Yet, there’s my name, on the STGB list. Click on it, and you’ll find two reviews. (That’s two reviews.) Mind you, it wouldn’t matter if I’d posted 100 reviews, still wouldn’t make me a troll. And if I’m not a troll, how can anyone trust that the other people listed are trolls? Like Kathryn Warner, who writes the best Edward II blog in the universe. She knows her stuff and she reviewed a book. Yep, that’s what she did – she reviewed a book. (I might say this a little more slowly so you can fully understand the horror. She. Reviewed. A. Book.) Some other people reviewed the same book and suggested that if you want to read about that particular time in history, two other writers had written better books. Yep, that’s right. In reviewing a product, two people thought that someone else’s product was better. Kathryn didn’t. She reviewed the book on its (lack of) historical accuracy and, for that, she’s named in a whole STGB post about the (non-existent) conspiracy to do Author A down in favour of Author B…
Oh, stuff it, I’m already on their ‘trolls’ list, so what more can they do? (I’m sure they believe this will damage my ‘brand’, this organisation that is so up in arms about the Amazon/Goodreads review process damaging writer’s brands. But if you’re not prepared to try and inflict actual damage on the people your (alleged) crazed fantasies insist are causing imaginary damage, then what’s the point of your existence? Actually, STGB, you might just want to answer that anyway – what’s the point in your existence? (See what I did there? I used the word ‘alleged’ which means I can say anything I like.)
So, back to the story… There’s been an ongoing saga – two sagas, actually, that seem to have morphed into one, both bleated about in blogs, on facebook and in other internet fora. Both are about ‘nasty’ reviewers destroying the good names of the (sarcasm alert) World’s Best Writers. One involved a writer phoning the place of work of an Amazon commenter in an attempt to get them sacked. (Yes, that’s right. That’s what you do when someone annoys you. You phone their workplace and try to get them sacked.) The other involved some pretty nasty things being said about another writer. (Yes, that’s what some writers do – they attack other writers. Then, when they read a review of their work that doesn’t gush and fawn, they cry “I’ve been attacked!” Self-awareness much?) I’ve been on the periphery of these two sagas, attempting (in my capacity as occasional Voice of Reason) to get both these writers (who I don’t know well but share a couple of fora with) to stop getting involved in the Amazon/Goodreads review process because the only people they will hurt are themselves. And guess what? Their ‘brands’ have been damaged by all this. Which feeds their (alleged) paranoia even more.
I’m going to post a couple of links so that anyone who isn’t already aware of all this can see for themselves. I’ve alluded to these two stoushes before but, being well brought up, I mentioned no names. Well, the time for that is over. Linking Kathryn Warner and Sharon Penman (yes, that’s right – Sharon Penman) in a sordid little bit of ‘subterfuge’ and ‘sabotage’. So that Sharon Penman (I might just say that again – Sharon Penman) might sell more books than Katherine Ashe… Because, as we all know, Sharon Penman (not sure you heard me the first time – that’s Sharon Penman) is so desperately in need of sales and readers that she has no choice but to sabotage the practically unknown Katherine Ashe. FFS, STGB, sprinkle a bit of Lots-O-Logic onto your blog posts and it makes this kind of nonsense vanish clean away!
So Katherine Ashe self-immolates on the twin altars of Trashing Another Writer and Refusing to Accept She’s Not Infallible When It Comes to History (ok, not so snappy, but I try) and instead of taking a step back and saying “What could I have done to prevent this? Ah, I know! Maybe I shouldn’t have trashed that other writer! Perhaps I could have engaged my critics in an intelligent and reasonable way!” retreats farther and farther into (alleged) paranoia and calls in the STGB bullies. Because they are bullies. Worse than anything they imagine the people on their little list are. Some people read your book and didn’t like it, Katherine. Learn something from it. Get over it. Move on. Just don’t drag the good names of Kathryn Warner and Sharon Penman (*sigh*) into your (alleged) fevered imaginings. If you don’t fancy reading the ‘lost in a rainforest’ blog, here’s a couple of things Katherine Ashe has to say about fellow (and more successful) writer, Katharine Ashe: she writes ‘trash’; she’s the ‘mistress of the bodice ripper’; she ‘churns out’ books. Charming! And this is the writer who (according to one STGB commenter) doesn’t “ruin the reputation of another author for her profit”. Right. Oh, and while we’re about it, there’s a clear accusation in that comment that Sharon Penman (that’s THE Sharon Penman, in case you’re wondering) is somehow involved in this sordid little conspiracy.
And what does this conspiracy consist of? Three 1 star reviews for a book. Dated (respectively) 8 April 2010; 2 July 2012; and 16 February 2013. Two of them suggest that two other writers (not just Sharon Penman (no, there isn’t another, less well known Sharon Penman this refers to)) have written better books than the one in question. So a very small conspiracy that moves at the speed of pitch. You need to grit your teeth and think really hard to turn these three, unconnected, comments into ‘subterfuge’. But one bunch of people can do it – STGB! They can turn any review or comment into just about anything they fancy. And, while they’re about it, they can (ominous music) Put Your Name on a List!
Then there’s the other story. Of the writer who (ill-advisedly) launched himself into an Amazon flame war because a friend of his received a fairly unintelligible negative review. “What do I do?” the friend said. “Stand back,” ex-marine Lloyd Lofthouse said. “I’ll deal with this!” Which led to him phoning an Amazon commenter’s place of work and (allegedly) trying to get them fired. Which, further, has led to post after post after post about the ‘nasty trolls’ out there who just don’t have the sense to recognise (alleged) literary genius when they see it. And about how being involved in an Amazon flame war is just exactly the same, in every way, as being raped.
Katherine, Lloyd, please listen to me. People are going to read your books and maybe not like them. They’re going to tell other people that they don’t like them. Get over it.
And then there’s the petition. Yes, that’s right. Some writers believe that they should be able to decide who comments on their work and who doesn’t. They want the right to block commenters and reviewers from having their say on Amazon. They really do. They want to control what is said about their books. But they want to be able to say what they like about other people’s books. The other day, in a review written by one of the most (alleged) fervent STGB bullies, I found this: “I’ll tell you, I couldn’t even get through Twilight.” Yes! That’s one of the (alleged) leading lights in STGB – the How Dare You Say Something Negative About a Book What I Wrote! people – putting down in black and white that they failed to enjoy a book so much they didn’t finish it. Why isn’t this name (“Chris”. though there is some question as to whether it’s the writer’s real name) on the STGB ‘Amazon Fora Trolls’ list? I mean, that’s a really nasty thing to say about someone’s book! How dare “Chris” be so unkind! It’s probably a conspiracy. She’s suggesting, after all, that people shouldn’t read Twilight (whatever that is) but some other book by another author instead. SUBTERFUGE!!!
Also mentioned (and linked to) is the Don’t Defame the Dead ‘campaign’ and facebook group. The implication here is that it’s targeted at particular writers. It isn’t. It came from something that Sharon Penman once said, that Kathryn Warner thoroughly agreed with (she’s up to her eyeballs in nonsense about Edward II et al) and that a couple of us ran with. Here’s my DDTD contribution, with the link to Kathryn’s at the end. There’s nothing sinister in it and nothing to suggest that there’s any great conspiracy lurking behind the plaintive plea.
Here’s Kathryn Warner’s review of Montfort. This is, apparently, all the evidence anyone requires that she (and the other reviewers ‘outed’ by STGB) is in cahoots with Sharon Penman (sorry, I’m still trying to process that in my head – Sharon Penman!) to boost Penman’s sales at the expense of Ashe. I’d be ashamed of myself if I tried to blame slow (or non-existent) sales on (imaginary) fans of Genuine Great Author being out to get me. I’d call in the favour I asked some time ago and get a very good friend of mine to bitch slap me till I started talking sense again.
Kathryn Warner is highly knowledgeable in her field. If I need to know anything about any of the Three Edwards, their lives and times, I go to Kathryn. She is the furthest thing from a troll or a bully that anyone could wish to meet. There’s nonsense that needs to be stopped; heads than need to be pulled in and egos that need to be deflated. I don’t call for STGB to be silenced. They have the right to talk whatever nonsense they like; anything else would require me to sink to their level and I have this thing called dignity that prevents that. But they need to be very careful about who they make allegations about. I’m expecting a retraction in their next blog – apologising to both Kathryn and Sharon Penman. It might be a false hope, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
The entertainment business – music; books; films; tv; sport &c – is not for the thin skinned or the fainthearted. If you aren’t prepared to take criticism (and yes, sulk a bit if you get a bad review; drink a bottle of wine; vent to your husband/wife/best friend, but don’t take it to Amazon or facebook or Goodreads) then don’t get into it. And “I didn’t like this book much” however its worded doesn’t give any writer, or their friends, the right to go after the reviewer. Suck it up and move on.
As for me being an Amazon troll… I’m expecting someone to try and start a flamewar on one of my two reviews. They may be disappointed.
UPDATE: Two comments left on the STGB blog by people named in their ‘Amazon Fora Trolls’ list have not only not been published, they’ve been removed from the moderation queue. That’s two people who have been labelled ‘trolls’ by this group and not given the right of reply. Not the actions of a group that wants to be seen as aboveboard and honest. You want to call someone a troll without a shred of evidence and then not give them the right of reply? Or is it just difficult to pretend that someone’s evil when others can read their words?
Rather than actually approving either of the comments, this was posted on the STGB site overnight. Further evidence of their methods. If you have nothing to fear, STGB, let your critics speak for themselves. And Katherine Ashe did call Katharine Ashe’s books ‘trash’. Just click on the link to the ‘lost in the rainforest’ story and you’ll see it right there.
Is it because this comment gives the correct version of the story that it was deleted? It’s certainly not because it was ‘snobby’ or ‘self-righteous’, ‘self-important’ or any of the other adjectives used. It quoted Katherine Ashe’s own words (as I have above). And any writer who feels they’re entitled to call another writer’s work ‘trash’ really shouldn’t be complaining about three 1 star reviews! And this ‘we can say what we like about you but we will NOT publish any of your comments’ policy is a sign of cowardice and firm entrenchment in the moral low ground. If you want to hand out crap, you have got to be prepared to take it.
This is the level of debate these people are capable of. Never mind Kathryn’s research experience or the respect in which she’s held in the history community (article published in English Historical Review, among other things), if she’s not an ‘adolescent’ she’s an ‘old woman’.
… don’t look now, but you’re the ones ‘getting exposed’.
AND… UPDATE: Here’s another blog on the same subject.
ONE MORE UPDATE: Some chap who’s got his knickers in a twist about Amazon’s review policy (I really don’t care, and neither should you) has taken the STGRB ‘trolls’ list and posted it whole (without checking for himself to see whether any of those named are actually trolls or not) on facebook. So, someone who has posted two reviews to Amazon (and some who have posted none – yes, that’s right, no reviews at all!) are enshrined in some petty, opinionated writer’s facebook page as evil trolls. “Rumor has it that some of these troll have up to 6 sock-puppets,” he says. Maybe he could introduce me to mine, we could all go out for lunch.