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Month: June 2019

Business Centaur: A Long and Winding Tale of Friendship and the Horrors Which Will Befall You All

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To tell you the tale of John Gayhart Johnson: Business Centaur, I must first tell you the tale of a book.

Some years ago, while attending a conference in Chicago, I found myself very drunk in a hotel room with Bronwyn Green and Rebel Cowboy, which had been given away as a party favor at dinner. Also given away at dinner were small boxes of elegant chocolates. As I drunkenly tried to put one in my mouth, I dropped it. Despite Bronwyn’s shriek of horror, I picked the chocolate up from the hotel room carpet upon which countless loads have very likely been blown and in a moment I am not proud of…I ate the floor candy.

At some later point, Bronwyn’s gaze fell upon Rebel Cowboy and she noted that the woman on the front “looks like a motorcycle centaur.”

I must make it absolutely clear that no part of this story should be interpreted as mocking the text inside Rebel Cowboy. I really enjoyed this book, it’s a fantastic contemporary romance, and if you’re in the mood for a heroine with a complicated family situation and a hero who’s an ex-hockey player turned llama rancher, you will enjoy this book, as well. Here’s the Amazon link. Consider it my strongest possible recommendation. But the unfortunate angle of the model on the cover really does, in my opinion, and Bronwyn’s, look as though the heroine’s lower body is the motorcycle the hero is straddling:

The cover of Rebel Cowboy shows a muscular guy with his shirt open and a cowboy hat on straddling a motorcycle. A beautiful woman is standing on the other side of the motorcycle as he embraces her, and unfortunately you can't see her lower body at all.

Through non-stop tears of laughter, we created a ridiculous backstory. The unfortunate heroine had eaten a piece of floor candy and contracted a terrible disease. The only way to save her life was to amputate her lower body and fuse her torso to a motorcycle. About a month later, floor candy and motorcycle centaurs insinuated themselves into the language of our writing retreat.

And then, it happened.

He came into our lives on a majestic wave of inspiration. I was talking about my favorite topic: people whose names are repetitive. Donald Donaldson. Jeff Jefferson. Dick Richards. Names that these people’s parents should have fucking well known better about. And at that moment, one of my friends blurted:

“I know someone named John Gayhart Johnson!”

Time stopped and the room hung suspended in this glorious moment of creation. I don’t remember who said what. But I do know that someone said, “That sounds like a businessman,” and another person, whom I am almost certain was me, shouted, “John Gayhart Johnson: Business Centaur!”

John G. Johnson, Business Centaur, became an inside joke in our group. The next year at retreat, they presented me with this:

A small centaur toy with a black horse body, tan man body, goatee, and little painted-on crown. Bronwyn Green sewed him a tiny houndstooth business jacket and given him a briefcase.

 

Yes, that is a John Gayhart Johnson, Business Centaur action figure that Bronwyn Green lovingly created out of one of her kids’ old toys. We had a hearty laugh, especially after they reminded me that it was I who thought up the ridiculous idea of a business centaur, hence the gift. I’m still not sure that’s how that worked out but I guess I have to trust the memories of five other people.

Obviously, the joke had now run its course. After all, once you create an action figure of something, there’s really nowhere to go.

Or so I thought, forgetting that I am friends with writers.

This year, when we all assembled at the cabin, Bronwyn Green, Jess Jarman, Kris Norris, and two other people whose identities I will protect, presented me with two small, wrapped boxes. In one was a John G. Johnson, Business Centaur action figure.

“Why would you make another one?” I asked Bronwyn.

She proudly declared, “I didn’t. That’s the one from your office.”

Bronwyn lives fifty miles from me, yet she waited until she knew I was going to be at a rehearsal, entered my home and took the Business Centaur from my bookshelf. I never noticed he was gone. They gave me another box, this one containing:

A small princess figure with red hair and a notepad with JGJ written across the top and a pen in her other hand.

“I don’t get it…” I said, before Norris brought this out from behind her back:

A shadow box containing a cover flat (described later) for The Business Centaur's Virgin Temp by Jenny Trout, the two action figures standing beneath it, and various charms hanging from push pins on a strip of studded leather across the lower quarter of the box.

 

Every Business Centaur, it seems, needs his Virgin Temp. Please note the attention to detail: those charms are clips containing the initials of both John Gayhart Johnson and Flicka Star, his love interest. My dastardly friends truly went the extra mile with this, going so far as to create a cover flat and a wildly elaborate corporate espionage centaur plot for the singular goal of using as many horse puns as they could think of.

 

A cover flat for a book titled "The Business Centaur's Virgin Temp," upon which a male model in a suit and tie has been expertly photoshopped into a centaur. The Virgin Temp is inexplicably wearing a tiara and holding stationary emblazoned with JGJ on it. Her hair is red and ridiculously long. The author name is "Jenny Trout," and there is back cover copy which I will post below.

I can have any filly in the stable…except the one I want.

John Gayhart Johnson: Business Centaur

My business rival has been trying to put me out to pasture for years. And now, he thinks he’s finally found the means to do it—by maneuvering his sister, Flicka, into position as my new temp and forcing her to steal company secrets. I know I should put on my blinders and hoof it away from her as fast as I can, but I can’t resist horsing around a bit first. I’m hungry—but not for oats.

Lady Flicka Star: Virgin Temp

I know my brother’s using me, but I don’t have a choice. He’s wanted revenge on that stud, John, for years, and I want my freedom. My brother has corralled me for far too long, and I’m a shoe-in for this temp position. So what if I have to pony up and seduce my boss to escape the family barn? It’s not as if I’m galloping headfirst into love—oh, neigh, neigh—never that. Besides, a little foalplay never hurt anyone.

You will note that this is indeed a full cover flat, as if for an actual, published book.

Because that is what they now expect it to be.

I, Jenny Trout, will somehow write The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp. I will have to figure out how to do this without it being about, you know. Getting deflowered by horsecock. That will not happen, this I vow. But since this is so thoroughly ridiculous, so beyond the realm of anything any sensible person would ever want to read, let alone pay to read, I won’t be slotting it into my release schedule.

I’ll be subjecting you to it, instead.

After our recaps of The Mister end, I will set out once again on a marvelous serialized adventure. Through weekly chapters, I will weave you a story of attraction. Of courage. Of love. Of other stuff.

Honestly, I don’t know what this fucking book will be about. But I’m going to write it with the same attention to detail and effort at actually good writing as I do all my other books. I’m going to try to make the absolutely balls-ass ridiculous premise that has been handed to me something that someone, somewhere, might actually enjoy. I will rise to the challenge as is expected of me and I will not let the anti-centaur lobby win. We need more centaurs, especially Business Centaurs. We need John Gayhart Johnson.

The world needs him.

You need him.

And I’m gonna give you all the Business Centaur you can handle.

Patron Appreciation Video!

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I’m back from my amazing writing retreat where I wrote so, so many of the words. It’s impossible to fully explain just what a huge difference this trip makes to my work year and how much I rely on it to get huge chunks of my Neil and Sophie and El-Mudad books written. This year, it for sure wouldn’t have been possible to buy my groceries for up there without the help of my super awesome Patreon patrons, so I made this month’s $5 and up Patron appreciation video while on the trip. It just seemed fitting. Thanks for helping me hit the 20k word mark on The Daughter!

 

Thank you to everyone who donates through Patreon or Kofi to keep this site, my books, and my general nonsense going. And thank you for those of you who visit here and spread the Gospel of Trout. Without you, I’d have no job.

State Of The Trout: Annual June Hiatus

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Sorry, there’s no recap today. I fully intended for there to be one, but then I went grocery shopping this morning and slept for hours and hours afterward. Such is the life of someone with Fibromyalgia, although I often forget that and spend a long time telling myself that I’m awful and lazy. Where are my chronically ill people? You know what I’m talking about.

I wanted to update everyone on a few things. One, Mr.Jen’s weird ass injury is still being weird as ass. Thankfully, it’s not a broken neck (which was presented way too casually at a follow-up appointment: “We’ll just do an x-ray and make sure you haven’t broken your neck.”) but that also means they still don’t know what the fuck is going on. He’ll be heading into physical therapy in a couple of weeks. I appreciate everybody who has checked in or offered possible explanations from a similar experience or who have just sent good vibes our way. That means a lot.

In other news, every June for the past…I think this is the seventh year? I go on a retreat to Gay, Michigan with my awesome author friends, including Bronwyn Green, Jessica Jarman, and Kris Norris. Every year, we spend a week in a remote cabin right on the shore of Lake Superior. There’s no phone or internet service or children or family and we only each have to make dinner one time all week and we write until our fingers bleed and we laugh until our faces hurt. I’ll be working on the next Sophie Scaife book, The Daughter, while I’m up there, as well as something new I can’t announce yet but which I’m super excited for.

It’s literally the only “vacation” I can take without feeling guilty about not working. Although, I’ll probably come home feeling like I didn’t work hard enough despite writing like 20,000 words or something.

So, this will be the last blog post until Monday, June 24. Wish me lots of words in the meantime, and if I can get cell signal you might see some Facebook Live updates or some Tweets or shit while I’m up there, but to be perfectly honest, it’s rare that we can get signal. Which is kind of the point.

Everybody have a super week otherwise, and hopefully, this year will go a lot better than last year did.

 

Jealous Haters Book Club: The Mister chapter twenty-four or “Reader, she touches it.”

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In the news: E.L. James sat down with ET Canada to continue complaining about how the Fifty Shades of Grey movie wasn’t made to her exact specifications and take a passive-aggressive dig at the people involved. She also makes it clear that she doesn’t understand what “character-driven” means.

I’m honestly shocked that the film rights to The Mister didn’t sell the moment the publishing contract was signed. That they’re still shopping it around, apparently, is mind-boggling to me. Even if it was never made into a movie, I can’t believe the option hasn’t been picked up.

This is also going to be one of the shorter recaps in comparison to the length of the chapter, as the bulk of the chapter is sex that’s too boring to make into something funny.

Jealous Haters Book Club: The Mister chapter twenty-two or “GLAD THAT’S TAKEN CARE OF THEN.”

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Here we are with another short recap due to a super short chapter. Which honestly, I’m fine with. I could use a lazy day. At least this isn’t packed to the brim with multiple sex scenes.

I think that’s in like, two chapters.

The Insidious Underlying Message of ‘The Mister’

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Instead of a recap today, I wanted to share something that has been bothering me a lot. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Something someone probably already wrote about at length in the comments and then I got high and thought I had the idea myself. But I hope not.

If we were to rank the problems with E.L. James’s The Mister, the most outrageous offense would clearly be her xenophobic and stereotypical depictions of Albania. There’s nothing I can add to the condemnation of this that hasn’t already been covered by readers from Eastern Europe–or by the country of Albania itself. But the insidious, anti-feminist programming message runs through both the Fifty Shades of Grey books and The Mister would certainly come in second.

The core message of Fifty Shades of Grey was not “love conquers all,” despite the protestations of its most fervent defenders. The message to women everywhere was clear: if a man will stop at nothing to possess you, if he desires you so much that he will cross every boundary you set, that he will grossly violate your privacy and isolate you from family and friends as he carefully trains you to passively endure his explosive temper and selfish pursuit of his own sexual pleasure, that is proof of love. That is proof that Anastasia Steel and, by extension, you, are desirable, Reader. This is the ultimate fantasy and the ultimate, modern, intelligent young woman like Ana was rational enough to see that and abandon her own agency, as it was the only way she would truly find the happiness all woman must secretly want.

At first glance, The Mister seemed as though it would be objectively better than Fifty Shades of Grey. Alessia Demache is so different from Anastasia Steel in many respects. Over and over, Christian Grey praises Ana’s bravery and intellect, but as we never see her do anything particularly brave or intelligent until the climax of the final story, these fawning compliments read like emotional manipulation. Alessia is, by contrast, an actual survivor. Brave enough to escape from human traffickers, highly educated and musically talented, she starts out her narrative as a full-fledged person, rather than a sex doll waiting to be booted up. But that same idea, that love requires submission and passivity, moves from the forefront to become an inescapable background pattern in The Mister. A pattern that even a critical reader might not hear over the steady repetition of, “At least she knows what masturbation is,” running through their relieved brains.

We learn, in long conversations that describe Albania with the same level of dignity and fairness with which Bond movies portrayed the U.S.S.R., about Alessia’s father, a domestic abuser who prowls around their medieval village with a rifle, a man she fears will kill her should she dishonor his name. We know that her mother didn’t marry for love, and after Alessia is sold to a man she doesn’t want to marry, her mother sends her away to avoid the wedding–and the honor killing. Shortly after Alessia tearfully confesses parts of this to Maxim, she considers the coldness of her parents’ marriage and the true love of her grandparents.

Alessia’s Nana is described as nothing less than a political dissident. Know the danger of spreading the word of the Lord in then militarily secular communist Albania, she went to the country as a missionary. This is where she met Alessia’s grandfather and fell so in love that she abandoned the Free World to move to the Eastern Bloc. Even while living under state censorship, Nana smuggled contraband books from England. Nana was a rule-breaker living in a country that, according to James, is a harshly repressed, unforgiving social landscape in which women are nothing more than livestock and brutal patriarchy reigns.

No country is uniform in its cultures and traditions. As there are people in every country who challenge outdated social mores, there are those who uphold them. Albania is no exception. It has to be true that Alessia’s grandfather was more forward-thinking on issues of gender and relationships than Alessia’s father is, since the former married a woman who would take risks to subvert the power of the state, even just a little bit. Otherwise, we must believe that true love convinced Nana to sacrifice all personal agency and bow to the whims of a man who upholds the subjugation of women. This approach asks us to allow that a woman can still be strong and forward thinking even as she surrenders her principles and raises her daughter to accept that abuse is a normal and expected part of marriage. That she has a tremendous liberal Western influence over her granddaughter, but chose not to impart these same lessons to her daughter and instead raised her to be a docile peasant wife. That this is a conscious choice a woman can make without diminishing her standing as a feminist inspiration to younger generations.

Even if we entertain the argument that Nana’s Christian beliefs may have made archaic gender roles more personally appealing as a marriage model and child-rearing strategy, James is still encouraging us to view such an abandonment of autonomy as a necessary component of a love story. It’s just that this time, she’s managed to make it more subtle, half-covering it with a wan blanket of white feminist characterization on the page, rather than in exasperated damage control tantrums in the media. Instead of invoking the importance of a woman’s sexual pleasure to drown out critics, she’s created a talented, multi-layered heroine who’s had to overcome real adversity. Yet, when the chips are down, Alessia wonders if her grandmother’s “crazy ideas about independence and liberation” have damaged her ability to live a moral life–the dismal one her mother accepted for herself and which she trained Alessia for.

Am I accusing James of sitting down and carefully plotting this out like an expert propagandist, cleverly aware of the damaging anti-feminist ideals her work glamorizes? No. I could make a snarky comment here about her not being a savvy enough creator to pull such a feat off, but the truth is so much worse. Internalized misogyny is like radiation or carbon monoxide: there’s no obvious proof that it’s there but that doesn’t mean it isn’t contaminating everything. The success of the Fifty Shades of Grey series was arsenic wallpaper on the public consciousness. It was subjectively attractive and that was enough to make readers ignore its underlying poison. Some people are simply unaware of its dangers; others see a profit to be made in introducing a toxic product to the masses. I don’t believe E.L. James is the wallpaper manufacturer. I think she just adores this particular shade of green and doesn’t see the harm in recommending her interior decorator to others.

Jealous Haters Book Club: The Mister chapter twenty-one or “I would prefer not to.”

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Since I don’t have any news about The Mister, I’m going to shamelessly hijack your eyeballs for news of my own: The Boss, which began as a serial I wrote to subvert the tropes in Fifty Shades of Grey, spawned a seven-book series, the first five of which are now becoming available in serial form on the Radish app. Since its premiere on May 20th, it’s a #1 trending title with over 100,000 views. Are you kidding me? Is this real life?

If you’ve never read the series but you’ve always been mildly curious, this is a great way to dip your toes in. A new episode unlocks for free every day, and if you want to read ahead, you can pay a few cents to unlock more chapters.

Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your parents that you’ve found a great hardcore BDSM soap opera! They’re gonna love to hear about that!

In other news, while this is gonna translate to some extra income next quarter (which is sorely needed), my husband severely injured himself about a month ago and has missed some work and is rapidly accumulating medical bills, resulting in a big income shortfall this month which is a supergiant pain in my ass. ZERO pressure, but if you’ve been thinking, “I should send money to Jenny’s Kofi,” this is a good time. I absolutely hate mentioning it (hence the stupid thing at the bottom of all my posts, sitting there like a guilt bomb when you finish reading the damn thing, sorry about that) especially after I just mentioned it not too long ago, but man, I have been super broke lately. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. There’s always ups and downs, right? Don’t sit there like, “OH MY GOD I FEEL BAD BECAUSE JENNY IS GOING TO DIE IN THE GUTTER! I AM STEALING FOOD FROM HER CHILDRENS’ MOUTHS BY READING THIS CONTENT WITHOUT GIVING HER A DOLLAR!” because I won’t and you aren’t. I’m Domino. I always luck out somehow (and my weed hook-up extends credit). If you can donate and want to, awesome, if you can’t or don’t want to, you’re still awesome because you’re here.

PS. Mr.Jen’s injury is some kind of spinal nerve damage thing that’s causing severe chronic pain in his shoulder and arm. At least, that’s what they’re going with for now. We don’t know how he got injured, which is complicating the diagnosis and treatment; all we know is that he woke up suddenly with 10/10 pain and a cramp in his trapezius muscle that won’t ease up with any muscle relaxers that they’ve tried. He’s on a shit ton of drugs to control pain and help him sleep (which they barely do), as well as so many OTC pain relieving patches and gels that he smells like the dirty, loose Certs at the bottom of a grandma’s purse. Cross your fingers that’s it something simple to fix and I’ll keep you guys updated if you’re interested in knowing what’s happening with him.

Now, let’s escape from the career realities of a working writer, into a magical world of a super popular novel written with as much care as one would take with a grocery list.

Jealous Haters Book Club: The Mister chapter twenty or, “The plot deigns to make an appearance.”

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You know what’s really difficult? Finding news to report on this book. I haven’t even seen much ado about E.L. James’s BookCon panel over the weekend. Either I’ve unfollowed all the right people on social media, or all the right people have blocked me. Either way, I’m good, but at least Twitter pulled through for me in one respect. My awesome Twitter friend Quiana sent me pictures of some kind of promotional box for The Mister that includes pink granny panties, Windolene wipes, and artsy black-and-white photos of the Cornish countryside.

Imagine opening up your super amazing publisher promo or subscription box or whatever this thing was and finding underpants and cleaning products. Ah, the romance.