From Migraines to Crazies: My Experiences with Research into the BDSM Lifestyle

The really great thing about writing fiction is that the creating author can make up a huge chunk of their storyline and the perimeters of what goes on within that storyline and not have to worry about whether or not such a thing does exist or could exist in real life.  Sometimes, however, even in fiction, a little (or even a lot of) research is necessary to make a really good idea plausible in the minds’ of your readers.

This article is not about how to conduct research or why authors need to conduct research. Any author worth a grain of salt already knows that research is a vital part of writing, even for fictional pieces. There are also as many different ways to go about collecting information as there are authors.  What works for one will not always be the way that another author chooses to tackle the all-important step of researching their subject matter for a novel. 

Today I’d like to share with all my fellow writers a little cautionary tale that I experienced while conducting my own research.  Several years ago I began working on a group of short stories involving the BDMS lifestyle.  At the time I was working on a story called “Chained.”  While I had written several short stories for the novel Temptation which included a large amount of BDSM elements, I wanted to write at least one story that portrayed, as accurately as possible, the real emotional bond between a Master and slave. 

I had come across numerous blogs and articles that talked about how “unrealistic” the BDSM lifestyle was portrayed in so many fictional works.  What I have since learned is that there is not any real “hard and fast” rule when it comes to the lifestyle.  Yes, there are countless advice columns, blogs, and many, many people who are willing to give anyone who cares to listen their own personal opinion of how the lifestyle should be.  However, it is all just that: personal opinions.  For every Master and slave that exists, you will find dozens who agree with their way of thinking and dozens who think they have it all wrong.  At the time, however, I wanted something more tangible regarding the lifestyle than just my overactive imagination.

I spent a few weeks reading articles and blogs, but aside from all of them having radically different opinions, they also did not address the key element that I was looking to explore in my story.  At the time I had a Yahoo! 360 page where I was posting some of my erotic fantasy stories.  I had been chatting with a female friend from my page who was supposedly a slave “in real life” as we like to say.  Her “Master” (and I use this term very loosely after speaking with this gi-normous asswipe) agreed to chat with me regarding the lifestyle and the all-important bond and trust factor between a master and a slave.

I must give pause long enough to give my own personal opinion and hard-learned lesson from this little jaunt into the unknown world of BDSM.  If you know absolutely nothing about this lifestyle, whether you plan to just research it for whatever reason or if you are actually wanting to enter it, be you male or female, if you want to protect yourself from harassment, then you must be sure to answer these two questions as follows:  If you are bottom, even if you really -do- wish to eventually find yourself a dom, then when you are asked if you already have a master then the answer is always going to be “yes” until you have done enough research about the lifestyle and the person you are getting involved with to protect your own ass should something go wrong.  And if you are a dom looking for a sub, then when asked if you are looking for a slave then the answer is always going to be “no” until you have done enough research about the lifestyle and the person you are getting involved with to protect your own ass should something go wrong.

For a bottom, if you do not fully understand what you are getting into, then you will end up like the poor woman whom I spent all those months chatting with.  For a top, if you do not fully understand what you are doing then you could end up hurting someone both physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  For those who actively “live” the lifestyle “in real life” (as in, it is NOT role play for them but the way they live their lives 24/7), BDSM is not some game that they turn on and off at their own whim.  It is very much a real part of themselves and their lives.  Of course, you will always have varying degrees of the lifestyle as it depends upon the individual.  What is most important to remember is that, for all intents and purposes, the “lifestyle” is just that, a way of life and not a game.

Here is another reason why, if asked if you already have a master, the answer is always “yes.”  It’s because a huge chunk of masters (not all, mind you) sees an uncollared (i.e. unclaimed) slave as an invitation to take what he wants.  And some of them have problems understanding the word “no” when it is used in this context:  “No, I do not want to be your slave.”  Unfortunately, the “master” I got tangled up in while doing my research not only did not understand the meaning of this phrase, he also saw my “status” as a collared slave as a challenge to try to steal me away from my “master.”

So here is the story.  The woman I had been chatting with through my Yahoo! 360 page, we shall call her “Jane,” asked her “master” if he would be willing to speak to me openly about their relationship.  I was quite happy to learn that he was willing to allow me to interview him with questions regarding my research into the emotional bond between master and slave.

We began chatting through the PM function of the Yahoo! 360 page and then progressed to Yahoo! IM.  One of the very first things he asked me was if I had a master.  While I love reading and writing about the lifestyle, I do not live it, but I already knew that the answer to this question should be “yes” if I did not want to be hounded by any master trying to convince me to become his slave.  So, of course my answer to his question was, “Yes, I already have a master and no, I do not want to switch masters, thank you kindly just the same.”  I was always very formal and polite, but I made it very clear in the beginning that I was not looking for a master and was only interested in doing research for my story.  I had given him my own set of “rules” so to speak, in so much that he was not my master and I would not call him “Master” or “Sir” (outside of common courtesy) and that the only sexual undertones that would come into our conversations would be expressed in regards to his experiences as a master.  I was not looking for any type of “relationship” and was not looking to “cyber” with him or anyone else.  I was merely doing research.

Well, as soon as he learned that I was already “collared” he asked me who my master was.  I immediately replied, “My husband.” 

My answer made perfect sense to both myself and my husband.  I am, after all, a married woman.  I was not looking for any type of relationship, not looking for some “fun” on the side or anything of the type.  He already knew that I was married, so to me, stating that I had a “master” that was someone other than my husband would give the false impression that I not only had sexual relations with other men outside of my marriage, which is not and has never been true, but also gave the impression that I was open to the idea of having a sexual relationship with someone other than my husband, which was also untrue.  Stating that my “master” was my husband was the only logical answer, and it is the answer that I still give to this day whenever I talk to anyone regarding the BDSM lifestyle.

This man’s instant reaction to my statement was to inform me that husbands weren’t real masters and should not ever be the master of their own wife.  He laughed at the notion, scoffed at my “relationship” and took every opportunity to belittle me as a woman.  I remained as polite as possible at this time, constantly steering him back to the questions that I had mapped out for my research for the story.

What I later learned was that this guy was a truck driver who made a habit of sweet-talking lonely housewives into becoming his “slaves.”  He then criss-crossed the country, using these poor women as his own personal sex slaves.  He made no attempts to hide the fact that he “owned” multiple “slaves” but yet he somehow managed to brainwash these women into not only being okay with him sleeping around, but also that each and every one of them were special to him in some way. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I realize that such arrangements of a master having more than one slave at a time do actually exist and the women/men are quite happy with the way things are run.  The reason why these two individuals’ situation sent up red flags for me was the simple fact that this woman was married, with children, and doing all of this behind her husband’s back.  I could see the potential for their “arrangement” to go very wrong.  The woman herself did not seem capable of any real thought on her own, merely regurgitating the same lame-ass shit that her “master” kept saying.  One thing that I had learned through my research is that, while a slave gives herself mind, body and soul to her master, they are not stupid by any means, and certainly not incapable of individual thought.  The whole situation with these two left a bad taste in my mouth.

The next few weeks were spent with him and the lady I had met him through trying to convince me to become another one of his slaves.  The more I resisted the harder he pushed, until his “polite” façade disappeared completely.  He used “Jane’s” 360 page as his own personal rant space, calling me every insulting name he could think of, writing blog posts that stated I was a stupid whore, talentless, that my husband was not really a man, etc.  It was not until I posted several of our Yahoo! IMs to my own 360 page and let all of his “supporters” see how he was speaking to me that finally got him to shut up and leave me alone. The BDSM community in general ousted him because he had violated the all-important rule that another master’s slave is off-limits and to disrespect the slave is to disrespect the master.  The entire back-and-forth mud slinging matches were very disturbing and had me wishing I had never decided to write the story.  In reality, it ruined an experience for me that should have been informational, open, and honest.  It had me thinking twice about the entire BDSM community, which is a tragedy unto itself, because I really do find the BDSM lifestyle, community, and its members incredibly facinating.

Getting back to my tale, I had told “Jane” that soon her “master” would get tired of her and replace her with someone else.  He did not respect her as a woman, a person, nor as a slave, something that most tops actually have for their bottoms.   A few months after I finally got her crazy “master” to stop harassing me, Jane sent me a heart-wrenching IM telling me that I had been right about everything.  Her “master” had dumped her, giving her the excuse that he could not keep up with so many slaves and so she had to go.  To add insult to injury, her husband had not only discovered what she had been doing, but he also used all the posts and PMs from her 360 page to convince a judge that she was a danger to her children’s welfare.  Her husband divorced her and got sole custody of their two children. 

What I learned from all of this is that much like investigative journalism, sometimes authors who decide to do “real life” research with people instead of hardcopy sources can also put themselves in danger.  While I was not in any real physical danger from this person, I was still cyber-stalked and harassed, receiving unwanted IMs and PMs from a psychologically disturbed individual.  I scratched the story I was working on, thinking I was better off just using my imagination for inspiration on this one.

As an author, I learned a valuable lesson.  I now know that doing research before doing research can often help you keep a cool head when faced with something unexpected.  Unfortunately, my experiences with this person dampened my desire for trying to learn about a lifestyle that I still find very interesting.  I do plan to one day finish not only that story, but the rest of the series.  This time, however, if I choose to find a “real life” master to interview, I will make certain that I get to know him as a person first and a master second.

Creating a Cover – Part I – The Killer Title

Momma Said ‘Knock You Out!’ – Creating a Cover Part I – The Killer Title

When it comes to books, unlike the well-known clichéd saying, they really are judged by their cover.  If you want a cover that shouts “Pick me! Pick me!” then you are going to have to be extremely creative with not only the cover design itself, but the title of the book as well.

Part One of “Creating a Cover” deals with coming up with a fantastic book title.  Often times this step can be as hard as writing the novel itself.  There are several things that writers need to keep in mind when it comes to creating that perfect book title.

1.  Perhaps one of the most important parts of picking out a title is to make sure the title you have chosen has not been Trademarked or otherwise forbidden by law.  According to Lloyd Jassin, “Trademark and unfair competition law protects against confusingly similar usage of source identifying words and designs (including book jacket design) by another. If you wish to publish a book, or launch a series of books, you run the risk that someone may have already obtained rights to a confusingly similar title.”1  In other words, while you cannot copyright a title of a book, Trademark law will prohibit an author from using a previously trademarked phrase or word if people seeing your title will be confused about the sponsorship or source of the book.  It is very important, as an author, to search out your chosen book title to make certain it will not infringe upon any type of held Trademark. (props to Michael C. Laney for reminding me of this crucial step)

Jassin states, “In any trademark infringement case, the key issues are “Who used it first?” and “Was it used on confusingly similar goods or services?”…  Merely descriptive marks are not entitled to exclusive protection without establishing secondary meaning. By secondary meaning, I mean well-known marks that call to mind a particular publisher, producer or manufacturer… Generally, titles of works that are part of an ongoing series are protected under trademark and unfair competition law….Unlike series titles, titles of a single work, whether a book, periodical, song, movie, or television program, normally, will not be protected under either trademark or unfair competition law. This is one of the quirks of trademark law. To quote the USPTO, “Regardless of the actual relation of the title to the book,” courts treat all single title works as “inherently descriptive” at best and “inherently generic” at worst – unless the single title has had “wide promotion and great success.”1

This is to say that a single book that is not part of a series, under normal circumstances, would not infringe upon any type of Trademark or fair competition law.  There will always be exceptions.  As an author, it is always better to be safe than sorry as having to recall a novel after its publication can be costly if done through mainstream channels or if self-published.  Likewise, it can cause a lot of professional embarrassment.  Series titles, however, are normally protected under fair competition laws and Trademark laws.  If you plan to market a series of novels, it is a very good idea to file an “intent to use” or Trademark the series title to ensure that no other author uses the same title for a series of novels.

If you have the resources, it is always best to have a professional do a search on the title you intend to use to make certain that you are not infringing upon any known Trademark.  An extensive internet search, however, can do in a pinch.  If you think you have a particularly clever title or one that possibly has long-term marketability, then you may want to invest in filing for a Trademark to ensure that you not only have full usage rights to that title, but also to ensure that no one tries to take that title and use it to divert sales away from your own novels or other publications.  Trademark not only protects your title, but it also protects the goodwill that has become attached to the title.  Having a filed Trademark keeps other from trying to cash in on that goodwill and not only making profits from the goodwill, but by possibly ruining the goodwill that people have come to associate with a particular author or title.

You can do your own search for Trademarks by going to The United States Patent & Trademark Website

2.  Title Length – Some novels will have long titles, others short.  Generally speaking, a short title is often better than a long one for the simple fact that people can remember a two or three word title better than a title that consists of seven or eight words.  Think of such modern-day classic titles as Stephanie Meyer’s series Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.  The titles are short and relatively easy to remember.  Other modern classics such as Ulysses by James Joyce, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Dune by Frank Herbert all have short, easy to remember titles.  Other titles such as To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien are longer, but they are catchy and descriptive.

3.  Description – Titles need to be descriptive so that they are easier to remember, such as the examples in the last sentence.  A catchy, descriptive title is easier to remember than a title that either consists of non-descriptive words or does not describe or “hint at” the storyline of the book.  Some titles are named after a key character of the book, such as Anne Rice’s Lestat and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Micah.  In the case of my own novel The Red Fang, the novel gets its title from a nightclub that is never actually mentioned in the book itself. 

If you plan to create a series of novels, you may choose to base the titles on a central theme, such as what happened with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.  Be careful to not choose titles that are so common place that a dozen different novels have been written with the same title.  You also do not want to choose a title that has absolutely nothing to do with the book.  In the case of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Cerulean Sins, the title had absolutely no connection with anything in the book that I, as a general reader, could understand.  Also be careful in using titles that are “inside jokes” or allude to something extremely vague in the storyline that most casual readers will not understand.  ‘Play on words’ can also make or break a title, depending upon whether or not the reader picks up on it. 

However, picking such titles that allude to vague instances in a storyline can work to your advantage.  For instance, the final novel in the BEFORE THE SUN RISES trilogy eludes to a very little known fact surrounding the name of the main character in the first novel, The Red Fang.  Most readers will not make the connection between the main character’s name and the title of the last novel.  However, I plan to use this tidbit of information to my advantage and include an afterword in the final novel that will help bring all three novels into focus and clear up some loose ends that may or may not be plaguing the minds of my readers.

Whatever your title of choice, the title is often the first impression your readers will have of the novel.  Like it or not, that title will either draw the reader in and make them want to find out more about the novel, or it can turn them off to the point that they pass by your novel without so much as giving it a second glance.  You will want to pick something catchy and memorable, something descriptive that will either hint at the storyline or at least give the reader pause to stop to contemplate on what the title could mean.  As a writer, your ultimate goal is to have your novels read.  That first introduction starts with the title.  If you can grab your readers’ attention with a good title, then you will have won the first battle in getting them to read the rest of the story.  Remember, when it comes to novels, you really do only have one chance to make a good first impression.

  1 “Trademark Law and Book Title” by Lloyd J. Jassin

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery – Or So I Am Told

As a mentor to budding writers, the most important thing that I wish for them to learn is to find their own unique writing style and run with it.  The last thing you want to do is end up sounding like a poor imitation of a great writer.  But what if you are the writer who is being imitated?  Would you be flattered?  Quite possibly.  Now what if the person who was imitating your style is the one getting all the rave reviews, the reads, and the huge following while you, the originator of the style, are left standing in the dust.  Would you be flattered, or angry?

I have not only seen this happen to many great writers, I am one of the greats that has had my style ripped off by people who do not even consider themselves ‘writers’ or take the craft very seriously.  I’ve had people imitate my style, slap together a piece of crap onto paper that took them less than an hour to write, and then see hundreds of readers fawn all over them, telling them that they are a great writer.  I’ve seen the same people who told me that my work was “too hard” to understand because of my complex writing style fall all over themselves to praise another “writer” on how their complex sentence structure really added to the flow of the story.  Qualities that readers hate about my work ( the complex sentence structure, informal writing style and feel of retelling a story rather than it being written on paper) are the same qualities that these same readers gush about to other ‘writers’ who have either never written anything before in their lives or who do not take the art of writing very seriously, or who just do it ‘for fun’ or ‘a hobby’ or, heaven forbid, those who did it ‘just to see if they could’ or, perhaps the worst excuse of them all, ‘just because.’  And, perhaps the situation that ruffles my feathers the most, is the long-winded novel/story/etc that has been written by a half-dozen different people who then decided to promote the piece under a single pseudonym, giving the very distinct impression that one person sat down and came up with the whole storyline and wrote, proofread, and edited the entire five billion word piece when, in fact, it took the combined efforts of a small army a few years to come up with the end product.

For some of these so-called writers, plunking down a short story during their lunch hour to post on a porn site to raise their popularity status is their way of feeling important.  Needless to say, if you are the one pouring your blood, sweat, tears, and heart into a piece only to have the writing style that you spent decades developing blatantly ripped off by someone else is a hard pill to swallow.  Having that person getting all the great reviews and fan base is adding insult to injury.  Add on the fact that someone who had the help of numerous people is getting wondrous reviews while pretending that the work in question was written by a single individual is like having someone spit in your face. 

Where does that leave writers who have had their writing style imitated?  With about 2 million writers in the United States alone, it is really hard to come up with a unique idea, much less a unique writing style.  So how can you even prove you are being imitated.  If you post stories on blogs, websites, or open forums and have any type of following then someone coming along and imitating your style to gain their own following is quite easy.  Having something in publication that reaches thousands or more makes it even more probable that you could become the next author to be “flattered” by an imitator. 

The cold, hard truth of the writing world is that no matter how good you are, writing is more of a popularity contest than anything.  You are guaranteed to have at least one person out there who will love your work and read everything they can get their hands on that is written by you.  You might even luck up and get a small following of fans.  For those whose writing inspires a nation, they may find themselves an overnight sensation, but that doesn’t mean that they are a good writer.  Many, many writers will tell anyone who will listen that Stephanie Meyer isn’t “all that” when it comes to being a good writer.  It actually boggles our mind on how such an elementary form of writing could have gained so much attention while really great artists such as Anne Rice have not received 1/3 of the recognition.  The difference is that Stephanie Meyer, for whatever reason, won a very picky popularity contest.

One thing that writers have learned is that fans are fickle.  While someone like Stephanie Meyer may be enjoying an overnight success such as it were, tomorrow the reading public could very well toss her out on her butt in favor of someone with less talent than even she possesses.   In the end, it won’t matter how great of a tale you can weave or that the latest craze sounds just like you.  Unless you can somehow figure out how to gain the upper-hand in the popularity gig, you may very well be doomed to sit in the shadows while a poor imitation of you shares the limelight with a dozen other imitators.

The only good news?  Those who imitate an author can never write as good as the originator of the style.  While they may enjoy a few moments in the sun, those of us who have been writing for years, with talent to spare, and enough ideas to keep writing for decades to come, we shall enjoy many more moments in the bright glow of success than any pale imitator.  While the imitators may write, at most, a few million words because they decided to ‘see if they could’ write that great novel, what happens once they have squeezed all the reads possible out of that piece of work?  Chances are, they are not going to write anything else simply because they never had the talent to compete with writers who have decades of experience on them.  Once their fifteen minutes of fame are up, they will be gone forever, fading into the background from which they came.  They are, after all, mere imitations, and while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it cannot replace an original.

Would You Rather Be Plagiarized or Not Known?

A post by a member of a story forum I frequent had me pondering this question:  Which would be worse to you as a writer, being plagiarized but having your work read all over the internet, or having it sit inside your computer never to be read by anyone?

Personally, I would rather have my work sit inside my computer and never see the light of day before I would ever want someone to post it and take credit for my hard work.  I don’t care how many people read it, what kind of rave reviews it got, or even if it meant passing up a great book deal, I would absolutely not want my work plagiarized.

The poster had said he would rather have his work read, even if it meant being plagiarized, because it would be known by so many people and would make it easier to become a bestseller of some sort.  And if, in the event it was made into a bestseller of some sort, it would be easy enough to find the original author.  I completely disagree with this.  There are no telling how many bestselling books have been written, how many blockbuster movies, and how many number one songs have been blatantly ripped off and the original author was never the wiser. 

Ponder this, if you would, for a moment.  Someone repeatedly posts your work all over the internet, taking credit for your hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and imagination.  It gets read by millions.  You don’t say anything.  Then one day you realize your story was made into a bestselling novel.  Unless you filed copyrights on your work, you are going to be hard put to prove that you actually wrote the original one, especially if you never bothered to confront the original plagiarizer.  And IF it did become a bestseller, who do you think the publisher is going to contact, the person claiming the work as their own, or the one who actually wrote it…the one who hasn’t bothered to say, “Hey!  I wrote that!  That’s mine!  You plagiarized!”  And if you wait until everyone knows the work in question, then the fans of the one claiming the work as his/her own is going to say that you are merely trying to hitch a free ride on someone else’s hard work.

Personally, in my honest opinion, anyone who would be okay with having their work plagiarized is not a true writer at heart.  It takes a LOT of hard work to create a literary work.  Some writers get so attached to their characters, like they have almost become real, tangible people.  The thought of anyone going through that much trouble, thought, and hard work and not be totally infuriated by the thought of having that work stolen makes absolutely no sense to me.  If you don’t care about what you have created, then what was the point?  Why did you bother to commit it to paper if you are just going to hand it over to thieves with a smile?  Writers may write to be read, but NOT if it means that someone else will get the credit.

So fellow writers, which would you prefer, and why?

Utterly Useless Writing Rules

When I was in high school and college, I absolutely hated having the English professors telling me that I had to write a certain way, had to follow certain rules.  After spending twenty-eight years writing, I have come to learn that the only rule that a writer has to be concerned with is keeping their readers’ attention…by any means necessary.  Needless to say, I have come across a few rules that I rarely use, even though some of them were the cornerstone of what I was taught for 16 years of English composition classes.  I have decided to share with my readers and budding authors the rules that I have found to be utterly useless when it comes to writing fiction and other types of written entertainment.  These are not all-inclusive, so there very well could be a follow-up blog regarding even more utterly useless writing rules.

1.  Write what you know:  Anyone who has ever written any type of fiction knows that this is one rule that should have never been written down when it comes to the creation of mythical lands, creatures, characters, the really bizarre, and the really hideous.  The whole point behind skill as a writer is to write in such a way as to make the reader think all this is possible, even though they know there is no such things as goblins and werewolves and zombies.  Readers should question the sanity of the writer, wonder how on earth they know so much about murder and crimes (it’s called imagination and research, in case you didn’t already know), but not actually think that the writer is a serial killer.  If one must write only what they know, then it would mean Stephen King had to become a mass murderer, a psychic, and a traveler of time and space to create the fruits of his imagination.  Likewise, Anne Rice not only met Lestat, but somehow managed to follow him around all the decades of his life.  Of course, this didn’t really happen, but the fact that they didn’t know any of this through firsthand knowledge but had the readers so convinced that these people and events really happened is just a testament to their talent with a pen.

2.  Never write in first person perspective:  I don’t know who came up with this rule, but it’s about as useless on some stories as udders on a bull.  Writing in third person is the better choice if you have a lot of characters and want to explore several points of view and emotions of those characters.  However, there are a lot of stories that sound better and are better told from the first person perspective.  For example, romance stories and erotica are almost exclusively written in the first person perspective because it helps to pull the reader in and put them directly into the thick of the story.  If the story is well written, the reader may even feel as if they have been put center-stage in the storyline and are experiencing everything for themselves.  It is a very personal and oftentimes emotional ride for the reader, something that is very hard to pull off when writing in third person.

3.  If it is possible to cut a word out, then cut it:  This goes back to not BSing your way through a story.  This rule holds true to 99% of writers.  However, sometimes BSing is a good thing, if, and only if, you are talented enough to keep your readers interested. Interest is the key phrase to this rule.  The only thing that matters is to keep your readers reading your every word.  If they are skipping through parts of it, then you are failing as a writer.  Cutting unnecessary words may be necessary at times, and at other times it can be a big no-no.  If it helps the flow of the story, or keeps readers interested, then keep it in the storyline.  If it is just fluff that has nothing to do with the storyline, is not intended to break up the monotony of a storyline, or is just not that interesting to read, then cut it from the work.

4.  Pick a writer you really admire and immolate his/her writing style:  I have no idea if professors still adhere to this rule from days gone by, but this is the first rule I tell authors to avoid.  You do not want to be known as the writer who writes like ‘insert-famous-author’s-name-here.’  Fans of that writer will run out to purchase your work, and, when they discover you do not write exactly like their favorite author, they will never read another piece of your writings.  To make matters worse, with the information age, they can have turned a huge chunk of possible readers against you before anyone even gives you chance, thanks to the power of internet, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and weblogs.  If you want to be known as a great author, then find your own writing style, your own voice, and be known for being perfectly you.

5.  Everything must be perfect and follow all the writing rules:  Good grammar, well structured sentences, proper spelling and punctuation is extremely important.  However, a writer shouldn’t be afraid to break a rule every now and again.  A fragmented sentence here and there isn’t going to hurt, so long as it appears in the proper place, like when a character is having an inner monologue.  Putting it in an improper place.  Like here.  Makes little sense.  But if I do this just right.  Like add it here – Wait.  What was I doing? Tina thought to herself.  Well, you get the idea.  Some rules can be broken, if done in such a way that it helps the flow of the storyline and does not hinder it.  Other rules, such as proper spelling, subject/verb agreement, and double negatives should be, for the most part, followed to the letter.

 At the end of the day, the -ONLY- thing that matters, the only goal of a writer, is to be read.  You must keep your readers’ attention regardless, so writing rules be damned.  If that means writing fluffy and flowing words or cutting it down to a little bit of nothing or even taking a hundred mile trip around the point to get to that point, then that’s what you do.  Following any type of rule should only be done if it is helping the storyline and if it is going to keep the readers’ attention.  Because even if your work is only a single page long and written perfectly, if readers skip through any part of it, then you have failed as a writer.

8 Signs of Trolling


The signs of a devious little troll out to trash your work are all around you.  Sometimes they are so glaringly obvious that it’s hard to not see them.  Other times the slippery little devils will sneak a trolling comment in without you realizing it.  Whatever type of troll or trolling comment you may get, there are a few signs that will clue you in on whether or not you have been trolled.

1.  incoherent babble or text speak – If it took you longer to decipher what the commenter wrote than it did for you to write the work that the comment appears on, chances are it’s a troll. 

2.  attention whores –  These will be comment after comment after comment from someone who will use every troll trick in the book to illicit a response from the writer or even the fans of the author.

3.  “I know you are but what am I?” – Comments like “You suck!”  “That was stupid!”  “Don’t quit your day job.”  “I hope no one is stupid enough to buy your book.”  It’s a subspecies of attention whore trolls who like to tell the author in no certain terms that the work in question was not any good.  Often times retorting with, “Okay, smart guy, since you are such a better writer than me, let’s see you post/print/publish your work for me to trash talk.  See how you like it.”  Usually the troll in question will start craw fishing like crazy in an attempt to not have to explain that they can’t write and were saying those things because they were actually jealous of all the attention your work is getting.

4.  LOOK AT ME!  LOOK AT ME! – Another subspecies of attention whore trolls seem to think that IF THEY WRITE EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS THAT IT MAKES THEM LOOK SMARTER AND THAT IT WILL GET THEIR POINT ACROSS.  THEY ALSO THINK THAT CONSTANT USE OF EXCLAMATION POINTS WILL MAKE THEM SEEM SMARTER AS WELL!!!!!!.  In reality, it really just makes the comments harder to read, usually having the opposite effect that the troll is looking for by causing readers and the writer alike to skip right over the comment (but we’ll keep that our little secret).  Basically it’s the equivalent of a 2-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.

5.  the hypocrite – These are some of my favorite trolls.  I write a lot of erotic fantasy, so the majority of my work gets posted on adult blogs, forums, and websites.  What I find absolutely hilarious is all the ‘morally correct’ people who will go on to these types of sites, break out their bibles and start thumping away in the form of comments meant to belittle the author.  Well I figure since they are already on their high horse, they can take the moral high ground and just not bother to go to sites that contain adult literature.  That way all the little pots won’t have to sit around debating their morality issues with all the little kettles.  Idiots.

6.  the moral high grounder – This is a spin-off of the hypocrite troll.  These are people who will sit and tell the writer, in great detail, exactly why their point of view is wrong and why the commenter is right.  These trolls especially like trolling articles, blogs, and other forms of opinionated writing.  They lay in wait for someone to say something that they do not agree with or do not like just to point out how “wrong” and “bad” the author is for having written such opinions.

7.  I would have written it this way – Okay, newsflash.  Writers do not mind people giving them an honest opinion on what they think would have made the story better, or how they felt about certain events taking place in the plotline, etc.  If it is honest criticism, then we don’t mind.  Don’t expect us to actually change what we have written, but we will keep it in mind for future novels.  But as soon as someone states, “I would have written it this way…” then our ears close up.  We do NOT care how YOU would have written it.  If you really think that you could have written it better, then you can feel free to go spend all the time and energy it took to develop the plotline, develop the characters and the world in which they exist, then write the story, hammer out the details, edit, proofread…There is a lot of work that goes into creating stories.  The funny thing is that of all the trolls who I have openly dared to go write that great idea of theirs since they seem to know so much more than me, not a single one has ever risen to the challenge.

8.  A-trolling I will go – Another sign of a troll is a person who goes around consistently down-rating multiple works by the same author.  Chances are this troll never actually read more than one story/novel/piece by the author in question.  Their reasons for voting down an author’s work usually boil down to some petty reason such as jealousy, boredom, or just because they get some type of sadistic kick out of having such control over an author’s work.  In a lot of cases, giving negative reviews or votes/ratings will cause the work in question to roll down to the bottom of the list of the website it is posted on, plummeting the readership from potential tens of thousands of reads to mere dozens.  Oftentimes trolls know this and enjoy the control they can exert over authors by bombing their work into obscurity.  Usually when confronted and asked why they chose to vote negatively on a story, the only answer they can give is “It sucked.”  This is not a valid reason.  Anyone who reads a story can tell you why they did not like it, be it because the characters were not convincing, the plotline made little sense, there were loose threads in the storyline, etc.  Saying something generic like “It sucked” usually means that the troll in question did not actually read the story and was just going around bombing works for the sheer hell of it or for whatever reason goes on in the tiny brains of mindless trolls. 

Likewise, having the same person vote on multiple stories of the same author is a sure sign of a troll.  After all, any normal person who reads one story by an author and does not like it will not continue to read story after story written by the same author in the hopes of finding something they enjoy, and the fact that they voted them all down or left bad reviews is just more evidence of their trolling ways.  And if the person in question votes negatively or gives bad reviews on multiple chapters of the SAME story, then they might as well stamp TROLL on their foreheads.  No one in their right minds will continue to read chapter after chapter of a storyline that they do not like or that they think “sucks.”  They certainly aren’t going to take the time out to vote negatively on it or give it a bad review.  But if you have someone who is doing this, then congratulations, you just spotted yourself a lovely troll.

These are not, of course, all the signs that you have a troll in your midst.  It’s safe to say that anyone who is not giving an honest opinion but is writing anything that has the sole purpose of infuriating the writer is trolling the work in question.  This does not mean that the person will always have nothing but rosy things to say about the work.  But here is how to spot the difference.

Troll Comment:  “You suck!  This was terrible!  You call yourself a writer?  Better not quit your day job.  I could write a better story in my sleep.  And what the hell is a wereanimal?!  Where’s you rip that piece of garbage from?  I thought that was a clothing line for children.  Are people seriously stupid enough to actually read this crap? (author’s note:  obviously they were since the troll read it!)  I hope no one is stupid enough to buy your book.  What a rip-off!”

The above comment is nothing more than mindless drivel stated by an attention grabbing reader who has nothing better to do with their time than to troll stories with the expressed intent to annoy the writer because he/she is jealous of the author’s writing ability.  Let’s compare it to a comment that actually has some merit.

Non-trolling Comment:  “Okay, this was really badly written and I’ll tell you why.  There were tons of misspelled words, incomplete sentences galore, and I had a really hard time following the storyline.  The dialogue was cheesy at best, and who came up with the names for these characters?  I think it could really be something great if the grammar and spelling was cleaned up a bit and the storyline more coherent.”

Did you spot the difference?  The second comment is certainly not pretty, but it has merit to it.  The commenter isn’t just saying negative things, but is giving reasons on why he/she thinks the way he/she does.  It may be still be criticism, but it’s constructive rather than deconstructive.

Now that you know more about how your trolls think and act, you will stand a better chance of brushing off the comments that have little merit to them.  Just remember, it’s much better if you will simply “not feed the trolls.”

Counting Pages: Does Size Matter?

A recent conversation with a writer friend of mine had me once again wondering how many pages were “too much” or “too little” to consider a written piece of literature a novel?  If asked, most authors will tell you that when it comes to writing a novel, it takes as many words and pages as it takes.  In other words, if it takes 100 pages or 1000 pages, there is no right or wrong.  One author may cut straight to the storyline, stay on track, and write a complete, complicated storyline in a few thousand words.  Other authors could take a similar storyline and take several hundred thousand words to tell the tale.

So, when it comes to size, word count, and page count, there is no “magic number” that automatically turns a short story into a novel.  It is what it is according to the author who wrote it.  However, there are still some general rules of thumb authors need to take into consideration when it comes to novel lengths and writing in general.

First off, there is such a thing as being too short.  Take, for instance, flash fiction.  When it comes to flash fiction, something that only has a few hundred words is -not- a short story and it certainly isn’t a novel.  Flash fiction is just that – a quick idea written in as few words as possible.  A story or novel has to be long enough to be engaging to the reader.  Getting straight to the point and staying on track is one thing;  writing so few words that it resembles a synopsis rather than a story does not a storyline make.

Likewise, you don’t want to drown your readers in an ocean of words.  The storyline has to be interesting and written in such a way that your readers will want to continue reading, but not so long-winded and boring that they want to turn the pages just to get to the ‘interesting’ parts.  I have often read articles by other authors who have stated that every word you write should have something to do with the storyline and help progress that storyline along.  I say that side-trips and BSing your way through a piece if fine – so long as those words are interesting to the readers and keep them riveted to the page.  But if you have written 1000 pages of storyline that has half of it being BS and filler, then your readers are going to be flipping through pages instead of reading them.

On the flipside of boring filler is writing something that has so much going on in the storyline that the reader cannot keep the characters, the events, and the half-a-dozen storylines straight.  Just like you can drown your readers in a sea of useless words that does nothing to help the storyline, you can drown them in a raging ocean of so many literary events that they simply become overwhelmed.  Some may try to plow their way through the storyline, and others may give up altogether and toss the book out with the used magazines.

Novel size is a thin line that moves depending upon the author who is writing.  The one thing that holds true to each author is that their number one job in writing is to keep their readers interested in their written words.  Create something too short, and they may become frustrated with so little information and not bother reading anything else.  Drown them in a sea of useless, boring words and they will skip their way through huge chunks of your work trying to get to the ‘interesting’ parts.  Overwhelm them in an ocean of dense storylines, characters, and events and they just may give up on reading the novel completely.  Size, in itself, does not matter.  What matters, as always, is the quality of the words written upon the page.

Meet the Author Chat Hour with Erotic Novelists Nicola C. Matthews and Michael C. Laney

I am so excited to announce that erotic novelist Michael C. Laney will be joining me to help host “Meet the Author” chat hour scheduled for Friday, March 18, 2011 @ 6 pm central time.

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael aka “Master Vyle” (of Literotica and Lushstories) on Lush Stories several months back.  His torrid tales of lust and love not only had me hot and bothered but coming back for more.  Our mutual love of the written erotic word and admiration of each other’s talent soon had us tweeting (follow Michael on Twitter @ Master_Vyle) and exchanging messages a few times a week.

Michael recently released his first erotic novel Heather’s Journey:  The Sound of Her MASTER’S VOICE available for Kindle through Amazon.  He has since released “Bunny Holes,” an Easter BDSM short story and “St. Patrick’s Day Scrumpin'” an erotic short story.  Details regarding these and more wonderfully erotic tales from Michael C. Laney can be discovered on his weblog.   I encourage anyone who loves a good erotic story to check out Michael’s work for themselves.  I do not think you will regret it.

Everyone is invited to login to the Chatter Box located on my personal website and spend an hour getting to know me and Michael better, our works, upcoming releases, etc.  This is our readers’ chance to get to know the authors behind the pen.

Hope to see everyone there!

Michael C. Laney speaks about the upcoming event: