The Bad Reviews - A Pattern of Abuse and Bad Advice to Writers

Type "absolute write complaints" in Google and see the article, "Haters Gonna Hate" by Victoria Strauss to get the other side of this ongoing debate regarding the validity and cyberbully nature of Absolute Write. The writers associated with this blog would like to thank Victoria Strauss for battling the troll so bravely and also for advertising our blog and the many other websites calling out the owners and mods at AW for their behavior.

[TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT ABSOLUTE WRITE: in this post and others, we are not talking about the beneficial aspects of a writer board like AW, we are discussing an end to the non-beneficial aspects. It is like we're talking about Philly or Oakland in the context of ending rampant corruption and crime. We know there are good places to eat and Barbara Streisand will concert tour, but we want the mayor to surrender to the FBI. And because there are those who have expressed puzzlement, here is a page that lists all the reasons why we maintain this blog. Thank you.]

To anyone reading this blog. If you are neutral or undecided on the issue of Absolute Write bullying, then go to Google. Type in "absolute write reviews" and see for yourself. Scores and scores of bad reviews.

Absolute Write has more stinging bad reviews than any writer, author, workshop, or agent website on the Internet. In point of fact, it has far more bad reviews from more sources than all of the aforementioned put together.

Whether it's a bad restaurant, crooked car dealership, or rip-off vanity press, you see bad reviews collect in significant numbers over time, and on multiple websites. The pattern is always the same.

This same pattern reveals Absolute Write for what it really is.

Make your own decision.

The "Troll in The Mirror" and The Bullying Nature of Catfights on Goodreads

This just discovered by one of our editors. In "Battle of The Trolls" on Salon.Com, writer Laura Miller talks about the horror show of Goodreads and the endless catfighting taking place on the website, each side trying to outdo the other in terms of pure nastiness. The article opens with commentary about a particular author who stalked her troll critic, then half way down, the article diverges onto the subject of Goodreads which we all know possesses a mob psychology eerily similar to that of the bully swarm on Absolute Write. It's interesting to observe the similarities:

The authors picked quarrels with their critics and bombarded them with emails demanding that reviews be deleted or changed. The reviewers banded together to retaliate, descending on the book pages for “badly behaving authors” and posting scathing one-star reviews, whether or not they’d read the book in question. A website called Stop the Goodreads Bullies — uncritically cited by Hale in her essay — was formed by anonymous parties to “expose” and revile the most active reviewers in this group. Eventually, Goodreads introduced a policy dictating that reviews referring to an author’s behavior would be deleted, but things have barely cooled down since.

By now, both sides have accused each other of trolling, bullying, harassment and doxxing (the publication of personal information online). Employers have been contacted and urged to fire the combatants. People’s families have been written about in disturbing ways. Each side is convinced that it is far more sinned against than sinning... Reader attacks can take the form of scores of one-star Goodreads reviews, often tweeted at the author to make sure they’re noticed, and menacing emails that may or may not originate in the Goodreads community. (Several traditionally published YA authors contacted me to say that they and their fellow novelists often felt targeted by such harassment but would not comment on the record for fear of further reprisals.)
Employers have been contacted and urged to fire people. Ahem. Has this happened also on Absolute Write? Aside from death threats, can we as human beings be more vindictive? Again, illustrative of the same bully psychology.
Compounding the paranoia and outrage on both sides is the tendency for social media to act like an alchemist’s alembic, distilling the complicated thoughts and feelings of individuals into generic expressions of self-righteous indignation. It’s not the concision of, say, Twitter that causes this — it’s perfectly possible to express ambivalence in 140 characters — but a hectoring pressure toward pro forma piety and groupthink from small circles of like-minded people who want to present a united ideological front to the world.
Groupthink from small circles. Sound familiar, dear readers? And it's no wonder that AW members also search for power on Goodreads, joining these bands of bullies and becoming a part of the bash fest whenever it suits them. Part of the point we've been trying to make on W.A.R. all along is that all of us who have been, and continue to be targets of bullies on AW, are beset by a common pest known as the iPredator.

And finally, Laura Miller sadly concludes:
Perhaps most insidious of all is the spectacle of genres that profess to champion the strength and value of girls and women descending into the most stereotypical forms of toxic “feminine” behavior: cliques, backbiting, venomous gossip, name-calling, sneakiness and whispery passive-aggressive scheming. Sometimes the worst troll of all is the one in the mirror.

The Flash Trash Advertisements That Support Absolute Write and Its Owner Melodi Sherman

What Keeps Absolute Write Potent and Moneymaking


[TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT ABSOLUTE WRITE: in this post and others, we are not talking about the beneficial aspects of a writer board like AW, we are discussing an end to the non-beneficial aspects. It is like we're talking about Philly or Oakland in the context of ending rampant corruption and crime. We know there are good places to eat and Barbara Streisand will concert tour, but we want the mayor to surrender to the FBI. And because there are those who have expressed puzzlement, here is a page that lists all the reasons why we maintain this blog. Thank you.]

Yuck! The 15 funniest photos of Walmart Shoppers? Give us a break. The above is just one day's screenshot of the constantly revolving tabloid and pseudo news "flash trash" that accompanies each and every Absolute Write forum page. Just scroll and you'll see them (if you can stomach it). We advise against dipping into their foul tasting soup, but we just had to ask, might not the low class nature of this flash trash be reflective in some way of the personalities of the two people who own and operate Absolute Write, namely Melodi "Mac" Sherman and Lisa "Medievalist" Spangenberg? Is that fair to conjecture? In other words, who would conceive and then consent to placing such ubiquitous garbage on their website for thousands of people to see every week if they did not, at least on some level, tolerate or even embrace it? Would not a normally intelligent and cultured person balk at such a thing? The answer is yes, they would. Of course they would.

Now that W.A.R. and other sites have exposed the utterly incompetent writer advice rampant on Absolute Write, as well as the omnipresent cabal of cyberbullies that routinely attack writers and presses and God knows who else, we will explore the foul soup of Absolute Write flash trash tossed at writers on a daily basis when they visit AW. We wish to investigate just what kind of scams and nonsense Absolute Write is promoting to writers via these advertisements. Obviously this condition is paying the rent and supporting Melodi and Lisa (as well as the "author careers" of certain AW members), but what is this AW sponsored rubbish communicating to the naive, hopeful writers they attract to their website?

We will explore these issues in the weeks to come. 

Thanks to everyone for their incredible support.

The Consequence and Sad Truth of Hate (Where is Jenna When You Need Her?)

Dream of Better Lives, The Kind That Never Hate...
[TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT ABSOLUTE WRITE: in this post and others, we are not talking about the non-predatory aspects of a group board like AW, we are discussing an end to the predatory aspects. It is like we're talking about Philly or Oakland in the context of ending rampant corruption and crime. We know there are good places to eat and Streisand will concert tour, but we want the mayor and city council arrested. And because there are those who have expressed puzzlement, here is a page that lists all the reasons why we maintain this blog. Thank you.]

Table of Contents 
  1. From Text and Comments--Sane or Otherwise
  2. An AW Supporter Named "Dor" Makes The Right Call
  3. The "Guest" Slaps You On The Billboard
  4. The Pecking Hate or The AW Bully Egg? 
  5. One Troll Fact or Theory?
  6. Writer Beware Debate on Facebook
  7. iPredators on Internet - Donning the Mask (plus Viable Paradise Update)
 Excerpts from text and comments - sane or otherwise 
It's been pointed out many times. Google ranks AW highly so if you are a victim of their abuse, you will be seen quite easily by friends, employers, relatives, creditors, and everyone else. And whether you became the victim yesterday or six years ago, each time someone searches for you, there you are being roasted alive, chided, mocked and humiliated all over again.
This is kinda what it's like to suddenly discover you have been tied to a truck and pulled through mud and glass by the Absolute Write bully mob. You can't stop them. You can't use reason or proof. They just keep on gathering and pointing at you and yelling like mean school yard children picking on the new kid or the sick kid.
If you spend some time looking over Absolute Write, you'll find a pattern of public smears targeted at organizations and independent presses and self-publishing outfits that are not on Absolute Write's favored list.
Everyone, pro-AW or anti-AW, remember that there were NO HATE SITES when Jenna owned Absolute Write. 
Thank God for the good Doctor Christopher putting himself out there to tell the truth about my dear Lisa and Macallister! Victoria is right. You are just haters, haters and smear campaigners. You are a troll rightfully banned from using your 30 identities on Absolute Write. Lisa has proved who you are with forensic analysis. 
All those who criticize Absolute Write in any manner on Internet are "trolls." All those who publish the real name of AW's owner and her horse farm business address are "stalkers." All those on AW who resist or argue the smear of anyone or anything are "socks." The infantile strategy of AW is to just slap a label of deflection and all is resolved.
Absolute Write, in the hands of Lisa Spangenberg and her associates, is in effect a judge-jury-prosecutor platform... All it takes is for one question to be asked, or one axe grinder to make an appearance, and the predators smell blood. A swarm of anonymous fairies and fops with ridiculous icons appear and begin fomenting themselves into leaps of logic, unfounded assumptions, and distortions of reality.

An AW Supporter Named "Dor" Makes The Right Call

An AW supporter named "Dor" on the Writer Beware blog ("Haters Gonna Hate"), towards the end of the exchange between supporters of Absolute Write and critics, dismissed critics of AW as people harboring a grudge. Point at hand, the whole theme of Victoria's post is about haters hating, as if they hate for no reason? Or it's just the guilty in the Dante's Inferno of the Internet, hating and hating without every recognizing their guilt. Of course, this tact by Victoria and her associates is yet another way of avoiding the substantive commentary concerning cyberbullying and press smearing on AW forums and refocusing instead on attacking the messengers who bring the news, and who must live with it every day; however, the sad truth is, this anonymous Dor of Absolute Write is more correct than not.

Let's look at this "circumstance of hate and grudge" through the eyes of victims of AW, people we know, and who have posted at WAR and elsewhere. On one of our posts regarding cyberbullying, a person commented:

"People outside this mess just don't understand what the real victims of this website are talking about. It's like driving down the highway to work one morning and seeing that someone has overnight built a billboard on the highway with your face and name, and beside it are images of a bunch of other people you've never seen and don't know calling you a loser and a fraud and a crook and an idiot and whatever other insult they can think of. You can't get the billboard taken down because a new law prevents anyone from having to take responsibility for it even if they know the whole thing is a lie, and you can't sue the people on it because you've found out they are all fake, and every day you have to answer for these insults and hope that sane people will see this kangaroo trial by billboard for what it is and also hope you will not be fired from your job as a result.

This is kinda what it's like to suddenly discover you have been tied to a truck and pulled through mud and glass by the Absolute Write bully mob. You can't stop them. You can't use reason or proof. They just keep on gathering and pointing at you and yelling like mean school yard children picking on the new kid or the sick kid."

(btw, Marla Miller had her reputation threatened by the AW-to-Google billboard connection--just one example, the number of these can't be counted)

Now, if you have the time, read over this post ("Is Criticism Possible Without Resorting to Bullying?") and imagine you are Mary Duke, the woman pursued and brought to earth by a snarky, hostile pack of members and mods engaged in loutish behavior as regards her press. And one more thing. Here is a post by our friend Lesley Cameron during her debate with the elite of Absolute Write on Writer Beware:

"Now that I reflect upon it, the websites critical of you two, and the AW in general, are in some sense, hate sites. I've never in my life seen or heard so much utter loathing for any other two people, or any other website. In retrospect, no one hated Jenna. She worked hard to out the bad fellows, but no one hated her. She was respected. She was reasonable and a nice person who didn't like to bully. Whereas you are hated. Hated. Is it because you are hostile bullies with a sense of ridiculous entitlement? Or because you are just doing your jobs and the haters are really just one ex-member who you justifiably gave the boot to?"

The "Guest" Slaps You On The Billboard

There you are, on that billboard on the highway, and you are helpless. btw, here is a slice of the billboard as follows. From time to time on the Beware section of AW, you will see one of these. What is it? A mysterious guest appearance with no link to a profile and no post count. These "guest" appearances, mostly on press smear threads, are always very negative toward the subject at hand. We know that such posts can only be made by the
owner-operators of the Absolute Write forum. In other words, this person is pretending to
Appears for a trashing then poof!
be a valid critic of the press when in fact this is not the case. See in the example above, the "guest" reviles Curiosity Quills and claims the editor stalked her online. Now, isn't that a recurring theme of accusation? Of course, the allegation is nonsense. The "guest" appears later in response to positive posters in a last ditch attempt to contradict them with more allegations and sour grape rhetoric (that sounds suspiciously like Lisa Spangenberg). Also, not a single one of the mods or owners or regulars takes the "guest" to task for her stalking allegations against a named editor at CQ (there she is, on the billboard). No one asks for evidence or challenges her or asks her to tone down the rhetoric. Why is that? Anyone can see that negativity is God on Absolute Write, especially in the Beware forum, but it appears odd all the same. It's as if the regulars have learned just when its smart to keep quiet.

Jenna Glatzer - Professional Writer and Good Person
Yes, if only Jenna Glatzer could return... (btw, good article on Jenna's transition out of AW, by Ted Gross--who foresaw problems) but back to the subject at hand. If you are Mary Duke, or the CQ editor, or Marla Miller, or that poor pariah who posted about the billboard, or any one of scores and scores of people decapitated in public by Absolute Write in the past--human nature being what it is-- would you be more, or less likely, to loathe Absolute Write? Let's be truthful. Most of us are not Mother Teresa. We would most likely loathe Absolute Write, or at least, the people who we feel unfairly attacked our lives and reputations for all the world to see on a daily basis (like the supporters of this blog). And make no mistake. It's been pointed out many times. Google ranks AW highly so if you are a victim of their abuse, you will be seen quite easily by friends, employers, relatives, creditors, and everyone else. And whether you became the victim yesterday or six years ago, each time someone searches for you, there you are being roasted alive, chided, mocked and humiliated all over again.

Kinda like living in hell, isn't it? 

And if you haven't already, please see the reasons why we maintain this blog.

The Pecking Hate or The AW Bully Egg?

It was pointed out by Lesley on Writer Beware (above), that Absolute Write was able to function effectively under the supervision of Jenna (who has wisely disassociated herself from Absolute Write in her bio) and expose the bad guys without sheltering teams of bullies and abusive moderators.
Everyone, pro-AW or anti-AW, remember that there were NO HATE SITES when Jenna owned Absolute Write.
If Jenna were still in charge, you wouldn't be reading this.

So what came first, the pecking hate or the AW bully egg? Victoria Strauss, Melodi Sherman, Lisa Spangenberg, and others who support the current regime, allege the hate starts with the critics of AW. They are just trolls out to smear. It's that simple for them. But the hate starts with AW. The smoke starts with the fires on those forums. If you harbor bitterness for others and set a standard of hostility and snark, you cannot expect your examples of hatred to be returned with love.

You will create enemies with grudges. It's a matter of human chemistry.

The One Troll Fact or Theory? Can Someone Get the Story Straight?

Actually, the elite of Absolute Write state it as if it were a fact. This is limelighted on Victoria's Writer Beware post. A score or more of critical websites... all one single troll. Victoria even depicts herself bravely battling said troll with screenshots. "Note the ire of the troll" she says. Well, um, what troll? Someone disagrees with Victoria and they become THE UBIQUITOUS TROLL WHO DOES IT ALL. AW is pushing this explanation all over the Internet. If you believe this laughable nonsense, we encourage you to open the neural pores and say Huh? It's all so disturbingly Salem witch trial. Point your finger and yell TROLL!

Nevertheless, an authentic battle between good and evil is being waged at Writer Beware. This might sound a little extreme, we know, but if you link above and patiently read the script from top to bottom beginning with Victoria's accusations against WAR and all other websites critical of Absolute Write, you will soon see the battle joined and the sides polarized to irreconcilable differences. AW is Victoria's principal means of long-term marketing for her books. The more threads she posts comments in (especially the conflict threads), the more chance potential readers might click to buy her books that are advertised prominently in her signature block. Anything that threatens that process, or the credibility of AW in general, threatens her career and especially her standing as a crusader for writers--a profile she has carefully crafted over many years.

So what is left but to deny and counter-accuse? All those who criticize Absolute Write in any manner on Internet are "trolls." All those who publish the real name of AW's owner and her horse farm business address are "stalkers." All those on AW who resist or argue the smear of anyone or anything are "socks." The infantile strategy is to just slap a label of deflection and all is resolved. Apparently, they also believe they can get WAR and other blogs dismissed, or perhaps deleted if they tell the ridiculous stalking lie enough times.
Victoria unmasked me.
I need a new plan! Heh, heh.

If you are a reasonable person with a nose for BS, and you carefully read the responses of Victoria, Melodi Sherman (the owner of AW), and Lisa Spangenberg (the admin of AW) to questions put to them by posters, especially our new associate and friend, Lesley Cameron, you will soon see who is evading the truth and who is carrying it forward with a flag. Nearly every question asked is avoided in one way or another except for a very few. Even a working definition of cyberbullying is dodged. What does this tell you?  btw, Victoria and Melodi recognize the right of Melodi to have remained anonymous behind the disguise of Macallister Stone (for fear of retaliation), but they find fault with the right of critics of Absolute Write to remain anonymous. Given AW's track record of life wrecking, how can anyone question this right?

And this is for Lesley: Viva La Resistance! We love you.

Together we will work to end the cyberbullying of people on AW, not to mention the obsessive smearing of new presses. We will expose the bullies for who they are and call them out on their lies and hostility.

 The Writer Beware Debate on Facebook 

And now this:

Sample above of a longer exchange between author Lin Robinson and Victoria Strauss on the Facebook page for Writer Beware. Victoria has taken the fight online to Facebook also. It's funny, but here we have her using troll in the plural, as if she forgot her own one troll theory. But Lin doesn't pull punches on the negatives regarding AW. He does admit it can be handy for protecting writers from predators, and we agree; however, the Dirt Factory gets out of control on the Beware forum, as we've demonstrated on this blog with examples. A word of warning: the opinions and slapdash conclusions of anonymous vapors and kitties cannot be accepted as facts. Double check everything you read there.

However, not sure what Victoria is raving about. We know of no one getting worked up over Melodi being Macallister Stone. There are no conspiracy theories. The owner IS Melodi Sherman (confirmed by her old WA business license). This is a phony issue. That Titanic sailed months before this post in late August. On top of it, she has the incredible gall to insinuate that charges of bullying are less than valid (all a part of the AW propaganda concerning "one troll theory"). She is such a posturing Tariq to the max! This is why we made this comparison, precisely! If she were politically smart, she would at least admit that instances of this or that might be viewed as bullying, but no, she won't give a millimeter. We're all just smearing to smear, and it's all a lie and Victoria is the angel of truth. OMG! Does this woman needs therapy to recover from her Tariq Aziz Complex?

And now this:

What you see above is a continuation of the Facebook WB thread we highlighted above with Lin and Victoria Strauss. The portion above highlights some worthwhile themes. 

Theme: Victoria's post (WB) states "they decry bullying and harassment" etc. Let's examine this. When she was asked by Lesley on the Writer Beware post to define
I am the super troll!
cyberbullying, she dodged. Apparently, she wished the definition to remain as open ended as possible in order to allow her to make false claims like the one above. Quite suddenly, an act of criticizing her or any of her business associates, in particular Melodi Sherman or Lisa Spangenberg, is now defined as bullying. All those who criticize AW are now not only trolls, but bullying trolls. Using her logic, it all follows. We maintain it's all just one of several lies they are generating to counter critics, but if you wish, you can pretend it's just twisted logic and they actually believe what they are saying. As for the "harassment" charge, we can only speculate that this refers to outing the business address of Melodi Sherman's horse boarding venture (the unlicensed one in WA state on Ebey Island). Other than that, it's anyone's guess since she remains vague when making such charges and never includes links, even when asked to--again, see the WB post above. Each time she was asked to provide a link to substantiate a charge, she dodged. See for yourself.

Theme: Next, you have the big Melodi "Mac Stone" Sherman herself stepping in to let us know just how hard her job is. Certainly, the hearts of her scores of victims are breaking right now. It is hard, we're sure, not only for the reasons she states, but because she inserts herself onto a board for fiction writers and poets with no background whatsoever to do the job. It's like a someone who can't boil an egg buying a famous restaurant and interfering with the menu and recipes, followed by hiring short order cooks to be gourmet chefs. As a consequence, the food is awful, but any customer or food critic who tells the truth is decried as a bullying troll.

Regardless, a community is even harder to handle when you allow rampant cyberbullying and foster a culture of negativity and hostility (both pointed out by Paula and Lin on the Facebook thread--as well as on this blog and a score of other websites).

To Melodi Sherman: simply stating your business challenges will not relieve you of responsibility for what you are doing, and what you have done. You have set the tone with your Mac Stone badass slap downs. The phony sock puppet charges. The overall hatred you show for real writers and presses has become a dark pollution that has infected the AW forums. The difference in culture between you and Jenna is literally black vs. white. Stop the whining about how hard it is to run a writer community. No one wants to hear it. Just leave. Sell AW to someone like Jenna who was not only a real writer but a just and lovely person. 
Theme: a supporter steps in to buoy the gang. Is there a conflict of interest here? Gini Koch actively markets her book on AW via her signature block and avatar whenever she posts, like many of the members do. She says she "probably" owes her writing career, etc. Why passive though with "probably"? Because she is groping for something positive to say? She owes her success to many things including lots of prior publications. And everyone is happy she found a critique partner. Then she shows true form by classifying critics of AW as those "who can't handle the truth." And btw, this is also a theme. Who can't handle the truth of what? The truth that the Mac Stone gladiatorial games are really exercises in fair forum dynamics? The truth that were all one troll? That we're all sock puppets, or one sock?

Not to associate Koch with these people because we have no direct knowledge of her engaging in any bully fests, but we've seen that popular conflict threads are rapidly populated by a club of AW member writers who heavily push their biographies and e-books in their signature blocks. They form a piranha pool on behalf of a mod or administrator like Lisa who are engaged in annihilating someone or something. They can't lose because by doing so they get to demonstrate their ability to butt polish, promote themselves and their stock cover books, plus get the chance to show the public just how ethical and outraged they can be. They stumble over themselves for a chance to wound and bite the victim du jour. Rarely if ever does one of them counterpoint an allegation or hasty conclusion, no matter how idiotic or vicious.


We stopped by the Facebook thread for Writer Beware (btw, the poster for Writer Beware is Victoria Strauss operating under a pseudo) to see if she had responded to Paula Jovanovic, and we found this:

Same old pattern with AW owners, mods, and Victoria. Sidestep the issue and taint the messenger. You see this on Fox News all the time. You see it with White House spokespeople. You see it with the apologists of corrupt regimes. You see it all the time. And btw, if Paula were supportive of Victoria and denied the presence of hostility and bullying on AW, Victoria would never have questioned her creation of a new FB account in order to comment.

Isn't human nature a wonderful instrument?

iPredators on Internet - Donning The Mask

iPredator definition as follows. Decide for yourself if this applies to the bullies at AW:

"A person, group, or nation who, directly or indirectly, engages in exploitation, victimization, coercion, stalking, theft, or disparagement of others using Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

iPredators are driven by deviant fantasies, desires for power and control, retribution, religious fanaticism, political reprisal, psychiatric illness, perceptual distortions, peer acceptance or personal and financial gain.

iPredators can be any age or gender and are not bound by economic status, race, religion, or national heritage.

Whether the offender is a cyberbully, cyberstalker, cyber harasser, cybercriminal, online sexual predator, cyber terrorist, and internet troll or engaged in cyber deception, they fall within the scope of iPredator.

And here is a categorization of adult cyberbullies from the Adult Bullying website:

There are several different types of adult bullies (or iPredators), and it helps to know how they operate: 
  1. Narcissistic Adult Bully: This type of adult bully is self-centered and does not share empathy with others. Additionally, there is little anxiety about consequences. He or she seems to feel good about him or herself, but in reality has a brittle narcissism that requires putting others down.
  2. Impulsive Adult Bully: Adult bullies in this category are more spontaneous and plan their bullying out less. Even if consequences are likely, this adult bully has a hard time restraining his or her behavior. In some cases, this type of bullying may be unintentional, resulting in periods of stress, or when the bully is actually upset or concerned about something unconnected with the victim.
  3. Physical Bully: While adult bullying rarely turns to physical confrontation, there are, nonetheless, bullies that use physicality. In some cases, the adult bully may not actually physically harm the victim, but may use the threat of harm, or physical domination through looming. Additionally, a physical bully may damage or steal a victim's property, rather than physically confronting the victim.
  4. Verbal Adult Bully: Words can be quite damaging. Adult bullies who use this type of tactic may start rumors about the victim, or use sarcastic or demeaning language to dominate or humiliate another person. This subtle type of bullying also has the advantage - to the bully - of being difficult to document. However, the emotional and psychological impacts of verbal bullying can be felt quite keenly and can result in reduced job performance and even depression.
  5. Secondary Adult Bully: This is someone who does not initiate the bullying, but joins in so that he or she does not actually become a victim down the road. Secondary bullies may feel bad about what they are doing, but are more concerned about protecting themselves.
In our case here at W.A.R., Teresa Nielsen Hayden, for example, fulfilled the conditions of adult bully type 1, 3, and 4, while she was surrounded and buoyed by bully type 5.

And speaking of Teresa, here she is, third from left, happily leading her ridiculously expensive workshop at Viable Paradise this past October (2014) with her husband Patrick on right. It looks like fun. It is, especially for those who attend and who don't bemoan the loss of so much money. What could be more instructive than fiction writer instruction from people like Teresa and Patrick who are not fiction writers; and it's said if you meet Teresa in person, pay her money at her workshop she runs with Uncle Jim, that she can be nice. No surprise. If only her Hapisofi personality at Absolute Write could be so happy and carefree. It really looks like Hapisofi, Patrick, Uncle Jim, Mac and Hack, and whoever else, can be just as lovely and congenial as any ordinary American human being. 

So why do they become iPredators as defined above when they don their anonymous identities and fairy persona on Absolute Write? Why does the dark side manifest itself there? Why do they say nasty things about people, make false statements, and behave as if entitled to do so? Who knows what darkness lurks in the souls of Absolute Write members and moderators once they've donned the mask? 

Does even The Shadow know?

Embedded image permalink

I guess it just shows that the distance of the Internet will even bring out the worst in people who might be considered fairly cultured in real life.
                                                                                    - The Missing Alexa Reviews

From the Missing Sitejabber Review Page - Sitejabber Will Not Respond to Questions

Trashy Advertisements Run on Absolute Write Forums Wherein Writers and Presses are Smeared

Which Avatar Is Patrick Nielsen Hayden Plus Miscellaneous Jabber

We can't figure if Patrick Nielsen Hayden is part of the cyberbully cabal on Absolute Write or not. We assume he takes part now and then given his wife Teresa's (Hapisofi) devotion to the cause. But who is he? So many are hiding with false identities on AW it's hard to say.

If anyone has knowledge as to the identity of this man on Absolute Write, please write us or post here. Include links to his contributions, especially if they involve bullying and character assassination of writers, presses, or anyone else.

As we've seen with the likes of Janet Reid and others, it's a simple matter to go anonymous and let the dark side take over, especially if you can rationalize that you are in the right.

Thank  you!


Enough blood has been spilled on Absolute Write by your wife and associates. It's time to end it. Be a voice for peace and reason, please. Neither you or Teresa or Debra Doyle or Melodi "Macallister" Sherman or anyone else on that board has a right to stand as judge, jury and executioner over the rights of small presses to get started and publish the work of fiction writers who freely choose to allow such publication. Taste and editorial skill, as evidenced in the books themselves, are far more important that any particular prior experience in a publisher's office in New York. People and presses grow and evolve. It's not your task in life to make certain that the people starting these presses and operating them are trashed and mocked for the world to see on the Absolute Write forums. And we are not talking about shady operators, simply start-ups who want a chance to publish and compete. 

Lies, humiliation, and bullying tactics are uncalled for. We hope you agree, Patrick Nielsen Hayden.


The WAR Staff

Miscellaneous Jabber 

  • We at W.A.R. recognize that there are positive aspects to Absolute Write. There is no doubt of that and the fact is undeniable. It has never been our aim to discount or belittle helpful forums or places where true writer rip-offs are exposed; but the fact is, the marketing bytes and blasts of AW's supporters and owners do not match the reality, and much of this disconnect is here on this blog for everyone to see (e.g. quality of writer advice, respect for writers, fair play on the forums, true business professionals hanging out and giving feedback, and lack of bullying). But think on this. There are aspects of Oakland and Philly that are good. The food is yum yum, there are some friendly people, you can shop at big malls. Yes. Now, would you actually recommend someone from another country to live in Oakland or Philly if they had a choice of much better places to live in the U.S. where crime, pollution, corrupt city officials, and traffic weren't threatening to drive them mad?
  • Victoria Strauss, on Writer Beware, has noted our posts on particular Absolute Write bullies (Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Stacia Kane, etc.) to be "character assassinations." Isn't this what the press guy for any corrupt politician says as a first line of defense? They don't address the substance of the alleged attack, they impugn the character of the guy pointing the finger.
  • We recently found the old Sitejabber reviews and Dark Market reviews that had gone suddenly missing. The vanishing of the Sitejabber webpages regarding Absolute Write were especially depressing since they had a history of detailed discontent with the main subject of this blog.
  • Absolute Write and its supporters like Victoria Strauss continue to spread the hokey fiction that the vast constellation of critical AW reviews are the work of one disgruntled ex-AW member, a new hybrid super troll. Do you laugh or sigh when you hear this blithering mind scrawl? Even the most diehard of AW fans hopefully have enough sense of logic to see through this inane argument. Victoria Strauss makes a point of including screenshots of her drubbing a troll who dialogues with her on this very subject--and in case any of her argument makes a bit of sense to you, keep scrolling down the page to read the commentary, especially more than half way down, then come back here and read the Sitejabber and Dark Market reviews, as well as the scores of other reviews located at W.A.R.
  • Two huge public supporters of Absolute Write, Janet Reid and Victoria Strauss (both of whom have participated in bully threads), recently opened major threads on their blogs to support the Water Cooler regime of Melodi Sherman and Lisa Spangenberg. Both threads, though at first populated by supporters (herded there?), soon gave way to a meteor fall of criticism as past victims and critics of the website stopped by to add their comments. We've learned from Lesley Cameron that Janet Reid began to censor posts critical of AW after midpoint so that the bulk of comments would appear positive. We included a post on that censorship after Ms. Cameron contacted us.

Trashy "sponsored articles" That Pay The Bills at Absolute Write. Keep the Smears Coming!

Web Pages Critical of Absolute Write Suddenly Going Dark. Who is Behind it?

More on this to come. We just had to get a post up asap. We just learned from a concerned and former Absolute Write WC member that Absolute Write owners and supporters (most likely Melodi Sherman, Lisa Spangenberg, and Victoria Strauss) are actively applying pressure to websites that contain text critical of them, i.e., where posters freely expressed problems with the Water Cooler and it's owners and mods.

The site that has most recently died without a trace is the Dark Market's blog page. On it were quite a few honest reviews of Absolute Write that remarked on the cyberbullying and moderator hostility. In fact, the Dark Market blog was one of the first to comment on this. The first, as far as we can tell, was Sitejabber, and that site also suddenly died. However, we saved the cached file and included it here in our list of websites critical of Absolute Write.

We cannot prove at this time that Melodi or Victoria or whoever are pressuring websites to remove content, but it stands to reason and therefore is possible. If anyone has any more evidence of this one way or another, please contact us.

Meanwhile here is a flavour of the Dark Markets thread, saved for you courtesy screenshot:

And if you want to read more of the Dark Market's post, it can be found here.
And if you wish to read the now completely restored posts that made history on Sitejabber, here they are.

Is Victoria Strauss The Tariq Aziz of Absolute Write? Critic Bashing Allegations Debunked?

Type "absolute write complaints" in Google and see the article, "Haters Gonna Hate" by Victoria Strauss to get the other side of this ongoing debate regarding the validity and cyberbully nature of Absolute Write. The writers associated with this blog would like to thank Victoria Strauss for battling the troll so bravely and also for advertising our blog and the many other websites calling out the owners and mods at AW for their behavior.

"So that's where the anger comes from."
- Victoria Strauss

And now that we're fighting back, we're all just tossed under a label (trolls/sock puppets) and all we say is condensed under a label (propaganda), both categories chosen and 
stamped legitimate by Victoria Strauss.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has finally entered the Absolute Write debate, predictably on the side of Absolute Write, but to such an extreme and critic-bashing degree that it surprises all of us. In her article, which we shall discuss at length, she only goes so far as to admit the moderators at AW can sometimes be tough, but she steadfastly denies and omits any specific instances of abuse, bullying, or any other reprehensible behavior. Victoria Strauss has a great reputation online with many people, and we must frankly admit, she deserves it in many respects. She HAS done good, there is no question! So why, oh why, does she dig in, again and again, to demonstrate her huge blind spot when it comes to Absolute Write? Is she actually a business partner who gains from advertising revenue? Is it because she is friends with the owners and mods? Or is it because she has defended this website for so long, hell or high water, that there is no going back? Like a devoted follower of Bush or Obama, she is dug in too deep. She refuses at all costs to view anything negative or hostile with a realistic lens. And btw, haven't we seen this behavior repeatedly from AW mods and owners?

According to Victoria Straus, obvious bullying is revised to become nothing other than "tough moderating" necessary on such a large forum. She refuses to examine textbook instances of AW hostility and bullying--a good sampling of which are noted on this blog--but then again, as noted above, she has no choice but to avoid such specific examples. She must steer the debate to a higher plane where she alone holds sway. As such, she becomes a personality functioning in a role much like Tariq Aziz, the former deputy defender of Saddam Hussein. He had a way of avoiding or denying anything evil that Saddam ever did, and he was personable, as well as believable. Tariq struck out with fury against enemies critical of the regime. He called them names, dismissed them, said they had agendas. And now, Victoria Strauss, in similar fashion, has written an article doing the exact same thing. In a sense, she is functioning as Absolute Write's Tariq.

Of course, Absolute Write does not have people killed or tortured, so Victoria cannot possibly descend to the pit of historical infamy like Tariq. However, Absolute Write, as we've seen, does effectively smear the lives and livelihoods of innocent people, and we might add, with a relish that Tariq would have appreciated if he were an AW member.

She repeats the perennial Absolute Write dodges and defenses made popular by Lisa Spangenberg and Melodi Sherman (who are utterly guiltless in Victoria's world), namely: detractors and critics making observations or engaged in dialogue unfavorable to her Absolute Write associates are all, all sockpuppets and trolls (of course!); nearly all of the websites critical of AW are run by one person (If Victoria has the facts why doesn't she name this sneaky lying Darth Vader woman?) who also happens to run this blog you are reading, writes all of the posts, and makes ALL of the comments; the entire collection of commentary, observations, examples, and all else from AW critical websites are all simply a smear campaign (inferring no credibility to anything because it's all part of an agenda) and labeled by Victoria as propaganda.

Just propaganda, agenda, smear campaign. No credibility here. No real people's lives smeared by Absolute Write. No one bullied. No presses or writers unfairly mocked and accused. Not a single thing out of place. Nothing wrong. Just propaganda.

In this way, Victoria Strauss engages in world building favorable to Absolute Write. She creates her own reality with her friends and associates as guiltless, hard pressed heroes, and all detractors are evil trolls with a smear agenda of dispensing only propaganda. She defines the origin of these trolls quite clearly: 1) people who have been rightfully banned for being out of control; and 2) scammers exposed by AW, and 3) as Victoria says, "An especially volatile aspect of this forum is the often-harsh analysis of new small presses, especially those started up by amateurs with weird ideas about publishing."

In summary, Victoria states, "So that's where the anger comes from." 

So it is all resolved. Victoria has spoken! Already, anyone familiar with the excesses and high octane nastiness on AW will laugh at this. No anger from anyone but the bad guys, and oh yeah, those "amateurs with weird ideas about publishing." According to who exactly?  Where is a link to this allegation? You mean all us poor trolls who tried to start a legitimate press to publish books we really like but were lied about and mocked by AW mods and their usual sycophant parade of vapors, cats, fairies and whatnot who surrounded us and engaged in personal attacks and acts of blatant bullying? Yes, I guess you're talking about us, the collective us, the victims of your friends. Course, we all have it coming, don't we? And now that we're fighting back, we're all just tossed under a label (trolls/sockpuppets) and all we say is condensed under a label (propaganda), both categories chosen and stamped legitimate by Victoria Strauss.

And then she takes it one step further. She halts the defense and goes on the attack. So let's ask Victoria some logical and fair questions, beginning with verbatim quotes from her blog post:

1. "Right now, though, the most concentrated attack comes from a group of anti-AW blogs: Absolute Blight, Absolute Banning, Forums Review, and Write Absolute Reviews of Bully Boards (the "s" at the end of "Boards" is cosmetic; the only board discussed is AW). If they seem similar--not just in format, but in the circular way they all reference each other--that's no coincidence: there's substantial evidence that they've been set up by the same individual ..."

The most "concentrated attack" we have. Okay, Victoria, so present the "substantial evidence" then. Where is it? It's substantial. Are you holding back for the same reason police withhold information from the press? But why would you do that? The truth is, there is no substantial evidence.

2. "These anonymously- or sockpuppet-run blogs (check out the origin story at Write Absolute, which includes lots of fanciful detail but neglects to supply any verifiable specifics) ..."

It reminds you of the line from DOCTOR STRANGELOVE when the Soviet ambassador refused a cigar from the American general by saying, "I don't smoke cigars made by capitalist stooges." Whereupon the general replied, "Oh, only communist stooges, eh?"  Victoria has no problem with the horde of anonymous sniping avatars on Absolute Write, but then again, they are absolutely right. It's just us gals who are the trolls, so we must be sockpuppets. Or are we trolls? Or are we sock trolls? Or troll puppets? It's all so confusing! Why can't Vickie stick with just one label?

And we included "fanciful details" about the attack on our press by Hapisofi, but we did not provide a direct link for a very good reason, and everyone who knows the dirt factory at AW understands the reason.

3. "... and libellous unsourced allegations about AW members and defenders (again, I know some of the people involved). More unpleasant pastimes include attempting to doxx AW's owner, her parents, and AW admins, and to interfere with their livelihoods (Absolute Blight is the worst offender in this regard). 

Two words in a row misspelled, Vick. Where is your link to a single libelous allegation? Why not provide the reference? The mods and owners we expose are all public figures. And the "doxx" of AW's owner. Well, congrats to Absolute Wrong. And why shouldn't we pierce the carefully erected disguise of Melodi Sherman? We have the right, and we would argue, even the obligation given her years long trail of naked hostility towards posters on AW. As far as "her parents" thing, we have no idea what this is about, but why isn't there a link to this? You provide lots of links, but these several accusations have no substance. We wonder why?

And now AW admins. You are talking about Lisa Spangenberg specifically. Why don't you mention her name? Or for that matter, why do you refrain from mentioning the name of the owner, Melodi Sherman? And no one is trying to interfere with their livelihoods. They have to take responsibility for their actions. Everyone has a right to know where their horse business is located for purposes of potential legal action, which we assure you, WILL be forthcoming. They have no business license for their horse business, or for Absolute Write business in Washington state. In other words, they have no legitimacy. This is verifiable.

4.  "They're replete with sockpuppet comments (the blogs' owner likes to talk to herself) and larded with misinformation, including mistaken guesses about the identities of AW moderators."

Okay, fair enough Vick, so why didn't you provide a link to support these allegations? Which comments specifically are "sockpuppet comments" of the blog owner talking to herself? Point them out. We all want to know. And where is a link to the misinformation?  As for mistaken guesses, we know who Old Hack and Hapisofi are. There is no guessing.

Nice attempt to salvage their disguises. Sorry, it won't work.

5. " ... if AW were really the cesspit of evil that it's alleged to be by the anti-AW crowd, wouldn't members be fleeing in droves? Wouldn't they stop posting? Wouldn't AW be on its way to becoming moribund, like the unfortunate WritersNet?

 Perhaps members have fled in droves over the years. What is a drove anyway? But we have no way of verification. First of all, there is no proof of the membership claims of AW. At best, whatever their real number, they are based not on active members, but on anyone and everyone who allegedly remains on a mail list from the time of Jenna Glatzner. So in a country of over 300,000 est active writers, they have an active membership of a few thousand, at most? Maybe? We have no idea how many stop posting, leave, and are replaced by others. AW maintains the fiction that the community is constantly growing, but we believe that to be false. It's up to the individual to decide this issue. 

What keeps AW ruthlessly in the public eye is their act of creating conflict threads that rank high in Google, as well as their outreach marketing gimmicks and efforts, and efforts by members like Victoria Strauss who argue for their legitimacy.

Is Agent Janet Reid Censoring Speech To Protect Her Absolute Write Bully Friends?

Public Figure Janet Reid on Left at Writer Conference - Note Expressions of Disdain on Faces of Onlookers
To set some background here. Janet Reid, formerly Miss Snark, and now an agent with Fine Print Literary Agency representing crime fiction, has been a collaborator with Absolute Write for at least eight years. She has possessed at least two identities on the Water Cooler forums (one being a fat shark) and is friends with the bully cabal noted elsewhere on this blog, namely Old Hack, Hapisofi, the sock puppet Stone, and others. Janet Reid has also engaged in bully slug outs more than once, so she is extremely familiar with Absolute Write Water Cooler pathology. We've known about her but never mentioned because she is just one of dozens of life's axe grinders and embittered cowards who seek a sniper vantage point at Absolute Write. What better place to fester and target enemies and berate others for reasons of catharsis than an Internet forum wherein you can be anonymous and even protected by owners like Melodi and Lisa who are just as deliberately vicious as you are?

Janet Reid is also a phony in our opinion. While pretending to care about writers and project a snarky though overall beneficent image on her blog, she is known around the U.S. as being a terrible bully at writer events. Hard to believe? Not if you've seen her in action. One of her most infamous bully foundations was at the Backspace conference in New York. She mocked and belittled one writer after another, and for some reason, was invited back for more. She's actually been ejected from conferences for her nastiness, but the writers, especially the women, are terrified of her so they keep quiet. We've known about this also, heard the stories for years, but never had an opportunity to mention it in relevant context until now.

Janet Reid's Symbol - From Her Blog
We are grateful therefore to Ms. Lesley Cameron who made an effort to contact us by posting on our blog recently. According to Lesley, she made an attempt to include her viewpoint about Absolute Write bullies on Janet Reid's blog, responding to other posters engaged in a debate on the merits of belonging to bully boards for writers, but her post was censored by Reid. But before we examine that, let's look at a portion of the letter to Janet Reid written by a fan who cannot comprehend why Janet, seemingly a good person, advocates that writers fling themselves into the jaws of a bullying forum like Absolute Write:
I've been reading your blog for awhile now and have seen you speak highly of Absolute on multiple occasions. I admit, I am biased in the opposite direction. Every time I see you tell writers to check out their writing forums, a little part of me dies inside.

Why do you like Absolute Write so much?
Every time I have posted or read and replied to posts there, I have been bullied, belittled or ignored. I always leave their forums feeling like I need to crawl into a tight space and cry, or wanting to pick up my monitor and chuck it across the room. I don't want to sound haughty, but I'm almost positive I am not the only person who feels this way. With a simple Google search of "bullying on Absolute Write" a variety of results come up where people talk about their experiences.

Now I'm sure there are gems of people out there in the Absolute Write community, but it seems like the majority like to tear new writers down in an attempt to make themselves feel better. This leaves me wondering why someone I respect (you) and go to for answers, and who seems to really care about writers trying to pursue their dreams, would advocate a place that has such strong ties to bullying behavior.
There is more, but what this perplexed Janet Reid fan doesn't know is that Janet herself is one of the bullies drifting through the forum kelp like a predator shark looking for victims. She has a dual personality, a Jekyll-Hyde thing going on. She is one persona on her blog, quite another persona on Absolute Write--like so many others!

And this brings us around to Ms. Lesley Cameron's first note to us once we contacted her:
Dear WAR Blog,
No doubt you've seen the Janet Reid blog thread on Absolute Write? Or have you? It begins with one person asking Reid why she cheers for Absolute Write all the time. Reid answers, pretending not to have any knowledge of the bullying there: "For starters, that's never been my experience at AW...This statement made me angry. I knew she was blatantly lying. I noticed also that any and all posts critical of Absolute Write disappeared about half way down the thread to be replaced by glowing reports and insinuations that complainers are weak minded or just troublesome egos. Though some of these more positive posts seemed authentic, they hardly acknowledged the widespread and rampant trashing of writers, self-publishers, and small presses that goes on there all the time. It appeared to me as if Reid might be censoring critical posts while putting out a call to sock puppets and suck-ups from Absolute Write in an attempt to prop the thread in favor of that board. See what you think for yourselves. One of the posts, "Anonymous," was written by Reid herself. I made a post supporting the people talking honestly about the bullying and my post was deleted by Reid that day.
To summarize, my post pointed out that no other website in existence has fostered the growth of so many other websites critical of it. I included a link to your WAR blog in the post as a place that displays all of these websites that expose Absolute Write for what it really is. As I said, this post was quickly deleted by Reid. This is when I began to suspect that other critical posts were also being deleted. It seemed that Janet had decided that too many negative posts were not good for business, or her relationship with business associates on Absolute Write.
Next, I posted again, and this too was deleted, but this time I saved a copy. Here is my next post on the Janet Reid blog:  
For the record, I made a long post yesterday with a link to specific instances of bad advice on AW as well as instances of moderator and owner bullying of writers and press editors, and the post was deleted. I agree with people who say AW is huge and there are opportunities here and there, cultural niches, etc. but there is a load of nasty activity associated with a club of people who affiliate with the owner; and if you are looking for top level advice on any kind of writing, a group of amateurs and board owners who are not writers are the last people whose advice you want to take.
I know a blog that proves this, but posting any links as proof will get this post deleted ... and that's another thing. All this great advice writers posting here are receiving? Well where is it? Where are the links to the specific advice?
Everyone would like to see.
As Lesley tells us, the above post was also deleted by Janet Reid. Apparently, Janet was no longer tolerating honest criticism of Absolute Write, especially not from anyone who made accurate observations and asked tough questions. But the drama doesn't stop there. Lesley wrote Janet "Miss Snark" Reid herself the following letter and shared it with us:
Miss Snark,

You've been on the water cooler for many years and you hang out there with the worst bullies on the forums including the phony Macallister Stone who as everyone now knows isn't a writer at all, just a horse farm owner! For you to make a statement like "For starters, that's never been my experience at AW ...," immediately following a post by a victim of Absolute Write who was clearly bullied on their forum, is disingenuous in the extreme. In fact, it is a lie. It has been your experience, Janet, because you've been involved in the actual bullying. You've been witness to it many times. You can't lie to everyone and expect to get away with it 100%. I know better.

You censored my first post on your blog that was critical of Absolute Write. I pointed out that no other website online has so many forums, blogs, and other sites railing against it for nastiness and bullying, and I provided links to prove it. You prohibited that post. At a certain point in your thread, about half way down, you decided to only allow posts that were leaning towards positive. Who knows how many other posters with negative experiences have been censored also? You also censored my final post that asks your followers to provide a link proving their contention that Absolute Write is giving them great advice about writing.

By the way, Janet, I've been to the Backspace conference in New York and I've seen you in action. You take pleasure in humiliating people in public. I've never seen the like anywhere else. You are a bully online and offline. I was told by one of your deluded followers at Backspace that you were a good Catholic. That is just plain funny, and also somewhat predictable.

I'm going to relay your censorship to the websites that tell the truth about Absolute Write and your bully friends.

Best Wishes,

To this date, Janet Reid has not responded to the above letter.

Thank you, Lesley! This touches on a lot of the points we've been making  here at WAR about the bullying and hypocrisy on the part of AW owners and moderators (not to mention quite a few members). When you look at Janet Reid's resume, it's hard to believe that a professional like her has a darker personality that dons a disguise and participates in the degrading others, but as we can see, Janet is transcendent. She also revels in the degrading of others in public. Perhaps, the more successful she becomes, the more entitled she becomes to rake writers over the coals?

And if you're out there, Janet, does your abominable attitude which displays itself when convenient have anything to do with the fact that you might just be a frustrated writer?

Our advice to you, is to get serious therapy. Learn to live with your limitations and stop taking out your inferiority complex on innocent people.