Instead of discussing my personal level of awesome (incidentally-- I am at level thirteen-thousand and sixty-two), today I would like to discuss a situation that I have observed as a matter of of ethics.
Before continuing I will tell you that:
1. My opinion is based neither on the author's writing ability, nor on the content of his work. For that reason I will keep the names private so as to not become one of the Internet trolls that I so greatly despise.
2. Neither party involved is me.... just so you know :)
3. My opinion may be unfairly affected by the fact that I am cranky and have a rotten cold.
Okay, today I happened across a fellow Indie author that was (extremely) upset because Amazon had removed his book from their site. After being published for nearly a year and receiving mediocre sales and attention the Author (let's call him 'C') retitled his work to resemble (a one word difference) that of a new bestseller that was climbing amazon's top one-hundred. Additionally he created a new cover that was designed to mimic the cover of the best seller.
C freely admits to repackaging his work in hopes that readers will mistake it for the other title. I believe his actions were down right despicable, and made even worse when you take into account that, while the topics are similar, his is a work of fiction and the bestseller is an autobiography.
C had lots of insane things to say about amazon's 'illegal actions' and their attempt to 'violate his ability to compete fairly in the marketplace'. Most of his statements do not bear repeating because if you can imagine a cranky twelve-year old that got caught cheating in class than you can basically recreate C's entire argument.
Amazon was WELL within their rights to terminate the sale of his book.
My question is not about legality, but rather about ethics.
As Indie Authors, do we have a responsibility to each other as well as to our readers to hold ourselves to a higher standard and supply quality well represented products?
If you are buying Sophie Kinsella's or Nora Robert's newest novel than you are going to expect a more professional, polished, original work of fiction. Big selling traditionally published authors have unimaginable resources at their disposal to ensure the highest possible quality before their novels are released to the public.
I am more than willing to admit and understand that when a reader purchases an indie title they are taking more of a gamble. As an indie author, I am the only one required to sign off on my novel's readiness for the market. Additionally, the editors, cover artists, and beta readers available to us are (in most cases) less experienced, less invested, and in many cases they are 'hobbiests'. This is all before you take into account our lower budgets. Because it is just plain bad business to spend more than you can hope to recoup in sales. We do, after all, need to earn a living. Shouldn't we do our best to thank readers for taking a chance on us by ensuring that they receive exactly what they were expecting.
C feels that his misrepresentation of his own work in an effort to gain sales was merely a common publicity tactic that should be allowed by amazon and applauded by his fellow Indies.
Personally, I feel that we should be allowed to run him out of town on a rail.
A well debated topic is the differences in quality between traditionally published and indie authors. Some readers go so far as to say that if it was worth reading than it would have a Random House insignia on the copyright page.
Is it unfair that we often have our hard work unfairly judged before it is even read?
Yes. But life isn't fair. (See Mom, I listen!) We can't force readers to take us seriously. We can only strive to prove to them through our work that we are in fact serious.
I would be interested in your take on the above described atrocity.
I will now step off my soap box and go pay a visit to my dear friend Dayquil.
Monday, August 20, 2012
As promised we are celebrating Her Best Friend's Brother with an emotionally indulgent extended epilogue....
Her Best Friend's Wedding
"And I thought bridesmaids' dresses were supposed to suck." Libby spun around to find Tony leaning lazily against the frame of the kitchen door. How long had he been watching her?
Libby glanced down. Her dress was mostly covered by her Dulce McKay apron, but Tony must have had a nice view of her back. This was the first (and would be the last) time Libby had ever worn a backless dress. Mel had chosen a truly gorgeous shade of steel blue. Of course Libby wished she'd put a little more thought into the cut, but that was just Mel's way. The backless style and loose cowl neckline would have looked great on Mel's slender willowy body with no issues. Libby on the other hand had more curves to worry about. Duct tape was a truly versatile tool.
"I'm not a bridesmaid. I'm the maid-of-honor." Libby winked at Tony and turned back to where she was putting the finishing touches on Mel's cake. She couldn't hold back her grin. Even though she couldn't see him anymore she still felt Tony's eyes on her. Thank you, Duct tape. The now familiar bubbling elation that she experienced every time she realized that Tony was really and truly hers filled her from her toes to her finger tips. Her hands even shook a little as she placed the last sugar-glass daisy on the top of the cake.
She took a step back to admire her work and bumped into Tony. His arms slipped around her waist and held her tightly to him. His lips just brushed the shell of her ear when he whispered, "they clearly have different rules for maids of honor dresses."
Before she could think of anything to say he took the piping bag from her hand, and ran a line of butter cream icing down her neck. Libby only barely kept herself upright when she felt the tip of his tongue swipe across her now very sensitive skin. "Yum," he whispered.
"You should be getting dressed." Libby tried to free herself. Of course she didn't try very hard. Being locked in his arms wasn't exactly a hardship.
"Why don't you come help me get dressed?" Tony spun her around and pressed a quick kiss to her lips. He waggled his eyebrows at her. "And bring the icing."
"Tony!" Libby's shock must have been funny to him, because he burst out laughing and loosened his grip on her hips. "No. You go get dressed, or we'll be late."
"Aww... come on Lib." He reached for her again. "There's plenty of time."
"Oh no. Mel will never forgive me if we show up late smelling like cake."
Tony groaned at her words and Libby's heart did a little tap dance beneath her ribs. Maybe she was getting better at this whole seductress thing. Of course she'd had a few weeks of practice. And Tony seemed determined to make up for years of too much self control with weeks of completely no self control... not that she was complaining.
The only evening they'd spent apart from each other since that first night had been yesterday for Mel and John's bachelorette and bachelor parties. Tony had texted her ten times during their separation. Sometimes just to say he missed her, sometimes to complain about John's obnoxious friends and how silly the bachelor party was. Once he texted her just to remind her that she'd promised to make him chocolate chip cookies for breakfast the next day. Maybe one day when they were old and gray she would start to find that annoying... but she doubted it.
"Okay," Tony kissed her again before stepping away, "you box up the cake while I go slip into something way less comfortable, and then I'll load it in the car and we'll go."
Tony yanked on the hem of his perfectly pressed tuxedo jacket. He loved his sister, and John was alright... but was it really necessary that he wear this? Libby looked like sex on a stick and he looked like a penguin. With a nice tie though. Tony chuckled softly as he adjusted the bright blue windsor knot visible above the vest that would match Libby's dress exactly. Who would have thought things would work out so well back when Mel dropped out of college? It nearly pained him to admit it, but his baby sister had turned out alright. She was still a nosey-know-it-all, but he was proud of her anyhow.
Weddings really weren't his thing. Unless you counted Olivia's wedding... and the best part of that day had been Libby's red dress. Tony allowed himself to re-live old heart thumping fantasies of Libby in that dress as he put on his shoes and tucked an envelope into his jacket pocket. A surprise for his Libby.
Downstairs, Tony found Libby carrying one of the cake boxes towards the front door. He rushed over and took it right from her hands. "I told you I'd do this part."
Libby shrugged one shoulder. "Because I'm so frail and delicate? I've been delivering cakes since I got my driver's license... Mom has always hated that part."
"I'm not trying to insult you, Lib. Can you open the door for me?" Tony jerked his chin in that direction. "But it's a guy thing. I like being the one that does your heavy lifting."
Libby smirked as she held the door wide. "It's angel food.... not heavy."
"Not the point." Tony jogged back into the house after securing the large box into a special harness made for transporting cakes in the trunk of his car. He lifted a second box and turned to find Libby reaching for the last one. "No!"
"Fine, I get it. You're a big strong man. But I don't want to be late. My purse weighs more than this box."
She sounded irritated, but Tony didn't yield. "Leave it. I will be right back."
Libby stomped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest. "You're ridiculous, you know that?"
"So this is it, my last moment as a single woman." Mel twirled in front of the old fashioned full length mirror in the Bride's room. Her dress flared out and a million layers of fabric made a swishing sound that lasted even after Mel had stopped. "I love this dress." She was smiling at Libby in the mirror.
"You look beautiful, Mel. Perfect."
Mel smiled wider. "I know." She wasn't trying to be boastful. Mel just knew that she was beautiful and didn't have the patience or grace for false humility. She turned around and faced Libby. "You look great too. I bet my big brother liked your dress."
"Yes, actually, he did seem appreciative." Libby prayed she wouldn't blush, but she could already feel the telltale warmth creeping up her cheeks.
"You are so adorable." Mel laughed at her. "I'm really happy for you, you know that right?"
"I know, Mel. You've only reminded me about a thousand times."
Mel hadn't always been a supporter of team Libby and Tony. Actually the night after she and Tony had finally come clean to each other about their feelings and decided to get engaged Mel had shown up and pounded on the front door hollering for all the world to hear about what an ass Tony was.
Libby had of course let her in as soon as possible. She only wished she'd gotten to the door fast enough to save her new neighbors from Mel's inventive potty mouth.
Mel was either surprised to see Libby, or she was surprised to see Libby wearing one of Tony's old Columbia tee-shirts and pair of his boxer shorts. But it wasn't like she'd had enough time to get back into the dress she'd worn the night before. Mel had been screaming fit to wake the dead!
"Surprise." Libby offered an awkward smile and waited for her friend to react.
Mel merely narrowed her eyes and walked through the living room to stick her head into the kitchen. "Where's my brother?"
"Really, Mel? That's all you have to say?"
"For the moment. Where is he?"
Libby pushed past her friend and began scooping forgotten takeout containers into the trashcan. They hadn't spent a lot of time downstairs. "He's taking a shower. And when he's done I'm going to take a shower. Then we are headed out to dinner to celebrate."
"Celebrate what exactly?"
Libby stopped wiping the counter and turned to face her best friend. "Us. Tony and me. We finally... had a talk... and we are going to be together."
Mel still didn't look sure. "Tony?"
"Of course Tony. You know there hasn't ever really been anyone else for me."
"I guess." Mel walked around the counter and opened the fridge. "But what about Gio? I thought... why doesn't he ever have anything in here that isn't past its sell by date?" Mel got distracted by a suspicious looking carton of orange juice. She eventually put it back and closed the fridge door. "Are you sure about Tony?"
"Tell me how you really feel, sis." Both girls whirled around to find Tony standing in the doorway wearing towel slung low across his hips and nothing else. Tony took a few more steps and dipped Libby backwards for a deep territory-marking kiss. "Now, what were you saying?" He tilted one of those heart flipping smiles at Libby before turning his eyes back to his sister.
"Someone better tell me what is going on right now!" Mel pursed her lips and slammed her fists onto her hips.
"Don't get your panties in a twist." Tony was in too good of a mood to let Mel get him down. Maybe there was a time when he'd considered his sister a factor in his relationship with Libby, but they weren't kids anymore and he wasn't about to let anyone come between him and his future happiness ever again. "Libby's a grown woman. If she wants to marry your ass of a brother that's her business."
"Married?" Mel lost all traces of her little temper tantrum. "You two aren't just messing around?"
"Of course not!" Libby spoke up. "You don't mind do you? At least not much?"
"Mind?" Mel jumped and squealed and pulled Libby away from Tony. "We're going to be sisters! Tell me everything! No wait, leave out the good parts—Uhg. But we are going to be sisters! When? I'm thinking September. You have just the coloring for autumn colors. Outside, I think. We might have to rent outdoor heaters. I wonder how much that costs?" Mel was pacing in circles and mumbling to herself about the details of Libby and Tony's upcoming wedding. Libby was only relieved that it wasn't going to be awkward.
Suddenly Mel spun around and caught Libby's eyes. "And you're sure you're sure, right? Tony can't even keep up-to-date juice in the fridge, and Gio..."
"Mel!" Tony interrupted. "She's sure. Now can you get lost?"
"Okay." She hugged Libby, stuck her tongue out at Tony and then skipped out the door muttering about potted mums and decorative gourds.
"Hello? Earth to Libby." Mel's voice shook Libby back to the present. Mel was still fussing with her gown in the mirror, only she was actually watching Libby's face. "I am really happy for you guys." Her voice wobbled a little.
"I know that Mel. And Tony knows too. You're happy for us, we're happy for you and John, and John's happy to finally be getting to eat the wedding cake. Everyone's happy."
Libby was trying to make a bit of a joke, but all at once Mel slumped into frilly uncomfortable looking chair and burst into tears. "I'm so sorry. It's all my fault." She hiccupped through a few more apologies before Libby managed to interrupt.
"Melanie! You are going to have to start making more sense than that. What on earth are you talking about? What's your fault?"
"You and Tony! I almost ruined everything. I swear I had no idea how he really felt. All those years and I never even suspected he was really serious about you. I just kept throwing you at Gio and Sam. Did you know he turned out to be gay? How can I be sure about John if I wasn't even right about my own brother's feelings?"
"Don't be dumb, Mel." Libby said softly as she crouched down in front of the chair. "Nothing you ever said really had that much impact on our relationship. And yeah, everyone but you and Tony knew about Sam."
Mel sniffled and rolled her eyes.
"Seriously." Libby continued. "It may have taken Tony and I awhile to work things out between us, but our decisions were our own. If we hadn't waited who knows where we'd be now. I loved Rome. I wouldn't trade my time there for anything in the world. But, two years ago? If it had been Rome or Tony? I probably never would have gone. And if Tony had ended up in Florida with me than he might never have started the Daily Press. Anyhow, loving Tony now isn't the same as loving him when we were kids. We needed to grow up and now we are both in the same place and ready to be together. If anything I'm glad that you stuck your nose in every now and then. And John? Trust me, any man who is willing to have 'kiss the girl' from The Little Mermaid as his wedding song is a keeper. You guys are disgustingly perfect for each other."
"He is pretty amazing." Mel dabbed at her cheeks with the tissue Libby had handed her. "I'm so happy. I'm going to have you and John as my family!"
"Well don't forget Tony."
Mel rolled her eyes. "He's alright, I guess." And they went back to getting Mel perfect for her walk down the aisle.
If you didn't count John's ball and chain joke during his vows, the wedding was lovely. And Libby figured she couldn't hold John's joke against him since Mel seemed to think it was really very funny. Libby stood next to her the whole time smiling and trying not to think about how much Mel's ridiculously large bouquet weighed. She made a mental note to carry a single classic flower down the aisle when her turn came. The ceremony went on and on, but finally Mel and John were married and everyone cheered as they strutted back down the aisle. Libby walked out with Parker since he was John's best man.
Tony stole a kiss or two during the many many many photos Mel insisted on, but she didn't get much time with him since as the Maid of Honor she was nearly always posed with the Best Man. Tony's smile dipped each time Parker put his arm around her waist. What was the matter with Tony today? He couldn't possibly still be jealous of Parker, could he? Not that that would explain his weird He-Man act with the cake boxes earlier.
They didn't even get to sit with each other at the reception. Well they were at the same table, but Mel's head table was obnoxiously long and the groomsmen were several seats down from where Libby was. Tony continued to act oddly during the wedding party song. Parker seemed to find it hilarious and even baited poor Tony by pulling Libby a little closer and whispering in her ear. Of course there was no way for Tony to know that Parker was in fact recounting the highlights of some horror movie he'd seen a few days ago.
The song was still echoing the last note when Tony appeared next to them. "May I have this dance?" He elbowed Parker away sharply before dropped a kiss onto Libby's mouth. Over his shoulder she could see Parker shaking with laughter as he backed away.
"What has gotten into you?" Libby tried to keep her voice down.
"What are you talking about?" Tony grinned and spun Libby in circle. "Can't a guy want to dance with his fiancé?"
"Of course, but what was with the eyeball daggers you were flinging at poor Parker?"
"Poor Parker." Tony scoffed. "I think I spent enough time standing aside while that guy got to put his hands all over you."
"We're just friends, Tony. You have nothing to worry about."
Tony smirked and pulled her closer. "I'm not worried sweetheart. I trust you from here to the moon. But that doesn't mean I like watching other men touch you when I want so badly to be the one doing the touching."
Libby considered that. It was kind of romantic even if it was also annoying. Tony's fingers were dancing across the exposed skin on her back and she was finding it extremely difficult to stay annoyed.
Tony bent his head until Libby could feel his breath tickling her ear. "You have the softest skin," he whispered. "I love this dress." Libby was only able to sigh and snuggle into his chest a little more. "Didn't you girls get a bunch of dressing rooms to yourselves upstairs?" Tony asked when their song was winding down.
"Yeah, we did. Why?" Libby looked up at him. Tony's eyes were dark and wide and he was sporting one of those predatory smiles that were designed to scramble Libby's nerves. "Oh."
He smiled wider. "Damn right, oh." He whispered a little lower. "Why don't you give me a tour?"
Just at that moment a heavy dark skinned hand landed on her forearm. She looked over to find Gio smiling at them. "May I cut it?"
Libby's eyes cut to Tony's and he shook his head with a small chuckle. "Sure thing, Chef. I'll get us a couple of drinks. Okay, sweetheart?" He put a little too strong of an emphasis on the word 'sweetheart', but that was still better behavior than Libby had been expecting.
"Thank you." She hoped he caught the double reason for her gratitude. Tony nodded, but he still looked a little upset.
Gio's arms felt familiar as he adjusted their dance moves for the more up-beat song now playing. Familiar, but she didn't feel any leftover stirrings for more. No wonder Libby and Gio had managed to keep their hands to themselves for so long... they didn't really share more than a warm friendship and a mild attraction that was eclipsed into nothingness by Tony's presence.
"So? The Writer?" Gio grinned at her.
"Umm... yes." Awkward! Libby couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes. "Tony and I... had a long talk after you left. He loves me."
"And you love him." Gio was telling her not asking her.
"Yeah, I do." She finally looked at him, and he was still smiling. "I'm happy."
"That is all that matters, Betta." Gio went on to regale her with tales of his trip to New York. An extraordinary number of his sentences seemed to begin with 'Elaine and I...' and Libby suspected that his trip to the US hadn't been a complete loss.
They danced to two more songs before it was time for the toasts. After that Mel dragged her off meet her new in-laws. Then amazingly there were even more photos to be taken. Tony watched on with visible irritation. Libby found that exceedingly amusing. It was highly unlikely that she would ever grow bored of Tony's attention. Finally, John took pity on everyone and convinced Mel that they would have the rest of their lives to take photos together and that they should get back to the party.
"Here, here!" Tony exclaimed and reached for Libby's wrist. "I'd like to dance with my date."
"Me too, dude." John nodded in Mel's direction and for the first time ever Libby witnessed John and Tony agreeing on something.
Mel noticed too. "Wow. We are just like a family already! We are all going to be so happy. We'll spend the holidays together, and go on vacations together, and our kids will be the best of friends!"
Libby thought that sounded nice... the boys rolled their eyes.
"Let's get to the wedding night before we start discussing babies, babe." John grabbed Mel a little too inappropriately for Libby's comfort and she nudged Tony in the direction of the dance floor.
"Wait!" Mel called after them. "Before I forget. Our flight got moved to tomorrow evening. So John and I thought that you guys could meet us tomorrow for a little post wedding brunch! Doesn't that sound awesome?"
"Yeah, we'd like--"
"No!" Tony screamed. Then he cleared his throat. "No thanks. Libby and I have plans tomorrow. Come on Lib." Tony practically pulled her arm out of the socket getting them away from Mel and John.
"That was rude!" Libby yanked her arm free from Tony's grasp. "What is the matter with you tonight?"
"Huh?" He looked genuinely confused. "What are you talking about?"
"You are acting like a crazy person! First you were treating me like an invalid, then you go postal-jealous on Parker, and now we have imaginary plans keeping us from hanging out with your sister tomorrow. Crazy. Person." She jabbed him in the chest with each word.
"Lib." Tony caught her finger before she could poke him again. "I'm not crazy. I swear. And I wasn't anywhere near the postal level of jealous. Do you remember the time you pranced around my parents' house in his tee-shirt? The guy was lucky I didn't break his face."
"Not funny." Libby made a face at him.
"I was completely serious." Tony muttered. "Look, I am acting a little weird, but I swear I have good intentions. And we do have plans for tomorrow."
"Oh? What are we doing?"
Tony cringed. "I can't tell you."
Libby threw her hands in the air. "What is going on?"
Tony reached out for her. "I'm sorry if I let Parker get to me. Old habits die hard. Can we please just go have some fun."
Tony managed to coax Libby's good humor back and they did enjoy the rest of the party. He only flinched a little when his cousin Frank complimented Libby's dress. When Parker caught the garter, and Libby caught the bouquet he didn't say a word about Parker placing the garter on Libby's leg. He did stand directly in Parker's line of vision and start coughing loudly when the garter reached her knee.
Later, Libby scolded him for making a scene. It was only a silly tradition after all. But Tony had the perfect reply. "I'm sorry, Lib. You're right. I promise that later tonight I will help you get that garter all the way up." It was a very hard apology to argue with.
As family they were expected to stay late and help load up all the gifts and things. Libby didn't mind. She loved the Marchettis. Tony was still acting weird though. Actually he was getting weirder. When she tried to carry her cake bag, filled with emergency decorating supplies, out to their car he hadn't let her go near the door. Then when Mrs. Marchetti wanted to know if she could get some extra copies of Monday's issue of the Daily Press, which would feature Mel's wedding announcement, Tony told her she'd have to call the office and have someone set some aside. That wasn't like him. Why couldn't he do it himself?
Finally, everything was cleaned up, or loaded up, or thrown away and it was time to go. Tony had been missing for at least ten minutes while Libby did a last check under all the tables to make sure no one had left anything behind. When he reappeared with their jackets over one of his arms he was bouncing in place and looked a little like he did on the days she made chocolate chip cookies.
"Ready, sweetheart?" He melted her with one of those patented only-for-Libby grins.
"Where have you been?"
He shrugged. "Just finishing something up. Are you ready to go?"
She smiled back at him. "Yup! Let's go home."
"Not yet." Tony's grin got bigger."
"No?" Libby looked around. Everything seemed to be taken care of. "Did you have somewhere else in mind?"
Tony nodded slowly and offered her the crook of his arm as they headed outside. "Do you remember when I was acting weird before?"
"Vividly" she replied.
That made him laugh. "Well I told you I had good intentions, remember?"
"I remember that too." Libby was startled when he pulled her in the direction opposite from the parking lot. "Where are you going?"
"Just over here." They turned the corner of the building and Libby froze when she saw a bench in a small ornamental garden covered in twinkle lights. At the curb a few feet away there was a long white limo.
"What's going on?"
"Have a seat, Lib."
Libby numbly walked over to the bench and sat down.
"Sweetheart," Tony spoke as he lowered himself onto one knee in front of her. "I love you so much. I have loved you for most of my life, and the day you agreed to be my wife was without question the happiest day I have ever known. But..."
"But?!?" Libby interrupted. Tony laughed and made a shushing motion at her.
"But," he continued, "I wish I had given you more of a moment to remember than cold pancakes and a promise of furniture."
"I love that couch!" Libby couldn't help interrupting him again. Tony had taken her furniture shopping the day after his proposal. He insisted on buying her any sofa in the whole store.
"Can I finish, here?"
"Oh. Right, sure. Go right ahead." Libby settled down and Tony chuckled at her again.
"As I was saying. I'm so glad that you agreed to be my wife, but now I want to ask you something a little different. Libby?" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a perfect diamond ring. The twinkly lights reflected off the stone and made it look extra magical. "Will you marry me?"
"I don't understand." Libby said. "How is that a different question?"
"I'm asking you to marry me... now."
Tony reached for her hand and slipped the ring on her finger. "Well tonight, maybe early tomorrow morning." He reached into another pocket and handed her an envelope.
Libby opened it slowly and then her heart flipped over when she saw the plane tickets. "Las Vegas?"
Tony nodded towards the limo. You're all packed. You only need to say yes. I remember when you said it was a romantic way to get married, and I don't need all this." He flicked his wrist towards the building where Mel had just gotten married. "I only need you, Lib. I need you for the rest of my life. And I want to start now."
"This is why you were acting like a lunatic?"
"I guess. I've been on edge all day. And I managed to sneak your suitcase out to the car last night, but then the cakes..."
"Oh!" Libby suddenly understood his need to keep her away from the trunk of the car.
"I thought... " Tony looked unsure. "If I'm off base here, Libby, you can have any wedding you want."
"No!" Libby pulled Tony off his knee so she could kiss him. "I only want you, Tony. Let's go get married."
Tony kissed her senseless there on the curb with only the driver as a witness and then helped her into the back of the limo. "You know what?"
"What?" Libby sighed happily.
"It's at least an hour to the airport from here." Libby blushed as the limo driver raised the dark partition and Tony pulled her onto his lap. "Have I told you how much I love this dress?"