So much vitriol is going on about “author vs. reviewer.” It’s come down to acts of physical violence now. And it’s casting a pall over the entire indie community. Every time some reviewer gets hassled (or worse), hundreds of us are cringing, thinking, “that’s not me! No, no, don’t put me in the same boat as that one!”The enduring advice is, “ignore bad reviews!”It’s great advice, and I am going to break it, by celebrating my favorite bad reviews.

This is not a whiny post that mocks the reviewer. I’m talking about, “Check this guy out! He really got me good!” Appreciating and respecting a point of view other than yours. Because if we’re lucky, we have some good ones, and celebrating them – accepting that they are opinions well-stated – makes us stronger, and makes us better writers. Taking criticism makes you a better writer. Yes, it does.

Soon after I published Diary of a Small Fish, I solicited and received a review from a critic at the Chicago Center for Literature & Photography (CCLAP). It was beautiful, and you might enjoy reading the entire review. Here is the part that makes me smile the most.

“But still, maybe Small Fish would turn out to be a redemptive story when all is said and done, and our protagonist would by the end understand what kind of sneaky, petty, subsumed-guilt Bush-loving Michael-Scott frat-boy douchebag he actually is…”
I love that.Here’s one more, a one-star from a Goodreader:
It’s kind of like the author couldn’t decide whether he wanted to write a political thriller or just a really long story about rich people enjoying expensive food and wine (which he goes to staggering extremes to explain in every detail during almost every scene). I read books for interesting character and plot development, not to hear how often they eat fancy food and drink expensive alcohol.
Are these guys right? (Hey, what’s wrong with fancy food and expensive alcohol?)
It doesn’t matter what I think. It comes with the territory. Everyone’s a critic.
This business requires thick skin, humility, and an indelible sense of humor. Some writers are born with them, some have to grow them. Some of the rest will be next week’s fare in The Guardian.

Well, then!

For the past several days, the internet has been buzzing with the astonishing exploits of one Kathleen Hale, a Harvard-educated YA author who wrote openly and in detail (if not completely honestly, I suspect) about tracking down a book reviewer, calling her at home and work, and knocking on her door. As the social media storm grew, we’ve been treated to some of her previous exploits, wherein she doused a girl with bleach and stabbed a feral hog in the heart. Whoosh, there’s one adventurer!

Ms. Hale’s narrative managed to take Ellora’s Cave’s ridiculous lawsuit against Dear Author and Jane Litte off page one. That lawsuit had pushed aside the grotesque display of plagiarism and social media harassment by Tiffinie Ruston (note: twitter trolls still attacking the “bullies” who’ve been mean to Ms. Rushton) against Rachel Anne Nunes.

And now we hear from the other side of the pond that some fellow who received an unflattering critique drove from London to Glasgow to bonk a review over the head with a glass bottle. Charges are pending and the author is out on bail.

All of it makes Just Desserts all too prescient.

I am mildly reassured that a huge number of fiction authors are singing from the same hymnal, deploring the actions of Hale, Rushton, Jade Black, and assorted others, yet there are enclaves where other authors have ardently supported Hale and her methods, most infamously, Ms. Anne Rice, who had this to say on her Facebook page:

I was impressed with the writer’s honesty, and I felt she did what she had to do to stay functional. She is candid about it. And she did no harm to this Blythe person. She simply felt she had to confront a person who had set out to make her life miserable. I do understand where the author is coming from here. I would not myself do what she did. But I know why she did it. These people, the harassers, the bullies, the tormentors, they have no real “standing” in the world of books and writers and they misuse every tool available to them; they lie, they cheat, they manipulate and they seek to harm. I think this article is very revealing. (emphasis mine.)

Yes, yes it is revealing, Ms. Rice. But I don’t think it reveals what you think it does.

(Note to stalkers-in-training, Ms. Rice’s fan page is teeming with aspiring Anne Rices who’re too eager to agree with her.)

Anyhoo, I figured these displays of impulse control issues were just a side show from the usual debates in this field – chief among them the comparatively dull dispute between Amazon and Hachette, where you’re either a sufferer of Amazon Derangement Syndrome or a sycophant of Jeff Bezos. (Now that Simon & Schuster has announced that they reached a deal with Amazon in the space of about three weeks, I’m waiting for all those Authors United to call S&S “traitor!”)

Now it seems that there is considerable support for the notion that hunting down a book reviewer at her home is perfectly okay, since the reviewer was involved in what more than one commenter has referred to as “online assault.”

I don’t know what “online assault” is, but it reminds me of this Jerky Boys bit, where Saul Rosenberg calls a lawyer because his boss “hurt me with his woids.” There is no tort called Insult in the First Degree.

Clearly, the vast majority of us understand that a scathing book review is not an “assault;” and whatever one calls it, it is not an invitation (or excuse) to retaliate by means of personal contact of any sort.

Before most of this conduct seeped into the social media consciousness, there was an incident in which a person affiliated with a notorious website obtained the personal information of a pseudonymous Amazon forum regular, and wrote a letter to her employer (a school superintendent), suggesting that it was reckless to leave this person in charge of young children. A small community of readers and reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads was justifiably outraged, but the rest of the online book community barely took notice. And this person doesn’t even write reviews!

There exists no explicit, articulable Code of Conduct for authors or reviewers, and although it might be a good idea, it ought not be necessary. What is necessary to prevent the further escalation of these incidents of aberrant behavior is to call them what they are.

Aberrant, extreme and outrageous displays of anti-social behavior that cannot be tolerated in a civilized society.

Now please excuse me while I go lock my doors.

Well it’s no surprise, I suppose, that publishing has its share of loons, scammers and reprobates, but the increasingly bizarre case of Ellora’s Cave deserves its own chapter.

Last week, avid reader, book blogger, and lawyer Jane Litte published The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave, in which she discussed the growing turbulence inside the publisher of erotic romance (the company and the person), where authors, editors and tax collectors remain unpaid as owner Tina Engler brags about “her Rodeo Drive shopping trips and her new property purchase in West Hollywood.” It’s a jaw dropping article, worth a trip over there to see.

Now news comes that, in response to Jane’s post, Ms. Engler and her company have sued Jane Litte personally for defamation. Of all the blogs in the book community that have reported on the Ellora’s Cave debacle, Engler sues the lawyer.


Well, it must have been her security detail that recommended this course of action. They’re on the case!

When Jane establishes a legal fund, I’ll be helping out.

UPDATE: The Complaint can be read here.

I received an email from an old high school pal – one of those funny messages that goes around the world time and time again.

It occurred to me that the reason some of these emails endure and some don’t is that, aside from the humor, there is truth in the parable (as there must be). The other aspect that makes them durable is what makes a good joke work: the punch line is invisible until the last sentence. You don’t know what’s coming – no matter how quick witted the reader may be.

So here are six lessons in “business management” that you might care to use in your own milieu:

Lesson 1:

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.

Before she says a word, Bob says, “I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.”

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob.

After a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.

The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, “Who was that?” “It was Bob the next door neighbor,” she replies.

“Great!” the husband says, “did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?”

Moral of the story:
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2:

A priest offered a Nun a lift. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.
The nun said, “Father, remember Psalm 129?”

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again. The nun once again said, “Father, remember Psalm 129?” The priest apologized “Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.”

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.

On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, “Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.”

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, opportunities for advancement will pass right by you.

Lesson 3:

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out. The Genie says, “I’ll give each of you just one wish.”

“Me first! Me first!” says the admin clerk. “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.” Puff! She’s gone.

“Me next! Me next!” says the sales rep. “I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.” Puff! He’s gone.

“OK, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.

Lesson 4:

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing. A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing?”

The eagle answered: “Sure , why not.”

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Lesson 5:

A turkey was chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?” replied the bull. They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree. He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.
Moral of the story:
Bull shit might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

Lesson 6:

A little bird was flying south for the Winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and shit on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.

A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:
(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
(2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.
(3) And when you’re in deep shit, it’s best to keep your mouth shut!

For my biannual post on writing craft, I shall simply repeat three sentences:

Omit needless words.

Resist the urge to explain.

Value the reader’s time.

Thanks for the reminder, Kristen Lamb.

In the most recent display of mind-boggling dishonesty, one indie author who goes by the pen name of Sam Taylor Mullens has been caught plagiarizing from a 20 year old novel written by Rachel Ann Nunes.

When Ms. Nunes discovered the plagiarism, she gave the author an opportunity to explain herself, and she got back a lot of malarkey (she wasn’t smart enough to have her story straight, so she offered two completely different ones) – which Rachel lays out in detail at the link above. Apparently, Mullen was also trying to “destroy the evidence” by asking her ARC recipients to delete the file ebook file she’d forwarded to them, and not turn one over to Nunes. (This reminds me of Tiger Woods, don’t ask me why.)

Not to be content with mere copyright infringement, cover-up and sheer intellectual sloth, the author then had several anonymous minions (hint: could it have been the plagiarist herself?) carpet bomb Ms. Nunes’ books with phony one-star reviews, replete with snarky trash talk.

Annnnnnd, since she hadn’t been satisfied with her treachery thus far, one of her fangirls, one “Bethany Booklover Johnson,” began spreading the false allegation among the indie author community that one of Mullen’s chosen ARC recipients, a book blogger, had been “selling ARCS.”

I would like to express my unbridled contempt for Sam Taylor Mullen and her conscienceless minions, who’ve done more to damage the reputation of independent publishing than any awful erotica or cookie-cutter paranormal romance ever could.

I encourage other authors to make their feelings know as well.



I have decided to take a short break from the afternoon’s writing activity to express my abject disdain for all those writers out there who insist on telling the rest of us how to price our books.

“If you price your book cheaply, you’re devaluing your work!”

“You get what you pay for!”

“Don’t you have any self-respect?”

“You’re ruining it for the rest of us who value our work.”

I have a message for you. It has to do with performing a physiologically impossible act.

On practically every writers group LinkedIn hosts, some stuffed shirt initiates this claptrap, and dozens of others jump aboard the We Are More Worthy! bandwagon. Ironically, a lot of them have books on Amazon priced around $9.99, with few or no reviews and rankings >1,000,000.

So, how’s that price workin’ out for ya?

To make matters worse, it is apparent from their comments that many of them have no understanding whatsoever of how ebook marketing works, how free or reduced-price promotions drive additional sales at higher prices, how they drive traffic to an author’s other work, generate reviews, recommendations and other social media exposure.

To all of those folks, I say do your homework and MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

I shall now return to the press conference scene for Full Irish, wherein Shannon McGonigle Forté will reveal an important and influential Irish politician to be a sissy and a liar.


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