Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Monday Midday Links: Sandra Hyatt Has Passed Away

Sandra Hyatt passed away last weekend during the New Zealand Romance Writer’s conference.  From all accounts, Hyatt took ill unexpectedly and passed away within days.  Hyatt wrote for Harlequin Desire.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hyatt family.


Jude Deveraux has been taken in by fraudsters to the tune of $20 million.

From storefront businesses in upscale Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods, a family of fortune tellers ran a $40-million scheme that defrauded people from near and far since 1991, federal prosecutors said in court Friday.

Among the victims was a bestselling author who gave an estimated $20 million to the family. The woman, who prosecutors refused to identify, lost her 8-year-old son in a motorcycle accident and was allegedly exploited by at least one of the defendants, Rose Marks, who she considered a friend.

Deveraux has always had an interest in the supernatural and reincarnation.  A Knight in Shining Armor is an iconic romance novel that features reincarnation, time travel, and lost souls.


The publishing paradigm is changing.  John Locke, the self publishing phenom, has signed a print distribution deal with Simon & Schuster.  Beginning February 2012, S&S will bring Locke’s ebooks to the print readership.  No word on whether these books will undergo any editing or in what format they will be published.  (Via SarahW)


If you hadn’t been wary of Amazon reviews before, you’ll want to read this New York Times article.

Sandra Parker, a freelance writer who was hired by a review factory this spring to pump out Amazon reviews for $10 each, said her instructions were simple. “We were not asked to provide a five-star review, but would be asked to turn down an assignment if we could not give one,” said Ms. Parker, whose brief notices for a dozen memoirs are stuffed with superlatives like “a must-read” and “a lifetime’s worth of wisdom.”

The websites that allow reviews are interested in suppressing fake ones.

 “Any one review could be someone’s best friend, and it’s impossible to tell that in every case,” said Russell Dicker, Amazon’s director of community. “We are continuing to invest in our ability to detect these problems.”

But how can a review site parse out the fake from the real?  It seems like an impossible task.  I think what will happen (and has already begun to happen) is that 5 stars are beginning to be given less importance by both commerce sites and consumers.   I guess 4 star review will be the next 5 star?


Photographer Jen Mecken does senior portraits.  She came across a facebook page set up by some high school girls to mock and criticize other girls.  Mecken recognized some of the names of the posters as individuals who had appointments with her.  She sent out an email canceling the shoots and refunded the money saying

“[H]ow I could spend 2 hours with someone during our session trying to take beautiful photos of them knowing they could do such UGLY things….. Realistically, I know by canceling their shoots it’s not going to make them ‘nicer people’ but I refuse to let people like that represent my business.”


A new study suggests that when women pursue romantic desirability, they lose interest in science advancement. This would be due to the perception that smart women can’t a) get laid or b) attract a long term partner.

Park says, “When the goal to be romantically desirable is activated, even by subtle situational cues, women report less interest in math and science. One reason why this might be is that pursuing intelligence goals in masculine fields, such as STEM, conflicts with pursuing romantic goals associated with traditional romantic scripts and gender norms.”

Oh, women.  Do you really want to be with a guy who doesn’t want to be with a smart woman?


Updated to add

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:08:43

    I’ll be curious to see if John Locke’s books sell as well at a higher publishing price instead of at 99 cents. While he’s sold a million copies as cheap ebooks it’ll be interesting to see how that works out.

    I’ll be watching this one closely.


  2. Dee Tenorio
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:09:53

    I was fine until I got to the last article. I don’t think it’s particularly a fair study or a reasonable result. Did Men have different responses or were they not studied? And when people are interested in their love lives or have a specific goal for their love life, of course they don’t care about math or science. They may not care about math or science anyway. The point, however, is that when people are interested in romancing or attracting someone else, their heads are in the clouds about everything. The state of “twitterpation”, to quote Disney. I bet they don’t care about Literature either. Sigh.

  3. Christine M.
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:27:37

    Just as a FYI, the last paragaph on Deveraux is incomplete.

  4. Melissa
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:36:21

    As a female engineer (who also loves romance), I have to say that women in engineering have a very good chance of finding a long term partner – there are usually about 5 girls in a class of 50 men. I am not saying some of the guys aren’t strange (there is a saying “the odds are good but the goods are odd) but there are lots of great normal guys to date too. I met my hubby in college where we were both studying engineering (though he became a lawyer) and most of the female engineers I know are also married to guys they met in college. So the smart girls have plenty of luck in the romance department if you ask me! There are guys who appreciate us.

  5. Carin
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:37:13

    I think I love Jen Mecken! I hope she gets lots of business.

    As for the last study… I’m not sure what the implications of that are. I have degrees in engineering and physics. I was outnumbered 10 to 1. If I wanted to pursue romantic goals all I had to do was show up for class. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, though clearly I’m an outier according to the study, as I was able to learn math AND get laid.)

  6. DS
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:37:39

    Things I use to winnow out unreliable review

    1. short, overly enthusiastic reviews (Best Book Evah!)
    2. clicking through and finding out that the reviewer has only recently started reviewing and all of their reviews are 5 star– or they have only reviewed a few books and their other reviews are for things like candy.
    3. reviews that focus more on facts (the author’s prior books or life experiences) rather than the item being reviewed.

    I also usually suspect that reviews have been purchased where there are a huge number of 5-4 star reviews in a short period of time and one or two 3 or 2 star reviews wondering if they read the same book as the reviewers who raved about it.

  7. Carin
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:39:05

    @Melissa: I love this:

    the odds are good but the goods are odd

    and it was very true on my campus, too!

  8. Lisa
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:57:15

    Publishers Marketplace says John Locke will keep his own editing and content management and that he had a print agreement that SS simply replaced with better distribution over smaller place. No price has been set for print per the PM article

  9. Kim in Hawaii
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 12:26:34

    Regarding the NYT’s article, it is interesting that researchers developed an algorithm to detect “fake” reviews for books, hotels, and restaurants. Always good to know math!

    I am curious what you think is the solution to the problem.

  10. P. Kirby
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 13:06:37

    @Melissa. That was my experience too. It’s also true with the sciences. I met my husband in an upper division geology class. I happen to love science, but the ratio of men to women in engineering/science classes made my course of study all the more fun.

  11. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 13:10:40

    At the risk of sounding flippant about the crime committed against Ms. Deveraux, I do have to wonder how a psychic/fortune-teller busines would be able to prove it’s not in the business of defrauding people.

    “But, officer, I really AM communicating with her dead husband.”

    “Oh, well, in that case, you’re free to go…”

    Yeah, I don’t think so, either.

  12. Christine Rimmer
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 13:30:25

    Okay. I never had much interest in math and science. I mean, I could get interested, in those required classes where the teacher was really good and knew how to hook me. But I was always interested in trying to look good. However. Even if I’d never cared about my looks, sorry. Don’t think that would have made me interested in math and science. It was always all about the words for me. And about stories. I wanted to get lost in the world of my books and I did. I was never all that good of friends with reality, so that is probably more why math and science aren’t my thang. They’re way too real for me.

    Re John Locke. I read his book on how to make it big in epub. There’s a born salesman for ya.

    You go, Jen Mecken.

    So sad about Sandra Hyatt…

  13. Kelly in Hockeytown
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 13:34:11

    Oh, women. Do you really want to be with a guy who doesn’t want to be with a smart woman?


    By all accounts, this describes George Clooney to a T. :(

  14. Courtney Milan
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 13:51:47

    @Jackie Barbosa: The article explains:

    Many were assured their money or property would be returned to them when the fortune tellers’ work was done, but those promises were broken, the prosecutor said.

    I’m guessing this is what they’re getting them on, not the vague fortune-telling.

    As for where they get their evidence:

    In the course of the investigation, some clients agreed to record conversations with the family members, at least one agent went undercover and pretended to be a customer and, when officers legally picked through the family’s garbage, they found discarded jewelry boxes from high-end stores.

    It’s not like they just picked these people up because some dude complained. The Secret Service was involved. There are allegations of wire fraud. This was a long, complicated investigation ending in a pick-up of an entire family. I don’t know whether these people are guilty, but they’ve been charged with a crime, and quite often when you get to this stage of the game, there is generally evidence which a reasonable person might think would support the claim that they had engaged in material misrepresentations of fact for financial gain.

  15. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 13:56:01

    @Courtney Milan: Ahhhh. I obviously didn’t dig deep enough.

    I’m afraid my immediate thought was simply that, as far as I’m concerned, fortune-tellers and psychics are, by definition, committing fraud. I realize others don’t agree with that assessment, of course, but yes, it does sound as thought it’s the broken promises that are the root of the crime.

  16. Na
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 14:31:58

    Go Jen! I applaud her decision to not represent clients who are bullies. Normally I think it’s best to not mix your professional life with your personal life but in this case I do see Jen’s point. She is sending out a message that is positive to me.

    There are pros and cons to being a self-published versus a traditionally published author. It’ll be interesting to see if successful self-published authors will go the same way as John Locke. I wonder if being able to self-published a book will be another step in the submission process, or at least a step up.

  17. Isobel Carr
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 15:00:05

    So sad about Sandra. She was one of my Golden Heart buddies and just a really wonderful woman.

  18. Kaetrin
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 17:34:58

    So glad that scientific study has come to light. I was wondering why my IQ was dropping 20 points every time I put lipstick on….


  19. Deb
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 18:16:15

    Re: Amazon reviews:

    1) Glad I picked last month to stop posting reviews there, but:

    2) There are many who have been reviewing on Amazon for a decade, and they’re giving their honest opinions. *They* can spot the fakes pretty easily.

    3) Also, I choke a little bit to think that Amazon would be shocked, shocked over this, especially when they have done exactly what Ms. Parker has done. Only their target reviewers are not freelance authors but previously published authors. That is one of the many reasons I decided to stop reviewing there.

  20. Gennita Low
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 19:17:31

    I read the Fort Lauderdale article yesterday and did wonder who the author with the $20 million could be. Jude Deveraux never crossed my mind. The whole article was a headshaker–the entire family seemed to have spent the last few decades convincing people their money was cursed and needed “cleansing.” The top two culprits were in their 70s and 80s!

  21. Owen Kennedy
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 21:56:51

    Re Amazon Reviews. I like that Amazon links the reviewer to their other reviews. I normally click on it to see other reviews they’ve done to help me judge the potential reliability. If they are all one stars or five stars…or if that is their only review, that is a flag for me.

  22. Nadia Lee
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 23:28:35

    @Owen Kennedy: Yup. It’s a big flag for me if the reviewer has one or two reviews and so on. It doesn’t matter if the review was glowing or nasty. I discount reviews by such people.

  23. Mitzi H
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 02:53:02

    Shame on you Amazon!!!

  24. Darlene Marshall
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 09:35:15

    The article about Jude Deveraux is so sad. To prey on a grieving mother that way is beyond heinous, and I hope the culprits receive severe punishments.

  25. Joanna K.
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 11:13:59

    My condolences to Sandra Hyatt’s family. What an unfortunate loss to the romance community :(

    I am appalled at how those fraudsters took advantage of the victims during their most vulnerable states. $20M from one author is just such an unbelievable number. I can’t fathom how much money these fakers ripped off from their customers.

    $10 for writing an Amazon review? Really? I know never to trust any review that says “Must read” without at least giving a detailed synopsis of the book or characterizations of the characters.

    Kudos to Jen on choosing her morals over making money from those mean girls!

  26. Deb
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 14:44:00

    The detailed review… it’s a fine line, and I used to struggle with it a lot. Because you certainly want to make it clear that you have a basis for your opinions, but you also don’t want to give away too much. And some people don’t want to *read* that much in a review.

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