Covid freaking sucks.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have heard already, but I’ve been battling covid for the past 2 weeks,. Despite all the care I’ve taken during the ongoing pandemic, it finally hit me.

I either got it while hanging out with a visiting friend (who my partner and I hung out with mostly outdoors and distanced, except for the car ride, when said friend wore a mask, who got it from family, who are also careful and who probably got it from someone who wasn’t masking or distancing in public), or while grocery shopping (we were wearing masks, but almost nobody else in the store was). The reason I’m not sure is that the day we were visiting with said friend, my partner and I both had a bit of a headache, which may have been the first symptom. We didn’t get hit with other symptoms until a few days later, but that’s not unreasonable for a viral infection.

Honestly, the odds are about 50/50 for either scenario.

And I’m still pissed off about it.

I’m not pissed off because maybe a friend got me sick. I’m pissed off because I personally know people who have been far less careful about covid than my partner and I have, and they haven’t caught covid. I don’t want them to! But I find it universally unfair that I ended up getting it despite all the care I take.

I know disease isn’t karma. It’s not like covid only infects people who deserve it. But still. The rotten luck of it all… I think I’m allowed to be a little bit angry over it.

Especially because the provincial government has done such a fantastic job of bungling the whole situation. They lifted restrictions long before they reached the metrics by which they said they’d lift restrictions, have slowly rolled back any lingering restrictions that might have been in place — our initial “green” phase involved having very very few cases but still requiring people to mask in public buildings, and especially if they’re sick, until a successful vaccine has been fully deployed to the population; now, there are no restrictions at all, save that they ask nicely for people to self-report if they test positive on rapid tests. No actually requirements, though. Someone could test positive for covid, not report it, not mask, and infect loads of other people as they go about their daily life.

The government has said they have no plans to reinstitute mask mandates, despite the province having well over a thousand new cases a week for the past month or so. They’ve just reached the point where their policy is, “Probably everyone will get covid at some point, so we can’t do anything to stop or slow the spread anymore. We’ll just monitor the overcrowded hospital system to make sure that doesn’t break down entirely while people keep getting sick.”

In fairness to them, freaking everywhere has mismanaged the handling of covid. And because everyone’s thrown in the towel in regard to controlling the situation (because they don’t want to deal with angry people who dislike doing what the government says for no reason beyond that the government said to do it), then yes, probably everybody will get covid. Unless they completely isolate themselves from society until this ends.

And it probably won’t ever end. Because people selfishly don’t want to wear a mask when they do out and desperately value concerts and restaurants over human lives.

Am I salty? You freaking bet I am!

The problem with the whole “personal choice” approach to masking and distancing is that while those things do protect you, their primary function is to protect others. You wearing a mask protects others from getting sick from you more than it protects you from getting sick. But if everyone wears a mask, everyone’s as protected as they can be. Personal choice is only a valid argument if you’re the only one at risk. People who refuse to wear masks when around others are saying, “It’s everyone else’s job to keep me from getting sick.”

Technically, I could have gone and infected a whole bunch of others. Guidelines only suggest I stay home and isolate for 5 days once I test positive. I’m probably not contagious anymore, but if I am, gosh, I could have spent this whole week going out without a mask and infecting other people, maybe making them thing oh, if only people had worn masks more, then maybe I wouldn’t be sick.

But I’m not an asshole. I don’t want people to get as sick as I was.

Because while my case wasn’t super serious or anything, it was still bad enough. I had 1 day where I had a fever, and I almost never get fevers. Seriously, last time I remember having a fever was when I was 12 and caught chicken pox. Fevers suck! But fever and chills are awful. My energy has been so sapped that there have been multiple days where sitting up for longer than 15 minutes was nearly impossible. I was so happy the first day I managed 2 half-hour chunks of sitting up!

My voice… I lost it and couldn’t speak above a whisper for days. Then it was tight and raspy, though my throat feels fine. My throat isn’t sore. I think my vocal chords were affected, though, which kind of worries me because it’s still not better, and one of my hobbies, the one that makes me feel like I’m actually useful and not a complete waste of space, is running my Youtube channel, and that means using my voice for narration. If my voice doesn’t really come back… I know there’s still plenty of time for it to recover and return, but I’m honestly scared that it might not, and I’ll have to come to grips with losing that part of myself.

And the cough! My gods, the cough. I have an oximetre here, so I know my O2 sats never dropped below 97% (which I’m bloody thankful for, since I have asthma and lung scarring from bouts of childhood pneumonia, and this could have gone so much worse for me…) but that didn’t change the fact that I was and still am coughing up crud from my lungs. And it’s difficult sometimes. It’s not just a couple of little coughs and then my lungs are clear. No, it’s hacking coughs that sometimes I have to rest in the middle of because if I keep coughing I’m going to throw up before I clear my lungs. It’s coughing so hard I tore the inside of my throat and spat out blood.

Ever coughed so hard you tore flesh? Yeah, I don’t recommend it. It felt like my esophagus was bruised for a day after that incident. Bruised insides are not comfortable things.

So no, I don’t want anyone to get sick like that. I don’t want anyone else to be going through lingering symptoms for weeks. I don’t want anyone else to cough until they bleed.

In short, please stay safe, friends. Mask and distance, please don’t assume you’ll get covid anyway so there’s no point in taking precautions. There’s always a point in taking precautions. Do what you can, even if other people can’t be arsed to do the same.

But I am slowly feeling better, so I should be able to return to making posts and writing reviews soon. When I have limited “sitting up” time, doing things other than blogging take priority, but it’s getting a little easier each day, so I should be able to get back to that probably next week. Hopefully. Fingers crossed, anyway!

Take care, friends! Happy reading!

Wow, Did I Ever Fail at Posting Here Again

So my last post was back in December, where I said I wanted to post here more again.

And then I just didn’t.

Good job, me.

But I do want to start reviewing again. I’ve felt the itch. I’ve gotten dissatisfied with vaguely sharing book cover images and writing a couple of paragraphs on Instagram, because often I have way more to say about a book than I can fit in Instagram’s post limit, so you know, maybe it’s time to start blogging again.

(I mean, how else am I supposed to draw more attention to the fact that I still read loads of books and also offer copyediting services?)

So expect a glut of reviews coming soon, and more activity over on Twitter. I’ve missed this community, and I really need to reconnect with it again.

In personal news, anyone who’s been following my health drama might know that I finally received a diagnosis for what the heck is wrong with me. I have fibromyalgia. Fairly severe fibromyalgia, according to the neurologist who diagnosed me.  My ability to walk is still on the decline, and it’s extremely likely that I’m going to need a wheelchair. Not a manual one, either, which I could likely get fairly cheaply, but due to general muscle weakness, I’ll likely need one of the fancy expensive motorized chairs, or a scooter, or something that doesn’t need to be propelled by my weaksauce self. Oh joy oh bliss.

Fibro isn’t fun. Being disabled isn’t fun. Anyone who tells you they wish they were disabled so they could just sit around the house all day and not work deserves to be kicked in the ass until they becomes incapable of getting out of bed for a few weeks. See how much fun it is then.

Yes, I have feelings about comments like this.

I’m still learning to live with fibro. It’s a work in progress. Some days are easier than other days. But despite being disabled to the point of being unable to work for more than 2 years now, I still haven’t figured out my limits. I still have a lot of internalized ableism to learn. Bear with me, because I might make posts bitching about disability issues in the future.

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But hey, progress is being made. Just yesterday I used one of those motorized shopping carts for the first time, and holy hell was it ever freeing! I actually felt independent, like I could shop for groceries without ending up fatigued and in massive pain afterward!

Sounds silly, yeah, but it was a big step for me in terms of accepting my disability and my limits and taking steps to get the accommodations I need to overcome them.

And hey, maybe I ended up as the butt of some ignorant person’s joke when they saw me put the cart back when I was done shopping. “I saw a miracle at Walmart the other day when the battery died, lol!” (Hey genius, how do you think I got to the cart in the first place? I can still walk. It just hurts a lot and I need a cane to do it. If I was already in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t need the cart, ya fuckwad.)

(Yes, I have feelings about those comments too.)

I mentioned in my last post that we had to say goodbye to our beloved Jakob-cat, who was 18 years old at the time. A few months ago, we also had to say goodbye to his brother, Nick, who made it to his 19th birthday before he started a very fast decline. We’re pretty sure it was congestive heart failure. Nick and Jakob had been with us since we became adults, and it was a very difficult adjustment to living without them. Sounds silly, but when something has been a constant for your entire adult life, living without that thing can be really difficult. Some days, I miss them both so much I still cry. They were my first pets, and they meant so much to me. One of the things I agreed to, when becoming a pet parent, is that I’ll hurt in order to prevent them from hurting. Saying goodbye when they were suffering… It was agony, and still is agony, but it was the right decision. However hard it was to make.

But life isn’t all bad. We still have 3 other cats who are utter delights, and much loved, and who bring us so much joy. There are still good books, and video games, and lots of things to be happy about, even if some parts of life suck right now. Sometimes the way we get through dark times is to hold on to the pinpricks of light, the small things that bring us happiness.

Anyway, enough ranting. Time to start writing some of those backlogged reviews so I can return to the fun world of inundating people with my opinions of fantasy novels!

I hope you’re all doing well, and I hope to talk with you all more on Twitter and in the blog comments. Take care, everyone!

2021 Year-End Post (Personal)

Good freaking crap, this year has been a decade!

Come to think of it, it feels like last year was a decade too.

This decadism has to stop…

Honestly, though, 2021 has been a rough year on a personal level. Not just because of the ongoing pandemic and people’s reactions or non-reactions to it (though I won’t lie, that’s part of it) but just sort of in general. So I thought I’d update people on what has happened, since judging by WordPress’s stats, people still actually come here for some reason.

~ First off, I think I absolutely failed my blogging and reading goals. I initially intended to read 52 books, which is usually pretty achievable for me, but as the year went on it became clear that I just couldn’t. The funny thing about whatever the heck if going on with me is that it can play merry hell with my energy levels, and there were weeks and months where I didn’t really have the brain space to do much beyond mindlessly watching YouTube videos that I’d already seen before. Books? Hahaha, no, that requires effort, because I need to concentrate on making words make sense.

So yeah, I only ended up reading 35 books instead of 52. That’s the least I’ve ever read in a year. I feel pretty lousy about that.

~ I posted back in July that my partner for a new job, teaching medical lab science at the very college where they originally were taught medical lab science to begin with! I said in that post that we would likely be moving in a month, since the job was in another city.

Yeah, so, we didn’t end up moving until November…

The housing market here in wild right now, with people from richer provinces buying up the comparatively cheaper houses here, renting them out with ridiculous prices (sometimes jacking up the rent for existing tenants by 50% or more), which has in turn jacked up the rent for everywhere else. We were looking for a 2-bedroom place that had a bathtub and preferably a dishwasher, and one that had fewer stairs than where we’d been living before. That we could afford. It took us until November to find one that had 2 bedrooms and a bathtub, but the rest, nah, we didn’t get that. We live in a basement apartment, and no matter whether we use the front or back door, we have to walk up a flight and then down a flight of stairs.

Which isn’t great when I have days when sometimes it’s a struggle to walk to the kitchen.

I don’t go out much anymore…

But it’s what we could afford, and before that, my partner was living with family and driving back to me on weekends to help me take care of what I couldn’t handle on my own through the week. Which was a lot of things. It wasn’t a pleasant situation all around, so we really couldn’t afford to be super picky. We needed a place that would mostly work and that we could pay for and we’d just deal with the rest.

~ Also, our beloved cat Jakob, 18 years old, passed away. His health was declining, he wasn’t happy most of the time, and even though that was months ago, it still hurts like a kick to the chest.

~ And now it’s been almost a solid year since my dad disowned me. So, there’s that too.

~ So yeah, between all of that, and my continuing-to-decline health, 2021 has felt like a hell of a year. It’s not that no good things happened at all. But there was a lot of grief, a lot of struggle, and sometimes it feels like the bad vastly overshadowed the good…

But it’s not like there was no good at all.

~ I did still read 35 books, and even if I didn’t read 52, some is better than none. My YouTube channel, The Potato Witch, has grown significantly, even if I can’t make videos as often as I want to. (But you should all go subscribe right now because I aim to make more videos focusing on the amazing stories of fantastic RPGs, and stories are what we’re all about here, right?) I’ve gotten back into crafting in a big way. Life isn’t devoid of all happiness, even if sometimes it can feel like a struggle to keep going.

So, with that in mind, I kinda want to semi-revive my habits of posting here. I’ve been doing sort of mini-reviews of books over on Instagram, but sometimes I do miss longer reviews of the kind I used to do here. But I also want to use this blog to talk more about my life, what I’m doing, cool stuff I learned, things I’m proud of making, etc. I mean, what’s stopping me? It’s my damn blog. I can do what I want here!

Come for the book reviews, stay for photos of tapestry weaving and ramblings about how interesting the history of tea is.

Long Time, No Post!

Time slips by so quickly; I didn’t realize that it had been 2 months since I last said anything on this blog. Yeesh!

Part of that is because, sadly, I haven’t been reading much. I have been reading some, but… not much. There are times where my health sadly doesn’t allow me the attention span to actually read for longer than 10 minutes without my eyes just sort of unfocusing. It’s brutal. It honestly hurts sometimes to see that within the space of 10 years, I’ve gone from reading 5-8 books a month to consider myself lucky if I finish a single book in the same span of time.

Never get a chronic illness, folks. Never. But if you absolutely have to, make sure it’s one that’s easily treatable and doesn’t interfere with doing the things that used to bring you such joy and comfort.

I have read a few things, though, and over the next little while I’ll try to get some reviews out. I don’t want this blog to be totally dead, even though I know it’s sorta on its last legs at this point anyway. The reviews might be shorter, might be less detailed than they used to be, but eh, very few people read my reviews anymore anyway, so I don’t think anyone will notice. :p

Not self-pitying. I’ve already accepted that the blogosphere has moved on from when I was in my bloggy prime. That’s fine. I don’t want to be a rising star or something. I just want to still be part of this. Even if I can’t handle a lot of it like I used to.

So, now you know I’m still alive, still reading, still having opinions on things.

Oh, also, I’m going to be moving again in a month or so, since my partner got offered a job teaching at another college! So we’ll be moving back to the city we used to live in soon. That’ll be exhausting, honestly, but I’m kind of looking forward to it, since we’re looking mostly into 2-bedroom apartments and so I can have my own bed again, and not have to sleep on the couch when I need to sleep at night! (My partner and I have vastly different sleeping needs, especially with my pain issues, so sharing a bed is really difficult, sadly.)

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll get to writing some of those reviews. Expect a new one next week!

State of the Ria

So I decide to phase out reviewing in order to focus on my own writing, and then, uh… don’t. I have written nothing. I haven’t had the brain-space for it.

I’ve made no secret of my ongoing health problems, but for those who don’t follow me on Twitter of Facebook and thus might not have heard my ranting and railing… In a nutshell, for a few years now, I’ve been dealing with worsening pain, which kind of came to a head last summer after a couple of nights of insomnia just sent me spiraling over the edge. Since then it’s been a non-stop rollercoaster of pain, of decreasing mobility, of continued insomnia broken up by periods of not being able to do anything but sleep, of fatigue that leaves me incapable of doing much beyond vacantly watching TV shows and YouTube videos that I’ve already watched a dozen times, because my brain has no space for anything new.

Which, sadly, includes writing. I’ve been plotting and planning a novella I want to write, to get me back into the swing of things before I tackle something longer and more complicated, but beyond taking notes, nothing’s been written. I sit down, I open a new document, and just… can’t focus.

Brain fog. Ain’t it grand?

Every day or night in which I don’t write something, I feel guilty. Right now, I’m not just a neutral presence in this household, but instead I’m one that takes but cannot really give back. I can’t work, I can’t earn money, and so we’re trying to get by on one income. One income which is keeping us afloat, because we know how to live frugally when we need to, but there are so many things that would improve our qualify of life and our health that we just can’t afford. And if I’m blunt, it’s mostly because of me.

Right now I live in that horrible limbo state of being too disabled to work but not so obvious disabled that I can get government assistance. The laws where I live are kind of bullshit in that regard: to qualify for government disability assistance (which would let me draw a monthly cheque of maybe $500-550, and that would help so damn much right now…), I’d need signed forms from a doctor stating my diagnosis and affirming that this diagnosis means I will never be able to work again, or else am going to die relatively soon. It seems that the government thinks that disability only ever comes from a sudden terrible accident, or is something that will kill you quickly. Nothing in between.

I do not yet have a diagnosis. I’m still waiting for 2 tests to be done: a muscle biopsy to see if I have something destroying my muscles (very unlikely, given other test results, but still possible) and an EMG to see if my peripheral nerves are dying. If either of those tests show anything, cool, I have a diagnosis. If not? …I dunno, fibromyalgia, I guess?

None of the likely diagnosis are curable things, either. Treatable sometimes, to a degree. Manageable, with lifestyle changes (such as ones I wish I could afford right now). But nothing I’d ever be able to face and say, “Ah yes, I know I’ll get my old life back at the end of this.”

And believe me, the stress of that hanging over me isn’t doing my attention span any favours, either.

I want to work. I want to earn money, to contribute to the household, to stop feeling like nothing but a burden.My partner’s pretty good about it, but I’m well aware of the reality of my situation. Unless I can do something at home, setting my own hours, then my options are practically non-existent.

Which bring me back to why I feel guilty for not writing. If I write, I might be able to sell. If I sell, I earn money. If I earn money, I feel like I’m worth something, because I can contribute and improve our lives. I might not be the best writer, and maybe I only have a snowball’s chance in hell at actually earning anything that way, but it’s something I can strive toward. I can try. Sometimes just trying makes me feel like I’m not entirely useless.

If only this damn brain fog would shift and let me actually do what I want to do!

But hey, maybe I’ll manage to pull myself out of these mental mists and put fingers to keyboard and in a few months, you’ll be critically eyeing my attempt at writing something with textiles and ghosts and sacrifices. Maybe it won’t even suck! Got to keep my fingers crossed, right?

A Change is Gonna Come

I mentioned this on Twitter recently, but I thought it bore mentioned here too: I’m going to be phasing out my reviewing.

I can see some eye-rolls already. Oh look, Ria’s stopping reviewing again, only everybody knows it won’t last for very long. Yeah yeah, I had this debate with myself already. :p

This time, though, I’m not so much stopping reviewing, so much as I’m scaling back on them in order to work on writing of my own.

I have learned a lot about writing from reviewing. A lot. People who have seen my before-reviewing writing and my after-reviewing writing have commented that the improvement is marked, and believe me, it wasn’t because I was writing my own original ideas all that time. But through critiquing the stories of others, I learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, what pitfalls to watch for, what resonates with me, what I want to put my own spin on. I picked up a lot of lessons along the way.

And it’s time to put them to good use.

I have ideas in my head, and I want to get them out. There are some novels percolating in this noggin of mine, and I’ve gone over and over how I want to write them, and now I need to stop just talking about writing, just wishing I was writing, and actually get to the writing.

So. Fewer reviews. Probably a post here or there about what I’m writing. Maybe a snippet or two. Not sure yet what will become of this blog, whether it will stay mostly for reviews or whether I’ll use it to talk about my own work too. Probably the latter. I’ve made enough personal posts over the years, after all. It wouldn’t be entirely out of place.

So maybe in a year or two, you’ll be holding a new book in your hands and it’ll have my name on it. Fingers crossed!

Life is a Damn Mess

I’ve been largely absent from many of my usual haunts these past couple of weeks. Social media, blogging… I just haven’t been up for any of it. Life is… not the easiest at the moment.

First off, one of my nearly-18 year old cats has been on a bit of a decline, health-wise. He seems to have recovered a bit this past week, for which I’m thankful, but his appetite still isn’t what it used to be, and I worry about what that might mean. As I said, he’s nearly 18, he’s diabetic, he recently got diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid and balancing his thyroid meds has been a challenge, and he also has joint and muscle degeneration in his hind legs, which means pain medication, which means his kidneys don’t always do so well either. So yeah, even if he’s doing better at the moment, I’m fairly certain this is just the beginning of the end, so to speak, and that is really weighing on me.

And if anyone follows me on Facebook, you might have been made aware of some recent family drama in my life. Long story short, my dad hadn’t spoken to me in months, after I asked him to stop harassing me about learning to drive (something he’s been insisting is “inevitable” since I was about 20, and something which I’ve insisted isn’t inevitable and I have no interest in doing anyway), and he attempted to turn that around with, “Why is it okay for you to call me a racist but not okay for me to say you might like driving?”

Which baffled the hell out of me, because I haven’t called him racist, and his response overlooks the many years I’ve been asking him to stop pressuring me…

Anyway, him ceasing to talk to me was shortly after that, with a message that basically said, “I’m still too angry to even meet up with you for 5 minutes like we’d arranged,” and then silence from then on. He didn’t like me talking about some of this stuff on Facebook, so he emailed me to call me cowardly, to tell me that my accusations of him being racist and homophobic have damaged his marriage, and to throw some inappropriate insults my way. He said he’s been keeping his distance from me to preserve his mental health and well-being. He still insists that I’ve been calling him racist and homophobic, but won’t explain when I did this or what I supposedly said it regarding, and apparently being called these things is worse than actually being them, I guess, and worse than saying or doing problematic things. Plus a general refusal to actually address my initial complaints about him harassing me. Some back-and-forth ensued, and in the end, I gave him an ultimatum. Either explain himself and actually commit to working at healing a lot of the broken aspects of our relationship, or if he really wants to keep his distance from me, then make it a clean break and cut me out entirely, because I have no time or energy to just wait on his convenience and continue to deal with accusations he won’t explain to me. I wanted him to actually choose.

He turned it around once again by saying, “If you really want a clean break, then I’ll give you that, if you need it.” He chose, but he phrased it in such a way that I’m sure he thinks he just did what I told him, not acknowledging that I have him 2 options.

But he chose. My dad has essentially disowned me over accusations I still don’t understand and may never understand.

So that all fucking happened.

Combine all of that with an ongoing pain flare that has me often wanting to just lie on the floor and sob until I pass out, because at least not being conscious means I’m not in pain for a little while… Yeah. It’s been a time. I have no idea when I’m going to get to see the neurologist I’ve been referred to for additional testing, but I can say with good certainty that I can expect this to be my life for the foreseeable future. Pain flares, and the hope of those pain flares ending and letting me go back to my regular low-level pain instead of higher-level pain.

Ain’t life fucking grand?

There has been some good stuff this month. I actually got paid editing work, which made me incredibly happy because I felt, for the first time in a very long time, like a person who wasn’t just a useless mooch and a drain on household finances. Plus I really enjoyed the process; that was a very nice bonus. And it’s been lovely to say to my partner, “Don’t worry about groceries this week; I’ve got the money for them.”

So yeah, all of that combined meant that I barely had enough spare energy to get out of bed some days, let alone try to turn my mind to organizing my thoughts into a coherent book review. Or to interact with people very much. It’s been a month of pain, work, distress, numbness, fear, and there’s been some hopeful stuff in there, not going to lie, but it’s just all been so very much, and I couldn’t keep everything on my plate.

Hopefully things will start to improve a little. Hell, if this pain flare would just end, that would make a lot of things easier to deal with. Chronic illness never plays nice, though, so I’m not going to hold my breath. Just got to hang on until the ride is over, and hope I come out the other side relatively unscathed.

So that’s why I’ve been mostly absent. I appreciate your patience with the periods of radio silence and the lack of content. Hopefully I can get some stuff going again soon. I really do miss talking about good books.

Reading and Blogging Goals for 2021

Given my wonky health of late, I wasn’t sure whether to do anything goal-related at all this year. I mean, we’re already nearly 2 weeks into 2021 and I haven’t written a single review yet, nor have I finished read a single book. It seemed like a bit of a fool’s errand to commit myself to doing a certain amount of things or doing things on a regular and scheduled basis. The future might bring me scads of editing work that distract me from reading (haha, not bloody likely!), or it might bring me a month where I’m barely able to get out of bed and all I can manage is reading (thankfully, also not bloody likely, but still more likely than the other option). Who even knows anymore?

But still, I do have certain things I want to accomplish this year, so let’s get down to brass tacks and take a look at the idealistic side of my mind that won’t quit no matter how much it probably ought to sometimes.

  1. Read 52 books.

My definition of a book has changed a lot over the years. I used to not count manga and graphic novels, or some books geared towards certain age ranges, or sometimes I wouldn’t even count novellas. Now, I do. They tell a story or stories, they count as a book. End of.

2. Take February as Manga Month again.

Last year, I did Manga Month twice. This year, I think I’ll only do it the once. I have plenty of manga to catch up on, and giving myself an excuse to just read and review manga for an entire month is a great way to do just that. Those reviews might not be the most popular, but this blog ceased being popular long ago, so at this point, it doesn’t really matter. I want to read and review some manga titles, so I’ll do just that.

3. At least 50% of my reviews will be from review copies.

I have a lot of review copies, gathered over my… holy crap, I’ve been reviewing books on and off for over a decade now! Yeah, that’s a long time, and many of those years saw me lucky enough to get review copies from authors and publishers. I have plenty of books I’ve purchased for myself, or books I’ve borrowed from the library, but I want to make a bigger dent in that review copy backlog.

4. Finish more series.

Browsing the list of books I’ve reviewed, there are a lot of, “book 1 of a trilogy” entries on there, and then I never went any further. Sometimes it was because I couldn’t get any of the other books in the series. Sometimes I had no interest in reading further. Sometimes I had the books and wanted to read them but made the executive decision to focus on other upcoming titles instead, to keep riding the hype train.

But as I said, this blog is no longer even remotely an influence in the bookish world, so I feel a little more free to take the focus on upcoming books and look back a little bit, to finish things I started and to cross a few older titles off the list. I’m not going to pin down an exact number of series I want to finish up this year, but I do plan to make an effort in that direction.

And… that’s it, really. As I said, given my unpredictable health, I don’t want to make any more commitments than that, because doing so just seems like a surefire way to be disappointed in myself when life gets in the way and I can’t meet my own expectations.

Fellow bloggers, what are your goals for the year, if you have any? Are they many or few, big or small? Let me know in the comments, link to any posts you made about what you want to accomplish this year, and we can spread a little goal-related love around.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Why Seanan McGuire’s “Wayward Children” Series Means So Much to Me

If you look at my reviews for the Wayward Children novella series, it’s pretty clear that I absolutely adore the stories, and have from the beginning. Reading Every Heart a Doorway changed me, and I’ve read every novella since then, and reread a few of them to boot. Even when they hurt my heart, I love them.

And it’s time to talk about why.

Come Tumbling DownI could say that it’s because there’s positive queer representation, and there is. I could say that McGuire just gets so many things, and has a brilliant way of writing those things, and she does. I could say it’s because the stories are so very creative, and that much is true.

But that’s not why the series resonated with me so intensely, right from the very first one.

That reason is far more personal, and will take a lot longer to explain.

You see, many years ago, I had a dream. In it, I had been taken outside of time. I didn’t fully understand the reason then, and I still don’t now, but somebody in charge of things had decided that I needed to stop existing, and took the steps to make that happen. Not death, nothing like that. More like I had never existed in the first place, my life reduced to nonexistence, everybody I knew losing all their knowledge and memory of me. And yet, I still existing. I had all those memories. I had to go somewhere.

And that somewhere was what I called The Silence.

I called it that because once I arrived at the place where I was going to exist from then on (a huge building, though I don’t remember seeing the outside of it; I remember long white hallways lined with doors, most of them the mini-apartment of somebody else who had never existed), I was handed a schedule, telling me when I could expect to get meals, when it was suggested I sleep, all of that. There was an hour a day when I could interact with others there in a communal space if I chose, but the rest of the time? It was all marked with “silence.”

Nonexistence was a quiet place.

I had my own little room, the place I’d be living from then on. It didn’t have much. A bed. A desk. That was it. But here’s the thing: since The Silence existed outside of time, I could request anything I wanted, from any time, to keep myself quietly occupied during the rest of… my life? Eternity? I wasn’t sure if one died when one had never existed in the first place. If I wanted to read books, from any time past or future, I could request them and read them until my heart’s content. If I wanted to play video games, I could do the same thing. Everything was mine for the asking, so long as I did those things quietly, and by myself. I remember being happy that I could start playing the next Final Fantasy game, without having to wait, because existing outside of time meant that the game already existed somewhere, somewhen, and it was mine for the asking.

And all of this, this silent solitude, felt so comfortable to me that despite a lingering sadness at no longer being able to see friends or family again (and technically speaking, none of them were or had ever been my friends or family anyway, now that I had reached that state of nonexistence), I knew I could be content there for however long I lasted. That while I might sometimes get lonely, I could still see people for short periods if I wanted, or avoid them if I wanted, and I wouldn’t be bothered again by anything except that which I wanted to deal with.

Waking up felt sad and weird, like I had left something of myself behind in The Silence. Being there felt right in ways I have never really been able to express. I tried to tell my friends, but they were mostly concerned over the fact that I seemed remarkably comfortable and happy with the idea of not existing. I could explain to them that this dream wasn’t some manifestation of depression, or suicidal ideation, or anything like that. But far more than this world, this life, I felt like I belonged there, could be myself and do the things I wanted and be comfortable in ways that I have never really experienced.

Seeing this concern of theirs and being unable to convince them that I wasn’t about to go and off myself, I stopped talking about it. I carried the memory and the feeling of the dream for years, a secret inside myself that I figured nobody would ever really be able to understand, because it wasn’t theirs to experience, wasn’t a world or plane or existence that suited them even a fraction as well as it suited me.

Every Heart a DoorwayAnd then I read Every Heart a Doorway. And in it, I read about characters who had taken trips to impossible worlds, worlds that had room for them and fit them and gave them what they craved, even when those worlds were no shiny happy positive-all-the-time things. Those worlds were theirs, the way The Silence was mine, and nobody really understood what it was like to have that unless they, too, had gone elsewhere, wandered through a door that shouldn’t exist and found something on the other side that impacted them so profoundly. People who came back never really fit in here, in this world, any more, having been changed by being given that taste of something that fit their nature and personality far more than what this world can provide. I thought, while reading it, that if I could jump into the pages and tell any one of them about that dream, about The Silence, they would understand.

Do I think I actually slipped through the gap between realities and dreamed my way into another world? No, not really. There’s part of me that would love to be adamantly convinced that it all really happened, because imagine the implications of that! But that’s not really the point. The point is that my connection to that dream is what gave me multiple mind-blow moments while reading Every Heart a Doorway, because never before had I seen something like that in print. Stories about people ending up in other worlds, sure, those are everywhere, but that same sentiment? That feeling of rightness even when nobody else understands, even when everybody else says that’s a cause for worry and alarm, that particular expression? I hadn’t seen that before.

The first book resonated with me so hard because of that one dream I had nearly 2 decades ago.

I’ve wanted to get this off my chest for a long time. Many’s the time I’ve been tempted to try and write about my experience with The Silence, to turn it into a short story or a novella, but there have always been too many unanswered questions. Why did I need to stop existing? Who makes those decisions? What even is the point of such a story? And now that the Wayward Children series exists, I don’t think there’s a way I could turn it into a piece of fiction without thinking I was just being derivative, and a poor imitation at that. I’ve debated talking about it like this more than once, and decided against it because I worried that either people just wouldn’t give a damn, or that they’d start to worry about my mental health again after seeing how much that whole idea appealed to me, still appeals to me.

But here I am, and here we are, and the words have finally been written.

This series will always have deep meaning to me. For me, they go beyond the stories of adventure and loss, of need and use and misunderstandings. Even though that mind-blow moment of, “Holy shit, I get this!” has passed, I’ll always have a personal connection to the stories, and one that I certainly didn’t expect when I sat down to start reading them for the first time. McGuire certainly didn’t intend to write a series that would smack me so hard between the eyes, or give me something that I could connect with in such a deeply personal way, but that was the end result, and for that I will always be grateful for the fact that these books exist at all.

A Break From Reality. And Sanity. And Humanity.

I don’t normally do this, this isn’t the typical content you’ll find on my blog, but today I came across this Time article from 2015.

This 66-Year-Old Woman Is Suing All Gay People—Yes, All of Them

And the article links to a pdf of her petition, which is handwritten in cursive, and friends, it is a riot to read, because from where I’m standing, it reveals so many truths about the lengths to which people will go with a combination of religious dogma and poor logic at the wheel.

And because I found I had so much to say about what this woman said, I felt like giving over a little bit of blog space to sharing my comments on this… hilarious piece of something that I’m fairly certain the woman in question might prefer to forget.

01

Starting off strong. The whole petition is written by Sylvia Ann Driskell, Ambassador “God, and His, Son, Jesus Christ.” Commas and all. So, 4 people? Got it. Is everyone’s surname Christ? God Christ, His Christ, Son Christ, and Jesus Christ? Because that’s how this all reads.

I understand how commas crop up randomly when typing, but that many extra commas in handwriting is another thing entirely.

Also, the defendants are, “Homosexuals, Their Given Name Homosexuals, and Their Alis Gay.” I’m assuming she means alias, because I guess all gay people take on pseudonym when they come out. True story.

02

“[D]o set forth on this 30 days of 2015.” Uh, think you forgot to write in the month there, Sylvia. And you possibly moved to the great state of “Nebraka.”

And she does the comma thing as “and His” again! I guess at least this time, God is a “plintiff” instead of a plaintiff, though.

You’d think if you were going to make this your official document to kick off your lawsuit, you’d at least take the time to make sure said document was free of spelling errors…

03

After questions, you put a question mark. “Is Homosexuality a sin, or not a sin?”

And we’re still in Nebraka. I wonder if they have any good restaurants there.

04

I’m particularly impressed by the way she manages to spell “and” 2 different ways in the same sentence.

Also, I submit this document in the Supreme Court case of “they’re” v “their.”

Now, from here she goes on to use passages from the bible to address whether or not homosexuality is a sin, and frankly, that’s kind of the boring stuff so far as I’m concerned. At least here. Because yes, by the definition that dear Sylvia later gives (quoting from “Webster Dictionary”), it might be.

05

Sin is the willful breaking of religious or moral law. So if a religion says that being gay is a sin, then within that religion’s laws, being gay is a sin. If someone’s morals state that being gay is a sin, then yes, being gay is a sin.

But here’s the thing: no matter how much you might agree with a religion, no matter how much you might think it is the truth, no matter what your morals say is okay or not… None of these things are universal, or even global, absolutes.

We have this tendency to assume that our legal laws are, by definition, moral ones. Which isn’t remotely the case. It can’t be. Everyone’s morals are different. Something you’re fine with might be illegal. Something you think is wrong might be legal. And because we often get our morals from religion, we thus make the connection that our legal laws should be based on religious ones. And that also isn’t the case. Sylvia here is making that conflation, and attempting to argue that a moral and religious transgression ought to be treated identically to a legal one.

Heck, even looking at things purely through the lens of Christianity — which influenced much of Western culture’s, well, culture, and also its laws — this doesn’t hold true. “Thou shalt not kill,” is a pretty strong religious command in Christianity, as in many other religions the world over. But by US law, the definition of murder specifically defines it as an “unlawful premeditated killing,” which implies that there are lawful ways to kill a person. Such as the death penalty. Which definitely involves planning the death beforehand. Loopholes like that are how the US can literally get away with murder, only not really, because legally that’s not actually murder.

But it’s a good example of moral, religious, and legal laws not quite meshing. We accept this in our daily lives in many ways. We accept that legality isn’t always going to match with what we believe to be right and good in our hearts, according to our lived experiences. And when we feel passionately about something, we may try to make our legal laws adjust to our moral ones.

But typically, in a situation of reflection and understanding, we don’t assume that religion = morality = legality.

Anyway, back to Sylvia’s stunning lack of logic and preparation.

06

This was the point where I started to wonder if Sylvia thought that the closet was, well, a literal closet. As though gay teens discovered themselves and then hid, bat-like, in their bedroom closets, refusing to see sunlight again until their demands were met.

Also… Gee, I dunno, Sylvia. Could it be that society was so very good at treating gay people like crap for centuries, both from a legal perspective and the perspective of everyday living, that they felt the need to hide their identities to avoid being punished, imprisoned, even killed, for the crime of merely existing?

This is another thing that I hear get talked about a lot, and it usually comes from a place of impressive ignorance. People like Sylvia see gay people being allowed to get married, raise kids, get all the same rights as straight people, and think, “My goodness, but being gay is bad! Bad people shouldn’t have these rights!” without stopping to think that it’s not just a matter of being able to marry or not, being able to adopt kids or not. For a long period of history in this society and the ones that strongly influenced it, being gay was something that could be punished by death. And while that hasn’t been a thing for a good long while here (thankfully), it’s not like that sort of thing doesn’t cross the minds of gay people at some point. There are moments where pretty much every queer person will just stop and think, “Fucking hell, there was a time, and there are still places, where I could be killed just for being myself.”

Even in lesser ways, we’re not so far out from other “being myself” punishments. Not so long ago, a gay person couldn’t visit their significant other in hospital, because they weren’t family. Allowing marriage equality meant that loved ones could properly say goodbye in a terrible time, or simply just check in on their partner after medical procedures. Legalized marriage meant that if a gay person died, their partner of 30 years might have more say in the funeral arrangements than the gay person’s parents, who might not have spoken to their kid in all that time. This is the reality that so many gay people have lived within memory, and frankly, I think that level of grief trumps your “but gay people are icky” argument.

That’s my moral belief, Sylvia. If your morals say otherwise, I advise you to reflect on what kind of person would actively wish that on others.

Also, you forgot that question mark again.

07

So, here begins a huge section of the petition where Sylvia just kinds of states things and assumes that everyone will arrive at the same conclusion she did. She states a thing gay people say they have rights to, defines that according to the dictionary, quotes a part of the bible that suggests gay people shouldn’t have that right… and then doesn’t actually tie it all together. Not even so much as a, “So as you can see, the bible clearly states that this should not happen.” It’s like she thinks that merely quoting her religious book will make people go, “Sweet fancy fuckery, you’re right! How could I have missed that?!”

This part is about marriage. God stated that a man will leave his family when he gets married, and implies that he shouldn’t cheat on her and that they should probably have sex at some point. Then she defines marriage according to the dictionary, which… actually contains information that destroys her own argument.

“2. to take as husband or wife.”

So, by the dictionary definition, if a woman takes a wife, then that’s marriage. If a man takes a husband, then that’s also marriage. One aspect of the definition is “to join as husband and wife,” yes, but since words can have multiple applications and uses, the second definition doesn’t say anything about how the one taking a wife has to be a man, nor the one taking a husband has to be a woman.

So, according to what words mean, marriage equality isn’t problematic, now that legally, same-gender marriage is a thing.

Quoting a passage from the bible that disagrees with you doesn’t make for a sound argument. All you’re telling me is that your holy book doesn’t agree with what’s happening. You’re not telling me why that should supersede legal definitions. You’re not telling me why your holy book has more authority than the legal system. You’re telling me that you think it does. You might even be telling be that your holy book says it does. But that’s not telling me why. You’re not providing any sort of compelling argument for why I should give more of a damn about your morals than I should about my own.

Which is another place I see people fall down in this debate. Now granted, Sylvia didn’t do this, but I see a lot of people trot out the “religious freedom” argument and say that because they’re legally allowed to worship as they see fit, that means everyone else should do what they say because their religion says they should be allowed that privilege. And quite frankly, even though that’s a bad piece of logic, had Sylvia even said that one during her little petition, it would have made for a more compelling argument than what she provides here. She’s just assuming that everyone takes for granted that the bible is the ultimate moral authority, because she thinks that it is. Because it says it is.

I can say I’m the ultimate moral authority too. That doesn’t make me so. And people can easily argue my claim. Nobody in their right minds would take me seriously if I tried to claim that.

But we grant religions a measure of authority that we don’t grant to people… unless they’re speaking on behalf of a religion. We just kind of assume that something is right if there’s a religion attached to it, that religious morals mean more than personal morals, even if those morals turn out to be the exact same. I’m not areligious, but I can’t deny that really frustrates me. What makes my claim any different than a religion’s claim? Not a damn thing. But people will put more stock in a religion by default.

Anyway, got a little off topic, there.

08

Gay people think they have the right to be parents. The dictionary defines parents as… something that doesn’t dispute that statement.

Sylvia goes on to talk about how everyone knows that the ability to create a child isn’t what makes a good parent, which is both true, and also not related to her two previous statements. Gay people aren’t all claiming they have the right to create children (most do, just not always with their partners), and the dictionary didn’t define a parent as anything to do with directly creating said offspring by sperm-meets-egg stuff. So the whole, “it’s got to do with more than just creating life,” thing came entirely out of left field, and wasn’t what was being debated to begin with.

09

This woman makes a whole lot of leaps and expects people to follow along with her, and I mean, have you ever seen legal arguments? Those things can sometimes take entire pages to specifically define the meaning of a word within a particular context, and Sylvia’s over here going, “A parent is a mother or a father. GAY PEOPLE CAN’T BE PARENTS BECAUSE THEIR CHILDREN WILL GROW UP TO BE LIARS!”

Now that I’ve recovered from the mental whiplash that gave me, I want to take a moment to point out that Sylvia is making some bold and insulting claims here. In her mind, I’m sure she honestly believes that gay people, because they’re gay in direct defiance to what they know to be right and good, are thus bad people who do bad things. And kids who grow up around people who do bad things will learn to do those bad things themselves, will learn that doing so is acceptable. Thus a child with gay parents will probably grow up to be a thief or a swindler or Donald Trump or something.

Sylvia goes on to talk about how gay people insist that God loves them despite their homosexuality, and concedes that they’re right… but that being right still makes them wrong because God gave Jesus to die for everyone’s sins and so when people sin, it’s and affront to that sacrifice, and again, that’s the stuff that’s more boring to me because I can’t really comment on it. I mean sure, the bible does say that stuff, but I’ve already stated that legal laws aren’t the same as religious or moral laws, and you can’t always apply one to the other. Sylvia’s basically summing up her argument with, “In conclusion, I think I’m right and my god agrees with me probably, so everyone should do what I say.” And that’s not a sound legal argument.

Her spelling mistakes sure do make me chuckle, though.

I wrote this piece because frankly, sometimes I have to. When I find people making weird-ass claims like this, I have many thoughts, and I need to get them down somewhere. Usually I end up going through them piece by piece and tearing them down because half the time, doing so methodically is the easiest way to stand up against them. It’s a thing I do. I did it when Elizabeth Moon went on her Islamophobic BS rant almost a decade ago, and I’ll probably keep doing it in the future.

But this, friends, is something that can give you a good idea of who I am. If you didn’t know before, if you’re new to anything I do, whatever, this whole rant is a good place to start in the “getting to know me” section. This is the sort of person I am. I am against people who use religion to bully. I am for gender equality, I am for marriage equality, I am for queer equality and disabled equality and general fucking equality, and I will happily tear apart your arguments as to why these things are Bad and Wrong, and if that’s something that you disagree with, then you’re probably not going to like me very much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this queer trans/non-binary person is going to have a cuddle with their queer trans partner.