Monday, March 30, 2015

Ellora's Cave v. Dear Author: How Two Smart, Talented Women Managed to Ruin Their Images

I thought long and hard before I even started writing this blog post. I've been talking about the EC v. DA lawsuit here because it fascinates me from a legal standpoint. Frankly, I almost didn't write this because I know the trolls are out in force. In fact, anonymous trolls tried to turn TPV into a bloodbath last week. So, this is one of those rare instances where I am closing comments.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Since lack of disclosure is what got the subjects of this post into trouble, here's mine.

I submitted a story to EC when they were filling their Tarot Card theme line. My story was rejected. I only had contact with editor Brianna St. James. I'd normally give exact dates but I cleaned out all submission e-mails and responses dated prior to 2010 when I transferred my files from my beloved former laptop Isabella to my new computer at Thanksgiving. I also have two friends who wrote for EC and were instrumental in jumpstarting Alter Ego's career, Tea Trelawny and Lyla Sinclair. Yes, they are pseudonyms. No, I'm not going to betray their trust and tell anyone their real names. Neither of them has said anything to me regarding EC paying or not paying their royalties. In fact, the last time I had contact with either of them was in May and December, 2013, respectively, i.e. long before the current brouhaha started.

As far as DA goes, none of my books, under either of the names I use to publish, have been reviewed by a DA reviewer. I personally know a handful of romance writers who were reviewed by DA. The reviews ran the gamut of A to D+. One personal friend was denigrated by Jane Litte for having the audacity to use her agent to help her indie pub her books. These books were previously trad published, but my friend got the rights back before her publisher went under.

I do write erotica. I do not write New Adult. Whether or not that makes me a competitor is left up to you, the reader of this post, to decide.

Yes, I do review books here on this blog or Bloodlines, on Amazon, and on Goodreads (though not so much there anymore). When I do, it's under one of my author names. I don't review under a separate name. I don't review books for a third party such as a publisher or a review site. I sure as hell don't review books for money. And I definitely don't review my own books. Any books I have reviewed, I either bought or were free as part of a general promotion to the public through BookBub or Ebooksoda. I do review books in the genres I write.

If I can't give a book a 3-star rating or higher (or it's equivalent), I do not post a review anywhere. The reason I don't? If it's that disappointing to me, then I don't finish it. I believe it's unfair to write a review for a book I didn't finish reading. And life's too fucking short to waste time reading a book I don't like, much less writing the review for it.

The only review I've written that other folks might question is the one I wrote for my now-writing partner, Laura Kirwan. So here's the timeline:

8/1/14 - Laura e-mailed me privately about a comment I left on TPV. We struck up a conversation about publishing and law because we have similar backgrounds.
9/16/14 - I bought Laura's book, Impervious.
10/2/14 - I left a review of Laura's book on Amazon.
On or about 10/30/14 - A series of comment threads on TPV, joking about me being a lawyer for zombie rights, turns into a serious private conversation between Laura and me about writing a joint series. (Sorry, I'm fuzzy about the exact date, but I had a bad cold and was stuck in a hotel room while waiting for my car to be repaired.)
1/5/15 - After a ton of brainstorming and a hair of negotiation, Laura and I sign a contract to write the 888-555-HERO series.

Oh, and I'm currently reading Laura's second novel Crushed, I'm loving it, and I'll probably leave a review for it because I wouldn't go into business with someone who writes crap.

And last, but not least, I used to be an attorney. Key words there being "used to be." At one point, I was licensed in Texas, Ohio, and the Federal District Court - Southern District of Texas. My license in Texas is currently suspended (which I did deliberately by not paying the State Bar fee for inactive attorneys because I don't see the point of paying good money for not doing something), and my license in Ohio is currently inactive. My Federal license is partially based on my Texas license so I figure I'm suspended there as well. (I was pretty damn sick in 2007 when all of this went down, and I didn't care enough to call the Federal court to find out for sure.)

So that last paragraph means I'm not an attorney, I do not and cannot represent any of the parties mentioned below, and nothing I'm about to say can be construed as legal advice.

Okay, now that all the bullshit is out of the way.

* * *

On Tuesday, March 24, Jennifer Garrish-Lampe, who owns and operates Dear Author and blogs there as Jane Litte, revealed that she is also YA author Jen Frederick. The disclosure initiated a firestorm on the interwebs. Other publishing bloggers attempted to discuss the legal, business and review ramifications of the revelation often have had the comment section hijacked by supporters of both Dear Author and Ellora's Cave. Ellora's Cave sued Dear Author for defamation back in September. Dear Author countersued. The case is currently ongoing in Federal Court in Ohio.

While almost any court filing is viewable by the public in person since it's a matter of public record, you have to pay for online access through PACER. Deirdre Saoirse Moen has put together a timeline for the litigation using Courtney Milan's thread system.

As I said in a previous post, the truth is the ultimate defense in a defamation suit. EC is going to have to prove that any FACTS that DA presented in its original blog post that's at the heart of the lawsuit are a lie. It's up to the judge and/or jury to decide who's telling the truth about the facts, not me, not John Doe on the streets, not anyone else.

Normally after a lawsuit has been filed, the first thing ANY lawyer tells their client is don't talk about ongoing litigation to anyone. Why? Because a client may accidentally reveal something that may damage their case, or worse, their reputation.

People believe that the more they talk, the more they present their side of the story, then the more other people will believe them. And a lot of times, it's just the opposite.

Some civilians think the 5th Amendment, and therefore a Miranda warning, applies to all court cases. It doesn't; just criminal cases. The EC v. DA case is a civil case. The 5th Amendment right to not incriminate yourself does not apply. No official at the court is required to tell you to keep your mouth shut. Therefore, it's up to each side's attorney to remind them to be quiet about particulars of the case.

There are times when either the attorney or the client at his attorney's instruction may reveal certain information. And usually, the lawyer is smart enough, and calculating enough to reveal tidbits as part of their strategic maneuvers.

For the record, I'm not talking about refusing to comply with legitimate discovery requests. Discovery is when each side requests information from the opposing side before trial. Opposing counsel will try to make a request as broad as possible while your attorney will try to keep it as narrow as possible.

But back to talking about the case outside of court, sometimes even the attorneys majorly screw up about fighting the wrong fight.

For example, the humongous mistake Apple's attorneys made was trying to win their conspiracy case in the court of public opinion when their case was before a federal judge. What's doubly sad was this was the ATTORNEYS, not the Apple execs or employees, being stupid. Most federal judges don't put up with those shenanigans. I know. I have a second asshole from a butt chewing I received from a Federal judge for a relatively minor infraction in my first year of practicing law.

In EC's case, I'd bet good money that EC's lawyers told the corporation's principals to keep quiet, but the owner Tina Engler will not or cannot shut up. She keeps issuing tweets and commenting on blogs about the current EC lawsuit against DA. She's making the same mistake Apple's attorneys did. It doesn't matter what total strangers think concerning her finances, or who's lying or whatever else she may bring up in social media. She has to convince the judge that EC paid the company's bills and royalties and DA is lying about EC not paying the company's bills and royalties. That's an issue of fact that the judge decides.

Doing crap like this doesn't help your reputation. In fact, Tina's probably doing more damage to herself and her company than Jennifer's post could have possibly done, regardless if Jennifer told the truth or not. If I were Tina's attorney, I'd be pulling out my hair. Or filing a Motion to Withdraw. (Fancy way where the attorney says "I quit" in ongoing litigation. Sometimes the judge will let you quit. Sometimes she won't.) Sometimes, the very best thing you can do in your case is remain silent and let the attorneys handle it.

As far as Jennifer's revelation goes, the information that she is a publisher and writer like Tina could potentially influence the case, especially if EC proves they did pay bills and royalties. Then there's a question of malicious intent by Jennifer in writing a derogatory post about another writer/publisher.

(Before anyone gets their panties in a wad, "malice" has a special meaning in legal proceedings that differs from every day use.)

Regardless, Jennifer's attorney probably recommended that she reveal her author alter ego as a way of spin control since they've probably just started discovery. I'm sure he's very aware that you always want to be the one to control the release of your own information, especially potentially damaging information. While there will be fallout from the revelation, it usually isn't as bad if it comes from your side rather than your opponents.

I suspect the knowledge of Jennifer's pseudonym was about to be revealed through discovery or Tina's attorney found out through another method. There's also the factor that the LLC business filing of Jennifer and her husband's publishing company, the same company that originally published many of Jen Frederick's books, is a matter of public record.

Once the discovery process is over (And that's assuming it ever is. Engler is probably notorious in Summit County for her antics and failure to comply with discovery requests after the dressing down a Summit County judge gave her. Believe me, judges talk.), and if Jennifer's attorney can, he will probably file a Motion for Summary Judgment. Such a motion says the law is clear and there are no issues of fact for the judge to decide.

If the judge believes there is a fact in question, or EC's attorney successfully argues there's a legal question to be decided, then the case moves to the next step, which is mediation and/or trial.

Once upon a time, I admired both Tina and Jennifer as smart, successful women. Tina started her own publishing company after constant rejections from established publishing houses, proved there was a market for erotica, and turned Jasmine-Jade Enterprises, Inc., into a multi-million dollar company. Jennifer created a highly successful book review blog that allowed readers to freely express themselves, questioned publishers' abusive treatment of writers, and stood up for reviewers' First Amendment rights.


Now, I see two women take their personal strengths and turn them into major weaknesses.

Tina has a gung-ho, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners attitude that worked well in jump-starting a one-person operation into a multi-million dollar empire. But in the process, she also became a typical CEO, where she depended on employees because one person simply cannot do such a job alone. That in itself is not a bad thing.

What I believe went wrong with the company was not having the right people with the needed skillsets in the right positions for the rapid growth of the corporation. From my reading of the court documents from former partner Christine Brashear's lawsuit against the corporation, Tina and the other officers of Jasmine-Jade Enterprises willfully disregarded their duties as officers of a corporation.

And as I've seen too many times before, when things are good in a company, everyone's happy. When the money dries up, things get ugly in a hurry. In the case of Ellora's Cave, they're facing the same problem as the big boys in New York, the influx of indie work competing in the field. Like many decent-sized companies, they were slow to adapt to the new competition. And then came the double whammy of the drop in income and the Kernel Pornocalypse, which damaged EVERYONE in erotica publishing, big and small. Most of us have adapted and are regaining sales. Ellora's Cave did not.

When writers started questioning the drop in income, I think Tina took it personally and started looking for a scapegoat. I truly believe that Tina thinks she is protecting hers and her company's reputation when she lashes out on social media. So now her take-no-prisoners attitude has circled around to where according to her own court pleadings, the following allegedly occurred:

- Some editors and cover artists are allegedly not getting paid.
- Some writers are allegedly not receiving royalties.
- Some editors, artists and writers are allegedly receiving payments on post dated checks that are months late.

Therefore, it's making people question Tina's integrity, and she probably feels she has to fight back.

Going on social media and harassing people isn't going to make Ellora's Cave's problems go away. It's not going to stop the evidence from being presented in court. And rather than own up and fix the problems, Tina's take-no-prisoners attitude will sink all of her business ventures. To me, this is the worst thing about sudden success. Frankly, I want to weep at the self-inflicted damage I'm seeing.

If anyone thinks this means I'm giving Tina a free pass, hell, no. It kills me that a talented writer has become as greedy and rights-grasping as the other publishers we indies are fleeing from. I want to see her grab the reins, get whatever debts or royalties owed paid up to date, and get Ellora's Cave back on track instead of wasting her time posting pictures of herself flipping off people on Facebook. However, I highly doubt that will happen.

Then there's Jennifer...

My real problem here is Jennifer's an attorney. We didn't attend the same law school. I wasn't licensed in any of the same jurisdictions as Jennifer, nor she mine. I can't vouch for what ethics requirements she might have had in law school or as continuing legal education (CLE). However, I can talk about the requirement I had.

The first rule is basically "Don't do something you know damn well is improper." The second rule was "Don't do anything that gives the APPEARANCE of impropriety." As an attorney, you're an officer of the court, you're an integral part of our judicial system, so don't FUCKING make the rest of us look bad!

What this comes down to is that I think Jennifer should know better.

On Dear Author, Jennifer has taken many writers to task for doing the exact same things she did, such as not being transparent about her pseudonym and for indie publishing. She set herself up, beginning with the advent of her Jane Litte persona, to be the police for the publishing community. It's not that her actions were wrong, but her stance on the matter as DA's Jane Litte was hypocritical, and therefore gave the APPEARANCE of impropriety.

The fact that she also got herself invited onto closed loops or friend-requested other writers on Facebook as Jen Frederick when she knew Jane Litte had been or would be denied access also leads to the APPEARANCE of impropriety.

The third problem is the Dear Author website is owned by Jennifer's company, Dear Author Media Network, LLC, and it reviews a lot of books.

For the background info, the FTC changed its regs a few years so that blogs that review products are required to state their financial interest in the products they review. For example, when I got free movie tickets from Studio Movie Grill to see Rush and I reviewed that movie on Wild, Wicked & Wacky, then I'm supposed to tell you I got the movie tickets for free. I didn't. Probably because I got so excited about Chris Hemsworth's gratuitous butt shots. But if any of you reported me to the FTC for non-disclosure, I'd probably get an e-mail from them just saying fix your disclosure because my only financial interest was the $8.00 ticket and I doubt if more than one or two of you went to see Rush based on my recommendation. (P.S. I did add the disclosure.)

Jennifer's situation is a little different. She allowed books that she wrote as Jen Frederick be reviewed and promoted on Dear Author without disclosing her financial interest in those books. Those bestselling books. Granted those books were reviewed by another reviewer than Jennifer, but it begs the question of whether the reviewer gave the books a glowing review because she knew it was Jennifer. Probably more than one or two readers bought Jennifer's books based on the DA review.

Again, I doubt the FTC would care beyond sending an e-mail to Jennifer saying fix your disclosure. But it doesn't mean a few readers wouldn't feel betrayed (and from some of the blogs, more than one or two readers are feeling that way), so we're right back to the APPEARANCE of impropriety

On the positive side, Jennifer, as Jane Litte, has stood up for the writer community numerous times, which to me, is a great and wonderful thing. In fact, a lot of people donated to her legal defense fund in the EC lawsuit. Heck, I even promoted it on this blog.

But now, some of the people who donated feel betrayed, not only for Jennifer's actions I've already mentioned, but also because Sarah Wendell organized the GoFundMe campaign to help DA with legal expenses in the EC case, and she knew that Jennifer Garrish-Lampe and Jen Frederick were the same person. Sarah is also one of the proprietresses of the romance book review blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. And Sarah and Jennifer Garrish-Lampe weren't transparent about their business relationship. As a result, the GoFundMe campaign now is tainted with (say it with me, folks) the APPEARANCE of impropriety.

For the record, I don't regret promoting the DA legal fund. I think fighting the EC lawsuit is necessary to prevent the chilling of any discussion regarding the publishing industry and books on the internet.

At this point, it no longer matters that what Jennifer did was almost perfectly legal. There's a big question concerning her ethical compass thanks to that appearance of impropriety.

Which is a damn shame.

As I've said before on this blog, I don't agree with a lot of what Jennifer says on her blog, but I'd defend her right to say it. But now it appears, what she said wasn't what she believed. She performed the same acts that she castigated many others for. So I'll question everything she says thanks to that damn appearance of impropriety. And others are now judging her the same way she judged them

Which is even more of a damn fucking shame because there were a lot of things she did well.

What I hope Jennifer does is make a REAL apology (because let's face it, if another writer had made the lame half-apology she did last Tuesday, Jennifer as Jane Litte would have roasted him alive), work on making Dear Author more transparent, and add disclaimers whenever her work is mentioned on the DA. All I'm asking of Jennifer is to live what she preaches.

* * *

After reading through what I've written, I now have to wonder what strength of mine will be my downfall. I'm under no illusions that I'm perfect. But looking at the history of two women I once admired, it scares the hell out of me.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Still on my Girl Power kick. I have had a idea for a dystopian series ever since the first time I saw this video.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fanfic Rocks!

In you are in any way a fan of the Avengers' Black Widow or Parker from Leverage, go check out some great AU fanfic from a talented writer, Liana Mir. She captures the characters from both franchises perfectly.

Especially, Elliot's irate phone call to Clint after Parker is invited to Natasha's baby shower. I  can just hear Hardison breathing into a paper bag in the background.

*I read the latest installment yesterday, and I'm still giggling.*

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How a Fan Stabbed Me in the Heart

Piracy is out there. I know that. I could try to stop it, but in today's digital age, that's like catching rainwater in a sieve. So for the most part, I ignore the piracy. It's as faceless as I'm sure I am to the pirates and people who feed them.

But this week was different. This week, GK's social studies teacher had the class google themselves and their parents. As a writer, I have the biggest internet footprint in the family. So I was stupid enough to google myself later that night...

And I wish I hadn't done it. I stumbled across a discussion of Zombie Love in a comic book online forum. One gentleman had borrowed Blood Magick from his local library. As far as I know, it's only available from one library, the Harris County Public Library. Anyway, he LOVED it, and he was rather upset that Zombie Love wasn't available through the library because he wanted to read it NOW!

And he didn't want to buy it.

So there was a discussion on this forum of all the places he could download it cheap or free. All of which were illegal as only one commenter pointed out. This commenter also pointed out that this was how I make a living.

To my mystery supporter, thank you for standing up for me and all the other writers and artists out in the world. This IS how I pay for not just my food and rent, but my multitude of maintenance drugs for my chronic illness.

As I read the comments in this forum, I think I was most surprised by my own reaction. I wasn't angry. I was heartbroken. If he loved my work that much, why did he feel he needed to steal it?

So to my fan, I wish you had contacted me directly. I don't know your circumstances. And I know you don't mine.

If you borrowed Blood Magick from another library than HCPL, you could have contacted the library and requested that they order Zombie Love.

If you had contacted HCPL and talked to Michael, the lovely gentleman who handles the e-book department, he in turn would have e-mailed me directly about getting the book into their program.

If you had simply asked me why Zombie Love wasn't available through the HCPL, I would have been honest and told you. And maybe if you had asked nicely, I would have given you a free, legitimate copy.

But you, dear reader, chose to go a different route, and as your fellow commenter said, that's between you and your conscience.

To the rest of my fans who felt it was worthwhile to purchase a legitimate copy of my work, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Since I've been working on a novel with forty-something lady attorneys holding their own against superheroes and supervillains, I've been listening to Girl Power music while writing. So starting with the Spice Girls...

Friday, March 20, 2015

SFWA Is Gossiping About Me

Or maybe they're not. You see, I'm not a member so I'm not really sure what's going on.

Wednesday evening, I checked my Blogger stats. One of the things it displays is other web pages that have linked to my blog. Usually, it's my main author website or some dumbass porn purveyor hoping I'll click on their link so they can infect my computer.

But Wednesday evening, this was on the Traffic Sources page under Referring URLs:

Now, I'm not a member of SFWA. Why would a link to Wild, Wicked & Wacky be on an SFWA forum? When I clicked on the link, I got this:

HTTP 404 Not Found

So was it someone bitching about girl cooties in their fantasy? Because let's face it, I do put romance and sex in my stories.

Was the link referring to the rise of indie publishing? Because, yes, I do promote indies.

Did someone who was an SFWA member talk about the review I gave their book? Maybe. Were they pissed I hadn't put the review on Amazon? That doesn't make sense because I may not have bought the book from Amazon.

Given the very tired meme the link mentions about Amazon and cuddling, did they link to one of my many gripes about Seattle's finest? Because, I'll be the first to admit Amazon is not my friend. It's a book retailer for my publishing company. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Frankly, Amazon is not even one of the better retailers for my products. I sell more through Barnes & Noble and Apple.

So anyone out there who's an SFWA member want to give me a hint why a link to my blog appeared on an SFWA forum?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Passion, Hard Work and Luck

There's been a lot of writer whining on the interwebs lately. I've spoken about the sense of entitlement ad nauseum. But today, I'm going to focus on the positive. Here's three things (beyond craft) I believe that a successful writer needs.


Without passion, without the driving need to record your thoughts and whimsy, your stories will lack that certain something. That ephemeral quality that will pull a reader into the world that only exists in your mind.

I'm not one of those people that says you have to write every day. Granted, I do, but that's my method to retain my sanity. But if you don't have that overwhelming need to spill out your creativity and knowledge, then you're probably not going to make it as a writer.


Once the initial high of your creative side wears off, you find that shaping your vision into a product of reality is difficult. It's tough. It's demanding. The image in your mind doesn't just coalesce on page or laptop. It has to go through what is essentially your brain's translation matrix from one hemisphere to the other in order for your fingers to record it to paper or screen.

This is the point where most folks give up. Writing should be fun, not work, they think. Actually, it should be both. As in, this is the work you love doing because it is fun. But nothing is ever 100% fun. Not even Halo. And I've had the thumb cramps to prove it.


No one in our highly Protestant-influenced American culture wants to believe luck is a factor in our success. Hard work and clean living should be enough to guarantee success. If you don't succeed, then you weren't working hard enough!

But in reality, hard work isn't enough. Otherwise, there's a ton of terrific books that should have been on a bestseller list. Sometimes, it comes down to sheer dumb luck. Alter Ego's wonderful sales are due to a book that came out the month after her first one. Maybe you've heard of Fifty Shades of Gray? Without readers looking for more books like E.L. James', no one would have given Alter Ego's a second glance.

"Oh, that's just a fluke," I hear you say. Yes and no. Blood Magick's sales had tapered off from it's initial high in 2011, but then jumped up again last summer. Why? Because the indomitable Nora Roberts had a brand new book up for presale. Wanna guess what her title was? Because we shared the same title, people were seeing my book pop up on their searches. A few gave mine a try while they were waiting for La Nora's.

Then there are the times when luck turns the other way. Ask David Hasselhoff about his big American concert that was supposed to launch his U.S. music career that was pre-empted by O.J. Simpson's police chase. Or my friend Kim, who's big paranormal debut came three days after Hurricane Ike ravaged Houston. Local appearances were cancelled, the orders for local bookstores were turned back, and she didn't have the electricity to do any phone or online promotions.

It would be nice if hard work was all we need, but sometimes it comes down to being in the right place at the right time.

So what does this all mean? The first two items you can control. The third one you can't. So ask yourself this--is the risk worth it?

For myself, I can say YES! As always, YMMV.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Status Report - March 2015

Laura Kirwan and I are be-bopping along on writing Hero De Facto, the first book of the 888-555-Hero series about two lawyers who specialize in representing superheroes (and the occasional supervillain). We've got a tentative release date of May 1, 2015.

Yes, it's the same day that Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out. I love marketing!

In the meantime, the new covers and print editions of the Bloodlines are coming along. I'm looking at re-releasing the previous books and launching the new ones in June.

Unfortunately, that also means I'm going to have to raise prices. So if you were planning on buying the first five books of the Bloodlines series, you have two and a half months to get them at the current price of $2.99.

Also, I'm planning on getting a separate website launched for Angry Sheep Publishing. I've turned my business paperwork to the State of Ohio, and I'm having a business logo designed. I squealed with delight at the preliminary sketches.

As I've told DH and a couple of other people, I feel like I'm doing IT project management again, consulting with my contractors, reviewing their submissions, squeezing any writing in between e-mails, etc.

Don't worry. This blog isn't going anywhere. I may not be posting as often over the next couple of months, but there's still billions of people I haven't annoyed/amused yet!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How to Make New Friends

I recently made a new internet friend because I knew The Tick's battle cry. In celebration, here's one of my favorite episodes of The Tick's animated series from the '90's. "The Tick vs. The Big Nothing."

Friday, March 13, 2015


People make snap judgments based on their perception of a given situation. It's human nature. They use past experience, things they've been taught, and/or their beliefs to shape the picture of someone in their mind. The problem is that picture may be incomplete at best. Or it may be totally inaccurate.

I could make this easy and talk about an episode of Bones I recently watched. (It's "The Drama in the Queen", Season 9, Episode 23, if you want to check it out.)

Instead, I'm going a little harder and deeper. I'm going to talk about people's perceptions of me.

A few weeks ago, the subject of publishing net income came up on TPV. I didn't give specific numbers. I merely said I was saving for my son's tuition to MIT. At which point, another commenter became very irate about how I was flaunting my upper middle class-ness. The conversation degenerated rapidly. I bowed out when it became obvious that I was the scapegoat for this person's personal problems.

When I told DH about the incident, he laughed. Why? According to his mother, I'm the hillbilly who only married her son for his money.

Except at the time DH and I met, we had about the same amount in savings, but my salary was 50% more than his. He was looking to buy a house. I planned on going to law school.

So how did I get in this position of where I'm too uppity for either side of the money/class divide?

Once upon a time, I grew up in southeastern Uh-hi-uh (that's Ohio for the rest of you). It's Appalachian foothills country though some social scientists and geographers don't consider us part of the true Appalachian culture.

The majority of my extended family were green, blue or black-collar. In fact, my mother was the oddball for being the first person in her family to go to college. When I was seven, my immediate family moved to my paternal grandparents' farm while they moved in with my great-grandfather to take care of him.

It was a working farm, made more so when my dad lost his factory job in the mid-seventies recession. We raised and/or hunted our own food. My siblings and I wore hand-me-downs from the older cousins. And we worked out butts off. But then, so did most of the other people we knew.

But one thing Mom stressed was learning how to speak "educated". As in "wash" is not pronounced with an "R". She had been teased unmercifully at the private college she attended, and wanted to make sure we fit in.

And I knew the only way I would go to a decent college was through scholarships. I applied for everyone I could find that I qualified for. I was awarded a full ride at a private college, so I grabbed on with both hands. Since it was a academic scholarship, I had to maintain a 3.0, or I'd lose everything. I did keep up my GPA between the hard sciences and sorority parties. Somehow.

I also did everything I could to fit in with the ton of trust fund babies. Sure, I could have been jealous of the things they had that I didn't. But I felt more like Spock studying an alien culture.

That fit-in behavior carried over when I got my first IT job, which in the '80's was still pretty male dominated. I learned manspeak and football and cars. And I was told I was pretty cool for a chick.

Then I went to law school.

Talk about a whole different class strata. Wow! Again, I was judged by which school and where I clerked and a whole bunch of other crap that didn't make a damn bit of difference in a court room where I knew what I was doing and earned the judges' respect.

And none of my accomplishments makes a difference when I walk into a showroom to make a major purchase like an appliance or a car. Because I have boobs. Therefore I can't possibly have any money. Or if I do, then it's my husband's.

After some really bad experiences (yes, Newark, DE, Honda dealership, I'm referring to you), DH and I even have our comedy routine down. I scout out what I want. If the salesperson talks to me, and even more important, they are polite and professional to me, they'll get the sale then and there. If they don't, well...there's nothing more fun than DH stringing them along for a good hour on a Saturday before I step in and say no.

And none of that makes a goddess-damned bit of difference when complications from my pregnancy leave me in such poor health that I probably should be on disability. Or my son has to endure six surgeries to keep from totally losing his hearing.

The same son who is already looking at colleges. MIT was only one of the ones mentioned, but so far, it's the most expensive one he's looking at. But if he wants to go there, I'll to everything in my power to help him obtain that goal.

So who's the real me?

The woman in jeans, boots, and a sweatshirt slopping hogs? The sorority sister in her preppy clothes? The piss-poor physics student attending college on an earned academic scholarship? The far-older-than-usual law student in her shorts and t-shirt when everyone else in Texas is freezing their buns off? The head of a law firm's probate department in her black suit making opposing counsel look like a fool? The heart- and endocrine-damaged patient? The desperate mom praying to Aset to protect her son?

You tell me. Who's the real Suzan Harden?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jealousy Is a Four-Letter Word

My friend Angie, who comments here a bit, sold three short stories last week to three different editors. I'm ecstatic for her. This is her path. She's aggressively pursuing it and succeeding.

Here's the thing--her accomplishments are not a reflection of my lack of progress over the last year. (Let's face it--the last new thing I had published was "Justice" in an anthology that was released back in November of 2013.) I know her success has nothing to do with me. It's a fact of this business, hell, it's a fact of life, that everyone has ups and downs. And sometimes, my downs happen during other people's ups, and vice versa.

If a writer can separate herself, separate her ego, from other writers, she'll have a healthier and happier career. But I'm seeing a lot of people who can't do that.

On Monday, a long-time trad published writer ("Whiny Writer") bemoaned that her sales were lacking because of [insert her variation of the "self-publishing tsunami of swill" meme]. Normally, I'd link to her post, but a bunch of sock puppets popped up on another blog where commenters ruthlessly dissected her post (if you read me regularly, you know where), and I don't have time to deal with her bullshit. Oh, and I'm referring to her as Whiny Writer because none of her sock puppets, who all complained about indie writers' spelling and editing, could spell "whining" correctly.

Seriously. I'd be less critical if the sock puppets had used the British/Aussie spelling--"whinging".

The thing many of these folks like Whiny Writer above don't get is that no one's reading the really bad books. If you doubt me, go look at the rankings of them on the various retail sites. If you're ranked #2,999,999 out of 3,000,000, trust me, no one's bought your book in the last five years.

If you write well and want to sell, you have to do something to stand out. Either a new/neat twist on the subject matter, cover, or price gets people's attention. And frankly, price is fading fast as a gimmick. Free or $0.99 no longer gets a new writer the attention they need for sales traction.

So getting pissed because someone else found their traction is not going to help you find yours. And if successful authors offer to help you "fix" your cover or blurb, then maybe you should listen. In the same blog where Whiny Writer's sock puppets attacked, the long suffering Annoyed Writer made the comment that Whiny Writer was right.

First of all, I'm trying not to giggle because according to Whiny Writer, Annoyed Writer betrayed the trust of writers and readers everywhere by going indie. Secondly, Annoyed Writer is selling her books for a much higher price than Whiny Writer's publisher, and she wonders why she's not seeing any sales. Whenever someone points out Annoyed Writer's cover look like something for a non-fiction Eastern art history book instead of the genre fiction it is, she gets pissy.

As Albert Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Covers are one of the first things that catch a reader's attention, whether we or they want to admit it. Which is why Xxxxx and I have had an ongoing discussion over the last couple of months on how to brand our covers for the 888-555-HERO series.

And guess who also has some not-so-good covers? Yep, Whiny Writer. But it's easier to blame indie writers rather than her publisher.

So what am I trying to say out of all of this:

1) Don't get mad about someone else's success.
2) Focus on your own business.
3) If something isn't working for you, change it.

And, the most important tip of all:

4) If your sock puppets complain about someone else's spelling, make sure your sock puppets' spelling is impeccable.

Good Luck!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

#&@*ing Taxes!

I'll be blunt. I'm trying to get my f***ing taxes done.

In the blurry mess of the last three months of 2014, paperwork was mislaid. In the rush to enter receipts into the accounting software database in the first two months of this year, items were mis-categorized. And I'm developing a bald spot.

I wish I was joking about the last part. But no, I've got majoring thinning over my right ear. Not the left though. If I blame it on the taxes, can I take Rogaine as a medical deduction?

Monday, March 2, 2015

I think someone's done with winter.