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Haven’t been moved to post anything here for a week or so, though I have been writing…er, researching life in North Carolina in the early 20th century.  Ugh!  I now know why writing a historical romance never had any appeal for me–way too much research!  I have a love/hate relationship with research–sometimes I find it fascinating and others it bores me to tears.  But, if you’re going to write about another time you’d better do your research.  Because I guarantee if you don’t, you’re going to make a mistake and sooner or later someone’s going to catch it.  If you’re lucky, it’ll be one of your critique partners or maybe even your editor, but if it slips by those eagle eyes and gets out to the reading public, well, then, all I can say is you get what you deserve.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about…well, actually, now that I think of it, that is what this post is about–an author making a serious mistake and getting caught.

Okay, so a little backstory here.  A couple of days ago, my sister emailed me and called my attention to a thread at the Amazon romance forum: “Help!  My negative reviews are being deleted!”  Which, as I’m sure you guessed, has to do with DeborahAnne MacGillivray and her nefarious practice of getting what she considers negative reviews of her books deleted from Amazon.  I read the comment my sister highlghted and, well, let’s just say I panicked a little bit.

Why?  Because the commenter, Steven Hedge, wasn’t too happy with an author named–drumroll, please–“Caitlin Hunter.”  I picked up on the different spelling immediately of course, but still I had one of those OMGWTF! moments, thinking he was talking about me and wondering what I’d done to upset him so much.  So, after a full five minutes of staring at that name, I came to my senses enough to comprehend what I was reading and realized he wasn’t talking about me at all, but about another author.  The next comment–thank goodness!–had a link to the alleged Caitlin Hunter’s Amazon page which I immediately clicked on…

only to see the author’s name was “Caitrina Hunter.”  Whew!  Close, but no bananas.  Still, I posted to the thread and identified myself and my pseudonym, saying I hoped when my book comes out in August and is available on Amazon, the readers involved in this thread wouldn’t mistake me for her.  Mr. Hedge was kind enough to understand where I was coming from and responded with an apology then went back and corrected his mistake.  I wrote him back to thank him and then didn’t think much more about it.

But I did subscribe to the email feed on the thread and a few minutes ago a post came through saying Caitrina Hunter had posted something on a blog which everyone there needed to see to believe.

Well, that was an understatement.  I’ve now read her post three times and I still can’t believe the vitriol spilling out of this woman’s keyboard.  Seriously, this is much more than an author behaving badly, this is an author who appears to be teetering on the edge of insanity.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to read it for yourself.  Fair warning, it’s not very pretty and I sincerely hope Ms. Hunter comes to her senses and takes it down–soon!  We’ve all seen authors behaving badly before and I guess nothing should surprise us these days after all the stuff that’s come to light in the past few weeks about Ms. MacGillivray, but this one, well, I’m…speechless.  Beyond the petty viciousness of the entire thing, I can’t imagine any romance author having the nerve to call out Nora Roberts, much less the Ja(y)nes at Dear Author.

<sigh>  I guess this is what they mean when they say someone is TSTL (too stupid to live).  Although, I’m thinking maybe we need an entirely new acronym for this one: TITIWOH (too insane to interact with other humans).

The thing is…I keep hearing how important name recogition is to an author and how I need to get my name out there and get it noticed, but damn!  I hope and pray by the time August rolls around and my book is released, all this will have blown over and no one will remember her name.  I’d really hate to have to come up with a new pseudonym, but if people see my name and connect me with her, I might have no other choice.  Because well, batshit crazy is not what I want people thinking when they see the name Caitlyn Hunter!

On the other hand, they say even bad publicity is good publicity, so…

Edited to add:  Mr. Hedge has gone above and beyond the call, apologizing to me not only on Amazon, but also on Dear Author and I’d like to offer a special thank you to him for his graciousness.  And really, what author wouldn’t want a someone like him in her corner?  It makes me question Caitrina Hunter’s sanity even more.  So, Mr. Hedge, my heartfelt thanks and I really hope Amazon has the good sense to listen to you, Reba and the others and do the right thing regarding this situation.

Okay, so I thought the Cassie Edwards thing had pretty much faded out of the limelight, but something happened over the weekend that stirred it up again.  Another romance author was heard from, posting some totally irrelevant comments on her blog and challenging Nora Roberts’ right to speak about the whole plagiarism issue.  I have to tell you, that was a real WTF moment for me.  I mean, come on, every romance author out there knows that Roberts was a victim of plagiarism and that alone earns her the right to give her opinion on this whole sorry mess.

But it’s not just the people who have been a victim who should speak up, it’s  all of us.  When Ms. Roberts said plagiarism hurts every author, not just the one being stolen from–sorry for the paraphrase, I don’t have time to go back and look up the exact comment–I wanted to stand up and cheer!

Because she’s right!  Plagiarism does hurt all of us in one way or another.  I know this whole thing has hit me on a number of levels.  And I admit, the ones that are really getting to me, are the personal ones.  Like the fact that I’m currently in edits on a book which is based on a Native American legend and I wasted three hours the other day re-reading my research and comparing it with the words I wrote in a scene where my main characters discuss the legend–and driving myself totally apeshit in the process!  There’s also the fact that my writing focus has shifted in the last year and now I seem to include a Native American element in all my stories as Ms. Edwards did in most of hers, making me worry about comparisons–which will likely never come.

My personal feelings aside, I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Roberts.  Plagiarism is wrong and when an author chooses to sink to that level, every single one of us should have the courage to shout it from the rooftops.  And I don’t care who the guilty party is, just as I don’t care that Ms. Edwards is a grandmother or that she’s a skilled violinist–which should give you an idea of the irrelevance of this latest author rant.  I mean, WTF does that have to do with anything?–or how many books she’s sold.  Whatever she is and how ever many books she’s sold, the fact remains, she’s a thief.  There is, in my mind, no valid excuse for that!

The thing is…beyond the lame-ass excuses for why she did what she did, there are a lot of people out there shrugging this off and wishing everyone would shut up and move on to something else, but I’m sorry, I just can’t.  I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point.  This is something that will be with me for the rest of my life, especially the rest of my life as an author.  Because I believe as an author, it’s my words that define me.  They’re mine, they come from my heart, my brain, my imagination.  The fact that I’ve written them down and choose to share them with others doesn’t give anyone the right to take them away from me.  It’s as basic as that.

So, a note of thanks to Nora Roberts for standing up and saying what needed to be said and showing me what it means to have the courage of your convictions.  And to Cassie Edwards, Janet Dailey, and all the people out there who are trying to convince us that this issue isn’t worth getting worked up over, a hat-tip for reminding me of how important honor and integrity are to me.

And speaking of hat-tips, a huge wave of mine to the New England Patriots and the New York Giants for the awesome play-off games yesterday.  Congrats!  

Yesterday, when I posted my thoughts and feelings about the Cassie Edwards plagiarism thing, I stayed away from Ms. Edwards’ publishers.  Like most everyone, I was outraged when the letter from Penguin/Signet came out saying she’d done nothing wrong, but they’ve since retracted that statement and said they will investigate.  No word from her other publishers yet–or if there has been, I missed it.  I have no doubt it’s going to be a while before we hear anything else from Penguin/Signet, so I’ll wait until I hear their verdict before I address the publisher issue further.  

As for Ms. Edwards, like I said in my previous post, I feel a small amount of pity for her, and I imagine she just wants this whole thing to go away so she can get on with her life and her career.  Sad to say, that’s probably what will happen.  If she can endure the storm currently raging against her and a slap or two on the wrist, all will be well in her world again at some point in the future.

We have only to look to Janet Dailey for proof of that.  Ms. Dailey is a proven plagiarist, was even gutsy–or stupid–enough to steal from Nora Roberts, the best and the most widely-read romance writer in the business.  She was caught, taken to court, claimed it was a case of psychogical stress or some such nonsense, and a few years later landed another contract with another publisher.  She’s back to writing, her books are being published and all is right in her world.  

I think the same thing will likely happen to Ms. Edwards.  She has a product to sell, she’s made a lot of money for her publishers in the past, and like Janet Dailey, someone, somewhere, at some point in time, is going to offer her another contract.  I don’t agree with it, but the fact is Cassie Edwards sells, and that’s what a publisher is going to look at; how much money her books made in the past and how much money they might possibly make in the future.  Some publisher, willing to take a chance, will sign her and if her first post-plagiarism book makes them money, she’ll be offered another contract after that one–probably for more money–and so on and so on and so on.

The thing is…for me, this raises the question of how do Ms. Dailey, or Ms. Edwards–if my prediction comes true–deal with being a known cheat in their chosen profession?  How do they have the guts to go out there and do book signings after what’s been said and proven about them?  How do they withstand the constant snickers and finger-pointing aimed in their direction when they do?

After giving it a good deal of thought, I think I know the answer; confidence in one’s self and belief in one’s writing.  

I don’t have that, but I’m hoping it’s a learned trait and will come with time.  Janet Dailey has it and I suspect, so does Cassie Edwards.  It’s an admirable quality, one I’d like to have, but if I do ever get to that point, I hope I don’t have to go through the kind of public ridicule these women have gone through to get it.  Not that I feel sorry for them, they’re both cheats in my eyes, and they brought it on themselves.  But after all was said and done, at least in Ms. Dailey’s case, she came out…well, I won’t say the better for it, but she survived and is once again doing what she loves.  The jury’s still out on Ms. Edwards.

So, to all my fellow struggling authors, I hope you take note of the lessons buried beneath the feelings of outrage, disgust, and betrayal in this whole Cassie Edwards thing; believe in yourself and your writing.

Because when you get right down to it, that’s all that matters. 

Whistling Woman by CC Tillery

Winds of Fate

Storm Shadows

Snow Shadows

PMS Anthology

Romance of My Dreams