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Saturday News: No Deals Just Stupidity and Smashwords Concedes to Paypal...

Updated x1:

Ms. Manning has commented and provided an apology:

I’ve gone back and forth on how to address this for several hours. A personal blog post would not be seen by enough people. Nor would a response to Ms. Fielding’s blog. When Dear Author posted this blog, I felt it was the answer I’d been looking for. I couldn’t find a more public place than this.

To all the authors, publishers, and editors I stole from, I am sorry. There is no excuse. All distributors have been notified and those I couldn’t take down/remove myself are being removed by the third party as soon as possible.

To all the authors, publishers, and editors I’ve met and known over the years, I am sorry. I know you will never forgive me and you shouldn’t.

To anyone associated with the Kiss of Death Chapter, you can be assured that all funds relating to the chapter are well managed and controlled by a dedicated President and Board. I have not had access to any accounts where wrongdoing could have occurred without their immediate and swift action.

Finally, so there is no misunderstanding. I am a thief, a plagiarist. I am not an author.

Updated x2:

Kiss of Death is dedicated to promoting and supporting the mystery/suspense genre with romantic elements through the championship of good writing through our educational and awards programs. As such, I have accepted the resignation of our treasurer, per her request, and in the best interest of the organization.

AJ Brower, President
Kiss of Death

So an RWA member, the treasurer of the Kiss of Death RWA chapter no less, is found to be plagiarizing. Name is Kristal Singletary aka Kay Manning | K.S. Manning | Payton Bradshaw. The first signs were revealed by a fan of Liz Fielding who reported to her that “La Maison Romance” by Kay Manning, a free download on Smashwords, appeared to be a copy of Liz Fielding’s story “The Cinderella Fantasy”. Fielding’s story was available for free online. When Fielding blogged about this, Kay Manning’s purported response was as follows:

“Kay ManningFeb 24, 2012 06:17 AM
Smashwords responded to NOTHING. I took down the story because of my mistake. I know no one would believe it but it was an honest mistake. I put this story in the wrong folder on my computer and actually thought it was mine that I started a long time ago. If I really wanted to ‘steal it’ do you honestly think I would have put it up for free? What do I benefit off it?”

This was preserved by a commenter to the Liz Fielding blog post because the original comment by Manning was deleted as are nearly every sign of Kay Manning, K.S. Manning, and Payton Bradshaw, all of which appear to be her pen names according to a now deleted Linked In profile and this google search cache:

Kay Manning screenshot pennames

Because plagiarism is almost never an isolated instance (more on this later), others began using their google powers, primarily Joanna Bourne and Elizabeth Chadwick. Under Payton Bradshaw, Manning had released a book through MuseIt Up Publishing called “An Early Christmas Present”. The book sold for $2.50. According to the now deleted blog, this “debut” book by Payton Bradshaw was released in December 2011. Joanna Bourne found that this was a nearly word for word copy of Julie Kenner’s freebie “Red Hot Holiday” published by Harlequin. Here are the two excerpts side by side:

Payton Bradshaw’s Copy Julie Kenner’s Original
Karen swallowed. “There he is. Over by Santa’s Village.”Melody sucked in a breath, a warm flush enveloping her entire body just from the thought of seeing Jason again. A sudden overwhelming panic washed over her making it almost impossible to look at him, fearing she’d melt right into the floor.“Go on!” Karen gave her a little push on the shoulder.

“I don’t think I can.” At the moment, she was having trouble even forcing the words past the tightness in her chest.

Karen rolled her eyes. “Forget nerves. This is your last chance, sweetie. Jason’s the only guy I’ve ever known you to be truly hot for. You want this. You deserve this. A last fling before you escape this little hole-in-the-wall town and fly off into the sunset.” She grinned. “Go get ‘em, girl.”

Faith swallowed. “Over there. By Santa’s Village. Brent’s here.”Annie sucked in a breath, a warm flush enveloping her entire body just from the thought of seeing Brent again She was almost afraid to turn and actually look at him, for fear she’d melt right into the floor.”Go on!” Faith gave her a little push on the shoulder.

“I don’t think I can.” At the moment, she was having trouble even forcing the words past her lips.

Faith rolled her eyes. “Forget nerves. This is your last chance. Brent’s the only guy I’ve ever known you to be truly hot for. You want this, and you deserve it. A last fling before you fly off into the sunset.” She grinned. “So go get him, girl.”

 

I contacted MuseIt Up and sent them the aforementioned excerpts. My understanding is that the book was then removed from the MuseIt Up site and that third party retailers are being contacted to get the title pulled.

On a fellow Muse It author’s blog, Kay Manning publishes an excerpt of a book called “A Soldier’s Valentine”. This excerpt was originally found in Catherine Mann’s “An Evening to Remember.”

Kay Manning’s Copy Catherine Mann’s Original
“Go! Go! Go!”Captain Shawn “Iceman” Isaacs hurtled out of the military cargo plane, the crew chief’s order to jump from the C-17 echoing in his ears along with the roaring of engines. The silent sky swallowed him. Arms and legs splayed, he soared down, down, down toward Fryar Drop Zone, the part of Fort Benning Military Reservation located in Alabama.Somewhere in the soft fields below Tammy Lowe waited for him.

Of course, she didn’t know he was one of the guys parachuting this afternoon. Although regularly a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, he needed the jump to stay current on his training. But she thought he was still deployed to the Middle East.

He’d enlisted her co-workers’ aid to ensure Tammy would come for a Valentine’s surprise—even if Valentine’s Day was still a week away. Thank goodness for the help of her three pals, because no way would she have showed if she learned Shawn would be landing at her feet.

Wind battered his body, the quiet void of endless blue sky filling with thoughts of meeting Tammy the day she’d started her job as a civilian engineering contractor on post. The first time he’d laid eyes on her in the conference room, with all her mahogany hair piled up on her head, he’d burned to set it free.

To his surprise, the reserved academic had said yes to dinner. And yes again to another date.

“Go! Go! Go!”Captain Vince “Novocain” Novak hurtled out of the military cargo plane, the crew chief’s order to jump from the C-17 echoing in his ears along with the roaring of engines. Then the silent sky swallowed him. Arms and legs splayed, he soared down, down, down toward the landing zone at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.A speck of grass in Tampa where McKenzie Rowe waited for him.

Of course she didn’t know he was one of the guys parachuting this afternoon. Although regularly an MH-53 Pave Low helicopter pilot, he was also jump qualified and needed to stay current on his training. But she thought he was still deployed to the Middle East.

He’d enlisted her co-workers’ aid to ensure McKenzie would come for a Valentine’s surprise—even if Valentine’s Day was still a week away. Thank goodness for the help of her three pals, because no way would she have showed if she learned Vince would be landing at her feet.

Wind battered his body, the quiet void of endless blue sky filling with thoughts of meeting McKenzie the day she’d started her job as a civilian engineering contractor on base. The first time he’d laid eyes on her in the conference room, with all her chocolate brown hair piled up on her head, he’d burned to set it free.

To his surprise, the reserved academic had said yes to dinner. And yes again to another date.

 

“Fireworks” by Kay Manning was for sale on Amazon, Sony, iTunes, Kobo and Barnes & Noble for $.99. It appears to be lifted from Valerie Hansen’s “Fireworks.” Manning also participated in NaNoWriMo as Kristal Singletary. According to Bourne, nearly every blog post by Manning as Singletary was lifted from others:

Developing Creative Process Copy Developing Creative Process Original by George Shaw
“Your creative process is a series of steps that you repeat every time you need to create. Simple. The trick is to make the steps fluid and flexible enough to allow you the room you need to create well, while still being structured enough to help you through when you’re having a hard time. An effective process should allow for serendipity—happy accidents are responsible for lots of great writing” “Your creative process is a series of steps that you repeat every time you need to create. Simple. The trick is to make the steps fluid and flexible enough to allow you the room you need to create well, while still being structured enough to help you through when you’re having a hard time. An effective process should allow for serendipity—happy accidents are responsible for lots of great design “

 


Updated x1:

We were only made aware of the accusation about Bear Otter and Kid late last night by one of our authors. The posted comment that Dreamspinner was contacted is false. No one contacted us either by email or through the contact form on our website. While I’ve not seen Shelter, I know the story behind Bear Otter and Kid, and it is semi-autobiographical. While it may follow the general plot line of Shelter, I don’t believe it was copied in any way. We take accusations of plagiarism very seriously and have ordered the movie to make a final determination.

You are welcome to quote any of that if you wish.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth North, Executive Director
Dreamspinner Press
Where Dreams Come True

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Update x2:  Klune repudiates any suggestions that “Beat, Otter, and the Kid” was even inspired by Shelter let alone a plagiarism.

Update x3: Dreamspinner has responded saying that it has reviewed the movie and believes that there are significant differences.  The book has been sent to the director of the movie and that the book will be removed from circulation if the director believes it to be too close to the movie.

So yeah. What’s next? M/m author T.J. Klune published “Bear, Otter, and the Kid” through Dreamspinner Press. Unfortunately, the book apparently copies the movie “Shelter” plot point by plot point and, according to this reader, uses the entire lyrics from a song (which is a copyright infringement).

I saw the movie a couple of years ago and this book has the same characters, same story development, same guy-gives-up-scholarship-to-take-care-of-small-child plot. Both the movie and this book even start with the same scene — he’s driving to the airport to pick up his wealthy best friend who is coming home from college for the summer. I watched the movie again after reading this book and there is no mistake that complete scenes, situations, etc. were copied — some almost exactly.

As one commenter noted, movie theaters would get into trouble if they produced a movie based on a book without first buying the rights, this suit notwithstanding. However, film rights are clearly a derivative right of fictional work. Why do would an author or publisher think the reverse is not true?  Apparently Klune is amused by this accusation as he deletes a reader’s request about the reported similarities:

Jaime wrote: “Hey, why was my message deleted :(“

lol, didn’t mean too. Just keeping this drama free. I think you’re funny too. =D

Dreamspinner Press gives instructions on how to turn fan fiction into published work. First step, change the names!

So what do you need to do? Let me spell it out. First, come up with a new name for all of your characters. If one of them is named Jack or Will, you can potentially leave it, but don’t leave more than one because someone will probably know that Jack and Will are from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

I wonder if Kristal Singletary followed that line of reasoning. I’m not opposed to fan fiction being sold, but let’s be up front about this. Dreamspinner wants its writers to change things just enough to fool the reader. Why not admit what these authors are doing?

We probably won’t be reviewing any more Dreamspinner Press titles. Sarah F and Sunita D, our primary M/M readers have asked to be removed from the review submission list.


Finally, Smashwords is following in the footsteps of Bookstrand and All Romance and pulling titles and putting in new policies restricting the type of content it will distribute. I received this email that was sent to Smashwords authors:

 

On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services. I’ve had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.

Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.

The underage erotica is not a problem for us. We already have some of the industry’s strictest policies prohibiting underage characters (we don’t even allow non-participating minors to appear in erotica), and our vetting team is always on the lookout for “barely legal” content where supposed adults are placed in underage situations.

The other three areas of bestiality, rape and incest were less well-defined in our Terms of Service (https://www.smashwords.com/about/tos) before today. I’ll tackle these one-by-one below, and I’ll provide you a summary of the changes that will go into effect immediately.

*Incest:* Until now, we didn’t have a policy prohibiting incest between consenting adults, or its non-biological variation commonly known as “Pseudo-incest.” Neither did our retailer partners. We’ve noticed a surge of PI books over the last few months, and many of them have “Daddy” in the title. I wouldn’t be surprised if the surge in “Daddy” titles prompted PayPal to pursue this purge (I don’t know). PI usually explores sexual relations between consenting adult stepchildren with their step parents, or between step-siblings. Effectively immediately, we no longer allow incest of any variety in erotica.

Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me. It is with some reluctance that I have made the decision to prohibit incest-themed erotica at Smashwords. Regardless of your opinion on incest, it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals (1984), or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist, or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim. All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved, and to feel. Sometimes we want to feel touched, moved, or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.

Incest, however, carries thorny baggage. The legality of incest is murky. It creates a potential legal liability for Smashwords as our business and our books become more present in more jurisdictions around the world. Anything that threatens Smashwords directly threatens our ability to serve the greater interests of all Smashwords authors, publishers, retailers and customers who rely upon us as the world’s leading distributor of indie ebooks. The business considerations compel me to not fall on the sword for incest. I realize this is an imperfect decision. The slippery slope is dangerous, but I believe this imperfect decision is in the best interest of the community we serve.

*Bestiality:* Until now, we didn’t have a stated policy regarding bestiality. I like animals. Call me old fashioned or hypocritical (I’m not a vegetarian), but I don’t want to be a party to anyone enjoying animals for sexual gratification, for the same reason we’ve never allowed pedophilia books. I don’t want to publish it, sell it, or distribute it. The TOS is now modified to reflect this. Note this does not apply to shape-shifters common in paranormal romance provided the were-creature characters are getting it on in their human form. Sorry I need to clarify it that way, but we don’t want to see bestiality erotica masquerading as paranormal romance.

*Rape:* Although our Terms of Service prohibits books that advocate violence against others, we did not specifically identify rape. This was an oversight on our part. Now we have clarified the policy. We do not want books that contain rape for the purpose of titillation. At Smashwords, rape has no longer has a place in erotica. It has no place anywhere else if the purpose is to titillate. Non-consensual BDSM – or any other form of non-consensual violence against another person – is prohibited.

*NEXT STEPS:* If you have titles at Smashwords that are now expressly forbidden, by the end of day Monday (Feb 27), please click to your Dashboard at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard and click UNPUBLISH then click ARCHIVE. This will also cause our automated systems to remove the titles from retail distribution.

DO NOT try to hide or obfuscate violating content by changing book titles, book descriptions and tags. If we discover such shenanigans, said authors/publishers will risk account deletion and forfeiture of any accrued earnings, per our Terms of Service.

We take violations of the TOS seriously, because such violations jeopardize the opportunities for your fellow authors.

We do not want to see PayPal clamp down further against erotica. We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection. Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world.

The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain. If it were not the case, none of us would be here. Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That’s not fair. Our decisions today are imperfect. Please, act responsibly, don’t try to game the system or publish content that pushes the limits of legality. Help us continue to help indie authors around the world to continue to publish and distribute with freedom.

*THINGS TO AVOID:* Avoid using words such as ‘bestiality,’ ‘rape,’ ‘incest,’ ‘underage,’ or ‘barely legal’ in book titles, book descriptions or keyword tags, otherwise Smashwords may conclude you’re violating the Terms of Service, or trying to push the limits. If you’re writing non-erotic works, and any of these words are necessary, then you’re okay.

On Tuesday (Feb 28) we will begin removing content that we deem in violation. When we remove a title, you will receive an email notifying you of such, and that email will append this letter along with instructions on how to notify us if we made an error. I promise you, we will make mistakes, so please work with us, take a deep breath and honor us with your patience.

If you believe we removed something in error, please click “Comments/questions,” mention the title we removed, provide the hyperlink to said title, and provide your *calm* reasoning for why we should reconsider.

Our support team is backlogged, so it may take several days for them to respond. As we mention in the Terms of Service, we reserve the right to remove anything for any reason. That said, we will also try to make our decisions with care and prudence.

You might wonder if Smashwords should simply switch to a different payment provider. It’s not so easy. PayPal is designed into the wiring of the Smashwords platform. They run the credit card processing for our retail store, and they’re how we pay our authors and publishers. PayPal is also an extremely popular, trusted payment option for our customers. It is not feasible for us to simply switch to another provider, should such a suitable provider even exist, especially with so few days notice.

Please note our Terms of Service is subject to additional modifications as we work to bring Smashwords into compliance with PayPal requirements. Let’s hope today’s actions mark the limit of the slippery slope.

Significant gray area remain. Erotica is still permitted, though if authors try to push the limits of what’s permitted, we risk further clamping down. Please be responsible. Don’t go there. If you’re going to push the limits, push the limits of great writing, not the limits of legality.

Thank you for assisting our compliance efforts on such short notice. We know these decisions will be upsetting to some of our authors and publishers, and for that we apologize. We do believe, however, that these decisions will place us on a stronger footing to represent the best interests all indie authors and publishers from here forward.

Best wishes,

Mark Coker Founder Smashwords

P.S. Please contact our support team for inquiries regarding this change in our Terms of Service by clicking the “comments/questions” link at the top of any page at Smashwords. If your inquiry regards a specific title, please include the hyperlink to the book page of that specific title.

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

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