Tuesday, March 28, 2017

April Sales!

Hey, guys! So we're going to be having a special promotion through the month of April: if you buy any of my books in April 2017, you'll also get a free copy of thin. Digital or physical, your choice.

This applies to hard copies, Nook books, Kindle editions. If you buy a copy of thin, you'll get a second copy free.

Shipping is also free.

So if you buy anything during April, send a copy of your receipt to jennynprater@gmail.com, along with whether you'd like digital or physical, and a shipping address if applicable.

Books you can purchase:

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble (1)
Barnes and Noble (2)

Barnes and Noble

And He Became a Handsome Prince
Barnes and Noble

Happy April!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

No, He's Not My Boyfriend

The first time I was assigned a romantic partner based on hair color, I was five. His name was Cody, and we were both blonde. Obviously, it was meant to be. I retaliated by declaring my intention to marry another boy, one with brown hair, and spent the next several years fiercely defending a crush based more on spite than attraction.

The second time I was assigned a romantic partner based on hair color, I was fifteen. His name was Devin, a church friend, and it wasn’t the first time I’d had to convince someone that was all he was. It took me a week to reassure a friend with a crush that she wasn’t getting between anything, and I nearly hated him, I think, by the time she believed I wasn’t in love.

The hair color incident, though, took place several months later, after his romance with my friend had flourished, then immediately crashed and burned, the way long distance relationships between high schoolers, based on a single meeting, tend to do. It was New Year’s Eve, and our church was holding an all-night event with two others. Devin and I were on nursery duty, with a dozen small children, loud and far too energetic at midnight, none of whom we’d met before.

The culprit was a little boy, four or five, very cute.

Not cute enough to pull a stunt like that.

Of course, when he realized that I was fifteen, and Devin still only fourteen, he came to his senses and saw that it would never work—apparently you have to be compatible in age as well as hair color. A narrow escape, but Devin, I nearly kissed you then and there—spite, again. I don’t like being told who I’m allowed to be with, even by preschoolers.

I don’t like to be told what to do in general (a source of great conflict between me and precocious young cousins), but about my love life, happily nonexistent, I get particularly testy.

I recently went with a male friend to Scandinavia, and I cannot count the number of times the following conversation occurred.

“So you’re here with your girlfriend?”


“Oh. Your sister, then.”


At this point the questioner stares at us with an expression of blank confusion, and I take a casual step behind Jamie. When men begin this interrogation, I always get the impression there’s one more question they’re dancing around: “Hey, dude, are we gonna have a problem if I bang this chick against a train station wall and have my way with her?”

It’s not that I’m scared of these men—I have a one inch blade in my pocket, and can use it to kill someone in three different ways. Not that I’ve ever tried. But they’re a nuisance, with all of their assumptions. I am travelling with Jamie, therefore I must in some way belong to him. It is not a problem I expected to encounter outside a work of historical fiction.

So, a note to all those who have ever suggested I am or ought to be dating my friends, whether you are other friends, small children, or creepy Norwegian men: No, he is not my boyfriend. I don’t care how old he is, and I do not care about the color of his hair. No, he is not my brother, or my boyfriend, and no, you cannot be my boyfriend instead.   

No, I do not have a boyfriend. No, I do not want one.

Maybe if I dyed my hair purple, there would be no one left to set me up with.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Adventures in Accidental Tourism

(I wrote this ages ago and I'm too lazy to adjust it to reflect that. Sorry.)

My favorite thing to do in London is get lost in it. I have been here for three days, and have managed to get lost on every one of them.

London is a big place, full of many big things, most of which I have not seen. Big Ben and the London Eye were noticed in passing. Buckingham Palace remains a mystery. Rumors about the historical nature of that large building down the street persist, but as I have passed it only alone in the dark, I cannot quite bring myself to care. It is a landmark that points toward home; that is enough for me.

I recently walked past a man dressed as a woman, complete with wigs in multiple locations. I entered four bookshops on my first day, and came across some excellent gelato. Having spent long hours squinting at street signs and praying to survive the crossing, I have come to the conclusion that both maps and traffic laws here are based more on hope than fact. I have passed six Southampton Rows now. One of them, I’m told, leads to my hotel.

Completely by accident, I have found the home of Charles Dickens. Also by accident, I have found myself at Parliament, the Tate Modern Art Museum, and five more bookstores. It is true that I have been provided with a map, but even if I was good with maps, I doubt I would use it. The lives of those who are not chronically lost must be very boring indeed.

There is a street called the Strand. It is also called about six other things, but the Strand was the most interesting and memorable of them. I’ve walked up and down it several times—straight lines are important for the easily lost, although I’ve still managed, somehow, to get turned around a few times.

The three months I’ve spent in Europe have been strange, stressful, and utterly overwhelming. There are a lot of things, I’m sure, that I could have learned in London. I could have paid some attention to Parliament. I could have actually entered the Tate. At the very least, I could have taken a photo of the plaque informing me that I was at Dickens’ house. But I didn’t. And in the four days I have left in London, I probably won’t.

I’ve learned a lot about the places I’ve seen—who lived there, who died there, what they wrote, who they worshipped, how they worshipped, who they loved. I have cried for dead men I never knew, I have walked on the graves of my ancestors, and I am tired. For three months I have known where I’m going. Today I don’t.

The sky is overcast, the light breaking through it soft and dull. The streets are dirty. People ignore me, which is a blessing. They don’t explain the history of the architecture I pass, they don’t rake their eyes slowly up and down my body, and they don’t whistle. I make up my own histories for each interesting building as I walk by, and I don’t ask for directions.

In a bookstore on a dirty, quiet corner, a woman from Topeka tells me about the weekend she just spent in the Lake District, and the week she spent in Minneapolis ten years ago. In another, three or six or twelve blocks down, depending on how many wrong turns it takes to get there, the cashier and I fangirl gleefully over the new book I’m buying, recently written by an amazing and underappreciated author.

There are a lot of ways to be lost, and I’ve experienced most of them. This endless tour of Europe has been constant structured chaos, and in the midst of it I’ve lost a lot of things, like peace, faith in humanity, and my sense of self. Sometimes when you get lost enough physically, you end up finding yourself emotionally, or spiritually, or however you lost yourself. That’s what I’m trying to do.

So I didn’t learn a lot in London. But I’ve had an even more valuable experience. Here is a city full of normal people living normal lives, surrounded by history but not yet a part of it. I don’t like to go looking for things; I only feel like a failure when they constantly elude me. Beauty is better when you stumble upon it by accident.

I’m sure there are a lot of great things for a tourist to do in London, but I can’t give you much information about any of them. For three months I’ve watched the lives of people who died a long, long time ago. This week I chose to close all the books, turn in all the audio guides, and sit on the outskirts of lives still being lived. I took a few wrong turns, I missed a few great sites, and I found some peace.

Not all who wander are lost. But I am, and that’s the way I like it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to Kiss with Tongue

It happens at the mall. I am bored, exhausted by a long, hard day of boredom, which so far has involved trips to every store I know how to drive to without GPS. At the mall I am accosted, as usual, by many men in booths who want to sell something. As usual, my inability to say no inevitably leads me to a poorly cushioned stool in a dimly lit hallway. The man—Kelly, for now—wishes to sell me a hair straightener. I own two hair straighteners already, one exactly like the one in his hand, except that it was accompanied, the night before my junior prom, by a much better sales spiel. Besides, I like my hair curly. 

Two days after the last time we speak, I will dye it all pink.

Kelly tells me many times how pretty I am. He tells me many more times how much prettier I am with straight hair. Having failed, at the end of a long and awkward hour, to take any of my money, he settles for taking my phone number instead.

It is, halfway through my twenty-second year of life, the third time I have been asked out. The first two times were by the same boy, agreed to due to the aforementioned inability to say no. Both were immediately followed by a full year with no communication at all, despite the fact that we saw each other on a weekly basis. I am not sure they count.

The third time I give him my number, take a selfie with the straightened hair, and proceed to the next stop on my road trip of boredom. I get lost.

Kelly calls me the next morning, with vague directions to an overpriced organic restaurant on the opposite side of the Cities. I get lost three times, but still manage to sit on the hood of my car in the parking lot, staring down at the faded pavement, for half an hour, before I am summoned to collect him from his house, presumably due to car problems.

Following three more rounds of lostness, we return to the overpriced organic restaurant together, ordering two different breakfast dishes, both of which we share.

I do not know how much food Kelly wants to eat, as well as being put off by the extreme organic-ness, and pick at it slowly. He talks of his desires to kayak, his sister who is a writer, and the prettiness of my still-straightened hair. He tells me that his real name is Alon, and makes insightful comments on the contrast between my confidence in my ideas and lack of confidence in my voice. I am confused when he tries to take my hand beneath the table, and fidget until he explains, smiling, charmed and patronizing. When he suggests a movie, I agree, composing a list in my head of everything in theaters, and contemplating which would be bearable with a guy I barely know. The one with the superheroes, maybe, though I’ve already seen it.

He directs me back to his house, and inability to say no prevailing, I sit quietly on the floor while he fetches sheets from the dryer and remakes the bed. We use my Netflix account to begin a rather stupid movie, and I react with a clinical indifference when he begins to kiss me. The sheets are black, still slightly damp, and the movie still runs in the background. He tastes like Middle Eastern food, even though he just finished a plate of organic whole wheat five grain gluten free sugar free pancakes. With syrup.

I allow the dampness of his mouth, slightly unpleasant, on my mouth and various other areas, noting that its placement on my neck produces a tingling sensation. When I do not react properly, he coaches me, slowly and gently, through the monumental task of opening my mouth when his tongue approaches, then pushing my own against it. This leads to more dampness, and the tingling is gone.

Having confirmed for the third time that I am not cold, he finally coaxes me into removing my jean jacket. I am concerned for a moment about the pocket knife I can no longer reach, stolen from my little brother, dropped in my deepest pocket at the insistence of my roommate. But I will not need it. When I become visibly uncomfortable he stops. We spend a confused few minutes actually watching the movie, until my parents call wondering where I am. I take the opportunity to escape. He does not call again.

Six weeks later I will see him at the mall again, his ponytail gone, smiling seductively at a girl who looks troublingly young, clutching a new hair straightener to her chest, blushing and giggling. He asks if I want to buy a hair straightener. Shaking my head, I walk around the corner. I wait until I’m out of sight to sit down on a bench, laughing hysterically.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Missing:One Fairy Tale, Mermaid Involved

So when I was little, I used to google "obscure fairy tales," then go through twenty pages of results, reading everything I could find. And I found some good stuff. The problem is, ten to fifteen years later, I'm having trouble finding it again.So I am here today to ask for your help.

There is one particular fairy tale that I've been trying hard to relocate for about three years now. Here's what I remember:

  • there was a princess trapped in a castle at the edge of the ocean
  • she had a mermaid friend
  • the mermaid really wanted the princess to hook up with her brother
  • mermen are really ugly
  • when the princess wasn't interested, the mermaid started flooding the palace
  • there was a prince around, too
  • he might have been enchanted to be a bird, possibly a blue one
  • the princess might have been a painter?
If you have seen this story, please contact me via the comments.

(Seriously guys, I'm desperate. This has haunted me for the better part of a decade.)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Robin the Wimp

I am here today to let you in on a secret. A big, important secret. You know Robin Hood? That guy with the bows and the arrows and the green tights? Well, he’s kind of a loser.

Let us begin with the story of Robin and Marian.

So you’re a teenage girl in the Middle Ages, and you don’t want to marry a creep. The solution is clear. Disguise yourself as a page and run away to find your outlaw bf. You’re in the woods, in disguise, on your way to Robin, when some dude accosts you in the woods and challenges you to a duel. Do you have time for this crap? No. You do not. But he’s insistent, so you beat him soundly and prepare to go on your way.

“Wait,” the man says. “I am Robin Hood in disguise, and I’d like you to join my band of outlaws.”

“Seriously, Robin?” You remove your hat. “You were just gonna  beat up some little boy in the woods. I look twelve in this outfit, Robin. What is wrong with you?”

Next up: Robin and Little John. So you’re trying to cross a narrow bridge, and some punk kid decides to block your path and start a fight. You beat him up, knock him into the water. He asks you to join his band of outlaws.

Robin and Friar Tuck. Some stupid, entitled brat tries to make you carry him across a pond so he won’t get wet. You beat him up. He asks you to join his band of outlaws.

I’m sure you’re seeing the pattern here. Robin picks stupid fights, Robin loses, Robin recruits the dudes who pummel him. Robin Hood gets beaten up by his best friend, his girlfriend, his best friend’s cousin, his own cousin, and his priest. Among others. He isn’t even the best archer in the band, guys! It’s some dude called Gilbert of the White Hand.

(Gilbert tangent: There’s a lot of speculation about this whole White Hand thing, and usually the conclusion is that he must have been a baker, with the flour on his hands and stuff. Like. What? Guys, Gilbert is obvs a chick. Who always has these pretty white hands in stories from this period? Girls. Duh.)

Robin must be a good leader, I guess, but that’s his main strength. I mean, come on. You become a Merry Man by beating him up. Those are literally the terms of admission. Beat up the boss. Dude’s kinda pathetic on the physical prowess crap.

(Okay. Childhood story tangent. When I was, like, two, I used to wander around the house telling stories out loud about the Disney princesses, Robin Hood Fox, and his enemies Hugs and Kisses, who were of course a T Rex and a Snow Monster. Now, I don’t recall a whole lotta details, but I do remember that Robin Hood Fox lived inside the toaster, and whenever he ran into Hugs and Kisses, he’d go back into the toaster and hide under his bed. Marian and the princesses had to go drag him out so he could fight them, and it was never pretty. Basically, this is me telling you that toddler me had weird psychic powers and sensed the inherent wimpiness of Robin Hood a decade and a half before I read the ballads that made it clear.)

I love Robin. I really, really do. In all his incarnations, but don’t even get me started on that cartoon fox, guys. I’ve been in love with Robin Hood since the first time I saw him. But let’s be real. He’s not the first guy you pick for your dodge ball team.