Review: The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City
The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City by Laura Tillman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t know how to explain my feelings toward this book. It is an extremely compelling story, but the writing quality is poor. There seemed to be no real outline or backbone to it. The purple prose only highlighted this flaw, as did the repetition of unimportant things and the lack of refreshers given for details that seemed more important.

If all you knew about the case was the manner in which Julissa, John Stephon, and Mary Jane died, then it would seem impossible to feel bad for John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho, but what happened to them within the justice system is awful for other reasons. This is a case where a man with a severe mental illness (paranoid schizophrenia) and an intellectual disability (IQ in the low 70s) and a woman who had a shared psychosis with this man because of her own intellectual disability (IQ in the 50s) end up imprisoned, and, for him, end up on death row, but the writer is busy talking about superstitions & personal fears. It’s almost like she doesn’t completely perceive the gravity of the situation, the level of injustice that’s going on. As lovely as it is to learn about regional cultural beliefs, I was more concerned about the fact that this man who should be in a hospital will probably face lethal injection. The writer could only view this as horrible once she met Mr. Rubio, but it seems like anyone with a basic sense of compassion would figure out after learning about his background. Instead, she was oblivious to it, which made her seem callous. It made the whole book feel callous. Also, the stalking of Ms. Camacho’s family was a bit disturbing. I understand she felt that she needed to hear from them for her newspaper article and her book, but her behavior was quite creepy. I’m surprised that they didn’t issue a restraining order after the second or third time she showed up outside the woman’s front door.

The writing honestly reminded me of what you’d find in an essay by a bored, uninformed student who waited until the last minute to do an assignment. I have a hard time believing that this is something the writer was encouraged to get published, at least in its current form. I have no doubt that she has talent, but the fixations on pointless details within the work are distracting and annoying. I wish she had explained more about Rubio’s mental health than how a superstitious grandmother convinced her to throw away a perfectly good pair of tennis shoes. This wasn’t her memoir. This wasn’t even a memoir for the building. It was an unfocused work of nonfiction that was rather disappointing.

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Dear Amanda Lauren

Dear Amanda Lauren,

It still disgusts me that you were so cruel in your @xojanedotcom piece about someone you once considered your friend. Not just to her, but to her family, to her true friends, to people with schizoaffective disorder, to the mental health community in general, and to the people who have friends or family with mental health issues. To claim that you were doing it to boost awareness is frightening. You didn’t boost awareness of anyone or anything except yourself or your hunger for fame.

You clearly crave drama. Your other pieces seem to indicate this, as did, let’s not mince words, cyberstalking your former friend. You didn’t need to see what was being said about you. You chose to either because something in you felt more alive with this young woman as your adversary or you felt like her hate justified some level of hatred you have for yourself. The Internet allows people to give into self-destructive urges like that. You should work on that because it will not only be potentially harmful to your career, but it will push away people who make up your support system.

You should apologize to everyone harmed by your words, especially the family of your friend. I hope they didn’t read your piece, but if they did, then I can only imagine how that impacted them. Did you even think about them? Did you bother to ask permission to memorialize their loved one as a lost cause? Or were you too busy concentrating on the fame and drama this kind of story might get you?

Whatever your reason, it was the wrong thing to do. You should be ashamed not of sharing your name but of hurting people so viciously. You shouldn’t try advocating on behalf of people who have chronic illnesses who you see as being undeserving of life because they’re sick. Your words were not wanted and your advocacy is unneeded.

Apologize. Learn from your mistakes and don’t do this again. The attention you got was not worth it.

from Destigmatize Me http://ift.tt/20kIAvg
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Safe-Wording

I opened a FetLife account one night almost two years ago. I won’t link to it here or explain why I joined. I will say I quit using it not long after because of behavior, unrelated to kinks, by some users that I found alarming. Before tonight, I had only signed in to stop receiving regular emails from groups I had at one time thought might interest me. Since that time, I had not signed in, nor had I thought about signing in.1

Tonight, though, tonight I signed in and deactivated my account there.2

On my FetLife account, I do not recall ever linking to this or any other blog I have ever used. I was warned about maintaining anonymity by a user that I once knew from church.  34 I didn’t use images where I could be easily identified. I didn’t use any identifying nicknames. I used my first name once, but no more than that. I’ve also never linked to my FetLife account on any social media or on here. 

I’m stating this because I felt, I don’t even know how to describe it, when I got a notification of a private message. The subject line was “Hello Janet” and the body of the message was: 

Hi. You have a very interesting net presence. Your blog shows that you think deeply about a lot of things. Let me know if you’d like to chat some time and see if we can have a conversation that interests you. 

I’m guessing that whoever wrote this is probably reading this right now. That creeps me out. It has taken me a long time to feel truly comfortable talking about my life here or anywhere. And now it feels like that comfort, that ability to express myself freely has been taken from me. I don’t appreciate that. I shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable talking about myself on here. I shouldn’t have to worry about how a total stranger managed to track my blog down from the one time I slipped up and used my first name. I shouldn’t have to worry about what all that stranger might have been trying to find out about me. 

I guess I do have way to describe how I feel. 

I’m scared. 

I’m disgusted. 

I’m absolutely fucking pissed off. 

I understand that we as a society Google everyone and everything. I understand that privacy is something that barely exists in today’s world. But I also understand that this was something that should not have happened. This was too much for me.

I tried so hard to maintain anonymity because I felt that would keep me safe. This ripped away any safety I might have felt on there, on here. 

I’m out of FetLife. For now. Possibly for good. 

Photo credit: breathtakingly via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND


  1. I hadn’t wanted to sign in. I like who I’m currently involved with and feel happier with them than I ever thought possible. I don’t talk about this person or what we do on here because I want to maintain his privacy. 

  2. I had to reset the password to do so. 

  3. Who knew Mormons could be kinky? 

  4. He is part of why I quit the site. I found him on a dating app, but didn’t know who he was—he didn’t include a picture—but I thought his profile sounded interesting. He knew the whole time who I was. When he finally told me, I pulled away. I didn’t particularly like him before the encounter. I liked him less after, especially considering I met him while I was doing my prospective member lessons before I was baptized. That lesson was done at the apartment he shared with his then-wife and his son. We had a history that I didn’t want to relive.  After I made it clear that I didn’t have an interest in engaging in anything with him, he started popping up on other websites I used saying how surprised he was to run into me on them. He accused me, in jest, of stalking him. 

Review: Because of Low

Because of Low
Because of Low by Abbi Glines
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As I mentioned in my review for Breathe, I broke my boycott of books by Abbi Glines. I had been hoping that my disdain for the books I’d read was misplaced. And with Breathe, I figured out that it wasn’t. Considering how negatively I felt towards Marcus Hardy in that book, it doesn’t surprise me that in Because of Low, I also found him to be a loathesome, misogynistic miscreant. (Say that three times fast.)

This book is so much more degrading toward women than most books by this author. That’s really saying something because it is a common feature of her books to have women portrayed as objects and toys for the male characters to manipulate, abuse, etc. So when I say that this book is absolute misogynist trash, believe it. Marcus is having family issues because his daddy decided to cheat on his mom. While he hates his father’s decision and often complains about it in his own inner monologues, his vitriol is unleashed on the other woman. The nicest things he calls her is: gold-digger, that slut, and his little girlfriend. He repeatedly calls her a whore. He even calls her a “paid-for” toy. He often suggests that his dad is being used for his money and that that indicates how he’s a sucker. He thinks one time that he might kill his father, but then he suggests that he might have an even more elaborate plan for his father’s girlfriend. That part honestly had me a bit freaked out because it took the sexism into a whole new level of awful.

Marcus has an obsession with stalking and sexually accosting innocent girls. That too carries over to this book. But this time, the innocent girl is interested. He wonders things like if Low knows that her BFF “had bagged” a certain number of women that week. Bagging or being bagged is grotesque. It not only objectifies women, it makes sex sound like something that is done to one party by another, when it’s not. Even in power-play sexual relationships, sex doesn’t work that way. When sex is something done to a party by another party, it’s called by another word: rape. So, we either need to call the sex between Cage and various women sex or we need to call it rape. If it’s consensual, then we should go with sex. If it isn’t, someone should be calling the fictional police department of the fictional town of Sea Breeze to report this sexual predator.

Marcus talks about how he has a righteous fury toward Cage over any possible sexual relationship between Cage and Low. He envies him touching her. Marcus fails to understand that Low is a grown-up. She gets to do what she wants with her body. He gets angry because Low wears cowboy boots when she goes out. They’re so hot on her that he can’t handle the thought of any guy being attracted to her while she wears them. He needs to stop this crap. He talks about going caveman, which is trashy book talk for basically wanting to take a woman back to his apartment/house/mansion and coerce or force a sexual act out of a woman because she’s either pissed him off or because he is feeling insecure. It’s really a degrading phrase for all of humanity.

The author uses the term “female” or its plural “females” in many of her books to refer to women. This is sexist and transphobic language. It’s sexist because it breaks women down to their reproductive organs–female is the term for biological sex. It’s transphobic because not all women are born female and not all people born female are women.

As usual with her books, there are also slams at single parents. Tawny is portrayed as so uncaring that she leaves her daughter’s care arrangements (baby-sitters being lined up) to her sister. She is portrayed as being a cruel individual because she kicks her sister out any time that her daughter’s father happens to be around, so she leaves her sister homeless. There are also references to Low’s mom dying of cancer, which is something that is not uncommon in her books. And Low’s dad is a deadbeat & Marcus’s almost turns into one; these are other things that come up quite often in her books.

There are slams of people who have had plastic surgery–a lot containing talk about breasts being fake and how that makes women ugly or trashier. Low even does this with Trisha. She sees her as a sex object first and can only picture her being good at sex work. This sort of judgment doesn’t work both ways, as she respects her and takes up for her when the guys suggest Low might not be very smart. And if a woman is into casual sex? Oh, honey, don’t even go there. That must mean that she’s an airheaded slut because that’s how they all behave in these books. But the guys who like casual relationships aren’t portrayed as stupid. Lead male characters who have history of casual relationships are suggested to be lacking morally, but that doesn’t keep them from ending up with a girl who has only had and will only ever have sex with them. Yep, the douchebags always get the virgins. I feel like this plot was stolen from an MRA website.

The male characters in the books need to learn to stop ignoring when women say that they aren’t interested. In this book, it was Cage who didn’t get it. But both Marcus and Cage spent some time talking about Low as though she was some prize in a contest, not a person. Cage also had a tendency toward trying to tear Low down. It was presented as a best friend being compassionate and caring, but it was a type of bullying. He tried to ruin any confidence that Low had about her relationship. If he was trying to convince her to leave Marcus because he’s a jerk, I could have gotten behind that, but he suggested that Marcus would leave because Low was too poor for him. Great. Really great friendship you have there.

And, for the love of all that’s good in the world, can we stop talking about suicide and mental illness like it’s a character flaw? It isn’t. These are actual health conditions and do not deserve this kind of crap.

Basically, there is a lot about this story that squicks me out. And that’s not even the more technical facets. The grammar is atrocious. The editing is awful. There’s a lack of development of the story. It feels like Glines writes pretty much the same story over and over. That might be popular with some, but it’s boring for others. I think she might be a decent writer if she would stop doing that and start writing books that she puts a full effort behind.

I am going to try to finish this series, even though I’m pretty sure that no book in it will ever get above a 2-star rating. People who enjoy Glines’ books will probably love this one. People who don’t won’t. It’s really that simple.

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Review: Breathe

Breathe
Breathe by Abbi Glines

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, I decided that I was never going to read another book by Abbi Glines again after reading books in the Rosemary Beach series. They were books that degraded women and promoted sexist ideas, stigmatized mental illness, and suggested adoption meant that your adoptive parents weren’t your parents. Her books also tended to lack things like plot and proper grammar. Well, I changed my mind when I found the Sea Breeze books in my local public library’s catalog. I figured that if I didn’t have to buy the book that I wouldn’t feel quite as disappointed if it sucked.

I was right.

Of course, I went in with the expectation that the book would be pretty bad, so I shouldn’t have been disappointed at all. But there were still some slight feelings of disappointment. I think they were mainly due to the fact that I felt that a book like this one should not have been published in the first place.

As you have probably figured out by now, I was not a fan of the book. As with other books by Glines, there were serious issues with her writing style. The dialogue never flowed right. Conversations were wooden; they felt forced. There was only one continuity issue that I found, which is better than some authors do. There were some grammar issues, of course. I was a bit taken aback by the capitalization issues with directions. It seemed like no one had been taught that regions get capitalized. I even wondered if maybe I wasn’t remembering my English classes properly. I wasn’t. It was just that the writer and/or the editor failed to recognize it.

There was a lot of repetition going on. One example is the introduction of Dewayne. Over the course of two pages, his name was mentioned six times, including one time where it was misspelled. You would think with that many mentions of him that he was an important character. He wasn’t. I’m not even sure if he showed up at any other point in the book, but I digress. Another example of repetition, in the first twenty pages of the book, Sadie, the seventeen-year old lead female character, complained about the cost of the condoms she bought for her mother. She would go on to complain about that through the book, as well as her mom’s sex life.

Speaking of things Sadie did that were annoying, she was extremely whiny and judgmental. She viewed herself as being superior to her mom because she had never been interested in dating. She was a “good girl” and her mom was treated like some sort of evil, unintelligent, lazy, slutty monster. It was clear fairly early in the book that her mom needed some therapeutic help, but Sadie just wrote her off as being spoiled and selfish.

There was a dependence upon tropes and stereotypes. Marcus, who is four years older than Sadie, was described as a “nice guy” and he behaved in a way consistent being a Nice Guy™. He befriended Sadie when she first started working with him. He was her first friend and she didn’t feel attracted to him, but he was extremely attracted to her–or attracted to what she represented. He would tell her how she wasn’t like other girls, which Jax also told her. (Writers, can you stop using that line in books? No one is 100% like any other person.) As Sadie expressed her body image issues, Marcus told her that he hoped that she stayed “this way. Sweet and innocent.” He basically was telling her that her self-esteem issues made he attractive.

No. No. No.

Marcus also had a tendency to follow her around and always seemed to show up whenever she was crying about something–this was particularly disturbing because the crying typically happened after he shared some gossip about Jax. (He even had his sister stalk her for him.) He was actively working to end her relationship with Jax, which he knew hurt her, so that he could be with her. This is not acceptable. This is not what a nice person does, but it is what a Nice Guy™ would do.

And his badness didn’t end there. Sadie told Marcus that she wasn’t interested in him as anything other than a friend. She told him that she wass in love with Jax. She actually rejected him a few times. And what did he do? He waits until Jax is out of town and Sadie is alone and he kisses her. This was after yet another time where she told him that she wasn’t interested. This is a type of assault. If she hadn’t run away, I wonder if he would have tried to rape her.

You might think that with all this Marcus talk that he was one of the leads. Nope. He was a secondary character. Jax was one of the leads, but Jax was a poorly developed character. As a teen pop star, he had a life that he led in front of the cameras and a different life he led in private. It doesn’t get much more descriptive than that. There was talk of the “old him”, but it was mainly just little mentions of how he had changed at some point in his career. One of the frustrations that I felt towards his character was after the Marcus kiss attack, he flew all the way across the country to rescue Sadie. That felt like he was underestimating Sadie’s ability to take care of herself. In the whole time that they were together, the brooding pop star began making her more and more dependent upon him.

And here’s where I get to another thing that really bugged me about this book. This book felt like Glines took different parts of all four Twilight books and mixed them up, then wrote a story. The love triangle between Marcus, Sadie, and Jax was so similar to Jacob, Bella, and Edward. The annoying behaviors, beliefs, and actions of each character, as well as the levels of character development for each were consistent with those three Twilight characters. I know that the Twilight books are not considered to be particularly high quality writing, but they were so much better than this book’s regurgitation of them.

There were, of course, other little things that made me want to scream. The speech patterns of the various servants who worked at the mansion seemed to be modeled after the slaves from Gone with the Wind. There were regular comments about most girls being materialistic and slutty. There was this association of sexual behavior of women being linked to a lack of self-control, self-esteem, and morals. Sexual women were either super-dumb or super-devious; they were deserving of whatever plight might befall them. Every time Sadie had any sort of sexual experience, something bad happened. Sexist men were treated like they were the perfect specimen of masculinity. It was all very disturbing and infuriating.

If you like past works by Glines, then it’s possible that you will like this one. If you don’t, then you probably won’t.

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The Time I Asked For a Favor

I don’t normally ask for people to do this, but if you have a Twitter account, can you please report the user wnkpag3.

I’m literally receiving these homophobic comments and death threats because of my included tweet. The tweet I made was in response to the GoFundMe page set up for the owners of Memories Pizza after they publicly supported RFRA.

This user might not mean what they are saying, including other tweets where they are saying they have a planned date1 to attack LGBTQ individuals, but these are still threats. They’re still illegal. So, please, please, please, report this individual.

via Tumblr

I was told by one of my friends on Twitter that the account is showing up as suspended for him. It’s not showing up that way for me yet, so it may still need more reports before Twitter takes the threats seriously. Whether they’re taking them that way or not, I think they’re serious. I’m actually worried and it has taken a lot lately to rattle me online. I’ve also reported the person to IC3.

Larger versions of the images shared on Tumblr are below the cut.

Continue reading The Time I Asked For a Favor


  1. June 1, 2015 

Oh, lamb chop

There are some really messed up people in this world. Apparently, a few of them are writers. Months after the Kathleen Hale stalked a negative reviewer and Richard Brittain stalked and assaulted a negative reviewer, Andrea Smith and Eva LeNoir have decided to take on the ignoble task of publicly shaming a negative reviewer. This time, it’s being done in literary form. Their book Black Balled has the following description currently:

Two dominant males, two worthy adversaries, in a business that takes no prisoners, will soon learn that fate refuses to be ignored . . .

Black Balled is a story of two people, destined to hate one another for very different reasons–but will something happen to change all of that? A harsh reviewer with deep secrets and fears; a cocky Indie author that takes the bait and ultimately ends up breaking the Cardinal Rule, but what price will he end up paying for that?

Situations are not always what they seem; one of them is in deep denial,and the other is hell-bent on finding something–anything to distract him from his insecurities and the pain he is feeling because of personal tragedy and loss… toss a vindictive ex in the mix, and what you have is explosive and quite . . . epic.

Can they both survive one other?

Get ready for a magical carpet ride with this one!

That might not sound bad,1 unless you take into account the original description or what she said when she changed it.

original description

Babu is one letter off of the name of reviewer Baba, who left a negative (2-star) review on Diamond Girl, a book by Smith. As critical as the review was, it ended with “Give it a try and maybe you’ll love it.” That’s nicer than a lot of people are2 when it comes to critical reviews. So, writing a book as a response? Holy fuckballs! That’s nuts.

But Smith says it isn’t about Baba and that Baba is full of herself. No, really, she did. Smith also seems “surprised” that there was drama over the book and seems to be in total denial that she is to blame for it. She also seems to be in denial that the “buzz”3 is pretty much all negative.

no really

drama of your own making

what the buzz

This also isn’t the first time that Smith has behaved childishly45 when critiqued. This is pretty indicative that she has a problem. If you can’t handle reviews that are 1 or 2 stars, then maybe you shouldn’t publish your work. At the very least, you shouldn’t read the reviews. And if you’re reacting this poorly to the reviews, then get help that you definitely need. This should not be the way any person reacts to this sort of situation.

I’ve received criticism in the past on various things and reacted negatively from it. I’ve also worked on not letting it get to me. Maybe the writers who end up obsessing over, stalking, shaming, and assaulting their critics should do the same. If they don’t want to try therapy, then maybe they can listen to music or meditate or paint or do something. But this sort of behavior is just messed up. It seriously reminds me of the wise words of Mary Cooper on The Big Bang Theory:

Oh, lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it’s creepy.

Except that it’s not just creepy. It is absolutely 100% fucked up. Reviewers shouldn’t have to worry about their personal safety because some writers can’t handle a negative review. And it’s becoming increasingly more obvious that that’s something reviewers are going to have to consider. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of act or the acts of other authors leads some people who write reviews to back away from doing so in the future. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it makes reading in general less enjoyable for some. And that not only hurts Smith and LeNoir, it hurts the whole industry, reviewers, and people who just read as a hobby.

I don’t think there is any way that Smith and LeNoir could repair the damage to their careers that they have done with this book, but it would be nice if they would admit that their behavior is reprehensible. It would be nice if they would actually step up, put their grown up panties on, and apologize.


  1. Although it still sounds pretty fucked up like this. 

  2. including me 

  3. Is it really “buzz” if people are really talking about the book exhibiting a writer’s predatory behavior? 

  4. Comments to reviewers on Amazon

  5. More comments to reviewers on Amazon.com