Triggered vs. Distasteful: What is the difference: Guest post by Lilyn G. of Sci-Fi & Scary

Recently, during a very early morning, a tweet caught my attention. It was about trigger warnings for books and if they were a good idea. I read the article and thought hmm interesting. So, I retweeted and asked if trigger warnings on books was going too far or if was it needed. This little retweet started a very interesting conversation with other book bloggers, specifically Horror and Sci-Fi book bloggers. We are talking about people who  read some gnarly, gut churning shit. This was a topic each person I talked to agreed on.

However, my little retweet and the subsequent conversation got one blogger doing what we do best: writing. Lilyn from Sci-Fi and Scary sat down and wrote a guest blog post for me 🙂 talking about the difference between Triggered and Distasteful.

Lilyn G. is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, a book and film review site that focuses primarily on independent works, and giving artists and authors a chance to do guest posts and interviews. Head over to the site to meet the other members of the Cthulhu Crew. She will happily chat books with you on Twitter at @scifiandscary but if you try to talk her up on books only to ask her to review your book, you’ll get glowered at most sternly. Mother of two – one living. Spoonie.

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Trigger Warnings

What Being Triggered Actually Means, Why Trigger Warnings Are Good, and How We Could Implement Them

First off, I absolutely hate to see people toss around the word “triggered” in a sneering, joking manner. The impression this gives me is that these people have no clue what it’s meant to be so traumatized by something that has personally happened to them that they wince at the thoughts of seeing representation of that something elsewhere. I’m jealous of the wonderful life they must have lead thus far, and yes, petty enough that I at least momentarily hope at some point they come to personally understand why they shouldn’t joke about ‘triggered’. (“Just joking” holds no weight with me when it comes to making fun of people’s mental and/or emotional problems.)

I acknowledge that there are people in this world who somehow seem to miraculously make it through traumatic events without having the lasting scars those events tend to leave. Good for them. Seriously. But this article isn’t about them. It’s about people like me.

Know this: Being triggered isn’t nearly the same as finding something distasteful.

Finding something distasteful is simply encountering something that you do not agree with, or do not personally like. If I’m watching the national news, and I see people spewing the vitriol that the current administration has made ‘ok’ to say on live television, I can easily turn it off. If I read a book and see a conversation partway in where the character makes a slur about gays, blacks, etc, I can easily “Nope” and close the book and that’s it. (Well, then I might tell people to avoid the book if they have an issue with that type of language, but that’s as far as it goes.)

Being triggered by something is when you encounter a sound, sight, or situation that immediately invokes a mental and/or physical reaction that can run the gamut from a slight mental wince to breaking out in a cold sweat to feeling like someone has socked you in the gut. It can bring horrible memories crashing over your mind in the blink of an eye. Depending on how much you saw/read before your reaction kicked it in, the chances of you being able to just walk away from it are fairly low. Even after I’ve hurriedly flipped away from a movie, I’m still left with that heavy weight on my chest and my nerves twitching at even the slightest thing – like the sound of a flat line on a vitals monitor.

As someone who has had a past filled with enough shit to make me feel like the whole world is a walking trigger for me, I feel like every time I open a book, or go to watch a movie, I’m bound to encounter something that hurts me. Hell, I even avert my eyes walking past the baby section in stores because even after five years, it still feels like a punch in my gut.  (And stuff related to babies is far from the only thing that has happened to me. It’s just the freshest and the one I haven’t dealt with appropriately yet.)

How Trigger Warnings Help

Now, as a reader (and watcher) of horror, I increase those chances greatly. I understand that and accept it. Just as I understand and accept that I can’t read happily ever after stories of love, babies, and forever because my mind has broken enough that I no longer find myself able to believe in that malarkey.

Understanding and accepting this increased risk from reading/watching horror (and even sci-fi) doesn’t mean that I don’t take all possible steps to minimize my risk, though. As a reviewer, I even have a specific question on the review submission form that asks first “Is there child death in your book?” and “If there is, please explain.” Sometimes the explanation makes it clear that it’s something that’s mentioned, but not witnessed, or took place long in the past…etc. In those cases, most of the time I’m willing  to read on to the synopsis and see if the book itself looks interesting to me.

So, yes, I make authors give me trigger warnings for their books before I’ll even consider reading them.  (Oh, and just for the record, there are plenty of horror books out there that don’t contain triggers. For you non-horror readers, you might be surprised the depth the genre has.)

I’m sure some authors probably don’t like having to give away a big scene in a book in order to help convince me to read it, but I don’t care. I am a reader for pleasure. I review for free. If reviewing was a paying gig, maybe I’d suck it up and go into every book blind and read and review it regardless. But, until I’m paid more than I make at my current job to do so, at the very least, I’m not going to put my mental health at risk because of a scene in someone else’s story.

And it’s not just for me. I know several people who have certain things that they cannot stand to encounter in book or film. When possible, friends who know about these triggers often will reach out after experiencing the book/film themselves, and simply tell that person that they may want to avoid it. You know what the reaction to that inevitably is? “Thank you for giving me a heads-up.”

Trigger warnings spare people pain. That’s all there is to it. And why would anyone possibly consider that a bad thing?

Possible Implementation

Please note that while I’ve mentioned film and television in this post, for implementation I’m only covering books at the moment.

I am a huge advocate of trigger warnings for other people because I understand exactly how much an unexpected trigger can stomp your ass. But I’m also someone who has a fair bit of (un)common sense, so while I’d like to see them be used, I want guidelines in place as well.  Because, yes, unfortunately sometimes telling of a trigger can inadvertently spoil important parts or scenes in a book, and we all know that that just sucks.

I don’t think people need to go nuts with listing potential triggers, either. Circling back to the point where I mentioned that my life hasn’t exactly been sunshine and rainbows, I haven’t encountered anything in a book that couldn’t be covered under: (Child or family member) Death, Unexpected Extreme Violence (I say unexpected because if you’re reading a book about Kaiju stomping people, and have the nerve to bitch about the amount of violence in it, you’re just silly.), Rape, Molestation, and (Domestic, Substance, etc) Abuse. There’s probably something there that I’m not thinking of, but I think you get the point.

This is what I do as a blogger: I use trigger warnings as part of the ‘technical data’ I give readers of the site about the book that I’m reviewing. I keep it very, very vague on purpose whenever possible to try to avoid spoiling anything. Ie: “Trigger: Mention of maternal death”.  However, when I feel like the trigger is going to spoil an important plot point, I include it in the body of the review, hidden behind a spoiler tag. Both of these things are very easy to do.

This is what I would like to see established by publishers (mass market, small, self): 

An indication (perhaps a universally adopted minute half-moon) on the cover of the book, in an established position (perhaps lower left hand corner?) that lets the reader know this book contains potential triggers, and then a designated page inside the book (front or back, doesn’t matter) listing the triggers. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, and it’s not going to accidentally slap someone in the eyes with possible spoilers if they don’t care about the triggers. This would work for both physical books and e-books. With e-books there could be a linked page in the ToC that could be clicked.

Trigger Warnings are not notice of explicit content. The warning doesn’t have to be an inch high band slapped across the cover in a ugly way. It should be fairly easy to just establish something that people can look for if they’re curious.

Obviously, we can’t really do anything about books that have been previously published, but it would be a great thing going forward.

In conclusion, being triggered is not the same thing as disliking something, trigger warnings are important, and yes, I think it would be a positive thing to implement.

Thanks Lilyn for offering this guest post. In publishing this post I want to spark some discussion in the horror community. I think that because we do read some book with content that could be questionable and could trigger someone. I hope that this post will continue with the discourse within the book community.

Spotlight on Small Publishing Houses: Black Spot Books

Not too long ago I wrote a blog about small and large publishing houses.  I wanted to take this one step further and start spotlighting these small publishing houses who are working hard to get amazing books into the hands of readers. First up, I reached out to Black Spot Books’ owner Lindy Ryan to get her take on launching and growing a small press publishing house.

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What inspired you to go into the world of publishing?

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and have had an intrinsic yearning to be part of the literary world, so I think the inspiration was always there.

Choosing speculative fiction and diving into genres like fantasy, dark humor, and science fiction was a pretty natural decision. From authors like Orwell and Adams to Tolkien, King, and everywhere in between, these are the types of books I’ve always loved to read, so they were exactly the types of titles I wanted to publish.

Did you have previous publishing experience before launching Black Spot Books? 

As both a traditionally published and indie author, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the largest publishing houses and some of the most boutique, as well as brilliant folks in the industry — agents, editors, artists, and many phenomenal writers.

This incredible experience and network helped to solidify the vision for Black Spot Books. I think this has been something of a natural evolution after having been involved so intimately in the publishing community in various ways. You begin to put together what works and what doesn’t, what you’d like to see done differently, and where you can bring something new and unique to the market.

As most small publishers have a target market how did you find the authors to fit that market. 

It’s like that famous line from the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”

We reached out to our author network — our friends and peers in the writing community — and hit up social media and a few strategic advertising places, and were lucky enough to receive a great response to our initial call for submissions.

What aspect do you believe that social media ie… book bloggers and bookstagram play in the publishing world?

They are invaluable assets to the book community. We love working with bloggers and bookstagrammers. It gives us a chance to network directly with readers, connect authors to influencers, and show off beautiful covers!

What new projects does Black Spot Books have on the horizon?

The rest of 2018 will feature historical fantasy, seasonal fantasy, and we’ll release our first science fiction/cyberpunk title in December. The new year will bring new authors and new projects–including some magical realism and some highly-anticipated sequels! We’ve also just opened our indie romance ebook imprint, Siren Press, with first releases scheduled for August.

What advice would you have for people who want to become book publishers?

 

The publishing industry is not for the faint of heart–whether you’re indie, small press, or otherwise. It takes time, patience, and a lot of work in a very noisy market. For those considering publishing, my best advice is to start by becoming a rock-star reader, and get involved with local booksellers to learn the trade.

To learn more about the amazing books  that Black Spot Books is publishing have a look at their website:

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FYI I do happen to know that Black Spot is looking for Horror Writers to publish in 2019 have a look at their submission criteria if interested.

https://www.blackspotbooks.com/submit.html

Selling ARC’s is Wrong!!!

Selling ARCS is Wrong!!! It is like stealing a movie prior to the release date. Thank you Drew for allowing me to reblog!!

The Tattooed Book Geek

SellingARC'siswrong!!!

You pull up in your car, it’s the dark of night, illuminated only by the moon and a street light giving off a tepid yellow glow. In the distance you see a lone nondescript figure, nonchalantly leaning against the wall, trench coat buttoned up and hoody obscuring their face.

You quietly step out of your car, leave it unlocked in case you need to make a quick getaway. You glance around to make sure that you are alone and that there will be no witnesses to the sad, vile and perverse act that you are about to debase yourself and partake in.

Seeing that the coast is clear you make your way over to the figure, no rushing as you don’t want to appear too eager. A sedate meander finally brings you slowly up close to the figure.

“Are you him?” you ask with trepidation, fear making your voice quiver.

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Same Field…Different Game…otherwise known as my thoughts on Small and Large Publishing Houses.

*****This blog is an opinion piece. All opinions are my own*****

This post has been sitting in my drafts for awhile. However, a Tweet asking patrons to #buyonebook spurred me to finish it. I want to pass along my thoughts on the differences between large and small publishing houses. As well as to pass along my love of independent small publishing houses to another reader. I recently saw a quote by the amazing Haruki Murakami “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Please do not get me wrong I have a love for all publishers but this one tweet made me truly sad. Both large and small publishers have their place on the field but they aren’t playing the same game.

First, I’ll start with what I see on #bookstagram. I see a lot of YA fantasy and a lot of contemporary fiction. This makes me super happy as it means that people are reading, which for me is the most important thing—I don’t care what you read as long as you are reading. If that means you are reading an online magazine freaking awesome, if you read lifestyle blogs go forth and read. You are a reader…you are reading. That said, I have also noticed that amazing books aren’t getting the same #bookstagram love as either they aren’t in the genres I mentioned above or they aren’t as well known, or from as well known authors or publishers (this I credit one of my Instagram buddies for pointing out). I usually post a picture a day of what I am reading or have bought. I have quite a few followers, but the pictures that have always done the best are—big surprise!—the YA fantasy books. Two of my favorite reads which are neither YA fantasy or contemporary fiction, this year did not do as well. I thought this was an interesting trend, so I did a bit more investigating on Instagram I did a search for the author #cassandraclare, which returned 580K posts, and then searched for the author #kristylogan, which gave me only 794. I picked the author Kristy Logan because she is published by Salt Publishing, a small press based in the UK. So I started thinking as I was driving—yes, I do this a lot!—what the difference really was between the books and the photos. Both were well-written, excellent stories. The biggest difference was the size of the publishing house.

I am a loud and proud supporter of small presses. I love the quirky and unique books they publish, and that they give authors that may not have a voice at larger publishing houses a chance to share their work with the world. From short story collections to novels, I find that these unique small press books speak to me in a very cerebral way. They make me think. They have unforgettable characters, like Peril Sloot from Peril in the Old Country by Sam Hooker (published by Black Spot Books, June 5th 2018). All people should read about Sloot and his adventures or be enthralled by the heartfelt emotion that Jane Rosenberg LaForge writes with in The Hawkman (published by Amberjack publishing, June 5th 2018). I love how strong the stories and author’s voices are in small publishing houses, and how engaged the press is in the individual successes of each book. Authors seem to have more freedom (I could be wrong) than at larger publishing houses.

However, of course the large publishing houses have a place. I can’t tell you how many times a friend “will say Book X (published by a large publishing house) has got me back into reading” and “the sequels to said book have kept me reading.” My little bookish heart grows a thousand times when I hear that, or when I see photos of beautiful covers all over Instagram. These books have been able to reach a wide variety of readers and I love that. I love reading the Instagram posts and seeing why the Instagrammer picked that book for their #bookstagram post of the day. Many give similar stories of how such and such book got them back into reading or they weren’t a reader until they read said book or series. I think that completely has a space in the publishing industry, and is very valuable.

 

Small and large publishers do not even play the same game. Here is where I see the largest difference between publishers. The first is their marketing budgets—these small houses don’t have double-digit thousand dollar budgets to flood the market with their content. There is a small handful of booktubers I watch. The one I watch the most regularly talks with such love and passion for the books that Salt Publishing publishes that I started buying her recommendations and haven’t been disappointed, but if I hadn’t happened upon a video of hers talking about The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan would I have even known about Salt or this wonderful book? The answer is likely no. The third book that I ever reviewed was The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg LaForge, which I have seen mentioned less than a handful of times on #bookstagram. When I see a tweet come through my Twitter for this wonderful author and book I always make sure to retweet it and add my enthusiasm. But where are the book tubers and the larger #bookstagram accounts? There certainly are #bookstagram accounts with 10k and more followers, but it seems that they are really partnered with the larger publishers. Where’s the love for the small presses?

The second difference I see is that smaller publishers are a bit more niche, whereas larger publishers are geared for mass market. I am generalizing here and going off of my own reading experiences. Take, for instance, The Book Collector by Alice Thompson, published by Salt in the UK. This is a fantastic book. The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg LaForge, published by Amberjack Publishing, again an amazing book. Or the mind bending Bury the Lead by Cassondra Windwalker, published by Black Spot Books. These are targeted for a specific reader in my view—one who is likely to dig for books that aren’t necessarily located in Target or the aisle caps at Barnes and Noble (although some certainly are). This is not a jab, but rather an observation that I have had being a part of the book community. Here is the rub: these incredible books aren’t necessarily going to be right there in front of the average purchaser.

I guess my ending point here is that there is room in the publishing industry for both large and small publishing houses. My greatest fear is that the smaller publishing industry will be pushed out of the market by the larger marketing budgets of the big publishing houses. That would be to the detriment of readers around the world. If you read and agree please make sure to support small publishing houses. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the three that I mentioned there are plenty of others like Word Horde and Crystal Lake Publishing. Lets make sure that small publishing houses don’t go the way of the silver rhinoceros.

Not So Stories published by Rebellion Publishing

***FYI this is going to be a slightly different review to what I would normally write.***

There are many things that I find fascinating in the world. Especially now. Society is changing. But what about those of us that grew up before this change? How are we going to be seen in the future? Are we going to be heralds of change or antiquated dinosaurs.  I was super excited to read Not So Stories. The anthology of stories made me think about many different things. I went into this reading with only knowing fragments about Rudyard Kipling. He wrote The Jungle Book and was born in India during colonial rule. After finishing Not So Stories I wanted to do a little research on Rudyard.

I found that he was born in India during the British colonial occupation. He felt very strongly that colonialism was going to change the world. Well, it did but not necessarily in the way he believed. But here is the part that I am having a hard time wrapping my head around. Society and people are very different now. We understand the effect that colonialism has on indigenous populations. It strips culture and old beliefs from the original peoples. We understand that as a society in 2018. But would that have been the popular social theories at the time? What would the beliefs of the people been?  That is what I have a hard time wrapping my brain around. Do we read some of Kiplings writings as people in 2018 with a completely different world view to that of Kipling? with the understanding that they may not fit within our narrative? Or  do we erase him from the literary narrative altogether?

The second part that I have a hard time wrapping my head around is that as a small child he would have been cared for by non-british peoples. Hearing the stories that his minders told him. Which would have been the same stories they, themselves grew up hearing. (No, the idea that his minders were servants is not lost on me). So where does that leave some of the children’s stories that Kipling wrote such as, Rikki Tikki Tavi which I recently reread to help the youngest child with a school project. Now, I don’t know how to feel about that story. Or is this just where we are at in society at the moment?

I know that Kipling has been a source of controversy forever with everyone from Orwell to modern writers such as Narayan. Do we cast off what Rudyard has written as colonial bullshit? No, I don’t think that we should. It reminds us of what was wrong during that time period. I think you can read any classical writer and find uncomfortable view points that don’t necessarily fit with society today. They are like touchstones in time good, bad or indifferent. But here is the interesting thing we can always write retellings or base another story of off the original. This is not changing the original story but rather changing the underlying message to fit more in line with the societal narrative at that time. And use the original as a socitial and political mirror.  I don’t know the answer and right now I only have more questions.

Summary: A retelling of Kipling’s Just so Stories.

What I liked: This anthology with its beautiful cover made me think. Think about many different things. The writing was beautiful and the stories were lovely. There is heart break and sorrow and joy. So many different emotions written and wrapped up in these small packages. I find all the different points of view to be amazing. All the stories are vibrant and fresh.

What I didn’t like: There are a couple of things that I didn’t particularly care for. But this will not take away from my star rating. I am looking at the story in the point of view that it is written from.

Stary Rating: 5

My thoughts: I think I have a lot of thoughts and may need to write a blog post later about Kipling and other writers who have come under criticism since they have published their writings. But all in all I truly enjoyed this book.

A big thanks go to Rebellion Publishing for sending me a copy of Not So Stories for my review.

A Never Ending TBR…Screw the monthly list

I have made a decision…I am no longer going to be making TBRs for the month. Okay I should probably rephrase that. I am no longer going to be making personal TBRs for the month. I have decided to fight the power. Let me explain why…Every now and again I see people talking about their TBR like it is a bad thing. For example: “ohhhh I have too many books to read..I am on a book buying ban, I need to read my TBRs”….or my all time favorite “My TBR is going to fall over and kill me in the night.” FYI this could totally happen. Especially if you have hoarder tendencies which I do not, but still it could happen.

So what started me thinking about TBRs (no I wasn’t going to Krispy Kreme this time), I was talking to an instagram buddy and she was complaining that she isn’t ever going to get through her entire TBR. I was flummoxed and my brain could not comprehend this. I proceeded to ask her if as readers aren’t we always going to have a TBR list/pile/entire rooms? Isn’t there always going to be books that you want to read? She ruminated on this idea for a bit and still held firm to the idea that she would like to read down her TBR. But in my head I was screaming “There are always new books being released and thousands of backlist books to be read. So the TBR is always going to be there.”

Not having a TBR is something I don’t want to even think about. The only people that I know who don’t have a TBR are people who don’t read. So, would mean by not having a TBR you would not be reading! Just think about that one for a second. No TBR…No reading. The thought actually makes me a bit queasy. Not having a stack of physical or digital books somewhere that can be read at anytime is not a world I would want to inhabit. Nothing about this TBR discussion makes any sense. So being the rebel I am I decided to screw the whole TBR list! I am fighting the power! No longer will I look at the stack of books that is tittering on the edge of my bookshelf and think HOLY SHIT I am never going to be able to read all of these books. Never again will I look at a book and think you know I really need to read this list of books before I read this one. So in essence I am not going to keep a list of personal books I need to read. I am going to read whatever the hell I want in whatever order I want to. If I want a new book I am going to get it. So here is me fighting the ridiculous notion that TBRs are a bad thing. TBRs just means you have books that you always have books you want to read.

*The only caveat I have are ARCs. I have a list of ARCs that need to be read per publication month*

Genre Hopping

I enjoy many different book genres. If you only read one genre that is kinda like limiting yourself to one ice cream flavor. I mean wouldn’t you get tired of chocolate or whatever after awhile. You would totally get burned out on that flavor. It would lose all the things that you loved about it. There are genres that I do not read; for example, romance. OMG, I hate romance novels. Okay maybe hate is too strong a word, I dislike romance novels. The bodice ripping and quivering members are too much for my taste. Hey some people like them. My grandma for instance that is all she read. But then again I didn’t see her reading a lot…hmm but I digress.

Genre burn out is a thing I am totally convinced it is real, but here is the thing I think it could possibly lead to the dreaded reading slump. That is right folks, reading slump. I think the answer to this may be genre hopping. Take for instance my favorite genre horror. I love horror….specifically zombie books. I have loved zombies since for as long as I can remember. After the explosion of World War Z there was a proliferation of zombie novels, novellas and short stories. I gorged myself on long, short, good and bad 24×7 zombie reading. However, I started to feel like uhhhh not another outbreak/comet/random gene mutation gone awry, watch friends die, hole up, fight other survivors and end up victorious novel. I felt like I was reading the same damn story (the trope is strong in the zombie genre). So I did something very uncharacteristic, I stopped reading for about three months. Now, I have never stopped reading for a weekend let alone three months. This was the great zombie burn out of 2016. I was bereft and beside myself. I longingly looked at pictures of people reading on the internets and I tried to read but I just couldn’t. It was horrible…..the worse three months of my life. I was a former shell of my vibrant self.

Picture this burned out book nerd walking through the Barnes and Noble NOT BUYING ANYTHING. Nothing…no TBR…no new release excitement nothing. I came home sullen and in even more of a funk then I was before I left. I walked over to my bookshelves and with the last ounce of book love I could muster; I picked up Madame Bovary by Flaubert. Sat down and started to read. I didn’t have to force myself and all of a sudden (queue harps and cherubs) my reading slump was over. I went on to finish Flaubert and picked up a couple more classics and speed through them. But this time, once I was done with like the third or fourth classic I stopped. I decided to pick up something in a different genre. And I kept reading.

I thought about this for a time and I finally figured out why I had never been in a reading slump before. I was constantly switching up what I was reading until the zombie take over of 2013-2016. I mean serious three years of just zombies…yeah I was out of my mind. I still have yet to read any zombie books since the great zombie burn out of 2016 but I have learned something way more important I need to switch genres when the genre I am reading gets to be a bit to much. I bounce from speculative fiction to YA fantasy to dark humor to thrillers to short stories and I find that my palette is always cleansed. No need to go into a reading slump.

So the next time you are reading slump step away from the genre and try something a bit different.