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SHOW DIARY: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – First Cast Meeting

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The other day, I was thinking about the highs and lows of the recent production of Sister Act: The Musical that I was in (I was Sister Mary Patrick and I was fabulous) and how I wasn’t bright enough to write any of it down in my journal.

See, the thing is, between auditions for that show and the beginning of rehearsals, my BFF Jill died. And it sucked. And I stopped writing in my journal entirely and I didn’t want to go to rehearsals and I very much considered dropping the show completely. Cooler heads prevailed and I stayed in the show and I’m glad I did, but all those fun, quirky little things that happened during rehearsals that I would love to remember are gone now, lost to the holey memory fog of grief.

I’m still not ready to open up my journal and get back to it; it was a brand new, totally awesome notebook and I’m furious that Jill died only a few pages in, but even those few pages I did write were written by a person who used to be me. I’m still in that phase of trying to figure out who I am now, so there’s no point in ruining another notebook with a false start.

But then I was like, hey. You have a blog. And people who’ve never been in a show might really enjoy reading about what it’s like. And people who have been in shows might be interested in seeing what it’s like at my theater.

So, I’m gonna dump all my theater stuff here. With a few caveats. Unless otherwise noted, I’m not using the real names of any performers or staff or crew. And I’m not going to put a lot of juicy gossip or anything like that in here; I’m generally peripheral to off-stage drama. I’m the person people come to when they want to vent about someone else, and I don’t want anyone to worry that I’m going to put it on the blog. But I will talk about how I feel about things realistically and mention, you know. Appropriate stuff to mention.

Last night was the first cast meeting. You know how I just said I’m not going to say negative stuff? I’ll say negative stuff about cast meetings. I don’t care what theater I’m at, I loathe the cast meeting and I refuse to make it a secret. I especially loathe cast meetings that include a script read-through because a) we will be reading the damn script every night for like six weeks and b) let’s just get into it, I’m ready to go. Luckily, last night’s meeting didn’t have a read-through. It was the standard Center Stage Theater welcome night, where things get explained to newcomers and reiterated for people who’ve been there a while. We cover stuff like how nobody is allowed to be a dick, we’re a queer and disabled safe-space and your ass will get booted if you don’t respect that (not in those exact words, of course), and various fundraising and ticket-selling opportunities we’re doing to publicize the show.

I hate meetings sooooooooooo much. Generally, I take it as an opportunity to get some crochet time and zone out. That’s not to say I don’t care about my friends on all the various committees who speak at the meeting and put in some hard work, but the noise and fidgeting and heat and closeness of about two-hundred people crammed into a church basement is sensory hell. I don’t think anyone faults me for having a total shut down to cope.

Why are there so many people? Because CST casts every person who tries out, so long as they’re over six years old. It doesn’t matter if you’re disabled or neurodivergent, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never done theater before, it doesn’t matter if you’re 100 years old and someone needs to remind you that you’re currently on stage in a play, Mabel. If you audition, you’re in. We will find a way to put you on stage if you want to be there (and you’re willing to put in the time and effort).

One-hundred and eighty people auditioned for this show. As of last night, we had a total cast of like a hundred and twenty-eight. Some of those people are kids who have parents and guardians so. You know. It was crowded, and I knew that it would be going in and everything turned out fine if exhausting from an over-stimulation point of view. I’m not sure what size cast we’ll actually end up with; I know at least one person dropped after last night’s meeting because they hadn’t realized what an enormous time commitment it was going to be.

People drop for all sorts of reasons. Some of the original one-hundred-eighty couldn’t be cast due to conflicts late in the rehearsal schedule. Some had their hearts set only on one particular role and asked not to be cast in anything else. Some maybe saw the cast list and were unhappy with it. One teen I know and have worked with several times dropped not because of anything to do with the cast list or the production but because she’d been doing back-to-back-to-back shows since our production of Moana Jr. back in October and, despite getting a named role with featured solos, she’s just too exhausted to tackle something as big as Beauty and the Beast as her fourth consecutive show (her last one closed on this past Sunday, the day before our rehearsals start).

There are so many reasons that people fall away from a cast between the posting of the list and the first rehearsal, but there’s also a bittersweet, psychological component some performers can’t get past: what if you’ve always dreamed of playing a particular role, finally got your chance to audition for it, but ultimately have to watch from the ensemble as someone else lives out your dream? For some people, that’s not a hurdle they can get past.

Performers get a bad rep for being divas or egotistical, especially in local theaters. And I’m not going to pretend some people aren’t divas or egotistical. But other times, loss of interest in a production when one doesn’t get the role they wanted is simply a matter of disappointment that has to be nursed from afar. In a town as small as Kalamazoo, big, splashy musicals bring out lots of talent (and it doesn’t help that there are two colleges with notable performing arts programs located right in the heart of the city), but you might only have one chance in your entire lifetime to reach for the bucket-list role you covet. Most theaters operate on a ten-year-plus wait time between repeating shows, and some simply don’t get repeated. My first role at the Kalamazoo Civic Theater was in a production of Rags back in the 1990s, and I’ve never heard of another local theater doing it ever again. Missing out on a local community theater role really can feel like closing the door on your dreams, because you never know if you’ll get the chance again, or, if that chance comes, if you’ll still be the right fit for the role.

One actress, disappointed with the casting of Beauty and the Beast, confided in me that she couldn’t find it in herself to congratulate the person who ultimately won the role that she’d had her heart set on since the season was announced. “Does that make me a bad person?”

I don’t think it does. Maybe if that actress holds onto that grudge for ten years, it would. Maybe if she treated the person differently from here on out, being cold and snide and terrible about it? Sure. But being unable to be hyped-up and happy for someone who got the thing you wanted immediately after they got it and you lost it? To me, that’s understandable.

What I don’t understand are the people who do act shitty toward folks who get bigger parts. A few years back, I went into a first cast meeting and greeted someone I considered a theater friend. She turned away, pointedly and obviously starting a conversation with someone else to drive home the point that she was ignoring me. We’d both been called back for the role that I got, and though later she apologized for her actions and I told her I understood… I kinda don’t. It wasn’t my call, it was the director’s, and there was no need for the nastiness.

Another time, an actor who’d had the lead in the previous show was upset to be given a featured, but not lead, role in the next. He accepted it, then for several weeks either turned up to rehearsal in a terrible mood, refused to expend any effort in the rehearsal process, or just didn’t bother to show up at all. After a few no-call/no-shows, his part was recast and he went on to bad mouth that theater to anyone who would listen. He hasn’t been back and frankly… good riddance? Nobody needs that kind of attitude and negativity around. Which is one of the things I really, really like about my current theater: everybody puts on their big kid underoos and gets to work, and the people who don’t like a positive atmosphere tend to drift away.

There have been many a company meeting that I’ve attended, holding back a chest-burster of disappointment and tears because the finality of how everything shook out finally hit (being called back for, but not being cast as, Maria in The Sound of Music was all-time emotional theater low for me and I almost did quit that cast at the first company meeting). Last night wasn’t one of them, though I was pretty bummed to lose out on Le Fou, the role I received a callback for. I knew I was a longshot because, hey, AFAB and turning forty-two on the second weekend of performances, so while not getting the role stung a little bit for a couple days, I’m perfectly happy being Milkmaid in the opening number, “Belle.” I get to say a “Bonjour,” so what else can you ask for?

Plus, I gotta be honest, it was about time for me to be in the ensemble, just for fairness sake. In the past four shows, I’ve had featured roles: the above mentioned Sister Mary Patrick; Hunyak in Chicago; the Emerald City Guard in The Wizard of Oz; Mrs. Gloop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was starting to feel a little uncomfortable and greedy on my part.

My kid gets a big time to shine in this one, as well. She’s been cast as the Sausage Curl Girl in the opener, and she’s thrilled. We’ve done several shows together and, she’s quick to point out, this is the first time she’s had more lines than I do.

The first cast meeting and all the emotions that go with it is in the bag. Now the hard work starts.

It’s been some weird time.

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Not to complain, but I feel like a lot of us are having a few weeks in a row here where it’s like… this is something you blame on astrology. This is what people mean when they say Mercury Retrograde or Neptune is in Uranus or whatever. I don’t know a lot about astrology, and I slept through most of astronomy. But what I mean is, it just feels like time and events are intensely weird.

Does it just seem like there’s more of everything? I’m sitting here in my bed, typing this up, feeling terrible because I somehow feel like I’m not doing anything.

I don’t have any deadlines.

I don’t generally work super hard on Mondays.

I had to drive my pet rat to the crematorium this morning because I came home from a disappointing Marvel movie and found him dead, so from now on, I’m blaming Benedict Cumberbatch for the death of my pet.

But for some reason, I feel like I’m dropping the ball because I’m sitting in my bed and not at my desk.

And I know that it’s not just me. It seems like everyone is in a constant state of feeling like they might have left the oven on. That includes people who don’t usually struggle with their mental health. Even they’re feeling like they must be forgetting to do something.

I’m constantly sure I’m the only one who isn’t “back to normal” while realizing how absurd that sounds. There is no normal anymore, not even for a few seconds, because everything is in a swift state of change. Things are moving too fast and everyone feels too slow.

Maybe not everyone. I see Facebook posts from people doing their gardening or going on tropical vacations and they’re smiling and it looks exhausting. Am I supposed to be back to that kind of thing? It’s an impossible climb. I haven’t returned pop bottles this whole time and yet I buy more pop. I don’t know what to do with them. They’re just sitting in my garage. If we go to war and there’s a scrap metal drive, I will be crowned your king and your god.

So, is everyone back to normal? Am I the lazy one? Are all the other people out there talking about how they feel this exact way only feeling that way because they’re overachievers and actually everything in their lives is fine?

I had losses this week both human and animal and I don’t even have time to feel sentimental. I’m too busy feeling like I’m running behind or dropping the ball. I’m too full of other grief to add more on top of the grief I’m trying to ignore. Again, I’m not alone; a million people in my country have died from Covid, and for every one of those people there are the people who knew them and grieve them and that’s just a lot of grieving people probably dealing with their grief in unhealthy ways.

But there’s so much other stuff to worry about, stuff that’s moving fast. How can I keep up if I can’t keep up with my life on a normal slow day?

It’s not just me, right?

TAKEN BY THE ALPHA KING debut week! Everything you need to know!

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How excited am I about the fact that my latest project, Taken by the Alpha King, debuts on the Radish fiction app THIS FRIDAY?!


The thing is, this has been kept under my hat, air-tight, no details, don’t give stuff away, Jenny, for so long now that I feel like I’m just gonna blorf out every single plot detail in my excitement. So, I’ve put together a primer. A “what you need to know about Taken by the Alpha King.

A cloudy gray sky and a full moon with a wolf howling in front of it. A blonde woman in a crown stands behind a dark-haired, shirtless man. The text reads: She will kneel before her king. Taken by the Alpha King, Abigail Barnette. On Radish exclusively April 29

What is Taken by the Alpha King?

So glad you asked. Taken by the Alpha King is a new series on the Radish Fiction app. It’s a high-heat Urban Fantasy/PNR with some tropes that are a little bit different than you’ve seen in my Abigail Barnette work.

What’s it about?

The story is told from the POV of Bailey Dixon, a werewolf who’s just returned to her pack after five years of living in the human world. She invoked an obscure pack law to delay her official transition into werewolf life and now she’s back to make that final decision, which also involves accepting an arranged marriage.

But while she was away, the formerly stable pack plunged into political turmoil that ended with their king in exile and a new king on the throne, the ruthless and power-hungry Nathan Frost. When he sets his sights on Bailey, he’ll stop at nothing to have her, even if it tears the pack apart.

Now, slather that with some Norse, Greek, and Roman lore, millennia-old ceremonies and laws, court intrigue, gruesome executions, hot sex, and a heroine who surprises herself with her ability to navigate tricky situations.

What kind of reader is going to like this?

Current readers of the monster romance genre, werewolf fans looking for a different spin on the creature and legends, and anyone who longs for the early 2000’s Urban Fantasy boom.

Gimme some tropes. I like things specific.

Werewolves, fated mates (sorta), enemies-to-lovers, alpha hero, breeding, and some light BDSM scenes.

What about content warnings?

Gore, cheating, and some readers might be uncomfortable with the slight cult vibe of the pack.

Can we read this on any other platforms?

Nope, this one is a Radish exclusive and I’m so psyched at their commitment to putting my vision for this world out there! So, download the app and hit those chapters Friday! And be sure to check out the sneak peek going on!

10 Years of Hating, Jealously

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You might not believe this. I know that I certainly don’t. But April 18th, 2022 is the TENTH BIRTHDAY OF THE JEALOUS HATERS BOOK CLUB.

Our very first installment, way back before the club had a name, 50 Shades of Grey, chapter one, or why Ana is the shittiest friend ever, debuted to what I assumed would be an extremely limited audience. My career was stalled; I had nothing left to lose and nothing else going on. But within less than twenty-four hours of that first post, the recaps were on their way to becoming viral. The second recap, posted a day after the first one, already featured a fan art contribution. By the eighth recap, I was receiving hate mail and all sort of unhinged accusations from two different authors’ fan armies. And by the time I finished the book in June of that year (remember, when my output was much faster?), my blog had received more visitors than the annual total of the Space Needle.

The Jealous Hater Book Club put me on the map and allowed me to branch out with viral essays and tv appearances about other subjects. My bone-deep hatred of Fifty Shades of Grey led to one of my biggest literary successes in The Boss, a series of erotic fiction that has sold over a million copies, was published in more languages than I kept track of, and has found a new audience—and twenty-four million views—on the Radish app. Most recently, Jealous Haters Book Club spawned a private Patreon club, Jealous Patrons Book Club, in which I continue to skewer books that are, frankly, total ass. Jealous Haters Book Club has changed my life, brought so many of you cool people into it, and I’m freaking shocked that it’s all lasted this long.

And of course, this special anniversary happens on a fucking Monday.

So, like a kid whose birthday falls on a Wednesday, the party is happening on Saturday. Drop by YouTube Live on April 23, 2:00 pm to ???? (until question marks means the party’s really gonna be rocking) for a live reading of the original recaps (full disclosure? I have not read them since ten years ago), chit-chat, gossip, and cake.

You can’t have cake, though. Because the internet hasn’t evolved to the point that I could share it with you. But Mr. Jen FOOLISHLY said, “You can’t eat a whole sheet cake by yourself.” So obviously, I’m gonna try to eat a whole sheet cake by myself live on the internet.

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If you can’t stop by, then allow me to express my heartfelt thanks to you right now: if you came to the recaps late, thanks for coming. If you were here from day one, thanks for spreading the word and making my Fifty Shades of Grey recaps bigger than I ever intended them to be. And to everyone who came for those recaps and stayed to make fun of books from the problematic to the just boring, thanks for sticking around.

I honestly cannot thank Trout Nation enough. All I did was write the recaps. You all made the community. I’m just lucky to be the weirdo at the center of it.

Trout Nation Tarot Club!

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Due to a change in YouTube’s mobile streaming policy…


You can find the link to the live stream and the question box here.

I’ve gone with “Trout Nation Tarot Club” rather than “FItshaced Fortuneteller” because I recently learned that “fortuneteller” is perjorative/appropriative to some people and it’s better safe that hurt somebody’s feelings!

It’s so much fun, so stop by!

February Goals Wrap-up/March Goals Post

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Is this a goals post? Halfway through the month?

Let me tell you why.

This was my goals list for February:

A picture of my goals list from my planner, list in body of text

  • 4 ACOTAR posts
  • 2 chapters TBCVT
  • 2 chapters Queen of Hell
  • 2 crave posts
  • 5 “episodes” werewolves
  • 2 videos

That little star there by one of them? That’s a gold star from January that sticks over the line due to enthusiasm. Because, you see, I didn’t get too many of my goals for February.

And this time? It’s not procrastination. It’s an amazing reason, which I cannot full explain to you yet, but which has to do with one of the goals I achieved. But I won’t get ahead of myself.

First goal, the A Court of Thorns and Roses recap over on my Patreon? Yeah, I made that goal. Pretty much because I hate the book soooooo much… flames. On the sides of my face, etc. The fast I pump those recaps out, the sooner I’ll be done with that book. Honestly, if I were doing it for free? I would have abandoned it by now. It’s just. It’s so bad and I hate it so much and I feel such dread at the rise in popularity of books “inspired” (read: lazily copied from) that series. But I managed to get four chapters worth of recaps and book club discussion posts finished, so I’m a powerhouse.

Since you read this blog, you’re aware that I didn’t get two chapters of The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp posted. I didn’t get two chapters of Queen of Hell done, either. Crave posts? I did manage to get two of those posted here. Two videos? I did film them. But an error with the sound meant I couldn’t post them.

Which brings me to “5 episodes werewolves,” and the reason some of my goals got shoved off the back burner and down the garbage disposal. And I’m not even down on myself about it. I can’t make an official announcement yet, but I can tell you that not only did I succeed at that goal, way beyond five episodes, I sold the project.

So, what does that mean?

  • Abigail Barnette is coming out of retirement
  • to write high-heat urban fantasy
  • about werewolves
  • for the Radish Fiction app

Yup. Only a year after retirement, the Abigail Barnette brand is getting an overhaul. I represented myself for a Nice Deal with Radish, in a three “season” deal (they do episodes instead of chapters and seasons instead of books), and that’s about all I can say at this time. However, that means I’ve been writing my butt off on a project that I’m so enthusiastic about, in a way I haven’t been gripped by a project in a while.

Oh, and the turn-around is absolutely bonkers, so that deadline is a huge motivator.

So, what are my goals for March, you might be asking?

Due to the aforementioned deal, my goals for March are:

  • 4 ACOTAR posts
  • 46 episodes TBTAK (the werewolf project)
  • 2 videos

We’ll see how this goes.

How did you all do on your goals for February? Any goals for March? Talk about it in the comments!

Jealous Haters Book Club: Crave chapter 11, “In the Library, No One Can Hear You Scream”

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First of all, the title of this chapter makes no sense. If I asked you one adjective to describe libraries, I think “quiet” would be one of the first that came to your mind. Quiet places aren’t exactly known for their ability to muffle sounds. Wear really, really squeaky boots to an uncarpeted courtroom and see.

It’s more like… at hockey games, no one can hear you scream.

But that’s not the only “Have you ever been in a library?” moment I had during this chapter.

Let’s talk about goals.

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And a good day to you, and you, and you.

It’s the second month of the year and, frankly, I’m pretty happy with how my relationship to goal setting and productivity developed in January. Let’s take a look at the goals I set for myself for what turned out to be one of the most brutal and unhappy months of my entire life:

A hand-written list of goals from my planner, with little stars beside the ones I achieved. I'll list the goals individually in the post text.

    • 4 ACOTAR posts Well, I didn’t make this goal. I made half the goal, though, and in a month where I lost my best friend and two relatives to, you know, death, I’m really proud that I got halfway and didn’t just get overwhelmed and shut down my Patreon altogether. “Wait,” you might be asking. “You have a Patreon where you’re currently shredding Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses to bits in sheer frustration, the same way you approached your classic Fifty Shades of Grey recaps?” Yes, friend. I do. And while I’m committed to producing two recaps per month, I really would rather do one per week. If I go at that pace, we’ll be done with the book in June, just in time for me to head off on my annual writing retreat to the Upper Peninsula and you’ll be able to vote on the next title while I’m gone. But that’s a larger goal. We’re thinking monthly.
    • 1 chapter TBCVT Here’s one I get a lil’ star for! I managed to post a chapter of The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp.
    • upload Bound in Brass I managed to accomplish this one, too! I didn’t have much of a choice, because once you put up a pre-order, retailers get real, real strict about deadlines. I put off formatting and uploading because of grief and ended up formatting and uploading while suffering from Covid-19. This has taught me an important lesson: no procrastination in times of plague. But I got it done and uploaded with time to spare, and you can buy it (if you didn’t have a chance to grab it before it went out of print for the first time) at Smashwords or Amazon.
    • 1 chapter In The Blood This is the book I meant to lightly polish and re-release. Then it turned into much darker erotic horror. Darkness didn’t fit with the theme of me surviving the month, so we can let this one slide.
    • 1 chapter Queen of Hell Slowly but surely, the follow-up to my YA novel, Nightmare Born, is getting written. I completed a new chapter and even went through and tightened up my outline.
    • 1 video Do you love Stardew Valley but wish you could see someone play it while being very, very high? Well, another installment of my Jenny Destroys the Wholesomeness of Stardew Valley series is up. I’m still trying to get to 1,000 followers so I can use mobile data to stream (and therefore do live tarot get-togethers again), so even if you’re not into my videos, hitting that subscribe button would be a huge help. I’m so close!


In the past, I would have looked on this past month as a failure, but as I said, my relationship to productivity is changing. January really had a lot to do with that; I was able to look at all the things I did get done despite the horrible circumstances and say, “this is enough.”

Here’s a little secret I learned: forgiving yourself for falling short of the mark makes you actually want to achieve your goals the next time around. This is what I’m trying to achieve in February:

  • 4 ACOTAR posts
  • 2 chapters TBCVT
  • 2 chapters Queen of Hell
  • 2 Crave posts
  • 5 “episodes” of TBA serialized project
  • 2 videos

Will this be a lot of work in a month when I’m playing Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act: The Musical (playing for four performances February 25-27, tickets available here)? Yes, it sure will be. But I’m gonna try.

How about yous all? Do you have any goals for the month of February? Put them in the comments and come back and see how everybody did in March!

(PS. a side goal is getting that second promised free steampunk short story re-released. Mea culpa, it fell by the wayside with everything else that happened.)