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Author: JennyTrout

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.

I read the Handbook For Mortals screenplay. It is worse than you could possibly imagine.

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There’s an important rule that you must always follow when sharing your creative work with people you trust: you must take caution not to fuck over those people with your egomaniacal scheming so that they later have the desire to see that work dragged to hell and New Zealand and back in front of all the mighty gods of Mount Olympus.

An anonymous source contacted me last week to gift me with some gossip and the most cursed object of all time:

A photo of the Handbook For Mortals screenplay on my dining room table, with highlighters and a mug of coffee.

That’s right. I have in my possession a copy of the Handbook For Mortals screenplay.

Please note the revision number: 3841. I sincerely hope that this was part of a numbering system and this has not, in fact, been revised three thousand times. Because I have read it, dear reader. And three thousand more revisions would not have saved this. From its earliest days, Handbook For Mortals has been a total non-starter.

“Wow, Jenny! I can’t wait for you to rip this thing to shreds in a very special episode of Jealous Haters Book Club!” you may be thinking. Sadly, it’s much more difficult to prove Fair Use for unpublished material. After a weekend of reading up on Fair Use and unpublished work by living creators, I have decided to forgo becoming embroiled in the stupidest lawsuit of all time. I will not be excerpting any lines of text. However, the dialogue and much of the action in the book is taken wholesale from a draft of the screenplay. In some passages, even typos are duplicated, suggesting that it was copy/pasted from one document to another. You won’t be missing much.

Remember when I was like, “Wow, this book sucks so much because you can tell it was being adapted from a screenplay?” Yeah, I was wrong. The book sucks because the screenplay sucks, and somehow the book is an improvement. This draft of the screenplay is from 2011, so it had at least five years to age like milk, but somehow it managed to come out as a fine…well, I can’t say wine, but at least a vinegar that would be particularly useful for cleaning laminate flooring.

So, just how bad is it?

Shot according to this script, Handbook For Mortals would have been a shockingly short film. If we were to follow the oft-repeated “one page equals one minute” advice, the 112 pages of Handbook For Mortals would create a movie that’s just shy of two hours. But that oft-repeated advice is wrong as hell, as anyone who has ever read a screenplay could tell you. This has a lot to do with the pacing of scenes. For example, the movie Braveheart was shot from a screenplay that’s 143 pages long, but it clocked in at 177 minutes. Why? Action scenes take up a lot more room on film than on the page, as do sweeping shots of the Scottish countryside. On the other hand, movies with snappy, quick-paced dialogue like Moneyball, have longer page counts and shorter run times (168 pages of mostly dialogue for 133 minutes on the screen). The Handbook For Mortals script is mostly dialogue with little action and incredibly short scenes, some with only five to eight lines of conversation without action, like the scene that opens with Mac and Zade lying on some grass chatting for less than a page. What isn’t dialogue is usually description, rather than action. If produced in this format, Handbook For Mortals would be more Dunkirk, less Gone With The Wind. It would need significant padding to get it past the one hour mark. And speaking of those short scenes…

The film version would be choppy and confusing to any viewer who isn’t Lani Sarem. Think the “several weeks later,” time jumps in the book drag the story out over what feels like a full calendar year? Well, you’ll love the screenplay, where everything seems to happen on the same day. Zade leaves her home in New Mexico and seemingly auditions moments later, as we shift from leaving home to the theater without any indication in either the script or the dialogue to suggest a passage of time. No shot of Zade passing a Welcome To Nevada sign, no exterior of the theater, just straight from Zade telling her mother goodbye to Zade opening the doors in the casino. After Sofia’s literal stage dive, she shows up at a bar just a scene later, fully healed, with no mention of a passage of time. Events within scenes move weirdly, too; within eight urgent lines of Pete shouting for someone to call the paramedics, they arrive on the scene as if they’ve been standing in the wings waiting for their cue.

Sarem’s writing micromanages everything. Anything you’d see an actor do on screen from laughs to eye rolls, even blushing is scripted. It’s true that direction like, “(laughing nervously)” will come up in screenplays, but it’s usually when the action is commented on in the dialogue. I haven’t read the Fifty Shades Of Grey screenplay because I don’t hate myself, but I assume Ana’s lip biting and eye rolls would have been included because they’re an impetus for Christian’s lines that follow and therefore must be acted out by Dakota Johnson. In the Handbook For Mortals script, Sarem frequently specifies how the lines should be delivered, what emotion the actor should convey, and what expressions should be used. As someone who reads a lot of screenplays, I feel pretty confident in stating that the number of times this occurs in Handbook For Mortals is highly unusual and displays a shocking lack of faith in the director and actors. This could be due to inexperience as a writer; multiple crucial elements are either missing or employed in strange ways, like fades to black separating what should be continuous scenes and v.o. dialogue labeled as o.s. lines, which suggests this may have been Sarem’s first time.

Sarem included plenty of chances to showcase her singing as well as her nude or nearly-nude body. We know from interviews and the listing on IMDB Pro that Lani Sarem envisioned herself taking on the role of Zade. Which is what makes it so incredibly cringe-worthy when the position of her body is breathlessly described as being fully nude and barely covered by a sheet or lying on her stomach in just her underwear while reading her tarot cards. Why would she be nude, you might ask? Because the “passionate kissing” post-motorcycle ride doesn’t end with the pair just going home and taking things slow. Instead, there’s a sex scene, complete with Mac undressing her and a morning-after discussion of her tattoo, which stands in for the family necklace. In case you’re not impressed with Sarem’s beauty, she included a lot of subtle hints that you should be.

She’s sexy and she knows it, and you’re going to, as well, audience. Besides the nude scenes, we’re treated to the same book interludes of male characters standing around and discussing how sexy they find her. When Sofia is introduced, it’s important to Sarem to note in the action that it should be clear to the audience that though Sofia is beautiful, her personality makes her unattractive. Many characters make references to how gorgeous Zade is and how great her body is, to the point that it borders on sexual harassment of Sarem, by Sarem.

The characters are all somehow much, much worse than their book incarnations…except for Mac. Without the narrative to explain to us that Zade is given lots of gifts and perks at the production’s expense, Sofia’s griping about the special treatment Zade receives comes off as nothing more than unfounded jealousy. There’s no internal monologue from Zade or Mac to describe Charles as socially awkward or unusually career-driven, so on screen, he would just appear to be a total jackass. When the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dates with Jackson are removed, you’re simply left with a guy who likes to talk about how much he’d like to bang the chick he works with. Yeah, you read that right. The dates with Jackson aren’t in here at all.

The love triangle from the book is non-existent. Answering perhaps one of the most pressing questions I’ve had about the novel, the screenplay leaves out the oh-who-ever-will-I-choose subplot by almost immediately pairing up Zade and Mac. As in the book, Mac asks that they “take it slow,” although there’s no mention of his past heartache and just a few scenes later, he calls a company meeting to kiss Zade in front of the entire cast and crew, settling the matter. Though Jackson does have designs on Zade (and Sarem makes sure to include a scene where they kiss), his feelings aren’t reciprocated and absolutely no conflict arises as a result. This may be due in part to the fact that “Jackson” is literally Jackson Rathbone playing Jackson Rathbone. While the novel features “appearances” by Plain White T’s, the screenplay explicitly uses 100 Monkeys as the band, as well as the titles of their songs and the real names of the band members. Sarem wrote this while she managed the bandImagine if someone you worked with wrote a screenplay in which you’d be expected to portray yourself kissing and delivering lines about how much you want to fuck the character based off of and played by them. Considering that the marketing of the Handbook For Mortals novel now includes “Team Mac” and “Team Jackson” merchandise, it’s clear that Sarem saw Rathbone, still starring in the wildly popular Twilight franchise, as her ticket toward getting the film produced. When the personal and professional relationship between Rathbone and Sarem soured and she set out to turn the book into a Young Adult sensation, she simply tacked on a love triangle because Twilight had one, and Twilight was the only blueprint she had to work from.

Handbook For Mortals was never meant to be a series. In another blatant attempt at copying the success of Twilight, Sarem stretched her original idea (already paper thin) into what has allegedly always been a planned series. Leaving aside the age of the protagonist, the love scene and multiple unclothed moments, the Handbook For Mortals movie was clearly meant to be a one-off. The single element in the novel that suggests any sort of continuation of the story, Lamborghini Girl, is conspicuously absent. There is no mention of being the town outcast due to special “magick” powers, and there’s no greater “magick” community that could oppose Mac’s involvement with Zade. The “magick” conflict is missing because…

We don’t find out that Zade is “magick” until page ninety-four. The novel’s scenes of Zade’s secretive illusions are presented in the screenplay as exactly that: illusions. The confrontation at the lemonade stand and the attempted murder of a cyclist––events that are superfluous in the book––would have tipped the audience off to Zade’s abilities and were sorely needed on the screen. Instead, her powers are inexplicably revealed at the end of the script when Dela breaks the news to Mac. Imagine watching a movie that appears to be a romance with a weird title from beginning to nearly the end before learning that it’s actually a story about witches. And then imagine that when the love interest finds out that his girlfriend is a witch who’s been using him for magic without his knowledge, he simply laughs it off in the final line of the movie.

All of the problems from the book are present here. For example, Sofia’s name flipping between Sofia and Sofie depending on its use in dialogue or description remains throughout, as does her abrupt, unexplained disappearance from the book. Overly used phrases like “show blacks” and “deeply into [his/her/character’s] eyes” first debuted here, in abundance. Dela and Charles’s flashback is unnecessarily included and, if filmed, would be one of, if not the, longest scenes in a movie that…isn’t about them. Dela’s manipulation of Charles with magic, as well as Zade’s use of magic on Mac are never dealt with, and though the mysterious family necklace becomes a mysterious family tattoo in the screenplay, it’s mentioned once and nothing ever comes of it, similar to the book. The characters state their personalities aloud in dialogue, just as in the book. The tarot card reading scene is still just Zade talking aloud about what the cards mean. Basically, anything that didn’t work in the novel was ported over from the screenplay, which was already terrible.

So, there you have it. The Handbook For Mortals movie that, God willing, will never come to fruition. The only good thing I can say about it is that they actually say the title of the movie in the screenplay. And even then, it sounds stupid.

Jealous Haters Book Club: Handbook For Mortals, Chapter 18 The Chariot part 2 or, “No One Is Responsible For Their Actions”

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For your laughing pleasure, Esther Anne sent me this lovely screenshot:

A tweet from @JustinBrady that reads, "It was fun to meet @RockanRollGypsy and @TINband in the @WHORadio studios today! Some are saying their new collaboration is going to be bigger than the Twilight series!" followed by a link to a radio interview and a photo of Sarem and Nicholas with the WHO Radio DJs.

First of all, @WHORadio is a prime example of why you need to carefully consider how your social media/web branding is going to look without spaces in it.

Second, the “some are saying” part is 100% true. It’s just that the “some” are Lani Sarem and Thomas Ian Nicholas. It’s a very exclusive group.

You can listen to interviews here if you have a high cringe tolerance.

Why I’m backing away from romance “community” concerns

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Yesterday, I announced on Twitter that I no longer wanted to be tagged in, talked to, or asked about anything relating to #CockyGate, book stuffing, or any issue affecting the romance “community”, barring something like discrimination or prejudice. It may have seemed like a flounce out of nowhere. In reality, it was a mixture of a few things that have been going on for a while and which finally came to a head.

Mainly, the catalyst was the question: “Where were you?”

Without naming names, here’s the situation: Author X, with whom I have acquaintances in common, was called out for a video she made last January. In the video, which she now claims was “satire”, this author mocked Author Y, who called out Kindle Unlimited page stuffing scams. Author X went on at length for thirty minutes, proclaiming that book stuffers are smart, that she doesn’t care about book stuffers because she’s not a KU author and it doesn’t affect her, and making fun of Author Y for using YouTube and her low follower count. This allegedly satirical video resulted in some of the Author X’s readers and some other authors––who were probably page stuffing, themselves––to attack and threaten Author Y, who then removed her videos.

In other words, someone tried to call out a very real issue affecting authors and readers and another author went to ridiculous lengths to silence her, all while admitting that the issue didn’t have any impact on her career, anyway.

So, it was your standard Indie Romance Monday.

Now that the page stuffing scandal has gotten even more traction, Author Y stepped up and said, hey, I was talking about this a while ago but Author X made a video and it got people to attack me so I shut up about it. Obviously, some people were angry about that. My take (on another person’s Facebook status about the situation; I did not post the original call out or any statuses of my own about the issue) was that the “satire” video failed and Author X should apologize and retract. Others believed the same. But Author X chose instead to shout about how no one was silenced (they were), that she doesn’t hurt people’s feelings (she did), and perhaps my favorite (and the only direct quote I’ll use here): “Don’t you find it strange that I ‘silenced’ her, yet she suddenly has the courage to come forward and share this video for everyone who didn’t see it before?”

I wanted to scream, “NO, YOU STUPID BITCH, IT’S NOT STRANGE! IT’S THAT SHE KNOWS SHE HAS SUPPORT NOW!”

But all of that shoulder-tightening nonsense aside, what really got me was that several people on a very contentious Facebook thread about it demanded to know “Where were you?” when this was going on in January if I cared so much about it.

Where was I?

I wasn’t carefully monitoring the social media feeds of every single romance author to see if someone was being mean to them.

Where was I?

I was probably over-extending myself trying to stick up for someone else on some other issue affecting our alleged “community”.

Where was I?

Not making sure to follow two authors I’d never heard of until very recently to make sure they were able to get along with each other because I am not the fucking Indie Romance Preschool Monitor.

That “Where were you?”, repeated twice in that thread, four times in private messages, was the perfect “gotcha!” for people who, until their friend was called out for her actions, were happy to use the #GetLoud hashtag to stick up for silenced or under-siege authors. But the second it was someone they liked, all the old standbys came out. She was joking! It was sarcasm! Doesn’t anyone understand satire? Gosh! And when people still said, “yeah, she might not have intended to hurt this author, but she did,” they immediately jumped to that “Where were you?” Because if you imply that a person didn’t care enough six months ago…

What?

Six months ago, I didn’t know this was happening to Author Y. No one did, because she was afraid to speak up because she had been, what? SILENCED. Nobody knew what had happened to her because she didn’t have a large following at the time, so she had no support. Obviously, people didn’t hear about it then. That doesn’t mean they can’t care about it, now, or that people just not knowing something was going on means that it wasn’t a big deal and they should get a pass for their shitty behavior.

But no. “Where were you?”

Since I made a name for this blog by calling out the abuse and plagiarism in Fifty Shades Of Grey, I’ve been able to use it and my social media presence as a tool to support authors and readers who’ve run into situations where they’ve felt powerless. I’ve been able to call out bad author behavior and scams. I’ve been really lucky to have the voice that I have and the platform that I have. But I’ve also gotten a lot of shit for it. The owner of a now-defunct publishing house threatened me with physical violence. A publisher declined to release an anthology if I was included in it. I’ve been told gossip at bars at conferences about authors who’ve threatened to pull their books from publishers if they ever bought a manuscript from me. A guy threatened to make a necklace from my teeth. Rumors were started that I spent time in prison for gang violence and therefore shouldn’t be allowed at some events. Through trying to defend authors and readers, often after someone requested help from me, I have made myself persona non grata in my own industry. I don’t go to many conferences anymore because of my experiences at the few that I have gone to recently. Many times I spent evenings alone in my room while people who have been lovely and friendly to me for years in private wouldn’t chance being seen with me in public in front of other authors, agents, and publishers. At Romantic Times in Dallas, I spent several nights crying over the humiliation of receiving “the cut direct” from people who later tried to pull, “Oh, that was you? I didn’t even recognize you!” as though I didn’t have my name right there on my badge.

Interestingly enough, it was Anna Todd, an author I’d called out here on this blog and later apologized for, who was the kindest to me at that event. I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

And yesterday, at the height of all of this nonsense, I was asked, “Where were you?”

Because I haven’t done enough.

Because I don’t care enough.

Because I could be giving more.

One of the people who asked, “Where were you?” had even been sending me screenshots from private groups to keep me updated about Faleena Hopkins. She’d sent me things she’d asked me to post or spread the word about. She’d been fine with using me as a tool, but the moment I mildly disagreed with her friend, Author X, she’d demanded to know: “Where were you when this was happening back in January?”

Well, where the fuck were you, romance “community”, when I needed you? That’s right. You were nowhere. You were telling me not to worry about it. You were telling me that I was making too big a deal of it. You were telling me to make it into a joke, to laugh it off, while I suffered and struggled with suicidal ideation because I knew, just from the response of people in the industry that I’d once trusted, that I was alone and nobody had my back. But now I’m supposed to jump at every screenshot over every trivial matter that might arise. You want to come to me with your grievances and gossip, you want me to listen, but practically no one listened to me in my time of need and if they did, only one author expressed public support.

But I’m supposed to do more. I’m supposed to care about what’s happening in your snotty little private groups where you talk shit freely about other authors in comfortable anonymity. I’m supposed to give a shit if author A’s feelings got hurt by Author B over something incredibly small and stupid, while larger problems are going on. These demands are constantly streaming into my emails, DMs, Facebook messages, Tumblr inbox, anywhere someone thinks they can grab my attention and be granted my time, my anger, my energy.

Yesterday, when I announced on Twitter that I was resigning my unintentional post as attack dog, people sent very nice messages suggesting self-care and stepping away for my own mental health. These messages are appreciated and I don’t want to appear ungrateful by saying this, because I am so grateful for the support of readers and authors who are still out there, doing what they can. This post is not addressed to you. But I want to make it clear: this is not me stepping away for my mental health. My mental health is fine.  This is me acting out the scene from Half Baked when Scarface quits his job. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, and fuck you, I’m out. This is me quitting and walking out of the office backward with both middle fingers extended.

Where were you?

I was right here. I was doing what you asked me to do. I was wrecking industry connections and stifling my own career. I was taking time out from writing books and blogging the fun stuff that makes me happy. I was spending my days constantly despairing over the state of an industry I loved, losing ground while cheaters and disingenuously “nice” people prospered. That’s where I was.

I’ll tell you where I’m going to be from now on: writing my books, focusing on my career and working as hard as possible for my readers. Blogging the stuff that’s fun, not the stuff that’s going to make me dread getting online. Not answering emails trying to alert me to the latest crisis, problem, or pointless drama I don’t even want to be involved in.

Where were you?

Where the fuck were you?

BABY MAKES THREE IS HERE!

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I said it would be May, and by god, it IS May!

The cover of Baby Makes Three shows a picture of Nassau, Bahamas from the water, with boats and brightly colored homes near the shore. There is a white bar across the middle of the cover with the title, and a green bar with Internationally Bestselling Author Abigail Barnette on it. Below that, the image of a couple's feet and a baby's diapered bottom and little feet between them.

Baby Makes Three (Penny’s Story): With a supportive spouse who adores her and a fresh start toward the career of her dreams, there isn’t much else that Penny Parker-Pratchett wants…except for a baby.

When a second pregnancy brings Penny and her husband, Ian, the surprise of a lifetime, it seems that his vision of domestic bliss isn’t quite what she’d thought it would be. With motherhood closer than ever before, Penny must contend not only with doubts about her maternal instincts but also with the reality that sometimes life doesn’t always go as planned…

Amazon • Smashwords

Baby Makes Three (Ian’s Story): Married to the love of his life, owning a successful architecture firm, and living in a tropical paradise, Ian Pratchett knows he’s achieved a dream most people would envy. But one goal remains painfully out of reach—fatherhood.

When Ian and his wife, Penny, are finally blessed with a second chance at parenthood, the pain of past losses haunts him. And when their blessing turns out to be more than they bargained for, Ian must let go of the fears that have driven him to success, or risk disappointing the one woman he swore he would never let down again.

Amazon • Smashwords

 

As always, I hope you enjoy the book(s) and thanks for your continued support of my bonkers writing dreams!

Jealous Haters Book Club: Handbook For Mortals, Chapter 18 The Chariot part 1 or, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

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I don’t think I have any Lani news this time around, simply because Book Twitter is so busy with #CockyGate and #ForeverGate at the moment. But I do have a heads up about content this time around. If you’re mentally ill and “crazy” or “insane” as a pejorative bothers you, it’s all over this chapter. No exaggeration. “Crazy” is used seven times in this chapter. “Insane” is used four times. That might not seem like a lot, but in context, it becomes impossible to overlook. It will continue into the next recap.

There is so much in this chapter that I’m splitting it into two parts. It’s not that the chapter is long, necessarily. It’s just the high amount of wrong with it.

We’re also going to get the G-word and a lot of made up, One True Path™ nonsense, too. Enjoy!

#CockyGate2: Forever Boogaloo

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In a story that’s getting weirder and weirder by the minute, it appears that someone has filed for a trademark for the word “forever” as it relates to all titles across all genres in print, e-book, and publishing houses.

The author? Heidi McLaughlin, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Forever My Girl, recently a major motion picture and one of the specimens entered on the application.

And yup. This case is just as big a banana split as Faleena Hopkins’s trademark of “cocky”. But in a whole different way. See, McLaughlin claims that the trademark has been filed by…an impersonator?

A face book comment that reads: "We are asking specific questions on this post, and we are not being given clear answers. Please clarify. Did you or did you not consent to this trademark application? Are you implying that you are being impersonated? Did you give permission to Marisa to file?' Followed by a response from Heidi McLaughlin: "1) No. 2) Yes. There is someone going around posing as me. They have been around for some time and it's been a battle trying to get them to stop. 3) She didn't file it. Only two TM's were filed on my behalf. My name and series title."

The “Marisa” referenced in the post is McLaughlin’s agent, Marisa Corvisiero, of Corvisiero Literary Agency, who McLaughlin states did not file the trademark on her behalf:

A FB status from Heidi McLaughlin: Things you should know... 1) My business name is Books by Heidi McLaughlin, LTD - it's very public, used on my PayPal and all over my platforms. 2) My series title - The Beaumont Series - filed as well. 3) My name - I filed to protect this, see #4 4) Impersonation IS NOT a form of flattery. 4a) Not my filing, nor associated with me, my business or representation 5) Why would I TM my publisher's name? Doesn't make much sense now does it? 5) While everyone is so quick to jump the gun, to bash me, my agent and the post I saw about my "spoiled ass kids" grow up. Stop and ask questions."

But while McLaughlin insists that the filer does not represent her, Corvisiero Literary Agency’s website still shows McLaughlin as a client and the application has Marisa Corvisiero’s law firm listed multiple times as the person seeking the Trademark.

Though McLaughlin claims that Corvisiero did not file the application, Corvisiero stated on Twitter:

A tweet from Marisa Corvisiero: "Yes, I see that a clarification should be made as many rumors are floating around. I assure you, any legal filling submitted from me as an attorney wasn't not an activity of my agency, was fully authorized by the legal client, and made within the legal rights of the client."

The confusing wording of “wasn’t not” aside, Corvisiero claims her “client” authorized her to file the trademark. The client being the entity listed on the application, Wicked Literary LLC.

So, who owns Wicked Literary LLC? McLaughlin hasn’t answered when asked if she’s the owner, and the LLC is registered by American Incorporators LTD, a service specializing in establishing LLCs. Does McLaughlin own Wicked Literary? That’s kind of a dead end. It could be a shell corporation set up by McLaughlin or Corvisiero. Or could it be, as McLaughlin claims, an impersonator?

For the moment, Corvisiero isn’t answering any more questions on Twitter. In comments on her Facebook status, McLaughlin has dodged straightforward questions from confused readers, insisting that she has been impersonated and the trademark was filed without her permission. Both have said that they’re looking into the situation.

At the time of writing this, neither have said that the trademark application will be challenged or withdrawn.

Now we come to the part of the blog post where I ask some questions and say some shit.

I believe that people impersonate authors. It happened to me when my second book came out. A woman in South Carolina was pretending to be me, going into bookstores and signing stock, and even wrote a fanfic that she passed around on MySpace as the first draft of the third book in the series. She was only caught when a man she’d begun dating sent an email intended for her to the email address on my website. My publisher and agency had to send C&Ds. It was a mess.

In my case, the woman was doing it for self-aggrandizement and attention. She had something to gain, no matter how weird. I want to know what someone has to gain by setting up an anonymous corporation and filing a Trademark application, both of which come with fees in the hundreds of dollars, then either fraudulently representing themselves as an agent or as an agent’s client. Trademarking a word that applies to an intellectual property that one doesn’t own in the first place won’t actually result in a monetary profit. Nor could you brag about owning the trademark if you committed fraud to get it.

McLaughlin’s readers are already formulating theories that range from Marisa Corvisiero being a stalker to the mysterious impersonator being another author who is jealous of McLaughlin’s success and seeking to use the momentum of Faleena Hopkins’s fall from grace to destroy McLaughlin’s reputation. But all of this seems very far-fetched if the following questions remain unaddressed:

  • How did someone manage to impersonate McLaughlin convincingly enough that her own agent didn’t question it?
  • How was there never a point where Corvisiero and McLaughlin communicated about the filing via phone or email, which would have cleared up the impersonation confusion?
  • Why would Corvisiero admit to filing the trademark on her client’s behalf if that client, Wicked Literary LLC, had no claim to the intellectual property that would be defended by the trademark?
  • How would Corvisiero not be aware that Wicked Literary LLC was in no way affiliated with McLaughlin?
  • What motive would Corvisiero have to knowingly apply for a trademark on McLaughlin’s behalf through a totally unrelated entity without McLaughlin’s permission?
  • Why would Corvisiero take actions that could lead to disbarment, the ruin of her agency, her own credibility, and possibly jail time?
  • Why would McLaughlin make a serious, possibly career ending accusation against Corvisiero by saying that Corvisiero acted without her consent?

Though McLaughlin’s fans are already blaming bullies and haters (who are in fact simply people asking questions that have arisen through McLaughlin and Corvisiero’s conflicting statements) there are red flags all over. It doesn’t look good that McLaughlin came out of the gate claiming that her children were being attacked (these attacks do occur frequently in online disputes, but usually when a situation has escalated and not at the beginning of the social media response), nor do her repeated Facebook responses referencing pitchforks (alluding to persecution by an angry mob), especially considering that these were similar actions taken by Faleena Hopkins in her defense. Yes, it would be very upsetting to find that someone had taken those actions on one’s behalf without one’s consent, but directing anger at the people bringing the issue to one’s attention and asking for straight answers, instead of at the person who took those actions, makes a person look like they have something to hide.

At the time of this post, McLaughlin also hasn’t answered simple yes-or-no questions regarding whether she plans to challenge the trademark or whether or not she owns Wicked Literary. These are much easier questions to answer than inquiries people have made regarding the involvement of law enforcement over the impersonator or whether she intends to sue Corvisiero, fire her, or contact the New York State Bar Association (all questions no one should be expecting answers to at this time). Simply saying, “No, I don’t own Wicked Literary LLC,” or “Yes, I plan to challenge this fraudulent application,” would make McLaughlin appear a lot more credible. Withdrawal and refusal again make it seem as though she has something to hide.

As it stands, based on the actions of McLaughlin and Corvisiero, it looks very much as though McLaughlin did seek the trademark and simply tried to hide her involvement through the use of a shell corporation. Then, when she threw her agent and attorney under the bus, her plan backfired. But McLaughlin needn’t worry; she has a legion of fans already demanding silence over the issue and insisting everyone believe she’s innocent despite her odd response and unwillingness to answer questions that have easy, cut-and-dried answers. Niceness, as we all know, will induce people to cover a multitude of sins on your behalf.

McLaughlin has stated that she’s trying to fix the situation. To drama-weary eyes, it looks as though she’s more interested in fixing the fallout from being caught.

UPDATE: McLaughlin made the following statement on her Facebook page:

A FB post from Heidi McLaughlin:This morning, I woke up, faced with an onslaught of disparaging posts, tags, private messages, which were mostly positive so I thank those who sent them. This all happened while I was driving my dog to the groomers, so I pulled over to find out why my phone was blowing up so early in the morning. The sheer fear and anxiety, to be once again social media fodder, is really the worst feeling I have ever felt, aside from losing my brother and grandma. However, I responded in haste, without verifying all my facts. I really try to do good things in life. Volunteer, donate to reputable causes, and support my peers, so to damage another author, is not how I operate. My agent and I discussed trademarking my brand. This was essentially important because there is someone out there who poses as me, giving interviews as me, etc... who has been dealt with numerous times. So when I found all this out that was my first assumption. And while I asked you not to make any, I did, based on what I’ve had to deal with when it comes to this other being. Know this as truth and fact – my agent acted on my behalf, trademarking my brand and my name. The result: a miscommunication on my part. I’m not an evil person. I never wish harm on anyone, wish for them to fail or desire to stop them from doing anything. That’s not my nature. It’s not who I am or how I function in life, despite what people are saying who don’t actually know me. The application in question, as I’m being told, is in the process of being canceled, withdrawn or whatever has to be done. I am truly sorry to have ruined your Wednesday. Due to irrelevance, my other post is gone.

Due to the high level of “poor me, I volunteer, I donate to charity, people in my life have died and it made me very sad,” in her post, I’m officially not buying that it was a mistake. Maybe that’s unfair of me. Or maybe it’s because we see this canned victim reaction whenever someone’s scheme falls through.

UPDATE THE SECOND: An anonymous source sent me the following screenshots, wherein McLaughlin asks Alessandra Torre’s “Inkers” group where they chose to set up their LLCs:

Heidi McLaughlin: "Authors with LLCs - how did you decide what state to open your LLC in?" The first response says: "Missouri because I could use my in laws pO box. The second response says: I used to work in an accounting department for a consultant company, Delaware is one of the better states to open a LLC and unless something changed, still is because of the no state income :D A finance/accountant should be able to help let ya know."

Whether or not McLaughlin is asking or stating because she didn't use any punctuation, but her reply is: "You don't need an address in Delaware" and someone else responds, "Delaware has major tax benefits, as well as business friendly regulatory protections (Chancery court system). You just need a DE Registered Agent (which you can find online for prob like $100-$200 annually). They receive and make sure you receive important tax related correspondence etc. (and more importantly, they're required for out-of-state businesses. That said, I set mine up in NY for no reason I can fathom other than a physical address lolol.

These posts were made in January of 2018. Wicked Literary LLC is registered in Delaware.

So…

kiiiiiiiinda looks like this wasn’t a miscommunication and she’d been planning this for months on her own.

UPDATE 3: Because I apparently can’t read, the Wicked Literary LLC was set up in January of 2017, which is even more confusing. So, the LLC isn’t owned by McLaughlin, but she was looking to set up an LLC in 2018 and the Wicked Literary LLC is the entity seeking the trademark. I’m still going to say that this seems as though she may have been planning this, but that she doesn’t own Wicked Literary LLC.

UPDATE 4: A different anonymous source sent me the following screenshot:

A reader asks McLaughlin: "Heidi, you come across as a caring person, and I'm glad I saw this post. Your motives seem miles away from those that birthed #cockygate, yet I was guilty of jumping to conclusions, determining that, as a reader, I would never read your books because of attempting to TM one word. Having another writer impersonate you certainly requires some kind of action to protect you. No idea what legal advice you have available, but I bet @kneupperwriter and @CourtneyMilan (twitter) would have some advice. Now I'm off to check out your books and I wish you the best of luck! [heart emoji]" McLaughlin responds: "They're not US based. It's much harder, I've found."

First of all, nice job offering the services of those attorneys? Don’t do that.

Second, McLaughlin needed to get the U.S. trademark to protect against an impersonator…who isn’t in the United States and isn’t subject to U.S. law.

Still not adding up.