Thursday, July 10, 2014

Atypical is Fine By Me

I got up this morning feeling pretty good and then I made the mistake of checking my email, wherein I received a note from a woman who does not know me, personally, but only in the virtual realm.  In a nutshell, she blasted me about the fact that I enjoy celebrating Halloween.  Each year my husband and I throw a Halloween party and, I'll be honest, I look forward to it.  In fact, I LOVE it!  Fall is my favorite season and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays (second only to Christmas).  For me, Halloween is about costumes, cocktails and candy.  It's a time to be creative with decorations, to light hundreds of candles, to dress up and spend one evening a year hanging with friends and family in an atypical environment.

The woman who wrote to me didn't take any of that into consideration.  She only focused on the fact that I am a Christian and chose to cast judgment by writing:  "A Christian with a true heart for the Lord doesn't celebrate a pagan holiday because it offends the spirit of God that dwells inside every believer." 

The email was somewhat lengthy because she took the time to share with me why celebrating Halloween is "wrong."  I won't bore you with the details, as a quick Google search will provide plentiful information of its pagan origin.  I do, however, want to point out that in one simple sentence (the one I quoted above), this woman implied that I did not have a "true heart for the Lord" nor that the Spirit of God dwells inside of me.  Wow!  What happened to "Thou Shalt Not Judge?"

There was a time when I would have felt the need to defend my beliefs, but that time is gone.  I don't care what this woman or anyone in the so-called "church" thinks of me.  My "Christianity" is a private matter between me and God.  My love for Him and His for me is personal and cannot be held nor defined by stigma, rules or superficial expectations.  It is atypical and I like it that way.

So, to the woman who wrote to me I would say only this:  Tout your religion elsewhere...because my relationship with the Lord has nothing to do with religious regulations.  And shame on you for being a judgmental 'BeOtch.'  Can you not see that it is people like you that give Christianity a bad name? It is judgmental behavior like yours that causes people to run from God instead of toward Him?  If you don't feel that celebrating Halloween is "right" then don't celebrate it.  That's your choice and that's fine.  But, just because you have made a choice for your life does not mean you have the right to condemn those that have made a different choice for their life.  Christianity is about loving others, not about trying to convince others that your way is the right way and they should all agree with you. When will the typical church wake up and realize that true Christianity is nothing more than love at work in individual and often very private ways?  Touting signs, taping mouths, sending emails, condemnation and fear tactics, etc.... these drive a wedge and cause more damage than good.  Love is the key and love is the answer. 

As for Halloween...or any holiday for that matter... it is what you make it.  Halloween is only a pagan celebration if you honor it as such.  Just like Christmas can either be about Jesus's birth or about Santa Clause and presents.  Easter can be about Jesus's death and resurrection or about a large bunny who hides eggs.  Holidays mean what you make them mean.  There is no blanket judgment that fits all, nor should there be.  It's your heart, your focus, your life and no one has a right to speak into it...certainly not in the name of God.  If God has something to say to you, He'll say it on His own. 

BTW, I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the Bible against cocktails, costumes and candy...so, bring on the Halloween festivities; and if that makes me an atypical Christian, hallelujah!  There is no greater compliment in this day and age than to say I do not belong amid the "typical" Christians.  Atypical is fine by me.   ~ 







  



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Re-Post on Why I Left Vanilla Heart Publishing

I have been asked to re-post this story about Vanilla Heart Publishing and their unethical business practices; so here it is.  If you are an author seeking a publisher or if you know of an author seeking representation, please read this and heed the warning.  Vanilla Heart is not the only small press publishing company guilty of these charges.  Do your homework before signing a contract with ANYONE.  Protect your rights and your work from scam artists and liars like Kimberlee Williams and Vanilla Heart Publishing.


In October 2010 I signed a contract with Vanilla Heart Publishing to publish my debut novel, No Easy Way, which was nominated for the 2010 Molly Award by the Heart of Denver Romance Writers. 


In August 2013, eight novels later, I terminated my relationship with Vanilla Heart Publishing on the grounds of a severe breach of contract, misrepresentation, fraud and theft pertaining specifically to Articles #5, #7, #10, and #11 of the contract.


During my stay at Vanilla Heart, I upheld my end of the agreement.  I continued to write novels, producing eight in less than three years.  I continued to submit my novels to Vanilla Heart first, as per our contract she was entitled to a thirty day right of first refusal on all Just Call Me Angel books.  I continued to blog, participate in blog tours, promote and market my work through book clubs, book signings, holding contests and networking via numerous social media outlets (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Instagram, etc.)  In return for my loyalty, I was lied to, manipulated and used.


Upon confronting Vanilla Heart Publishing with the breach of contract, misrepresentation and fraudulent activity, I was given no apology for wrongdoing nor was there an admission of remorse whatsoever.  Instead, I was sent a list of termination items wherein it was stated that I was “not to discuss the Author’s Group or any information from that group, or discuss Vanilla Heart Publishing, nor speak as an agent or former agent of the publisher, either by verbal, written, or electronic communication with any persons, groups, or agents.” It goes without saying that I did not agree to this and, per the advice of my attorney, informed Vanilla Heart that all statements that are factual, unbiased and can be proven with subpoenaed records, email correspondence or any other written form of communication do not fall into the category of slander or libel and are allowable for discussion in any setting, person-to-person, blog, group format or social media.   


My attorney is now in the process of reviewing back royalty statements from all of the distribution channels and thus far the information I have received from Vanilla Heart Publishing does not come close to matching the real reports in number of books sold nor in amount of money owed.  I sit amazed at how I have been ripped off for almost three years.  It saddens and angers me.

I requested royalty statements from Vanilla Heart at least eight documented times since October 2010.  Every statement was falsified.  Every paycheck came months late.  I never even received a statement for 2012 from Vanilla Heart and the check I received doesn’t match the distributor’s royalty records for the quarterly periods during that time.  Each time I requested a statement or a check I was promised it and then given an excuse as to why it would be late.  The excuses ranged from severe medical issues to a gardening accident and countless laptop crashes, an accountant who allegedly printed the reports too small to be read and the post office that lost checks or statements along the way.  Every excuse added to the sour pit growing in my stomach.  Still, I wanted to believe that everything was on the up-and-up; but, over time,  there were just too many red flags.




Little did I know, but several of the Vanilla Heart authors were experiencing the same frustrations I was.  No statements.  Late checks.  Excuses galore.  The problem was, for a long time, none of us communicated with one another.  We didn’t compare notes and that’s exactly how Vanilla Heart wanted it.  Manipulative phone calls from the Publisher psychologically pitted one author against another.  “She’s the next one I’m getting rid of,” was said to me on several occasions, referring to fellow Vanilla Heart authors.  The Publisher made a point to let everyone know who was in her “Core Group” and who was not.  I was in the Core Group and I think that was one of the reasons it never dawned on me that she might be breaching our contract at all, much less in so many ways.  I was made to feel “special” as if we had more than just a business relationship…as if we were “friends.”  Friends don’t steal from or lie to friends, my mind would justify… but the red flags waved.




It wasn’t until two of the Core Group authors left within a short period of time that I mustered up the courage to start asking questions and digging deeper into what was going on.  I dug out every contract, read through every email, analyzed my notes from phone calls, etc.  Every hour spent researching deepened the pit in my stomach and leant proof to the revelation I didn’t want to face:  Vanilla Heart was guilty.


Guilty of copyright infringement.

Guilty of breach of contract.

Guilty of misrepresentation of intent.

Guilty of fraud.

Guilty of theft. 


On August 10, 2013 under the guidance of my attorney, a termination letter was sent to Vanilla Heart Publishing.  A complaint was filed with the Washington Attorney General’s Office and DCMA Take Down Notices and Perjury Statements sent to every distributor that carried my books under the Vanilla Heart imprint.  All books in all formats were pulled from the market.  The distributors worked quickly to make this right, as their policy is first and foremost to protect the intellectual property of the author. 

I want to give a shout out to the employees at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit and Payloadz who were amazing in getting my attorney the information we needed (and I deserved) and in helping to protect my intellectual property rights going forward.  These people were absolutely amazing and I am grateful to all of them. 

My publisher used to call Amazon “Damazon” and always told me how slow and non-responsive they were.  That must have been a lie too…because after this experience, I would dub them “Amaz(ing)on.”


So, why am I writing this blog?  Because I feel a moral obligation to warn other writers who are as na├»ve as I was and can become easy prey.  The warning signs were there, but I didn’t see them…or I choose to look the other way.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  

As an author, you deserve to have your books registered with the U.S. Copyright office.  You deserve a signed contract on every book.  You deserve to have timely statements and timely royalty payments and those statements and payments should match down to the penny.  You deserve a publisher who will protect your rights and who will not breach your contract.  You deserve a publisher who will conduct business in an ethical and moral manner, not hide behind excuses and outright lies.  You deserve better than Vanilla Heart Publishing.

In the past two months, seven authors have left Vanilla Heart… all of which were a part of the “Core Group.”  Some of us have found other publishers who have picked up our work.  I’ve signed with Global Publishing Group and my books will be back on the market in all formats by the end of the week. Others have decided to self-publish and still others are so shell-shocked they haven’t decided what to do.  What happened to us wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right, but we are all dedicated writers and will come out on top.

The moral of the story is:  Stay away from Vanilla Heart Publishing.

~








Thursday, May 22, 2014

"How May I Ignore You Today?"

There is no difference between business ethics and personal ethics… for there is nothing more personal than how you treat others in business.  The two cannot be separate.

Over the years, with the advancement of technology, we have lost a certain element of that personal touch.  In front of our computer screens we don’t feel a firm handshake or see the sparkle in the other person’s eyes as they greet you with a smile.  Behind our computer screens, we are forced to guess at intonation and intention; and it is often difficult.  At the same time, technology allows us to communicate faster and more frequent.  Questions can be answered in a matter of minutes.  Contacts are organized and easy to find.  No more manual digging through an address book.  No more answering a phone without knowing who is calling.  Information is at our fingertips, allowing us to navigate our way through life without ever having to pull out a Rally’s road map and spread it across the dashboard.  No more waiting for film to be developed so you can see if you got a good picture.  Results are now instantaneous… and so are expectations. 

With advancement comes a whole set of new challenges.  Today I want to talk about email in particular…

If I walked into your office and sat down in front of you and said, “I need help.”  Would you spin your office chair so that your back was to me and ignore the fact that I was sitting there?   Of course you wouldn’t… but when you don’t respond to an email that is asking for help, you have done just that.

If I stopped you in the hallway to ask you a question, would you turn your head away from me and keep walking, ignoring the fact that I am standing there?  Of course not…but when you don’t respond to an email that has posed a question, you have done just that.

In our world today, email has replaced a great deal of our face-to-face communication.  Whether you think this is right, wrong or indifferently doesn’t matter…it is a fact we cannot avoid.  The rules are simple:  If you would not ignore a person standing in front of you then you should not ignore an email they have sent to you.  That email represents them sitting in your office asking you for help.  That email represents them reaching out to shake your hand and introduce themselves.  That email represents a personal smile or a heartfelt tear.  Whatever the case may be, in today’s world of technology, ignoring an email is as rude as turning your back on someone who is standing right in front of you.


Some people seem to think a lack of time is a justifiable reason to not respond; but this is unacceptable behavior.  Everyone has time to acknowledge the receipt of an email.  If there isn’t time to answer the question or type the necessary response, then simply type:  “I’ve read your email and will get back to you shortly.”  Then, make certain that you flag it and respond when it is more convenient for you.  This is acceptable.  The important thing is that you have acknowledged the person’s presence.  It would be like me popping my head into your office and asking a question, to which you would respond, “I have a meeting right now, but let’s discuss it later this afternoon.”  Perfectly acceptable.

Responses are validation.  A simple acknowledgment is all that is needed.

When there is no response, and particularly when emails are continually ignored, it sends a definitive message.  It says, “I don’t care about your issue.”  It says, “You’re not important enough for me to take the time to respond.”  It says, “Go away.” 

No response speaks volumes.  It hurts feelings.  It belittles.  It degrades.  It sends a message you would never send in a face-to-face setting… so why, then, do you think it is okay in a virtual setting?

Between my personal email, my author email, and my FB inbox mail, I receive anywhere from 150-200 emails every day.  I don’t respond to the ones who are trying to sell me something or to the group emails… but I do respond to every single personal email sent to me.  I don’t always feel like it and I don’t always have time, but I do it because I never want to make someone feel like they aren’t important or that they do not matter.  Email is no different than if you walked into my office and sat in the chair across from me.  I would not ignore you in person and I will not ignore you online. 

There should be no difference between how you would treat someone in person and how you treat them online.  Is your business model "How May I Help You Today?" or "How May I Ignore You Today?" ~




Friday, April 18, 2014

An "Action of Love" ...Not Really

I often wonder what travels through the minds of people.  I'm sure others wonder this about me as well.  It's human nature to be curious and to seek understanding.  I also wonder how it is that some people can so easily judge under the guise of "love."  How they can put so much time and effort into something that, when that time and effort is stripped away, is nothing more than a foundation of judgment, hidden in what is supposed to be seen as an action of love.  How is it that they believe it is their job or their right to take this action...even if it came from a place of love...Judgment rolled in love is still judgment.  Condemnation rolled in love is still condemning.

As I sip my coffee this morning and pray for a softer heart and understanding... the twinge in my gut and the nausea in my stomach is a sad confirmation of my initial reaction to this "act of love."  I pray for a way to define what I'm feeling so that I can dissect it, cut through the emotion and think rationally.  The word that keeps penetrating my thoughts is arrogance.

This "action of love" was dripping with arrogance and it sent a red flag soaring in my spirit.  Asking myself if I would ever do the same, the answer is a resounding no.  I wouldn't...but not because the thought behind it wasn't special...but because the river of arrogance carrying that thought is something to which I cannot relate.  I would never deem myself worthy enough to take this action.  I would never assume that I knew better than everyone else and that it was my duty to pass my knowledge, my perspective, my beliefs, my interpretations, and my outlooks onto them.  I would never assume that I knew more than anyone else.

How can an act of love send such a crushing blow?

Often times when judgment is dolled out under the pretense of love, we try to use that affection to justify the judgment; but it cannot.  There is no justification.  There is no blanket of love large enough to mask or hide the true spirit behind the action.

I don't sit here in anger this morning... I sit here in sadness.  Once more, arrogance has reared it's ugly head and taken out the feet of those it encountered.  Out of love, you say?

No.  Love waits and speaks when asked.  Love doesn't force or assume a position that is not theirs to assume.  Love doesn't push. Love doesn't drive a wedge.  "Love is patient and kind.  It does not envy or boast and it is not proud."

Thought, time and effort can be beautiful actions of love but only when they are not dipped in utter arrogance, laced with condemnation and a raw, hurtful action of judgment.

#crushed

 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why Size DOES Matter


After taking my kids to school, I usually saunter back into the house, re-fill my cup of black coffee so it’s piping hot and sit down at my computer.  First, I check my personal email, then my author email and then I open Facebook.  I had just taken a sip of hot coffee when I opened my FB email and saw this picture with a notation that read, "My dick is hard."




I added the black rectangle over his face just so he might have a tiny hope of deniability.  I won’t tell you the fellow’s name, but I am certain that since he sent his naked, full frontal picture to me, a complete stranger, that he is quite comfortable with it being posted online. 

After regaining my composure from almost spewing coffee all over my computer screen, I sent the picture to my husband with a comedic notation.  Then, I stared at the picture for a moment and let the thoughts drift in and out of my mind.

Who DOES this?  That was my first thought.  I’m not judging, as I, in no way, have a conservative, innocent or even remotely demure history…and yet, I can honestly say that I have never photographed my genitalia and emailed it to anyone.  Interesting.

Why do this?  Certainly there is a reason…right?  I mean, when one sends a picture of one’s genitals to another person they are hoping for a response. 

Why choose me?  This is where the real analysis begins.  See, on my FB profile it clearly states that I am a married woman.  There’s a link to my husband’s FB page and a quick jaunt through any of my photos testifies to the fact that our marriage is currently intact, stable and happy.  So I have to ask myself, if you’re going to send a picture of your privates to a woman, wouldn’t you choose one that is single with a greater propensity to give you the response which you are seeking?  I clearly am not the wisest demographic choice.  Then again, my ego is not so inflated as to believe I was the only woman to be graced with the presence of his penis first thing this morning.  One must assume that this picture was sent to every female “friend” on his Facebook account, thereby rendering a verdict of desperation.  How desperate does someone have to be in order to take a picture of their genitals and email it to strangers?  Now I just feel sad for the guy.

What response did he want?  Here’s the big question.  There are limited options as to how this thing can play out.  I mean, he has to know this…right?  He’s obviously intelligent enough to work his camera phone, so one can assume he must have had some forethought as to what might happen:   A) He gets ignored.  B) He gets reported for spam.  C) He gets blocked.  D) I actually respond, telling him that he has the best penis I’ve ever seen, that I am drawn to his utter manliness and that I must meet him in person so we can titillate between the sheets.   Just so we’re clear, I opted for (C).   Though, I do wonder if he ever thought he might end up as the center of attention in someone’s blog?  Maybe this is the response he was seeking after all?

How confident do you have to be?  This is the part I truly do not understand and to which I cannot relate.  The human body is considered a work of art and can be deemed sexy at times.  That being said, with regards to 99.99999% of the population, nudity alone is not sexy.  The circumstances in which a person becomes nude can be sexy, their personality can add to the sexiness, and good lighting doesn’t hurt; but to watch a great percentage of human beings walk around naked is not arousing.  If you don’t believe me, go visit a nudist colony.  Years ago I visited one in Malibu and I can honestly attest to the fact that most of the people there had no business being naked in public.  I also walked on a nude beach in Mexico, thinking surely the nudists who take beach vacations will look better naked than most of the human race, but this was not the case.  So, how confident do you have to be to strip down, take a picture of your penis and email it to strangers?  More confident than even the nudists, who parade around with their dinghies flapping in the wind and soaking up the sun?  Wow.  I envy that level of confidence.

Which brings me to my final thought:  Know your competition.   Our world is saturated with pornography and whether you think it right or wrong doesn’t matter; it exists nonetheless.  So, if you’re going to send out pictures of your body parts, you might want to first analyze the competition and make certain your parts are up to par.  Otherwise, it’s just embarrassing.  I, personally, don’t enjoy pornographic movies.  They’re incredibly redundant.   I do, however, appreciate photographs that are professionally done and tactful, i.e. the beautiful model on the beach with the wind blowing her long hair backwards and her hands delicately covering her breasts, or the shape of her ass silhouetted against the sunset.  I’m not anti-nudity.  I just think there is a time and a place and if you’re going to get naked, by God, make it look as good as you can.  Sitting in an office chair, displaying a penis that is no bigger than my thumb isn’t probably your best look.

While we’re on the subject, let’s face another harsh reality.  Men, size DOES matter…especially in photographs.   We’ve all heard the old adage:  “It’s not the size of the train, it’s the power of the engine.”  That’s all fine and dandy if you can make that small train do mighty things in the bedroom.  But, trust me, refrain from taking pictures of your tiny Thomas, because women want to see you soft at heart, not below the waist.  ~


    



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Make Spring Break Suspenseful

The Candy Shop has been selling like crazy and I'm very excited!  Thank you to all of my readers and please remember to write a review and post it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords or wherever you ordered your copy.

If you haven't read it yet, pick it up or download it today.  It's a great way to add a little suspense to your Spring Break!  :)



"One decision can change everything."





Wednesday, March 5, 2014

An Excerpt from the Upcoming Sequel to House of Lies


An excerpt from the upcoming sequel to House of Lies…




     Tess depressed the button that made the back of her hospital bed sit up a little straighter and then narrowed her eyes at Shane.  “All you wanted to do was steal my joy.  I was happy until you started nosing around in my business!  What concern is it of yours anyway?”
     Shane swallowed hard because she didn’t want her answer to come from a place of anger, but from the love that she felt deep down.  “I want nothing more than your happiness and I’m sorry that you think I have somehow robbed you of joy.” 
     Rising from the bedside chair, Shane turned toward the door.  Maybe Braznovich was right.  Maybe it was time to give up the fight to save her sister.  No!  Not yet!  Her inner voice screamed and taking only two steps, she whirled back around to face Tess.  “It was my concern because I love you.  I looked into what you were so deeply into because I cared for your wellbeing.  I saw it destroying our family and your life and all I wanted you to do was open your eyes and see what was happening before it was too late.” 
     “You wouldn’t have been happy until I gave up everything that was important to me!”  Tess seethed.  “I’m not going to do that.  I’m never going to do that, no matter how horribly you persecute me!” 
     Shane fought the lump rising in her throat and tried to calmly continue.  She silently reminded herself that her sister was brainwashed and that the deception she had been living under would not be undone overnight. It was going to take time.  “I didn’t ask you to stop believing what you believe or even to stop doing what you do.  I only asked that you would take some time to study it from an objective perspective so that you would fully understand the hold that it had on you.  The hold it obviously still has on you.”
     “I don’t feel that God is telling me to study it,” Tess rebutted.
     Shane had heard this excuse one too many times and it grated her like nails on a chalkboard.  She stormed to the other side of the bed, pulled open the bedside table top drawer and took out the Gideon Bible.  Tossing the Bible unto Tess’s bed, Shane blurted, “Look up James 1:5.”
     “I don’t need to look it up.  I already know what it says,” Tess spat.  “‘If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach; and it will be given him.’” Tess gloated.  “I don’t lack wisdom.  You do.”
     Shane’s breath caught in her chest as a realization rushed over her.  She wasn’t talking to her sister.  Not really.  She was talking to the demonic, blinding stronghold that had taken over Tess.  She could see it in the hollow stare of her sister’s gaze.  Tess’s body was here but whoever or whatever was peering from behind her eyes was not Tess.
     Slowly backing toward the door, Shane fought to keep her composure. “Maybe you’re right.  Maybe I should go and ask God for more wisdom.”
     An evil smile spread across Tess’s face and sent a chill darting up the back of Shane’s neck, the same chill she had felt when she stood face-to-face with Maxwell Sagan.  ~