September 22nd, 2011 | 8 Comments »

On the second day of the Erotic Authors Association conference in Las Vegas, I participated as demo model for Gray Dancer’s “Hands-on Kink” workshop. And although he was then jetting off to various exotic ports, I was able to get an interview out of him as well! So here is both my report on the class and a follow-up interview with him.

Now, bear in mind that he was giving this workshop to erotica authors — so the overall emphasis was on how to write convincing BDSM scenes and stories, not how to have a hot time in bed. (Of course, if anything reported here leads people to have a hot time in — or out of — bed, that is warmly encouraged!)

We negotiated a bit in advance by email — the types of acts he’d probably demonstrate, what I was up for, any physical limitations, what to wear.

His class covered an overview of BDSM, a particularly versatile acronym covering Bondage, Discipline — both physical and mental — and Sadism & Masochism; but then some people think of the D and S part as Domination & Submission. The kinky acts. Google for more if necessary. 😉  He discussed the variety of roles (which I’m not going to attempt to cover here), common practices, safety concerns, resources… and then it was time for the good stuff! The demonstration part! I came up to the front, stripped off my dress, and stood there, stark naked, as he bent me over the table.

Ha. You wish! Please, people. This was a professional conference of writers. We behaved with dignity the whole time. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!) I did peel off my dress, but to reveal the leotard beneath it.

Gray Dancer points out the best areas for impact play

The first part of the demonstration focused on impact play — that is, whacking. Spanking. Hitting. Impacting someone’s body with something else. He demo’ed bare-handed spanking, paddling, flogging, and a bit of showy whipping with a … whippy sort of thing that was not a bullwhip. I’m sorry, you’d have to ask him what it was. My back was turned!

Now, most people do indulge in this sort of thing naked, yes. But it “works” clothed as well — in fact, clothing sort of disperses the vibrations and sensations from the impact over a larger area. He went over things like speed, intensity, keeping a steady rhythm, not keeping a steady rhythm, and staying connected with your partner and checking in.

The flogger!

The latter part of the demonstration focused on bondage — tying, both the practical and aesthetic types.

chest harness

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hogtie and hair bondage

But enough of all that! Let’s get to the interview! If you read carefully, there may be another picture or two at the bottom.

Shar: You do a lot of teaching and demonstrations. What are some things you enjoy about that?

Gray Dancer: I’ve been a performer literally as long as I can remember, so there is certainly a level of enjoyment from being in front of an audience in both my teaching and demos. However, much like the rope scenes themselves, it’s more about a connection to the audience — entertaining, titillating, revelatory, whatever. It’s also a goal to open up a doorway into what’s possible in the same way my teachers and partners have opened doors for me.

Shar: Suppose someone sees one of your demonstrations, and is intrigued. What are some next steps?

Gray Dancer: One of the best beginner’s resources on the web is, which has about a dozen well-produced free videos on the subject of rope bondage (as well as selling some of the best rope out there).

Next I’d recommend going on and joining a local group — there are “munches” (informal gatherings of kinksters) all over the world, as well as special interest groups such as the Pittsburgh Rope Bite or Elevate in Wisconsin or… well, you get the idea. These are places where people get together just to enjoy and talk and explore their kink in a practice mode.

You can also just dive in and attend Shibaricon in May in Chicago, but that’s like going into the deep end. I know a lot of people who do it, though, and come out much the happier for it.

Shar: Do you think someone who does not personally partake can still describe bondage and impact play accurately and emotionally? What would help a writer “get there” better, other than personal experience?

Gray Dancer: I don’t think you have to partake, any more than you have to kill someone to write about murder. However, it certainly can lend some different insights and often new directions to your scenes. I went through a fire-cupping experience (an Asian medical practice) even though it is not my kink so that I could more accurately describe in in my book Nawashi. I discovered that while most of it was the same as I expected, there were more sounds involved that lent a greater depth to my scene (at least, I hope so).

However, it would be presumptuous to think that because you try rope you “know what it’s like.” You only know what it’s like for YOU; someone else may have a totally different reaction, and that’s where I think a writer has an opportunity to use a rope scene in a book not only to make it hot, but also to reveal something about the characters involved (top and bottom) or let them use it to discover something new about themselves or each other.

Shar: When you read erotica that involves BDSM, what kinds of elements do you appreciate? That is, are you looking for accurate scene descriptions, or more oblique references, or something else?

Gray Dancer: Much more oblique — I don’t really care what the mechanics are, I want to know what the characters are feeling. Don’t tell me how long the whip is; tell me how the top feels when her hand curls around the handle and she looks at the man on the bed. I don’t care where her arms were bound, I care what she felt when she realized she could no longer cover herself from his gaze. Most of all, show me through the characters how the BDSM is forming a connection between them, or not (because that’s a conflict too and therefore interesting). Honestly, the best thing about erotic romance is that you can get the connection without all that annoying communication stuff that is necessary in real life.

Shar: You’re also an erotica writer yourself. How much of what you personally enjoy or know about shows up in your writing?

Gray Dancer: A lot. In fact, there is some fear that at some point I’ll stop having experiences worth writing about, and actually have to rely on something scary like imagination or (shudder) research. All of my short fiction is based on actual experiences, and my first novel was almost completely populated with romanticized versions of actual events.

My second book and third book were more about imaginary scenes… but the strange thing is that since I’ve written them, many of the experiences have happened to me in one form or other. I also take great joy in including real people such as Michelle Belanger as characters in my books — or thinly veiled characters based rather obviously on real people.

However, I don’t feel that I need to be turned on by something to make it sexy. It’s enough pleasure to take something and craft it into a piece that someone else finds hot. In fact, I’d say it’s the same instinct that makes me enjoy topping that makes me enjoy writing erotica: the ability to capture someone’s attention and then turn them on.

Shar: For me, the most interesting part of our demonstration was your response to someone’s question about how quickly you could restrain someone. Although I had volunteered for the entire demonstration, and would certainly have done anything you asked to the best of my ability, you called up an audience volunteer for just that portion. I have my explanation for why you did that, but I’m interested in hearing it from your perspective. [The demonstration involved having a woman stand with her arms outstretched, and then Gray placed a hank of rope in each of her hands, and then he pressed various parts of her body to the point of causing discomfort or mild pain. The woman was “bound” instantly.]

Gray Dancer: There’s a few different reasons behind that. The easiest one is that I had been asked by the conference organizers to include people from the audience in the demo, and I knew from prior conversations that VineyardRoad (the volunteer) would enjoy helping out.

That’s a bit of a cop out, though, because the real reason lies in the dynamic between you and me vs. her and me (incidentally, I missed your grammar lecture because I had to read, and you refused to share your notes, so that sentence structure is entirely your fault).

[Shar’s note: It is true, I don’t send out copies of conference presentations; but note that his use of “between you and me” and “between her and me” is entirely correct! The man is a natural.]

You were a delightful bottom, communicative and cooperative and sexy. You told me what you liked, you encouraged me to do more, and you were, as you say, willing to do just about anything I asked. As your top, it was an equal partnership between us, with the goal of first, presenting a good show, and second, having some fun while we were at it.

VineyardRoad is a submissive. When I called her up, I was not topping, I was dominating. There is no value judgment there; it is like saying she has blonde hair and you have red hair — one is not better than the other, and while some may have a preference, others (myself included) enjoy both.

More to the point, in a top/bottom relationship, if I tell you to hold the ropes out at arms length as I did to VineyardRoad, you do so as long as you feel like it, then you might decide that you are tired of that game and want to do something more interesting. And why shouldn’t you? You are under no obligation to do what I say unless you feel like it.

A submissive, though, does what a dominant asks because doing so is essential to their self-identity. If I had asked her to stand there with her arms out for the entire class, she would have. She would have probably burst into tears if her arms had given out, whereas if she’d kept them up until I released her with a “good job,” it would have made her glow with pride for the rest of the weekend.

whole body bondage

Because of how busy the conference was, Gray and I didn’t have much time to talk after the demonstration. In fact, this interview (conducted by email) was really the first “debriefing” that we had, so I was particularly interested in hearing his perspective about that last question. He is perfectly correct: I was not submitting, I was volunteering. And while those two actions could look the same to an onlooker, they are not the same. What’s different is the emotional response.

That’s what’s important to remember as a writer, I think (you do remember this entire post is about writing, don’t you?): If you are going to effectively portray bondage, or spanking, or domination and submission, what “counts” is the emotional connection. Yes, you can describe where his right hand goes and what she smacked him with and how she was tied, but without that emotional element, you’re just giving stage directions, and it won’t be convincing. If you’ve ever read any bad BDSM erotica (and I hope you haven’t), then you know what I’m talking about — the reader is thinking, “He’s a bully, and she’s a doormat.” With the emotional connection evident, the same scene can be intensely moving. Is it hard to write that? Of course. It’s hard to write love, too, but plenty of novelists manage it. As Gray said in his interview, though, it’s that feeling that’s compelling to read about, not the blow-by-blow (heh — a little pun there!) descriptions.

So, writers — go forth and write strong connections!

"Good girl!"

Impact play photos courtesy of erotica writer Cecilia Duvalle. Bondage photos courtesy of erotica writer K.D. Grace. And starring Gray Dancer as himself! There is tons of info and good stuff on Gray’s website, so I recommend checking it out.

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September 17th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

Sightseeing on the strip

Wow. What a great conference! And not just because we got a fistful of free condoms in our totebags.

Attending a conference can be a difficult decision. It takes time–for me, a day to fly there, a day to fly back, and two days there; so that’s four days I’m not working.

Then it costs something: $165 for the conference fee (which is actually very reasonable), 3 nights in a hotel, and whatever your flight costs. Some people make time to eat meals, and then there are drinks to be had… I mostly only go to conferences that at a minimum pay my expenses, or preferably pay me attend. This one was completely out of pocket, though, and now that it’s over and I’ve even unpacked and done my laundry, I can look back with some distance and say: “It was totally worth it.”

Other bloggers have already covered the events in detail; for two perspectives, check out the posts from K.D. Grace and Remittance Girl. I’ll just talk about the things of best value to me.

1) Readings! Who knew that author readings could be so much fun? Well, probably people who’d attended such before, but I never had, not like this, with several authors in a row reading scenes they’d selected. Some readers were more polished & practiced than others, and some were downright hand-shaking nervous, but they were all enjoyable to listen to. I can’t say exactly why, but it’s thrilling to me to hear the stories read aloud by the very people who wrote them.

The first reading event I attended was the “on the road” version of the Erotic Literary Salon, which normally hosts readings in Philadelphia. (Their site, here, has a video of author Emerald reading her story in Las Vegas.) Readings were limited to five minutes long, and I hadn’t signed up to do a reading because 1) the spots were claimed pretty quickly, and 2) I was finding it challenging enough to find something I could do in ten minutes, and I wasn’t sure I could manage five!

However, once I was there, I learned two things. First, that five minutes is plenty long to present something interesting. The timekeeping was draconian, so I can assure you no one went overtime, but each reading seemed much longer than five minutes. Such a range! Humorous, dark, wistful, happy, and of course universally erotic. Laura Antoniou gets my vote for most hilarious performance. I’d listen to her read the phone book. The second thing I learned was that fortune favors the prepared. Some of the people who’d signed up to read didn’t show, at which point the organizer offered spots to anyone who had a five-minute reading with them. Those who had copies of their works with them (or who could call up websites on their phones) leapt at the chance.

K.D. Grace reads her short story "Flaws" in an inspiring setting

Once I knew how enjoyable readings were, I chose to attend a session of them the next day. It turned out to be a group of authors who all write for Renaissance e-books or Sizzler, their erotica label. Now, this will probably sound a bit dim, but I had somehow forgotten than I am a Sizzler author now, since my story “Layover” is appearing in M. Christian’s Bondage by the Bay. My only excuse is that the book hasn’t been released yet. However, M. Christian, who was there, hadn’t forgotten, and when I walked into the room, he asked me if I had my story with me and was planning to read. Oh… well… since that story also appears in my anthology Transported, I actually did have it with me. I explained that I hadn’t timed an excerpt, but since they had extra time in the session, he said that was no problem, and I happily read from it (and only went 12 minutes, and got to finish the scene).

I was scheduled later in the day to read, and this time, I actually had prepared something. The very shortest story in Transported lasts, conveniently, ten minutes when read aloud. I don’t like it quite as much as my favorite (a more humorous one), but it fit the time. However, at this session too, there was extra time, and the moderator mentioned that because of this, people could have an extra minute or two. Oh, well now… do I want to do the 10-minute story, then, or the longer excerpt? I asked the audience, and they said, “Read the one you like the best,” and so I did.

And then finally, at at fabulous “after party” hosted by Aisling Weaver, authors were sitting around and chatting, and someone said, “Oh, let’s read.” Well, I hadn’t made it back to my hotel room all day, so I still had my book with me — and a perfectly timed 10-minute story. So I read that. Sitting there listening was Miranda Forbes of Xcite books, and she was smiling in the right places… so I gave my copy of the book to her. Now, I didn’t ink a 6-figure publishing contract with her on the spot, no. But a story that she liked, tucked into a book, is probably more effective than a mere business card.

So, lesson? Have on your person, at all times, a 5-minute and a 10-minute reading selected and practiced. Just in case! I had three surprise reading opportunities turn up in one weekend, and I was able to help myself to two of them. If I’d been better prepared, I could have enjoyed the third as well.

Do readings sell books? I really have no idea. I will say that I bought Blake Aarens’ book Wetting the Appetite immediately after hearing her read from it, so there is one documented case. 😉

2) Workshops and panels. So much to learn! I presented a workshop on Grammar for Writers with Jean Roberta that was enormous fun (at least for us), and tasted absinthe at Kathleen Bradean‘s presentation on character (it sounds better than it tastes, but worked wonderfully as a metaphor). Not every idea I heard was new to me, but it’s so useful to have all the information collected together and presented coherently. Reassuring, inspiring, and educational. You just had to be there. (Or come next year!)

3) People. I’ve worked in state and national politics, retail, various areas of publishing, restaurants, journalism… a whole hodgepodge of careers. To paint with a broad brush, some professional circles are competitive, and some are supportive. The world of erotica writers is enormously supportive. That was the real value of the conference to me. I knew many of the people there from online interactions, but they were even nicer in person. It was a special treat to meet and spend time with K.D. Grace and local paranormal author Katie Salidas (I mean, her books are paranormal. She is perfectly normal.) People were so free with their advice and support and encouragement. All around people were sharing tips and information, swapping contact information and signing one another up for interviews and guest blog posts.  Everyone who spoke about the conference said something about how they felt more energized and encouraged and eager to write more. Now, where else can you buy that — at any price?

As it turns out, the trip paid for itself in a way, because I accepted a seat bump from the airline on my way out in exchange for $400 of ticket vouchers, which I already know I need to use in 2012. Also I won at gambling! I decided I would invest a dollar in the penny slot machines on the last day, just to say I’d tried it, and in under a minute I had amassed $1.63 of pure profit on top of that original dollar. At that point, I figured I’d hit my peak and I cashed out. The money doesn’t pour out of the machine like it does in movies; you get something that looks like a commuter ticket and you have to put that into some other machine. I actually needed help from another winner (I was putting it in upside down or something). I probably spent more time at the redemption machine than the slot machine, but I got my $1.63, all right. Total: A fabulous conference, free plane tickets, and enough money to buy a cup of coffee.

A final highlight of the conference was volunteering as the demo model for Gray Dancer’s “Hands-on Kink” class. Gray has graciously offered to do an interview here, though, so I will save my comments for that next post.

Preview of coming attractions

 Rope work by Gray Dancer; photo by K.D. Grace

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August 28th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

Oh, how fun! The talented Willsin Rowe made a gorgeous trailer for Transported. He even wrote the music! And a free copy of the book to anyone who can identify the one photo I supplied and the location where I took it. (Sorry, that’s a cheat — there’s no way you could tell.)

Now, I am not 100% sure what anyone “does” with a book trailer, except look at it a lot and go, oh, wow, that’s so nice. Still, I’ve been having a lot of fun doing just that.

So check it out on YouTube:

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July 3rd, 2011 | 16 Comments »

Viva Las Vegas!

…[A]s the poet Geoffrey Chaucer observed many years ago, folk long to go on pilgrimages. Only, these days, professional people call them conferences. The modern conference resembles the pilgrimage of medieval Christendom in that it allows the participants to indulge themselves in all the pleasures and diversions of travel while appearing to be austerely bent on self-improvement. To be sure, there are certain penitential exercises to be performed—the presentation of a paper, perhaps, and certainly listening to the papers of others. But with this excuse you journey to new and interesting places, meet new and interesting people, and form new and interesting relationships with them; exchange gossip and confidences; eat, drink and make merry in their company every evening; and yet, at the end of it all, return home with an enhanced reputation for seriousness of mind.

This is from the introduction of David Lodge’s now-dated (1984) but still hilarious Small World, a send-up of academic literary conferences, those along the lines of the mammoth MLA (Modern Language Association) affairs. All sorts of professions have these conferences — English teachers and scholars of course, but also science fiction writers, and mystery writers, and romance writers, and now… drum roll… erotica writers!

Yes! It’s the inaugural conference for authors of erotica, organized by the Erotic Authors Association.

Date: September 9-10, 2011. That’s a Friday and a Saturday, and you’d want to be there for both full days.

Place: Las Vegas! Well, of course. That means not only an exciting venue, but cheaper hotel prices and the possibility of some cheap flight deals if you are savvy. (Folks with access to podunk airports should check out Allegiant Air, which flies in and out of Las Vegas from smaller towns, but whose flights do NOT show up on places like Orbitz and Expedia.) The conference will be held at the Flamingo Hotel. Even the name sounds fun. Fla-MIN-go!

Register: Soon! This month! Because it will cost more after August 1.

Price: $165 until August 1, and then $185 after August 1. Which if you’ve ever priced conferences is a pretty good deal.

The conference website is here. There are links to the workshops and panels and readings being offered.

Me? Of course I’m going! I’m a total conference junkie. You win a free business card (because I’ve never made bookmarks…) if you can guess what I’m presenting on before you check the list of workshop titles.

The conference is here, at this hotel!

For the low-down, I went to the conference organizer, Kathleen Bradean, to ask for a little more info.

Shar: Tell us a little about the Erotic Authors’ Association. Who are they, and what do they do?

Kathleen: Marilyn Jaye Lewis started the Erotic Author’s Association to help erotica authors support each other and promote their work. Several years ago, Erastes took over as director and infused life into it. I believe that she started the blog and Yahoo! list. But many writers of erotica still weren’t aware of it. Last September, Erastes had to step down for health reasons. It was perfect timing for me, which leads into the answer for the next question.

Shar: How did the idea for a conference come about?

Kathleen: Years ago, I joined a writer’s group here in Los Angeles and went to their first meeting excited about the idea of mingling with other writers. Then I told them what I wrote. Instant pariah. Writers conventions were the same way. If I wanted to talk to people, I couldn’t be honest about what I wrote. I also write science fiction and served as a panelist at a small science fiction convention where one of the writers said, “I wanted to be published so bad that I even considered sinking to erotica, but thankfully, I wasn’t that desperate.” Wow. Back then, agents wouldn’t touch erotica (unless you called it literary fiction and were a man and your sex scenes were horribly awkward). So I started thinking about an erotica writers conference where we would be taken seriously as writers and could talk about the unique aspects of our work in an open, supportive environment. I talked to people who ran conferences. I talked to erotica writers and publishers to find out what they wanted from a conference. I thought it over for many years.

Finally, erotica and erotica romance took off in book sales. Writers didn’t hide as much. Publishers were more open to the idea of erotica. The time was ripe. I talked this over with D.L. King, who runs the Erotica Revealed review site. She was right there with me on the idea. We talked seriously about what we wanted to do, where it should be, every aspect, and decided to jump in and just do it. While were in Las Vegas to check out the hotels for the convention, Erastes mentioned that she had to step down from EAA. This was fate, I decided. EAA was an organization that already existed, and it would be a great name to hold the convention under. Then I reached out to a group of writers I’ve known through the years — James Buchanan, Jolie du Pre, Beth Wylde, and D.L. King — and asked for their help. And did they ever step up! What a fantastic group of people! They represent the full range of erotica writing with special insights to different aspects. Their input shaped my initial vision and made it better.

Shar: What can attendees — specifically, new authors, experienced authors, editors & publishers, and fans — expect to get out of the conference?

Kathleen: Quite a bit!

• New and/or unpublished authors: What new writers need more than anything is a community. That’s your source of support and information, your beta readers and the people you can turn to with questions. ERWA (The Erotica readers and writers association) and Literotica are two great online communities, but nothing beats talking to another writer in person. This is a great chance to start building relationships with other new writers and more experienced ones.

We have terrific editors and publisher’s panels on the schedule with an amazing line-up that includes GBLT, literary erotica, erotic romance, kink, non-fiction, and just about every aspect of erotica we could find someone to represent. For unpublished writers, this is unprecedented access to the people who are looking for erotica to publish.

• Experienced authors: One of the problems with many writer’s conferences is that their classes have basic information for the beginner, but not much that goes deeper. That’s why I’m so excited about our synopsis writing class, the kink class, and some of the other advanced topics. And we managed to get some terrific people to teach them! (D.L. King is the program director, and she did a fantastic job convincing the presenters to come.) These classes are as much about the craft of writing and the business side as they are the unique aspects of erotica.

• Editors and publishers: With so many erotica writers gathered together, this is a great time to listen to pitches, tell writers what you’re looking for, describe your dream submission, and connect with the community. Many editors and publishers also write, so I’m sure they’ll enjoy the classes too.

• Readers and fans: Many publishers have dedicated reading times, so fans can drop in to hear their favorites read from recent work. Most writers are also fans (myself included) so this is a chance to tell writers in person how much I admire their work. The panels will be open to questions, but don’t be afraid to bring your favorite book and ask a writer to sign it!

Shar: Is there anything else about the conference that you’d like to highlight?

Kathleen: Erotica is only going to grow in popularity. People are reading it and realizing there’s a wide array of writers producing quality work. With this conference, the community can come together and celebrate what we do so well. I hope to see you there.

So come on, people! Let’s gather in Vegas, for reading, writing, and schmoozing!

Another view of the Fla-MIN-go!

All photos courtesy of author Katie Salidas, Las Vegas native, who will be at the conference with her books, and is a terrific source of information on self-publishing and promoting. Preview her work here.

May 13th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

I’m reposting here information from an article from Tracy Ames’ blog about a case of plagiarism (ha ha — obviously with her permission!). I highly recommend you follow the link and read the article in its entirety there, and follow her links as well. But in a nutshell, one DamonX posted a bunch of erotic stories online at For those who don’t know the site, it’s a vast repository of user-contributed erotica, available to readers for free. Some of it is kind of meh, some of it is excellent. I haven’t read any of DamonX’s stories (yet!), so I can’t tell you where he falls — but someone liked them well enough to not only read them, but to download them and then — hold on to your hats, good people — upload them in their entirety to Amazon under another name. That’s right, DamonX’s stories, word for word, got ‘republished’ by the name Elizabeth Summers. The same name took stories from other writers as well.

Unless you too are some sort of petty (or major) criminal, you should find that shocking. I don’t need to tell you why it’s wrong. But I think a good question is, What can you do about it? You personally, I mean. You don’t know Elizabeth Summers (who doubtless doesn’t even exist). Nor do you know DamonX. You don’t work at Amazon. (Please disregard this last point if you do work at Amazon.)

The obvious thing is a thing not to do, which is “buy a book by this Elizabeth Summers,” or any of the other names (possibly the same person?) listed in Tracy’s article.

But I think another good thing to do is to complain to Amazon. Now, I get why Amazon can’t check the content of every e-book being uploaded to make sure it’s not made up of stolen content. However, if a case of plagiarism is brought to their attention, then I think they need to investigate it. If the plagiarism can be proved, then they need to pull the book. I’m guessing that if one person complains, they might not pay attention. Tracy’s article explains why they are not holding themselves accountable. But what if a lot of people complained? Would they at least look into it? Well… we’ll never know till we try.

Finally, I’m all for giving DamonX his due. He’s apparently not after any money, because he’s already been posting his stories for free. I assume, therefore, that what he wants is to entertain people with his stories. So if any of his titles grab you, then read him! If you enjoy his stories, leave him a nice comment and let him know. Writing is hard work, and good writers deserve a return on their investment of time and energy, whether in the form of money or the satisfaction of knowing their stories reached the right audience.

Plagiarizers, though, they deserve a swift kick in the ass. And possibly a lawsuit.

Go here! Read all about it!

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