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:

chelsea cain 1

 

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.

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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E12 “Bad Eggs”

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone is seriously, so bloated from pie right now. 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.

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. 
Before we go any further with this recap, I need to share my gender swap Giles cosplay with you all:genderswap giles You can’t see it in the picture, but underneath that tight white shirt, I’m wearing a leopard print bra. Because you know Giles has a little freak in him. Also, yes. That is the Handbook for The Recently Deceased in my hand. It seems like a Watcher would have a copy of that for emergencies.

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Trout Nation, The Phillips Family Needs You!

Hey everybody! Today, Alisha comes to you with a plea for help for her friends:

Hello, fellow denizens of the Trout Nation! My name is Alisha, and Jenny has graciously agreed to lend me space on her blog in the name of charity. Hail the Trout!

Now with the serious: This past Sunday, some dear friends of mine lost their house in a fire. Jamie, Ivan, and daughters Laci and Jaylie were just enjoying some barbeque and watching football with a group of friends … when a faulty propane tank set the house ablaze. Thankfully, everyone got out safely (Ivan was burned, but he’s okay). The fire fighters were able to rescue the family pets (yay!) and put the blaze out, but not before severe damage was done to the house, rendering it uninhabitable. Between heat, smoke, and water damage, most of the family’s belongings were destroyed as well.

I feel like shaking my fist at the gods and screaming, because it makes me so angry that this happened to THIS family – they are just the best kind of people, truly the kind of friends you can always count on, and I want to help them get back on their feet! To that end, I’m asking people to visit their online fundraiser at Give Forward (https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/khq5/the-phillips-family-fire-recovery-fund). There are more details there about the fire and also what the funds will be used for.

I know a lot of us are struggling financially and there are always a lot of causes to give to, so I appreciate Jenny giving me this blog space for my friends. If you can donate any amount, know it’s going to truly deserving people. Whether you can donate or not, please share the link if you can. Thank you!

Some of you may remember way, way back in the day when we raised $1,000.00 to help out Lin and Frank. At the time, I’d only made plans to recap the first 50 Shades of Grey book, but I promised that if we raised that $1K, I would recap the second two. And I made good on that promise. So today, I’m pledging that if the Phillips make their $5,000.00 goal, when the published version of After comes out in October, I will recap it.

If the idea of After recaps appeals to you, spread that link far and wide. If you can, maybe donate a little. For a family who’s lost everything, $5,000.00 is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s help the Phillips family get back on their feet.

State of The Trout: Rabies Edition

“Jenny!” you might be scolding me. “You haven’t been blogging or updating things like, at all! What is wrong with you?”

Rabies. Or, more accurately, avoidance of rabies. If you follow me on Twitter (@Jenny_Trout), you may remember the bat excitement we had a couple weeks ago. Over a period of four nights, we had like, four or five bats. It may sound like something that would be easy to count, but after waiting for nightly battle like a stronghold under siege, ones’ memory gets murky. Anyway, since there were bats hanging out in our living space, not paying rent, possibly biting us in the night, we’re all having post exposure rabies vaccination. Which is fun for the whole family!

I’ve also been hard at work on various projects, including The Afflicted, which is long overdue for an update, and a Buffy recap, which is also long overdue, but I am now more than half finished with. I’m also plugging ahead hard to get The Ex finished. It is also more than halfway finished. But you’ll get the Buffy recap first.

Other things I have been doing are A) having something amazing happen to me in Chicago that I cannot share with you until I get permission from the Powers That Be, and B) knitting to calm my raging anxiety. Also, guesting on Doing It By The Book, where we talked about 50 Shades of Grey. If you guys have missed my snark, click that link. Apparently it’s been welling up in my diseased little heart since I quit doing my recaps, and KABOOM. Snarkcano.

I’ll have book news and a cover for The Ex really soon.

What are you guys up to?

The Sexual Violence of Non-consensual Nudity

Nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and several other young female celebrities were leaked on the internet today. That one sentence will elicit several responses. Some people will rush off to Google, to sate their curiosity. Some people will gleeful denounce her as a “slut” or think something to the effect of, “Well, she shouldn’t have taken them if she didn’t want people to see.” And only a very few people will feel sympathy for her, and recognize what distributing nude photographs without the subject’s express consent truly is: sexual assault.

The subject of nude selfies isn’t new. It’s been covered from so many angles, it’s practically a dodecahedron. Underaged girls sending their underaged boyfriends explicit photos of themselves have been accused of producing child pornography. Men sending unsolicited pictures of their genitals via text message has become so commonplace as to become the new normal. And if there’s a hot young actress or singer who hasn’t yet bared her body to our collective gaze through traditional media, there’s almost always discussion of how she’ll look “when her nudes leak.” We’ve become a society that feels entitled to the nudity of others; consent is not required, just as long as we get our fill of flesh.

The moment Lawrence’s private photos went on public display, social media erupted. Some Twitter users praised her body. Some criticized her figure. Neither seems an appropriate reaction to a gross invasion of privacy. Others bemoaned the low quality of the photos; this line of reasoning implies that if Lawrence was going to pose in the buff, she should have had the courtesy to provide us with the highest calibre revenge porn.

An overwhelming majority–mostly male–responded with images implying that they had ejaculated upon seeing the pictures, and jokes about uncontrollable masturbation. Confusing their personal sexual gratification for a genuine compliment seems to be the particular forte of heterosexual men. Some excitedly shared those images, but announced that they’d lost respect for the actress for taking the pictures they were so shamelessly enjoying.

Victim blaming runs thick in situations such as these. “If she didn’t want those pictures on the internet, she shouldn’t have taken them.” In other words, the price of these women’s private expressions of sexuality and joyous celebration of their bodies is public humiliation. Very little is said about the people stealing and releasing these photos, beyond the occasional words of gratitude to them for serving up what we are presumably owed.

“Don’t send nudes,” we tell our daughters, rather than telling our sons, “Don’t violate the privacy of a woman who trusted you enough to share herself with you in a playfully sexual context.” We don’t teach our children not to revel in revenge porn, we teach them to put boundaries on their sexual expression, to hide their bodies away, because that’s where the real shame is. Baring another human on a public stage for ridicule and critique is an excusable, even understandable, action.

We don’t tell our sons, “Don’t send people photos of your penis if they haven’t told you they’re okay with it.” It has become commonplace for men to send photos of their genitals in misguided attempts to woo potential partners, or to retaliate against some perceived wrong a woman has inflicted upon them. Why these men see romance and spite as two scenarios deserving of the same response is never examined. In fact, many men seem utterly baffled when their advances aren’t welcomed. “What do you mean you don’t want to see my penis? What are you, some kind of uptight feminist? Some kind of lesbian?”

Perhaps the most offensive aspect of our conflicting attitudes toward nudity and the importance of consent is that while women are derided for their own exploitation, the actions of a man forcing images of his genitals upon his victims are utterly erased when the tables are turned and his behavior is exposed.

As with all cases of sexual violence against women, we look so hard for ways to place responsibility on the victim, or to minimize the harm done to her. “It’s not rape rape,” people will argue. “It’s not like it hurt her.” Having aggressive male sexuality forced upon them is something women are expected to ignore, no matter how degraded they feel. Seeing their bodies thrown on the pyre of public scrutiny is something they deserve, their nude photos the scarlet letter that will brand them for the sin of having sexual urges or confidence in their bodies. “It serves her right, for treating a nice guy like dirt,” we say of revenge porn. “She was a bitch,” is accepted as reasonable justification for inflicting sexual harm.

Sharing photos of naked partners who did not consent to the release of their image, or sending explicit photos to people who did not consent to view them, is sexual violence. If a man walked up to a woman on the street and exposed himself, he would be arrested. If someone broke into another person’s house and took something that didn’t belong to them, it would be theft. A man who bragged about spying on a naked woman and masturbating while doing so may find himself on a public registry of sex offenders. Until we consider the violation of our digital privacy on par with the violation of our physical spaces, we perpetuate a cycle that encourages us to view female sexuality with scorn, and overt displays of sexual aggression from men as normal. There are only three appropriate responses to this problem: disgust at the perpetrators, unconditional support for the victims, and refusal to reward with praise and attention those who find entertainment in the exploitation and humiliation of women.

Merlin Club S03E05 “The Crystal Cave” or “Ewww OH MY GOD THAT’S HER DAD? That’s fucking gross, dude! AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO’S GROSSED OUT HERE?”

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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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Best Of: Recent Spam Comments

Of all the dubious titles that fall under the umbrella designation of “Blog Owner,” “Comment Moderator” is probably my least favorite. See, back when I was running off of Word Press’s own site, and not running my own site with a WP plug-in, I never had to worry about spam comments. They just kind of slipped into a net of Word Press’s own design, and if I did get one, I could just magically remove it.

Now, things are different. I have to go in and moderate my spam comments, because comments from you get sucked in there, sometimes. That’s not so bad, but if I want to avoid the comments, say on some really contentious post about a pop song that I didn’t realize was a holy text or something, I can’t do that. I have to go in and sort them out. And I approve them all, even if they’re nasty and rude, because I don’t want to be that disingenuous person who tries to make it seem like everyone believes the sun shines out of her ass.

There is one good part of spam comment moderating. I get to read all the spam comments. Usually, you can tell if it’s spam from the dummy email address, which will invariably have “Louis Vuitton” or “Oakley Cheap” in them. But sometimes, oh, sometimes, you strike spam comment gold:

outside Mike Rust’s ramshackle compound tucked into the base of Copper Butte, you can just make out Great Sand Dunes National Park, 60 miles east across Colorado’s expansive San Luis Valley. The dunes form when southwest winds whip up sand on the valley floor that was left behind when ancient lakes receded. Here a saddle in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains stalls the gusts, allowing the sands to accumulate.

That’s downright poetic, for something attached to a comment pushing knock-off Nikes.

Sometimes, spam shows up to make you feel good about yourself:

Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a material!

existing here at this webpage, thanks admin of this website.

You’re welcome, Spamtron3000! It’s nice to feel appreciated.

If you’re trying to plan an event, spam comments are there for you, too:

I’m not kidding myself. My voice alone is just an ordinary voice. What people come to see is how I use it. Invitations are your chance to make a great first impression on your guests. Use homemade rock themed invitations to set the party off on the right note. A simple ticket design is ideal for a rock party.

Huh. I’ve never thought of throwing a rock party. But the philosophical bent at the beginning of the comment makes me realize that if I use my ordinary voice, alone, I am never truly alone, because I have lots of friends at my party:

This club is jumpin' off tonight! (That's a thing youths say, right?)

This club is jumpin’ off tonight! (That’s a thing youths say, right?)

At other times, I’m disturbed by the dystopian hell-world these comments describe:

officials told Newswatch 16 this error around the time of the fire may lead to a personnel issue. Right now, they aren talking about what specifically happened. Should die. In their shows they tossed hula hoops into the audience, encouraging people to do the hoop dance (13). The new combination of music dance and fitness weight loss exercises (especially music videos) has made the fitness programs more appealing to the people. Especially, the people who were not internally motivated enough to do physical exercises routinely on a daily or weekly basis became more interested in doing physical exercise by joining the group dance fitness programs.

Wait, so… did “the hoop dance” start the fire? Are the people who are are doing the hoop dance the ones who “Should die.”? Or the people who are enforcing the hoop dancing? I’m so confused, and frankly, pretty frightened.

Other comments find my already dense, novel-length posts too brief for their liking:

I do trust all the ideas you have presented for your post.
They are very convincing and can definitely work.

Nonetheless, the posts are very brief for novices.
Could you please lengthen them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

Awww yeah. Spambot can’t get enough of the J.

The J, by the way, is like my version of “the D.” Because I’m Peggy Hill and I have to change everything to say my name in it.

Spam comments may seem pretty useless, but check this out:

North Korea relies heavily on China for food and fuel aid and many consumer products. Chinese companies are the main investors in North Korean mining, and the sides recently signed agreements on road building and jointly developing an industrial park on an island near the Chinese city of Dandong.

See? You didn’t know that before. I’m not sure if it’s true, and I don’t know when I’ll use this information, but now I know it! It may have replaced something important in the finite storage capacity of my brain–WHEE! I DON’T KNOW LONG DIVISION ANYMORE!–but it was free learnin’ and you can’t get much better than that.

The next time you see me on twitter, raging about the sometimes ridiculous, pretentious, often hateful and degrading comments I have to plow through to separate the real people wheat from the spam chaff, don’t worry about me. I have a bunch of delightful spam to experience. And a rock party to throw.