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Standing Against Plagiarism

It is with a very heavy sadness I take hours from my young children and my work to write this post. I rarely write such detailed blogs, and the necessity of it now breaks my heart. And if you read to the end, I promise, this is going to shock you that something like this really is happening. My life was torn apart this weekend when it came to light that an anonymous author on the Internet, who is known only by a logo and a fake name, had plagiarized my novel, A Bid for Love (formerly entitled Love to the Highest Bidder), which is the first of a trilogy.

It has been verified by four separate readers that Sam Taylor Mullens did, indeed, add steamy scenes to The Auction Deal, her revised version of my Christian novel, and claimed it as her own. Her subsequent emails to different people and contradicting statements online while trying to cover her tracks has shown a definite intent to do fraud. This path she has followed is far more outlandish than any novel I’ve ever read.

Excerpts from both books (see my blog for the screenshots from the book and for the updates):
Chapter Two, first paragraph, Rachel Ann Nunes 1998 - The Dark brown curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for twenty-eight of Cassi’s twenty-nine years. They puffed out from her scalp and plunged halfway down her back as if they had lives of their own, helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the double sink reflected from the brown tresses, bringing out the subtle gold highlights.

Chapter Two, first paragraph, Sam Taylor Mullens, Auction Deal 2014 - Dark brunette curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for the thirty-one years of my life. They puffed out from my scalp and plunged halfway down my back. They helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the sink reflected the brown tresses.

I finished my novel in late 1996, and it first came out in August 1998. It was actually the second novel accepted by my publisher, but they made me write two sequels to my first novel before they released A Bid for Love (then called Love to the Highest Bidder).

After being advised of infringement on my copyright, I waited a few days to see if Mullens would explain herself. When she didn’t, I searched for her email and sent off a direct message, asking for an explanation and the ARC, in the hopes of verifying that it wasn’t copied. I also sent a few of the reviewers a query asking them to either read my novel to verify if what I’d heard was true or to send me an ARC.

These are excerpts of emails I received, complete with the original typos. I have screenshots or actual emails for all of these communications, but in the interest of space and privacy of the authors, I’ve copied just the text here:

Reviewer #1: Hi Rachel I just received your message regarding my review of The Auction Deal, as you can imagine I am shocked to hear that the book I reviewed could be your creation. At this stage it is my intention to contact Sam Taylor Mullens to try and get to the bottom of this. I will also check out your book A Bid For Love.

Then a follow up from the same reviewer: Rachel I have had quick skim through your story A Bid For Love and I agree that your concerns are warranted. The similarities between The Auction Deal and A Bid for Love are too many for me not to conclude that The Auction Deal may not be an original work.

Reviewer #2 (Meghen Barker from Thirty Second Reviews--name used with permission): I received an email today stating the author cancelled the book tour, this may be why. I don't mind reading your book and letting you know if it seems plagiarized to me . . . I am sure this is why the tour was unexpectedly cancelled, this promoter doesn't even have an explanation.

Then a follow up from the same reviewer:  I read your book. Sam Taylor Mullens 100% without a doubt stole from you. It looks copy and pasted. . . I am updating my blogs in the morning, and warning future readers to be weary of anything she sells as her own.

She then posted  this: (Please visit and applaud her for taking a stand.)

Reviewer #3:

Reviewer #4: I think your making a big deal about nothing and contacting the wrong people. I will be contacting my aunt, Sheri Dew, to let her know about your online behavior. I think she will like to know how you go about solving problems with readers/reviewers online. I will then be talking to my mom who coordinates "Time Out For Women" outside of Utah. I think she too be interested in your online behavior, which is just as important as how we act in real life. Finally, I will be visiting all bookstores here in Nauvoo and letting them know - perhaps start a campaign on the sidewalks letting Seagull Book patrons know how you handle problems - not peacefully or professionally.

Follow Up to This Reviewer: A fellow writer contacted Sheri Dew for accuracy of this claim, please see results below.

Reviewer #5: So I spent the afternoon reading A Bid For Love - total waste of my time! Seriously, why would you not update that novel? Even if it was free, if you stand so strong.y behind your work take a little more pride in it. If Sam Taylor Mulllens used the concept as a base, she was doing you a favor! I can guarantee the two books were no way similar - hers was a much, much higher caliber. Are you jealous? Do you want the ARC so you have an excuse to read about sex. I live in Utah. I'd be more than happy to print off the a ARC and read excerpts to you - I guarantee it will make you blush.

These last two reviewers' responses were very strange, which makes me think they might be more emotionally invested in Mullens's work.

When Mullens heard of my contacting the reviewers directly, she immediately requested that all the reviewers delete the ARC. And we exchanged the following emails. Please note what she says (in bold) about the writers group, because this directly refutes what she claims later (and my book was first published in 1998 not “the 80’s," though that’s also interesting to note because it contradicts another REALLY odd claim she makes that I’ll get to in a bit.)

Me: Okay, so I’m a little confused. If you didn’t copy my text or closely follow my plot, why would you pull the book? If you HAVEN’T used my book as a base, there shouldn’t be enough similarities to warrant any issue. Won’t you just send me an ARC so I can put it to rest for both of us? I would hate for all your hard work to go to waste. You’ve sent a lot of people ARCs. I see you have 30 reviews on Goodreads, so they’ve obviously read the book.

Mullens: I just thought not publishing it was a simple solution. The book was molded from a writing group and a dozen beta readers. Had I known they used your book from the 80's as a reference it never would have come to be. My sincerest apologies. I do not write for a living, it is a hobby. I took your word for it when you emailed me that there were concerns. I would never want any accusations of plagiarism to be made. No money has been made off the sale of this title if money is what you're after then I'm at a loss of what to tell you. I have other books in the works. These bloggers are very protective of the ARC's because of pirating issues. You're kind of freaking them out. So, please contact me first before harassing them. They don't need that!

Me: Okay, I’m still confused why you won’t send me a copy. If you never read my book (first released and copyrighted in 1998) or copied it, then there can’t be a problem, right? I don’t want any money from you. I mean, I could just turn it over to my attorney if that were the case because copyright infringement is a big deal, but I’m trying to believe what you say—that you haven’t read my book or copied it. That is what you are saying, right? I’m freaked out to have people writing reviews that could be about my novel (except the hot sex, of course). I am not accusing you of anything. I thought it could be settled in an hour if you just sent me the book. If you can do that and all is as you say, I will offer a public statement to that effect and everything can go back to the way it was. I’m certainly NOT looking to hurt anyone.

The plot twists
Around that time I received a public Facebook message from the so-called “niece of Sheri Dew” that she had “lost all respect for Rachel Ann Nunes” because of my querying about the infringement. I'm not sure when a polite query became harrassment, but I suppose it looks that way from the sandy ground where Mullens is standing.

Then a fellow author posted this information: Sheri Dew has responded to my email and has denied any knowledge or relationship with the woman who emailed Rachel threatening to take Rachel's antics to "her aunt Sheri Dew and her mother who runs TOFW outside of Utah." Sheri clarified she's friends with all of her nieces on Facebook, and no one who is related to her runs/leads TOFW—that is all handled through SLC corporate office. This whole thing just gets stranger and stranger.

 But then the plot thickens further, almost laughably so, if it weren’t so painful.

This email is from someone identifying herself as a friend of Mullens (she sent it by email, Facebook, and Goodreads—I did not respond until just now with the link to this post, but again I’ve bolded contradictions):

Dear Mrs. Nunes,
I am contacting you today as a personal, real-life friend of Sam Taylor Mullens. She is a remarkable mother, wife, teacher, community member and so much more.

I was part of the writing group where “The Auction Deal” got started over two years ago. A man in our writing group gave Sam the manuscript claiming the book was out of print and he stated he had collaborated in some way with it many, many years ago. He challenged Sam to ‘work her magic’ and honestly it was quite fun to watch.

At the time, for some strange reason there were no copies we could locate and Sam took this man’s word. In the meantime, we had no idea you renamed, recovered and digitalized your original work. Perhaps this is the reason it was not discovered. Who knows?

The man in our writing group claiming he collaborated originally in the novel died in a tragic car accident last May. Sam and I do not feel comfortable at this time interrogating his family about his collaboration.

Being an Indie Author has been a new learning experience for Sam and I try to help and support her along the way. I feel at fault for not giving her more guidance. Sam would never maliciously do anything or intentionally defile copyright laws. She does not publish to make a living, this is a hobby for her. Her only goal is to recoup costs for final editing, digital formatting and the cost of her book cover. I was the one to suggest she not turn over the ARC and simply not publish. I didn’t consider that would make her look guilty. Sam felt it was a simple, congenial solution and I agreed.

As an Indie Author Sam helps promote other Indie Romance Writers and runs anti-bullying campaigns among book bloggers, reviewers, readers and Indie Authors on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, etc. Indie Publishing is a pretty cruel world and Sam has been the voice of reason and is highly respected.

Due to the manner in which you went about investigating the Advance Reader Copy of The Auction Deal has caused Sam to withdraw from the Indie Author Community, which is a shame. There will be a significant loss without her.

The second the ‘eerie coincidences’ came to Sam’s attention she took the appropriate action to ask Goodreads to take down the link and informed those who received ARC’s that it would not be published. She has also been torn apart since Sunday. She feels like she was 'dooped' by a fellow writing that she cannot question.

The readers/reviewers are also very upset over how it was handled. I agree with them. This situation is between you and Sam. Her email is posted on her Goodreads page, her blog and her Facebook page. She should have been the only person you contacted. After looking at her email, I believe she responded to you in a timely manner.

In real-life Sam is the mother of an autistic son, she counsels women at a domestic violence shelter, she provides support at the Ute and Navajo reservations and teaches illiterate, young moms in the classroom. She is nothing less than amazing.

I will take equal if not full responsibility for anything in this situation. Please do not discredit this wonderful woman in a small Indie Publishing community. They need her.


(Remember the bolded text because Mullens changes her story completely in a moment.)

My first reaction was huh? Collaborated? Anyone who knows me will vouch that I’ve never collaborated on any novel. Still, could there be any truth the her claim about the man? Do you want to believe as I wanted to?

Don’t soften for a minute. As you will see next, Mullens either has this person completely “duped” or she is part of Mullen’s scam. But before we get to the final, unbelievable ending, here are a few reactions from fellow authors:

1.    I've been active in the indie community for years and I've never heard of Mullens. Also, first book came out December 2013, so she hasn't been a part of the indie community long.

2.    A man has written a romance and then wants someone else to rewrite it—then conveniently dies in an accident?  What is this man's name?  Why does she only speak in vague terms?

3.    This person (or people) are REALLY good at manipulating and they will do anything not to get caught. Sam is not the victim here.

4.    Throughout all of this, Sam's acted the victim and cried and rallied her supporters, but if this were a true mistake, if her account was true, why wouldn't she own it?

5.    If someone isn't in publishing to make money then why in the heck would she take the time to rewrite a book by a bestselling LDS author whom she obviously knows about, get reviews before the book was available, and spend so much time away from her autistic son to do so? Follow the money.

6.    Wouldn't any writer know that “out of print” is not the same as “up for grabs?” Besides, Rachel's book has been out on ebook (and Goodreads) for almost four years and third print edition since 2012.

7.    The novel in question is easily found under either title online, especially on Amazon and Goodreads where Mullens is so active, along with the copyright information.

I thought about it all for a while and decided to talk to my attorney and let him advise me. If there could be any kernel of truth, that Mullens could be so na´ve, I didn’t want to hurt her, even though she (they?) had caused me so much pain and trouble.

But what comes next is staggering—and I had my answer, which is finally why I’m making this statement.

Tonight I received a message from one of the reviewers (Meghen). Again, pay attention to the bolded text and look at the screenshot Meghen provided below.

She said:

I actually just received this from Mullens.....


I've been thinking a lot about you lately and I just wanted to touch base with you.

There are a lot of rumors and speculation at this time with "The Auction Deal". Another author is asking for the ARC from bloggers who received it. I know I look as if I am guilty of plagiarism by not providing her with an ARC, but I have some personal reasons for this.

Please keep this between the two of us:

I was granted verbal permission to use the concept from the author because at the time I began writing "The Auction Deal" her book was out of publication and I was the one who gave her the idea many, many years ago. The problem is that she granted verbal permission to me, her niece, not Sam Taylor Mullens (my pen name). My lawyer has reviewed everything and no copyright has been enfringed upon because "The Auction Deal" is so different. The thing that solidifies everything is the verbal permission. Plus, it will never be published.

I can't reveal to extended family members that I write about sex. All hell will break loose in my personal life, something my husband doesn't want to have happen. My husband is extremely supportive of my writing, but it's a secret we keep from our friends and family. I'm a Mormon so what I write would be frowned upon. I will probably be asked to leave the church once the connection is made. My husband is begging me not to reveal my author identity in order to resolve the problem at hand. Never publishing "The Auction Deal" is not a huge loss. However, losing my amazing husband over this or having conflict in my personal life would be devasting.

I have sent a letter staying that The Auction Deal will never be published, but I know she is pretty relentless about obtaining an ARC. My sincerest apologies for the situation. I know people talk and they want to know what going on. I'm okay with you telling those who question the accusation that "A lawyer states no plagiarism is involved and copyright has not been violated. Sam cannot proactively resolve the situation without revealing her real identity, which cannot be done at this time."

Bloggers have been so wonderful by making sure ARC's are deleted instead of passing them on. They're intentionally not posting reviews on their blogs since that is when the author and/or her assistant gets a google alert and contacts them.

I'm actually kind of pissed they are contacting bloggers since I have asked them not to. I know it would stop once she finds out who I really am, but I just can't do that.

I sincerely appreciate your unconditional support and hope you'll understand my need to remain private at this time.

Me again:

1.       I have no married nieces except one, whose husband isn’t a member of the LDS church. If she were writing racy romances, her parents would think it’s cool.

2.       When I finished the book in late 1996 and wrote two sequels, my oldest niece (the only married one) would have been around nine or ten and living several states away. Are people to believe that this child I saw once every three years gave me a book idea? I’ve written 46 novels all on my own. Even if she had given me an idea, she didn’t write the book. My real life writing friends who read the book in progress way back then, however, can verify that I came up with the idea and the ideas for the sequels.

3.       The LDS Church doesn’t excommunicate people for writing erotica. There are several very famous Mormons who write romance with plenty of sex and they still go to church.

4.       Why on earth would I give anyone the go ahead to plagiarize a novel that is published and has two sequels (Mullen's book is a standalone). Even before I went indie, I often reprint my books with publishers. I depend on the income from my writing, so I’m not throwing my work out the window.

5.       And Mullens needs to get her story correct. Was it two years ago that a man gave her the book, or was she nine when she had a wonderful idea for my novel?

6.       Wait, and didn’t she say in the email to me that her critique group led her astray with this “80’s” novel. None of my siblings were married back then and I was in high school, so I guess she gave me the idea while she was in the preexistence.

7.       Where is the attorney’s official letter and the law firm’s number we can call to verify? No attorney in the world would sign it such a letter without checking the copyright—and they aren’t going to believe such a tall tale anyway.

8.       So I guess that means she doesn’t have an autistic son after all? Because my niece's son isn't autistic. (Why does this remind me of another suspicious niece story?)

9.       And you know what, if any of my nieces stole my story and concocted this great lie, I would have to report her or she would never learn right from wrong and become a contributing member to society.

10.   Scroll down to the comments, if you want to see what my REAL family has to say about this imposter’s claim to be related.

Do I need to point out the ridiculousness of all this? I was going to let the whole matter die quietly and keep an eye out for the next time this book pops up, but fellow writers have encouraged me to stand up for all authors' right. Meanwhile, Mullens is doing everything she can so an ARC doesn't come to light. Again, if she has nothing to hide, she should hand it over herself.

Meanwhile, this woman/person/group has turned my life upside down. I feel as if they’ve broken into my house and stolen something very dear to me—and then tried everything they can to discredit and hurt me. They’ve slammed my writing, threatened me professionally, and now dragged my extended family into the fray. I’m afraid to accept any new friends on Facebook because they may be her supporters and could fling more rocks and mud in my direction.

Complete strangers reported to me that she stole my work, not the other way around. Let’s not forget that. I have never given anyone permission to use my work in any novel. Period. And this book has already been for sale in the UK. (See the screenshot below).

You know me. I’m not hiding my identity or making accusations that grow wilder by the moment. It’s very clear who I am.

I will take the stand against plagiarism. Please stand with me! And if you have any information that will help end this horrible invasion into my life, please let me know.

And for those of you who have given me a shoulder to cry on and who have helped stand strong over this past week, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To the reviewers who have had the courage to act, I also thank you for your kindness to a stranger.


Rachel Ann Nunes

Updates and more screenshots can be found on my blog and on the fundraiser where friends are gathering to help with legal fees: