Starfall Ranch Book Review

Disclaimer: Some of the links in my review for Starfall Ranch by California Dawes are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

A version of this book review first appeared in The Lesbrary.

starfall ranch kindle book cover

Summary of Starfall Ranch

Shiloh “Shy” Kerridan moved off-planet to Sirona to start a new life five years before. Thisbe Vandergoss just escaped Earth to Sirona to elude the clutches of her evil parents. She left behind a life of wealth and privilege for the freedom she craved. Thisbe applied to be a mail-order bride for a rancher by the name of Sean Kerridan, but she ended up on the wrong side of the planet and met Shy instead. Shenanigans ensue.


It takes a long time for the story to really take off. Dawes spends a short chapter on introducing Shy’s character, but then several chapters take up Thisbe’s story as she contends with her parents’ dastardly plans to force her into a medical procedure she does not want to do. It’s not until Thisbe accidentally ends up at Starfall Ranch and meets Shy that the story starts. Everything before the meet-cute is set up.

The misunderstandings that occur as Shy and Thisbe meet and interact are cliche, but they work. It creates a compelling relationship that makes the reader invested in their romance. It’s the perfect formula for the rom-com genre. Shy and Thisbe are such a stark contrast to one another on the surface and that’s what gives them chemistry. For anyone that fantasized about a relationship between Tahani and Eleanor on The Good Place, this comes close.

Genre Setting

The book counts as a sci-fi romance because it takes place on a whole other planet, but this story wastes that setting. Starfall Ranch and its surrounding communities have enough in common with Earth that only the names of different fruits and plants distinguish it. More than that, the focus was solely on the relationship and romance between Shy and Thisbe.

The story could have taken place anywhere and it wouldn’t have affected their relationship. The use of an off-planet setting merely worked as a tool for Thisbe to put distance between her and her parents. She could have done that by moving to the other side of the world, not to another planet.

Characters of Starfall Ranch

But the character development did leave something to be desired. After a certain point, it became hard to distinguish the main characters’ voices from one another. In real life, there’s a certain crossover that occurs when people develop close relationships, but the way Thisbe and Eleanor both spoke began to blur the line between who was who. It especially didn’t fit with Thisbe’s background.

Thisbe’s characterization felt all over the map. Although raised in a wealthy society, she spoke like someone from a middle-class background. There are a few details that tell the reader she rebelled against her parents’ manipulative upbringing, but it doesn’t totally explain her tone and word choice when she speaks. Not to say that rich people can’t cuss, but the way Dawes described her didn’t jive with the way she acted and spoke. There was a lot of dissonance with her character.

Shy’s character remains a mystery throughout most of the novel. It’s clear she has some demons of her own to contend with, but the audience doesn’t even get a glimpse of them until nearly the end of the book. Close to the end, Shy tells Thisbe her background story, implying her survival of sexual assault. The narrative doesn’t go into detail, but it doesn’t have to. That’s not the point of her sharing her story. It’s meant to build trust with Thisbe.

It does feel like Shy’s story should come up sooner. An earlier introduction of her issues in the narrative would have made the impact of Thisbe’s perceived betrayal much more impactful. Regardless, the reader is still invested in their reunion after the fallout.

Supporting Character

Dawes’ novel includes a nonbinary or gender-nonconforming character that never gets explained, and that is a refreshing change of pace. It’s made clear they’re gender-nonconforming because Wallis strictly goes by they/them pronouns. The characters around them accept it without question and no one ever feels compelled to give a vocabulary lesson. It’s clear this is meant for a knowledgeable audience and never meant to make those who are not in the know comfortable.

Content Warning: Biphobia

There is a scene that stands out as problematic, based on Thisbe’s word choice. She is at dinner with the slimy, straight male character in the story, purely out of espionage and survival. But of course, Shy happens upon them just at the wrong time and thinks the worst. Shy thinks the two are romantically involved, and Thisbe’s reaction is not great. She states, “I’m going to pretend like you didn’t just insinuate I’m secretly straight…”

What makes that dialogue problematic is that it erases the spectrum of queerness. To imply that the only right way for a woman to be queer is to be a lesbian who is only interested in women. It erases bisexuality and other queer identities. It’s an angry statement made in the heat of the moment, but it implies that interest in a man makes queer women less queer. There’s no room for nuance.

Rating for Starfall Ranch

Overall, it’s a fun romance story and it keeps the reader interested enough to have an investment in the characters’ happily ever after.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

You can buy Starfall Ranch here.

Wanderlust: Athens, Greece

During my travel year in 2019, my trip to Greece started and ended in Athens, the capital. The juxtaposition of ancient ruins within a cosmopolitan city makes the longstanding history stand out. Even in the middle of the city, you still find archaeological sites.

Walking Tour of Athens

Our tour guide walked us around the city pointing out the ruins and history. We took a stroll through the Athens National Garden. This gorgeous oasis amid the sandy tones of old stones creates a lush scene that’s perfect for an afternoon walk.

Athens National Garden

We made a picture stop at the Arch of Hadrian, or Hadrian’s Gate. The gate resembles a Roman triumphal arch and marks the point of an ancient road that once spanned from the center of Athens all the way to the Temple of Zeus in Olympia.

The Parthenon, Acropolis and Museum

By far, the Acropolis and Parthenon are the most iconic landmarks tourists go to Athens to visit. For clarification, the Acropolis is the hill on which the Parthenon sits. There is also an ancient amphitheater that they still use for concerts! Walking among those columns thousands of years old feels like stepping straight into the past. But just know the Parthenon has not remained so without modern-day maintenance, so the surrounding cranes and construction assure you you’re still in the present.

the Parthenon

The Acropolis Museum is like a city all its own. There is so much to explore within the displays, it’s impossible to see it all in one day. You could easily spend three days going through the exhibits and still not have enough time to take it all in.

Monastiraki and the Presidential Mansion

Walking around the main square, Monastiraki, you find plenty of souvenirs and trinkets to take home. Stop at any restaurant for a snack of spanakopita (spinach pie). On our walking tour, our guide led us to the Presidential Mansion where we watched the changing of the guard.

I think perhaps my favorite moment in the city was when we saw a kid pick up a pigeon in the middle of the square. Perhaps not the safest or most sanitary thing, but man does it always make for a good laugh when my best friend Caitlin and I reminisce about it.

Around Athens

Exploring beyond the city bounds, my friends and I took a walk through a local park and found ourselves at the corner of the Ancient Agora. Here, we found the Church of Agioi where we enjoyed the sounds of a street performer playing guitar.

church of agioi

Taking paths around town into the neighborhoods of Athens, I noticed the graffiti took inspiration from Greek mythology and culture. The one in the picture below was by far my favorite.

graffiti in Greece

One of the greatest parts of our trip to Greece was the travel friends we made on it. We haven’t kept up too well with one another recently, but that doesn’t diminish the fun we had then and the connection we made, even if only temporarily. We stopped at one of Athens’ rooftop bars, A for Athens. I can’t say I cared much for the cocktails there, but they certainly had some creative ingredients, including edible sunscreen and quail eggs.

a for Athens rooftop bar

Stay tuned for more adventures in Greece coming soon.

How Sex Changed the Internet Book Review

Disclaimer: Some of the links in my review for How Sex Changed the Internet and the Internet Changed Sex: An Unexpected History by Samantha Cole are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

I received an ARC from the publisher a few months ago. It’s hard to resist a title like that. It came out already in November 2022, so if this book review piques your interest, I recommend picking up a copy.

Book cover of How Sex Changed the Internet and the Internet Changed Sex: An Unexpected History by Samantha Cole

Summary of How Sex Changed the Internet

Cole thoroughly delineates the history of computers and how they’ve been used to move conversations about sex and dating forward. She brings it full circle at the end, connecting where we are today with how it began. She poses questions about where we may go in the future and the possibilities of shaping our culture’s relationship with sex with the technology of the Internet.


She opens with the scenario of ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor, and how UCLA students created the first long-distance connection. Through each chapter, she takes you on a journey that follows message boards and chat rooms to online dating, porn sites and sex work online.

Pull quotes and sidebars add depth with definitions of technical jargon and Internet speak. Insets of related stories breathe life into the more academic narrative, weaving it back and forth between humorous, heartfelt and educational.

Feminism, Race and LGBTQ+ Issues

Cole takes a firm stance in how she presents the symbiotic history of sex and the Internet. She doesn’t simply present the facts in what many nonfiction writers would consider an objective way. Her analysis makes clear that marginalized groups are the most affected by the government’s overreach on the Internet.

She touches on how vulnerable groups use the Internet to find a community where they cannot in the real world. However, she only scratches the surface on this topic, so it could have gone more in-depth with that analysis.

Likewise, she discusses how the Internet and computer technology opened up the world for talking about sex and sexuality. But statements like, “One of the most basic drives humans have is sex,” miss the nuance of queerness. It excludes asexuality/aromanticism.

Despite these shortcomings in the text, it still does a fairly good job of connecting these issues with the rise and evolution of the Internet.

Rating for How Sex Changed the Internet

Overall, Cole adds a sense of humor to what could have been a dry, academic read. I found the comprehensive inclusion of the technical side only made the subject more fascinating.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

You can buy How Sex Changed the Internet here.

Behind the Poems: Binary Code

The next poem in my Behind the Poems series is “Binary Code” originally published on Burning House Press.

Binary Code overlayed on pink, purple, teal ombre

Bilingual bisexual bi-cultural. Ones and zeroes. DNA.
Make a single switch or delete a digit and I become another.

A Spanglish dictionary embedded en mi cerebro, flipping
pages back and forth and sometimes pegándose.

Dark brown curls cascading from the top of my head and
sticking out in static on a cold day, frizzy in humidity.

Red that ran up my neck and into my cheeks when I heard
her sweet melody reverberating in my ears to echo forever after.

Hitch in my throat and dull ache in my chest when he said
We’re just friends, nodding my head in agreement with a smile.

Rojo, blanco, y azul. Smaller stripes and a single star
pero just as orgulloso as USA! USA! USA!

Yellow, blue, and red, Cotopaxi and Tungurahua at its center
guarded by a fierce condor with menacing wingspan.

Can’t change the code, can’t mess with DNA. A one to
a zero, a zero to a one and I am no longer a poet a singer

a friend a daughter a writer a student an angry sad happy
anxious furious human being. Change the code, change me.

Don’t try to change me.

This one feels obvious to me. Reading it again, it’s not refined, but that’s okay.

Comparing computer binary code to human DNA creates a parallel between man and machine. I actually further explore the concept of how certain humans are treated as machines in a newer poem published in Latino Book Review.

I also wanted to showcase how many binaries create one identity. It feels like the existence of so many overlapping binaries ends up voiding them altogether.

We live in a society so obsessed with categorizing everything into hierarchical binaries that don’t exist in any pure form. There’s always fluctuation and bleeding that happens between boundaries.

Each stanza represents a binary strand that makes up my identity. From my Latinidad – split between Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian and American – to the languages I speak and my sexuality.

I’ve always been fascinated by binaries and their hierarchies. I remember learning about deconstruction theory in English for literary criticism. The way certain aspects of culture hold a higher place and greater value always felt arbitrary. That’s because they are.

What happens to our identities when those binaries and hierarchies get broken down? Who do we become beyond the dichotomies? I like to contemplate these questions when I write my poems.

TBR List Woes: It’s OK to Cut Ties With Books

I browsed through my Goodreads TBR list a couple of months ago to see what I wanted to buy with my Barnes & Noble birthday coupon. I ended up deleting several books from my list.

a TBR list that needs trimming
Curate your TBR list

I’m not the same person I was when I added them to my TBR years ago. It doesn’t mean they’d necessarily be bad books. But my tastes have changed since then. My values have evolved. I’ve become more educated and therefore more discerning about the authors and books I pick.

A few years ago, parting with books from my TBR list would have induced major anxiety. Even with something so trivial as a digital list no one but me sees, I would have felt some sort of guilt. But what if that was an amazing book? What if I passed on my next new obsession? Does this make me a quitter to get rid of books to read?

It’s fine. Going back and looking at the books I once added that had piqued my curiosity showed me how much I’ve changed over the years. And being able to part ways with that virtual list also showed me how much I’ve grown. It sounds silly, but anxiety has a way of making mountains out of molehills.

There are so many stories to read out there, it would be impossible anyway to ever get through my TBR within my lifetime. So realistically, would I have ever gotten around to all those books I removed? Maybe I would have eventually picked a few of them up. But by now, if I were to read them, I would have done so already.

Going through those descriptions and realizing they no longer sparked an interest, I knew it was time to let them go. It’s best to make room for books and stories that speak to who I am now.

How do you curate your TBR list?

New Friends

A few years ago I started sharing a short sci-fi story I wrote for a writing challenge called “Better Than Fiction” that I just really enjoyed. I posted the first four parts back in 2020 and never got around to posting the conclusion, but it’s finally here!

You can catch up with the first four installments here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

New Friends

camping settlement in the woods with several tents
Image by chanwit whanset from Pixabay

The next three hours that ensued were a flurry of questions from the kids that neither Sean nor I could answer. We’d never known of another species living beneath the surface near the planet’s core. It was entirely new to all of us.

When we arrived at the site’s edge, Sean turned off the engine and the truck’s lights. They weren’t necessary, as Iggy the janopy puddle we’d mistaken for oil was burning bright blue and pulsating like its counterpart in the jar had done.

Hedra and Hal came running up behind us, barely out of breath. Hedra ran forward first to put her hands in the pool of inky black liquid. “Iggy, you had me so worried. Why did you stray?”

Squinting at the scene, it looked to me like the substance was wriggling with excitement, the way a puppy would wag its tail upon seeing its owner walk through the front door.

Sean brought the jar out and handed it to Hal, who shook his hand. “Good man, sir. I’m sorry, never caught your names.”

“I’m Phil and this is my partner, Sean. Our children, Emily and Dylan.” We each waved a hand at the lizard people.

“Thank you all, so much,” cried Hedra. “I know it seems silly, but Iggy here, he’s like part of our family.”

Emily giggled. “How did he get stuck here, anyway?”

“Oh, well, we were upside for one of our annual camping trips,” Hal began to explain.

“And then we heard someone coming to our site, so we had to run and hide. We didn’t want to cause any trouble.”

“But Iggy, it seems he got scared and ran in the opposite direction. We lost track of him and had to go underground until the humans were gone.”

“Can I pet him?” asked Emily.

Sean and I reached for our daughter. “Em, I don’t think—”

Hal waved a hand. “It’s quite alright. It’s safe. Not dangerous at all. Much like dipping your hand in a pool, actually.”

I nodded consent, and both children moved forward to reach a hand for the janopy. As their hands got close, it reached up and slopped some liquid onto their hands.

“Is it, licking them?” Sean laughed.

“Yes, Iggy is quite friendly. Loves children, actually.” Hedra beamed.

Hal turned to us. “Gentlemen, how can I ever express my gratitude?”

Sean shrugged. “It’s fine. We’re glad you found your pet.” He looked sad.

I nudged him. “Hey, we did a good thing. So what if there’s no oil?”

“What exactly is oil?” Hal asked. “Why do humans dig for it so much?”

“Well, it’s considered black gold.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “It’s worth a lot of money. It’s a resource.”

Sean nodded. “We were hoping to strike it rich. We’ve been having some financial issues, what with all we invested in the site and the machine.”

“Gold is it?” Hedra came up behind her husband, leaving Dylan and Emily to play with Iggy. “You mean this?” She pulled rough nuggets out of an unseen pouch on her person.

My eyes bulged wide. “How did you—?”

“Oh, good man,” laughed Hal. “We have heaps of it in a depository nearby. Frankly, it’s not worth anything to us.”

“But I do like how it sparkles.” Hedra held the piece out to me. “Here, you can have this one. If you’d like more, we can get it for you.”

“Oh no.” Sean put a hand up. “That’s generous, but—”

“Nonsense.” Hal’s hissing laugh sounded like a breeze blowing through tree leaves. “We have plenty and we’re not wanting. Besides, you helped us find our pet. This is how we can repay you.”

Hal nodded to his wife and took off before anyone could protest further.

“He’ll be right along, gentlemen.” Hedra went back to playing with the kids and the janopy.

“Sean, pinch me.”

He obeyed. “What was that for?”

“To see if I’m dreaming. Lizard people. A sentient liquid being. Gold.”

“It’s all fiction until it’s real.” He grabbed my hand and brought it up to his lips for a kiss. “This is real.”

Hal returned in record time, bearing a bulging burlap sack on his shoulder. “Here you are, gents. Payment for helping us find our pet.”

I couldn’t help but take a peek inside. What I saw astounded me. Glittering in its raw form, were hundreds, possibly thousands, of gold nuggets. “Thank you so much. Really, you have no idea what this means.” I felt tears sting the back of my eyes.

“Thank you for your assistance.” Hedra beckoned to the janopy. “Come, Iggy. It’s time we get home.”

I heard Emily sniffle and turned to see her crying. “Sweet pea, what’s wrong?”

“We’re never gonna see them again, are we?” She buried her face into Sean’s stomach.

Hedra put a gentle hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Would you like to visit us next year, on our next camping trip?”

Emily and Dylan looked at me and Sean. “Can we?” they asked in unison.

I laughed. “Of course, if it’s alright with Hal and Hedra.”

Hal gave his signature chuckle. “It’s settled. The annual camping trip is now extended to our new friends. Glad to have you along.” He reached a hand out to me, and this time I did not hesitate to shake it.

“See you next year, then.”

“We’ll meet right here.” Hedra and Hal waved goodbye as they took off running with Iggy, the liquid sliding along as fast as its owners ran.

Dylan looked in the bag the lizard folks had left behind for them. “Dad. Papa. Are we rich now?”

Sean gave Dylan a playful shove. “What do you mean, now? We’ve always been rich.”

They loaded the bag of gold into the truck bed and headed home as the dawn’s rays began to spread across the periwinkle sky. Dylan and Emily fell asleep beside me as Sean navigated the road home.

“Can you believe our luck?” he whispered. He held one hand on the steering wheel and the other held mine. “We have the money we need to make a new life and provide.”

“We have new friends, too,” I laughed.

“And you thought it was all dangerous.” Sean gave me a smirk. “Told you not to worry.”

I rolled my eyes. “Just drive.”

Upon reaching the house, Sean and I each carried one child into the house and dropped them in their beds. They never stirred, staying fast asleep. Sean and I sat on the couch in the living room and turned on the TV.

“Wanna watch John Carpenter’s The Thing?” he teased.

I snorted. “Sean, we’ve lived it.”

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s not the same now that we know it’s real.”

“God, I hope The Thing’s not real.”

“I don’t know, Phil. Anything’s possible.”

“Yep. You never know when you’ll strike gold.” I leaned my head against his shoulder and felt my eyes droop close. This was real.

Perspective Book Review

Disclaimer: Some of the links in my review for Perspective by Monica McCallan are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

A version of this book review first appeared in The Lesbrary.


Summary and Plot of Perspective

Campbell St. Claire is a best-selling author whose novel is being produced for a film led by Sloane Murphy, a former friend from college. But the two haven’t spoken since an incident one night that left Campbell brokenhearted. Reunited, Campbell learns what happened that night with Sloane and the two reconcile. But misunderstandings ensue and the two are once more at odds. It’s an uphill battle to get to their happily ever after.


For readers seeking a fun yet angst-filled romance novel, this is one to pick up. The character dynamic between Sloane and Campbell sizzles and burns as they orbit around one another, constantly coming together and pulling away. Miscommunications and mishaps cause their tug-of-war love affair as they decide what they mean to each other.

Both women suffer from insecurities that lead to their miscommunications. Campbell’s writing slump gives her a bout of imposter syndrome as she wonders if she’ll have another hit novel after her current gig. That imposter syndrome extends to how she sees herself and her worth. She considers Sloane totally out of her league and thinks the glamorous actress made her feelings clear long ago in college.

Sloane has a natural distrust of everyone as she created a career in the film industry. But her rough upbringing kept vague, also influences how she views others. She believes the worst in people without knowing the full story. She guards her heart but it’s a lonely life living in constant distrust.

The one characterization that felt lacking was Sloane’s past with her mother.  Details were dropped here and there indicating that the relationship was strained and that her childhood was traumatic. But it was all kept vague, making it hard to understand Sloane’s distrust in others. However, it can be argued that the point of leaving out Sloane’s difficult past and childhood was purposeful so as not to be voyeuristic.

One of the defining moments between Sloane and Campbell is when Campbell reaches out to Sloane after the actress’s mother gives the tabloids a tell-all. But Campbell never reads the story because she knows that’s not what Sloane wants. Campbell is so considerate and respectful of Sloane’s boundaries that it’s what makes the actress drop her guard and give in to the love she has for the author.

Supporting Characters of Perspective

There are a few supporting characters that round out the story and create a connection between the protagonists when they are circling each other. Riley the screenwriter befriends Campbell on set as the author stays on as a consultant for the movie adaptation of her book. She also took a liking to Sloane who had no choice but to keep her on as a friend. Riley is the kind of personality that doesn’t give others many choices in accepting her friendship.

Campbell’s younger sister Val plays a fleeting role. She acts more like a tool for the development of Campbell’s communication skills. She isn’t really given a chance to be her own character. Still, the love between the sisters is clear and sweet. In a story that’s mostly about Sloane and Campbell, it’s hard to add more of Val without digressing.

Slow Burn Romance

The romance between Sloane and Campbell is built with care and compassion. While Campbell has been out and proud since college, Sloane did not come to peace with her sexuality until Campbell returned to her life. It’s a sweet relationship where Sloane wants to explore her feelings and Campbell helps her, but never pushes her. Their flirting is teasing but never mean. It’s clear that although they have a great deal of sexual tension and physical fun, their relationship has always been based on friendship.

It’s a romance novel, so there are hot and steamy scenes throughout. But unlike many other romances, sex doesn’t happen on every other page. As Campbell guides Sloane through her journey of coming out as a lesbian, there are more moments of tension than sex on the page. McCallan is adept at describing the sensuality of intimacy, especially in a budding romance between two women who take great care of their hearts.

When they do have sex, McCallan pulls all the stops. From start to finish, Sloane and Campbell’s intimate moments leave the readers and characters alike breathless. As they engage in their first time together, and Sloane’s first time with a woman, Campbell is incredibly careful about consent and boundaries. Campbell always checked in, but it never ruined the moment. The details in the scene depicted a positive experience for both women as they finally brought their burgeoning romance to its inevitable next level.

Rating for Perspective

As with any good romance, the characters get their HEA. For any readers who don’t usually gravitate toward the genre, as I once did, this is a great book to give romance a chance. It keeps you turning the page and hoping for the best for everyone.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

You can buy Perspective here.

Wanderlust: Key West, Florida

I visited Key West, Florida with my cousin Amanda in April 2019. Every time she comes into town, I become a tourist in my home state. I feel like that happens for everyone because the same holds true whenever I visit her in New Jersey.

Most people I talk to don’t like the beaches in the Keys because of all the rocks, but I think that’s a pretty cool difference from the usual sand beaches I’m accustomed to. The rocks are a little rough on the feet, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful. Smathers Beach was my personal favorite. It felt like a scene out of a postcard.

rock formation on Smathers Beach in Key West, FL
Smathers Beach, Key West, FL

Many tourists go to Key West for partying and drinking. While those kinds of activities do abound in this destination, there’s also a fascinating history and past to dig into here.

Hemingway and Tennessee Williams Houses

two women standing in front of the wall with a sign that reads Ernest Hemingway Home with hours of operation and entrance fee rules
My cousin Amanda and I before entering the Hemingway House

As my cousin and I are both writers, we had to stop at the historical houses of two renowned authors. I can’t say I particularly care for Ernest Hemingway’s work, but I still appreciated learning his backstory and visiting his home. And of course, the polydactyl cats always charm.

Prior to visiting the Tennessee Williams Museum, the only thing I knew about the author was his play A Streetcar Named Desire and the infamous “Stella!” scene. But the exhibits and artifacts on display certainly catered to my inner nerd.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

I love visiting state and national parks! There’s always so much to see and learn in these historic sites. Fort Zachary Taylor’s grounds come with one of those rock beaches I talked about earlier. While not easy to walk on, I still thought the ambiance beautiful and perfect on a sunny day in Florida. Stop here and you’ll visit the southernmost state park in the continental U.S.

Oldest House in Key West

Sitting at 322 Duval Street you find the oldest house in Key West, Florida. So many artifacts, documents, exhibits and photos tell the story of those who once called it home. Museums like this hold a certain reverence for me because I wonder if one day the house I grew up in will become a relic for future generations to marvel over how we once lived.

Key West Lighthouse

The lighthouse and keeper’s quarters offered an intriguing look into the formation of the Keys as a thriving home. We even learned about its establishment in 1848 with a woman lighthouse keeper, a first for the times. I highly recommend making the climb up the steep, narrow and winding stairs, as the views are rewarding.

Tours and Other Sites Along the Way

Before we arrived in Key West, my cousin and I enjoyed a leisurely road trip driving south from Hollywood. We made a stop in Islamorada to feed the tarpon. You might have to battle the pelicans to walk out to the pier for the feeding. And mind your fingers when dropping bait for the tarpon, as they truly are beastly fish. I did it once and I’m glad I did, but I don’t think I would do it again.

On your way in or out of the Keys, stop at the No Name Pub in Big Pine Key. At this point, it’s no longer a secret location, as many tourists have made their pilgrimage down the hidden road. But it’s still a fun adventure to say you found the nameless dive bar and enjoyed a pint and surprisingly decent food.

set of picnic tables in front of the No Name Pub in Big Pine Key
No Name Pub, Big Pine Key, FL

We booked a local trolley ghost tour that took us around the city as the guide narrated its spooky history. My cousin and I had been looking forward to meeting Robert the Doll at the East Martello Fort for a long time. But the tour offered plenty of fascinating tales and local folklore to satiate the most curious minds.

A New Year of Content

Happy new year, friends!

In 2021 I burned out on blogging and posted a lot less. Then, in 2022 I picked back up a bi-weekly schedule and posting twice a month. I’m determined to keep up that pace this year.

woman sitting on a wall with a city sprawled out in the background
Oh wow, that’s right! I used to wear glasses. The Blogger circa 2015

I plan to continue with book reviews and my current series “Behind the Poems,” but I also wanted to add back my travel posts and poetry. I also intend to post more pieces about the writing process as I try to hold myself accountable for starting my next revision draft of my novel.

But what about you? What content would you like to see more of? I want to try to diversify my writing more and add new content types to my repertoire. Lists are always an option, but I’d like to try flexing my muscles beyond that.

I used to write TV and movie reviews as well, but lately, I haven’t watched enough of those to write anything substantial. I have, however, binged through several podcasts and audio dramas. Perhaps that’s a new avenue for reviews and a way to help boost stories that I love.

I may also try to write more content about reading and my bookish life as a way to feature my bookstagram. I’m definitely open to collaborating if anyone wants to do a co-written blog or series.

I’m not a hundred percent sure what the new year will bring, but I do know I want it to include more writing. Maybe 2023 is the year I will finally get my novel manuscript in order and submit it for queries.

If you’re a fellow writer or blogger, what are your goals for the year? Let me know in the comments. And thanks for reading and coming along with me for the ride.

Behind the Poems: What do you think the B stands for?

The next poem in my Behind the Poems series is “What do you think the B stands for?” originally published on Burning House Press.

cupcake with pink, blue and purple frosting

What do you think the B stands for?

“I’m not one of these people, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut, there are some gay people that won’t like you comparing being bi to the same as being gay.”

Good observation. However, I specifically said non-heterosexual in my poem, or did that bewilder you? Besides, I thought it was LBGT? What do you ponder that B stands for?

Perhaps because I broached the subject about gays bringing up babies and how they believed those babies would be gay too, you thought I meant biology. The age-old banter of nature versus nurture surely must have compelled you to believe that’s what it stood for.

Maybe bringing up religious symbols in my autobiographical poetry bled too much on the paper and you believed it to be biblical. A natural blunder as bigots are bound to condemn us as blasphemous and you’re inclined to be quick to bury that bile. But, no, in this particular breakdown, the B does not stand for an adamant bibliophile.

Aaaaaaaah, no espera. Permiso. Because it’s a Spanish family you probably bargained it symbolized bilingual. Bueno, that’s a benign enough slipup to make, since I did point to a banal image in the culture’s belief system. Alas, this bilabial blathering is not the B we seek this week.

Now, it may appear I’m being belligerent or brazen or even bombastic, but put this budding notion in your brain: The B stands for bisexual. We’re here, I promise.

The first time I really claimed the label of bisexual, I’d written a poem I shared in a poetry workshop class at UCF (not this poem, a different one). But the reaction I experienced when I shared it took me aback. The opening quote in this piece is what a classmate said after I shared my poem. I hadn’t expected such disdain.

I’d only begun to explore this aspect of my identity, so I was still new to the nuances of LGBTQ+ communities. I assumed an umbrella category meant the community would welcome me, but this interaction gave me my first taste of biphobia.

It wasn’t so much what he said, but rather the way he said it. His tone told me that I had to prove myself. It said I didn’t really belong in that community because my experiences weren’t the same. It left me feeling small and angry, so of course, I wrote another poem. This one I didn’t share in class.

Looking back at this piece, it’s not the most eloquent poem I’ve ever written. And it certainly shows that I still had a lot to learn about the nuances of queer communities. Because much like I’d come to learn about being Latina, there is no monolith queer community. But it still showcases my passion for justice and dignified treatment. I’m allowed to be angry about being treated unfairly or like I’m not enough. It’s okay to be angry.