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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.

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Well, it’s Friday–or it was yesterday when I started writing this!–and this time I only have to go back about six months to find the topic of today’s Friday Folly.

I remember it clearly, even know the date, and could probably recount every second leading up my foolish action.  I’d been debating with myself whether or not to submit my novella to a contest.  I would’ve done it in a heartbeat, except the publisher holding the contest was new.  I’d just started having doubts about my other publisher, who was also new when I signed with them, and I kept thinking; you’ve been down that road before and what if the same thing happens again?  Finally, I decided to take a chance because the story fit the contest so perfectly.  So, I hit the ‘Send Now’ button. 

A month later, I was notified that my book had won and they wanted to offer me a contract.  I was thrilled.  I signed the contract without thinking twice about it and sent it back.  Over the course of the next month, I worked with an editor–who was wonderful–and the month after that, the cover artist–who was awesome.  Everything went downhill from there.

And now I find myself caught up in a battle with the publisher for my rights and it’s beginning to look like I’m going to have to fight for them.  Their breach of contract is clear–trust me on this, I’ve consulted a lawyer–so I wrote them yesterday and told them I was taking my rights back.  Given their history of not responding to emails from their authors, I really didn’t expect to hear back from them…

…except I did.  Their quick response was nice, and I was elated to read the opening line which went something like this: “As you requested, your rights will be returned to you.”  Oh, happy day, right?

Wrong.  By the time I finished reading their response, I was not just angry, but thoroughly pissed off to the point I was ready to go postal on these people.  The rest of their email was surly and about as far from professional as you can get.  I was, in turn, reprimanded, insulted, blamed for their problems, and threatened.  All that from a publisher who not only failed to live up to their contract, but has spent the last month making excuses and blaming their mistakes on everybody but themselves.  I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was.  

The only thing that saved me from publicly spewing venom about them on every group and blog I could find is the fact that they gave me my rights back.

That was good, right?  Well, no.

The thing is, they may have given my rights back to me, but they did it in an email that I refuse to send out to other publishers when I submit my book elsewhere.  So I promptly wrote them back and told them I expected to have a rights reversion letter in my hands on or before October 25 (the deadline I gave them in the original email), and I expected the letter to be written in a professional manner, or they would be hearing from my attorney.

Will they do it?  Who knows?  I think all bets are off with this publisher.  From everything I’ve heard, they aren’t paying their staff, much less their authors, they’re picking and choosing which parts of the contract they’ll honor, and they treat their authors–this isn’t hearsay, but fact based on my own experience–as if they’re idiots and/or children who are mentally challenged.

My problem now is how do I handle this?  I could take his email and delete out all the derogatory comments and use it as my rights reversion letter–or maybe I can’t, that’s something I’ve never needed to do, so I’ve never tried it.  Or I can continue sending them emails and certified letters until I get a professional rights reversion letter.  Or I can just turn it over to my lawyer and let him handle it.

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but one thing I am sure of, this has the potential to be the worst folly of my life, because I’m not trying to kid myself that this will turn out all right in the end.   

  

Yes, I have another song lodged in my brain.  Difference is, this song I actually like–who doesn’t like John Fogerty?  I’m one of his biggest fans, and “Deja Vu” is one of my favorite songs.  Like they used to say on “American Bandstand,” it has a good beat and you can dance to it.  That’s true, but what makes it one of my favorites are the words.  Fogerty took a Yogi-ism, something that most people would chuckle over, and built a powerful anti-war song around it…and it works.  You have to admire a man who can do that. 

So, why am I singing that particular song?  No, I’m not at war…well, maybe I am.  I just spent all day composing an email to my publisher telling them I was taking back the rights to my book.  It was a very hard thing to do and my hands are still shaking, but I know in my heart it was the right thing.  Now, if I can only convince my head and my nerves of that.  

The thing is, this publisher is in breach of contract in not just one, but several ways.  I blogged about this a few weeks ago, back when I first started thinking about asking for my rights back.  I decided at that time to give them the two weeks they asked for to straighten this whole thing out.  I was hoping for the best, but deep down I expected the worse–or maybe I was just burying my head in the sand.  Who knows?  

In the end, I got what I expected, the worse.  And now, I’ve been advised by another author who’s already filed suit against them and pulled her rights that I shouldn’t ask for my rights back, I should demand them–which is what I did–in a long email complete with an attached file which detailed all my reasons.  I’m pretty sure that’s what has my hands doing the jitterbug, I hate confrontations, even when they happen in cyber-space!

Okay, so the email’s been sent and truthfully, I’ll be very surprised if they respond.  God knows a lot of their authors have been trying to get a response out of them recently, but they seem to be ignoring all of us.  So, I’m following up the email with a certified letter and then I’m going to keep sending the email every day until I get a response.

Wish me luck.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be the writer that finally makes them sit up and take notice.  And hopefully, do what they have to do to fix this godawful mess before more authors get hurt. 

On the plus side in my life while all this has been going on, the Red Sox swept the Angels and  moved one step closer to the World Series!  Now all they have to do is win the ALCS against the Indians–whoops!  Strike that, you know how superstitious I am!  Instead, I’ll just offer my deepest gratitude to the Cleveland Indians for taking out New York.  Now I can sit back and relax while I watch Boston and Cleveland battle it out for the prize.  I won’t go so far as to say I’ll be rooting for the Indians, but if they beat us and move on to the World Series, I don’t think I’ll mind as much simply because it wasn’t the Yankees.

Also, I submitted a query to a print publisher for my paranormal romance, Snow Shadows, and they asked to see the entire manuscript–okay, strike that one too.  Arrgh!  I really need to work on ridding myself of these stupid superstitions.

Maybe that would be a good self-improvement project for taking my mind off this war I’m fighting with my publisher.   

Finally figured out how to add images–woo-hoo!  Inserted the cover art for Unwilling Angel on the corresponding page, but I’ll add it here too–just for practice of course!

Unwiling Angel Cover 

Isn’t that fabulous?  The cover artist is C. J. England and I think she did a fantastic job!  Don’t you?

Oh, in case you’re interested, the blurb and an excerpt can be found by clicking on the Unwilling Angel page on this site.  Then, if you think you might want to read it–and I hope you do!–click on Twilight Fantasies in my blogroll and you’ll see me right there on the front page–first place winner in the Zuzu’s Petals contest! 

I know I’ve already posted today, but I can’t stop myself from posting again.  I don’t think it’s against blog etiquette (is there even such a thing?) and frankly, I’m too happy to care.  I just received an email from one of my publishers saying they would like to have my short story “The Secret Life of Alice Smitty” for their PMS: Poison, Murder, Satisfaction anthology.  They’ve already asked for my short story, “Third Time’s for Keeps” for their Romance of My Dreams Anthology.  That makes two that will be out next year in print.  Woo-hoo!

That’s exciting enough, but the thing that really has me doing happy dances is the fact that “Alice” was the first short story I ever wrote and it was submitted a few years years ago to not one, but two, short story contests.  It didn’t receive so much as an honorable mention in either one.

A little side note here:  I’ve since learned, submitting to contests is like submitting to a publisher.  Either do your research or suffer the consequences.  By that I mean, read between the lines of the submission guidelines for each contest and try to get a feel for what they’re looking for.  Read the previous winners–if you can find them.  More important, find out all you can about the judges, because they are the ones who are going to be reading the stories and deciding on the winners.

My mistake, well, one of my mistakes, was in submitting to contests with judges that were looking for “serious” literary stories.  “The Secret Life of Alice Smitty” is about as far away from serious as you can get.  It’s a humorous story about Alicia Smith, whose perfect life is turned upside down when her husband has bypass surgery and her live-in maid suddenly runs away with the yardman to live in a commune in New Hampshire.  Alicia’s answer to all this upheaval?  Alice Smitty, an alter ego with a homicidal bent.  Who does Alice want to kill?  Why, Alicia’s husband, of course.

The thing is when the book comes out next year with “The Secret Life of Alice Smitty” in it, I’d love to send a copy to those contests along with a smart-ass little “nyah-nyah” note.

I won’t do it, but it sure is nice to think about. 

Gotta go spread the news and do another happy dance!

Whistling Woman by CC Tillery

Winds of Fate

Storm Shadows

Snow Shadows

PMS Anthology

Romance of My Dreams