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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. 

Okay, I wasn’t going to write about this, but the fact is, I’m still mad about it and I can’t think of any other way to get it off my mind.  So, I’m going to get it all down, and I apologize if it’s all a little garbled and incoherent, but hopefully once I get through with this blog entry, that’ll be the end of it.

A little background first, I’ve been locked in a battle with an epublisher for the rights to my book, Unwilling Angel, which won first place in their Zuzu’s Petals writing contest and was published by them.  After various breaches of contract, I wrote them and told them I wanted my rights back.  They, in turn, wrote me back and tried to blame me–and a few other authors who were asking for their rights back–for the whole mess. 

Now, while I have written a little about this fight, I’ve managed to avoid coming right out and saying the publisher’s name.  Not that it would’ve taken a genius to figure it out, but I at least tried to keep my mouth shut and not spread vicious rumors.  As of this past weekend, that’s over with.  Last Monday, Twilight Fantasies Publications shut down their web site and on Saturday, they shut down the author’s loop, the reader’s group, and their blog site–all without having the courage to come out and warn the authors who had remained loyal to them.  No word, no explanation, not even a “go jump in the lake,” even though the authors who were still with them were practically begging them to post something on the author’s loop and explain what was going on.  They didn’t see fit to do that and the lack of explanation has taken me to a whole new level of fury.  Not for myself–well, okay, a little for myself–but more for all the authors they left hanging.

Okay, so Twilight Fantasies Publications is owned by a husband and wife team.  I know the wife is a teacher and it’s my understanding the husband is too.  The wife is also an author who writes erotic romance under a pseudonym, and the husband seems to be very protective of her.  To a point.  When all of this started happening, he was quick to cite her illness as the reason behind the lack of communication and their failure to honor their contracts.  But he, as co-owner, never stepped up to the plate to do anything to help her run the business, just made excuses and quite arrogantly suggested that it was the fault of the authors because they weren’t doing what needed to be done to keep the business afloat.  WTF?  It’s his business, and while most authors are happy to do whatever is needed to sell their books, most aren’t willing–or able–to step in and run a publishing company.

So, in my eyes, he’s no more than a spoiled brat who knows he’s in trouble and is doing everything he can to point the finger of blame at someone else.  Sure, he took up for her, but if he really was fully behind her, he would have stopped issuing excuses and done whatever he could to save the business.

He didn’t, he was way too busy trying to find someone to share the guilt and in so doing, he shoved the guilt firmly back in her corner.  She will be the one to suffer for all of this–if, that is, she has even a smidge of conscious–and the suffering isn’t likely to end with the demise of her business.

As a teacher, in a state which I’m told frowns on anything that even approaches pornography, I have to wonder what will happen to their careers if all this gets out.  She writes erotic romance–something a lot of people say is nothing more than dressed-up porn–and beyond that, she and her husband were running a business that dealt in erotic books.  Doesn’t matter that they also published books which were “sweet romance,” most of the books they were selling were erotic.  And I think that’s the only thing the condemners will see.  As a teacher, I don’t think I’d want to be in her shoes–or his either, for that matter–if that ever comes out.

Now, as to her being an author, what I want to know is how could she do what she did?  She’s an author, for Pete’s sake, how could she treat other authors that way and live with herself?  Didn’t she think about how she would feel if she were the one on the receiving end of that type of misbehavior by a publisher, or is she, like her husband, so childishly arrogant that she thought she could get away with it by pointing her finger at everybody else?

The thing is…what effect this whole ugly mess will have on either or both of her careers is yet to be seen.  I have a feeling it isn’t going to be pretty when it all comes out.  I mean, I’ve lived in the south for most of my life and I can’t see the residents of the Bible Belt letting her–or him–off easy.

So, one career down, one to go.  I can’t imagine some other publisher, especially one who knows what she did, accepting anything she writes for publication.  One thing I’ve learned, cyber-space is a small world.  Now maybe there are some out there who might take a chance and publish something by her, and I have to say it’s my wish that she finds them.  But, I also have to be honest and tell you, if she does find someone who will publish something she writes, I hope they’re as unscrupulous and uncaring of their authors’ feelings as she and her husband were.

Because, well, payback’s a bitch.

This whole situation with my publisher just keeps getting messier and uglier with each passing day.  I’m outraged!  So to keep myself from going ballistic and doing something stupid like driving out of state and performing an act that might make me feel better but would also see me spending time behind bars, I’m going to rant on this blog.  

Saturday morning, shortly after I posted my Friday Folly blog (a day late), the publisher’s site was suspended by their host.  The author’s loop, which I’m still a member of though I’m blocked from posting, erupted in a low rumble which quickly turned into a roar.  My inbox was flooded with messages, ranging from questions to pleas and finally, to demands.

There were a few rumors tucked in there too, but not many.  Mostly, it was authors who felt they’d been wronged, asking for clarification and reaching out for a comforting hand.  They’d adopted a sort of “circling the wagons” mentality to hold off the threat from an outside force, which I think is a good, healthy reaction to this type of situation.  It’s a scary thing for the authors involved when an epublisher goes down–and don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this one is going down.  At this point, we just don’t know.  This particular blog entry isn’t about that anyway, it’s about honesty and integrity.  

The thing is, one of the owners of this publishing company is an author herself.  On top of that, she does the same thing in her day job as I do.  And that’s what’s really making me mad.  I mean, I can’t imagine doing the things she’s doing as an author to other authors and being able to hold my head up in public, much less in private, but as a teacher…I’m sorry, but that just blows my mind.

To be fair, it was her partner who wrote the scathing email in reply to mine asking for my rights back, and from all reports, has responded in the same tone to other authors who wrote him asking for their rights to be released.  But as far as I know, other than ignoring emails and posts on the author’s loop, I’d have to say she’s been professional…but she’s skating on very thin ice. 

I certainly wouldn’t want her teaching my child.  Especially if I ever caught wind of how she’d behaved in her business–and in today’s world, nothing is ever private.  So I’m afraid I would turn into one of those ravenous, overbearing parents and demand my child be taken out of her class.

You see, her partner’s actions–and the fact that she is his partner, makes her guilty by association in my mind–has pushed one of my buttons.   Well, okay, he hasn’t just pushed that button, he’s jumping all over it.  His behavior is one of my pet peeves and goes against something  I always tried very hard to teach my students; take responsibility for your actions and never blame someone else for your wrongdoings.

So I’m telling this publisher and her partner what I would tell one of my students; admit you’re wrong, take full responsibility for what you did, and don’t try to blame it on the authors who are only trying to protect their hard work.  

As a teacher, you should have known that.  And something else for you to keep in mind; you can try to cast the blame aside, but the shame will always be yours.  I hope you can live with that.

 Update:  the web site is back up and I’ve received another rights reversion letter from the publisher.  Professional, yes, but she ignored the fact that I’d asked for my rights to be returned effective immediately and said they would be released on October 24, 2007.  She also does not state in the email what rights she’s giving back to me. 

The thing is, if they do go under and file for bankruptcy, that rights reversion is about as valuable as a used tissue–no matter what date she gives me.

I have a bad feeling about this.  I think these people are playing games and stalling while they figure out what they’re going to do.

Arrgh!  Gotta go call my lawyer.


For the most part, I write in the romance genre, but I also dabble in young adult and children’s stories.  In all of these, the hero/ine is one of the most, if not the most, important element of the story.  Everybody loves a good hero/ine, right?

Well, not so much anymore.

Jim Croce sang, “…you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger…”  Maybe not in your day Mr. Croce, but today we seem to delight in doing just that–unmasking our hero/ines and shoving their faces into the dirt for a little added entertainment.

Looking back on the hero/ines of my youth, I still see them as people to be looked up to, people worthy of my respect, people who will always hold a special place in my heart and mind.  That’s not to say they didn’t have flaws.  Of course they did, after all, no one’s perfect, but their imperfections are not what I remember when I think about them. 

I have to wonder if it will be the same for today’s kids.  Will they look back on the hero/ines of their youth with a smile or a scowl?  Probably the latter. 

These days, it seems everywhere you look, hero/ines are taking falls worthy of Humpty Dumpty.  Sports figures, movie stars, singers, politicians, astronauts–any and all who dare tread one step into the spotlight can expect to be scrutinized under the media’s microscope then offered up for public humiliation when they’re caught doing something wrong.

Who holds the greatest share of the blame for that?  The media?  The public?  The hero/ines themselves?

Any and all of the above.  We’re all guilty, we all share equally in the blame, but I don’t expect any of us will stand up and do a thing to stop it.  We’re fascinated (though we proclaim disinterest), thrilled (though we declare disgust), and hungry for more (though we voice our distaste loudly and often).

Which doesn’t help today’s kids in any way whatsoever.  Unless, of course, they have aspirations to be a tabloid journalist/photographer when they grow up.  

Whistling Woman by CC Tillery

Winds of Fate

Storm Shadows

Snow Shadows

PMS Anthology

Romance of My Dreams