Monthly Archives: May 2014

Merlin Club S02E07, “The Witchfinder” or “Witchfinder General’s Warning: Smoke horses may be hazardous to your health.”

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

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

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

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Jenny Reads After chapters 13 – 15, “I Want (to leave this party by 12)”

I hope you’ve got hands and thoughts about the dicey state of literature, my friends, because you’re going to have some wringing to do. After has been acquired by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuester. Yes, the written word is dying. Yes, this is the worst thing to happen to literature, forever. And so on. And so on.

Honestly, I can’t even care anymore. Whatever is going to happen in publishing, okay. Happen. If I got pissed off about what traditional publishing does, it would be like getting pissed off by a coworker I only see at the company picnic doing something that doesn’t involve me. Jeffrey is just out there, stealing staplers, nobody is stopping him, and I don’t have to care.

What I do care about is the fact that now that After belongs to someone, does it go away from WattPad? I don’t want to read the shiny, new version. I want to read the one with all the double periods and odd dialogue tags. Is that one going to go away?!

Since I don’t know at this point, I’ll just jump right into the recap and hope for the best.

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Wednesday Blogging: Why I’m not more stressed out that I already am

It probably sounds dumb to say that my job is stressful. I mean, most days I don’t have to put pants on. But it’s stressful in different ways. Having to work from home requires the most astounding amount of self-control. Most days, it’s all I can do to keep from laying on the couch, binge-watching Netflix until the kids get home, instead of working. When you see me talk about projects here on the blog? I’m behind on them. It doesn’t matter how positive and confident I sound, or what day it is. I assure you, I am behind.

So, I do get stressed, and it helps to have a way to unwind. I’m lucky to have several. For example:

1. Bein’ Groovy. I like to kick back and relax into a mindless, repetitive task the whisks me away from all my cares and allows me to concentrate on the riddles of the cosmos.

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I’ve been needle felting that guy for, oh… probably a couple years now. I just randomly pick him up and work on him when I feel like it. Needle felting is just organized stabbing. You have your wool, a set of very sharp, barbed needles, and you just stab. I always have a bunch of projects going at once. The only time I ever actually finish any of them is if someone is paying me for them. And by someone, I mean Bronwyn Green, because she’s the only person who’s ever commissioned me. I made her a little druid Waldorf lady. So yeah. Needle felting. That is the thing in the picture that reduces my stress.

2. Doodles. I love doodling. This is what I’m working on right now:

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3. Adventure Time! Nothing lowers my stress level like Adventure Time. I don’t know what it is about that show, but I could be in the middle of fighting off a shark with my bare hands and just hearing Lemongrab shout, “UNACCEPTABLE!” would chill me immediately out.  My favorite character is Lumpy Space Princess. Because we understand each other:

Other stuff! I also like to knit (yes, I’m on Ravelry, though I’m not super active) and run and have sex. Individually, I mean. Not all at the same time. That would be strange.

Wonder how the other Wednesday Blogging friends beat their stress? Find out:

Bronwyn Green • Jessica Jarman  Kris Norris • Kellie St. James
Tessa Grant Leigh Jones

 

 

After is on its way to becoming the next 50 Shades

Well howdy there, friends! What would you say if I told you that we were living in a circle of hell that Dante Alighieri couldn’t have imagined in his deepest fever dreams? Okay, well, does your answer change when I tell you that Anna Todd’s After has been acquired by Simon & Schuester’s Gallery Books in a mid-six figure deal? And then when I remind you that the fanfic already has movie rights? And that the author believes editing will ruin her process? Or that when you google the word “after,” not “after fanfic” or “after Anna Todd,” just the word “after,” the first result is her story and not the definition of the word “after”? What would you say then?

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Look, it’s not that I dislike Anna Todd. She hasn’t given me the self-aggrandizing, victim-blaming bullshit quotes that E.L. James did over the course of the 50 Shades media shit storm. She clearly likes to write, and she’s dedicated to her readers– something E.L. James hasn’t exactly been praised for. There’s no reason for me to dislike Anna Todd. Not even her quote about not editing because it will ruin her story; I more or less just shake my head and murmur, “Oh, my sweet, summer child.” My hope for her is that, through the process of editing her fanfics for publication, she will become a stronger writer, and never again say that editing will ruin her work.

But if authors seem butt hurt when something like this happens, a lot of people say, “Well, you’re just jealous!” You know what? Yes. We are jealous. We’re jealous and we’re frustrated and we’re disappointed. We were told for years and years that the only way to succeed in publishing was to keep learning and developing our skills and to respect our work enough to let only the very, very best land in front of other peoples’ eyes. We were told that the only way to land a traditional publishing contract was to deliver a book that was already in better shape than 90% of what was on the market. To submit anything less would be futile. And with that comes the unspoken corollary: if your book does get published, it’s because it was already flawless.

So, aspiring authors spend thousands of dollars flying all over the country to go to conferences and workshops that tell them how to write one of these flawless books. They get up early and stay up late to grab time to write. They beg or pay people to read their manuscripts, so they can get them into publishable shape.

And then “tattoos are not expectable” winds up taking home a bigger advance than most authors can ever dream of receiving.

Believe me when I say that most writers truly do cheer for the success of newcomers. We don’t operate in a state of constant professional jealousy. Well, I mean. I know some who do, but fuck them. Most of us want to see everyone succeed, because there’s room for everyone at the table. But we get frustrated when we read stuff like this:

“Wilson, the acquiring editor, told PW ‘the book is very long, so we’ll edit it down and get to the core of the story. We’re committed to keeping the story people know but we want to reach traditional readers as well.’”

[Full disclosure for ethics' sake, Adam Wilson was my editor at Harlequin for my last few books there. This story doesn't have so much to do with him as it does with the recent trends in publishing, but I thought it would be honest to give a heads up.]

Look at that quote: “The book is very long, so we’ll edit it down and get to the core of the story.” This sticks in my craw. It sticks there so hard. So many times, I’ve been at industry events where editors or agents will give the advice to write tight, to keep the story moving, to have it polished enough that in the lucky event an editor’s eyes land on your manuscript, they’re wowed by your narrative skill. So “edit it down and get to the core of the story” isn’t something you’re supposed to do after you get picked up by a major publisher. It’s something you have to do before your book is even ready to submit.

Furthermore, After lacks another crucial characteristic of what we have been told is a salable manuscript: rudimentary grammar and punctuation, two basic things authors have heard hammered home in lecture after lecture from publishing professionals. “We don’t want to see your manuscript until it’s been proof-read to perfection!” Well, then explain this bullshit, traditional publishing. Explain it.

Obviously, when a publisher sees potential money laying around, they’re going to grab at it. That’s business. But they don’t say, “We’re grabbing this for the cash! Whee!” They make statements like:

“Gallery Books is publishing the book fairly quickly. ‘[Publishing this quickly] is not for every book but we have lots of fan-fiction writers and we’re familiar with the Wattpad community,’ Wilson said. ‘We’ve learned to publish quickly when it comes to self-published authors.’”

See how that makes rushing an unedited manuscript with an aimless plot– “And then Steph makes me go to another party! Again! And I hate it! Again!”– sound like a special commodity that can’t be handled through the usual channels? They don’t want to admit that the bottom line is the bottom line here. No publisher is going to come out and say, “We will publish literally anything, no matter how bad it is, no matter what shape it’s in, whether or not it borders on plagiarism, e.g. 50 Shades of Grey. We will publish anything that we think will make us more money than it costs to print the book.”

Look, I’m not saying that I’m shocked. I’m a realist. But traditional publishing works very hard to convince aspiring authors that every book they sell was accepted and published based on merit alone, and only they are the arbiters of what is and is not “a book.” It’s how they sell their product, I get it. But if those authors had just known that it was okay to rewrite someone else’s entire series and change the names, they could have written 50 Shades of Grey. If we had just known that publishers wanted barely coherent boy band fanfic, we’d have all written barely coherent boy band fanfic.

This is a trap that a lot of commoditized creative ventures fall into; we can’t set out saying we want to make money, because then that means that what we’re making isn’t art, and that’s what we’re supposed to be in it for. Writers are supposed to create for our own pleasure, strive for perfection, and ignore the sometimes disheartening financial realities involved. We’re supposed to buy the line that the books that get published do so by being the best of the best the moment they’re plucked from the slush pile. And we’re supposed to do all this without any public expression of anger when something like After or 50 Shades of Grey achieves staggering success. Who does this model benefit? Not the authors.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you fart and blame the dog enough, eventually people realize where the stink is really coming from. If publishing is a business, then it needs to admit that it’s a business. It would make stuff like this way less insulting authors and readers.

 

State of The Trout: Things that are happening.

Hey everybody! I realize there was no After recap last week. That’s because something neat came up, job wise, and I’m working my butt off on it. It’s nothing set in stone, so it’s not something I can give details on. If anything comes of it, you’ll find out. If nothing comes of it, then we’ll pretend this conversation never happened. In the mean time, cross your fingers and hope vaguely along with me. We’ll get back to After this week. Because it’s hard to stay away.

But in other news, since the end of the serialization of The Boss, I’ve known that I wanted to do another serialized novel. Not another erotic romance; I’m writing a lot of that these days. I decided I’ll serialize a side project I’ve been researching and working on since 2006.

The Afflicated - High Resolution

I splurged and bought myself a cover.

The Afflicted is a YA horror novel set in a 19th century Shaker commune. That’s the detail I’m giving right now. It will be serialized on WattPad, because a) I’m interested to know how the platform works, now that I’ve been poking around with it as a reader and b) I won’t have to worry about maintaining a new blog the way I did with The Boss. Updates won’t be on a regular schedule the way they were with The Boss, but chapters will go up at least once a month. I’m gonna do this in a no-pressure, just for funsies kind of way. The first chapter will post in June, and I’ll keep you in the loop here.

I’m sure some of you are like, “but I don’t want to join WattPad to read stuff!” I totally respect that. When The Afflicted is completed on WattPad, I’ll be giving it away as a free ebook, just like how it went down with The Boss, so you won’t be totally left out.

In other other news, I’ll be incommunicado from June 2 – 6. I’ll be rustic camping in Michigan’s majestic Upper Peninsula. Which basically means I’ll be smoking weed in a tent for four days to recharge my mental batteries. During that time, I will have no internet, no electricity, and I doubt I’ll have 4G, so there won’t be any blog updates, and some comments might have to wait in spam moderation limbo. I’ll be scheduling an After post to go up during the week while I’m gone.

So, that’s what’s going on with the Trout.

Merlin Club S02E05 – E06, “Beauty and The Beast” or “Uther fucked a troll.”

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

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

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

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Wednesday Blogging: My Dream Yard.

I’m pretty lucky to be renting a house that has a pretty awesome yard.

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Look at that. That is goddamn majestic. It’s pastoral as fuck. Our local government is a village, for god’s sake. I am a villager. My neighbor is a pony.

How, you ask, will Jenny write about her dream yard? When she clearly is already living the dream?

I have fucking allergies.

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This is my dream yard. No grass. No actual trees. None of that nature bullshit. Also, it should be indoors.

I never had allergies until like a few years ago. I turned thirty and it’s like, “Hey, your entire life is going to suck from April until December, is that cool? Awesome, enjoy hell!” The Bradys knew what they were doing.

But I’m pretty sure it’s also why they got rid of Tiger, because it cannot be fun cleaning dog shit out of turf.

Take a look at the other, probably more exciting and imaginative dream lawns people have come up with this week:

Bronwyn Green • Jessica Jarman • Kellie St. James • Leigh Jones
Kris Norris • Gwendolyn Cease

Caitlin Moran’s YA fail, or “blazing trails down existing highways”

“[...] I wanted to get in there before anyone else and talk about sex.”

This is a quote from Caitlin Moran, in an interview with The Bookseller. The article is available to subscribers only, but it was this choice comment that exploded on social media. Moran was talking about Young Adult fiction, and she made this remark while promoting her own Young Adult novel, due out in July.

To say that YA authors and readers were outraged would be an understatement. YA author Keris Stainton (@Keris) created the hashtag #CaitlinMoranShouldRead to respond to the comments, and frustrated twitter users took Moran to task:

 I would just like to say, #caitlinmoranshouldread before suggesting all female-led YA books are Twilight. That is all.

— Tamsyn Murray (@TamsynTweetie) May 16, 2014

 

Misconceptions about Young Adult fiction aren’t new to fans of the genre. From being dismissed as mindless fluff for Twilight obsessed tweens, to constant warnings that the genre is dying, kerfuffles between the media and readers occur with alarming regularity. If Moran were familiar with the genre and its politics, perhaps she would have chosen a different way to promote her book. Moran’s comments, born of an startling lack of awareness of the very genre in which she aims to write, are offensive and, sadly, not uncommon or unique to YA. In 2009, Laurell K. Hamilton took to twitter to defend her claim that she “pioneered” the paranormal genre:

While Hamilton was unquestionably at the forefront of the Urban Fantasy boom, the paranormal thriller genre existed long before Anita Blake. Moran’s comments echo the self-important claims of Hamilton and the countless other authors who’ve declared themselves the inventors of trends years– and sometimes decades– too late.

But what makes Moran’s assertions about the genre even more troubling is the disparaging way she frames all YA:

“It’s always about teenage boys going off and having amazing adventures. You don’t see teenage girls anywhere unless they’re being bitten by vampires so I wanted to write about a funny, weird teenage girl having adventures, particularly sex adventures.”

Again, this shows an unfamiliarity with YA that suggests that prior to writing her own novel, Moran made no attempt to explore the genre. Instead she decided to blaze a brave new trail down a road paved by literally hundreds of authors before her. Furthermore, Moran has something of a spotty reputation where her feminist views are concerned, so it’s unsurprising that her dedication to reviving feminism in YA hinges upon ignoring the contributions of female authors in the genre, as well as the interests of young female readers.

Yet Moran is far from the first author to reject the notion that their book might fit into an already existing genre. New Adult author Jamie McGuire created an online furor in her gaffe-riddle bid to distance herself from YA fiction, until her novel, Beautiful Disaster, was nominated for a GoodReads reader’s choice award. And author Nicholas Sparks has insisted more  than once that his novels can’t be “romances,” not because they don’t feature the requisite Happily Ever After, but because they don’t fit the genre in other ways:

“Universal” means you feel as if they are real. You feel like you can know them. I don’t write stories about astronauts or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or millionaires or movie stars.”

Sparks’s suggestion that all romance novels feature the over-the-top and unrealistic tropes that have become as much of a stereotype as the term “bodice ripper” makes his lack of understanding of the genre all too clear. His generalizations carry the same misogynistic tone as Moran’s by insinuating that romance– a female dominated industry– is, at its heart, less serious and well-crafted than his groundbreaking novels.

What drives this need for well-known authors to be first, or to firmly deny that their work might have anything in common with existing books or genres? Moran has been a popular columnist for The Times since 1992; surely her large readership is aware of her social justice stances, and would therefore expect a feminist slant to her debut YA novel. Was it necessary to denigrate all of YA fiction in order to advertise the book’s feminist leaning content? Did future sales of the novel hinge upon erasing the thousands of books already available for readers craving the type of story Moran has crafted? While originality is a trait to be lauded, by trying to market her book as YA, but not that type of YA, readers who might have purchased Moran’s book before her disastrous comments may be turned off by her sneering attitude toward their preferred reading material.

If Moran’s intent was to enter the YA market by insulting readers and her fellow authors, then she has done so with staggering success. But she is neither the first to explore teenage sexuality in YA fiction, nor the first author to self-apply undue credit for pioneering a trend.

Merlin Club S02E04 “Lancelot and Guinevere” or “What about the R.O.U.S.’s?”

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

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

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

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Jenny Reads After chapters 10 – 12 or “Don’t Forget Where You Belong (at this party, forever)”

You may have noticed that this is not Wednesday blogging. I got behind in a bunch of stuff, so I skipped out on that one this week. However, you can read about shitty jobs my Wednesday Blogging peeps Tess Grant, Kris Norris, Bronwyn Green, Gwendolyn Cease, and Jessica Jarman have toiled away at in the past.

Before we get into the recap, I want to discuss some bullshittery. 700 million “reads.” That’s the stat on the story’s WattPad landing page.

One assumes that when the average person– someone who doesn’t worry about things like unique page views and click-throughs and ping-backs– sees that number, they’re not going to think, “Many people have clicked on each individual chapter multiple times,” but “700 million people have read this book.”

This number, and the unspoken claim behind it (because WattPad is aware that they’re trying to make people think that 700 million individual people have read this story, or else they would be presenting a more realistic statistic) struck me as so ridiculous, I had to do some puzzling to try and put this claim into perspective.

Okay, let’s take the “700 million reads” claim in the spirit with which it was intended, and that is, to dupe you into believing 700 million people have read it, and break that number down a little. I combined the estimated populations of countries in which I knew large numbers of people spoke English. These countries were selected through the very scientific process of being countries I remembered as having significant populations of first-language English speakers without having to actually look anything else up, and they are as follows: United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. And the number I came to was 494.8 million.

Now, a note on the reason I chose populations with first-language English speakers: because I’m convinced that anyone whose secondary language skills in English are just semi-fluent wouldn’t be able to understand a flipping sentence in the grammar and spelling nightmare that is After. You’d have to have some mad proficiency skills to sift through the errors, and it’s harder to find an estimate for “mad proficiency English language” on Google. I’m an author, I work with the English language every day, it’s my first language that I have spoken for thirty-two years of my life, it was the primary language used throughout my education, yet I have difficulty figuring out what’s being said in some of these chapters.

So, let’s look at that 494.8 million figure. To reach that number, it means every single person in all of those countries would have to read After.  This would include individuals who are:

  • illiterate
  • infants
  • unable to access the internet
  • unable to access WattPad due to incompatibility with their screen reading software
  • old people who refuse to use computers
  • in comas
  • living strict religious practices forbidding the use of electricity
  • out of fucks to give for whatever the next big thing is
  • unaware of fanfic and would have no desire to seek it out
  • contrary hipsters who refuse to investigate anything popular
  • saddled with a passing regard for grammar and spelling that would normally preclude them from reading something like After

Every. single. person. But even then, even with every estimated living human being in all those countries, the number falls a little over 300 million short. Add to this the number of readers leaving comments like:

“rereading cuz I can’t wait for anna to update! haha and stop giving spoilers! I hate them”

we have to assume that at least some of these “reads” are coming from repeat offenders (who seem to believe the story might be different upon second reading, else why would they worry about spoilers?).

To put it into even more perspective, 700 million individual readers would make up 25% of estimated internet users.  Note the lack of qualifier there. Not “internet users in America” or “internet users in English speaking countries.” Internet users total, based on stats from the International Telecommunications Union.

This, friends, is basically horseshit. The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy is an international juggernaut, translated into over fifty languages, is still dominating our everyday lives with ever more outdated quips referencing its title and themes, and guess how many copies it’s sold? As of February, 100 million. It’s clear that in the bid to make “fetch” happen with After, the idea is to make its success seem not just comparable with the book it shamelessly imitates, but bigger and more important. Somehow, this tactic is convincing enough that it attracted the interest of Hollywood, who apparently believe that 700 million clicks– some by repeat readers– on three stories with approximately one-hundred separate chapters per part is going to translate into some kind of globally dominating force equivalent to seven 50 Shades of Greys.

Oh, fuck me. It probably will. Continue reading