Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Romance

Faleena Hopkins, Cocky, Cockygate, trademark abuse, publishing, author branding, trademark trolling, amazon, RWA

Call me cocky for even weighing in on this issue (at your own peril). But, seriously, folks. It’s rare to run across something so epically wrong AND foolish and…ironically, cocky. As an author branding expert, I’d be remiss NOT to say something about Cockygate (though I seriously hate having to).

Cockygate.

Yes, folks, it’s a real thing. A subject—cocky—we’ll touch on today (with gloves).

I’ve dedicated over ten years, three branding books and close to thirteen hundred blogs to help my fellow authors. Why? Because this job is brutal. We take crap from countless vectors.

For instance, even though our culture spends the lion’s share of their disposable income (and free time) consuming entertainment…apparently creating this entertainment is not a ‘real job.’

*face palm*

Writers are often paid last and the least (if at all) even in legacy publishing…which is why we need agents. Regardless of pedigree, most writers write for love not money (though we universally agree money is AWESOME).

Why I’m Cocky Enough to Care

I didn’t set out to become a branding expert or blogger, but I tend to have a crusader personality. Which is why my coauthor mocks me and calls me a Griffendork. And I’m cool with this because I know what it feels like to have the world against you and feel (or even actually BE) all alone.

When we step out to become novelists, it’s normal to get pushback. When I announced I was leaving sales to become a writer, my family made the natural assumption I was joining a cult.

Then didn’t talk to me for two years.

Writers deal with a lot of BS, so I’ve spent YEARS stepping into protect other authors from said BS (especially the newbies). Like a fluffy middle-aged superhero, with yoga pants covered in cat fur.

Anyway…

When one adds up the BS from Goodreads trolls, regular trolls, sockpuppets, algorithm scams, piracy, plagiarism, and ‘reviewers’ who fail to appreciate there might be an ACTUAL HUMAN WITH FEELINGS on the other side of the review, you know what you have?

Enough stress to turn Tommy Chong into a cutter.

Then there’s the rampant (and unrepentant exploitation) from MEGA MEDIA BRANDS all using the ‘Exposure Dollar Ponzi Scam’ to rake in millions using creatives as free labor and yeah….

I’ve had a full dance card.

Writers are incredibly brave. They willingly endure an incredible amount of cruelty and sacrifice time and their own money to do what? To entertain. To ideally make some stranger’s day just a bit better. That’s a hell of a noble goal.

And this is precisely why I’m so rabidly protective.

A Caveat

In fact, I am so protective of my fellow authors, I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and stop this author, explain to her how branding really works so I might have saved her from herself. This gal wrote and published seventeen novellas in two years. That’s a hell of a work ethic and there’s a lot about that to be admired.

It’s just the next part that puts me in a weird position.

While I do possess a modicum of compassion for this singular author, her ill-conceived and poorly thought out actions have done untold damage to countless others. Damage that will take months to even fully realize.

And, FYI, for anyone who thinks I’m mean? Calling out a dirtbag move, mocking what deserves mocking, and using a$$hattery as a cautionary tale is not ‘trolling.’

Kind of like when those Olympic swimmers in Brazil claimed to have been robbed and held at gunpoint? Only for us to find out they were piss drunk (literally) and vandalizing a store? And that the ‘evil men with guns’ were not robbers, rather security guards and police?

When the public openly denounced this behavior?

Not trolling.

Anyone who threatens legal action to confiscate honestly earned royalties from innocent authors doesn’t get the victim card, any more than a drunk Olympian urinating all over a gas station then filing a false police report does.

What’s the Deal with Cocky?

Funny, I asked the same thing. In fairness, a lot of other bloggers have done a WAY better job explaining what’s come to be known as Cockygate (like Jami Gold’s Branding: The Right Way vs. The Wrong Way).

But I’ll give the Spark Notes of the scandal we never thought we’d see, let alone be discussing.

In a nutshell, indie author Faleena Hopkins trademarked the word ‘cocky.’ Yes, a word commonly used since the 16th century. A word very commonly used in the romance genre.

This might not have been a big deal, except the author then used her newfound power to threaten and bully fellow authors who’d used ‘Cocky’ in their titles.

I WISH I Were Joking

To make this worse (if it could be worse) Ms. Hopkins took it upon herself to personally e-mail her competition with her ‘reasonable’ demands and spell out the legal consequences for those who failed to comply.

Let’s take Jamila Jasper, for instance…whose book The Cockiest Cowboy to Have Ever Cocked I just bought on a) principle and b) to show actual-money-spending-support for the wronged Jamila Jasper and c) to express my gratitude for her sharing THIS with my other new hero Jenny Trout ,whose post on this entire cock-up is sheer GENIUS…

Exhibit A:

How benevolent! Makes me all misty-eyed. Wait, no…not seeing mist. Seeing more like…red?

To threaten to sue, forcibly take another author’s hard-earned royalties and also make said target PAY for being screwed…then follow it with how seriously you take your victim’s hard work?

Just…wow.

What’s next? Car-jackers demanding gas-money in polite thank you cards? Hand-delivered by large ex-cons with tire-irons and a thing for breaking kneecaps?’

Legal Z…Doom

Ms. Hopkins isn’t the first person to NOT ‘get’ how the whole trademark thing works. We can pay and apply to own the trademark on pretty much any word. If you want to own the word ‘snollygoster’ because it’s a super fun word that should be used more often and this word makes you (okay, me) laugh every…single…freaking…time?

Knock yourself out. You just kind of can’t do anything with it other than maybe brag you own the word snollygoster.

If memory serves me from when I applied for a trademark, you fill out a bunch of forms, wait ninety days and if no entity, person, organization raises a fuss and files to contest? TM granted!

In fact, one might imagine the aforementioned attorney name-dropped in the threatening letter could be rather miffed with how this Cocky TM has played out (though this is total supposition on my part).

One can hire an attorney to TM a word. Since attorneys like money, they go, ‘Um, okay. Cocky? Sure you don’t want to own snollygoster?’

Then they file the paperwork and make their money. Done.

Or not.

Unwanted Weaponizing

Could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure this firm never anticipated anyone weaponizing the word ‘cocky.’ Or using their name and BRAND to do it. I have no way to know for sure. But logic dictates this firm didn’t consent to being the brute squad used to terrify honest hard-working writers into dismantling their livelihoods out of fear.

*makes weird ‘pondering’ face*

Never seen a law firm rufied.

Well, Cockygate is proving there is a first for everything.

Then since the Federal Trademark Office and Amazon have an act-first-then-sort-this-crap-out-later policy, they’ve also been rufied/weaponized. I can’t imagine the FTO or Amazon being very thrilled with being wielded to kill off competition for one author’s personal gain.

Oh to be a fly on the wall….

Trademark Trolling

But I OWN ‘COCKY’, and here is my TRADEMARK! 

Hmm, yeah owning the trademark for a word doesn’t mean as much as this author apparently hoped (mainly because there are no permanent legal teams in place defending every word in the dictionary against BS trademarking for profit).

See, if writers (or anyone else for that matter) could rampantly trademark common words then sue anyone who used the words they ‘owned’ and take their money by force? Publishing would pretty much implode.

Besides, if this sort of plan worked? Go big or go home! If making money by ‘owning’ words were a legit business plan, I’d totally TM all conjunctions…and y’all just lost ALL FUNCTION 😛 .

But I wouldn’t do that, namely because that would be a jerk move and also, one only has to war-game this out about three steps to see it wouldn’t ever work. To be certain though, I consulted MY attorney.

Hey, Mr. Eight, can I go TM all the conjunctions? Then sue anyone using compound sentences?

Faleena Hopkins, Cocky, Cockygate, trademark abuse, publishing, author branding, trademark trolling, amazon, RWA

Mr. Magic Eight Ball Esq. gives pretty amazing legal advice.

But It’s NO BIG DEAL

This author, instead of backing off and apologizing, keeps insisting this is no big deal. Yes, but it IS. It is a VERY, VERY BIG DEAL for all authors (which is why I’m talking about this).

As an author who’s self-published two out of five books, myself, I was astonished that someone who’s self-published seventeen titles would claim these changes are no big deal.

Just get a new cover *hair flip*. 

Seriously? Covers can run hundreds of dollars. The authors would need a cover for paperback AND e-book. Then you need whole new ISBNs (not cheap). You’d have to trash any inventory, swag, ads, promotions and pull and then pay to reproduce any audio books.

If this is a SERIES with ‘cocky’ the costs of Ms. Hopkin’s ‘minor’ changes just made ME want to cry…and I don’t even write romance.

And demanding these changes literally right before CONFERENCE SEASON?

*breathes in paper bag*

The ripple effect of Ms. Hopkins’ demands are way bigger than what little I just laid out. For the aerial view of the Cockygate devastation, go read Jenny Trout’s post for the full run-down of what Faleena keeps asserting is ‘no big deal.’

As a wise man once said,“You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

She keeps insisting no authors are being harmed, because retitling only takes ONE day.

*bangs head on table*

You know what else takes one day? Tanking a brand. Where’s a Hot Tub Time Machine when you need one?

Community 

Part of why I’ve worked my tail off to create author communities is so we can support each other, give advice, and even act as designated drivers…only for dumb@$$ ideas. Instead of taking away car keys, we lovingly mock our friend’s stupid plan until this friend wizens up.

Which is why I don’t own a full-sized trebuchet.

My writer friends all know me. Which means they also know I’m highly unlikely to use that power for good.

Being part of a group of fellow authors who care has benefits. They’ll do anything short of break the law (or break the law without getting caught) to save us from evil bright idea fairies. Educated, loving groups could’ve explained how it’s simple to protect a brand…without nuking it from orbit.

Beyond the Social Media Mess

Anyone who uses the FTO and Amazon to kneecap competition, has more than social media backlash to contend with. Authors guilty of nothing more than using an extremely common word in their romance titles are now embroiled in a legal nightmare, some possibly facing financial ruin.

Yep, that’s gonna come back to bite.

This ‘Cocky’ plan also has awoken RWA to take legal action and protect innocents caught in the cocky cross-fire. I could almost hear the collective voices of romance authors crying, Release the Kraken!

*backs away slowly*

Making a Cocky Contribution

I find it vastly amusing that Switzerland has spent roughly thirty years and $6.5 billon for what? To build the Large Hadron Collider. The goal of the LHC? Possibly create a small black hole.

Just a teensy singularity.

CERN has long been searching for ‘The God Particle.’ They also longed to be the first to create a spot of infinite density here…on Earth. In a bizarre twist, more than a few misguided authors have already done this. One can look HERE, HERE, and DEFINITELY HERE.

Multiple black holes.

***No Hadron Collider required.

Granted, these authors didn’t create ‘The God Particle,’ only the slightly-less-sexy-and-yet-far-more-perplexing ‘I Think I’m God Particle.’ The bugger of all this, was how preventable all these incidents were.

Count the Cost

It really pains me this is even a discussion, but is what it is. I know, some discussions we never thought we’d need, like why teenagers shouldn’t eat Tide Pods.

SMH.

Trust me, I was hesitant to even weigh in on this issue but crucial conversations are called crucial for a reason. Not all writers have been around since AoL was cool, and may be unaware that, in the social media age, branding has evolved. Sometimes it can feel like juggling nitroglycerine.

Or maybe just this post feels like that.

Suffice to say, there are a lot of ‘things’ we writers CAN do, just it’s wise to stop and ask if we should. Better still, ask other friends who are unafraid to lovingly call us an idiot. Writers, overall, are some of the most helpful, selfless, and supportive friends we can make.

Which might explain why we can go a tad psycho when one of our own crosses what should be an obvious LINE. You know, like setting a legal precedent that could collapse our entire industry faster than Kanye West’s fashion line.

My heart goes out to authors impacted by this…this….I don’t even know what to call it. If there’s any way I can help, I’d be happy to do what I can.

For those romance authors who’ve been cocky-blocked? We are on your side and rooting for you. You shall prevail!

What Are Your Thoughts? 

Other than most common thoughts like, ‘What the hell just happened?’ ‘Is this for real?’ ‘Can people DO this?’ Though, you know? Feel free.

I do love hearing from you because it’s how I learn and grow as well.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go do something productive, like work on my comedic screenplay about a struggling male exotic dancer who ‘loses his shirt’ and determines to win back his fortunes by becoming a professional boxer.

And, of course, it’s called…COCKY.

 

 

 

 

Hey Guys, Cait Reynolds, my co-author/partner in crime/therapist/evil half is here to talk about the birds and the bees and maybe bees tying up other bees. The “How To” of writing superior sex scenes is vital, just uncomfortable for me. Sorry. I blame my upbringing.

I’m a Texan with a Lutheran mom and Baptist father. I grew up in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and have had far too much vacation bible camp to be much help. In fact, legally, I cannot write a sex scene until every member of my family dies…and likely not even then.

If you need help with plotting a fight scene or murder? I’m your gal.

All this said, roughly 80% of publishing is powered by the romance genre. This is a FACT.

I read a LOT of romance, myself. Sadly, however, there are “romances” so over-processed and crammed with filler they need a foil tray instead of a book cover.

TV Dinner sex scenes.

Tired, overdone, dry, uncreative and no one looks forward to consuming this stuff (unless starving and desperate).

Now, the great romances? Those suckers should come with warning labels. Those stories set us ON FIRE and do not relent until we are ash.

Though I know these books when I see them, not my skill set to teach, so Cait, A.K.A. Bad Teacher taking over….

When to Have Sex? (Besides the, uh, obvious)

I need to clarify here that when I use the word ‘sex,’ it’s a kind of shorthand for a wide range of heat and scenes, from the breathless near-kiss to the no-holds-barred prolonged BDSM menage a trois.

With bees *giggles*….

Kristen, go away or I will stab you. Where was I?

Basically, when I use ‘sex,’ it means that physical arousal has become part of the scene and may influence emotions, insights, and decisions (good and bad but always “complicated”).

Whether we write it sweet or scaldingly hot, there always has to be a reason behind sex for our characters. Sex scenes are not exempt from the rules of plotting. Let me say that again.

SUPERIOR SEX SCENES SUBMIT TO THE RULES OF PLOTTING

And yes, I am all CAPS LOCK on you on the super important stuff and no talking back *adjusts leather yoga pants*.

As I was saying..

This is not to say that a character’s decision to give in to temptation has to be rational (in fact, it’s often better for the plot if it isn’t). However, sex must always fit coherently within the logical structure of the story.

We can’t just throw in a sex scene because it has been a chapter-and-a-half since our characters got it on.

Another cardinal sin is timing a sex scene when the emotions of the characters don’t match up to where they happen to be in their arc.

Let’s use Seraphina and Taylor (my favorite stand-in’s). If Seraphina is having trouble accepting that what Taylor did was for her own good, she is going to struggle emotionally and intellectually with the pull of intimacy with him. Too often, we flip a switch on Seraphina and have her go from manic to melting in the space of one kiss.

While she can certainly give in to the physical sensations, emotionally, she’s not going to be in the same place as her physiological responses. She’s going to be conflicted going into the moment, and who knows where she’ll be by the end of it?

THIS IS A GOOD THING.

Conflict is the living, beating heart of any story, and to excuse sex scenes from this rule is to water down both the meaningfulness and the sizzle of sex.

Suspension of disbelief is a fragile thing, and we run the risk of smashing it to pieces when we interrupt the logical flow of a story–something the reader is attuned to, even if they don’t know it.

In short, when it comes to a sex scene, we can’t just stick it in any ol’ place any ol’ time we feel like it (Sorry not sorry–I had to go there). When the moment is right (um, I have been reading too much of Kristen’s Cialis blog post), a good sex scene is just what the characters and the plot need.

How to Have Sex (Besides the, uh, obvious)…

Let’s say we’re reading a mystery. We pick it up with the expectation of suspense, the pleasant anticipation of trying to figure out the whodunnit for ourselves before the detective, and a thrilling game of literary cat and mouse.

The author announces in chapter three that it was the butler in the library with the candelabra, and the rest of the book is spent finding more clues that confirm…yup, it was the butler in the library with the candelabra.

I don’t know about you, but I would be throwing that book across the room…unless I got off on reading the same conclusion over and over again. (Surprise! It was the butler in the library with the candelabra! *facepalm*)

So, why do we yet again exempt sex scenes from this basic rule of fiction?

SUPERIOR SEX SCENES ADHERE TO THE RULES OF PACING

If Seraphina and Taylor jump into the sack in chapter three (with or without the butler & candelabra optional), then what is left for them? Misunderstandings and emotional conflict?

Sure.

But…the snap, crackle, and pop when we break through the Latent Unresolved Sexual Tension (L.U.S.T.) is utterly and irrevocably gone.

There’s only ever one first time. One moment of true surrender. ONE.

After that, it’s just indulging in a habit with more or less consequences.

If we are writing high-heat romance or erotica, there is definitely an expectation of having lots of fairly explicit sex scenes. But there’s nothing that says we have to go all the way on the first date with the reader.

There’s a certain irony in the idea that we as writers are supposed to be endlessly creative, yet, when it comes to sex scenes, we too often tend to go for the obvious, low-hanging fruit (insert innuendo here).

Anticipation is the most powerful aphrodisiac. Highly intoxicating and addictive.

Temptation and then DENIAL of the NEED as long as possible. The longer the chase, bigger the payoff.

When we (readers) binge read a book, our hearts are pounding, and we simply cannot stop because we want…we need what has been denied over and over. The final act is called a CLIMAX for a reason. Remember that. Jot some notes if you need to.

We writers must understand that what arouses readers to a state of almost painful excitement is always the tease (yup, more innuendo). The author leads a merry chase–hinting, confusing, tantalizing, showing a bit of ankle, running in the opposite direction.

We loves her. We haves her. We needs the Precious!

LITERARY FOREPLAY IS CRITICAL!

Yep, more CAP LOCK there *cracks whip* *adjusts black-framed glasses* I’m being tough. #BadTeacher

Wanna get all sexy with no lead up? No work? No game?

What is it that our characters fear about intimacy?

What is something that pushes their emotional and physical boundaries?

What have they never done before?

What is dangerous to them?

Where would they never engage in physical intimacy?

The more we know our characters, the more we can create moments and scenarios that begin to build the pressure of L.U.S.T. until a single spark makes all their clothes explode.

Done properly, we can build enough ridiculous tension and prolong the anticipation so that the first full sex scene can happen halfway or even two-thirds of the way through the book, and the reader won’t even notice because they’ve been hot and bothered since chapter two’s encounter in the coatroom of the restaurant.

Where to Have Sex (Besides the, uh, obvious)…

A good editor will come down on us like a ton of bricks if we get too mechanical or bogged down with unimportant details. Every scene has its own particular balance of dialogue, inner thoughts, action, and description.

The exact proportions of each element may differ for different POVs, genres, scenes, level of heat, etc., but they are always present.

Why then, for the love of all things Taylor and Seraphina, do we forget this rule when it comes to sex scenes? Why do we subject the reader to the (sometimes literal) blow-by-blow description of what Seraphina is doing to Taylor and vice versa?

It’s painfully easy to let a sex scene slip into “Insert Tab A into Slot B” territory when all we focus on is what body parts are touching other body parts.

SUPERIOR SEX SCENES HARNESS THE RULES OF DESCRIPTION

There’s so much we can put into a sex scene to enhance it, make it vibrant, touch a chord of reality with the reader, and create a truly unique moment for our characters. Let’s just look at the mechanics.

We wouldn’t describe every single action a character takes to prepare a lasagna. Why are we doing this with a sex scene? If we truly know our characters and what they long for, fear, desire, and dislike, then we can draw the reader’s attention to what is daring, unusual, and dangerous for the character.

For example, I could describe in agonizing minutiae how Taylor undresses Seraphina. It would probably end up sounding like every other undressing scene in every other book.

Taylor hurriedly undid the buttons on her blouse, getting impatient and yanking it over her head. She gasped as he hooked his hands into the waist of her skirt and deftly turned it around so he could unzip it and slide it down her legs. (I can’t go much further here without getting both more mechanical and explicit and in trouble with Kristen, but you get the idea.)

Eh. Meh. Blah.

But…what if we spun the moment this way?

As Taylor tore at her clothes, Seraphina wondered at herself, at her impulsive decision to leave work in the middle of the afternoon to meet him at the hotel. The constant patter of rain against the windows reminded her of the stream of emails she was willfully ignoring.

She looked at the man responsible for her temptation, the agent of her transformation. Every piece of clothing he ripped away peeled away the shell of the cold corporate woman, and every hot breath against her skin baptized her in the fire of a primal desire.

In your mind’s eye, you saw Taylor taking off her clothing. I didn’t have to beat you over the head with the buttons or smack you with her skirt. I didn’t give you guidance on how to take off Seraphina’s clothes. I put you in her head, and I bet that for a split-second, you heard the patter of rain against a window ;).

Getting Some…

All of this is just the tip…of the iceberg. (YES! I HAD TO!)

I talk about this and so much more in my class, “How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes–No Safe Words Here!”

The thing is, this Friday is the last time I’m offering it this year (and probably well into next year). So, if you want to have an awesome time and learn a ton about writing SUPERIOR SEX SCENES, sign up for MY CLASS THIS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2017, FROM 7:00-9:00 P.M. EST!

CLASS DESCRIPTION

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $45.00  USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, October 20, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl have sex several times, though the scenes all kind of blur together at some point. Girl (or Boy) ends up in trouble at the hands of criminals/jealous ex/drug lord and needs Boy’s (or Girl’s) rescue.

Boy and Girl have celebratory sex and live happily ever after.

Sound all too familiar?

Maybe like the tens of thousands of schlocky “Schlongs of Shanghai” titles all competing for KENP (Kindle pages read) and the top 1,000 ranking on Amazon?

But, there’s no denying that erotica is one of the hottest genres around and has a very real place in literature. Yet, to write a work of erotica that provides both the escapist fantasy that readers want while creating a fast-paced story with memorable characters and riveting, unique sex scenes is probably harder than trying to find that billionaire cowboy with six-pack abs who’s into ménage-a-trois.

This class will not be for the faint of heart or those who blush easily!

We are going to tackle the nitty gritty of the erotica genre as a whole and sex scenes in particular…and use ALL the words in our discussions!

Topics covered include:

  • When to introduce sex into the story and the sex v. plot ratio –
  • Creating chemistry in one easy step
  • Decisions, decisions: Purple prose v. crass cusswords –
  • How to avoid the cookie-cutter Alpha male (and corresponding Mary Sue female) –
  • Keeping the sex fresh, interesting, and unique in every single scene – How realistic to make sex in any given scene v. how much detail is TMI, even for your readers?
  • What really makes a scene sexy?
  • What makes a story sexy?
  • BONUS: How to talk about erotica as literature and fun facts about the history of erotica!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase. REGISTER NOW!

GOLD PACKAGE

Get one hour of phone consultation with Cait and workshopping of a sex scene of up to 2,500 words! This is personalized instruction and guidance on making your writing sizzle!

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston area with her husband and four-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, rock climbing, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.