Monday, January 31, 2005

The Filthy Truth about Sex & Love ~ In Fiction

The Naked Truth ~ SEX HAPPENS!
Love is far more rare...

Love may or may not ever show up, but SEX HAPPENS all the time. EXCEPT in Fiction.

In Fiction, it's the other way around.

Love is all over the place - and well-written accurately portrayed Sex is much harder to find ~ even in Erotica, but most especially in mainstream Romances

Why is that?

Where's the Real Sex? 
The problem is, SEX is still a big Taboo.

The only places anyone can find out anything about Sex is through Porn (guys) and Romance novels (gals). And neither of those sources covers the whole truth. Erotica comes close, but not close enough. 

Why not? Because--
Real Sex doesn't Sell. 
Neither the porn companies nor the publishing houses are in it for Humanity's sake - they're in it for the CASH. (But then so am I, so I'm not about to point fingers.) It's just the way it is.

The Truth about Real Sex is out there, but it's deadly dull --and uncomfortable-- reading. It tends to be messy with inconvenient bodily functions, less than perfect settings, and extremely raw emotions. 

If you are interested in Reality, I suggest reading this book:
My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies
This a 1973 book compiled by Nancy Friday, who collected women's fantasies through letters and taped and personal interviews.[1]  --Wikipedia
Rather than truth, most people would rather read Fiction. It's cleaner and much prettier.

Mistaking FICTION for TRUTH.

Porn teaches that Sex is a Physical Need.
That's TRUTH. Unfortunately it also teaches that you can't have good sex with someone who is not spectacularly Un-Human in appearance. *sigh* 

Hence, the popularity of boob-jobs.
Romance novels teaches that you should Trust the person you have sex with.

That's TRUTH. Unfortunately it also teaches that Physical Attraction means you are falling in Love AND you can't have an orgasm unless you're In Love. *sigh*
Um... No. Physical attraction is simply that: Physical. Just because someone is good looking, and smells nice, does not mean you love them. It means they have good genes and better grooming habits. You can easily be attracted physically to someone loathsome. 
Case in point; most of the big-name psychopathic mass-murderers were considered very good-looking--and their followers defended them because they were in love with said killers.
Love is about feelings--not appearances
Everyone loves their parents, their pets, their siblings, their friends... That doesn't mean one wants to have sex with any of them.

Here's a hefty dose of REALITY: 
Sex is a Physical Imperative.

Your body is an animal, like every other fur-wearing critter out there, and All animals have the same Physical needs - Food, Shelter, and Sex.

You think all those copulating animals KNOW they're getting pregnant? Not Hardly! They just know that it's that time again where they get to make whoopee! Puppies and kittens are just that other thing that happens in the spring.

Humans, clever beings that we are, know how to avoid pregnancy and STDs, so we can enjoy our Sexuality without having kittens in the spring. Isn't that nice?

Sexual Truth in Romance Novels?
Not Hardly. 

The average Romance novel uses Love rather than Sex as its basic core ideal. However, Love is where the Romance Novel diverges from the Truth about Sex.

In a Romance Novel, Sexual attraction means that you are In Love, and being In Love means that the Sex is going to be Fantastic! 


Good Sex Does NOT equal Good Love.
Bad Sex makes for Nasty Divorces
(no matter how much love is there).

Luckily...! People have finally figured out that Sex is Just As Important as Love.
In fact, Sexual Incompatibility is the BIGGEST issue in marriage counseling.

To avoid potential Marital (sexual) Issues, it has become common practice to Test-Drive a potential mate for sexual compatibility BEFORE they decide if that person is potential mate material. Good Sex in addition to Good Love has become that important.

However, FICTION has yet to reflect this need for Sexual Compatibility along with Love.

Why Love over Sex?
Because the Publisher said so - that's why.

American Publishers will NOT publish a tale about a woman that goes from Lover, to Lover, to Lover, regardless of feelings of love, unless of course, each former lover DIES. You have to go to the Erotica books to get those stories. Even Erotic Romance publishers prefer publishing books with LOVE as the core ideal.

As an author, I write to eat, so I'll write whatever the publisher asks for - and then spend my checks on my latest boy-toy. *grin*

Most American publishing houses do not feel that books that feature Sexual experimentation, before falling in love will Sell.

For the most part, they're right. *huge sigh*

The Victorian Moral Majority
Rules the Publishing Industry. 

The bulk of the Mainstream Romance reading audience are Housewives with antique Victorian Morals. You would not believe how many of these old-fashioned, prissy-fingered prudes don't want Sex in their Romances. They seem to have this weird belief that LOVE is the ultimate goal, and Sex is completely unnecessary.  

Makes one wonder what kid of sex they are not getting at home. 

This "Love is All You Need" crap birthed the twisted Romantic concept, of the Heroine Loving the Hero enough to ALLOW the Hero to have sex with her--like it's a gift, or something. 
Having Sex is Bad, see?
If the Heroine LIKED having sex with the Hero, well that was explained by her being in Love. 
Can you see the Love = Orgasm correlation here?
I got news for those "Love is All You Need" prudes - 
Love may or may not ever show up - but SEX HAPPENS all the time. Wake Up and Smell the Java people! This isn't the Victorian Era where people died of old age while still virgins. 
This is the Modern Era. Sooner or later Everyone Has Sex - and then deals with the consequences; pregnancy, STDs, and broken hearts. THAT'S the Naked TRUTH.

Sex is as much a bodily function --and Physical Need-- as eating and defecation. (Ask your doctor.) But then, how many Romance novels have YOU read where the Heroine went to the potty? See my point? 

Sex being Enjoyed for its own sake didn't come about until "The Wolf and the Dove" by Rebecca Brandywine, the founding Goddess of Erotic Romance. However, even her heroines didn't have sex without at least a strong case of 'like' -- and the death of the previous lover.

Yeah, yeah, I know I don't like reading sexless "Love is All You Need" crap either, but unfortunately those book-buying biddies outnumber the rest of us book-buyers, so marketing swings their way, not with those of us who like sex.

My guess is that they can't GET sex so they Settle for Love - and then take it out on the rest of us by demanding all the sex be washed out of the fictional love relationships.

BUT - Romances point out one TRUTH that is present nowhere else -
Love doesn't happen without TRUST, and sex shouldn't either.
Sexual Truth in Erotica?
Well, mostly... 

The Erotica you find available in the bookstores shows some sexual truth in the fiction, but these books concentrate only on the physical gymnastics, the Having of Sex – and that’s it. They forget the whole other half of the equation to good Story Craft: EMOTIONAL CONTEXT. 
These books are written with barely any of the emotions and drama that makes Fiction worth reading.
No Emotions = NO DRAMA
No Conflict = NO PLOT

Hello!!! NO PLOT = NO BUYERS!!!

SEX is a Physical Need. Well, it is, just like needing to eat and going to the potty. Realistically, when people get the itch for sex, they go out to a club and get someone to scratch that itch for them. The common term is: Fuck Buddies.. (All very familiar themes in your bookstore erotica.)

But in FICTION, something has to provide the Emotional Context to keep the readers connected to the characters and interested in the tale's outcome.

The problem is, 
writing a story with Emotionally Dramatic Sex  
is really, really, Hard

First you have to find an Emotion, and then you have to add Sex to it...

Way too much hardcore Porn uses the emotion of - FEAR.

Now you know why BDSM is so popular in porn. The feelings of fear and embarrassment that comes with being tied up and spanked gives an otherwise boring story an emotionally dramatic kick.

Erotic Romance uses the tried and true emotion of - LOVE

This is why Erotic Romance is selling so well. The Romance provides Emotional Content with their sex, without grossing-out the reader with weird shit.

Once More – With FEELING!
- Erotic Romance

The eBook industry is producing good quality books that cover many more sexual issues, styles, partnerships and relationships than can be found on your bookstore shelf. The key phrase here being: Relationships.

Erotic Romance stories are Character Driven rather than Event (Sex) Driven. While there are lots of interesting sexual positions to be found in Erotic Romance, what the readers seem to find the most satisfying is the Emotional Depth in these stories. (Even the BDSM is done with Loving partners.)
Erotic Romance is Not Boring. 

But it’s not perfect either. Too many of the Erotic Romance stories STILL tout the Orgasm = Love thing... *big heavy sigh*

But they are learning.

Even with the sometimes too heavy romance themes, eBook adult-fiction is clearly improving with every new issue, unlike what's available in the bookstores, which have not improved in quality since I started picking them up in '78.

The Good News

Lately, the Brick and Mortar Publishing industry has begun allowing more realistic sexual relationships in their mainstream fiction books. They finally figured out that the modern reading public is less than satisfied with fluffy "Love is All You Need" Romances (and completely chaste everything else). 
They finally figured out that the reading public has been going to the Internet to get what they can’t get on the bookshelves - Sexual relationships in their stories!

This change of heart is not altruism, trust me.

The brick and mortar publishing houses are getting a little tired of seeing all those sales go to the small presses and not to them. BUT! If things keep going as they are going, it's just a matter of time before Fiction begins to reflect Sexuality more realistically than it ever has before. 
Won’t that be nice?

Morgan Hawke

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Villain's Point of View?

Don't Kill the Thrill ~ Damn it!
I never, ever EVER put my villain's POV into a story. That's like giving away the punch-line in a joke before the joke is done. It KILLS the surprise. I want the Reader to be as surprised as the viewpoint character when they get to the end of the story, and finally discover why the Villain did all those dastardly deeds.

-----Original Message-----
- I know you're right but have you never had a villain that pulled at your heart strings because he was doomed from before he was born? He does heinous things but he still has a small kernel of humanity deep within that yearns for acceptance. I know that's what made me want to delve into one of my villain's POV. He's not the only one “up to no good” in the story.

- Just my thoughts…
Sympathy for the Devil
As far as I'm concerned the author SHOULD sympathize with the villain, that's how you GET true depth of character - truth in their characterization, actions and speech - but the Viewpoint Character and the Reader, should NOT sympathize with the villain too much, unless you intend to redeem the villain, or cause massive angst to your main character – and your readers. Too much sympathy for the villain drives the reader to think that you intend to save him - and they get royally pissed when you knock him off.

It has happened to me!

My test readers totally misread a story I was in the process of crafting and assumed that the Villain was the Hero. They vehemently protested his upcoming demise! To satisfy my readers I had to cut the whole second half of the book off and write that villain a whole new story where he WAS the hero. When I rewrote my original story
I had learned my lesson. NO ONE complained when I killed the villain that time.

If I craft a Redeemable villain, but redemption does not serve the plot - then I DON'T save him, I rework him to be less sympathetic, and then I kill his ass to serve the plot and the premise. To me STORY comes first.

BUT - If I really, REALLY like this character and Want to save him regardless of the story in progress, I Do save him - in a Whole Different Story. I leave his character intact but change his name, tweak his history and then craft a whole New story around him to do just that - redeem the villain.
REAL Villainy
When I craft a villain, I go out of my way to make damned sure that my fictional villains are as realistic as the villains we face in real life. To do this, I insure that my fictional villains all have a driving human issue, an issue that everyone faces and can identify with, though blown completely out of proportion.

It is always a very human issue that drives villains (fictional and non-fictional) to BE villains in the first place. Even mass murderers have reasons (however twisted) for doing what they do. NO villainous action is RANDOM. The victim may be randomly chosen - but the action always has a reason behind it. That reason is ALWAYS driven by a very human issue triggered by an unfulfilled and essential human need.

Key Human Issues:
Recognition & Attention
Ridicule & Embarrassment
The Key:
People will do far more to Avoid Pain than they will to Seek Pleasure.

My textbook for crafting realistic villains:
"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin DeBecker

NO POV for the Villain!
When the "Point of View" is done correctly, whatever that viewpoint character knows - the Reader knows. EVERYTHING that is in the POV character's head is revealed as it is seen and felt. If that POV character looks at it - then the Reader should see it too, if that POV character thinks it, then the Reader should be aware of it - that includes SECRETS!
The villain's POV reveals too much, such as a villain's motives, and answers too many questions that ruin the Big Mystery for the READER: "Why is this happening?"
There are a number of NYT bestseller Suspense authors that hide the Villain's more revealing information by cutting the reader off as soon as the Villain has an interesting thought or view. They’re CHEATING. It's known as "Illegitimate Third Person POV". (Mystery writers normally don't make this mistake.)

I refuse to read books written with "Illegitimate Third Person POV", because if "I" can do it without cheating, THEY CAN TOO! (Freaking lazy-assed writers...)

"But I thought
Using the Villain's POV
- Increases Suspense?"

Oh, Hell No!
Using the Villain’s POV
KILLS the Suspense!

Why? Because suspense may be engendered when the reader knows that the main viewpoint character is in extreme danger (when the POV character doesn't,) but it Totally KILLS the Impact when the main viewpoint character finds out how much danger they are actually in.

The REAL way to keep suspense going is to present CLUES about the villain and his nefarious plans to the main POV character - and the reader - by behavior, dialogue and uncovered history.

"But I need it for the Plot!"
If the author can't write the story WITHOUT including the Villain's POV, then there's a deeper more serious flaw in the story. It's called the Author has focused on the WRONG main character. Instead of the H/H in the lead, the Villain is leading the book. If the villain is leading the book - then it's time to rethink the plot.

Multiple POVs
Warning! POV RANT Ahead!

~ reading a book with more than two POVs!
As a reader I experience a book as a PARTICIPANT. While I am reading, I sit in the main viewpoint characters' shoes and experience every up, down, and twist the story throws at them.

My personal preference is One POV because I identify (perhaps too closely,) with one character and HATE to be pulled out of that character's head. Popping from head to head forces me Outside that character’s story and into a Different story altogether.

When I am popped into the villain's head I immediately know how the story will end - and that KILLS the whole damned book for me.

BANG! That book hits the wall unfinished.

DON'T Tell the Reader ANYTHING!!!
If the MAIN POV character Does Not Know what's going on - NEITHER SHOULD THE READER. THIS is how you generate SUSPENSE! NOT by Telling them what's going on!

Telling the reader what's going on in the story through POV switches - is STUPID.
You Don't want the Reader to figure out what's happening - and why - until they reach the end of the Book!

Once the reader knows all the answers as to who is doing what - and why - there is NO Reason to Continue Reading! The Story is OVER!

So,no! No, POV for the Villain! EVER!

GOT to have POV switches?
The very best article on POV switching I have ever read can be found here –
An executive editor’s take on “head-hopping” and point-of-view jumps

Morgan Hawke

STORYCRAFT - by Lynne Connolly

-----Original Message-----
"...I like to write in an organic sort of way but I'm thinking I should put more energy into creating a conflict of some sort to drive my tales even though they are short. The problem is, when I think too much, it gets contrived and I hate that.

"I am looking for the way other people think about this issue rather than advice. How do you keep things moving? Do your conflicts and points of tension emerge naturally out of your stories or do you really think hard about what they will be? Can just painting a picture of something beautiful be as worthy of reading as a full blown plot arc?"
(from Ms. Connolly) - Are you writing purely for your own pleasure, or are you writing to sell your work to a publisher or magazine?

If you're writing for yourself, the only person you have to please is yourself. You don't have to finish anything you get bored with, you don't have to worry about tension and conflict.

Writing to sell, or even to encourage other people to read your work, you have to take other matters into consideration. Your first customer is your publisher, so you have to study what is popular, what is selling, and what is not.

Know What the Publisher will Publish.
Publishing is a business like any other and if you want to sell you have to live by (the individual publisher's) rules. That's just the way it is. It's only courteous not to waste (a publisher's) time by, for instance, by sending an erotic story to a Christian publishing house.

In a recent WIP, (Work in Progress) I wrote a serial killer. I wanted to ratchet up the tension by making him a child killer, but my publisher doesn't allow child killing, so I redrafted and rewrote.

In the field of erotica, you have to take note of taboos. Most mainstream erotica publishers ban; 'real' rape, bestiality, pedophilia and sex involving bodily waste. There are some rules I choose to break, and some publishing houses that will not accept them. But I know what I'm doing.

Fill your Writer's Toolbox...

In order for any publisher to take your work seriously, ie that your manuscript is sellable, you have to take note of certain conventions. Lets not get into what (writing) rules you can break and what you can't. A lot of that depends on the story you want to tell, and your skill. All writers have things they are good at, and things they need to work at.

Learn your strengths and weaknesses.

Read books on plot, characterisation, pov and the rest, attend classes, online or off. It is important that you know the rules before you decide to break them.

For story arcs, try reading Vogler, Campbell and Evan Marshall. All great discussions, and very well illlustrated. Watch "Star Wars" because Lucas admitted he followed Campbell's model very carefully when he made the film. It's a start, and it might give you the 'spark moment' you need.

Suggested Books on Writing
  • 'The Writer's Journey' by Christopher Vogler
  • 'The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing' by Evan Marshall
  • 'The Screenwriter's Workbook' by Syd Field

Tension and Conflict.

Tension and Conflict are vital to a publishable novel, and to many short stories. When you set up your characters, set them goals, and make sure those goals conflict in some way with someone else's. With a romance, it should ideally be the Hero and Heroine who are in conflict. That's why I've moved from romance to romantic suspense. Very often my conflicts come from outside the central relationship. I really don't like my central couple fighting all the time.

Go to: Motivation and Conflict, an article by Patricia Kay

Before I start to write...  

...I've (already) been through a process that takes from a week to a month. I know my characters, (Character sheets) and I have a chapter by chapter outline to work from. (Also known as BLOCKING.) This method might not work for you, but I've tried other methods and this is the one I'm comfortable with. Obviously the pantser method (writing by the seat of your pants) is only working so far for you, so you may need to develop your prewriting technique.

Go To: Assorted PreWriting Exercises by Vickie Kryston

Lynne Connolly
GSOLFOT, Author of urban Gothic romance

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Vanity Presses and Self-Publishers are BAD ~ Okay?

"All Money flows TO the Author.
NEVER From the Author."

DO NOT confuse eBook Publishers with Vanity-Press--POD: Print On Demand, or Self-Publishing companies! 
ePublishers are legitimate publishing houses that publish, produce and distribute electronic books. Some ePublishers also print and distribute trade paperbacks. The authors do not pay one red cent for this. 
In the News...

Self-publishing companies are in the business of selling dreams. But what if the dream becomes a nightmare?
By Paula SpanSunday, January 23, 2005; Page BW08

Like mainstream book publishers, self-publishing companies are in the business of selling dreams. But what if the dream becomes a nightmare?

It was a jubilant day when Kate St. Amour learned that her novel, featuring "a psychic witch who solves crimes," had been accepted for publication. She'd been quietly writing fiction since high school, socking her efforts away in drawers, but last spring she took a deep breath and, for the first time, sent a manuscript to a publisher recommended by online friends. Bare Bones had "the three M's: magic, mystery and murder," says St. Amour, a Fredericksburg, Va., nurse with an unusually felicitous name for a writer of a book that is part mystery, part romance. This book, she thought, might finally be good enough.

In June, a publisher in Frederick, Md., agreed. "I'm happy to inform you that PublishAmerica has decided to give your Bare Bones the chance it deserves," it announced via e-mail. "To say I was excited is an understatement. I've wanted to be published my entire life," recalls St. Amour, who is 31. "I called everyone I could get on the phone; I e-mailed everyone I knew."

Doubts first arose when she began receiving e-mailed exhortations offering special, limited-time discounts if she agreed to purchase many copies of her own book. Would Avon or Pocketbooks do that? she wondered. She grew suspicious, too, when the proofs of her novel arrived -- riddled, St. Amour says, with spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.

And when she visited her local Waldenbooks to schedule a book-signing, an assistant manager checked her computer, "looked at me and said, 'That's POD.' " In industry parlance that means "print on demand," books that are most likely self-published. "We don't do signings for POD authors," the employee said.

Perhaps, St. Amour thought at first, the manager misunderstood. PublishAmerica does use POD technology -- saving manufacturing and warehousing costs by not producing a book until a consumer actually places an order. But it calls itself "a traditional, advance- and royalty-paying book publisher." Its trade paperbacks, its Web site says, "are available through most major bookstores," though it adds this qualifier: "Availability is not necessarily the same as bookstore shelf display."

St. Amour, who acknowledges being "very ignorant about the publishing industry" at the time, believed she was contracting with a press that was small but could launch her new career. Yet a major chain bookseller -- and the nearby Borders concurred -- was telling her it wouldn't put her book on its shelves.

"The excitement," she says now, "was short-lived." PublishAmerica operates differently, she has learned.

To Larry Clopper, president and co-founder of PublishAmerica, the company, in relying on its authors to largely sell their own books, is "revolutionizing" an elitist industry. It has, he says, "always operated on the highest principles of honor and integrity." PublishAmerica's authors often knew "decades of failure, dozens of rejections and life-changing disappointment," adds Clopper, who twice failed to find publishers for his own books. "Now they hold their books in their hands, and they are sneering down at the publishing industry that shunned them."

Many of his authors have no complaints. Humor novelist H.B. Marcus of Burton, Ohio, for example, says that his royalties amount to "cigarette money twice a year" but believes that if he just keeps plugging he can build a readership. Yet others are sufficiently angry to launch a campaign against the 5-year-old publisher.

"I am beyond distraught," says St. Amour. "To think my dreams were realized, and then to find out I made a horrible choice, was horribly misled -- it's crushing."

The Self-Publishing Universe
Weren't writers supposed to be by passing publishing houses and dead-tree technology by now? Shouldn't the industry have evolved to something other than the book as Gutenberg knew it? Somehow, though, writers' most potent fantasies still involve pages between covers, not e-books and blogs.

"The immortality of the book, the permanence of the book draws people in," says Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild.

Because there have always been more would-be authors than mainstream publishers are willing to sign up, writers can turn to a variety of do-it-yourself alternatives. The major difference is that, one way or another, those writers wind up paying, instead of being paid, to be published.

First came the old-fashioned vanity press, now more politely called "subsidized publishing" -- Vantage Press, Dorrance Publishing and Ivy House are examples. They charge writers directly, at prices that can run into thousands of dollars, but their cautions probably prevent misunderstandings. "Some prestige and popularity may come your way, but it is important to recognize that you may only regain a small part of the fee," 50-year-old Vantage warns on its Web site.

Newer models like iUniverse and Xlibris use the digital print-on-demand technology. Certain industry sages -- former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein, for instance -- have predicted that POD is the likely future for all publishers, that one day there will be ATM-like kiosks where readers who order books via the Web can pick up their nicely bound copies, eliminating warehouses, sales forces, shipping and returns. This has yet to materialize, but in the meantime, POD technology has considerably lowered the cost of subsidized publishing.

iUniverse, for instance, will print a trade paperback for $299 to $748, depending on how many "free" copies and how much "editorial review" a customer wants, with additional charges for line-editing, proofreading and press releases. POD companies like iUniverse and vanity presses in general don't appear to generate much public rancor, however, because they make it quite clear that the author bears the expense. Besides, such publishers do serve a purpose. The Authors Guild, for example, has an arrangement with iUniverse to keep its members' out-of-print books available. For a PTA planning to sell a cookbook, or a family elder passing her memoirs around to the grandchildren, a vanity or POD press makes sense.

But it's very unlikely to lead to a career. Once in a great while, a highly entrepreneurial author gets lucky: His self-published book comes to the attention of a bigger fish. A recent example: Suzanne Hansen set up a company to print and distribute her You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again! When she and her sister had managed to peddle 4,000 copies -- a big hit in these circles -- they sent mass e-mails to publishers and agents. Crown acquired the book last month for what Hansen's agent calls "a good six figures."

Hansen couldn't enjoy the same resale triumph if she'd teamed up with PublishAmerica; its authors sign over publishing rights for seven years. Instead, the company would have negotiated the purchase and kept half the proceeds. In any case, a success story such as Hansen's is rare. (It helps that her Hollywood nanny saga drops celebrity names like Streisand and Ovitz).

Otherwise, in subsidized or self-publishing, "the overwhelming majority of sales are to the friends and family of the authors," says Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio. He's a print-on-demand believer (his company owns 22 percent of iUniverse) but cautions,

"if authors want their books in stores, they need to go the traditional publishing route."

Enter PublishAmerica, a hybrid that uses POD technology but identifies itself as a "traditional" publisher. PublishAmerica doesn't charge authors to produce their books, so authors wary of vanity presses feel reassured. "I was more than willing to give a small press a shot," St. Amour explains.

PublishAmerica is hardly a small press: It released 4,800 titles last year, far outstripping Random House, the nation's largest trade publisher, which released about 3,500 titles in all formats through its many divisions. And it signed 5,000 new contracts, says Clopper, bringing its total to "almost 11,000 very, very happy authors."

Here's how a contract from PublishAmerica works: An author gives PublishAmerica the exclusive right to publish his book for seven years. In return, the company pays the author a $1 advance and agrees to print and distribute the book at its expense. PublishAmerica will edit the manuscript if it thinks it requires "substantial editing." It agrees to pay royalties ranging from 8 percent to 12.5 percent on book sales. 

Morgan's Note: The average epublisher pays 20% to 35% royalties Per SALE. If an eBook goes to print, that author gets 15% Per Sale. Caution! There are ePubs that offer a lower percentage on their print versions. Read your contract carefully!

Marketing is left completely to PublishAmerica's discretion, though the author pledges "to actively participate" in promoting sales. PublishAmerica also gets the exclusive right to sell the book elsewhere. Those proceeds are split 50-50 with the author.

What happens if the author wants out of the contract? Some authors have been asked to sign a confidential release, agreeing to say only that the relationship "dissolved amicably" and not to disparage PublishAmerica.

Indeed, amicable testimonials from PublishAmerica's authors fill its Web site. But not all are so delighted.

The Campaign Against PublishAmerica
Feeling betrayed, a number of disillusioned PublishAmerica authors have taken to the phones, the mail and the Internet. They've filled hundreds of Web pages on writers' sites with their bitter sagas; they've complained to the Better Business Bureau of Maryland, the Federal Trade Commission and other law enforcement agencies. In November, they sent the Maryland attorney general's office a petition bearing more than 130 signatures. And they've contacted news organizations, including The Washington Post.

Though the amounts of money involved are generally modest, the emotions stirred are noticeably intense. One "heartbroken" novelist wept on the phone during an interview.

What the dissidents want, primarily, is release from their contracts (something the company occasionally grants, Clopper says, if an author presents a compelling reason). But, calling PublishAmerica a new variant on the old vanity-press model, they also want it exposed. "They mislead and they deceive," charges Rebecca Easton, the Colorado writer who organized the petition. "Tell people what it is. Don't say that because you don't charge authors, you're a traditional publisher."

That claim lies at the crux of the dispute. The phrase "traditional publisher" has no particular definition; in fact, Clopper says, he and his partner came up with it to distinguish themselves from publishers that charge fees. But to some it suggests adherence to established publishing industry practices, even as PublishAmerica diverges from those practices in a number of ways.

Take the editing approach. PublishAmerica promises "an editor who goes through the text line by line" but won't "edit the author's voice, tone or delivery." Its 35 text editors mostly ride herd on spelling, grammar and punctuation, Clopper says. Though carefully worded, the contract doesn't promise anything more. But since editors zoom through an average of two books a week, they can't pay much attention to content, which leads one irate PublishAmerica writer to brand it an "author mill."

Mainstream publishers approach editing more broadly and take a more deliberate pace. And while PublishAmerica editors communicate with authors by e-mail -- some authors say they never even learned their editors' last names -- traditional editors not only pick up the phone, but frequently meet their authors in the flesh and have even been known to take them to lunch.

As for distribution, books are one of the few commodities retailers can return if they don't sell -- except for print-on-demand books, which aren't returnable and therefore don't get stocked by national chains. PublishAmerica's Web site says its books are "available in all bookstores nationwide." But what that usually means is that purchasers can place special orders at bookstores, not that they'll find the books there for sale. Some PublishAmerica authors have persuaded local booksellers, both chains and independents, to stock their books or hold signings, but it's an uphill fight.

"Self-publishers should be up front with their writers about that," says Riggio of Barnes & Noble, which discourages managers from stocking any non-returnable merchandise. "They need to tell them they are not likely to be in bookstores." But a book that's not on shelves faces a serious handicap. Despite the growth in online sales, more than 55 percent of books are still sold in stores, according to Ipsos BookTrends data. When it comes to promotion, PublishAmerica's Web site warns that "you're no John Grisham or Nora Roberts, not yet. So you must not only beat the drum, but be the drum major as well." The company asks authors for the names and addresses of up to 100 friends and family members, then sends them a direct-mail announcement/order form when books are ready. And every few months, it sends authors announcements of special, limited-time discounts on their own books. The approach fuels suspicions that PublishAmerica makes most of its money on sales to its authors and their circles, not the broader public.

To generate publicity, for instance, mainstream publishers send out hundreds of press releases and review copies. PublishAmerica sends a press release to two local media outlets and will mail up to 10 review copies if reviewers request them.

All of this has led to quite modest sales. PublishAmerica says it has sold nearly a million books. With its 7,500 titles in print, that amounts to sales in the tens or hundreds for most authors. Its top-selling authors sell "up into the thousands," Clopper reports, but just one has topped 5,000 -- low-end figures for a major publisher.

In addition, the cover prices of PublishAmerica's books usually run several dollars higher than the industry average for trade paperbacks -- $15.65, according to R.W. Bowker's Books in Print. The company Web site says royalties are "slightly above average industry standards," but they probably run lower in actuality because PublishAmerica bases them on net sales. Clopper says many other publishers do the same, but both the Authors' Guild and the Small Press Center say royalties based on cover price remain the norm.

Certainly, authors who are published by big houses do their share of griping, especially about promotion or lack thereof. Some PublishAmerica authors, conversely, sound quite content. Lynn Barry figures she's sold 500 to 1,000 copies of her two PublishAmerica novels, many through the diner she and her husband own in Fillmore, N.Y. "I'd never go with a vanity press," Barry declares. To her mind, although she has bought and given away a few hundred of her own novels, she hasn't.

"Sour grapes," says humorist H.B. Marcus of his fellow authors' complaints. "Their books didn't go anywhere . . . and they can't face it. It's easier to say, 'PublishAmerica ripped me off.' "

Clopper, proud of his company's growth, estimates annual sales at $4 million to $6 million and says that the protestors amount to a "minuscule" faction. But the fact remains that his authors can't join the Authors Guild. Having heard complaints about PublishAmerica for years, the guild doesn't recognize its titles as membership criteria. "There's a long history of vanity presses and others taking advantage of the hopes of would-be authors," says executive director Aiken. "This might fall in that noble tradition." True, too, many major book review sections (including Book World) won't review POD books. "Some of our proudest moments come when authors are not allowed into certain exclusive clubs," Clopper retorts.

Those who petitioned the Maryland attorney general seeking "an investigation into this massive scam" had a different understanding, however. They weren't interested in sneering at the exclusive club; they thought that, at last, they were being invited into it.

"People who just want a book to hold in their hands, who don't care about having a career as an author, do okay with PublishAmerica," says A.C. Crispin, who chairs the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Committee on Writing Scams. But for many, "after a while, they realize that what they really wanted was to be read."

Getting Back
What recourse the protesters may have is uncertain, however. The Maryland attorney general's office sympathizes but says its Consumer Protection Division doesn't cover disputes between businesses. The Better Business Bureau is "conducting further research" on the 25 complaints it's received; the FTC won't comment on its response to consumer complaints.

Illinois attorney C.E. Petit, who represents more than a dozen PublishAmerica authors, says that what his clients most want is "to get out of a deal that was misrepresented in the first place. . . and get on with their publishing lives."

Easier said, though. Tim Johnson, who lives in Wauchula, Fla., toiled for seven years over "a supernatural, psychological mystery/thriller." He admits, after the fact, to naiveté: "I didn't know how a true publishing company worked. I didn't know anything about agents, or where to begin to find one." Why would he? Johnson works in a fertilizer company's shipping department. So when PublishAmerica accepted his novel, "I thought after all the hard work I'd put into it, this was the real thing."

He bought 150 copies, printed up promotional posters, persuaded a local book and gift shop to hold a signing and bought newspaper ads to lure customers. He spent about $2,000 and recouped about $700, he estimates, before he realized that, without being able to penetrate more bookstores, his novel was "not going anywhere, no matter how hard I work."

If PublishAmerica went under, "I'd be glad, because no one else could be hurt." But what he's seeking in signing the petition is release from his contract. PublishAmerica has turned down his repeated requests. Clopper says this is because the company has assumed "enormous" financial risks and wants to have time to recoup that investment. This befuddles and discourages Johnson -- but not so thoroughly that he's stopped writing. He hopes some day to submit Twisted Oak and its sequel to another publisher. What he wants, what so many writers want, is the imprimatur that, so far, only mainstream publishing houses, large or small, can really grant.

"What PublishAmerica is really doing is stealing dreams," Petit says. "And courts don't put a monetary value on that."  
Paula Span, a former Washington Post reporter, teaches at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She will be answering questions about this story on Book World Live at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at


How do you know if YOU are dealing with a legitimate eBook publisher, or a POD / Vanity Press?

Did you have to PAY for ANYTHING?

- Editing?
- Cover Art?
- Marketing?

Let me repeat myself:

"All Money flows TO the Author ~
NEVER From the Author."

Always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS Check your potential publisher out - BEFORE you sign the contract!

Good places to begin:

Go To: Writer Beware
Go To: Preditors & Editors

PublishAmerica In OTHER News!

Revenge of the Science Fiction Writers! 
"Here's a quick rule of thumb: Don't annoy science fiction writers. These are people who destroy entire planets before lunch. Think of what they'll do to you. Thus learned PublishAmerica recently."
"PublishAmerica is having a rough month. After being sued by 150 authors who felt they were deceived by the company, and taking a beating a couple of days ago at the hands of the Washington Post, PublishAmerica has become the object of an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a group of science fiction writers ."
"...a collection of SFWA authors (and, ahem, non-authors) concocted to write a very poorly written book. Under "direction" of James D. Macdonald, each author was given minimal information from which to write a chapter (with no idea of the chapter's location in the book, time of year, background of the characters, what the plot was, etc.), and encouraged to write poorly. The result was submitted "for review" by PublishAmerica to see if "has what this book publisher is looking for." It did. :-) PublishAmerica offered a contract." 

Vanity Presses are bad. Okay?

Morgan Hawke

Monday, January 24, 2005

The BIG Secret to Marketing Erotic Romance

The Trut
h is: When it comes to Erotic Romance PR doesn’t do diddly-squat
for sales.
Posting announcement after announcement, after announcement, after announcement,...etc, will NOT get you buyers ~ it gets you BITCHING: "Quit Spamming me!"
Seriously Hot, Well-written, Erotic Romance
Sells Itself.
Put juicy excerpts on your website, post juicy excerpts on readers' email lists and, put excerpts in your release announcements – THAT sells books.
Victoria stepped out of the forward lift and followed Ravnos down the hall. At the command lift her worry deepened. They were definitely headed back to the captain’s quarters. She bit her lip as the lift doors closed behind them. What the hell was he planning now?
Ravnos turned to the keypad and the lift suddenly stopped between decks. He turned back and focused on his executive officer. “Seht, do it now.”
Seht’s head came up in a froth of long white hair. “What? Here?”
Ravnos nodded. “The yeomen have dinner set. I don’t want you shocking them, should you snap.”
Seht flashed long incisors. “I’m not that far gone!”
“And I need your brain back online to make plans,” Ravnos continued smoothly. “We both know you can’t think when you’re in this condition.” He held out his hand. “I’ll hold the coats.”
Seht backed up a step and eyed Victoria. He spat out a vicious oath that Victoria’s internal translator refused to register, and jerked out of his coat. He dug at the buttons of his waistcoat.
Ravnos looked at Victoria. “Take off your coat, and remove your waistcoat.”
Victoria unbuttoned her coat. I really hope this isn’t what it looks like. She shrugged out of it and handed it to her captain. Her fingers fumbled on the buttons of her long waistcoat.
Seht pulled off his cravat, baring his pale throat. He handed everything to the captain, then turned to Victoria. His expression bordered on pain, but his eyes were nearly white-hot with leashed passion. Lust was almost a scent in the air.
Oh, shit -- it is what it looks like. Victoria could not stop her instinctive reaction. She took two quick steps back and pressed against the lift wall.
Seht moved in a blur of speed, his palms flattened against the steel behind her, trapping her against the wall without actually touching her. Heat rolled off his body, and he seemed to tremble. His mouth brushed her ear. “This is not quite what I had planned,” he whispered.
“Then let’s not do this.” Victoria shifted to slide away only to find him pressing full-length against her. His hands slid down the wall to frame her hips.
“Do you want to argue with him?” Seht tilted his head a fraction toward their Captain.
She looked over at Ravnos.
He watched them with cool eyes and a slight smile.
She bit her lip. “No, not really.”
“Neither do I.” Seht’s nod was barely discernable. “Our captain is a little too clever when it comes to retribution.” His hands closed on her skirt, pulling it up her thighs then over her butt.
She sucked in a breath and discovered that lust did indeed have a scent, and it rolled off of Seht, rich, thick, and heady. And exciting.
“Please don’t fight,” he breathed. His lips brushed her throat. “I am closer to the edge than I want him to know. If you fight, I may not be able to control my … appetites.”

Why do excerpts work so well?
Because Sex - like Food – is a Physical need. Erotica is a snack that feeds the physical need for sex. Excerpts show the readers a taste of what you have to offer and this builds an appetite for more.

All the best marketing ploys for erotica operate under the same philosophy:
“Make them HUNGRY.”
-----Original Message----- "And leave them wondering what happens next. I have seen excerpts that were as erotic as all get out, but told me the entire story, so I had no need to buy the book--especially when the excerpt followed the blurb." - Jackie
Be CHOOSY about your excerpts.

The LAST thing you want to do is give away the PLOT! If you can't post an excerpt without giving away the plot in your story - then you have one of two Serious Plotting Problems.

- Plot Problem ONE -
ONE sex scene in the entire book.

If your Erotic Romance only has one sex scene, then that story had better be under 20k. If the story over 20k then it's not an Erotic Romance. It's a romance with an Erotic Bit.

Having only ONE sex scene does not mean that the story isn't worth reading or even Erotic, especially if the sexual tension is there throughout. But the bulk of the Erotic Romance buyers are looking for Sex first.

There ARE top-selling authors whose stories Do Not rely on Sex.

Mary Janice Davidson writes spectacular romantic paranormal comedies and Brenna Lyons weaves epic adventures, for example, but they are VERY GOOD, and these authors are Very Established. If a newcomer wants to compete with them, they had better be good enough to tempt the readers who are shopping for sex-books if they intend to sell a Second book.

There ARE readers who prefer Story to Sex.

But they do not represent the largest ratio of BUYERS. If you want to make decent sales numbers, catering to the smallest denominator of buyers is NOT the way to do it. If you want to make Big Sales you have to catch the attention of the largest ratio of buyers - and they want hot, juicy, and Detailed SEX. It's ugly, but it's the TRUTH.

Sexual Tension is NOT enough. 

A book over 20k with only one sex scene (no matter how much sexual tension is in the rest of it) is NOT what the largest ratio of buyers in this market are Shopping for. The biggest ratio of Erotic Romance buyers are Shopping SPECIFICALLY for Sexual Adventure Stories. A story over 20k should have at least 2 sex scenes.

Adding Sex to an existing story is a BAD IDEA. 

You should never put anything into a story that does not belong there -- ESPECIALLY SEX! Even I don't write that way. Every sex scene in each of my books has a reason to be there.

Don't know where to put the sex?
Go To: "Steam 101" by Angela Knight

- Plot Problem TWO -
Boy Gets Girl - IS the plot.

If boy and girl getting together IS the plot, then that story had better be under 20k. If it's over 20k then you've got a problem. If it's over 40k you have a Serious problem - NO PLOT.

If all you have is two people falling in love and nothing else, your story lacks MEAT. Sex alone does not sell to this market; they want a Good Story too!

In this jaded market, boy and girl STAYING Together --not Getting together-- should be the plot IN ADDITION to the story's actual plot-line. Technically, the Romance should be a Sub-Plot with the rest of the story trying to keep them apart.

This is a Choosy market and there are too many really talented authors that know how to weave a STORY with their Erotica and Romance. If you expect to compete for those buyers, you had better have a Meaty Plot - in addition to Love.

EXCERPTS Sell books.
Trust me; I know what I’m talking about.
You wanna do Press Releases anyway?
Then do it right.
Go To:
Getting Good Press by Robert J. Sawyer

Morgan Hawke

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Keeping Count ~ Tricks for Controlling Word Count

Word Count - My biggest Nightmare.

It’s much easier for me to go long than it is short. Once I started writing full length novels, it became pathetically easy to run too long.

In the past two years, the shortest story I'd been able to write was just short of 4000 words. (I was aiming for 2000.) 3 stories I originally planned for 20k (20,000 words) went to 40k. I have the detailed outlines for 3 more that were originally supposed to be 40k. According to my outline, all three of these want to be full length 100k novels.


Avoid Whack-Jobs ~ Write Fresh!

I'm known for my water-tight plotting. My background is in writing Advertising Copy, so I tend to write very, very spare. Once a story is completed I CAN'T cut. There's nothing TO cut. No extra nothing. Every single thing in my stories has a reason to be there.

I'm lucky. If the word count doesn't come out exactly right, my Publishers will normally take the story anyway. In most cases they ask me to ADD scenes. (I have yet to be asked to delete a scene.)

But ~!

If I'm writing for an anthology, I'm dealing with a hard-limit. The story HAS to be the correct length, or it won't fit.

If I get it Wrong? I'll write a whole new story rather than attempt a rewrite.

It is always better to have TWO sell-able stories
~ than One carved down beyond recognition.

NEVER waste your time cutting - writing a whole new story is actually faster, and far less stressful. This way you have two stories for sale instead of one badly mangled tale.

Deadline = No Time to Waste on the WRONG Story!

When I am on deadline and I am dealing with a hard word-count, I don't have time to waste on false starts so I do a detailed plot outline before I write. 
Actually I make a detailed plot outline for everything I write. I'm what you call a Plot-Whore. *Grin.*

One Event that changes the Characters' lives.
20,000 to 60,000 words
8 major movements:
0 – Overture - Alarm
1 - Introduction - Denial*

2 - Rising Action - Anger*
3 - Climax / Reversal - Bargaining*

4 - Falling Action - Despair*
5 - Crash - Sacrifice*

6 - Confrontation - Acceptance*
0 - Denouement - Resolution
16 chapters at 3.75k words each = 60k
8 chapters at 3k words each = 24k

3 Main characters: Hero / Heroine / Villain
(Proponent / Obstacle Character** / Adversary)

Only 1 or 2 POV characters - 1st Person or 3rd Person Limited

* Note: Character Arc:
Denial - Anger - Despair - Bargaining (Sacrifice) – Acceptance: The Stages of Grief.

**Note: Obstacle Character:
The Nay-sayer that possesses the opposing opinion. 
 -- In a 3-character plot, the Viewpoint Character tends to play opposition for both the Adversary and the Proponent. 

For the HARD CANDY anthology,
I had a hard limit - 20 to 30k.

By outlining my ideas, I discovered that 3 of my story concepts needed too high a word count. All three novel-sized ideas went into my Unfinished Projects folder, and I didn't waste all my deadline time writing something I couldn't use.

When I finally put together a story that had all the necessary criteria for the anthology, I still had a story that was double the length of the other stories by the other two authors. I contacted the publisher and told her what I had. I was lucky. Both of the other contributing authors ran short - exactly 20k, so there was room for my 40k monster.

Why did my anthology story run to 40k?

The publisher wanted a menage; three sexually involved main characters, in a cross-genre of sci-fi / fantasy. This was for an erotic Romance publisher so a “Happily Ever After” was essential; the menage set had to become a 3-way relationship.

Both sci-fi and fantasy take a lot of detailing to do right. (You can't just throw a fairy into a story without explaining what it's doing tere, in addition to having a reason for its presence.) In order to pull off a logically sound sci-fi / fantasy mix, I used paranormal elements as the fantasy element.

The complications of the mixed genre forced me to add an Antagonist, a villain to have a USE for those paranormal elements.

I ended up with a total cast of 5 main characters: a cyborg, a telepath, a fortune-teller and a man haunted by a ghost - the ghost being character #5, all running around on a space station.

Then there was the Sex.

In order to cut the encounters to as few as logically possible, I started the story with two of the three already sexually involved, and then added my viewpoint character.

That meant that I needed a minimum of 3 encounters.
  • One where the viewpoint character became sexually involved with one of the established couple.
  • A threesome scene to show the beginnings of their 3-way relationship.
  • Finally another thresome after all the story problems were solved, to show them as a viable 3-way relationship and deliver on a happy ending.

The final count for the Sci-Fi / paranormal story FORTUNE'S STAR came to just above 44k.

From the editor at Loose Id, on FORTUNE'S STAR:
"Excellent work. I was almost hoping I would find some extraneous stuff to cut, to make it shorter, but I found that the pace moves along very well and there isn't anything that's not vital to the story. It really keeps you guessing but is not too confusing."

Tricks I use to Limit word count:
  • Limit the CAST to only the absolute Essentials to tell the story.
  • Start the story closer to the main event. The closer to the main event, the shorter the story.
  • Simplify the Genre. Contemporary stories take far less descriptive detailing than Sci-Fi or Fantasies.

  • Story Under 10K - You only need 2 characters - the two people having sex. Start the story with them already getting nekkid.
  • Story Over 20k - This calls for a Problem, (a plot twist,) to come between the main characters.
  • Story Over 40k - This calls for an actual Antagonist, a villain, in addition to a problem to solve -before the main characters can have their "Happily Ever After".

Expanding Word Count is Easy.

  • - add characters
  • - add problems
  • - use a genre that takes a lot of detail
  • - cross genres

In Conclusion -

If you are dealing with a hard word-count limit, and a deadline, outlining the entire plot to your story before you write it, will save you time and grief.

Morgan Hawke

Friday, January 14, 2005

PHANTOM of the OPERA ~ Great Movie! BAD PLOT!

The Phantom's Hidden Plotline
I LOVED the Phantom of the Opera movie! Gerard Butler kicked fucking ass! He was a joy to watch and a total pleasure to listen to. I already have this soundtrack. The Phantom should sing like a Manly Man – not like some one with their balls in a vice. (I will NEVER listen to that whiny tenor’s music again.)
The movie was FANTASTIC! I shall endeavor to watch it as many times as I can scrape up the cash to do so.
But the Plot-line for the 'Phantom of the Opera' - the actual STORY -- IS WRONG!!!

Somebody Fucked Up
the Author’s Original Plot!

My 'theory' is that 'The Phantom of the Opera' that we have come to know, from the original magazine published edition, (it was published as a book a year later,) is Not the story Leroux actually intended.

My guess is that the very first publisher made the Leroux Change the Story - so as not to offend anyone during the time when 'The Phantom of the Opera' was first published in France, in 1910.

Why would a Publisher CHANGE a Manuscript?

This Changing of Manuscripts is a COMMON occurrence. Publishers REGULARLY change whole stories – ripping them apart to suit what they think their reading audience will buy. It still happens. Ask any published author.

The 'Phantom of the Opera' was first released, as installments in a magazine, only four years before the start of WWI when tempers were running very hot. Whether or not Leroux's publisher paid his bills depended on the public liking the story enough to BUY his magazines. Additionally, he could not afford to piss off anyone with any real power to shut his publishing house down -- such as the MILITARY.

Before I go any further...
Let me make this crystal clear -- I am not a critic, and this is Not a Critique of the movie, the play, the published book that the movie and the play comes from, or what Leroux's publisher released in those long ago magazine installments. I am referring to what I 'suspect' was in the original manuscript that Leroux submitted to the publisher.

I am a FICTION AUTHOR following clues in a PLOTLINE using the latest movie/play as a model because THAT is the story most people are familiar with -- those are examples that can be followed.

To any fiction author, it’s as plain and livid as an open wound; this Story was Changed before it ever saw print.

What gave me this idea?
Traces of the CORRECT PLOT are still there
-- even in the current movie.

Let us begin by unraveling:

The basic audience assumption:
Christine and Raoul were young and stupid.
They deserved each other.

Christine may have been young and stupid
– but Raoul definitely WASN’T.

Raoul was neither stupid – nor Young. Raoul was a lord, and lords were highly educated. Raoul was also stated as being a Captain fresh from the field. The amount of field experience it takes to reach captain is measured in gruelling battle-hardened Years. You did not survive to BE a field Captain without brains - and ruthlessness.
The character of Raoul could not have been younger than his early to mid 30s.
According to the story’s clues, the PHANTOM is actually Younger than Raoul! 

Poor Sweet Not-So-Innocent Christine…

The story begins with Christine as an Opera DANCER who later becomes an Opera Diva.
There was a REASON Raoul was pursuing Christine - and it wasn't LOVE. During this time period Lords like Raoul, pursued Opera Dancers for their mistresses.
Lords keeping Opera Dancers as mistresses, was not only common - it was EXPECTED, (even in 1910.) This is how the Opera Dancers made a living. An Opera Dancer was kept in her own little apartment - paid for by the lord, and rewarded with jewels and cash. The lords were called Patrons.
Opera Dancers BECAME Opera Dancers to Make Money - not from the Opera, but by being good enough to catch a Lord that would pay for everything: housing, clothes, jewels... Opera Dancers were members of the Demimonde - ladies of the Evening.
In this day and age, Opera Dancers are referred to as Exotic Dancers -- strippers.

The Diva Issue

Divas were professionally trained Artistes and often titled though impoverished, nobility. Christine was NEVER presented as being nobility. She was the daughter of a Musician - a violinist.
The Diva had damned good reason to be pissed with Christine. An Opera Dancer - a common-born untrained stripper - taking her place?

The Phantom - NOT your Common Psycho.

PHANTOM was not your ordinary weird guy hiding in the sewers. No ifs, ands, or, buts, about it. There was absolutely, positively Nothing common-born about the Phantom. EVERYTHING about him screamed: NOBILITY! His character, his dress, his ability to WRITE - never mind compose music and design an entire opera house!
PHANTOM was clearly a lost - or hiding - nobleman.
As a lost noble, Phantom would have had a STAFF to maintain him and that fancy cave. Lords of the 1800's couldn't do diddly-squat for themselves, so someone had to cook for him, clean his place, shop for food, sew, and tailor that neat-o keen wardrobe of his...etc. There are traces of a fanatically loyal staff in the original book, but they are gone by the time you get to the big productions. 

The REAL VILLAIN of the Piece – Raoul

Raoul was Not Young - and definitely Not Stupid. Nor was he in love. Raoul's pursuit of Christine began with her first leading performance and was very deliberate.

THINK: A 30-year-old handsome and experienced Lord chasing after a 17-year-old celebrity? Where's the Stupidity?

The Villainy was right there in front of everybody:
 -- Lords DID NOT MARRY Demimondes. EVER. 

Lords had their Family honor to protect - they did not marry whores. (How would you feel if your son announced that he was marrying an acclaimed Stripper -- or a Porn Star?)

The fact that Christine thought she might have a chance marrying Raoul, just shows how Stupid her character had become. The Diva, who was likely an impoverished noblewoman, had a better chance of marrying Raoul than Christine did.

Phantom was free to chase after Christine, because while he was noble, he was also dead to his family. It didn't matter who he married - his family's honor was being protected by someone else.

The Warped Plot
There's a rift in the plot about halfway through, when Christine visits her father's grave. THIS is when discrepancies begin to appear, and the plot goes awry.

It is at this point that the story no longer plays to the characters as they are actually presented: Raoul becomes heroic, Phantom becomes a murdering psycho and Christine becomes TSTL (too stupid to live.)

However, there are Still traces of the correct plot within the unfolding events themselves.

1) Christine visits her father's grave

This visit should have underlined the fact that Christine was a commoner, and Demimonde (a prostitute), verses what Raoul was -- Nobility. This should have snapped her out of her dream world and made her see Raoul for what he was -- a man pursuing an exciting and decorative mistress, and the Phantom as what he was -- someone who actually cared.

Phantom had watched over her and guarded her since childhood. He had seen that she had something of a noble's education and had even taught her some of the noble arts - MUSIC.

Of COURSE he loved her.

How did Phantom end up being Christine's guardian? All kinds of ways. Christine's father and the Phantom were both musicians; they may have been compositional associates. It was more likely that Christine's dad was part of the Phantom's personal staff. Nobles of that day cared for their staff as Family, so of course he would watch over his staff's child as well.

After realizing the truth of what Raoul was asking of her - sex - Christine would have come to the realization that it was the Phantom that actually loved her. Phantom had had a number of opportunites to seduce her - and had never used any of them.

2) Raoul's Purpose in the Graveyard

Raoul had been openly and blatantly STALKING Christine since her first performance. When Raoul showed up in the graveyard, it was quite obvious that he had followed Christine expecting to find her alone, and unprotected.

There was no question in anyone's mind what Raoul wanted. The duel happened because the Phantom was defending Christine against a rapist.

Once Raoul incapacitated Christine's only defender, Raoul would have taken immediate advantage of Christine's brand-new guilt towards the Phantom (he truly loved her - and now he was going to die for her) to pressure Christine into submitting and becoming his mistress. 

"I'll kill him right here, right now, if you don't come with me!"

This is also when the Phantom would have been unmasked for the first time -- by Raoul. Raoul would have been trying to force the point home: that Raoul was better because he was Prettier.

Physical Appearance was a HUGE issue back in the 1800's when this story was written. Ugliness was considered God's Punishment. If you were ugly, you MUST be Evil.

3) The Phantom’s Sword Wound

Raoul was a skilled and practiced swordsman. There is no way in Hell that the bookish and reclusive Phantom had enough sword-training to successfully duel with a battle-hardened captain.

At the same time, Raoul would have known better than to kill Christine's beloved guardian right before her eyes, but he was not about to let Christine's one defender live. By the time the duel stopped, Raoul would have made very sure that he had already delivered a mortal wound.

Note: A small sword cut in the armpits or in the juncture of the legs will pierce a major artery, causing massive amounts of blood-loss and DEATH in a very short period of time.

When Raoul forced Christine to submit to him - at the price of her guardian's life - Raoul was convinced that the Phantom was already dying.

4) That chandelier would still have fallen.

Phantom wasn’t a murdering psycho – he was PISSED OFF!

Recovering from the near-fatal duel is a more logical reason why the Phantom disappeared for so long from the opera. (He was gone for several months. It’s still there even in the plays!) He was obviously recovering from his wounds.

Once he regained his strength, Phantom would have been furious with Raoul - and in a panic to save Christine. Only now, he knew that there was no way he could take Raoul in a fair fight - because Raoul did not fight fair. The only way to beat Raoul was to get him with a sneak-attack.

Unfortunately Raoul was too much of a battle-seasoned survivor to catch that easily.

5) Raoul – the Real Psycho

Once Raoul got out of the way of the falling lighting fixture, the Captain would have gone out of his way to hunt down the young and idealistic Phantom to make he sure was well and truly dead
Why? Because as long as the Phantom lived, Christine could escape him at any time. 
Being a man's mistress had One Advantage over being his wife.  
A wife was legally owned by her husband, he could have her arrested and brought back. A mistress was legally outside his reach.

As long as Phantom lived - Christine could leave him.

What probably confused Raoul the most, was that Christine actually Would leave him -- and he knew it.

6) In the final Battle between Raoul and Phantom
-- Who Captured Who? REALLY?

Raoul was the better fighter, and the Phantom was STILL recovering from his last fight with Raoul. Logic points to the fact that the Phantom would have been captured, and threatened with death, rather than the other way around, as the current plot has it.

Raoul would have been the one to force Christine into choosing between them -- with the intent to kill her if she chose the Phantom over him.

7) Christine’s Actual Love Dilemma

The REAL pressure on Christine should have been:
  • Go with the man she'd been sleeping with for the past few months and accept her role as whore.
 - or - 
  • Die with the one man who proved time and again, that he loved her.
The original Author's obvious Ending? 
  •  Christine left with Raoul to save the Phantom; breaking everyone’s heart, including her own. True Love as Sacrifice.

What the hell Happened
- to the REAL Love Story???
In 1910, with WWI looming, when this book was first penned, it was UNTHINKABLE that a handsome military man, and a lord would be represented as anything other than heroic while a man who was disfigured (cursed by God) could possibly be anything other than villainous.

The story HAD to be changed, for the sake of public proprieties. (Keep in mind, DRACULA, published in 1897 --only 13 years earlier-- caused a major uproar among the British nobility because the Vampire was a Noble.)

So Raoul got white-washed into a hero, Phantom got black-washed into a common basement-dwelling psycho, and Christine became TSTL (too stupid to live) when in fact she was a woman who sacrificed her honor and her life to save the man she loved.

What am I trying to Prove?
The purpose in this article is to show that sometimes a deeper --and better-- story is present within a published work. As writers, it is our job to ferret out these hidden stories and bring them to light.
What am I trying to Say?
There are enough clues in 'The Phantom of the Opera' to construct an entirely different story. Anyone who writes fiction professionally can see exactly what I saw. The current story as presented is WRONG.

What was obviously a “love story” about sacrifice had been changed into a “descent into madness” story, with only a few cosmetic adjustments made to accommodate for those changes.

Somebody PLEASE do this story RIGHT, damn It!!! 

Because if "I" have to do it, I will write 'The Phantom of the Opera' as the true EROTIC HORROR it obviously should have been.

Morgan Hawke