Greetings, Trout Nation. As you may have guessed, I am a fucking coward. I am afraid of everything. Despite havinggrown up in a haunted houseand firmly believing that I’ve been abducted by aliens, and despite the fact that I often roll joints on an Ouija board, I’m so afraid of the most ridiculous things. Things that can easily be avoided.
There are some things that are just scary, but sometimes you have to get through them. My fear of being cut in half by an elevator? Well, sometimes you just have to get on that elevator (move very fast, and never try to squeeze through closing doors. Thirty people a year are gruesomely killed by elevators. Look it up). Live in Michigan but you’re afraid of driving over the Mackinac Bridge? We all are and have been since 1989, but if you live here, you’re gonna have to do it some time. Like I said, these are unavoidable situations for me sometimes (though I have been known to take the stairs to ridiculous heights). But here are some things I fear that are easily avoidable.
These are a few:
The Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago, IL If you have some spare time and want to read some truly morbid shit, give The Congress Plaza Hotel a Google. You’ll find charming stories about a mother throwing her children to their deaths from a twelve-story window, America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes, prowling the lobby for victims, and there has been a rash of suicides both in and outside of the hotel walls. YouTube provides endless hours of amateur paranormal investigations and tours of floors where rooms have been padlocked shut, wallpapered over, or otherwise sealed. I’m terrified of the place.
Solution: Just don’t go there, dipshit. I once did one of those Priceline deals where they don’t show you the hotel, just the price. I snatched up a room for seventy bucks a night!
Then promptly canceled it and ate the non-refundable cost when I saw it was at the Congress. No. Fucking. Thank you.
The Bolton Strid, Yorkshire, England This is a lovely, burbling little stream that will fucking eat you alive. No joke. It has a reported 100% fatality rate for people who fall into it. As someone who regularly experiences l’appel du vide around dangerous bodies of water, I am 100% sure that I’m 100% going to jump into the 100% fatal stream. What makes the place so dangerous? The water is a lot deeper than it appears. Like, a lot. And it’s full of underwater caves and currents. And I’m pretty sure the Gwragedd Annwn live in it and will pull you in. I don’t fuck around with fairies.
Solution: Just don’t go there, dipshit. I live in America. It’s not like I’m going to accidentally stumble into the damn thing.
Being instantly vaporized by a powerful electrical currentI am so afraid of electricity. And I don’t know why. It’s all over my house. But what scares me most are the giant substation transformer things just sitting out there. Sure, there are fences and warning signs, but just thinking about them makes me break out into a cold sweat. My grandfather once told me that there are ones that are so powerful, they can vaporize you. What the fuck. That’s horrifying. I don’t want that to happen to me.
Solution: Don’t fuck with electricity, dipshit. This one isn’t even going to be a problem. I won’t change a fucking lightbulb. The light figure in my office flickered one too many times and now I sit in the total darkness. This shouldn’t be an issue. But it is.
Woodchippers Who wouldn’t be afraid of a giant machine that can grind you to pieces in a matter of seconds? People get sucked into them all the time. OSHA describes this as “total body morselization.” You know how I know this? Because I’m so fucking afraid of them that I’ve read OSHA reports about them. Never underestimate my capacity for terrifying myself needlessly. But there have been truly horrifying accidents with this mind-bogglingly common piece of equipment that any jackass can rent and operate. I do not fuck around with woodchippers.
Solution: What I’m already doing. I just don’t deal with woodchippers. A few months ago, Consumers Energy was outside my yard trimming tree branches from the lines and feeding them into a wood chipper. I wouldn’t even go outside. I banned my family members and dogs from going outside until they were far, far away. So, I’m doing what I’m doing, yet I’m still afraid at all times.
Overall, I guess I’m a fearful person. I hear about things that could happen and it scares me. I think about things that will never happen or I could easily prevent and it scares me. I know I’m not the only one out there. Traumatize us all with your unfounded fears in the comments.
So, we’ve come to the final installment of this series. This is probably the hardest one for me to write because it’s difficult to examine a person you once considered your friend, know all the reasons for the spiral out of control they experienced, and still not want to rekindle that friendship now that they’ve got their shit together. But people have been asking for this part. So, here I go.
Hey everybody! I will be MIA from the cyberbullying and mob of haters for a few days because I’m going to beautiful Mackinac Island tomorrow and I’m not coming back until Friday. But I’ll leave you this tweet. Follow it for a very long thread recapping the bizarre and infuriating video Faleena Hopkins made on Facebook Live in the middle of the night.
We’re mad because we’re jealous of her fame and success
Bring on the hate. She can take it.
But she has to have someone else read the mean comments so she can protect herself
She isn’t hurting the authors she’s sent takedown notices to, their readers are hurting them by attacking her
Also, you can’t attack her because in doing so you’re calling autistic people stupid
Oh, and she’s a descendant of a slave so you really can’t attack her
(But apparently, most of the authors she’s targeted with takedowns are black)
Authors whose books have been removed or retitled are pretending to be victims for attention
“You know who you are.”
The first tweet in the thread is below, go check it out if your morbid curiosity leads you there.
Because there’s never been a cringefest I could walk away from, and because I’ve got some friends here and on FB who’ve been blocked by #ByeFaleena and can’t see her video, I’m gonna grab some coffee, watch, and live tweet. I am unsettled.
— 🏳️🌈Jenny “suck this cocky” Trout (@Jenny_Trout) May 8, 2018
Also, there’s been a huge surge in traffic to the site (it was actually down for a while yesterday), so if you’re putting your eyes on this stuff and liking it and you feel like tossing a buck my way, there’s a “buy me a coffee” button to the right of this post.
Have you ever noticed how a lot of erotic romance novels have similar titles? For example, Fifty Shades of Grey spawned titles like 12 Shades Of Desire, and after the publication of Beautiful Bastard and Manwhore a ton of books came out with increasingly profane titles? For the last couple of years, the word “cocky” has been popping up on romance novel covers. A lot of them.
My readers were starting to get upset when they saw the Cocker Family on other authors’ covers and/or advertising. I began getting messages. My readers posted on Facebook, on my Fan page, my personal page, and in my group.
“Isn’t this Gabriel? Why is he on this author’s ad? Is that legal?!” “Look at this! They’ve got Jaxson on their book, same photo. Who do they think they are?”
I told them about the licensing, because most readers don’t know about the biz.
But their instincts that some – not all, but some – of these authors were copying me on purpose, were founded in truth.
Anyone who reads erotic romance can look at a stock photo and tell you exactly which twelve books it’s on. There are some very popular stock guys out there. For example:
Blond Guy With An Untied Tie Around His Neck Unbuttoning His Shirt
Guy With Head Down, Face Obscured By Shadow, Wearing An Open Hoodie With Nothing But Abs Underneath
Guy In A Suit Facing Windows, Definitely Not Inspired By The Fifty Shades Of Grey Movie Poster
White Guy In White Tank Top Biting His Thumb And Pulling Up His Shirt To Reveal His Abs
Headless Tuxedo Man And His Headless Pink Dress Girlfriend
and many, many more. But Hopkins knows everyone is copying her, despite the fact that very few authors or readers had ever actually heard of her and despite the fact that her allegedly original and striking covers are indistinguishable from hundreds of other erotic romance novels that predate hers.
But Hopkins decide that she needed to protect her brand. Since her Cocker Brothers series all have titles that start with “Cocky,” the next obvious step was to actually trademark the word “cocky.”
Because no one in their right mind would think, “I need to monitor all the notices and postings about potential trademarks in case someone tries to pull some shady bullshit and trademark a common adjective used on erotic romance novel titles,” no one had enough notice to challenge it. She now owns the word “cocky” and it’s no longer usable in any romance novel title.
The issue came to light when authors suddenly received copyright violation notices from Amazon and Audible informing them the word “cocky” was trademarked and therefore could not be used in their titles. Now that she owns “cocky,” she’s dead set on forcing everyone to remove the word from their book titles…even if they were published prior to her own series or prior to the application date of her trademark.
On social media, everyone weighed in on whether or not the trademark is enforceable or if she can retroactively enforce the trademark for books that predate her application. But I don’t believe it was ever Hopkins’s intent to actually enforce the trademark. She knows for a fact that threats work because authors have already changed their covers and titles out of fear of a lengthy and expensive legal battle. And she’s not shy about openly threatening the work, promotion, and royalties of other authors:
Except, retitling doesn’t take “one day”. And it impacts authors in countless ways. For an author to change the title of their book, they must:
Change the text file of the book to reflect the new title
Change the text files of any books that contain the title in an “also by” section
Acquire new cover art
Upload the retitled book as an entirely new work on platforms that don’t allow title changes
Assign a new ISBN
Change the text file of the paperback version
Change the cover file of the paperback version
Repeat the proofing process on the paperback version
Dispose of any paperback copies on consignment through brick and mortar stores and re-stock with the new paperbacks
Change keywords on all listings
Published audiobooks will be subject to all of the above, but they’ll also have to be edited with the title re-recorded, and unless the book is selling really well, chances are the audiobook publisher will simply pull the book from their catalog and call it a loss
If the author paid for the recording and production of their audiobook on their own, they will also have to pay for the re-recording and production or pull the book
If you’re an indie author trying to write and produce your next release, all of these changes can impact your schedule. They are time-consuming and potentially expensive. Those are just issues affecting the actual product. Consider it from a promotional angle:
Any book- or series-specific printed promotional items from bookmarks to t-shirts are now garbage
Ads purchased on websites or for print publication must be taken down or cancelled
Banners and signage printed for book expos and events? Also garbage
Author websites have to be updated with the new cover and title
Any reviews received from blogs now have the wrong title and, depending on the platform, the wrong buy links
The timing of this move is especially cruel considering that it’s now conference season. Romantic Times, Reader And Author Get Together, Romance Writers Of America, and Literary Love Savannah, plus other local conventions, happen throughout the summer. Authors may have already purchased series and book specific advertising on banners, elevator wraps, videos, and programs, as well as printed promotional items for swag bags, baskets, and promo “alleys” at these events. Some will have already bought cases of print stock for signings, which they now cannot sell and must replace with the retitled versions of their books.
In the same blog post linked above, Hopkins describes her financial situation at the time of the publication of her first novel:
Originally I did begin writing it for money because when the idea for Cocker Brothers came to me, I was flat broke and $50K in debt. Not from shopping, just from living and trying to get a self-published, authoring, business off the ground.
As you can guess, self-publishing is expensive. A single book can cost me anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 dollars to publish. That’s an impossible sum for a lot of authors. Hopkins clearly knows the financial hardship of the business and how expensive things can be, yet she’s seeking to obliterate other authors through financial ruin or the threat of it. There are going to be indie authors that can’t afford to publish after they deal with the mess, possibly never again, let alone fight a legal battle. Hopkins knows this and is banking on it.
She’s also threatening to pursue all royalties earned by any of these authors for the life of their books, as she did to Jamila Jasper:
Yet, in that same blog post linked above, Hopkins claims:
The reason I write this series isn’t for money anymore.
I believe her. I don’t think she’s out to get money from her series. I think she’s out to get everyone else’s money. But she picked a stupidly short-sighted way to do so, as she now faces a potential legal battle with Romance Writers Of America, who quickly involved an IP attorney. She’s also probably not going to make bank off her series now, either; many people have put her on their Never Buy list.
Before I end this blog post, Faleena, I have some words for you that are original, not copied from anyone, and straight from the heart:
You are a nasty piece of fucking work, lady.
Nobody was ever copying you. Nobody knows who you are. The most common reaction seen on social media when your name started coming up was, “Who?” followed by “Who does she think she is?” We had to ask these things because we legitimately had no clue you existed. But boy howdy, do you exist now. See, you’re not famous, but you’re infamous. You probably thought all publicity was good publicity. That is not the case if the publicity you’re getting is just making people become more and more furious and fed up with you. I haven’t seen anyone say they planned to read your really interesting and unique books as a result of your Highlander mentality. I’ve seen a lot say the opposite.
You have burned a bridge the size of the Mighty Mac, Faleena. Not just burned. You blew a bridge up, but you didn’t quite get off it in time and you’ve blasted yourself into the ravine below. No one is going to invite you to their signings. No one is going to include you in their anthologies. If you have the courage to show your face at an industry event, you’re going to find yourself sitting alone at the bar. You might get a drink thrown in your face, soap opera style. I hope someone gets a photo.
Professional organizations will likely not allow you to join. Traditional publishers aren’t going to waste their time on your books now that you’ve shown your entire ass. You have poisoned yourself with your own bile.
I know you said in that blog post:
We indies work in the grit and grime of the biz, so we see more than an author who is protected by a big publishing house, one that does all that grit/grime work for them.
But I wouldn’t trade positions with a trade-pub author.
I have never submitted to a publisher, nor do I want to. Even when judgmental friends or people in the industry assume that if you self-pub, you must have been rejected.
Um…how about if you never sought approval in the first place, dinosaurs?
Readers are an Indies only judges. If they don’t like our books, they don’t buy them. And they happily leave one-star reviews telling you what a pile of horse manure it is.
Give me that over, “Please sir, will you publish my manuscript?” any day of the week.
but no, sweetie. You’re not indie because you’re above it all. You’re indie because you’re too insecure to try. You’re afraid that you’ll be rejected. You’re afraid you can’t hack it when compared to other authors. And that’s why you’re trying to sabotage them. Because you’re afraid that you’re not good enough to succeed on your own merit.
You’re not, by the way. I picked up one of your books. Congrats on being the third overall Kindle return I’ve ever made. Jesus, you’re not even good enough to be first at that. How embarrassing for you.
So, you think if other authors can’t afford to publish, if they can’t promote their books, if you hit them where it hurts, you’ll be the only one out there. You think you’ll get their readers. You won’t. And you won’t ever receive support from anyone in the community. Ever. You’re pretty much universally hated, so…there’s the door. Bye-bye. You can’t sit with us.
PS: your “cocky” series debuted a year after Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s Cocky Bastard became a huge hit. So, who’s copying who, you busted ass bitch?
Wherein Lani Sarem explains how her fraud job was all just a big misunderstanding. Oh, and also everyone in YA is a big meanie and the New York Times caved to their whims. They would have like, totally let the book stay there if not for those meddling kids!
Maybe you’re looking for some Twilight––I mean, Handbook For Mortals––merchandise:
Hey there, everybody! You might have noticed that I didn’t post anything last week.
That’s because I was dying.
Okay, not dying. I’m still alive (though I don’t believe anything so insignificant as death would ever stop me from blogging), but a really horrible plague hit our house. Fever, chills, cough, chest congestion, sore throat, earache and the drainage. My god, the drainage. All of this happened while I was trying desperately to finish the latest Ian and Penny books. Once I got those off to my editor, I allowed myself to take some much needed time off and just lay around eating popsicles and soup like a kid recovering from tonsilitis.
Anyway, I’m recovered and hopefully will remain so for a while. Fingers crossed. But while I was gripped by the miserableness, I had some thoughts about my fiction writing and how basically awful I’ve been to myself over it lately. I talked about this on Twitter but I think it’s important enough to share here, too.
My last release, The Sister, came out in August of 2017. I planned to release Baby Makes Three in February of 2018 at the very latest. But I only just now handed it off to my editor. Since January, I have been so brutal in my interior criticism of myself. I started writing Baby Makes Three in September, for god’s sake! Now, Baby Makes Three won’t come out until May? That’s eight months! Eight months between releases! How can I possibly sustain a living that way? We’re going to be poor again! We’re going to be on food stamps again! I should just stop writing and get a real job since I’m obviously no good at this one!
Obviously, this constant litany of self-hatred wasn’t conducive to my creativity. I would go days without writing. At one point, it took me a month to finish a chapter. After I got over the mid-book slump, though, things started to pick up. By the time I sent the book off to be edited, I realized I’d been way, way too hard on myself. During the writing of these books, the following things were going on:
The school year started.
My daughter was in a play, requiring me to sit through nightly rehearsals.
I ended up working on props for that play.
The holidays happened.
I worked tech for another play.
My daughter was involved in another play, herself.
My mother-in-law died, leaving us to clean out her apartment and take care of her estate.
And the whole time, I’ve been homeschooling my son.
Now, granted, I didn’t have to do the theater stuff I did, but we know what happens when writers are all work and no play. There’s a whole horror novel about that. On top of all of those things, I neglected to remember that:
I wasn’t just writing one book. I was writing two at the same time.
I was working on this blog daily.
Both books turned out longer than I expected, by about 15,000 words.
So, while I was freaking out about not working enough, not getting anything done, I was really writing about 15,000 words per week here and doing things for my mental health so that I could continue to function. On top of that, I was writing basically 160,000 words of fiction in eight months. That’s four months per book. I was doing just fine.
If you’re writing and you’re frustrated by how little you feel you’re getting done or how long it’s taking you to finish, I want you to drop what you’re doing and take stock of your life and what’s going on. Are things at work stressful? Are you putting in a lot of extra hours or coming home mentally sapped? Are you reeling from the loss of a loved one or a major upheaval in your home? Did a pet die? Did you or someone else lose a job? Maybe you’ve taken up a new hobby and it’s taking up time you would have spent on writing (which is not necessarily a bad thing, if it’s keeping you on an even keel)?
No matter what it is, stop being hateful to yourself. I love these books, but it’s always going to be tempered with a little bit of sadness that the writing of it was so brutally un-fun. I shouldn’t have done that to myself, and I’m going to try not to do that in the future. I hope you can join me in that. Let’s make a pact right now: we’re not going to be awful to ourselves for not being mindless writing machines with no other needs or desires in life.
So, after all of that, do you want to see the cover of Baby Makes Three? Of course, you do!
Baby Makes Three will be out in May. I’m not sure about a date yet but I’ll have more information as we get closer to the release. Thanks, everybody who continues to go on a journey with these characters!
This is the penultimate post in this series because I’ll follow up on what happened in my friendship with Sam after all of these events took place. If you’ve missed out on the story so far, here are parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine.