Site revamp, shiny new covers, and cats

So, if you’ve stopped by the site lately, you may have noticed that everything is completely different.

Yes. Hi. I did that. :D

It was time for a change, so I revamped the site entirely, making it easier to access my books, check out my blog, read the bad sci-fi of my youth, and (of course) learn more about my cats. (Because come on, we all know that’s the kind of content you’re really here for.)

I also, through the help of Fotor’s Book Cover Maker site, created some spiffed up covers for several of my projects, including a shiny new one for my 2013 short story, “Rain Would Come.”

And hey, did you know that you can go buy “Rain Would Come” right now on Amazon for the low-low price of $0.99? IMAGINE.

Anyway, if you feel so inclined, take a stroll around the new site, browse through my books, check out my works in progress, and learn about the Feline Management Team, a vital part of the T.J. Baer organization.

On Gender Identity and How To Be Cool

All right. Gender identity. Let’s rap.

So, there seems to be a lot of confusion out there about sex, gender, gender identity, etc., so I figured I would offer a quick primer for anyone in need of clarification. I’ll start out by saying that there’s a certain fluidity to all of this, and one person’s experience does not encompass all people’s experiences, and a general rule of thumb is just to take people at their word when they say they are this or that.

Example:

“I’m trans.” “Oh, okay, cool.”
“I’m non-binary.” “Oh, okay, cool.”
“My pronouns are “they/them.” “Oh, okay, cool.”
“I am a giraffe.” “I mean, you don’t look much like one, but you would probably know better than me, so okay, cool.”

See? Super easy.

But let’s get a little more in-depth here.

So, at some point in our illustrious history, it was decided that when it came to humans, there were only two boxes that could be checked. One was “male” and one was “female.” Which box you ticked depended solely on what body parts you had, and this was further expanded with the idea that said body parts also determined your interests, personality, mannerisms, and what kind of body wash scents you were allowed to enjoy.

For example:

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The CW’s Nancy Drew: Queer Ladies and Considerate Ghosts

So, full disclosure about me: I have been a Nancy Drew fan for a very, very long time. It was a big part of my formative years, and I’ve reread the books multiple times in my adult life and continue to enjoy them very much. So, naturally, when I heard that the network that brought us the insanity that is Riverdale was coming out with a dark Nancy Drew reboot, I was pretty sure it was going to be… Well. “Hot garbage” was the first term that came to mind, quite honestly.

This past Friday, however, I actually checked out said series, and I discovered to my great surprise that it is not garbage of any temperature. It is, in fact, a rather awesome and compelling show that I am now low-key obsessed with, because I binge-watched the entire series over on the CW site and endured endless prescription drug commercials in order to see how it all panned out.

And hoo boy, did it not disappoint. It’s a CW show, so you do of course have a few standards that had to be included: (a) characters making out while sexy and/or angsty pop songs play loudly in the background, (b) everyone in the cast being excessively and illogically attractive, and (c) teen heartthrobs from the ’90s now being cast as parents to these excessively and illogically attractive young folk.

But those things aside, the CW’s Nancy Drew is a freaking delight. The mystery is fascinating and multifaceted and actually turned out in a way I did not at all suspect (always a good thing), and what’s more, it actually made sense. The show does have its more Riverdale-esque bananas moments, but for the most part, it’s pretty grounded in the world it inhabits. What happens might be weird, but it fits the weirdness they’ve established for this world, and I’m down with that.

I also have to say that there is a queer element to the show that I was not expecting and was very much delighted by.

Anyway, I took some notes while watching the show, and I would now like to share those notes on the off chance that someone aside from myself may find them entertaining. I also must say that these notes of course include spoilers, so proceed with caution if you don’t wish to be spoiled.

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In which gay teens fight monsters

I’d hoped to get some writing done today, and shockingly, I did! :O

…but not on the project I was actually hoping to work on. Ah, well. :P I’d been hoping to add to my forever-WIP and gay fantasy epic (TM), Chosen, but instead I unearthed a long-ago begun story and added a few chapters to it.

Said story is tentatively entitled Guardians, and it’s a fun little YA story about teens fighting monsters and trying to stop the end of the world, because that plot hasn’t been done before.

The story, though, is surprisingly engaging, and I can say that because I started writing it long enough ago that it no longer feels like something I wrote. :P The main character, Alisha, is a kickass seventeen-year-old with frizzy hair and a talent for fighting monsters and keeping her narcissistic younger brother out of trouble. Her mother fought monsters back when she was a teenager but now is Retired, and her dad is a researcher who likes punning, Doctor Who, and annoying his children in the most loving way possible.

I have, of course, felt obliged to put as much gay into the story as possible, so Alisha’s older sister has a girlfriend, her brother’s love interest is an awesome trans girl, and Alisha has definite chemistry with nemesis and fellow teen monster-hunter, Belladonna.

Anyway, here’s a quick excerpt from a draft of a scene when Alisha visits Belladonna’s excessively nice house in search of info about this whole ‘end of the world’ thing:

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How could I sneak with this fine physique?

Greetings, friends. Greetings and hello and hello and also greetings.

I find myself with a bit of time to spare this evening, so I thought it was about time I posted an update. So to all those readers who have been weeping bitter tears into their pillows at night wondering when I would return, you may now rest easy. Your prayers have been answered.

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Queer Stuff and General Recommendations

I’m currently celebrating my second day off of the year (which does in fact sound bad now that I type it out :P), so I actually have both the time and brain-power to write up a blog post. I shall offer you a moment to rejoice.

In any case, I wanted to share some awesome queer-related content I’ve run across over the past…however long it’s been since my last post. (Self to Self: You know you could just open up a new tab, open your blog, and see when the last post was, right? Self to Self: Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

Rowan Ellis

I just discovered this excellent individual yesterday, and I’ve been zipping through her videos and very much enjoying them. She has a ton of interesting, thought-provoking content regarding queer representation (and the lack of it) in media, and there’s also a piece on homophobia in schools that is informative, uplifting, and of course also absolutely infuriating. It’s pretty incredible that we’re able, these days, to surround ourselves with like-minded people and become somewhat insulated to the ravages of homophobia, but videos like this remind me both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. In any case, Rowan Ellis is insightful and well-spoken, and her videos are definitely worth a watch.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Much like Steven Universe, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a show meant for kids that features a queer showrunner doing her absolute best to include as much representation as possible within the narrow realm of what kids shows are allowed to do. While I would love to see shows like this being more overt, She-Ra is probably one of the least subtle about its queerness of any show aimed at children that I’ve ever seen. It’s both a show about female power and a show that rejects any notion of traditional gender roles. While there are some suggestions of possible heterosexual relationships in it, nothing is overt on that side, either – the entire universe has a pansexual feel to it, existing outside the binary, and I really like that. Plus, the characters are awesome, the writing is fun and engaging, and it’s just a really freaking good show all around. Highly recommended.

This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel

I happened upon this book when I was at Target yesterday, and while the generic, YA-sounding title initially put me off, when I turned it over and read the back, I was pretty much hooked. It tells the story of a quirky, rather awesome family whose youngest child is transgender, and it follows them on their journey to try to both support and protect her. It takes the subject matter seriously but also finds joy and humor in it, and the characterizations, plot turns, and story crafting are all top notch. My only not-even-really-a-criticism is that the author takes a bit too much pleasure in inserting “BUT LITTLE DID THEY KNOW~*~*~” lines at the end of many of the chapters, and while this is effective to a certain extent, I do think it’s a bit overused throughout the story. But that’s the most minor of nitpicks, and as far as literary sins go, it isn’t even on the list. This is an excellent book, and it also has the distinction of being one that I finished, closed, stared at for a few seconds, and then flipped back to the beginning to start reading over again. Good, good stuff.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I’ve been a 99 fan for years (Noin Noin!), but the show has recently done me (and many others) the glorious service of revealing that fan-favorite Rosa Diaz is bisexual. I’ve always felt drawn to Rosa for her ability to exist in both stereotypical “masculine” and “feminine” spheres (plus, she’s just freaking hilarious), but this latest addition to her characters is great, particularly since they actually give her a coming out narrative, female romantic interests, and – at long last – a girlfriend we get to see and meet. And it’s Cameron Freaking Esposito! ‘Nuff said.

I also recently watched Netflix’s Voltron series (all eight seasons straight through, because I am insane and obsessive), and that show is an example of a very good series that nonetheless got the idea of LGBTQ+ representation somewhat wrong. They do a good job of having a lot of gender-nonconforming individuals, strong women, and hints of LGBTQ relationships throughout, but what they thought to be their crowning queer achievement, the revelation that Shiro is gay, was a bit of a flop.

On the one hand, I like that his gayness is something that just exists and doesn’t have to be a big deal, but on the other hand…it’s a big deal, and it would be nice if we got more than, “This scene implies he has a boyfriend. Now the boyfriend is gone. Also, he got married to a man after the show ended, KISSSSSS.” Is it nice to have a legit gay kiss concluding this series? Yes. But we don’t know this person Shiro is marrying, there was no lead-up to it at all, and the lack of romance or even meeting this character before makes it feel very tacked on, as if the showrunners are saying, “Look, see? GAY PEOPLE. Behold, we give you representation.”

I’m one of the fans who felt cheated by the ending of The Legend of Korra, because while I love the fact that the showrunners are implying a romantic relationship between two female characters, it’s one of those cases where there’s just Nothing for the entire series and then BAM, look, There Is Gay! No lead-up, then surprise gayness. Voltron’s handling of Shiro had the same sort of feel to it, though they at least took it a step further and spelled it out. Korra and Asami hold hands, look at each other in a way that could possibly be construed as romantic, and step off together into the future, but Shiro and his nameless man-love at least are shown getting married, are outright stated to be in love, and are given a kiss that the “camera” lingers on and which ultimately closes out the series.

There was definitely effort there, but it was ultimately lacking, I suppose is the point I’m going for.

Anyway, this got way longer and ramblier than I was anticipating. :P The point: There are many exciting queer-related developments in media, and I’m anxious to see what comes next. <3