Elizabeth: Haven’t I Read That Before?

Image courtesy of http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk

It was a busy day in Romancelandia today and not in a good way.  If you spent any time on social media recently you’ve probably seen the stories by now.  A Brazilian romance author who had a book entered in this year’s RWA RITA contest, appears to have engaged in some very blatant plagiarism.  I got wind of the story by way of Courtney Milan’s blog at lunchtime and by the end of the day, the list of authors whose work was thought to have been plagiarized read like a Who’s Who of Romance – Courtney Milan Tessa Dare, Bella Andre, Loretta Chase, Victoria Alexander, Nora Roberts – just to name a few.

It was disheartening to read posts from the various authors who were impacted, describing how it felt to see bits and pieces of the stories they’d put their whole heart and soul into writing, being passed off as the work of someone else.

The author, when confronted with the accusations, gave the equivalent of a “the dog ate my homework” excuse, saying “the ghostwriter did it.”  That didn’t fly with anyone, including the understandably outraged ghostwriting community.

It’s a horrible situation, but I did see some positives today.

  • First off, RWA responded quickly, not only removing the author’s entry from the RITA contest, but also re-assigning all of the novels she was slated to judge. Additionally, RWA has an ethics claim process, which is in progress.  Ironically, Courtney Milan is the RWA Ethics Committee chair – what are the odds?  She has recused herself completely from the process.
  • Some (if not all) of the books identified as potentially containing plagiarism were apparently removed from Amazon.  Most online booksellers appear to have processes to initiate the take-down of items that violate copyright, including Amazon’s quite clear – “Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? Click here” link.
  • Fans were livid on behalf of their favorite authors and pitched in to locate additional potentially plagiarized text, posting example after example on Twitter.
  • There was humor, in the midst of the dismay, like Tessa Dare’s tweet, “Well, this is embarrassing. I am 95% sure this was lifted from my books, but I don’t know where or in which one. Geez.”  Fortunately, her fans quickly came to the rescue.
  • Fans also took to Goodreads to highlight the potential plagiarism with notes like, “This story has been plagiarized from The Duchess War by Courtney Milan.” and “No thanks– I’ve already read The Duchess War“.
  • A bright spot in whole mess has been an uptick in interest in books by the impacted authors.  Probably not quite they way they would have liked to attract new readers but still, something positive.

This whole incident is a reminder that an author’s work isn’t done once a story is finished and published.  Pirated copies of books, appearing on random sites have been a problem for years – probably since soon after the first eBook was published.  Plagiarism too has been around for ages as well – probably shortly after the first high-school term paper was assigned.

So, along with writing, marketing, publishing, and keeping an eye out for pirated copies of their books, it appears that today’s authors need to keep an eye out for their own words staring back at them from the pages of someone else’s latest book.  While this is undoubtedly the exception, not the rule, it is still unacceptable.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve got a copy of The Duchess War in my TBR pile.  I find I’m suddenly in the mood to read it.

Jeanne: About That Cover…

Recently, a friend messaged me about a bookstore in a nearby town that she thought would be willing to stock my book(s), so last Tuesday I went to visit New & Olde Pages Book Shoppe in Englewood, OH.

I explained why I was there and the proprietress said, “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

I pulled a copy of The Demon Always Wins from the small box of books I’d brought with me and held it out to her.

demon_wins_1500--POD

“That’s a problem,” she said. Continue reading

Jilly: Free Shouldn’t Mean Gimcrack

How many of you download free books, stories or novellas from BookBub, or the Zon, or as a reward for signing up for an author newsletter?

Do you expect the quality of the writing to be worse because it’s free?

Stand by for a rant.

I’m on the mailing list of an author whose books I really like. She’s not prolific, but her stories are quality and well worth waiting for. I had a newsletter from her recently, announcing that her new novel would be published shortly. Excellent, I thought. I read on to discover that she’d written a novella-length story in the same world as the upcoming book, and that she was offering it to her mailing list as a free download to thank us for our engagement and to whet our appetites for the new release.

I couldn’t have been happier. I downloaded the free book, made a pot of coffee and got comfortable on the sofa with my Kindle. For about five minutes, tops.

I knew the novella-length story had started life as a character sketch, a discovery exercise to help the author find her way into the next big book. That’s cool. I love those little extras, behind-the-scenes glimpses and secret nuggets. That’s what I was hoping for. Perhaps that’s what it became in the end. I’m not sure, because I abandoned it after skimming the first dozen pages.

I’m not sure whether the author did just dump her discovery notes into Vellum without any thought or editing, but that’s how it read to me. What I read reminded me of the famous Mark Twain quote: “I apologize for such a long letter – I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Continue reading

Michaeline: YouTube Boyfriend

I spend entirely too much time on the internet, but when it pays off, it pays off big. I stumbled upon a virtual boyfriend audio clip on YouTube today. (ASMR Roleplay: I’ll be your muse [Comfort for Artist’s . . . .  8:32)

It’s a ten-minute romantic interaction with a boyfriend. I find it a fascinating model, because it’s very direct and intimate with the listener (second person POV comes in handy for once, babies!), yet it’s got a distinct narrative. It’s almost like an audio book.

This particular story has some cringe in the beginning – I find the boyfriend too bossy and condescending (although, I feel some women and men might find him very caring and “doing it for my own good”). As the story goes along, though, the boyfriend is encouraging (the listener plays the part of an artist with creative blockage, and the boyfriend offers to be their muse), and there is a lovely part where he reminisces about “our” plans together.

Quite honestly, when I have writing blocks (which is ALL THE GODDAMN TIME), I would prefer NOT to be encouraged. It makes me feel guilty. However, when it’s a fantasy boy, and not a real person, it makes a lot of difference. And . . . if I wrote a story about a perfect lover who said and did all the right things, it might be quite comforting. More importantly, it could be comforting and fun for other people, as well.

I’d be very interested in hearing what you think about this format – the ten-minute short story, read aloud and then distributed through 21st century technology. Does it spark any ideas? Or would you just rather read a well-loved romance novel again for the umpteenth time?

(Nothing wrong with reading a well-loved romance novel again for the umpteenth time – I do it several times a year. It’s just that I’m so pinched for time lately that if I could find the niche “YouTube Boyfriend” that massaged all my buttons, and did it in ten minutes flat, I’d be ecstatic.)

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Congratulations for making it through another week.  As a bonus, here in the US, that means it’s time for a 3-day weekend, courtesy of President’s Day.

Yay!

Although Valentine’s Day is a well-known holiday, February 15 marks a slightly lesser-known celebration:  Singles Awareness Day.

By placing Singles Awareness Day on the day after Valentine’s Day, the undertone of self-pity and sadness was removed from it, and it instead became more of a celebration and a day of pride. It became an alternative day to Valentine’s Day for single people who may have felt left out, and it reminds everyone that being single is okay. It celebrates the love between friends and family, and love for oneself.  Celebrants also spend the day volunteering, traveling, and treating themselves to things they enjoy.

Although celebrating the day with a little traveling sounds like a great idea, I’m pretty sure my boss would much prefer that I spend the day in the office.  Sigh.  Ah well, at least I can mini-celebrate with some of those left-over chocolate strawberries and heart-shaped cookies left-over from yesterday.

Always a bright side.

Before I call it a day and officially kick-off the three-day weekend I think I’ll give today’s random words a shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Happy Valentine’s Day

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36899372St. Valentine is thought to be a real person, recognized by the Catholic Church, who died around 270 A.D. It is thought that he was beheaded by emperor Claudius II for helping soldiers wed. There is some question about this as there was another St. Valentine around the same time who helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons who was then imprisoned himself, fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, and signed his love letters to her “From your Valentine.” There are about a dozen St. Valentines plus a pope. The most recent saint was beheaded in 1861 and canonized in 1988, and the pope of that name lasted about 40 days. Odd history for a romantic holiday – a lot of beheadings involved. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Valentine’s Day Curmudgeon

Who could pass up chocolate dipped strawberries or heart-shaped cookies?

Unlike some of the others here on the blog, I didn’t need Michaeline’s reminder on Sunday to know Valentine’s Day was fast approaching though, frankly, it’s a holiday I’d just as soon forget.

That probably sounds strange coming from a romance writer and a life-long fan of Happily-Ever-After but the day unfortunately has some pretty negative memories attached to it.  While it may be a magnet for love for most, for me it’s when I got laid off from a job I loved – twice – and when my mom lapsed into a fatal coma.

Hardly the stuff of a cheery Hallmark greeting card.

You’d never know I harbored a dislike of the holiday by looking around my house or in my office at work though.  There’s a heart-shaped wreath on the front porch, a vase of fresh roses on the dining room table, and a Valentine-y plaque and a bowl of chocolate hearts on the corner of my desk. Continue reading