FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS
From time to time I receive questions (or observations) from readers and I've noticed a pattern. I will offer some responses with the caveat that these may contain spoilers.
This is Hard Times and here are some questions I have tried to anticipate or have received.
Q: What State/County/Region is Hard Times set in?
A: I do not specify the state because I want the place to seem familiar but not exact to the reader. If you hear it is Tennessee and you have never been you may find it more difficult to picture. The state is some mid-west or southern state and that gives people more frame of reference.
Buckman is the name of the town and Buckman Acres is the name of the trailer park. If you would like some trivia Ellen is from the affluent community of Cherry Lawn Estates. (The same suburb of white-picket fences and 2 story houses that the Taylors from Family Feud live in). The name of her town is Cherry Lawn.
At some point in the history of these two towns a highway was supposed to go through Buckman that would promise a lot of new jobs and commerce. This never happened and instead it went through Cherry Lawn. The Bitterman family (and by extension) the Griffin family from Family Feud profited greatly from land speculation and development of Cherry Lawn.
The Gaylord family was shafted because they were told the highway would go through the Buckman but they managed to prosper in any case by building a community of mostly white-trash. Buckman is mostly rural and it's like many places in America where old roller skating rinks, run-down K-mart shopping centers, bowling alleys and truck stops are the only culture and entertainment in the area.
Ted Gaylord is from a branch of the family that is not as affluent but still feels a sense of entitlement.
Q: Not all trailer parks are full of white-trash shitkickers and sluts!!
A: A lot of what I write in my story are observations growing up in a trailer park. I agree - there are some fancy double-wide trailer parks and the Buckman is not that. It is a massive collection of smaller parks that were developed cheaply and haven't been maintained very well in an area of depressed economic opportunities.
It does have a lot of white-trash and sluts in it. This is a story about that culture. If you have no idea what that is like I can rectify that for you. Visit the people of Walmart website or better just walk around there some and you will probably start to see the kind of people who inhabit my story.
I sometimes go to wal-mart and see people who I wouldn't put in my story simply because I think you won't believe that this is these people's reality. Tube-tops and short-shorts, Guys who flash strangers for a thrill, white guys who dress like gangstas and corn roll their hair, Rednecks in camouflage with beards like Duck Dynasty - that is what you'll find in this story.
Q: You aren't very nice to your characters. Why wouldn't anyone stop this?
A: If you have ever been to an all-day concert you'll sometimes find families walking around admidst the crowded beer-infused throngs at the porta-potties and mosh-pits amongst the girls flashing and the people chugging beer bongs. This is the reality at that event.
I think it is very easy to imagine a well ordered, very logical setting where there are adequate social services that would provide the needed support and response to the fact that in one trailer the mom has three teenage daughters who are sluts and/or who are selling booty for cigarettes and weed.
This is not that place.
If you've ever driven past an old run-down motel and saw people who apparently LIVE in that motel - this is that reality.
I am not NICE to my characters in part because there has to be a challenge and a conflict for my story to be enjoyable to me to write. I beat up my characters but dangle some hope and give them a chance to overcome the obstacles.
If Indiana Jones doesn't get punched and knocked down and tied up by the bad-guy - how are you going to root for him when he finally gets the bad-guy?
Q: Something Ted did was illogical or I disagreed with.
A: Ted is not a rational man who is logical. He is a small man with something to prove. He is lazy, narcissistic, and often seeks short-cuts to getting rich as opposed to good planning. You will most likely watch him learn from his mistakes and evolve but he has to make those mistakes to see him learn from them.
Q: But seriously though, Ted put weights or binders on Crystal's tits for a long time and the longest you should leave them on there is four hours (or some other irresponsible behavior Ted did).
A: Ted is not a rational man who is logical/reads BDSM guidelines and studies websites before he does anything. Do you remember someone in your family who *REFUSED* to ask for street directions no matter how lost they got? How about *INSISTED* on opening the box on Christmas and just putting some gift together without ever once reading the instructions? Even if there are bolts missing/left over they said "Well, those are just extras."
They see directions/instructions as a sign of weakness on some level.
How about if they lit a cigarette *RIGHT BEFORE* they tried to lift a heavy couch so the smoke goes up in their face? Same guy you knew, right?
You know those people who hear a commercial that says "Talk to a doctor before taking this medicine" and actually talk to a doctor? "Hey Doc, can I take Tylenol?"
Ted is not that guy who asks the doctor. He is the guy who opens the box and throws the instructions away. He would say "Yeah you dummy, I took eight fucking Tylenol just now." So yes - he does things outside of the official standards and takes risks.
You should not model your life on Ted and what he does.
Q: I would like Conner to be more assertive. Why doesn't he just speak up?
A: Conner is a nerd and younger than Ellen. He comes from a reality where grown-ups are the ultimate authority and he has never had to question that because his life has been frosted cereals and video games up to this point and he had no reason to question the wisdom of his parents in their decisions.
He does now but in order to see him evolve - just as with the question about Ted, you must see him make mistakes and learn from them.
Q: I found it implausible in Ch. 11 that Ellen's mom would allow the nudity as part of the punishment - why is that? If she is this woman who lived in Suburbia "normal white-bread" area, why did she not forbid this punishment?
A: I will say that you can rationalize it this way. Ellen's Mom (Patricia) is very stressed out without her husband there and they just lost EVERYTHING: job, house, car, all their stuff, money, they NEED money in order to just pay off their debts to have nothing.
Ellen was already seen naked and the punishment seems to be working and Patricia has to go. She was also being goaded by her sister .
However, You were supposed to find it implausible in any case and congratulations if you did. There is some foreshadowing about Ellen's moms past and what she is doing now that will provide context clues.
Q: Who was that person that was following Ellen's Mom in Ch. 9 when they visit Rowdy's?
A: Hmmm, that is a context clue as to why Ellen's mom may have bigger concerns and/or more open mind than we realized.
Q: When is Ellen's father (Mike) going to return?
A: If Mike returned immediately Ellen would have to explain what she is doing and he would know about it.
Do you not think it's a much more interesting story to keep her wondering (and you wondering) when/if she is going to be found out?
Isn't that part of the risk of flashing/exposure? Not getting caught but rather the possibility that you might?
Q: There is not enough tension. I think Ellen would protest more these spankings and goings on.
A: Ellen is a complex character that thinks she is simple to understand. She like most teenage girls her age has grown up with constant mixed messages that will paint her perceptions.
As an example, she often describes herself as frumpy and not that attractive compared to her more beautiful cousin. This is because in her mind this is true.
Then at times I describe her as looking like Ellen Page (the actress) who is gorgeous and often plays teenagers in roles like Juno. I describe her body and the reaction of people who see it as anything but the kind you would expect if she was frumpy.
She has a hard time admitting she is pretty. She isn't "Barbie Doll" pretty like Savannah but she is certainly attractive.
She has grown up with mixed messages about 'good girls don't' and at the same time Miley Cyrus showing her tits on stage to get notoriety. She protests at times having to do these things and yet - she does them and she sometimes find she enjoys it. She is confused by this reaction and that is HOW she should feel because she wonders if she really likes it, or just some of it, or if she is just an optimist trying to find the bright side.
Ellen also has peer pressure to continue from her Aunt's family, and the fact that she has agreed to do something to help the family (A worthy goal). She may at times lose sight of why she is doing these things but she has also been painted as a girl who tries to get extra-credit on science projects and was always a stickler for establishment and rules in the past before moving to the Buckman.
Once she got there Crystal and Savannah started to impress on her the idea she could be a bad girl if she wanted to and it was empowering.
Ellen grew up being told "you can do anything you want to" and "Women are equal to men" and Crystal and Savannah are from a culture where men are DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT and behave entirely different then women. The men are often philandering drunks but they provide paychecks and Crystal clearly has a string of failed relationships that is in stark contrast to Ellen's mom who has been married to the same man since college.
Ellen's tension is in her head. She isn't saying "ABSOLUTELY NO!" and being forced because then she would seem entirely innocent and I would feel pity for her. She is choosing to do these things reluctantly for reasons even she has yet to discover and will continue to discover as the story continues. She is an active participant in what happens to her - even if at times she is tricked, betrayed, blackmailed or humiliated.
I find no "Tension" in tying someone up like a rag-doll and doing mean things to that person or forcing them to behave totally against their nature with threat of violence. I am not against doing it in my story but it is not an overwhelming theme.
Q: You included something (fetish, themes, characters, situations) I do not personally like in your story. Do not do that.
A: My story crosses taboos in part because it is a STORY FOR ADULTS about things that do not actually hurt anyone for entertainment. I talk about things you may never do because at that juncture in this story I think they happen.
In Friday the Thirteenth movies people go camping and someone in a ski mask comes and stalks and kills them.
Are the makers of the films big advocates of that happening in real life? Are they suggesting you should enjoy this happening to people in real life?
(I hope the rhetorical answer you would reach is 'no').
How is my story any different?
The people, places, references in my story seem organic to me and they happen. I hope they don't offend you but at the same time - I know I cannot please everyone and I decided to stop trying.
Q: There are too many jokes in your story. I find it implausible that a character made a joke (during this one event).
A: In porno there are certain rules of reality that do not exist in my reality. Hot girls always want to have sex, pizza guys have big dicks and time to fuck you, no one ever talks about politics, religion or cracks jokes unless they are dumb dirty jokes, etc.
In porn literature stories, if the author has a taboo about age then NO one exists who is under 18 that ever comes into contact with anyone in the story. It is a world of people who simply do not have anyone under 18 who plays any role in the story.
It reminds me of Glee or Welcome Back Kotter. Almost all the student actors are in their late 20s and so in reality when you finally get to highschool - the only one who looks like Horshack or Epstein are your teachers.
In my real life, I joke when shit gets weird around me and bad things happen. I have a dark sense of humor and I laugh a lot (because bad shit happens a lot I guess). It helps me to deal with it. Some of my characters do this as well.
They will talk politics (even if it's not my politics), religion (and yes, I get that some of you hold it sacred) but this is a story not about YOU - and some of these characters are reprehensible.
I also include all sorts of songs, computer games, sports, cultures, etc that I am not actively a fan of/do. I like to do that because sometimes the reader will go "WOW, they play WORLD OF WARCRAFT? SO DO I!" or "Oh my gosh! A Stewie Diver? I am from Australia and that is what we say!! How cool is that!"
I reference books, literature, all sorts of stuff in my story. I think its fun in a story to have other stuff besides "She sucked his dick".
In almost all of my stories the Pastor Garys and Deacon Dans who are fallen men of faith tend to get their asses kicked eventually. I don't condone kicking the ass of people of faith - just scumbags.
I will study biblical verses, Indian sex-rites, Babylon Five - and include it in the story in a way that seems meaningful if I think the character is into it. I don't like my characters to only be interested in sex (unless that character really is that single-focused).
Q: Didn't Ellen's hymen break when she stuck (this) in her twat?
A: Hymens don't break. They can tear and that is what is meant by a 'cherry' but in reality they are not draped membranes that cover an opening. If they were - you couldn't menstruate. They are different depending on the woman but there are a lot of myths about hymens.
Q: Where are Ellen's Mom and Dad?
A: The official answer is that they are staying in a cheap motel in town because they have no transportation and need to focus on working double shifts.
If I wanted you to know exactly where they are I would have told you in the story. I want you to speculate on this one as well. It is very possible they are dutifully pulling double shifts at Waffle House and sweeping floors or perhaps Mike left town and went back to his family and left Ellen's mom to save the family!
Q: What is Junior's deal? Why did he set up security cameras in their home? That is crazy!!
A: Junior is the eldest son to the richest man in the town. Senior (his father) had carte blanche to do anything he wanted and controlled not only local law enforcement but all the public utilities as well.
If you can imagine growing up in his shadow - being the son of the most powerful and most ruthless man in the town and being groomed to fill his shoes you might expect him to be an unusual man with unusual tastes.
Does he want to be his father and pick up where he left off? Does he get off on voyeurism? These are questions that I do not answer in the early chapters and may never really get into.
For now all you need to know is that they had security cameras and O.J. and his staff are qualified electricians and have the skills to hook them up on close-circuit to Junior's home. I've actually been in a trailer park where the manager did this and would routinely watch his park from home on black and white monitors and switch between them while eating dinner or lunch.
The Buckman was once several smaller trailer parks and they now all belong to Junior's dad after years of rivalry and acquisitions with their owners. Junior has plenty of free-time.
Q: Early in the story when Crystal is punishing both Savannah and Ellen in front of Ellen's mom (Patricia) Savannah protests vehemently because she is not used to being punished or taking her mom's threats seriously.
Crystal whispers something into Savannah's ear and Savannah quickly changes her tune and agrees to a very humiliating punishment without much argument other than a stubborn "Fine, let's just get this over with".
What was it that Crystal whispered?
A: It is important to note that Crystal was something of a permissive mom. She is the older sister but she felt some pressure from her younger sibling to step up and be a responsible parent. She may have been handing out the punishment with a tongue in cheek "Okay, how about I just go overboard" or she may simply have been ill-equipped to think of an appropriate punishment for the situation.
Savannah knows her mom's bark is worse than her bite and she knows the punishments never stick so she may have been agreeing safe in the knowledge Crystal would go back to bed and they could forget it - easier than arguing it.
She may have also been concerned about the whispered threat that Crystal gave her if she did put up a stink/fight about doing what she was told.
What was the whisper? If I had wanted you to stop wondering I would have told you. I would imagine it was worse in Savannah's mind than what she was doing for a punishment.
Savannah loves games - board games, pretend games, games of chance and skill. She likes truth or dare and that sort of thing. She may have also had a passing interest in seeing how far this one would go.
Savannah can be manipulated by making things seem like a game/bet and/or calling her a chicken. Even though she is streetwise and tries to avoid losing such games - she was not about to let Ellen take all the heat for something and make it seem like she was too afraid to do it.
It is also implied that Savannah has done some dare-games before Ellen ever arrived where the consequences may have been sexual. Spin the bottle, eating worms, all the typical child-hood dare games and a little more.
Q: Who is Ted's dad?
A: Interesting Trivia: Maw-Maw was married to "Skeeter" one of the hard-core watchers at the pool for many years while Ted was growing up. Ted and Daisy are like many in the Buckman - they do not know their biological father growing up but have a series of step-dads.
They come from a line of the Gaylord family that has very little money and Ted's side of the family developed a reputation as being someone who is all talk/does not deliver when he was younger that he is trying to live down.
Q: Who is Lloyd's real dad and who is older Savannah or Lloyd?
A: At some point early in the story Crystal tells a story about how they got Zeus and Ares (their dogs). They aren't supposed to have such big dogs with such small yards but Crystal has managed to get an exception (no doubt through favors and being ripped off by O.J.).
We never know if this story is true or false but apparently Lloyd's real dad told him they were "wolves" and that they would protect him until real dad could return. They were not wolves at all (pit bull mixed breeds instead) but apparently to Lloyd they are and they mean a lot to him.
Lloyd and Savannah are close in age and while Savannah appears older than Ellen in years - she is just more mature, they are actually the same age. Lloyd is the older one but not by much. They were born as "Irish twins" (9 months apart).
Q: Can I write fan fiction about your characters?
A: I tend to write stories I would enjoy reading in the hopes someone else is inspired to write one.
I would be flattered if you did and Stories online has a section for you to add stories to my Family Feud "Universe". You can write about characters you wish had more 'screen time' or wondered about like Cathy Griffin and her family, or flesh out something the main characters did that I faded to black on and you are like "Here is what Jamie Taylor's date night was like when her brother rented her out to his friend" or make up entirely new people who live in the Buckman or Cherry Lawn.
I would love it.
Even if you don't use my settings or characters - if I influence you to write at all and tell stories - please do let me know. I'd love to know that.
Q: Your story is too long.
A: No, it is not. I have read that you pick a point in your main character's life when the most interesting thing happened and write about that - when that stops happening then your story ends.
This story will last as long as it needs to last until it concludes.
It can be overwhelming or perhaps intimidating to see a LONG story. Imagine 40 chapters are 40 individual stories that are connected if that helps you.
Just when I start to fall in love with characters in someone else's story - they end it. I like to develop characters and background and evolve them over time.
Q: A Trailer park/dirt poor people is depressing.
A: Fifty Shades of Grey is a story about a beautiful, young, single woman with an improbable name " Anastasia Steele" who goes to a business magnate with an equally improbable name "Christian Grey" and stays at his mansion, shares limos and champagne and law-dee-daw.
I hear it is pretty good. You might try reading that if that is your interest.
He has all this money invested in the infrastructure to keep her captive and train her and yet with the money he has he could just hire porn stars to PLAY the role and only deal with it when he has time and interest to deal with it. He doesn't have to convince anyone of anything.
I like to let my reader smell the smells, feel the feels, see what I envision. I try to paint the environment that is a reality to my characters. I cannot write about epic space battles any more than I can set my story in a fancy mansion and not want to wretch simply because I know nothing about these settings and would not enjoy writing them even if I did.
I need a little dysfunction in my characters in order to function. I would also never name my character something I would find in an old ladies harlequin romance novel like "Anastasia Steele". I would sooner pinch names from Family Guy (lol).
I need my characters' lives not to be perfect. They have family, past, flaws, hubris - that makes them interesting to me and real. I also need a setting I know well enough to be able to describe like I have been there- so you can go there in my story.
Q: In Ch. 37 who was the man in the bathroom stall and who took Ellen's clothes?
A: If I had wanted you to know who that was at the time you read it - I would have told you in the story. Who do you think it was? Red McHerring or possibly Mike Tinkle (Ellen's father?), maybe Donger taking a shit?
I wanted you to wonder. I love to fade to black in my story and make you wonder about some loose ends that I can tie up later (or leave you wondering about).
It does seem strange that a person would steal a slutty girl's clothes who undressed in the bathroom and then jerk off on them. It does seem strange that this person knew what car to put them on.
I wonder if those are clues?
Q: This story is too much like Family Feud
A: Family Feud is a great story - my first response would be "Why would you not want another story just like that one?"
Having said that - I feel it is very different but exactly the same!
What I mean is that in some regards the story is very much the same.
The main characters are people from a modern Norman Rockwell version of white-bread middle America whose lives are affluent shopping malls, Starbucks and Panera bread. They do Pilates and have nicely maintained yards and the story upsets that carefully manicured life with a different reality.
It is different because in this case while Ellen is optimistic, naïve and sheltered like Jamie Taylor - Jamie is a popular upperclassman and varsity cheerleader while Ellen is little more awkward and sits up in the bleachers with a small collection of friends.
Chris Taylor was an introverted nerd much like Conner but even that there are many differences. Chris was always thought of as a slacker and underachiever and he lived up to his reputation in a self-fulfilling prophecy. He became big and fat and lazy whereas Conner is not.
You will find the characters do some of the same things. Someone observed they had sex behind a dumpster in both stories.
Yep - that's kind of nasty. They also suck dicks which happens in both stories too. You will definitely find similar themes.
I suppose though Star Trek and Star Wars are similar because they both fly space ships and visit strange planets by this logic.
I include characters from both stories because I like to do cross-over but also because the actions in one story affected people in another - sometimes indirectly.
I think the writing of Family Feud was different because it was also often from different points of view and other narratives while this is almost exclusively Ellen's point of view.
If my story is "like" anything - I guess it's a bit of a compliment that it is like "Family Feud - since that is one of my favorite stories.
I feel it is different "enough" and yet similar "enough" to be a different story.
Q: What are your weaknesses as an author?
A: I have a lot of weaknesses and I would say the top ones are I continue to make the same grammar mistakes. I have some loyal friends who keep looking at my stories and telling me when they see a mistake - that is a huge help.
In interest of their privacy/modesty I won't mention their names but they know who they are and they do it for the love of erotic stories and as my friends - much appreciated and thank you!
I also tend to be terrible at what I call "Fluff". You know the fluffer who sucks the guys dicks off-camera before they go on screen in a porno in order to get them hard so they can perform?
Fluff in the story is what does that - for male readers to jack off to the story.
It usually involves detailed descriptions of who put what in what hole and what they said about it when they did. My writing is sexually descriptive and I love to create situations that are going to turn you on and give you fantasies but I tend to be poorest at writing about the actual sex-act and saying from moment to moment how it all went down.
I do it - but I wish I was better at it or I could press a 'fluff button' and some girl off-screen would just suck your dick for you while you read my story.
Q: Where did ted get a Polaroid camera? Those are very rare and they require special film.
A: You know how you clean out your old shed and you sell crap that you've had since the 1970s like some glass tube filled with blue and clear liquid that you plug in and set on your TV and it moves up and down creating a wave affect.
You know who buys that shit? People who live in the Buckman.
Once it is there - they sell it or steal it from each other or find it in the trash. A good example is Chrystal has an integrated stereo that has record player, cassette and 8-track all built into one unit. This is just a bunch of old junk.
Ted also suddenly has cash but is surrounded by stores like Spencer's Gifts and Walmart that sell trashy crap and goes out and buys NEW crap - but it is still crap.
The short answer is that he had the Polaroid sitting around in the closet and decided to make money off of it.
On a final note: Thank you for the overwhelming comments of support regarding my last blog of Nastygram. I did block that person (twice with two different emails).
It was very uplifting to receive support from others who had similar experiences and who enjoyed what I am doing - encouraging.