Monday, June 15, 2015

Query Question: I don't want you to think poorly of me

I am developing an idea for a book that is (shall we say) dark and that I believe may have a market. Listening to people talk, I have discovered that most people have very dark fantasies that I consider really appalling.

They don’t act out on them (usually) so you don’t see their faces on the evening news. But they are everywhere. 

They are on the subway before sunrise when you go to work in the dark. They are on the sidewalk as you strut nervously to your office. They drive the cabs you take because you are afraid to walk the streets of Manhattan. One of them may live in your apartment building, sharpening the kitchen knives and thinking of paying you a midnight visit, uninvited and very soon.

BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. It is fun to write for them (and maybe make an agent and publisher rich and earn me their deathless gratitude - I hope – whether I get any money out of it or not.)

But I don’t want anyone to think I am a lunatic just because I am writing about one and for multitudes of them. The question is, is it OK to query using a pseudonym. If an agent turns the idea down, I don’t want that to sour a future project titled LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE SAILS MERRILY ON THE GOOD SHIP LOLLYPOP or some such thing as that. I do NOT have a reputation to protect and don’t want one to live down.

Is it OK to query as a marked man?

Please do.
And not in the first person voice of your main character.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Haven't read yet. I just want to be first.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Woo Hoo, I did it.

Ashes said...

Is this an instance when the querying author wouldn't sign off as "Beatrice Buttonweezer (writing as Charlotte Mountbatten-Windsor)"?

Janet Reid said...

Ashes, yes. The Questioner wants to conceal his identity so he's just sign off as CM-W.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Years ago, and I mean years ago, I read a novel where the bad-guy, the really, really, weird and sicko bastard, tied a woman to a kitchen chair, duct taped her mouth shut, squeezed crazy glue up her nose, pinched her nostrils shut and walked out the door. I put the book down and never finished it.
I’d like to say I never read another book by that author but because it was so long ago, maybe I have, because for the life of me I can’t remember who it was.
I’d like to say that scene might forever prejudice my opinion regarding the author’s motivation. Women’s fiction, YA (or whatever), after that scene conjurers up some really serious inner issues. But I’m not sure.
I’d also like to say that I have never thought of writing about the sicko stuff that soars through my mind from time to time but I have. If I did, my editor and readers would flock elsewhere. I like my flock.
Do you really think Hallmark would want a happy birthday clown card drawn by John Wayne Gacy?

AJ Blythe said...

2Ns, you crack me up!

I guess this is the same situation as the Opie from the other day in that when it comes time to sign the contract you confess your real identity.

I guess agents don't care who you are so long as you write a good yarn.

Kitty said...

I'm with you, 2Ns. I stopped reading the Scandinavian writers because of the sick, twisted plots. I wonder about a person who chooses to devote the months (years?) and the emotional energy required to write those stories.

One of my grandsons asked me why I hated his violent video games. I said because his young mind was like a well of pure water and the videos were poison.

Tony Clavelli said...

Of course if this is the kind of story you want to write, you should go for it! But the motivations seem a little bit strange. From the blogpost, it doesn't sound like you like and respect the presumed imagined audience of millions who will make all these people rich. You don't have to like them, it probably helps when you do. Like what Cw/2Ns was saying--you'll still want your readers to want to give you the help they always have.

Perhaps I'm misinterpreting that part of the question. There are plenty of ways to write really dark and twisted things in ways that can actually earn empathy from readers you like instead folks that warrant ALL-CAPS separations from yourself. I'm reading Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes right now. It was really popular last year and is full of very dark acts committed by a character with whom you are supposed to empathize. It can work (I think the writing in Broken Monsters is really irritating, but that's beside the point).

Ly Kesse said...

For me, it depends on how the violence is presented and how the Perp is presented.

I hated "Lolita" because it was written in the first person. I hated seeing the world through Humbert Humbert's eyes, and accepting and nodding with his self-justifications and victim-blaming.

On the other hand, I avidly read true crime, trying to understand how a person can go so wrong. What makes that person tick?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm home this week so I'll be pestering the blog.

I'd like to add that because we live in such dark times, fiction can't even begin to parallel reality. Personally when I watch or read overtly violent acts against others, and especially children, I am sickened by not only the mindset that creates that kind of s**t but by the watchers and readers who consider it entertainment.

In '89 after the Lisa Steinberg abuse and murder case, a national women's glossy published a short story which paralleled Lisa's tragic demise. I was so incensed that a magazine I went to for advice and entertainment would publish a fictionalized account of something so horrific I wrote them. That story, reality/fiction haunts me to this day. The magazine, which had been publishing over a hundred years, no longer exists.

I'm certainly not a cute little birdies and roses kind of woman, and I know all genre and subjects have their place but I do question violent mind-sets. After years of watching society sink pretty low I'd rather float on the surface on my own little happy-land-island. Oh my, is it named Carkoon?

Kitty said...

2Ns, I remember the details, vividly, of the Lisa Steinberg case. And Hedda Nussbaum. I agree with you.

Unknown said...

I will have to watch several kitten videos to un-see that duct tape story.

I think of Stephen King, who has been asked multiple times if he's a sociopath deep down for even conceiving the evils he can. And I think of John Sandford who lets you stay horrified for only so long before he makes you laugh.

I can't speak for agents, but as a reader I don't wonder about the psyche of writers who are loyal to their genre. I am more fascinated by a writer's ability to explore and marry the psyche of others with what they observe themselves.

I'm with Carolynn(etc) in that I will happily toss a book that is so horror-heavy, it's traumatizing. American Psycho was my duct tape story.

Going to watch kitten videos now.

Unknown said...

Colin, can you make this linkable? We're all going to need it by the end of the day.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

In order to spell Lisa's name correctly I googled Hedda Nussbaum's name, I bought a children's book at a yard sale once that she had edited for Random House. All the old feelings came back. Well, I'm off for a good cry, be back later.

Julie said...

Went to a conference in April. One guy talked about The Rules (I was lucky enough to be able to write about them later...). He was pretty good.

One of his Rules was Never Worry About What Anyone Thinks Of You. This is different than worrying about what they think of your writing - of course people are going to hate it, some, anyway, and if you can't live with that, find a new way to make yourself crazy.

But if you worry about what people think of YOU, you're in trouble and doing both your readers and yourself a disservice because you are inserting others between you and your writing.

It is when we allow our fears, our passions, our love and our trauma - who we really are - to come forward in our writing, that we write most honestly and bridge the gap between us, our words, and our readers.

Thinking about whether others will think differently about us based on our writing does nothing good for it: it removes our focus from the writing itself; it falsifies the writing; and it separates reader from writer - and in the end, who really cares?

Your family already knows who you are, and if they don't, there's a reason for that. Whatever that reason may be, you can protect your name by changing it on the book itself, but the query isn't the place to do that - it's your letter of introduction. You wouldn't change it on a resume; don't change it here.

Same with your friends and business associates.

And as for your future readership, they're the very ones you want to entice with the voice you're pouring onto the page, so let it go, opie, let it go!


Phishy Phish

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Without getting preachy, the fact is evil exists in the heart of all of us, and it's a blessing that most of us recognize those dark places in our souls and try to avoid them. But the pervasiveness of evil in our society, and the seeming increase of people without such moral restraint, does indeed make it hard to face those characters in fiction. Why, indeed, with such horrors on the news, would we want to be "entertained" by those same horrors in our fiction?

Here's my take. One of the sad truths of the real world is that justice doesn't always prevail (in this life, anyway). Wicked men get away with wicked things. There are brave men and women who spend (and expend) their lives bringing physical restraint to the darkness in our society, but they don't always succeed. As writers, we can serve our culture by not simply showing wickedness and how bad it is, but satisfying that desire for evil to be vanquished and good to prevail. This is why Star Wars, Harry Potter, and countless other similar works are so popular. For all the Voldemorts in the world who get away with their horrendous acts, there's at least one who got his comeuppance (sorry, spoilers!). During the course of the story, we may see that Voldemort committing atrocities that make us uncomfortable. But in order for his defeat to resonate and satisty that sense of justice we all too often don't get with the real-life Voldemorts, we need the fictional Voldemort to stir in us the same revulsion we feel about the real ones. We need to be able to identify in him all that we despise about the evil in this world. That's why writers sometimes need to show that uncomfortable darkness. It's uncomfortable because we know there's truth behind it. That's what gives it power in fiction; and that's why we enjoy seeing it vanquished.

That's my brief take on it. :)

Colin Smith said...

Susan: My pleasure:

Lisa Bodenheim said...

We do live in dark times. That's not to say we can't also live lightly and hopefully. Some authors are called to showcase our darkness--through genres (or not) ranging from gritty realistic to satirical comedy to dystopian forecasts--and our many creative options (via characters) of how to live within darkness whether responding in a conscious manner or reacting in a knee-jerk fashion.

Talk about suspenseful gritty reality. Opie shows it with that third paragraph about subways and sidewalks and cabs and knives and midnight visits. There's a good story waiting to be told! So go for it Opie. And it seems the Shark would like to see it!

Julie said...

I write (wrote? Write? I don't even know who I am anymore... I'm transgenre...)!


I was writing, before these indy pubs convinced me to "try something else" and I got all confused and now I have two distinctly different series going at once, a series based wholly on the good/evil divide.

Never. Been done. Before.



The Archangel Michael sorta-a little bit - pushes a perfectly nice bastard Prince of Wales who was minding his own disasters into following him and helping him run his army and teaching some men a few things and such.

And oh, by the way, I need your infant son, because otherwise Lucifer will take him. He and I have a bit of a thing, dontcha know.

So 500 years pass, and the guy, Arwein, becomes an excellent commander; fantastic teacher; Michael's right-hand Demi-Angel - but he's a bit warped about love, which is inconvenient when he gets his son back and the proverbial poo hits the proverbial fan.

So. I have to put in there some rather descriptive scenes that demonstrate that I know what "evil" would MEAN, exactly, if you worked for Lucifer - and, conversely, what "love" might mean if you worked for Michael.

And things get fairly intense.

I was nervous as you know what writing my first sex scenes - pictured my mom and sister in the room with me, and ended up begging some of the Big Names for help. Surprised the you know what out of me when two of them (I begged lots) answered, and now I think I write a decent sex scene, and I don't think about mom anymore. AND I made some friends. (Are there Sex Sharks? Hm.)

Interestingly, it didn't bug me writing the early awful scenes - maybe reading Jordan and GRRM inured me to them, IDK, and IDK what it says about me, but there it is.

Point is, you write the story - not the story minus what would make people squeamish. Because that isn't the story. It isn't YOUR story, and YOUR story is what will sell, because it's the only one that will flow from your gut; it's the only one you love; it's the only one you truly care about. (Until someone comes and tells you to write some other genre for awhile ;) ).


Multigenre Fish

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

A few years ago at a writing conference, I was meeting with an agent to go over the pages of the horror novel I subbed for critique. The agent looks at me a little funny then says something along the lines of being surprised I was the writer since I looked so normal. :)

My mind goes to dark places for stories. I don't know why. I fought it for awhile, for a number of reasons, but I've learned to embrace my voice, my writing style, my imagination. I tell the stories that want to be told. If that means I have to make sure the lights are on, the doors are locked, and nothing is lurking under the bed before I write them then so be it. And if my readers have to do the same thing then I did my job. :)

Anonymous said...

Most of the time when I hear about someone wanting to conceal their identity from the query stage itself, it's because they're writers of really heavy erotica. It never occurred to me that writers of violent fiction might want to do so, also.

Makes sense, tho. I don't like reading very violent fiction (especially if it's the twisted kind); in fact, I won't read stuff that I'll sometimes watch on a tv show or movie. For me, reading is a much closer, more compelling experience than television when it comes to violence. I've read books that made me feel physically sick (they got put down pretty quick, but the nightmares stay around). Once I put down an author's work for that reason, I'm off their work for good. So I can definitely see the reason for wanting to hide your identity when it comes sick violence/torture porn type writing.

Ooooon the other hand, I sometimes write quite violent fiction, mostly when it comes to flash fiction. So, slightly hypocritical, I know :D

Lol at you, 2NNs, bouncing up and down to get first comment :D That's me, half the time.

Mister Furkles said...

Guess I disagree with Carolynn of the Twin Inns.

Nabokov wrote Lolita and few thought he was a pedophile. I didn't finish it because, for me, there is something about an MC who wants to ruin a girl's childhood. But that's me.

Plenty of people want to see life from the other side, however evil it may be. And few will think the author is doing anything but exploring the unknown. Criminal Psychologists spend a lifetime trying to understand the minds of the worst people on Earth. We don't think they will murder us—the psychologists I mean, we know their patients will, given the chance.

So, write you story. Put your name on it. And hope you find your flock of curious readers.

But I won't read that dark book.

S.D.King said...

I would not personally read Opie's dark story. I also believe that much of the dark and evil we see today has it's seed when a person read or viewed material which planted thoughts which the reader may not have come up with on his/her own. I believe that writing/reading influences behavior.

Yes, there are those who will commit acts of evil or horror without prompting, but please, God, let me never be the one who set a thought in motion. Let me be a person offering hope. Let my writing be a voice of kindness.

OK, I have offended some, but that's who I am. Or better said, it is who I choose to be.

Anonymous said...

The original poster (OP) is right. There is an audience for the weird, dark fantasies. There are even publishers that specialize in such areas.

Chances are, if the OP can create something in this vein, then the OP is also one of those people he wishes to entertain. Because it takes someone who appreciates it to be able to write it well.

As for thinking bad about the OP, I don't see why. While it takes a certain turn of mind to be able to create different things, that doesn't mean the author is a bad person. Maybe odd... but I think anyone who makes up stories in the hopes of getting paid is abnormal. And I relish that abnormality.

There's a fine line between creativity and insanity. The difference is: creative people know what they're thinking is fiction.

I can understand if the OP wants to use a pseudonym. Even so, I don't think that his real name would get in the way of an agent wanting to read his less-dark stuff. After all, he would be sending his dark stuff to agents that represent such things. And I doubt that agents who rep that sort of thing - whether they take OP on as a client or not - will hold it against him.

(It also sounds like Janet is expecting a certain OP to query her very soon.)

Colin Smith said...

I agree with Julia--you can't worry about what other people will think of you when you write your fiction. Yes, your friends at the sewing circle may be surprised that you write gritty horror, but that shouldn't stop you writing.

It is interesting, though, that it seems (anecdotally, at least), most people are concerned about this issue when it comes to erotica. For some reason, we don't ever think our readers will regard scenes of murder and torture as some kind of insight into our real life hobbies. Yet we worry that the reader will presume a direct correlation between fictional sex scenes and the author's real sex life. This may have something to do with the fact that there are more writers with active sex lives than there are those that murder and torture. Hence, it's a reasonable assumption that while the writer is drawing from imagination for murder and torture, it's very possible the writer is drawing from experience when it comes to the bedroom.

I must admit, whenever I read a sex scene, I can't help feel uncomfortable--as if I'm getting to know the writer a little more than I really wanted to! :)

Kitty said...

Julia wrote: I was nervous as you know what writing my first sex scenes...

I can relate to that! About the 'darkest' thing I wrote was a short story about a woman who resorted to prostitution, unbeknownst to her husband and family, in order to pay the rent when she lost her job. A truly vile man learned of her secret and tried to blackmail her, so she caused his death. My mother's only reaction was to the prostitution. Mind you, I didn't go into any details.

I was shocked that you wrote about a woman prostituting herself. Where on earth would you ever get such an idea?

Didn't it bother you that she caused that man's death?

No. He deserved it.

Jenz said...

Maybe I'm alone in this, but reading horrific scenarios first thing on a Monday really wasn't how I wanted to begin the day. I hate getting caught off guard by that kind of thing.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

What BJ said:
creative people know what they're thinking is fiction.

The OP seems like someone's number one fan, at least that's my impression.

Unknown said...

I've heard from booksellers who have met her that that Gillian Flynn is just the nicest person, and never mind GONE GIRL, have you read DARK PLACES? Creepiest book ever! (Loved it!)

Megan V said...

As someone who deals with crime on a regular basis(and who's seen some of the nastiest things people can do to other living beings-human and non). I find that writing fictionalized crime is an outlet of sorts. There reason: exactly what Colin said. In the real world justice doesn't always prevail, no matter how hard we work to make sure it does. Writing a horror novel, a suspense novel, or crime fiction where good triumphs is a way of reminding myself and others that there's hope in the darkest places.

And yes, I write under a pseudonym.

LynnRodz said...

This isn't going to be long because I'm still traveling and typing with one finger. My feeling is, there's enough evil and violence in this world, I don't need to spend money on a book to read about more of it. That's just me, but I'm sure there is a readership for the kind of material you want to write.

Colin, a spoiler alert comes before the info is given, not after. Lol.

WR, there are many reasons why someone may want to use a pseudonym and sometimes it has nothing to do with what someone is writing. It can be as simple as someone not liking their name.

Colin Smith said...

LynnRodz: Ohhh... OK! ;) Actually, I assume by now (8 years after publication) most people are aware how Harry Potter ends. Which raises an interesting, completely off-topic question: how reasonable is it to assume people know or care how a classic novel ends? What's the time-limit on spoilers? When is a spoiler no longer a spoiler but an it's-your-own-stupid-fault-for-not-having-read-the-book-by-now? Example: I read a craft book that used THE MALTESE FALCON to illustrate principles in such a way that it gave away the plot. This annoyed me because THE MALTESE FALCON was sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, I didn't know the plot, and was concerned that my enjoyment of the novel was now tainted. In this instance, I still enjoyed THE MALTESE FALCON, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't known Whodunnit.

Anonymous said...

Colin: The reason why many erotica writers use pseudonyms is because people (not just readers) *will* judge them because of it. Schoolteachers have been fired because someone found out that Miss Sunshine writes fiction as Domina Tricks. When a certain erotica publisher threatened to publicize the real names of any of its authors who spoke against its practices, there were some very scared authors who were too frightened to open their mouths.

There is less of a mark against a horror writer - as you said, Colin, it's assumed the writer is drawing from a very dark imagination, rather than real life. It's possible, I suppose, that a schoolteacher who writes the worst horror might also be fired.

But that's in the real world. I'm not sure a pseudonym is as necessary when dealing with publishing folk (unless, like J.K. Rowling, you really are trying to fool publishers by hiding your real name). Agents who rep dark horror are much less likely to be shocked than the president of the PTA.

Still, it's completely up to the OP if he wants to use a pseudonym in his query as well as the published novel. I don't think it's necessary, but there are no good reasons not to.

As for spoilers: If you're reading a craft book and its example is a novel you want to read later - don't read the craft book. It's going to have spoilers. Set it down, go read the book it's talking about, and then go back to the craft book. And, since you'll just have read the novel, the craft book will be that much better. :)

Anonymous said...

The thing is, if an agent bounces your query because your story was too repulsive, will she remember your name a year or so later?

Does your prospective agent have an eidetic memory, unable to forget the name on every single query he ever got?

Does your prospective agent keep a computer file w/ names of writers who sent her queries so horrific she'll bounce any future query unread?

Is your story so far beyond the pale that, even in this day and age, there is no chance that any agent will forget the smallest detail about it?

I can understand a reader being so disgusted by a book he specifically memorizes the author's name so he won't read anything else by her, but I'd think an agent reads too many queries a week to blacklist you because of a query you wrote over a year ago.

Maybe if your query itself was rude or threatening the agent would make a point of remembering your name, at least so she spells it correctly on the restraining order.

Worse comes to worst, you can use a pseudonym on your next query.

Besides, maybe your next query will be equally dark. You wouldn't be the first writer whose muse constantly goes off in weird directions.

nightsmusic said...

Just popping in here today to say I'm still trying to scrub the superglue up the nose image out of my mind...and it's not working. But I would have tossed that one in the fireplace and I'm not necessarily squeamish about what I read most of the time.

Craig F said...

I had to read the OP's question three times and all I get is that they are either pretentious or paranoid. There is a lot of so-called fiction out there that seems to be more about assaulting the sensibilities that writing fiction. It sells because most people read as an escape mechanism.

Reading gets them to someplace other than their 9-5 life in cubical land. Currently the norm seems to be for a tarnished hero but most fiction is still a good versus evil affair. A lot of the horrific stuff is just a way to make their hero look bigger because they are against such large odds.

I can't see where this story could go any further or delve deeper into the dark than has already happened. It is not that we are in dark times it is that the human race is not entirely civilized yet.
There is no atrocity worse than those that have already happened.

Colin Smith said...

bj: I have known of teachers who don't want their young students reading their horror/erotic fiction, so they use a pseudonym. That seems fair enough to me, though perhaps a little naive. If kids today are like the kids I went to school with, they can be quite ingenious when it comes to finding out things you'd rather they didn't know. But due dilligence is a good thing. :)

And yes, I could have put the craft book down, and in hindsight, I probably should have: it wasn't that great of a craft book (at least for me). But the broader question remains--should the author have issued a spoiler alert on the first page? Or was it reasonable of the author to assume the reader had read THE MALTESE FALCON? And even broader--how long after publication is a spoiler alert considered unnecessary?

Unknown said...

Lynn, that's right, there are many reasons for using a nom de plume. I did in fact consider using one myself, until I found that my initials worked well enough for some androgynous ambiguity (I write SciFi as well as fantasy, and I didn't want people making assumptions).
It's simply that the most prolific reason I see for people using nom de plumes IS because they write erotica/dark horror. That's only what I've seen, though, and I'm aware that my experience is by no means all-encompassing :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

What one person thinks is the darkest night man can encounter is what another person thinks is satisfyingly interesting. It is possible to scare yourself with your own darkness, and I do wonder just "how bad" Opie's book is, with regards to subject matter. Black Dahlia bad? Where's our baseline?

I've never put a book down because it squidged me out too hard. I don't know if I've just got a particularly high tolerance or just lucked out in my choice of books. I have a bachelor's in psychology and I've read a great deal of fiction and non-fiction in the forensic and crime realm. I will say, Helter Skelter by the recently late Vincent Bugliosi did creep me out, but what're you gonna do about reportage of a true story? And does a story affect your view of the author personally?

Books like Red Dragon by Thomas Harris and Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen are amongst my favorite in the "serial killer" genre. Stephen King has traditionally been good for some delightful thrills, but his post-accident books have for the most part not fired on all cylinders for me.

I've read Lolita twice now, and feel it's never as good as the first page. The opening is so striking, and the writing (for me) is downhill from there.

There's something that happens to you, socially, when you've got the darkest turn of mind in a group. My coworkers are wearily resigned by my comments at this point, which are mostly demonstrative of my range of esoteric knowledge (i.e. "weird shit", in their eyes. As in "why do you know that).

Unknown said...

And yes- what bj said! That's also what I meant but you said it better :D

DeadSpiderEye said...

Generally folk cannot draw the distinction between what you write and who you are, I've lost count of times I've denied being: a vegetarian, deranged divorcee, serial seducer, twelve year old girl, death row inmate or hamster. I'm not sure if that shortcoming is reflected in the professional publishing world, I really hope it isn't. I would say, go for the pseudonym but the dilemma that arises, is that it invites the assumption that you want to place distance between yourself and the work, which implies a certain justification of the assumptions that some are likely to make. It's a career decision and the right choice, will be dependant on that context, if you put bread on the table with stories like: The Fluffy Panda Family's, Day at the Seaside then it's probably an easy decision.

Adele said...

I'm planning to use a pseudonym simply because my surname is five letters long and nobody can spell it. And it's rare enough that I'm very easy to find. And it's pretty far down the alphabet and I want my books at eye level rather than down by people's toes. So many reasons.

As to spoilers - I think a decade is long enough. Actually I think 5 years is long enough, but I'm making room for slow readers. Colin? The Maltese Falcon was published in 1929. 'Nuff said.

Oh, and thanks to Colin and Susan for the kitten video - I needed it after the duct tape thing. Forget Spoiler Alerts, there should be Cruelty Alerts.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Mister Furkles, Carolynn of the Twin Inns, hahahaha !

For those finding their way in this business, claiming another name may be the best way to make a name for yourself, even if it isn't your name. I believe author's names can influence readers and define what they expect to be reading. For those on one writing-path and seeking another, they may want to wear a badge more fitting their genre. For those of us with an established readership, (so called and in my case petite), keeping them is a tenuous thing. I'm non-fiction so my name has to be honest or my credibility sucks.

I'll admit, I'm a hypocrite, because when I wrote about the second amendment and guns I wanted to have any name other than the one listed in the phonebook. That was back when we looked in a book for numbers, not on a screen. The crazies were against me. It's up to you to figure which side the crazies were on.

If I thought someone simply disagreed with me or might not like me, the hell with them BUT all I know is that I had to drive my kids to school and look over my shoulder. It wasn't a nice time.

Having said that, I could write a book right now that would cost me my job and any position related to what I do. Write under another name? Appetizing thought actually. But it would piss off the public so much I don't think they'd even Kindle it if it were free.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Meow, BOO !!
I loved the kitty link Purrrrfect. Just what was needed. Thanks.

I've commented so often, can you tell I'm putting off editing.
Okay, back to work.

Stacy said...

I stopped watching GAME OF THRONES when a guy tied up Theon, cut off his pinky, and then pinched the nerve. I shut off the TV and never went back.

Yet... I still think we need dark stories. Like Megan V says, I think they're a good outlet, a place where we can safely explore the dark side of human nature. And it's not just exploration. It's seeking to understand the mindset of people who "go dark." How does a person get there? What's their internal logic? I think these are questions fiction answers (and there are as many answers as there are readers).

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: There are crazies everywhere. Crazy liberals. Crazy conservatives. Even crazy moderates who will go crazy on you for having a strong opinion. It's not a question of avoiding the side with the crazies. That's impossible. It often comes down to which side's crazies are closest to your own persuasion. :)

Calorie Bombshell said...

The story can be as dark as an inside cabin in the bowels of a cruise ship at midnight, but if it's entertaining and has a heart (one that isn't splayed by the bad guy), I'll fork over some dough to read it.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

The problem with creating a cover that deep is that if you do publish, promotion is next to impossible.

I spent a year as a proofreader at a small erotica house. After reading about a million words of it, mostly four-letter, I thought, "I can write this." I read good and bad including an extraordinarily well-written . . . wait for it . . . paranormal historical BDSM romance that made 50 Shades sound like a Little Golden Book.

The result was some m/m cowboy porn that I published under a pen name. At the time, I was working for government. So, using the usual social media channels was out and the time/energy of creating a whole fake person who has zero contacts, was daunting. Curating and maintain my friend/contact list has been work over the last 5 years. Even harder now that FB has cracked down on stage names and "fan pages" are less than worthless.

I have the rights back to the story now. It was planned as part of a trilogy and I am considering self-pubbing it and owning it. It's a completely legit genre and a good story. Considering it was with a nano-press and I did zero promo, it did okay. I ate out on my monthly earnings on it for a year before it faded for lack of follow-up and promo. The press itself has gone the route of too many teeny presses as more romance and erotica is going self-pub.

Depending on where you are really going with the story (dark is in the eye of the beholder,) you may well end up with a small press where you will own the promo. Are you ready to be the Marquis?


Colin Smith said...

Oh, and while I'm on the topic of spoilers (sorry, Janet)--GAME OF THRONES. I've read the first book, and I plan on reading the second. I haven't watched the TV series but for the first few episodes. I don't want to watch what I haven't read. So, on the one hand, I'm annoyed when people talk about what's going on in the current series which is far beyond where I've read. But then I'm also annoyed when people complain about TV series spoilers when they could go read the books and find spoilers galore! It's like people complaining about "Deathly Hallows" movie spoilers when the book had been out for 3 or 4 years already.

OK, end of my mini-vent against TV "spoilers" and my own inconsistencies. :)

Stacy said...

Sorry, Colin. Not sure if you were referring to my comment, but this was one event and not the outcome of any major plot points. And it was more than a year ago (two seasons ago, I think?), so I think it safely falls outside the mini-rant zone... :)

Colin Smith said...

stacy: No, not directly. Your comment prompted a thought I'd had for a while. :)

Stacy said...

Whew! *wipes forehead*

BTW, I was just asked by captcha to "select all the drinks." Who's buying?

Anonymous said...


Yep, that's the nice thing about America. The crazies are all conveniently grouped up on one side to make it easy to identify them.

LynnRodz said...

Colin, I don't think someone is necessarily stupid for not reading something everyone else has read. I have no intentions of reading 50 Shades (I may go see the musical in Spain because a friend of mine is staring in it) but I won't be buying any of the books. As for Harry Potter, I haven't read the books, nor have I seen any of the films. I tried to watch the first film a few years ago, but after 15 minutes, I stopped the DVD. It was the same with Star Wars years ago, I've never watched any of them. While everyone was on the bandwagon, I was riding solo reading other good books. It doesn't make me stupid...a little weird perhaps, but not stupid.

WR, I think using your initials is a good solution. I've considered that option as well.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Back again, lunch break I'm buying the next round.

As a species, ain't we nasty, ain't we nice?

That's the funny thing about people. They need to be fed that which satiates their complete selves. Muck or mother's-milk, we have to hope it's what they want.

Julie said...

As to troubles with writing freely, following on bj & Colin (on iPhone, so watch out...) - I "practiced" erotica writing on Fanfic sites and judged, roughly, how well I was doing by the hits and comments (both type and number).

"Well" here is a relative term, and of COURSE I paid attention to tight plot and color and dialogue, I'm not a heathen. I was writing to practice, to get the word counts in much in the same way a photographer tries to get shutter clicks in - every one goes towards improvement. To write well, one must write badly. Like in soccer, you have to shoot on goal and miss many times to shoot and score.

So I wrote a lot. Lots of junk. A tiny bit of decent stuff.

Was it under my name? No way. But for those who really, really wanted to find me, I left trails of bread crumbs.

Then it occurred to me. My husband is in education. And one other thing happened.

I ran for office.

Not seriously, and as it happens, I really should've cared more, the woman really is a poor manager, but I digress.

I pulled it. All of it.

I got hate mail. Which made me feel warm and fuzzy.

Then I lost the election and put the best of it back up on one very small site. But it's unfinished, and I am done with it - I've moved on. Still, it's there.

Under a very different pseudonym.

The point is that there are times when it DOES matter, and although I was speaking in large generalities earlier, one does have to bear these situations in mind. Still, they don't (shouldn't) affect either the writing or the query letter, as the first is why you're doing it in the first place - not being true to yourself and your writing defeats the purpose, and the second is business - changing your name here implies lack of sincerity in your intent as well as lack of trust in the Agent you've just asked to work with. In either case, it is self-defeating.

In my opinion, anyway.


Off to get Thing 2. Last day of school. :)

PS - yes, still have pancreatitis, but kidneys work again, Thank God (really) and am no longer in danger of readmission. I had peritonitis last week. That su... stunk. A lot.


Colin Smith said...

This is even off-topic-er than my last off-topic statement... actually, it's a question. For Janet. I'm not sure if I've asked before, but do you have British blood in you, or are you a die-hard Anglophile, or have been around your British/Australian clients so much, you fall into Brit speech patterns? I ask because of your use of "mum" yesterday, and the occasional Brit words and phrases you throw into your articles. Just wondering if the Shark is part Bulldog... :)

Dena Pawling said...

We've had 2 BDSM erotica authors speak at my local RWA meetings and both said they were "in the life" which does put some credence into the inference that those authors must be writing from personal experience. I know this is only a sample size of 2, but there it is. And to avoid comments of the TMI nature, I'll say only that those meetings were "interesting".

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Terri, I'm intrigued, would love to know the titles

I read erotica to learn how to write sex scenes. Most are Boring, (note the capital "B") some are good because the A-B slot part is secondary. Still I've decided to skip explicit sex. I doubt I could make it interesting and it's not my path. IMO explicit violence is all shock, except for Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

LynnRodz said...

I call my my mum, "mum" all the time and I'm not British whatsoever.

Stacy said...

Well, this is even more off-topic, but I think British words are awesome. Mum, quid, chuffed, wotcha... all of 'em.

Julie said...

Um. How does the pin thingy work? The big mappy thing? I was AWOL that week.

Anonymous said...

So glad you're feeling better Julie H!

My mum insists that 'mum' is the proper word. But then, my mother's grandmother came from London. My mother's mother was raised very proper and became a one-room schoolteacher. My mother was also raised fairly properly, but she was a farm girl, so had that going for her... I think the properness fades through the generations.

Julia: You should have some icons across the top. Now you see those arrow-things where everyone is? There's an icon that looks like it in that line across the top. Just drag it to your location.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You know Colin I read a while back about a Janet Reid/Brit connection of some sort. For the life of me I can't remember where but I think there is, education/childhood, something. If our comments get deleted...well we do call her The Queen don't we.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I lied. You click on it, then click where you want it to go. I just tried, and realized my directions were faulty.

Craig F said...

You have to be logged onto to blogger to get to that toolbar.

Christina Seine said...

Hi folks! I haven't read the comments but wanted to stop in and say hi. I've been MIA for a bit - went on a family vacation and came home to a mountain of laundry, and now there is a forest fire out of control a few miles from my house. It is not fun to pack for a possible evacuation when you have 5 kids who all *need* that one item of clothing you haven't washed yet. At least the suitcases were still out! But fire conditions are about as bad as they could possibly be here: temps in the 85+ range (which is crazy hot for Alaska), almost no rain (and very little snow this last winter) and 25-30 mph winds - which of course are blowing everything toward us. The trees are like kindling covered in sap that acts like lighter fluid. Some famous Iditarod mushers have lost homes and dogs, which is heartbreaking, because mushers are about the best people on the planet (next to writers and agents and sharks, of course). We don't have TV, so I can't pull myself away from the scanner and Facebook, which seems to have the fastest updates. But if you are the praying type, please pray for our neighbors to the north of us, and the firefighters risking their lives to protect our homes. Thanks! ♥

Anonymous said...

I just realized I didn't respond to Colin's question: "But the broader question remains--should the author have issued a spoiler alert on the first page?"

In a book about writing craft, I think it's reasonable for the author to assume that the reader will understand that there will be spoilers. You can't really talk about story structure without discussing the ending of the piece the author is using as an example. And it follows that they would choose something that was a well-known story and movie, because more people are likely to have read it or seen it and already know the story he's explaining.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness Christine! Here's hoping you get a good downpour and the fire can be controlled.

Fingers crossed, thoughts and prayers going out for all of you up there.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Now I recall, I did try producing some erotic fiction, just the once. it was an on-line chat thing. I think it was received quite well, she went down from about 70 wpm to around 6, oops TMI? I couldn't keep it up though, er I mean -- I mean, maintain a narrative focus, I got distracted by shimmering highlights in moonlight and that kind of stuff.

Colin Smith said...

LynnRodz: It wasn't just the use of "Mum"--she's used other Britishism from time to time, so it makes me wonder whether she just thinks Brits are awesome or there is some Brit connection that comes through periodically. Of course, it has to be one or the other. It could be both, of course. ;)

Colin Smith said...

Definitely prayers for you and those putting their life on the line to protect you and the people around you, Christina. Be safe!!! :\

Christina Seine said...

Thank you bjmuntain and Colin!

Christina Seine said...

Thank you bjmuntain and Colin!

AJ Blythe said...

Christine, thinking of you, your family and community. Stay safe!

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli - my cowboy adventures are off-line right now as the press folded and returned rights.

Recreating my pen name and getting it back in circulation is on my to-do list. When it happens, I'll let everyone know.

Go big or go home!


Karen McCoy said...

Stay safe, Christine!

Yeah, I think a lot of people left Game of Thrones after various unfortunate events. I haven't seen the finale yet, but am preparing for more destruction.

Further proving that each book has its audience (as well as an audience breaking point). But I think the OP is towing the right line.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Christina, am praying hard for cool temps, calm winds and lots and lots of wet stuff. Stay safe.

Jeez Louise, this is my 10th comment. I really have to get a life. Sorry guys. It's so nice to be home and in the group for a change.

I promise this is the last time I'll poke my head in, really I mean that...okay I'm gone now.

BTW...oh never mind.

Julie said...

Christina - Praying.
BJ - This might take some extra tutelage. Remember the whole html thing? You know I'll end up with like five or six pins on there, right?
Colin - Should I wonder about the concurrent threads about mum and... nope. I won't.
Random everyone - is it just me who pokes their tongue at a tooth wondering if there's a cavity in there, going, "Ow! Yup. Ow! Hm. Maybe. Ow! Yeah, I should probably see a dentist... Ow! Didn't that have a filling before? Drat!"

How long 'til school's back in session?

How long do you leave a MS between first edit and second edit? I'm bored. And I don't want to send out the query letters for the Angylaidds. Queries make me querulous.

I think I have a cavity. Ow!

Julie said...

Why is it that every time I set out to delete words, I end up with more of them? They. Are. Like. RABBITS!



Anonymous said...

JulieH, there are so many pins there now, that no one will notice if you do wind up with a bunch. But you can delete them, anyway. When I was trying to remember how to do them, to tell you, I put an extra one in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (maybe that was the interdimensional wormhole location for Carkoon?) and I was able to delete it easily.

As for the tooth - I'm just hoping the filling I got when mine broke a couple weeks ago will last until I get dental insurance. Too much feeling the broken tooth with my tongue gave me tongue scrapes that made it difficult to eat. Go see a dentist and get it looked at. It might just be over-sensitive. When it breaks while you're eating rice, then you're in trouble.

As for editing, usually by the time I finish one edit, I never want to look at the piece again. So I set it aside and write something else, and do something else, until I get a niggling that says, "Hey, you might know how to fix this now." Then I'll procrastinate until the niggling becomes a nose tweak. Then I'll work on it again. It can be months. It can be weeks. It's even been years a couple times. But I don't miss it, because I'm sick of it. And because I'm writing more stuff that, someday, I'll have to edit until I'm sick of it.

I got to choose ice cream again. Again, the example is cones. Again, neither of the choices were cones. What good is the example, anyway?

Julie said...

BJ, they're not cones. They're unicorn horns. :D

Or maybe, as Ben Stiller said in There's Something About Mary, "There aren't enough meats in cones." So maybe that's what it is. :)

I can't stop looking at it... it's... like the tooth. I ...must ...edit. ...AAARGH!

I had a life, once.

No, wait.


I didn't.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Prayers for you Christine and the firefighters and homes endangered by fire.

off topic on dentists--I remember while living on the island in Scotland. Lost a corner of a tooth while flossing (sorry if that's TMI). I almost threw the 1/4 tooth away. Until I realized: my dentist was in the U.S., I wasn't going to be home for another 6 weeks, the island dentist was booked until then, and the jagged edge grated my tongue. So I wedged the 1/4 tooth back in and made do. No duct tape.

Christina Seine said...

Thank you so much everyone for your prayers. It means a lot. ♥

So, now I have a couple sick kids as well. Oldest is puking his guts out and has a fever of 103. =(

Just over the last half hour or so, the winds really picked up and the smoke has gotten a lot worse. We have all our important stuff ready to throw in the truck and head out at a moment's notice.

Anonymous said...

Christina, what an awful and scary situation. Sending all anti-fire vibes your way. And GO if they tell you to GO. Keep us posted? I hope you at least had a nice vacation before coming home to this.

As for the question du jour . . . there are so many things about what was asked and how it was worded and things that were assumed/implied (or who knows, maybe just inferred) that really really bugged the crap out of me, I don't even know where to start. But Janet didn't address those things and neither did anyone else. I'm going to take that as a sign the post-op pain is making me extra-surly and I should go sit quietly in the corner.

Really. Going now.

Sitting quietly.

Right over here.

Oh hell. Can't do it.

Did this person really mean "marked" man, which usually means marked for death? Why would anyone query as a marked man? Did he mean "masked" man? As in masked by a pseudonym? And that was my most MINOR problem with all this.

But I'm done.


Back to the corner.

[growls quietly]

Anonymous said...

Christina, just leave now. Right now.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, that is genius. I did not think of doing that. I put the tooth part in a pill bottle and showed the dentist. I was lucky I was able to get in the second day after I broke my tooth.

If I'd thought of doing that, I might not have hurt my tongue so much. That is so smart.

All this talk of cones and meats in cones is making me hungry. Even though I did eat supper... okay. Off to find something else to much out on...

JulieH: Obviously, you're not sick enough of your novel yet. :)

Ice cream again. And this time, despite the example of cones, it gave me a dish and what looked like they could have been ice cream floats or milkshakes... Unfortunately, clicking on the example STILL doesn't work.

Megan V said...

Christina: Thoughts and prayers go out to you. Stay safe.
Colin: You could totally watch this season of GOT without spoiling too much from the books. But really ASOIAF is always a surprise. No one and nothing is safe! Enjoy it :)

Dena Pawling said...

Christina, as someone who's evacuated TWICE in my life because of fires, one of which was big enough to have a Wikipedia article written about it, my advice is pack your car NOW, and park it face-out. Be sure you include at least one change of clothes for each person, and two days of food for any pets. Then sleep in your living room tonight so you can hear the bullhorns if you're evacuated. You do NOT want to attempt to pack the car when you get the evacuation order, even if you have everything in a pile at the front door. You'll be too busy corralling your kids [and pets] and dealing with their fear.

I'll be praying for your family.

Julie said...

I'm sorry. But.


Okay, look.

We all have "things."

I knew this attending in the PICU who said to another PICU, "I'll take all your cases, PLUS anything that comes in ALL night, PLUS, let's see..." And he whipped out his wallet and pulled out all his cash, "...all of this, if you take the teenaged young lady in six."

And that's all I'll say about that attending and what he was not willing to deal with.

But teeth and eyes make me squeegy, and once some things come OUT, they should STAY OUT! That's how nature intended it!

I don't care that they CAN go back in, they just... ICK, ICK, ICK!

That is all.

Colin Smith said...

Julie H.: "ICK, ICK, ICK!"--is that the proper medical terminology? ;)

Gingermollymarilyn said...

Fifty Shades is a musical in Spain??? :)

Julie said...

Colin: Yes. Yes, it is.

Julie said...

We all had stuff we could do and stuff we couldn't or wouldn't unless pressed.

I was pretty crack with sutures on the sleeping but hated hurting kids. I'd do it, and the sicker, the better I was at it. But I wasn't the one you wanted suturing a kid's cut toe. I was the one you wanted around when the septic kid rolled in or the one who was in the car wreck. Sounds good, right?

Not when you consider how many more cut toes there are than septic kids or car wrecks. That's how we all self-selected.

I also liked the weird and wacky stuff - the stuff that made good stories. Not terribly surprising, considering where I am now. When everyone else narrowed their eyes and sat there saying, "Noooo...," I'd be up and saying, "Where?"

On the other hand, sprains, strains, and breaks? Beats the heck out of me. Sounds like you need some... Ice. Yup. And some Advil. And an Ortho. Call Ortho. Definitely. Mm-hm. Or... see if so-and-so is here, because she knows this stuff a heck of a lot better than I do.

Really high fever and a rash? Snakebite? Skunk ate my kid's head while I was asleep? Decided not to circumcise at home and was that the right decision? Tried to swallow a meatball whole? Hit in the head with a wrecking ball? Me, me, me, me - all me.

Headache and mental status changes? Weirdness on Head CT or MRI? Oh, soooo Me.

But then again, eczema? Poison Ivy? Q tips or not? Mild Chicken Pox vs Vaccine Reaction? Sigh. I'll probably mess it up because I'm looking for the above.



I'll run for a bucket. And if I'm the only one around, I'll do it. And then I'll run for a bucket. :)

Know your strengths, man. Know your strengths.

And know when to call ortho.

DLM said...

Christina, defend yourself and your family; keep us posted as you can.

Colin, I wondered whether Janet might be Southern when she called Gossamer her babydoll once. Babydoll is actually the word that gave away my Aunt when she was young; all her friends said she "didn't sound southern" until that popped out one time. (With me, at college in the Midwest, it was just that when I was irked my accent got stronger; or get me around my maternal family!)

This thread has been ... interesting ... :)

Patricia Harvey said...

Colin Smith: You wrote, "But in order for his defeat to resonate and satisty that sense of justice we all too often don't get with the real-life Voldemorts, we need the fictional Voldemort to stir in us the same revulsion we feel about the real ones. We need to be able to identify in him all that we despise about the evil in this world. That's why writers sometimes need to show that uncomfortable darkness. It's uncomfortable because we know there's truth behind it. That's what gives it power in fiction; and that's why we enjoy seeing it vanquished."

This could be why Janet (and a professor I once had) advised not writing in the evil-conjuring MC's voice. It creates an "uncomfortable darkness" from which the reader cannot escape. It's why we cover our eyes when movie-horror becomes too much.
Personally, I can't hang out there page after page without another POV making an entrance - a voice to validate my own rational thoughts.

LynnRodz said...

Ginger Mollymarilyn, 50 Shades is not only a musical in Spain, but in a number of countries around the world. Apparently, the musical parody is as successful as the books and film were. I was going to add a link from YouTube on a number from the show, but you see a lot more of Sergio than I thought. I'm not sure Janet would have appreciated that on her blog, then again who knows. LOL!

Tamlyn said... - I'm in the same boat as you. The entire question made me uncomfortable/irked for various reasons, but no one else seemed bothered, so.... *shrug* Not that I don't keep quiet most of the time anyway >>

Irene Troy said...

Okay - I don't understand the question. Perhaps I'm just not reading the question correctly (although I've re-read it a few times). You want to use a pseudonym for fear an agent might assume you are as evil/twisted as your characters. Why would an agent make that assumption? Anyone read Andre Dubus's The Cagekeeper or any of his other shorter stories? Even the characters in his "career making" book House of Sand and Fog were plenty dark and bleak. Yes, Dubus is a loving father, a supportive friend and family man and someone who does a lot for his community, Then there is Stephen King. Most of his characters are deeply disturbed, often violent and hate filled. His themes are similarly dark and disturbing. But again, he appears to be a genuine good guy who cares for people in his community.

An argument may be made that all fictional characters are at least somewhat autobiographic representations of their creators, but I sincerely doubt any agent, publisher or intelligent reader would confuse a dark character with his/her creator. I say be proud of your literary creations and trust agents to appreciate the difference between fictional character and real-life author.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ Lynn- Thanks, LynnR!! I'll have to look it up!