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Month: December 2014

Resolutions and Accountability Report

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Another year has blown straight on by. Does anyone else feel like they’re careening toward the grave? Just me? I’ll call my doctor.

Last year, I made some resolutions. Let’s see if I kept them:

1. I did knit the 4th Doctor’s scarf. It took me eight months, but I managed to finish the scarf in the car on the way to Authors After Dark in Charlotte. It turned out fantastic:

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2. I spent more time doing fun stuff. In addition to knitting, I actually slowed down to read non-work related books, play World of Warcraft, spend way too much time on Tumblr, and, most excitingly (is that a word?) for me, I started learning how to draw. Here are some of my favorite pictures this year:

beautiful dick in the moonlight oh the humanity Weed Princess copic  test touched up

3. I stopped worrying about whether or not my house was spotlessly clean. I kind of fudged a little on this one by hiring a cleaning lady once a week, but I’m not kicking myself over the clutter and the utter nightmare of ripped up dog toys on the floor as much as I was before.

4. Wear a bikini.

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So, there you have it. I, Jenny Trout, achieved my New Year’s resolutions.

Now, with 2015 upon us, I have a whole new set of resolutions.

1. Write another goddamn vampire novel. For personal reasons, I don’t do much talking about about my pre-Jenny Trout work, but my career started with a series of vampire novels. My plate is pretty full with two series right now (and the addition of a third barreling down on me), but I desperately want to write some vampire YA. Mostly because if there’s a genre that’s losing steam, I want to be sure to jump on the tail end of it and make absolutely no money. But what I lack in business sense, I make up for in passion and dedication, and right now my heart is telling me that I want to return to some vampires. By the end of 2015, I want to either have completed, or actively begun work on, a YA vampire novel.

2. Run the Mackinac 8 Mile. I got lazy and stopped doing something that made me happy. I’m going to start again, and I want to celebrate my return to running in 2015 by racing around the beautiful shores of Mackinac Island.

3. Draw a tattoo for myself. This year, I’ve gotten tattoos that other people have drawn. I’d like to get a tattoo that I drew. I don’t know what it will be of, or even if I have the skill to pull it off, but I’m going to keep practicing until I get it right.

4. Legally change my name to Jenny Trout. Do you have any idea how liberating it’s going to be to go from eighteen letters to ten letters? My name will finally fit on forms. I might even change my middle name, too. If anybody has any good ideas, let me know. Maybe we’ll have a vote on it or some shit.

I’m only making three this year, because I have a busy schedule with three books to complete and tons of travel in 2015, but let’s see how it goes!

 

Best of Trout Nation 2014

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This year has been some year for me, let me tell you. So many exciting things happened, and I got to write about it all! So I’ve gone through 2014 and found my favorite posts (and got surprised at how many of them actually came from this year and not years past, as my faulty memory would have had me believe. These aren’t necessarily my biggest posts, but the ones I enjoyed the most.

January

January started off strong with this twitter story about Robert Plant being eaten by a bear, the Huffington Post article that made Anne Rice briefly not hate me, and the beginning of #MerlinClub. But I think my favorite post for January (and a strong contender for favorite post of the year) was the one in which I recapped the weird love story of the Nescafe Gold couple.

February

February was a wondrous time for me, dear reader, as I completed the last of my 50 Shades of Grey recaps and never have to read about that guy (that fucking guy) again. I also got a puppy, and my first YA novel Such Sweet Sorrow debuted.

March

Neil Elwood and Sophie Scaife returned in The Brideand I wrote about Jennifer Weiner’s controversial statements on diversity in YA at the Huffington Post

April

April was the month when the author who was the single largest influence on my love of books and writing called me names, and Disney’s Frozen saved me from suicidal thoughts.

May

In May, I realized that every song on One Direction’s Midnight Memories album was ripped the fuck off from other artists, and I got real about authors who have “I was first!” syndrome.

June

Halfway through the year, I made good on my resolution to wear a two-piece. I also shared my very first television appearance (before I had any idea that there would be more), made fun of the biggest assholes on the internet, and The Afflicted premiered on WattPad.

July

Shit got crazier in my career than I have ever experienced before. My Huffington Post essay about my bikini experience went viral as fuck, leading to an appearance on HuffPost Live. I went on Good Morning Americagot tired as fuck of fat shaming bullshit, and an angel in a candy store fulfilled one of my childhood dreams. And then my friends turned that dream into a pornographic nightmare.

August

I went on NPR to talk about the song that shall not be named (but I’m including it because how fucking cool, I went on NPR!). I also went on a local daytime show, which was really cool because I got to meet local anchors, which always feels somehow more famous than meeting big time celebrities. I wrote about the celebrity nude photo leaks at the Huffington Post and debated Beyoncé’s feminist cred.

September

It was the month of authors showing their asses, especially in the wake of the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit. I founded a new spirituality, and for once a TV adaption of a book I like didn’t brutally disappoint me.

October

A bunch of reviewers joined the Taliban without realizing it, an author received tons of praise for stalking, and Steve Harvey gave me the surprise of a lifetime, aided by fifteen brilliant women. This month also marked the founding of the Jealous Hater Book Club

November

Neil and Sophie came back in The ExI wrote some more about The Prophet, and I scattered the ashes of my love for Amanda Palmer to the wind.

December

And here we are again! Konrath thew a hissy, I made some motivational Doctors, and we came together as a family to help those in need (submissions for that post are still open, by the way, until New Year’s Day).

It has been an incredible year, and I’m so lucky to have you guys in my life every day. Here’s hoping 2015 is fantastic for all of Trout Nation.

The Elephant in The Interview

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On Wednesday, Sony pulled the plug on the latest Rogen/Franco buddy comedy, The Interview. The trailer promised a Jonathan Ross-esque TV host and his producer bumbling through international espionage on a quest to kill Kim Jong Un. As the film’s release date approached, a Sorkinsian plot of email hacking, bomb threats, and business decisions all careened downhill like the Grinch’s sled. The top five theatre chains in the country declined to screen the movie, and Sony, realizing no one was going to see the film in a mass release, spurned DVD and VOD, took its toys and went home.

And oh, the firestorm that ensued. People took to Twitter to lament that they’d planned on seeing the movie, and now “the terrorists have won!” Artists in all fields decried this “censorship” and warned about the doom that awaits on the horizon for all creatives. And of course, many insisted that the way to topple Kim Jong Un’s regime is through relentless mocking, pointing to the anti-Hitler comedies during World War II that helped bring the Third Reich to its knees.

Excuse me if I look past this for a second to concentrate on something that appears to be missing from this conversation. It seems to me that in all our demands for “free speech” (a phrase that has been tossed around needlessly; the United States government did not censor The Interview), we’ve overlooked the people of North Korea, and how our American thirst for jokes erase them from our consciousness.

Movies like The Interview and Team America: World Police don’t often show the realities of life in North Korea and the human rights violations perpetrated by the government there. The joke is often, “Check out this guy! He is short and portly, and he thinks he’s important! His country lacks the basic luxuries we take for granted!” We find these dictators hilarious because they seem to be lacking self-awareness, a cardinal sin in our culture, which demands everyone know and understand their place. Our enjoyment of mocking Kim Jong Il and his successor, Kim Jong Un, comes from a mild second-hand embarrassment that anyone would think they were influential when their country is so backwards by U.S. standards. We’ve depicted these men as powerless bunglers throwing useless temper tantrums and dreaming up Acme brand schemes that never pan out. But the punchline is never that either dictator committed atrocities against their own people. We stick to digs at physical appearance and inflated self-importance, and top them off with offensive “Asian” accents straight out of Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Maybe it’s too difficult to make involuntary human medical experimentation and multigenerational prison sentences a catchphrase. Within his own borders, Kim Jong Un is far from powerless. He and his cabal of generals and high ranking officials have continued in his predecessor’s footsteps with regards to mass executions, paranoid surveillance, and other assorted atrocities. Our popular media seems largely unconcerned with this; we’re only interested in a dictator whose evil springs from harmless, grandiose self-vision and funny foreign outfits.

Occasionally, the horrors of life in North Korea do show up in our American satire. 30 Rock, for example, featured a running plot line in which a major character’s new bride was kidnapped by Kim Jong Un and forced to serve as the anchor of an all-propaganda news channel. Viewers could chuckle at allegations of torture, dismal living conditions, and the poor quality of life that comes from living under constant government surveillance, as long as we were assured that it was happening to an American character whose rescue was in the works.

In that way, life imitates art; we only seem truly concerned with the atrocities in North Korea when Bill Clinton is flying over to rescue a United States citizen from them.

Some have argued that films like The Interview or Team America: World Police serve the same purpose as the Warner Bros. and Three Stooges comedies about Hitler. It seems like an apt comparison, until you apply context; Larry, Moe, and Curly were lampooning Axis Powers while the Allied Forces were fighting them. Franco and Rogen are assassinating Kim Jong Un while the United States continues to ignore the real abuses the North Korean government perpetrates against its people. It’s hard to imagine that Bugs Bunny tormenting Hitler would still be a point of pride today if we’d continued to let the Nazis murder millions of people without lifting a finger. If we aren’t going to do anything about Kim Jong Un’s government, what purpose does our satire serve, beyond providing American audiences with cheap laughs at the expense of people who are suffering tremendous injustice?

Cries of censorship are equally puzzling. Sony pulled the movie when major theatre chains, concerned about possible terrorist threats–or the effect rumors of those threats might have on their weekend take–refused to run the movie. Already embroiled in conflict over hacked emails and facing projected financial losses as a result of their December movies being leaked online, Sony made the decision to pull the film. While many are pointing to this as a battle lost in the war on freedom of expression, Sony has acted in their own self-interest, influenced by the actions of, but not due to a direct threat from, North Korea. Meanwhile, U.S. retail super giant Wal-Mart openly exerts pressure on the recording and publishing industries to produce content and packaging that fit strict criteria in line with the company’s moral standards. When record and book companies bend to their whims, we have no problem seeing it this as business as usual, not capitulation to conservative Christian terrorism. We simply accept that no major corporation will throw away potential revenue; The Interview will likely release in the future to overwhelming commercial success.

Maybe this is, as Newt Gingrich prophesied, America’s first loss in a “cyberwar.” Or it could be a strategic move to draw out the controversy and boost the film’s box office totals when it ultimately does release. But one thing is certain: it took the threat of losing Christmas day with our two favorite stoners to make many of us give a damn about North Korea and their evil, freedom-crushing ways. Whatever counteraction is taken, it will be in the name of U.S. commercialism, without a thought to the people suffering the brutality of Kim Jong Un’s regime. So you’ll have to pardon me if I’m not up to waving a banner for my imperiled American freedoms right along with the rest of the crowd.

Merlin Club S04E08: “Lamia” or “Paint drying”

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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.

(THIS IS A STICKY POST) ‘Tis the season!

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Much in the way Hobbits celebrate their birthdays, we too can celebrate the season by giving unto others. And while Trout Nation is a land rich in snark and friendship, our main export is shit-stirring and that doesn’t pay for much. As such, I am inviting all ye Troutfaithful to email me your URLs with the subject line “FUNDRAISER” (don’t leave them in the comments section or tweet me, because I’m afraid they’ll be missed and not added to the post) in the hopes that those among us who can will spread the generosity of the season.

There’s a catch: I’m not posting any links to fundraisers for commercial or artistic projects or anything like that. There’s a time and a place for those, and this post is strictly for those in need of things like food, shelter, medical procedures, pet shelter donations, etc. We’ll do another Kickstarter post after the New Year.

I’ll keep adding to this post until New Year’s Day. If you can’t give, promote the post and get the word out!

Keep sending me links, and I’ll keep adding them!

Motivational Doctors

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This week I’m struggling with extremely bad pain. I mention it every now and then, but it bears repeating: Fibromyalgia is a ton of ass (In fact, one author is facing homelessness this Christmas due, in part, to this syndrome, so if you’ve got some spare cheddar laying around, here’s a donation campaign for her). I’ve recently been experiencing this awesome burst of productivity, something I always struggle with, only to end up with pain that’s preventing me from any sort of long-term concentration. It’s times like these that get me down, which is why I have things like this in my office:

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Last night, I decided I needed another motivational Doctor on my wall, so I whipped this up in Gimp:
motivational doctor

I printed it out and stuck it to my wall, then shared it with Bronwyn Green, who said, “That’s a good idea. I could use a motivational 10, myself.” Since these take like, absolutely no effort to make, I got into Gimp again and made her one. And she said, “Thanks, that actually helps!” and I thought, you know what? I bet there are citizens in Trout Nation right now who could use a boost from The Doctor. So if you’re out there having mental health issues, or chronic pain issues, or you just need to hear someone tell you something kind or remind you to be kind to yourself, here are some motivational Doctors. If you don’t see your Doctor here yet, don’t worry. I’ve got others I’m working on and will post later.

motivational 4 motivational 10 motivational 12 motivational one

I think if you click these, they take you to larger versions you can save, just in case you’re a print-and-bulletin-board kinda person like myself.

At this point, regular features are generally on hold until this bad spell passes. Right now I’m just concentrating on getting through the day, but who knows, I might get a solid hour or two where I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do some Apolonia!” or something like that. And who knows, if it’s another really awful day, I might make some more Doctors.

DON’T DO THIS EVER: “World Before Columbus Syndrome” edition

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I’ll be honest: I don’t follow JA Konrath’s blog much these days. When I was first venturing into self-publishing, I ate it up. But as I continued down my path, somehow I just fell away from a lot of the self-publishing bloggers I’d been reading.

Last Tuesday, Konrath took to his blog to sing the praises of self-publishing and the freedom it brings:

“So why am I writing kinky romance?

Lots of reasons.

First, because I can.

We live during the greatest time in history to be a fiction writer. Anything you can dream up, you can publish. Maybe it will find an audience. Maybe it won’t.

But at least it has the chance to.”

Yes! Right on! Self-publishing is fantastic for that! I don’t see why everyone is so up in arms over this post!

Our male protagonist is a sex worker. An escort. A prostitute. I’m pretty sure Harlequin didn’t allow that back when Ann was publishing her romance continuities. I also believe Harlequin had a guideline that once the hero met the heroine, neither were allowed to philander. Strike two. Finally, the sex in Want It Bad makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like a Disney picturebook. Harlequin may have had some racy titles, but I doubt they ever got this racy.

Hmmm. I’m starting to get a sense of why some authors took exception to this post.

The “Ann” Konrath refers to is Ann Voss Peterson, who wrote award-winning romantic suspense for Harlequin’s Intrigue line. This is important information later.

So check out Want It Bad. It has romance. It has female-buddy banter. It has humor. It has insanely kinky sex. It’s a feminist, empowering, 21st century love story that couldn’t have been written ten years ago because the genre, opportunity, and mindset didn’t exist.

Oh. Okay, now I see why I took exception to this post.

Let’s start with the obvious: you could have totally written a 21st century love story ten years ago. Because ten years ago was in the 21st century. So let’s be pedantic and get that out of the way right now.

Your book has romance, kinky sex, female-buddy banter, is feminist and empowering, but couldn’t have been written ten years ago because there was no genre for it, no opportunity to write it, and nobody had the mindset.

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Now, I’m not going to debate whether or not Sex and the City lives up to either modern or contemporary standards of feminism. But the popularity of Sex and the City was a watershed moment in how our culture viewed sex from a female perspective. Here was a show that gave us female characters who didn’t compete with each other, who talked about more than just how their lives related to men (though men were the topic of conversation more often than not) and which exposed the frank, raunchy, enthusiastic approach toward sex that women were sharing with each other. Again, I’m not debating whether the show covered all possible experiences (the characters were middle and upper class white women who were all straight), but it did have empowerment, feminist issues, “female-buddy banter,” humor, and kinky sex (every time I write about Sophie squirting, I remember that I learned about it from Sex and the City). The show had everything Konrath is praising his own work for having… and it ended its run in 2004. For those of you who are tragically bad with numbers, that’s… ten years ago. It actually debuted in 1998.  So clearly the “mindset” existed.

The problem is that Konrath didn’t realize the mindset existed. Or, more accurately, Konrath didn’t realize the mindset could make him money back then. In the comments section, he says:

Courtney Milan, who by all accounts is a good writer and a person I respect even if I don’t agree with her on everything, mentioned this on Twitter.

Which is why you said the “genre, opportunity, and mindset didn’t exist”?

I said that because it didn’t exist.

Has there always been erotic romance? Sure.

Has it always been mainstream?

No. Fifty Shades of Grey sold 100 million copies and opened the genre up to huge numbers of readers who never tried the genre before.

Fair enough, Fifty Shades of Grey did cause an erotica boom. But Konrath appears to be saying that yeah, erotic romance exists, but he wasn’t paying attention to it back when it didn’t stand a chance of lining his pockets. Now that he’s seen  the kind of cash erotic romance authors are making, he’s going to expose and break down the barriers of censorship that had already been crumbling since 2000, when Tina Engler founded Ellora’s Cave.

Again, if you’re bad at math, that’s fourteen years ago, four years before the mindset that allowed for female-friendly erotica’s existence.

When confronted about his statements, Konrath moved the goal posts and demanded evidence that erotic romance existed before his:

Can someone show me an HQ series featuring a sex worker who sleeps with a woman after meeting the heroine? Or a HQ continuity with candle wax, pillory spanking, and a sex machine?

and

So you’re telling me that FSoG could have gotten into Walmart years ago, as part of a HQ series or continuity?

You’re saying that HQ Blaze was not only mainstream, but the hero and heroine could sleep with others after they met, used sex machines, dripped hot wax on each other, etc, and were still for sale in Target or Sam’s Club?

If so, then I’m wrong. But if FSoG opened up this genre to worldwide acceptance, then my points stand.

As several commenters rightly pointed out, Konrath didn’t say that erotic romance couldn’t have been carried in big box stores ten years ago, or that Harlequin hadn’t published the elements in his book. He didn’t even say that his book couldn’t have been published ten years ago. He said:

It’s a feminist, empowering, 21st century love story that couldn’t have been written ten years ago because the genre, opportunity, and mindset didn’t exist.

The twitter and comments arguments continued in this vein, with women who’ve been writing in the genre for twenty or more books simply asking Konrath to admit that he’d written something objectively false, and Konrath refusing to acknowledge both the actual words in the above quote, or that Harlequin isn’t the sum total of the romance genre.

For some reason, this behavior doesn’t endear him to erotic romance authors, and neither does his behavior toward Courtney Milan in their twitter exchange:

Konrath grew even more defensive when author KT Grant suggested that a snipe he made with regards to Milan’s sales  compared to Peterson’s sales was hitting below the belt:

Courtney insulted me a lot in that Twitter exchange, and I was polite.

Then she insulted my co-authors, saying Ann didn’t know what she was talking about.

Taking potshots at me is fine. Potshots at my co-authors? I don’t play that.

Courtney has NO BUSINESS telling Ann Voss Peterson that she doesn’t knwo what she’s talking about. Ann has forgotten more about writing than Courtney knows, and she’s a better writer than damn ear anyone I’ve ever met.

Next time you get insulted, read it in context.

Ah. Apparently Grant was interrogating the text from the wrong perspective. I mean, clearly Konrath was perfectly polite in his exchange with Milan, as evidenced by his above potshot at Milan’s outspoken views on feminism.

At one point, Konrath appears to be trying to bring the conversation in his comments section to a close by stating:

I have no control over what insults people. But I did write a very funny, very sexy romance, which I’m excited about, and want to tell the world about, so I’m very amused by the reaction it is getting.

There’s no zero sum in writing. One author’s sale don’t come at the expense of another. I encourage writers, I don’t take offense when someone enters my genre. I wasn’t aware I needed to get a union card to write ER. 🙂

The amount of butt hurt wafting off this comment is strong. First of all, it isn’t the book that’s garnering attention; that’s just deluded self-flattery. The reason Konrath has found himself at the center of this conflict is that he said something ignorant, he was called on it, claimed he meant something else, but still stands by the original statement enough to continually argue with authors who know the genre better than him. And better than his writing partner; when asked by Milan if she could name a boundary pushing self-published erotic romance author, Peterson listed  Bella Andre, H.M Ward, Jasinda Wilder, and Liliana Hart, none of whom are considered erotic romance authors.

Second, no one in the conversation suggested that the book Konrath and Peterson wrote isn’t welcome in the genre, or that they’re not allowed to write in the genre. People were upset by the statement Konrath made, that a book like his couldn’t have been written ten years ago.

The cherry on top of the condescension sundae is when Konrath seems to imply that the ire directed toward him by erotic romance authors is one of financial envy. The concern was never that this book would sell so incredibly well that all of us would be out here wailing and gnashing our teeth in seething want of the same professional success. The concern was that Konrath had made the statement that a book like his couldn’t have been written (again, not published, not self-published, not successfully marketed, but simply could not have been written) ten years ago, because the “mindset” didn’t exist. And when faced with the overwhelming evidence that yes, the erotic romance “mindset” existed prior to the time he had the idea to make money off it, he chose to repeatedly ignore both the proof of that and his own words. He blatantly refuses to admit that the “mindset” that creates feminist friendly, kinky books existed prior to the time he believes it did.

For some bizarro reason, some ER writers think I’m disrespecting them by not acknowledging them, and that I have no business writing in this genre.

Seriously? You sound like whiny fans who are mad that the band they discovered in high school now sells out arenas.

Gosh. I don’t know why anyone would find that insulting at all.

Samantha Goes Cosplaying

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For weeks, Bronywn Green has been telling me, “I wish I could tell you about your Christmas present, because you’re going to love it!” She also said stuff like, “Do you have any yarn left over from your Doctor Who scarf?” and “You know that jacket you wore for your steampunk Doctor costume?”

Well, this past Saturday, I found out what was up.

Some of you may remember my American Girl doll, Samantha, who was gifted to me by a magic candy lady. The doll has become my unofficial mascot among my friends. They even made a movie trailer about her. She came with me to Authors After Dark in Charlotte, where I wore my steampunk 4th Doctor genderswap cosplay:

 

So, Bronwyn (being how she is) made an exact replica of my costume for Samantha, right down to 10’s sneakers. She even hand-sculpted a replica of River Song’s sonic to go with it:

IMG_20141213_153729616I wish I had a better quality picture, but I guess life isn’t fair. However, I assure you, it is exactly like my costume, in every way.

The very best gifts are heartfelt, obsessive, and bordering on disturbed. Now, whenever I cosplay as the steampunk 4th lady Doctor, I have to bring Samantha with me.