Posted in ethics, For Writers, plagarism, Writing

Plagiarism vs. Romance

If you’re on Twitter, you may have noticed #CopyPasteCris trending and wondered (as I did) what the heck is going on. In a word, PLAGARISM. I’m livid as an author and as a reader, for reasons I’ll explain below.

First an overview (as I understand the issue). Best selling “author” Cristiane Serruya got busted for stitching together books that contained large swaths of words originally written by Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, and Bella Andre, among others. It gets worse. She blamed the ghost-writer she found on fiverr for the “error.” Romance Writers of America and a slew of lawyers are on the case. You can go to twitter and read through the thread to see both how blatant the rip offs were and how fierce romance writers are.

Author me is pissed that this person made the best seller list by buying up other people’s words and then somehow further gaming the system to get on list. Someone who would misrepresent their work in such an egregious way would likely have no ethical problem paying a bot-farm or some such other nonsense to download enough books to get on a trending list and get enough attention that unwitting readers buy the book in good faith. Author me knows how hard it is to get a book noticed. I cracked the Amazon top 250 ebooks list once, in a bundle with six other books. Author me also knows how often I’m solicited with offers to “guarantee” me a “bestseller” for $XXX dollars. I don’t click. I have ethics. So do most working authors.

Author me is also irritated by voices in publishing shouting that you can’t make money unless you publish a book a month or better yet two. I can understand putting out 3 books in 3 months if it is a trilogy with a long lead time coming up to it, but very few authors (if any) can put out a quality, full length book in a month. Readers buy these books on the “can’t miss” pre-order sale, but I have to wonder how many sit unread on the e-reader or how many are abandoned due to quality issues.

As a reader, I’m angry about this plagiarism, too. I didn’t buy any of Cris Serruya’s books, but if I had, I’d demand my money back. I don’t typically return books because I appreciate the amount of work that went into a book, even if I don’t like it. Cris Serruya stole money from both readers and my fellow authors. I’m angry that someone got paid for a cut and paste job and that the “author” with her name on the cover didn’t care enough about “her work” to look at it, because it was all in the name of the increasingly meaningless “bestseller” tag.

If I spend my money on a book (which I often do), I want the money to go to the people who pulled it all together, the writer, the cover designer, the editor. I want a clean product, where the character names don’t change half way through and the story is coherent. As a reader, I’ve fallen for authors that start off with a strong series (I read a lot of cozy mysteries), and then they get another idea, and another idea, and soon they have three series each kicking out a book a month and there is no quality control and the writing differs so much from series to series that you have to assume they are ghost-written or maybe—in light of recent incidents—copy-pasted for speed. I have a growing list of authors I will not read because they have poisoned their brand in pursuit of speed and fame. As a reader, I’ve become jaded and less willing to take a chance on an unfamiliar author, especially one self-pubbed.

That last point hurts. If you want to know why I have not had a new release in the last two years it is because as a reader and a writer, I want to put out a quality product. I have completed manuscripts making the rounds with publishers and agents. I may self-publish the one that has had full manuscript interest from multiple parties but no room in anyone’s publishing calendar. But there’s one problem. I don’t earn enough from my books full of my blood and tears and ethics because plagiarized crap and unprofessional “writers” are stealing money from all of us.

Thanks for reading my rant. These words are free to read, unprofessionally edited, and from the same source as all my other words—my heart, my head, and my fingertips.

Posted in For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Romance is necessary

I’m currently serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. The time I spend in service to my chapter comes at the expense of time spent updating my blog, but maybe I can double dip from time to time.

Each month, I write a “From the President” letter for our newsletter. Some are more chapter oriented, but others are not. All require me to think about what it means to be part of Romancelandia and the world of publishing.  I know a number of authors who are frustrated with the business and the world at the moment. Please don’t quit. This one is for you.

Between the #metoo movement, children dying at school, and all the other forces at work highlighting the chaos and cruelty in the world, writing romance can be a real challenge. Whether in social media or in conversations, I’ve heard a lot of writers question how they can continue to write romance in this climate. I myself have days where the news of the world both far-flung and close to home overwhelm my senses. Combine this with the struggle I’ve had to find a publishing home for my last two manuscripts, and giving up seems like a rational solution. Except, it isn’t.

To paraphrase Damon Suede, Romance is the literature of hope. Our happily ever afters (or nows) come only after the characters have struggled and sunk to their lowest points. Only by finding inner strength can our characters overcome obstacles and find themselves in better places by the end of the story. We can much learn from our fictional creations.

Our stories can help readers find hope. We provide a valuable service to our readers and the community at large. We don’t know exactly what word or plot line will resonate with any given reader. Maybe our words bring a smile to someone’s face. Maybe that person shares the smile with the next person they see. Maybe our stories offer aspirational relationships and help someone leave a toxic relationship, or maybe our stories help deepen already strong bonds by reminding a reader of what made them love their partner in the first place. Maybe our stories make someone feel less alone and that is enough to help that person reconnect with the world. That was certainly the case for me.

For those days writing hope does not come easy, please find ways to take care of yourself. Turn off the news and meet up with a friend or fellow writer for coffee. Take a walk in nature—sans earbuds—and tune into the sensory experience around you. Go to a concert or a party and leave your phone at home. Try something new or rediscover an old passion. We need you. We need your stories. We need your hope.

Posted in Books, Conference, First Friday Five, Lists, Writing

First Friday Five Lessons from #RWA16

Last month I attended the Romance Writers of America annual conference. Since embarking on my writing career, this is the third time I have been able to attend. The 2016 conference marked my first visit to beautiful San Diego, CA. I wish I could go more often, both to San Diego and to the conference. In the meantime, here are five lessons I learned.

  1. Romance authors are wonderful people. We are smart, funny, hard-working, determined, curious, gracious and generous.

    Fantastic keynote speaker Beverly Jenkins
    Fantastic keynote speaker Beverly Jenkins
  2. Always wear comfortable shoes, especially when volunteering as I did during the Readers for Life Literacy Signing. You never know when you will need to race through the building to lend a hand to one of those wonderful authors.

    Helping at Readers for Life: with author Camille Di Maio
    Helping at Readers for Life: with author Camille Di Maio
  3. Be ready with the one line elevator pitch ANYTIME. I am on cloud 9 that my dream publishing house requested a full manuscript based on a one minute interaction.
  4. Small mental shifts in how one approaches the business of writing can be powerful. Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan shared ways to make promotion a more playful rather than dreaded part of of being an author. When Mary Burton quipped “It’s not concrete, folks, it’s words,” I found the idea liberating.
  5. Last, but not least, I learned I once again picked up too much amazing swag and too many books. This is small sample. RWA16swagThe books are in another room. I can’t keep it all. Over the next few months, I’ll draw names from my newsletter subscribers and send out some goodies. I even have a few things that I can ship overseas. If you aren’t subscribed, sign up here.
Posted in Conference, Food, For Writers, South

Atlanta bound

I love Atlanta.  In a matter of days, the Romance Writers of America national conference will take over part of downtown and I’ll be there.   To celebrate here are five things I love about the town I once called home.

1. Excellent BBQ – leading to the lesson the scarier the building, the better the Q.

2. Pandas at Zoo Atlanta – cute overload.

3. The Georgia Aquarium – to see a whale shark swimming overhead is simply amazing.

4. Terrific people who keep up a smile in spite of high heat.

5. People watching in Olympic Park.

And one thing I don’t miss about Atlanta – the traffic!

I’ll be a cashier at the Readers for Life literacy signing open to the public Weds. July 17th from 5:30-7:30.  Stop by and say Hi.