Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I’ve been doing some math recently and it hasn’t been pretty. Over the last few months blogging time has been beating out writing time by roughly three to one. That is not good. I love blogging a lot more then I thought I would, but that doesn’t stop it from being time consuming. I think it might be time to reevaluate.

It’s not that I’m quitting forever. Obviously that wouldn’t help me much! It’s just that a combination of bad health, limited time, and boredom (from the blog posts) have meant that these four posts a takes me a week or two to write. I keep hoping the next month will be different but it never is. It’s killing me to admit that I can’t do it all. Even as I write this post I’m rethinking posting it. After all, blogs are vital to a hopeful writer like me. But so is free writing time.

I’ll probably still pop in every now and again with ideas that catch my fancy, but it won’t be anything regular like it has been. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to bring my focus back here in a way that doesn’t cause problems with the things I started this blog to promote- my books.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jennavier Recommends: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Once upon a time an elderly professor asked me what I liked to read. I was eleven, so the only book I kept track of was the one I was reading at the time. It was an overwrought preteen drama about the Civil War so I told him I liked Civil War books. Since my mom was his employee he benevolently decided to get my siblings and I gifts. For me he got The Killer Angels.

I was hideously disappointed. My sister, who was an adorable toddler with endless curls, got finches. I got an indecipherable book. Four years after the finches were dead I gave the book another shot. I muddled through it, resulting in a generally favorable impression, but didn't really get it. So the fact that I held onto it for the next decade or so makes no sense at all.

I might be a book hoarder, but even I have my limits. When yet another move loomed I culled my hoard. But before I finally got rid of The Killer Angels I decided to give it read it one more time out of sentimental value. And you'll never guess what happened. It was AWESOME!

Michael Sharra has a way of making Gettysburg vital and real. I was invested in the characters, the people, that lived and died there. I understood what was at stake better then I ever had in class. Shaara was meticulous about historical details. While no work of fiction is a substitute for actually being there I felt like I was being told about it from the very people who had lived it. I also love the perspective they had on war. After coming of age in the War on Terror I have little ability to understand other types of conflict. Using some of its major players as vehicles Shaara gave me the ability to understand what the war meant to those people, and how it changed the fabric of the country they left behind.

It helps that in between reads I grew up, took a lot of history classes, and visited Gettysburg. But as a self-described hater of military historical I'm tough to impress. Gettysburg is definitely something worth reading. I'm hanging on to my copy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

In Favor of Trigger Warnings

Whether trigger warnings are necessary, helpful, or obnoxious seems to be a question that the internet can’t stop arguing about. I'm going to add my own two cents. At the risk of oversimplification there seems to be two thoughts. One champions freedom of expression and thinks that trigger warnings are curbing free speech and making us all sissies. The other is an idea of kinder thinking that wants to empathize with and protect victims by telling everyone else what to do.

I’ve read a lot of the arguments. I can’t say that I have the definitive word on the subject (who does?) but I do have a perspective.

I appreciate trigger warnings. Before you start arguing with me let me explain. A trigger warning is unlikely to make me not read an article/comic/tweet. I was a victim of sexual violence. Earlier in my recovery process I had to be careful about what I read. These days that’s less of the case. However a trigger warning allows me to get my mental armor into place.

The internet reaches everywhere. I may be reading your campus expose in the middle of my day when I’m prepared for just about anything, but I’m just as likely to be reading it over a bowl of cereal in my pajamas. I’m sure you can guess when I have the strongest mental defenses in place.

The worry for me is not that I’ll be offended, but that I’ll be blindsided by something that makes me remember my experiences in a moment when I think I’m safe. It’s not just that the remembering is painful, but that it leaves me in the mentality of a victim until I can shake it. It’s not a pleasant experience and it makes me less likely to try new things. A trigger warning in the front removes that risk for me. It gives me the time to prepare myself for what’s coming in a way that doesn’t instigate a relapse. It’s something that I’ve always seen as polite in this new age of internet sharing. More then that, it’s a kindness to those of us who have to live with something ugly from the past on a regular basis.

I can see how this could go wrong. How everyone would avoid things that make them uncomfortable and thus stunt themselves. On the other hand is it really our business to decide what people should or should not avoid? Some people only watch soap operas or Fox News. Trust me, they are already censoring themselves. For those of us still brave enough to explore the words of the internet a few warning signs are much appreciated.

P.S. What about other trigger warnings? I like them on book/movie reviews because it helps steer clear of novels with gratuitous rape, although if the book/movie sounds good enough I’ll read/watch it anyways. There’s a different problem with these, namely that I’ll empathize too strongly with the victims and be victimized myself when the book/movie fails to handle these events in a meaningful way.