Yesterday I said I would post my thoughts today on the Cassie Edwards plagiarism issue, so here we go…

But first, a warning, this has generated a lot of different feelings in me, so this post may at times veer into rant territory, but these are my opinions and I stand by them.

Feeling number one–astonishment.  This woman is a multi-published, best-selling author.  Why would anybody who’s written over a hundred books feel the need to steal from other authors?  There have been a slew of answers to that question and I’m not going to include them all here.  Suffice it to say, there are some I agree with, and some I disagree with, but since I’m not Cassie Edwards, I’m not going to venture to say why she did it.  The fact is she did it, and now she’s paying for it.

Feeling number two, sympathy.  I’d hate to be in her shoes right now…but sympathy can only go so far.  She brought this on herself and she needs to stand up and deal with it, which leads me to feelings number three, four, and five; disbelief, laced with disgust and cynicism–all of them coming from the teacher side of me.  Ms. Edwards claims she didn’t know what she was doing was wrong.  How could she not know?  One of the first things we’re taught in school is not to copy off of someone else’s paper.  Beyond that, one of the first things we’re taught in life is not to steal.  Those lessons are usually closely followed by the one about taking responsibility for our actions.  Pleading ignorance may be bliss, but it’s no excuse.  I could go on and on about this, but I think it’s enough to say, she was wrong, she knows it, and she’s not willing to stand up and admit her guilt–which pretty much wipes out that small flash of sympathy I felt before. 

The next feeling is one of…um, I suppose you could call it identifying with her to a certain degree.  Like her, I write romance, and also like her, I’m part Native American.  My great-great-great grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee and if you’ve read my blog, you know I’m what some people call a Twinkie.  I’m proud of my heritage, despite the fact I have no documentation to prove it, and many of my stories have a strong Native American element woven into them.  Unlike Ms. Edwards, I’m not a history buff, so I don’t write historicals.  I also don’t “borrow” passages verbatim from books I’ve read as part of my research.  Added to that, I would never, never include the word “savage” in one of my titles.  I haven’t read any of her books, but judging by her titles alone, they are offensive and stupid–like I said, my blog, my opinion!  She claims she’s proud of her Native American heritage and yet she uses the word savage in a great many of her titles.  I wouldn’t call that proud, I’d call it insulting.

So, there you have it, a few of the feelings this situation has generated in me, but the thing is…the one emotion that’s been circling over and over in my brain, superseding all the rest is worry.  Yes, worry.  Perhaps it’s egotistical of me, but I’m concerned about how people are going to view my next book when it comes out because it’s based on a Cherokee legend and has several Cherokee characters.  Will they read the blurb, put it back on the shelf and say, “Another Cassie Edwards, I wonder if she’s a plagiarist too?”  And if some day, I’m lucky enough to have one of my books accepted by a big NY publisher and it actually sells a few copies, are people going to pick it up and start googling like mad?

I don’t kid myself, I know the odds of that happening are astronomical, but this whole thing has touched off an inner debate in me about writing.  Should I stop writing about my Cherokee ancestors?  Am I, as some Native American people are saying about Ms. Edwards, just using them to further my writing career?  Is it stealing when I read a legend and it creates a spark for a story?  And even, should I just quit writing altogether?

I guess you know how that last one makes me feel.  It pisses me off, but still…as we’ve all seen from the Cassie Edwards thing, writing is a tough business and every author out there needs to police what they do and make sure their i’s are dotted and their t’s are crossed.  Is it worth it?  Of course it is, if only for the feeling I get whenever a publisher writes and says they like my story and would like to publish it.  Or when someone reads something I’ve written and tells me how much they liked it.  And besides, I’ve never found anything else I enjoy as much.  So, I’ll continue on, all the while doing my best and never forgetting the lessons I’ve learned from this whole messy Cassie Edwards thing. 

And Ms. Edwards, I have a suggestion for you, go to the library and check out Robert Fulghum’s All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  There are a lot of valuable life lessons in there that will benefit anybody, no matter how old they are and no matter how many mistakes they’ve made.  If I were you, I’d pay particular attention to the one about afternoon cookies and milk followed by a nap–maybe that will make this all a little bit easier to bear. 

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