Twitter mix tape

Have you ever heard a song and thought of a particular person, for whatever reason? That’s what this is about, complete with Twitter tags linking to their home pages, so you can check out everyone’s timelines and try to make the connection between them, and the song next to their names (if there is one, that is. Sometimes there is no good reason. ūüėÄ )

1. @septemberstitch

2. @merlinslaugh

3. @jessikart

4. @Priene

5. @NyoEi

And finally, last but by no means least…*ahem*…@BrianCBaer:

I may do future posts like this if more songs occur to me but this kind of thing has to happen naturally. ‘Tis nothing to be sneezed at, you know, songification of Twitter friendships. Honest. Is srs bznz. ūüėÄ

Posted in playlists, Twitter, YouTube videos | 2 Comments

The bitterness of knowing ‘rapemance’ is a thing

Today I heard about a rapey incest book that was so rapey and incestuous that Amazon pulled it from sale. It’s still available on CreateSpace, and its Goodreads page has had a lot of traffic lately. In fact, the last time I checked, the book had 400+ reviews and it was only published a few days ago.

This prompted some…feelings, on my part. Bitter, bilious feelings. Imagine¬†that scene from The Exorcist, but instead of Regan, Scarlett. Instead of demonic puke, we have…well, okay, demonic puke is good. Lots of demonic puke.

I tweeted about ten times and said ‘end thread’…then felt the second wave rise up within me and ended up tweeting a bajillion-tweet thread about how angry and upset and jealous and annoyed and bitter I felt.

What follows is the blog version of what I said regarding the aforementioned rapey incest book, and in general, the state of erotic romance publishing and my place in it:

* * * * *

I honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to do to get reviews and make sales on my books when a novel featuring rape and incest¬†as romance sells like gangbusters. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. I know authors aren’t supposed to be.¬†We’re supposed to be all sweetness and light.

Well I’m not. I’m bitter.

I’ve spent an age on some of my books – an age by my standards, that is. I remember¬†By the Book took me four months to write and at the time, that felt so damn slow. But anyway, I want to make my books as good as possible, and on the rare occasions I do get reviews, I get ripped for the stupidest of things.

One review for¬†Burn accused ‘the author’ (O HAI, IT ME!) of trying too hard to sound Scottish.

That’s weird, because…I¬†am Scottish.

Someone who reviewed¬†Plus One didn’t like it because of something Spencer did. Well, what was strange about that review was…I have no idea what book she was talking about but it wasn’t one I wrote. She accused my main male character of doing something¬†I absolutely did not write.

And yet authors are supposed to just sit back in the face of such reviews and do nothing, because if you respond the terrorists win, or something. I dunno.

So when I see a book featuring father/daughter incest do so well that it takes off despite Amazon deeming it too offensive to sell on its website, yeah, you’re damn right I get bitter. Write what you want, read what you want, but¬†don’t fucking call incest/rape romance, then praise the author’s talent. Maybe they are talented, but they’re shit at marketing, to call this romance.

But even so, it sells…and that’s the depressing thing. It sells to the romance-reading crowd.

Now, I know there are other authors who feel the same way as I do, but they’re too scared of a backlash to say anything. I, however, am beyond caring. This can’t ruin my career because I have no fucking career to begin with. Even after being published for seven years, I’m still struggling to become ‘known’ in the erotic romance world.

So either I’m the world’s unluckiest writer, or the world’s shittiest one, right? I just believe that romance should be aspirational, that is, you as a reader should either want to be part of the main couple, or should want to see them succeed.

I can’t read a pseudo-romance (fauxmance? rapemance?) about a man fucking his own daughter and think, “Yeah, that’s what I want!” and get all hearteyes about it.

I can’t say this loud enough – I’ve read books about Fred West, Josef Fritzl –¬†and they’re true fucking crime, not romance. They raped their daughters and books about them are categorised as true crime. Their ‘happy endings’ involved suicide in jail for West, and a prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole for Fritzl.

So yeah, I’m resentful of the fact books I worked hard to write sink without a trace while Fritzlmance sells like hot cakes.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had my work published without credit earlier in my career. There are books out there to which I contributed, but the author refused to credit me. Full story in my blog post here. That was a bad experience but you get over it, move on and try to do better. But publishing throws up drama after drama.

We’re told to work hard and we’ll eventually make it.

What. A. Crock.

It makes me think, I can’t be a bad writer can I? I must be able to string a few words together if my pages are out there being read…but my name isn’t on the covers as a contributor so it doesn’t mean a thing. And the books that do have my name on? Nah. Not so grand.

It’s like sending your children to school in someone else’s clothes. They’re mistaken for royalty and praised, but once their real identity is revealed, no-one wants to play with them any more.

Honestly, these days, I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall.¬†I try to write romantic books, but incest sells more, apparently.¬†You can’t predict when or why a book will ‘take off’, but I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do any more. Is it even worth trying to write? Something in me wants to hope I can make a go of this, but let’s face it – I’m in my forties and have been published since 2010. If I were going to be able to support myself through writing, wouldn’t it have happened by now?

To be melodramatic about it, I’m¬†beginning to think my name and my books are cursed, like I’m destined never to have any success. No, I’m not owed success. I just don’t get why authors who use others’ work for their books are credited with genius and lauded like the second coming of Hemingway and the same goes for authors of incestuous rapemance.

And me? I’m just kicking my heels. I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

You may suggest just writing for the love of it, for myself. Not for money. To be blunt? I call bullshit. I’ve got bills to pay, just like you. I grew up¬†certain I’d make it, absolutely sure I’d be able to support myself (eventually) through writing but if what I write doesn’t sell? It’s hard¬†not to be bitter.

So, as I also said over on Twitter,¬†I’m going to sit over here, being bitter in my bitterness. Eating cake. And fed the fuck up with erotic romance right now.

Posted in erotic romance, rant, Twitter | 6 Comments

Cast list scorecard

Further to this tweet:
Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 02.07.07
I’ve decided to do exactly what it says on the tin and totally objectify my own cast lists.

Research done (and don’t you dare tell me this doesn’t count as hard work) for the following novels and novellas:

  • Stay the Night (Kit and Steven)
  • Temporary Position (Tyler and Sebbe)
  • Dark-Adapted Eyes (Alex and Gabe)
  • Plus One (Spencer)
  • Long Time Coming (Leo)
  • By the Book (Daniel and Reece)
  • Burn (Austin and James)
  • Family Jewels (Devon)

When it comes to¬†A Little Death and¬†Bring Me to Life, there are crossovers with the main male characters; Jonathan Cutler and Cian Ambrose appear in both books, so I’m only going to count them once each, adding in Nathan Stephenson, who appears only in BMTL.

I’m missing out¬†Deep Screw as it’s the first book I ever wrote without casting the two main characters (Cameron and Ryan) which is probably why it took me so long to write. Word dentistry; you know…writing the damn book was like pulling teeth. All I know about Cameron is that he’s got dirty blond hair, and as for Ryan, he has dark hair and dimples when he smiles.

Also I’m not counting the book I’m currently writing, as ‘casting’ isn’t confirmed until the book is actually edited and published. My blog, my rules. ūüėÄ

With the above kept in mind, the scorecard reads as follows:

Total main male characters: sixteen.

Jensen Ackles: 1
Richard Armitage: 1
Gerard Butler: 1
Bradley Cooper: 1
Colin Farrell: 1
Matthew Gray Gubler: 1
Jared Leto: 1
Shannon Leto: 1
James McAvoy: 2
Jonathan Rhys Meyers: 2
Joaquin Phoenix: 1
James Purefoy: 1 (ONE! ONLY ONE!!!)
Alexander Skarsgard: 1
Aidan Turner: 1

Lessons learned: I¬†really like guys with J-names. I haven’t ‘used’ James McAvoy and JRM¬†nearly as much as I’d previously thought. And I need to write more books.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

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I’m not dead

Grargh, so, I’ve lost two or three days to illness and¬†Eat Me was supposed to be done by now but guess what, it ain’t, so…yeah. That fudged up my whole writing schedule and delayed the release by about a million years.

At a very, very loose guesstimate, its first draft should be done around Monday-ish. I’d planned to be balls deep in my next book by then but oh well, time, tide and migraines wait for no man. Or woman. Or pervert.

So that’s where my writing is right now. With regard to Twitter, I’m back on it, but with still no reply from a human being. I’m going to try¬†again with another Twitter-related email address someone has given me, and see if that kicks them up the arse. Their reasoning may be “You’re back on the site now; what’s the problem?” but I’d like an apology and an acknowledgement that my suspension should never have happened.

I won’t hold my breath though. Seems like the place is run by goatfelching ratbastards.

Posted in Eat Me, Twitter | Leave a comment

A head full of fuzzies

It’s nearly three a.m. as I type this, and I’m blogging for no other reason than I’m killing time while copying files from an external hard drive to Google Drive.

Today was a bit of a bust writing-wise. I took some codeine for my toothache and ended up falling into a drugs coma (okay, asleep) and developed a headache when I woke up again. I’ve written a few paragraphs but that’s it. To think I expected to finish the first draft today! Bit ambitious. But I know I’ve got more written than I would have, if I’d bimbled along with no target at all.

I just know that setting a target of 5-6k in one day is a bit much until I’ve spent some time building up to it with some 3k days beforehand.¬†Consecutive 3k days.

Upshot is, the first couple of chapters are done, and my heroine, Sarah, is one of the most sarcastic characters I’ve written yet. I always think it sounds a bit pretentious to say your characters take over; of course they don’t. They’re not real. But sometimes you can be in the mood to write a certain personality type and it’s just so much¬†fun to go down a certain path, you let rip and it’s almost as if they’re taking over…but not quite. I’m probably making very little sense but it’s half three by now, and I’ve still got horse-tranquilliser-strength drugs in my system.

Tomorrow – or today, whatever – my Twitter ban’s lifted so I may see if I can get in touch with them a¬†fifth time and see if a real, live, human being answers me when my account is once again active. I’m not holding out much hope. I could use my reinstatement as a natural (and unfair!) deadline for hitting a landmark word count on¬†Eat Me. Numbers ending in a zero or a five are always good. ūüėÄ

Posted in Eat Me, writing | Leave a comment

What I’m working on now

If there’s one good thing about my Twitter ban, it’s that it’s impossible for me to waste time on social media when I should be working. I mean, I can waste time in other ways, but Twitter can be one hell of a timesuck if I let it.

So with this in mind I opened up a new Google Doc last night and started on a new(ish) project. I had maybe 350 words of it written for weeks just sitting on my Chromebook and left it there while I organised all the other notes and ideas I had. Each one now has its own folder. So, the book I’m working on is called…

Eat Me.

No, I’m not kidding. Anyway, I wanted each upcoming novella and novel to have its own folder so I could set up a schedule and put my unwritten books in some semblance of ‘writing order’.¬†Eat Me is next up and if I tell you the two main characters are called Sarah and Lucas, you’ll be able to tell it’s M/F.

The writing schedule I’ve set up for this is pretty ambitious. If all goes according to plan (and when does it ever) and the word count stays down (HA HA HA YEAH RIGHT) I should finish it on this coming Tuesday.

Last night after I got home around half nine – no-one could ever call me a dirty stopout – I wrote 2,500 words, which met my target for the day in two and a half hours. (I’m counting the 350 I already had down, which I retyped to flex my fingers and reactivate my typing muscle memory.) I meant to blog about this last night but was so tired I went to bed without bothering to sign in to WordPress.

At some point, when I have more of my outstanding projects completed, I want to run an experiment to see how quickly I can write a book from¬†nothing to hitting ‘publish’ on Amazon. Just now I have a mess of notes and ideas to get through, and I’d love to see how quickly I can go from ‘having nothing on paper, no outlines, names or scenes’ to ‘cover art, completed manuscript, blurb and keywords DONE’.

For the moment, I’m going back to completing Chapter 1 of¬†Eat Me. For the first look at the cover art, please sign up to my newsletter here. I plan to send it out when the first draft is done, so you’ll get first peep before any blog readers or Twitter followers. ūüôā

Posted in Eat Me, writing schedule | Leave a comment

When Good Twitter Goes Bad

First of all, let me just say that yes, I have had yet another clear-out of previous blog posts. Again. Why? Partly a desire to clear up old posts, partly because of a near-doxing (or is it doxxing?) incident that happened on Twitter a few weeks back involving a Trump supporter whose dick fell off when I dared to have an opinion on the internet. I kept the post entitled¬†The Story¬†though, because I know it pisses off the “Erika” in question and she can’t publicly speak out against it or she’ll effectively out herself.

That said, let’s proceed. Following is a copy-and-paste job of an email I sent Jenny Trout (her website can be found here) yesterday:

Hi Jen,

Sending this email to explain what happened on Twitter, as of course I’m unable to post there myself. The other night I tried to sign in and was met with the block screen, telling me my account was limited. I expected it to be another 24-hour “only followers can see your tweets” thing, so clicked ‘continue’ and was met with a message saying my account had been shut down for seven days due to violation of their terms of service. They wanted me to delete a tweet before being able to proceed to my DMs and I’d be unable to tweet, retweet or like for another seven days. All I can do is send and receive DMs. I can’t even adjust my profile for matters of privacy, remove my location and birthdate, that kind of thing.

The tweet they wanted me to delete was in response to an anti-Semite with 34 followers, whose timeline is full of bile against Jews. (They’re taking over Hollywood, they want all our money, the usual racism.) The ‘offensive’ tweet, word for word, was “No wonder your previous account was suspended, you goatfelching ratbastard.”

This, apparently, is worth a week-long full ban. I asked Twitter why they did nothing about the guy who tweeted me 40 times in a row to call me a cunt, to say my books were written by a cunt, everyone knows I’m a cunt…and nothing. Why did they do nothing about the guy who threatened to rape me? Nothing. Why did they do nothing about the guy who tried to track down my address and dox me? Nothing.

At the time when I reported those guys, all Twitter said was “The reported accounts do not violate our terms of service,” and said if I was so offended, “We advise you block these accounts.”

I’ve sent messages through their appeals system three times to ask why the above gets a pass but me calling an anti-Semite a “goatfelching ratbastard” gets me banned for a week. EVERY SINGLE REPLY I’ve received has been a boilerplate email, stating, and I quote:

Your account features will remain locked or limited for the allotted time due to violations of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules), specifically our rules around abuse.
Thank you,
Twitter

I keep asking them why they do nothing about abuse, and this is all they say.‚Äč Apparently doxing, abuse and rape threats are okay, but responding to a Nazi who rages against Jews on Twitter? Why, that’s what’s offensive. His wasn’t even a verified account; he was a known abuser who’d been suspended before and come back with a sockpuppet account.

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

Anyway. Feel free to screenshot and share this if you want; the more people publicise it, who knows, it might make Twitter think again. And at the very least it would let people know the disparity in how Nazis and feminists are treated online.

Thanks.
Love, Scarlett

The above pretty much explains what’s gone on. But as I wrote the email in anger, perhaps I should clarify a few things. The guy I called a ‘goatfelching ratbastard’ is¬†not the 40 cunts guy, the ‘you deserve to be raped’ charmer, or the attempted-doxing Trump supporter. They are four different people. (Although, of course, as Mr. Ratbastard bragged in his Twitter profile that he’d been previously banned, he may have been someone with whom I’d previously crossed paths, under a new guise.

A few hours after receiving the email, Jen had written it up on her blog, link here.

In my email to Jen, I mentioned the fact I’d contacted Twitter three times and got the same boilerplate response, an automated email, nothing from an actual real, live human being.

Late last night I decided to give it one last shot; I emailed support@twitter.com with the full story from start to finish, every little detail. I got a bounceback message saying they rarely check that email account and if it was important, I should use the online help forms.

*sigh*

I posted the exact text from my long, detailed email on the Twitter website help form, went to bed, returned to my desk this morning and just as I was typing up this blog post, got a response.

The exact. Same. Message I’d already received three times previously:

Hello,
Your account features will remain locked or limited for the allotted time due to violations of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules), specifically our rules around abuse.
Thank you,
Twitter

With a reminder that my account is locked. Quite what that means when it was already suspended, I don’t know. Neither do I know what the hell is up with Twitter, but I just¬†cannot get a response from a sentient human being. Is the place run by robot Nazis?

And you’ll never believe this, but at the same time this does-not-compute response from Twitter came through for the¬†fourth time, I received an email from a journalist who was interested in looking into this whole matter. I’m not entirely sure the story’s got legs, as for safety reasons I feel concerned about publicising any identifying details from my personal life. As for photos, I reckon they’d just be asking for trouble given the way I’ve been treated online by Nazis, dafties, Trump supporters and sundry other goatfelching ratbastards.

So, while I wasn’t confident of¬†Twitter doing anything to rectify the situation, it’s reassuring to know my online buddies have my back, and people are sitting up and taking notice of the way certain social media sites are distinctly unbalanced in how they deal with complaints and reports of abuse.

My suspension is due to end on Wednesday evening Scotlander time, but I’m not entirely sure I’ll be back to use the site as before. While it’s touching to know I entertain so many people who’d love to see me back on Twitter, there’s something hinky about being a member of a site that suspends me for swearing¬†once at a Nazi, but is okay to let insults, abuse, rape threats and doxing fly.

I’ll give it some thought, and keep you guys posted with any news, should there be any. In the meantime, buy all my books, links above in the ‘Books by Scarlett Parrish’ menu; my latest piece of utter filth being¬†Family Jewels.

And because we’re British here and we do things Britishly…I’m going to make a cup of tea.

Posted in Twitter | 4 Comments

The Story

Hello.

Yes, I’ve decided to resurrect this blog. Why now? Well…I’m beginning to get the itch again. Don’t worry, it’s not scabies. I mean the itch to write. And I figured splurging my brainthinks onto WordPress would be a good way of flexing my typing muscles, trying to get back in the habit of writing regularly.

Jenny Trout posted a thing on her blog that resonated with me. Well, five things, actually. Blog posts she has since deleted, for her own reasons, explanation here. I know who she’s referring to, and I’ve known for months, possibly longer than a year, because we discussed the matter privately way back when, at a point we discovered we’d both had similar experiences. In fact it’s scary how many writers have their own personal “Erika”, which has become a pseudonym for, well…”someone who screws you over”.

Bronwyn Green, the friend Jen was defending, blogged about things here.

Today I exchanged a couple of messages with Bronwyn and she very kindly said if I ever needed to vent, she was there for me, and it made me feel quite squidgy and warm inside, like my heart had wet itself. It just goes to show that not everyone out there is a festering shitweasel. But when you cross paths with someone who is, it damages your ability to trust, or to build up friendships. I hesitate to use the word ‘damage’ as it’s very strong, but strong feelings are involved here.

The truth is, I don’t have Jen’s stones. Admittedly, she deleted her posts in the end, but she named the person who screwed her and her friends over. My concern has always been, “Ah, who’s going to believe me anyway?” By calling out a far-more-well-known author, there’s a chance of looking jealous. By saying “Actually, this, this and this happened,” after they worked so hard to cultivate a nice, pleasant, gee-golly-humblebrag reputation online, you look…well, damn, you look bitter.

That golly-gee-whizz act is an act though, and about the only thing she’s ever worked hard for or to protect, but anyway…

When I first started out it wasn’t a choice between success or failure; it was all just fun. And I had a friend, an “Erika”, who was at the same stage. Writing for years, never got anywhere, thinking it was about time we both knuckled down and made it happen, now or never, you know the score.

I did NaNoWriMo in…let’s see, 2008. I remember because it was the same year I’d finished an old job I had, and I had a lot more time on my hands. A lot less money in my pocket too, but hey, maybe writing would fix that? (Wrong. But I didn’t know it then.) I was accompanied on my journey by Erika, to whom I would speak near-constantly on MSN. Yes, MSN was still a thing back then. We’d encourage each other, share our work, have word sprints and the like. And we both fell into the same genre of erotic romance. I’ll be honest. I knew very little about the genre when I started writing it. In those days I didn’t outline. Hell, I barely knew what I was doing. I wrote 50k words that November, 25k in December, nothing in January, 10k in February and in March, I wondered if the manuscript would ever fucking end. Halfway through April I finished it and the first draft clocked in at approximately 150k words. No, not kidding. By this point, Erika had finished a couple of books and I’d fiddled with the synopses for them, suggested titles and the like. Bear in mind I’m not claiming to have told her what to write in the sense of “No, no, this is wrong. Write it like this.” It was more like, “You could do this,” or “I think you could solve that plot knot by doing X, Y or Z.” It was friends chatting and discussing what they’re working on. And talking about Erika’s books gave me a break from my own, which went on and on…and on…and on…

So, in April 2009 I was pig sick of my manuscript and was glad to have finished it. The rest of that year I spent…”helping” doesn’t seem the correct word. Hell, now I want to call it “carrying”. We’ll say…”contributing”. I’d write my own stuff here and there, but I was having fun flexing my synopsis-writing muscles doing that for someone else. When met with effusive thanks and praise, I admit, I fell for it. “Wow, I never would have thought of putting it that way!” or “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” sounds cheesy as fuck now, but back then, it was still what I thought was a genuine friendship.

Trouble is, if you keep giving someone a leg up, you end up getting trampled on.

Nevertheless, I wrote several synopses for another person who, at the time, expressed gratitude for them in our private conversations and, if nothing else, this enabled me to hone my skills in writing synopses and blurbs for my own books when the time came. I can point to several titles still for sale now to which I contributed, whether it be with titles, character names, scene suggestions, synopses, you name it. Christ, even pen names!

But, that’s the kind of thing you do for a mate, right?

Except…it began to get a tad…one-sided.

Erika sold books (or she sold books I’d helped her sell, whichever way you want to look at it) and her career was doing a lot better than mine. I had a first draft sitting on my hard drive, then two, wasn’t editing and submitting anything, and wasn’t sure what to do next. So I began to think about tidying up the book that became my first published novel. Erika was, by this time, published with a few¬†relatively minor presses, and had further books contracted and scheduled to be published very soon. She suggested I sub to one of her publishers, so I did, and the novel was accepted. Cue serious excitement from me, congratulations from her, and all was well.

Except…

Erika was subbing to bigger and bigger epubs, getting recognition, suggestions to re-submit later, but couldn’t quite get a bite. There was one book she’d worked on that she liked, but there was something not quite right with it. So I had a suggestion, asked if she minded if I did something with the first chapter. She said no, go ahead, I asked her to give me an hour or two and I’d get back to her.

I remember printing it out and slicing it up with a pair of scissors. The timeline was…well, wrong. Instead of having a linear progression of events, it was better (I thought, and so did the publisher as it happens) to go BOOM! BIG EVENT! — backtrack, lead up to the boom — carry on from there.

I jigged about the word.doc on my laptop, smoothed over the edges, rewrote the joins, and sent it back to Erika. She loved it, said it worked much better this way, don’t know what I’d do without you, sub the manuscript, sold it, job done. (With a Scarlett Parrish synopsis, just so you know.)

Now this was with a pretty damn big epublisher, so I thought, if I can sell a book to a big epub for someone else, maybe I can for myself, too? So I knuckled down, started writing new stuff of my own. Got nowhere. For some reason, I just couldn’t make that break with my own books, but found it piss easy to sell books for other people. (Erika wasn’t the only one I wrote synopses for; another writer¬†used a synopsis I wrote for her to snag an agent.) Maybe my fiction writing was just shite?

Then I got a R&R from Loose Id for what was then called The Devil You Know, but eventually became By the Book (now self-published here). The evening I got the email I’d been out, had a bad day, half-read the email, took it as a rejection and let off steam to Erika.

The response I got was…interesting. More or less, “Yeah, well, shit happens. Anyway, look at what I’ve written today!”

Hmm.

Upshot is, I noticed this happening more and more regularly. We were talking less and less about my writing plans, more and more about her writing success. She’d tell me about how much her early books with a minor epub were doing, how many hundreds of dollars she was making, how many thousands of copies she’d sold. Now, how much of this was true, I don’t know, but at first it made me feel encouraged. Hey, maybe I could make that sort of money too! Then discouraged, because I just couldn’t get a bite.

But back to that email from Loose Id. I read it again in the morning and realised it wasn’t a flat out rejection, but a R&R. Revise and resubmit. Make some adjustments, send it in again, that kind of thing. Great. Bear in mind by this point, Erika had sold books, both novels and novellas, to a number of different publishers, and I’d been looking for one where she wasn’t at, specifically so I could prove to myself I could sell my own book to my own publisher, without namedropping or using a friend’s connections.

And…Loose Id signed the book. Holy shit, I’d actually managed to sell a book to a well-respected epublisher, rather than a piddly, run-of-the-mill affair run out of someone’s spare room office. This was my chance to make it big!

Or at least, earn some proper cash.

The response I got from my “friend” was lukewarm. She just had no desire in discussing it. Brushed it off like it didn’t mean a thing.

And that kinda spoiled it for me.

Looking back, it seems obvious. As my writing began to take off, I had less and less time to devote to hers. But it was okay, right? She wrote fast — a hell of a lot faster than I ever did. So she’d always have more of a backlist than I, and I could still work on her synopses here and there. (Sure, now I see it. One of the reasons I didn’t finish that many books was because I was spending so much time on other people’s. I know. I’m dumb for taking this long to work it out.)

But that wasn’t good enough.

Things got proper wobbly when By the Book was published. I blew my advance royalties cheque, small though it was, on a new-to-me-but-secondhand sofa, and a DVD box set of Being Human. And Erika…by this time it was early 2011 and Erika had sold books to multiple publishers. Except Loose Id.

But…an acquaintance of hers got a job as an editor there, so suddenly Erika was all about cultivating this friendship, turning it into a more useful business relationship. I’m not saying she was mercenary but…okay, I am. That’s exactly what I’m saying. At the time, she said, “I’d been thinking about subbing to Loose Id for a while now anyway,” but when her editor friend promised to offer her a contract no matter what she sent in because “I’ll just tell my bosses it’s a fantastic book and they’ll let me sign you; we can work on beating it into shape later,” well, that was that.

“But Scarlett,” you might say, “didn’t you sub to the same publisher as Erika way back when?”

Yes, I did. At Erika’s suggestion, and back when we were at more or less, kinda, the same level of success. Ish. At the time of my sale to Loose Id, I had one published book at a single publisher. Erika had, goodness…looking back, must have been around 10¬†books at multiple¬†publishers, and big ones. BIG publishers. Besides my start-out novel, I sold one book to Loose Id and, to be honest…it felt like she was pissing in my cornflakes, couldn’t bear for me to have any success of my own.

She waited for the day I received two rejections — two — to announce, “I’ve decided to take [Editor Friend] up on her offer. I’ve got [Book X] sitting on my hard drive doing nothing, but she said she’ll sign anything I throw her way.”

So I asked her words to the effect of, “Do you think it’s appropriate to say that when I’ve had two rejections in one day?”

And she simply said, “Everyone gets rejections; just fucking deal with it.”

It felt like she’d waited until I was feeling pretty damn awful to announce, “That thing you worked really hard for, and are really proud of? I can take it, easily. Not by working for it, but by using a connection. It doesn’t really mean anything to me, but I can’t let you have this moment to yourself.”

That was the point our friendship, such as it was, died. I can be supportive of and happy for a friend — hell, if I couldn’t, why would I have helped her sell books? But as soon as I met with success, I was no longer as readily available to bolster her career.

By some weird cosmic coincidence, Erika had a book published on exactly the same day By the Book came out and yes, I’ll admit, that soured the excitement a little. But Loose Id was Johnny Big Bollocks in the epub world then, so I told myself it’d all come good.

As a result of By the Book and one or two other things I sold, over the following months I was contacted by three separate epublishers, inviting me to submit there. Not, I hasten to add, because I knew anyone at Publishers X, Y and Z, but because they’d read By the Book and liked it. I didn’t have to pull any strings, but this book could potentially help me sell the next one. Things were looking up.

Until I saw a review for the Erika book that came out on the same day as By the Book. This book was something I’d titled and rewritten in part. I know, I know. Why? Because I was a fucking mug and didn’t want to lose a friendship and while it was being written things weren’t too bad between us, really. Ick. I know.

In this review, Erika was praised as a writer who always picked great titles, and words to the effect of “But this time she’s really knocked it out of the park. It’s a play on words whose true meaning becomes clear further on in the book, blah blah blah…”

Bear in mind this is a book I’d heavily contributed to, so I got in touch by email to say “Hey, it’s me. Look, I caught the review for [Book Title] and I’d really appreciate it if you credited me somewhere with the things mentioned in the review. It’s a great book, and I know you worked hard on it, but there are things specifically mentioned in the review that you know are my work.”

The reply I got shocked me. It was probably the first time I’d directly asked to be credited for my own work in a book published under her name, but it was time. I was no longer prepared to tolerate her sense of entitlement, the emails bragging about how much she was earning, the “Suck it up, buttercup,” when I got a rejection and the temper tantrums when she received one.

“No. I don’t have to do anything you say.”

Fuck me sideways and call me Charlie. I’d only asked to be credited for my own work. I wasn’t asking for¬†money, just “Actually, Scarlett gave me the title.” That would have done. But no, nothing doing.

Apparently once I started selling my own books and asking to be credited for the work I did on hers, that coincided with her no longer desiring to associate with me.

Then pretty much the arse dropped out of my world. This is real life stuff, not related to writing, so I’ll just say it boils down to nearly being made homeless, and someone I know having a cancer scare which required surgery. Within the space of a few days I went from thinking things were bimbling along just fine, to “I’m going to be homeless, and [name] is going to die.” I saw no other solution than to off myself. I remember sitting on the settee writing suicide notes to people; that’s how bad it got. I took a bunch of pills and started to run a bath but before I could line up the razor blades and get in, I…

…I fell asleep. The stress, combined with a gutful of painkillers, served no other purpose than to knock me out. It sounds righteously comedic now, years later, but I couldn’t even kill myself properly. I woke up to a session of puking of which¬†The Exorcist would be proud, a cold bath, and kidney problems. These latter are still with me today, to some degree, but not enough to worry me in my day-to-day life.

I had a deadline for a book I’d sold before I’d even written it¬†and, unbeknownst to me, my editor contacted the Boss Lady and said, “Scarlett’s having a really bad time of it; can she have an extension?” Then she got in touch with me to say the Boss Lady had given me another month. In the end, I didn’t use all of it, but I appreciated the gesture. The book in question was the only thing I completed that year as I had a bunch of other stuff to deal with. Hospital appointments, dealing with lawyers and so on. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and being creative wasn’t even an option. I dealt with my obligations and other than that, my writing ground to a halt.

I just don’t want to remember exactly how bad that year was. Things that had bothered me before didn’t seem important. When it comes to online matters, I am still aware of a lingering discomfort¬†when it comes to one thing in particular. I was a member of a writing website, as was Erika. The number of people who got in touch with me behind the scenes to ask, “Is something wrong? I’ve noticed you and Erika aren’t interacting any more,” is embarrassing. The more observant of folks asked, “Is she deliberately ignoring you? When you post, she replies to everyone else in the thread, except you.” One fellow website member put it this way: “It’s like she’s making a conscious effort to pretend you don’t exist.”

Of course I privately told them the story. Some believed me, some did not. Most made sympathetic noises but I didn’t care much either way.¬†I know what the truth is, and as I’ve said, my priorities shifted. Given that my meatspace life had turned upside down,¬†that was my immediate concern. Sorting¬†that out first.

Eventually I got there. It’s a process. There were some speedbumps along the way, not least noticing from my online activities that Erika had collected quite a number of co-writers who were named on the covers. Well, wasn’t that a kick in the teeth.¬†They got a credit. Even the one whom she’d said privately was “Fat, ugly and talentless,” some time before. Why did I listen to such talk? Lordy, I don’t know. I heard it, and did nothing to stop it. But really, if someone speaks¬†to you in that manner, they’ll speak¬†about you in such a manner, too. Another person she chose to co-write with had been the subject of “I’ve never read her books and I doubt I ever will; they’re not really my thing.” Oh, but fast forward a year or two, and suddenly the author in question is good enough to collaborate with? Why? She sells, so she could be useful.

I, of course, had well and truly served my purpose. I’d stepped out of line by a) selling my own stuff and b) requesting credit for my work. I was no longer of use.

What did come in useful for Erika was cultivating a public persona very different from her private one. This is a woman with a remarkable talent for fiction when it comes to her online persona that she would do well to channel into the books she seems unable to write on her own. And even yet, it stings to see her publicly lauded when experience has given me a slightly-less-than-fangirly view. Double stings when people who know what she did are the ones doing the squeeing. I guess birds of a feather flock together. There are always going to be writers who will dole out praise if they suspect the situation can be twisted to their advantage.

That doesn’t change the fact the emperor has no clothes on.

As it happens, in around about 2013 I had occasion to get in touch with her one last time. It was purely business related, in connection with contractual matters at a publisher I’m no longer with. We exchanged a few emails, I asked about her latest project, wished her well, blah blah. And the reply I got was “Look, I’m really not interested in pursuing a friendship with you. Let’s just leave it there.”

I burned with embarrassment.¬†Burned. I hadn’t been pursuing anything, and felt like I’d been caught making polite conversation with that guy. You know the one,¬†that guy. He loves himself so much he can’t conceive of anyone not being half in love with him too, and every conversation appears to his ego, to be flirtation. My conversation with Erika was primarily about a contract with Publisher X from which I was trying to extricate myself, and thereafter, “I wonder if we can be civil to each other?”

I was summarily dismissed without even asking to be part of her life again. But then again, I served no purpose. Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.

My embarrassment was as hot as her ego is large.

Bronwyn Green recently asked me if I’d had trouble with my own work since these events, and I quote, “Like just having the will/interest/passion for doing it?…I‚Äôm hoping that‚Äôs not a common response.”

In truth yes, I have had a¬†lot of trouble in even caring about the written word. I cannot blame that entirely on Erika as I did have other things going on in my life too. But the longer I went without writing, the harder it was to get back into it. I asked myself, why bother? I’d been let own before, worked really hard, got nowhere,¬†and had my work appropriated, so is it really worth trying? I feel as if, right now, I’m starting from a lower position than I was in, in 2008.¬†Then, remember, there was no choice between optimism and pessimism. No concept of “This could actually do me emotional harm.” It was just writing, right? Put words on paper. Create worlds. Make up shit. Profit.

Now I’m getting back into it aware of certain things that weren’t even on my radar way-back-when. But who knows? My writing may well be all the better for it.

Because of course it will be my writing, because I ride buses, not careers.

If I may, I’d like to end by quoting Jenny. (When in doubt, quote The Trout):

Grudges and unfairness do seem to have mass. Due to the events I talked about in those posts, my entire writing career has been tainted by that anger and hurt. And tonight, I get to let that go. And from here on out, I don‚Äôt have to think about any of that. I was walking around subconsciously trying to prove to myself that I was better than she had made me feel. […]¬†a toxic person has unwillingly duped me into a mental competition. […]¬†All of that past, all of those horrible things? They‚Äôre just the dirt I had to struggle up through, and those posts were the downpour that cleared the way.

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