What A Fibromyalgia Flare Feels Like

I blog openly about my mental health issues, and I think occasionally I mention that I have Fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread pain and fatigue, as well as memory, concentration and sleep issues. One of the fun features of this condition (aside from the many friends it can bring along, like IBS, Interstitial Cystitis, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, depression, anxiety, and suicide) are “flares”, when your symptoms go from sucking on a daily basis to sucking five times harder on top of all five business days of sucking you’re already experiencing getting stacked on you all at once. It’s not great.

A lot of people in my life will hear me say, “I’m having a flare,” but I don’t think I’ve ever explained what that means. I’m going through one right now. It started last night, and I thought, “I should really pay attention, so I can tell people what happens and how.” So, here’s what happens when I have a Fibromyalgia flare. Other people might experience symptoms in a different way, this is just what happens to me:

1. I notice my face feels hot, like I’ve been out in the sun a little too long.

2. My fingers and feet swell up, and the joints become red and swollen.

3. That hot feeling in my face spreads through my whole body. It feels like having a fever, but if I take my temperature it’s normal. I still get chilled like I have a fever.

4. Raynaud’s Phenomenon makes my feet cold. They take on a bluish tint and hurt the way your hands hurt after you’ve played in the snow without mittens all recess. Socks, hot water bottles, etc. are kind of ineffective at this point, but I always try.

5. Fatigue. My entire body feels heavier. Today, even lifting my arms up to type has been a challenge (some days, it’s not even possible, or my hands hurt too much, so I use Dragon Naturally Speaking to do my work).

6. And let’s not forget pain! All of these symptoms come pretty much in this order, one right after the other, but sometimes I don’t realize I’m having a flare until the pain ramps up. My bones feel like there’s something that’s inside of them trying to push out. My muscles ache like the first day after a hard workout. When you have Fibromyalgia, there are specific spots on your body (and they’re basically the same on everyone) that are always painful to the touch, but they become super sensitive during flares. I would describe the sensation of triggering one of these areas as getting an electric shock, followed by a lingering, burning pain. Sometimes, just your clothes are enough pressure to cause this.

7. The pain causes lack of sleep, as well as lack of focus. If I can sleep, it’s not well, and I wake up tired. This contributes to my difficulties concentrating or communicating well. I end up reading the same page over and over, or starting to write something and wander away for a while, only to be surprised when I come back and realizing, oh, I didn’t finish that thought. I started writing this relatively simple post at 11:00. As I write this, it’s 12:21, and I’ve written 536 words.

Most of these symptoms are alleviated by marijuana, which (given my history of destructive, opiate-related behavior) is the only pain medication I trust. The only things it doesn’t help with are swelling, which I take ibuprofen for, and Raynaud’s, because what the hell even is Raynaud’s? Why does it do that? But yes, it even helps with the brain fog and concentration, depending on which strain you get.

If you suffer from Fibromyalgia, I’d be interested in hearing if we share any of the same symptoms during a flare. Sometimes, because of the attitudes toward it at the time I was getting diagnosed (and those are thankfully getting better), I still wonder if we’re all just making it up. Which is absurd, but when you hear it from doctors and random people who think the problem is that you’re not doing enough yoga, you start to doubt everything. Anyway, share in the comments, or if you have any questions about Fibromyalgia, just put them there, too.

Jenny Reads 50 Shades of Midnight Sun: Sunday, May 22, 2011 or “I’m not sure this whole day-by-day instead of chapter numbers thing is practical PART THREE”

Just in case this franchise hasn’t ripped of Twilight enough, there are now rumors swirling that Jamie Dornan is cheating on his wife with Dakota Johnson. I’m not including any links, because there aren’t even half-way interesting sources carrying the “story”, but it certainly reminds me of that time Bella and Edward fell in love off-screen, then infidelity became involved. Except whereas Kristen Steward actually dated Robert Pattinson and cheated on him with someone else, where as Dornan is allegedly cheating on his wife with Johnson. And there’s very little proof that’s actually happening. Once again, Fifty Shades proves itself a grasping, lukewarm imitation of a superior franchise.

So, let’s just get through this.

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Second Chance Sneak Peek!

As promised, I have brought you a sneak peek of Second Chance! This week, from Penny’s POV. Disclaimer: this is the text as-is before copy-edit changes have been finalized. The final copy may contain superficial differences from the published version.

So much happens in this story, it was difficult to find a passage that wouldn’t give away spoilers, but I did it! Next week, you won’t be so lucky; there will be a major spoiler in Ian’s excerpt. But for now, let’s check in with Penny.

The cover for second chance features a photo of the Manhattan Bridge, with the clocktower apartment building Ian lives in in the background. There is a white bar that reads "Second Chance" in bue and black text, and a blue bar with "Abigail Barnette" written in white beneath that. Under those, a picture of a man's legs in jeans, with bare feet are standing beside a woman with bare legs and feet, facing him on her tip toes. A small blue bar in the corner says "Penny"


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State Of The Trout: Reading Challenge Update, Chicago Signing, and Book Info

Good Monday, everyone! I’ve been super busy for the past few weeks getting Second Chance in shape to go out into the world, but now I feel like I can finally get my breath!

Speaking of Second Chance Tune in tomorrow for your first look at Second Chance. I’ll be releasing an excerpt tomorrow, and one next week, as we gear up for the books’ release!

Also speaking of Ian and PennyFirst Time will be out as audiobooks this month from Tantor Media. Penny’s book will release on May 31, but Ian’s is already available. And the narrator’s voice is fantastic. I kind of listened to this one with my hands over my face, blushing.

Chicago area people! Come out and see me this weekend, Saturday, May 21, from 3-5 pm at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg. You can find more information, including a list of all all the amazing authors who’ll be there, here. I’ll be signing copies of The Baby and First Time, but you’re welcome to bring your books or your Kindle covers. I also give away free stuff like pens and bracelets, and that’s always fun, so come snag some of that and chat with me, if you’d like!

My Reading Challenge Progress!

I haven’t been reading as much lately because I’ve been working, but I did manage to get a few books in. In fairness, I’m pretty sure one of them was like nine billion pages.

A Book You Haven’t Read Since High School: Fear Street Cheerleaders: The First Evil, by R.L. Stine. I don’t remember why I thought to look these books up again, but I’m glad I did. I cheated on this entry a bit; I didn’t read this book when I was in high school. I read it in seventh or eighth grade. My problem is that I don’t remember reading anything for pleasure in high school that wasn’t written by Anne Rice, and while I absolutely still treasure those books, I don’t want to taint my memory with a reread by present day, post-feud me. So, I fudged and reached back a little further. I remembered a lot of FSC:TFE as happening differently, probably from reading all three books back-to-back-to-back. I forgot like half the characters. Reading it as an adult who knows the horror formula now from other movies and books, it all came back to me pretty quickly and I was like, “Oh my gosh, how did I not see this coming?” when I got to the twists that shocked me as a kid. Still, it stands the test of time. When do we get a Fear Street Cheerleaders movie?

A Book That’s At Least 100 Years Older Than You: Anne, by Constance Fenimore Woolson. I originally picked this for “A book set in your home state”, due to the title character living on Mackinac Island, but switched categories when I found that the majority of the story takes place off the island. It is now one of my favorite books. I could write an entire post about all the things that make this book so great, but I’ll keep it brief: Anne, the eldest daughter of an elderly widower, finds herself forced into New York society through a series of various events. The drama is real. Anne becomes best friends with a glamorous woman who later becomes a romantic rival. Anne, despite being engaged to her childhood love, becomes the object of affection to not one, but two suitors. Anne becomes a teacher, a singer, an amateur botanist, a Civil War battlefield nurse, a detective, and a murder trial’s star witness. It’s just like, the biggest soap opera ever. There are definitely some “sign of the times” issues; Anne’s biracial half-siblings are frequently described as being savage or conniving due to their Chippewa heritage. I found it interesting, though, that while two of the black characters in the book were referred to with the n-word once, it was used in dialogue by a character we were meant to dislike, as proof of what a shitty person they were. It really smashed the “it was okay back then” argument for me when I read that. White people, we knew that was not an okay word that far back. Stop using that stupid defense.

A Political Memoir The Speech Writer: A Brief Education in Politics, by Barton Swaim. I wanted to pick something off the beaten path for this one. Swaim isn’t a politician, but he was hired as a speech writer for then-governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. Though sometimes I rolled my eyes at Swaim’s self-importance (he tends to make snotty comments about the grammar of non-writers), I really enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the train wreck governor who comes off as a mix of Kevin Spacey in Swimming With Sharks, Michael Scott from The Office, and Scrooge from A Christmas Carol (Swaim describes Sanford cutting a piece from an employee’s birthday cake and walking away without even wishing the woman a happy birthday). By the time the narrative reaches Sanford’s bizarre 2009 disappearance and the revelation of his extramarital affair, I was weirdly invested, and as torn between dislike of the governor and pity for him. If you’re a fan of The Thick Of It or Veep, this book was like if Armando Iannucci wrote real life.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print right now. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but aren’t I always?

Legion XIII Rome watch-along, “About Your Father” or “At least one character ends up happy. But like, just one.”

A picture of a big roman number XIII, in front of an ominous sky, in the middle of a road through a field. In the crotch of the X, I, dressed as a centurion, naturally, am slumped over, sleeping. Bronwyn Green, dressed in a stola, is looking nervously at a harp, and Jess is depicted as the woman with a bloody knife from the DVD cover of season 2.

CW: Suicide

Here we are, at the last episode of the entire series. Which, if you check interviews as recent as 2013 with certain cast members, isn’t the end. There’s still talk that Bruno Heller is adapting the series into a movie, or crafting a third season. Which makes the ambiguity at the end of the show make a lot more sense.

Quick rundown of the episode:  Mark Antony’s bid against Octavian has failed. He has literally hit a dead end, because Octavian is going to be coming for Egypt and Antony with murder on his mind. In the forum, the news reader describes the victory, and calls Antony Cleopatra’s slave, and her a witch. So public sentiment has turned, most definitely.

At a dinner party with the mean girls, Livia tells a long, dramatic story about how cowardly Antony is. Octavia is at the point where she hates her brother and his wife so much, she’ll actually defend her husband. Meanwhile, Atia is catatonic with wondering what happened to turn her son into a monster.

I don’t want to point fingers here, Atia.

Antony promises Octavian that he’ll retire from public life if Octavian promises to let Cleopatra and her kids keep on ruling. Octavian wants nothing short of total surrender, and wants Pullo to convince Vorenus to open the palace so they can storm it, rather than burn it. They need a way to make it clear to Vorenus that the message is coming from Pullo, so Pullo tells them to mention his son, since Vorenus is the only other person who knows that Caesarion is his child. Pullo passes this off as an inside joke.

Inside the palace, that orgy scene from The Matrix: Reloaded is happening when Octavian’s messenger shows up to give him the bad news. Antony has moved on to his Apocalypse Now Brando phase. He’s all puffy and sweaty. Cleopatra suggests they escape the palace and live life on the run, but Antony thinks suicide is probably the better option. Vorenus tells the messenger that Pullo’s son is well, but those gates are not going to open, no matter what. Antony tells the messenger that he’ll engage Octavian mano a mano.

Which, of course, Octavian rejects totally. He knows he can’t burn down the palace or lay siege to it, so he sends Cleopatra a secret message while Antony kills a palace onlooker who laughs at him when he falls down. Antony asks the dude, “Do I amuse you? Am I a fucking clown?” because apparently Bruno Heller is really into Goodfellas.

The message Octavian sends Cleopatra promises that she, her children, and Egypt will be safe if she hands over Antony, dead or alive. Cleopatra is heartbroken, because she knows betraying Antony is dishonorable. She and Antony make a plan to kill themselves in the morning, because she doesn’t want to die in the dark. Antony decides to spend his last night on Earth drinking with Vorenus and remembering the men they’ve fought with over the years. Antony passes out in the throne room, and when he wakes, Cleopatra’s slave gives him the news that the queen has already killed herself. Antony is despondent. He kills himself by falling on Vorenus’s sword.

Vorenus dresses Antony and places him on the throne, at which point Cleopatra, totally not dead, comes in. Vorenus loses it and tells the queen she’s lucky he doesn’t kill her. He tells her that Octavian is going to take her back to Rome as a trophy, and murder Caesarion. Vorenus tells Cleopatra that he’s going to take Caesarion to his real father to protect him, but she’s like, uh, no, Octavian said everything is cool. But she sends Caesarion with Vorenus, anyway, and they escape the city.

Cleopatra meets with Octavian, who, in a spectacularly cold exchange of fake pleasantries that would make his mama proud, suggests that Cleopatra immediately leave with him to go to Rome. Like, tomorrow. Cleopatra realizes that everything Vorenus says is true; she’s going to be paraded through the forum like a prisoner of war and humiliated. She goes back to the throne room, where she apologizes to Antony’s dead body and commits orgasmic suicide by snake.

I wonder what happens if you want to commit suicide by snake and you can’t get the snake to bite you.

Octavian realizes too late that this might go down, and he should have taken her hostage when he had the chance. By the time they return to the palace, Cleopatra is already dying. With her final breaths, she tells Octavian that he has a rotten soul. Which is the kind of the thing that can shake up even Octavian. It’s worse when he tells Agrippa what she said, and Agrippa doesn’t really argue with that.

Pullo finds Vorenus’s picture of Niobe, and he realizes that Vorenus has taken Caesarion to safety. Still not vibing on the dynamic, Octavian sends Pullo after Vorenus and the boy. Meanwhile, Caesarion is having a real hard time grasping that he’s not royalty anymore. Pullo arrives and breaks the news to the kid that his mom killed herself, in the sensitive manner we’ve all come to expect from Pullo. He and Vorenus plan a route to get Caesarion out of Egypt.

Meanwhile, in Rome, Octavian brings Antony’s kids by Cleopatra to Octavia, like, hey, your husband sired these kids, they’re your problem now. Oh, and by the way, mom, your true love killed himself. Atia pretends to take it well, but obviously she’s destroyed.

In Egypt, Pullo and Vorenus run afoul of some Roman soldiers. They pretend to be grain merchants, but Caesarion blows their cover when he responds to a soldier who calls him “your highness”. Vorenus and Pullo take on the soldiers and kill them all, but Vorenus is seriously wounded. He’s worried he’s going to die, and he tells Pullo to take him back to Rome, because he doesn’t want to die on the Egyptian Road Trip That Never Ends.

Octavian’s triumph is coming up, but Atia is too despondent to go. Octavia reminds her that this triumph is the culmination of a lifetime of political maneuvering and personal manipulation. She tells her mother that

Somehow, Vorenus has survived an entire month with a gut wound. I feel like if you’ve survived for that long, you’re probably going to be fine, but we never find out if he is or not. There is a long, glorious moment in which Pullo and Vorenus hold hands, until Vorena the Elder comes in and kisses her father’s forehead. All the kids come in, and apparently they forgive him.

At the triumph, all the women are lining up. Livia tells Octavia that Octavian will be angry that Atia isn’t there. Livia tells everyone to line up “in order of precedence,” and Atia enters looking like a goddamn black widow spider. She breezes right past Livia, to the head of the processional. Livia tries to put Atia in her place by telling her that the priests say the wife should walk ahead of the mother. To which Atia says, and this is a direct quote, “I don’t give a fuck what the priests say. I’ll not let a vicious little trollop like you walk ahead of me. I go first.” And Livia tries to call her crazy, in the most saccharine way possible. As Octavia looks on proudly, Atia tells her, “You’re swearing now that someday, you’ll destroy me. Remember, far better women than you have sworn to do the same. Go and look for them now.”

And then this shot happens:

In front of an open door with blinding bright white light showing through a curtain with Octavian's picture on it, we see Atia from behind, standing in the center of and just slightly ahead of Livia and Octavia. It's really powerful, as Atia is framed by the doors and you get a sense that it's really her triumph, more than Octavian's.

But for as triumphant as Atia is in the moment, she’s totally cold as she watches her son riding into the forum as Caesar. They parade the rotting corpses of Antony and Cleopatra through the streets, and Atia turns to her son, realizing she’s basically worked her entire life to destroy herself and put a monster on the throne.

After the triumph, Pullo goes to Octavian and tells him that he killed Caesarion and meant to bring back the boy’s head, but it was so rotten he had to throw it away. He tells Octavian that Vorenus “didn’t make it”, but since he’s lying about everything else, it’s probably safe to say he’s lying about Vorenus’s death, too. As Pullo walks through the streets with his son, who has vengeance on his mind. He’s going to bring glory back to his father’s name, to which Pullo says, “Listen…about your father.”

And that’s it. That’s the whole series.

My favorite part of the episode: Atia’s bad ass confrontation with Livia. Even after Servillia’s curse, even after losing the love of her life and watching her son turn into a monster and her daughter turn into, well, her, she comes out with her dignity in tact. And that might not seem like much considering how terrible her life is turning out, but to Atia, appearances are more important than anything, so in a way, she’s won.

My least favorite part of the episode: When Cleopatra realizes that Vorenus is right, and she’s now basically Octavian’s slave. I feel so bad for Cleopatra throughout this series, because she’s always on the run or doing something she has to do to keep her country safe. And everything is really sad, because I think she did love Antony, even though she was manipulating him the entire time. Then she has to lose her children

Favorite costume: I have not given enough love to the News Reader, so for this final week, this spot goes to him and his fantastic teal getup.

For the guy who's basically the Dan Rather of Rome, the Newsreader's clothes are sewn pretty rough, but the fabric is neat. It's all different shades of blue and green and white and black woven together, with an awesome bronze pin about the size of a bread plate at his shoulder.

Team Atia or Team Servilia: Atia all the way. She’s classy enough to give a nod to Servilia when she verbally smacks Livia, but confident enough to remind everyone who the real winner is in Rome.

What hairdo or costume would Bronwyn steal? I’m going to go with Atia’s dress for the triumph, because it seems like the kind of thing Bronwyn would actually wear.

Atia's dress is really dark blue and tight and silky, with sheer sleeves. She's got a red scarf thing that's very gossamer and sheer, as well. Her hair is totally huge, like she's a Roman Marie Antoinette.

Guess Jess’s head canon. Vorenus doesn’t die. He recovers, and he and Pullo finally realize their love and bisexuality, together.

That’s it for #LegionXIII. Thank you to everyone who joined us on Monday nights for a good time! Now go check out Bronwyn’s post, as Jess’s hand lost a fight to an avocado about halfway through this season.

The Face Of Romance?

Long before the internet, cover models became viral sensations. As “The Topaz Man,” Steve Sandalis graced the covers of over 700 novels. CJ Hollenbach has been a fan favorite at conventions for over twenty years. And the average shopper probably can’t walk past the dairy case without thinking of Fabio (the undisputed king of romance) and his disbelief with regards to imitation butter spreads.

For as long as modern romances have existed, male models have been an integral part of their marketing. Readers love them, and love interacting with them. In 2016, Nightline somehow managed to go to a convention full of women and single out these men to profile (rather than the female authors or readers who drive the industry).

How important are models? You can see the perspectives of readers in the video, but as one woman bluntly stated, “If the book ain’t good, you can always put it on the shelf and look at it, honey.” Author Beth Williamson stated that the cover of the book was “almost” more important the content, because it was all about making a first impression with the reader. That’s not a reality that’s lost on authors or publishers. But recent developments within the romance community have many questioning just how important these men are to the success of the genre–and how much authors and readers are willing to put up with.

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Since Fabio’s heyday, fan interaction has been an important part of a model’s career. In a 2015 story for Jezebel, Romantic Times founder Katheryn Falk explained the appeal that made the golden one so popular:

Katheryn Falk, the founder of Romantic Times, says a great cover model can “look a woman in the eye.” Falk adds, “Like Fabio, he was bigger than life. He thought every woman was beautiful. And he had a lot of charisma. The accent, the name. He wasn’t overdoing it, but he would pay attention. He would look them in the eye. He appreciated women and it was part of his nature and part of his charisma that all women ruled over him.”

The personality of a model was once as important as looks in becoming the object of reader fantasy. Respecting the authors and readers wasn’t just a key to success; it was a job requirement.

So, where did it all go wrong?

Recently, Faith*, an author, pleaded with romance readers and writers via Facebook, warning them of a model she’d worked with who’d harassed and stalked her. Faith says the model repeatedly asked her sexually inappropriate questions via text message, tried to pressure her into signing a contract guaranteeing him a portion of her royalties, and physically threatened her at an event. Faith initially feared retribution from her publishers and from convention directors who’d warned her against going public. Even when she eventually did, she declined to mention the model’s name. Emboldened by Faith’s story, other authors who’d had similar interactions with the model came forward, and were more than willing to name Jackson Young as their tormentor.

Public content on Young’s Facebook page features bible verses and a profile photo declaring that he loves his mother. Readers and authors have tagged him in photos from the Romantic Times convention in Las Vegas, declaring how much they enjoyed meeting him. This public persona of the aww-shucks-cornfed-country-boy has given him ample camouflage to abuse the women signing his paychecks, as well as the voracious readers who swoon over his appearance on their favorite novels. When the story went public, readers and authors alike rushed to defend him and declare Faith a liar and an attention seeker.

Another model, Paul Blake, recently posted the following tirade on Facebook:

I’m going to keep this real simple. If I see you post anything that has to do with body shaming I will delete you. Let me clarify. If you are That person that has a weight problem and your always posting these memes about how it is wrong to “body shame” I am deleting you!!!! Becaaaaaaause you are the reason many of our youth is thinking it’s okay to be obese. Idiot!!!!! You SHOULD be ashamed of yourself.

When one woman objected, Blake responded:

you should go eat your last Dairy Queen Blizzard and then hang yourself in the closet

Screenshots of the altercation quickly circulated on social media, yet some of Blake’s fans still felt that his “honesty” was refreshing. One wrote:

I know so many “big girls” who are big by choice because of poor diet and lack of exercise that have passed their poor eating habits on to their children and it frustrates me so much! Then yeah will be like curvy girls do it better and I just want to slap them because curves means you have big hips and a smaller waist line not a muffin top hence the word “curves”! I agree with you completely. Preach on, I love it!

Blake’s response?

Thank you that’s what I’m talking about I care nothing about book covers or a following. Im not a fuckin celebrity.

When damning evidence of his behavior circulated, he warned one woman via Facebook messenger:

You and all the other fat slob offers going screenshot this and pass it around I don’t give two f**** what you old horny b****** think about me that’s why your big fat ass sits behind the f******* computer and types romance novels about the dick you will never have you will all pathetic lazy b******* so you can say what you want just like I say what I want I don’t give two s****

How did the genre move from readers worshipping at the feet of Fabio, a man who worshipped and valued each and every one of them right back, to muscle-bound meatheads who proudly degrade women and tell them to kill themselves?

Romance novels have always been the domain of women, from the majority of editorial staff, agents who represent clients within the genre, to the authors and readers. Even romance novels about gay men are written and consumed predominately by cis heterosexual women. The genre has made millionaires (Nora Roberts, E.L. James, Danielle Steel, among others), and boasts a loyal and hungry fanbase. So then why, in an industry driven by women, are these abuses allowed to happen?

The actions of these men are their own responsibility, and only they are accountable for them. But the fostering of the toxic culture within romance that has elevated them to near untouchable status lies squarely on the industry. Authors, publishers, and conventions have gleefully touted the importance of a square jaw and rock-hard abs as an integral part of fully enjoying the romance experience. Some authors even hire their cover models to attend their signings, in the hopes of drawing a larger crowd. When the models begin to believe that they’re so important or noteworthy that they no longer need the authors or readers, something has to give.

Change in the genre must come from within. While many authors and readers stepped up to publicly shame Blake and Young, social media outcry isn’t enough to protect future victims of harassment. Authors and publishers must agree to stop hiring any amateur with a nice body because he’ll settle for a low paycheck. Background checks should be mandatory before models can attend reader events (during the social media backlash, Blake boasted to one author that he had spent time in prison on weapons charges). And when an author or reader levies serious accusations against a model, those accusations should be investigated, not hushed up. Romance is a billion dollar industry. Surely it can afford to safeguard its readers and authors.

*Name changed to protect the individual