Nothing left for a dreamer now/Only one final serenade

“And these are the last words I have to say
It’s always hard to say goodbye
But now it’s time to put this book away” -Billy Joel, “Famous Last Words”

When I was at the lowest point in my career, on food stamps, depressed, suicidal, I got a phone call from my agent. She had a line on some work-for-hire, and she asked if I would be interested in it. It wasn’t going to pay great, but it would pay for Christmas presents, at least. I told her I would talk to the guy looking for a writer, and tried not to get my hopes up.

That guy, Nick Harris, called me a few days later. He sounded like the narrator from those old Paddington Bear shows. He had an idea, and it sounded brilliant. Hamlet and Romeo as ghostbuster-type characters. Once I hung up, I realized how ridiculous that idea sounded, I think his accent just made it sound really smart. But he was enthusiastic about working with me, we seemed to be on the same page in terms of how we developed ideas, and he believed I was capable of bringing his idea to life.

Over the span of a few months, with the input of my agent, Miriam Kriss, we shaped that original idea into the book Such Sweet Sorrow. And over those months, I had one of the worst mental health crashes of my life. And I got a call from Nick, making sure I was okay, telling me not to stress about the project, that my health was more important, and he would still be ready to work with me once I was better.

We did work together more. First, on the sequel to Such Sweet Sorrow, then on a few television ideas. For the first time in a long, long time, someone actually believed in my abilities and didn’t see me as a failure. And I wasn’t the only person he showed this kind of enthusiastic faith to. He believed in all sorts of writers he worked with, and all sorts of projects. He seemed to just love to create, and genuinely admired people who had that in common. Another person who worked with him said she felt he created opportunities where there were obstacles. That might be the best explanation of what it was like to work with Nick.

I found out on Friday that Nick passed away. I knew he had cancer, but every time we communicated at all, he would insist that nothing had changed, he was just going to have some chemo, he would be back in the office in a week. It was always “in a week.” The last time he told me that was in February, when I told him I thought it wasn’t a great idea to start a graphic novel project right now. I didn’t want to create another project when he had other things to worry about. I figured we would just work on it when the whole cancer thing was over. It never once occurred to me that that there was another possible outcome to cancer being “over,” mostly because he was so cheerful about downplaying it. Like he had the flu or something.

It’s a bummer, when someone you’ve worked with building a whole fictional world is gone, and you’re the only person left who really knows it from the inside. Combining our ideas was exciting and fun, even when we disagreed on stuff. Going back to edit the sequel is going to be like going back to an empty room. It’s incredibly hard to believe I’m never going to get another phone call with a borderline insane idea on the other end of the line. Or that I’ll never stay up all night working on something, only to send it to him and have him suggest we scrap the whole thing and work on this other thing instead, and can I get it finished by tomorrow? Or show him something I think is crap, only to have him tell me how amazing it is. He believed in me and my abilities when a lot of people didn’t, and I never told him how much that means to me.

You know, writing is a business, and I say that over and over again, but in this business, we’re all idiots if we think we don’t affect each others’ lives when we develop these connections. Fiction is personal. It takes trust and faith to share your work with someone else, and to believe that they’re going to respect you creatively. So, all of my writer friends, my editors, bloggers I know, readers, everybody who had touched me through writing, I just really appreciate you. And I don’t want to pass up the chance to tell you that. So, since I didn’t get a chance to tell him how much that connection matters to me, I’m telling you, before I have to say goodbye to any other amazing people without having the chance to say it: I appreciate you.

Nick Harris supported the charity The Rape Foundation, so I’m leaving the link here for donation-minded folks.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E17, “Passion”

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone really doesn’t want to do this episode, in a very real, very visceral way. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it. 

Continue reading

THE BABY release date and FIRST TIME cover, release date, and pre-order!

Okay! So everyone has been asking, and now I’m telling you: The Baby will be out on November 10, 2015.

Now, for news about First TimeWe have a cover:

First Time New Cover

 

The book will be out August 4, 2015, and it’s available for pre-order from the following retailers:

First Time (Ian’s Story)

Barnes & Noble iBooks • Smashwords

First Time (Penny’s Story)

Barnes & Noble • iBooks • Smashwords

Pre-orders for Kobo and Amazon are still coming (Amazon has different requirements for pre-orders, otherwise I’d have it up now), and Penny’s book will be on Barnes & Noble soon!

State Of The Trout: “Don’t Mess With…Textrout? Trout..sex? Ass sex? I don’t know” edition

Tomorrow I’ll be on a plane, flying to the great state of Texas for the first of two Texas trips in May. This time, I’m headed to Dallas, for the Romantic Times convention. There are several ways to meet me this week:

THE GIANT BOOK FAIR! Come to the Dallas Hyatt Regency at 300 Reunion blvd between 11am and 2pm on Saturday, May 16th, for the giant book fair. There will be tons of authors in attendance, including me! Swing by my table for swag and stuff.

EDIT: I was unaware that there was a $10 cover fee for the giant book fair. So just heads up.

IF YOU ARE ATTENDING THE ROMANTIC TIMES CONVENTION, I WILL BE IN CLUB RT THURSDAY AND FRIDAY AT 2PM.

SUPER BIG IMPORTANT SWAG NEWS

IF YOU COME OUT AND SEE ME, EITHER IN CLUB RT OR AT THE BOOK FAIR, YOU WILL RECEIVE A BOUND KEEPSAKE BOOK WITH THE COVER AND SNEAK PEEK OF FIRST TIME

I WILL ALSO HAVE “PROPERTY OF NEIL ELWOOD” BRACELETS AND I’LL BE REVEALING THE RELEASE DATE FOR THE BABY!

SUPER BIG IMPORTANT BOOK NEWS!

Not only will I be revealing the cover and a first-look at First Time at the Romantic Times convention, I’ll be revealing the cover right here on the blog and the Trout Nation newsletter (sign up link is in the menu bar) on Monday, May 19th.  I’ll also be revealing the release date for The Baby at the same time.

SUPER BIG EVEN IMPORTANT-ER BOOK NEWS!

THE BOSS COMES TO AUDIO! The audio book version of The Boss releases on May 26th from Tantor Media, narrated by CJ Bloom!

First Time pre-sale! Pre-sale orders for First Time open this week for iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo (sorry, Amazon buyers, due to KDP requirements, your pre-order probably won’t start until July). More information when it’s available!

That’s all the news that’s fit to print! Follow me on Twitter (@jenny_trout) to get updates from the Romantic Times convention. This should be fun!

Wednesday Blogging: Favorite Beauty Products

I haven’t done Wednesday blogging in a while. What can I say? I have commitment problems. But this Wednesday, I have the opportunity to tell you all about my favorite beauty products. So I’m about to.

Note: As I started writing this, I realized I started to fall in and out Sophie’s voice. Sophie’s entire personality is the part of me that cares deeply for indulgent goodies and stuff that paints up your face like a goddamn work of art.

The Perfect Red Lipstick

You know what I love about red lipstick? Even if you have no other makeup on, even if your hair is in a scrunchie you’ve had since 1991 and you haven’t showered in three days because your hot water heater is broken, red lipstick transforms you into a deity of pure, attractive badassitude. But finding the right red? Ha, good luck. But last fall, I found two amazing shades of red that look perfect on me.

mrs mia wallace viva glam

Urban Decay’s “Mrs. Mia Wallace,” from their Pulp Fiction collection, and MAC’s “Viva Glam Rihanna 1.” One or both are always in my purse.

Eye Liner Pens

I will never use pencil or gel again. Whoever invented the eye liner pen, which is a very fine felt-tip marker with eye liner instead of ink. My favorite is Stila’s “Stay All Day” waterproof eyeliner.

stila eye liner

 

I love to do cat eyes and wings, but when I was using gel, it was anyone’s guess how it would turn out, and pencil rubbed right off. This thing? This thing is pro. It’s not as dark as Urban Decay’s eyeliner pen, but I’ve always found that the Urban Decay pen gives you a very finite amount of time to do your lines, or it starts lifting as you overlap the color. This, you can go over and over the line until it’s just right, and it’s much easier to remove in case of mistakes.

Bubble Bars

Lush bubble bars leave your skin soft and smelling amazing. Also, lots and lots of bubbles, for taking bathtub selfies while you’re high and sending them to all of your friends.

brightside

 

Eyeshadow Primer

Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion is the best primer I’ve ever used. If I fall into bed without taking my makeup off (i.e., every single time I wear makeup), my eyeshadow, eyeliner, it’s all still on, pretty much perfect when I wake up in the morning. It’s sorcery.

primer potion

 

Eyelash Curler

The only eyelash curler I’ve ever purchased that didn’t make me furious within four or five uses.  Yay, Tarte!

eyelash curlerBonus? It comes with a free sample of their Lights, Camera, Lashes mascara. Which is also in the running for my favorite mascara of all time.

Three Hundred Dollar Face Cream

Okay, let’s just establish that this is not something that I bought. It was given to me as a gift from a website I was writing for. And I will never, ever have it again:

 

This shit was something else. It made my face so tight, I thought I would never age. I used a spatula to get the very last dregs out of the jar. Because there is no way, even if I won the lottery, there is no fucking way I will ever, ever have any of this again. I could not even bring myself to spend that much money on it when I can get some off-brand Oil of Olay shit for nine bucks.

Wanna know what the other Wednesday bloggers picked as their favorites? Check out their entries:

Bronwyn Green • Jessica Jarman • Gwendolyn Cease • Kayliegh Jones • Kellie St. James • Jessica De La Rosa • Kris Norris • Paige Prince

 

Joss Whedon, “Kill Yourself,” And Creative Responsibility

EDIT: Joss Whedon has spoken out about why he left Twitter, and it isn’t because of death threats or “social justice warriors.” However, I stand by my assertion that no matter who you are or what your reason is, telling people to kill themselves isn’t acceptable for any reason.

If you’re a nerd (and you probably are, because you’re here), you already know two things:

  1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron sucked hard and insulted basically every marginalized group on the planet
  2. Joss Whedon, director of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, deleted his Twitter account following a barrage of negative tweets about the movie.

Valid criticisms of the film poured into Whedon’s Twitter mentions–many of them regarding the role of Scarlett Johansson’s character, Black Widow, as well as a rape joke that made the film’s final cut. But with that criticism came some abusive language, purportedly driven by feminists who threatened physical violence and encouraged Whedon to kill himself.

I am never reluctant to point out that Joss Whedon, fan-appointed feminist savior of nerd culture, writes, well, exactly how a white man who’s been raised to the pedestal of blameless authority on all social issues would write. There are so many problems in his work and his interactions with fans. Here are some of his greatest hits:

  • Killing off mostly LGBTQA+/PoC/women in his canon
  • Blatant colonialism
  • Rape jokes
  • The physically-strong-but-emotionally-broken female character trope
  • Persistent self-insert “Nice Guy” characters
  • Women who die to give male characters Man Pain
  • Transphobia
  • Strong disregard of the concerns expressed by fans regarding all of the above.

Surely there are some I’m glossing over here, but I think this gets the point across: Joss Whedon is a deeply problematic fixture of nerd culture. When before his thoughts on feminism and LGBTQA+ issues had real weight with his fans, now his audience has found the footing to speak for themselves–and to speak against him. And they’re right to. Whedon has been open to discourse with fans; to disengage from critical discussion on issues like feminism and gay rights while accepting praise for his allegedly progressive attitudes is hypocritical and condescending.

But this weekend, some weren’t looking for a discussion. They were looking to vent their anger in violent ways. Feminists have been blamed for these tweets. I don’t think that’s true. While it’s entirely possible to identify yourself as a feminist and still exhibit toxic behavior, too many of the insults and threats tweeted at Whedon were of the “up your ass” variety. In my experience on the internet, it’s generally young heterosexual men who resort to threats of anal penetration. I do not, in any way, believe that the bulk of these threats were sent by women. It’s also not unusual for the usual suspects (4Chan, Reddit, Gamer Gate) to adopt the language of activists in order to express extreme positions in an effort to discredit “social justice warriors.” They’re also fond of creating sock puppet accounts on social media. I suspect that was the case in eighty percent of these abusive tweets.

I did see plenty of critical engagement by fans, in the form of questions about the choices Whedon made (many are neatly outlined in this article by Kyle Wagner). I am in no way condemning these fans or accusing them of “bullying” Whedon off of Twitter. They were simply demanding accountability, and deserved answers. But after countless “remember when” and “friendly reminder” posts in which all of Whedon’s past offenses were tallied, the conversation seemed far less, “these are things Joss Whedon has done wrong,” and more, “this is why Joss Whedon deserved not just the criticism, but the abuse he received.”

I have a lot of radical views. The belief that privileged people deserve death threats as a response to their privilege is not one of them. Maybe this sounds like tone policing. It probably is tone policing. People in marginalized groups receive threats and suggestions of suicide every single day, simply for expressing their opinions. As someone who has received her fair share, I see the marked difference between hatred for the expression of personal truth and criticism for problematic media and the creators of it. Whedon was not receiving threats for simply existing, which is what social media activists face every day. But that doesn’t lessen the severity, in my mind.

As a person who has been suicidal before, and whose family was tragically impacted by suicide, I view “kill yourself” and expression of violent ableism when used as an insult. Suicide is not a deserved punishment for the creation of problematic media. It is a disease. To suggest otherwise is to cast aspersions at everyone who has ever struggled with suicidal thoughts, or who have succumbed to the disease. What horrible thing have we done, that we deserved those thoughts? That some of us deserved to die for? Why is suicide considered a fitting humiliation for someone who has done wrong? Especially considering the fact that Joss Whedon has, in the past, admitted to suffering from panic and anxiety attacks? In what social justice philosophy is sending these messages to a person already struggling with mental illness acceptable?

This is not to say that Whedon deserves a pass for the misogynist, transphobic, rape apologist comments and content he is responsible for. The social justice landscape Whedon stepped onto with his early work has evolved into a world where he no longer speaks the language, nor holds a place of importance, and he has resisted this reality time and again, instead of changing his behavior and creations. Rather than ignoring his critics, he would do well to listen to them, and to take responsibility for the harm his actions have caused to people who aren’t comfortably enjoying white heterosexual cisgender male privilege. But celebrating threats and intimidation as a victory or accepting it as a part of activism when directed at an individual isn’t my idea of social justice at all.

Think critically about who the driving force behind that abuse might be, and what they have to gain from your defense of them. Men’s Rights Activists are right now carefully collecting those receipts to use against activists later. Consider the ableism that you’re supporting when you brush off “kill yourself” as a fitting response to an argument, and how that hurts not just the target, but normalizes the perception of suicide as a shameful act, rather than a fatal illness. And leaving all that aside, continue to demand accountability from creators of problematic media.

Thank you.

Don’t Forget Your Second Wind

Today, I am happy to report, I am no longer legally Jennifer Lynne Armintrout. I am Jenny Gallifrey Joel Trout.

If you’re new here, you might be unaware that my real name was Jennifer Lynne Armintrout. You may also be unaware that I used to be a bestselling author under that name. And then everything went to shit.

Like I said, I’ve gotten a lot better. Like, no longer suicidal better. However, a few years of returning to fast food work where I prayed my coworkers wouldn’t find out that I was a failed writer and trying to keep my kids from realizing how poor we were while getting near daily emails congratulating me on big contracts and movie deals that were not mine really soured me on the experience of being Jennifer Armintrout. And let’s just throw on there how much bullying I got as a kid for having that name. Even after things got so much better (and in case I don’t thank you guys enough for that, thank you) and I changed my professional name to Jenny Trout, it still kind of sucked having my past failure and years long mental breakdown hanging over my head every time I signed a check.

So, I changed it. And I threw in nods to some of the things that saved me. Like, The Doctor. As a fully obsessed Doctor Who fan,  I strive to live my life every day like a person The Doctor would be proud of. Hence, I chose Gallifrey as the first of my two new middle names. Gallifrey is the planet the Time Lords hail from, so I thought, “Why not?”

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” – The Doctor

And Joel. You guys know where “Joel” comes from. While I’m convinced that at least 50% of you think I’m just joking about my religious worship of Billy Joel, I’m totally not. His music has saved me and shaped so much of the way I live my life now. He’s helped me through so many bad days. He’s changed the way I view my own life and mortality. Lessons I’ve learned from his music and his outlook on life have made me a better person, a more functioning person, and above all, a person who is content with myself and my life. I will probably never get a chance to thank him for that, and there’s no real way I could put the depth of my gratitude into words, at least, into not creepy words that wouldn’t result in a PPO. And maybe it’s creepy to give myself that middle name–no, wait, it’s definitely creepy. But total stranger or not, Mr. Joel is a very big part of my life, and since I’m trying to wash away some bad memories of the past by letting go of the person I used to be, I thought it was apt.

“But I survived all those long lonely days
When it seemed I did not have a friend
Cause all I needed was a little faith
So I could catch my breath and face the world again” – Billy Joel, “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)

So, here I am. Jenny Gallifrey Joel Trout. Living my life, getting my fresh start (well, adding to my already ongoing fresh start) and not being victimized by circumstances beyond my control anymore.

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