A Flight of Fantasy (or “Why on Earth Did You Write That?”)

I was recently asked what inspired me to write a series set completely in a Fantasy world, when so much of what I do usually takes place in the “real” world (whether present or future).  I figured you all might be interested in my answer to this question, too.  So, let me tell you a story (*grins* Can’t help it… I’m an author!)…

 

Legends of Tirum, you may be surprised to learn, isn’t my first foray into the world of Fantasy.  Most of the time, however, I deal in parallel dimensions to our own Earth, when doing my Fantasy work.  I’m not entirely sure why, myself.  Maybe it’s because I’m truly fascinated by the concept of “What If…”.  I love exploring the possibilities of where our own world could be, or could have been at some point in the past, if things had gone differently (whether minor alterations, or complete world-changers).  I guess that makes most of my Fantasy actually more of a form of Speculative Fiction.

 

Legends of Tirum is a completely different animal.  I actually created not just another world, but another whole solar system, unique constellations, and a completely independent growth, world-wise.  My reason for doing this was to create something so far outside of my “norm” as to be truly unique among my work.  I strive for that, in every series.  Some unique facet, whether a small spark of difference among the contemporarily-set paranormals (for example, there are many such differences between the military-oriented Project Prometheus, which deals solely in parapsychological phenomena, and the mystery/suspense heavy Guardians, Inc., in which paranormal creatures – known as Paras – are a real and involved part of our society), or major leaps of difference, such as seen between the technologically-stagnant Underground and the hyper-technological Section Psi.

 

Legends of Tirum takes it to an all-new level for me, stripping away the technology (or most of it… but I won’t spoil the surprise! ;)…) and replacing it with a nod to the classic Sword-and-Sorcery storyline – with a twist.  After all, it’s not often when the main character is BOTH the sword-toting warrior AND the “sorceress” with an entire arsenal of deadly magical spells at her disposal.  I gave all of my characters unique qualities that set them apart from both each other and from every other character I’ve ever written about.

 

So, if you’re looking for something Fantasy, with a twist or two of Romance thrown in for good measure (and because, without it, my main character would probably be an irritating hard-ass…lol), you can find out more about this series on my website, at http://www.esthermitchell.com/LegendsofTirum.html

Legends of Tirum, Book 3: Spirit Mage

 

Out of the Dark: It’s Not Easy

I’m sure, by now, that many of you are wondering why I would expose my deepest pains and darkest nightmares in such a public way.

It’s not easy.

It’s not easy to have to remember those nightmares, or to feel that pain.  But, even more, it’s not easy being an adult, and reflecting on my early childhood with the knowledge I have today about rape and rapists.  At the time, I felt dirty and bad, ugly and horrible.  I truly believed it was my fault, that I had done something wrong.

Today, I know that there’s no such thing as a one-time rapist.  Rape is about power and control, about inflicting pain.  I know I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me.  It took someone loving me, without condition or reservation, for me to understand that.  But I still can’t help thinking about all the other little girls that boy who raped me might have already raped by that time, or might have gone on to rape, afterward.  How many girls like me might I have spared that pain, shame, and misery if I had been stronger, less frightened, or felt more sure of my family’s love and support.

I never knew his name, or anything about him, so I can’t even be sure he’s ever been caught, ever been held accountable for any of the crimes I either know he’s committed, or am pretty sure he’s since committed.  That’s a fear I have to live with every day of my life — that someday, I might come face-to-face with him.  Maybe I’d recognize him, or maybe he’s changed so much I wouldn’t even know him to see him.  The idea, quite frankly, makes me want to vomit, every time it crosses my mind.

I’ve devoted a substantial part of my life, both as a writer and a counselor, to helping other victims of abuse.  And not just girls.  There are a large number of boys who are also victims of rape.  Unfortunately, our society makes it even more difficult for them to come forward than girls, because of a misguided belief that males cannot be victims of sexual crimes.

So, while revealing the past I’ve kept so closely guarded all these years isn’t easy, I do believe it to be necessary.  At the very least, it will help you, as a reader of my work, to understand what drives and fuels my darker brand of Romance.  But it is my fervent hope that relating my experiences does more than that — that it inspires you to reach out and help someone who may be suffering as I have suffered for all these years.  If my words move you to become that listening ear, that non-judgmental, loving compassion that shows a victim they are beautiful, clean, and worthy of love, then every word I’ve labored over in order to express the experiences that still plague my nightmares, still visit my daily life with fear, are worthwhile.

“Uncharted Territory” — Excerpt from SPIRIT MAGE (Legends of Tirum)

Legends of Tirum 3: SPIRIT MAGE

When Phoenix Telyn Gwndal returned to Raiador, she intended to bury her heart there, and never love again.  But when the  Elementals guarding the sacred World Forge set her a task that took her beyond the reaches of a mystical forest, Telyn was about to come face-to-face with a secret that would turn everything she believes about life, and death, upside down.

 

“Uncharted Territory” — Excerpt from SPIRIT MAGE (Legends of Tirum, Book #3):

The Eleshau was alive. That was what all the stories about this benighted wood said, and after everything she’d seen during her time in the Borderlands, she wasn’t inclined to disagree. Phoenix Telyn Gwndal eyed the trees around her warily as she rode along the undergrowth-covered ancient paths. Not many people ever travelled these trails. Few who did ever returned.

She glanced to her right, certain the trees were whispering, and not in the whimsical, imaginative way. She was far too aware the shadows here harbored monsters capable of killing the body, or stealing the soul.

“I must be mad.”

She had no idea why she was here, but she wasn’t inclined to linger without good reason. Somewhere out there in the trees was  Nacaris’ final resting place. Though she’d searched, she never found his body.  She mourned him the whole way to Raiador, battered and weary to the soul. She’d expected to hide herself away within the World Forge and lick her wounds — both physical and emotional — until she could face the world again.

But the Salamandars had other ideas. No sooner had she arrived, Phoenix Book in tow, than they put her to work memorizing the entire Book. And then, to her shock and horror, they sent her back out here, to the Eleshau. Sala claimed the next step in her journey as one of the Chosen lay beyond this forest.

Telyn swallowed hard. She wasn’t even sure there was anything beyond the Eleshau. Legend told of a land beyond here — a mystical land peopled by beings from the stars, and Majikal creatures few had ever seen. Other stories declared the continent dropped off sharply into the roiling riptides of the ocean, just past the forest. That, storytellers said, was why no one who entered the forest ever returned.

 

Out of the Dark: Glimpses of My Life, Part 2

A lot of people hear the term “Romance” applied to my books and automatically assume that I write feel-good stories about white-bread people who’ve never even had a passing acquaintance with trouble (or, at very least, who have never done anything that could be construed as deadly, extremely dangerous, or even downright illegal).  Those people would be wrong.

One of my most critically-acclaimed and most-loved series is my SF nod to both Military Fiction and Romance, Underground.  It deals with the hard realities of living in a post-global-war world, still teetering on the edge of another war.  And a lot of the characters, and some of the events, are loosely (and not so loosely, in some cases) based on real people I’ve known, real events I’ve experienced or witnessed.

The childhood terror I revealed in my last segment?  Yeah, it’s there.  Slightly modified, it shows up in the past of the main character, Tamia.  She is my mirror, my foil, sometimes an expression of my turbulent emotions as a child and teenager, and sometimes the focus of conveyance for events that either did happen, or could have been.

It should come as a surprise to no one, then, that I first began working on Underground at the age of twelve.  Incidentally, this was around the same time that my life both spiraled out of control, and began to finally find focus.

Confused? Yeah, I figured as much.  I’ll try to explain, but you’ll have to bear with me through some taboo discussion topics, for a moment.

While I’m not going to talk about it, here (that’s a subject for all its own post, if I decide to get into it), it’s important to note that when I was ten, and just before the events I’m about to discuss started happening, I witnessed a horrible accident and its aftermath that would leave me forever scarred.  But, as I said, that’s a subject for a post all its own.

When I began to hit puberty, at around eleven, I was still struggling daily with the shame, fear, and self-loathing of what happened when I was six.  Puberty isn’t a good time, emotionally, for any kid.  For me, it carried a double-whammy I knew nothing about, and never saw coming.

I began having headaches.  Massive, paralyzing headaches, accompanied by wretched abdominal pain.  Most times, I couldn’t even move, fought to breathe, and yet tried to downplay or hide my symptoms as best I could.  I didn’t know what they were, and I was scared.  Still, I began missing school, which eventually only increased the number of times I had the pain, as I fought to make up homework, classes, etc.  I had blackouts (not memory ones… I remember every moment leading up to and directly after the blackouts) — I ended up in the ER several times, and each time, they hooked me up to an IV of glucose, and monitored me, and I bounced back within several hours, so they’d label it “dehydration” and send me home.

But no one had an explanation for the headaches, or the spiraling depression I was suffering (the latter,  no one knew about mostly because I kept it to myself.  I already felt helpless — I didn’t want to be branded “crazy” as well).  Twice, I ended up in the ER because I attempted to kill myself — only, no one knew, because I never made a peep about what I’d taken.  I wanted to die — why would I help them make me live?  Things happened that I can’t explain here, but I will say that those events both saved my life and changed it.

Then, one day, I met a girl whose philosophy about life would forever change my own.  She already knew she was dying.  She had a blood clotting disorder that was killing her, and she knew she wouldn’t even make it until she graduated high school.  Her life had an expiration date.  And she gave me the best advice anyone has ever given me.  “Life is something grand and too brief already. Throwing it away cheats everyone who wants to live and can’t.”

We became fast friends — me, her, and her brother, who was her legal guardian since their parents died a few years before .  She was the sister that, until that point, I’d never had.  And he was my best friend, and my confidant. I won’t divulge their names here, because they were important enough to me that, even though I’m sure it no longer matters, I will protect their memories with my life.

When I was fourteen, my soul-sister died.  She was just six months older than I, and I mourned her passing with wretched grief that I kept locked away from the rest of the world.  I was convinced that the rest of the world would not allow me that grief — after all, I believed that they hadn’t allowed me my own pain, when I was a child, and I felt abandoned.

But I retreated inside, became quiet and withdrawn.  The only person to whom I would open my heart and soul was my best friend in the world, who was also the first man I ever loved, and the only man to whom I ever gave my whole heart, without reservation.

I know some of you will snarl and find it disgusting that over 10 years separated us in ages, and I was just fourteen at the time.  I really don’t care what you think.  We intended to spend the rest of our lives together, and there was nothing sordid or perverse about our love.  Remember, in many ways, I had never been a child.  I was well-ahead of my peers, emotionally and mentally.  Many people mistook me for much older than I was, physically.  I didn’t even LOOK like a child.  And he gave me a joy and love I haven’t felt since.  He showed me all the respect and tenderness I never felt worthy of before, and made me feel beautiful and beloved at a time in my life when it seemed the rest of the world had nothing but hateful things to say.

Sadly, it wasn’t to last.  Though we were making plans for the future — a time when I would be old enough for us to finally no longer have to hide how we felt for each other — we had no idea what was coming.  A freak accident took him away from me.  I stood on the tarmac and watched the plane he was flying go down in flames, and a large part of me died, that day.

I can’t even describe how it felt.  Every time I try, the numbness just sets in, and I can’t feel, all over again.  I wasn’t allowed to grieve him, not anywhere but in the dark of night, and in the confines of my heart.  Only at night could I cry, my tears muffled by my pillow.  And the stress of that loss, the agony of living like that, sent my health spiraling downhill.  That was something my family couldn’t help but notice.  They took me to doctors, looking for answers that never came.

And, for the second time in my life, I wanted to die.  But something stopped me.  The words of my soul-sister, and the knowledge that ending my own life was something neither she nor the man I loved would EVER want for me.  So, I decided to live — for them. But a part of my heart closed off, and I knew that loving the way I loved him would never happen again.  Not in this lifetime.

That’s not to say I haven’t dated, or loved anyone, since.  In 2004, I got married for the first time.  I love my husband, in my own way, and he knows the story of my first love, and that there are just some parts of my heart he can never have.  I’ve never kept that from him.

So, yes, I know what Romance is.  It’s loving someone so much you hurt inside, but take peace from knowing that, in some ways, they’ll never leave you completely.  It’s having the courage to love again, even if it’s not in the same way.  It’s not about Happily Ever After — it’s about “I love you” meaning more than a fairytale.  It’s about that love giving you the strength to go on, even when life seems impossible to bear.

Out of the Dark: Glimpses from My Life, Part 1

I promised everyone that I would let you take a peek inside my head, to help you better understand what and how I write.  I always keep my promises, one way or another, so here goes:

The faceless “they” of publishing wisdom always advise a writer to write what he or she knows.  I often wonder if “they” know what they’re asking for.

I write gritty, dark Romance that often skirts the very edge of denying the traditional “Happily Ever After” ending.  I write characters with real flaws – nobility tarnished by deeds not so very far in the past, nightmares that still follow, and destinies riddled with the very things they most fear or despise.

Why?  Because life is NOT a fairytale – at least, not the watered-down, roses-and-songbook variety of today.  Life is an old-fashioned, Grimm fairytale, drenched in blood, tears, and darkness, through which a sliver of light shines, if you know where to look for it.

That’s not to say that I don’t dream of happiness, or that I don’t believe in true love.  I happen to believe in both, and I’ve been called a Pollyanna, before, for insisting on looking at the bad parts of life as a learning experience.  But I’m also realistic enough to know that turning life into a Valentine’s Day greeting card fantasy isn’t likely to inspire much hope – it only highlights how destitute one’s life looks, in comparison.

I know my writing, and my viewpoint, isn’t for everyone.  I tend to deal with material and circumstances that turn conventional Romance, and even fiction, on its ear.  I’m sure some people have found my work shocking, disturbing, and even offensive (and I have the reviews to prove it).  I make no apology for what I write.  I’m doing exactly as the publishing axiom says – I’m writing what I know.

Bits and pieces of my life and experiences show up in my books.  In the characters, the locations, the plots.

One of my most common themes is trauma.  This isn’t a capricious or accidental move on my part.  I’ve seen enough personal trauma to fill a dozen lifetimes, and I tend to mete a portion of that trauma out to my character, especially.

I’ve learned the hard way that life and love aren’t the stereotypical hearts-and-flowers romance.  I’ve learned that sex isn’t always precipitated by love or desire — sometimes, it’s a power play.  Sometimes, it’s an armored tank that leaves you flattened and bleeding in the middle of life’s road.

Which makes the perfect segue into giving you a peek into my past.  I will warn you, what follows is as shocking and terrible as it is true… And it’s a trauma I live with every day of my life, and will continue to struggle with until the day I die.  Contrary to popular opinion and urban myth, there is no 100% recovery — because there’s always that wary little part of your soul that keeps waiting for disaster to strike.  Most of the contents of the following, I have only recently finally revealed to my own parents – I hid it all so well that even those closest to me wouldn’t suspect.  Nor did anyone suspect just how badly the false face I wore ate at me.  But my path in life does not allow me to hide from myself or others, and part of facing my past, for myself, is in relating my story to others in bare terms, no longer covered by the thin veneer allowed for so long by my writing career.

I’m sure most people live an idyllic childhood.  I’ve heard enough stories to be jealous of those people who remember childhood fondly.  I have a very few of those memories.  Most of the “happiness” in my childhood is false.  It was a veil I dropped over the terror and shame I felt.

That’s not to say it didn’t start out relatively normal.  There were a few bumps, but those remain highly private, as I don’t seek to harm the person who inflicted them – in any event, those would have been bearable, compared to what came later.

The horror descended into my life at the tender age of six.

To say I was entirely ignorant of the mechanics of sex, even at that age, would be a lie.  Thanks to an accidental exposure to a particularly racy adult film, I had an academic knowledge of sex starting at the age of 4.  However, my childish mind equated all sexual acts with love and romance.  I truly believed in it.

That all came crashing down after I turned six.

My elementary school, at the time, had mandatory swimming lessons at the base pool.  Two days a week, we were bussed over to the pool, where we learned to float, swim, etc.  Sounds like a great time, right?

Not for me.

Now, I’ve never been overly fond of the water.  It’s part of my nature, a kind of back-of-my-mind fear.  At least, it always was before.

I remember it being a sunny, warm day in September.  School had just started for the year, and I was excited about first grade.  When I learned we’d have a short set of trips to the pool for swimming lessons, that Fall, and then a longer stretch of them in the late Spring, I was naturally a little anxious.  But not so much as to keep me from attempting my best to learn a new skill, and maybe conquer my minor trepidation.

To this day, I wonder if some of those early misgivings were a warning I failed to heed.

Our final day of swim lessons for the Fall, I wasn’t feeling well.  Given that I was never a strong swimmer, the swim teacher decided it would be better if I lay down somewhere quiet, rather than get back in the pool.  She had some high school kids there, helping (I’m guess, now that I’m older, that they were on work study), so she instructed one of them to take me back to the pool’s office area, where it was quiet and dim, so I could lay down.

Did I mention that I was a trusting child?

I did as I was told, followed the guy back to the offices.  I still remember the smell of chlorine and dust, mixed together – it hung in the air, there.  To this day, the smell of chlorine makes me ill.  Because that day is forever etched in my nightmares, and began a long, terrible battle with PTSD.

I remember how quiet it was.  You couldn’t hear a sound from the pool area.  The office was dark, smelled of stale air and pool water.  The couch was hard, the material abrasive.  I didn’t want to lay down on it.  He didn’t give me a choice.  He pushed me down, held me there, and did things to me that still make me nauseous to think about, all these years later.  That day was my first introduction to real evil — I can still see the cold, soulless look in his eyes, smell the scent of chlorine on his skin and the feel of his hand over my mouth when I started to scream.  When he finished, he threatened me with terrible things, told me what a terrible little girl I was, and that if I told anyone, he would find me and hurt me more.

I was six years old, and my innocent belief in fairytales came crashing down.  I learned the ugly truth that sex isn’t always about love.  Sometimes, it’s about power.  Sometimes, it’s about pain, and fear.

I’ve spent a lifetime with that secret locked in my head.  Tried not to gag, or scream, or give away any emotion whatsoever, when confronted with water – particularly swimming pools.  I just scrunched up my courage, and forced myself into the water, when I couldn’t avoid it.

That afternoon in Hell was only one among many I would eventually face, but it scarred me for life, and for years afterward, I thought I was bad, I was shameful.  I hated myself, and believed no one could ever love me.  I was tainted.

I’ll leave off there, for now… I’m emotionally drained just from that, and I don’t think I can bear to share any more, at the moment.

Do I believe I am the only one who’s ever suffered this way?  Far from it.  There are people who suffer far worse every day of their lives.  These are the people I write for – to show them there is hope.  That you don’t have to live an idyllic, or even a “good” life to find love or peace (and yes, in spite of everything, I do believe in both – but that’s a story for another day).  It can find you in even the most destitute and imperfect of situations.

You don’t need a white knight to rescue you — you only need faith in yourself.  With a little faith, and a sliver of hope, you can find love even after the most terrible of tragedies or abuses.

Lesson in Action: Some Final Thoughts on Aspen Mountain Press

The other day, the authors at Aspen Mountain Press opened the site to be greeted with this message:

The Aspen Mountain Press web site is temporarily suspending operations.

Over the past five years we’ve demanded high standards in all areas of the company from authors to editors to administrators.  Due to the current health of the owner these standards have not been met.

We’d like to thank you for your support and patronage over this past half decade and apologize for any inconveniences this decision causes.

Now, some might believe that this would be reason to gloat and strut about feeling morally superior for having forced this publisher out of business (whether temporarily or permanently remains to be seen).

I’m here to tell you that just isn’t so.  There’s nothing to gloat over, here.  There’s nothing to feel superior about, or even proud of.

Nothing I’ve done in this whole fiasco was ever about winning.  Nor was it ever about bringing anyone down.

My only purpose was fairness and healing — for both the authors AND the publisher.

There’s been a lot of negative talk about this particular publisher.  I’ve posted several blogs in which I’ve emphatically stated that illegal activity has gone on.  I stand by my words, because they are the unvarnished truth  and that , above all else, is what I strive for in my life.  It makes up the core of who I am.

Having said that, I’ve seen some particularly nasty and inflammatory commentary made, during this whole course of events, as well.  Some have even left a bad taste in my mouth, because they’ve come from people with no intimate understanding of the struggle or situation.  They are blind judgments.

Now, I’m not going to defend the actions of this publisher.  The facts stand as they are, and there’s no excuse for the poor judgments and lack of communication.  It’s in the owner’s hands to take responsibility for those failures.  However, it remains my hope that the owner will, in time, learn to distinguish the difference between correcting a failure, and letting one own her.  In that, she could begin to see her way clear to a healthier, ultimately happier life, and I wish her no ill will.  I never have.

Over the past few days, AMP’s owner has taken the steps to begin laying out olive branches.  She is trying, and I’m willing to give her the room to make that attempt.  It would be wrong to simply deny her the chance to change, to make amends.  Denying anyone the chance to grow, heal, or mend past errors is simply against my most basic character.

While I cannot promise to ever forget the actions that necessitated the drastic and public steps I’ve been forced to take over the past few months, I can, and do, forgive the events themselves.  Holding onto anger has never been something I’ve been good at, just as letting go of hurt is something I continue to struggle with.  Have I been hurt, in this?  Most definitely.  Am I angry? No… not anymore.

I would like to thank the owner of Aspen Mountain Press for finally starting to face her responsibilities.  In yesterday’s mail, I finally received the letter I requested months ago, confirming the release of my books.  With Aspen Mountain Press’ site currently down, I can only hope that the issue is finally resolved.

Would I recommend this publisher, should it ever resume operations?  I can’t say that I would.  Writing is an unstable profession, as it is — most of us have no idea if we’re even going to sell books, or how.  It just seems too big a risk, now, to even think of throwing in with an unstable publisher, as well.  I know that I, for one, will never submit work to AMP again.

The Last Straw: Aspen Mountain Press with No Remorse

Before I begin, let me apologize for the length of this post, and some of the tone… I’m very frustrated, annoyed, whatever synonym you choose to use, and I’m addressing specific comments made recently in regards to requests made by a fellow AMP author for information.

“(Author name excluded for privacy reasons) Do you intend returning answering queries, letters etc? What
is the time span involved so we know when to expect an answer from you?

(Publisher) In all fairness, I can’t tell you what sort of time frame to expect an answer in, except to say that I am working on them. It takes time to respond to THREATS such as the one Wells made and take care of other business matters AND
attend to my health needs and the work that must be done in raising my son alone.”

I’m sorry, but this is unacceptable.  Aspen Mountain Press’ contract specifically states a time limit on how long a breaching party
has to cure (correct) the breach, when informed.  Aspen Mountain Press’ publisher has had well over that allotted time to cure the breaches in contracts that she’s instigated.  Furthermore, the contract specifically states, in the case of expiring/expired contracts, that it requires a request by certified mail of either the Publisher or the Author, and signed and agreed to by the other party within a very specific window of time around the expiration, in order for the contract to continue.

Those are VERY specific time limits on communication, and what they require.  Since my contracts began expiring in June of
2010, I have received NO certified mail from Aspen Mountain Press (referred to herein as AMP), let alone any kind of offer to extend my contracts.  And, as I never sent AMP a request to extend my contracts, either, that specific time period has WELL elapsed. The beginning of August, this year, I informed the owner of AMP of what I believed at the time to be a grievous oversight, and what is, legally, a Copyright violation, and requested she remove my books from sale, as I no longer wished them to be
published by Aspen Mountain Press.  She ignored my certified letter (it came back unclaimed), and also the corresponding e-mails.  It is now mid-October.  In a little over 3 weeks, the period to cure (correct) the breaches she has committed against me will
ALSO have elapsed.

No, I am sorry, Madam Publisher, but you DO have an obligation to respond in a timely manner.  You are running a business, and
your personal issues have no place in your business dealings.  You have an obligation to hold up your end of the contracts you entered into with your authors, and to correct the errors (and yes, you HAVE made some rather large ones) you’ve made in regards to your business.

As to the threats you claim to have received: helpful warnings of legal action in regards to your lack of willingness to properly run your business are NOT threats.  Charles Wells was spot-on when he warned you that failure to redress the issues you’ve created will end in a sticky legal situation for you.  I’m not threatening — I’m stating fact, as I’ve already personally begun to set the wheels in motion regarding this, since you are violating my legally protected Copyrights, at this moment, by continuing to sell IN HER NAME and HOPE OF HEAVEN without a valid contract.  In less than a month, you will also be in violation of my Copyright for SHADOW WALKER, but I see no further point in waiting to address this issue. I’ve allowed you to get away with this illegal activity far too long, already.

“(Author) Can you please explain why you intend holding on to authors that have lost faith in AMP?

(Publisher) Losing faith in a company does not void a contract. Any business matters are between the author and AMP. If the author wishes to make those matters public, they will. I won’t violate their privacy in that way. It is their own decision.”

Actually, it can.  Many independent contractors will revoke contracts with companies that prove themselves to be performing
illegal actions or engaged in illegal operations, in order to keep their own businesses from being linked to any negative press.  Also, if you look at the stock market and customer contracts dropped after the recent Netflix fiascos, you’ll see quite plainly that losing faith in a company is the PRIMARY reason a contractor, customer, or other business ceases to do business with a particular
company.  AMP’s contract specifically states that if a breaching party fails, within a set amount of time, to cure
the breach, the contract automatically terminates.  Pretty clear to me.  The Publisher has been informed, in writing,
as proscribed by the contract, of a list of breaches to said contract (in my case, two books are being sold WITHOUT a contract) by numerous authors.  As her time period for these notifications expire, one after another, with no redress in sight, these contracts actually void themselves, leaving Aspen Mountain Press in the unenviable position of selling a slew of books that violate Copyright law.

” (Author)Do you intend paying royalties AND supplying sales statements in toto as per the contract? When can those owed money expect to be paid?

(Publisher) Yes, I will be paying royalties and statements, but as of the moment they are on the back burner as I deal with all the other threats to the company, and the requests to relinquish contracts.”

Again, entirely unacceptable.  I, too, run a sole-proprietorship business.  If I fail to pay my vendors, they would send me to collections.  AMP’s contract states a specific window of time in which royalties MUST be paid.  Failure to do so is a breach of contract.  One cannot just put paying one’s vendors (which an author is, in the case that they have entered into an agreement to
provide a book for the publisher to sell, in return for a percentage of the profits of said sale) “on the back burner.”  This is poor business practice, at very least, and skates the line of criminal fraud.

Personally, I don’t really care about my royalties.  If I did, I would be pursuing all of the money owed me for the sales of
my out-of-contract works over the last year (since the contracts expired, it is my understanding that ALL monies collected on these works belong to me, as the Publisher has no viable contract to sell or collect money on them.  If there’s an attorney out there with
evidence otherwise, please… I’m interested to hear your thoughts).  But I’m not worried about the money.  What I want are my out-of-contract works removed from sale, ASAP, and the one book that’s nearly reached expiration released from the small remainder of its contract and also removed from sale.  I want the Publisher to apologize, in writing, to me, for having sold my books without a valid contract for a year.  I want her to admit her culpability in this matter, because her constant denial that she’s done
anything wrong is not healthy for her, and is insulting to me and all the other authors she’s harmed.

“(Publisher)Having been an author, I know the return of my intellectual property is more important than anything else.”

You’ll all have to pardon my profanity, here, because this comment literally makes steam come out of my ears.  This statement is a
crock of shit.  If Intellectual Property rights meant ANYTHING to AMP’s owner, she would have seen to it that expired
contracts were taken care of ASAP.  At very least, as soon as she was informed of the violation, she would have immediately responded by following directions and removing the books in question from sale.

Since the beginning of October, AMP’s site has been down (until just the other day) for some supposed technical issues (I’m not a techie… I’m not going to dispute that one, though I admit to some personal skepticism).  How difficult would it have been, now that she’s been informed in both postal, e-mail, AND through the Publisher’s forum, of the continued violation of Copyright law, for her to remove those books being illegally sold BEFORE bringing the site back online?  My gut says not hard at all.  However, the site is back up, and… yep, you guessed it.  My two expired books are STILL for sale on the site.

“(Publisher) That said, I would seriously consider how much attorney fees cost and weigh them against what I believe I’m owed.”

I’m owed my legal rights to my books, to take them wherever I please.  This Publisher, as an author, knows how actively I was  involved in pursuing authors’ rights (including my own) back when Triskelion Publishing folded.  We were fighting the bankruptcy court, then, and I refused to back down.  Even if everyone else had backed out, I would have continued to fight, because my rights  are THE most important thing to me.  I don’t care HOW much it costs me to pursue this.  I am owed the decency of being treated with professional courtesy, honesty, and dignity.  I am owed the decency of being listened to when I address a legal issue that should have been resolved a year ago.  I am owed so much more than money.  In my mind, this statement outlines nothing
more than the Publisher’s greed.  I do NOT respond well to being threatened like this, when I know that I am legally
in the right.  All it does is make me dig my heels in further, and fight harder, for what I know to be right.

The United States of America told me that I own these works I created with my own hands, when I registered
my Copyrights.  I entered into an agreement to allow Aspen Mountain Press the right to publish and promote them,
for a period of time.  That time has elapsed.  According to the laws of the United States of America, that makes ME the SOLE owner of those rights, again.  And that makes any attempt to sell,  distribute, or otherwise promote them without my express, written permission, illegal.

That’s my stand, and I’ll take it in the witness box, if I have to.  I don’t care what it costs me, so quit trying to intimidate me — I learned as a child that a bully can only hurt me if I LET them.  And I’m not about to let this happen.

See you in court.

PS — All reprinted comments here come from a loop recently deemed “not for meetings” by the Publisher ( sic “I’d
like to tell the members here that this is not a business MEETING loop. I’ve posted a few announcements in the past, and participated in some general chat, but I don’t use this for meeting purposes.”
), and therefore, by extension, taken by me to imply that the loop in question is merely for chatter, and therefore basically public (it’s hosted by Yahoo, with no specific privacy expectations  attached).