The Honesty Tax Again

Ladies and Gentlemen, gentle readers: I adjure you to tread softly when you review books on any site where books are reviewed.

As most of you know, I am autistic.  I have little to no ability to soft-pedal, and no ability whatsoever to suck up to people, whether they are potential customers for something I might be selling on eBay, or whether they have written a book that has drawn accolades from well-known reviewers.

And so it was that, having bought a book from an online bookseller, having read that book, and having been asked by the bookseller to review it, I did so.

The book didn’t float my boat.  In my opinion, it lacked a good deal.  My review was much more reserved than my full-on opinion, but in the interest of giving the author a break and not putting potential readers off, I went easy.

It seems that my review wounded the author’s feelings, and he sent me a letter.  This surprised me.

I have never considered myself an important writer, and certainly not an important reviewer.

The letter I received from the author of said book made me wonder if I had morphed overnight into some lauded writer, whose “C+” review might actually mean something.

It accused me of everything from sullying the author’s reputation, to negatively affecting his income, to damaging his health.

Good grief!  The next thing, I fear, will be a letter from said author’s attorney, or worse yet, a summons of some kind.

Grief, grief, grief.

The reason I am sitting here in this barn–yes, I do mean barn, literally, not figuratively–is that fourteen years ago, I opened a registered letter.  It informed me that I was being sued for half a million dollars, and that I was summoned to a hearing in a far-away state.  I barely had the means to put beans on top of rice, not to mention traveling!

At that time, gentle readers, I had just lost my job; my child was desperately ill;  and I was already spiraling into the depths of a depression that was resistant to every antidepressant on the market, because it was a Bipolar Depression, which behaves differently from Major Depressive Disorder.  Antidepressants just make things worse.  The specter of ECT loomed on my horizon.  I fought it off with brooms, and cans and cans of Raid™.

That Registered Letter was the straw that catalyzed my first hospitalization.  But that did nothing to avert the rumble of the approaching juggernaut of the pending lawsuit.  Stomp, stomp, stomp, like a bad Japanese movie.  Only this was no movie.

All of the lawyers I contacted said the suit was a frivolous attempt by the plaintiff to gouge money out of hundreds of caregivers, and that I would certainly be exonerated, and could then file a countersuit for damages.The only thing was, the lawyers wanted a retainer of $25,000-$35,000 up front.  And I was penniless.

So I did the only thing I could do: I went bankrupt.  The few things of value I still had to my name went away in one horror-struck day.

I will never forget seeing the repossessors come and haul away the little car that I had used for work and house calls.  My big horse trailer went too.  Anything else of value was carried off in due time.  I was left sitting in a mostly empty single-wide trailer, on land that was thankfully untouchable by the vultures that swirled around my head.

Now that I am in fact homeless, I feel more at ease, because I don’t have anything to steal.  I don’t even have a reputation to feed and care for.  I am Just Me.

I no longer accept registered letters.  If it’s a check from Publisher’s Clearing House for a million dollars, I imagine they might call.  Or maybe not.  What does it matter?

At this point, my energy reserves are at their nadir.  I have just spent nearly four years helping my father to die, in great pain and suffering for both of us.  I’m happy that his suffering is over; and I must say that it is a great relief, as I feel very sure that he is in a good place and out of pain.  But it’s taken an enormous toll on my own resistance to diseases, physical and psychological.

The aforementioned author’s thinly veiled threatening letter has set off a cascade of paranoid thoughts: what would I do if he decided to sue me for….for….um, for honestly reviewing his book?  What has the world come to?

What would I do?

I am weary.  I don’t know how much more I can take.  There are times when I long to go up on some high mountaintop with a fifth of good single-malt, and drink it until I become numb, and let the bitter cold of the night take me Home.

And then I think: how well do I know the evils of this world!  But–what if there really is an Afterlife?  What if there really is a God, who gave us laws?  What if suicide is seen as murder, in that Other World?  Meh.  I just want This World to be over.

I am sick and tired of paying the Honesty Tax.

I wanna go Home.

 

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30 Comments

  1. The guy sounds like a pillock. If he is only accepting positive reviews of his book then it sounds like I book I don’t want to read. I’m always suspicious of anything (books, electronics, movies, appliances, etc) that only have positive reviews. I never feel that I can trust that the reviews are unbiased.
    I’m sorry for all the stresses life has dealt you, and even more sorry that some clown is putting even more stress on you because you didn’t love his book. Everyone has a right to an opinion.

    Reply
    • I agree, Karlee. I used to be a regular eBay seller, and then they changed their feedback system such that if you give anybody less than five star feedback, they (eBay) go after the BUYER to negotiate, or if that doesn’t work, intimidate the reviewer into giving the seller a 100% positive feedback rating. The result is that feedback no longer has meaning. Used to be that sellers worked hard to get good feedback, and if anything went wrong, we worked even harder to make it right. Now buyers’ hands are tied. Apparently, the serious business of book reviews is now being terrorized by authors who attack their reviewers. Buyer beware!

      Reply
  2. I’m having a book published this January and I recently read an article about the proper way to respond to poor reviews. In short, everything this guy did was wrong. You’re not the one with the problem here; he is! You are never supposed to contact a reviewer directly and if you get a less than stellar review, you should just accept it and not moan and whine like a spoiled child. Not everyone is going to love everything they read. I’m so sorry the author’s uncalled for actions have caused you so much grief. I hope you can try to ignore him and focus on better things………sending you hugs!

    Reply
  3. Wow, that writer’s an asshole. People shouldn’t ask for reviews if they don’t want honesty.

    I’m sorry you’re hurting so much. If you ever want someone to talk to, I’m around, and I’m always willing to listen. You’re in my thoughts.

    Reply
  4. He obviously has no case. I assume you jest as to suicide, though we both know that it has been no laughing matter in either of our lives when we’ve slogged through the deepest of depressions.

    When I’ve reviewed accquaintenances’ books, I’ve written less than honest reviews, which is difficult for me to do, as I, too, speak and write honestly. Enjoy your single malt, but stick around for tomorrow. You, at least, write too well to stop. I’d miss you.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kitt. No, I don’t jest about suicide. I think about it many times every day. I make lists of reasons I should not do it, and I pay attention to my lists. There are a couple of situations which might tip the balance, and I don’t like to think about those things really happening. I write mostly to get things off my chest, pretty much self-psychotherapy. Bibliotherapy–is that writing, or reading? I really appreciate your support ♥︎

      Reply
  5. Loretta

     /  December 7, 2014

    Laura, I seldom reply to posts because I spend a lot of time in self-recrimination for my inadequate writing skill after I press “send” – but I HAD to write because I hear your pain so clearly and I am worried about you.

    I discovered your blog by looking you up after reading your bold and insightful opinion on another site. I keep reading what you post because I appreciate your forthrightness; you see and speak truth and you do so with such clarity that you help me find my truth. It’s not easy finding truth in the muddle that our society has become.

    I am distressed that you have taken such hurt from the author’s lashing out about your review of his book. I can hear your despair, so I wanted to reach out. Please take heart, take care, and be well. Thank you again for writing what you do.

    Reply
    • Loretta, you are an amazing writer. I’m sorry that you’re having trouble with the self-recrimination monster. It can eat up all your talents and leave you swimming in a sea of self-doubt or worse. I love your writing. I hope you will take heart and put up a WP blog so that the “rest of us” can read and enjoy your thoughtful and well-crafted, well, thoughts. The thoughts are the thing. Let them pour out, edit once or twice for typos and usage, and hit that “Publish” button!

      I have only had one instance when I got a lot of hateful comments, and that was in one of my “the Emperor has no clothes on” moments on somebody else’s very popular blog, and I panicked and apologized all over the place. If I had it to do over, I would write, “That’s my opinion, and I’m stickin’ to it.” They are big boys and girls, and if they’re not, well, that’s not my problem.

      Your comment is heartening to me. Thank you so much for taking the time and coming out of your comfort zone to comfort me in my distress.

      Much love,
      Laura

      Reply
  6. I feel for you Laura, but the a***hole of an author isn’t worth it. If he can’t take a realistic appraisal of his work then he shouldn’t be writing!. I’d be too darned angry to do anything because of him!
    I know the awful feelings swirling through your mind at present. You and I both know I’d be lying if I said it would get better soon… yet I will say “stick around Laura, you’re needed and wanted here”, and after a traumatic week I can say no more.
    My prayers will be with you, as always.
    Blessings, Susan 💖

    Reply
    • Susan, thanks so much for taking time out of what I know is a very difficult time for you, to write to me. Luckily at present I am in the final throes of packing up to go overseas, so I’m well distracted. At this moment (and you know how moments are, fleeting things) I am feeling like his hate mail is a complement. If I hadn’t touched a nerve he wouldn’t be lashing out in this way. But that still doesn’t really un-trigger me. I am still having visions of living in my tent, but not where I live now, because although it’s relatively free except for my propane heater, and there’s lots of spring water (it is cold!)….I would rather live where it’s dry, even if cold, and where the people speak my language, literally and figuratively. Now I’ve gone off on a reverie. I think it might be because I went to sleep listening to Satie’s Gymnapodies (sp?). Sending you love and strength, Susan. Prayers and healing thoughts–Laura

      Reply
  7. That ‘author’ is a butthead. Totally. Obviously doesn’t know how to accept criticism and with that thin of skin, shouldn’t be in that field.
    I’ve read about folks trying to sue for bad reviews, they always lose. Gesh, let me tell you. . If I got successfully sued for every bad review I gave, I’d be broke and have no limbs! ! I’m ruthless on Amazon. You sell me crap, I’ll let the world know.
    I’d let this roll of your back like a duck. F him!! Read your comments section, you have a great support group in us. We love you Laura. Don’t let this buffoon ruin your day.

    Reply
    • You’ve put a big smile on my face! Buffoon he is. Good for you for being an honest reviewer! I used to be asked to review books for people, but then folks started sending me crap, and I just could not write a positive review, so I had to tell them that they really should have sent me the final draft for editing, because there are so many mistakes in the published version that I couldn’t give it a positive review. This guy was one of them. He did send me one cute thing that I gave a positive review, which he put on his website, so I guess he was expecting that I would write a glowing accolade on his other one, which turned out to be a POS but had so much stuff of prurient interest that it got good reviews in the places where it counts. Therefore, what the hell does he care what I say?

      I sooooooooo appreciate you and all of my dear Bloggie Friends. You are indeed a great support Group. I love all of you very much! And Ms. Midwest Plant Girl, you are a sweet person and your support means a lot to me. Thank you for being part of my world!

      PS (I hate myself just a little bit for doing this, but I’m going to do it anyway): Thrips! Thrips! How the heck do I get rid of the little suckers in my house plants??? I’ve sprayed them with everything from Safer’s Soap to Spinosad, with interim sprayings of various mixtures of toxic and/or repellent mixtures of essential oils (Rosemary, Oregano, Tea Tree, Lemongrass, Geranium) which gets rid of spider mites and white fly. I’m wondering if they hang out in the indoor environment, just waiting for the cloud to blow over so they can lay more eggs. Aaarrrgh! I’m traveling for three weeks, got a good drip watering system, but I fear I will come home to find a bunch of brown, sucked-dry plants. Do you have an opinion?

      Reply
  8. savemefrombpd

     /  December 7, 2014

    Whatever happened with us (which surprised me greatly when it happened, but we won’t get in to that)… I want to just say that I think of you every day. The fact that I think of you daily says something (that doesn’t need to be gone in to either).

    Reply
    • Thank you, dear. I still think of you too. Sometimes there are things that trigger me such that I just have to let them go………I’m sure you’ve had that experience. I wish you love, healing, and nothing but goodness now and in the future. If you want to discuss things further, I’ve given you my email on several occasions–or write to me on my “about” page and I will write you as soon as I can. I will be ba’aretz for three weeks–no sufganiot b/c of celiac, humph! Maybe some enterprising soul will think of making gluten-free sufganiot. Could happen! We’ll see. Anyway, my offer of gleeda still stands. My phone situation is all screwed up right now, but should straighten out this week sometime.

      I do really care about you, and that’s why I stopped writing. Does that sound strange?

      Reply
  9. Reading your post, I was worried about you at the beginning, but here at the end, I’m not! Your self-psychotherapy is stellar! Your support from friends is amazing. It just doesn’t seem right that you have so much suffering and despair in your life. If I could, I’d send you a peaceful sunset picture card (just can’t copy and send though). Sort of a Stay Happy and Keep Writing in Spite of message. My Welcome page has a Sunset Gallery, some mine and some from worldly blogger friends. It’s peaceful there! You can visit anytime!
    Before Sundown remember what made you smile. http://cerobinsonauthor.com

    Reply
    • Hah, I just left a long and involved comment on your BEAUTIFUL sunsets. Everybody should go to her site and bathe in the beautiful collection of sunsets she’s posted. You will immediately feel better, even of you’re already feeling fine.

      Reply
      • I’m smiling Laura! Thanks for showcasing the sunsets! I’d love to have visitors to the gallery, and I’d love to gather more…

        Reply
  10. Good Lord, when has giving the reviews become a crime? I am surprised we talk so much about our political leaders on social websites, tomorrow if they decide to hound us then heavens save us.

    I know Laura some things are easier said than done. I know there are times even when strongest of people think of ending their lives. When our mind is in a dark alley then any shadow becomes too large. I think that is what is happening with you. You have had a hard time and hence you have become more vulnerable to all this hypothesis.

    Be well. I sincerely pray that something positive happens in your life.

    Reply
    • Ashu, thank you so much. You have really hit the nail on the head.
      “When our mind is in a dark alley then any shadow becomes too large.” That is exactly how I am feeling. My brain needs an infusion of light. Blessings to you, my friend. Amen to your prayer! PS–the relationship between “Amen (ah-men)” and “Aum” is very deep. I think they are the same thing, actually, if looked at side by side in Hebrew and Sanskrit they both have to do with the drawing cosmic energy down, from up to down, and also down to up. Therefore we both also use the six-pointed double-triangle star. As above, so below. Love to you!

      Reply
  11. Like, like, like, like, ad infinitum!!

    You know how much I identify with wanting to go Home. I have no idea how many times and in how many different ways I sought, begged, pleaded, cajoled and all the other stuff you’re not supposed to do to God because I was past weary, past tired, past sick of it, just past everything so much so that I knew of no words in my vocabulary to use to describe something indescribable. God still wouldn’t let me leave. My time’s not up. Turned out I still had things to do and SO much to learn!!

    That phrase, “my time’s not up” would have made me roll my eyes if I had enough energy during all those times to do so. I’m on a different side now so I can look back and see what I wasn’t able to in the deep, dark pit of despair, desperation, depression and hopelessness. Even though our reasons — our lives — might be different, we wound up in the same place again and again, Laura. The reasons don’t matter. The differences don’t matter. I just want you to know I UNDERSTAND TOTALLY!! Sometimes that’s enough to know. Sometimes it’s not. I’m selfish and I don’t want you to die. I love you and I don’t want you in pain. If the shoe was on the other foot, you’d tell me the same thing. So I leave you in the hands of the One we both trust. I pray He leads and guides you to find your pathway to healing. I know there is one for each of us who love Him, who follow Him, who want to be with Him on earth and wherever He dwells.

    I simply want and ask for the best for you, my dear friend who I still long to meet in person!!

    As for writing — PUH-LEASE — you are the best writer I personally know!! (Forgive me for using that tired phrase “Puh-lease” but I can’t at the moment think of anything else to express my feelings because you are SO incredibly talented and I’ve told you before I expect you to autograph my copy of your first published book!!) To heck with what anyone else thinks. To heck with threats from someone who’s either too stupid or too sensitive to be a writer. ANYONE who has talent that they try to display in whatever form it comes will ALWAYS find critics. If the criticism hurts too much, maybe he (or whoever) should reconsider whether this is display of talent is the wrong way to go. Maybe the talent is better kept hidden or sent in other directions.

    Sending you my love, my prayers, my hope and my trust!!
    Kathy

    Reply
    • Kathy, you are so amazing and uplifting! You’ve made my day….my day in holy Jerusalem. Yup, I’m here, getting a dose of the healing air of the Holy Land. Right at this moment I am the luckiest person in the world. Wish you were here beside me!

      Reply
  12. I wish I was there, too, Laura!! 🙂

    I pray the air does heal you!! I pray the land heals you!! I pray the atmosphere around you is holy and heals you!!

    I have two small rocks from Israel brought back to give to me by two old friends who made trips over there. I think I am going to hold one in each hand, think of you and pray for you. I am going to think of those rocks as something tangible that will connect the two of us and then add to our connection in prayer to God.

    I love you, my friend!! 🙂
    Kathy

    Reply
  13. What a beautiful thought! Love you too, Kathy xxxx

    Reply
  14. Laura – Your blog fell out of my reader and thankfully I decided to review the blogs of my followers and those I follow, because my life just become richer again in reading your above blog. I hear, see and feel the pain as you wrote in your blog. I’m the wife of an individual with bipolar disorder. He was diagnosed at age 40 after we’d been married 18 months. I’m here for the duration, we love each other unconditionally, but I see the pain in his eyes and know when it’s coming from the bp depression, there’s not a damn thing I can do except be present, remain calm and show my love in quite and gentle ways.
    I correspond via e-mail and blogs with another individual [http://jillsmentalhealthresources.wordpress.com]. Her site is awesome and she lives in Israel. I read you are in the Holy Land and that in and of itself is wonderful. If you connected with Jill – that would be awesome. Jill’s e-mail is netsad@netvision.net.il. If you contact her, tell her Sheri sent you. She’s a mental health advocate the same as I am. I currently work with sub-committees of Congress trying to move legislation that would improve mental health care for everyone and after the first of the year I’m tackling the issues of moving the mentally ill out of prisons and into environments where they’ll receive the care they deserve. I currently have a pending bill before a congressional committee that addresses the need for more training of police so they will know how to treat those with a mental health condition. Take care, Laura. We care and you are a brilliant writer.

    Reply
  15. Thank you so much, Sheri, for your kind words and your relentless advocacy for the mentally ill. I would really like to find out how you are going about the task of educating the police. The horrible brutality of police against people who are frightened, panicked, psychotic….it has to stop.

    Reply
  16. Your words do sound weary, and sorely in need of relief. I’ve been in that space, where all I want is to escape this world, in the hopes that whatever comes after might be an improvement, but there’s always that unknown factor, isn’t there? I’ve waffled back and forth about how I feel about suicide, and whether or not it qualifies as murder, and whether or not such a thing is an unforgivable sin, and whether or not we are right to assume that one day we will all face a day of reckoning. All unknowns, unless you happen to be a believer with no doubts (is there such a person?), yet despite all the unknowns, and despite all the various miseries I’ve known, when I find myself hovering in that “just leave this world and be done with it already” space, I try to convince myself of something that I hold as true … we never do know what is around the next bend.

    If you think about it, between all those crushing lows that can pile one on top of the other, invariably there are some unexpected moments of pure and true clarity. Sometimes they are accompanied by something too wonderful to imagine, or maybe perhaps just tiny pockets of peace, and it is those moments … when the pain recedes, and I can breathe again … that carry me through another long and weary night. Perhaps I’m too optimistic for my own good, but I have to believe that tomorrow might show me something that will catch me by surprise. I like the notion of not knowing what is around the corner, and inching my way forward anyway.

    I wrote a book once (that never got published) that was called Layers of Pain. At the core of the story, it was about someone who was worn out and tired because their honesty always seemed to cost them dearly, so they learned how to avoid being honest. In doing so, they lived within a fragile web of lies, and as you can imagine, eventually they became tangled and trapped, and found themselves looking for any way to escape the pain.

    If giving your (generously censored) honest opinion in a book review got someone’s knickers in a knot, then they really should think twice about soliciting reviews. If what they wanted was someone to say only glowing things that held no kernel of truth, then they can hire people to do that. In this online world in which we live, anything and everything is for sale. I’m sorry to hear you experienced their ire, and even worse, that it stirred up echoes of those previous legal proceedings. As you continue to move through the days and weeks and months following the death of your father, the last thing you need is to feel like you are under attack, from the author of the book, or anyone else, for that matter.

    I don’t generally offer advice, as I’m no expert on much of anything (other than, perhaps, staying alive). My advice would be to erase this unpleasant episode from your brain, and just let it go. The anger this person directed at you has nothing at all to do with you, and is about their own inability to absorb or accept criticism. You already know this, of course, but when you are worn down and weary, every attack feels like that proverbial straw.

    Those of us that struggle with thoughts of suicide rarely need much to push us a bit too close to the edge. Holidays, and death, and financial worries, and being unfairly attacked are all legitimate stressors, but just as we sometimes must navigate our way around a bend in the road, so we must find our way through the muddy bits of life. Because we just never know what might be around the next bend. There’s a lot we don’t know. For today, all we have to do is be willing to stay on the road.

    Reply
    • Wow. Thank you so much for your deep wisdom. You speak directly to my heart. Thanks so much for reminding me that whatever this guy’s problem is, it’s not mine. I guess I’m traumatized by the ability of other people to MAKE their problems mine, by means of lawsuits or destruction of my property or some other form of violence. I’ve had some success, which I hope to build on, in triaging problems: theirs, mine, or ours? I have a long way to go, and then there’s what to do about it. You’re totally right, we never know what’s just around the bend, and I know it intellectually, but my natural reaction to personal attack is to want to bail out, and I have done a lot of bailing in my life. But I am still here, somewhat unwillingly, but still. You’re truly an inspiration, and I will go back and read your comment (if I can get my brain to remember to) when I am feeling lethal. Much love to you, take good care of yourself!

      Reply

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