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Month: June 2016

State of the Trout: “This is really short” edition

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Two things only this time!

Today: You can read the (very late) twenty-third chapter of The Afflicted, my free Wattpad historical zombie novel.

Friday: I’ll be revealing the cover for The Stranger, an all new Neil and Sophie novella.

That’s all I got this (exhausting) week! Look out for a Buffy recap soon!

EDIT: Oh shit, wait! There is a third thing!

Twilighted last week while I was on retreat:

My heavily tattooed hands and arms holding an apple in front of a black background, like the cover of Twilight


Thanks to Bronwyn Green for indulging me.

Don’t Do This Ever: “Super Mega Meta Rehash” edition

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In 2015, disgraced former author Laura Harner was caught in a plagiarism scandal that rocked the M/M writing community. Harner, a well-liked and prolific author, had been lifting, almost word-for-word, the prose of other writers, including Becky McGraw and Opal Carew. Harner received a life-long ban from RWA, and the removal of all but her co-authored titles from Amazon. Now, it seems Harner has either been plagiarized or, more likely, has taken on a new pen name to continue her career.

So long, and thanks for your money

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Romance readers and authors get a lot of derision thrown their way. So much so that many have a mental checklist that runs every time they read mainstream media articles about romance or the people who write it.  We know that even the most well-intentioned pieces will use terms like “bodice ripper” and make mention of Fabio; some will praise the genre for moving past the days of clinch covers and towards more palatable packaging. Many will speak of the elusive “well-written romance”, which may or may not exist. Recently, author Diana Gabaldon deployed each of these trite views of the genre–a genre whose readers have supported her with their enthusiasm and their dollars to the tune of an acclaimed bestselling series and a highly-rated television phenomenon. In an interview with Vulture she insisted that her books don’t fit the romance mold:

A romance is a courtship story. In the 19th century, the definition of the romance genre was an escape from daily life that included adventure and love and battle. But in the 20th century, that term changed, and now it’s deemed only a love story, specifically a courtship story.

On Twitter, Gabaldon–a self-professed non-romance writer–expanded on this point:

It’s difficult to take Gabaldon’s definition of the genre seriously when she seems so painfully out of touch with it. E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, easily the most profitable and talked-about novel of the century so far, spent its sequels following the married life and personal tribulations of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, who remain the protagonists throughout the series. Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, another blockbuster in the vein of Fifty Shades, follows a single couple through five books. Both are “so labeled and packaged” as romance novels. According to a FAQ on Gabaldon’s website, romance authors themselves feel Outlander and its sequels are not romance novels:

I joined GEnie (one of the big online “information services” available in the late 80’s—well before the Web as it is now existed) shortly after winning the award, and one (quite well known) author sent me a private e-mail, saying that she thought she had better come out and tell me, since there were several messages from her on the board saying so, that she felt it was not right for Outlander to have won, since “it wasn’t really a romance–there wasn’t enough concentration on the relationship between the hero and heroine, she was older than him (hey, everybody knows you can’t do that! (You want to know how many times I’ve heard “You can’t do THAT in a romance!”–from romance writers at romance conventions?) they didn’t meet until page 69, you didn’t know he was the hero until much later, it was much too long, and it had all that HIStory, it was in the first person!! (an utterly heinous crime in that genre, apparently), and as for what I did to Jamie…!!

While Gabaldon may be content to cling to the attitudes of romance readers and writers as they stood twenty-five years ago, the genre has moved on. Today, Romance Writers of America has a much broader, more inclusive definition for what does and does not constitute a romance novel:

All romances have a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending. Beyond that, however, romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality. Romance fiction may be classified into various subgenres depending on setting and plot elements.

Gabaldon’s series fulfills each of those requirements. Her books, while including time travel and historical intrigues, are at their very heart a love story about Jamie and Claire. And while on her website Gabaldon asserts that romances must have happy endings, the RWA only stresses the need for “an emotionally satisfying ending.” Though Gabaldon’s books sometimes end on distressing cliffhangers, they’re far from dissatisfying. By today’s definition, Outlander is most certainly a romance. Yet she still chooses to push the genre away:

If you call it a romance, it will never be reviewed by the New York Times or any other respectable literary venue. And that’s okay. I can live with that. But more importantly, you will cut off the entire male half of my readership. They would say, “Oh, well, it’s probably not for me.”

Though Outlander in its television form has drawn in male viewers, and male readers of the series undoubtedly exist, the audience the series has attracted is undeniably, overwhelmingly female. And Gabaldon’s concern about her male readership didn’t stop her from marketing the book as a romance to begin with. In the interview, Gabaldon explains why she was fine with the idea of marketing Outlander as a romance when it was first published:

So my agent said, “Well, we could insist that they call it science-fiction or fantasy, because of the weird elements, but bear in mind that a bestseller in sci-fi is 50,000 in paperback. A bestseller in romance is 500,000.” And I said, “Well, you’ve got a point!”

In other words, Gabaldon’s agent and publisher knew that Outlander best fit the romance mold, and would sell like crazy there. Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armor came out in 1989, sparking an entire subgenre of time travel romance, whose readers eagerly embraced mingled aspects of historical romance and science fiction. Marketing Outlander as a romance novel was the smartest move Gabaldon and her team made, a move Gabaldon was fine with at the time, provided she wouldn’t be saddled with the stigma of romance for the rest of her career:

Provided we had dignified covers — we wouldn’t have bosoms and Fabio and things like that — and also that if the books became visible, they would reposition them as fiction. Which they did. When Voyager, the third book of the series, hit the New York Times bestseller list, they very honorably redesigned the covers and started calling them fiction.

In other words, Gabaldon raked in romance reader dollars and used the genre to make her book a hit. She even won a prestigious RITA award for Best Romance in 1992 from Romance Writers of America (Gabaldon’s website lists this win as “Best Book” and takes pains to point out that non-romances can win the award; RWA’s website lists it as “Best Romance” and every other winner in the now-retired category have been romance novels). Then she took the money and ran.

In a piece at Book Riot, Jessica Tripler points out that many romance readers would agree that Outlander and its sequels aren’t romance novels, but by RWA’s definition, they most certainly could be. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. Romance readers buy more books than any other type of reader. There’s money to be had, and personal recommendations in the romance community are solid gold. So why, then, the reluctance to embrace the title of romance novel/author? Why does Gabaldon feel the need to mention Fabio and bosoms whenever the question arises? Does she believe that she or her books are somehow more legitimate because they’re no longer shelved in romance at Barnes & Noble? She states often that her books are wholly genre-less, but there are no similar sections on her website adamantly insisting that they aren’t science fiction. The only logical conclusion to come to is that “romance” is to authors as “cooties” are to children on a playground.

Romance readers will continue to embrace Gabaldon’s series, because they have no compunction about venturing into other aisles in the book store. They’re passionate about reading, love all types of stories and subgenres, and spend literally a billion dollars a year on books. Gabaldon knew it was a smart business move twenty-five years ago to align herself with the community; now, like a suddenly popular middle school student, she doesn’t know who her old friends are. Without romance readers, Outlander would have never found its audience. Maybe Gabaldon should remember that and be thankful to the genre, rather than fixating on and perpetuating cliches that contribute to the stigma against a genre that has loyally supported her for decades.



Jenny Reads Fifty Shades Of Midnight Sun: Monday, May 23, 2011 or “Holy shit, a chapter of a reasonable length”

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Every time I think this book has reached peak rapey-ness, we climb to an even higher pinnacle. Keep that in mind while you read this recap. It actually upset me, and I knew ahead of time what the events of the chapter would be.

Also, if this is riddled with typos it’s because I totally forgot I needed to proof read and schedule this, and I’ve got to leave for the U.P. in less than twelve hours.

State Of The Trout: “Closed For Business” edition

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Hey everybody! I’ve been talking about this non-stop on social media (at least it feels like I have been), but I’m up north this week with my awesome writer buddies. It’s part of our annual retreat to Gay, MI, where we stay in a cabin on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior and write without the distractions of telephone or internet. Indeed, it is a magical time. While I’m there, I’ll be working on the Neil and Sophie novella, The Stranger. I originally announced it as The One Night Stand, only to find that another author I know is putting out a book with the same title this summer. But that’s my project for my magical week away. It’s fitting, because we’re quite close to Sophie’s hometown of Calumet while we’re there!

While I’m gone, expect a True Blood Tuesday post, and an recap of Grey. I’m scheduling those now.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch, S03E05 “Homecoming”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone is terrified of bullet journals. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.