Monday, March 31, 2014

Are YOU being plagiarized, too, without your knowledge?

by Jodie Renner, editorauthor

Imagine my shock on Friday when an author I don't know emailed me to tell me that an "editor" and "publishing consultant" had copied a bunch of testimonials off my website and was passing them off, word for word, as her own!

I checked out the website, WordWorks Publishing Consultants, and sure enough, there were the exact words of two reviews of my editing by our own LJ Sellers, as well as other testimonials from MY website, by thriller writer Allan Leverone, CFCer and thriller writer A.M. Khalifa, and thriller client Tom Combs  copied verbatim, but attributed to fictitious writer clients, even Random House! (You should be flattered by that one, A.M. Khalifa!)

In fact, every single example of her testimonials under "Editing" was lifted  plagiarized  straight from my website, on this page:

Here, for example, are the original top two reviews she stole, by LJ Sellers:

You can see the rest of the original reviews on my website. I worked damn hard for those testimonials, and they were carefully crafted by talented authors I've worked with, whose creations were stolen, just like that!

By the way, aside from those well-written reviews, the rest of the amateurish-looking website is full of typos and grammatical errors.

This blatant plagiarism is awful on so many levels, including that I would never have known about it if an author hadn't alerted me to this, saying in her email, "I got suspicious of this person due to some wild claims they were making in a Facebook group. Then I simply highlighted blocks of text from her 'testimonials' and googled them."

This is shocking and frustrating. But I and my talented writer clients, although insulted and robbed, aren't the biggest victims here.

The real victims are the many aspiring writers who get duped by this so-called "editor" and think she's so good at it that her clients say those wonderful things about her editing! And the unsuspecting writers then send her their money and entrust her with their manuscripts.

Oh, and by the way, on the testimonials page under "Writing and Content," she has reviews by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs!

“Excellent service – Pame has provided quality content and articles for our corporate branding and website for the past 30 years. Her work has always been professional and completed on schedule. I would be delighted to recommend her services to anyone seeking quality articles or other written content.” - Steven Jobs, President/CEO, Apple Inc

“Very satisfied with quality of writing services over the past 25 years. Great communication and all workis always done before specified deadline". -Bill Gates, President/CEO, Microsoft

“Highly recommended! Pame has a very powerful voice and a great writer, ready to satisfy all your needs. She is always available, reliable and they all work hard to comply with your requests. If you are looking for articles, website content, product description/review or a simple blog comment this is the place to order it!” - Jeffrey Baker, Media Mogul, NBC

This company is apparently run by someone named Pamela Wray Biron. Is she a real person? The spelling "Pame" is unusual for "Pam," especially for an editor, who would be familiar with English usage of the "e" at the end making the vowel long, like hat - hate, man - mane, tam - tame, etc. And all that great long list of accomplishments! Since she's apparently been editing for 26 years, has 6 degrees and numerous other qualifications, and has written 62 books, why is her website full of errors, and why does she have to steal someone else's client reviews? Wouldn't she be earning plenty of testimonials herself, and have a huge number built up over the years? Hmmm....

This shocking discovery also made me wonder -- if my testimonials can get lifted from my website like that, what other sites is this person plagiarizing from, and who else might be stealing my craft-of-writing blog posts and passing them off as their own?

And who's stealing YOUR work? And what can we all do about these scammers?

A suggestion from A.M. Khalifa: "Should we pay attention to who is plundering our work like this, or is plagiarism part and parcel of creativity?" I suppose I should be flattered that my editing deserved such wonderful testimonials that someone chose to steal them, and my clients who wrote those great reviews should be flattered, too... 

But what about those unsuspecting aspiring writers who get duped into thinking this person is an excellent editor for their book, because of the theft of these reviews? What do you think?

I've contacted Preditors & Editors, and also Victoria Strauss of Writers Beware, who's publishing a blog post today (Monday, Mar. 31) about this fraudulent site:

Unfortunately, that's all I have time for, as I'm racing around getting ready to move across the country as well as preparing to present a webinar before I leave (in fact I'm traveling today). So I urge all writers to read websites carefully and watch for "red flags" like this, and if you're looking for an editor or publishing consultant, do check their references thoroughly. And be sure to get a sample edit of at least five pages, then get an expert in both English usage and fiction techniques to check it over before hiring the editor for your whole book.

Jodie has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Fire up Your Fiction (Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power), which has won two book awards so far, and is a finalist for two more. Look for Immerse the Readers in Your Story World, out soon. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her other blogs, Resources for Writers and The Kill Zone, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And sign up for her newsletter.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Covers: Right Image, Wrong Message

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Books covers! Sometimes you get lucky and find the perfect image after a quick search. Most of the time, the author and cover designers struggle to even articulate what type of single image will best convey a complex story.

I loved the first cover proof Thomas & Mercer sent for Deadly Bonds. It’s simple, powerful, and emotional. The child’s hand in the adult hand also tells readers something about the bonds in the title. I wanted to just say Yes, this is perfect.

But then I worried that the image would give some people the wrong idea. For some readers, any image involving a child on the cover of a crime fiction story implies pedophilia. I wanted to be wrong about that assumption, but I mentioned my concern to my publisher. They passed the cover around to a few employees to get their reactions and decided that they shared my concern.

So we’re back to the drawing board. Yesterday, they sent this cover. I like it, but I think it’s too sweet. And again, will people get the wrong idea? How do you covey that a small child plays a role in the story without having people assume that the child is victimized?

I have no regrets about the story. It may be one of my strongest Jackson books yet. But the cover is challenging, and I’m tempted to set up a photo shoot to see if my graphic artist can produce an image that implies a nonsexual bond between a caregiver and a child. Is that even possible?

So what do you think of these covers? Where does your mind go?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Left Coast Leftovers

By Gayle Carline
Mystery Author and Exhausted Gal

Where's Marlyn?

I went to Left Coast Crime last weekend and boy was it fun. It's always great to see my CFC buddies. I live in Orange County (California) which, BTW, is the only place in the universe where you identify yourself as being from a county and not a city. Peg lives in Colorado and LJ lives up in Oregon, so these conventions are practically our only face time, but Marlyn and I can't understand why we live 15-20 minutes from one another and still can't seem to get together, not even for lunch. (Drew would like me to be his personal assistant, but he lives near San Diego. Too far for me to commute.)

Clowning with Drew

We did a fun panel together, where we told lies and truths and had the audience guess which was which. I was prepared to tell nothing but lies. I'm a bit of an imp in that way. But after everyone ahead of me told a lie, I broke down and told the truth, only because I thought everyone was expecting me to lie.

Some of the fun for the weekend included:

Quite a few panels on alternative paths to publication. It was fascinating to see this conference catching up to what writer's conferences have been discussing.

I met August McLaughlin. (Warning: her site has a few NSFW references.) I'm a huge fan, and she was all, "Oh, I'm so happy to meet you! I feel like I've been stalking you!" And here I thought it was the other way 'round.

Tee Burrell and her legal cohorts had a fun mock-trial, each of them portraying their protagonists. It was a very creative panel.

In addition to our CFC's "Lying for a Living," I was on a panel called "Closer to Death: The Older Sleuth." It was a depressing title, but ended up with a huge audience and I met some of the most delightful authors. You can bet I'll be checking their books out!

Beginning with me on the right, there's Cathy Ace, Sandra Brannan, and the inimitable Rita Lakin (standing).

One of the things that made it fun was that my hubby Dale came along. I like having him along because he's not one of those needy spouses who tugs at your sleeve and asks you when you're going to be done because he's bored. He's an independent guy who goes off and finds something to do. For this trip, he had the NCAA tournaments to keep him occupied. And a walk to the bay, from time to time.

I snuck off one morning with him to have breakfast at LouLou's, and had dinner with him every evening. On Friday, we had a fabulous dinner at Domenico's with Peg and her hubby George, and our writer-friend Tim Hallinan, who may be the nicest man on the planet.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a banquet ticket for Dale, so Saturday night we scampered off for drinks at the local bar, then dinner at the Crown and Anchor British Pub. Fish and chips and Newcastle Brown.

Belgian Red, served at Peter's BrewPub. Yum.

How was your weekend? What are you doing this weekend? You can find me at the Ladies of Intrigue event in Huntington Beach. Because the fun never stops when you're a mystery writer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


by Michael W. Sherer, thriller author

What do a mudslide in western Washington, a Chicago El train jumping the tracks at O’Hare airport, a
Seattle Times
Malaysian airliner going down in the Indian Ocean, a citizens’ uprising in Ukraine resulting in the secession of a portion of that citizenry, and Taliban militants storming an election commission office have to do with each other?

In this ever-shrinking world, we are bombarded on all sides by a 24/7 news cycle that rarely offers good news. A country invaded here, a few dozen people killed there—tragedies abound and the cacophony of news from the Internet, television, radio and even our mobile devices leaves us numb and inured. A news commentator on one of the local stations says we listen, glued to these stories, to reassure ourselves that these things couldn't happen to us.

It’s at times like these that what we really need is perspective. We have to pick our battles. Not only do we have to choose what information we’re going to let into our lives, we have to decide how we’re going to let it affect us. Obviously, we can’t try to help each time the call goes out. We can’t leap to the rescue of the people of Darrington, Washington, and the families of those slain by the Taliban at the same time. We donate our time and money when we can. We offer our condolences and sympathy where it makes sense.
But most of all, 36 injured in Chicago, or 14 dead in Washington, or thousands killed or made homeless by civil strife in Syria makes our own problems trivial by comparison. These events put our own lives in perspective. I can acknowledge each tragedy that I hear or read about, bow my head in a moment of silence and prayer for the victims and their families, but most of all I can feel gratitude for all the blessings I have in my own life.

All too often, we lose sight of what’s important. We let our priorities become skewed. When we’re more concerned about the announced break-up of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, or the latest shenanigans of The Biebster or Lindsay Lohan than we are about the homeless and the hungry, we’ve lost perhaps the best part of our humanity.

I saw an interesting argument on Facebook recently about income inequality. The poster’s position basically was that the differences in pay that a rocket scientist and a Walmart associate isn’t really income inequality at all, but rather the difference in market value between the two types of work.

I’m pretty much in agreement with that point of view. Yes, our capitalist captains of industry make obscene amounts of money to run their companies, but opportunities exist for anyone, given hard work and a lot of luck, to work their way up a corporate ladder or start a small business and turn it into a big one.

Where I have a problem is the value that all of us, even those of us who decry income inequality, place on different types of work. When the average Major League Baseball player makes 57 times as much as the average teacher to stand around in a field in the sun and play a game, what does that say about our values? The average NBA player makes 90 times as much as the average teacher in the U.S. Isn’t the education our children get more important than whether someone from Denver can throw a ball through a hoop more times than someone from LA or Chicago? 
Denver Post

Ultimately, it comes down to perspective. Life can be incredibly random and unfair. No matter how hard we try we can’t legislate fairness or impose it on a population. There will always be mudslides and religious fanatics and tragic accidents like train derailments and airline crashes.

In part, I think that’s why many of us write thrillers. In our small way, we can impose order on chaos, turn the tragedy of murder into justice. It’s how we maintain our perspective.

How do you maintain your perspective in the face of an unending stream of bad news? Where do you find both solace and strength?

Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide, the second novel in the Blake Sanders thriller series. The first in the Seattle-based series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series.

He and his family now reside in the Seattle area. Please visit him at or you can follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Flight 370: When real life inspires fiction, and fiction inspires real life

by A.M. Khalifa, thriller writer, Google+

For the last two weeks the world has been glued to its screens as the confounding mystery of what happened to Malaysia Air Flight 370 unfolded. We empathized with the crew and passengers, and prayed their families got some closure. And up until it was announced on Monday that the plane likely crashed in the Indian Ocean, our obsession was fueled by the hope, albeit microscopic, that they may have still been alive as part or an elaborate conspiracy that involves anything from hijacking, theft, terrorism, to someone making a drastic political statement. Even as of writing this, and in the absence of finding any parts of the plane, there are still those disputing that it really crashed.

As a writer, the underlying mystery captured my interest on many levels. Planes don't just disappear from the sky unless they crash, or...Or what? Over the last two weeks we heard it all, haven't we? From bizarre science fiction allusions to shows like Lost and Fringe, to more grounded theories about this potentially being the boldest act of theft in the history of theft.

Real life mysteries like this inspire questions in the mind of any writer. Not just about the science and technology of landing and hiding a plane while evading detection - while that was still a faint hope - but also about a whole cast of characters potentially responsible for such an arcane affair. A new breed of sophisticated terrorists, shady transnational corporations, occult societies, and megalomaniac billionaires with secret agendas. Or perhaps a hostile government seeking to reverse-engineer the plane to get a leg up in the aeronautic race. Even a lone-wolf out to settle a score or for retribution.

But what really got  the writer side of my brain in full gear was how archaic and clumsy this whole investigation came across. I am not an expert in aeronautic design but I have a strong suspicion that the average modern family today owns gadgets that are more advanced than a modern jetliner when it comes to basic "where the hell did it go" technology. Every time I see those grainy, pixelated days-old satellite photos of suspected parts of the airplane - which of course no one can seem to find given the time lapsed between the photos surfacing and the search troops heading out to find them - I can't help but recall the HD quality, real time satellites chasing Will Smith in Enemy of the State. Whatever happened to the promise of that?

As a writer, I don't just keenly observe real life for story ideas. I am also programmed to question the status quo, and to use my creative instincts to think of how existing methods of doing something can be improved on using current technologies. Let alone that history is rife with examples of writers inspiring future innovations. The mobile phone and the touch screen tablet computer first appeared on Star Trek long before they became  integral parts of our modern lives. Jules Verne is credited with the advances in the design of the modern submarine. And Tim Berners-Lee, accredited for inventing the world wide web as we know it, was supposedly inspired by a 1964 short story by Arthur C. Clarke called Dial F For Frankenstein, about networked computers that eventually begin to learn to think autonomously.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen things that can be quickly adapted to modern jetliners, to categorically surmount the problems of not knowing what happened to a plane before it disappeared, and then where to search for it after it goes off the grid. Here are just three.

Black boxes with longer battery lives
Let's start with the obvious. This one doesn't require a genius really. Why on earth in 2014 is the battery life of a black box ping signal still limited to 30 days? And get this, the leading manufacturer of black box technologies along with the airline industry are now looking to the future with a possibility of upgrading that to a whopping 90 days. It took more than two years to find the remnants of the Air France Flight 447 crash. With the advances in power technologies, like pacemakers and cochlear implants, it would seem elementary that the battery life of a black box should be stated in years, not days or months. The latest iPhone has a standby battery life of about eleven days. Which means, very crudely, with the batteries of just 33 iPhones daisy chained so one picks up when another one dies, you can  power a black box for at least one year.

Streaming video
Black boxes record the last two hours of the audio inside the cockpit, which provides critical information to investigators as to what happened before a crash. Wast it pilot error as in the case of Air France Flight 447, or possible pilot malicious intent as in the case of Egypt Air Flight 990? But with WiFi now more and more available on certain airlines and specific routes, what would it take to install streaming video that can't be deactivated by human intervention, live from a cockpit of each airplane in the sky, relayed via satellite? There's increasing speculation that Flight 370 may have become a zombie plane, where the crew and passengers were killed or rendered unconscious due to rapid decompression or smoke inhalation, leaving the plane to fly on autopilot for many hours before it ran out of fuel and crashed. But if you have eyes on the cockpit 24/7, air traffic control will know the instant something like this happens and can then take necessary action. Including piloting the plane remotely.

In fact, I would go a step further and install streaming video in the entire aircraft. I already hear some hearts stopping at the potential invasion of privacy concerns. But hear me out. We are living in an age where governments are blatantly spying on us, and a shocking number of hidden security cameras canvassing the public sphere in the name of monitoring and deterring crime. How much worse would it be to allow cameras in airplane cabins? As a passenger, your entire body can potentially be scanned or your body probed ahead of getting on a plane, so it's not such a big deal to be filmed while you're actually flying.This would preclude the unknown variables about what caused a certain passenger-instigated incident on a plane. And for those concerned about privacy, it could be mandated as law that once a plane touches ground safely, air traffic control are required to delete all in-cabin footage.

Make the entire plane a beacon riddled with communication devices
Part of the challenge of finding a downed plane that could have potentially been flying under the radar for many hours, is that there are very limited components of the plane that are communicating with the world. And then after a crash, it's essentially the black box that's speaking. But how about installing GPS enabled communication devices all over the plane that are in perpetual communication with air traffic control. That way, if the plane crashes and disintegrates into many constituent parts, you've increased your chances of finding the general location of the crash by communicating with more than that one black box. And of course if the plane hasn't crashed and is hiding somewhere, it would be a breeze to find it.

In fact, why is there just one black box, and have you seen how bulky these things are? Your average cell phone can store an incredible amount of data, and I am sure even slimmer chip-sized devices can do the same. How difficult would it be to embed the entire plane with tiny battery-powered devices that perform the same function of a black box of recording data, video and audio, and can communicate remotely if a plane crashes?

My heart goes out to the victims and families of Flight 370, but if anything good can come out of a tragedy, I hope this event is a wake up call for airplane manufacturers and major airlines to start thinking creatively and out of the box to innovate new technologies that would greatly diminish that dreaded black hole of information about what happens to a plane before and after it goes off the grid, which would ultimately make flying much safer.

Will they listen or heed any lessons from this tragedy? I truly hope so. But I get the impression that no matter how advanced planes become, the underlying communication and tracing technologies that keep track of a plane in the sky or after it goes AWOL have not evolved much since the 1970s with the introduction of the Boeing 747,  the first wide body airliner. This is possibly due to the extreme rarity of air traffic tragedies. In the end, unfortunately, it all comes down to economics. Any major innovation in plane tracking and tracing technology means additional costs that the beleaguered airline industry can hardly afford.

But tell that to the families of the crew and passengers of a plane that's been missing for more than two weeks.

Writers and readers, using your creative minds, what other innovations can you think of to make air travel safer, and to avoid a plane ever going missing?

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A.M. Khalifa's critically acclaimed debut novel, Terminal Rage, was recently described by Publishers Weekly as "dizzying, intricate, and entertaining." 

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Would You Want to Know... You?

by Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories
(Who is happily meeting readers and writers at Left Coast Crime in Monterey!)

I recently saw a chart for Successful versus Unsuccessful People. I think it could also have been for Happy versus Unhappy People, or even... drumroll... Writers You Want to Know versus Writers You Don't Want to Know.

We hear things all the time about how gracious Laura Lippman and Lee Child are. They come across to readers as generous and kind and well... writers as people who readers want in their lives. Writers as people who readers want to cheer for.

Other than the obvious—that writers write stories readers enjoy reading—here's what I've come up with:

Writers You Want to Know
Writers You Don’t Want to Know
Have a sense of gratitude
Have a sense of entitlement
Make decisions out of love (there's passion in every story)
Make decisions out of fear (they write to formula)

Take the high road
Take the expedient road
Exercise forgiveness
Hold grudges
Want others to succeed and be happy
Secretly want others to fail and be miserable
Share information and data
Horde information and data
Understand they owe their readers
Believe their readers owe them
Operate from a transformational perspective
Operate from a transactional perspective
Understand it takes a village
Believe they are the village
Trust others
Doubt others

Continuously seek to improve
Believe they’ve got everything covered
Believe in others
Believe only in themselves
Set goals
Have that sense of entitlement thing going on again
Are honest in their assessment of how hard they work
Either say they slave away 24/7 or that they simply have the magic touch
Accept responsibility for their failures
Blame others for their failures
Include as many as possible in as many ways as possible
With each ladder rung achieved, they pull the steps up behind them

Do you have issues with any of these? Disagreements are fine with me. I'm not a politician.

What would you add?

And before anyone says it, I have some friends who say they could care less about getting to know any authors. All they want is a good book. And yes, I still love them.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Left Coast Crime 2014

By Teresa Burrell
Author of The Advocate Series
March 20, 2014

Today is the first day of Left Coast Crime 2014, Calamari Crime, in Monterey, California. I love these conferences because the panels are so informative but mostly because I get to see friends who I have come to know over the past
seven years. Most of these people I see only once or twice a year so it is a real treat to catch up.

It’s especially fun to participate on panels. This year I’m on two and both are very unique. The first is on Thursday from 2:30 to 3:15. It’s called “The Truth and Nothing But: Law and Murder.” Our moderator is Daco Auffenorde and the other panelists are Susan Goldstein, Lynne Raimondo, and Robert Rotstein, all attorneys. We’ve decided to have a mock trial in which we will appear as our characters. I will be Sabre Orin Brown, but Susan Goldstein will appear as her character, Samantha Crowley, the defendant who is accused of killing her husband. We will also be dressed in character. It should be a lot of fun.
Then on Friday from 4:00 to 4:45 I have the pleasure of appearing with many of our own Crime Fiction Collective authors, Marlyn Beebe (Moderator), Peg Brantley, Gayle Carline, Andrew E. Kaufman, and L.J. Sellers. The title of our panel is “Lying for a Living: Crime Fiction Collective.” This will be a hoot. We plan to present in a format where we tell the truth with an occasional lie thrown in to see if the audience can tell the difference. Please stop in to see if you can tell when we are fabricating. You may even win a free book.

If you’ve never attended Left Coast Crime, you should. It’s a lot of fun, but more importantly I always learn something and I come home pumped and ready to write, write, write!

I hope to see you there.

Teresa Burrell
Author, Attorney, Advocate