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Jealous Hater Book Club: Handbook For Mortals Chapter 20 Judgement or “Aptly named, considering what I’m about to do to it.”

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UPDATE: I should have remembered this in the first place, but thank you, everyone who has tipped me through Kofi, not just this week and last week but all the weeks. Book sales are down and you guys really help me out.

No news this week! I wonder if all the exciting media buzz is under embargo. Because, you know, surely with a movie and book this spectacular and eagerly anticipated, it must be kept under wraps.

Oh, but there is a gross and bloody gif in here. Heads up.

The Big Damn Angel Rewatch S01E04 “I Fall To Pieces”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. No, shit. Wrong show. What am I supposed to do, now? I guess I’ll just have to recap every episode Angel with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Angel is still a dick.
  2. Cordelia is smarter than everyone.
  3. Sex is still evil.
  4. Sunlight isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was in Sunnydale…
  5. …but its danger is certainly inconsistent.
  6. Vampire/demon rules aren’t consistent with the Buffyverse.
  7. Xenophobia and cultural stereotypes abound.
  8. Women are disposable and unrealistic.
  9. Vampires still @#$%ing breathe.
  10. Some of this stuff is still homophobic as fuck.
  11. Blondes, blondes everywhere
  12. Smoking is still evil.
  13. A lot of this shit is really misogynistic.
  14. Some of this stuff is ableist as fuck.

The Big Damn Angel Damsel In Distress Counter: 8

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: Just like with the Buffy recaps, I’ve seen (most) of this series already, so I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So a blanket spoiler warning is in effect.

CW: There’s a suicide joke. It’s pretty dumb and throwaway, so if that kind of thing bothers you, heads up.

I Love This Book

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In an effort to promote work I love (rather than just tear apart that which I hate), I introduce to you this book that I love. Meet Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber.

A photo of the book Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber, staged on my crocheted white table cloth with a china cup of tea with saucer beside it, a dried rose resting across it, and a selenite crystal ball looking ghostly and beautiful above it.

Go check it out at Macmillan.com

Now, some background on this book. This is actually an updated volume that contains two books, The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker and The Darkly Luminous Fight For Persephone Parker. Anyone discovering this gaslight fantasy series now is super lucky; they don’t have to wait for the sequel (like I did). They can just get it in one book.

I read The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker in 2009 when I received it as a freebie at a convention. I fell deeply, deeply in love with it. A gaslight fantasy about a mystical task force, The Guard, who protect Victorian London from restless spirits and supernatural dangers, it hit every one of my reader sweet spots. I fell in love with the heroine, Percy, a young woman who’s more like a living ghost, with moon-white skin and hair and supernatural abilities even she doesn’t understand. I swooned over Alexi, the dark, brooding schoolmaster who leads The Guard. And reading scenes with The Guard? I totally felt like I was a part of them like they were all my friends and I was included in their divine purpose. The writing is lush and the world is rich. The original mythology blends seamlessly with the traditional mythology woven throughout (fans of Persephone and Hades, in particular, will fall in love with this book). It absolutely blindsided me and I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t talking about it and fangirling over it as much as I was.

So imagine how I, a person who generally overreacts to things I like, finally met the author, Leanna Renee Hieber, in 2010 after the release and my subsequent devouring of the sequel.

I was actually pretty cool. “I really loved your book, I can’t say enough good things about it.”

But when she cosplayed as Percy Parker for a party later that night (and stayed in character the whole time)?

I threw myself, practically sobbing, into her arms and cried, “I love you so, so much!”

Luckily, Leanna is as passionate and awesome about stuff she loves as I am about the stuff she writes, so she totally got it. And this particular copy is signed, “Percy loves you so much!” so there, it’s canon, written in the author’s own hand, no take backs.

How much of a fangirl am I for this series (which includes a prequel, The Perilous Prophecy Of Guard And Goddessnow available as The Perilous Prophecy and the upcoming sequel, Miss Violet And The Great Warwhich I am totally freaking out about)? I have every version of these books, from the originals to the releases (all signed, of course) as well as the ebooks because I want to be able to carry them with me everywhere so I can read my favorite parts when the mood strikes me. Which, for me, is saying something, because my stunning array of learning disabilities makes reading super duper hard for me.

I love, love, love these books. I hope that if you read them, you’ll love them as much as I do. But even if you only love them a fifth as much as I do, they’ll still be in your top ten.

The Big Boys’ Table

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I’m talking to a male author at a signing event. He writes thrillers and horror and he’s standing in front of tall promotional banners bearing big-name praise for his books. He’s normal and personable and not braggy.

Which is what makes it worse when he says that his first contract resulted in a seven-figure advance.

He explains how much support he’s gotten from big names, the movie and television rights he’d sold. How none of his subsequent advances have been below six figures.

And how he’d gotten a lot of this attention because an indie book he’d published had reached sales figures that are fairly average to midlist indie romance authors.

“Anyone can do what I did,” he says of his marketing tactics at the beginning. He’s a nice guy and genuinely believes his good luck at stumbling upon a marketing tactic that worked is why he’s being handed big checks and bigger opportunities. He wants his fellow authors to succeed. He wants to pay it forward and help them the way he was helped. Because everyone has been so nice to him, so eager to see his star rise. He tells a story about one of the biggest names in the business flying him out to spend a weekend in his guest house and saying, “We’re going to get you a seat at the big boys’ table.”

It’s a story out of a writer’s wildest dreams.

It’s a story out of a male writer’s wildest dreams.

Those words, “the big boys’ table”, undoubtedly thrilled him in the retelling of the tale. Who doesn’t fantasize about having a rich, powerful person promise them that every dream they have is about to come true? But they didn’t have the same inspirational effect on me that he was probably going for. A moment before, I’d been listening to a fascinating story of an author who really, truly believes in himself and the power of our art.

A moment later, I was slapped with a reminder that these wild literary adventures aren’t for me or any other woman. Because there’s no seat for a female author at “the big boys’ table.”

This table, as I imagine it, is more of a conglomeration of high top bar tables crowded together with bowls of peanuts and pretzels and plenty of room for empty beer glasses. For the most part, it’s cis, straight, white men basking in the camaraderie here. They’re in the center. They’re the ones who can pass you the pretzels or the appetizer menu. If you’re not white or straight or cis or male, they have the authority to say, “Grab another chair! Join us!”

But for the most part, anyone outside the demographic will undoubtedly be told that the management asked them not to rearrange any more tables. That the gathering is unfortunately just wrapping up. That they’ve all just asked for their checks. The peanuts are gone and someone spilled their beer into the pretzels. We’ve missed out.

The male author I spoke to, the one who gets six and seven figure advances, the one who gives credit to his marketing and the kindness of other authors for his success, will probably never understand why a female author’s eyes glaze over upon hearing about his invitation to “the big boys’ table”. As time passes, someone will tell him to chalk up our sudden disinterest to envy. He may stop trying to reach out to help anyone who won’t fit in with the crowd at that table, believing all of us too jealous or bitter to help. It’s entirely possible that no one will ever tell him that the only competition he had for his seat was from other cis white men.

Does this mean his books aren’t good? No. I haven’t read them, but I plan to read his next release because it sounds incredible. Does it mean he hasn’t worked for the success he’s received? Not at all. He’s a hybrid author currently working on self-published releases alongside traditionally published ones, which is no easy feat. The problem isn’t this author or that he’s been offered a seat at the big boys’ table. The problem is that when another man is invited to that table, they forget why they’re there. They don’t notice the people who aren’t sitting with them.

And the men who’ve spent a lot of time at that table know this. They’ve carefully engineered the situation to be this way. And they’re going to tell you that it’s your fault that you’re not taken seriously. That if you wrote something more “literary”, if you used your initials or a male pen name, if you didn’t waste time on this or that publisher, there would be room for you. That it’s not them. It’s not the institution. It’s you.

How can we expect to be treated equitably in a business that openly sneers at its best-selling genre simply because of the people who write it and buy it? How can we believe publishers who insist that they’re giving everyone a fair shake while indulging in boys’ club terminology? Why are we told that men who’ve written fewer books and done half our sales have proven themselves and earned astronomical advances that our work pays to provide?

How stupid do you think we are?

As long as powerful people in traditional publishing describes success in such terms, there is no reason for the rest of us to court industry favor. The game is rigged, so there’s no reason to continue playing. No one is going to come right out and say, “You aren’t welcome,” especially when they can still make money from your work. But they clearly have no issue with acknowledging the truth in casual conversation.

There’s no neat wrap up to this post. There’s no call action. There’s just me, a female writer, sitting at a book signing and dreaming of burning a cheerful watering hole full of jovial male writers to the ground.

Jealous Haters Book Club: Handbook For Mortals Chapter 19 Death (part two) or “THAT’S IT I’M SETTING THIS BLOG AND THEN MYSELF ON FIRE.”

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In this week’s Jealous Haters Book Club, there is no news about Handbook For Mortals.

Because it’s fading away. But don’t worry. You can still find a copy of Handbook For Mortals at your nearest, cursed bookstore.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of consignment, what happens is that a bookstore and a self-published author or a small press representative make a deal in which the store will carry a title, which the author or small press provide, and if the book sells, the bookstore takes a cut. This is different to how a book that sells enough to legitimately make #1 on the New York Times list would be sold in a store. A book that is actually popular and in demand would be sold to the bookstore at a lower-than-retail price, which they would then sell at retail price. I’m not knocking consignment; I’ve done it myself because what else do self-published people do? But in one scenario, the business is investing in your product. In the other, the business is willing to let you rent shelf space. Twilight wasn’t hitting Waldenbooks on consignment.

In other news, a friend who lives in Las Vegas excitedly texted me, “You’ll never believe who’s on my flight!”

I was super disappointed to learn that it was not Carrot Top.

State Of The Trout: “Something Smells Like Corpse In Here” edition

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This week will be lean pickins here on the ol’ blog again. This time, because I’ll be…

  • At Literary Love Savannah in Savannah, GA
  • Being locked in the Sorrel-Weed house tonight to potentially get haunted
  • Finishing up a proposal for a really exciting new project that’s going to get to you guys one way or another
  • Launching a brand new blog––

“WHAT THE FUCK?” you may be screaming right now. I like to think that at least some of you are gnashing your teeth in biblical sorrow. But it wouldn’t be necessary. Trout Nation isn’t going anywhere! It’s just getting a sibling. A weird sibling who talks about auras and how the fae folk stole her car keys. Bewitched Musings is a side blog that will allow me to share metaphysical, new age stuff with the portion of my audience who is cool with it and keep it over-there from the people who aren’t comfortable reading that kind of stuff.

This spring/summer I’ve really had an awakening that was, frankly, a long time coming. After purging myself of the story of The Worst Person I’ve Ever Met, I was slowly able to reconnect with my spiritual self again. And not everybody wants to hear about that shit. But since I share literally everything with my readers, I thought, why not?

So, what to expect at Bewitched Musings:

  • Ramblings about my own spiritual path
  • Reviews of metaphysical products and services
  • Tips for finding/making inexpensive tools or spell ingredients
  • Interviews and guest posts from other cool people
  • Hopefully, a robust comments section where people can share their experiences on these topics

I’m really excited about some of the changes that are going on my life right now, as well as in my writing career, and I can’t wait to share everything with you all. All of the fun features here will still go on (including True Blood Tuesday, if I can ever figure out why my recording software is being how it’s being), so no worries at all. I just need to reinvent and redirect myself slightly every now and then. I’m like a beautiful cicada emerging from wherever the hell they come out of (to be honest, I’m not even 100% sure what a cicada is other than a loud noise at night)––

No. Corpse Flower. We’re going with a Corpse Flower. Every few years, I slowly unfurl my petals and release a glorious stink. Gather round. Grab the camera. Let’s get a live stream going. Jenny Trout is slowly unfurling and smelling like a rotting body. Get excited!

State Of The Trout: Pure Imagination Edition

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Hey there! Quick note to remind you guys that I’m buried under a mound of props and chocolate this week. Wanna catch a great show? Come out to Center Stage Theater in Comstock, MI, this weekend and next for Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, featuring beloved music from the classic film as well as new selections written by the original composers. Tickets and more information are available at that link.

I’ve got a couple of busy weeks coming up, but I will try to have something here on the blog next week, at least. Definitely, I’ll have more information on an upcoming signing in Savannah, GA. Until then, pray for my fingers, as they have been burned with hot glue so many times this week.

 

Jealous Hater Book Club: Handbook For Mortals, Chapter 19 Death (part one) or, “Super easy, barely an inconvenience.”

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There isn’t much to report in the way of news this time around. Which is odd, right? I mean, considering this is definitely going to be bigger than Twilight and is going to be a major motion picture *checks watch* this year? Really? Are we still buying that line?

This is another ridiculously long chapter, so at the risk of extending the recap of this book out through the course of my entire natural life and into the bowels of hell that will feel like a blessed escape from this shit pile, I have to split the recap in twain.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S04E04, “Fear, Itself”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone just got back from vacation and is still in need of a god damn break. 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.

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.

When Your Writing Retreat Turns Out To Be Natural Disaster Adjacent

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Every year since 2012, an intrepid band of international adventurers convenes in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula to write and relax in a secluded cabin far from the cares of a world with reliable cell coverage and wireless internet. On the shores of the beautiful and terrible inland sea of Lake Superior, spirits both metaphysical and alcoholic flow as freely as the creativity and camaraderie.

Okay, what I mean is that for a week every June a bunch of authors (This year it was me and Bronwyn Green and Jessica Jarman and Kris Norris) go “up nort” to get drunk and complain about how hard it is to be a writer and how nobody understands us. It’s a great time, so I was quite surprised to pull my daily tarot card on the morning our grand adventure began only to get the Wheel Of Fortune reversed.

From BiddyTarot.com (which is an amazing site, by the way, and you should totally check it out if tarot interests you):

Oftentimes, the reversed Wheel of Fortune indicates that there are negative forces at play that are outside of your control, leaving you feeling helpless and powerless.

Obviously, my first thought was that this referred to us being swept off the Mackinac Bridge by a rogue wave or gust of wind. Because that’s the thing that I’m most frightened of on a trip to U.P. despite it only ever happening one other time. Somehow, we made it across the Mighty Mac unscathed, as you can see in the video below.

 

We even survived a weird and frustrating encounter with two separate strangers.

 

But overall, things were going pretty okay. What did that tarot card know?

Well, that tarot card apparently knew that poor Kris Norris, who bravely ventures into the United States from Canada to see us even though it has to be like passing into some kind of anarchic hell world, was making an unnecessarily lengthy trip from Vancouver, B.C., to Minneapolis, MN. It took her thirty-six hours to fly between the cities. When Jessica Jarman arrived at the airport to pick her up, Norris’s luggage had taken a side trip. To Chicago. Where it would stay until one in the morning. Since the flight delay had already massively set back their departure from Minnesota, Norris arranged for her bag to find its way to the Houghton County Airport and they struck out on their drive to Michigan.

Despite a few detours, Bronwyn and I arrived at the cabin ahead of Norris and Jarman. About an hour later, we heard thunder. “Watch, they’ll get here and the second they get out of the car it will be like, whoosh!” I joked. Sure enough, Norris and Jarman and the rain all arrived at about the same time. We chatted for a while, then went to bed, but I woke often through the night from the thunder and noise. Generally, storms don’t bother me, so long as my devices are fully charged, but even the rain was super loud and it just went on and on and on.

I woke to frantic, ALLCAPS texts from some friends who live in Hancock, warning me of flash flooding and checking to make sure we were okay and had arrived safely. Bleary-eyed, I checked the news on my phone––usually, we don’t get any cell or data at the cabin, but this year the signal was strong enough most days to at least get information via Facebook––and stared in shock. This is what happened:

Those are all sources from different days and have a lot more information than was available to us at the time, but you get the picture. I crept upstairs to Bronwyn Green’s room and gently nudged her awake, which resulted in me almost getting karate chopped in fucking half because Bronwyn is apparently ex-KGB or something and jerked violently awake and ready to fight. I told her what was going on. Well, I summed it up: “I guess Houghton and Hancock are like…fucking gone?” One of us said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we couldn’t get Norris’s bag because the airport washed away?”

We all got up and got on our phones (except for Norris, whose data connection relies on Maple syrup and fresh Canadian air to function). The stuff we found was mostly first-hand accounts of the damage via videos and photos circulating in the immediate aftermath, including this one from TV 6 (or, as people seem to refer to it regionally, “da channel six noose”):

 

The newscaster’s focus on the Taco Bell sign sent us into fits of laughter. If you’re not from Michigan or you’ve never lived in Michigan, you probably can’t appreciate the way Michiganders tend to fixate on incredibly small, mundane things in the middle of huge events, issues, and occurrences. But we were still kind of nervous. Houghton and Hancock are two separate towns on opposite sides of a river with a bridge between them. That bridge is the only way to access the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, where we were, and the roads to the bridge were washed out, underwater, decimated by sinkholes, or all of the above. Which left us trapped. Shit felt…kind of serious, but we can never be truly serious about anything. When Jessica Jarman broke the news that the airport was indeed inaccessible and therefore all of Norris’s clothes, toiletries, and medications were now in the heart of a natural disaster, we accused her of angering God and causing her to smite the entire county in the process. I suggested it was part of an elaborate Canadian conspiracy to battle the United States via the forces of nature, which Norris confirmed to be true. Then, we headed out for groceries and I updated readers about the situation via Facebook Live:

 

We were able to joke about the weird predicament we were in because we had no clear picture of the extent of the damage apart from some shaky videos of streets turned into waterfalls and the news anchor lamenting the loss of the Taco Bell sign. While Jarman’s sister fed us information from her home near the flood zone, we wouldn’t learn about the heartbreaking death of Thatcher Markham until much later. All we knew at that point was “thank god it’s just property damage and nobody has died.”

Once the National Guard arrived, the damage started getting repaired quickly. By Tuesday, some businesses had reopened and we were able to get to the airport, where Norris was reunited with her stuff. By Thursday, Jarman’s sister informed us that the way through Houghton/Hancock was clear and that the highways to the south were once again open.

But Monday, however, some furry friends who love pic-i-nic baskets arrived:

A driveway. Across the street are two small cabins. At the end of the driveway are two large oil barrels that have been repurposed as trash cans. The lids are off both and one is turned on its side. Garbage is strewn across the end of the driveway.

The flooding meant trash collection was postponed for the week. Which meant that when the people who’d rented the cabin the week before and had considerately moved their refuse to the garbage cans had inadvertently laid out a buffet for bears who’d headed to higher ground. We decided to keep our refuse in the cabin with us, instead of in the garage where our bear friends––who’d set up camp in the thin strip of woods between the driveway and the neighbor’s house––might be tempted to claw or push through the door to get at more trashy treats.

When the time came to go home, we got to view some of the remaining devastation. Whole streets churned to chunks of rock. Roadside parks filled with standing water. Businesses damaged and houses marked with waterlines on their siding. And good lord, the mud. Everywhere, mud.

The damage to Houghton and Menominee Counties happened in a matter of hours but will take much, much longer to repair. Early estimates put the cost of the damage at 50 million dollars. Low-income areas that were hit will take longer to recover; some residents may find themselves permanently displaced. Wells have been contaminated, trails and parks and other tourist attractions that boost the local economy will need maintenance.

Now, you may be thinking, “Wow, that’s awful. I wish I could do something to help.” Well, I’ve got a few suggestions! First of all, there are several fundraisers going on right now. If you can’t donate, share the links on social media; maybe someone you know has a couple dollars they’re looking to do a good deed with.

Have you been looking for a place to vacation? Somewhere you’ve never been before? The Keweenaw Peninsula could sure use your dollars! Visit waterfalls, beaches, museums and copper mines while staying in locally owned hotels, dining at locally owned restaurants, and shopping for souvenirs at locally owned stores. The Keweenaw Peninsula tourism site can help you plan your trip. 

A gorgeous panoramic shot of Lake Superior from the top of Brockway Mountain.
Come on. How can you resist a view like this?

All dark humor aside, my heart is broken for the Markham family and for the home and business owners whose lives have been upheaved by this disaster. Over the past six years, this part of Michigan has come to feel like a second home, as one of the most important weeks of my year occurs there. It’s a place unlike any other in the world and I wish all the residents the very best possible outcomes in the wake of this tragedy.