The Romance Reviews

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What My Nightmares are Composed Of

It’s a Halloween Blog Hop, so of course this blog will be about one of the things that makes my skin crawl and haunts my dreams. And, this blog should give EVERY SINGLE pet owner nightmares.

Let me tell you a story and I will not change the names to protect the innocent because doing so will also provide cover to those people who are as guilty as original sin in creating this nightmare. The worst part to the story you're about the read is this: If I wrote this shit, no one would believe it. Fiction must be believable. Unfortunately, reality does not have to follow that rule.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful bi-black little Shetland Sheepdog. Her name was Piper. She became an American Kennel Club champion. She was and is loved deeply by her owners, Veronica Covatch and Michelle Wilson. Because Piper is a treasured member of their family, Piper was microchipped, in the event she ever got lost. (Please remember this information, because it plays a role later in the story.)

In April of 2014, Piper was with a friend in Ohio, near Columbus. Veronica was at the American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA) national specialty show in St. Louis. Somehow, on Good Friday, Piper escaped a fenced yard and was subsequently picked up by the local animal control. Piper was scanned and the microchip was found. YEAH! Piper could go home. Not so fast…because here’s where things get a little dicey. The animal shelter where Piper was being held claims they tried to contact the owners on record. No answer. So, they contacted the veterinarian of record (the one who implanted the microchip) and didn’t get an answer. It was afternoon on Good Friday. Positive identification for Piper was established through the microchip and my understanding is that—by law—Piper should have been held for ten days. (Federal law requires the dog to have been held for five days.) Instead, she was surrendered to Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue (COSR), run by Penny Sanderbeck as a 501-c3, within less than 48 hours of being picked up.

As soon as Veronica learned that Piper was with COSR, she began making phone calls. Several of her friends called COSR, attempting to get Piper for Veronica until she could get to Ohio from St. Louis. COSR—or more exactly, Penny Sanderbeck—refused to relinquish Piper to Veronica’s friends. When Veronica got to Ohio, Sanderbeck refused to give her Piper. Sanderbeck claimed the dog was abused, that she had been bounced from home to home, and that she (Penny) was now the legal owner of Piper as per the paperwork from the animal shelter in Franklin County. (Is your head spinning like that kid from The Exorcist yet?)

Veronica had Piper’s microchip number. She offered to do DNA (at her expense) on Piper to prove Piper was Piper. She had show win photos, signed statements from Piper’s handler, and Sanderbeck kept refusing to return Piper to Veronica. The national parent club became involved, because COSR had received many monetary donations from the ASSA over the last few years. A mediator was agreed upon and Sanderbeck’s demands and accusations became greater and more bizarre. After several frustrating weeks, the mediator withdrew because there was no intent on Sanderbeck’s part to cooperate and attempt to mediate this dispute. The ASSA pulled ALL support from COSR. During this time, Sanderbeck alleged her home was burglarized by a person or persons whose sole intent was to try to find Piper. (Amazingly, there doesn’t seem to be a police record for this alleged break-in.) And while all this was going on, Sanderbeck was allegedly defrauding a dying woman (link here: I’ll bet your head is starting to spin now.

When Sanderbeck refused all attempts at mediation, the attorneys got involved. Veronica filed in Franklin County to get Piper back under a replevin. (Big legal term that basically says return the property or pay for it.) Veronica had to put up a $10,000 bond. Yep, 10 grand in cash. Because Sanderbeck was the respondent in this case, she could go to a bondsman, pay a paltry $200 to have her 10 grand bond posted. Sanderbeck was given ten days to respond to the replevin. Sanderbeck waited until the very last minute and demanded a trial. That court date was just a few days ago, and guess what…Sanderbeck asked for a continuance, which was granted. The new date is set for December 11th.

Though she won’t say, conservative estimates place Veronica’s legal bills in the ballpark of between $60,000 and $90,000. And, in all this time, NO ONE has seen Piper. Oh, there are a few Kool-Aid drinkers for COSR who claim they've seen Piper and that she’s alive and well, but I think I’d be demanding proof of life.

Is your skin crawling, now? Heart beating a little faster, imagining this to be you and your beloved pet? What has happened to Veronica and Michelle and their little dog, Piper, is wrong on so many levels I can’t even begin to count the ways it’s wrong. This is a breed specific rescue that will not return a positively identified dog to her rightful owners! COSR is claiming that Veronica is not Piper’s owner, and even though Sanderbeck isn’t disputing Veronica is Piper’s breeder, she is claiming that Veronica has no right to Piper because Veronica placed her with a friend. (Any reputable breeder has a contract with puppy buyers that states if at any time in the dog’s life, the new owners cannot keep that puppy, the puppy returns to the breeder.) Yet, at the same time, COSR’s “adoption” contract states the people adopting that rescue dog never own it, it will always remain the property of COSR for the rest of its natural life and COSR can reclaim the dog at any time. (Hypocrisy, anyone?)

You know, there is that Facebook meme that says I'm usually a very sane, nice person but if you mess with my dogs I will break out a level of crazy that will make your nightmares look like a happy place...yeah. Try to take my dog from me and watch how fast I can go from sane to toys in the attic crazy.

I can’t even imagine the nightmare that Veronica and Michelle are living.

For more reading on Piper’s story, here’s the link:

On a lighter note, there is a rafflecopter give-away for this blog hop. There's a lot of ways to increase your odds of winning several gift cards, one of which is a $100 gift card to Amazon. Here’s that link:

And, lastly…there are more than 50 blogs for you to check out and have a shiver or two race up your spine. Check ‘em out.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's Okay if it's Free, Just Not on a Pirate Site

Excuse me. I need room to climb up onto my soapbox. I need room to get up here because I don’t want to step on toes with this post, but I also know that I am going to do that.

I work hard to write a compelling romance. I am certain that just about every author, whether traditionally published or self-published, will say the same thing. Writing isn’t easy, it damn sure isn’t for the thin-skinned or faint of heart, and it requires not only dedication but a certain level of insanity. For every J.K. Rowling and E.L. James out there, there are thousands of authors who will never be able to retire on their writing royalties.

And these thousands of authors whine, bitch, piss, moan, and complain about the bastards who steal published works and post those pilfered words on pirate sites. Before these authors come after me with torches and pitchforks, let me make one thing perfectly clear. THERE ISN’T A LEVEL OF HELL DEEP ENOUGH FOR INTERNET PIRATES. My preferred punishment for internet pirates is to gouge out their eyes, break every finger in their hands (in multiple places), cut out their tongues, and then burn them at the stake to prevent them from ever stealing so much as another word from an author. (I feel the same way about plagiarism and I think I used to scare the hell out of my students when I taught and told each and every class that if I had my way, that’s what I would do to anyone caught plagiarizing. However, I was forced by the university I worked at to only be able to fail them for the paper or the class, depending on the severity of the offense.)

Now that I’ve established how I feel about internet piracy, here’s where standing on the soap box comes into play.

So many of those same authors bemoaning how rotten it is when they find their work on a pirate site and the hassles involved with getting the work pulled down under the terms of DMCA and then find that their work has popped up on another pirate site and feeling as if they are playing an never ending game of Whack-a-Mole are the very same people who are offering many of their works permanently for free on sites like Amazon.


I know the idea behind offering a freebie or two is to convince readers that they want to buy the rest of your books, but I don’t get it. Why is it okay to offer the book for free on Amazon and yet when the same book shows up on a pirate site for free downloading, it’s not okay?

When The Devil’s Own Desperado was first published, it was part of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program and for ninety days, it was exclusive to Amazon. Okay, fine. During that ninety day period, it was offered for free for five days. I watched my rankings sky-rocket during that free period. I was elated. Until I realized I wasn’t making a single red cent on those “sales”. Neither was my publisher. And, shortly after that free period, I started playing Whack-a-Mole.

Pirates are smart. They’re good at what they do. They can strip the encoding out of a digital download (the stuff that’s supposed to protect the digital download from piracy) and have it posted on a pirate site pretty damn fast. I sent out fifteen DMCA notices before I stopped finding my book on pirate sites. I was told I was lucky. I had to send out ONLY fifteen notices.

Between the publication of Desperado and Smolder on a Slow Burn, my publisher decided to no longer participate in Amazon’s KDP. HALLELUJAH! One of the senior editors at my publisher has very strong feelings about the books listed as free, either temporarily or permanently. To her mind—and mine, I will add—an author who does that is selling themselves far short.

It’s one thing to buy copies and give them away for contests, to members of a street team, or to family members. It’s another animal entirely to have a book as forever free. And, I don’t want to make it easy for the pirates. Offering my book for free is the same as posting a huge sign on the cover begging a pirate to steal it and put it up on a pirate site. Because I have not offered either of my books for free, I’m not playing Whack-a-Mole. I still troll the internet looking for links where either might be offered for free, but I haven’t found one yet. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but pirates are also very cheap. They’d prefer not to buy something to put up on a pirate site when they're handed it for free.

And, that’s all the more reason I will never allow my books to be offered for free. 
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