Sunday, August 17, 2014

Today I Am Grateful

For those of you who have followed the story about my novel being plagiarized and the subsequent harassment, you know that the past two and a half weeks hasn’t been easy for me. But there have been really good things happening every day as well, and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the angels who have acted in my life:

Thanks to my husband, who manned things on the home front while I was working with attorneys or investigators—especially for taking care of our two-year-old daughter, who had dental procedures a week ago and who has been very needy. Yes, he washes dishes. I know this wasn’t the way he thought we’d begin his first weeks going part time at work so we could attempt a new business, but he rolled with the punches. And he has been so very kind and understanding about my rollercoaster emotions. He also checked the registered copyrights on all my books, and filed for any that have been revised, which gave me peace of mind.

I'm grateful to the authors at Indie Author Hub, who were supportive from the very beginning. It’s great to have people who know me so well and who are willing to go the extra mile. Thanks for the flowers and the emails. I don’t know what I would do without you! Some authors have gone above and beyond with their support, but for now they will remain nameless to protect them from harassment. You know who you are.

Thanks to bloggers Meghen and Crystal, who each had the courage to publically follow her conscience. They suffered online attacks because of it, but their integrity remains apparent to all. Also to the anonymous people who had the courage to report the infringement to me in the first place. That took courage, even anonymously.

Also To David Farland, who gave me added determination and a way to follow through on what I know I have to do. I will never forget your help.

To the investigators on this case—you have gone far above the call of duty and have held my hand every time I’ve needed it. You remain anonymous for now, but I can’t wait to write a novel about all of you because someone has got to tell this story. No one will believe all the details, but that’s okay, we know the truth about how it all unfolded.

I'm thankful that the children in the nursery today at church don't know what the word plagiarism means. It was nice to play trains and picnic and pop bubbles.

I’m also thankful for the many, many, many tips I received from people who had information that the investigators put to good use. None of you had to come forward, but you took the time, and some of it became very important.

To the authors I know personally, and the many more authors that I don’t know, both indie and trad published, who have come forward to offer support. I know I represent all of us, especially the indie authors who don't have publishers to fight these kinds of battles, and I won’t let you down. I’m glad that honesty and integrity is for the most part recognized by everyone honestly involved in the writing world, no matter our race, our gender, our genre, or where we live. Thank you for being outraged on my behalf at the idea of someone not only stealing my story but also my expression of that story.

Thanks to my readers who have sent their love my way and have encouraged me to continue writing. Without you, I really might be tempted to let myself linger in hunker-down, protection mode. But for you, I will get to that next book, I promise!

Thanks to the strangers who are not readers, friends, or acquaintances, who heard about the story and offered support. You helped a person in need, and even if you never read one of my books (or like them), I am indebted. It’s the human connection that makes the difference.

Thanks to my sister Deborah, whose sympathy and support has made me love her even more.

Thanks to Andrea, who has called me almost every day and jumped in to help wherever she was needed.

I’m grateful for my neighbor Shelli, who came running to my house when I called in a panic, and who pinpointed what I needed and lingered long enough to make sure I was okay. She also made sure my children had cheese for their sandwiches. Thanks, Shelli, and I promise to remember to eat. :-)

I’m grateful that of all the comments I’ve read online, there was only one that was unkind that couldn’t be linked directly to STM. I hope the day will come when I can proudly own any new one-star reviews again, and not worry they’re the beginning of another attack, but that may take time.

Last, but not least, thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Go Fund Me account, or who plan to participate in another way to help with legal expenses.

This list is not comprehensive. I know I’ve probably forgotten someone (or left them out on purpose for their anonymity), but my heart is full of gratitude, and that pushes out a lot of the hurt and fear. What an amazing community of authors, readers, friends, and kind strangers who are helping each other as we hurtle through this experience we call life. You are making a difference to me during this difficult time, and I wanted you to know.

THANK YOU!
Rachel Ann Nunes

If you haven't yet, please consider making a donation on the Go Fund Me account. Even five or ten dollars will help. At the very least, could you please share this on Facebook, Twitter, and other groups sites? I still need help to make this all end. Thank you!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Novel Has Been Plagiarized!

Completely Updated Post About These Events is Here.


I have left this one up only because of the comments and because it shows shows my thoughts and feelings before we discovered the plagiarist's identity.

PLEASE VISIT HERE or the GO FUND ME page for entire story, including the most recent developments concerning the story she stole from the combat vet and how she used children's names for her aliases.
**************************************************

 

My life was torn apart this week when I learned that a plagiarist known only by a logo and a fake name, stole my Christian romantic suspense novel, A Bid for Love.


Sam Taylor Mullens added steamy scenes, changed the point-of-view, and claimed my book as her own novel, The Auction Deal. Her subsequent emails to different people and contradicting statements while trying to cover her tracks show a clear plan of attack that I'm learning is used by many plagiarists—and is more outlandish than any novel I've ever read.

Proof She Stole My Book

(And you can see screenshots at the very bottom of this page)

Chapter Two, first paragraph, Rachel Ann Nunes 1998 - The dark brown curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for twenty-eight of Cassi’s twenty-nine years. They puffed out from her scalp and plunged halfway down her back as if they had lives of their own, helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the double sink reflected from the brown tresses, bringing out the subtle gold highlights.

Chapter Two, first paragraph, Sam Taylor Mullens, The Auction Deal 2014 - Dark brunette curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for the thirty-one years of my life. They puffed out from my scalp and plunged halfway down my back. They helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the sink reflected the brown tresses.
 
 

I finished my novel in late 1996, and it first came out in August 1998. It was actually the second novel accepted by my publisher, but they made me write two sequels to my first novel before they released A Bid for Love (then called Love to the Highest Bidder). As the rights to the book have returned to me, and my publisher has no continuing interest, it is up to me to make sure my copyright is protected.

 

How I Came to Discover That the Plagiarist Hiding Behind the Pen Name of “Sam Mullins” Stole My Book



Readers contacted me and told me that The Auction Deal was a copy of my book and that Mullen's was claiming to have collaborated with me. I searched for her email and sent off a message, asking for an explanation and to review her book. I hoped it was all a misunderstanding.
I also sent a few reviewers an email, asking them to either read my novel to verify if what I’d heard was true or to send me the copy of Mullens's book.
 

Shocked Reviewers Confirm My Book Was Plagiarized



Most reviewers were kind and completely professional and sympathetic like these three, but most also didn't want their names shown, which is was a good idea, it turns out. You will see below that those who did use their real names were attacked by Mullens's street team.




Meghen Barker's name used with permission. She also posted this. (Please visit and applaud her for taking a stand.)

Two Reviewers Insulted and Threatened Me - Later Confirmed as the Plagiarist's Aliases



Follow-up to this reviewer: A fellow writer contacted Sheri Dew for accuracy of this claim, please see results later in this blog after the emails exchanged with Mullens.

(This reviewer also known as Jennifer Booklover)

The Plagiarist Denies Everything 


When Mullens heard of my contacting the reviewers directly, she immediately requested that all the reviewers delete the ARC (or advance reading copy). We exchanged the following emails.

Please note what she says (in bold) about the writers group, because this directly refutes what she claims later (and my book was first published in 1998 not “the 80’s," though that’s also interesting to note because it contradicts another REALLY odd claim she makes that I’ll get to in a bit.)


Me: Okay, so I’m a little confused. If you didn’t copy my text or closely follow my plot, why would you pull the book? If you HAVEN’T used my book as a base, there shouldn’t be enough similarities to warrant any issue. Won’t you just send me an ARC so I can put it to rest for both of us? I would hate for all your hard work to go to waste. You’ve sent a lot of people ARCs. I see you have 30 reviews on Goodreads, so they’ve obviously read the book.

Mullens: I just thought not publishing it was a simple solution. The book was molded from a writing group and a dozen beta readers. Had I known they used your book from the 80's as a reference it never would have come to be. My sincerest apologies. I do not write for a living, it is a hobby. I took your word for it when you emailed me that there were concerns. I would never want any accusations of plagiarism to be made. No money has been made off the sale of this title if money is what you're after then I'm at a loss of what to tell you. I have other books in the works. These bloggers are very protective of the ARC's because of pirating issues. You're kind of freaking them out. So, please contact me first before harassing them. They don't need that!

Me: Okay, I’m still confused why you won’t send me a copy. If you never read my book (first released and copyrighted in 1998) or copied it, then there can’t be a problem, right? I don’t want any money from you. I mean, I could just turn it over to my attorney if that were the case because copyright infringement is a big deal, but I’m trying to believe what you say—that you haven’t read my book or copied it. That is what you are saying, right? I’m freaked out to have people writing reviews that could be about my novel (except the hot sex, of course). I am not accusing you of anything. I thought it could be settled in an hour if you just sent me the book. If you can do that and all is as you say, I will offer a public statement to that effect and everything can go back to the way it was. I’m certainly NOT looking to hurt anyone.
 

The Plot Twists - More Harassment and More Lies Exposed


Around that time I received a public Facebook message from Mercedes Drakos. I am not sure when a polite query became harassment, but I suppose it looks that way from the sandy ground where the plagiarist is standing.

Then a fellow author posted this information: Sheri Dew has responded to my email and has denied any knowledge or relationship with the woman who emailed Rachel threatening to take Rachel's antics to "her aunt Sheri Dew and her mother who runs TOFW outside of Utah." Sheri clarified she's friends with all of her nieces on Facebook, and no one who is related to her runs/leads TOFW—that is all handled through SLC corporate office. This whole thing just gets stranger and stranger.

 

Email From Supposed Friend of Sam Taylor Mullens

This email came from Tiffanie Rushton, who identified herself as a close friend of Mullens. She sent it by email, Facebook, and Goodreads. 



    
     (Update: Rushton was later identified as Sam Taylor Mullens.)
 

My Reaction to the Wild Claim that I Collaborated with Mullens

My first reaction when I heard that STMs had copied my book and told people we had collaborated was "Huh? Collaborated? What is she talking about?" Anyone who knows me will vouch that I’ve never collaborated on any novel. Still, could there be any truth the her claim about the man? Do you want to believe as I wanted to?



Don’t soften for a minute. As you will see next, this is part of Mullens’s scam. But before we get to the final, unbelievable ending, here are a few reactions from fellow authors:

1.    I've been active in the indie community for years and I've never heard of Mullens. Also, first book came out December 2013, so she hasn't been a part of the indie community long.

2.    A man has written a romance and then wants someone else to rewrite it—then conveniently dies in an accident?  What is this man's name?  Why does she only speak in vague terms?

3.    This person (or people) are REALLY good at manipulating and they will do anything not to get caught. Sam is not the victim here.

4.    Throughout all of this, Sam's acted the victim and cried and rallied her supporters, but if this were a true mistake, if her account was true, why wouldn't she own it?

5.    If someone isn't in publishing to make money then why would she take the time to rewrite a book by a bestselling LDS author whom she obviously knows about, get reviews before the book was available, and spend so much time to do so? Follow the money.

6.    Wouldn't any writer know that “out of print” is not the same as “up for grabs?” Besides, Rachel's book has been out on ebook (and Goodreads) for almost four years and third print edition since 2012.

7.    The novel in question is easily found under either title online, especially on Amazon and Goodreads where Mullens is so active, along with the copyright information.

I thought about it all for a while and decided to talk to my attorney and let him advise me. If there could be any kernel of truth, that Mullens could be so na├»ve, I didn’t want to hurt her, even though she (they?) had caused me so much pain and trouble.

Mullens Lies About My Family


Last night I received a message from reviewer Meghen Barker.

 

Me Again:

1.       I have no married nieces except one, whose husband isn’t a member of the LDS church. If she were writing racy romances, her parents would think it’s cool.

2.       When I finished the book in late 1996 and wrote two sequels, my oldest niece (the only married one) would have been around nine or ten and living several states away. Are people to believe that this child I saw once every three years gave me a book idea? I’ve written 46 novels all on my own. Even if she had given me an idea, she didn’t write the book. My real life writing friends who read the book in progress way back then, however, can verify that I came up with the idea and the ideas for the sequels.

3.       The LDS Church doesn’t excommunicate people for writing about sex. There are several very famous Mormons who write romance with plenty of sex and they still go to church.

4.       Why on earth would I give anyone the go ahead to plagiarize a novel that is published and has two sequels (Mullen's book is a standalone)? Before I went indie, I often reprinted my books with publishers. I depend on the income from my writing, so I’m not throwing my work out the window.

5.      Was it two years ago that a man gave Mullens the book, or was she nine when she had a wonderful idea for my novel?

6.       Wait. Didn’t she say in the email to me that her critique group led her astray with this “80’s” novel. None of my siblings were married back then and I was in high school, so I guess she gave me the idea while she was in the preexistence.

7.       Where is the attorney’s official letter and the law firm’s number we can call to verify? No attorney in the world would sign it such a letter without checking the copyright—and they aren’t going to believe such a tall tale anyway.

8.       So does she have an autistic son after all? Because my niece's son isn't autistic. (Why does this remind me of another suspicious niece story?)

9.       Even if one of my nieces had stolen my story and concocted this great tale, I would have to report her or she would never learn right from wrong and become a contributing member of society.

10.   Scroll down to the comments, if you want to see what my REAL family has to say about this imposter’s claim to be related.

Do I need to point out the ridiculousness of all this? I was going to let the whole matter die quietly and keep an eye out for the next time this book pops up, but fellow writers have encouraged me to stand up for all authors' right. I am also afraid that this won't be the end. Meanwhile, Sam Taylor Mullens is doing everything she can so a copy of her book doesn't come to light. Again, if she has nothing to hide, she should hand it over herself.


She Stole From Me, She Lied, She Harassed Me.


Meanwhile, this woman has turned my life upside down. I feel as if she's broken into my house and stolen something very dear to me—and then tried everything she can to discredit and hurt me. She's slammed my writing, threatened me professionally, and now dragged my extended family into the fray. I’m afraid to accept any new friends on Facebook because they may be her supporters who could fling more rocks and mud in my direction.

In fact, look what popped up on 8/6/21014--one-star reviews of many of my Rachel Ann Nunes novels and on my pen name Rachel Branton under two different reviewers (see screenshots and link below), Avid Reader (9 books) and Simple Book Reviews (2 books).

Complete strangers reported to me that she stole my work, not the other way around. Let’s not forget that. I have never given anyone permission to use my work in any novel. Period.


You know me. I’m not hiding my identity or making accusations that grow wilder by the moment. It’s very clear who I am. (I do publish under two pen names for my non-Christian titles—Teyla Branton for urban fantasy and Rachel Branton for romance—but that's public knowledge on my website.)

For those of you who have given me a shoulder to cry on and who have helped stand strong over this past week, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To the reviewers who have had the courage to act, I also thank you for your kindness to a stranger. 

Sincerely,
Rachel Ann Nunes
 

Update 8/9/2014:

One of STM's supporters, Bethany Booklover Johnson (from Avid Reader review--please report any information you may have on her or any of the other three "Booklover" reviewers), also publicly harassed the blogger from The Cutest Blog on the Block for speaking out against this plagiarism. She emailed authors and told them the blogger had sold ARCs and to not submit additional material to her. You can read about it here and voice your support for Crystal.
 

Update 8/11/2014:

Everything is in the hands of my attorney now. The Avid Reader one-star reviews have been taken down from Amazon, along with all her other reviews. The two reviews from Simple Book Reviews are still there (see screen shot below), but that's okay. Please know how grateful I am for all the support! I don't know how I can tell you all separately, but I have read your comments, and I don't feel alone. At the urging of my friend David Farland, we have started a GoFundMe account to help with attorney fees, and when my attorney is ready to send out a news release or update, I will post it here. For now, they want me to step back and try to get back my life a little. So thank you!

You can also support the lawsuit by clicking here, where you can buy fundraiser box sext and book under my name and my pen name (Teyla Branton and Rachel Branton). 
 

Update 8/14/2014:

Review from Simple Book Reviews have disappeared and the reviewer name on the account changed to Jennifer Greer and then later to "moonshine and books." All her other reviews are still there. Abby F., Jennifer Greer, Jennifer Booklover, and Aubrey P. have become active on the internet again, posting harassing comments. [Update: all of these were later identified asTiffanie Rushton's aliases.]
 

Update 8/16/2014:

Research has shown that on one of STM's Amazon accounts (then called Simple Book Reviews), a review was left on my plagiarized book in early May 2014. It read (complete with typos): "Why are authors uploaded their outdated books without revising them first??? The whole series is collecting dust. I'm nornmally not so brutal on a review, but this was bad. Sorry Rachel Ann Nunes - keep it on the shelf in the library not upload in this century on Amazon." (Note the writing similarities above with reviewer #5).
 

Important update 9/12/2014

I've just deleted two of the last names mentioned on the 8/14/2014 update because we learned today that STM used around a dozen of her students REAL names for these aliases. She has also stolen the story of  a combat vet. You can read a letter from his wife here.

 


Rachel Ann Nunes Chapter One
Sam Taylor Mullens Chapter One
Rachel Ann Nunes Chapter Two
Sam Taylor Mullens Chapter Two