Let’s Talk About Barb

** Major spoilers ahead for Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS— read at your own risk! **

By now, if you’re any kind of career binge-watcher, you’ve consumed Stranger Things on Netflix in one, possibly two sessions. 

For me, it was definitely on the horror/thriller spectrum but others have described it as scifi. In any case, it’s a creature feature with a liberal dosing of government conspiracy and paranormal abilities set in 1980’s Michigan.

All. The. Nostalgia.

There was a lot that I liked about this show but the creature aspect sold me. I love anything that pays homage to some twisted animal eating people. 

  • Piranha
  • JAWS (and subsequent sequels)
  • Alien (and subsequent sequels)
  • Jurassic Park (er, and subsequent sequels)
  • Deep Blue Sea
  • Lake Placid
  • Slither

… the list goes on for a while. I’ll remain hooked until I find out how– or if– someone can defeat the monster while people are being eaten in the interim.

But the more I watched (and enjoyed) Stranger Things, the more I felt very aware of a certain agenda. Unconscious or unconscious, it’s there.

Skinny people live to fight the monster and win. The fat ones (all two of them) died. Horribly.

Benny hit me hard because he was so likeable and was almost immediately executed in the first episode. I’d begun fangirling, I’d sent a text to all my friends claiming him as MINE. (Dibs is an important facet of our friendship when it comes to manflesh.)

I mean, isn’t he just scrumptious? Of course I called dibs! (Screencap credit: me)

But he was gone, to be discovered at a later point in the show, his body having been staged to look like he’d committed suicide.

And then there’s Barb. Oh, Barbara.

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Photo via Vulture via Netflix

She seemed quiet, but intelligent. After all, brainy kids tend to hang out with other brainy kids and her BFF* was always getting comments on how smart she was. But Barb was more than that. 

Barb was loyal. Despite being a(n) (assumed) good student, she had her BFF’s back. She was responsible enough to have her own car. She was a voice of reason when dick fever was taking over her normally intelligent BFF’s brainy head.

She had zero personal stake in going to a party where she knew she’d be a third wheel. “Two couples and me? Yeah, that should be fun,” thought NO SINGLE, [OVERWEIGHT] GIRL EVER.

But she went anyway. Because her best friend was going and when your best friend goes somewhere, there’s at least a minimal chance that the time you spend there won’t suck.

Except, for Barb, it did. 

She got pressured into trying to open a can from the side with a pocket knife and cut herself, thereby sealing her fate for being reluctant to join in on the fun. 

THEN! When her BFF bailed on her to go upstairs and get some, saying some decidedly un-BFF things to Barb, she didn’t turn around and bail on said BFF. She knew that they were a duo, that her friend wasn’t thinking with the brain Barb knew she had, and that she would never leave her friend stranded after her first time.

So Barb went to go dangle her feet in the pool.

And got sucked into the Upsidedown by the monster.

But some little boy playing D&D in the early episodes of the show seemed to have survived thus far, somehow. Barb could, too, I reasoned with myself. Two intelligent characters. They can both find a way to survive.

Only, that’s not how it went down. We see Barb screaming and trying desperately to climb out of the pool in the Upsidedown and losing the battle, disappearing beneath the lip of a pool that has no water.

My heart sank. But it was about to get worse.

Nobody cared that the chubby, glasses-wearing girl went missing.

Let me just qualify that statement for you.

Her BFF, now slightly less a virgin and not feeling as amazing as she probably had hoped made some mild inquiries. Some talking to the Weird Boy who lost his younger brother. Some lying to Barb’s mom and, eventually, some going to the police.

The little D&D-playing boy had massive manhunts over the course of days (at least a week? The timeline was a little fuzzy). Full investigation of family and friends, going so far as to pull known friends from class to question them. The Sheriff was going nuts trying to find this boy, the town was going nuts, his mom and brother were going nuts. 

NOBODY went nuts looking for Barb after she was reported missing. Despite the fact that a boy had just gone missing and, oh, I dunno, they COULD POSSIBLY BE RELATED, nobody freaks out over the chubby girl with glasses up and vanishing.

She’s a good student (presumably). Quiet. She’s never made her mom worry. Unremarkable, perhaps, but with zero signs of outwardly rebellious behavior. Nothing to indicate why she might just “run away”. 

And yet that’s exactly the kind of conclusion everyone but BFF comes to. 

How utterly devaluing. A boy disappears; everyone in the town looks for him. A girl disappears; she must’ve run away. 

After the singular– lying– conversation BFF has with Barb’s mom, the woman is never seen or mentioned again. She, too, is forgotten.

Because the loss of a chubby girl is nothing.

She’s simply a casualty to the monster.

But you know what? She was given a name. We were introduced to her, for the little time she got. You don’t give names to characters who aren’t important. You don’t dedicate screen time to characters who aren’t important.

But in this case, the only importance Barb served was in being the impetus for BFF to get her head out of her ass and– in so doing– become the center of a Twilight-esque love triangle between The Jock and Weird Boy while trying to track down the monster.

Her loss was not felt. Not by anybody. Is it possible she had friends other than BFF? Of course. Family who cared about her. Maybe she had siblings, too.

But it wasn’t Barb’s place to have meaning, herself.

It was Barb’s place to serve as someone else’s meaning.

The nail in the coffin was not when Eleven finds Barb’s decaying corpse in the Upsidedown. It was during the ‘ONE MONTH LATER’ pseudo-epilogue for season one.

BFF gives Weird Boy a camera to replace the one that was broken when he picks up his D&D-playing little brother– who got to survive the Upsidedown, no matter if you argue his biological state in flux– and she curls up on the couch with The Jock, looking all cuddly and Christmasy in their holiday sweaters.

Listen. I don’t care who you are.

You have a best friend, who you presumably have grown up with all your life? Or, forget that, just a best friend who’s always had your back and who you love like an extension of your own heart? You’re so deep, dark down in grief that holidays are worse because they aren’t there to share it with you.

My best friend lost her sister last year. I felt that loss for months and we weren’t even super close. And this show didn’t bother to show a friend’s grief a simple month after the event? I call bullshit.

There is no mourning for Barb. There is no misery in BFF’s face. Just a mildly vacant expression on her face after confirming with The Jock that Weird Boy got the camera.

I will watch season two. But I will always remember Barb.

Because, apparently, no one else will.

*BFF, Weird Boy, and The Jock used as monikers because this blog post isn’t about them. It’s about Barb. They stole her importance in the show, they weren’t going to steal it in this blog post.

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Love Furiously

I have quite a few author friends and they’re all so talented they make me feel like I have the creativity  of a sack of potatoes most days. But that’s a good thing. They inspire me to writer deeper, more meaningful stories.

In the wake of the events in Orlando, my first instinct was to reach for my loved ones– to tell them that they are dear to me, that my life wouldn’t be the same without them in it. My second instinct was to write as furiously as my wrist would allow because in all of this madness, the one thing that remains a guiding point for me is love.

But even as I write up a storm– the typing and editing will come later– I also reached for the stories of others because I needed that emotional reassurance that love overcomes adversity.

Should you be inclined to reach for a story where the outside forces of the world blow and howl at the door but love sits like a brick house on a firm foundation, weathering the storm, I would recommend the following:


05-spareheir1The Spare and the Heir by Jenn LeBlanc

Genre: Gay Erotic Historical Romance (but it’s not that easy so click the link for more info)

Thorne Magnus Calder, heir to the Duke of St. Cyr, has been betrayed by his own heart.

Watching the man he loves court the lovely Lady Alain was a pain so visceral he quit London for India, but when Calder receives word that Quinn and Celeste are married…It’s a vow Calder refuses to break.

All Calder wanted was to put some distance between them and investigate the machinations of a group intent on establishing a skin trade in the heart of London. He didn’t expect to be taken captive by a ghost.

Lord Quintin Wyntor’s heart has always belonged to Calder but a relationship with another man is a crime neither is willing to face and recent scrutiny only complicates their relationship. The strain drives a wedge between them—the physical manifestation of which effects his everyday life.

As a man of honor, Quinn marries the very woman who drove the last wedge between he and his lover in order to save her. He never anticipated she would hand him the key to his own freedom.

When Lady Alain forces Quinn to accept that his love for Calder cannot be denied, Quinn realizes that the risks they’ll face together may not be as dangerous as their desolation as they attempt to survive apart.

As Quinn chases Calder to India one thing is certain—Quinn will not return to England without the man he loves.

If they can conquer their differences, together their little triumvirate may be given the grace to survive.


Big, Bad Billionaire by Saranna DeWyldewoolven-200x300

Genre: Sexy Paranormal Romance

Blake Woolven is the bad boy CEO of Woolven Industries, but he’s badder than the luscious, BBW Randi Rutger would’ve guessed. After Woolven took down her father’s company and devoured it like a shaking rabbit, she’s determined to get close to him and make all the Woolvens pay for destroying her father. Blake knows Randi’s agenda, but the wolf inside him will do anything to have her. Even expose the Woolven family secret. When Randi sees Blake and his brothers shed their skins beneath the moon, she’s terrified. But it’s just what she needed to bring him low—that and the silver nitrate plasma gun her father designed. With her loyalties torn, Randi must choose between avenging her father and the big bad wolf who clawed his way into her heart.


bna-coverBe Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole

Genre: Revolutionary War Romance (novella-length)

Elijah Sutton is no fool, despite his love of a country that enslaves people like him. When he’s offered land, livestock, and—most importantly—his freedom if he fights in his Patriot owner’s stead, Elijah believes he’ll soon have everything he ever wanted…and then he meets Kate.

The Crown has promised freedom to slaves who escape their Patriot masters and join the British side, and Kate intends to take them up on it. She’s eager to leave America—and the painful memories it holds for her—far behind…and then she meets Elijah.

Their attraction is undeniable, but their goals couldn’t be further apart. When Elijah is captured by the British while helping Kate, they’re thrown into close proximity and forced to choose between their hopes for the future and their hearts.

Be Kind to Yourself

I have friends, as we all do, but my best friends– the ones who I seem to share a soul with– well, I call them roots.

root: noun \ˈrüt, ˈru̇t\
3a:  something that is an origin or source (as of a condition or quality)
3b:  one or more progenitors of a group of descendants —usually used in plural
3c:  an underlying support :basis
3d:  the essential core :heart —often used in the phrase at root
3e:  close relationship with an environment
My girls are my foundation. They keep me grounded. They remind me that no matter what storms may blow and make me feel like I’ve been cut down to size, I still have roots that have grown deep to hold me firm and to give me something to grow from once again.
I see a lot of my Faith growing through a similar lens. I grew up in an environment many would call conservative, and as I grew up and my opinions and perspective changed, I lost the beliefs that were mine by association and had no sense of self in my own believing.
I spent many years doubting, questioning things I’d been raised to never question, and yet that foundation– those roots– remained.
The Church doesn’t talk enough about doubt, in my opinion. So when it comes upon you, you get this extreme sense of isolation.
I’m the only one who doesn’t believe. 
I’m the only one with doubts. 
I’m the only one who doesn’t draw the same conclusion as presented by the pastor’s interpretation. 
It’s a horrible feeling and I think there are a lot of people who feel that way, thus creating that cycle of churchgoers who attend on holidays or large occasions, more out of a sense of guilt or obligation than any true desire to be there.
Becoming cognizant of this phenomenon, I changed how I approach my beliefs. My Faith. And instead of this obligation to sit down and hear someone else tell me what God’s word means, I decided to treat the Lord as I do any other deep relationship I have.
Conversation. Discussion. Study. Disagreements (yes, even those). Agreeing to disagree (especially this). Dialogue.
I stopped treating God as some unapproachable deity and instead opened myself up to listening and sharing, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The same way you open yourself as you are making a new friend and realize this person could be your best friend.
So I have been trying to be kinder to myself by being more honest with myself.
I struggle with depression. I do not medicate, as a personal choice. I have medicated in the past and respect those who seek out help when nothing else seems to make a difference. It is a difficult and painful process to not only seek out help but to ask for it. Because in my experience, by the time you’re ready to ask for help, you’re actually begging for it, desperate to feel something other than what you’ve been feeling.
In my last post, I talked about hashing out the differences between being proud and being prideful.
When it comes to my depression, I am prideful.
I want to tell myself that I can do it on my own. I don’t let those I love know what’s going on because it’s my problem and I will make something work, find a fix for the problem. I don’t want to admit how I’m feeling because, between the pressure I put on myself and the endless highlight reels in entertainment and social media, admitting how I’m feeling makes me feel weak, in addition to being depressed. And weakness means you can’t hack it. It means you aren’t strong.
And my parents raised a strong girl, dammit!
There’s also that sense of vulnerability. You are at your most raw, your most stripped down and when you ask for help when you are at that point, whether it’s a singular moment or a continual struggle, you run the risk of being ripped to shreds by those you open yourself up to.
Even those we love can have difficulties understanding sicknesses that you can’t see or diagnose with MedMD. Or they can be downright dismissive and aggravate the issue.
I am blessed to have friends who rally around me when I muster up the courage to admit when I’m low, with love and a shared Faith. In turn, they share when they are low. We grow our roots a little deeper and hold each other a little firmer and look for ways to change, to grow, to feel better in lasting and healthy ways.

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One of my favorite erotic romance authors (written by a tag-team), with very raw characters.

When I read erotic romance (and romance in general), I read about struggles as real as my own. Sex complicates those dynamics even as it can also be very revealing. And just as in my life, with my depression and my Faith and my roots, love is the redeeming force that pulls me back from the edge in the same way it unites my favorite heroes and heroines.
I am a romance and erotic romance reader.
I am a romance and erotic romance writer.
I am a person.
And I continue to practice giving myself room to feel, even when those things aren’t positive. Because with the love of my friends, family, Jesus Christ, and yes– even the love I read about on paper and in digital, I will persevere. And I will fight the darkness that threatens to invade another day.

At Dawn, Look to the East

A weekend with friends gave me some perspective.

I don’t give myself enough credit for the things that I’ve accomplished, instead getting down on myself about all the things I’ve yet to accomplish. Not only is that not fair but it’s unhealthy.

Growing up in a household with conservative views and Christian values, it sort of became a practice to never talk about my accomplishments because that was prideful and pride is considered sort of the gateway to other sins. So, yeah, it’s something I still struggle with. Obvs.

But there’s got to be some sort of middleground where we can be proud of hurdles we’ve made it over without being prideful. I just don’t know where that is.

Over the weekend, while speaking with friends I haven’t spent much time with on the regular, it was nice when they acknowledged my accomplishments when I had only mentioned them in passing conversation. So maybe I was looking for validation. I’m not sure.

Is seeking validation where we find ourselves falling into pridefulness? Or is that somewhere else, in the hazy gray ether of self-love/appreciation? I’ll have to crack open my Bible and study it better to know where the dividing line is and report back on my findings.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of the authors who write romance, erotic romance, and/or erotica who (outwardly seem to) balance their respective Faiths alongside their writing and who, unbeknownst to them, I look to as mentors in my own journey.

They aren’t banging drums trying to convert others to their beliefs or way of thinking but neither are they hiding. And there’s something very beautiful in that, to me. Of course I want to be fair to them, knowing that the personal struggles they all go through aren’t being put on blast for others to dissect and gawk at. Still, knowing that all of them are successful authors who appear to balance Faith and writing what some would call ‘questionable content’ is reassuring to one such as I.

I have a long way to go. But as I come across other authors who write and who Believe, I am reminded that I am not alone. I will continue to look to the East, even as I keep my fingers on the keyboard.

A Journey of Underhill Proportions

There are some who would advise me that writing romances with explicit/erotic content doesn’t go hand-in-hand with having a Christian Faith. I don’t agree with that. But my beliefs are always expanding and contracting with new information, new studies, new perspectives.

So on this inauspicious Day 2 of blogging, I think I’ve decided to journal about said Faith and writing dirty books. And how it makes me a whole person to have both in my life.

I do not anticipate always agreeing with myself. But after getting into a discussion on Twitter about a period in my childhood where my house was cleansed of Disney films for having magical/non-Christian elements, I do feel good about making this the place for those observations. Hobbit-Desolation-of-Smaug-4-Thorin-Oakenshield

I will let myself be emotional. I will allow myself to be angry and confused about why things had to be the way they were. But I will also be thankful that those experiences serve as a dramatic contrast to what I understand now and how I study to determine a wholly personal, contemporary response.

Now all I need are a wizard and a baker’s dozen of dwarves to keep me company. Will someone let Richard Armitage know where I am?

Girl Got Flu

A little more than a week after coming down with the flu, I’m still draggin’ ass. I want to crawl beneath my desk and fashion a pillow from my hoodie and wait out the end of the shift.

But adulting calls. So I cough into my elbow and the sleeve of my sweater and wash my hands at every opportunity and wish I’d downed my Emergen-C this morning.

Hoping for a little accountability with the renewal of this blog, which is why I’ll tell you that I packed my tennis shoes and walking clothes for after work. Can’t use the “but I have to go home and change” excuse, like I usually do. And since I’m supposed to be training for a 10K in early May, I’d better get on it.

Have to beat 16-minute/mile pace and my 10K buddy is around the 14-minute/mile mark already.

Back to a stack of data entry almost two inches deep. No writing until later.

Oh. I’m also going to start restricting my television watching to weekends only. That should increase writing output and studying for Japanese class. Or I’ll end up reading a metric ton of books. Either possibility is acceptable.

Sorry about the stream of consciousness nonsense. I’ve forgotten how to blog. But seeing as how today is March 1st, how ’bout we make this a 30 days of blogging challenge? Yeah, March has 31 days but one of those is my birthday so maybe I’ll take it off. Maybe I’ll get on a roll and not want to.

Gawd. I quit.

Tomorrow I’ll blog better.