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 Write.com 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.