Newsletter Bug!

Hey everybody! I’m aware of the super awful bug with the newsletter (and thank you to the people who noticed and alerted me), but I would really appreciate if you wouldn’t post exactly what is going on with it in the comments on the blog. It should be fixed by now, but I’ve deleted some comments so as not to call attention to the problem and encourage mischief from badly behaved parties, just in case. Don’t take it personally if your comment got trashed, I just did it so, you know. People weren’t like, “Well, in that case, allow me to sign up and harass the shit out of Jenny in yet another venue!”

Anyway, it’s fixed now, thanks to all of you who let me know what was going on, hope you understand if your comment got trashed, and here’s a picture of a duck:

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State of The Trout: I forgot the headline at first.

Hey everybody! Just a quick update to share some stuff.

I’m on Ello! If you’re already signed up for the new social network Ello, you can make friends with me or put me under noise there. @JennyTrout

Deirdre Saoirse Moen has created  an “Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread” If you’re an EC author or editor, you can get some more info here, and share what’s going on with you.

Three 2015 dates have been added to the Meet Me page! There will be more to come, but these are the key three for 2015.

There’s a newsletter now! People have been asking for a newsletter for a long time, and now it’s here. It will be a monthly/bimonthly update with release dates for both Jenny Trout and Abigail Barnette, news, etc. It won’t clutter up your inbox and it won’t be too long. Sign up under the Newsletter tab in the linky bar up top.

Welcome Tez Miller to the blog! She’s coming on board to help moderate comments. Tez’s services as a virtual assistant are available through her website.

I’m going to see Tony Bennett in concert! This doesn’t affect you at all. I’m just really excited about it. Also, I bought the tickets at the casino box office last night, then immediately turned around and won the price back on the first slot machine I played.

Depression is happening. I woke up this morning with the blahs. If I’m scarce, that’s why. Thanks for your continued patience as I fight through my crazy. Right now, it’s not inhibiting my work too much. I’m just kind of… blah. No emotions. For example, I know I’m excited about the Tony Bennett concert, but I don’t feel excited. Ah, brain chemistry. You magnificent bastard.

I shipped UPS from my house like a god damn gladiator. Again, doesn’t affect you, but I’ve never done it before.

DON’T DO THIS EVER (an advice column for writers): “On Wednesdays, we wear pink” edition

You guys know that I have absolutely no love for anti-blogger authors who treat the entire publishing world like their own personal version of high school, right? So just wipe out everything in that sentence after “for” and replace it with, “Jamie McGuire.”

Jamie McGuire. How do I even begin to explain Jamie McGuire?

Jamie McGuire is a #1 New York Times Bestseller of contemporary romance. Or YA, if that’s the award she’s trying to win. She believes that if you don’t like her books, you’ve never lived a hard life. And that reviewers should focus only on the parts of a book they enjoyed, and that negative reviews attack the readers who enjoyed the book. (Screencaps from CuddleBuggery.com) She writes books that sound even more horrifying than 50 Shades of Grey. She’s also been known to whip her devoted readers into a frenzy to attack people who have criticized her, and it truly doesn’t seem to matter how many or how few followers these reviewers and bloggers have on social media. You got 300,000 readers? McGuire will go after you. You got 30? She’ll still be at your door.

It’s no secret in the romance publishing world that McGuire and Jane Litte from Dear Author are never going to sit at the same lunch table. McGuire has accused Litte of being an opportunistic stalker, and Litte appears to get a kick out of poking McGuire. You get those stories from the links further up. So when news broke this week that publisher Ellora’s Cave was suing Litte and Dear Author,  readers saw through one of McGuire’s tweets:

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In fact, she was so happy about the law suit, she tweeted again, hours later:

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and again:

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It turns out that her shade was about as obvious as a backfiring glitter canon, because everyone on twitter knew what she was talking about. The Mean Girls vibe continued on Facebook, where she and author Theresa Mummert celebrated with macros:

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“feeling amused”

So, they’re childishly celebrating the misfortune of their enemies. No harm there, right?

Well… not really. Litte is being sued over her post, “The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave,” in which Litte writes that while a number of authors and editors have not been paid (some for as long as six months), the company owner has publicly bragged of shopping sprees and started up several side ventures, and that while the company posted $15 million in revenues last year, tax liens and salaries are going unpaid. Ellora’s Cave responded to these concerns by slapping Litte with a lawsuit. Litte stands by the allegations made in her post on behalf of her anonymous sources.

McGuire’s tweet opened a floodgate of responses from authors, readers, and bloggers who immediately knew exactly what she and Mummert were talking about:

As it turns out, when you celebrate a blogger getting sued for exposing business practices that are harming authors, and you, yourself are an author, you come across as kind of a traitor. To McGuire and her sycophants, they’d  just won a karmic victory. But many saw it differently.

Like, well. Me, for example. I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I only have one book there, and it has never been a bestseller, but I love it and I would be heartbroken if it were to end up as part of a bankruptcy settlement. So, I asked for a reversion of my rights last week, after a summer of rumblings from other authors who weren’t happy with their experience with the company. I myself have never had any payment issues with Ellora’s Cave, but having been in the business for almost a decade, I’ve learned that when authors are saying that they aren’t getting paid, other things aren’t getting paid, either. As Litte points out in her post, if a company goes bankrupt, authors can lose their rights permanently, so some Ellora’s Cave authors are faced with a difficult, possibly bridge-burning choice right now. I’ve never met an Ellora’s Cave staff member about whom I could say a bad word, and it pains me to cut ties with a publisher that I feel has treated me well, but in business you have to make hard decisions to protect your interests. For authors who have been with them for twenty or more books, whose careers have begun and flourished there, who have good working and professional relationships with people in the company, the hard decisions are stacking up.

And this is what McGuire is celebrating? That she has been personally vindicated in her ego-fueled spat with Litte through the actions of a company that has recently gained attention for treating its authors badly? You’ll note that when Litte discovered and widely publicized the fact McGuire and other authors had been plagiarized, McGuire called her “courageous” for going public with important information. Litte did something to help authors, and it benefitted McGuire, so she’s courageous; when Litte does something to help authors and McGuire doesn’t benefit in any way, she’ll go ahead and cheer for whoever will tear Dear Author down, even if it means siding against fellow authors.

According to McGuire, we’re all misinterpreting her tweet:

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But if that were the case… why not go into more detail? Why not clarify what her posts were actually about? McGuire is aware that we all know she was talking about the Ellora’s Cave suit, but she’s not interested in actually defending herself here. One of her social media talents is convincing others that she’s being victimized, thus causing a bigger stir.

Remind you of anyone?

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But McGuire isn’t Regina George, publishing isn’t high school, and the social media Burn Book schtick she’s going for is just as destructive as the one assembled by the Plastics. McGuire’s lack of empathy for her peers and her inability to see past her own interests in order to celebrate some petty revenge seems at odds with the rah-rah supportive attitude she’s shown authors in her clique.

Jamie McGuire: this Ellora’s Cave situation? It isn’t about you. It’s not some cosmic gift crafted especially for you to gloat about. If it was, why would you want it, if it means other writers are facing hardship? Authors out there who just want to keep working and who don’t like the head this situation has come to? Bloggers are viewing this as a clear, serious warning that protecting authors from companies with exploitative business practices is going to result in a messy legal ordeal. So who’ll help you out if a publisher you write for starts to go under? If this plays out the way you clearly want it to in order to serve your petty vengeance, you could one day find that your rights and your royalties go away, and there will be no one willing to stand up for you.

If that happens, well, enjoy the lacrosse team, Jamie.

Merlin Club S03E08, “The Eye of The Phoenix” or “It’s never about you, Arthur.”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

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Joelism

Last June, a funny thing happened to me. In the same way that some people “find” Jesus, I “found” Billy Joel.

I should just clue you in right now, you’re going to think this is a parody article. It is totally not. I’m fully aware of how ridiculous it sounds to say that you’ve had a spiritual awakening from listening to too much Billy Joel. And I do, admittedly, make a lot of jokes about the near creepy  agápe I feel toward him via ye olde social media. This is going to be the uncomfortable part of knowing me where you realize, “Oh. So, when she tweeted that she wanted a lock of her hair delivered to Billy Joel upon her death, she… wasn’t kidding.”

I guess what I’m saying is… brace yourselves. This is going to be the blog post where some of you fall away, overwhelmed by my weirdness. I understand, and it’s been nice knowing you.

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Outlander and The Female Gaze: Why Women Are Watching

By now you’ve doubtless heard of Outlander, Starz’s new entrant in the race for premium channel subscribers. The surprise hit, based on the epic fantasy romance novels by author Diana Gabaldon, isn’t the first series to court a mostly straight female audience; True Blood, adapted from Charlain Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, banked on the appeal of love triangles and quadrangles to rope in viewers who were still hungry for the romance of Twilight, with undeniable success. But unlike True Blood, which tantalized with ever more outlandish sex scenes and airbrushed-to-perfection hardbodies, Outlander presents a fantasy that doesn’t seek to appease the pornography-influenced tastes of a straight male audience.

To put it in simpler terms, Outlander is a drama crafted specifically for the straight female gaze.

From its premier, it’s been clear that the Scottish time-travel romance would be different. While exploring a ruined castle as part of their post-war second honeymoon, smart, introspective Claire Randall (portrayed with quiet intensity by Caitriona Balfe) and her husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies) engage in some marital relations atop a disused table. The scene, in which Frank performs oral sex on Claire, focuses entirely on her pleasure. Unlike most Hollywood couplings, there are no flickering candles, no slow strip-teases to reveal her gravity defying breasts or his rippling six-pack. Perhaps the most shocking part of this scene is how graphic it is in its realism; without the usual cues to the viewer that scream, “you’re watching something sexy,” it feels like voyeurism. It looks like sex that anyone could be having.

Of course, fans of the books aren’t sighing over Frank Randall, but the legendary Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), the young Scottish outlaw who is pushed into an arranged marriage with his time traveling bride. Readers have long known that Jamie stands apart from the romantic heroes offered in books and on screen. While he exudes sexual charisma and comes complete with a tragic backstory (including a tragic story about his back), Jamie has what most romantic heroes don’t: an ego that will take a backseat to his love interest’s feelings. He is dutifully devoted to Claire from the moment they’re affianced, and takes great care to consider not only her physical comfort, but the tender emotional state that Claire, a presumed widow, might be in when faced with a second marriage.

Rather than subjecting the viewer to the dubious consent expected from a medieval wedding night, fans were treated to an entire episode devoted solely to watching the new couple enthusiastically consummate their marriage. Mixed in with the candles and teasing glimpses of naked flesh, there were long conversations and genuine caring on the part of the groom, who had no desire to take his reluctant bride by force. When the two finally seal the deal, it’s fumbling, fast, and for Claire, disappointing; not only is Jamie younger than his wife, but he’s a virgin as well. It’s up to Claire to teach him how to be her lover, a task she’s happy to undertake by the episode’s end. In yet another role reversal, when Claire performs fellatio on Jamie, the audience sees the sexual awakening and inexperienced wonder of the male partner, in contrast to the depiction of a vulnerable woman’s introduction her own sexuality that women have been conditioned to consume.

Both romantic leads are almost supernaturally attractive. Balfe, with her flawless skin and long neck, resembles a porcelain swan, and Heughan’s chiseled features are tempered with kind eyes and shy smiles. Yet when their clothes come off, they don’t have the unobtainable bodies of gym-living actors who pump themselves up before each take. Heughan is undeniably fit, but he isn’t in the same league as the  Men’s Health cover models seen on other cable dramas. Balfe is slender, but her stomach isn’t flat and her breasts are natural. The lack of body hair is a bit disturbing, given the time period, but watching the actors together, the viewer sees two people being intimate with each other, instead of two sculpted dolls switching between acrobatic positions.

And that’s where Outlander is truly appealing to the sexuality of its straight female viewers. Instead of painting female pleasure on the male terms of the virgin/whore dichotomy, the audience is shown sex as a normal, matter-of-fact piece of the relationship puzzle. Sure, Jamie and Claire can’t get enough of each other on their wedding night, but their passion is forged by the connections made in the unhurried conversations that make up the bulk of the episode. Jamie is kind and Claire is emotionally conflicted, and their sex isn’t perfect or without fumbling. At one point in the now infamous wedding episode, Jamie stops mid-coitus to make sure he hasn’t hurt Claire. It’s a far cry from the violent thrusting and distressed shouts of a Game of Thrones sex scene.

In further contrast from that HBO juggernaut, Outlander puts sexuality front and center, rather than utilizing a character’s attitude toward sex as shorthand characterization in regards to morality.  Neither does it cheapen the value of sex in storytelling by using it as a constant backing track, as Game of Thrones has coyly done to entertain the male gaze during scenes of protracted exposition. Outlander approaches sex in a way that’s only shocking because it isn’t shocking at all. It’s non-violent, sensual, natural, and the woman is framed as more than an object for male pleasure. Female sexuality isn’t demonized, and engaging in sex doesn’t diminish Claire as a character. Outlander is the rare television drama that shows us a woman who is sexually experienced without being the villain of the piece, and a man who sees her desire and pleasure as a participatory experience, rather than an object to edify his own importance.

It’s far too easy to suggest that it’s the repressed desires of bored housewives driving Outlander‘s success. Women know better. When presented with a complex, emotionally engaging plot and sensual content that doesn’t degrade or shame female sexuality, they’ll tune in, gladly. If the growing fan base is any indication, Outlander is the show that television has been needing for a long, long time.

Merlin Club S03E07 “The Castle of Fyrien” or “Shhh, Cenred. Let the big girls talk.”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

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Wednesday Blogging: Clear My History When I Die

This week, we’re supposed to blog about what our internet search history says about us.

Hooh, boy.

1. I am struggling to find the perfect pattern to knit for Billy Joel’s Christmas present. That’s all one could possibly construe from the eleven tabs open to Ravelry and Wikipedia articles about Billy Joel’s songs. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, Mr. Joel, but I think it’s going to be the brown shawl Claire wore in last week’s Outlander.

2. I am struggling to find the perfect pattern to knit for the Baltimore police department’s Christmas present. Same reasons as above, except for the part about Billy Joel’s discography.  Merry Christmas, Baltimore PD. I think you’re getting this lace work shawl.

3. I’ve missed seven dentist appointments. Just look at my google calendar!

4. I look at way too much porn. Bullshit. No such thing. Plus, it’s research that I’m looking at all these highly inappropriate .gifs of men in suits forcing their fingers into hot brunettes’ mouths.

5. I’m trying to help Billy Joel send his Nintendo 3DS for repairs. That’s the only explanation for why I’ve visited the lyrics page for “Allentown” thirty times in the past four days, and why this UPS label .pdf is open in Chrome.

What confusing or horrible things will your internet search history say about you?

Check out what these Wednesday bloggers don’t want you to see in their bookmarks folder:

Bronwyn Green • Jessica Jarman • Gwendolyn Cease •

DON’T DO THIS, EVER (An advice column for writers): Dudley Dursley edition

Believe it or not, one of the questions I’m most often asked by people who don’t already know that I know absolutely nothing is, “Do you have you any advice for someone who wants to be/is a writer?” I’m the worst person to ask. Everything I have in my writing career, I got by falling into it ass backwards. Sure, I’ve worked hard for a long time, but to be honest, most of that work has been pointed firmly in the wrong direction. Then fate or some cosmic entity sees me struggling like a wind-up toy in a corner, and it’s like, “Awww. That’s really sad for her. You know what? Let’s just turn her around.” Something just happens, and I’ve arrived at some goal or achievement I feel I’ve done very little to earn. So, I don’t generally have any advice as to how to be a successful writer. Also, I have very little social media savvy. I talked about cutting my vulva with a pair of scissors on my twitter feed last week (@Jenny_Trout, in case you want in on all the vulva-maiming action).

I am a gossipy little streak of nonsense, though, so allow me to use someone else’s drama to craft some advice for you. Or, like Willam Belli says, “I’m going to teach you how to be better, through the faults of others.”

An author wasn’t happy the week that her latest book released:

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Writers, and I’m gonna be real here, especially female writers, have a really rough time balancing work and family pressures. I know that even though I’m the primary income in my household, my job is the one that’s most flexible and doesn’t require me to leave the house, so it’s always going to fall to me to make dinner, keep things straight for school, do the bills, do the phone calls, let the dogs out, give the kids baths, etc. It’s not that my husband is just too big and manly to help out, but he works a weird schedule and his job is pretty stressful, too. He’s always tired, he’s always asleep when the rest of the world is going on, so it falls to the person who is conscious (mostly) to do a lot of this stuff. And yes, the pressure is overwhelming when you’re sitting there, cooking a grilled cheese, and you know that you have a ton of work waiting for you in the next room, but your co-parent can’t exactly tell his job, “Hey, I’m going to need to leave for an hour so I can go make my kids’ dinner because my wife needs a solid eight hours to work.” It sucks so, so much to work from home, in this aspect.

So, I understand Author’s frustration at having to leave a sick kid to go on a book tour. I missed my kids so much on a two-day tour that my husband had to drive to Columbus, OH to get me, because I was a wreck. I know it must have sucked to go to a huge, mentally and emotionally draining expo when she wasn’t a hundred percent. That must have really sucked, and I know, believe me, I know, what it feels like when you work hard on something and it doesn’t do as well as you’d like it to (See also: Jenny’s entire career, 2009 to 2012). But there are a couple different reasons why authors cannot put out a message like this.

One of those reasons is that, wow. It sounds extremely entitled, doesn’t it? I’m not the only blogger to think so. In fact, I found out about this whole kerfuffle from Tez Miller’s blog. I’m linking because I don’t want you guys to think I’m straight up stealing her post when I now go on to say basically every single thing she already said. The reason our opinions are going to line up so neatly is because, well. Common sense.

The first mistake Author made was announcing that her book didn’t achieve list placement. Just a heads up: you don’t ever have to tell anyone how your book is performing. Ever. None of her readers would have noticed the book didn’t place, unless they’re particularly interested in the list placement of every author they’ve read. In fact, the first time you make a list, you get to keep saying, “Blabbity Blah Bestselling Author” for the rest of your career from the very first time you get placement, and pretty much everyone keeps on assuming all your books are bestsellers because of that. Seriously, I’m “USA Today Bestselling Author” Jenny Trout, because one book that came out in 2006 made the list one week and then dropped off and nothing of mine ever sold that well again. You just throw the title around and everyone assumes things are fine. The only people who notice that you’re not making a list is your publisher, your agent, and any of your particularly dedicated adversaries. But if you feel like being real about how a book is doing, you can. Nobody’s stopping you. Just know that you don’t have to.

If you are going to say something about your book not selling well, you might want to go with, “I’m disappointed that this book isn’t doing better, because I was really enthusiastic about it. Oh well, I hope everyone who’s reading it enjoys it!” I have heard from some readers that this kind of thing makes them uncomfortable; I’ll often refer to my fantasy series as “the one nobody read,” and I suppose that can come off a little ungrateful. After all, what about the people who did read it? Are they chopped liver? On the other hand, as someone who thrives on thinking I’ve got access to something secret, I love hearing that I’m a part of something obscure, so I guess it could go either way.

But what Author does here isn’t just, “Oh, my book isn’t performing the way I’d like it to.” She blames her readers for not pre-ordering. She can’t “count” on her loyal readers to boost her numbers and assure list placement anymore, and that’s why she’s disheartened with writing. That seems unfair, and that was her second mistake.  The people Author has a real issue with here are the people who aren’t buying her book. So why shit on the people who did buy it, by accusing them of not delivering on the promise the author assumed the readers have made? Why tell “core fans” that they’ve let you down, instead of saying, “Hey, thanks for buying and enjoying my latest book?”

The third mistake Author made here was to mention that all of her previous thrillers had made the NYT list. As in… none of her thrillers had ever not become New York Times Bestsellers. It is at this point, dear readers, that the patience of pretty much any author would wear thin. Making the New York Times Bestseller list is a dream of every novelist. If they say it isn’t, they’re lying. Everyone who says, “I don’t really care about list placement,” is going to be on the phone with every member of their extended family, their graduating class, and their dentist’s office staff within minutes of hearing that they placed on the list. People go their entire careers without ever getting close to the NYT. It is the very definition of “brass ring” for genre fiction authors. If the worst thing happening in your career is one of your books not making the New York Times Bestsellers list when all the ones before it did, you might wanna reframe your complaint. This comes off a little like Dudley Dursley counting his birthday presents. Or, as one twitter user put it, “But I ALWAYS win first place!”

She goes on to say that those thrillers that did make the NYT “didn’t sell gangbusters.” But they made the New York Times bestseller list. Here’s another tip: keep your career in perspective. You’re always going to feel like you’re not doing well enough, or that you could be selling better. That’s called insecurity, and if you’re a writer, well, congratulations, you have a wealth of it. If your books are becoming New York Times bestsellers, they’re selling well. Unless every other book under you on that list had extremely bad sales all at once, trust me. Your book is selling just fine.

The last tip I want to impart here is, don’t threaten to withhold from your readers. Whether Author intended to or not, she implied that she wouldn’t continue writing her series unless her fan base pre-ordered and got her on a list. And that’s crappy. It’s crappy when an author doesn’t finish a series, anyway–and I should know; I have two unfinished series out there, mea culpa–but it’s extra super crappy when an author claims their bestselling series is in danger because readers aren’t doing enough to directly benefit the author’s wallet.

So, if you’re a writer, or plan on being one, there’s some advice. Do not blast your readers on social media for getting you thirty-six presents this year instead of thirty-seven. And if you do… avoid zoos.

Merlin Club S03E06 “The Changeling” or “If someone doesn’t marry that girl, I will.”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

Continue reading