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Don't let pen envy turn you into a monster!

The modern writing industry is competitive and saturated with mediocrity. It's a world of hard work and success, but for others it can be a world of bitter feelings, failure, tears and jealousy -- hence the term "pen envy." It sounds and looks like penis envy for a reason, and that's because it is penis envy. When you're a great writer, a prolific writer, a popular writer or well paid writer there will always be others in the industry who are jealous of your skill. Your pen (or keyboard) is your penis, and you know how to use it. This pleases some, but threatens others.

Pen envy, like penis envy, is perfectly natural. However, natural doesn't necessarily mean beneficial or helpful. When you focus on your envy of other people, their happiness or success, you take important time away from yourself that can be utilized in ways that raise you up to where you want to be. In other words, it's totally okay to express admiration or envy for someone else, but that envy should quickly and organically translate into ambition to achieve your own goals. Envy should never, ever, be a gateway to depression, negativity and destructive behavior -- and it should absolutely never evolve into stalking, harassment and other despicable actions. Unfortunately, there are far too many people in the writing industry (or any other industry for that matter) who simply do not know these important concepts -- and there are even some who do, but they're so consumed with negativity that they simply do not care.

Over the course of my time as a writer, I've learned first-hand just how bitter and envious writers can be over the success of others. All of us are guilty of it from time to time, but in small and ordinary degrees -- such as when something like Fifty Shades of Grey becomes a worldwide bestseller and you feel a momentary pang of hopelessness as you bemoan the plight of being a "real writer" in a world of mediocrity. Or that time when Kim Kardashian's little sisters published a science fiction novel in the same amount of time it took for you to even outline a rough idea for your next short story. Or that time when a poorly written series about sparkling vampires became a Hollywood phenomenon, leaving you questioning your decision to be a writer in the first place.

Most of us move on from these momentary feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, but there are others who either choose to dwell in this negative mindset or some kind of emotional or mental issue is holding them there, rendering them unable to break free from their own mental bondage. These folks also tend to blame everyone else for their negativity and perpetual failure. So you see, it becomes a sort of cycle. In the worst cases these envious and bitter people -- more often than not gripped by emotional or mental illness -- become bullies. I've encountered this more than once, believe it or not, and I'm still going through it.
Screenshot taken from JustMugshots.Com
One of my bullies is Michael Francis Broemmel. Not only were we once colleagues who both wrote for Demand Media Studios, but we were friends -- if you could call it that. You see, in the writing industry, nobody is really your friend. If you're lucky enough to make a lasting friendship with someone that you can trust in this industry, then you've found a four-leaf-clover and you're very blessed. Otherwise, these "friends" are really nothing more but thirsty writers looking to network just on the chance that they might make connections with people who can benefit their careers. Most of the time these friends are posting words of encouragement and kudos to your social media profiles, but all the while they are in the shadows talking badly about you, making up false stories a bout you, etc., etc., and so on -- much like high school, but with grown people who should simply know better.

The problem with Mike Broemmel is that our friendship ended on sour terms because of political differences. I supported, and still do, the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare). I support President Barack Obama, and I always have. Broemmel foolishly attacked me for this on my private Facebook page where he was added as a friend. I suppose he felt comfortable enough with me as a "friend" to talk to me pretty badly -- with no respect whatsoever -- insulting my intelligence and integrity for being a liberal woman who supports our POTUS, yadda yadda yadda. I did not return his disrespect at first, simply telling him that I did not agree with him, and that it wasn't anything that I wanted to "debate," -- let's agree to disagree, basically. I guess this is when I first realized that there was something wrong with Michael Broemmel. Most people would respect someone else's boundaries -- especially in a political discussion -- and would have backed off. Ordinarily when a person is clearly told that someone is uncomfortable with a topic, they stop trying to pursue said topic out of respect for the other person. Instead of doing any of these things, Broemmel simply became more aggressive and insulting -- leading me to delete the entire conversation from my Facebook profile. I didn't want to "unfriend" or "block" him at the time. I simply deleted the discussion so he couldn't respond anymore. I did this with the thought in mind that he would calm down, and I would calm down, and then we'd just move on from such a stupid discussion.

Instead of taking that hint, Mike began to harass me via private message, and even tried to give himself "the upper hand" by making passive aggressive comments about me not being a good person. We unfriended one another, and I told him to leave me alone. It was then that I found out exactly who and what I was dealing with. I found out that Broemmel was a former prison convict, a disbarred lawyer who embezzled money from the funds of elderly and child clients. He spent time in prison in a case that was in the news in both Nebraska and Colorado media reports. He also apparently had a habit of harassing people on the internet and in person, according to numerous complaints that had been posted against him on RipOffReport, ComplaintsBoard and numerous other sites. When I found out these things about him, while being faced with his cyberharassment (as early as summer of 2013), I treated him very harshly. I let him know that he is a recidivist (harassment is a criminal act), and that he needed to leave me alone. I even reported him to the police in Colorado -- though I do not know if anything ever resulted from my complaints.

As of today, Mike Broemmel has used close to a dozen different accounts on Facebook and Twitter -- including his own personal accounts and accounts associated with his "Torchmark Media" venture -- to harass me, stalk me, bully me and spread malicious lies about me. He has even gone in cahoots with the con people from Taylor Street Publishing (who currently owe thousands of dollars to the writers they've scammed, myself included). He's taken to spreading the false story that I've committed plagiarism (a lie that neither he or anyone else can prove, or even try to, since it's simply untrue). One of his favorite lies to joke about is that I used to be a beauty consultant, or that I claimed to be. This is simply not true. I run a girly blog where I talk about makeup, fashion and women's issues -- and I share recipes for at-home organic skincare. I've never claimed to be a "beauty consultant." These claims are not only false, but Broemmel simply uses them as an opener to his punchline -- which is usually a joke about my weight or appearance. Charming, isn't he? He's even included other former colleagues from Demand Media Studios to join in on his incredibly toxic behavior -- and I was absolutely shocked to find out the identity of one of those people.
Why does Karen care so much about my romantic life?
Karen Lee Banks -- or Karen Lee Willis Ross Banks, or K.Lee Banks, or K'Lee Banks -- is someone else who's been involved with this whole weird cyberbullying campaign. While I don't know how deeply she's involved with this, I do know that she and Mike are close friends and I know that she refuses to be honest with me. I also know that her involvement is deeper than she has admitted. I've uncovered some new information on my own, through cached pages. Let me rewind a second:

     I once said  that I would not publicly "name and shame" Karen. However, I did make a post on my page that referenced the situation with her. I expressed my sentiment about karma, and then moved on with my life. Almost immediately after I made the post (on my fan page) Karen outed herself by attacking me in the comments beneath the post, but I deleted her remarks. She then emailed me the comments that I removed from my page, to further make sure that I saw them (though she knows that I did in the first place, since I had to delete her comment twice on my fan page). Since then, she's pretty much taken every opportunity she could find to smear me publicly while virtually flagellating herself with her compulsive religious posts (the lady posts so many prayers throughout the day her page is like a  virtual prayer closet). Let me explain that her reaction to this situation makes me feel like she's involved far deeper than the few mean-spirited comments she's made about me. That's because I've not attacked her. I've only expressed my shock and hurt feelings that someone who was my friend has been participating in very clear and obvious cyberbullying and stalking. Instead of either proving to me that she's not deeply involved, or instead of being contrite for her admitted and proven involvement, she has chosen to further target me with the same vitriol that she's shown behind my back.

It is because of this that I've decided to show the screenshots of my entire conversation with Karen, as well as the screenshots that I showed her. I'll caption photos to necessary illustrate my feelings with the conversations you are about to see. (Backstory TLDR: "Karina Ross" is an anonymous troll that's been harassing me and members of my family).

And finally, this is the last message she sent me:

 However, I just want to point out that Karen is, again, being dishonest. I say this because Google Cached pages -- when you search my name and her name together -- this is what comes up:

 Here's some context:

(They infiltrated my course, and left a troll review of one star without finishing more than 2 tests, then left an abusive review, which has since been removed by Udemy. This screenshot shows Karen and the group gossiping about how terrible I am for having the false review removed. I should point out that Udemy sided with me, just like Facebook has sided with me over the dozens of pages that have been removed for cyberbullying)
As you can see, Karen is a former Demand Media Studios colleague, and she used to be a moderator over at the official forums (which were only for writers/editors/etc). I guess I should have known back then that she was the kind of person that she has revealed herself to be. Here is a screenshot of a 2011 conversation we had in which she participated in the trash talk of other writers/editors. She also laid the sugar on nice and thick by bringing up my Gather writing.

So there you have it. That's the sum of what happened between Karen and I. I did nothing to her -- that I am aware of, at least -- and I don't understand why she's felt the need to participate with Mike Broemmel and the other trolls' game of cyberbullying and overall negativity. I'm most offended by Karen's participation because I believed she was a friend of mine, and she remained on my friend list on Facebook where I talked to friends and family members watching my life and then gossiping about me to the people who have tried relentlessly to bring harm to me and my loved ones. I still don't know if I believe that her involvement is as deep as what I've been told, but I know that I have every right to be angry with her, and every right to feel betrayed. She wasn't just some run-of-the-mill cyber troll who latched onto me after reading my work randomly. She was someone who I believed was a friend that I've known (online) for like five years.  This is the most offensive to me -- more offensive than strangers who harass me for my writing -- because over the course of the past year my little sister has also been the target of cyberbullies. Now I have an idea of who's been watching our conversations, and I'm disgusted.

I am sure that Karen Lee Banks and Michael Francis Broemmel are far from the only cockroaches that have scurried in the shadows from the days of Demand Media Studios. While some of my dear friends are still stuck writing for them, I must point out that this place does not encourage success.  The writing industry is already competitive and full of bitterness, but Demand Media Studios tends to make things worse. The relationships between editors and writers are volatile as a result of DMS's rules and protocol, and anyone who dares complain either gets banned from participating on a social level on the DMS forums, or you get canned altogether. Let me tell you, it was so very therapeutic to quit when I sent them all (at Demand Media Studios) a grand "fuck off," email. My life has been better for it. I've been able to actually flourish as a writer and a personality. When I was writing for them I was doing nothing more but pumping out internet spam. Sometimes I made good money with them -- when I wrote 10+ articles a day in tiring work marathons -- but ever since I started blogging my crime analysis things have been far better.

 I believe that this happiness, recognition and success has attracted the bitterness and envy of people like Karen Lee Banks and Mike Broemmel, and that pen envy has consumed them in a way that has inspired them to try to have a negative impact on my life. This is what I mean when I say that you shouldn't let your pen envy turn you into a monster. It's rough out there for writers who are struggling to find their niche -- I understand that. It's tough even when you do find your niche, so it's just rough all the way around. This isn't the industry to be in if you want to get famous overnight, and it's not the industry to be in if you're someone who's been working on "your novel" for the past 15 years. There are writers who have tried and tried and tried for years to make their mark in the history of literature, and very few of them ever actually make that mark. Some of these writers are stuck in online content mills like Demand Media Studios and similar sites, stuck churning out "how-tos" and "lists" stuffed with keywords in hopes of earning $15 to $20, but usually making less per piece. And they hate me because I'm not stuck in that hell right next to them. They hate me because I have a larger-than-life personality, and I'm using that personality to push forward. They hate me because I'm happy with where I'm at in my life, and they are not. That is truly how I feel about some of my former colleagues in the industry who have latched onto me negatively as bullies instead of the friends that they should actually be!

Pen envy can turn you into one helluva bad person. It can make you say hurtful things about people who trust you, and it can compel you to harass the person you envy. Most importantly, pen envy distracts you from your own success and contributes to a cycle of failure. I encourage my former colleagues to break that cycle of negativity and failure. I encourage them to nourish their spirits with something other than negative thoughts and imagery. I will even take the first step and reach out to them in this post with my own apologies to them.

To Mike Broemmel:

    I implore you to heal your spirit and stop wallowing in the negativity that consumes you. Your constant lies, insults, harassment and overall negativity is just as harmful to you as you believe it is to me. In fact, I want you to know right now that your behavior will no longer harm me or my family. We are tuning you out, turning our backs on you as one would do a boogeyman or other imaginary bad guy. I pity you, Michael, for whatever it was that happened to you in your life that led you down this dark path. Clearly you have been troubled since long before your stint in prison, and you continue to be troubled even after you're free. I believe that everyone has the chance to reinvent themselves, and I believe everyone has the potential to become a better person. I've chosen to be a better person, so why don't you?

Mike, I will do my part and apologize for how I talked to you back in 2013 when our friendship ended. While I still defend my right to dismiss your attempt to debate me and change my political beliefs, it was still wrong of me to laugh at you and tell you to "STFU and pay for my healthcare" after I finally lost my temper with you. I should have presented myself better and I should have ignored you when things started getting out of hand. I do not know if things would be different today had I not laughed at you, but I feel that this is what I need to do in order to completely wash my hands of this situation that involves you. Beyond this, I encourage you to find your own happiness. Find your own idea of success. Set some goals and attain them. Stop worrying about my goals, my happiness and my success. Dwelling on me is getting you absolutely nowhere, and the negative energy isn't good for anybody.

To Karen Lee Banks:

     I truly do not know what I did to you to deserve what you've done, and I truly don't know how you feel justified in doing it. I don't know how you can honestly feel justified in participating in obvious trolling and bullying while lurking on my page under the facade of being a friend and colleague. Your mean-spirited comments about me have continued publicly even while I have chosen to remain silent (until now, of course), and I just don't understand how you can think that this makes you look like a decent person. One half of your day is consumed by posting "prayers" and other Jesus freak bullshit, and the other half is spent participating in cyber-trolling and ill-intended gossip, and ever since I confronted you you've been lying to your friends about me while I have done my best to honor what I said to you in the first place (that I wouldn't publicly shame you). You truly are a bully. I wish there was something for me to apologize to you for, some horrible transgression that could halfway justify your toxicity, but there really isn't anything.

     Since there is nothing for me to apologize for, all I can do is simply offer you my advice: Be a better person. Just be a better person. Quit lashing out at me and quit dragging my name into your daily posts. Quit prolonging this painful situation and just move on with your life. Focus on whatever it is that makes you happy -- and find something that makes you happy that doesn't involve sitting around and gossiping about the personal lives of other people. Please use this horrible situation as a lesson on how to be a better person later, and how to be a better friend and colleague to people who trust you enough to allow you to socialize with them in the same space as their loved ones. Get over your pen envy and get over your bitterness toward me and toward others. Like I wrote to Mike in my message to him, I don't know what happened in your life to make you do the things you do, but you have the potential to heal and do better. Everyone does.

Moving on...

I close this post with my hands completely washed of the negative situation created by some highly toxic people. I intend for this story to be an example of what happens when pen envy turns into the habitual bullying of another person, and I hope that others are inspired to avoid this behavior. On the flip-side, I hope others don't make the same mistakes that I've made (and there have been plenty).  Have I said things I shouldn't have? Of course, I have. And I've grown as a person over the years, just like you're supposed to. I truly hope those who have bullied me also grow and evolve, if it is possible.

Don't let pen envy change who you are. Don't let pen envy distract you from your own happiness.