State of The Trout: Lone Star State edition

Hey everybody! Time for yet another random round up of stuff that’s happening in my world!

Chapter 15 of The Afflicted is now available on Wattpad! The Afflicted is a New Adult historical horror serial that’s absolutely free to read on the Wattpad platform. Chapter fifteen is up now, and you can read it here.

Okay, but before you rush off to read it, stick with me, especially if you live in Texas.

I’ll be making two big stops in Texas in May!

The Romantic Times Book Lover’s Convention, May 13-17, Hyatt Regency, Dallas
I know not everyone can afford this conference, but there is a giant book fair on Saturday the 16th from 12pm-2pm with literally hundreds of authors, and it’s open to the public. I’ll post more detailed information next week, but if you want to come out and meet me (and the reclusive Mr. Jen!), pencil that in.

If you are going to be in attendance at the convention, come out and see me at Club RT at 2pm on both Thursday and Friday of the convention! I’ll be hanging there with some Trout Nation swag, and (fingers crossed) possibly a very cool surprise that will also benefit readers right here on the ole blogerino.

Austin Author Affair, May 22-24, Renaissance Hotel, Austin
This is another fantastic conference that will also have a public signing, from 12pm-5pm. It’s also going to be a fantastic weekend that won’t cost a lot and will have…brace yourself…karaoke. Which I will totally do, because I don’t have any shame.

I will probably sing a Billy Joel song. And you’ll have to live with that memory.

If you’re nearby either of these locales, be sure to come by and say hello! At a conference last week, someone told me that in person, I am exactly like my blog. I don’t know if I’m telling you that to reassure you, or caution you.

Speaking of last weekend: At the Kent District Library writer’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan last weekend, I met a really, really amazing guy. His name is Mike Ball, he’s an award-winning humorist with some legit credentials. Like many funny people, Mike has a big heart. He works with Lost Voices, an organization that reaches out to at-risk and incarcerated youth, teaching them to funnel their emotions and experiences into original pieces of music and poetry. The stories of the children he has met were so moving, I asked him if he would consider coming onto the blog sometime and sharing more about the organization, but while we figure out those details, I highly encourage you to check out the Lost Voices website and see what they’re doing to improve and protect the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable children.

I’ll also being doing another convention this summer, Authors After Dark in Atlanta, GA. I’ll have lots more information on this one right here on Wednesday, so stay tuned.

That’s all this for time! Resume normal operations.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E16 “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”

BIG DAMN JENNY MET A BUFFY CAST MEMBER ANNOUNCEMENT OF GREAT AND TERRIBLE IMPORTANCE!

This is so exciting, guys. SO exciting. For the first time ever, I met a Buffy The Vampire Slayer cast member. I ALMOST met K Todd Freeman (Mr. Trick) once, but  fate was not on my side that night and I ended up standing outside the stage door of Wicked in Chicago clutching my season three DVDs for nothing. So when I found out that Amber Benson was going to be at The Novel Experience Event in Las Vegas, I was so excited. And also afraid that I would fangirl out and make her run away.

blurry amber benson selfie woooo!

She did not.

Guys, if you get a chance to meet Amber Benson, meet Amber Benson. She is a wonderful person who is genuinely grateful for fans of the show (the selfie above? Was her idea. After I told her I do a Buffy recap on my blog, she said, “We should take a selfie together. Do you want to?”). I was worried she might think I was being weird because she wast there to promote her books and I was bringing up the show. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. She loves the show as much as the fans do (she called it “like crack,” which I think is an apt description except I had a roommate who smoked crack and watching Buffy smells much better),  and best of all, loves writing fiction.

I told her about my daughter, Wednesday, and how much she loves the show, but how, at six-years-old, she’s concerned that “Tara” might actually be dead in real life. Amber agreed to take the following picture to prove to Wednesday that “Tara” is not, in fact, dead in real life:

amber says hi to wednesday

 

And autographed a book for her, writing, “To Wednesday: I promise that I am not dead on Buffy! Just sleeping! [heart] Amber.”

Amber’s latest book, The Witches of Echo Park, is available now (it’s available at all retailers, but here’s the Amazon link), and I highly encourage you to check it out. Her writing is just as fabulous as her acting and her general in-person awesomeness.

Okay, so, onto the recap for real, after the “read more” link!

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Stop forcing me to see you not hating yourself!

Thursday night, I was clicking around BuzzFeed and found this article about how stretch marks aren’t that bad and there’s a trend now of women who are taking pictures showing their stretch marks and saying, hey, this isn’t gross or imperfect, almost everybody has these. One would think that a post like this is fairly harmless. One has never been on the internet.

Stretch marks aren’t lovely or ugly. They’re a sign that your insides outgrew your outsides a little too quickly and nothing more. They’re not something to flaunt or cover up. They just exist. I don’t view my stretch marks as scars or badges of honor. This whole “pro body image” thing that has been all over media lately is getting old.

That was one of the first comments I read on the story. This comment is the perfect informational tool, if you ever need to teach someone about the standard format for incendiary internet comments. First, it starts off with a perfectly rational statement of opinion, with some fact:

Stretch marks aren’t lovely or ugly. They’re a sign that your insides outgrew your outsides a little too quickly and nothing more.

Then we get into some dodgy territory:

They’re not something to flaunt or cover up.

The comment has now moved from statement of opinion to judgment of a hypothetical person’s actions, which will never affect the commenter’s life in any way. The commenter isn’t just saying, “I don’t believe my stretch marks are something I would want to flaunt or cover up,” they’re saying, “All stretch marks are not something to flaunt or cover up.”

Then we move back to personal opinion:

They just exist. I don’t view my stretch marks as scars or badges of honor.

Before we land on this whopper:

This whole “pro body image” thing that has been all over media lately is getting old.

Excuse me?

A large portion of the comments section on this article take exception not to the existence of stretch marks (although there were comments to that effect, including a mom who said she covers her stretch marks “out of respect for myself and my kids.”), but to the very idea that women would celebrate something they see as a flaw in order to normalize it and feel better about themselves.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed these types of objections to people taking a body positivity stand. We see these positions every summer when plus-sized bloggers talk about their experiences on the beach. There was recently a mother who had stretch marks and a saggy tummy who wore a bikini and wrote a think piece about it, and similar comments were made. Somehow, for some reason, a stranger liking their own body is such a powerful, threatening prospect that people can’t stand to let it go by without comment. Why is that? A different commenter gives us insight:

Because when you are satisfied with anything in life you stop trying to make it better [...] Body positivity and delusional ranting aside… making people feel better about things they want to change only temporarily makes them feel better. Get it now?

Feeling good about yourself in spite of flaws you’d like to change (but, in the case of stretch marks, you simply can’t), makes you feel satisfied. And if you feel satisfied, you don’t want to change. And you should never not want to change something about your body. You need to be in a constant state of dissatisfaction with yourself, and always striving for unobtainable perfection, because that’s the life this person has chosen to torture themselves with.

And of course, that commenter goes on the same thread to boast that she has no stretch marks, and tells a woman who doesn’t agree with her, “Enjoy your stretch marks, sweetie,” indicating that, for her at least, the preoccupation we have with policing each others’ bodies isn’t about striving for excellence or health or any sort of philosophical ideal, but ranking each other in terms of worth according to proximity to physical perfection. Our opinions, feelings, and self-worth are invalid if we’re not shaming ourselves into an oblivion of apologies for our imperfect bodies.

It didn’t surprise me that the majority of the negative comments about the stretch mark selfies were coming from people who appeared to be young women who were slender, on the conventionally attractive end of the facial prettiness scale, and made up with cosmetics and styled hair. Yes, I am making a judgement based on appearances here, but stay with me. They have achieved, either through hard work, genetic luck, or camera angles, but most likely a combination of all three, to present themselves to the internet as a woman as close to the traditional western standards of beauty as they can possibly be. They have put on make up, dyed their hair, posed with their timidly bent index finger resting on their bottom lip like they’re auditioning to be the star of a creepy 1970′s Love’s Baby Soft ad. They’ve done all of this, and someone else, someone who hasn’t done all of these things, has the audacity to take a photo not just of themselves, but of a flaw that most women cover up, and they’re receiving attention for it. Attention that should rightfully be lavished upon the women crying foul in the comments section. And why do they feel entitled to the prioritization of their beauty over another woman’s? Because we have all been taught that this is not just the social order, but the moral order.

When it comes to our bodies, we are playing Monopoly with friends in a neutral space. The house rules are completely different. Some people want to play with Free Parking. Some people want to ban mortgaging. Some don’t like the three-doubles-and-you-go-jail rule because they don’t play it that way at home. We have some women saying, “I love my body,” some saying, “I don’t love my body,” others saying, “I don’t love your body, but my body is fine,” and others saying, “I love my body, but you don’t get to love yours.” But most often, the dissenters are saying, “I don’t love my body, and you don’t get to love yours, either.”

I do NOT have to love everything about my body and I shouldn’t HAVE to love it all just to fit someone else’s idea of what self-esteem is. I don’t love everything about my body and that’s perfectly fucking fine, because I accept it all and I’m just living my life happily DESPITE what I don’t like, which I think is healthier anyhow

Nobody cares if you love your body. Personally, I would like it if everyone loved their bodies, but I know that’s only true of very few people. I’m comfortable with my body, but there are things I would like to change about it–stretch marks, freckles, ruddiness, acne, the way the nail on my little toe is–and that’s okay. I’m not harming anyone else if I don’t love my little toe. But if I turn my dissatisfaction with that toe into an edict that says you’re not allowed to love your toe, either, does it make my toe more beautiful? What if I tell ten people they have to be unhappy about their toes? At what point does my toe become less offensive to me? Never. It never does. I have to come to terms with that toe, liking it or not liking it, totally independent of other people and their feelings about their toes.

No one in the body positivity movement is saying that you absolutely must share their views when it comes to your body. We’re just asking that you don’t demand we share your view of our bodies. And that’s all it really comes down to.

Merlin Club S05E12-13, “The Diamond of The Day” or “That one camping trip where all your friends died.”

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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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DRAWN THAT WAY, by Bronwyn Green

Hey there, Trout Nation! Here’s another title from the anthology that got flattened under an avalanche of writer politics bullshit not too long ago! This one comes from #MerlinClub member and the Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope, Bronwyn Green.

Drawn that way

Tristan Weaver, accountant for a successful video game company, is in way over her head. Honestly answering a company-wide survey and criticizing the sexist stereotypes used in the company’s games was enough to catch her boss’ attention.  But speculating on his sex life within his earshot has unexpected consequences when her hot, but nerdy, boss invites her to model for him.

Owner, artist and lead developer of Brecken Games, Rory Brecken, has a strict no fraternizing with employees rule. However, when he overhears Tristan’s conversation with her friend about his rumored kinks and begins to suspect her curiosity about the submissive side of sex, he’s more than a little tempted. When her interest is undeniably confirmed, he suggests a onetime only, colleagues-with-benefits hook-up.

Though neither want a relationship, once isn’t enough for either one of them. As their encounters become more intense, Rory makes a huge mistake that may cost him the woman he’s coming to love.

Amazon • Barnes & Noble • All Romance Ebooks • iBooks

Drawn That Way is the second book in the Bound series, which Bronwyn is writing with Jessica Jarman. It can be read as a stand alone, though I heartily recommend Jarman’s London Bound, as well.

Read on for an excerpt of Drawn That Way.

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Pet Peeves

There’s a thread in the Trout Nation Forums called “Things you can’t justify being annoyed by,” and when I read it, I felt like I had come home. I get annoyed by so many things that I cannot justify in any way, including but not limited to:

  • People thinking a food is spicy when I do not think it is spicy
  • When people ask for prayers on Facebook and don’t elaborate what people are supposed to be praying for
  • Those photoshopped book ads where someone puts their cover into a picture of a billboard or a bus stop ad to make it look like they actually purchased major advertising and their book is a really big deal

so it was gratifying to read that other people have the same weird feelings about weird things that they can’t explain. But I also have three pet peeves that I feel like I can justify, and I would like to bitch about them now.

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Amazon Customer Service: An Interlude

Don’t Do This, Ever: “Public Event Evaluation” edition

This weekend, I went to a great conference, The Novel Experience Event in Las Vegas. It was run by Romance Ink, a not-for-profit company that organizes events for readers. I’ve been attending Romance Ink events since their very first conference, Authors After Dark, in Suffern, New York, in 2009. Since then, I’ve grown to love the authors and readers who return to Authors After Dark every year. I’ve also become friends with the conference organizer, Stella Price, and the staff who work for the company. The reason I’m telling you all of this is in the interest of disclosure, because I know I may be accused of bias after I write this.

I’m not going to name names and call people out. I’m too tired for that kind of thing these days (further post to that effect to come). But there is a lot of misinformation circulating about what happened at The Novel Experience Event over the weekend, and I feel some grievous breaches of protocol were made.

One of the features of this conference was a book fair from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on the mezzanine level of the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino. The figure I heard (but didn’t confirm, because who has time at these things?) was that at least one-hundred and twenty-five authors were scheduled to sign. Some authors sold out their entire stock. Some didn’t sell anything at all. Some carried books in (brought their own books and handled their own sales), and some worked with a bookseller. One author, who did not sell at a rate she deemed acceptable, decided to complain about the event half-way through. She posted pictures of the seemingly barren signing to her Facebook page, warning that there were no readers in attendance and that authors were packing up and leaving early. The post was made as a warning to authors who were considering attending Romance Ink events. Fair enough. I know that if I have a bad experience somewhere, I warn people away, be it a conference or a hotel or a restaurant. But there’s a time and a place for that kind of thing, and when you’re going to complain about a signing event that is currently taking place, that time is later.

Because what happened at that point was that the owner of another conference, arguably the largest event in the romance genre, reposted those pictures for her nearly 5,000 Facebook friends, readers and authors alike, to view. As a reader, if you saw someone post that an all day event was wrapping up well before it was over, would you bother to come out?

For many authors, the rest of the event that day was marred by messages from readers and authors asking, “Did you see this?” and “Is it still worth it to drive out there?” It spread like wildfire over Facebook, even as the signing continued. Other authors took their own photographs of the crowd to prove that the signing was still very much happening, hoping to counter the potential damage done. At least one of them shared those pictures with the aforementioned popular conference owner as a reply to her Facebook post, only to have her comment deleted. Any attempt made by any of us to suggest that we were still there, that authors were still signing books and that readers were still welcome to attend were removed, while comments disparaging Romance Ink and expressing sympathy for the authors involved were retained. It was almost as though the people who were reposting those photos wanted to discourage readers from attending. I sincerely hope that was not the purpose of these actions, and that it’s just my naturally suspicious nature that would cause me to doubt someone else’s good intentions.

Some commenters clutched their pearls, crying alligator tears for those of us who had been duped into sacrificing our holiday weekend with our families. To those who expressed those concerns, I say: we are not stupid. We know how to use calendars. We were aware that Easter and Passover fell over the weekend, and we chose to come anyway. I found it incredibly offensive to read comments expressing sadness for authors who were missing out on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the deliverance of the Israelites (and there were several comments to those effects). Religious or not, the people at the event made a conscious and informed choice to be there, and that kind of comment is incredibly personal and intrusive.

But back to my original concern: if you are an author, there is nothing wrong with telling people, “this was my experience at this event, I would not do this again, I would encourage you to not do it,” but do it after it’s over. In this age of social media, word spreads extremely quickly, and what one author deemed “totally dead” actually became totally dead within an hour of her post spreading. I’m absolutely certain that was not her intent, but it did happen. And when you say a signing or event was a waste of time, your readers are seeing that, too. Readers who may have come out to see you, and sacrificed their time, only to be told that it didn’t count for anything. Authors and industry professionals generally agree on this, including agent Jennifer Laughran, who wrote about an experience with an ungrateful author in this post about successful signings. 

There are a few other incidents circulating on social media that I want to address as briefly as possible. One author was not allowed to sign after not following event policies that had been in place from the moment registration opened in November, 2014. Romance Ink does have very strict policies that are enforced across the board, the rationale being that if the staff is forced to make personal exceptions for every author, they will have limited attention to spend on making the event good for the readers who are the focus. Does it suck for the author who didn’t get to sign? Sure, and I totally understand their disappointment. But my take on this particular issue is that if a hundred and twenty-five people were able to follow instructions successfully, and only one did not, then the problem is not with the event or its policies. Others might view it differently.

There is also a rumor that Romance Ink and Stella Price are anti-LGBTQA+, because a convention director was asked to stop passing out materials promoting their LGBTQA+ author event. I actually laughed when I read the accusation, because the Authors After Dark conference has built a huge following of LGBTQA+ readers and authors, as well as readers and authors who are allies, who didn’t feel comfortable or welcome at other industry conferences. One year I was on three queer-focused panels. Three, in one year. And those weren’t even the only three of their kind. And authors who write any type of pairing are invited for panels that aren’t just LGBTQA+ focused; last year, I sat on a sports romance panel to talk about my baseball romances in the Hardball trilogy, which includes a M/M pairing and a polyamorous threesome, right alongside panelists who wrote straight pairings. Romance Ink’s Bookie Awards are one of the only non-queer-specific industry awards I can think of that both include categories for Best GLBT Novel and Best GLBT Short Story while also allowing LGBTQA+ romances to be nominated in all the other categories as well. This speaks volumes when you consider that about ten years ago, Romance Writers of America tried to redefine romance as being between one man and one woman in an effort to bar writers of queer and polyamorous romances from gaining published status in the organization.

The reason this person was asked to stop distributing her materials was because it’s a professional courtesy to not advertise your own event at another event without asking permission, and some authors felt uncomfortable being pitched to during the signing because of this. I know this is the case because I was present when the decision to speak to this promoter was made. Unlike several authors and industry professionals who are complaining about the event, I was actually there; 80% of the time I spent on the convention floor, I was in the company of staff members.

People who have attended an event are well within their right to express displeasure at how it was handled or at things they felt were done unprofessionally. But publicly denouncing an event that’s still going on doesn’t just hurt the event and its coordinators, it hurts the authors who are there, trying to have a good experience just like you were. Spreading misinformation about an event you weren’t present at and refusing to acknowledge contrasting accounts from the people who were? That’s not helping authors, either. Starting false rumors that a company that has always strongly supported LGBTQA+ authors and readers engaged in blatant homophobic discrimination? That’s especially vile, because many of us have forged our bonds with Romance Ink specifically because they embrace us as both authors and individuals.

I will continue to attend Romance Ink events, because I’m one of the many authors who have never had a negative experience with the staff or because of event policies. If you disagree and feel others should avoid this company, then by all means, exercise your right to express that. But the authors who had a positive experience at the event paid the same money and were in Las Vegas for the same reasons as the authors who were unhappy. They should not have been punished when the signing didn’t live up to the expectations of a very few.

Merlin Club S05E11 “The Drawing of The Dark” or “That motivation was so sudden, I got whiplash.”

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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.

Sorry about missing the post last Friday. With everything that was going on, I was just too exhausted.

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