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We’re probably not terrible for being less than fine.

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Back in February, I bought a new planner. The Recollections goal planner, for those out there who are planner-addicts. I was finally feeling better enough from my breakdown to return to work. I was energized, confident, and so ready to get back to normal. I set it up with all the goals I wanted to achieve. Reasonable goals, with reasonable deadlines. Re-publish my backlist titles that are no longer available? I could do that at a rate of one per month since they’re mostly novellas. Finish The Daughter by April? Of course! Plenty of time! And in the meantime, I’d even set out a plan for how to keep on schedule with Patreon and recaps here. And IDK if anyone noticed but I totally got better at working!

And then the world ended.

Of course, my world stayed roughly the same, with the exception of not having to leave the house for rehearsals or home school activities. After all, I work here all the time. I was expecting to be at home. And hey, don’t I always complain about having to go places? This should be perfect!

Obviously, this whole “shelter in place” thing has been a boon; after all, without having to do pesky things like taking a kid to play practice, I have more time to work on those goals! I could even get ahead!

Picture this: there’s a global crisis killing tens of thousands of people. Millions will be infected by this pandemic. Every news story seems to be, “perfectly healthy human being your exact same age died two days after going to the grocery store, congrats, you’re fucking doomed.” If you live in the U.S., the President of your country may be actively trying to murder you via medical neglect if you happen to live in a state whose governor won’t praise the orange bastard appropriately. Bodies are being stored in temporary morgues made out of reefer trailers and people are dying alone while their families watch them take their last breaths over Skype.

Feeling productive yet?

Now, I know I’m not unique in feeling like I, personally, should be able to weather this nightmare and turn it into a dream come true of productivity and royalties and being a beacon of distraction for readers. Everyone working from home right now seems to be having the same difficulties. These include:

  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Sleeping too much
  • Not sleeping at all
  • Sleeping at weird times
  • Drinking too much
  • Bouncing back and forth between social media platforms and news sites in a non-stop loop
  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to do things that were formerly enjoyable.

Also:

  • Thinking you’re the only person who’s not handling their shit right now, despite all evidence to the contrary.

That last one is especially difficult for people with mental or chronic physical illness, as the drive to appear “normal” or “not lazy” can powerfully fuck with you. I mean, I spent months trying to claw my way up to “normal” things like, “leaving the house” and “focusing long enough to read a whole page of a book at once.” And now it’s just how we live? And I’m supposed to adapt to that?

I know I’m not the only person out there who’s been thrown a curveball by the entire world’s sudden agoraphobia and depression. All those behaviors people strive to correct or suppress are suddenly just what we’re all going through. Some of it is maddening on an, “oh, when the neurotypical, able people need accommodations it’s possible to make them,” level but it also hits a sore spot in the psyche: am I backsliding if this kind of anxiety and lack of executive function is a reasonable and expected part of life? And if it is backsliding, well, shouldn’t I, with my years of therapy and hard work, be better able to navigate this crisis? I have all the tools necessary. IDK, this feels like an excuse.

My friend Jill sometimes reminds me that there’s a difference between an excuse and a reason. If you’re identifying with this post, if you’re seeing things in here and thinking “hashtag mood,” let’s try to remember that this pandemic isn’t an excuse. It’s a reason. It’s the reason everyone is experiencing those delightful mental illness issues like insomnia or jacked up sleep patterns. It’s the reason you’re having a panic attack, not an excuse to capriciously lose it several times a week (or day). Nobody is living this out because they’re lazy and unwilling to try; they’re living it out because the Grim Reaper is gently elbowing us while we’re watching the news and leaning over to whisper, “Hey, how do you like what I did in Italy?”

But it’s still so hard to grasp that failure to function in the middle of a global pandemic is not the same as failure to function because you stopped taking your meds or going to your therapist. Hopefully, when this is all over, one of the lasting lessons for the world at large will be, “now you understand what life is like for the mentally ill and disabled, so please stop being a dick, we’re doing our best.” But for now, the lesson everyone needs to learn, myself included, is that at this particular moment in history, we do not have any power when it comes to keeping our lives normal. Because there is no normal. And that’s not an excuse. It’s a reason. Be kind to yourselves. And remember that if you struggle to function at the best of times, it’s too much to ask of yourself to be at the top of your game in the worst of times.

The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp, Chapter Five

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Need to catch up?

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch: S0407 “The Initiative”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone realizes that she hasn’t written a Buffy recap for over a year but damn, what’s she gonna do, 2019 was a hell of a year. 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?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight/bi female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
  35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
  36. Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.
  37. Buffy is an abusive romantic partner.
  38. Riley is the worst.
  39. Joss Whedon has a problem with fat people.
  40. Spike is an abusive romantic partner.
  41. Why are all these men so terrible?
  42. Wicca doesn’t work like that.
  43. Alcohol is evil.
  44. Head trauma doesn’t work like that.

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 into consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.

And a very merry Half-Price Chocolates Eve to you, dear reader!

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Guess what today is?

IT’S ANNOUNCE ANOTHER BACKLIST RE-RELEASE DAY.

Next up is Double Header, the sequel to Long Relief. Though I no longer write M/M for various reasons, including staying in my own lane, I really liked writing this one way back in 2012 and I’m happy to be able to offer it now as an Amazon exclusive and a free read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Double Header is available for pre-order right now and it will release on February 18!

A sexy, shirtless muscular guy holding a bat. The title "Double Header" appears over his chest and "Abigail Barnette" is printed on the bottom.

When Javier Vargas was traded to the Grand Rapids Bengals, he didn’t just leave his team behind; he turned his back on the love of his life. Now, shortstop Zach Martin is playing for the Bengals, as well, and Javier can’t believe he ever walked away from the scorching heat between them.

Being a Bengal brings its own complications for Zach, who’s tired of never setting down roots. Playing beside Javier, Zach is constantly reminded of their passionate nights—and the pain of his loss.

Javier screwed up one chance with Zach, and he’s not about to let a second one pass him by. With scandals swirling all around the team, Javier has to decide whether to risk the life he’s built for himself or lose the only man he’s ever loved, again.

 

Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

Jealous Haters Book Club: Beautiful Disaster chapter 5 “Parker Hayes” or “Obvious Foil”

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First of all, I was so certain that I had written like eight of these recaps. Then, I went back and read through them to refresh my memory and I realized there were only four. But they’re long, like books on their own, because these chapters are fucking endless. Expect to see shorter chunks going forward every now and then, so I can actually deliver recaps to you.

Since we last met, something interesting happened on Ms. McGuire’s Facebook page back in the day before my mental breakdown. About seventy of you sent me screenshots but unfortunately, I couldn’t get them posted here or make snarky comments about them until after January 1, 2020, in what was already supposed to be The Year of Minding My Own Business.

I guess if someone is mentioned in something, though, it is their business. And I’m a total bitch and am more than willing to keep this boring-ass “literary feud” going because I genuinely dislike this MAGA garbage woman.

A facebook post by McGuire that reads: "Gracie... seriously... you need an intervention. I'm here to help. I haven't had someone follow me around the internet to be my personal social media police since Jenny Trout seemed herself the author patrol. You have enough time for this? That's... kinda sad." She follows it up with a gif of Regina George from Mean Girls saying, "Why are you so obsessed with me?"

I was like,  “Awww, thanks for constantly thinking of me, Jamie!” because our only direct altercation online ever was about her celebrating the fact that one of my publishers wasn’t paying authors and was suing blogger-turned-catfisher Jen Frederick for reporting it on her blog. That entire mess was a thousand years ago (and we mutually blocked each other on all social media that night) and since McGuire is an anti-vax hardcore conservative who’s firmly pro-Kavanaugh, I haven’t really felt the need to keep tabs on her. But somehow, she needed to name-check me in a conflict with another author that arose when McGuire chose to fat shame a child.

No, seriously. This whole thing stemmed from an incident where she questioned whether or not a fat teenaged dancer was really practicing as much as she claimed in an inspirational video because McGuire was certain that no once who danced as much as the girl in the video could possibly be fat. I was not involved in any of it, in any way. I hadn’t even heard of the associated drama. If I’m Quebec, she’s Rio de Janeiro, that’s how far apart we are where social media is concerned.  But wow, she sure jumped to my name. Maybe “fat” is just a concept she associates with me in her mind.

My only thought here was that McGuire hoped she could bait me into joining her fat-shaming drama, but the author who went full Wolverine on her ass did a fine enough job. So, all McGuire achieved was yet another self-delivered blow to her public image.

But in her defense, I’ve heard that clown college is actually quite stressful.

On to the recap!

“We all have a lawyer friend!”

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This is going to be quick and dirty, everyone. It started out as a Twitter thread that got too long. But I think it’s important.

I need to address something that is going to sound like an attack on specific individuals. I promise, it’s not. Because it’s not those specific individuals I see doing this. Keep that in mind as you read this post.

With the RWA stuff going on, we keep seeing a lot of tweets that say, “Don’t people know how many LAWYERS we have in the romance genre?!” They’re right. There are a lot of lawyers in romance.

But there are more people with working-class jobs.

While it’s awesome that we have people well-versed in the law who are willing to throw their knowledge into the ring as a tool to help the genre, it’s starting to feel a little bit like, “See, we’re valid because we have smart lawyer-type people!” Yes, the genre has been dismissed as, “Oh, those are written by bored housewives.” But just because that’s used as a dismissal by other people doesn’t mean we should throw those bored housewives under the bus in order to convince people that the genre is valid. Because here’s the thing: those people you’re screaming “LAWYERS! LAWYERS! LAWYERS!” at? They’re not listening anyway. They’re never going to change their opinions.

And the people I don’t see tossing around, “LAWYERS! LAWYERS! LAWYERS!” seem to be…the lawyers. It’s almost like they view their profession as a normal human job and not a paid superhero position and don’t see their involvement in the genre as the sole reason it’s a force to be reckoned with.

It’s starting to really sound like, “Romance isn’t THOSE people. It’s SMART people.” As if bored housewives, people who don’t go to college, disabled people who turn to writing when they’ve been denied access to or accommodation for secondary education, etc. can’t be as creative and intelligent as everyone else. As if the only way our work deserves respect and acknowledgment is if we can disavow the reality that there are far, far more people who come home from working at a supermarket or a daycare to squeeze a few hours of writing in between dinner and bedtime. If we removed their contributions to the genre, the shelves would be bare. There is room to celebrate and be proud of the genre without ignoring the diverse backgrounds and circumstances that led each of us to become romance authors.

And it’s a hell of a lot more intimidating if we frame ourselves as sleeper agents that have infiltrated the courts, factories, farms, schools, and families.

State of the Trout: New Year, Not-New Book! And other business-type things you know I don’t like to talk about.

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Hey everybody! It’s the very first day of 2020, and most of us are looking into the next decade with a “clean slate” mindset with regards to our resolutions for the roaring twenties. Today was the day I had planned to get back to running but it turns out I’ve just left my running clothes hanging up in the bathroom since the last time I used them way back in September. They needed a wash back then, too, let me tell you. Since Facebook tells me it’s bad luck to do laundry on New Year’s Day and OCD tells me that’s probably true and I’m putting my whole family at risk if I dare to clean the only sports bra I have that fits me, I guess I’ll be putting the miles off until tomorrow. I’m pretty nervous, truth be told; I haven’t run since breaking my foot. I’m a little afraid that I’ll start out and like four steps in the whole thing will break again.

But that’s not why I’m here today. My running goals and broken foot don’t really affect you. You’re probably wondering why I even told you about them. Because my family is tired of hearing about it. That’s why.

Anywho, I told myself I would also come back to work on January 1st, and here we are. With actual, real work to present to you. If it had required a load of laundry, I wouldn’t be here. Just keep that in mind.

Back in the early days of the ’10s, I wrote a series of baseball romances for an indie publisher. Later, I got the rights back and intended to republish them but I’m very much like Walt Disney in that I like my head to be cold and also I keep moving forward. Going back to work on something I already wrote feels like rolling backward. But one of my resolutions for the year and the rest of my career, basically, is to treat my business more like a business and make those tough business decisions that won’t keep everybody happy. As a result, any backlist that I release is going to be Amazon-only. Not because I don’t appreciate my readers on other platforms but because the amount of time and frustration I invest in putting work on other platforms (I am easily overwhelmed, friends) has actually held me back from re-releasing the old work that I could be making money from. So, please don’t hate me as I re-release my old stuff on a single platform. I still plan on selling new work wide.

So, back to that baseball romance I was telling you about:

Close-up portrait of muscular man posing with a bat under the title, "Long Relief" and the author's name, "Abigail Barnette."

Billionaire entrepreneur Maggie Harper has lived and breathed baseball since birth. But being the coach’s daughter never prepared her for team ownership, and all the business savvy in the world can’t help her navigate the complications from a sizzling one-night stand with a player who definitely wants something more.

After pitching a disastrous game that cost the Bengals the championship pennant, veteran reliever Chris Thomas knows his days as a player are numbered. There are more important things to be worried about than the sexy new team owner, but Maggie’s hot-and-cold act is driving him to distraction. A woman has never come between him and the game before, but now he has to make a choice between his love of playing ball and his rapid fall for Maggie.

Caught between doing what’s right for the team and what’s right for them, Maggie and Chris have to decide what’s more important: a championship season, or a chance at love?

Preorder now at Amazon.com!

Long Relief will be out January 7th, so I hope those of you who don’t already own it haven’t spent up all your Amazon gift cards yet.

So, with that, this State of the Trout is concluded. Happy New Year, and gosh, I really hope 2020 is gonna be great for everybody in Trout Nation.