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

merlinbanner2

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

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

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.”

merlinbanner2

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.

Continue reading

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E15: “Phases”

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will make a Sim of herself and a Sim of Rupert Giles and force them to be neighbors and fall in love and do woo-hoo. 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.

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

Don’t Do This Ever: “Dear Ethics” edition

Recently, Jane Litte, of the super popular book review blog Dear Author, revealed that she’s not just a blogger, but Jen Frederick, a best-selling New Adult author with eight published novels and a movie deal to her name. Litte and her site get talked about, a lot. Some people love Dear Author and the community of readers who comment there. Some people hate the site, and Litte, due to various run-ins with the site and readership over the years. And some people, like me, go to the site to find out what books are free or on sale any given day, and occasionally read blog articles and either agree or disagree, but generally without “picking sides.”

Yes, we’re about to discuss drama happening in the book world that I have not “picked a side” on. I’ll give you a moment to recover from your shock.

My personal stance on the issue is that I’m happy for Jane Litte’s success and I’m a bit gleeful that a certain website now has to accept that she’s not a jealous hater born from the frustrated ashes of a thwarted literary career. I’m also one of the people who can see why her ethics have come into question, and that it’s possible to do that questioning without it being a matter of a personal vendetta or an attempt to sabotage an author’s career.

Reviews written by authors on the Dear Author site are usually labelled with a disclaimer stating that the person writing the review is an author. Now, clearly I have no problem reviewing the works of other authors. Look around the blog you’re reading right now. I don’t believe that the moment you become an author, you lose all right to criticize and become obligated to unquestioningly support other authors. But a situation like this falls into an ethical sore spot. This wasn’t an author reviewing books, this was an author pretending to not be an author while reviewing those books. There might not seem like much of a difference, but there is, and people are right to question it, especially in the wake of allegations that Litte didn’t just keep mum about her author identity, but actively represented herself to the book blogging community as a wholly separate person.

As an author who reviews–and let’s be honest, my reviews are impossibly long, incredibly detailed, and usually blisteringly harsh–I’m aware that my blogging absolutely has an effect on my career and readership. There are consequences for everything you write as an author/blogger, and you accept those bad things with all the good things. But Litte tried to keep the views she expressed as a reader from impacting her writing career, and I feel like that’s poor form. I’m not saying that authors have to tell readers all their deepest, darkest secrets, but if there’s a conflict of interest in something they’re doing (for example, an author reviewing books in her own genre without disclosing that she is an author, or that author’s books showing up in deal and recommendation posts on her blog, as happened at Dear Author), then they should be upfront about that.

So, people have a right to be upset about this news. Yes, there are people who dislike Litte on a personal level, and their criticism of the situation is worded strongly. But that doesn’t make their criticism less valid just because it isn’t couched in careful language. There are some who now seek to defend Litte by accusing those asking questions of having a vendetta against her, creating a “Be Nice” quagmire in which anyone who isn’t thrilled about the news is a hater or a troll. As author Olivia Waite wrote, “I AM angry that I’m expected to be uncritically happy about this news, though, if I want to be seen as nice.” 

Did Jane Litte go about conducting her dual careers in an unethical way? I agree with those who are saying yes. Does that mean I hate her, have harbored a long-time grudge against her, and will stop at nothing to destroy her and everything Dear Author stands for? No, and I actually like Jane Litte based on the occasional interaction I’ve had with her, despite disagreements I’ve had with some views expressed on her site. Am I happy that Dear Author isn’t going away, and that Jen Frederick is enjoying the success of bestselling books and a movie deal? Sure, why not be happy for an author who’s succeeding? It’s entirely possible to be happy that a good thing has happened for another author without supporting every single thing they’ve said or done, and it’s also possible to be happy that Dear Author isn’t shutting down while simultaneously recognizing that the site must now implement and adhere to new policies in order to operate in good faith with its readership.

The “us vs. them” mentality that has sprung up around this incident is disheartening, because this isn’t an “us vs. them” situation. It’s a clear case of an author/blogger making unethical choices. Yes, even if she didn’t intend for it to happen this way. Yes, even if she didn’t review her book on her blog.  And no, the criticism she is receiving isn’t invalid because some of it is coming from people who don’t care for her on a personal level. These criticisms aren’t going to destroy Jen Frederick’s career, nor are they intended for that purpose.

As a post script, for those who are saying they now feel cheated for having supported the DA Legal Defense Fund: I have no patience for you. You donated money because a blogger was being slapped with a groundless libel lawsuit by a publisher who was angry that their bad business practices were brought to light. You donated money because you objected to the actions of Ellora’s Cave, not because you thought Jane Litte wasn’t an author or her bank account balance was smaller than you estimated. You donated that money to send a message to Ellora’s Cave and any other publisher in the future who thinks they can silence voices in the romance community with threats of litigation. Jane Litte being an author doesn’t change the impact of that lawsuit, so why should you now feel that you’ve been tricked? The underlying issue has not changed.

The takeaway from all of this is that readers (and fellow authors) want transparency. Authors want to know that if we submit a book for a review request, we’re going to get a fair review, and not one that’s influenced by the fact that we’re in competition with an author or their publisher. Readers want to know that the reviews they’re reading aren’t influenced by those same factors. Bloggers and readers both want to know that books they’re purchasing or accepting for review aren’t written by someone they have a negative opinion about and don’t feel comfortable promoting or financially supporting. And they certainly have a right to feel hurt or betrayed when an author whose online presence they’re following and engaging with turns out to be a different person entirely. So when it comes to secret author identities, think hard about what you should be disclosing. Seeing a conflict of interest and ignoring the implications until your success becomes too large to continue the dual life? Don’t do that, ever.