Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware® is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

September 29, 2005

A.C. Crispin - No. 2

Well, I'm back again, having seen some responses! How nice, I didn't really expect anything so soon! Welcome, sit down and we'll chat a bit.

My writing project at the moment is the sequel to my novel that just came out, Storms of Destiny. (You can read the first hundred pages for free on my website, The working title is Winds of Vengeance. The publisher wanted an "epic" with "epic" titles, so I did my best to come up with some. Interestingly, I've managed to make the themes of the books reflect the titles, which was a bit of a challenge.

Someone said they were interested in Writer Beware's work. Boy, that's a long story, too long for one entry.

Basically, back in 1997 or so, I became aware of a nearly illiterate woman in chatrooms on Aol calling herself Kelly O'Donnell. She claimed to be a literary agent. Since she couldn't spell and her writing was riddled with grammatical errors, I was skeptical of this claim, to say the least. I began watching her, seeing her solicit prospective clients in the Writers Cafe on Aol. It was a eye-opener for me, how aspiring writers flocked to this obviously bogus woman who charged reading fees upfront. I'd never heard of a successful agent who did that. MY agent certainly didn't!

A little personal history here: Back when I was first writing a book with the intention of submitting it, I realized that I knew next to nothing about how the publishing industry operates. So I did what I'd been trained to do in college...I researched the topic. Thoroughly. (This was all back in 1978 or so, so things were a bit different. For one thing, there was no internet. The internet has been such a boon to writing scammers, trust me!)

It took me about 6 months of reading everything I could dig up on the subject of publishing, writing query letters, networking, etc., to learn how to submit a book in a reasonably professional manner. (Even so, I made mistakes, and these days I use my first query letter as one of my "bad" examples when I teach my writing workshops. Still, my "bad" query letter was better than 90% of the ones most agents or publishers see, I'll wager.)

As to how this applies to Kelly O'Donnell, I realized that most of the writers I ran into in chat rooms were ideal prospective victims for a rip-off artist (which I'd realized O'Donnell must be, though I knew nothing, at that time, about writing scams) because THEY HAD NEVER DONE A SPECK OF RESEARCH ABOUT HOW THE PUBLISHING WORLD WORKS. I was aghast.

These poor people were like gazelles, sipping eagerly at the watering hole, while Kelly O'Donnell strolled around the nearby hillside, picking out her next victim at her leisure. All she had to do was flatter these writers, and make (it was obvious to me anyway) empty promises, and they fell into her lap like ripe plums. Eager to pay, eager to have a "real" agent, pathetically grateful to have someone appear to take their writing seriously.

I've never been the kind of person who thought that a young woman who went into a bad area of town wearing a short skirt and tight sweater was "asking for it." I don't believe in blaming the victim. I got mad at Kelly O'Donnell. I began questioning her closely about publishing processes, contract language, agent contacts, etc., probing questions that she obviously could not answer.

She didn't have a clue.

Things went rapidly downhill from there.

As I said, the story's too long for one day, so I'll continue tomorrow, see you all then!


Later, folks. Have a great day!

-Ann C. Crispin
Author: Storms of Destiny/HarperEos

September 28, 2005

A.C. Crispin

This is an experiment to see if anyone out there would have any interest in a blog from me. If I can ever figure out how to get back here, I'll check back at some point to see if there's any interest, and if there is, then I'll move this thing to my actual website,

I'm a writer, and one of the co-founders of Writer Beware. I have no idea whether the public would have any interest in either of those facets of my life. Other than occasionally helping the authorities to hunt down scam agents and publishers, there's nothing much interesting about my life -- which is the way I like it. "May you live in interesting times" is a SERIOUS curse, really. For myself, I embrace boredom! Boredom means you can write your books in peace, and look forward to watching LOST on Wednesday nights.

I gather I'm supposed to write about politics in one of these things. Thanks, but I'll pass. The whole subject is just too darned depressing these days.

One thing I guess I could do is to write a "fiction writing tip" for each entry. Here's the tip for today: UNLESS YOU ARE AN EXPERIENCED WRITER WHO CAN EXPERTLY HANDLE POINT OF VIEW, YOU SHOULD STICK TO ONE POINT OF VIEW FOR A SCENE.

Have a great day!

-Ann C. Crispin
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