Hey, Christine Feehan! You don’t own the Carpathians!

Ивано-Франковская_область_Горно-лыжный_курорт_Буковель Bukovel Carptahian Mountains Ukraine

Ukraine’s Bukovel ski resort in—you guessed it!—the Carpathian Mountains.

I’ve been too preoccupied with other things to bother posting about this, but now Christine Feehan (as in the NYT-bestselling author credited with inventing the paranormal romance genre back in the 1990s) has now confirmed it: she has personally filed applications to obtain trademarks for all the words associated with her various books series. (#Cockygate, anyone?)

The word everyone has gone mad over (for obvious reasons) is “Dark”—as in, she’s trying to ban anyone from using Dark in their book titles from now on.

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Me on a farm in my grandfather’s village in the foothills of the—you guessed it!—Carpathians. The woman is his cousin, Pani Anna, and that’s her farm.

However, I’m here to rant about the issue of her also filing to appropriate the word “Carpathian”.

The Carpathians are a mountain range in Eastern Europe, covering seven countries: Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary and Serbia. My family is from the Ukrainian Carpathians, and have a distinct culture and fiercely proud heritage. Now, if I wanted to write a series of any sort with the word Carpathian in it, Feehan can take me to court. (Feehan is estimated to be worth millions.)

IMG_1989

A bear I saw in the Carpathians in September this year. Because—yes—the Carpathians still exist, and they still don’t belong to Christine Feehan.

On Twitter I mentioned that the situation has shades of the American bar owner who obtained the trademark for the Fijian word Bula, forcing the Fijian Government to take him to court to try and get the rights to their own word back.

Huculy_1933,_Verkhovyna_district Hutsuls Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains

The Ukrainian Hutsul people of the Carpathian Mountains.

People randomly trademarking stuff is disgusting, selfish, and totally bloody unnecessary. Having some author in California claim ownership of my heritage just because she named her rapey fictional vampires after my family’s homeland makes me sick.

How much more ridiculous can it get?

The #cockygate saga has brought trademark trolls to the attention of the publishing world. The selfish practice of trademarking common words and phrases to shut out competition is not new, but it does seem to be getting more ridiculous every day.

Cocky, forever, rebellion – all words nobody should be able to “own”, and yet all words people are currently trying to take away from us (along with many others).

This weekend it came to light an application has been filed to trademark the word “big”.

Yes, really. BIG. A word that appears in titles all over the place, and has for as long as it’s been in existence (which is – oh – about 768 years).

I’m not sure what can be done about this, especially as most of the trademarks are coming out of the United States and not my own country, but clearly someone needs to put a stop to this nonsense.

Cockygate apllication to trademark the word BIG cockybot

The Week: 4th – 10th June

Winter Lake Burley Griffin Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 9th June 2018 Carillon Nature Sunset pink

Winter Lake Burley Griffin Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 9th June 2018 Carillon Nature Sunset

Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin – with the National Carillon (a gift from the Queen that she personally opened in 1970) – late on Saturday afternoon.

It was a surprisingly dreary week here. Usually winter is really sunny, but the last few days felt like winter! At least it got sunny on Saturday afternoon!

This week in the book world has been full of drama, which I seem to have written a few thousands posts about. Sorry for the spam!

My review of A Cowboy of Convenience (Sheridan Sweethearts #2) by Stacy Henrie

A Cowboy of Convenience (Sheridan Sweethearts #2) by Stacy Henrie

A Cocky Weekend

cocky-final-2 Cocktales the cocky collective cockygate cover

Book Stuffing and Author Ethics

Book Stuffer Kindle Unlimited Scammer

Why “outing” someone makes you an utter arse – #1

and

Why “outing” someone makes you an utter arse – #2

_86601698_authorandbook Richard Brittain used Facebook to track down the reviewer, a teenage girl from Glenrothes, and drove all the way (some 800 kilometres) from the south of England t

Cover Love

Someone to Trust (Westcott Book #5) by Mary Balogh

Book Stuffing and Author Ethics

If you keep up with dramas in the publishing world, you’ll probably have already heard about the scammers infiltrating the Kindle Unlimited program.

You can go to this Twitter thread to understand in detail what is going on.

Authors who enter their books into the Kindle Unlimited scheme must agree to sell exclusively through Amazon. They are paid via page reads, from a pool of money that is shared between ALL authors.

In order to make lots of money, some “authors” have been employing all sorts of tricks to make their readers skip through thousands of pages per book. By doing this they get paid a great deal per book – at the same time as stealing that money from their fellow authors. Having only one pool of money means there’s only so much of it to go around.

Book Stuffer Kindle Unlimited Scammer

A book with heaps of other books stuffed in the back.

The #cockygate drama helped to bring the scammers to attention (Faleena Hopkins, of cockygate infamy, is a book stuffer and system cheat).

One of the worst scammers, Chance Carter, has *finally* been removed from Amazon, after years of making his fortune by cheating the system in every imaginable way. His porny “romances” shot to the top of Amazon’s romance bestseller lists with thousands of fake or solicited reviews, stuffed books, and offers of diamond jewellery for positive publicity.

He was also collecting a bonus for being one of the “All-Star” bestsellers.

Chance Carter Book Stuffer Amazon Scammer

Chance Carter offers diamonds in the middle of a book!

Unfortunately the Kindle Unlimited scheme is full of male romance authors looking to get rich quick. They pose as women and publish books stuffed with five or six other, previously published books, often written by ghost writers.

This is especially troubling as when they pose as women they also go to social media with questions like this for their readers:

Kira Blakely Book Stuffer Kindle Unlimited Scammer

It’s creepy, and shows an agenda that has NOTHING to do with a love of the genre.

Many readers have uncovered these men’s identities when alarm bells started going off in the sex scenes of their books. The scenes contain revolting things no self-respecting woman would *ever* write, not even those writing kinky stories (I’ll spare you the details, but they’re on Twitter if you look). The lack of respect for women is appalling, especially considering the books’ target audience.

Cockygate looks to have tanked Faleena Hopkins’ career, but she’s managed to do even more than that. Now she’s set off a chain of events that have widely exposed many other unethical authors.

Why “outing” someone makes you an utter arse – #2

Following on from yesterday’s post about why Faleena Hopkins attempting to “out” the identities of authors she’s taking to court over her ridiculous trademark dispute, here is another reason why it’s such a terrible thing to do.

In 2014 a self-published author – who pretty much embodies the stereotype of angry, entitled incel – received a negative review on Amazon for his writing.

Instead of – you know – ignoring it, like any professional would do, he decided to retaliate, which wasn’t THAT surprising, considering his history as a stalker.

Richard Brittain used Facebook to track down the reviewer, a teenage girl from Glenrothes, and drove eight hours from the south of England to the Scottish supermarket she worked in (some 750 kilometres).

He found her, picked up a full bottle of wine, and smashed it over her head, knocking her unconscious and causing serious injury.

Brittain was arrested, tried, and found guilty of the crime. He was sentenced to several years behind bars.

Some authors are completely unstable. Richard Brittain is one. Faleena Hopkins is another. Hopkins is trying to ruin careers and lives by taking away people’s anonymity, and the writing community needs to continue to take a stand against her reprehensible actions.

Why “outing” someone makes you an utter arse – #1

In the ongoing trademark wars, it seems there’s a new drama every day.

In court last week, the lawyer for trademark troll Faleena Hopkins attempted to have the real names of authors under attack made public. From what I understand, this is an ongoing dispute.

Here is one reason why it’s so awful to take away an author’s anonymity:

Schooled by Deena Bright

In 2012, erotic fiction author Deena Bright was “outed”. Her real name was not only revealed to her employer, but she was dragged through America’s national news because of the genre she wrote.

Bright (that’s not her real name) was suspended from her job as a high school teacher because of this, and subjected to public humiliation for no good reason.

Hopkins would like to do this to other authors who she sees as competition. Already, she is forcing them into the courtroom to shut down their careers (good God, her me and nobody else attitude is such a reflection of the Trump era!).

Authors use pennames for a million and a half different reasons, which I’m sure I don’t need to explain here. Add in the misogynistic stigma attached to the romance genre, and the issues surrounding the use of real names double or triple – or quadruple.

That this is an inherently petty and nasty thing to try to do to someone is obvious.

Dragging innocent names into public view to “punish” people for doing nothing wrong can seriously damage an author’s life. Especially so if she’s a woman. And especially so if she writes romance or erotica.

Revisiting those “Street Teams”

I think I stirred something up recently (on a popular romance blog), something that’s been dormant for a while. If it hadn’t been about 3:30am at the time I did it, I wouldn’t have publicly said what I did!

Look. I know so-called author “Street Teams” are becoming more and more and more common, and in the past few years I’ve been watching in utter dismay as author after author after author – many of them favourites of mine – have fallen and started their own squads.

Street teams are gangs of fans who get a few perks from favourite authors in exchange for rabidly promoting the author’s books online. (Okay, that’s Trumpesque-level inflammatory language, but you get the idea!)

I am still totally, utterly opposed to them.

Maybe I’m one of only a few, but I don’t use the fact I read hundreds of review books – given to me for free by publishers – as an excuse to wax poetic about something. I’ve given scathing reviews to books from – e.g. – Harlequin – and have survived to continue being sent their review copies.

However, there’s that extra step when I review. There’s the buffer of an ARC website between author and reader. I very rarely review books sent to me directly by authors, and when I do, I’m honest (mostly; there’re a few authors I no longer accept books from because I know I won’t enjoy them enough to give a good review, but would feel obliged to).

When, a few years ago, I made a personal status update on Goodreads (not even a review!) about “street teams”, and a certain Highland romance author sicked/sicced (pick your version of English!) her “team” on me as retaliation… Well, does that not say it all about these private little groups authors use to push their books online? I suffered through days of abuse from the author’s fans, and yet I cannot mention it online without getting in trouble.

I think readers have a right to know if an author cannot separate herself (or himself) from their books.

Authors: NEVER read reviews of your books. Just don’t. Dancers receive scathing reviews and never retaliate. Actors receive those reviews, too. Painters. Shopkeepers!

I lost all interest in the TV show Murdoch Mysteries after seeing one of the producers carrying on at fans online. It was one of the most unprofessional things I’ve ever witnessed.

There’s a café in Queanbeyan I will never set foot in again, because the manager stalks TripAdvisor reviewers, attacks them, and then rants about poor reviews to his customers. I’ve seen him do it many times.

If you are in one of these author “street teams”, the chances of you being honest about a book are pretty much ZERO. Why risk being kicked out of the gang, and being thanked in an author’s acknowledgements, and being included in exclusive, private Facebook groups, by saying anything remotely not-positive?

Worse – and unlike people who receive ARCs from publishers – “street team” members NEVER disclose their connection to the author when writing relentless five-star reviews. The best way to pick them is because they so often start with the sentence: ‘AUTHOR’S NAME has done it again!!’ You’ll find multiple almost identically-worded reviews in a row on any website – all five stars.

The integrity of book reviews is falling and falling. I don’t blame people for saying they no longer use reviews as an indication whether or not to buy a book. And a huge part of the blame for that needs to be placed on these gangs.

So, yes. I said something online the other day, because I was pretty angry an aggressive author – who I later discovered had written a bunch of blog posts in response to me, implying I was ignorant about the publishing industry (snort – who knew I had that much power?) – was being promoted yet again.

I do regret saying what I did. But what I said was true.

Copyright and Book Covers

Henry Cavill in The Tudors

I don’t mean to do this to shame an author (which is why I’ve cut the bottom of the book cover below off), but I have another thing to say about authors and copyright.

Authors: putting a promotional still of a Hollywood actor Henry Cavill on your cover is illegal. A copyright violation. Totally not allowed. People have been taken to court and forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars for doing less than this.

You CANNOT make money off something you have no legal right to.

I was browsing review books the other night, and did a double-take when I saw this cover:

Compare it to the image at the top of this post.

Google image search doesn’t mean images are a free-for-all. I’ve had people download my pictures from Canberra (some from my own garden!), upload them all over the internet as their own pictures, and say they’re Sydney! Apart from the fact I sell some of those images, and so REALLY don’t want other people taking an income away from me… Well, actually you can figure out why I hate people stealing my things.

This book cover is no different. You can’t just find a pretty image and use it. Authors would be horrified if someone stole their writing, but some are okay stealing someone’s pictures. It’s especially odd if its an image of a person who has no idea their face is being used to promote someone’s work.

This happened here recently. A teenage girl walked into a popular clothing chain and discovered one of their designers had downloaded a photograph OF HER from her Instagram account and put it on their products. Imagine if that was you.

These days there are heaps of websites where authors and publishers can find legal cover images. However, promotional stills of the gorgeous Henry Cavill in the supremely trashy and anachronistic The Tudors is not an option.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the producer of The Tudors is the author’s son, or close, personal friend, and gave her permission to use it. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

A note on something that happened last week.

How (Not To) Cover Lies

I was going to post a long explanation of why I was horrified by an author’s Facebook rave about a movie last week, and said something I probably shouldn’t have, but instead I’ll make it short(ish):

#1 Hollywood director Oliver Stone is one of the most prominent Western propagandists for Russia.

#2 He considers Vladimir Putin a friend (in fact his next movie is a propaganda piece praising Putin; he interviewed him personally for it). If people liked and believed his Edward Snowden “biopic”, what’s to say they won’t like and believe the Putin one, too?

#3 He talks to right-wing English-language tabloids, spreading blatant Kremlin-approved lies about things like the war in Ukraine.

Oliver Stone Interviews Yanukovych

^^^^

Oliver Stone interviews the deposed pro-Russian president of Ukraine for a propaganda piece about the revolution that resulted in Putin’s invasion. Viktor Yanukovych is wanted worldwide for crimes such as killing his own people in 2014. He is now in hiding in Russia, but Putin gave Stone access to him.

#4 Which means paying to support, and watching, enjoying, and then recommending his films to thousands of your readers is more dangerous than you might realise.

#5 After 2016, when English-language, Kremlin-generated propaganda achieved appalling, damaging things, like delivering Trump to power, this is not a time for being ignorant.

#6 Which is why I became very angry with a very popular romance author on Friday night after seeing her singing the praises of an Oliver Stone film, made to put subtle and not-so subtle ideas in Westerners’ heads about Edward Snowden, the United States, and Russia. I totally lost it when she concluded Snowden was a hero of our time – exactly what the Russians want you to think.

This is not an era where anyone can afford to take “documentaries” or “biopics” at face value (e.g. the day after Ukraine’s new president was elected, a Kremlin-produced “documentary” was released, calling him a Nazi). The past four years have been dangerous enough and thousands of people have already died because of it – they might not be American, and so they rarely make the news, but their lives aren’t worth less. Authors with a massive fanbase and a great deal of influence have a responsibility to be smarter that that.