Today I'm staying at home to oversee the total revamp of my front garden - which involved putting up a brick wall instead of a moth-eaten fence, ripping out a cracked concrete walkway that kept one of the walls of the house nice and wet, put in drainage and rip out a number of old, berserking plants that were killing everything else and also made a gamely attempt at eating the house's foundations. With an Indian sandstone path laid (framed by bricks), plants and roots removed, gravel laid and a storm drain installed, it's all looking very good at the moment. My house is no longer the one with the ugly front in the terrace.

I'm rather looking forward to "Day Two" of the work, which involves planting a new tree (I'd say camellia) to structure all that empty space, and possibly removing the last bit of wood fencing in favour of another brick wall, and after that, I'll install a hanging basket with some flowers because the front of the house does look a little empty now. It's one of those things I've saved for and that completely transforms the front of my house. Also, the builder, who's currently doing a really good job in the front is going to give me a quote for a porch and revamp of the garden in the back, which then means I'll save money to have that done later in the year. To be honest, I really want a space outside the house where I could work if I wanted (especially in summer), and it was planned since we bought the house. It's a great house, but basically needed some investment in windows, boiler, front and back. Bathroom and kitchen are projects for next year, once I've secured the funding, as they say.

So, that's really where my mind is at the moment (that, and wrapping up the edits of Dark Soul 5). However, there's a huge plagiarism debate raging in our little corner of the genre, kicked off by, as usual, Dear Author, on this post with 500+ comments.

After the "he did - he didn't", "you meany - you ignorant asshole" cycles of the usual plagiarism debate appear to have run its course (Godwin's law, the invocation of Nazi Germany was fulfilled, I'm "happy" to report), some people seem to be dismayed that TJ Klune "is getting away with it".

Personally, my own interest in the debate is that it quickly moved into the "quality debate", which I have a much bigger interest in, because, frankly, I believe the main thing holding back our genre at this point is the lack of quality editing, which includes teaching authors how to be better and eventually grow into real writerly heavyweights who can stand on the same bookshelf as good, solid, mainstream writing.

Plagiarism is an appalling act (I'd call it a crime, but technically, it isn't, I believe), but what strikes me most about it is that plagiarists are actually pretty unhappy. Let me explain. The last big plagiarism case I followed was the rip-off of James Bond and other novel series by the Big Guns into a book called "Assassin of Secrets". Little, Brown, NOT a small publisher, was fooled into buying what sounds very much like a "best of" of Ian Fleming and his peers. So, it happens to much larger houses than the very young publishers in the m/m space - which is not me insinuating that the current thing IS a case of plagiarism, and in the following, I'm moving away from that specific case entirely. It was just a starting point for some more fundamental thoughts.

Bear with me, I'm pulling this whole thing together in the end.

Plagiarism has happened in our genre before and it's not a trait of indie publishing at all, or the fault of any specific publisher. As a publisher myself, this is an absolute nightmare scenario and extremely damaging (which is why Riptide's contract is phrased in a way that we're financially protected from this kind of earthquake).

What I found striking about Markham (or even Manning, quoted in the Dear Author article right at the start) is that plagiarists are actually really miserable people. Markham's career is ruined - I don't imagine he can ever publish another thriller.

There's a long article about the fall-out from the Assassin of Secrets blow-up (I'm looking for the link and may add once I've found it), that details why Markham did it, what he felt, how it has affected his real life. There's a lot of self-loathing in there, fear of failure, and fear of rejection.

I don't think plagiarist are totally sane, well-adjusted or happy people. Based on articles and from what I've learnt watching cheaters and thieves, it's usually not them being brazen-balled egomaniacs (yes, some writers are sociopaths, but I imagine they are rare, because writing requires a level of introspection/self-critique that I don't think many sociopaths have).

It's them being terribly afraid that they'll be found out, and they can't even enjoy the fruits of their labour, because they know it's not THEIR labour. They are not writers. They are just thieves. Every time they get an email saying "I loved your book" should feel like a red-hot needle piercing their heart. They know they cheated, that they haven't achieved anything but fooling some good people and wasting everybody's time. Deep down, plagiarists are very unhappy people, even if they sell a lot of books, even if they get away with it. The fear of being found out and the fundamental knowledge that they act like scum ruins those sweet moments of success. In a funny way, plagiarism is its own true punishment.

There's a lot of dignity for a writer in writing; in working hard, in being disciplined, humble, critical, in doing all the work as it should be done. We're the last artisans - we'll be left when everything else is being manufactured by machines. Every piece we do is a piece of craft that bears witness to our growth as people and to every month of commitment to our craft.

I think we as writers can learn much from the Japanese "do" system - where constant practice strives towards perfection, even it it might never get there. Practicing one craft with discipline, humility and diligence is its own reward. In Kyo-do, the path of the bow, students take weeks and months just to learn how to stand properly, and I've heard that in traditional Kyo-do, you don't actually shoot your first arrow before you've gone through two years of practice. Writing can be the same - we write a lot before we're anywhere near aiming for a publisher.

What I learn about myself while writing (and trying to write better) is astonishing. I wouldn't learn any of this if I'd rip off a book or a story. I'd feel the other artist's passages like burning coals in my flesh (that's how I feel about some rewrites one editor did to one of my books, and once I have the rights back, I'm reversing that change). Above all, I'm aiming to be a better writer and the best I can, and that's a process of self-discovery and self-discipline that knows absolutely no shortcuts.

So, to bring this to an end - I absolutely believe that plagiarism needs to be called out and named and shamed and punished. (And, again, I'm not commenting on the current suspected case.)

At the end of the day, however, even the undiscovered and unpunished plagiarist suffers from their actions, because although they want to be nothing more than writers, they know they aren't real writers. They are impostors who are so terribly afraid and so weak and conflicted that only another writer's strength can provide enough armour. But it's not their armour, their strength, their beauty. They are like the guy in Greek myth, who, cursed by the gods, dies of thirst surrounded by water.[image error]
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Published on March 01, 2012 11:40 • 442 views
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This is why you are the writer and I'm the reader. You get down into the guts of it and then lay everything I want to say out in perfect words. So I can do one word: YES!

The garden stuff sounds great too. Have fun with it!


Little Butterfly εïз Love to read about your gardening. Your front garden must have been crowded with workers to get all that done in one day!


message 3: by Christina (new)

Christina Have fun working outside Aleks! Winter's not done for me, just got 6 inches of snow overnight and it's still falling :(

As for the plagiarism, it's a very sad situation all around.


Little Butterfly εïз I agree Christina, it's just sad.
I can't see why they are doing it, with blogs etc. everything comes out sooner or later.


message 5: by W.F. (new)

W.F. Alexandr wrote: "There's a long article about the fall-out from the Assassin of Secrets blow-up"

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20...

"The Plagiarist's Tale" in New Yorker magazine.

I read that a couple of weeks ago. Is that the article you were looking for?


message 6: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov WF -No, but that article brought me to my original source, thank you!

http://www.thefix.com/content/confess...


message 7: by Wade (new)

Wade I think it took me 20 minutes to read this post. Wow. Well said :)


message 8: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov Sorry about the gardening spam. :)


message 9: by Dani (new)

Dani Alexander I'm so glad you addressed the issue of quality and in so many better words than I. It's been a stick in my craw for a while. I see such beautiful stories and such potential in our corner of the world, and I feel a lot of it is squandered an overlooked and bypassed.

Oh blah. This is why I don't edit. I just wrote an 800 word response and deleted it.

The basic premise: Yeah, what you said, Aleks. We, as a genre of gay fiction, need to do better on the whole.


message 10: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov I think the more we have the quality discussion, the better we'll do. We might also need more coaching, more "how to" books, more workshops and less big ugly egoes that are all "who the fuck cares? I GOT PUBLISHED!" or types that go "who cares - it's ONLY ROMANCE!"

I want to punch these people. Hard. Take some pride in your work, because it will live longer than you and be the main thing that people will remember you by or get to know you by. For m,any people out there, that fiction IS the author.


message 11: by Wade (new)

Wade Gardening is cool ;)

I was inspired to hop over to the link you left. I've not read BOATK but I own a eCopy. (TBR file) I was going to read it in March. (Oh, it's March.) I HAVE seen Shelter and love that flick in fact. (Trevor Wright, oh yeah!) But now I will have to see what I think. I know sometimes plots come out of my head and with all the movies and books out there I always wonder if "it's been told before"? My stuff is "autobiographical" in sooo many ways, yet as I talk to people, there are some who have had some similar experiences. How can you know?

But all the stuff you say about plagiarism is interesting! Thank you for your thoughts :)


message 12: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov Oh, definitely - it's one of the reasons why I stay away from fiction set in whatever setting/world/time I'm writing in (I do read a lot of non-fiction, diaries and contemporary sources), and only read/watch the others after I'm done (I finished Dark Soul and went on a mafia movie binge). This can happen, but I think it's a good litmus test to ask yourself "where is the inspiration behind this".

For example, I was aware that "Scorpion" owes some inspiration to Glen Cook's Black Company - the mood, above all, but they are totally different books (I re-read the first few and, yes, totally different, but I did make sure). It's part of making yourself aware what you're doing - the Muse can be murky, but you can explore it, like, sometimes, you only understand the "moral" or the "theme" of your novel after the fact or when people start to comment on it (but then, I'm a total pantser and HAVE to mistrust myself and my sources and make myself very aware where my inspiration was).


message 13: by Aiko (new)

Aiko Aleksandr wrote: "I want to punch these people. Hard. Take some pride in your work, because it will live longer than you and be the main thing that people will remember you by or get to know you by. For many people out there, that fiction IS the author. "

I'll hold while you punch. I'll help for different reasons though, as a reader there's really nothing more disrespectful to hear than "oh who cares, it's only romance".


message 14: by Dani (new)

Dani Alexander Aleksandr wrote: "I think the more we have the quality discussion, the better we'll do. We might also need more coaching, more "how to" books, more workshops and less big ugly egoes that are all "who the fuck cares?..."

Yes, it's only romance, but romance is epic. Almost everyone knows the name "Nora Roberts". I can't think of one m/m author who everyone recognizes their name outside our niche. (No, I don't count Suzanne Brockman, she writes het and dabbles in m/m). Damon Suede comes to mind, but how widespread outside of GR is he known? We should be front and center. At the very least, one of our authors should be out there, publicly known, landing on NYT best seller list. Or hell, landing on Amazon's top 20 list.

And we damn well shouldn't be excluded from contests. Because next the pretense will be that our content doesn't match up to the quality. That's how they'll couch their prejudice. We have to be better. That's always the way of the minority.

Eep. I'm soapboxing. blah. *flees*


message 15: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov If I'd be writing microwave manuals, I'd still do the damned best job I can. It's absolutely a matter of honor and respect.


message 16: by Wade (new)

Wade Aleksandr wrote: "This can happen, but I think it's a good litmus test to ask yourself "where is the inspiration behind this"."

I guess it's a good thing that I don't normally read when I write, and all my characters so far are aspects of my own personality taking a "human" form. (Albeit in print.) I write my own experiences. Tragically. I would hope no one could say, "That happened to me!" verbatim because that would not only be ironic but so so sad. I want no one to go through things I have, or things I've witnessed. I write FICTION but it's based in my non-fiction life.

And Aiko.... Yeah, How dare they say ONLY ROMANCE! pft!


message 17: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov Wade - As Hemingway said: "We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it — don't cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist."

(I'm not a fan of his, but I've learned this quote by heart)


message 18: by Dani (new)

Dani Alexander Aleksandr wrote: "If I'd be writing microwave manuals, I'd still do the damned best job I can. It's absolutely a matter of honor and respect."

Yeah, I wouldn't write microwave manuals because I'd be asleep in ten minutes =D. Not sure I could ever give that my best writing. But maybe that's the subject some are overlooking? Perhaps the problem is lack of passion for the subject? Maybe some are cashing in on trends instead of writing what most fills their heart?


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Hemingway has some good quotes, even if you don't particularly like his writing *raises hand*. I think of you when I see this one:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

although this is good too:

“Write drunk; edit sober.”

Or perhaps this should be sent to those authors who think they should be able to write unedited:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

Okay, okay, I'll stop. Are you going to post pictures of your yard when you've finished? I hope the monster vine was one of the things that went to plant heaven.


message 20: by Wade (new)

Wade Aleksandr wrote: "Wade - As Hemingway said: "We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it — don't cheat with ..."

It's a good quote! And I PLAN TO! WLINE was the pain I FELT, no one else's!


message 21: by Darkm (last edited Mar 02, 2012 12:07AM) (new)

Darkm I tried to stay a bit distanced from the whole debate, and I don't know if in this case there was plagiarism or not, but on the whole, I agree with every word you wrote. If you steal something, even if no one finds out, you know you have, and you have to live with it. Good luck with that. I just hope people can learn from their errors. (Again, no idea if this is the case or not, this is my general opinion on the matter).

As for the garden, I'm glad is coming out as you planned. :) You could probably put some rose trellis in the front of the house if it looks a bit empty now. With the climate you have those should be perfect. I love the idea of the Camelia tree as well. White, red or the mixed variety?


message 22: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Cothern Aleksandr wrote: "We might also need more coaching, more "how to" books, more workshops and less big ugly egoes that are all "who the fuck cares?..."

I couldn't agree more! This is one of the reasons that my favorite part of attending conventions is sitting on the writers panels. Seeing so many aspiring authors attend the panels and how excited (and hungry!) they are to learn is awesome. Still, I think that is the minority, not the majority, since many writers do not attend a lot of conventions.

I also never turn down an invite to the Indie Author How-To web radio show. What my friend Lakisha Spletzer is doing in trying to educate inspiring authors is wonderful. It's a shame that there are not more authors who "pay it forward."


message 23: by Kassandra (new)

Kassandra The plague of mediocrity goes out further than just in m/m lit. I am consistently let down by a good portion of books that get put on the shelves these days. IMHO I think all series should have an end to them and the ones that go on for FUCKING ever (no matter how much I loved the first 5-6 in the series) loose quality over time *shrug*. AND don't even get me started on the atrocity of the music that becomes popular now.

Perhaps I am just getting old?


message 24: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov I guess we're just getting old. (I man, the books I was crazy for in my teenage years....?)


message 25: by Kassandra (new)

Kassandra Aleksandr wrote: "I guess we're just getting old. (I man, the books I was crazy for in my teenage years....?)"

Lol, beside the occasional Shakespeare I read the fluff of paranormal.........Christopher Pike, L.J. Smith (yes I read the Vampire Diaries WAY before it was cool, lol) etc.....then I found Anne Rice my senior year, wow, what a difference.


♥Laddie♥ (Lee Lee) Is it bad that my favorite part of this post was the "beserker plants" that were killing all of the other plants?


message 27: by Aleksandr (new)

Aleksandr Voinov Laddie - You weren't exposed to them. It was rather gruesome. :)


♥Laddie♥ (Lee Lee) Aleksandr wrote: "Laddie - You weren't exposed to them. It was rather gruesome. :)"

Lol! This has given me a wonderful idea for a drawing.


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