Plagiarism rears its ugly head again

Well. Butter my butt and call me a biscuit. I thought I was a slow learner, but I figured that by now folks would know better than to just outright lift books written by other people, change the names, and call it theirs.

I was wrong.

Aside from the personal betrayal I feel that yet another person has stolen right and left from some prominent Harlequin authors, there’s a huge element of intellectual WTF-ery that’s going on in my head.

It keeps going back to two things. First, who steals writing? Who thinks that’s okay? Who thinks that just slapping your name on something gives you the right to count yourself a writer? The writing community has gone over and over this – Do Not Steal Words!! It’s not that hard a lesson to learn. There’s a thick, sticky film of moral turpitude all over this woman’s actions. A general sense of “ewwww” that’s usually reserved for people who have unnatural relations with farm animals.

Second, her original excuse when caught out: “I forgot I didn’t write it.”

There are no words to explain to someone who isn’t a writer that this Simply Isn’t Possible. Sure, you may have forgotten you wrote a piece you stashed in a file on your computer. But when you read it, it comes back to you. You remember not just the words, but the voice, the decisions you made over every turn of phrase, you remember where you were sitting and what phase of life you were in. But whole stories do not just pop up out of nowhere, and leave you with no memory of having sat down and put in the hours.

It’s BS anyway. She later wrote an apology and posted it to Dear Author, basically stating that yes, she’s a thief and she’s sorry.

I’m of two minds about that (I seem to be very multiply minded today). I’m glad she apologized. We don’t get that from most of the people who plagiarize. But after most of the day with the “I forgot I wrote it” thing flinging around the internet, it falls short of solving anything. Apologies don’t usually solve situations to begin with, but coming as it did after multiple offenses were uncovered, it feels a lot more like she’s sorry she got caught.

Is it a question of wanting the cachet? Because yeah, being a romance author is so often well-regarded in society.

And the time spent running a blog and participating in writer’s groups and just generally being out there as an author – why do that if you don’t write?

I never will understand what drives people to do this, and I suppose that’s a good thing for most of us. That our brains are simply not wired to steal things that don’t belong to us.

It wasn’t what I wanted to deal with yesterday, but I’m glad it’s out – like lancing an infection. An ugly business, but once it’s done, the healing can begin. I don’t know if this story will serve as a cautionary tale to prevent anyone who’s already bent like this from plagiarizing, but it’s at least some comfort that this individual has been exposed.

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