This Gift Sucks, Veronica. Where Do I Return It?

For months now, readers have talked about the problematic racial elements present in Divergent author Veronica Roth’s latest novel, Carve The Mark.  Young Adult author Justina Ireland wrote about the damaging content in Carve The Mark and the now-postponed release The Continent. Readers on social media have carried on that conversation and as ARCs poured out into the world, some blogs even declined to include them in giveaways. Carve The Mark seemed poised to be the most problematic, rejected YA offering of 2017.

But Roth just had to go that little bit further.

In an interview with NPR, Roth explains that novel takes place in a world where once a person reaches adolescence, they receive a “gift” or special talent:

“Well, Cyra’s is that she experiences constant pain, and she can also give that pain to other people. So the theory is that the current, which is this kind of energy that is present in the galaxy, that it flows through each person and their personality is like a mold that shapes how it comes out. And for her, it would take a lot of psychoanalysis to figure out why she thinks that she’s worthy of pain and that others are worthy of pain but – so she’s basically experiencing, like, a supernatural form of chronic pain.”

Roth explains that she was inspired by friends who have endometriosis:

“And for me, the importance of it came from I had several friends who experienced chronic pain over, you know, like, a decade and were – had their pain underestimated by doctors, which statistically is more likely if you’re a woman by, like, a drastic degree. And they were eventually diagnosed with endometriosis. This is like a couple of people just in my immediate social circle. So I thought about them a lot, about how pain takes over your life and limits your potential and how difficult it can be to find someone who’ll take it seriously.”

As a woman disabled by chronic pain from Fibromyalgia, I can absolutely back up Roth’s assertion that it’s difficult to find someone who’ll take it seriously. From doctors to family members, from “we all have little aches and pains” to “you should try [suggestions ranging from quitting gluten or doing yoga],” chronic pain patients are at the mercy of a society that doesn’t quite know what to do with us. Many of us don’t have visible signs of disability (“You don’t look sick!”). Some of us use mobility aids (“Wheelchairs are for people who are actually handicapped!”). Some of us have employment outside the home (“If you can work, it can’t be that bad!”), but others are housebound (“You’d feel better if you got out more!”). Getting anyone to listen to us when we share the reality of our lives seems futile (“Why are you focusing on how bad you have it? Try to be more positive!”), and we often feel like we talk too much about our pain. Since our resources and physical energy are limited, it’s often easier to suck it up, suffer in silence, and let ignorance slide.

While many men suffer from chronic pain conditions, their challenges are often different from women’s. Western culture constantly equates women’s suffering with something positive. We’re “strong.” We’re “warriors.” We “fight.” But we’re never, no matter what our circumstances may be, allowed to resent that suffering or wish for it to end. That’s not attractive. It doesn’t fit the mold. It makes us depressingly human to those who value our martyrdom over our lives, our hopes, and our frustrations. We’re no longer inspirational, and if our pain can’t benefit or, in the case of Carve The Mark, entertain people who want to be allies to the disabled, it’s just a bummer.

I don’t know how Roth’s friends with endometriosis feel about their pain being appropriated to make Roth, an already famous and successful author, more money. I don’t care to know because their opinions don’t represent every person suffering from chronic pain and won’t excuse the harm Roth has caused by depicting chronic pain as a “gift.” Maybe Roth’s friends have had important, life-changing experiences after their diagnoses and feel that their pain really is a gift. But I would venture to suggest that, based on the social media responses to the interview, most people don’t share that view. The notion of suffering as a gift doesn’t make chronic pain patients feel better; it makes abled people feel better.

Our pain is not “supernatural.” It doesn’t embody us with special powers that we can use to heal a divided people. In fact, many women suffering from chronic pain conditions and other disabilities have lamented that we can’t be a part of the marches and protests scheduled for January 21st. Once again, women with disabilities will be left out of a movement that should include us and be derided as “slacktivists” because we can’t get out and physically march.

Chronic pain can be fatal. People with chronic pain conditions have an increased risk of cardiovascular illness and addiction to opioids or self-medication with alcohol. In an attempt to save us from ourselves, the CDC recently updated its guidelines on the prescription of painkillers; this led to an increased suicide risk in some patients already at high risk. Yes, there is a need to take us more seriously. A white-savior YA novel where chronic pain is treated as a supernatural power is not going to accomplish that; it will harm us.

My chronic pain caused me to miss the first two years of my daughter’s life. Those memories have been lost in a haze of painkillers and cocktails of prescriptions that were meant to make me functional and only succeeded in robbing me of my life, my career, even my home. And now Veronic Roth has appropriated–for personal profit–my experience, her friends’ experiences, the experiences of millions of women who would do anything to be able to return their “gift.” We just can’t find the damn receipt.

But we have receipts on you, Veronica. Mountains and mountains of them. And gosh, we just don’t have the supernatural energy to climb over those to get to the bookstore on release day.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E15 “Consequences”

In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone is suffering from extreme vertigo, so please bear with her. 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.

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.

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A Definitive Ranking Of Every Song In Galavant. Every. Single. Song.

When people say, “2016 sucked!” and I say, “Yeah, fuck 2016, I hated it, too,” I am of course referring to hating how many people died and how shittily my country fucked its election into the poisoned, crumbling ground, but I’m also talking about the cancellation of ABC’s Galavant.

Galavant, a handsome knight, poised on the back of a rearing black horse, his hand held up in a flourish. The background is an idyllic fantasy countryside, and the title of the show is printed across the foreground.

Now, let it be known from the start that I have never trusted ABC to make a good decision since I started watching television. Sure, they’ve got hits, but it’s their misses that define them in my pessimistic little heart. They let Steve Urkel become the focus of Family Matters and ruined the whole damn show (which was supposed to be about Harriet Winslow. Remember Harriet Winslow?). They cancelled Covington Cross, a medieval version of Bonanza that could have been great if they’d given it more of a shot and not sold its time slot to Ross Perrot (this is a true story). But their most recent egregious sin is the cancellation of its medieval musical sitcom epic.

Galavant is what would have happened if Mel Brooks had directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s packed to the brim with favorite medieval spoof conventions; peasants sing about coughing up blood, an evil king fantasizes about all the ways he’ll murder his sworn enemy, and a valiant hero who thinks way, way too much of himself sets off on a quest to save a damsel who isn’t all that interested in being saved, after all. Each episode is only a half-hour long, but they manage to pack them with enough story, silliness, and self-awareness for a full-length feature film.

But the best part of the show is the music. The condensed, snappy numbers are fully acknowledged in-universe; Galavant is set in a world where people sing their problems, arguments, and even passionate recaps of stuff that happened last week, and no one thinks it’s out of place. The songs are written by legendary Disney composer Alan Menken and Tangled lyricist Glenn Slater (whom I guess I now have to forgive for Love Never Dies), and while every single one of them is an irreplaceable gem, some are a little bit gemmy-er than others. So here, ranked low to high (from Madalena’s earrings to the Jewel of Valencia), is every musical number in Galavant.

Let it be known, however, that even though this list includes criticisms of the songs, in context they all work together to make pure, snarky, delightful magic. If you haven’t watched the show yet, put it on your to-watch list.

49. “Different Kind of Princess” A rock-and-roll princess who sings about not liking pink? This is a boring anthem for the Not-Like-Other-Girls girls out there. Plus, who puts in a line about unshaven armpits if the show isn’t willing to put an unshaven armpit on screen? It’s all or nothing, Galavant.

48. “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monks” (and its reprise) You’re going to write a song about monks who take a vow of singing and who are basically a boy band, but not write that number like a boy band song? Missed opportunity, Menken. Unless they were going for a Monkees joke that just didn’t translate due to not sounding anything like the Monkees at all. Guest star “Weird” Al tries to sell it, but I’m not buying.

47. “Comedy Gold” You’d think a song about teaching an unfunny person how to be funny would be, well, funnier. It’s basically a more murdery version of “Funny/The Duck Joke” from My Favorite Year.

46. “Stand Up” Musical criticism of action movie training sequence montages and their bombastic rock songs was funnier when Trey Parker and Matt Stone did it.

45. “Oy! What a Knight” Sung by Sid’s entire village, this is a standard Mel Brooks pastiche, complete with a tired joke about circumcision. Because you can’t have a comedy song sung by Jewish characters without mentioning the removal of foreskin, right?

44. “My Moment In The Sun” parts 1, 2, 3, 4 The running joke here is that the hero can never get to the last line of the song. Which is kind of a meh gag, considering how getting interrupted while singing is kind of Sid the squire’s thing. But hey, at least we get to hear Anthony Head sing.

43. “Goodnight My Friend” Musically similar to the superior “Goodbye”, this is your standard slow number that drags the end of the first act down. It’s still sweet, though.

42. “He Was There” and its reprise It’s really hard to make a tense relationship with a neglectful parent into a show-stopper, but bless them, they tried. Of course, I could be biased. Not because of my daddy issues, but because the role of Galavant’s father, originally played by my beloved Anthony Head, was recast for season two. And okay, maybe because of my daddy issues.

41. “Dance Until You Die” If Galavant had an equivalent to the Harry Potter franchise’s Wizard Rock, it would be this.

40. “A Real Life, Happily Ever After” For a romance as epic and satirical as the one between Galavant and Princess Isabella, this is oddly straightforward. It feels out of place with the other, less sentimental love songs we’ve grown to expect by the show’s end.

39. “A Day In Richard’s Life” After taking a potion from spiritual guide (and “herb” dealer) Xanax, King Richard is transported back to the day he became king. Though Ricky Gervais isn’t a great singer, it’s fun to watch a notorious skeptic sing about magic and mystical journeys.

38. “Time Is Of The Essence” Even though Galavant’s life hangs in the balance, healer Neo of Sporin takes his time in singing this frantic number. The rhythm of the vocal line recalls Alice In Wonderland‘s “I’m Late” and Company‘s “Not Getting Married Today.” Rapid fire, frantic lyrics are always a crowd pleaser in musical theatre.

37. “A Dark Season” Songs are often used to recap important exposition from past episodes, but “A Dark Season” prepares viewers for what’s to come in a bleak reprise of the season’s theme. It’s not really needed, though. It sets up a few visual gags, but on its own it’s really just telling us everything we already saw, much of it in the same episode.

36. “Will My Day Ever Come” A much better version of “Moment In The Sun.” Young King Richard duets with his disappointing older self in a pre-battle moment of doubt.

35. “Let’s Agree To Disagree” Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire’s famous “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” can hardly be improved, but “Let’s Agree To Disagree” comes close. All you have to do is swap out the dapper dancers for a crude, violent king and a vain, greedy queen and you’ve got a song that’s less about the pronunciation of “tomato” and more about crushing enemies and indulging in luxuries.

34. “Goodbye” If A Chorus Line and This Is Your Life abandoned their baby in a graveyard, it would grow up and write this near-death experience number.

33. “Togetherness (Reprise)” A more sincere ode to teamwork than the song it reprises, it makes up for its earnestness with the liberal application of pirates.

32. “Togetherness” Working together, wanting to kill each other, being friends, and falling in love don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By episode four, our heroic trio of Galavant, Sid, and Isabella are already tired of each other and we reap all the benefits in a catchy group number.

31. “If I Were A Jolly Blacksmith” This could either be a song about the simple life, or someone bullshitting his way through a job interview.

30. “Dwarves vs. Giants” In a fully ridiculous version of West Side Story‘s “Tonight Quintet,” rival gangs of short giants and tall dwarves prepare for battle. Cheeky nods to Stephen Sondheim’s influence on musical theatre are all over this series, but this is perhaps the most obvious (and hilarious) instance.

29. “Secret Mission” Sworn enemies endeavor to pull off a secret plot while trying to stay as quiet as possible. The fact that they’re drunk and singing loudly should be an obvious punchline, but it works, damnit, carried mostly by the chemistry between the actors.

28. “Lords of the Sea” I’ll admit it. This song is only this high on the list because it’s sung by Lord Grantham in an ankh earring and eyeliner. That alone is worth the price of my Netflix subscription.

27. “Galavant Recap” Just in case you forgot what happened in season two, the court jester belts out crucial exposition to patiently waiting warring armies in the middle of a dusty battlefield. It’s a much-welcomed reprise of the show’s stellar theme, which this viewer was missing terribly.

26. “Jackass In A Can” I feel like Menken can’t resist tavern scenes, and he plays to that strength here. Galavant learns through song what squires really think about their knights in a rousing number reminiscent of the Tangled duo’s “I’ve Got A Dream.”

25. “Finally” If I tried to quote just one lyric from this zombie-infused parody of Grease‘s “Summer Nights,” it would be…no, I can’t. Catchy pop numbers enthusiastically recounting tragically bad sex simply can’t be dissected so neatly.

24. “Love Is Strange” Everything that annoys you about the person you love, tallied up and sung in a heartfelt, somehow sweet duet.

23. “A Good Day To Die” and its reprise Things look bleak for our heroes, who prepare for battle not once, but twice, to this theme. The characters point out that it’s unlikely they’ll actually die since there’s a whole episode left to go (and they’re not on Game of Thrones), and it’s this self-awareness that pulls off the song and reels the audience in for the series finale.

22. “The Happiest Day of Your Life” Faced with an arranged marriage and an overzealous wedding planner, Princess Isabella mopes through this up-tempo rumba, until some dark magic turns her into the bridezilla you’ve always dreaded.

21. “What Am I Feeling?” Madalena’s cruel, cold-heart gets a shock when she realizes that she actually cares about something, and that’s the perfect time for a ballad about how shitty it is to have to care about things.

20. “I Don’t Like You” Is there anything more satisfying than two women singing bitchily at each other? In a non-Celine Dion/Barbara Streisand trying to out-sing each other way? On top of the clever lyrics, it sounds like a Spice Girls song, which is a double-checkmark in the “Pro” column.

19. “Season 2 Finale” “Weird” Al Yankovic returns to wrap up what will certainly be the end of the series, while leaving the door open for more plot, just in case. Since the fandom had a inkling that cancellation loomed, this song felt like a joyous celebration. “Look how far we came, being weird together,” it seemed to say, and cemented Galavant’s legacy as the absurd little show that could(ish).

18. “A New Season” It would have been easy enough to rehash the theme song from the first season, but the characters are far sicker of it than the audience could ever possibly be. When the title number causes pirates to voluntarily walk the plank, a change is in order. What better way for the cast to show their gratitude at the show’s surprise renewal than to give them a brand new opener to set the tone for their last, miraculous season? Bonus: The episode is titled “Suck It, Cancellation Bear.”

17. “She’ll Be Mine” This could have been a number cut from Monty Python’s Spamalot!. And I’m fine with that.

16. “Do the D’Dew” Even an angelic, pixie-cut-sporting Julie Andrews could have taught the Von Trapp children the Dark, Dark Evil Way with this one. The fact that it’s performed in part by stage legend Robert Lindsay doesn’t hurt, either.

15. “Off With His Shirt” Queer icon Kylie Minogue as the “Queen of all queens.” The tyrannical ruler of a gay bar takes our heroes captive in this season two disco number. You had me at “Kylie Minogue is the queen of a gay bar.” (Side note: after meeting while filming this scene, Kylie and Joshua Sasse are now engaged. Get it, Kylie.)

14. “Hero’s Journey” For a show as sarcastic and mocking as this one, “Hero’s Journey” is…well, it’s still sarcastic and mocking, but still oddly inspiring.

13. “As Good As It Gets” I could watch an entire show of just Gwendolyn and Chef. While the rest of the cast seems to be living in a Robin Hood: Men In Tights parody middle ages, this couple is surviving a Game of Thrones-esque feudal nightmare. This duet about their newly “upper-lower class” status includes nods to their lengthening tapeworms and a fancier way to cough up blood, yet somehow is still cheerful enough that you think their lot might not be so bad.

12. “I Love You (As Much As Someone Like Me Can Love Anyone) Sure, Queen Madalena is a malignant narcissist with sociopathic tendencies, but at least she owns it. Is there a better way to ask your ex to stay on as your boy toy than in a rousing tango number? If there is, I just won’t know what to believe in anymore.

11. “Build A New Tomorrow Here Today” Democracy laid painfully bare in under two-minutes, complete with up-tempo oppression of cheerfully marginalized citizens. It’s a toe-tappingly bleak earworm.

10. “No One But You” Queen Madalena’s ode to herself, sung to herself as she’s accompanied by a veritable choir of herself is Menken’s made-for-TV redo of “Gaston,” but somehow more egotistical.

9. “A Happy Ending For Us” Peasants plotting all the ways they could murder the upper class in a cheerful, Cole Porter-style duet probably wouldn’t work for any other musical, but here it fits in just right.

8. “Today We Rise” How “Do You Hear The People Sing” should have gone if Enjolras was being brutally honest with everyone.

7. “If I Could Share My Life With You” Basically “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” but about misery, plague, and infant mortality. A+

6. “The World’s Best Kiss” and its reprise If Galavant gets one thing right (shut your blasphemous mouth, it gets everything right), it’s the realistic expectations it sets for romance. Even though their first and only kiss was gross, awkward, and way too yeasty-tasting, it was at least memorable, if bittersweet.

5. “Love Makes The World Brand New” Love, as described by someone who’s never had a tender feeling a day in his life, sung in the voice of that guy at the bar who may or may not have killed somebody in the past and who may or may not kill again. Probably for fun.

4. “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever” A quartet about not loving someone, not really liking them, either, but accepting that sometimes you just have to find something good about a seemingly irredeemable person, this is another Bizzaro love song from a romantically pessimistic fairytale.

3. “Serenade (Maybe You Won’t Die Alone)” This is what The Little Mermaid‘s Sebastian was really thinking while singing the sweet lyrics to “Kiss The Girl.” Menken pokes fun at his own work throughout the series, but this Mariachi matchmaking number is the most obvious and delightful instance.

2. “Galavant” (and all of its subsequent season one reprises) From the opening number of the entire series to a framing device utterly rejected after wearing out its welcome by season two, the first performance of the song lets viewers know exactly what they’re in for: a hero who’s a “fairytale cliche,” his fair maiden who has “cleavage you could throw a whole parade in,” and an evil king’s plot to marry her. The show is immediately self-aware in this audience-finding opener; by the end of the song, you’re either in or you’re out.

1. “My Dragon Pal and Me” Have you ever felt like the world was ganging up on you, and you needed someone to super believe in you? This is the song for you. Whenever you’re having a bad day, remember that if you have faith in yourself, you’ll one day watch your enemies writhe in pain, disemboweled by a dragon. In the end, isn’t that what we’re all really hoping for? The titular dragon, Tad Cooper, became a rallying symbol for fans who super believed in the show in the face of seemingly insurmountable ratings odds. And you know what? We all still super believe.

You can watch Galavant on Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and Amazon Video, and I highly suggest you do so. Alan Menken has said he’d like to see a stage version in the future, so keep your fingers crossed and always, always super believe in Tad Cooper.

Wait, Where Did Your Patreon Go, Jenny?

If you’re one of the rad people who pledged to me on Patreon, you might be wondering, “Wait, why didn’t my pledge to Jenny get charged this month?”

I quit Patreon.

Hear me out on this one. I haven’t forgotten the original reason for starting the Patreon in the first place. Some of you were asking how you could show your support and appreciation for the blog without buying my books (because they’re not your genre or for whatever reason that I totally get; I’m not required reading), and Patreon seemed like a good solution. For a while, it totally was.

But then it wasn’t. Not because of anything you did, or anything Patreon did. It’s what my mind did.

Remember on Monday, when I mentioned how I needed to start doing things without monetizing them? When I started this blog, it was because I was told I should. Publishers noticed that blogging was a thing, and of course this meant that authors had to do the thing, because it might make the publishers money. Blogging was touted as a marketing tool. You’d go to an industry conference and at least two panels would mention something about the importance of having a blog (this was pre-Twitter and Facebook, which is the new “what do you mean you don’t have [thing]?!” of writing conferences). So, I started a blog, and I didn’t really know what to do with it. It seemed like all anyone wanted authors to blog about was writing. We were supposed to take some of our writing time and use it to write about writing so that other writers could read it and it would help their writing.

Okay, so, some authors really, really love talking/reading/teaching about craft. One of my dear author friends is like this. I’ve never been inside her house, but my assumption is that her furniture is built entirely of books on craft. There’s nothing wrong with being into learning, and it would be silly of me to sit here and be like, “You don’t need to learn the craft and mechanics of storytelling!” because that’s bad advice. Of course you need to learn it. But when I read a book about writing, I’m hating it 100% of the time. So why the frick would I want to blog about it?

So basically all I did was blog stupid shit until one day it became relevant. That’s the key to blogging success, by the way. Just start doing a thing and never stop doing that thing until someone notices or you die an unappreciated genius.

I really enjoy blogging and putting stuff up here and talking to all you guys about it, but then I went and monetized it. Then it became a job. And I started to panic. Oh man, people were giving me money every month to do this. That meant there had to be some kind of value. And oh my god, what if I couldn’t deliver the next chapter of Biter (which I’m still working on and do plan to release) or The Afflicted (again, not abandoned, but shit happened last year)? What if I went a whole week without a post? What if I went a whole month without a recap?

So, there I was, panicky and burned out and trying not to panic because it would burn me out, but my burn out was making me panic. It was a nightmare and I locked up and wrote very little in the last quarter of the year. I decided, you know, I have to make a change.

Closing down my Patreon was the only way I could refresh my mind and my attitude toward blogging. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate you guys throwing your hard earned dollars at me. It’s just that it was making this space a job, when it used to be a fun thing. And while it definitely still benefits my job (because I have a built-in audience I can show my covers and tell my plans to), this was all so much more fun before I had that pressure.

So, to make a long story short

Tom Hiddleston as Loki, saying, "it's too late."

basically, I want blogging to be fun again and I can’t do that if someone is giving me money for it. So, thank you for your cash, I promise I spent it irresponsibly on shit that I didn’t need, and keep on rocking in the free world.

New Year’s Resolutions: How did I do in 2016? What will I do in 2017?

I’m not a big fan of “New Year, New You!” type posts. I feel like I’m already kind of locked into the groove of being my old me, so I might as well stick with it. But I do make resolutions. For example, these are my resolutions from last year, and how well I did keeping up on them:

1. Reading Challenge Last year was a bad year for me, reading wise. I was in a total funk, and not just one of those “I devoured this book, now nothing else compares” funks. I just had a hard time picking a book and sticking with it. This year, in an attempt to combat that, I’m doing this reading challenge.

I didn’t even come close to finishing the reading challenge. But I did read some great books, like Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, which I think might have been my favorite book all year. But the moment I made a goal to do more reading, I quickly abandoned it. This is going to be a theme in this post.

2. Take Weekends Off Toward the end of 2015, I got serious burnout. Burnout spirals me into depression. Depression makes me a person I don’t like. And when I don’t like myself, the burnout gets even worse. I made an effort to take the month of December off. I didn’t exactly stick to it. But this year, I’m making myself a strictly Monday through Friday gal. Weekends won’t be for work, but for just hanging out and Me Time. Hopefully this prevents further burnout.

I did start taking weekends off, and I pretty much stuck to it, with the exception of a couple of writing retreats. But this didn’t stop me from getting burned out, because my next resolution was:

3. Write 600,000 Words This might seem like it’s in direct contradiction to the whole “Take time off, don’t get burned out” thing, but I think that my new schedule will actually make me more productive, so this is probably totally do-able.

Oh, totally doable, huh? Your new schedule is going to make you “more productive,” you say? I wrote 435,319 words in 2016. That’s a lot. But it’s not 600,000. And I’m still burned out. When it became clear (around September) that I wouldn’t make my goal, everything in my head ground to a screeching halt. More on that later.

4. Tag Things On This Blog The lack of tags infuriates some of you. I understand. I’m just not good at tagging. I’m going to make an effort to tag stuff now. I probably will not go through and retag all my old entries, as this blog was started in 2008 or something and I don’t have that kind of time to devote to it. But I’ll at least try.

I said I would try. I never said I would succeed.

So, those were my resolutions last year. These are my resolutions this year:

1. Stop tracking word counts. This may seem counterintuitive to avoiding burnout. After all, how will I have proof that I’m actually getting anything done. In the past, the thought of not entering my daily totals into a spreadsheet would made my skin crawl. But tracking isn’t helping anymore, as I find myself too focused on the numbers and not on the joy of creating. I came up with a new tracking system, instead. This is the tracking system I used in my bullet journal last year, in addition to the spreadsheet on my computer:

A table with five columns and five rows. The rows are labeled ">1000", ">2000", "Finished a whole scene", "Wrote a blog post," and "felt good about work." In the first two columns, only >1000 words, wrote a blog post, and felt good about work are checked off. The third column, only >1000 words is checked off. The last two columns are empty.


Those last two days weren’t forgotten. I didn’t make my word count or finish a scene or blog post on those days. So I didn’t feel good about my work, no matter what I did accomplish. Maybe one of those days I formatted a manuscript or filled out an interview. Maybe I did research. But none of it counted as work to me if I didn’t see numbers in the spreadsheet. Writing doesn’t always mean actually putting down those words, especially if you’re self-published. By discounting everything else I was doing, I was asking myself to work twice as hard. And if I didn’t hit that mark, I didn’t allow myself to feel good about anything I’d gotten done.

This is my new way of tracking my work:

Another table, this time with five columns and four rows. The rows are labeled "Felt creative," "had fun," "didn't give up," and "stayed focused."

Instead of focusing on quantity, I’m going to worry about how I feel. Because entering numbers into a spreadsheet destroyed all the joy I used to feel about writing. Which leads me to my second resolution:

2. Be more forgiving of myself. I talk a good game about self-care and being kind to yourself. But wow, I don’t practice it. I over-extend myself, then get completely negative if I can’t fulfill my own expectations. Then I procrastinate. That just makes things worse. I spiral deeper and deeper into depression. Then nothing gets done, and I get even more depressed. Instead of focusing on times I mess up, I’m going to have to start remembering to look forward without constantly beating myself up or setting unrealistic goals.

For example, here’s a big one: I started homeschooling my teenage son. And yet, I expected myself to have the same output as I used to have. That’s not, you know. Totally absurd, or anything.

3. Spend more time on hobbies. I’ve been viewing hobbies as something I don’t have time for. Things like reading, gaming (which I finally can do again, after four years, now that my seizures are controlled), knitting and crocheting, coloring, needle felting, all those things I like to do? I stopped doing them if I didn’t have a way to make them “useful.” I love soap making, but I turned it into a side business instead of a hobby so that I could justify doing it. I turned my bullet journal and planners into my only non-writing related hobby I regularly made time for, but only because it was necessary to plan my week. Stickers, coloring, etc. were just a bonus. This year, I’m going to train myself to understand that I deserve to take breaks and do things that aren’t just “useful,” but pointless and fun.

4. Resist. In the only way I know how. By reminding people, via social media and the creative energy I put out into the world, that the United States isn’t operating “as usual.” The things we’re seeing here now aren’t normal. They aren’t what we stand for. And while I physically can’t go out and march in protests, I can continue to be a voice. I’ve wanted to give up so many times in 2016 and accept powerlessness. In 2017, I’m going to resist not only that instinct, but the facism my homeland is descending into.

5. Watch more Disney movies. A long time ago, Disney movies–problematic as they can be–gave me a regular escape from reality. Embracing my inner princess just might save my sanity this year, the way twelve rewatches of Galavant and Supernatural got me through 2016.

6. Promote my work, without feeling guilty. I’m one of those authors who goes, “I wrote a thing. Read it, maybe?” Ha ha ha, no. Not anymore. I’m not going to turn into an hourly scheduled tweet, buy my book, buy my book kind of person. But I’m not going to be ashamed of promoting myself anymore, or feel bad if I post here about books that are going onsale. When I sit back and think, “Damn, this author moves way more copies than I do,” it’s almost always because they’re unafraid to sell themselves. I’m not a natural salesperson at all, but there’s a difference between a hard sell and actually being timid and apologetic about self-promotion.

Those are my resolutions for 2017. Do you have any resolutions? Share them in the comments. Maybe other people will see one of yours and go, “Hey, maybe I’ll do that, too!”

SURRENDER is here (again)! (Pinned Post)

Good morning! It’s release day! Surrender is now live on Amazon (and will be coming to other platforms soon, and the buy links will get added to this pinned post).

As with every authors’ books, word of mouth is key. The rights to this book were returned only after I waived a year’s worth of royalties (and allowed Ellora’s Cave to continue to sell the book and collect royalties for the rest of 2016; a clause in the agreement prohibited me from saying anything to stop my readers from buying their version of the book while it was still on sale). While a re-release is unlikely to recoup the money I lost to Ellora’s Cave, I’d like this book to reach new readers and have some kind of life post-EC. If you’re inclined, it would be so helpful if you’d let a reader or two (who won’t be turned off by historical erotic romance with polyamory/menage) about this book’s re-release. Obviously, this is not expected at all, and no hard feelings if book recs aren’t something you usually do.

Read on for buy links and an excerpt:

The cover of Surrender, with a woman's bare back draped in strands of pearls.


Deaf since infancy and condemned to spinsterhood by her father’s will, Honoria has one last chance to experience the carnal passion she’s read about in scandalous novels. She enlists an unlikely man to be her companion for five days and nights of wicked pleasures and fulfilled fantasies, never dreaming that her desire could become something far more complicated.

Esau isn’t a man acquainted with the finer things in life. Common and proud, he’d rather work on the docks than bed a rich woman for money. But Honoria is unlike any woman he’s ever known, and the only one who’s ever stirred him to tenderness—something he never dreamed he could feel.

But another man has fallen in love with Honoria. Her interpreter, Jude, is torn between responsibility and the secret desire he harbors for her. Though he’s tormented by the knowledge that Honoria takes another man into her bed every night, Jude knows that his true feelings could destroy her happiness.

Faced with an impossible choice, Honoria won’t let her future be decided for her again. And despite their differences, both men must learn to share Honoria’s heart…or risk losing her completely.

CW: Contains audist language and discussion of child sexual abuse. 

Previously released as Silent Surrender.

Purchase on Amazon

Excerpt after the jump.

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