Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More Autharium Drama

I don't like bullies.

To me, using a bad faith DMCA to silence critics is blatant bullying. Even worse is when the attempt to censor is aimed at someone I like and respect, like David Vandagriff, aka The Passive Guy.

Because of my own screw-up, my spew session about Autharium's use of a bad faith DMCA appeared on Blood Lines on Friday, February 21, 2014, at 9:30 p.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. on Monday as I intended.

Before I go farther, I'd also like to point out that Blood Lines has seven followers and roughly seventeen regular readers as opposed to the thirty-two followers and 60-70 regulars that follow Wild, Wicked & Wacky. There's not a lot of crossover viewing between the two blogs.

At 4:35 p.m. on Sunday, February 23, I received an e-mail from Matt Bradbeer.

Matt is the co-founder and director of Autharium, though he failed to identify himself as such in his e-mail to me. Now, I can't repost the e-mail here without Matt getting a bug up his ass about me violating his copyright (which frankly, I find hilarious given the original terms in Autharium's Terms and Conditions from March of 2013). That doesn't mean I can't fisk the generic items of his message.

[First paragraph - statement concerning his knowledge of my blog post followed by snide comment]

One of the first rules of negotiation, kids, is that you never start by pissing off the person you want something from.

The gist of the entire e-mail is that Matt wants me to change my opinion of his company.

Matt wants.

Not me.


Matt wants me to do something for him. And he starts his message with a snide comment.

Thereby irritating the shit out of an ex-attorney, born under the sign of Scorpio and who has just started menopause. Nope, he's definitely not the brightest crayon in the box.

P.S. All that information about me that I just stated can easily be found on the internet. ALL of it. Did Matt do his research before engaging someone he perceives as an opponent? Nope. Which leads to rule number two of negotiation--know the person on the other side of the table.

[Second paragraph - claim that Autharium tried to contact PG last March]

According to Matt, someone from Autharium tried to contact PG  after his blog post last March, twice by e-mail and once through social media, and that PG did not respond. PG's original analysis of Matt's company was coming up on the first page of search results when Matt googled his company.

Matt was not pleased by this fact.

In PG's second blog post about Autharium, PG says he never received any communication from Autharium before the DMCA takedown was filed.

For the record, I pretty much doubt everybody's story without proof, and Matt failed to send me any proof of his attempts to contact PG.

But back to the actual notice issue, there are three problems here:

1) Let's assume Matt is telling the truth about his attempts to contact PG. E-mails go awry. People don't always check their social media everyday. Basically, shit can and does happen.

So why did Matt wait eleven months? Why didn't he try to contact PG again? Why not try through other means? Leave a message on the blog? Look up PG's address and phone number?

I know other countries can send certified letters because I've received one from a solicitor in Dublin before.

And the most important question of all, why is it someone from Autharium had no problems whatsoever contacting PG on Monday, February 24th?

2) Other websites have mentioned the March 2013 contract terms, most especially Writer Beware. Victoria Strauss had similar opinions concerning the old contract terms. If you'll note, her addendum concerning the changes wasn't appended to her original post until November 2013. According to Victoria, she was accused of defamatory comments about Autharium.

[Legal note: It's not defamation when the facts are true and accurate at the time they were made. Matt really needs to hire a better class of laywers as you'll see later.]

3) While Google is the most popular search engine in the US, and arguably the world, why didn't Autharium send DMCA takedown notices to Bing? Or Yandex? Or Yahoo?

I'm really trying to give Matt the benefit of the doubt here, but he's making it very, very hard. Especially when he's the co-founder and director of eGurus, Ltd., a management consulting firm. You'd think with a name like eGurus they would know how the internet works and how to use alternate communication devices.

So this all puts me in a weird position. Do I believe the attorney I've known for three years and have referred friends to for legal counsel? Or do I believe a total stranger?

[Third paragraph - claim that Matt was forced to file a DMCA]

Um, sorry, I don't buy it unless you can produce the guy who held the gun to your head. There's always choices in this world, folks. Matt chose a not-so-wise decision given the current Streisand effect he's suffering.

[Fourth paragraph - T&C terms were changed based on PG's dissection; original terms were drafted by publishing industry attorneys]

On the first part, great! I'm really glad Matt read PG's analysis, realized some of his mistakes, and fixed them.

On the second part, egads! *facepalm*

Matt doesn't appear to understand why writers are leaving trad publishers in droves, much less why we find indie publishing attractive. And he hired the same idiots that are helping to drive away the writers from trad publishing. Lack of this kind of knowledge could be death to his company. As Joe Konrath has said many times, indie publishing is a HUGE shadow industry that the trad publishing either fails or refuses to see. Trying to cash in on it without understanding it? *shakes head* Definitely not a good idea.

[Fifth paragraph - acknowledgement of free legal advice from PG; repetition of contact issue; expectation that PG monitors every single website that discusses Autharium]

I'm pleased that Matt recognized PG was right, and Matt fixed the problem.

I think Matt's expectation that PG keep up with every website that talks about Autharium shows a bit of a narcissistic quality. It's a bit unfair when Matt himself seems to have difficulty keeping up with indie publishing as shown by my commentary on the Fourth Paragraph.

[Sixth paragraph - quibble about a legal issue from PG's followup on Autharium on Friday]

I love it when a civilian tries to argue legalese. Again, know who you're talking to, folks. Frankly, if I were still licensed, I would say PG didn't go far enough.

If I were still licensed, that is. Which I'm not.

Unfortunately for Matt, I don't have a lot of respect for some who tries to come off as an expert in something when it's very obvious he's not.

[Seventh paragraph - claims that I lied; that I'm being mean; the soft threat]

Matt never specifies exactly what it is I lied about. If he does ever let me know what FACTS I stated that are incorrect, I'd be happy to correct them.

Then there's the guilt trip. Y'all just know a girl is supposed to be nice, don't you? Sorry, but my mother is much better at that than Matt. It's not going to work.

I do have to give Matt credit for going for the soft threat, an insinuation he might do something though he never comes out and says exactly what. Most men at this point go for the hard threat, a la Sean Fodera, an attorney at Macmillan, threatening to sue over 1200 people who reposted a story about insults he lobbed at a writer.

But still, really, dude? You might do something because some chick on the other side of the pond insulted you?

[Eighth Paragraph - released a writer from a contract when she received a trad deal]

So what? Matt did something out of the goodness of his heart. What would have happened the old Terms and Conditions if she wanted to leave but didn't have a trad deal?

Under contract law, promises, issues, or ANYTHING not specifically stated in the terms of the contract means nothing. However, I'm no longer an attorney, so please double-check with your own legal counsel.

And if you haven't clicked the link for Matt's job history above, he used to work for Waterstone's. For those who don't know, Waterstone's is a UK bookseller chain, similar to Barnes & Noble here in the States.

Which I would use as evidence of his mental state when it comes to writers.

If I were still an attorney.

Which I'm not.

[Ninth Paragraph - another reiteration of I'm mean]

[Tenth Paragraph - request to change my opinion]

After all that, I have re-evaluated my opinion of Autharium, and I'm even more wary of the company for two reasons:

1) The Terms and Conditions

Has Autharium changed their terms and conditions since PG's original post based on his analysis? Yes.

However, there's a couple of things in Autharium's T&C that I still don't like, despite the changes that have been made. There's no guarantee Autharium won't change the T&C back to the way it was in March of 2013. And frankly, while I highly respect PG, it isn't his intellectual property on the line; it would be mine by signing up with Autharium.

Don't get me wrong. PG's a good guy, and I would hire him in a heartbeat. Also, Autharium has used him as free legal counsel (and maybe they should think about hiring him instead of the attorneys they are currently using), which he doesn't have a problem with..

I, on the other hand, am a bitch, and I don't give advice for free to people I don't know. So I won't state the problems with the T&C I see in this blog. If you know me, contact me privately and we'll talk. Informally. Because I'm no longer licensed, and I can't give legal advice. *grin*

2) Professionalism

Matt's thinking seems to be firmly rooted in trad publishing mentality, which is scary in and of itself. I rather get the impression he hoped to intimidate poor, little ole' me.

Because all the trad publishers and agents just know that writers are cattle to be culled. (No, Donald Maass, I will never let you forget that statement. I even have a t-shirt to commemorate it.)

What bothers me more are Matt's social missteps and his tendency to use a tactical nuke when a hug and kiss would have gotten him a lot farther in what he wanted.

Generally speaking, once the contract is signed the kid gloves come off, and you are fucked by whatever is actually written on the contract. Therefore, you are at the mercy of the other parties to the contract. You have to ask yourself, "Is this someone you want to do business with?"

In the case of Autharium, my answer is no. You, the reader of this blog, have to figure out what your own answer is.

While I was drafting this blog post, someone from Autharium did contact PG some time on Monday. The Autharium representative supposedly said the DMCA notice should have been handled differently.

Well, it's good that they figured it out. Hopefully, they learned something about how to deal with negative publicity in the future. Such as, don't piss off a respected blogger who can measure his followers in five digits per day.

For example, I found out last night that Techdirt wrote about Autharium's attempt to white-wash it's past.

And that is exactly the problem with the Streisand effect, kids.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Scam Distributor Autharium Versus The Passive Guy--Somebody's Going to Get Spanked...

...and it ain't going to be The Passive Guy.

About a year ago, The Passive Guy, aka PG, aka contract attorney David Vandagriff with 30+ years experience, talked about a new UK e-publisher/distributor called Autharium.

In Autharium's original Terms and Conditions, the company made an incredibly blatant rights grab that put the NY BPHs to shame. Basically, even if you remove your book from their database, they would still own all licencing and ancillary rights to your IP property.

Well instead of addressing the matter directly with PG, these slimy bottom-feeders filed a bad faith DMCA notice claiming copyright violation in an effort to shut up PG's revelation. Ironic considering their own method for stealing any meaningful copyright from authors, huh?

As PG noted, if you're going to pick a fight, you should know who your up against. Which is frankly what makes the folks running Autharium a bunch of dumbasses.

So PG has done another post on Autharium and their newer, sneakier wording to steal YOUR copyright. In the meantime, PG noted that the incredible Victoria Strauss at Writers Beware brought up the very same issues.

The best we can do as writers is to watch each others backs from slimeball organization like Autharium. If you're a writer, spread this story as far and wide as possible. Information is power, and we need to arm our fellows.

Update on the Autharium drama here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Question of Balance - Chapter 4

Sorry for the delay in putting up a new chapter. My SAD hit me a little harder than usual this winter. Couple that with a consistent Vitamin D deficiency, and I've been a little under the weather for the last couple of months. It's been all I can do to get new pages written, much less blog posts edited..

Also, I finally came up with a title I like! Yay!

I walked across the street when bells at the Temple of the Mother tolled first evening. The one grace was that the rain had stopped, but the thick, heavy air said more was on its way.

Tyra accompanied me, but she had the foresight not to take my arm. Since my trial for Samael DiRoy’s murder last summer, everyone knew I was sighted even if my staff occasionally forgot out of sheer habit. Besides, traffic on the main thoroughfare had died down for the day. Not that it had been as congested as normal between the rain and rest day.

After my encounter with my mother this afternoon, I could understand my wardens insistence that I have an escort in the city.

Goddess, I missed having Luc around from sunrise to sunrise. I could trust him to watch my back.

Was it my own stubbornness that prevented better relations with my staff? They seemed so eager to please. Or were they terrified I would blame them for hiding my predecessor’s instability? To be released from temple service would be the ultimate disgrace.

On the other hand, I couldn’t get myself disgraced no matter how hard I tried.

I was escorted to the chief priest’s private dining room. It hadn’t change a bit since Luc had taken over from Kam, and I said as much to the two men.

Luc laughed. “I wish had the time or inclination to redecorate, but Kam here has been keeping me quite busy. I think he saved his entire workload from last spring for me.”

The elderly priest chuckled. “Running a temple is a young person’s game.”

“And cooking a fine dinner takes an experienced hand,” I remarked.

“Just so, my lady.” Kam took my hand looped it around his arm. The gesture was sheer graciousness, not a suggestion that I was helpless, and he did it every time I came to the Temple of Truth for dinner long before I was condemned to the Orrin temple seat.

“And at the rate he’s going, I won’t fit in my smallclothes by next winter,” Luc grumbled good-naturedly. To Tyra’s shock, he copied Kam and took the warden’s arm in his.

Even after half a year, it was odd to see Luc at the head of chief priest’s private table, instead of Kam. He kept with Kam’s tradition that business was not to be discussed until after the sweets course. Tonight’s specialty was mountain ice mixed with cream and flavored with honey and dried blackberries.

I licked the last bits from my spoon before I said, “You’re right, Luc. You’re going to end up fatter than a bear before hibernation at this rate.

“After the day we’ve had, I told Kam we deserved a treat.” Luc dropped his own spoon into the bowl with a clatter. “I hope your day was more productive than mine.”

“Nothing from any of the duke’s household?”

“Not a damn thing.” He raked his hands through his hair. “In fact, the only quirk was Lady Alessa.”

I sat up straighter. “What do you mean?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was fighting my spell, but the idea is ridiculous. According to our records, none of the DiMaras have ever shown a flicker of magical ability.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“No.” He speared a piece of cheese from the platter in front of him. “She was one of the last people I questioned, and I could have imagined it.”

A shiver ran up my spine. The last thing I wanted was to drop more trouble in Marco’s lap. Other than Luc, he was the only person who’d ever defended me against an attacker in every sense of the word.

I relayed what Master Healer Devin had said about the attacker having small hands. That story spilled into events at the Temple of Death, and my encounter with my mother.

Luc and I exchanged looks, old habits falling into place. He had the same feeling that we were missing a major piece of this puzzle.

“Maybe we’re looking at this from the wrong angle.” Kam poured more wine into his goblet.

“How so?” I asked.

“It could have been a jealous worshipper who viewed Sister Gretchen as his. When she refused to run away with him, he became enraged. If he couldn’t have her, no one else could.”

I turned to Tyra. “What’s your analysis, Warden?”

She stammered a couple of times before she said, “I’m happy Sister Gretchen wasn’t found in one of our temple’s wine barrels, Justice.”

Kam promptly released the neck of the decanter he was reaching for. “Oh, my.”

The same worry had plagued to me, but I folded my fingers and rested my chin on them. “Why so?”

More stammering. I waited patiently, Little Bear’s assessment of Penelope’s behavior foremost in my mind. If I wanted the Balance staff to trust me, and vice versa, I needed to extend the offer.

“W-w-well, given that Duke Marco swore for your conduct at your own t-t-trial for murder, if the body had been discovered at our temple, people would blame you without evidence, and the duke’s enemies would use it against him.

“Magistrate DiCook would claim Orrin’s Temple of Balance was corrupt, and jurisdiction would fall to him. Given his assumption of guilty until proven innocent and his lack of investigative skills, both His Grace and you would be executed.” Her green lashes fluttered with her nervous energy.

“Very good, Warden. My thoughts as well. Which means someone is specifically targeting the duke for scandal—”

“Or it was still a method of killing two quail with the same arrow,” Luc added.

“Katarina,” I said.

“She knows a lot of Gerd’s secrets, and with Marco’s father imprisoned for life for kidnapping and attempted memory alteration, Gerd doesn’t have the nobility completely under her thumb.”

“But most of the local lords aren’t happy with His Grace either,” Tyra offered. At least, the girl no longer stuttered.

“Which brings us back to the original problem.” I fished the vial out of my pocket. “I’m hoping this will help.”

“What’s this?” Luc asked as he took the stoppered glass from my hand. He held the vial up to the nearest oil lamp to examine the contents.

“I’m praying it is skin scrapings from Gretchen’s attacker. Master Devin pointed out all her nails were packed with this substance.”

Luc met my gaze. “That’s assuming the wine didn’t overwhelm his essence.”

“Or hers.” I frowned. “At this point, I’m not ruling anyone or anything out. I know it’s not much to start with, but on the chance, Gretchen tore her attacker’s skin, and he’s still alive.”

“I’ll have to do a little research for this fine of a tracking spell. Otherwise, we may end up finding the grapevines that were the source of the wine. Do you have a problem with me consulting the Wildling chief priest—”

His recitation was interrupted by Tyra yawning, a wide, jaw-cracking one. Blood rushed to her face as she realized what she’d done. “I beg forgiveness, Brothers, Lady Justice.”

“Pish,” Kam said as he waved his hand. “Anthea and Luc are simply more adept at hiding theirs while listening to an old man ramble.”

“Because we’ve had far too much practice,” I said into my cup.

“There’s nothing wrong with my hearing, young lady.” He waggled a finger at me.

“You were meant to hear, old man,” I shot back.

“Well, it’s about time you two experience the other side.”

Luc leaned closer to Tyra. “It’s permissible to laugh at them, Warden. I do all the time.”

“You were on last night’s watch, weren’t you?” I said.

“Yes, m’lady.”

“Go back to the temple and get some sleep.”

“But I can’t leave you—”

“I’ll escort her home, Warden,” Luc said.

Warmth filled me. It had been weeks since we’d had any time alone.

“But—” she tried one more time.

“That’s a direct order, Warden. I don’t need my staff nodding off in the middle of court tomorrow morning.”

She tried to hide her relief as she stood. “Thank you, m’lady. Good eventide, Brothers.”

Once she left, Kam rested his chubby arms on the table service. “Anthea, be careful with Gerd. Don’t take power in this city, her wrath or her ego for granted.”

“She interfered with an investigation.” Damn, now I sounded like the sullen, petulant child.

“If you’re expecting any type of maternal consideration—”

I snorted. “Oh, believe me, I am not.”

“I’m too old and too tired to argue with a mule-headed justice.” He climbed to his feet with a great deal of puffing. “Do something with her before she does something stupid, Luc. Good eventide.”

For an elderly, overweight man, Kam did a remarkable job of stomping out of the dining room in a huff. The door slammed behind him, and the dishes and utensils vibrated in response.

“You’re poking everyone with a stick tonight, Justice.” Luc’s amused tone irritated me.

“This would all be so much easier if I didn’t have half the city playing idiotic games.”

“That means you have to play the game better than anyone else.”

“I can think of games I’d rather play.” I smiled at him.

He was out of his chair and pulling me into his arms before my next heartbeat. Our lips met, and I felt as if I’d been trapped in the Salt Desert for days, and finally taking a sip of fresh, sweet water.

The kiss was far too short. Or so I thought until I realized he pressed me against the wall and my legs were wrapped around his waist.

“Goddess, I miss you,” I whispered.

Luc leaned his forehead against mine. “Not as much as I miss you.” His breath was warm against my skin, reminding of all those mornings he’d woken me with sweet kisses.

His hands slid from my buttocks. “But we can’t. Not here. Not now.”

“When?” I hated that the single word sounded like a sob, that I sounded like a lovestruck fool.

“I don’t know.” He pulled my arms from his neck. “You need to go back before anyone starts rumors. We have enough trouble on our tables, my love.” His words were followed by a light kiss on my neck, the tender spot where I was most sensitive.

When he stepped away, I felt as shaky as if I’d been sword training during a severe ground quake. And I wished I’d argued harder that we run away to Cant six months ago.

* * *
The thought of escaping my duties crawled through my mind long after the temple and outbuildings had quieted for the night. But amid the desire to saddle Nassa and gallop south to the border, the mutilated body of Sister Gretchen taunted me. Maybe if Luc could trace who, then we would know why.

Which brought me back full circle to Luc and abandoning the temple again.

I sighed, sat up and punched at the down pillows. I still hadn’t gotten used to the finery afforded my new position. Luc and I had slept on the ground more often than not as we traveled the circuit of villages and towns between Orrin and the mountains. I threw myself back down on the bed.

This whole situation was ridiculous. I was fretting about things I had no control over. Without sleep, I’d be crankier than usual during court tomorrow morning.

The faint scrape of stone on stone cut my self-pity off at the knees. I froze and scanned the room through slitted eyes. My hand reached between the mattress and the bed frame for my dagger.

There. A small section wall to the left of my wardrobe separated from the rest of the blue-green marble. The brilliant yellow of a living being appeared. It stepped through the opening and straightened. A man.

My fingers tightened around the dagger handle. Fool. I could see in the dark. He couldn’t.

Despite the chill in the air, I had kicked up my blankets long before. It was a simple matter of rolling off the bed and crouching on the icy floor.

He crept unerringly to my bedside. This was someone who knew the lay of my chambers or had been in here before. Neither boded well.

When he reached for the spot where my head would have been, I grabbed his collar and yanked. He lost his balance and landed on my mattress with a whoof. The tip of my dagger rested along the pulse point of throat.

The feel of his skin and his scent registered a heartbeat before Luc said, “Is this how you greet all your lovers?”

“You scared the piss out of me,” I hissed. “By our gods, what are you doing here? How did you…” I glanced at the opening he’d slipped through.

“If you put away the dagger, I’ll tell you.”

“I’m glad you find this amusing,” I muttered, but I released him.

He rearranged himself to lie lengthwise on my mattress. I set my weapon on the lamp table and circled the room, laying wards so we wouldn’t be interrupted.

When I returned to the bed, he snagged my hand and pulled me on top of him. My body heated as his hands roamed and his arousal pressed against me.


“Apparently, we are not the first of our temples to have an illegal tryst.”

I waited for him to continue, but it was growing more difficult to think with the things he was doing to me. Finally, I tore my mouth from his. “The secret passage?” I prompted.

“Kam was waiting in my bedchamber when I returned.” His chest rumbled beneath me. “Would you believe he lectured me on taking the edge off your irritability?”

“He didn’t.”

“Um-hmmm…” Luc flipped me so I was underneath him. Little kisses followed the hem of my nightshirt upward.

“That’s rather audacious of him.” A disturbing thought hit me. “Wait a moment. Kam and…Penelope?”

Luc buried his face against my inner thigh to stifle his laughter. “Light, no. Thalia.”

The legendary justice had been Penelope’s predecessor. She died defending the city from a pirate attack nearly a generation ago. Her sacrifice hadn’t been in vain. The battle had broken the marauders power on the Peaceful Sea.

“Incredible,” I whispered. “I didn’t realize Kam had been here that long.”

“Nearly fifty years.”

I wove my fingers through Luc’s hair as he layered more licks and kisses along my skin. “But the tunnel?”

“Was built long before either Thalia or Kam were assigned here. They’re part of the original structures. There’s another tunnel between Light and Father. He believes they were escape routes during the demon wars.” His breath brushed my flesh, shooting prickles all over my body. “Now will you be quiet and let me love you, or do I have to gag you?”

I sighed. “I suppose. If you must for my mental health…”

Thankfully, my wards blocked the rest of the temple from hearing my shrieks as Luc showed me how much he missed me.