An Authorial Snit

Though it’s nothing to be proud of, the “can’t look away from a train wreck” mentality is deeply engrained in most of us poor humans.  And, sadly, the Brockmann Dead of Night kerfuffle has devolved into one of the biggest I’ve ever witnessed in more than 10 years of hanging around the online romance community.

On the one hand, you’ve got readers – formerly loyal readers – who feel betrayed by the author and who continue to express their outrage. On the other, you’ve got an author who seems to be closing ranks in a way I have really never seen before.

My eyebrows shot way up into my hairline over two incidents this week: The first – and I’ve seen the message, but won’t quote it here – is a report I’ve heard that Brockmann has blocked from her fan message board those who have posted elsewhere (presumably AAR is one of the bad sites) criticizing the book. In a nutshell, she claims to be afraid that the “threats” will result in physical violence.

The second was a post made by the author herself at a Barnes and Noble Center Stage book club thread. Most of the posts were overwhelmingly positive and the author responded with much rah-rah-ing and many exclamation points. A few dared to ask the question du jour and, for the most part, they seemed to be shoved on the back burner, if not downright ignored.

The poster hopefloats, however, wasn’t so lucky. Quite honestly, I thought her question was respectful, intelligent, and worthy of answer. Brockmann’s response – well, read it and judge for yourself (you may have to scroll down the page a bit to find it) – came across to me as overwhelmingly smug.

Still, amidst all the condescension, she makes some undeniably excellent points. Many readers (me included) enjoyed the book. So, how does an author weigh the responses of one group of readers versus another? She’s the author. It’s her vision. And she should write the books she wants to.

I agree with all of that. With regards to her fears for her physical safety, I certainly don’t know if she’s received any threats. Stalking is serious business and I’ve heard scary reports from inside the romance community that can really open your eyes.

But then there is this:

“And I know that the people who disapprove of me and Dark of Night (and probably Jules Cassidy, too.  Let’s be honest about what this is about, at least for some of these disproportionately angry folks) are a small portion of the online romance reading population.  (Talk about limited!)”

In case you can’t read between the lines there, she is accusing some readers who didn’t like Dark of Night of homophobia. I’m almost disappointed that she didn’t refer to them as “card-carrying homophobes” which would have added an extra little whiff of drama, don’t you think?

I don’t have anything to say about this except that the author is out of line. W-a-a-a-a-a-y out of line.

I’ve thought for some time that Brockmann has isolated herself in her fan community to her detriment – I mean, how else can you reconcile a Navy SEAL using the word “prolly”? She’s writing to please readers, whether she even admits it to herself or not.  And the truth is that cutting yourself off from the Internet or any reviews is one thing.  Cutting yourself off from everything but the positive is entirely another.

Here’s where I net out: If an author wants to limit access to her fan message board, it’s her board, her money, and her choice. But when she puts herself out there on public forums – as she did at Barnes and Noble – then you have to take the good with the bad. The poster was respectful. Brockmann was not.

Whether or not this will ever come back to bite her in the ass is anybody’s guess.  Clearly, she doesn’t think so since she dismisses the online romance community as some sort of lunatic fringe. To paraphrase a line from Seinfeld, smugness is not an attractive quality.

- Sandy AAR

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75 Responses to “An Authorial Snit”

  1. Willow says:

    Tee,

    That’s how we all feel! This is a train wreck and we just can’t walk away! Different issues keep coming up and we end up coming back and commenting.

    It’s like the mob, each time we think we are free we get pulled back in! LOL!!!

    L,

    Did you even read the posts on this board? The issue isn’t what is said on her board, she can make it as gushingly fan girl as she wants to (although she’ll end up alienating more fans then attracting)

    Her mods, with her consent, are going to other boards looking for anything that’s written they don’t agree with and then banning that poster from the SB MB. Makes Brockmann and complete and utter hypocrite IMO. And accusing people of inciting violence?? She just wants to deflect genuine criticism from her book and pretend it’s all about her, and get people to feel sorry for her.

  2. L says:

    Avalon- I have no problem with free speech. I just do not make the assumption that a privately paid for corner of the web is the same as a city street.

    Brockmann can let whomever she wants on her site. Or not. She can allow any topic. Or not. She paid for it. Her name is on it. She is not restricting anybody from saying anything they want anywhere else. Her board. Her rules. Her choices.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone else should have freedoms on her message board except the person that paid for the bandwidth. If she said every post had to be written in Haiku format or be deleted, that would be her choice as well.

    All rights are restricted in some manner. We all know and submit to them. No guns on school property. No yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. My right to swing my fist ends before I hit someone else’s nose.

    The question really is where is free speech defensible and where is it not?

  3. Avalon says:

    The question really is where is free speech defensible and where is it not?

    It would seem that we’ll have to agree to disagree in this instance, L, because I don’t think there is any question in any of this topic of conversation about free speech being defensible. You apparently don’t feel the same way.

    Ms. Brockmann is most definitely, in my mind, trying to limit and control what people say elsewhere. I think it’s of grave concern that she has people trolling other sites, looking for what she views as offenders and matching them up with someone who posts on her board, in order to ban them. Regardless of whether they say anything she objects to on her board, she bans them for saying something somewhere else. If you don’t view that as being a concern, I’d have to question your eyesight, but certainly grant you the right to view it whatever way you wish and respectfully disagree with your opinion. I won’t, however, try to ban you from expressing it.

  4. Anon author says:

    After reading more of this so-called train wreck here and elsewhere on the web, I’m all the more convinced that authors and readers should not engage with each other about anything except the superficial, “Thank you, I’m so glad you liked my book!” or, “I’m so sorry this book didn’t work for you, I hope you’ll try the next one.”

    I think, IMHO, there is a lesson to be learned here, for both parties. I think Brockmann’s biggest mistake may have been two-fold — 1) making her BB more of a family living room, where she took offense when invited guests began asking her why she put cinnamon in the cookies when the recipe had always called for nutmeg (which, understandably, and from Brockmann’s perspective, is a little rude), and 2) adding politics when the discussion was about cookies. –shudder–

    I think there are several big name authors (SEP comes to mind, but I could be totally wrong?) who have personal BBs, but I _think_ the authors themselves are detached from them. IOW, the readers have a common area where they can all get together to discuss the books, and maybe once a week (or in a blue moon) the author steps in to say hi and “gee thanks!” and whatever, but he/she doesn’t get involved as if the talk is personal. If readers disagree on whether the cookie recipe has changed, well, the author isn’t in the living room to care — the guests can argue all they want.

    But politics? Ouch. Nothing ruins a good conversation between a thousand different people like politics, especially this last election in the US. Then throw in some good old Prop 8 discussion for flavor? On purpose? That’s like setting the table with bacon-wrapped T-bones steaks then opening the door to a pack of starving wolves. Try, just try, to keep them from helping themselves and destroying your dinner party.

    It’s sad that so many people had their feelings hurt. It seems unnecessary to me, but I can’t help but think it’s just wise for an author to distance him/herself from readers except for TOTALLY superficial book talk.

  5. Tee says:

    –Avalon says: I think it’s of grave concern that she has people trolling other sites, looking for what she views as offenders and matching them up with someone who posts on her board, in order to ban them.–

    I’m conjuring up the image of long ago in movies when someone found something unsatisfying about themselves or an issue in a newspaper and they went scouting up all the newspapers they could find so they could destroy them. It certainly wasn’t effective then and it isn’t any more so now with the Internet.

    Avalon, I know what you and others are trying to point out here as freedom of speech, but I have to agree with L in that it’s Brockmann’s own site and she can admit or ban anyone she chooses for any reason she chooses just because it is hers to do with as she wishes. If I had a website and I didn’t like certain people coming on and making wisecracks or whatever, I would have the right to block them. Even in Facebook, we can block certain people from contacting us or accessing our information, just because it’s our little piece of property on the old homestead.

    Here at AAR and other sites where all books and all authors are discussed, it may not be that easy to do; although if a poster is being disrespectful or threatening, I’m sure it can be done easily enough in those cases and others. After all, there does have to be some kind of code, at least on the more respectable sites, that is.

    If Brockmann doesn’t want certain people posting on HER own site, she has that right, as we all do. She doesn’t even have to offer a reason. She sets the tone for that site and decides how she wants to handle it. If she doesn’t want you there, why would you want to be there anyway? There’s a saying: “If you don’t want me in your life, then I don’t want me in your life either.” Why would we want to waste our time where we’re clearly not accepted. This is not a life and death matter. This reading stuff and discussions are supposed to be fun. When it turns into ugly, then we truly are wasting our time and talents and anything else.

    So, speaking of that, here I am again participating when I shouldn’t be. LOL (Are you reading this, Willow–and laughing, I hope?) It really is difficult to watch the avalanche sliding down the hillside and not be able to hold it back. In this case, some of the options really are more limited than what most people think in terms of personal websites.

  6. L says:

    The right to say something does not make it the right thing to say.

    The right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.

    Rights are more about the lowest acceptable behaviour rather than polite interactions.

    If Brockmann wants to be seen as hypocritical and shoot herself in the foot, she has every right to do so. It doesn’t mean I believe it is the best, most correct course of action.

    She is not posting on other boards trying to censor speech there. She is limiting access to her BB. Her corner of the web where she pays the bills. And if she posted at some time in the future that she had no idea her mods were wearing jackboots, she has a right to say that as well. Just as it is my right to call b*llsh!t.

    I agree with anon. Limiting contact is probably the most sensible course.

  7. shameless3 says:

    @L:

    “And if she posted at some time in the future that she had no idea her mods were wearing jackboots, she has a right to say that as well.”

    As I said in a earlier post – there is a thing called due diligance and it is based on the idea that if you are in charge of something(which she is as board owner) claiming ignorance after the fact does not make you not guilty.

    She has put people in charge of moderating her board – people she vetted – and as a result is directly responsible for their every action as moderators…even she does not visit her board in a year. These moderators have gone well beyond any normal duty by actively seeking out any member (past or present) that has posted a negative (in their minds) comment anywhere in cyberspace….in many cases these members have never posted anything negative on her bb but are now being punished regardless.

    SB also states that her moderators are being “attacked” on outside bb’s – yet she has no problem with them cyberstalking and ignoring the hate that is spewed on her own board……I had no problem with SB or her books until this latest brouhaha and until I was banned last week for daring to stand up to people on her board in defense of others (again, while saying absolutely NOTHING negative about SB or her books).

    I have no problem with her banning people if they ARE causing trouble or promoting hatred towards others, however, I believe the whole situation has gotten completely out of hand and she does need to acknowledge it in some way or another besides claiming that everyone is a homophobic psycho that is after her and her loyal fans.

  8. shameless3 says:

    @L:

    “And if she posted at some time in the future that she had no idea her mods were wearing jackboots, she has a right to say that as well.”

    As I said in a earlier post – there is a thing called due diligance and it is based on the idea that if you are in charge of something(which she is as board owner) claiming ignorance after the fact does not make you not guilty.

    She has put people in charge of moderating her board – people she vetted – and as a result is directly responsible for their every action as moderators…even she does not visit her board in a year. These moderators have gone well beyond any normal duty by actively seeking out any member (past or present) that has posted a negative (in their minds) comment anywhere in cyberspace….in many cases these members have never posted anything negative on her bb but are now being punished regardless.

    SB also states that her moderators are being “attacked” on outside bb’s – yet she has no problem with them cyberstalking and ignoring the hate that is spewed on her own board……I had no problem with SB or her books until this latest brouhaha and until I was banned last week for daring to stand up to people on her board in defense of others (again, while saying absolutely NOTHING negative about SB or her books).

    I have no problem with her banning people if they ARE causing trouble or promoting hatred towards others (as you said it is HER board), however, I believe the whole situation has gotten completely out of hand and she does need to acknowledge it in some way or another besides claiming that everyone is a homophobic psycho that is after her and her loyal fans.

  9. shameless3 says:

    shoot – sorry about the double post!!

  10. misty says:

    I’ve kept out of this because I’ve never even heard of S. Brockmann until this kerfluffle, but I have a question. Did the idea that the author was trying to surprise the readers with a pairing they weren’t expecting come from something the author said, or just speculation?

  11. Star says:

    –Avalon says: I think it’s of grave concern that she has people trolling other sites, looking for what she views as offenders and matching them up with someone who posts on her board, in order to ban them.–

    There is no need for any author to name or appoint people to troll other sites. It would not only be illogical to do so, it would be a waste of time and energy when all it takes is one email to someone saying:

    “did you see this post on ‘xyz’ board? Here’s the link.”

    That poster follows the link and reports back to their group of posters at ‘klm’ board and one of those posters sends it on to another poster who happens to know another poster who belongs to the ‘abc’ board that the ‘xyz’ posters are discussing. That poster happens to have access or attachment to the ‘xyz’ author (or moderators) and sends an email that says:

    “did you see this post on xyz board? Here’s the link.”

    By this time the original nugget has become a meteor hurtling through space with a built-in guarantee to cause a mess of backlash the moment it lands.

  12. library addict says:

    Misty said: I’ve kept out of this because I’ve never even heard of S. Brockmann until this kerfluffle, but I have a question. Did the idea that the author was trying to surprise the readers with a pairing they weren’t expecting come from something the author said, or just speculation?

    She said multiple times that she wanted readers to be surprised by the h/h in book 14 (Dark of Night) and wrote her own cover “blurb” for the book so the h/h would remain a secret.

    There were clues supporting both sides of the triangle by book 13 (Into the Fire), but the clues for Dave getting the girl didn’t start until book 10 (Into the Storm) and were thought to be red herrings by many simply because there been so many clues for Decker & Sophia in the previous books (which turned out to be all smoke & mirrors). She listed Decker & Sophia as a couple on a poll she created and referred to the story arc as the “Sophia and Decker story arc” multiple times in the Reader’s Guide she wrote. The 3 major characters were introduced back in book 7 (Flashpoint) in 2004.

    Probably the shortest explanation-with arguments from both sides- can be found in the comments from one of Sandy’s previous blog posts
    http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=273

    Although there’s always the big thread here at AAR as well as a poll/thread from Dear Author on Reader Expectations and various other threads at boards like Amazon, etc. if you feel like reading ALL about it :lol:

  13. misty says:

    Thanks, library addict. I have actually been following this, but couldn’t find where the author originally talked about “surprising” the readers. Sorry, I’m not trying to dig up old issues, it’s just that so much has been said that I’ve forgotten what was said at the very beginning. LOL

    That aside, I agree that bringing homophobia into the equation is really bizarre. I haven’t seen anything posted here or at AAR or DA that would make her leap to that conclusion. If she has received homophobic threats from Decker/Sophia fans she should maybe let that be known, otherwise it looks like she is trying to manipulate people into shushing up because they don’t want to be labeled crazy homophobes.

    She took a risk that worked for some, and not for others. How could she not have known that some people would be upset? To think that the real problem is homophobia, instead of just a response to a controversial book, seems like a slightly unhealthy viewpoint. (I know that she didn’t say that all her naysayers were homophobic, but she obviously thought enough of them were to call them out on a public board.)

  14. Star says:

    Thanks to Chryssa for a thoughtful, well written post that calmly summarizes some very turbulent events surrounding this controversy.

  15. panthercrawl says:

    Can she ban who she wants on her board? Absolutely. Can she have people troll the internet to find people who have spoken out against her or her book and ban them from her board? Absolutely. Does it speak of hypocracy to complain about cyberstalkers and then send out people to do the same thing? I think so. Will the person who was banned come out on other message boards and tell thier story? Yup. Is it a bad idea to go on another message board and associate anyone who didnt like parts of the book with being a homophobe (even some)? Again, I think so. Is all of this bad PR? Absolutely.

    It will not affect many because a lot of readers do not come on message boards but it turned loyal fans (of which I am one but did not necessarily like the storyline choice and god forbid I have an opinion about what I am reading) who actually sought her out to have a bad taste in thier mouth. That is the bottom line.

    It is her world she has created. Both the Troubleshooters and her message board. As a reader I can choose to participate or not. I now choose not. This was not the case even a couple of weeks ago. And I pray this is my last post that has anything to do with Suzanne Brockmann and her self-made controversies.

  16. brecken says:

    I too, was a diehard Brockmann fan. I’d never read a romance until a friend gave me Brockmann’s Unsung Hero and wham, just that fast, I was hooked on Brockmann and the genre both! I was ecstatic to find there were 4 more already in print for me to read. And each book was better than the previous one!

    That said, the honeymoon ended for me when her character Max, was decimated by a poorly written story in his book, turning him into a character few found recognizable or enjoyable. It had a grossly disjointed story, which seemed to continue in books following and from that book on, I’ve yet to be able to finish another Brockmann book.

    The authorial snit, precise summary that it is, has being going on for a year and a half! But the fault lies with Brockmann. Her “interesting bulletin board community” abruptly ended when Brockmann decided to silence dissenting opinion and then in 08, to use it as a platform for Obama’s election. Thus began the blatant harassing of loyal fans and longtime posters who had differing views, replete with outright name calling, including inferences to Nazis and the labeling of some as members of the Third Reich by other board members. Brockmann’s claim of ignorance on the aforementioned was patently absurd, as she and members of her camp were signed in and online for days upon days, during that time period. Additionally her camp and her family members frequently post on her board, it would have been impossible for them to miss.

    Though claim she did, and as of late, appointing moderators “to be her eyes and ears”, several of whom are clearly unable to differentiate between an insult, an argument, and an opinion, not to mention, first amendment boundaries, as they troll other sites looking for criticism of Brockmann’s work. WTH? However, they seem to be following the example set, as Brockmann, merely days ago, condescendingly posted on her board: “and babycakes we know who you are and my moderators are authorized to open a can of whoop-ass on you”!

    what? Apparently, someone’s back in junior high now…Speaking of “ought a get a life”?

    From what I have observed first-hand, I believe “smug” is really more about “there being only one correct opinion or view.” For if you disagree with her views, “you must not like her” and you are “disrespectful”, if you dare publicly air a contrary opinion, you’re banned! And, if you don’t like her books, then you’re labeled a homophobe first and then you’re banned (as it certainly cannot be people simply didn’t care for the story, oh no, it positively must be that they’re homophobes, and don;t forget homophobe begets violence! ..Huh? ….that logic is flawed beyond description)

    now that I think about it? Brockmann really ought to remove the photo of herself on her website in that shirt with the slogan “Talk About It”!! She obviously doesn’t believe in that! My question here though is how has Brockmann’s silencing everyone on that topic and creating a “NO TALK ZONE”, furthered her cause or helped her child? How? Typically, people who change their mind on any issue, do so because they have been given food for thought. Now that’s a very difficult thing to accomplish when you have silenced the rhetoric and all so that you yourself will feel better in the short term! And worse by far, it impedes progress and nothing changes!

    so when folks began to voice their disenchantment, just as she did on B&N, she said, they ought to leave her alone and get a life! well I did, after book eight, and it no longer included Brockmann books, but does include voicing my opinion! (after all, it’s still America, at least for a little while longer ;)

    And the disenchanted became a serious voice to be reckoned with when she began a veiled dissing of the very heroes in the stories that put her on the map. Though, I truly doubt that she cares one iota about any of it since she inked her UK deal.

    All in all, hopefully she will find some relief (BHRT) and soon, from what appears to be a lot of pent up anger and hostility, because the only thing more annoyingly obnoxious than someone’s constant paranoid chatter, is their delusions of grandeur……..

    although, come to think of it…the two frequently do go hand in hand ;)

  17. desiderata says:

    I’m a former Brockmann fan who tired of her books a couple of years ago. Back when I was still a fan, I visited her bb once or twice, but couldn’t take all the fawning going on by the fangrrls. Suz most definitely lapped it all up. I’ve followed the DofN controversy just a little – I was wondering where her story arc was headed and if I might want to give her series another try. Guess not. Although DofN received good reviews, and I’m not invested in any particular couple and wouldn’t care who ended up with whom, I’m just not going to support an author who behaves in such a condescending, smug, and rude way. It’s her right to do so, it’s my right to decide that she’s acting like a butt and I’d rather not spend my money on her.

  18. Julie says:

    As much as I don’t care for what she’s saying/doing, I can’t say I really want to deprive myself of a good reading experience. I enjoy her books, even the ones I haven’t thought were as good as the others. So, maybe I’ll just start getting them new from the library and buying them used later. B/c I do want to keep them.

  19. Mary King says:

    I am not surprised at Brockmann’s reaction. I gave up on her when in one of her stories, the bad guy was a blue eyed blonde and the good guy was from the Middle East. I guess I was supposed to say -Gee – I never knew those things. Thanks for opening my eyes. – Her assumption that she is the enlightened one and we the readers are stupid bigots is awesome. It came across in her response. It must be wonderful to be the Brockmann.

  20. brecken says:

    Mary,

    it’s comedic irony at it’s best!

    we are lectured to outright and via subtext throughout her stories, to point out to us our own unacknowledged, ignorant, intolerance (read: our narrow minded bigoted ways) and yet, she cannot tolerate to hear, read or listen to an opinion which she doesn’t agree with, hmmm

    guess Ghandi said it best when he said “you must be the change you wish to see in the world”

    brecken

  21. desiderata says:

    Julie, I understand what you’re saying about not wanting to deprive yourself of a good reading experience just because of this. For me, though, there are so many other authors to enjoy, I won’t miss it. As pointed out above, la Brockman beats her readers over the head with her tolerance, her enlightenment, her empathy, and on and on. One of my pet peeves is people who profess to be so progressive and so enlightened and then show themselves to be utterly intolerant of criticism, or opposite opinions. Add to that just plain rudeness and lack of courtesy toward another, and I’m just done with her. It’s not like there aren’t 10 other authors I enjoy just as much. I’ll support them.

  22. farmwifetwo says:

    Late to the party and have now put this blog on my G. Reader.

    All I can say is that after 4+yrs on the SBBB and one of the “refugees”… What Chryssa said sums it all up perfectly.

    As for the book, I could have cared less about the pairing. My SB enjoyment ended with ITS, ITF was just as bad IMO. I’ve posted my opinions on both elsewhere, but to bottom line it the writing style/characters did not interest me. I was not a fangirl of SB’s. It was my first MB and I made some wonderful friends over the years. I had spent about 6mths before the kerfuffle trying to break the habit and wasn’t succeeding at it. I missed “the gang”. I’m happy they decided to stay over at the BLMB, it feels like home again.

    I’ve read DON… If I noticed how poorly it was editted. The hanging plot threads… the how did they get there from here…. everyone else should have.

    S.

  23. Leigh says:

    Mrsgiggles take on the whole thing:

    http://kg184613.bravejournal.com/entry/34978

  24. Leigh says:

    Mrsgiggles take on the whole thing:

    http://kg184613.bravejournal.com/entry/34978

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