Saturday, October 13, 2007

Using CTRL-V and CTRL-H as Writing Tools

On Thursday, a very weird case of plagiarism came to light. One using Ctrl-V and Ctrl-H (cut and paste) to write a novel.

I first read about it on the Dear Author website here.

Jane posted the "Top Ten Tips for Plagiarists," pointing out that self-published author Lanaia Lee's new book Of Atlantis had blatantly plagiarized David Gemmell's novel Dark Prince. The first page of Of Atlantis is here. The first page of Dark Prince can be read here by clicking on the "See Inside" icon and then clicking on "Chapter One."

The really amusing thing is that Lee neglected to change Gemmell's character's name Alexander to her character's name Archimedes in the third paragraph. If you're going to plagiarize, you should at least get it right.

Lee shares her bio with readers here with what I will characterize as a heavy emphasis on pathos . . . no, let me amend that . . . a heavy emphasis on bathos.

A commenter on the Dear Author website quoted Lee's response to the charges of plagiarism:

Of Atlantis is totally mine. I have the original manuscript, and witnesses to my work. I put two years of my life in this book, the copy right, I own. I am appalled some one would think I am that dishonesy!

By 2:10 PM Thursday afternoon, Jane of Dear Author posted this:

I’ve been asked to stop harassing the “author” and forbidden to post about it. whoops.

Then it moved from merely weird to very weird. Lee posted a second message on her site (before pulling down the message board altogether). All of the typos and misspelling are hers:

When I first started Of Atlantis, I hire a ghost writer Christopher Hill. I see what he did now and for that I aplogize. I was scammed. I apologize to Mr. Hemmel's memory and his family.

Let's ignore for the moment why anyone would hire a ghostwriter for a self-published book and just try to follow the story.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware had a very interesting contribution to make to this bizarre tale. On the Writer Beware blogsite here, she defends Lee, saying that the woman had been in touch with her four months ago about having been scammed by Christopher Hill. Lee told Strauss she had been a "client" of Hill's for over two years and had paid him $400 per month for at least six months to be her ghostwriter.

Regular readers of this blog will remember Christopher Hill. I wrote a post titled "Red Flags for Writers" almost a year ago here in which I talked about that lying scumbucket who preyed on naive wannabe writers.

So, Lanaia Lee has been metaphorically raped twice by Hill. Once when she paid more than $2,400 for his ghostwriting services and again when he blatantly plagiarized another writer for the FIRST PAGE of her book--almost guaranteeing that, if she ever published the work, she'd be publicly labeled a plagiarist or a fool.

Do I feel sorry for Lee? Of course, I do. And not because she's in a wheelchair or has six dead children. I hate seeing someone's dreams trampled upon and crushed.

At the same time, I'm irritated with her. It took two years and a lot of money before she finally realized that Hill was scamming her. That's some serious denial.

No one can victimize you without your active participation. We all make mistakes; I've made some doozies in my time. But if we scrutinize those mistakes in order to figure out how we went wrong (for me, it's usually impulsiveness or arrogance) and take responsibility for our actions, we can learn and grow. There is grace to be earned in a humble self-examination of our behavior.

I don't know if Lanaia Lee will ever read this post. If so, I hope she realizes that her example may prevent another wannabe writer from getting caught in the same or a similar trap set by a predator. I hope she can take some comfort from that.

I wish her well.

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