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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
Christopher L. Hayes
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Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays
Northrop Frye
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Arlie Russell Hochschild
Progress: 96/454 pages
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Ibram X. Kendi
Progress: 22/750 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer

Explaining the Difference: A More or Less Open Letter to Maggie Spence . . . .

. . . .even though I know she will probably not get the point at all, and will probably call me a bully and a troll and an ugly old jealous hater for writing it.  I don't care.  I'm going to write it and post it anyway.  For myself.


Maggie Spence is the author of Vardin Village, a supposedly Young Adult novel about a 16 year old boy and his sister and how they manage to survive without their parents.  Or something like that.  I haven't read it.  Haven't even tried. 


Ms. Spence garnered a considerable amount of attention when she attempted to promote her book via some rather unethical means on Goodreads.  Her tactics have been well documented elsewhere so I'm not going to rehash them.  Although she was advised not to engage in these actions, she did anyway and ended up in a bit of hot water over it.  When called to account for what she had done, she denied any of it was wrong, denied she was serious about it (even though she'd actually done what she later claimed was only a joke), and so on. 


She responded to certain criticisms by locating the home phone number of one of her critics and calling her.  Maggie continues to insist she did nothing wrong in this. even while she insists it is rather stalkerish for anyone to go to her public Facebook page to obtain information about her which she herself has made public.  Tracking down a reviewer and calling them at home is, to Ms. Spence, perfectly normal.


I would have to write a novel-length post to cover every aspect of Ms. Spence's behavior, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to do so.  Therefore I am going to address just a few points.



Ms. Spence,


A couple of basic principles of online behavior that you seem to not quite understand, or just don't believe they pertain to you.  Here's a hint:  They pertain to everyone.  No exceptions.  None.
1.  You never, ever, ever, ever contact anyone offline without their permission.  Never.  Period.  If it's so important you think you absolutely have to, then you either contact them ONLINE to get their permission, or you contact law enforcement.  No exceptions.  None. 
If you think the person poses any kind of threat to you or your family or your friends, you will not make the situation any better by contacting them directly.  Period.  No exceptions.  If you think the person poses any kind of threat, contact the police.  Let the police deal with it.  That's what they're trained to do.  If you contact the person directly, you put yourself at even more risk than you thought you were at before.
I've read your justifications.  They're bogus.  All of them.  Especially since you continue, to this very day, to engage with and harass the person you think posed a threat.
Again, there is never any justification -- beyond what bogus notions you've concocted in your own head -- for what you did.  None.  You are never going to accept that, I'm sure, but anyone outside of your own little echo chamber will tell you the same thing:  If you really think the person is a threat, go to the police.  Do not track the person down, call them at home, drive to their house, or in any other way engage with them without their express permission.
And if you really, really, really think they're a threat, do not antagonize them. 
The fact that you continue to antagonize the person indicates you do not, in fact, consider her a threat.  This negates any justification you may have had, even though you really had none to begin with, to call her at home. 
2.  You never, ever, ever, ever threaten anyone with bodily harm.  Never.  Not under any circumstances.  Just a joke?  Then you'd better make sure the person you're threatening knows it's just a joke before you make the threat.  And their acknowledgement of the joke had better be stated in public, not just inferred by you.  Make sure they know you and you know them personally before you make even a joking threat.  Otherwise, never, ever, ever.  Period.  No exceptions.  None.
You will probably jump up and say you've never threatened anyone with bodily harm, and I'm inclined to believe you haven't.  But you are a public, online friend with someone who has.  And as you yourself have said, we are known by the friends we keep.  You are friends with Kevin Weinberg, who has publicly identified himself as "paro" and "parogar."  We are not going to question that.


Mr. Weinberg orchestrated, and you have admitted you have knowledge of his actions, a campaign for his friends to provide your book with positive ratings not because they had read and liked the book but solely to counter negative reviews that may or may not have been legitimate.



The operative words here, Ms. Spence, are "he did ask his friends."  That's a campaign, an orchestrated campaign, Ms. Spence.  That is a violation of the spirit of independent consumer reviews, and probably a violation of certain sites' Terms of Use..


There is no evidence that I ever saw that anyone orchestrated a campaign against your book.  You yourself drew attention to it and to yourself with your public actions, including your posts on the Amazon Kindle forum and your activities on Goodreads, including but not limited to putting your book on inappropriate Listopias and asking people to upvote it on those Listopias. 


That is a campaign, and it is a campaign of carpetbombing positive reviews and ratings such as you yourself "don't endorse."  And yet you did endorse it, Ms. Spence.  You encouraged it and you participated in it. 


To my knowledge, you have never asked for those positive ratings and reviews to be removed.  You have never publicly denounced Kevin Weinberg's actions, his campaign, or the ratings, reviews, and up/downvotes of his friends.  His campaign benefited you.  The carpetbombing of positive ratings and reviews benefited you, and you apparently have no problem with it.  If those positive ratings and reviews were removed, your book would not look as attractive to potential buyers as it does now.  You are, apparently, more interested in selling your book than in being honest.  You know those reviews aren't honest, but you don't want them removed.  That's an endorsement of dishonesty.  That's an endorsement of carpetbombing.


For the record, Ms. Spence, I never reviewed your book.  The only comment I made on Goodreads, which then became the sum total of my "review" on Leafmarks, was:




Whatever commentary may have been attached to my "review" of Vardin Village on Goodreads is now lost into the GR abyss since my banning from that site.  And whatever the reasons Goodreads had for banning me, they did not include any campaigns on my part or on the part of my friends to falsely rate, review, put on Listopias, or vote on Listopias any of my own books.  I never challenged a reviewer of my books.  Never.  I don't think you can claim the same for yourself, Ms. Spence.


Of course you can't, because you've even admitted your constant challenging of reviewers was one of the reason Goodreads banned you.  At least they gave you a reason; that's more than I got.


The fact remains, however, that I never reviewed your book.  I didn't give it a star rating.  All I stated was that I felt comfortable not reading it.


Many, many, many months after I didn't review your book, Ms. Spence, I was alerted to another author attempting to skew the reviewing system.  That author was Raani York.  Her tale, like yours, is fairly well documented around Goodreads, Booklikes, and Leafmarks, as well as elsewhere. 


Like you, Ms. Spence, Raani York enlisted friends and fellow writers and perhaps even family members to post glowing 5-star reviews of her book.  She then wrote a blog post in which she all but demanded the same considerations from reviewers that you seem to endorse, if I may use that term:  Only review if you've read the whole book, consult with the author before posting a negative review, take the author's feelings into consideration, etc., etc., etc.  I think you are fairly familiar with that routine.


But just as your posts on the KDP forum drew attention to your book and yourself, Ms. York's blog drew attention to her book and herself.  Her book did not stand up well to independent reviewers, meaning reviewers who didn't have a vested interest in Ms. York's feelings.


No campaign was orchestrated to negatively review Ms. York's book; Ms. York drew the attention of readers who are in contact with each other (sometimes once or twice removed, as in friends of friends of friends on the various book sites) through their interest in books.  That's an organic reaction, Ms. Spence.  Each individual receives information about a book and/or an author, and each individual checks it out and responds, or not, as she chooses.


I chose to respond to Ms. York's blogpost and to her book, and my response is here.  Did I read the whole book, Ms. Spence?  No, I did not.  And I never claimed I did.  Instead, after giving my reasons why, I specifically stated, "Four pages was enough torment to put myself through.  Will not buy, will not read, will NOT recommend."


For this review, Ms. Spence, I was subjected to a carpetbombing campaign orchestrated by your dear friend Kevin Weinberg.  My books were, as one Booklikes member put it, one-starred into oblivion.  To this day -- Saturday, 14 March 2015 -- I do not know what those reviews say, how many there are, what the ultimate ratings are.  I do not look at my reviews.  Period.


But beyond just the carpetbombing reviews, I was further the object of death threats, documented here.  Were they jokes, Ms. Spence, as your friend Kevin Weinberg asserted before he was banned from the Wattpad account from which those screenshots were taken?  I've never been a member on Wattpad, Ms. Spence, and until I learned of those comments, I didn't know who Kevin Weinberg even was.  I sure as hell didn't know any of his Wattpad friends.  If those comments about tying me down and shooting me were a joke, I most certainly was not aware of it.


So yes, Ms. Spence, I felt threatened.  Very threatened.  I, too, went to the police.  They advised me to take the matter to the FBI because it involved a threat over the Internet and because the person making -- or just instigating -- the threats is in another state.


That's the company you keep, Ms. Spence.  You claim you do not endorse carpetbombing either positive or negative, but your words ring very hollow when by your actions you most certainly do endorse it.  Your continued support of your friend Kevin Weinberg implies that you also endorse the orchestration of threats of bodily harm and even death against people who have done nothing more than not like a book.


Your friend Kevin Weinberg is rather well-known for his white-knighting of certain writers -- you're one of them -- which he can only accomplish by leading campaigns against other writers.  Since most of the reviewers you and he have taken issue with are not writers, they aren't as vulnerable as I am.


Raani York removed her book from Amazon and put an end to her own misery, I guess.  You've not only left Vardin Village in print but you've continued to engage with the posters on the Amazon forumx.  I don't post there, and I won't, for a variety of reasons.  But I want you to know, Ms. Spence, that I have taken your silent endorsement of your friend Kevin Weinberg's attacks on me very personally.


Whether the posts from "Avalon" and "LilithAvalon" were in fact from sockpuppet accounts of Kevin Weinberg really doesn't matter.  The comments were made in response to my review of Willow Fae von Wicken's novel Surrender Ma'Lady.  Lilith's criticisms were of me, of my style of reviewing,  Interestingly, however, in the five weeks or so since I posted that review, there have been six reviews posted for the book on Amazon.  (None were posted prior to my review on 5 February 2015.) 


The 5-star review is from someone who apparently loves just about everything she reads.  Good for her.  (Willow Fae's book was, however, her last review.  I have no idea why.)


The other five reviews, four 1-star and one 2-star, point out virtually the same problems I did, especially the terrible writing.  Yet no one commented on their reviews, even though they said things like "Dreadful.  I quit after only a few pages."  Or "A convoluted mess."  Or "It's impossible to read."  Where was the white knight to challenge those readers?  There was none.  Only my review, here on Booklikes, attracted attention.


It's not about the books I review, Ms. Spence; it's about me.  Your friend Kevin Weinberg, whose behavior you don't endorse but you benefit from, targeted me and continues to target me.


You benefited from Kevin Weinberg's dishonest white knighting and his directing his friends to positively rate and review your book, Ms. Spence.  You know that, and you've admitted it, and you admit you're not going to do anything to correct the dishonesty even though you claim not to endorse it.  


I've never carpetbombed anyone or any book, though I admit I used Goodreads' rating system to quickly add titles to my booklist and then changed the ratings on edit.  I've never engaged in either organizing a campaign to rate, review, downvote or upvote, or even participated in such a campaign that someone else spearheaded.  Despite that, Ms. Spence, I've paid dearly and personally for my honesty, thanks to your friend Kevin Weinberg.  Raani York's book was extremely poorly written.  Willow Fae Von Wicken's was even worse.  And because I dared to say so, Ms. Spence, my books were "one-starred to oblivion" at the behest of your friend, and I was the object of threats of bodily harm and death that I took seriously enough to report to law enforcement.


Were those threats just a joke, Ms. Spence?  Were they the actions of a bunch of teenaged fans of your friend Kevin Weinberg, fans he claims he can't control the way you claim you can't control him?  Are you implying, by your acceptance of the results of  Kevin Weinberg's positive review campaign on your behalf, that even though those reviews are dishonest and your book was rated by people who are uncontrollable, that I should ignore their threats as empty and meaningless and harmless?


Do you even comprehend what I'm saying?


I don't know you, Ms. Spence.  I don't know your friend Kevin Weinberg.  I do know that both of you have engaged in dishonest manipulation of both the Amazon and Goodreads review systems.  Why then, Ms. Spence, should I trust either of you when you say the threats were a joke, meaningless, harmless?


These are not organic responses.  They're orchestrated actions.  And therein lies the difference, whether you take your hands away from your eyes and face it or not.


You have lied, Ms. Spence, consistently and continually.  I think you know you are lying, but you have so little consideration for anyone but yourself that you believe your lies are justified.  You believe carpetbombing when it's in your favor is fine; when it hurts someone you don't like, it's fine, too.  It's only not fine when it harms you.

The difference, Ms. Spence, is that there was never an organized campaign to carpetbomb your book, and certainly not to threaten you.  There was an organic response that developed from one reader communicating with other readers.  Did it all happen on the same day?  Some of it probably did, because people are online at the same time, they are communicating, and they are following up on that communication.  That doesn't mean it's a conspiracy or that it's a campaign.

What your friend Kevin Weinberg did was an orchestrated action.  There's plenty of evidence to support that contention, and you've even admitted it.  


I am not one to promote myself or my books.  I wasn't raised that way.  I would no more put my own book on a "Great Summer Reads" Listopia than I would jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.  I am very uncomfortable even pointing out the damage you and your friend Kevin Weinberg did to me.  It feels to me like whining, and I'm not very good at whining.  But I also realize that no one's going to stand up for me if I don't stand up for myself.

You tried to game the reviewing system, Ms. Spence.  You got caught, several times.  You lied about your actions, even when presented with lots and lots of evidence to the contrary.  You accepted the services of your friend Kevin Weinberg, encouraging and enabling him to instigate a campaign of false reviews and ratings to your benefit.  You enabled his behavior to the point that he took action against me, even though he didn't know me any more than I know you.

But you don't care.  You demand everyone else care about you, but you don't give a flying mouse's hindquarters about anyone else.

And that's the real difference, Ms. Spence.  It's more than just the difference between the  organic development of a chain of reviews via friends and connections who may or may not have similar reactions and may or may not post a response, and an orchestrated campaign where the desired action and predetermined result (carpetbombing, whether positive or negative; Listopia voting; up- and downvoting of reviews, etc.) are communicated along with the original information.  It's that you're "morally comfortable" with anything that benefits you, regardless how ethical or unethical it is, and apparently also "morally comfortable" with the harm it does to anyone else.


I consider that morally bankrupt.





Linda Ann Wheeler Hilton