My Thoughts

My ThoughtsTV / Film

Black Panther: Who is the Real Hero?

Black Panther Movie

It’s been days since seeing Black Panther in theaters and I am still obsessed. There were so many great lines, great humor, terrific action and special effects, and best of all it had a captivating story filled with memorable characters. Since seeing the movie, I’ve seen plenty of debates popping up online that challenge the idea of T’Challa (the main character/Black Panther) being the hero. This is rebutted with the assertion that Killmonger (the movie’s villain) is the true hero. My initial reaction to this was confusion. While I completely understood Killmonger’s motives, I believed his execution and his plan were completely flawed. So, who is the real hero? Let’s explore some of the characters in this film and get to an answer.


The Villain Everybody Loves

Let’s start with everybody’s new favorite villain, Erik Killmonger. First of all, the fact that we’re having all of this discussion about Killmonger versus T’Challa proves the point that Killmonger is one of (if not, the) best villains adapted for the big screen from a comic book so far. We usually don’t get this discussion with the villains. He was undoubtedly the bad guy in the film, but his views struck a chord with Black Americans. He understood all that we went through, our current struggles, and had a well thought out plan about how to tackle the problem. He was a truly complex character that added immeasurable depth to what many at first glance would just call another comic book movie. But is he a hero? After poisoning a woman’s drink, killing his girlfriend, being completely disrespectful to leaders and elders in Wakanda, and attempting to start a war by distributing weapons to people, I’d say not. Not to mention all of the scarring he had on his body which was a count of all of the people he had already killed. While his background of having his father killed by T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka (the previous Black Panther), and his knowledge of the oppression of Black people make him sympathetic, that does not mean he’s a hero. I feel as though many (myself included) finally feel their pain was properly articulated by Killmonger and heard by the masses, but that does not mean that you then adopt all of his ways as just.

Regardless, I’m just happy that his character sparked such a conversation. Everywhere I look, there’s some deep discussion going on exploring the nuances of Killmonger’s character and his juxtaposition to Wakanda and its citizens.  I really just see as a way of us exploring our own views of our identity.

I think any writer of fiction wants a villain to come off as well as Killmonger did; to be so extremely sympathetic that it’s hard to still see them as the bad guy. I certainly wanted to strike a chord with people when I wrote Queen Aeothesca in my novel. I think I did a good job of making her human, but I know I have some work to do in future works if I want to get anywhere close to sparking this kind of awe for a character.

Is Black Panther the True hero?

Now let’s talk about the main character, T’Challa. As the lead, he’s definitely going to have most of the heroic qualities. He’s strong, a great fighter, revered by his family and peers, and fights for justice. What we saw in the movie was that he was stuck between his father’s legacy/Wakanda’s history of protecting their own and knowing that the world could use help only they could provide. The thing that makes T’Challa so compelling is that while he was pulled in opposite directions from his country’s history and Killmonger’s ideals, he used information from all sides to forge his own righteous path. The key word for him is “learning”. He learned a lesson in Captain America: Civil War in order to grow, and he learned a lesson in Black Panther in order to progress further. His growth in each film has made him a lovable character to follow. So, is he a hero? Yes, but is he the hero? I believe this last character actually fits that role best.

The Woman Under The Radar

Let’s talk about Nakia. From the beginning we understand that Nakia already knows that there are people who would benefit from Wakanda’s help. She urges T’Challa to see things her way, but at first he is resistant. When Killmonger comes into the picture, despite their similar views on the plight of their people, she recognizes his major flaws and doesn’t fall in line. She continues to fight for her views, but in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone. She saves one last herb from the garden, uses it to save T’Challa’s life, which leads to a restoration of peace in Wakanda and a change in the way they approach the world. I hadn’t thought of this until a series of tweets I read by a very astute viewer. I haven’t received permission to share her thoughts here just yet, but she outlines all of Nakia’s heroic qualities perfectly. And it’s for all of these reasons that I see Nakia as the true hero of Black Panther.

A New Door Has Been Opened

The reason I’m writing about this and the reason I felt moved to write about Black Panther probably won’t surprise you. I am an author of fantasy and science fiction (and perhaps more in the future) with Black characters as the lead roles. So, this feels like a natural subject to talk about. When I left the theater, this film just stuck with me in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. Maybe it was the energy in the theater – so upbeat that clapping started as the movie began, not just as it ended. Maybe it was the fact that I watched it with my best friend (who is African) and just felt the immense joy and emotion from him seeing his people and culture respectfully handled on screen in a big-budget blockbuster. I have a feeling it was both of those things, plus the movie was just damn good. My feeling is that Black Panther has opened the door for more stories like this to be told at the same level of other Hollywood blockbusters. My hope is that I can be a part of this next movement even in just some small way.

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My Thoughts

Why I Deleted Thousands of Likes on my Facebook Page

Jarrod’s Journal

So, if you took a look at my Facebook page a few days ago, you would have seen over 5,000 likes. This is because back in 2015, on my personal profile, I posted a (regular, PG) photo in a group that got plenty of attention. At the time, I mistakenly believed that followers (or friends, in Facebook’s case) = success or relevance. I began accepting all friend requests without vetting or actually knowing anyone. So much so, that I made it to Facebook’s cap of 5,000 friends. Because I was beginning to focus on being an author and because I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to split up my content between both the page and my profile, I decided to merge both and just have a Facebook page. Side note: I was also kind of bored with Facebook at the time as well. Converting everything over to a page caused the page to count all of my friends as likes. So, for the moment, I was happy! I figured an audience of 5,000 would see and interact with my updates. Not so. As anyone who has a Facebook page knows, boosted (paid) posts rule, and I was not about to pay for each post to be seen by my audience. Not only that, but just because I had 5,000 followers didn’t mean they were interested in me as an author. I began to regret the decision and decided to undo the merge and get my profile back.

I hadn’t decided to do much about my amount of likes until earlier this week. That’s because I’m now planning on making the best use of my Facebook page. That starts with engaging people who are actually interested. So, I deleted most of the likes that came over because of the merge, leaving me with a little over 700. I would have gone down to zero if I could, seeing as I’m positive I haven’t gotten 700 real likes, but Facebook isn’t letting me. I’m also going through the process of removing the unvetted “friends” on my list (which is way more tedious than the like removal process on a page).

This led to an important lesson about tying up my self-worth and definition of success in likes or follows. These social media metrics mean very little in the grand scheme of things. Now, my gauge of success is impact on my audience however small. I cherish my 1500 or more followers on Instagram and Twitter because they, for the most part, found something interesting in what I had to say or offer. My goal is to do the same now with Facebook.

If I removed your like on my page and you’re interested in following my journey of growth as an author, please give it another like. There will plenty of great content to come that I know will impact you in some way.

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My Thoughts

A Thought Occured

Jarrod’s Journal

This is just something that came to mind that I though was worth sharing. I posted it on Twitter a couple days ago. Let me know what you think!

It’s funny how being self-aware and practicing self-awareness are two different things. I listened to one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s podcasts today and when he spoke on self-awareness and said “he always knew who he was”, I felt similarly.

I believe that had I not hesitated to be me for so long, I’d be much more successful and further along than I am today.

I was always very self-aware. It’s what allowed me to, on a gut-level, make some decisions that, when I look back, I would consider brave for my age. However, I was told from a very early age that who I was was wrong. So, I tried so hard to change and modify who I was all the way up until around 4 years ago when I decided to end my fashion blog and focus on what I’d always had an interest in. I wish I had the same non-judgmental environment that Gary seems to have had because I believe that had I not hesitated to be me for so long, I’d be much more successful and further along than I am today. I’m very new to pursuing an entrepreneurial thing with my writing, and I’ve had to figure out who I am business-wise. The good thing is, I feel I’m well on the way now. Another takeaway: let people be who they are. There’s space for everybody.

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My Thoughts

An Increase In Productivity

Jarrod’s Journal

The first week of 2018 has been productive. Towards the end of 2017 I found myself being lackadaisical, uninspired, and procrastinating the goals that I had in mind. This was a big part in my feeling down in the closing months and weeks of the year. Don’t get me wrong – the majority of the problem was pushing through and completing the first draft of my book (which I have yet to even take a look at). However, I wanted to continually exercise and do some other things business-wise, but my energy was just not there. When I came home from work I wanted to eat, play a video game, watch TV, and go to sleep. I don’t know if it’s the start of a new year that’s got me on this upswing of productivity or not, but I did watch a video by Marie Forleo that made a difference. In it, she says that she writes down all of her tasks for the day and uses check boxes to make sure she gets them all done. I’ve since adopted this method and its definitely helped. Check the clip here.

Increase Your Productivity

When I started doing this, it reminded me of when I was super productive a little over a year ago. I was exercising every day, writing every day, and just in a great space. At some point, I lost my practice of writing down everything I needed to do for the day. That’s right, I used to do exactly what Marie suggested in this video.

It’s funny how sometimes you get so comfortable in doing things a certain way that you forget that it’s a practice. It’s something that you have to do daily no matter what. When I stopped doing that, I definitely lost some productivity. Looking back, I think that it was due to my job search and subsequent hiring at the company I work at now. Through that process, I was so focused on getting a job that I left all of my other good habits by the wayside. It’s taken me until now to finally get back to a place where I feel comfortable enough with my daily routine and the amount of time I have that I can come home and do more work on my own endeavors.

If you have been lacking in productivity, I suggest you take this advice. At the end of the day, take a sheet of paper and write down your goals for the following day. As Marie says in the video, the key is “you have to do it.” Stick to it and it will eventually become a habit for you. I’m going to do my absolute best to make sure that I continue to be as productive as I am today.

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My Thoughts

Growing Pains

Jarrod’s Journal

Just now I had to push past a serious case of imposter syndrome. I just launched my Patreon page, but after writing one book over a year ago, and only having a couple of horrible drafts of new stories, I was wondering who was I to ask anybody for money for this venture? In a previous post, I mentioned my struggle with finding guests for my YouTube videos and the failure to launch another project. Now, after finishing a first draft of the story that I’ve been working on for months now, I got another blow to my confidence.

Finishing The Draft

The draft that I finished was a science fiction story about a detective who has to solve a murder using a new technology that allows you to experience people’s memories. It started off as just an exercise; a way of writing out the beginnings of an idea. I believe I started this a year ago. I put it away to continue working on publishing my first book as well as set up all the other aspects of my author platform. After failing to complete first drafts for two stories earlier in the year, I decided to get to work on this. At one point I was very happy when it all clicked into place. I got a full vision for the story, I got a good idea for an antagonist, and I had the fuel necessary to complete an outline and begin working on the book in earnest. After a while, that fuel began to run out. The idea became stale to me and it became harder and harder to complete the story. Just like my last two unfinished stories, I was dealing with the same thing again. Now, I know that no first draft is perfect, but after feeling so inspired throughout the creation of Pangaea, this level of dread was new to me for first draft. However, I learned that it is important to complete what you start. So, I completed this book – 40,000 words less than I thought it would be and with no power behind the story. Completing this story was bittersweet. I didn’t really know what to do with that feeling, so I went to Twitter. I asked other authors what they do when they complete a first draft and they don’t like it. The response came to let it rest.



So, that’s what I’m going to do. It just sucks because I haven’t been able to put out work as quickly as I wanted to. My goal at the beginning of this year was to write two novels. I thought perhaps I could get one published by the end of the year, but all I was able to do was get a draft that I don’t even like. With all these failures, it’s really hard to keep moving ahead. I wonder who am I to create a Patreon page and ask for donations when I only have one book. Well, that short Twitter conversation I had was a great pull back to reality. I’m happy to say that I was able to turn this negative mindset around.

A New View for 2018

One thing I know about myself and I’m not sure is even apparent to the people around me is that I am tenacious. I don’t quit. Just a moment ago I was wondering whether me trying to be an author was even worth it. I was wondering whether this was even who I really was. I was questioning my vision. But I don’t like to sit in self-loathing for too long. I decided to set my Patreon page live and continue to write every single day until I reach my goal of becoming a full-time author. I’m going to keep trying until something works. That’s all I can do.

Looking back on this year, I like to think of it as a year of growth. Growth is painful, but necessary in order to become the person you want to be. I learned about my limitations, setting up achievable goals, prioritizing my time, and pacing myself. Although I wasn’t able to completely achieve everything I set out to do, through my failures I gained the knowledge that will help me achieve reasonable goals in the coming year. It’s all a part of the learning process and I’m ready for my next lesson.

Cheers to more growth in 2018! Happy New Year!

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My Thoughts

Stalled But Still Going Strong

Jarrod’s Journal

After my last post, you can imagine where my head is regarding  this whole journey-to-being-a-full-time-author thing. I still believe perhaps I released my first book too early, but now I have another set of self-critiques that have been threatening my will to keep moving ahead. I’m having trouble finding authors for my YouTube show, moving ahead with a secret project, and writing my next book at a faster pace. All of this has me questioning whether I have what it takes to make my dreams a reality.

I was watching a webinar (seminar on the web) about building my email list and a couple of things hit me hard. The presenter said something along the lines of “Are you doing this to have more freedom and work for yourself?” and “Do you want the ability to travel more?” And the answer to both was “Yes”. Written out, it sounds more like a corny infomercial, but in context, it really aligned with what I want out of my life. I started tearing up because what I want so badly seemed so far away and almost impossible.

I don’t give up, but the small failures make it really hard to keep going. The only thing that really gets me to move past it is that it’s my only choice. I can continue to work on this and create the life I envision for myself, or I can succumb to what feels mundane. At the same time, I have to remain grateful for life as it is. It’s the hardest balancing act, but it’s necessary.

Sometimes when you think about your vision – your future – you get restless and frustrated at your now. Love what you have in the moment and keep moving toward your dreams. I woke up today with a renewed spirit and more energy to make my dreams come true. My hope is that you can do the same.

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My Thoughts

I Released My Book Too Early

Jarrod’s Journal

I learned a lot of things about self-publishing on the fly while getting my first book finalized. Having a whole series ready before you start was not one of them.

I wish I had learned this before writing Pangaea. Instead, I’m at a point now where sometimes I feel overwhelmed with trying to get a bunch of things done marketing-wise and not having all the pieces in place. It’s much better to have three or so books to release back-to-back while working on the next one. That way, you have a cushion of work to rely on while you go through drafting, cancelling, and/or agonizing over your next book.

You may read this and think “It’s okay to release a book a year” because you’ve noticed some of your favorite authors do it. And that’s true on some level, but for someone like me who is self publishing with the hopes of turning this into something full time, it seems the general consensus is that you have to release work at a faster pace. I’m struggling with my pace.

I’m not going to list a ton of excuses as to why. This year has been a huge learning experience for me as to what it takes to not only publish, but build a platform for myself. I’ve learned about editing, proofreading, cover design, the cost of all three, as well as business stuff like intellectual property rights, and how to promote my work online. Content, attention, and growing an email list is important, but I don’t know if it would be nearly as hard if I had more books on the marketplace. So, I’m playing a bit of catch-up. There’s no use crying over it now, but if you’re an author looking to jump in, my advice would be to not make the same mistake. Get a few books done and edited within an inch of their life. Save your money and get the formatting and cover design to look as good or better than what’s on store shelves. Then come up with a strategy for release that will have you grow at a normal pace.

I may have learned this important lesson a little late, but I’m hopeful that I’ll rise above and make the changes necessary to be successful.

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My Thoughts

As the Plot Turns – Plotter, Pantser, or Plantser?

Jarrod’s Journal

So there I am, lying back on the couch in my living room with my laptop open, pounding out new words for a peaceful scene in my WIP (work in progress), and BOOM – a gunshot! Things go crazy! Don’t worry, the gunshot didn’t happen in real life. Instead, it was an unexpected moment that I wrote into my latest work. I had no intention of things happening so fast, or for things to get so crazy, but they did, and I’m both excited and terrified to see where it goes.

Plotter or Pantser?

“Are you a plotter or a pantser?” This is a common question among writers and one that people in both camps feel strongly about. Plotters usually have a meticulous outline, research notes, character synopses, and more before getting into writing. Pansters get an idea and just run with it. I used to consider myself a plotter, but after this experience, and thinking back on writing Pangaea: Unsettled Land, I now believe I’m more of a hybrid. A plantser, if you will. I like to know as much as possible about the book I’m writing before I get into it, but I leave enough up to my imagination while in the process. Here’s a look at how my plansting has shown up in my writing.

Plansting Pangaea

*Spoiler Alert*

There are two storylines in Pangaea I can recall that were completely unplanned. One was that of Isidro, Douglassaire’s student, who as an Etherean (magic user) and was ostracized from his peers. I knew I wanted Douglassaire to learn something through his interactions with his student, but I had no idea how deep I would go with Isidro’s story. He was labeled a freak by classmates, had parents who warned him not to live out loud, and Douglassaire stepped in save him. I pulled from my own childhood for that story and had no prior plans of really going there.

The second storyline would be that of how Princess Annonymn (Anna) joined the Auctorati, a group a bounty hunters. She also fell in love with the group’s leader, Libra. I planned to have her find her place amongst a group, but who those people were, and the fact that Libra was killed so suddenly was certainly not in my plans.

Both moments had been times where I felt most inspired when writing that book. And now, I have experienced it again.


The title of my WIP as of right now is Synapse. As a result of plowing through my work in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I got to a point where, yet again, my plans and my pants met. (That sounds dirty, but you know what I mean!) I can’t say more than what I’ve already described at the beginning of this piece, but it feels great to get this level of inspiration over and over again. This is the second time this has happened for me in this book. I feel it’s a great indicator that this story is something special. The stakes have been raised, and I’m not sure how it’s going to affect the rest of what I have planned, but I’m going to roll up my sleeves and trust my instincts.

For more information and word count updates on my upcoming novel, check out its NaNoWriMo page.

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My Thoughts

Maintaining Momentum

Jarrod’s Journal

I absolutely hate getting sick. It’s part of the human experience, but a great way to bring your momentum to a complete halt. There have been many times when I was in a good place that I completely fell off track. I could be exercising regularly and writing every day and then boom – out for two days because of a sore throat, chills, and nose drip. I don’t know what it is, but recently I’ve had a change in attitude as to how I approach situations like these.

Stay on Track

When you’re sick, it’s important to not be like the old me and just let it all fall to pieces. Do the most you can with the energy you have. As far as writing is concerned, I opened my laptop, created a new blank page in my manuscript, and did a quick bit of research about the process from police making arrests to beginning courtroom/trial proceedings. The research is for my current work in progress. I was happy to just do that much and closed my laptop to get some much-needed rest.

Something else I didn’t speak about in the video was exercise. It’s important to me to do a little bit every day, but it’s so much harder when you’re not feeling well. I settled for 30 crunches and patted myself on the back for getting through them all. It wasn’t much, but when you’re sick, doing anything is better than doing nothing.

So, next time you’re under the weather, just do the most you can. Be happy with your progress and fight on through the next day. Don’t fall off track!

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My ThoughtsWriting

Tools for Writing Faster – Scrivener and Dragon

Jarrod’s Journal

I’ve begun work on a science fiction novel and the progress is coming along well. I’ve gotten into a groove where I’m writing every day, and unlike the project that’s now on hold, the story still feels fresh every time I sit down to write. Some of the tools I’m using to write have changed and I’m finding that I like it much better. To be specific, the tool I’ve begun using is Scrivener.

How I Came to Use Scrivener

I wrote my last book, Pangaea: Unsettled Land, entirely using Google Docs. This was because I had a Chromebook. Now, while it behaves very similarly to Microsoft Word, and even allows you to export into that file type, it is not the same. After exporting the file into a Word doc, I noticed that the amount of pages were different and there were some weird page break placements. Also, I realized had I used MS Word from the start, I wouldn’t have had to change short hyphens to the longer dashes used for dialogue interruptions. These aren’t automatically changed in Google Doc, so I had to find each one and change it manually. Not only that, but when I started to format it for a print edition of the book, there were so many little changes I had to make in order for it to look right. I had manually done things like hitting the ‘tab’ button to indent the first line of new paragraphs and hitting ‘enter’ multiple time after each chapter heading before writing. Formatting became a  nightmare, but through this process, I also learned that Microsoft Word wasn’t really sufficient either. I knew that I’d need something else if I didn’t want the hassle.

Being amongst writers online, you tend to hear of a few specific ideas again and again. One of them was to use Scrivener. This is a program that was made for book writers that will automatically compile your completed document into a print-ready format. I wanted to use this program for a while now, but there’s no online version so I couldn’t use it on my Chromebook. So I finally bought a new laptop last week, installed Scrivener, and so far I’m very happy.

As of right now, I have not gotten to the point of compiling a print version of anything because I am still in the process of writing this book. However, there are a few features that I am enjoying very much. Scrivener allows you to break down chapters and scenes into small chunks. You can change this if you want, but I really like the way it’s laid out. This also allows you to set a writing goal and it will track your progress every day. You can easily see how many words you write in any given session as well. Now, whether the final product looks the way I want it to, remains to be seen, but I am hopeful. If not, I can always have it formatted by a professional.

Dragon Software

Scrivener wasn’t the only reason I bought a new laptop. Another thing I kept hearing of, thanks mostly to Joanna Penn’s podcast, The Creative Penn, was Dragon dictation. This is a program that some authors use to speak their story into existence! The general idea is to speak directly into the Dragon software or record your voice and then import the audio into text using the program’s transcription option. There have been cases of writers, like me, who struggle to get to 1000 words a day, but have quadrupled their output. After hearing this, I knew I had to give this a shot.

I first listened to the audio book version of Scott Baker’s The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon to see what hardware was necessary to run this program the best. I already had a good mic, so the computer was next. Using the information in this book, I purchased the laptop I’m using now. Now, I haven’t yet bought the Dragon software, because the version I need is expensive. However, when I get it, I plan to jump in and learn what I need so that I can start completing books more frequently.

Things are evolving and my new laptop and Scrivener are great investments. I’m looking forward to trying out Dragon and getting even more stories out to you.

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