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  • Writer's pictureJ.C. Hannigan

Real Rare Romance: All The Little Big Ways Inclusion, Representation, and Community Matter...

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

The Real Rare Romance Book Tune Tour has been a baby incubating in my stories and my heart for years, waiting for its chance to shine. It was conceived from my life-long effort to heal, and it took me years to tell because it took me years to understand what exactly was and is broken in my family, and in the communities I love so much.

The Real Rare Romance Book Tune Tour was originally intended to be a "fictional" book signing event and fundraiser that occurs in one of my future novels, and has been mentioned subtly over the years in the Collide Series. There has always been a fourth Harlow Jones book in the back of my mind, and I'm almost ready to tell that story in COLLISION COURSE.

That novel ties in everything: every story I've ever weaved connects, and I promise...the conclusion will answer all of your questions. But first, I need to write a few important books to fill in those blank spaces.

OFF LIMIT and OFF BALANCE, where generational patterns come to a boiling point at a time when communities need to pull together most; and REBEL BONES, where you will finally a look at the unmasked Sam and unfiltered Tommy's plight to be together, and all of the reasons that pulled them apart and took them away from each other.

I've been telling you the stories of real people, in real places, using real bias that exist within those communities, I just didn't colour the pages...yet, anyway. We're going to do a Romance Rewind. This rebel revolution, this [seemingly endless] stretch of creative highway I've been chugging along on for the past 16 years of my fiction writing journey, has a point.

This whole time that I've been telling you stories about love, I've been wrapping them in history, and splashing the collective community hurt. This is a movement centered around hope and healing. It's a movement based on shining the light on our collective pain and our collective beauty and our collective stories.

But this is a scary time for me. It's me finally using my voice to admit the truths that were taught to me by the generations before us: The Silent Generation. They're the only ones that don't try to challenge the existence of history because they've actually lived it. They're the ones we're losing so damn quickly right now. The flaws in the system keep the oppressed oppressed and the voices of the vulnerable have gone unheard for centuries, because of the other voices...the richer voices. Louder voices. Voices that are trying to turn the tide a way none of us want to go.

It's very important to know the heart of the company you keep. Pay attention to who people are, and they'll show you in actions if they can back what they say. Everyone I have invited to sit at my table still has a seat, but you can't come to dinner if you're going to be a dickhead and talk over everyone else instead of listening.

Don't be a dickhead, listen to people. Collective pain and the lack of community and the loss of sense of home are all the reasons we're so broken inside, and that's why I've been writing these stories about this particular group of friends for a reason...

It's why our great great great grandparents set up community centers, and why fundraising events and sporting events are held there. Community centers are the heart of the community; a space where people could gather and celebrate sports or events together.

The heart of it all, the glue of it all, has always been love and the hope for more. So, let's be that. Let's be more. I saw that in the stories I'm telling (and plotting) right now, with Sam. How these friends connect, and why everything their grandparents went through and taught them matters so much.

Now, I'm asking you to get on the official train and take notice. Seek out the trauma, see how it's weaponized against us to keep us oppressed and angry. But love exists, and so does home. We already have it, we just need to make improvements. We need to do a renovation.

Good change takes time and patience, and it's difficult to be productive when you're not feeling centered. My work has been so slow forthcoming lately because it's growing increasingly difficult to write through the very trauma I am living right now, and I have to do that when I write Sam Dabrowski and Tommy Armstrong's story [in REBEL BONES].

I'm ripping my stitches open anyway...even though it hurts. I'm letting you see me, my heritage, and my blood on the pages. Why history matters so much, and why we need to stop shouting about finding a solution and make one.

It might have taken nearly twenty-years for my tongue to loosen, but I'm calling out all the problems I've seen now. The prospect both terrifies and liberates me.

I think, the true reason this is so scary and big for me, because I've fought hard for what should have been an easy love my whole life. Each obstacle that's stood in our way or each door that has been a door slammed in our faces because of my disability, or his mental health struggles.

It's not only my voice as a disabled wife, of a tradesman and mom of disabled kids. My family's struggle is real and raw and painful, but it's not just my story. We've all driven down these same roads; our ancestors fought over this land and that land, and the cycle continues. Character inspiration was drawn from many of voices I've listened to and learned from over the years, and many of the traumas we have endured as communities.

This movement is for M.E. (as in, Multiple Exostoses), but it's also for mental health. It's for Brad Allen, Gordon Bettles, Nick Williams, and Devin Robinson, the imperfectly broken boys and men we lost to mental health, drug dependency issues, cancer, chronic sickness, and other tragedies.

But it's for the future, too. If you really didn't want to leave future generations in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you'll temper the addiction to consumerism with community involvement. That means funding the right projects that back the invisible voices that are already telling their stories in many creative ways. They just need everyone else to stop shouting long enough to listen...

It's going to take many voices to deliver the messages we're all shouting to be heard about, and it's going to take creative ways of reaching the communities.

I've known this all along, so I intentionally created many real world inspired scenarios dipped in romance and wrapped in dreams I've had my whole life. I always wanted to own horses, so I've always written at least one character in my worlds that got to have horses. I wanted to be a vet, so...I put a version of myself out there in my fictional world doing that. And so on and so forth.

But I also brushed in mental health breakdowns and other tragedies that shaped my characters and the worlds they're from.

This is M.E., wearing the many hats I wanted to wear in order to help my family, my friends, and myself heal. While the journey has been hard for us all, my creative way of [hopefully] leaving behind a positive message of inclusion and seeing a dream I've actually had my whole life come to fruition.

This idea though? It came from my roots, from all our roots. From the heritage we share that I know from the weavers in my family; the storytellers, the creators. The characters I created carry the magic of M.E. with them in some way, and they have always been the keys to unlocking the doors of oppression in my fictional world.

The signs are everywhere, all the time, and the premonition is already out there: if we don't find a way to shine the light on the issues in our community, we will descend into chaos, and the only ones to blame will be the people that helped keep the oppressed and vulnerable down and silent.

You know who you are, and the reckoning is coming. I've been speaking these truths my whole life, and so have the other weavers. The storytellers. The musicians. The artists. The silently raging in trauma.

We've been painting it in our pictures and stitching it into the seams of our clothes from the moment we were taken from one place and set in with a false promise by a powerful key-holder who's essence is the greed of men and the refusal to acknowledge different people are still people worthy of that same promised land.

They say if you want more sway in the tides, you'll fill your boat with worthy people. These are my worthy people, my key-players that I know in my heart will start implementing the changes we need to see by helping the voices be heard more often. In mainstream media, everywhere. And not just sad portrayals and inspiration porn, but legitimate people working toward a good change cause while doing it for all the right reasons.

I loved escaping in books so much, that I wanted to see myself in them everywhere. And I did! I saw myself in the ideals of the hopeful, the romantic hearts, and the oppressed. I saw it in all the characters who were wounded and different and prosecuted for that.

But it wasn't really enough, I needed to see Multiple Exostoses in books, too. I wanted characters who dealt with things similar to what I dealt with, and I knew I wasn't going to get it until I created it myself.

When my dad told me "you can be the next Farley Mowat, Nora Roberts, or J.K. Rowling..." he really had no idea what he was helping me build: a legacy of M.E. (Multiple Exostoses).

I am not the only face, or the only voice, behind all the M.E. I put into the pages of my own work, so I'm hoping you guys will join the cause. Put someone like M.E. in your book, someone with a rare condition like Multiple Exostoses.

In all honesty, I'm panicked because I wasn't ready to admit the truth behind my intentions with writing just yet, and now I'm being forced to because what I write means facing my trauma faster than I can process. It leaves me shaking and terrified and longing to retreat back into my shell like the awkward turtle I am...but I can't turn away from the issues anymore. I can't just escape in the books and wish for a better world.

I'm going to have to start helping to build it, just like our great great great grandparents did when they came here hoping for better and got...

All this; the beautiful land, the strife and segregation that still happens in small but big ways today.

The land is beautiful, but it's haunted with dark realities that keep the same people controlling the train. I've been spoon-feeding this message in my world building all along, but I've never had the money to make these visions come to life, and I wanted to illustrate WHY that is.

Why is it, that a woman with a powerful but optimistically open mind like mine is stuck in a situation like the one my love and I have been in our entire lives: because of mental health and because of disability.

Because despite my knowledge of how this system works, and my privileges, the hands of oppression are still pushing the vulnerable voices and stories down. They are winning because the common people are choosing to pick fights with each other instead of seeing each other for our pain and try to come together to fix it, the way our great great great grandparents did.

Religion isn't bad in itself; faith is good to have and good to keep, but blind-faithfulness in anything at all, EVEN PEOPLE YOU LOVE, can always lead you down a dark path of destruction. A path that not only wounds you, the human, but everyone you love and everyone in your community, either by your loss or the action you took that devalued another human being.

It's why I've taken things so slowly, spread them out amongst the many pages I've written, both in my books and online as a blogger. From my work with Stigma Fighters, from my work at a recreational group for the developmentally handicapped and in everything else that I do, I try to spread the good will wishes, the little seeds of hope, in every one I meet and I hope they will grow something good.

Much love,

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