About Disabilities · About My Life · About Other Stories

My Life as of January 2022

General Thoughts

It’s been quite the six months! The most notable update is that I’ve realized I have likely been dealing with undiagnosed autism my whole life. SURPRISE! ūü•≥ There’s a lot of misinformation around autism, so I’ll be devoting the next couple of months to posts on the topic. Some basics to know now are that autism is a complex, diverse spectrum and that it is not intrinsically a bad thing. However, the way autistic people are treated leads to lots of trauma and suicidality. Autistic burnout is a particularly big issue coming to the forefront right now, and I believe that my various other disabilities are at least partially the result of this. Thus, knowing I have autism could be lifechanging for me going forward!

I’m really thankful for the autism community online for helping me recognize this in myself. I’m also grateful to the people who have affirmed and accepted my self-diagnosis. I’m working towards a formal diagnosis, but that can be difficult to access, especially for adults. Quite frankly, most of the formal resources available to diagnosed people aren’t even that great–but there are many wonderful informal resources online!

In other news, I’ve finished EMDR therapy for processing grief, which I do recommend. I’ve also finished a major edit of #OCDStory, and I’m back to working on #SnowQueenStory. Now that I know I’m autistic, I’ve realized that #SnowQueenStory is actually about autistic self-acceptance and has a romance with two autistic people, which makes me feel ~soft.~ ūüíú I’m also on the hunt now for a part-time in-person day job. Who knows how long I’ll be searching for one that fits my needs, though? For now, I hope to volunteer with my local Friends of the Library to help combat emotional issues related to five years of chronic-illness-and-pandemic isolation.

New Year’s Resolutions

With 2021 having come to an end, it’s time to review and renew resolutions! Of last year’s seven resolutions, I accomplished #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7. #1 and #2 are complicated by my autism self-diagnosis, but I’ve at least made progress! I also accomplished some unplanned work typing and abridging my old diaries, which was important for better understanding myself and regaining lost memories.

For 2022, here’s what I’m resolving:

1) Start sending query letters for #OCDStory. I’m hoping to get one last mass batch of critique from my friend-readers so I can do a final edit before querying this year! It’ll be the first time I’ve queried since college, so that’s exciting.

2) Continue work on #SnowQueenStory. My speed at writing has improved quite a bit since I last worked on this book, and I’m feeling enthusiastic about it. I have about 100 pages of this manuscript written already, so who knows how much I’ll do this year?

3) Keep striving towards a healthier adult life. I’m in counseling right now to address the emotional issues I’ve been dealing with, which are manifesting mostly as binge-eating. Between that and figuring out how to be as a newly aware autistic adult, I’ve got plenty to do here!

4) Spend more time interacting with people in person. As noted earlier, I am perusing options, but the Friends of the Library seems to be my best choice for the moment! Small towns in pandemics aren’t terribly full of social opportunities.

5) Research a different religion every month. I consider religion and spirituality important both personally and intellectually, but I’ve realized I’m pretty ignorant about most world religions! I’d like to remedy that. This past year, I unintentionally learned a lot about Judaism through social media, so I’ve started this month with that religion. In February, I’ll move on to Taoism.

6) Read 300 books. I managed a bit more than this in 2021, and reading is good for both my mental health and my development as a writer, so 300 reads in 2022 too sounds like a solid plan to me.

BOOKS

New Book Recommendations Second Half of 2021 with a large array of book covers

Remember that you can find my entire list of book recommendations here!

TV SHOWS

New TV Show Recommendations Second Half of 2021 with posters for LOKI, THE CLONE WARS, GRAVITY FALLS, CINEMA THERAPY, GOOD OMENS, WHAT IF...?, MIDNIGHT MASS, and THE WITCHER

MOVIES

New Movie Recommendations Second Half of 2021 with posters for BLACK WIDOW, SHUTTER ISLAND, BIG FISH, SHANG-CHI LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, SINGLE ALL THE WAY, MINORITY REPORT, DON'T LOOK UP, and ENCANTO

MUSIC

I struggled to get my Spotify Wrapped to stop crashing on me (‚ėĻ boo for old phones), but here’s some of the information I got about my listening choices in 2021:

Top Spotify Listens 2021 "Jumpsuit" First to Eleven "Crossing a Line" Mike Shinoda "Running From My Shadow" Mike Shinoda and grandson "Losing My Religion" BELLSAINT "Glitter and Gold" Barns Courtney TOP MUSIC MOODS: wistful and motivation TOP GENRE: Modern alternative rock

Three of those top five songs are from my official #OCDStory playlist–I’ll let you guess which ones! ‚ėļ

Social Justice Note

One of my resolutions last year was to donate more to the various causes and the many people who are in need. The places to which I donated are listed below in case you want to do the same! Many of them are local to New Mexico, so if you want to find your own local nonprofits, check out Charity Navigator.

Places I Donated 2021 Resistbot New Mexico Asian Family Center* Heading Home* Equal Justice Initiative Direct Relief The Trevor Project First Nations Development Institute Family Promise Hope for Haiti Flourish Point* We Need Diverse Books Autistic Self-Advocacy Network * = local organization Also donated to friends in need

Thank you for checking in with me! How have your past six months been?

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Stuff I Do and Don’t Like in Stories

One of my favorite things about stories is that each individual person has aspects of storytelling that they love to see–and aspects they don’t love to see. Whether you’re talking about genres, tropes, themes, or more complicated concepts, our personal preferences can be really revealing. They also can guide us in finding new stories to explore and other people we can geek out with! So today, drawing from a few posts I wrote on my old blog over the years, I’m going to share some of my personal preferences: what I do and don’t like in stories.

Stuff I Like

  • Speculative fiction, especially in the YA category. My favorite genres, unsurprisingly, are the ones that I write: fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, mostly in the YA age category. Speculative horror especially is something I’m interested in exploring at the moment!
  • Good marginalized representation, especially of disabilities. Everyone deserves to have stories that reflect their lives, but many groups of people, due to their general marginalization in society, have also been marginalized in storytelling. I especially jump at the chance to read about disabilities, whether mental, physical, or even fantastical, because that’s a huge part of my life that I never used to see in stories. (Like many people, I prefer #ownvoices work because it’s a little more likely to avoid stereotypes, but there are exceptions!) Finding something that connects with the parts of you that feel most isolated and unrealized is always such a beautiful moment.
  • Religious themes without preachiness. Religion/spirituality is another important aspect of my own life that I’d like to see more in stories. I’m not looking for anything too preachy, but I love it when commercial fiction includes religious themes and/or religious representation. Fantasy religions can be especially fun to explore. I love me a scary eldritch god!
  • Complex family dynamics. Once again, family is something that really matters to me, but I also know how difficult and emotional family life can be. Fictional explorations of the horrific and beautiful realities of family relationships speak to me a lot.
  • Strong psychological or time-related twists. Good twists that shift the reader’s entire perspective on the story because of point-of-view wonkiness always get me. It doesn’t matter if I predicted them or not; I just want to explore how different realities can be created by where you’re standing.
  • Story retellings. Likewise, I really enjoy seeing the different ways different people can rewrite the same basic story, and knowing that something is part of a long cultural tradition gives it greater weight for me. So I’m a fan of stories that retell fairytales, folktales, mythology, classic literature, and the like!
  • Nontraditional formats. Art in general is something I’m enthusiastic about, so when authors play around with different formats to tell a story, my interest is piqued! I struggle with novels in verse and with audio-only formats, but otherwise, I love to see that creativity in action.
  • Magical women, especially with psychic-ish powers. Look, women are awesome, and I love seeing them wield a ton of power in a magical, non-physical way. (It’s kind of a metaphor for femininity being a valuable force instead of just masculinity, and there are also disability parallels.) I especially like telepathy and empathy because I’m very much about interiority and emotional connection.
  • Characters who love stories. I tend to shy away from stories that feature writers as characters, but I do love seeing book lovers or other people who are enthusiastic about stories. Like, hell yeah! Stories are awesome! Libraries are awesome! Art is awesome! I understand you, character.
  • Cats or other fun nonhuman sidekicks. Sometimes these are AIs, in science fiction, or talking objects, in fantasy, but generally, these sidekicks are nonsentient beings who hang out with the main characters and show off their quirky personalities. Cats especially I decided I love after seeing Captain Marvel. (I mean, I love cats anyway, but I need more of them in stories now.)
  • Robots with souls. In retrospect, my long-standing love for this trope may have to do with the fact that robot characters are often autistic-coded. Regardless, I am super into stories where a robot (or clone or other humanish nonhuman) proves themself to be a person with a soul of their own, basically, with emotions and dreams and especially romance. Not all those things are required for personhood, obviously, but I love to see them!
  • Slow burn and friends-to-lovers romances. Many common story tropes are romantic in nature, and these are two favorites of mine that fit well together. I’m a fan of a slow burn that ratchets up the tension and allows the emotional bond to grow, and watching two friends fall into romantic love makes my heart melt. I am, after all, demisexual. Mutual pining is also fun to see!
  • Romantic partners sleeping together non-sexually. Adding to that, I really love the soft, safe intimacy of (potential) romantic partners sleeping in the same room or even bed without it turning sexual. Like… it’s so nice. (Versions of this trope that are more about the growing tension are good too, LOL.) But basically, any romantic stuff where the characters are vulnerable with each other and that vulnerability is treated with respect and love and protectiveness from the other person–I want it.
  • Trying to “hack” emotions, especially romantic love, with logic and science. On the one hand, I like trying to make things make way more logical sense than they actually do. I am a categorizer and organizer. But on the other hand, I appreciate the utter chaos and randomness of love, how it can come from unexpected places and at any moment. I appreciate the utter chaos of humans. We are so weird, and I love it.

Stuff I Don’t Like

  • Historical fiction on well-trodden ground. Historical fiction is probably my weakest point when it comes to general genres. The stories in this genre that I do enjoy usually include speculative aspects and/or explore events or identities that are less represented in the genre and in history education as a whole. I’m just tired of World Wars, y’all.
  • Westerns. I don’t know what it is about these, but they don’t work for me. I guess it’s the often-historical vibe combined with the rough-and-tumble edge. The Mandalorian is the closest to an exception here I can think of, and it’s science fiction/fantasy with a cute baby, so.
  • Really gritty or grimdark vibes. As indicated above, gritty, rough-and-tumble stories aren’t my style, and I don’t need depressing grimdark stuff in my life either. I’m okay with a fair bit of violence, and emotionally dark stuff can be fine, but I usually want some ultimate ray of hope–or at least clearer lines about what’s right and wrong.
  • Bad marginalized representation. When there’s a lack of representation, that’s plenty bad enough. Adding harmful representation that leans on stereotypes and treats marginalized groups with disrespect, dehumanization, or general disregard is not okay. Now, it’s important to note that different people in marginalized groups have different experiences, and a story not reflecting your own personal experience does not mean it’s harmful. But I want to read honest portrayals that aren’t distorted by prejudice so I can learn from them. I don’t want unconscious biases to be reinforced.
  • Too much “masculinity”. As a woman who’s always been pretty feminine and as a fourth wave feminist both, I don’t want stories that only value traits currently seen as “masculine” in our culture. I don’t want female characters who only matter because they’re physically tough and unemotional. I don’t want male characters who have to always be either violent or uncaring in order to be taken seriously. There’s too much of that out there right now. I want women who are strong and feminine, and I want men who are soft and sweet.
  • Heavy sexual content. I can handle sexual content, but I’m pretty vanilla and get grossed out at times when there’s too much detail. So if I start feeling like a book is sacrificing the plot for the sex scenes, I’m not into it. I’m not into much visual nudity for the same reason. Obviously, this one is very much an individual preference!
  • Strong focus on sports/cooking. Look. I can’t do sports, and I hate cooking, so for me, it’s hard to get into stories that have a strong focus on those topics. It’s really a me thing.
  • Novels in verse/anthologies. As I said earlier, novels in verse, where the story is told entirely in poetry, don’t work for me most the time. The same is true with anthologies, which collect essays or short stories. I suppose the shorter pieces of writing just leave wanting more. It’s frustrating!
  • Audio-only formats. With audio-only stories like podcasts, my brain just struggles to process it properly. I think that’s an autism thing. I often get impatient, too, because I’m a fast reader–much faster than talking.
  • Characters who are writers. This is another one I mentioned earlier, but for me, when characters are writers, it feels too… self-inserty, I guess? It rings false to me somehow. Part of this might be because the first writer-character I ever read was Jo March in Little Women, and I was mad that she was so nonfeminine compared to me. It made little Kira feel like she wasn’t cool or tough enough to be a writer. So. ūü§∑‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ
  • Real-life animals as main characters. Again, this for me feels too false. The only exceptions are stories with cats as main characters, because I’ve lived my whole life with cats and I suppose they feel more like people to me than other animals do. Otherwise, my disbelief resists this suspension.
  • Teenage girls thinking they’re not good enough for a guy. Okay, so this has just been my life most of the time? And I don’t want it. I don’t want to suffer through it anymore. I want girls in stories to be confident or at least not self-hating when it comes to romance. Because I want to see them deserving that love without question. Teenage girls especially get enough crap already.
  • Animal deaths, especially violence towards cats. I can handle some of this, but I’m very sensitive about deaths of and violence towards animals, especially when it’s cats. Have I mentioned that I love cats yet? Because I do.

Thank you for reading! What stuff do you like in stories? These are individual likes and dislikes, so there’s no expectation of agreement and we don’t need to be starting any arguments, LOL. Related recommendations for books/movies/shows are also appreciated!

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Twilight and Mormon Theology

This post was originally shared on my old blog in August 2014.

Ever since it came out, Twilight¬†has inspired a lot of love and a lot of hate. There’s plenty of existing discussion.

In terms of love,¬†Twilight¬†speaks to a lot of women lacking in confidence who are yearning for a special, old-fashioned romance all their own. I adored the series when I was in middle school, which is when I was both struggling and yearning the most. (Yay middle school!) It was a beautiful escape for me that included one of my¬†favorite tropes:¬†sharing a bed nonsexually. It also, as many YA writers will tell you, did a lot for the world of teen literature, just as¬†Harry Potter¬†did for children’s literature.

In terms of hate,¬†Twilight¬†does have a lot of problematic content. For example,¬†Bella and Edward’s relationship sets off a lot of red flags for¬†domestic abuse.¬†The story has some other misogyny too, with Bella often presenting as a blank slate lacking her own interests–and with that weird pedophilic imprinting issue. Racism is also scattered throughout, mostly in terms of Native stereotypes but also against Black people. On a less valid note, there’s been plenty of that hate that occurs around most things beloved by teen girls, because we as a society devalue anything associated with femininity, especially teen femininity.

In all this discussion, one topic that I haven’t seen examined is Twilight‘s deeper meaning. A lot of people see it as a shallow paranormal romance with basic entertainment value. As Stephen King once said, “Twilight is all about how important it is to get a boyfriend.” However, when taken in the context of Mormon theology, there’s a lot more to be discovered. Stephenie Meyer is Mormon, and I grew up Mormon myself. For me, reading this series was like a treasure hunt full of references that I was uniquely situated to understand. Unfortunately, a lot of the negative aspects of the series can be connected to Mormon culture too, which is a whole other post, but here, I’d like to briefly talk about the story’s thematic interpretation through the lens of this theology.

The basic plot of the Twilight series is that ordinary human Bella moves to a new town and meets Edward, a strange, beautiful, and idealized young man who turns out to be a good “vegetarian” vampire from the early 1900s. They fall in love despite being all star-crossed, and there are evil human-killing vampires who hate them, and there are werewolves who hate vampires too, and the entire time all Bella wants is to be turned into a vampire herself so she can be with Edward forever. Eventually, this does happen, and they create a space for their little family in the vampire world by proving to the bad vampires that everything’s fine.

First, the core conflict and the core romance of the series speak thematically to the Mormon vision of life after death. In Mormon belief, everyone will be sorted into three heavenly kingdoms at the Judgment Day. (A few rare individuals will go to actual hell, the Outer Darkness, but that’s mostly for Satan and his demons.) Each kingdom is good, as you will there have eternal life in a perfected body that can accomplish incredible things. The ultimate goal, however, is to reach exaltation in the highest kingdom, the Celestial Kingdom, where the best people will continue learning from God on a perfected Earth to eventually reach godhood themselves. This exaltation can only occur within family groups (married couples being the basic unit).

In Twilight, vampires represent humans post-Judgment. All vampires have perfected bodies with magical gifts, and they will all live forever. (I’m not sure that “sparkly” is exactly what a perfected body is meant to be, but, you know.) As Bella says after she becomes a vampire herself, it’s as though she was always meant to be in her vampire body.

Edward’s good vampire family specifically represents those who reach exaltation. They live in this perfected state together as a set of married couples, and they find greater meaning and purpose in that than other vampires have.

Edward, of course, is initially single. However, he is forever changed by his love for Bella and thus becomes his true best self. Meanwhile, the quest for exaltation is reflected in Bella’s desire to become a vampire herself and be with Edward forever. They can each only become the perfected selves they were meant to be through the other’s influence.

In a related point of note, while the vampire’s magical powers represent the spiritual perfection that is reached after the Judgment, they also represent important spiritual gifts that people have even as imperfect human beings. (Just as Bella already had part of her gift before she became a vampire and figured out what it really was.)¬†Many of these gifts are basic traits:¬†faith, loyalty, intelligence. However, some of them are more on the supernatural side:¬†prophecy, discernment, healing. You can compare the powers in Edward’s family for reference.

Finally, the bad vampires represent those who have given into sin, becoming unexalted or even demonic beings. Their blood lust is a metaphor for the intense struggle we all must go through on Earth in resisting temptation so we can become our ideal celestial selves. Giving into that sin prevents exaltation. However, as exemplified in Edward, who had a “rebellious” period, people can repent and come back from their sin. Those who don’t choose that, though, may go so far as to become demonic figures who are constantly attacking the very family unit that supports exaltation.

That’s the meaning of the core conflict and romance. Second, though, are the werewolves, who represent a specific variation of exaltation. Like vampires, werewolves are perfected celestial beings, but they reflect more directly the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Mormon theology states that the Twelve Tribes, having been scattered across the Earth, must come together to accept their true birthright of leading the Church. The werewolves’ connection to this can be clearly seen through the names of their grandparents. Jacob is a direct descendant of Ephraim, which is the birthright tribe of Israel, and through that, he is the birthright of leader of the pack. However, he didn’t want this birthright, so he left it to Sam, a descendant of Levi, which is another important tribe that watches over much of the priesthood. (The priesthood authority is held by men in the Church, which is probably why most of the werewolves are male.) In the end, the werewolves and vampires can only come together to protect their families and reach their full eternal potential once Jacob accepts his birthright. 

The love triangle plays further into this theme. Mormons believe that Gentiles can be “adopted” into the Tribes of Israel and that is how we gain eternal glory. However, Bella couldn’t become a werewolf because she didn’t have the heritage, so in order to reach her celestial ideal, she had to go the vampire route. The vampires are the “adopted” celestial beings, and Bella had to be adopted into the family through her romance with Edward so she could reach exaltation. That’s why Jacob couldn’t be the right choice for her.

Third, Carlisle represents Jesus Christ standing as the head of the exalted family. Mormons believe in Christ as their savior, same as the rest of Christianity, so he had to be included here too! Carlisle not only leads the vampire family, but he is the one who first created it and who now adopts people into it, saving those so broken they were destined to die. Like Jesus, he’s the most ancient of their family, once friends with the worst of the vampires before they fell too far. He is the one who accepted Edward’s “repentance” after his rebellion into evilness. Without Carlisle, the good vampirism wouldn’t be possible. Throughout the series, he acts as a figure of care, guidance, and protection to everyone around him, though he refuses to tolerate threats to his family. He also chooses to be a doctor because he is more gifted at saving people than any human could be. (Christ is sometimes called “the Physician.”) Carlisle is even immune to temptation. It’s really a pity the series didn’t focus more on him.

As noted previously, there are other aspects to Twilight that come from Mormonism, both as a religion and a culture. For example, Edward’s old-fashioned insistence upon getting married before he and Bella have sex and Bella’s insistence on going through with her pregnancy because she values her unborn child’s life so much reflect the Mormon belief in the sacredness of life, sex, and creation. However, the points discussed above are what I see as the most notable, and they’re what give the series a deeper, more valuable meaning.

So the next time someone tells you that Twilight is totally shallow, you’ll be able to explain how rich it is in meaning through Mormon theology! In the end, it’s not just about the importance of having a boyfriend. It’s actually about humanity’s journey towards godhood, as represented through one girl’s escapist (and often problematic) supernatural romance.

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Images via Amazon and puzzlefactory.pl.

About My Life · About Other Stories

My Life as of July 2021

General Thoughts

This year so far has proven to be difficult, though not so much as certain other years. More than anything, I’ve been struggling with a binge-eating problem that has spiraled out of control over the past few years, reaching its peak (I hope!) during the last few months, as I’ve tried to create a new life for myself post-chronic illness crisis.

I’ve restarted counseling because of this, and I’ve discovered that I have a lot of grief about what I lost in that crisis that I still need to process. It’s frustrating because I’ve had to grieve illness-related losses multiple times in the past, and I’d honestly like to move on–but I’m not emotionally ready for that, as it turns out. So I’m processing that grief now, and I’m also trying to reprioritize my writing, since working on my books has consistently been helpful during times of emotional upheaval.

Other updates from the past six months include that I’ve performed and recently finished a significant revision of #OCDStory (ūü•≥), that I’ve finished typing up and rereading my old diaries to help me regain my memory of the crisis, and that I’ve quit attempting to obtain SSI due to the extremely restrictive limits. (I’d love it if you would sign this petition to raise those limits, which is an important issue affecting far more people far more deeply than me!)

BOOKS

New Book Recommendations First Half of 2021 with covers for EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, DON'T LOOK BACK, WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, LET'S CALL IT A DOOMSDAY, GIRL ON THE LINE, RULES FOR VANISHING, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, THREE DARK CROWNS, THE ART OF SAVING THE WORLD, DAWN, CONTAGION, LEGENDBORN, YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN, A SONG OF WRAITH AND RUIN, SLAY, THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, THE ONES WE'RE MEANT TO FIND, THE CRUEL PRINCE, THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE, THE DISTURBED GIRL'S DICTIONARY, THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI, THE FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER, THE INFINITY COURTS, TRULY DEVIOUS, THE QUEEN'S RISING, SING ME FORGOTTEN, THE FIFTH SEASON, and ARU SHA AND THE END OF TIME

Remember that you can see my full list of book recommendations here!

TV SHOWS

New TV Show Recommendations First Half of 2021 with posters for THE GOOD PLACE, WANDAVISION, SCHITT'S CREEK, MURDER AMONG THE MORMONS, THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER, QUEER EYE, SHADOW AND BONE, STAR TREK PICARD, and LOKI

MOVIES

New Movie Recommendations First Half of 2021 with posters for THINGS HEARD & SEEN, THE OLD GUARD, and SOUL

Thank you for reading! How have your past six months been?

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