Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- MM Rides Again

Re: Ann's musings on writers who become scammers...how about scammers who become writers?

Remember crazy conwoman-turned-literary agent/fake writers' conference organizer Melanie Mills, a.k.a. Elisabeth von Hullessem, a.k.a. Lisa Hackney, currently going by the rather unwieldy sobriquet of Raswitha Elisabeth Melanie Mills (Remmi for short)? Remember how, having finally been extradited back to Arkansas from Canada to face the six charges (including first degree battery and aggravated assault) she dodged in a 1999 bail jump, she attempted to shop a manuscript called The MM Journals, supposedly based on her life story? Since she sent it to legitimate agents, it's reasonable to suppose that her ambition was commercial publication.

She seems to have gone a different route.

Be sure to check out the photos at the bottom of the page. I think it's a safe bet that she is not the blonde in the bustier.

44 comments:

p.n. Elrod said...

That's not the funniest or the most pathetic thing I've seen on eBay, but at 1.25 it's certainly the most overpriced!

Does the copyright department at Vogue or Victoria's secret know she hijacked the pic of the blond chick?

BWAH!

Anonymous said...

Um--yanno, she left out THIS pic in her ad listing:

http://evalu8.org/staticpage?page=review&siteid=5525

And since her past behavior with eBay got her kicked off for not paying her bills, I'm sure they would be delighted to know she's back under a new member name.

roach said...

I can't see who the publisher is on the book. Anyone know? (I'm guessing a vanity press.)

Dave Kuzminski said...

Gee, the first bid was for $.01 so a miracle must have occurred to get it up to a whole buck-twenty-five.

Dee said...

wonder who the lucky buyer was? Certainly not her mother...how sad is that...
every mother buys her daughter/son's book, but not her...

Of course, can't blame mom...even mine would be upset if I pulverized her hips...wow...what a looneytune.

Victoria Strauss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Victoria Strauss said...

It's Lulu. You can blow up the book cover on the auction site, and the Lulu logo is just visible on the spine. Looks like she used the free option--there doesn't seem to be an ISBN, and it isn't listed on Amazon.

Anonymous said...

All those murky pics of herself--not one glam studio shot that canny romance writers get for their books.

I buy books from e-bay and such ads need just one pic--the cover--pub. date if it's special like a 1st edition, condition it's in, and starting price. NO ONE puts in the author's family history.

My psychological autopsy fairie tells me this is a person utterly desperate to find some way of getting validation.

Only she's not too terribly smart. Her ad with all those pointless pics cost several times more than 1.25. Then there are the sales fees to deduct. D'OH!

If it weren't for the happless folks she ripped off I'd feel sorry for her. This is a seriously sick puppy in need of professional help, but there she is, running loose and being a misery to herself and others.

YO! M.M.--GET A REAL JOB AND A SHRINK! You'll feel better about being inside your own skin.

michaelc said...

What's this about a cartoon in the New Yorker?

Victoria Strauss said...

I think she's referring to the cartoon that ran on the back page of the NY Times Book Review after the Banff conference scam was exposed. It was a riff on fake writers' conferences and scammed writers. There's a reference to "a woman with many aliases" but it doesn't mention her by name(s).

tlh said...

Am I the only one who was tempted to buy a copy just for the horrible, horrible grammar and really strange sentence structure displayed in the summary?

Her mother: Countess von Hullessem accuses her daughter of trying to run her down who, herself, had been under suspicion of assisting in the suicide of her husband, found shot twice in the abdomen, in the master bedroom of their home in the luxury resort of Palm Desert, California---outside Palm Springs.

You can't make prose this bad up. If only it wouldn't put money in the hands of a selfish nutjob scammer...

My psychological autopsy fairie tells me this is a person utterly desperate to find some way of getting validation.

(Can I steal that nifty phrase?) My feeling is that you're pretty much right, with the addition that she is so self-centered that nobody else in the world has meaning to her except as far as they serve her purposes.

She touts herself as royalty because, in her mind, she *is* royalty -- the queen of the world.

The one thing that really bugs me is that people like this can't ever really understand the ramifications of what they've done.

They can be sorry they're being punished, or sorry they were caught, but never, ever sorry that they did what they did or hurt who they did.

There I go being all philosophical, when I should be giggling over those bombshell blonde photos she's pretending are her.

salty said...

that "dancing on the porch" pic is eerie, i'm glad i wasn't at that party

Anonymous said...

"nobody else in the world has meaning to her except as far as they serve her purposes."

Right, so we have an ego-starved sociopath. Add in obsessive-cumpulsive disorder, paranoia, massive insecurity, hyper-defensivness, with a need to control others and be the center of attention, and that's a perfect clone of a sick puppy I dealt with for over a decade: my ex. No wonder she struck a chord of recognition with me.

Though sometimes charming, that sort is anything but amusing and can be very dangerous. Let's be careful out there, look both ways before crossing the street, 'k?

Matt D said...

That's hysterical.

http://www.lulu.com/content/428269

I may bid.

Victoria Strauss said...

OMG!!! Thanks Matt.

The MM Journal.

I note that there's yet another pseudonym/alias switcheroo--the copyright holder is listed as L.R. Mills-Hackney. Even she must be getting confused at this point.

Anonymous said...

Could someone here who has a Lulu account please report that her "sinfully hot autobiography based on Ms. von Hullessem's life story" has been rated for teens?

Granted most teens would likely find this ho-hum boring (and be too smart to buy it) but one should make an effort at the rating system.

Don't ya love how she has those cute little quotes around fugitive?

--A member of the Church of St. Looney Up the Cream Bun and Jam who thinks MM should be tranqued. Quickly.

Chill Daddy said...

Liking your blog - learning lots.

This woman scares me. Makes me want to hide my stories and only show them to my mom because I can trust her.

(Writer Beware helped me form my 'acceptable agent' paradigm - thanks very much)

Anonymous said...

Ann C. Crispin uses the jargon-like "groupmind" in the previous post. In this post, as elsewhere in the Strauss/Crispin blog entries, an obvious eccentric is held up as an example of "the one clearly identifiable enemy." Elsewhere, among blog-commenters, there's a fair amount of lay diagnosing of psychiatric disorder in certain agent "scammers" or incompetents. In general, there's a certain cultishness to this Internet discussion about what makes "proper" routes to getting published. Is this healthy or productive? To analogize from an obviously coarse but still apropos example, we know the Nazis and Soviets, among their cult-like methods, had ways of depicting a grossly caricatured enemy to enforce a certain solidarity among their own. The Nazis had their Jews and Soviets; the Soviets had their Nazis and American/British capitalists. As for the followers of Strauss and Crispin: why be so cultish? Why be *publishing Nazis*? Why don't Strauss and Crispin clue new writers off to the gray areas and vagaries of the real world? And followers--be ready for anything. An editor once summed her philosophy to being a freelance editor, which I think is relevant to writers: "Bargain in good faith, but expect trouble."

michaelc said...

Anonymous, what Ann and Victoria are doing is a perfectly legitimate way to get their points across. The use of humor and ridicule is a great way to bring people to this blog, so they can be educated about what to avoid. For a very serious take on things, try writerbeware.com.

And "groupmind" is a synonym for "consensus." Consensus is good, and I don't think it's what Hitler or Stalin were trying to achieve.

Jane said...

Despite that auction ending on 27 September the buyer has yet to receive his book, as of today, 8 October. I wonder when it will arrive? How long does Lulu usually take to print and post?

Samuel Tinianow said...

Anonymous's analogy isn't just coarse; it's ridiculous. The comparison of blog commenters to Nazis because of what he calls "cultish" behavior is an enormous jump in logic. All major world religions began as cults, as did all successful political systems, and all cultural revolutions. The agricultural lifestyle by which almost everyone in the world lives began thousands of years ago as a cult.

The Nazi party wasn't bad because it exhibited cultish behavior; it was bad because it burned people's homes, rounded them into camps, and killed them. It was bad because it equated human beings with vermin, not just metaphorically, but literally. It was bad because it made atrocious behavior acceptable.

Ann and Victoria aren't encouraging their commentors to seek out and harrass publishing scammers, nor are they pushing for these people to receive unjustly severe punishment or viewing them as subhuman.

Anyone who can't understand why commentors would show animocity or be judgmental of people who have cheated others out of their chance at a writing career should try spending years of their life writing a novel, shopping it to agents, finally finding one, and then discovering months later that their manuscript has, at best, gone nowhere and, at worst, gone somewhere very unsavory.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Clearly, the one individual with that opinion of Ann and Victoria is in the minority. I know this because I attended the James River Writers Conference this past two days. When folks spotted me in between panels as I walked to the next room, many attendees recognized me because I was wearing my visor with the P&E logo on the front. They would stop me to say thanks for operating P&E and would often wish Ann and Victoria success with Writer Beware in the same breath.

The word is definitely getting around to the experienced writers and the new writers who were attending their first ever conference. I reminded them to let other new writers know about WB and P&E and the other sites providing warnings. Many promised they would.

roach said...

Huh. That's gotta be the quickest invocation of Godwins Law I've seen yet.

Anonymous said...

Dang it, Roach, you beat me to it. All I need now is a a Flounce, and I've got a bingo.

Anonymous, if you'd been around online communities long all, you'd know that an anonymous poster who blatts into an established blog written by people who've proved their credibility over and over, vomits ridiculous statements comparing these people to Nazis--particularly when at least one of the blog owners is Jewish--and displays a profound ignorance of the site, its owners, and the topic at hand quite simply has no credibility. None. You look remarkably like an idiot right now. Perhaps some day you'll have the grace to be embarrassed.

Aconite

Bernita said...

Thank you, Aconite.Well said. Ridiculous is the word.
Anonymous' own lay-diagnosis of "cultic" characteristics utilizes the methods which he claims to decry and appears to be in defense of the art of scamming.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to answer Samuel Tinianow's comment:
"Anyone who can't understand why commentors would show animocity [sic] or be judgmental of people who have cheated others out of their chance at a writing career should try spending years of their life writing a novel, shopping it to agents, finally finding one, and then discovering months later that their manuscript has, at best, gone nowhere and, at worst, gone somewhere very unsavory."
Indeed, I have spent time writing books, found an agent (actually more than one), and "had it go nowhere." Actually, most of the manuscripts I shopped around have been nonfiction. (My sister's husband, a law professor with several books published by a university press, tried to shop a first novel through his agent. The agent sent it to a subsidy publisher in California, which "accepted" it, and my brother-in-law paid an installment to the publisher. The publisher went out of business, and a class action suit by clients of the subsidy publisher was started, but my brother-in-law didn't join it.) But given my experience, I would still use the analogy about S&C that I did--some of the best analogies may seem counterintuitive but are robust for focusing on not-so-obvious aspects in each side of the analogy (the symbol and the object of the analogy). In this case, the main point is not Nazism, but cultishness--not a cult per se, but cultishness.
And some of you point out my perfidy for being "Anonymous"? I myself have been criticized strongly myself by other "Anonymous" Web-writing people.
Another way to make my point about S&C is--the difference between what you learn about books in school and the nature of wide swaths of the publishing world is the difference between the church and the battlefield. Strauss and Crispin are too close to claiming all publishing is the "church."
But we all can disagree. This is what debate--and not cultishness--are about, no?
Enjoy.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I guess I'll be called an enemy of the state now because one of my writings was published in an Islamic publication (albeit without my permission).

Anonymous said...

No, Dave, you're demonstrating to the Islamic world free speech with your article being published in that publication. (Free speech and debate go together...)
As for the copyright infringement, it happens to the best of us, unfortunately.

roach said...

Ah...I get it. Non-fiction Writer Anonymous (from Actually, most of the manuscripts I shopped around have been nonfiction.) is forwarding an inclusive definition of publishing by which vanity presses are ranked right beside commercial publishers. This diffuse (and incorrect) definition is often used by those who have either a) been published by a vanity press or b) never been published at all and know little to nothing about the actual publishing industry. (I'm guessing at b) for Non-fiction Writer Anonymous: Indeed, I have spent time writing books, found an agent (actually more than one), and "had it go nowhere.").

S/he writes: My sister's husband, a law professor with several books published by a university press, tried to shop a first novel through his agent. The agent sent it to a subsidy publisher in California, which "accepted" it, and my brother-in-law paid an installment to the publisher. The publisher went out of business, and a class action suit by clients of the subsidy publisher was started, but my brother-in-law didn't join it. This doesn't actually support N-fWA's arguement. In fact it goes counter to the argument because an "agent" who would send a manuscript to a subsidy (read vanity) publisher isn't an actual agent. Such an agent is a scam artist, simply put. So while N-fWA might have thought this was a bit of anectdotal evidence that would lend weight to the otherwise silly arguments N-fWA raised, instead it just shows how uneducated N-fWA really is.

The good news, though, is that one can be educated. Reading the Writer Beware Blog is a good start. If one has written several books but gotten nowhere in commercial publishing, one should also read Slushkiller. Also, hanging out in places where commercially published authors congregate is a good idea as well. And reading Miss Snark and Evil Editor is akin to taking your daily dose of writer's business vitamins. A month of reading these blogs will greatly increase the level of education of any writer, commercially published and otherwise.

As an aside, N-fWA might want to take a look at the link to Godwin's Law I posted earlier, paying special attention to the first paragraph under "Corollaries and usage."

Samuel Tinianow said...

Okay, now I'm intrigued by the school/church analogy. Writer Beware is an multi-award-winning, SWFA-endorsed site. Ann and Victoria are both published by HarperCollins Eos. If this is the church, then what "school" are the authors of the 170,000 books published in the US each year supposed to be attending?

On a side note, I'm with Bernita on this one. I especially like the quote marks around "scammers" and "proper" in Anonymous's original post. As if it's a matter of perspective. As if the shady business practices Ann and Victoria blog about are only bad because the powers-that-be just said so out of the blue.

Anonymous said...

On "roach"'s comment about my brother-in-law's agent sending his novel to a subsidy publisher: I don't approve of my bro-in-law trying this route--and I think he was hoodwinked by his agent regarding that novel. But you'd have to ask him whether he thinks his agent is a "scam" agent after this agent placed several of his books with the University of Chicago Press.
This goes to the heart of my criticisms--the narrowness of defining what makes a professional and a "scam" agent.
I work in publishing, by the way--been doing it about 15 years. I have probably reached a bigger audience doing what I have than I would with a trade book--an irony. Also, I read numerous books about the Soviet Union, including Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism"--the centennary of her birth is being celebrated about now. Arendt, in about 1950 (and as a Jewish woman), was one of the first who dissected Nazism as having cultish qualities, certainly in its early stages.
As far as people getting into high dudgeon about my likening Writer Beware to Nazism when one of its trustees is Jewish: To me, part of keeping memory of the horrors of Nazism is alive is to creatively utilize an understanding of it in other contexts, though in this case--agreed--it might be like using a sledgehammer analogy when a flyswatter analogy will do.
Regarding Mr. Tinianow's remark that all major religions started as cults: this is beside the point; a cult is not culture or religion. When what starts as a cult adapts to real life, it becomes more a religion. When multiple religions, etc., and other systems of behavior harmoniously interrelate in reflecting and serving a society's life, it becomes culture. But when a way of thinking and prescribing rules is narrow and controlling--and gets angry when it is criticized--it is a cult.
Thanks for the debate.

Anonymous said...

Nazis & cults & groupminds, oh, my!

Oi vey--have YOU picked on the wrong bunch!

Fancy jargon from the anonymous poster aside, the fact is the person under discussion is a low-down, dirty THIEF. She takes and gives nothing in return. There is NO defense for that. It's not amusing, it is hurtful.

Yeah, I'll throw a word-stone at that target if it will stop her from preying on more victims.

Bernita said...

Dear me.
Disliking rip-off artists, approving of warnings about said artists, as well as amusement and/or irritation regarding broad and unsupportable inferences of neo-naziism and cultic behaviour makes me a cultist.

Dave Kuzminski said...

And if you were Irish, you could be an O'cultist. ;)

Bernita said...

In spite of having an Irish great-grandfather, Dave, I suppose I'll just have to settle for being a diffi-cultist.

ALC said...

To quote annonymous:

In general, there's a certain cultishness to this Internet discussion about what makes "proper" routes to getting published.

As a Business major I have to say that what 'annonymous' considers to be "published" apparently is quite different from what WE have in mind. I have to assume that this is largely due to the "non-fiction" nature of His/Her work. Perhaps the subject matter about which He/She writes is focused to an extremely specific readership, in which case mass publication would be both impractical & illogical.

I don't think that I am incorrect in my assumption that 'most' (probably not 'all') of the bloggers & followers of Writer Beware news & info are aspiring fiction writers whose biggest dream is to become a beloved, household name in their genre (me included).

For highly specialized, non-fiction subject matter (much like technical, non-fiction), vanity publishing (not necessarily via scam) or publishing with a vanity press through another entity (say a college small press that intends to utilize the published work as a text for classes, or additional reading for specific subjects) may not just be the most logical route, it may be the ONLY means of achieving publication.

As for aspiring fiction writers, yes, there is a "proper" route to getting published.

Unless you will be perfectly satisfied knowing that a printed copy is in the possession of each close family member and friend, but will never even be heard of by anyone else, vanity publishing is a big "NO NO" and in no way constitutes what one would consider to be "that foot in the door" to a major writing career.

Matt D said...

Man, should've taken a screenshot of the Lulu stuff. It's gone.

Victoria Strauss said...

But still present here.

Victoria Strauss said...

So, all you brainwashed cultists, Ann and I are hard at work deciding on the proper form of salute, should you encounter us at a conference or other official function. We feel that "Heil Beware," while entirely appropriate, is a bit bombastic, and might also be misinterpreted (after all, we don't want to rule the world: just writers). Perhaps "All Hail, Great and Powerful Beware." Or "Blessings Be Upon You, Most Serene Beware." We'll let you know.

Bow down. Worship us. Accept the purple Kool-Aid. Resistance is futile.

Alan Yee said...

We're cultists because we have an undeniable dislike of scammers who leach writers of their hard-earned money? We're writing Nazis because we try to spread the word about scams?

In that case, I'm delighted to say that I'm a Writer Beware cultist.

Blessings Be Upon You, Most Serene Beware.

(Yeah, I agree. I think by now MM has lost of track of which alias combo she used where.

I'm sure the Countess von Hullessem isn't too happy that her daughter's free to wander the world. Has anyone asked her what she thinks of all this?)

Bernita said...

"All Hail, Most Serene Beware"
~chortle~

Anonymous said...

Spake the Serene Supreme: So, all you brainwashed cultists, Ann and I are hard at work deciding on the proper form of salute, should you encounter us at a conference or other official function.

::alarmed:: Roach said we were supposed to give the Roman salute and then fling ourselves at your feet and knock our heads on the ground three times. When did that change?! I didn't get the memo. It's not my fault. It was a mistake. I'll never do it again. Please, please, please don't make me read slush again.

Aconite

roach said...

Hah! Aconite said we were supposed to perform namaste while saying "I recognize the divine light of being in you."

I request we rule out curtsies, however, unless one is in robe de cour. (Which may lead to problems with Queen Esther's court. Which leads to fantasies of a Royal Rumble between the court of Writer Beware and Queen Esther's court. Which leads to . . . my confinement and eventual institutionalization.)

Jane said...

Oh Mighty Beware: I bow down before you with adoration and thankfulness that you should consider my lowly comment.

As of today, no sign of The Book arriving with The Purchaser. And The Seller claims also to be The Writer of The Book. So, for the moment putting Nazis, conspiracies and Adored Beings aside, I'd say that eBay sale was one big joke. Not a very funny one, mind you.