All posts by D. Gabrielle Jensen

It’s All Too Much

Three years ago, I signed up to have my trilogy “traditionally” published.

Not traditionally as in one of the major, well-known publishing houses but a small press publisher who, at the time, only had a couple other authors on their roster, not counting those who had submitted short stories for their anthologies, which were actually the flagstone of their business. The executives of this press had been privy to the creation of my story and characters and felt like I was creating something they wanted to represent.

Fast forward three years and I haven’t finished a thing since the third book in that trilogy. I can’t. I just keep getting in my own way, criticizing the original trilogy, trying to find opportunities for improvement. As a result, I have compiled quite a wish list of things I want from and included in this next book [series].

  • More humor but also more darkness for contrast
  • Better mystery/better clues
  • Higher stakes for all characters
  • Tighter story telling

And the thing is none of these things were a concern of mine until publishing this trilogy. And it’s not even because someone criticized what I had already written. No one has told me my trilogy is bad. No one has said I should have done this or should have done that. No one has said much of anything, actually, and maybe that’s the problem.

Whatever it is, is paralyzing. I can’t write because I have set up too many hurdles for myself to jump, to many mountains to conquer. I am so accustomed to writing a publication-ready (though it could be better) draft on the first go that I don’t know how not to. And not knowing how to jump all these hurdles—without tripping—on the first go has made it impossible to even approach the starting line.


Another Prompt Post

What bores you?

Truly? Being at home.

Not always but I am 75% more likely to be bored by being at home than anything else.

Even as a kid, I hated being at home. Anytime I’d go somewhere with my parents, I would stall and hope for just one more stop before we went home.

Days off from the day job are excruciating in their duration. I understand why people want to go to bed at 8pm. It’s not because I’m tired but I’m B O R E D and cannot fathom anything to do to fix the problem.

Because the thing no one talks about when it comes to boredom is part of the reason you are bored is because you are tired of your normal pastimes. You’re bored of the television. You’re bored of your art projects. You’re bored of . . . basically every option available to you because those options are always available to you.

Sure, I enjoy crocheting. Do I reach for it when I’m bored? No. Because it’s monotonous and I need something stimulating. I take a lap, or two, or five, around the house when what I really want to do is jump on a plane to anywhere and take a lap or two around some different scenery.

Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a plane. Let me take a couple laps around Walmart. If they didn’t close at 11 and my boredom intensifies at 11. But I’m always looking for someone to go out with me. Go out for appetizers or coffee or dessert. Go painting at the pottery studio. Go thrifting. Whatever.

Just get me out




Might Upset Some People with this One

ICYMI the internet has been on fy-uh the last few weeks over the rise in popularity of AI generated art.

“It’s stealing from artists.”

“It’s already hard enough to make money as an artist.”

And a dozen more like this.

The thing is it’s not going away. We can yell and scream and rail against this thing but at the end of the day it isn’t going anywhere. At least not by force. It may peter out, will likely lose momentum as the new wears off but it’s not going to go anywhere by force.

Because if Disney, which protects its IP like a CIA casefile wasn’t willing to go after the creators of these art generators . . . well, I’m not sure what to glean from that but it definitely means something. Either they didn’t think it was truly theft/copyright infringement, they could see the future and realized the fight would be futile . . . there are a dozen reasons why Disney would decide not to throw their hat in the lawsuit ring but I think it’s incredibly telling that they didn’t.

I am not saying artists should roll over and just let it happen. But for generations there have been advances to the way we produce art and for every advance there has been a generation of existing artists who are angry about the new “technology.”

Technology in quotations because that includes things like synthetic dyes to replace cochineal bugs for making red paint. At every turn there has been some advancement that has upset the artists community.

And at every turn there have been artists who have embraced change and figured out how to make these new tools work in their favor.

Is it fair to train the artificial intelligence using the hard work of unsuspecting artists? Maybe not but I ask you . . . how did you learn?

Because I drew the same image of Taz close to 800 times in my teens. And I got to the point I was drawing him from memory. I knew where all the curves and angles belonged and I could recreate that drawing without a reference. And from that, I learned how cartoon drawing worked.

I still struggle to create my own images from my brain. I am never quite satisfied with what I come up with.

And you know what?

I’m also not 100% satisfied with what I get from an AI generator. I’ve seen some positively exquisite images come out of AI but I cannot find the right sequence of search terms to get the same level for myself.

Right now, people are using AI to submit to art contests and overthrow traditional artists. Maybe next year or in two years or five years, there will be contests solely devoted to AI generation and those images will be judged separately, leaving the traditional artists back where they have always been. Right now, the organizers of these art competitions were not prepared for AI generated images. Next year, they may compensate for it and create a new category.

What I’m trying to say is you can expend all the energy in the world creating petitions and filing lawsuits, or you can keep creating art for the love of creating art and understand that the people using AI generated images were never going to be your clientele anyway.

You are not losing customers to AI art generators. AI generators are just weeding out the people who don’t want to pay a fair price for the work you are creating. It’s actually doing you a favor. Because those “pay you in exposure” people now have access to free art, freeing up your time for people who are more interested in compensating you for your time and skill.

It’s all a matter of perspective. But the reality is this technology is not going to be forced out of existence. Embrace it and figure out how to make it work to your advantage OR rail against it and elevate your blood pressure. The way I see it, those are the options available as of press time.

Can We Talk About the Shark in the Room?

I grew up with the original Magnum, P.I., in the 80s. So, of course I had to try the “reboot.”

And I have enjoyed it. I was disappointed to hear CBS had cancelled it and excited when NBC decided to give it a fighting chance.

But now, there is talk of a romance between the titular Magnum and his . . . Well, Higgins has a lot of titles. She is his property manager, his employer, and his business partner.

And apparently, soon to be romantic partner.

Unfortunately, this is a common “logical progression” in character development, both in television and books, and often done poorly.

The one that stands out most clearly in my memories is Booth and Brennan/Bones. Their character interactions were built around an unrequited sexual tension. And when that was quelled, and they inevitably coupled (then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage) to the detriment of the entire show.

Booth and Bones was the worst for me, I think. I greatly enjoyed the show before the writers (and maybe fans) started pushing the coupling issue and then there was schmalz and goo and overprotective husbanding, and it became too much to watch. Their new chapter was the beginning of the end for me.

And a lot of other people, from what I’ve heard.

And I am afraid that level of campy, overwrought goo will be next on the agenda for Magnum and Higgins, which upsets me.

I think this is also at the root of my hesitation to read the next book in one of my favorite series. After fifteen books, the author decided to mash the main character into a coupling with the only permanently available and age-appropriate woman in his orbit.

This is a pairing I’ve expected from early on and to be honest, dreaded. I didn’t mind him with other women or her with other men but together they are terrible. And it has made me not want to read the next book. And I hate that it has made me not want to read the next book.

While I may be in the minority, I can easily say the fastest way to get me to lose interest in any fictional media is to shoehorn in a romance where it doesn’t belong. I am a little more accepting if the characters have good chemistry but even then, I’m a pretty hard sell. You have to really earn my trust in that department. And the longer you keep them apart before pushing them together, the less I am going to like the results.

WordPress is Now Offering Prompts

Come up with a crazy business idea.

I logged into my WP dashboard this morning, fully intending to check stats and work on something else but then I found this. A daily prompt. Which is great because I struggle to keep this thing active, even though I get a little burst of dopamine every time someone likes a post so you would think that would be enough to keep me motivated.

I don’t know how “crazy” it is, but I really want to set up my own studio salon (I am a cosmetologist in my other life) but IN my studio, I want to also sell books. Like, more than just a small display with my own books—No, I want a full-blown bookstore (well, not full full; the studios are pretty small spaces). Probably, it would be more like one or two six-foot bookcases stacked with indie titles. Maybe on a commission basis, like the art I also want to sell in the space . . .

I could run it kind of like an LFL but with more of a buy-sell-trade model where people can bring in their own old books to trade or just buy something outright if they would rather.

There is a lot to work out, logistically speaking, but I think a hair salon/tiny bookstore would be kind of cool.

Jumping the Shark

I have had a book sitting on the sofa next to me for . . . more than a year. It is the last (so far) in a series I have loved for years, probably more than a decade. I have obsessed over these books, these characters, the stories of their lives, waiting impatiently for the next release.

Now, I have it and I don’t want to read it.

Not because it is the end (it’s not, I don’t think) but because the book before presented me with something incomprehensible. Something I have dreaded for several books leading up to this.

In media, the term is jumping the shark. This refers, literally, to a scene in the show Happy Days where Fonzi, the unofficial star of the show, literally jumps over a shark tank on his motorcycle. Looking back on that stunt now, critics and fans alike share the notion that was the beginning of the end for the show. It was never the same after that.

In the years to follow, that moment has taken on a life of its own and instead of referring to that one specific moment in the life of one specific show, it now refers to the moment any show begins its decline toward the end.

It is not used to talk about book series in the same way, but I posit that is because there are far fewer book series that continue on as long as a show like Happy Days (10 years, 11 seasons, 255 episodes) or that cover a similar span of time. Also, book series have a far narrower reach in audience. While a half-hour television show is easily accessible—and even more so then, before we had hundreds of channels providing hundreds of options for every timeslot—a book series, especially at the tenth, twelfth, fourteenth book, is only reaching its own fans, people who may be more likely to overlook the moments the plot takes a downward turn.

Today, jumping the shark, or the jump the shark moment, in media can refer to a lot of things but some red flags are bigger and redder than others:

New baby—Sometimes this is an actual new baby. The central couple (the parents of a family show) have teen or young adult children who have grown up on the show and then *WHOOPS!* mom is pregnant at 45! Other times it’s an adoption or a cousin comes to live with the family. Occasionally, it is when a member of the family who was an infant/toddler in the beginning, with minimal screen time and no contribution to dialog, suddenly starts stringing together sentences and adopts their own catch phrase.

New adult—Sometimes the new baby is a new adult. A long-lost sibling, an estranged parent looking to make amends. These additions can go one of two ways. Well, three, really, if you count writing them off the show as an option. They can blend in with the rest of the cast seamlessly and the show marches on without a hiccup. Or, for the purposes of this argument, they can throw off the entire ecosystem through bad chemistry, leading to the slow demise of the show.

Resolving unresolved sexual tension—This is another one that could go one of two ways. Typically, when a primary driving force of a show is unresolved sexual tension between two characters, the will they or won’t they, “why don’t you just screw and get it over with” sentiment, resolving that tension leads to discomfort for all involved, but mostly the viewers (readers). Sometimes they do and move on. Awkwardness abounds for an episode and then life goes back to normal. Unfortunately, this is more typical of secondary and side characters. Main characters, on the other hand, tend to become A Couple, with pet names and stolen glances, smooches when they think no one is looking, acting guilty when they find out someone was looking.

This is my least favorite of the jump the shark moments. Possibly because I don’t love romance and am terribly picky about what I do like. And gooey smooshy romance is not my cup of tea.

To the end that I am dragging my feet on reading the next book in this series that was once my favorite but resolving the unresolved tension between two main characters has given me a reason to cringe. I kind of hate it.

If you want to read more of my thoughts on tropes and writing

Measuring Success

“How do you define ‘success’?”

This is something everyone should take the time to consider, and reconsider because it will change. But it’s an especially important question for anyone trying to blaze their own trail. Authors, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs . . . all need to evaluate and re-evaluate our definition of success in order to ensure we are still working toward it.

For me, it is comfort. The ability to do things without worrying about them.

I happened to be visiting Denver at the time of the first game of the NHL Western Conference finals between the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers. I gave a moment’s worth of serious consideration to buying tickets, only to be sidelined by the price.

Success in my art would mean avoiding those moments. In most cases, I prioritize experiences over possessions and that opportunity to experience a playoff game on the home ice is one I may not get again. I want to be able to see those opportunities and take them, without hesitation.

One of my dearest friends is getting married in California in September. When she first announced her engagement (with a ceremony planned for 2020), I didn’t think anything would keep me from helping her celebrate. Now there is too much standing in the way. Success would mean not having to make that choice.

Success, for me, is not “all about money;” it is, however, about having the financial freedom to gain the experiences.

What about you? What does success mean to you?

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Addressing the Booktok Controversy: Returning Books

In recent weeks, the hot button topic of conversation has been readers returning books to Amazon for a full refund, after they have read the whole book. Now, up until a few days ago, this was simply a conversation I felt was accomplishing nothing but elevated blood pressure.

It is not as if the people manipulating the system are poor and can’t afford to buy the books they want. Not to generalize but people living in poverty know how to budget for things they want, they don’t steal unless it’s a necessity for survival (if you see someone shoplifting bread, eggs, or milk, no you didn’t), they don’t do things to pull other people down.

The majority of the questionable morals belong to the middle and upper middle class, or upper class, who don’t believe they should have to pay for luxury items, like books. They believe they are above the law and entitled to free things.

I don’t know where these attitudes come from, but they don’t belong to people with whom authors can reason. For the most part, these authors are expending a tremendous amount of energy and time begging and pleading with these system manipulators, hoping they can impart some kind of terrific philosophical wisdom and make them see the errors of their ways.

Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time and blood pressure.

But now, someone has taken a step that may actually head the conversation in the right direction–a petition to Amazon to change their policies. Do I think it will work? Not necessarily but it’s better than begging people who don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong to stop doing it. That said, if you would like to sign the petition, here is the link.

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Trigger Warning: Talk about Trigger Warnings

Following through on my promise to hash out the drama of TikTok and Booktok, let’s take a quick look at trigger warnings.

The problem is–at its root–one of semantics.

While some people are, in fact, asking for trigger warnings, most readers should be asking for content warnings, and I think that’s what is causing the rift between readers and authors–and simply between authors.

The difference is that content warnings address sensitive material that people commonly find sensitive. Content warnings are the blurbs you see at the beginning of primetime television–The following program contains subjects that may not be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised–and on movie trailers–This feature has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America.

These ratings and warnings are often accompanied by broad but vague bullet points: sexual situations, suggestive/harsh language, violence, fantasy violence, gore, bullying, self-harm, animal death . . . It is a list of subjects in the movie or television show that have been agreed upon by a wide variety of people as having an adverse effect on a large portion of the population.

Triggers, on the other hand, are neither broad, nor vague, and it is nearly impossible to address all potential triggers in a work of media. Triggers are sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or tactile sensations that bring to the surface negative physiological responses in connection to a person’s lived experiences. Fireworks are a triggering event for many military veterans who served in active combat. Raised voices can be a trigger for survivors of domestic violence.

I use my own triggers as an example.

Snakes, basketball, and Pearl Jam’s Ten.

I hide images of snakes on my social media. I don’t like them. I had what I believe now to have been a night terror as a child where I was surrounded by snakes (think Indiana Jones) but when I woke up, they were still there, covering my bedroom floor and I couldn’t do anything but scream for help.

Several years later, my cat found a nest of garter snakes and joyfully brought them into the house, one by one, and laid them proudly at my feet. To say I was paralyzed in fear would be melodramatic and 100% true.

I have not watched a basketball game in 20 years. I associate some of my worst experiences with bullying–by peers and adults–with basketball. I had teammates throw the ball at my face (in youth league/peewees and in middle school). I had coaches actively single me out, even when we weren’t playing competitively, and make me shoot free throws until I made one (while everyone else sat and watched). As a cheerleader for a school with no respect for cheerleaders, basketball season was excruciating. Now, just watching basketball on television makes me anxious.

I am in the process of figuring out what happened in my past between a “friend” and me and Pearl Jam’s Ten album plays a fairly big part in that historical reconstruction.

But those things don’t trigger negative responses in most people.

Maybe the snakes but I have yet to see them added to any of these lists.

The point is that we absolutely can–and should–add content warnings to media, but we need to call them what they are and not try to predict and address every single reader’s individual triggers.

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TikTok Drama and Me

I have made a somewhat conscious decision to keep my nose out of the random chaos and drama that crops up among the “booktok” community–TikTok creators who focus, primarily or exclusively, on discussions related to writing, reading, and books. The biggest reason for this decision is a lot of times, I don’t find this drama until days later and then I’m just late to the party. Other times, whatever I have to say has been said–and said and said and said–until anything I might be able to contribute will be lost to the din.

But I still have thoughts.

So, I’m bringing these thoughts here.

I have struggled with content ideas for this blog, and this seems like a good source for finding some of those ideas.

I will also be scrubbing this blog, getting rid of old posts that don’t really fit the overall mission. Hopefully, I can start training the bots to find me based on what I’m really sharing.