“It must have been fate.”
Yesterday I mentioned that my research into both the Kelly O’Donnell scam and the Deering scam had brought me into contact with several people: Kim from Write Connection, Jim Fisher, the former FBI agent, and Victoria Strauss, a SFWA member who writes fantasy novels (and GOOD ones, too!). Victoria had started a website called Writer Beware.
As I found out more and more about scams, I decided that SFWA should make information available to aspiring writers to help them avoid writing scams. Science fiction and fantasy has a tradition that was handed down by Robert Heinlein (one of the most important s.f. writers of all time), of “paying forward.”
Mr. Heinlein put it like this: “You can never pay back the people who helped you when you were starting out as a writer. You can only pay forward.”
SFWA’s bylaws contain wording about “educating the public” about writing and s.f. publishing. I decided that SFWA really should take an official interest in helping aspiring authors avoid writing scams, since no other professional writers group seemed to give a hoot. (And this is still true, I’m afraid.)
Jim Fisher told me the sobering fact that scams aimed at separating aspiring writers from their hard earned money were the fastest proliferating “new” con game on the internet. Millions of dollars were being lost every year to these fraud artists. It was a very sobering thought.
Even as the anti-Deering writers group gained momentum, and law enforcement began, at long last, to show some signs of taking an interest, Kim of the Write Connection was forced to shut down. She was literally under seige of lawsuits from several of the wealthier scam agents, such as Cynthia Sterling of Lee Shore, Kelly O’Donnell, and Dorothy Deering. Jim Fisher, too, was coming under fire for his “Fisher Scale.”
Both Kim and Jim told me that if I could use the databases they had compiled of scam agents and publishers, I could have their databases. They were quitting the scam hunting business.
Now, as you folks must have noticed, a computer whiz I am NOT. But there was this lady, Victoria Strauss, who already had a site called Writer Beware. And, furthermore, she was already a SFWA member and a well-published author.
I called her up.
That first conversation was rather awkward, if I recall correctly. (Maybe it was awkward when Stanley first encountered Livingston in that jungle. Or when Lewis first met Clark when President Thomas Jefferson introduced them. [If he did indeed introduce them. I didn’t bother to look it up. (grin)]) I rattled on about the info I had been offered, in my capacity as SFWA Eastern Regional Director, and how I thought Victoria was just the person to take over these dabases, and was she willing?
Victoria didn’t say much. She didn’t say no, however. She asked for some time to think about it. I called her back in a week or two, and then, wonder of wonders, she said, “Yes.”
Victoria and I began talking on a regular basis. At first we just exchanged information on writing scams. Then we talked about how much we hated scammers. Then we began talking about writing, and our lives as writers.
Soon we were talking about everything under the sun. We had both found a strong and lasting friendship.
SFWA agreed that I could found a new committee, called the “SFWA Committee on Writing Scams.” I agreed to be Chair, and Victoria agreed to be Vice-Chair.
Scammers, look out!
Tomorrow: What happened to the Deerings, and Kelly O’Donnell.
Today’s writing tip is: IF YOU FIND YOURSELF RESEARCHING A SUBJECT YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT FOR A BOOK OR A SHORT STORY, IT’S OFTEN USEFUL TO CHECK OUT A KID’S BOOK FROM THE LIBRARY FOR A BASIC INTRODUCTION TO THE SUBJECT.
-Ann C. Crispin
Author: STORMS OF DESTINY/HarperEos