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State of the Trout: How quarantine will affect my release schedule going forward.

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This is such a weird time, isn’t it? Every writer I know has been talking about how they can’t focus on their work and they’re finding themselves revisiting old projects or scattering their thoughts over four or more at a time. It’s totally uncharted territory for many of us. We’re all sort of used to having this issue during times of stress, mental and physical health challenges, life stuff, etc. We’re also used to knowing deeply in our hearts that we’re the only one who has ever experienced this because every single other author in the world has never, ever had to take weeks off from work and just stare at the walls and those of us who do that are lazy frauds because we can’t expend the rigorous mental energy it takes to focus on a pretend world inside our heads. And now we’re all feeling exactly that same way and asking each other, “Is it just me?”

Nope. It’s just everybody.

I’m sure this applies to more than just writers but as this post is all about me, the center of the universe, I’m just giving the writer perspective. This chaotic inability to corral thoughts and feelings and make them into interesting words in an order that makes sense has actually been kind of good for me because it’s forcing me to confront some truths I was avoiding and, in the process, making myself miserable. I’ve been open about the fact that I’m struggling to finish The Daughter. I’ve been working on it for almost a year now. Yes, I had a serious mental health crisis that postponed the release. Yes, I have struggled with writing a billionaire romance in a world where billionaires are killing the planet and everyone we love. Yes, I’ve made it clear that internal politics within the genre have changed my feelings toward romance. But a couple of weeks ago, I admitted something to myself that I had been avoiding thinking about for a long, long time.

The Daughter will be the last Sophie Scaife book.

It broke my heart to type that sentence, by the way. I’ll probably cry like a baby when I hit publish on this post. But it’s time to face facts. I’ve been writing this series for something like eight years now, haven’t I? Isn’t that weird, that I can’t even remember? And that’s what’s taking me so long to write the book. I don’t want to let them go. I love these characters. They’re full-time residents of my mind. And I’m grieving because I know I can’t keep the story going. Their happily ever after is going to happen in this book, and I’m going to have to move on.

That scares the absolute shit out of me.

Years ago, I wrote a series of vampire novels that consumed my entire being. Like, all I thought about from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep were these characters and the world I’d created for them. I had so much enthusiasm, especially writing that first book. I knew that because it was something special to me, it would be special to other people. When it got published, I tattooed the heroine’s initials on my wrist. But how could I ever forget Carrie and Nathan and Max and Bella and Cyrus and Ziggy and all the characters that I hardly ever think about now? I was never going to forget them. But I did. And that’s going to happen with Sophie and Neil and El-Mudad and Holli and Deja and Rudy and Valerie.

And I’m not ready. I’m not ready for them to fade away. I’m certainly not ready to grieve the end of a series while I’m in a constant state of grief over [insert frantic gesticulations to indicate every fucking thing around the world]. Since I’m not ready, I can’t make any progress. And the more time that passes, the worse the imposter syndrome becomes, and the harder it is to fight around the block, the harder it is to push.

So, as much as it pains me to disappoint people who have been waiting for it, I have to put The Daughter on hold. Again.

I promise you: it will come. It’s completely outlined, researched, and about 3/4 finished. It won’t be five years. I’m not George R.R. Martin-ing this shit. But for right now, I need to focus on other stuff. Escapist stuff, not just from the current state of the world, but from the reality that this is the last time I’ll be with these characters. I fell in love with them. I didn’t want to let them go and that was holding me back. Now, I need to grapple with that before I can finish the book.

In the meantime, I’m going to start shifting my focus away from billionaires. Jenny Trout is going to continue writing about centaurs and will be releasing the YA serial Nightmare Born in ebook and paperback (before, you could only read it on Radish). Abigail Barnette will have a series of stand-alone, small-town romance novellas set in the fictional Upper Peninsula town of Blackhawk Bay. And some of Abigail Barnette’s out-of-print backlist will be published under a new pen name, beginning with my 2011 vampire novel, In The Blood.

The cover for In The Blood. A good-looking dude with pale hair and red eyes on a red sorts of misty-ish background. The title is on it, right above the name Jennifer Morningstar

Yup. I absolutely chose that pen name because I’m a Lucifer fan girl.

Why a new pen name? Because I want to keep Abigail Barnette a name where you know you’re getting romance with overall healthy messages. Jennifer Morningstar will be writing more dark erotica/erotic horror/paranormal erotica and Jenny Trout doesn’t like it when books with extreme content or dodgy topics are miscategorized as erotic romance because Jenny Trout does not like it when she buys a book and it romanticizes stuff that is super harmful to romanticize. Also, it’s for Jenny Trout’s personal comfort level with how she marketed her own work in the past; “Can a human consent to a vampire who is capable of mind control?” was a thought that came up when considering what to do with In The Blood and Ravenous once the rights reverted back to Abigail Barnette. There will always be content warnings for readers who don’t want certain topics sprung on them, but readers who aren’t interested in straight out erotica or erotic horror will know, oh, hey. Jennifer Morningstar. Fuck those books, I’m sticking with the warm fuzzies.

So, that’s what’s been going on in my world while the world outside is in shambles. I truly apologize to anyone disappointed by the postponement of The Daughter but please understand, it’s coming from a place of love. I love those characters as much as you do and I’m going to grieve the end with you. Unfortunately, I just have to do it before I can finish the damn book.

We’re probably not terrible for being less than fine.

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Back in February, I bought a new planner. The Recollections goal planner, for those out there who are planner-addicts. I was finally feeling better enough from my breakdown to return to work. I was energized, confident, and so ready to get back to normal. I set it up with all the goals I wanted to achieve. Reasonable goals, with reasonable deadlines. Re-publish my backlist titles that are no longer available? I could do that at a rate of one per month since they’re mostly novellas. Finish The Daughter by April? Of course! Plenty of time! And in the meantime, I’d even set out a plan for how to keep on schedule with Patreon and recaps here. And IDK if anyone noticed but I totally got better at working!

And then the world ended.

Of course, my world stayed roughly the same, with the exception of not having to leave the house for rehearsals or home school activities. After all, I work here all the time. I was expecting to be at home. And hey, don’t I always complain about having to go places? This should be perfect!

Obviously, this whole “shelter in place” thing has been a boon; after all, without having to do pesky things like taking a kid to play practice, I have more time to work on those goals! I could even get ahead!

Picture this: there’s a global crisis killing tens of thousands of people. Millions will be infected by this pandemic. Every news story seems to be, “perfectly healthy human being your exact same age died two days after going to the grocery store, congrats, you’re fucking doomed.” If you live in the U.S., the President of your country may be actively trying to murder you via medical neglect if you happen to live in a state whose governor won’t praise the orange bastard appropriately. Bodies are being stored in temporary morgues made out of reefer trailers and people are dying alone while their families watch them take their last breaths over Skype.

Feeling productive yet?

Now, I know I’m not unique in feeling like I, personally, should be able to weather this nightmare and turn it into a dream come true of productivity and royalties and being a beacon of distraction for readers. Everyone working from home right now seems to be having the same difficulties. These include:

  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Sleeping too much
  • Not sleeping at all
  • Sleeping at weird times
  • Drinking too much
  • Bouncing back and forth between social media platforms and news sites in a non-stop loop
  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to do things that were formerly enjoyable.

Also:

  • Thinking you’re the only person who’s not handling their shit right now, despite all evidence to the contrary.

That last one is especially difficult for people with mental or chronic physical illness, as the drive to appear “normal” or “not lazy” can powerfully fuck with you. I mean, I spent months trying to claw my way up to “normal” things like, “leaving the house” and “focusing long enough to read a whole page of a book at once.” And now it’s just how we live? And I’m supposed to adapt to that?

I know I’m not the only person out there who’s been thrown a curveball by the entire world’s sudden agoraphobia and depression. All those behaviors people strive to correct or suppress are suddenly just what we’re all going through. Some of it is maddening on an, “oh, when the neurotypical, able people need accommodations it’s possible to make them,” level but it also hits a sore spot in the psyche: am I backsliding if this kind of anxiety and lack of executive function is a reasonable and expected part of life? And if it is backsliding, well, shouldn’t I, with my years of therapy and hard work, be better able to navigate this crisis? I have all the tools necessary. IDK, this feels like an excuse.

My friend Jill sometimes reminds me that there’s a difference between an excuse and a reason. If you’re identifying with this post, if you’re seeing things in here and thinking “hashtag mood,” let’s try to remember that this pandemic isn’t an excuse. It’s a reason. It’s the reason everyone is experiencing those delightful mental illness issues like insomnia or jacked up sleep patterns. It’s the reason you’re having a panic attack, not an excuse to capriciously lose it several times a week (or day). Nobody is living this out because they’re lazy and unwilling to try; they’re living it out because the Grim Reaper is gently elbowing us while we’re watching the news and leaning over to whisper, “Hey, how do you like what I did in Italy?”

But it’s still so hard to grasp that failure to function in the middle of a global pandemic is not the same as failure to function because you stopped taking your meds or going to your therapist. Hopefully, when this is all over, one of the lasting lessons for the world at large will be, “now you understand what life is like for the mentally ill and disabled, so please stop being a dick, we’re doing our best.” But for now, the lesson everyone needs to learn, myself included, is that at this particular moment in history, we do not have any power when it comes to keeping our lives normal. Because there is no normal. And that’s not an excuse. It’s a reason. Be kind to yourselves. And remember that if you struggle to function at the best of times, it’s too much to ask of yourself to be at the top of your game in the worst of times.

The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp, Chapter Five

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Need to catch up?

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch: S0407 “The Initiative”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone realizes that she hasn’t written a Buffy recap for over a year but damn, what’s she gonna do, 2019 was a hell of a year. 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/bi female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
  35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
  36. Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.
  37. Buffy is an abusive romantic partner.
  38. Riley is the worst.
  39. Joss Whedon has a problem with fat people.
  40. Spike is an abusive romantic partner.
  41. Why are all these men so terrible?
  42. Wicca doesn’t work like that.
  43. Alcohol is evil.
  44. Head trauma doesn’t work like that.

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 into consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.

And a very merry Half-Price Chocolates Eve to you, dear reader!

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Guess what today is?

IT’S ANNOUNCE ANOTHER BACKLIST RE-RELEASE DAY.

Next up is Double Header, the sequel to Long Relief. Though I no longer write M/M for various reasons, including staying in my own lane, I really liked writing this one way back in 2012 and I’m happy to be able to offer it now as an Amazon exclusive and a free read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Double Header is available for pre-order right now and it will release on February 18!

A sexy, shirtless muscular guy holding a bat. The title "Double Header" appears over his chest and "Abigail Barnette" is printed on the bottom.

When Javier Vargas was traded to the Grand Rapids Bengals, he didn’t just leave his team behind; he turned his back on the love of his life. Now, shortstop Zach Martin is playing for the Bengals, as well, and Javier can’t believe he ever walked away from the scorching heat between them.

Being a Bengal brings its own complications for Zach, who’s tired of never setting down roots. Playing beside Javier, Zach is constantly reminded of their passionate nights—and the pain of his loss.

Javier screwed up one chance with Zach, and he’s not about to let a second one pass him by. With scandals swirling all around the team, Javier has to decide whether to risk the life he’s built for himself or lose the only man he’s ever loved, again.

 

Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

Jealous Haters Book Club: Beautiful Disaster chapter 5 “Parker Hayes” or “Obvious Foil”

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First of all, I was so certain that I had written like eight of these recaps. Then, I went back and read through them to refresh my memory and I realized there were only four. But they’re long, like books on their own, because these chapters are fucking endless. Expect to see shorter chunks going forward every now and then, so I can actually deliver recaps to you.

Since we last met, something interesting happened on Ms. McGuire’s Facebook page back in the day before my mental breakdown. About seventy of you sent me screenshots but unfortunately, I couldn’t get them posted here or make snarky comments about them until after January 1, 2020, in what was already supposed to be The Year of Minding My Own Business.

I guess if someone is mentioned in something, though, it is their business. And I’m a total bitch and am more than willing to keep this boring-ass “literary feud” going because I genuinely dislike this MAGA garbage woman.

A facebook post by McGuire that reads: "Gracie... seriously... you need an intervention. I'm here to help. I haven't had someone follow me around the internet to be my personal social media police since Jenny Trout seemed herself the author patrol. You have enough time for this? That's... kinda sad." She follows it up with a gif of Regina George from Mean Girls saying, "Why are you so obsessed with me?"

I was like,  “Awww, thanks for constantly thinking of me, Jamie!” because our only direct altercation online ever was about her celebrating the fact that one of my publishers wasn’t paying authors and was suing blogger-turned-catfisher Jen Frederick for reporting it on her blog. That entire mess was a thousand years ago (and we mutually blocked each other on all social media that night) and since McGuire is an anti-vax hardcore conservative who’s firmly pro-Kavanaugh, I haven’t really felt the need to keep tabs on her. But somehow, she needed to name-check me in a conflict with another author that arose when McGuire chose to fat shame a child.

No, seriously. This whole thing stemmed from an incident where she questioned whether or not a fat teenaged dancer was really practicing as much as she claimed in an inspirational video because McGuire was certain that no once who danced as much as the girl in the video could possibly be fat. I was not involved in any of it, in any way. I hadn’t even heard of the associated drama. If I’m Quebec, she’s Rio de Janeiro, that’s how far apart we are where social media is concerned.  But wow, she sure jumped to my name. Maybe “fat” is just a concept she associates with me in her mind.

My only thought here was that McGuire hoped she could bait me into joining her fat-shaming drama, but the author who went full Wolverine on her ass did a fine enough job. So, all McGuire achieved was yet another self-delivered blow to her public image.

But in her defense, I’ve heard that clown college is actually quite stressful.

On to the recap!

“We all have a lawyer friend!”

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This is going to be quick and dirty, everyone. It started out as a Twitter thread that got too long. But I think it’s important.

I need to address something that is going to sound like an attack on specific individuals. I promise, it’s not. Because it’s not those specific individuals I see doing this. Keep that in mind as you read this post.

With the RWA stuff going on, we keep seeing a lot of tweets that say, “Don’t people know how many LAWYERS we have in the romance genre?!” They’re right. There are a lot of lawyers in romance.

But there are more people with working-class jobs.

While it’s awesome that we have people well-versed in the law who are willing to throw their knowledge into the ring as a tool to help the genre, it’s starting to feel a little bit like, “See, we’re valid because we have smart lawyer-type people!” Yes, the genre has been dismissed as, “Oh, those are written by bored housewives.” But just because that’s used as a dismissal by other people doesn’t mean we should throw those bored housewives under the bus in order to convince people that the genre is valid. Because here’s the thing: those people you’re screaming “LAWYERS! LAWYERS! LAWYERS!” at? They’re not listening anyway. They’re never going to change their opinions.

And the people I don’t see tossing around, “LAWYERS! LAWYERS! LAWYERS!” seem to be…the lawyers. It’s almost like they view their profession as a normal human job and not a paid superhero position and don’t see their involvement in the genre as the sole reason it’s a force to be reckoned with.

It’s starting to really sound like, “Romance isn’t THOSE people. It’s SMART people.” As if bored housewives, people who don’t go to college, disabled people who turn to writing when they’ve been denied access to or accommodation for secondary education, etc. can’t be as creative and intelligent as everyone else. As if the only way our work deserves respect and acknowledgment is if we can disavow the reality that there are far, far more people who come home from working at a supermarket or a daycare to squeeze a few hours of writing in between dinner and bedtime. If we removed their contributions to the genre, the shelves would be bare. There is room to celebrate and be proud of the genre without ignoring the diverse backgrounds and circumstances that led each of us to become romance authors.

And it’s a hell of a lot more intimidating if we frame ourselves as sleeper agents that have infiltrated the courts, factories, farms, schools, and families.