctors in the movies.” I said.

Astute af, Haley. Astute af.

Later that night it was dark and cold. 

Eyes Emoji (U+1F440)

Everyone was asleep. 

Eyes Emoji (U+1F440)

It was midnight when Karen got out. 

**radio voice** Gooood evening, everyone. This is Karen

spongebob at night - Roblox

She was wearing a black puff coat and hat. It started snowing.

So now, Karen’s transformation into everything I hated when I was 10 is complete.

“Perfect.” She said as she climbed through the window of my bedroom. 

Bella Swan's Bedroom Twilight Series | Twilight house, Twilight ...

She put me on a hammock and set me on the ground outside. She did the same to Jenna, Laurie, Kathy, and Julia. It was below twenty degrees that night.

Joke’s on you, Haley. Karen can deadlift more than you ever will.

But seriously. Think about all this effort Karen went through. She had to find all of their addresses, get dressed, climb up into their bedroom windows, carry them back down, and leave them outside. No wonder Karen asks for the manager now. She already did so much work!

In the morning I heard my mother calling.

“Haley Springer what do you think you’re doing out here!” She shouted.

“What are you talking about?” I asked. I looked around. Everywhere there was snow.

“Well young lady?” My mom said in anger.

“I don’t know.” I said.

“Oh my god!” My mom shouted.

“What?” I asked.

“You y-you–

“I what?”

“You’re blue!”

Blue Da Ba Dee GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

“What?”

“You must be freezing! Come inside right now!”

“What’s the big deal?” My mom put me in front of a mirror.

“I hate to say this but you’re right.” I told my mom. She started crying.

Blood Creek GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“You are not going to school today until you turn a normal color.” She said. 

I looked in the mirror again. I was dark blue. I started to feel tired. Then I fell to the ground. My mom rushed me to the hospital. The same thing was happening to Laurie, Jenna, Kathy, and Julia.

Did I care whether these were the actual symptoms of hypothermia? No. We barely had Google in the 2000s. My references were Degrassi and random health documentaries on TLC.

See? See? Karen is bad because she got tired of unprovoked bullying and deadlifted her enemies out of their homes to freeze in the night. Classic evil movie doctor origin story.

Did your early cringe writing have an overreactive antagonist origin story? Drop the best-worst excerpts in the comments!

What I Read in June 2020

My reading wrap-up post is late and I’ve only got three books to tell you about this month. My day job tasks have been such that I can’t listen to audiobooks while completing them, so that’s one reason why it’s taking me forever to read The Well of Ascension. I’m on my second borrow of it and probably won’t finish it this time around either lol! So given the lack of book content for this post, I’ll uplift a booktuber whose channel I’ve recently found.

So, here’s what I read in June!

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Five The Last Olympian ...

First series finished! Overall, it was a great ending and even though I had some issues with the execution, there was still enough that I didn’t see coming. 

Chronos is completing his rise to power and launches his invasion of New York City. Percy and the other demigods fight a long battle against them, loosing many to save Olympus. 

So my primary issue is the over reliance on the dream exposition device. Percy passes out or sleeps like 20 times so we can get a significant amount of backstory for other characters. Even in a series where using dreams as exposition is valid, this was way too much. I also didn’t care about many of the minor characters, so I wasn’t too hung up when some of them died. 

But I did like pretty much everything else and that’s all I’m gonna say because spoilers! I’ll be reading the next series but I’m gonna take a break from PJO for a bit. 

Also, I think I might try reading the books instead of the audiobooks if it’s the same narrator for the next series. This narrator uses the stupidest voices for some of the characters and I’m wondering if that’s part of why I can’t connect to them. I can tolerate it when the characters are little kids, but now they’re 16 and they need to stop sounding like caricatures. Also, he often puts very bad accents on POC when the text never actually says they have an accent. I’m not into that at all.

We Are Okay by Nina Lacour

We Are Okay - By Nina LaCour (Hardcover) : Target

Marin left for college without telling anyone because she had to leave. When death or mystery comes to take away your last anchor, you just want to start over. But your grief doesn’t let go as much as you want it to. So Marin gears up to spend Christmas alone on campus because she has no one to go home too, but her ex-girlfriend and best friend Mabel is flying 3,000 miles to spend three snowed-in days with her where Marin will finally tell the truth and remember. 

I have so many feelings. This book gave me the same nostalgic loneliness I get when a sad lofi hip hop track reaches into my soul. College was an extremely lonely and painful time for me too, and even though my details are different, I can pinpoint specific experiences that parallel the relationships in this book. I loved it so much. And I’m not usually a fan of books making the characters clear fans of literature, mostly because they always seem to choose Jane Austen, but THIS book engages Jane Eyre and I am HERE 👏🏻 FOR 👏🏻 IT👏🏻. Also! Mabel is Mexican and aside from one scene that Marin instantly calls out near the beginning of the book, I didn’t get the impression that she’s exotified in any way. 

Listen, this book contains the 3 S’s: sad, sweet, and sapphic. It’s an entire mood.

A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone

A Black Theology of Liberation (Ethics and Society): James H. Cone ...

I’ve been fed Black liberation theology and other liberative theologies since college and especially during my time in the United Church of Christ, but I’ve finally read an entire source for it front to back for myself and I have to say that the entire thing is relevant today, which is both sad and profound. Sad because it came out in 1970 but profound because it’s talking about God’s work of liberation. James Cone recontextualizes Christian theology to remove its oppressive and colonizing elements and show how the gospel is about liberation for Black people. Much of Cone’s work in this book is provocative and if you’ve never encountered liberation theology before, you might find a lot of it shocking, especially if you’re white. But I think it’s a highly important read to begin seeing what anti-racist work looks like specifically in Christianity. 

I picked up my copy from a clearing out of the late Rev. John Deckenback’s library. Long-time UCC people may know him well. I’m sad that I only got to meet him a few times before his sudden death, and that I didn’t get a chance to work on the CAC Board of Directors with him, but his library was full of liberation theology and he really lived into what he believed. 

I think it’s funny that James Cone said “the caucasity” in 1970. 😂 There’s a section where he mentions two white authors who wrote whole books about how Black people should secure their rights and the root of the problems for Black people or something like that and Cone said “the white audacity!” in response.

Although I think you can understand this book without much background knowledge, you might find it helpful to get a quick primer on liberation theology in general. So I recommend Liberation Theology for Armchair Theologians for that. It’s pretty short and it has pictures. It gives an overview of the history of liberation theology and different writers from different contexts who have done that work.

Booktube Recommendation: The Artisan Geek

I keep going down the booktube rabbit hole, but I’m glad for it because I’ve found so many cool people to watch for opinions and recs. One of them is Seji, or The Artisan Geek. She mostly focuses on classical literature and often covers obscure books or books from a variety of countries that don’t normally make it into the “Western” cannon. I’m really enjoying her channel so far, even though I don’t read a lot of classic literature myself. However, knowing about diverse classics is helpful to me in my day job because many times we need to source reading passages from the public domain. Already, Seji’s recommendations have helped me diversify a giant log of public domain resources that my company is creating. Definitely check out her channel, especially if you like classic literature.

Also, she always wears the cutest outfits and has such a pleasant voice. I feel like she should be a podcast host or narrator.

That’s it for June 2020!

5 Social Media Tips for Authors In Times of Crisis

Today, I’m happy to welcome Desiree Villena, who has written this guest post about social media tips. Desiree is a writer with Reedsy, a service for authors. She’s written posts about writing and publishing for Write To Done, The Write Life, Electric Literature, and many more sites in the publishing industry.

Now I hand it over to Desiree to give us social media tips for authors in these tumultuous times.


“It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.” These wise words from scholar and activist Angela Davis speak to the immense power that our voices have in times of crisis. 

In today’s world, social media is an essential tool that brings people together. And it’s never been more prominent, as people all around the world have taken to platforms like Facebook and Twitter in the midst of the current civil rights movement to initiate conversation and instigate reform. Technology has revolutionized how instances of violence and systemic oppression are captured, shared, and discussed online — but how can social media help us create new collectivities in the aftermath?

While some authors may feel uncomfortable or uncertain about getting political or uncertain, we know better than anyone else how powerful words can be⁠… and our words online can be used to advance social justice. I preface this by saying that my suggestions focus most immediately on responding to the anti-racism movements unfolding around the world, and are especially aimed at authors writing from a position of privilege who thus far may have remained relatively silent. Yet I hope these words help authors in future situations of uncertainty or unrest to consider how social media might lead to social justice.

1. Rethink business as usual

Media, Social Media, Apps, Social Network, Facebook

In times of crisis, some authors may choose to carry on with social media by posting and engaging with their followers as normal. While it is important to allow yourself to continue pursuing your professional and personal aims online even in tough times, the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and movements for racial justice also ask us to rethink routine. Especially if you occupy a position of privilege, you may alienate readers by not acknowledging the current political context and its effect on many populations. 

As an author, you may feel like your domain is limited to the writing realm, and that it’s not your place to comment on political issues. But issues of injustice and inequality pervade all aspects of society! Black writers remain consistently underrepresented in the publishing industry, and while self-publishing has allowed more diverse authors than ever before to publish their works, the recent viral hashtag #PublishingPaidMe has shown the vast disparities in payment between white authors and authors of color in traditional publishing.

Even if you are not directly affected by the issues at stake or living in a community where protests are unfolding, let your readers and peers know that you are paying attention to what is going on in the world, and that you see and hear them and what they might be going through.

2. Open dialogues with your fanbase

Silhouette, Head, Bookshelf, Knowledge, Information

Like you, your readers are likely grappling with many similar fears and anxieties, so this could be a good chance to share your thoughts and foster a sense of community with your fanbase online. Even if some conversations are difficult, being willing to broach tough topics and have candid interactions can ultimately help you forge closer bonds with your readers.

Be authentic in sharing what you’re going through, your strategies for grappling with crisis, and how the present context has informed your work. But don’t make it all about you ⁠— now is a time to limit sales pitches and instead, focus on having open dialogues. You might offer updates on what you are currently learning, reading, or doing to stay informed, or provide picks on books or podcasts and solicit recommendations from followers.

Speaking of which, dialogue is never a one-way street. Social media can also help you broaden your views and continue to educate yourself! Twitter is a particularly useful platform for authors to stay tuned into the broader context of politics and publishing. This will also let you survey and use hashtags related to larger discussions of topical issues, such as #BlackoutBestsellerList and #PublishingPaidMe, to encourage continuous conversation about the most pressing issues affecting authors and readers.

3. Create a safe space

Alive, Awake, Aware, Hands, Embrace, Holding, Being

Being a social media ally in a time of crisis does not mean that you must dedicate your accounts completely to political or pessimistic content. Using social media to share uplifting stories or celebrate joy and resilience is equally important to coping with crisis. Think about what inspires you each day and what comforts you comfort ⁠— that’s all shareable, too. 

If you do post explicitly political material, remember to include content warnings on any potentially disturbing content to establish a safe space. Try in particular to avoid sharing videos of violence, which can often be triggering and retraumatizing. 

Whatever you post, it’s essential to ensure your social media profiles and author website are safe platforms for you and your community to tackle tough topics. Be clear that your accounts will not tolerate hate and racism. This might mean you have to step in to monitor comments on your posts or even block users who are being abusive. Some backlash and criticism are inevitable when wading into political waters, but do not let that deter you from doing so!

4. Recognize your power to amplify

Sound, Icon, Volume, Auto Speaker, Headset, Megaphone

Sometimes, you may truly not know what to say; that’s when you can spotlight others. If you feel at a loss for words, educate yourself by seeking out other accounts posting about social justice, and consider sharing (with credits, of course) the content that most resonates with you.

You can also leverage your fanbase and your privilege to amplify Black and Brown voices, as well as other communities in need. One powerful way to go about this is to encourage readers to buy the books of diverse writers, or call attention to art and entertainment that features diverse stories ⁠— representation is important! Sharing thoughts, quotes, and infographics can spread information, but if you really want to speak out in support of a cause, try to include resources or calls to action. Include relevant links to organizations, reading lists, or donation funds that can give followers a concrete way to get involved in movements for justice and aid.

5. Remember that online is forever

Startup, Business, People, Students, Office, Strategy

“Online is forever” is a popular reminder that nothing can ever be fully scrubbed from the Internet’s record. Always think carefully and critically about what you post ⁠— especially when engaging with heavy and emotionally charged topics ⁠— and avoid saying anything that might be hurtful toward or misinterpreted by others. Posting something in the heat of the moment might offer some quick emotional catharsis, but it might also lead to you misspeaking or saying something you will later regret.

That said, there’s another side of it. Lately, “online is forever” has been a motivating mantra for me personally, representing my desire to stand on the right side of history and make a sustained commitment to being an authentic ally. This means constant learning and listening: the current uprisings and upheavals have shown us that nothing about Internet speech ⁠— and likely nothing about our society ⁠— is going to go back to “normal.” But remaining transparent, honest, and empathetic are things you can practice even when the world doesn’t feel like it’s on fire.

Using social media can occasionally feel like shouting into the abyss, but it remains a remarkable tool to join people together all over the world. I hope the tips that I’ve outlined here give some direction for all authors grappling with what it means to have an online presence in the present moment. Whether you share reading recommendations, join a virtual protest, or spark even a single conversation, your words have immense power ⁠— so be sure to use that power wisely.