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PATREON ANNOUNCEMENT: Modelland is here!

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After many, many attempts to convince me to recap a particular book, my Patreon patrons have done it. They’ve finally done it. Our current selection is Modelland by Tyra Banks.

The cover of Modelland by Tyra Banks features a single, illustrated eye with lots of yellow feathers sprouting above it like eyeshadow.

Is it a memoir? Contemporary fiction?

Nay. It is a YA Fantasy about a magical world called Metopia, in which a chosen few are selected to venture to a shining land on a mountain to become the most famous models in the world.

If that description is a siren song of terribleness, check out a preview for free here. If you like what you see, join at the $5 per month level for full recaps or the $1 per month level for posts discussing various element of each chapter as you read along from home. This is, however, the first book we’ve ever done in either the Jealous Patrons or Jealous Haters book club that isn’t offered as an ebook. That’s right: it’s a celebrity YA Fantasy novel about a magical modeling school that flopped so hard, it’s out-of-print in digital.

Hope to see you there!

RELEASE DAY! Taken By The Alpha King

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Hi there! Quick update from the land of typing still hurts: it’s release day for the paperback and ebook versions of Taken By The Alpha King!

He’ll never stop fighting to keep his throne…and her.

Born into a secret society of werewolves and betrothed to a mate she didn’t love, Bailey Dixon made the choice to leave her pack for five years. Now, she’s back and fully committed to becoming the werewolf she was destined to be.

But destiny–and the new pack king–have other plans. Rich, handsome, and utterly ruthless, Nathan Frost demands absolute obedience from the Toronto pack. When he sets his sights on Bailey, she’s plunged into a world of politics, sex, and violence she’s not equipped to navigate on her own.

With her life in danger and enemies emerging from every corner, Bailey is forced to rely on the mysterious stranger who’s usurped the throne of her pack. And even he can’t be trusted…

AmazonBarnes & Noble

Unlike past book releases, Taken By The Alpha King is available from any bookstore that can order through Ingram Spark. If you prefer to shop for a paperback from your local indie bookstore, ask them if they can order you a copy! I’m excited to have a way that readers can support their local bookstores!

Bridgerton React and Book Depository Links

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Sad news out of the book world: Book Depository is closing. Our amazing Trout Nation moderator has put together a list of my paperbacks that are still available to purchase there before the end of the month:

Say Goodbye to Hollywood
Nightmare Born
First Time
The Boss
The Girlfriend
The Bride
The Ex
The Baby
Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Here’s the legal: These are affiliate links, so Tez gets a little something if you buy.

In other news, recovering from this surgery is driving me to the depths of boredom. Typing is really difficult, so I was trying to think of content I could still be making. You know, so people will think I’m still alive, and I haven’t abandoned my blog.

It occurred to me that I had never watched Bridgerton. And I’m a romance author. I can’t believe I haven’t been arrested for dereliction of my duties yet. So, over on YouTube, I’ll watch and react to Bridgerton. Episode one is up now for anyone who’s interested.

TAKEN BY THE ALPHA KING paperback and ebook release! (and ARCs)

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Cover of Taken By The Alpha King. A full moon over the Toronto skyline, with a crown on a stone wall in the foreground. The title is in large font in front of the moon, with Abigail Barnette along the bottom.

Well, I have I got the book for you, coming May 2, 2023. Taken By The Alpha King is a collection of the first three seasons of my Radish app serial for readers who prefer a different format. Seasons four and five will debut on Radish soon after, so you’ll be able to continue the story there or wait for those to come out in paperback and ebook in 2024.

Where can you get it? Basically, at any store that can purchase from IngramSpark. You probably won’t find it just chilling on the shelves, but you can ask them to order it for you. And honestly, that would help a lot because it might convince them to order copies and put them on the shelves. Which is one of my career goals: have my books available in bookstores again.

But, if you’re like me and you hate leaving the house, of course, it’s available online. You can pre-order it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, it’s out there begging to be read. Here, have some pre-order links:

Pre-Order at Amazon
Pre-Order at Barnes & Noble

Now, onto the blurb:

He’ll never stop fighting to keep his throne…and her.

Born into a secret society of werewolves and betrothed to a mate she didn’t love, Bailey Dixon made the choice to leave her pack for five years. Now, she’s back and fully committed to becoming the werewolf she was destined to be.

But destiny–and the new pack king–have other plans. Rich, handsome, and utterly ruthless, Nathan Frost demands absolute obedience from the Toronto pack. When he sets his sights on Bailey, she’s plunged into a world of politics, sex, and violence she’s not equipped to navigate on her own.

With her life in danger and enemies emerging from every corner, Bailey is forced to rely on the mysterious stranger who’s usurped the throne of her pack. And even he can’t be trusted…

And now, a message for ARC reviewers: I have a limited number of paperback copies and an unlimited number of ebook copies available for review. Good review, bad review, any reviews, I’m just looking for reviews. If you have a GoodReads account, a TikTok account or YouTube channel, a blog, if you review books and you want to review this one, please send me an email at (not providing a link there because whenever I do, I get an inbox full of people wanting to sell me blog articles none of you want to see here). Let me know which format you prefer and I’ll send an ARC your way.

It’s an update, yous all!

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Hey, everybody out there in Trout Nation! It is I, your long-disappeared Trout.

And now, I’ve got hardware in my bones.

My surgery went well. My recovery, not so much. I had this idea that someone was going to slice into my body, stick screws and sutures in there, reattach muscle, remove some bone, and I would take an Advil and put my feet up for a day before jumping straight back into work. Because, for some reason, I think I’m Wolverine. Instead, my recovery has included two calls to the surgeon’s office in tears for 8/10 pain, endless boredom, and the injustice of not being able to skate. And I’m talking neither roller nor ice.

I even had to miss a hockey game. Mr. Jen and our kid went to it and left me in the care of my eighty-four-year-old grandma, who tucked me in and brought me pop and ice cream and pizza, so I guess missing out on the K-Wings beating the Oilers was okay. But I did miss the garlic parmesan fries and the joy of my child screaming obscenities at the refs and the opposing team.

Wanna hear about my surgery? I did not have an awesome experience. It was outpatient (thank god), but I still needed to be intubated. Ventilators are one of my big (frankly, founded) fears, so I was extremely nervous to begin with. Then, an anesthesiologist gave me a nerve block in my neck. “If you feel any pinching in your fingers, let me know. That means I’m too close to the nerve.” Yeah, well, you neglected to tell me that pinching in my fingers wasn’t the only potential side effect. Because as it turned out, the nerve block paralyzed my vocal cords and my chest, hampering my ability to breathe and limiting my ability to tell anyone about it. I laid in the pre-op room by myself, unable to move my upper body apart from my head and right arm, for an hour and a half until someone came back to check and see if the block was working.

Yeah, it was fucking working. But I felt like I was drowning.

I wasn’t mad about the delayed surgery; I expected it. They pack outpatient surgery schedules, and if one thing goes slightly askew, things get delayed for hours. I was miffed that the anxiety drugs they gave me wore off before I headed up to the surgical suite. I was thinking the block had already gone wrong, so what else could happen to me? But I also felt like I was being suffocated, so I looked forward to the ventilator at that point.

But then, when they got me on the table, something amazing happened. BILLY JOEL POPPED UP ON THE SURGEON’S PLAYLIST. That put me somewhat at ease, though I still panicked when they put the mask on my face.

When I woke up in recovery, I started rattling off anesthesia facts to the nurse. When she brought me crackers, I warned her, “I will decimate you in Trivial Pursuit.”

She said, “Can you give me a big cough?”

Spoiler alert: I was fucking paralyzed so I could not.

And that means I’m still gurgling with vent butter two-and-a-half weeks later. But my pain isn’t as bad as it was and I don’t appear to be getting pneumonia from the lingering crap I’m coughing up, so everything’s coming up Jenny.

This is not the end of my surgical journey. Tomorrow, I start physical therapy. I don’t get out of my sling for another three weeks, at least. But I did buy a split keyboard, so I’m able to do some work. I’m not fully back to form, but it feels so great to be able to update everyone on what’s happening with me. Since I’m one-armed, I’ve been making a lot of content on TikTok, a platform that doesn’t require typing, and tomorrow I should have a react video for the Princess Diana musical up on YouTube (if the gods of Fair Use are with me). I may be working on more react videos just so I have content out there in the world while my arm heals; I don’t expect to get back to recapping full-time for a couple of weeks, at which point I’m excited to get back into Crave. And then we read that surprisingly not-shitty book until… well.

Let’s just say something fucking horrible is going to happen to us in June, and we all need to brace ourselves.

But there are new chapters of Her Brother’s Billionaire Best Friend posting on Yonder as we speak, new episodes of Taken by the Alpha King happening soon on Radish, and Taken by the Alpha King will also be coming to ebook and paperback on May 2nd (I’ll post here as soon as I have all the pre-order links, but you can pre-order the ebook on Amazon right now).

In the meantime… stay fishy? I don’t know why I typed that. But I did, and I’m standing by it. Stay fishy.

2023 starts off with a… sure. Sure, why not.

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Howdy, pardners. You may remember that in October of 2022, I got into a car accident. No, you know what, eff that, I’m not saying that I got into a car accident because I didn’t get into anything. I was minding my own business and someone else involved me in their car accident. And as a result, I have to have surgery.

Did you know your shoulder could rupture? I do! The orthopedic surgeon I was referred to pointed to this little black triangle on the MRI image and was like, “Do you see that?” and I, in all my medical expertise, thought, why yes, I do, this must be the injury. And then he pointed to a giant white mass that took up the rest of the image and said, “That’s what we want all of this white part to look like.”

I have so much stuff fucked up. One of my biceps is just no longer an option, I guess. Another muscle has a “full thickness tear,” and something is going to have to be done inside my shoulder that involves screws but honestly, I didn’t catch it all because this is so intensely gross that I was going to puke and pass out, probably at the same time.

Now, I’m not just putting this here to overshare and traumatize you with the knowledge that, under the correct conditions, someone might describe your shoulder as “ruptured.” It’s because I have to face the fact that my very productive 2023 might not be as productive as I previously hoped. Before the accident, I had set some ambitious but totally doable goals. I signed two contracts and started working on two books concurrently. One of those books is due March 30, and one is due April 1.

My surgery cannot be put off any longer, and I will have the operation on March 12.

I’m not panicking. You’re panicking.

No, I’m actually not panicking, but I am definitely prioritizing. First comes the legal, contractual obligations. Because I may have an immobilized right arm—my dominant arm—for up to three months, I’m scrambling to finish those books. I carefully budgeted my time in a realistic way, but now that I’m looking at a whole month just thhhttthhhpppttt right off the calendar, things are a little more urgent. I need to put those projects front and center.

Second on the priority list comes the Trout Nation Patreon. Because I have to eat.

And unfortunately, third place is this blog. Which I never envisioned happening. There was a time not too long ago that I considered myself a blogger first, and an author second. For a while now, I’ve hated that I haven’t been releasing chapters of The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp and the Crave recaps regularly. “Things are going to be different in 2023!” I promised myself.


Now, I’m not suspending either of those projects or saying I’m shutting the blog down, but I am going on hiatus here. March isn’t terribly far away, and on top of the time crunch, the injury itself makes it difficult to type, which is basically my entire job. I’ve started typing with my left hand, but as someone who types 90 WPM with both hands, 11 WPM as a beginning one-hander makes me gnash my teeth and curse God. It’s not practical for me to try to work on two simultaneous books, Patreon, and the blog, while typing at the speed of ketchup coming out of a glass bottle.

And did I mention that just days before I was told that physical therapy wasn’t an option and actually someone was going to be slicing and dicing inside my arm, I was cast as Bea in Something Rotten? Which, honestly, is going to be a great distraction for me. The show goes up like two weeks before the surgery, so I won’t have time to even worry about all the things about surgery that scare me, like “what if the anesthesia fails” or “what if I pee the bed the second I wake up, like I did last time?” The theater is very access-aware, so I’ll be choreographed and blocked around the injury, which is also very cool.

So, for right now, just expect that if there are posts here, fantastic, if not, it’s because of all that shit up there, and I’m otherwise on hiatus. In the meantime, I’ve been making TikToks somewhat regularly because that doesn’t require use of my arm. If you’re on TikTok, I’m over there just saying stuff.

Otherwise, cross your fingers that my arm is fixable, nothing goes wrong worse with it, and my recovery is speedy and I don’t miss out on all the good roller skating weather.

Don’t Do This. Ever.: Authors Behaving FUCKING ABHORRENTLY

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CW: Suicide (but not an actual suicide)

I don’t really know where the fuck to begin this. I can tell you that there will be many, many swears. And by the end, you will probably be swearing, too. In fact, I think at this point, the sun itself should be shouting “FUUUUUUUUCK!” into the void of space.

Remember when I said it would take something really big to make me do another Authors Behaving Badly post?

Meet Susan Meachen. If you run in indie romance circles, you might recognize that name. Susan was an indie romance author who tragically completed suicide after being the victim of online bullying in the indie book community. The response to her death was an outpouring of grief that included people promoting Susan’s posthumous book release in conjunction with her family to raise funds for the funeral. Authors and readers alike banded together to create an online auction to benefit the To Write Love On Her Arms organization. Susan Meachen was mourned by stunned friends within the community, and donations for expenses poured in.


Today, author Samatha A. Cole broke the news in a Facebook post.:

In September of 2020, Susan Meachen’s daughter (supposedly it was her daughter) signed into her mother’s profile and announced that Susan had taken her own life. Devastation from her friends, fellow authors, and readers followed. Allegedly she’d been bullied in the book world to the point of suicide. What followed was rants from said daughter about how horrid the book world had been to Susan and the family wanted nothing to do with the book world from that point on. However, they wanted to honor their mother’s memory by publishing the last book she wrote, which they did. Friends, authors, and readers shared the release.

We grieved for the loss of the woman we considered a friend. I personally was harassed by another author who loves to create drama, claiming I was one of the authors who bullied Susan and drove her to suicide. I was heartbroken when I realized it’d been a few months since I’d chatted with Susan in PMs and wished I’d reached out sooner and maybe it would’ve made a difference for her to know there were people who supported her.

Last night a post was made in Susan’s old reader group – The Ward – from Susan’s profile. And I quote –

“I debated on how to do this a million times and still not sure if it’s right or not. There’s going to be tons of questions and a lot of people leaving the group I’d guess. But my family did what they thought was best for me and I can’t fault them for it. I almost died again at my own hand and they had to go through all that hell again. Returning to The Ward doesn’t mean much but I am in a good place now and I am hoping to write again. Let the fun begin.”

Apparently, she’s not dead. TN Steele was a profile she made a month after her alleged suicide. What follows are screen shots from the group, her profile, and the chat I just had with a dead person.

For over two years, Susan Meachen pretended to be dead. She rebranded herself as TN Steele and watched as the rest of the community grappled with the aftermath of her “suicide.” She even reconnected with online friends who were mourning her.

From the screenshots Cole provided, which show her confrontation with Meachen, it’s clear that Meachen has absolutely no remorse for her actions. Scratch that: she has absolutely no remorse for actions she will not own or admit to. She blames her daughter for making the post announcing her death and implies that she’s somehow the victim of her family’s good and loving intentions. “I had no control over what my family did,” she told Cole. “I was in the hospital fighting for my life. But I understand what they did.”

Do you, bitch? DO YOU REALLY? Because what “they” did was make a post TWO MOTHERFUCKING YEARS AGO. You weren’t in the hospital the whole time, fucker! You were setting up a new pseudonym and reader group a month after your faked death. It never once occurred to you to correct the misinformation?


I have compassion for people who struggle with suicidal thoughts and who make attempts, absolutely. We are in a shitty little club together. And if it is the truth that Meachen was going through that? I’m sorry that happened to her. But for what reason, what logical reason, would ANYONE ACTUALLY BELIEVE ANY PART OF THIS FUCKING STORY?! Forgive me and hundreds of other indie authors and readers who are doubting every facet of this bullshit, including the very existence of her god damn daughter.

Above and beyond the horrific toll that grief and suicide take on a community, Susan Meachen’s death by bullying attracted members of an online clique famous for their own bullying campaigns. You might remember that one of these “authors,” Dylan Cross (real name David Daniel Moore), ran a Facebook group called “As The Book World Turns,” dedicated to anonymous posts targeting mostly female indie romance authors. Under a thin veneer of “anti-bullying” concerns, Moore seized the opportunity provided by Meachen’s death and went after readers and authors (including Cole), shaming them for their culpability in the bullying that drove Meachen to suicide. One reader, who had been involved in previous clashes with Moore, has stated that she’d never even spoken to Meachen. Still, she was relentlessly harassed by Moore for allegedly causing the suicide Meachen faked.

And even with all of this going on, and Meachen watching and participating in the indie romance community from the sidelines, she never stepped up and said, “This was a misunderstanding.” She wasn’t dead. She knew she wasn’t dead. “TN Steele” and I have mutual friends on Facebook, friends who were mourning Susan’s passing on their timelines months after the fact. Friends who spoke about the harassment people were receiving. There is no reasonable way to deny that Meachen knew these things were happening. AND SHE NEVER SAID A WORD TO STOP IT.

Suicide is contagious. When one member of a community completes suicide, others follow. Imagine you were a reader or author who struggled with suicidal thoughts, and an internet stranger was relentlessly attacking you for allegedly “bullying” another author into suicide. What might you do under that pressure? What might you feel was your best option? What might your suicidal ideation tell you that you deserved?

There is no way that Meachen, a member of the indie romance community, didn’t know that there would be consequences for crying “bully!” in those circles. This was a malicious act. This was explicitly designed to produce these types of results, from the financial and publicity benefits to the persecution of those Meachen perceived as her bullies. And when Cole, someone who cared about Meachen genuinely, was under attack, Meachen did nothing.

This is not a case of a mentally ill person just not knowing how to handle a situation or do what’s right. This was a person who had an evil thought and followed through with evil deeds. And already, people are claiming that Meachen is the true victim in this. She lied about being bullied into suicide. She took money donated for funeral expenses. She didn’t say, hey, don’t send me money for my funeral. I’m not dead. She took the money. She took the increased promotional opportunity for her “posthumous” release. She accepted free services from editors and cover artists who thought they were helping a member of the community in the only way left for them to help her. She launched a new pen name and interacted with people who thought she was dead for two years. But somehow, somehow, people feel that anyone being angry about this or wanting to hold her accountable for her disgusting actions… ARE BULLYING HER. Placing her in a dangerous situation for her mental health

I am sick, from gums to rectum, of people being held accountable for their actions being described as victims of bullying. IT IS NOT BULLYING TO SAY IT’S NOT OKAY TO PRETEND TO HAVE COMPLETED SUICIDE. And so what about Susan’s fucking mental health? So god damn what? What about the mental health of all the people who mourned her, who tortured themselves with thoughts of what they could have done to help her before it was too late? What about the mental health of the people gleefully stalked and harassed by Moore and his goblin band? Fuck them? Protect Susan? No, go fuck YOURSELF if you care more about a liar, a fraud, an outright ghoul than you do the innocent actual victims in this.

I honestly have no idea where to go from here. How are we, as authors and readers, meant to support the indie book community when someone does something like this, and other indie authors and readers insist it’s victimizing the liar to point out her lies?

Meachen went so far as to respond to a PM from an online friend who, in their mourning, reached out to say that they missed Susan. Susan’s “daughter” responded to comfort this person, who then went on to dedicate their next book to their deceased friend.

Susan Meachen is a liar who disregarded the potentially fatal consequences of her selfish actions, then returns to say “let the fun begin.” Now, the book world is out for her blood. People are considering legal action over the money she stole. Here’s your fucking fun: you’re done. This is so big, it absolutely will follow her offline and into her real life. People will remember this forever and she is irredeemably ruined.

In the most extreme Clair Huxtable voice: Susan, are you having BIG FUN?

A blog post on the dangers posed to professional writers by AI writing software

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As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes more and more prevalent in all aspects of our lives, it is natural to be concerned about its impact on professional writers. AI writing software has the potential to revolutionize the way we write, but it can also pose some serious threats to professional writers.

The most obvious danger is the potential for AI writing software to replace human writers. AI can quickly generate content that is accurate, consistent and often of a higher quality than human writers can produce. This could put many professional writers out of a job, as companies may be more likely to use AI instead of human writers.

Another danger that AI poses to professional writers is the potential for mass produced, generic content. AI writing software can create content that is accurate and consistent, but it can lack creativity and originality. If AI writing software is used in place of human writers, the content produced may be of a lower quality and lack the creativity and originality that human writers bring to the table.

Finally, AI writing software can be used to manipulate the truth. AI can be programmed to generate content that is biased or even false. This could lead to a dangerous situation where readers are exposed to inaccurate information.

Overall, AI writing software has the potential to revolutionize the way we write, but it also poses some serious threats to professional writers. Companies should be aware of the potential dangers that AI poses to professional writers and should take steps to ensure that human writers are not replaced by AI.

The title of this blog post is the prompt that I entered into Canva’s new “Magic Write” feature. The content above the separator is what the AI software produced for me in literal seconds. I did not edit it or tweak it any way. All I created in my own was the original prompt.

A screenshot of the Canva app with the blog post title entered as a prompt and the same text as the above blog content.

I tried it with fiction, as well, using the prompt, “A battle between two spaceships from the POV of the hero, captain starvsgaard, with the fate of the galaxy at stake”:

Captain Starvsgaard stood on the bridge of his starship, the Paladin, looking out at the enemy vessel in the distance. He knew that the fate of the galaxy was in his hands. He had to win this battle or all would be lost.
He gave the order to charge the enemy vessel, and his crew responded with a resounding battle cry. The Paladin surged forward, its cannons blazing. The enemy ship retaliated with its own barrage of laser fire, and the two vessels clashed in a dazzling display of light and destruction.
The Paladin was smaller and faster, and it was able to dodge most of the enemy’s shots. But each time it returned fire, it was met with an even more powerful counterattack. It was a desperate fight, and it seemed like it could go either way.
But in the end, the Paladin emerged victorious. The enemy ship was destroyed, and the fate of the galaxy was saved. Captain Starvsgaard and his crew cheered in triumph. It was a moment of victory that they would never forget.

I added the words, “with dialogue between the captain and first mate” and ran it again:

Captain Starvsgaard stood on the bridge of the Empire’s flagship, the Phoenix, and looked out into the vastness of space. He could feel the tension in the air as the other ship, the Dark Star, loomed into view. The fate of the galaxy was in his hands, and he knew that only one of these ships would survive the battle.

“All hands, prepare for battle,” he said, his voice firm and strong. “We must not fail.”

The crew scrambled to their stations, and the Phoenix began to move into position. Captain Starvsgaard glanced at his first mate, Lt. Johansson.

“This is it,” he said calmly. “Let’s show them what we’re made of.”

Lt. Johansson nodded, a determined look on her face. “Yes, sir. We will not fail.”

The two ships closed in on each other, and soon the battle was raging. Laser blasts flew through the air, and the two ships rocked and shook from the impact of the explosions.Captain Starvsgaard watched from the bridge, his hands gripping the sides of his chair tightly. He could feel the energy of the battle, and he knew that this was a battle for the fate of the galaxy.

“Fire at will!” he shouted, as the Phoenix fired its lasers, causing the Dark Star to shudder. “We will not be defeated!”

The battle raged on, and soon the Dark Star was in ruins, the crew surrendering. Captain Starvsgaard smiled, knowing that they had won.

He turned to Lt. Johansson. “Well done, Lt. We have saved the galaxy.”

Lt. Johansson smiled back, her eyes bright with pride. “Yes, sir. We have.”

A screenshot from Canva showing the prompt for the sci-fi story, followed by the text from the sci-fi story.

I think what I find the most worrying about these results is the way that the artificial intelligence filled in gaps in the details. I didn’t provide a name for the first mate or the ships. I didn’t say what kind of dialogue I wanted, I just said “dialogue.” Yet from those very simple prompts I got something that isn’t up to my standards for publication, but is light years ahead of some of the things currently being published.

AI generated text first pinged my scam radar when Facebook ads for a service meant to boost author marketing made AI generated text a selling point: pay for our service and you will be able to create more blog content and more social media content without sacrificing time that you could be using to write your books. Since I’m currently watching all of my artist friends beg people not to use fantasy portrait generators on social media that are so sloppy in their art theft as to leave the original artists’ signatures visible in the AI generated final product, I decided that this was something I should keep my eye on.

Just two weeks later, an author on TikTok showed up on my FYP extolling the virtues of AI writing software. It was boosting her word count so much faster. Helping her break her writing block. And there was absolutely no thought, at least, in the video, as to the impact or ethics of using AI generated content in your published work.

The comments on the video were all rapture. People discussed how this could be used for world building (based on the excerpts above, I’m thinking the answer to that is “not effectively”), for writing newsletter entries, for taking care of scenes you were having trouble with or were simply bored of and wanted to get past in your manuscript.

In other words, every single author in those comments was excited about the new ways they were going to defraud their readers.

Publishers and indie authors have already been caught using AI generated images on covers. Currently, Harper Collins is still on strike and unwilling to cave to such unreasonable demands as ” please pay us” and “we’d like it if you would hire some not-white people.” So far in all of my experiments that I’ve run with AI generated text, the prose has been technically clean, meaning there is some type of editing brain happening in the artificial intelligence. Traditional publishing won’t need authors or editors moving forward. This current strike might be the last one we see in the industry; there simply won’t be humans to object to unethical practices in the home offices.

It didn’t surprise me to see that most of the authors celebrating AI generated text without a single thought as to the long-term consequences were indie authors. Write faster, cleaner, with minimum effort is awfully attractive to a writer who only cares about generating book after book “for the algorithm,” with quality control as an afterthought. The potential for success and profit as a self-published author has attracted that wrong sort of “writer” into indie circles, creating pockets of authors who view their work as a craft and not a cheap product, and pockets of authors who are constantly looking to make a quick buck, for whom creating rich and interesting stories is the chore they would most like to eliminate from their writing career.

When it comes to AI generated text, the latter will profit from the work of the former. When I entered those prompts into Canva’s Magic Write feature, it wasn’t an imagination behind those words. It was a memory of millions of pages of content, billions of already written words that were created by hundreds of thousands of actual human brains through hard work and true inspiration. Hard work and true inspiration that get-rich-quick, rapid fire indies and traditional publishing houses can’t produce on their own, either.

Now, they’re one giant leap closer to cutting out the human element entirely and profiting on plagiarism in a bigger, bolder way than they already do. Every sentence in that AI generated content came from a human brain. It was merely collected and organized, without proper credit or citation, into a marketable product. The writers who did the actual work? Who cares about them?

It will be interesting to see how far AI generated text infiltrates fiction writing. All it will really take is one viral sensation that ” gets people back into reading” and the game is over.

A screenshot from Canva's Magic Write feature: "A fantasy romance in the style of A Court of Thorns and Roses, featuring a human girl and an ancient fae warrior meeting for the first time in a hedge maze
Clara had been warned about the hedge maze. It was said to be a magical place, filled with strange creatures and secrets that were best left undiscovered. But she was determined to"

The usual “a rising tide” argument will be made by the “support your fellow authors, you jealous hater!” crowd. I’m curious to see which big name author will get caught using AI first. No doubt, their Teflon status will create overwhelming public support from fellow authors who’ll enthusiastically champion a cause that will cost them their jobs, just so long as they can stay in favor with whoever the reigning monarch of the industry is at the time. Whether readers deserve better quality for their money has never been a concern for publishers and indie fast-profit seekers, anyway, and it certainly won’t be a factor now.

We will see the “just a fast writer” defense, so often employed to deny that authors publishing five to six books a month are doing so with the help of ghost writers, plastered all over social media. And everyone will become a legal expert in copyright law and plagiarism in order to silence critics. As long as you conflate the concepts of legality and morality to obfuscate the issue, anyone can be absolved of outright theft if they’re in with the right crowd. Being able to blame a computer all but guarantees the ethical arguments against plagiarism will be drowned out with cries of “jealousy!”

If I sound bleak here, it’s because I’m a realist with far too much experience in the industry to believe that AI text is going to take the writing community anywhere good. The playbook for defending unethical actions within the writing community has been revised to perfection in our age of social media; the perfect spin for the deceptive use of this groundbreaking technology already exists.

Now, all there is is to wait and watch everything I’ve just predicted play out.

Yes, your feelings about the USA Today Besteller List are about ego.

Posted in Uncategorized

USA Today has announced that, due to a lack of editorial staff, the paper’s famed bestseller list is going on “hiatus.”

Within hours of the news breaking, social media sites were already flooded with comments from disillusioned authors lamenting that if the paper doesn’t reinstate the list, they’ll never be able to obtain their coveted “letters,” a step long believed to be crucial for an author to qualify as a success. USA Today and The New York Times lists are considered something of a double-crown event, a sales-and-hype based EGOT for authors. Past list-makers were encouraged by many to search the archives and get a screenshot of their books’ rankings on the extended list, or else “there would be no way to prove” that they’d made it.

One popular writer reached out on Facebook in a viral post in the romance community. She implored everyone to feel their feelings about this devastating blow to the industry and the careers of individual authors. She advised those who’d set a “goal” of getting those letters to not let accusations of ego bother them, that their feelings that something had been “taken away” from them were valid. Like countless other posts, it sought to bolster those writers whose broken hearts ached at the lost opportunity to achieve that status. It, like countless other posts, focused solely on the hardship this causes genre fiction writers, without a mention of the massive layoff that caused the shortage at the paper to begin with.

The real victims, it seems, are authors who have hit the list and might, should the archives be taken down, have no proof that they’re bestsellers. The real victims are the authors who never made the list but considered it a career goal.

And yet, somehow, we’re meant to accept these reactions as being totally divorced from ego.

One argument is that having those letters above your name helps you market your books. As a USA Today Bestselling Author, I assure you, those letters mean nothing when it comes to moving your book from the Barnes & Noble shelf and into the hands of readers. I can back this up as a reader: very few people buy books based on whether or not the author has the words USA Today Bestselling Author above their names on the cover. And frankly, the readers who use bestseller lists decide what to read? They’re in a boring minority who are more interested in being a part of a trend than in actually enjoying books. They’re not a sustainable audience.

A person could argue that having your book hit the USA Today Bestseller List demonstrates monetary return to publishers and agents. The reality is, while independent presses and self-published authors hit the list more often now than in the past, your odds of seeing your name on that list are a hell of a lot better if you’re with a major publisher and already have an agent. And when it comes to publishers, there’s a dark side to making the list: you can’t just make it once. Your publisher will expect that follow-up books perform as well—or better—and having multiple books fail to chart after one or two make the cut can often hurt your career, not bolster it.

Many writers have pointed out that, unlike The New York Times, USA Today counts actual sales and reveals its methodology. The system can’t be gamed the way NYT was so blatantly gamed by Lani Sarem and every bulk-buying conservative with an asterisk beside their titles. This is simply not true. Have you ever browsed Amazon and seen those huge “boxed sets” of e-books that sell for ninety-nine cents and feature twenty-five or more novellas from authors you’ve never heard of? Those authors are likely USA Today Bestsellers, owing to a popular scam that sees authors “buy-in,” sometimes for thousands of dollars, to get their books into those anthologies. At one point, the “editors” putting these schemes together would guarantee that the money ponied up for inclusion would lead to earning a spot on the USA Today list. How could they possibly promise that? How could they know?

Because those thousands of dollars were being used to buy the books, artificially boosting their sales while keeping the price point obscenely low for bargain buyers.

Which do you think is more harmful to authors: bulk-buying twenty-five novellas for ninety-nine cents while other authors and industry professionals have to constantly justify pricing full-length novels at $3.99 or the potentially permanent loss of the allegedly unscammable list that made the scam possible—and the letters meaningless as a metric of true industry power?

Again, we’re supposed to believe that dreams of the fame and riches supposedly brought by bestseller status have nothing to do with vanity or ego. The article linked above briefly mentions an author who posted an eye-roll-worthy sob fest of a Facebook post when her book actually did make the USA Today list at number one. Rather than celebrating that success, she chose to metaphorically shake and cry and throw up over the slight dealt to her by the New York Times, which did not include her on their list. She insisted that not making the NYT cut insulted her publishing team and her fans, who all deserved to see her book lauded. Before you get the wrong idea about this author, making that list wasn’t important to her. No vanity was involved in her laughably privileged screed. It was simply about all the little people who had been denied a chance to bask in her glory with her. The USA Today list wasn’t enough, even though it reported actual sales. Suppose we’re operating under the delusion that author ego isn’t what bestseller lists are for. Why wouldn’t an incredibly lucky author like that one be satisfied by seeing her book on just one list?

A writer I very much respect is quoted in the same article as saying the USA Today list gives us a good idea of what’s actually being consumed by readers across the United States. I disagree. While the NYT and USA Today lists have diversified in the past decade, they’re only as diverse as publishing. That is to say, not much. The higher ratio of white authors to every other race of author tells us that this list is about who gets deals, who gets marketing support, and who can afford advertising (or a $5,000 buy-in to a boxed set). Not who is being widely read but who is being widely positioned to sell. There will never be a metric that can accurately tell the industry what readers want. If there was, the industry would ignore it, anyway.

Yet, the social media ego fluffing continues. One author consoled her colleagues with words validating their “grief,” a vocabulary choice that struck me as particularly extreme and vaguely insulting. Another reassured them that the goal of making that list wasn’t about vanity or validation. No one, at least that I’ve seen, has told the truth: if your goal is making a list that measures how popular your work is, your goal is undeniably, irrefutably, rooted in ego.

Note: I haven’t said that ego is a bad thing. This is a hard business. You watch ungrateful, undeserving, mediocre authors rocket to undreamed-of success once a week with books packed with problematic and downright harmful content. You see truly awful people protected from criticisms they should receive and good people torn apart for not being white enough, straight enough, syrupy-sweet fake enough to deserve the same protection when they deliver those valid criticisms. Authors who strive for originality and can’t get a contract look on as lukewarm copycats, and outright plagiarists, receive their gold medals for being unethical enough to make a publisher heaps of cash. No matter how many readers you have, or how many industry professionals you have in your corner, you have to be your own cheerleader. You have to believe in yourself.

For many years, I didn’t mention my USA Today bestseller status on my book covers for various reasons. One, they were attached to a name I no longer used. Two, I felt that I somehow failed to “earn” those letters since I didn’t hit any list ever again. But when I finally decided that yeah, I was going to reclaim that title, it was a decision made entirely out of ego. I didn’t have any illusions that I would suddenly sell better, my skin would be clearer, and people would like me. I reclaimed it because it was something that made me feel good. It made me feel like a winner. It stroked my ego.

Vanity and ego aren’t horrible, unforgivable traits, nor are they facets of the universal human experience that we can simply choose to ignore. It’s the inability to accept that all of us, in all sorts of different ways, desire outside validation that makes a person insufferable. Denial of the existence of one’s ego leads to an inability to feel fulfillment, no matter how much objective greatness a person achieves. We’re seeing that truth play out in real-time on a certain bird app; even billions of dollars and a cult-like following of fawning capitalist teat-suckers praising and defending a person’s every decision or half-formed thought can’t make a person happy if they won’t simply admit that they’re valuing popularity above all else. Want those letters. But be honest about why you want them. You have an ego, no matter what all of those “grief” support posts going around are saying.

It is disheartening to know that without the USA Today list, many authors who fall outside of the straight, white, cis mold won’t get the thrill of the validation that comes with being a bestseller. Because, as I’ve said, everyone enjoys that ego boost. We’re seeing yet another door close on that experience for marginalized authors. It’s also frustrating to see such high numbers of employees let go from a newspaper at a time when journalism should be valued above profit. But those aren’t the angles being broadcast by the loudest, most viral voices. Instead, the focus has largely been on dispelling any notion that even a shred of ego is involved in any of the disappointment in the writing community.

Is it truly asking too much for some intellectual honesty when it comes to this development?

To the authors who are disappointed because hitting the list was your goal: you do have an ego. And that’s okay. It’s human. You’re not above your humanity. You are not the one person who has ever lived who doesn’t crave outside validation. It’s okay to admit that you want something because it will make you feel successful and important. It’s okay to want it openly without trying to dance in semantic circles about why, actually, you’re not motivated by ego on this. You deserve to live a human experience with human emotions. You are not beholden to perform a sanitized version of humanity in which you are perfect and selfless and never want popularity or praise, or to belong to an exclusive group.

But you also should consider not setting goals like “get my book made into a movie” or “be on the bestseller list.” Those aren’t things you achieve or earn. They’re things that happen to you. What you achieved was writing a book. What you earned was the sense of accomplishment that comes with typing “the end.” Those things should be your goals. They’re the only things that you have power over. Those are the only things that you can truly earn through hard work and determination. And if you value those things more than making a list, I promise, you’ll be mentally healthier than if you wait around for other people to tell you it’s okay to put letters above your name before you feel like you’ve accomplished something. A USA Today Bestselling Author above your name and eight bucks will buy you a cappuccino. It will not make or break you.

You deserve to be proud of yourself without proving your worth to others by showing up on a chart. But none of us can do that if we collectively maintain a dishonest narrative about the industry, its biases, and our motivations.