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Mom and Wednesday See Phantom Of The Opera

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My daughter is obsessed with The Phantom of The Opera. I don’t know why. Obviously, some of this is due to her constant involvement in community theater (next Friday marks her fourth show this season), but I’d be lying if I said she only just found Phandom. When she was three, one of her Christmas presents was a set of Phantom-themed felt hand puppets (Christine, Raoul, and The Phantom). She’s been into this since she was a toddler.

Last year, I was lucky enough to give her an even better Christmas present: front row tickets to the national touring company of Phantom, which stopped in Kalamazoo in February.

I mean, front row tickets to the matinee. I don’t have front-row-at-7-p.m.-money. I’m not the Monopoly man.

Now, this Christmas present was really the ultimate sacrifice, as I knew that I would be the one who had to take her to the show. And I am not hugely enthusiastic about Phantom. Especially not when the movie is on a near constant loop in my home. But it was worth it all to hear her biting criticisms of the performers.

Since it’s been a while since she was on my YouTube channel (as she has reminded me countless times), I was happy to collaborate on this video with her, in which we discuss the cool parts and the weird parts and whether or not Gerry Butler was a good Phantom.

Spoiler: we are hotly divided on that.

Stayed tuned tomorrow for the “spooky” Patreon reward video for January/February!

Trout Trouble!

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Remember Double Steve Bonus Mondays? Well, I’m in Double Steve Trouble right now. Over Double Steve Bonus Monday, kind of. Why? I can’t go into real deep detail about it until after all the legal stuff is over, but there’s a dispute over the usage of one of the Double Steve Bonus Monday photos. Now, I need to settle out of court. So, I created a GoFundMe. I’m always asked you guys to crowdfund my fabulous lifestyle and now here I am with this glamorous lawsuit? Get out of town. It’s freakin’ Dynasty over here!

After things are settled and I can talk about the case, I have a lot of advice to give authors/bloggers/creatives so they don’t end up in a “live and learn” kind of situation. But in the meantime, if you could share my GoFundMe around, I would super appreciate it. In the meantime, you’re running a blog, keep track of where you got all of your photos from and the license they’re being used under.

 

A Confused Bisexual: An Interlude

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FADE IN

INTERIOR – BEDROOM – NIGHT. JENNY has just watched footage of Chris Evans helping Regina King balance so she wouldn’t trip on her dress while accepting her Oscar.

JENNY
Would you have sex with Chris Evans?

Mr. Jen shakes his head and doesn’t look up from his phone.

JENNY
But why not?

MR. JEN
Because I don’t like men. I don’t think of men sexually.

JENNY
Okay, but. How?

MR. JEN
What do you mean how?

JENNY
How do you not like dudes?

MR. JEN
They just do nothing for me.

JENNY
What if you had to?

MR. JEN
Why would I have to?

JENNY
The world will end! You would have sex with Chris Evans to stop the world from ending.

MR.JEN
Why is the world ending?

JENNY
Why don’t you find Chris Evans hot?

MR. JEN
Because I’m straight!

JENNY
How? I can’t get my melon around this! How does that even work?

MR.JEN
It’s just how it is. Imagine someone you would never have sex with.

JENNY
Okay.

MR.JEN
That’s what it’s like.

JENNY
So for you…having sex with Chris Evans would be like me having sex with Rush Limbaugh?

MR. JEN
Don’t be disgusting. Chris Evans is not Rush Limbaugh.

JENNY
So, you would have sex with Chris Evans.

Mr. Jen sighs deeply. A long silence follows.

JENNY
Let’s say you got a cold or something. The gay cold. That made you gay.

MR. JEN
A gay cold.

JENNY
Yeah. You got a cold and now you’re gay. Who are your top five?

MR. JEN
It’s five now?

JENNY
No, just who would be in your top five. Look, we can make this the bi flu. I’ll meet you halfway here.

MR. JEN
I thought bi doesn’t mean halfway.

JENNY
Work with me! So, you have the bi flu–

MR. JEN
I would still have sex with the girls!

JENNY
But why

MR. JEN
Imagine having sex with one of your friends.

Jenny visibly tries to imagine such a scenario.

JENNY
Oh. Ew.

MR. JEN
That’s what it’s like to not be sexually attracted to someone. I just am not interested in sex with guys.

JENNY
Okay…but not even Chris Evans?

FADE OUT.

THE END

State Of The Trout: Writing News and 2019 Book Releases (Yes, including another Boss book)

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Hey there everybody! So, as you may recall, 2019 got off to a real, real fucking rocky start for me. I’m still not 100% recovered from my breakdown, so rather than push myself into another one, I decided to step back and accept that yup, I’ll probably have to put off Where We Land, which had been slated for March. And now I’m accepting the fact that yup, I have to tell everyone that’s what’s happening. Which sucks. But yes, for now, Where We Land is being pushed back. To when? I don’t know. Probably May. Maybe earlier. It’s all going to depend on my healing, how well I can function, and how much I can expend my energy. I very much downplayed the severity of what was going on, but as I’m still not quite myself, I don’t want to rush a book, have everyone hate it because it’s rushed, and then fall back into the pit of, “You were never supposed to do this, you’re a mistake, you don’t belong in the world,” which is the really dark place my imposter syndrome takes me.

HOWEVER.

This doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Nightmare Born is still updating every Tuesday on the Radish app. A new chapter becomes free every Tuesday, too, so if you’re patient enough, it can be a free read!

I’m also very pleased to announce that I’ve started writing for SyFy Fangrrls. They asked me to watch a movie called I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle and write about it.

A promotional image for I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle, featuring comic-style drawings of the cast and the demonic motorbike with the words "most motorcycles run on petrol...the one runs on blood!"

Yeah, it’s a real movie. You can read “67 thoughts we had while watching I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle” here. 

Look for more from me at SyFy Fangrrls coming soon, including articles about The Good Place and how fucking mad I am at the way we treat teenage girls in the fantasy genre.

Now, let’s talk about books. I’ve already mentioned that Where We Land is probably going to come out in May. But there will still be books in March and April. I’m working on re-releasing some of my Abigail Barnette titles that I’ve received the rights back on. Awakening Delilah will be available again in March, as part of the Northern Circle series that will feature books by me, Bronwyn Green, Jessica Jarman, and Kris Norris. All the books in the Northern Circle series will be paranormal romances set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, making the deer, fox, and bat shifters in Awakening Delilah a perfect fit.

April brings us baseball (well, technically, March brings us baseball this year), so my Hardball series, previously released as three novellas (Long Relief, Double Header, and Triple Play), will be re-released as an anthology.

Now, if you already own those books, you don’t have to re-buy any of them. Any changes will be extremely insignificant, as I’m pretty happy with them.

Then, coming up in the fall, yes, there will be another book about Sophie Scaife and the men she loves. The Stepmother is going to pick up very close to where The Boyfriend ended. And it’s going to be a ride.

So, that’s the news I have for 2019, writing-wise. So far. I mean, anything can happen, right? Maybe tomorrow I’ll get offered a three book contract to write about marmalade.

The Accidental Cat

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A little over a year ago, my mother-in-law died suddenly. Being the geographically closest family members, all of the death responsibilities fell to us. This included rehoming her demon cat, Pumpkin.

To tell the rest of the story, I have to make it clear that Pumpkin was not a cat I hated due to me just not understanding how cats work or what cats’ emotional needs are. When I say this cat was evil, it is because it attacked out of pure malice. Yes, the cat had a troubled backstory: it was a declawed stray trying to survive on its own in the trailer park where my mother-in-law lived at the time. I could understand why such an animal might deceptively coil itself around a person’s ankles as Pumpkin was wont to do, begging to be petted only to suddenly and violently change its mind the last second. That seems like reasonable, albeit traumatized, cat behavior.

So, why, understanding this, do I still maintain that Pumpkin might have been the actual devil? Out of all the times I can recall being attacked by Pumpkin for absolutely no reason, the one that sticks out most was when she ran from the back bedroom of Mother-In-Law’s trailer specifically to attack me as I was leaving the house. Though I hadn’t interacted with Pumpkin at all until that moment, she zoomed down the hallway, straight to where I stood with the door already opening for me to leave. She bit my Achilles tendon, causing my ankle to swell and my shoe to fill with blood. I shook myself free, but it remains second only to the time I was repeatedly bitten by a dog as my worst animal experience.

Everyone who visited Mother-In-Law had similar stories about this cat, who loved its owner and sought to maul any other living human. My children were terrified of her. Hell, grown people were so terrified of her that some of Mother-In-Law’s friends refused to enter her home. The cat was a menace.

Years go by. My husband’s mother moved out of the trailer park, across the state to a town near Flint. Pumpkin, of course, went with her and continued her life as an indoor/outdoor menace, often slinking out any time the front door opened. When Mother-In-Law’s health declined, she hired an unlicensed home aide through the recommendation of another person in her apartment complex. This woman came to the house and did laundry, bought groceries, cleaned the apartment, anything that my disabled Mother-In-Law could no longer do on her own. We were happy that there was someone close by that Mother-In-Law could count on, but the woman was…odd. She was conversationally flighty, forgetting from one second to the next what she’d just been talking about. She moved constantly, almost manic in her mannerisms. She was unrelentingly cheerful and instantly overfamiliar, revealing far too much about herself and her family dramas (of which there seemed to be an endless source) than strictly necessary upon first meeting someone.

“There’s something not quite right about her,” Mother-In-Law said once, fondly. “But she really is sweet. She’s a terrible driver, though. If we go anywhere, I have to drive. She’s a menace on the road.”

Coming from a woman who had once veered across the center line directly into the path of an oncoming semi because she’d taken a few too many painkillers and was trying to answer her cellphone, this was a terrifying criticism.

When it became clear that Mother-In-Law needed to be closer to us if she was going to maintain any independence, she moved into some apartments not far from my husband’s work. In the week before the move, though, Pumpkin disappeared.

Mother-In-Law was understandably distraught. “I have to leave in three days! I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t get her to come back inside!” But luckily, Pumpkin returned in the nick of time, found in the parking lot by Mother-In-Law’s caretaker.

Pumpkin had some trouble adjusting to the new apartment. Not all that unusual for a cat. She stopped going outside, running away from instead of toward freedom when people came and left. She seemed to have lost some weight while she was missing but never put it back on, despite eating more than she ever had before. But the strangest part of Pumpkin’s behavior was the lack of bloodshed; from the moment Mother-In-Law brought the cat to the new place, it never attacked anyone again.

In the weeks before she died, Mother-In-Law commented on these changes. “I don’t know what happened to her when she was missing, but she’s a completely different cat now.” This wasn’t a negative. It’s always good when people can visit your home without fending off an animal attack. And it was also a great relief, in the wake of Mother-In-Law’s death, to think that we might not have to euthanize the cat for the good of mankind. Old age and one last misadventure had calmed Pumpkin enough that it might actually be possible to rehome it. Somehow, dealing with the demon cat had become the easiest part of the entire ordeal.

I called a friend who has cats because I find that people who really, really like cats either know someone who’s looking for another cat or are looking for a new addition, themselves. After stalking the traumatized Pumpkin around the apartment, I managed to get a few photos of her. I texted them to Cristin, who immediately offered to take her on the basis off her sad story. All I needed to do was take Pumpkin for a check-up and to update her vaccines. I called the vet and made an appointment.

“And how old is the cat?” the receptionist asked.

I tried to do the kind of panicked time math one does when recalling events that don’t directly concern them. Let’s see, she got the cat when her dad was still alive and he died while we were living in Grand Rapids, and it was in the fall so it wouldn’t have been 2006 because we moved away from Grand Rapids in June of 2006. That means she had to get the cat sometime between 2003 and 2005. It was fully-grown when she got it, so even assuming the cat was a year old, that means… “I don’t know. Between thirteen or fifteen years old?”

“But there’s a problem,” I explained. “This cat is so violent. It’s the most dangerous cat I’ve ever seen in my life. We need to probably sedate it.” After all, a tiger can only change so much about its stripes. The cat hadn’t attacked anyone in ages, but nobody had been trying to take it to the vet, either.

The vet’s office gave me some medication I could administer in the cat’s wet food. I did what had to be done and returned a few hours later with my son as backup. I went to the eerily empty apartment armed with thick leather gloves and a cat carrier. I instructed my son to close all the doors and said a silent prayer that I wouldn’t end up in the ER needing stitches. I’d already drugged the cat, but it still put up a fight trying to get it into the carrier. Somehow, we got it to the vet’s office. They only had Pumpkin in the exam room for a short time before they came out and asked to speak to us.

“How old did you say this cat was?” The vet tech asked, frowning at the computer.

“At least thirteen. Possibly fifteen or even older.” I explained how Pumpkin had originally been a stray and how she fit into the convoluted timeline I’d used to figure it all out. “Why?”

“Because there is no way that cat is more than five years old.”

I laughed in disbelief. Then I heard Mother-In-Law’s voice in my memory, clear as a bell: “She’s like a completely different cat.”

The vet came out to explain stuff about tartar and degrees of teeth yellowing and changes to eyes and fur and muscle tone. I just nodded along, stunned. I knew I wasn’t mistaken in my estimate. What I didn’t know was what the fuck was going on. Was Pumpkin immortal? That would have been the second worse news I’d gotten that week.

At home, my husband and I looked through some of Mother-In-Law’s photos, until we found one of Pumpkin. We compared it to the photos I’d taken on my phone.

We were looking at pictures of two clearly different cats.

The resemblance was startling, don’t get me wrong. Their markings weren’t the same, but they were similar enough that it wouldn’t have been apparent without a side-by-side comparison. We were still definitely looking at two different cats. “Pumpkin” wasn’t smaller post-move because she’d lost weight. The cat I took from my Mother-In-Law’s apartment was substantially smaller in length and height, as well. But how did New Pumpkin come into my Mother-In-Law’s care? And what the hell happened to Pumpkin Classic?

“You don’t think your mom would have adopted another cat because Pumpkin died or something?” I asked, even though she had been one of the least likely people I could think of who would do something like that. She wasn’t sentimental enough that the loss of her cat would have sent her into denial. Plus, the new Pumpkin was declawed, something Mother-In-Law opposed and had lamented about Old Pumpkin. She was a practical person and wouldn’t have been so consumed with cat-related grief that she would seek out and mutilate another cat. So, we started tossing around the clues we had.

Pumpkin had been found and returned by Mother-In-Law’s caretaker. The strange, spaced-out woman who seemed to have only one foot planted in reality. Who was a noted reckless driver. Who often let the cat out as she was leaving.

Who brought back a different cat.

Wearing Pumpkin’s collar.

I think you can puzzle these pieces together, here. I regret to say that, outlandish as it sounds, the only explanation that makes sense (and I used that term loosely) is that the caregiver ran over and killed Pumpkin, then somehow (and I don’t even want to know) found a strikingly similar tortoiseshell cat, had it declawed and returned it with Pumpkin’s collar on it.

Today, “Pumpkin” still lives with my cat-loving friend. She’s still cagey and traumatized, but I would imagine that could be due to being suddenly adopted, declawed, moved to two locations in two days, and then having its new owner die only months later. Totally reasonable.

And the original Pumpkin is probably residing happily in hell, where it belongs.

Let’s Clear Up Our Commenting Policy

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I don’t generally get involved in comments here on the blog. I read some of them, but over the years I’ve sort of begun to think of the comment section as a place where you guys can talk to each other about what I wrote. Sometimes, I wade in, other times I think, “You know, I’m going to mind my own business today.”

That’s why when I saw comments pop up on a five-year-old post today, I kind of laughed and didn’t look into them. It’s a post that had an argument going on in the comments that I guess started with someone feeling another commenter was too bitchy and critical (but not me, which is astounding) and every year, another reply or something would show up on that post or in the thread. And again, if people are like, “Well, you’re being a bitch!” “No, Jenny is a bitch!” I feel like maybe they don’t necessarily want me to be involved in that conversation? So, I never really kept up on it.

Today, Tez, my amazing comment moderator (who also caught Lani Sarem up to shenanigans on this here blog), contacted me to tell me that something weird was up. The new comments on that five-year-old post? Were all from the same ISP address, but using names of people who had been arguing in the thread to make it appear as though they retracted their earlier comments.

Cecily Strong as the Drunk Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started A Conversation With on Saturday Night Live saying, "And like, why? And like, don't?

I can’t believe I even need to say this, but it is never acceptable to use the names of other commenters so that you can leave comments that appear to be from them in agreement with you:

A photo with email address obscured, duplicate ISPs revealed under several different names. The comments all say things like, "I was wrong" or "I agree with you 100%" and in one case, something about feeling bad because a commenter is dying.

These are not the words of the people who left the original comments. The names are the same, but the ISPs and redacted email addresses all match and belong to another commenter who decided to wade into a five-year-old argument just to make it appear as though people were confessing to being sexist trolls and begging for forgiveness from the person they were originally arguing with. Perhaps most upsetting are the comments that read:

I feel terribl now that she is dying. We shouldnt have been so mean to her.

and

Guys. I was the biggest jerk of all here. None of what you did can even compare with how I treated her. I just got another text from her BF. She’s doing a little better now, but they’re afraid of a relapse.

There was no mention anywhere in these threads or anywhere else about anyone being near death or relapse, but this person wrote it as some kind of weird comment fanfiction, pretending to be other people begging for the forgiveness of a commenter they got into a scrape with five years ago?

What the hell were you thinking, person who did this? What on Earth made you think this would ever be okay? Do you realize how creepy your behavior is? Pretending to be someone else so you can apologize to another commenter on someone else’s behalf and trying to stir up sympathy with vague threats of suicide or O.D.? All so you can win a five-year-old argument by pretending to be other people responding to you?

What the fuck is your problem?!

At present, all of this person’s comments have been removed, both under the fake names and the one they had been using regularly to comment on posts. Their ISP has been blocked and they are no longer welcome to comment on this site.

Again, I can’t believe I have to say this but this kind of behavior isn’t okay. It’s weird. It’s ghoulish. And it appears freakishly obsessive, considering the age of the original posts. Tez does pay attention to these things, she does bring it to me when weird shit happens, and people do get blocked.

I guess I should have clearly stated this “don’t talk to yourself and insinuate that commenters were so mean to someone five years ago that it’s killing her now” rule a long time ago. But here the fuck we are.

How many Jesuses is too many Jesuses?: An Interlude

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FADE IN
INTERIOR – BEDROOM – DAY. MR. JEN and JENNY are sitting in bed, looking at photos from Jenny’s Catholic grandmother’s house at Christmas.

JENNY
The first time you went to my grandma’s house, did you think it was one of those really religious houses?

Mr. Jen stares at Jenny with a mixture of incredulity and outrage.

JENNY
Well, I don’t know! I grew up in that culture. I don’t know how much religious stuff a house should have. Like, when you walk into her house, is that your first–

MR. JEN
It’s the first thing you notice! It’s the very first thing!

JENNY
And you go, this is one of those religious houses?

MR. JEN
Remember when we counted all the Jesuses on the first floor of your grandma’s house? How many were there?

JENNY
Fifty-two.

MR. JEN
Fifty-two! There are fifty-two Jesuses on that floor alone! And that’s just Jesus! There’s all kinds of other religious stuff!

JENNY
So, how many Jesuses is too many, then?

MR. JEN
Two!

JENNY
Wait, do you mean having two Jesuses is having too many Jesuses, or my grandma has two too many?

MR. JEN
What?

JENNY
Like, is fifty the limit and she’s two over?

Mr. Jen massages his forehead with both hands, humbled in defeat.

FADE OUT.

FIN.

Jealous Haters Book Club: Beautiful Disaster Chapter Four, “The Bet,” or “I hate these blurred lines. No. Seriously. I hate them.”

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Before we start, I just want to say, Yes, I heard. I totally heard about E.L. James’s new book, and I’ve gotten many requests to add it to the Jealous Haters Book Club. I’m on the fence about running two selections at once, but I’m also filled with sick curiosity about what a non-stolen book from her is going to be like. Especially after what I read in the excerpt.

But right now, we have this other dumpster fire to put out.

Hamster Venom: An Interlude

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FADE IN:

INT. – BATHROOM – NIGHT. JENNY sits on the toilet while MR. JEN leans on the sink, examining a near-microscopic drop of blood at the tip of one finger.

JENNY
Oh my god. It’s a hamster bite. Let it go.

MR. JEN
I’m worried about the venom.

JENNY
Hamsters don’t have venom!

MR. JEN
Yes, they do. Much like their natural predator the king cobra–

JENNY
There is no “much like” between hamsters and king cobras! They’re nothing alike! You have to really, really generalize that down to like, “they both have eyes!” to find any similarity. Hamsters are not venomous! Plus, I’m not even sure that hamsters and king cobras exist in the wild together. I told you already that the hamster is evil and bitey and you stuck your hand in there, anyway.

MR. JEN
He’s not evil!

JENNY
He runs at me to bite me! I can be opening the door to put food in his cage and he will charge at me and bite me!

MR. JEN
He likes me.

JENNY
He bit you! And now you’re worried about his venom!

MR. JEN
Hamsters bite to show their affection. [beat] Much like the king cob–

JENNY
Get out.

 

FADE OUT
FIN

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch: S04E06, “Wild At Heart”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone just figured out that she never changed the profanity in the following list back after the great The Good Place swears filter debacle. 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 shirt 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.