Public Relations Advice for Faleena Hopkins

I attempted to write a blog post, using my 34 years in public relations to help Faleena Hopkins fix this ridiculous and dangerous situation that will impact creatives for many, many years. Why? I can’t stop thinking about how she grossly underestimated the solidarity of the romance writing community, how she continues to assert she is just trying to protect her brand, how she continues to believe she is right. Then I remember the last 34 years and it all clicks into place. I’ve seen this scenario before . . . so many, many times before . . .

Starts blog post: You can’t stay quiet anymore.
Stops blog post: You should be writing your book instead of throwing unsolicited advice to someone who will never read it or take it.

Restarts: Self, you spent three decades in PR.  Those 34 years of working in the most cynical, hard, arrogant, well-intentioned, mistake-prone place in the world called Washington, DC has to do some good.
Stops: And be seen as helping the enemy? Just go back to writing. You’re behind on your deadline, ya know.

Restarts: Everyone can be redeemed. Besides it might help someone else who falls into a similarly horrendous, completely-self-made, reputation f*ck up scenario like FH has created.
Stops: Elizabeth, you are being a pollyanna. She won’t listen. Narcissists never do.

Restarts: But this whole bloody mess could be turned around.  I mean, to a point. She could at least reach the level of indifference.
Stops: Too many people will never forgive her. It’s a waste of time.

Restarts: The public has an enormous capacity to forgive—if you ask for it.
Stops:: Oh, come on. She seems to have crossed that line. Ya’ know the one that all humans have but rarely get to? The line where “being right” becomes more important than “being happy?” You’ve seen this before. Lordy, have you seen this before! They dig in their heels and double down on their stance in an attempt to further prove they are right even if the outcome is clearly going to show they are wrong.

Restarts: FH has dug in her heels so far she’s up to her ass in dirt. Help the poor woman save herself.
Stops: The steps are too hard. Most people, and certainly not someone like who FH has shown herself to be, won’t do the things you’d suggest.

Restarts: Listen, self, you really should support all the other authors who have stuck their necks out on this thing,  like writing cocky-titled and cocky-themed books, with what you can contribute—PR advice. You can at least tell them what you’d tell FH if she’d listen, which is to:
1) Stop talking about it.
2) Start breathing — and thinking. Stop reacting.
3) Identify what she really wants from her life and her work.
4) Apply to rescind the TM on the single word, cocky, but keep the series TM.
5) Ask for forgiveness for all that came before this moment, and DO NOT say a word about angry responses. Be sure to say she made a mistake, and that she’s sorry. Like, really sorry and that she hopes others can forgive her.
6) Ask for forgiveness from the specific authors, attorneys and the publicist she’s gone after and not expect said forgiveness but rather hope for indifference. In fact, consider covering their legal bills.
7) Offer to help/financially support the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Authors Guild so they can work with the PTO in changing their policies so individual words remain in the public domain.
8) Find a tribe of authors who can provide future advice on what to do/not do so she’ll never, ever end up here again. Hold them close. Above all else, listen to them.
9) Ride off into the sunset to make her movies or whatever the hell number 3 is but remembering number 4
10) Understand none of this is guaranteed to work but worth trying anyway. What isn’t a reputation worth?

Stops: Take your own advice, Elizabeth, especially step 3. Go back to writing your own books. Support RWA and the Authors Guild in having that talk with the PTO about removing the ability for an individual, non profit, corporation or governmental body to “own” a word. Buy all the cocky books written by other authors that you can get your hands on.

Oh, and if FH does take the advice above? Forgive her.

But only if she asks for it.

5 Ways Millionaires & Billionaires Aren’t Like Us

This piece first appeared on

bizmeetingAccording to the latest Fifty Shades Darker movie, Christian Grey makes $24,000 every 15 minutes. Possible? Yes. Over the years I’ve met a few billionaires and lots of mega millionaires in my day job. Not sure what they make in fifteen minutes, but I can tell you these super-magnets for wealth exist.

Christian Grey is young, hot, and tormented.  He’s not like you and me with his anti-relationship contracts, and crazed need for control.

Okay, this is really just an excuse to post more pics of Jamie Dornan.

Okay, this is really just an excuse to post more pics of Jamie Dornan.

While your average mega-rich guy may not be like that, neither is he like us ordinary folk. Here are five things I’ve observed about the super rich.

  1. NEVER ENOUGH.  You worry about money.  I worry about money.  The uber-wealthy worry about money too, but not like you and me. As long as I’m paying the bills, taking a nice trip or two a year and someone comes to clean my house once a week– I’m golden. That’s enough. Millionaires and Billionaires worry about losing their super-wealthy status, and they worry about it all the time. They’ll always have money, but it’s having “enough” that’s troublesome.  Their version of “enough” is in the seven figures–for a while. Then they need more…and more…
  2. CHEAP IS CHEAP. The super-rich have odd ideas about what’s expensive. Watch them recoil in horror that a Frappacino at Starbucks costs six dollars.  However they’ll approve that 60 grand for the new pool in the third house with the swipe of a pen. (Or a phone call. They have people who handle that stuff for them.)
  3. RICH MEN DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE. It’s usually someone calling for money. Their voice mail is perpetually full. Their people will get back to you.  Maybe.
  4. RICH MEN DON’T RUSH. They walk. Other people can run–and should run, because rich men despise tardiness in others. So don’t be late for meetings with them.
  5. RICH MEN SAY NO. If a situation doesn’t suit them (like they don’t like the restaurant you pick or that company they thought they might buy), they walk away–even if they leave you hanging. Is that rude? Well, yeah.  Sometimes. Do people around them point that out? Well, no.
Thinking important business thoughts. This is what the super-rich do.

Thinking important business thoughts. This is what the super-rich do.

Ultimately, there are two kinds of super-wealthy men: those that buy their way into everything and those that buy their way out.  Is this nature or nurture? Are they rich because they have these traits, or does being rich change them? One thing’s for sure–you and I will probably never know. ; >

Giving Up Secrets (and Gifts) — Interview with Elizabeth SaFleur


PictureI’ve been on a blog tour lately. The bloggers have asked fascinating questions, causing me to think back to how my writing career began . . . and inspiring me to let loose a few secrets.

The following author interview was first published at Deal Sharing Aunt, a wonderful blog site featuring many new authors, books and special deals!

Be sure to scroll down to the end to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway. 

Interview With Elizabeth SaFleur

DSA: Where are you from?
ES: I consider myself from two places – New York and Virginia. I spent most of my childhood in upstate New York, between Buffalo and Rochester, where it snows six months of the year. When I was fourteen, my mother married a (real) cowboy and we moved to a Central Virginia horse farm. Can you say culture shock? But both states will always own a piece of my heart. New York for its gritty honesty and Virginia for its beauty and charm.

DSA: Tell us your latest news?
ES: My first full-length novel, Lovely, debuts January 1. This is probably the biggest news I’ve had to share since I got married nine years ago. They both felt like the start of a new era. But my book marks a serious foray into a “writing life.” 

Lovely is the first of seven Elite Doms of Washington novels that will be published over the next two years. My husband didn’t realize someday his wife would become an erotic romance author. But he’s slowly warming up to the idea. It helped when I named him Lead Research Assistant.

DSA: When and why did you begin writing?
ES: I’ve been writing since I was five, starting with poetry. I wrote my first novel at age seven: the Mystery of the Bunny. A real bestseller! Over the years, the desire to write never left. But I didn’t get serious about it until three years ago. Truthfully, I can’t not write at this point. My head would explode if I kept all these stories inside.

DSA: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
ES: For the first time, a few months ago. I answered the question, what do you do? (a standard Washington, DC cocktail question) with the answer, I’m a writer. Until then I’d always responded with I’m in public relations. It feels good to own the writer role. The impending publication of Lovely is what pushed me over the edge. There’s nothing like a publisher saying, yes, I’ll put your baby into the world for you!

DSA: What inspired you to write your first book?
ES: I assume you don’t mean “The Mystery of the Bunny.” LOL Lovely was written over the last two years, but the story came to me in 1996. While sitting at an outside café in Washington Harbor watching the sailboats glide by on the Potomac River, I thought I saw a woman being lashed to a mask. I wondered, does she like that? Jonathan Brond, the hero in Lovely, answered. He asked, would you like to find out? He’s been talking to me ever since.


DSA: Do you have a specific writing style?
ES: I tend to write long, especially around the sex scenes but always trying to delve into what’s happening to the characters emotionally. Reading sex scenes that are just “insert Tab A into Slot B” doesn’t do it for me. Exploring the emotional development of the characters—both in and out of bed—is exciting. So, I write what I like to read – relationships that evolve over time between complex characters with deep-seated (and usually conflicting) motivations and desires.

DSA: How did you come up with the title?
ES: Lovely’s hero, Jonathan, calls Christiana Snow “lovely” throughout the book. But the meaning goes deeper than a mere endearment. Very little is “lovely” in Washington, D.C. Yes, it’s a beautiful town, with cherry blossoms in the spring and regal white monuments and memorials. But it’s also a town where a lot of ugly things go on, like the constant jockeying for power. When Jonathan meets Christiana, he is stunned by the contrast of his life against what she represents. Her innocence and honesty captures Jonathan’s attention immediately. Christiana is like a wildflower in a sea of hothouse orchids.

DSA: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
ES: I’d like readers to feel the struggle that both characters undergo around maintaining their power (Jonathan) and independence (Christiana) while allowing love to enter their lives. In Washington, especially in politics, one is often forced to choose between love and power. Jonathan certainly faces such a choice.


DSA: How much of the book is realistic?
ES: Ooo, I’ll never tell. Okay, I’ll tell you a little bit. I worked in Washington, D.C. for fifteen years, often supporting public affairs efforts. I’ve been to Capitol Hill many times: sitting in the congressional gallery, attending hearings, and visiting members’ offices. I’ve also been to umpteen receptions, charity events and galas mixing business, finance and government officials. My characters are 100 percent fictional but you could say all that experience provided inspiration for them as well as events, setting, motivations and more.

DSA: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
ES: I wish my characters were real. But sadly they are, at best, composites of various people I’ve met. As for the events and plots points, I don’t want to give too many spoilers. But, about fifty percent of what happens in Lovely has occurred in some fashion in real life to people I know.

DSA: What books have most influenced your life most?
ES: Books are a huge part of my life, so I could list a library here. But the day I finished Joey W. Hill’s Hostile Takeover, I decided I wasn’t going to “cheat” my own Dom, Jonathan by trying to make him into someone he wasn’t. I kept trying to tame him down. But Jonathan wanted to be far more hardcore than I originally allowed. In the end, he won. So, you could say she provided me permission to unleash the character as he wanted to be.

Other books that have impacted me are Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby and just about everything Anne Rice has ever written. The Mayfair Witches are a favorite series, and her Sleeping Beauty series, which I read in the early 1990s, opened me up to a whole world I had no idea existed. I haven’t looked back since.

DSA: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
ES: My critique partners are definitely my saviors and mentors. Patricia A. Knight, Marilyn Lakewood, and Kris Michaels are fantastic authors and even greater friends. They understand what a writer goes through, and the self-doubt that can arise. All three of these ladies have talked me off the ledge more than once (and probably saved my stories from going with me!).

(Editorial addition since this interview first aired: And Rachel DeLune, a new erotic romance author!)

DSA: What book are you reading now?
ES: I just finished reading Cecilia Tan’s Slow Surrender series. Once I finish edits on the second Elite Doms book, I’m dying to read more of J. Kenner. I read her book, Wanted, recently and now I want more.

DSA: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
ES: I’m actually on the hunt for some new erotic romance – especially from new authors. They could write paranormal, regency, contemporary or other. Does anyone have any suggestions?

DSA: What are your current projects?
ES: I’m deep in edits on Untouchable, the second Elite Doms book, and writing the Lovely sequel, which will be the third book. Lovely’s sequel picks up the summer Christiana graduates from college. She and Jonathan are going to hit a rough spell when their age difference begins to strain their relationship. It also doesn’t help that another Dominant enters the picture.

As for Untouchable, we meet uptight heroine, London Chantelle. The story opens with her visiting a private BDSM club in an attempt to exorcise unwanted submissive desires. But then she runs into client Carson Drake—a man who has very different ideas for her. Carson makes a cameo in Lovely, and he “told me” in no uncertain terms he was next in the Elite Doms line-up. Those bossy Doms! But, while Carson is tough, he’s also loyal and dedicated. Of course, London poses all kinds of challenges for him. It’s been a fun and complex story to write.  

DSA: What would you like my readers to know?
ES: How much I appreciate what they do for authors – reading, reviewing, giving feedback and reading some more! Most writers would write regardless. But readers inspire us as much as our characters who whisper in our ears. And we do listen to what you have to say about our stories. We cherish your feedback.

Also, if anyone ever has questions for me or even just wants to say hello, I love to hear from readers. I can be reached at or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Ten Things I Learned at the BDSM Writers Con

I spent four days in New York City last week with about 100 writers, readers and BDSM lifestyle enthusiasts, all in the name of better writing. I thought I knew about the BDSM world. But until the BDSM Writers Con, I’m not sure I fully grasped the depth of this unique and generous community. Below are just a few lessons learned.

1. The BDSM Writers Con was by far the best conference to attend if you write anything with BDSM elements. The discussions about the BDSM lifestyle, the various kinks and activities and real-life experiences provided far more insight and intelligence to this world than googling could ever achieve.

2. Until you’ve gone to a BDSM dungeon or play party, you can’t fully understand what goes on there. During the Con we got a private tour of NYC’s longest-running BDSM Club, Paddles, and attended a NY Fetish Tribe play party at a private club. You’ll have to message me for details. <Wink>

3. The BDMS community is giving and accepting of other’s proclivities in a way I’ve not experienced elsewhere. The moral majority and right wing politicos could learn a thing or two about forgiveness, love and discipline from this community.

4. The “reality” of BDSM isn’t always pretty. But it is beautiful. The experience of watching consenting adults engage in such activity was a privilege I don’t take lightly.

5. The BDSM world is as varied as the vanilla world. But it’s hard to grasp the depth of possibilities without experiencing or witnessing BDSM in action. For instance, it never occurred to me that the violet wand could produce orgasms – or would melt nylon stockings.

6. Speaking of the violet wand, our demo man, international violet wand master, Travelling Fool, gave many attendees a Very Good Time from the device. I dubbed his table at the Tribe’s play party, “Orgasm Central.”

7. Observing fire play, knife play, intimidation, “take-downs,” electrical play, bondage, suspension, spanking and more provides a level of sensory input that BDSM writers need to encounter. I picked up a number of details that will give new life to scenes that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

8. Safewords, limits and aftercare are real. They aren’t made up by writers to make BDSM palatable to the masses. I witnessed a young male Dom give his sub aftercare that lasted as long as their flogging scene on the St. Andrew’s Cross.

9. New York City still has the best food in the world. But I’d really like the BDSM Writers Con to go to Washington, DC next. As I’ve always said, it could use the discipline – and get a better handle on love and forgiveness.

10. No matter where the BDSM Writers Con unfolds, I’m going back next year. But do you think I could bring my dog*? I missed him.

*Side story. During the last day of the conference, Husband and I received furious text messages from our house sitter. The dog had tangled with a skunk in the middle of the night. Yeah for us. Now four days later and he still smells! I wonder if there is a skunk fetish? Hmmm…

Certain Business Lessons That Don’t Apply to Writing (IMHO)

© Images (US), Inc.

Thirty years in the business world taught me a lot. Not everything was useful for launching a writing gig, however.

Business lesson one: Be a chameleon and change your colors when your customers want you to. But if I change my voice, stories or genre too much, how long would my readers stick around? They’d be confused, right?  

Business lesson two: Keep the status quo at all costs. Change is costly. It takes time to retool manufacturing plants, get the right staff in place, and market products. With writing? Personally, I get tired of reading the same story with just different characters. Surprising readers, introducing them to new thinking or feeling, and designing whole new worlds is a writer’s goal.

Business Lesson three: The customer is always right. This is a tricky one in author land. For one, you’re not writing for anyone who reads. You are writing for (hopefully) first yourself and then secondly for a specific readership. Pleasing everyone seems the fastest way to a lukewarm story at best.

Business lesson four: Your personality shall fit in with what is acceptable. Oddballs need not apply. As an author? Bwaahahahahahaha. My favorite author bloggers and tweeters expose their quirks with abandon. It’s what keeps me coming back.

Business lesson five: If it doesn’t feed the bottom line, exit. Can you guess what you’re about to read next? Yep. Most authors don’t write to make money. They write because they can’t not write. (You like that double negative?) Money is great—downright awesome. But it’s not why I write.