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About Jane Litte

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

Posts by Jane Litte:

On the importance of pseudonymous activity

On the importance of pseudonymous activity

We here at Dear Author have always supported anonymity and pseudonymity. We have allowed people to use pennames and alias in the comments even when it meant they would be hurling insults at us, even when they engaged in sock puppetry (by changing their alias but posting from the same IP address).  We do this because we believe in providing a safe place to express your opinion. We don’t always carry out this philosophy perfectly. We’ve made mistakes (and will continue to do so because we’re human and imperfect).

Most of the reviewers at DA use a pseudonym as do many authors in the romance community. Some people use their full legal name and some do not. There are many reasons for using a pseudonym and most of them are valid and as Justice John Paul Stevens noted, it’s a protected right.

On Saturday, author Kathleen Hale was given a platform on the Guardian, one of the most venerable book outlets in the English speaking world. Using that platform, she chronicles a months long stalking campaign to a Goodreads reviewer who Hale charactered as her number one critic.

I’m not sure why Hale assigns the moniker of #1 critic to this particular Goodreads reviewer because Hale’s book is the subject 170 one star ratings on Goodreads.

Hale became strangely fixated on the GR reviewer and proceeds to spend months (yes months) infiltrating the GR reviewer’s online life until she is one day able to obtain the reviewer’s address. From there, Hale took her stalking offline.

This is the course of events. On January 31, 2014, Goodreads reviewer begins chronicling her reading of Hale’s book through the use of status updates. This is a behavior that Goodreads promotes and places the status updates box on the front page. It is literally the second thing on the sidebar and one of the first things on the mobile app.

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Here’s what Hale alleges the blogger did:

  • She had tweeted me saying she had some ideas for my next book. It should be noted that this was (if it happened) in response to Hale’s request ON TWITTER for IDEAS FROM READERS! In an attempt to connect with readers, I’d been asking Twitter for ideas – “The weirdest thing you can think of!” – promising to try to incorporate them in the sequel.
  • The “review” (it was never a review but a collection of status updates which, as identified above is a GR approved and promoted activity) “warn[ed] other readers that my characters were rape apologists and slut-shamers. She accused my book of mocking everything from domestic abuse to PTSD.  This is accurate. The status updates (as well as other reviews) were disturbed that the characters in the book fake being in a abusive domestic relationship in order to gain information about someone else).
  • The “review” noted that there was rape and Hale contends there is no rape in the book. In the original status update (and these cannot be edited. I know bc I’ve had awful typos in status updates and hate that I can’t edit them), the reviewer noted that there was statutory rape. Hale doesn’t acknowledge this but instead uses it as part basis for her later actions.
  • Hale then is directed to Stop the GR Bullies where she finds a page on the GR Reviewer. According to fake person Athena Parker who co founded Stop the GR Bullies, the GR Reviewer attacked a fourteen year old. Stop the GR Bullies is a well known hate site that uses out of context screenshots to construct stories out of whole cloth. They have targeted people like Courtney Milan as well as many other individuals I respect. 
  • The GR Reviewer has a ripple effect. In the following weeks, [the GR reviewer's] vitriol continued to create a ripple effect: every time someone admitted to having liked my book on Goodreads, they included a caveat that referenced her review. The ones who truly loathed it tweeted reviews at me. At this point, the GR reviewer status updates have become “vitriol” and Hale starts blaming everything on the GR reviewer. I did a quick click through and did not see any references to the GR reviewer’s updates. But let’s be fair, even if this did happen how was it the GR reviewer’s fault. Referencing another blogger’s take and acknowledging problematic themes is not uncommon and certainly not “bullying” behavior.
  • The GR Reviewer began tweeting ridicule. There isn’t any evidence of this and “that same day” refers to no date at all. In other words, Hale makes up a date. Her previous paragraph was “In the following weeks…” so who knows what date Hale is referring to. It’s convenient not to have a date. That way we can’t verify Hale’s claims.  “That same day, [the GR Reviewer] began tweeting in tandem with me, ridiculing everything I said.”
  • Watching the GR Reviewer tweet about her manuscript, Hale subtweets and is subsequently bombarded with unhappy responses.One afternoon, good-naturedly drunk on bourbon and after watching [GR reviewer] tweet about her in-progress manuscript, I sub-tweeted that, while weird, derivative reviews could be irritating, it was a relief to remember that all bloggers were also aspiring authors. My notifications feed exploded. Bloggers who’d been nice to me were hurt. Those who hated me now had an excuse to write long posts about what a bitch I was, making it clear that:1) Reviews are for readers, not authors.  2) When authors engage with reviewers, it’s abusive behaviour.  3) Mean-spirited or even inaccurate reviews are fair game so long as they focus on the book. “Sorry,” I pleaded on Twitter. “Didn’t mean all bloggers, just the ones who talk shit then tweet about their in-progress manuscripts. I actually saw this one happen on Twitter and Hale’s memory is occluded here, either intentional or not. She actually subtweeted about a three star review. 
  • The review she subtweeted is here. The characters using these words were unlikable and supposed to be that way, but I still think the author could have made them plenty unlikable without using language that pisses off a large portion of the population.”

And the screenshot which Hale deleted is here:


To summarize, the extent of the GR Reviewer’s actions includes:

  1. Making status updates about a book.
  2. Possibly getting into a fight with a previous author or reviewer.
  3. Possibly subtweeting Hale.
  4. Tweeting about her own work in progress.

You might assume by the response of Hale to the blogger’s actions and the nearly 5000 words devoted to this response that the blogger was engaged in really terrible behavior. Certainly commenters and twitter denizens believed the blogger was “deranged” and “no angel” and “vicious”  I read the Guardian piece carefully, probably five times, to ascertain exactly what it was that the blogger/reviewer had done and arrived at the above four actions. Let’s take a look at Hale’s actions.

  • She obtains the blogger’s address under false pretenses from a book club.  Over the next few months, my book came out, I got distracted by life and managed to stay off Goodreads. Then a book club wanted an interview, and suggested I pick a blogger to do it.“[GR Reviewer],” I wrote back. I knew tons of nice bloggers, but I still longed to engage with [GR Reviewer] directly. The book club explained that it was common for authors to do “giveaways” in conjunction with the interview, and asked if I could sign some books. I agreed, and they forwarded me [GR Reviewer]‘s address.
  • She pays for a background check to determine the blogger’s name and employer. According to the telephone directory and recent census reports, nobody named [GR Reviewer's name] lived there. The address belonged to someone I’ll call [ ] who, according to an internet background check ($19), was 46 – not 27, as [GR Reviewer] was – and worked as [job] of a company that authorises [stuff].
  • She rents a car and drives to the GR Reviewer’s house using the address she obtains under false pretenses. “Well, there’s only one way to find out,” Sarah said, sending me a car rental link. “Go talk to her.”…I opened a new tab to book a car.
  • Because her feelings got hurt. “How did you know that she hurt my feelings?”
  • She goes to the blogger’s house. Examines the property and the contents of the owner’s vehicle, looks at the dogs, compares the information with all the information the blogger has innocently shared online such as vacations and her pets. Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in [GR Reviewer's] driveway. A hooded sweatshirt with glittery pink lips across the chest lay on the passenger seat; in the back was a large folder full of what looked like insurance claims. I heard tyres on gravel and spun round to see a police van. For a second I thought I was going to be arrested, but it was passing by – just a drive through a quiet neighbourhood where the only thing suspicious was me.  I strolled to the front door. A dog barked and I thought of [her] Instagram Pomeranian. Was it the same one? The doorbell had been torn off, and up close the garden was overgrown. I started to feel hot and claustrophobic. The stupid happiness book grew sweaty in my hands. I couldn’t decide whether to knock. The curtains were drawn, but I could see a figure silhouetted in one window, looking at me. The barking stopped. I dropped the book on the step and walked away
  • Calls the blogger’s work under false pretenses.  Instead of returning to [her] house, which still felt like the biggest breach of decency I’d ever pulled, I decided to call her at work. Sarah and I rehearsed the conversation. “What do I even say?” I kept asking. “Just pretend to be a factchecker,” she said. “So now I’m catfishing her.” I called the number, expecting to get sent to an operator. But a human answered and when I asked for [her], she put me through. I spat out the line about needing to factcheck a piece. She seemed uncertain but agreed to answer some questions. “Is this how to spell your name?” I asked, and spelled it.
  • Confirms that this is the address of the blogger with a publisher. An hour after I got off the phone to [her], [she] deleted her Twitter and set her Instagram to private. A contact at a publishing house confirmed that they’d been sending books to [GR Reviewer's] address all year, and as recently as two weeks ago.
  • Publishes the sick account on Guardian and receives accolades.

My hope is that Guardian will wake up and realize that the publication of this stalking account should be deleted. That it and whomever applauds this piece understands it is enabling completely out of bounds (and likely criminal) behavior.  Sarah from Smart Bitches writes:

I don’t understand why the Guardian chose to publish that essay. I don’t understand the thought process of the editor who gave it the green light and effectively condoned the stalking and harassment of a reviewer. The fact that the Guardian published it is as disturbing and abhorrent as Hale’s actions – to say nothing of the degree to which she and the editors at the Guardian both seem to lack understanding of how inappropriate those actions were. The fear and horror and wariness that Hale’s and the Guardian’s decisions have created in many people is absolutely real and justified.

There is no question that some authors think Goodreads should be shut down and wish that there were only “professional” reviewers left to review books and that readers should be allowed to only say good things about all products. And there’s no question that this type of action by Hale will lead to some reviewers/bloggers deciding that the hobby of blogging is simply too rife with complications to continue. Possibly that is the outcome that some want.

I’m horrified that anyone thinks that what Hale did was okay. If this was for publicity, it’s even more sickening. I know that by publishing this, I’m raising the signal for Hale but it was in the Guardian so the signal is pretty damn big right now. There are very few instances wherein Hale’s behavior is justified and nothing in the twisted, one sided account by Hale articulates even one of those few instances.

The following is a storify account compiled by BookThingo of various reactions.

View the story “What happens when The Guardian lets an author gloat about stalking a blogger” on Storify

Daily Deals: Alpha shifters, scandalous kisses, and paranormal investigations

Daily Deals: Alpha shifters, scandalous kisses, and paranormal investigations

Charming The Alpha (Werewolf Romance) by Liliana RhodesCharming the Alpha by Liliana Rhodes. $ .99

From the Jacket Copy:

From New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Liliana Rhodes

(Re-edited on Oct. 10, 2014)

Hannah Crane just graduated college, lives at home with her mom, and has no idea what to do with her life. One night while visiting her grandmother, she’s startled by a wolf and everything changes.

In the forest investigating a recent rash of murders and missing shifters, werewolf Alpha Caleb Overstreet doesn’t expect to run into a human, let alone a witch. Especially not one whose scent tells him she is his other half…or is she?

As the secrets of her ancestry are revealed, Caleb and Hannah are unable to stay away from each other and Hannah finds herself in danger. A rival pack believes her to be at the center of a curse that would enable them to control other shifters. But is Hannah the wolf charmer they believe her to be? Or is she really Caleb’s fated mate?

Book 1: Charming The Alpha
Book 2: Resisting The Alpha
Book 3: Needing the Alpha
All three books are available in the Crane Curse Trilogy Boxed Set

The three star reviews say short, sweet, and predictable.

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The Scandal in Kissing an Heir (At the Kingsborough Ball Series #2) by Sophie BarnesThe Scandal in Kissing an Heir by Sophie Barnes. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

He is the next Marquess of Wolvington . . .

She is a lady with nothing but beauty and wits . . .

Together they share a forbidden kiss .

Lady Rebecca is determined to find a husband on her own terms, rather than marry any of the aging suitors her greedy aunt and uncle foist upon her. Her chance comes at the Kingsborough Ball, where she meets several potential grooms . . . yet no one compares to the dangerously handsome Daniel Neville.

Notorious rake and heir to the Marquess of Wolvington, Daniel Neville is in need of a bride, but finding a lady who’s willing to accept his past is an entirely different matter. When he spies a stunning woman across the ballroom, Daniel believes he’s found her . . . until scandal erupts around them. How can he convince Rebecca to take a chance on him . . . and on the love that could be theirs forever after?

Lots of sex makes up for a flat plot and a rather unbelieving suspense plot.

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The Taken (Celestial Blues Series #1) by Vicki PetterssonThe Taken (Celestial Blues Series #1) by Vicki Pettersson. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Griffin Shaw used to be a PI, but that was back when gumshoes hoofed the streets . . . and he was still alive. Fifty years later, he’s an angel, but that doesn’t make him a saint. One small mistake has altered fate, and now he’s been dumped back onto the mortal mudflat to collect another soul—Katherine “Kit” Craig, a journalist whose latest investigation is about to get her clipped.

Bucking heavenly orders, Grif refuses to let the sable-haired siren come to harm. Besides, protecting her offers a chance to solve the mystery of his own unsolved murder—and dole out some overdue payback for the death of his beloved wife, Evie.

Joining forces, Kit and Grif’s search for answers leads beyond the blinding lights of the Strip into the dark heart of an evil conspiracy. But a ruthless killer determined to destroy them isn’t Grif’s biggest threat. His growing attraction to Kit could cost them both their lives, along with the answer to the haunting question of his long afterlife . . .

The Taken: Celestial Blues
The Lost: Celestial Blues Book Two
The Given: Celestial Blues: Book Three

I’m intrigued by these MadMen-esque covers. I read a number of three star reviews because I’m tempted to buy this. It’s old school detective with an overlay of angels but the afterlife isn’t what you’d expect. The reviews say some parts are slow (particularly as the book gets bogged down in boring details of here Kit gets her hair done and what kind of manicure she has) and that it takes a while for the mystery to boot up and there are a lot of plot threads left dangling at the end. I don’t know.

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A Replacement Life: A Novel by Boris FishmanA Replacement Life by Boris Fishman. $ 1.99.

From the Jacket Copy:

A singularly talented writer makes his literary debut with this provocative, soulful, and sometimes hilarious story of a failed journalist asked to do the unthinkable: forge Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, New York.

Yevgeny Gelman, grandfather of Slava Gelman, ”didn’t suffer in the exact way” he needs to have suffered to qualify for the reparations the German government has been paying out to Holocaust survivors. But suffer he has—as a Jew in the war, as a second-class citizen in the USSR, as an immigrant in America. So? Isn’t his grandson a ”writer”?

High-minded Slava wants to put all this immigrant-scraping behind him. Only the American dream is not panning out for him: Century, the legendary magazine where he works as a researcher, wants nothing greater from him. Slava wants to be a correct, blameless American—but he wants to be a lionized writer even more.

Slava’s turn as the Forger of South Brooklyn teaches him that not every fact is a truth and not every lie a falsehood. It takes more than law-abiding to become an American; it takes the same self-reinvention at which his people excel. Intoxicated and unmoored by his inventions, Slava risks exposure. Cornered, he commits an irrevocable act that finally grants him a sense of home in America—but not before collecting a lasting price from his family.

A Replacement Life is a dark, moving, and beautifully written novel about family, honor, and justice.

This was a really thoughtful three star review of the book.

Ultimately, this was a 3.5 star book for me, that just wasn’t consistently enjoyable enough to warrant being rounded up to 4 stars. There are wonderful descriptive vignettes of individuals — especially memorable was the woman whose torso is equated to a Soviet high-rise building, “stuffed beyond capacity” — and anyone who has spent time in the far reaches of Brooklyn will chuckle at the way Fishman has nailed the sense of place. But the scenes set at Century, the magazine at which Slava toils, feel strangely bloodless: he’s ambitious, but can’t seem to get his act together, and at the same time, Fishman never made either Slava’s writing ambitions or his feelings for Adrianna, the thoroughly Americanized LA Jewish woman from work, feel very convincing. That was all rather two-dimensional.  

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