Jenn Gott

Word Witch and Professional Daydreamer

Monthly Author Check-In: May 2020

What I’m Writing: Hopefuls 3, and a bonus Hopefuls short story
What I’m Reading: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
What I’m Loving: The Great on Hulu

Oh, May. What to say about May?

Earlier in the month, I was fully prepared to give May a glowing review. I was settling into my quarantine routine, and fairly content with my circumstances all things considered. I was getting back on track with good habits and hobbies, including a strong workout routine. I had done some baking for the first time since forever. I broke the reading slump I’d been in for the whole of quarantine (more on that later). I was making progress on both my writing and the marketing/administrative side of my author business. In general, my outlook had lifted, my mental health was good, and I felt positive about how things would be for me moving forward, despite the crumbling state of the world.

Then I found out that one of my cats, the one I’ve had for over 14 years and raised from a kitten, quite possibly has cancer.

There were a few other blows that landed before that, some pandemic-related struggles that various friends and family members were dealing with, but I was still able to maintain good spirits throughout those hits because, while scary and upsetting, everything seemed/seems like those would work themselves out in the end.

But now, my sweet baby Shadow… I’m not gonna lie, I honestly don’t know how I’m going to handle this.

Today, I’m going to handle it by pretending it doesn’t exist for the sake of the rest of this blog post, and discuss one of the other updates instead—even if, by contrast, it feels somewhat hollow and meaningless in the face of that.

Reading Struggles

In general, it seems like people in lockdown have either been doing tons of reading, or no reading at all. I’ve fallen solidly into the latter camp. As much as I’d love to be able to use both reading and writing as an escape in difficult times, the truth is that I don’t handle stress very well, and my ability to focus on anything meaningful is usually the first thing to go. (Hence why I’m fixating on this part of the update? Maybe.)

So I didn’t read anything in the second half of March, and I didn’t read anything in April, and I didn’t read anything in the beginning of May. And while a part of me was frustrated by this, honestly a bigger part of me simply didn’t care. This is just how things were going to be. I knew that eventually, when I was starting to feel a little better, something somewhere would spark my interest. I also knew I couldn’t predict when that would happen, or what book would finally break it.

And, true to fashion, what finally broke it was so utterly random that I wouldn’t have been able to manufacture the circumstances if I had tried.

I ended up reading Gone Girl for the first time.

Let me give you two pieces of context for this admission:

1) I don’t typically read thrillers. I have read a few, and I’ve considered reading a few more than I’ve actually read, but it’s not a shelf I tend to reach for, or keep up with what’s new in the genre.

2) Somehow, despite the fact that the book was a hit back when it first came out in 2012, and despite the fact that they even made a movie about it some time later, I had never been spoiled about the twist, or the book’s ultimate end. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

Why did I decide to pick it up? Honestly, I wasn’t even looking for it—I was watching a YouTube video where someone was talking about one of Gillian Flynn’s other books, and that one kind of sounded interesting to me, but it was already checked out on Overdrive. Gone Girl wasn’t.

There’s no real reason for me telling you this story, other than to say: if you’re also struggling with getting any reading done, might I suggest trying something completely out of left field? I think a bit part of what ultimately helped me get into this book (aside from the fact that it’s compulsively readable), was that I hadn’t been looking forward to reading it for ages, unlike a lot of the other things I’d been picking up and abandoning. The complete lack of expectations and pressure meant that I was able to just dip my toe in and decide that, yeah, okay, this intrigued me enough to keep going, and that state of “keep going” just, well, kept going all the way to the end.

Though I will admit that I am solidly in the camp of Did Not Like for the ending, not even a little bit. Still, the book did literally what I picked it up hoping it would do, and now I am queuing up a whole list of popular thrillers just to see what else holds my attention in these messed up times. Because apparently when the world is complete shit, I need missing persons, psychopaths, and weird murders to keep me entertained. Who knew?

Author Check-In: Quarantine Edition

Hey, friends. How you all doing? Been a hot minute since I last wrote here. I was planning to resume a somewhat regular blogging schedule in the February/March window, but, well… *gestures vaguely at the world*

Anyway, wanted to pop in and offer you what scant few updates I can.

1) First up! So far, I am well, and managing okay in lockdown, and I hope you all are, too. My mental health is a bit up-and-down, but I imagine that’s true for most people these day, so, can’t really complain. Trying to remember that I could have things so much worse. Please keep social distancing and following current safety precautions. This is not the time to be careless and apathetic. (I mean, is it ever? But especially now.)

2) Because of all that, it is proving a struggle to work on my books, not gonna lie. I keep trying things, in an effort to build back some semblance of routine. Some of it works better than others. Despite everything, somehow I am still making progress? Slowly, but I will take whatever I can get right now.

3) I took this photo of Nova recently and it’s quickly become one of my new favorites, and yes, that totally counts as a valid update:

4) I’ve also been in a pretty bad reading slump during all this (I still have not read the library book that got trapped with me when they shut down about 6 weeks ago, despite the fact that I was really anticipating it), but I have been enjoying some truly wonderful, random entertainments that help keep my spirits up and my mind off the situation at hand. Such as:

  • Playing The Sims more hardcore than I have in years, in part thanks to the influence of…
  • Lilsimie and Vixella’s YouTube channels, which are a complete and utter delight if you like The Sims at all.
  • A bunch of my favorite TV shows: The Bold Type, What We Do In the Shadows, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Galavant (you can never rewatch Galavant too many times), Superstore, Lucifer, and Batwoman, off the top of my head.
  • Picard was also a fun ride that managed to balance nostalgia with modern storytelling pretty well—except for one episode that I won’t talk about that made me super-mad, but I can’t stay upset if they’re going in the direction it certainly looks like they’ll be going with Seven of Nine in season 2, omg please don’t disappoint me, you bastards.
  • Disney+, yes, I finally broke down and subscribed. No, I have not gotten around to The Mandalorian yet. First up, I needed to balm my weary heart with a million nostalgic, feel-good movies (and, in total honesty, a few modern feel-good movies—Zootopia saves my life more often than I should probably admit), and then I swiftly moved on to an all-important rewatch of the MCU, because obviously. It’s been literal years since I’ve seen some of these movies, and it needed to be done.

And that’s it for me. What about the rest of you? Are staying safe, staying entertained? Are you one of the lucky ones who can lose themselves in their creative work in times of stress, or are you, like me, struggling to find the mental space necessary to build anything of value? If you’ve been chilling and watching movies/playing games, please feel free to drop me some recs in the comments (and yes, I already know I should buy Animal Crossing, but I don’t have a Switch and right now that’s impossible to find, dammit). Be well, all. Be kind.

Monthly Author Check-In: “Yup, Still on Hiatus” Edition

Hey friends! Popping in from my internet hiatus to give you all an update. First of all: yeah, I’m still enjoying my break from blogging and social media, though I am dipping my toes back in a little here and there—mainly just RT-ing random angry/funny things on Twitter, but hey! It counts! Sort of. I’m not sure when I’ll be fully “back,” but at this point I doubt it’ll be before the end of the year, just because of the upcoming holidays and busyness and also, oh yeah, I got a new job.

Wait, what? Yes, it’s true. I’ve been maintaining a day job in retail for a good ten years now, and I am more than ready to start shifting away from that. To that end, I’ve gotten an internship in content marketing. Which… is part of why I’m still on hiatus in my personal/author life, to be honest—I’m just writing so many blog posts for my new job, that by the time I am done for the day the last thing I feel like doing is writing more. All this other kind of writing will eventually become routine, and so I am fully planning to work in more personal/author blogging as things progress (I even have a few ideas for posts I want to write, when I get some energy), but for now I am just letting myself hole up and focus on my job and my books, and not worry about the periphery author stuff.

Speaking of my books…

Because of a lot of shifting priorities with my life, I haven’t gotten as much work done since the release of Who’s Afraid of Amy Sinclair? as I had been planning to, so! As a means of getting my butt back in gear, I am going to be participating in NaNoWriMo this year! (Technically as a “rebel” because I am not starting from a fresh project, but continuing Hopefuls 3, but shhh, it still counts.)

This is the first time I’ve done NaNo sine 2012, and before that I hadn’t done it since 2007, so it’s been a hot second since I’ve played this game. But I’ve always loved NaNo, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the community a little. Though the new forums are, uh… interesting? And giving me some trouble figuring out how they work, because I am now Old and cannot always wrap my head around the ways The Kids These Days are using the interwebs.

But if you’re doing NaNo too, I’d be delighted if you add me as a buddy! I’m “feline” over there, again because I joined NaNoWriMo in 2002, y’all. (Yes, technically I know I can change my ancient user name, but I’ve been that identity since 2002, I mean that’s practically old enough for that alias to be a legal adult. I’m not touching it.)

All right, so I guess that’s it for now. Know that I am happy and hopeful for the future, and that I have so many plans for my books that I am so looking forward to. Wishing you all a wonderful and productive November, whether you’re writing or not.

I’ll check in with you all again… soon? Soon.

Superhero fatigue? Not in this house.

It bugs me whenever I read another article about “superhero fatigue”.

I mean, part of this is personal, sure. As both a massive fan of the genre, and someone trying to make a career in superhero stories, the idea of superheroes turning into just another passing fad is obviously not something I relish.

But it’s also more than that. To me, saying “superhero fatigue” is the same as saying “sci-fi fatigue”, “mystery fatigue”, or “romance fatigue”. It dismisses the genre as a narrow niche, when really it’s so much broader than that.

Superheroes–and by extension, their stories–can be anything. Whether creating space where people can see themselves in media that normally excludes them (Midnight, Secondhand Origin Stories, and The Crashers), telling cute, escapist love stories (Cinnamon Blade, Captain Stellar), or examining superheroes through the lens of fandom (Red and Black, The Private Life of Jane Maxwell), superheroes come together to create a genre that is rich and flourishing. The books I’ve covered this summer only barely scratch the surface. There are also books about superhero wizards, supervillains falling in love with heroes, aging superheros, vengeful superheroes, superhero accountants, and even least likely heroes, to name a new.

And let’s not forget the importance of where superheroes come from. It wouldn’t be superheroes if the genre itself didn’t have a powerful origin story. From the beginning, these masked heroes have been sources of inspiration and encouragement. They’ve been a means of examining and exploring the problems of the world. They’ve been a cause for hope, and a shining beacon of true heroism.

You can like or dislike them as much as you want, of course—and yes, there are absolutely problems with blockbuster titles crowding out smaller films in terms of both studio funding and theater space. But to blame superheroes themselves is to do a disservice to the millions of people they bring joy to every day, and the long history of social good they’ve stood for.

I, for one, hope they’ll be sticking around for a long time to come.

All right, friends, this wraps up #IndieSuperheroSummer. I hope you all have enjoyed this foray into my obsession, and hopefully found a few new favorite reads along the way! I’ve definitely had fun. This was my first experiment with weekly blogging, and I think it’s something I’d like to return to in the future—but not quite yet. September, I’m focusing on Hopefuls 3 and 4, as well as a few changes I’m making in my personal life, so my presence here is going to lighten significantly for a bit.

See you soon!

Jenn Recommends… Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth – #IndieSuperheroSummer

Not gonna lie, I loved this book.

I knew I would. Secondhand Origin Stories is the story of four teenagers—three, the children of an elite superhero team called the Sentinels, and the fourth as an aspiring would-be member. Now, I’m a sucker for stories that deal with the long-term effects of a world where superheroes are real, so, right out of the gate it’s got that going for it. But really, I bought this book for the incredible diversity represented within the characters, and oh man, it did not disappoint on that front. This book has most of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum represented, plus some good body-diversity going on, plus a number of disabilities, plus a wide range of racial and cultural backgrounds. Several of the identities are also intersectional, and all of these aspects were handled with what looks from the outside like effortless grace.

Which makes sense, because the characters are by far the biggest focus and the biggest strength of the book. I enjoyed spending time with all of them, but if I have to play favorites Opal and Martin are going to win, hands-down. I mean, come on. Someone unapologetically pure and good and noble, plus an artificial (“synthetic”) intelligence? If I have weaknesses in fiction, these have got to be among the top spots.

I also loved the relationships. Stories about superhero teams live and die on group dynamics, and these are great. Both the younger generation and the older one are rich and interesting, and it was so much fun to uncover more and more about the history of the Sentinels as the book went along. This is one of those stories where the past has a distinct impact on how the future is going to unfold, and about the next generation rising up and trying never to repeat the mistakes of those who came before them. It was lovely and inspiring and timely. And it was such a breath of fresh air to read a book where people’s identities were just accepted by most of the people surrounding them, without fanfare or drama. Even when the characters themselves were struggling with a new perception of themselves, that conflict was rarely an external conflict, and I loved that so much. (And when it did cause friction, it never felt over-dramatic or weighed down.)

The structure did surprise me at times, but I wouldn’t call that a flaw. This book broke a lot of normal superhero genre conventions, and it made sense that I wouldn’t be able to predict the plot. It was soft and always character-centric, even when there were occasional explosions or fights. The central plot line was subtle, but always engaging. I appreciated the characters various reactions to violence, as well—it’s so easy in splashy genres like this to get caught up in the special effects and “coolness” of a good fight scene, but this book never takes the easy way out. It always remembers to stay grounded, stay human, and to remember the cost of violence. It wasn’t afraid to toe into what kind if impact that would have on the people committing it, even if their reasons were good.

If I had any complaint about the book, I would have wished for a bit more description at times. It’s possible that I was just reading it too quickly (I did mainline it in about two days), but there were definitely times where it was hard for me to maintain a clear image of the setting and character movements. But honestly, it wasn’t enough to break the enjoyment.

Overall, the book did what all good superhero fiction is supposed to: it took the kind of traumas and injustices that real people are facing today, and set it in an environment that was boisterous and fun and larger-than-life, a safe space to explore the damage that these very real-world issues can cause. It showed people reacting to those situations as shining examples of what people should do when faced with inhumanity. It showed that sometimes doing the right thing is hard and scary, but the effort is worth it. This is the kind of book that inspires. To be better, to do better. To try.

I can’t wait for the sequel.

Secondhand Origin Stories

Cover of Secondhand Origin Stories

Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacked the downtown home of the Sentinels’. When Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?

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