My monthly beauty column, “Jenny Tries” is up at Collective310! Check out what happens when I try DIY Makeup Remover Wipes!
I think it goes without saying that a symptom of mental illness can be a lack of self-esteem. That’s not to say the two are always linked; you can have low self-esteem without being mentally ill, and you can be mentally ill without low self-esteem. Most of the time, I have pretty great self-esteem. Like, 80% of the time. But that other 20% is still there, like it probably is for anybody. You have moments of self-doubt, and moments when you really don’t like yourself, or think yourself worthy of anything.
When I’m in that 20%, it’s like my OCD, anxiety, and depression combine into a perfect storm of self-loathing, self-hatred, and shame.
Let me give you an example of how this process works:
- I get a little down.
- I start thinking about how much I suck.
- I think of someone who I believe doesn’t suck, or does suck but is in some way less sucky than me.
- Obsessive comparison making time!
- I tell myself that I don’t deserve to be as thin/rich/successful/happy/cool as the person I’m comparing myself to.
- I make a list of all the bad things I’ve ever done.
- I remind myself of how often I think rude/cruel/uncharitable thoughts about others.
- I decide that obviously I’m a terrible person, convince myself that nobody loves me, and agree with them on all the reasons I made up for them to not like me.
Steps one through five are fairly self-explanatory, right? Numbers three and four are usually about other authors or people in my industry, but sometimes I mix it up with figures from my lost Broadway dreams, just to remind myself that I failed at something I once loved.
I am my own toxic best friend.
But I digress, and it’s time to take a trip to six town, which is convoluted as fuck. I think about the time I was four years old and I considered stealing a sticker. I didn’t actually steal the sticker, but my mental state doesn’t care. I considered stealing. That makes me a monster. The fact that I was only a child doesn’t even enter into the picture, except to prove that I was born a conniving, thieving little shit. And even though I clearly remember thinking, “I shouldn’t steal, because it’s wrong,” I convince myself that the only reason I didn’t steal the sticker was because I was afraid of being caught.
Number six goes completely off the rails. I think of all the times I’ve ever thought anything mean. That means every time I’ve ever been mad enough to think, “I could murder that person.” Every time I’ve ever thought something stupid in my youth, like when I was strongly Pro-Life in my teens and early twenties. Things I have fantasized about sexually and later was totally ashamed of. And I tell myself, “These are all reasons that you’re a bad person, and that’s why you don’t deserve anything good in your life.”
The fact that there really are awesome things in my life? That evidence is blocked by the aggressive young prosecutor from the district attorney’s office, the one who has everything to prove and who is my combined Frankenstein’s monster of mental illness.
Number eight does what it says on the tin: after hours of mentally assaulting myself, I decide that I suck and I’m never going to not suck. I should skip my run or quit my job or never get on twitter again. I should binge eat like crazy, or drink a dangerous amount. And at my very lowest? This combination of mental illness and low self-esteem has lead to thoughts of suicide. It all kind of comes out in this big jumble of:
Ugh, Jenny, why are you so awful? Look at Anne Hathaway! You could have been Anne Hathaway, but nope, you had to cheat on a spelling test in second grade and you secretly thought your coworker was faking a miscarriage and that’s why you’re lazy and stupid and you will never, ever be truly happy because you don’t deserve it. You should kill yourself.
Today, though, I got to number six and I realized… nobody in the world knows that I threw a tantrum in the post office when I was seven, and anyone who claims they’ve never had a single embarrassingly horrible thought about another human being is a fucking liar. The only person who is using all of that to form an opinion about me? Is myself.
That one realization stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t go on to the other steps. I couldn’t get to “you should kill yourself,” because the level of denial I had to reach, the jumping through hoops I would have to achieve in order to make myself go through the whole process was just exhausting. This time, it went like:
- I get a little down.
- I start thinking about how much I suck.
- I remind myself that pretty much everybody sucks.
- I remember that not only can no one can change the past, but hardly anyone remembers it, anyway.
- I compare my present day actions with my thoughts, and decide that no matter how mean my thoughts might be, if I’m not acting on them or letting them influence my behavior, I’m probably not worse than anyone else.
- I watch dolphin videos on YouTube.
Now, there’s no saying that this same healthy thing will happen every time I go down that destructive path. But now that I know there’s a fork in the path, one that isn’t covered with brambles and thorns and is instead evenly paved and blessedly free of goose shit, I might be able to choose which way I want to go.
I was giving an interview the other day, because I’m very glamorous (I was topless, wearing sweatpants, and hadn’t showered in a while), and I commented on the fact that I get so much email about 50 Shades of Grey, with links and pictures and fun stuff, and I know there’s no way I can share all of it.
And then I was like, “Yes, you can. Remember how you were going to post about the 50 Shades drinking game someone sent you? Why not put all the links and stuff in that post, and then have a grilled cheese sandwich?” And I was like, “Yeah, self. That’s a great idea. But how about I do the sandwich now, and make the post in a few days?” And self was like, “You know what? You’ve earned it. Have two. And listen to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Damn Girl’ while you eat them, because you know that if JT knew you, he’d find your sandwich consuming skills– and those sweatpants– intensely erotic.”
These are in a very particular order. The order that they’re stacked in my inbox. If you sent me something and you don’t see it here, it’s probably because it’s lost in the depths, or someone sent the same thing first. Also, the bulk of what I receive are links to news stories that like, thirty people send me at once. I assume that if something has been on a major news outlet, y’all have heard about it. But if you have something like that, leave it in the comments and it totally counts.
Kathy sent me this post on a NSFW Tumblr, Things I Need Done To Me Today. I love that the author describes herself as “A PROFESSIONAL ‘SOCCER MOM’ TYPE BY DAY, AND A TOTAL FUCKING WHORE BY NIGHT” Autofollow RESCINDED as it turns out she’s an MRA. Come on, lady. You were so cool.
Courtney sent this hilarious blog post: The Worst Book That Ever Was And Ever Will Be: A Review of 50 Shades of Grey.
Wendy brought this book to my attention by actually buying it for me. So, Wendy gets the gold star for the day. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it comes highly recommended: Whatsoever He Might Kind of Want or Desire.
Artistically inspired read Kelsey made some bootleg book covers for the recaps, and I think she really captured the true essence of this project:
Jaecen made me this:
50 Shades of O’Reilly. Incoming wounded, indeed.
The Unofficial 50 Shades of Grey Drinking Game
(and official sport of Troutnation)
Lacey, Troutnation’s Minister of Booze and Getting Sloshedness
Take a sip every time: (Sip, not shot, unless you’re indestructible)
- “in that way”
- Christian says some controlling dickish thing
- Christian says some pretentious ass thing
- bites her lip
- “oh my”
- whenever she refers to him as “Fifty”
- “what you do to me”
- “fair point well made”
- subconscious/inner goddess
- whenever Christian marks his territory
- down there/other vague euphemism for vagina
- “Dios mio!” (see: racism)
- arguing over food/”hungry, but not for food”
- stupid denigrating bitchy names for other women/supposed sexual competitors (see: misogyny)
- “he starts to move, really move”
- “it’s so hot”
- creepy childish language/picture of Chris Hansen
- “laters, baby”
- The Situation
- she is irrationally jealous of another woman, especially during an inappropriate time
- she thinks about how much she needs to think about something/they talk about how they should talk
- whenever Taylor is awesome (it helps to picture him as Jesse Porter on Burn Notice)
- “peek up through my eyelashes”
- she thinks thirty is ancient
- someone rolls their eyes
If you really want alcohol poisoning, drink every time:
- “jeez”/”holy crap”/”double crap”/”holy cow”
- bitchy comment about Kate
- she says something about being terrified/afraid of him, wanting to hide or escape from him, &c.
- she refers to him “beating” her
- she does something she doesn’t want to do
- “fifty shades of fucked up”
- he commands her to orgasm
- someone else calls her bright/intelligent
- she does or says something incredibly stupid/clueless
- someone else tells her how perfect she & Christian are, or how much she’s changed him
- something happens or someone says/acts completely overdramatic
- references to literary works, especially “Tess”
- they communicate through music like 7th graders
- “cocks their head”
- she hugs herself
That’s all I’ve got for now. Please don’t play the drinking game, you’ll die. I don’t want “50 Shades related Alcoholism” to be the leading cause of death in Troutnation. More links to come, probably, as I continue to sift through my inbox.
When assholes decide to take potshots at gender, race, and equate traditional masculinity or sexuality with talent, I get mad. Really, super, volcanic mad, to the point where I have a hard time articulating intelligently what I want to say. What I want to say is that David Gilmour is an insufferable asshole who probably wants us all to marvel at the size of his huge, throbbing brain because he’s compensating for something, but I know that doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s mean and it makes me feel better, but it doesn’t express why I find remarks like “I’m not interested in teaching books by women,” so offensive.
This week, Random House Canada ran a story called “David Gilmore on Building Strong Stomachs” in their online magazine, Hazlitt. The article is part of an “as told to” column about authors and what they have on their bookshelves, and David Gilmour doesn’t have a lot of female writers on his shelves. Nor does he have any Chinese authors. Or gay authors. Or anyone who isn’t a straight white man, not because he’s a bigot or anything. It’s just that he’s only interested in straight, white males. And he bravely teaches only the work of straight white males:
“Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.”
Gilmour seems to think enough of himself to believe that he’s somehow unique in his approach to teaching literature. The only female writer whose work he teaches is Virginia Woolf, and then only a single short story. So he’s proud of teaching a curriculum that’s limited to his own narrow viewpoint, which is apparently going unrepresented “down the hall,” in a class that is clearly beneath him.
Let me tell you about a story called “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I hate this story. HATE IT. Not because it’s not a good story or it doesn’t make a powerful statement about the subjugation of women by male dominated society and the medical establishment in the 19th century. I hate it because every single woman I have met who has gone to college has read this story about a thousand times. And that’s because it’s one of the few pieces of literature written by a female author that gets attention in a college literature course that isn’t specifically about female or “minority” authors. I dropped out of college after three semesters, and I was assigned the story four times. I never read Alice Walker as part of the curriculum. Or Anais Nin, or Sylvia Plath. In one class, we were asked to read a Ray Bradbury short story, but Octavia Butler never came up. And in an arts and culture class, we were advised to avoid the Harry Potter series, written by a woman, and told to read Tolkien instead, because it was a “better use of your time.” But we had to read “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a story about a woman kept prisoner by her husband, an allegory for the imprisonment of all women by the male establishment. Why? Because we needed to be reminded that this is still the order of things? Trust us: we get it.
If you’ve been to college, you’ve probably read books about the experiences of both genders, of all sexualities and races. And they were probably all written by straight white men. The only non-straight author Gilmour references is Marcel Proust. And what work of Proust’s is Gilmour the most fond of? The one that explores “gay vanity.” He finds it “funny.” The rest of the authors he reads are “guy-guys,” presumably because to be anything less than utterly masculine is to be fully feminine, and not worthy of his time.
It’s obvious to me, having read the full transcript, that Gilmour is an appalling misogynist. Not only does the transcript show him interrupting the female reporter several times, he also addresses her as “love” and describes a female author’s book as “sweet.” You can read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions to his comments on “serious heterosexual men,” and the fact that he doesn’t like any Chinese authors. The transcript was released by Hazlitt when Gilmour claimed the reporter quoted him out of context. As though the full context of his remarks would make them any less reprehensible.
Men like Gilmour are dangerous. They’re dangerous because they’re not your run-of-the-mill misogynist/racist/homophobe stereotype. He’s not a frat boy. He’s not a Klan member. He’s not toothless redneck swilling Budweiser and complaining about the gays. He is a man who is appears thoughtful and intelligent. He’s a college professor and a published author. It is assumed by the reader that his opinions have been shaped by his education, that he has a better understanding of the world than your average pleb. So when he says that he’s not interested in teaching anything but white male produced literature, he’s lending credibility to the pervasive belief that if there’s something a woman/person of color/LGBT identifying person has to say, a white man can probably explain it better. Because the only thoughts and experiences that matter are the thoughts and experiences of educated white men. The world must consume the material produced by these important figures, and anything written by anyone else is optional. And he’s teaching his students and readers to believe the same.
In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will never learn the lesson that nothing good happens after 2AM. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- 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)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.
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.
Howdy Troutnation! Every now and then, I host blog tours for people who ask, and today I’m hosting the Heed Thy Mistress tour, featuring three authors and three totally cool sounding books that are definitely for adults only! The books are all BDSM fantasy, and the authors were nice enough to weigh in on the 50 Shades of Grey effect on authors for this stop on their tour! So, check out the blurbs, and their thoughts on the 50 Shades of Grey effect are at the bottom of the post!
The Viscountess Investigates: A Dominion Erotic Mystery
by Cameron Quintain
Word Count: 69,044
Page Count: 204
List Price: $6.99
About the book:
The regal Viscountess and her partner Severin are not your typical detectives, nor your typical mistress/slave pair from the BDSM subculture. They inhabit the magical and kinky world hidden by the powerful spell known as the Blindfold, and they travel from the Real World into magical Dominions that reflect every kink fantasy humans can dream of. When the powerful leader of the Algophilia Society is murdered, their path to track down the killer brings them through a Victorian London that never was, where “fox” hunts involve no animals, and a feudal Japan where a mysterious Jade carver creates terrifying magical dildos. (Think: if Elric’s Stormbringer were a dildo instead of a sword.) Their loving bond as owner and slave is tested–and reinforced–as they whip, suck, and Scene their way to unraveling the mystery and confronting the culprit.
Packed with sf/fantasy film, book, and gaming references, The Viscountess Investigates is both a romp through BDSM subcultures and a geeky fantastical delight.
About the Author:
Cameron Quintain is a quiet librarian by day and a swashbuckling superhero by night. He is already at work on his next Erotic Dominion mystery.
House of Sable Locks
by Elizabeth Schechter
$4.99, 90,900 words
About the Book:
From Passionate Plume award finalist Elizabeth Schechter comes a steampunk novel of dark passion. In a respectable neighbourhood, on the top floor of a beautiful house, crouches the Succubus; by design, and by temperament, she is all that men crave and fear. To the wealthy and privileged men of London, the Succubus is a test they must pass to gain access to the House of Sable Locks, the most exclusive brothel in town. However, to William, a wealthy young man born and raised in India, she is the very essence of his desires.
William is recovering from the loss of everything he knows and loves when he first meets the Succubus. With great care she tears him apart… and he falls in love again. But their idyll cannot last: there is a killer loose in London, and the darkness of William’s past is about to collide with the terror of his present.
Based on the story “The Succubus” from the acclaimed erotic steampunk anthology Like Clockwork, HOUSE OF SABLE LOCKS lets us enter the mysterious brothel readers previously only had a glimpse of.
About the Author
Elizabeth Schechter was born in New York at some point in the past. She is officially old enough to know better, but refuses to grow up. She has been, at various points in her life, a jeweler, an artist, a counselor, a minister, a fitness instructor, a singer, counter-person in a coffee-shop, a lab tech, a research assistant, quarter-staff master, a daycare worker, a high school English teacher, a kindergarten teacher, a stay-at-home-mom, an editor, and a writer. She firmly believes in the Heinlein adage that specialization is for insects, and is still working on the tinker, tailor, soldier, and spy parts of the list.
Elizabeth lives in Central Florida with her husband and son, and a most accepting circle of friends who are both very amused and very proud of the pervy, fetish writer in their midst.
Elizabeth can be found online at http://easchechter.wordpress.com/, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth.A.Schechter.
Beyond the Softness of His Fur
A Science Fiction Tale of Genetics, Sex, and Love Between Owners and Pets
Part One: Wonders of Modern Science
by TammyJo Eckhart
About the Book:
When driven and dominant advertising executive Emily Potter is promoted within her company, the bosses make it clear that the promotion comes with certain expectations: she is to purchase herself a morph–a customizable animal hybrid of the future that is both sexual pet and status symbol. Emily’s personal tastes require a very unique set of specifications for her morph. Emily desires a male pet that is both exotic and submissive–yet all of her expectations are exceeded with Wynn, a beautiful white fox morph with a desire to please his new Master and an unusual intelligence that intrigues her. But the soulful wisdom that makes Wynn so special is a challenge to the morph-culture status quo and could ultimately spell disaster for both Master and pet.
Beyond The Softness of His Fur Part One: Wonders of Modern Science is the first installment in TammyJo Eckhart’s provocative and edgy science-fiction trilogy. “A tale of genetics, sex, and love between owners and pets,” Part One is concerned with the bonding period between Emily and Wynn and the unexpected threats to their growing relationship. Beautiful and sensitive Wynn is naïve to the complex world outside of his initial laboratory home and it is Emily’s job to educate and discipline him according to her needs. But to her surprise, Emily finds more and more it is up to her to protect and care for the intelligent and sensitive creature from a world that would rather bend Wynn to suit its expectations rather than Emily’s own.
About the Author:
TammyJo Eckhart, PhD, is the author of seven previous books of BDSM fiction, and has been part of the BDSM community since 1990. 2010 saw the publication of her first non-fiction book from Greenery Press (At Her Feet: Powering your Femdom Relationship). She has been a leader in several BDSM organizations ranging from the AppleMunch to two difference university groups (Conversio Virium and Headspace) as well as a private support group for tops. As of the spring of 2010, her “kinky family” is comprised of Tom, her husband since 1992, and Fox, her slave since 1999. She loves visiting conventions as well as organizations to read, sell books, or offer her experience and insights on various topics in the form of lectures or workshops. Feel free to visit her website at http://www.tammyjoeckhart.com.
Q: 50 Shades of Grey has sparked a controversy over whether it’s important to see BDSM done “right” in erotic entertainment. Do you think that your readers are taking your work as a “how-to” guide? Are you concerned?
“I’d be worried if my readers were even considering taking my work as a how-to, honestly. Fiction is just that. FICTION. It shouldn’t be a guide to anything. There are many, many fantastic books and how-to websites and blogs that people can turn to for instruction.
“So, no. It is not a good idea to create an artificial intelligence and let them run the brothel. Or do anything in chapter 7. Really. Do not try chapter 7 at home. The characters in House of Sable Locks are professional figments of my imagination, with years of specialized training and very good health insurance. Very, very good health insurance.”
“Since my books are set in a magical universe there are clearly some things that can never happen in reality. On the other hand, I try to be as accurate and realistic as possible. My Lady and I have tried most of the positions and punishments for ourselves to see how they feel. My characters also talk a great deal about safety and limits and I show how important those are. Basically if someone modeled their relationship after the Viscountess and Severin I think they’d have a pretty good relationship.”
“If the setting of my story is fantasy or science fiction, as is the case in “Beyond the Softness of His Fur,” then I think it is easier for readers to realize that since the technology is in the future, maybe the sex won’t be realistic either. For historical fiction, my Amazons stories for example, there is a certain distance that also creates this idea that while that might have been the case then, it probably isn’t the case now. But when you write something set in the present, very near future, or very recent past, then I think it can be very easy for a reader to get so caught up in the story that if what you are describing turns them on, they may think about trying it out.
“Of course, there will always be a reader here or there who wants to try out anything they read. Therefore I try to always be careful with my physical descriptions so at least I’m not laying out a dangerous scenario, or if I am, I make sure I show that danger, the consequences that can happen. Personally I am far more concerned about getting the emotions and the relationship dynamics correct, about being honest with those aspects of the M/s dynamic. Those are the aspects of your characters that will connect most strongly with readers and be reinforcement of their own feelings and thus perhaps become role models.”
Hey there, all of you in Troutnation! I have exciting news!
Remember how some of you were like, “Hey, I want to buy The Girlfriend in paperback, but The Bookpatch wants to charge me thirty dollars in shipping on a fifteen dollar book and that’s fucking insane?” Well, The Girlfriend is moving to CreateSpace, so you should hopefully incur less of a shipping hassle. I know, some you believe Amazon is the devil, so if you fall into the intersection space of a Venn diagram labelled “people who don’t want to pay for that shipping” and “people who hate Amazon,” then I’m sorry, I have failed you. But for the rest of you, this should work better. I’m just waiting on the proof, and I’ll let you know as soon as it’s for sale. The Boss will follow after KDP Select is over in November.
Some of you have also asked when Roadhouse is going to be starting up again. While I don’t have an answer for you at the moment, due to both D-Rock and I being insanely busy lately, here’s a Roadhouse Mini. Watch as we try out my deceased grandfather’s left-behind stash of out-of-date Tic Tacs. For science.
I’m still working on the next Buffy and 50 Shades recaps, but I was under a deadline for revisions on Such Sweet Sorrow and I’ve had some freelance editing projects on my plate, as well as the beginning of the school year for my children, so I thank you for your continued patience and I promise, recaps will be coming soon.
I’ve blogged before about the “Be Nice” phenomenon in the writing world. It’s the edict that requires you to never say an unkind word about someone’s book– which is an extension of the writer, if we’re working strictly according to the “Be Nice” philosophy–, to never call out and even defend someone who is openly and gleefully screwing you over, and which fosters a culture of passive-aggression that results in authors stumbling around conferences and reader conventions with fake permagrins etched on their faces and strong drinks in their hands.
I’m used to hearing “Be Nice” mostly from the romance industry crowd. Because we’re a predominantly female community, we’re expected to live up to Sugar and Spice and supporting each other in the Sunshine Sisterhood of Everyone Succeeds, despite the overwhelming evidence presented by, you know, reality. But today’s “Be Nice” message comes courtesy of Chuck Wendig.
I really like Mr. Wendig and his blog. I think he’s clever, he has a great rapport with his readers, and he truly cares about the success of authors who are just starting out and trying to find their way. That’s why he shares his opinion on a lot of subjects that matter to writers, and he does a great job of it. The only area where I disagree with him is on “Be Nice.” It seems to be kind of his thing, and this blog post about why he doesn’t give negative reviews to other authors doesn’t veer from that course.
Mr. Wendig is always very clear when he blogs about this kind of thing, that it’s just his opinion, he’s not telling you what to do, and your mileage may vary. My mileage definitely varies, and so we have this post. I’m not saying Mr. Wendig is wrong, I’m not suggesting he did anything bad or we should sharpen our torches and set our pitchforks on fire or anything. I’m just going to cover the ways in which my experience and his experience differ, and how his post occasionally veers into “Be Nice” territory. All quoted excerpts are from the above linked blog post.
In a section titled, “Be a fountain, not a drain,” Wendig says:
‘Certainly not suggesting you be a robot shouting chirpy cherub-cheeked propaganda all the time, or always be manically happy happy eeeeeee, but negativity also has a seductive, multiplicative quality. It gets attention. In Internet terms, it gets “clicks” and it earns response. But that’s not always a good thing, and you’re probably better off trying to be relatively positive and further, writing your own stories than trying to tear someone else’s apart.’
This really struck home with me, because I’ve been criticized before as being “outraged for clicks” or needlessly involved in drama to further my own gain. And I’ve always wondered how on earth I expected such a nefarious plan to work. “I know!” I cackled, wringing my hands beside a pile of my dusty, neglected manuscripts. “I’ll start making fun of something everyone likes, and they’ll all love me! Brilliant!” That seems like a dodgy business tactic. Usually, when I feel moved to post a negative review on my blog or my GoodReads account, it’s not because I’m banking on internet clicks. It’s because I’ve encountered a product that is so shoddy and poorly made, I want to warn other people before they waste their money, eyeballs, and emotions on it.
The interesting thing is, I usually am a “robot shouting chirpy cherub-cheeked propaganda.” In person, I’m generally positive and fun– until I get angry about something, and I’ve been told that at least then the response is entertaining. And while it’s probably better from a professional standpoint to stay quiet about things I don’t like, or just express those opinions to my friends, the verbal review I can manage is usually just, “I hated it.” I express my opinions more eloquently in text. Plus, all of my friends live in the computer. #ShutIn #MyLifeIsSoSad
But wait a second, is it really bad for your business as an author if you do negatively review someone else’s work?
‘And then, you might think the next time you see one of my books, “Ehhh, he and I don’t really agree on what makes good story,” and so you pass my books by. Or, you’re more offended than that, and you counter my negativity with your own — maybe you negatively review my book, maybe you just say shit about me on Twitter, maybe you try to argue, whatever.
Again: what’s the value here for me as an author?’
When I started writing my recaps of 50 Shades of Grey, I could expect anywhere from one to ten hits per blog post I made. Three of those were probably me, not realizing I had multiple open tabs in my browser. But when I started sporking 50 Shades… you get the idea. Keep in mind that when I started these reviews, it certainly wasn’t because I thought that hating the book would get me more “clicks.” I was at a very low point in my life. My career had totally tanked, I wasn’t enjoying writing anymore, we’d lost our house and were in constant danger of having our lights shut off. I’d considered suicide several times and it was always kind of penciled in at the bottom of my list of options. I had no financial security, poor health, no career, and mental illness. I had literally nothing to lose, and I didn’t give a shit. About anything.
Obviously, that turned around right quick once I started my scathing critique of 50 Shades.
Wendig suggests that if you dislike a book and write a negative review about it, you risk losing a reader. I don’t believe this is always true, nor is it a bad thing if you do. If someone comes to my blog and thinks, “I loved 50 Shades of Grey! It is the perfect book and I will only read books that are exactly like it!” then they’re not going to like my books anyway. It’s better that they don’t buy it.
Years ago, I had a woman email me and tell me that she read some of my vampire series, Blood Ties, and she absolutely hated it. I was not as good a writer as Laurell K. Hamilton, and I should probably quit writing. She wanted to inform me that despite hating the first three books in my series, she was going to force herself to read the fourth, loathing it all the while, because she felt like she had to. I responded as kindly as I could by saying that I would much rather see her spend her book buying dollars supporting Hamilton, rather than buy my book, which she knew she would not enjoy. She shot back that I was the rudest author she’d ever emailed with and how dare I, etc.
That is the exact situation you’re avoiding if a reader knows that you don’t agree with them on what constitutes a good story. You’re avoiding a pissed off reader who is going to be utterly offended by your book’s lack of being exactly like this other one that they loved. You’re not turning them off of your book; they would have already been turned off because Wendig is right: you really don’t agree on what makes a good story.
But not all readers are that woman who emailed me. I’ve received email from women who have read The Boss, saying that even though they love 50 Shades and they know my book was written as a critique of the kinky alphole billionaire genre, they loved it and they’re recommending it to their friends. The moral of the story: not all readers approach reviews and reviewing in the same way.
So, what’s the value to an author? Well, in my case, I gained a metric fuckton of awesome people who are awesome even if their presence in my life doesn’t translate into the almighty sales figure. And if they do read one of my books, they know what they’re going to find (if the book was published after 2012. Let’s be real here, I dropped the fucking ball with Blood Ties when it came to feminism, racism, ableism, homophobia… yeesh, can we burn that series down and salt the earth already?). They know that we share similar values and those values will probably be reflected in the fiction they’re about to read. And the people who are looking for Christian Grey and will accept no substitutes? They know they’re not going to find him in there, and they’ll give my book a pass, rather than reading it, being disappointed, and leaving a one-star review or sending a nasty email telling me to quit because I’m not exactly like their favorite author. Everyone goes home a winner.
Another reason Wendig feels that he, as an author, shouldn’t negatively review books, is the fear of self-representing as an expert:
‘When I offer my review, you might take it more seriously than, say, one from Goodreads. Not saying that’s fair or reasonable, only that it’s possibly true. Which means my negative review — which sounds authoritative but is entirely subjective — carries more weight. And I have an audience, to boot! So I’m using my reach and my (again: illusory) authority to do what?
To do harm to another author and their work.’
Squealing brakes. This is where Wendig and I vastly disagree. Authors who review are rarely taken seriously by those who disagree with them. The first charge leveled against them in the case of a positive review is, “This is their pseudonym, obviously,” or failing that, “This is probably their friend’s book!” If it’s a negative review the reader disagrees with, accusations of sour grapes and professional jealousy are the go-to response. Authors who review books probably aren’t taken as seriously as professional critics, or even casual reviewers, specifically because they are authors.
As for using your audience to do harm, he might have a bit of a point there. If I found a book by a debut author, and it had poor sales and no Amazon reviews, and I started tearing it apart chapter by chapter on this blog, I would utterly destroy it.
No, wait, I wouldn’t. Because some of you would rush out and buy it, just to see if it’s as bad as I said it was. Because some of you are a bunch of weirdos, just like me. I bought 50 Shades of Grey based not on the strength of its good reviews, but the vitriol of its bad ones. I handed E.L. James and her publisher forty-five of my hard-earned dollars just to see how bad those books were.
Wendig goes on to clarify what “harm” is:
Potentially rob that author of one or many sales. I don’t want to do that. Writing a book is hard goddamn work. You’ve got rent to pay. Or a mortgage. You’ve got a food bill. And cats or dogs. Maybe one or several kids. I don’t like the thought that my review is going to take money out of your pockets, or snatch food out of your kids’ mouths.
This is where I feel the, “Your mileage may vary” thing goes a little off the tracks, and if that wasn’t Wendig’s intention, well, mea culpa, but as the internet is fond of pointing out, intent =/= magic. If leaving negative reviews is bad for an author’s image, it’s worse to attack reviewers, and that’s what this passage sort of does. See, if we’re going to believe a negative review can cause an author financial ruin, then it stands to reason that we must believe any blogger or reviewer with an online following is doing the same thing every time they post a negative review. And while it might be funny to imagine Jane Litte (to invoke the name of a respected online critic with a truly large influence) running around gleefully snatching bowls of gruel from orphans, I don’t believe she’s ever actually caused the financial ruination of an author merely by giving their book a low grade or a DNF. While Wendig might not have intended to say that respected reviewers are snatching the food from the hungry mouths of the children of authors, it’s exactly what he is saying, and I just can’t agree.
Wendig is right, negative reviews can harm sales. Leonard Part Six, for example, got horrific reviews from both critics and its own stars and was a huge flop of a movie. Poor critical reception did factor into low studio gross. However, it was a bad movie. That was why it got bad reviews, and why it was a financial failure. Just working hard on a book doesn’t mean you’re entitled to glowing praise. If you produce a shit product, and people point out that it’s shitty to warn other people away from buying it, then what’s the problem?
Writing seems to be one of the only industries where it’s considered bad form to say, “I think this product is bad, and I think you shouldn’t buy it.” Imagine if we treated the auto industry this way: “Don’t tell people those tires suck, because Al worked really hard on them and he’s got kids to feed.” Please tell me if Al’s tires suck, so I don’t end up in a ditch on fire.
Wendig goes on to explain that authors have feelings, and for an author to negatively review another author’s book is to potentially rob yourself of an important business connection, which I have to agree with. I was working on a proposal for a work-for-hire gig at a major publisher when I negatively reviewed a television show based on a book they had published. I posted this as a “real name” kind of review, and obviously, publishers Google the fuck out of you when they’re considering working with you. The deal fell through. Like, real, real through. Like, in-a-ditch-on-fire-thanks-a-lot-Al through. But I own what I put out there into the world, and if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be writing negative reviews, anyway. So, there can be real world consequences to negative reviews. But I look at it this way:
- Do I really want to associate professionally with an author who I believe isn’t good at their job? Is that a link I want to create in a reader’s mind?
- Do I really want to associate personally with someone who will revise their opinion of me based on my opinion of their work?
- Do I really want to write for a publisher who is going to ask me to stifle my personal views to benefit another author?
I can live with the consequences of all those points. If you can’t, then no, don’t review the work of your peers. But I can, so I do. Authors have left bad reviews of my books, I don’t hold it against them. It would be petty and kind of gross for me to assume that anyone I like on a personal basis will automatically be a part of the Jenny Trout Favorite Readers 4Eva Fanclub, and it’s possible to get along with someone even if they don’t like your books– or said negative things about them. If someone really is so ego driven and weird about criticism that they see the rejection of their work as a rejection of themselves, well… I don’t have that kind of time to spend on friendship, sorry. And if someone feels the need to professionally destroy me because they don’t like what I have to say about their book? Well, they’re going to be pretty disappointed when I don’t drop everything to engage in full-scale passive-aggressive “Be Nice” war with them.
Wendig suggests that rather than writing a bad review, you should focus on your own work:
It takes energy to write a bad review. Energy you could probably use elsewhere. Like, say, writing more awesome books. Go do that. Contribute word count to your own fiction.
This one is a head scratcher for me, because I honestly feel like the writing I do on my blog comes from a different section of my brain than the writing I do on my fiction. There have been days when I’ve written lengthy diatribes here, then immediately opened my word processor and written five thousand words in two hours. It’s not coming from the same well of inspiration or motivation, and it’s often a welcome change to shift gears from one project to another. But I recognize that this isn’t the case with everyone, making his final suggestion a true YMMV situation.
I fully believe that critically deconstructing my reading material makes me a better writer– more so when I’m able to do so in a forum that encourages discussion. Without critical deconstruction of 50 Shades of Grey, I would have never written The Boss, a book that I consider the best, most satisfying writing of my entire career.
So, there’s the flip-side. I greatly appreciate that Mr. Wendig wrote a post that got me thinking. Penelope over at Penelope’s Romance Reviews also blogged on this subject today, and you can find her post here.
I guess, when it comes down to it, if you’re a reader/author, you’re going to have to ask yourself these same questions, and draw your own conclusions.
Hello out there in Troutnation! I’m super hard at work on revisions for Such Sweet Sorrow, because those are due on September 15th. I’m also working on The Bride, as well as a new vampire book (because watching all this Buffy got my mind working about non-glittery vampires for a minute). Someone asked about Roadhouse in the last 50 Shades recap, so to update you on the status there, we were pretty busy with IRL junk, so we took a little break. And then an unexpected, yet totally awesome, new complication arose: D-Rock is going to college! She started last week and she’s super excited, but unfortunately, full-time classes don’t leave a lot of time for bullshitting into a camera about random topics. We hope to continue in the future, but we don’t have a set date.
Okay, stuff that will make you 50 Shades haters smile:
This comment left on the chapter 22 recap:
Of all the ridiculous casting petitions out there demanding new leads for the 50 Shades movie…
This one is my favorite. (Hey guys, I’m seeing this petition being attributed to me on twitter, but it’s not mine. I should have made that more clear. It belongs to @Americasbaby1. Introduce yourself on twitter and become tweeps and soul mates for all time!)
And finally, remember how yesterday I was all, “The Boss is free on Amazon!” Well, funny thing happens, when you give away the first book in a series as a freebie, and the sequel is already available. It makes the sequel sell better. And then… something happened…
Here is a screen shot from Amazon.co.uk’s erotic adult fiction Kindle store:
and here is another screenshot from the same store, same hour:
Now, obviously I’m not saying The Girlfriend is outselling 50 Shades Darker. I mean, that’s not even the ebook version of 50 Shades Darker, it’s the audiobook. But I thought you guys would get a kick out of knowing that The Girlfriend was ranked higher than something 50 Shades, at least for an hour. And thank you to the UK readers who bought The Girlfriend and pushed it up in the ranks!