Monthly Archives: September 2015

No, Smart Phones Aren’t Destroying Humanity

Last Sunday, the New York Times ran a piece about how smart phones are destroying the next generation. I always find it interesting that it’s always the next generation that’s being destroyed, but the generation writing think pieces about that destruction have always been mercifully spared. While the article does note that parents are as addicted to technology as their children are, it swiftly moves on to discussing the myriad ways teens aren’t communicating correctly.

I could mock this piece by scrounging up anecdotes about similar changes in technology that lead to dire warnings of societal collapse. There are plenty of examples: the internet. The telephone. The novel. I’m sure that even the harnessing of fire was criticized as a civilization ender, with middle-aged cave people lamenting the good old days when everyone lived in mortal dread of being eaten by a bear in the dark. But we don’t have to reach so far back for this one; smart phones and social media are providing all of us–not just the doomed “next generation”–with a level of connectivity to our fellow humans that we’ve never experienced before, and it’s all become possible in a very short span of years. All of us, even those who are writing disparaging think pieces, remember a time we would now consider unbearable. In the movie Hot Tub Time Machine, a teenager who mysteriously finds himself trapped in 1985 is astounded when a girl reminds him that there’s no way to text or email her. If he wants to talk to her, she explains, he has to come and find her. His response? “That sounds exhausting.”

And it was exhausting. And boring. And isolating. I grew up in a rural area, in a house where I was the only child. If the school year ended and I didn’t have a friend’s phone number, I didn’t speak to them until September–an interminable wait when you’re young and time seems so much longer. If I wanted to meet with my friends and spend time, the arrangements were contingent upon whether or not our parents had the means or inclination to get us into the same place at once. With no neighbor children to play with, summers could be very lonely.

My son, however, never spends his summers alone. Though he can’t always be with his friends in person, they gather online via Skype to play Minecraft or watch “let’s play” videos together on YouTube. They talk and they giggle and socialize, and some of them are doing this with the aid of smart phones.

Those lonely summers I spent might have been less lonely if we’d had smart phones. I could have texted or emailed my friends, rather than having to work up the courage to call them. To this day, I have debilitating phone anxiety that makes a single phone call an all day project as I sit and talk myself into dialing the number. I could have had long conversations via Facebook messenger, seen pictures from their summer vacations and shared my own. And failing all that, I could have downloaded books, rather than waiting for a weekly trip to the library.

I don’t begrudge my children the technology that provides them an adolescence filled with more conveniences than I had in mine. Will they grow up differently than I did? Of course they will, but every advance changes our way of life. That’s the point of advancement. We strive for change, but fear it when it arrives. Since we don’t want to blame ourselves for causing it, we resent the next generation for using the tools we’ve created for them.

Maybe kids these days don’t communicate the way kids did twenty years ago. Maybe it’s making them different. But kids twenty years before that were different, too. Our luddite insistence that any behavioral change caused by technology will spin us into a grim dystopia foretold in 1950′s science fiction novels proves that the only true constant is the human ego. Because how can the next generation possibly thrive or surpass us unless they duplicate our experiences exactly?

THE BABY Cover Reveal and Excerpt! (Plus a Boss Boxed Set! and other news)

Everyone is getting antsy for news about The Baby, and today I’m going to deliver! Now, after the “read more” tag you’re going to find the cover to The Baby, the final book in the Boss series, as well as a super hot excerpt from the first chapter. However, if you skip straight there, you’re going to miss out on some Boss related news you’re going to need if you want to keep up with Neil and Sophie. So exercise some self-denial and read through these details first.

Release date: I’ve seen confusion about what the release date is, ranging anywhere from November 5 , 6, 10, or 25. The release date for The Baby is November 10.

Preorders: There won’t be a preorder for the The Baby, or any of my future self-published books. Here’s why: Amazon and other retailers have stopped counting preorders as first day sales. It used to be that authors could set up a preorder ninety days in advance and use that time to rack up sales that would rocket the book onto bestseller lists and to the top of retail charts. I’m not concerned with hitting lists; I did it once and nothing magical happened apart from an ego stroke, so it isn’t a huge priority. However, making it into the top one hundred in your category on Amazon, for example, increases your visibility and allows you to sell more copies. I learned this lesson the hard way when I made First Time available for preorder. Had preorders been counted toward first day sales, both books would have easily gained a spot in the top one hundred of their categories. They didn’t, and the book never broke the top thousand overall. Despite the fact that so many of you bought the book, without visibility the sales overall slowed to a trickle because new readers who might have been interested in it just didn’t find it.

Please, don’t think that I don’t appreciate that you preordered First Time. I loved the enthusiastic response it received, and I’m thankful for each and every copy sold. I’m just using it as an example to explain why The Baby won’t have a preorder.  And obviously, this is going to inconvenience or anger some of you. All I can do is apologize. While I love writing and sharing my writing with you, this is also a business, and I sometimes have to make business decisions based on circumstances I don’t have a say in. This is the final book in this series for Neil and Sophie, and if everyone who would normally preorder it just ends up buying it the first week, it’ll have a greater chance at the visibility and longevity that, frankly, I believe it deserves. I’m pretty proud of my work lately, and I want to see it do well.

Oh, about that whole “last book in the series” thing: While The Baby is the last book in this series, it is not the last Neil and Sophie book. I’m taking a break from them for now to focus on some other projects, but I have every intention of writing more for them. Stopping at five books gives us a convenient place for readers of the series to step off the train if they’re getting bored, but feel like they absolutely have to finish. It also gives me time to explore side characters, like the continuation of Ian and Penny’s story, and Emir’s own novel. So yes, Neil and Sophie will be back, but not in 2016.

THE BOSS boxed set: If you want to get caught up on all the novels in this series (or you want to force a friend to read them), there’s an easy way to do that now. A digital boxed set of the first four books is available now, for $1.99. The set is only available for a limited time, so spread the word. It’s currently available on Amazon and Smashwords.

All right. It’s cover and excerpt time. Are you ready?

Continue reading

State of The Trout: “My Best Friend’s Wedding” edition

Hey everybody! just a quick note to say that MY BFF JILL IS GETTING MARRIED! YAAAAY!

But because of this phenomenal happening, I will be pretty busy from now until after the 26th, because I’m a bridesmaid. Don’t expect updates during the week, but know that I’ll be working behind the scenes on:

  • The Baby cover reveal!
  • A new Buffy Recap!
  • Don’t Do This Ever post with advice from actual editors!
  • A new chapter of The Afflicted  on Wattpad!
  • And a new chapter of Biter for my Patreon supporters!

Thanks everyone for understanding, and I’ll catch you on the other side of the happy wedding madness!

Jenny Reads 50 Shades of Midnight Sun: Grey, Saturday, May 21, 2011 or “THE BIGGEST CHAPTER EVER: PART ONE”

Welcome back, everyone. Because this SINGLE CHAPTER takes up 9% of the total book and is, according to these Kindle page numbers, over fifty pages long, I’ll be breaking it up into four or five recaps to match its corresponding chapters in the first book. That way none of us feel like we’re running a marathon in a wool suit right after winning a pie eating contest.

I feel like this almost goes without saying, but CW: Rape. Because the “hero” of this book doesn’t understand what consent is. But rape is mentioned a lot in this recap.

Continue reading

Don’t Do This Ever: “C*** Juggling Thunder C***” edition

People in the indie book world are sharply divided on whether or not crowd funding your author life is ethical or not. The arguments around authors starting Kickstarters and GoFundMes to either fund the writing of their novel or finish a series (with the implication that readers would not receive the conclusion to the series unless the fundraising goal was met) is always pretty much the same: one side feels it’s unethical or “just not done”, the other thinks that any objection to the crowdfunding model is a denial of any author’s right to compensation for their work.

But one thing both sides probably will agree on? Don’t call people who disapprove of your model “cock juggling thunder cunts.”

Continue reading

5 Animated Movies You Should Definitely See, If You Haven’t Already

I love animated movies. Here are some that I love, that I think you should watch, too. And I’m putting them in no particular order.

PERSEPOLIS

Based on the graphic novel memoir of Majane Satrapi, Persepolis is a true story of growing up in Iran after the Islamic Revolution and during the Iranian war with Iraq. It’s gripping and scary, and retains the style of the original black and white illustrations. I highly recommend reading the book first, so you can appreciate the frames reproduced directly in the film. It’s sad and funny, and the feminist ideals of the author remain intact in the film version.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

Before Peter Jackson’s sprawling adaptation, Ralph Bakshi’s animated condensing of Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings and The Two Towers were the only way to experience a film version of the fantasy epic. The film doesn’t stick to one animation style, utilizing rotoscoping, solarization live-action, and psychedelic lighting effects for a look that’s staggeringly unique. While significant cuts were made to fit the story into its two hour run time and the Rankin-Bass sequel was far inferior in comparison, this is worth watching, even if only to find the scenes that Peter Jackson blatantly cribbed for his version.

INSIDE OUT

The premise of Inside Out is fairly simple: your emotions are little creatures that live inside your head. Isn’t that quirky? Disney/Pixar could have gotten by on silliness alone, but instead they used the chance to show the effects of clinical depression on a preteen girl, in a way that audiences of all ages can understand. When Joy and Sadness go missing in Riley’s brain, only Disgust, Fear, and Anger are left to drive her through her day to day life. As Joy and Sadness struggle to help Riley, she shrinks from her old interest, friends, and finally her family. It sounds like a total bummer, but it’s packed with as much humor as sentimentality. As a bonus, it can give kids a better understanding of mental illness without the veneer of social stigma distorting the message.

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT

There are some stories that can just work better as animated movies. The scope of the story of the Exodus is huge, would require a cast of thousands or expensive CGI effects, and expensive locations. Dreamworks’s decision to animate it was a stroke of brilliance. Without the hindrance of having to pay extras or build elaborate sets, they were free to create a true cinema epic that, despite being marketed to families, pulls no punches depicting the brutality of slavery and the horrors of the biblical plagues. And while there are shockingly few Jewish actors or People of Color portraying Hebrew characters or character of color in the voice cast (off the top of my head, only Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, and Ofra Haza come to mind), the stylized visuals are stunning, the music is Broadway caliber, and the story proves powerful enough to resonate across cultural and religious lines.

THE LAST UNICORN

This is not only my favorite animated movie of all time, but it’s high in the running for my favorite movie overall. I rented this one over and over when I was a kid, but it was only after I watched it as an adult that I truly understood its themes of the destructiveness of possession, the danger of hubris, and longing to be something that you’re not. The visuals are enchanting, the voice cast is like this ridiculous cavalcade of talent, and I hardly ever watch it anymore because I can’t make it through the main titles (and the theme song, written and performed by America, as are all the tracks) before I burst into tears.