Why I Am Not An Ethical Author

KJ Charles

The idea of an Ethical Author badge is floating round the internet again. Full write up here but the basic principle is that authors agree to abide by pledges as follows:

The Ethical Author Code

Guiding principle: Putting the reader first

When I market my books, I put my readers first. This means that I don’t engage in any practices that have the effect of misleading the readers/buyers of my books. I behave professionally online and offline when it comes to my writing life.


I behave with courtesy and respect toward readers, other authors, reviewers and industry professionals such as agents and publishers. If I find myself in disagreement, I focus on issues rather than airing grievances or complaints in the press or online, or engaging in personal attacks of any kind.


I do not hide behind an alias to boost my own sales or damage the sales…

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Margo and Ken- not like Bogey and Bacall

Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife - Margo HowardDidn’t this woman ever look around and notice other people making mistakes? Did no one in her circle ever unload a sad tale of their cousin’s brother-in-law’s former wife’s social secretary’s bad choice of third husband over a hot cup of tea? Did Margo have any friends? Did she never talk to her mother, you know, the advice columnist? Did she ever read her mother’s column?

It’s like she had blinkers on or made a very conscious effort to ignore every one else’s mistakes so she could make them all herself. After a couple disastrous mistakes in the matrimonial arena you would think that Howard would stop congratulating herself on lessons learned and start trying to figure out how to learn from other people missteps. You would think, you would, Howard however continues on her merry, merry way.

It’s 1976 and chapter 6 starts with a picture of Ken Howard, he really was quite handsome and together they must have made a visually stunning couple.

Eldest daughter is at a boarding school courtesy of her trashing a room in her father’s hotel with a group of her friends during her graduation party. Father ships her off in the tradition of his family with no protest from Howard because it was a tradition of his family and eldest daughter was “a handful”.  Cynical me thinks Howard wouldn’t protest anything for which #1 foots the bill and she was also relieved of having to make any effort to curb Abra’s behavior.

While not divorced, Howard was enjoying the dating scene yet again and writing celebrity profiles. She agreed to interview Ken Howard and went with her current date to see him in Equus. The next day she interviews him and they talk for 4 hrs over lunch, then 2 hrs over coffee, then 2 hrs over egg salad at her place after the theatre. Very soon he moves in. Finally Howard begins to sound more connected to her past, finally I can feel her connection to this man.

Howard finally gets several things right here- clearly there is love and chemistry between them, she writes that she believes this was perhaps the first time she had been in love and it feels like it (finally) in her words. This relationship seemed to have it all and Ken and her kids got on well together, something Howard wanted with #2. They marry one afternoon in March and party the night away with family and friends. The one weird note was her mention of her father, Happily, my mother was thrilled. I suspect my father might have been, too, except that he was in London, remarried to a woman six years my junior, and we were estranged.

There was no previous mention of her parents divorce (that I can find) so dropping this in just seems like Howard being petty again like when she wrote about her aunt and cousin.

They spend a few more months in Chicago and then Ken tells his agent to look for work on the West Coast and schools for the two younger kids. After shooting a movie down south, they return to Chicago and prepare to move and #1 decides to put all three children into boarding schools.  Howard doesn’t object because, I knew Coleman was trying to stick it to me, but I still felt overpowered by him and unable to fight back. On a semi-unconscious, lower frequency was the realization that being in a new marriage in a new town would be easier if I did not have the day-to-day obligations to the children. Yeah, how very comforting for them, Mom gets a new man and they get to stay on the east coast.

I do not want to forget to say that in this chapter show biz names are dropped like pigeon poop.

They move to Hollywood and Ken goes about creating the show, The White Shadow, with help from his friends, her friends and an assist from the son of a friend of Howard’s parents. I fondly remember Ken in this show. Shadow‘s success gave Ken a wide range of work and because they sometimes were on location Howard only wrote freelance for various magazines.

The first Christmas together the kids spent with them and stayed even when they were supposed to split the holiday between parents because they didn’t want to see their father. A few months later #1 sues for sole custody, considering Howard informs us that he considered her marriage “tacky”, the kids loved Ken, his nasty temperament, and their refusal to spend part of their holidays with him, I’m surprised it took him a few months to get around to this. She then describes a suit of such incredibly idiotic and screwed up proportions that it could only happen in real life, fiction would never support such mishigas.

Howard writes her first book, Eppie:  The Story of Ann Landers, and does not neglect to jab at her aunt again. The book made Landers very happy even if she and Howard disagreed about the treatment of Pauline.

More name dropping.

Just before or after the 10 yr mark the marriage begins to fracture. She thinks he drinks too much, he doesn’t. Haven’t we heard this before? He drank and became an angry man, her stomach troubles resurfaced. They moved back east and Ken returned to Harvard and their repertory company.

The marriage limps on, together, apart, apart, together. I rather liked Howard during this marriage, it seemed to make her less brittle, less shallow, but now as she starts to write about the inevitable end she becomes the woman she was and we’re back to a passionless recitation of events. I was aware, certainly, that this formerly marvelous union was on life support, but it took me more than three years to finally make up my mind to call it a day. This indecision (unusual for me)… WHAT? Good goddess, this from a woman who dithered about for two previous marriages. I haven’t forgotten that but either Howard has or she is trying  for sympathy because this marriage which should have lasted forever didn’t. She read some AA literature and a self-help book, Codependent No More, and decides to divorce.

Howard decides to live in Cambridge, a good decision because it is certainly a beautiful area. The kids have grown up and are living in the US and Europe. Look, I know this is about her marriages but, really, these poor kids seem to be such afterthoughts in this book.

After a years separation they divorce amicably. After Ken’s remarriage and a few years later Howard is rebuffed when she tries to go backstage to see him. She blames it on his wife, I think he just decided to leave the past in the past.

Goodbye, Ken, you had a good run.





A Month On from #HaleNo

Tez Says

NOTE: I use the royal “we” and “us” terms in this post, but I only speak for myself.

Yesterday I learned of the Ethical Author campaign from The Alliance of Independent Authors’ Self-Publishing Advice Blog. I was all for it at first – a voluntary Code of Standards that authors from all publishing types (traditional, self, and other) can pledge their participation. They can download the Ethical Author badge and post it on their various digital homes.

Yes, I was all for it at first, and my immediate reaction was…well, in the blog post’s own words as to why the Code is proposed:

“…to reassure readers, reviewers and bloggers, when they see the badge on a book or website, that they are in the presence of an ethical author…”

I connected to it on an EMOTIONAL level. But as I followed discussions on Twitter, I THOUGHT about the Code…and…

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As of today, 15 November 2014, I will not buy, rate, review. . . . .

Reblogged from Linda Hilton:

. . . or in any other way promote any book published by HarperCollins.  Period.  I refuse to support a publisher that supports a stalker.


Will such a boycott harm innocent authors?  Well, if I’m the only one boycotting, then probably not.  And as far as I know KH is the only HarperCollins author who has stalked and harassed a reviewer to the extent she did.  All the other HC authors, then, are innocent and by some reasoning don’t deserve to be boycotted.


Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Brutally honest.  Let’s admit that we really just don’t want to deprive ourselves of the pleasure of reading those other authors.  We’re sympathetic to Blythe Harris’s plight and we really think that author was totally 100% wrong, but doing without our favorite HC authors, well, that’s more sacrifice than some of us want to make.  And so we’re hiding behind the excuse that we don’t want to hurt innocent authors.


Blythe Harris was stalked, harassed, and silenced.


The message being sent right now by HarperCollins is that they have no problem with that.  They really don’t care about Blythe Harris or about any other reviewer.  The silence from the HC authors also says they have no problem with it.  They don’t care that Blythe Harris was silenced for not liking a book.


Right now, HarperCollins is supporting, with their contract and with their silence, an author who proudly admitted stalking a reviewer who didn’t like her book.  They are implicitly saying to all their authors, “Hey, if you want to stalk and harass and threaten people who find fault with your books, go right ahead.”


How much solidarity are you, as readers and reviewers and maybe even as authors, willing to show with Blythe Harris?  Are you willing to do without a few books over the next few months?  Are you willing to say to your favorite HC authors, in effect, “Sorry, but I can’t buy or promote your books.  I can’t support a publisher — who makes more off your books than you do anyway — who supports stalking.  I just can’t.”


If you can’t do that much, then I guess maybe you really don’t have a problem with supporting a stalker either.



Margoing, or the adventures of a 15 watt bulb in a 75 watt world

IEat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife - Margo Howardt’s not that long a book but there is only so much oblivious stupidity and entitlement I can stand at a time.

Back in the early 60s it took quite a while to shed an unwanted spouse so while Howard is waiting to be rid of #1 she falls into writing feature articles for the newspaper for which she receives a generous amount of money. (I told you she just can’t stop talking about it.) She writes about whatever strikes her fancy and finds an audience.

I have a problem here. I can find no sense of appreciation in Howard’s writing for finding a career that she has engaged in in one form or another for most of her life. It just feels like Howard is coasting on minimal effort, minimal skill. So far the book is a shallow pool of heedless, careless decisions and actions, and it doesn’t get any better.

In chapter 4 Howard drops names, those she knew and those she only knew by reputation, like confetti at a wedding. Among other things she dated, rather seriously, J. Anthony Lukas but he dodged the matrimonial bullet and she went out three times with Erich Segal (Love Story).

I take heart from the saying, “Every woman should have a forgettable second husband.” First sentence, chapter 5. Charming.

The first few paragraphs are filled with so much wrong. Howard decides she needs to get married again. Let me just give you a couple sentences straight from the book:

…I decided it was time to stop entertaining myself and get back to being married.

It honestly never occurred to me to continue to do what I was doing-…

I wanted a second chance, a second husband and, most of all, a functional father for my children.

So now Howard wants to find someone to entertain her and a husband will do that, and be a father to those three children she had with #1 even though she wanted to leave while pregnant with the first.

This time the selection process was decidedly more thoughtful because I knew what I was looking for- or at least what I thought was required…

The next husband had to be for the kids; a surrogate father and a “normal” partner…

Uh… how screwed up is this woman?

So she “lands on” #2, a man from her social circle who she knew casually and then got to know a lot better and eventually wished she hadn’t made the effort. He asked me out for dinner, and by then I was thinking of him as a problem solver.  He was supportive and low-key, and he wasn’t a lot of work. He. Wasn’t. A. Lot. Of. Work. Yeah, good thinking, Margo, work is to be avoided as much as and as long as possible.

She then lists all the interests they didn’t share, reading (hers), theatre (hers), politics (hers), sports (his). She assumes he will be good with her kids and never thinks that he might not be as smart as she thinks she is. I bet somewhere there was a pool on how long #2 was gonna last. He was comfortable and “old Chicago” and he gave her an enormous engagement ring that was a family heirloom.

Howard settles into the life of a wife of a successful Jewish funeral director.

Name dropping in this chapter, too. What she says about meeting Ben-Gurion makes me want to throw something, specifically her.

After some months of pleasant domesticity, the fractures in our family framework started to become visible, and sadly, I began to realize that this husband was a mistake, too.

Oh dear, seems he didn’t care for her kids, Howard didn’t care for his son, and the kids didn’t like each other. Howard spends a few paragraphs explaining how now she know all about how difficult it is to blend families, and all that she has learned over the centuries about how to introduce potential mates and children to each other and hopefully make it work.

She also tries to convince readers that she has learned wisdom and patience and all sorts of good stuff that her present words and actions belie.

Okay, so this marriage was headed for the rocks after a few months and now we are in year 3 of said marriage and Howard has stopped her writing and is now weeping. Cause, you know, trapped.  With drugs and psychiatric help Howard divests herself of her interests in Kleenex and faces up to shedding #2. It only takes her somewhat less than four years.

She tells him to be gone, he is stunned and hurt, she says she will, of course, return the family ring (money-she haz it), and he could have the family dog as a consolation prize because he really loved it. The children weren’t happy about the dog but, I said it was the least we could do because Jules was so sad and we must always do what we can to help others feel better.

She then spends a couple more paragraphs on what she learned too late. She returns to writing. So endeth #2.