Harassment and Threats from a fellow author

Harassment and Threats from a fellow author

Just three days ago, on May 7, an issue was brought to my attention. It involves some of the former members of Austen Authors and a threat made to me. After talking with trusted associates and friends, and thoughtful consideration and prayer since made aware of the charges, I have decided the best course of action due to the serious nature is to respond publicly.

This threat to me, and by extension ALL authors who, for whatever reason real or perceived, come under attack by a bully, MUST NOT be kept in the shadows. 

In brief, the issue has to do with the Austen Authors writing project Pride and Prejudice 200, which was published as The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote on December 5, 2013.


The split of the original Austen Authors in January 2014 was amicable to the public. Behind the scenes, it was the result of personal attacks, viciousness, and threats made to me by past members for months. Taking the high road, after the split, I blocked all email communication with these former members as they also made it clear they no longer wanted to correspond with me.

  • Upon the split of the original Austen Authors group, all past promises, future plans, and email agreements were voided and nullified.
  • There were never any formal contracts signed by me.
  • Group writing projects aimed to benefit Austen Authors have been used elsewhere, and projects that were earmarked for my expenses in maintaining Austen Authors were never published.
  • P&P200 was an Austen Authors project and the subsequent publication was designed to benefit Austen Authors, not another blog. Yet, this is what has transpired.
  • The P&P200 anthology (The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote) was given to me for control of the publication from December 5 to 31 in 2013, and was republished in January 2014 by Abigail Reynolds as Austen Authors was in decline.
  • Since the dissolution of Austen Authors I have had zero input, and all aspects of the business decisions, including earnings, have been beyond my control.
  • My portions of The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote belong to me as the author and copyright owner. I gave permission to have them included in the current edition — for Austen Authors readers’ benefit — but requested in October 2014 to have them removed as soon as feasibly possible. (side-note: as of this posting, my request has not been realized)
  • The royalty of $2526.27 for December 2013 (and received in March 2014) was handled by me, the sole remaining administrator of Austen Authors. This included paying the tax burden (approximately one-third), and, as per the original intent to aid causes dedicated to Jane Austen, partially defrayed my expenses for maintaining the Austen Authors website and donated to the Greater Louisville Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).
  • I did not reopen the closed channels of email communication to the former members who wished me personal harm. I am, however, at the same address and not beyond the ability to contact if the need significant.

Now, one year and five months later, the threats and personal attacks have renewed and escalated. 

Over the last few days, Abigail Reynolds slandered my name to Regina Jeffers and involved three current Austen Authors — Joanna Starnes, Jeanna Ellsworth, and Elizabeth Ann West. She has labeled me a “thief” and is threatening my future as a published author. 

She has informed Regina Jeffers that she intends to, “contact Amazon and they will block her selling privileges,” and that my unawareness of the situation has been, “interpreted as a choice to pocket the money.” 

To Elizabeth Ann West the threat was extended: “…the only recourse is to report her to Amazon for copyright violation… they’d remove her rights to sell on Amazon and everyone associated with her would come in for close inspection.” Elizabeth Ann has expounded on her reaction to all of this in a personal blog posted today: Who’s Afraid of Abigail Reynolds? Not Me.

For my protection I pro-actively contacted Amazon and spoke at length with a customer service manager. They are aware of the potential threat to me and “everyone associated with me.” To be clear, the latter encompasses all of YOU in this loop.**

For full disclosure, I have attached the Facebook personal message transcripts below. The message to Regina Jeffers, and her forwarding the email from Abigail Reynolds that I did not receive, was the first I knew of this “issue.” 

AR to Regina
Facebook PM to Regina (shared by permission), sent to me and received later that same day. Regina informed Abigail that I had received the message.

AR to EAW
Facebook PM sent to Elizabeth Ann West on 5/8, barely 24 hours later and AFTER affirmation from Regina that I was informed. Again, Elizabeth Ann has written of her reaction: http://bit.ly/1AOglrH

If Abigail Reynolds moves forward on her threats to make false claims of copyright violations against authors, I hope the JAFF community’s support can be counted on to restore the livelihoods of those attacked. This is a very serious matter that should concern ALL authors. Authors have been attacked in this way many times — here is a March 2015 story from The Active Voice: http://the-active-voice.com/2015/03/01/nolander-blocked-at-amazon-and-smashwords/   Thankfully Amazon authorities are becoming aware of such false attacks, the representative I spoke to today ensuring me they are investigating fully before acting swiftly. However, it remains a very real possibility that anyone can make a false claim of copyright violation, with Amazon and other venues removing books until the matter is resolved. 


**The above message, exactly as published here, along with the attachments, has been sent to the 21 authors of The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote, all of whom are, by association, also threatened.

33 Comments for Harassment and Threats from a fellow author

  1. After reading the prequel, part 1 (for a 3rd time… I love your books!), and seeing the little reminder about part 2 due to release last summer, I got super excited & searched and searched for it. After reading everything you have been through with this bully dilemma, I completely understand why you have decided to halt writing part 2. Talk about “Darcy” protectiveness when it comes to your favorite author!!! I want to tell Abigail off for delaying the BEST love story I’ve read! But I won’t…. I’ll patiently wait for you to heal and pray for God’s peace in your life. When your new book DOES come out, I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it! Many blessings, Sharon.

    ~Shannon D.

  2. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Never give anyone the satisfaction of thinking they can affect you in a negative way. Your stories reflect strong and intelligent women. That can only be written by someone who has those qualities within her. The best revenge in keeping your head high, a smile on you face, and keep doing what you do for you.

  3. Dear Sharon
    I was heart broken when I read on your blog that you were halting writing the Darcy saga… With this new information I understand completely… I do hope that the saying “time heals all wounds” will be the case in this instance..

    My favorite quote is from the late great Maya Angelo
    “When people show you who they really are …believe them”

    You are a wonderful author I hope that you can return to telling the story of the Darcy’s lives together. Until then I will continue rereading your books….please hurry back to Pemberly.

    • Thank you for the support, and the quote. One to take to heart for sure.

      I haven’t completely given up on the Darcy Saga, Linda. The characters are too dear to me. I have been set back, I admit. The “prequel duo” #2 has not come along as speedily as I had hoped, but I am slowly working on it. Little by little! Time does heal MOST wounds, and mine are getting to the place of nothing more than a scar… and shall fade a bit more each day IF certain people will leave me in peace, that is. Therein lies my prayer. 🙂

      • Hello Sharon….. I just wanted to check in with you and let you know that I am still praying for you daily…. I work at a Middle school (in the reading department) and I pray for loved ones on my way to school and you have been included from the moment I heard of your situation. I just wanted you to know you are not forgotten and I hope things are working out for you….

  4. Sharon,
    Thank you for having the courage to make those who are, through no fault of their own, potentially “in the line of fire” aware of the threat. Praemonitus, praemunitus, as they always say. When I first read this blog, and Elizabeth’s blog(s), my initial reaction was that going public with a private quarrel seemed rather drastic, but on reflection, I’ve come to understand the necessity in this case.

    It is a great sorrow to me that wonderful authors I’ve admired from afar, and perhaps even put on a pedestal, turned out to be human after all. I remind myself that I don’t know all the facts in this case, and so will refrain from judging any of the parties involved. I know the part I need to know, and for that, I’m grateful. Many hugs to you. I’m so sorry all this has happened, and you can count on prayers from me too.

    • Thank you, Diana. I suppose at first glance it can seem like nothing more than a quarrel. There is that side of it, of course, but the point to go public was not about that. Hopefully everyone who reads our blogs will comprehend the bigger picture.

      I really appreciate the hugs and prayers. Can never have enough of those! Hugging back, Sharon

  5. Hello sharon

    I love both of your books and I am sorry this has happened hopefully it won’t stop you from reaching your goals

    Zoe G

  6. I stopped buying your books after some thinly veiled comments you had made at the close of austenauthors. I am appalled that you and Elizabeth have made this argument so public, in what is clearly a schoolroom fight. Much as you say there are ways to contact you, I do not see that you have contacted the other Author before this very public blog. So she may be a bully… I am sure there are authors who feel the same of you. This is an awful way to settle disagreements. It came across my news feed from another author who I buy and read, but may rethink as well. I have never read Elizabeth’s works and because of all this pettiness, I doubt I will read her either. In fact, I am thinking of leaving this genre all together. What a mince of things have been made. These public disputes only fan flames and do nothing but mar all the characters involved.

    • Amelia,
      Thank you for expressing your thoughts. I have taken some time before approving, simply because I needed some time to think how best to reply. I do not act in haste. Learned that lesson long ago 🙂

      I have addressed the relevant points individually.

      “I stopped buying your books after some thinly veiled comments you had made at the close of austenauthors.”

      This is, of course, your prerogative, Amelia. Thankfully it is a choice you can make for yourself — same as for those who DO choose to buy my novels — rather than one taken away because my books are no longer for sale due to a malicious retaliation.

      “I am appalled that you and Elizabeth have made this argument so public, in what is clearly a schoolroom fight.”

      Even a “schoolroom fight” can be a serious matter. Are you suggesting the child being bullied, punched, slapped, or in some other way harassed should shut up and take it? This issue is far more serious.

      If someone was threatening your livelihood, would you not take action to prevent it? Or what if you knew a person who admitted they intended to harm another? Would you sit in silence and watch it happen?

      If it had just been me Abigail Reynolds threatened, I might have dealt with it privately. Or I may still have gone public. I’m honestly not certain. But, when friends of mine are also threatened — and in fact people I may not think of but who will suffer by mere association — what manner of human being would I be to not warn them?

      “Much as you say there are ways to contact you, I do not see that you have contacted the other Author before this very public blog.”

      Indeed I did not, and why should I? Abigail made her intentions crystal clear. Besides, I know from past experience that rational conversation would have failed. I’ll leave it at that.

      “This is an awful way to settle disagreements.”

      I was not attempting to settle a disagreement. I, and Elizabeth Ann West, were/are doing what is right, moral, and ethical.

      “These public disputes only fan flames and do nothing but mar all the characters involved.”

      I beg to differ. The flames have been doused. I have protected myself, and my fellow authors, from an action that would affect the Jane Austen genre far, FAR worse. As my husband quoted in his comment below: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” John 3:20

      In all sincerity, Sharon Lathan

    • I think the other author involved lost the privilege of such civility the moment she threatened to file complaints to have authors’ selling rights taken down. This is not an idle threat. And it was conducted across multiple people and over days, so it also wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It was premeditated expectation that current members of Austen Authors would turn against Sharon Lathan and be all up in arms over a disagreement on some royalties that were paid out OVER A YEAR AGO.

      I personally shared such a case of a bogus DMCA happening in March to an author where Amazon took her book down for a week in an authors’ group I was in with Abigail Reynolds. That is why Abigail’s message to me started with “You know how Amazon works . . .” You can look up Becca Mills and DMCA and see what happened there. I shared the situation as a warning about how Amazon kills flies with hammers, they act first and ask questions later. To get a book back up took a community of people reporting it to Amazon and emails to Jeff Bezos himself.

      If I am marred as you say, it is because I didn’t let a bestselling author in the genre boss me around and do her dirty work for her. I am quite satisfied being marred in such a way and will wear it with distinction. And it would not have mattered to me who it was who sent me that message; no one is to threaten another author’s livelihood in that manner. Or at least they do not get to send threats through me and ask me to pass them on. Hypothetically, if it had been a reverse situation, I would have tendered my resignation to Austen Authors and written about the situation the same way with the names flipped.

      If I am to lose readers over saying I think unethical behavior is unethical, then so be it. It is my personal experience that saying nothing only breeds more unethical behavior and I won’t trade a few more book sales for such a reality.

      • Well said Elizabeth. I agree with you whole heartedly! And I’m disappointed in Abigail and what has taken placed. BTW I’m still reading and buying your books. Sharon’s too, though I’m impatient for her next one!

  7. I’m pleased to see that this long reported rift has gone public. I have long suspected that the differences lies between you and Abigail Reynolds. Thank you for going public.

  8. Ive seen a new light and sparkle in my wifes eyes which make my heart glad. Telling the truth is never ” Not taking the high road” it is the high road really. People often are afraid to bring things into the light but this fear only empowers those who do their best work in the shadows. I dont think until now there ever was closure for my wife. I think for some they want to throw it all back on her but I feel its because they cant process what actually was done. But thats on them for them to deal with really. My wife is a very strong Christian and she finds her strength in the Lord.

    “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” John 3:20

  9. Dear Sharon, I have read all of your books and I loved everyone of them. I am so looking forward to anything new that you publish!!! I wish you peace and joy.
    Joan

  10. I am so sorry that one particular author stands by to let other authors divide you all. There seems to be always one bad apple brewing in that tree. I totally support you and I loved all your books which I have all of them you have written. As one of your fans I hope you have the courage and enough strength to overcome any obstacles you my encounter along the way with these harassments and threats that was laid against you!!!! Prayers goes out to you for strength and courage. Big Hugs!!!!

  11. As you well know, I will always support you wholeheartedly. The fact that it has been reduced to this is just ridiculous. JAFF should be, SHOULD be, big enough for you all. sigh Hang in there sister! Saying a prayer for you!

    • Thank you, Lily.

      The only resolution is for the harassment to stop. After a year and a half going public with Ms. Reynolds’ threats, while uncomfortable for me, remained the only option if I was to be left in peace. Time will tell whether this is the case. 🙁

      • I really hope everything gets better. You don’t deserve to be treated that way, this situation might be uncomfortable for you but you deserve some peace.

  12. I have a number of your books and Abigails and really love them all. Yours was the very first P&P lollow on that I read after finding it in my Book Club. I enjoyed it so much that I searched on Amazon and now have many many books. I am truly grateful to you for introducing me to these and I can only hope that this can be resolved without any further distress to anyone. Take Care.

  13. Sharon, as a devoted fan of long standing and a voracious reader of Austen fan fiction, I am saddened to see the division between authors. I do acknowledge this field to be competitive. I suppose it is a natural consequence. I admire the works and talents of you authors and I pray that cool heads and open minds will result in a healing of the breech. God bless you!

    Peggy

  14. I think Abigail was frustrated by not being able to reach you, and she reacted badly. This is upsetting for all of you, as well as for those of us who love your work.
    You also don’t know if something else is going on in her life that she can’t do anything about, so she is focusing on this instead.
    Emotions are heightened when people you care about disappoint, which makes this situation all the more difficult.
    I trust you can all come out of this with the air cleared and your mutual affection restored.
    I treasure my P&P Scenes JA Never Wrote.
    Fondly, Beatrice

    • Those are very nice sentiments, Beatrice. Oh how I wish they could be true! Alas, if there was any hope of “air cleared” or affection, it would have occurred long ago. My only desire is to be left in peace, and allowed to continue writing without harassment and additional threats to my livelihood.

      As for “not being able to reach me”, email and Facebook PMs are far from the only means of contact. What did people do before the internet and Zuckerberg? I didn’t move off the grid to a deserted island! How can a person become so frustrated after making a couple attempts? And, as Elizabeth Ann West so very succinctly put it, this is how you professionally reach out without making threats:
      Dear _______,
      I need to speak with Sharon Lathan, but I can’t seem to reach her. Could you please pass along that I’m trying to reach her? Thanks. Abigail Reynolds

      I do admit that based on past horrific experiences, I would not have speedily jumped at her command while asking how high. It continues to baffle me why some people think I am obligated to communicate with ANYONE I do not wish to, let alone when I have sound reasons not to. Would any person with a lick of sense (as my country-boy dad always said) stroll willingly into a pit of vipers?

  15. So sad, as I like all these authors books. I’m surprised and disappointed. You have my support Sharon, and all the authors at AUAU.

    • I am sad to have to report it, Robmwmj.

      And I do not want this to result in ANY kind of backlash upon anyone’s novels. The point is that authors should support each other, not strive to divide.

  16. I’m so sorry this is happening to you, Sharon. As I said a little bit ago on Elizabeth’s blog, I have learned that there is a fine line between living at peace with everyone as much as it depends on me (Rom. 12:18) and standing up against things that are wrong. I applaud you for going public with this and exposing the wound to the air, and I will be keeping all of you in prayer.

I love to hear from you!