Okay, It’s been 4 years since I released Cursed by Fire, Book 1 in my blood and magic series which was originally released Jan 2015.
When Cursed by Fire first launched, it was met with mixed reviews and being the newbie author that I was at the time, I decided to duck my head and pray that things would blow over but seriously, it’s like this will never end so I’m going to openly address it because I’m just SO—OVER—HEARING—ABOUT—IT!!!
In the Blood & Magic series, I use the term Lyc-V. I use it as an abbreviation for the lycanthropy virus (commonly known as the werewolf virus)
There just so happens to be a very well known author duo who also use the term Lyc-V in their novels as an abbreviation for what I believe is a unique to them virus, the Lycos virus. Same abbreviates. Different viruses.
Now let me prefix this post by saying the authors I’m referring to are brilliant, talented authors and I in no way, shape, or form have any animosity towards them nor any desire in pointing fingers, blaming anyone for the heat that’s been sent my way, or anything along those lines.
With that out of the way, let’s ask the question that seems to keep popping up.
Did I take the term “Lyc-V” from that author duo? The answer to that is NO! And I’m really tired of people insinuating I did. Now, I could stop here and leave it alone but we want facts right? I thought so.
The long story short, … whenever you write a book, you do some research. My research included reading A Natural History of the Unnatural World.
In it on page 144 the authors dive into the lycanthropy virus. How it works, how it mutates and attacks the body etc.
“Dr Jere’s findings have led to the discovery of a virus which we believe causes lycanthropy. We have named it Lyc-V. This virus transfers between wolves and humans, as well as … “
That is the first use of the term in this particular research guide. After that paragraph, anytime the authors refer to the lycanthropy virus, they do so using Lyc-V.
In my writing, I never even considered the possibility of readers thinking I “stole” this term. It’s a word. It doesn’t belong to the authors I’m frequently accused of copying and it is not original to them. It was used in A Natural History of the Unnatural World, published by St. Martins Press by Joel Levy in Jan 1999, EIGHT years before the author pair mentioned above published their first novel. For all I know, they used this book too in there research. Who knows?
But here’s the thing, terms, words, and phrases get used & reused in fiction. Sometimes it’s within a certain genre. Sometimes it’s in fiction in general depending on how broad the term is. I recognize that this author is well known and that many correlate the word Lyc-V to their books. That does not mean I took it or was even cognizant of their use of that term when I was doing my own writing, though.
Things like Shifter, Pack, Alpha, Friend of the Pack, etc are used frequently in the Urban Fantasy genre.
I’ve also been accused of “stealing” the phrase “Friend of the Pack” and will add that it was used in the Sookie Stackhouse novels also published before 2009 and I’m sure I can find it in a dozen more Urban Fantasy books with little effort. So again…. this particular author pair does not own nor are they original creator of this phrase. In a blog post comment on their own blog they were accused of stealing the term “flare” from another author and they promptly shut that down, as they should have because authors do not own words. You don’t see J.K. Rowling up in arms over the hundreds of authors who came after her who used the word muggle, do you?
Unless you know without a shadow of a doubt that something was stolen or plagiarized, please don’t accuse authors of theft just because you read something somewhere one time. Do your research. Don’t be a troll. And ask yourself “Is this that big of a deal?” Because let’s be honest, there will always be similarities within genres. If you read a shifter book it is bound to have a few commonalities with some other shifter book. Similar tropes. Maybe similarities is Pack structures.
But because I used that one word, “Lyc-V,” I cannot tell you how many other magical similarities people have drummed up, many of which from books and characters I haven’t even read or they claim similarities that let’s be honest, aren’t actually similar.
A few of the hilarious ones are that I copied the Anita Blake books because Aria in my book is obsessed with coffee. I mean, are we serious here? Is only one character in all of existence allowed to be addicted to coffee in order to function? Character works long hours fighting magical beings and I guess needs to find a new caffeinated beverage to survive the day. Idk.
Or that Aria’s powers are copied from Sienna in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. My character Aria is a pyrokinetic so she has fire powers. According to publishers weekly, “Sienna Lauren is a rare Psy-X who can wreak devastation with cold fire.” So she is NOT a pyrokinetic though even if she was, are we not allowed to have more pyrokinetic characters in the world? Do we only get one?
I read in a recent review how my character should not be middle eastern. I “stole” that, I suppose. To clarify, my character Aria is 1/2 Iranian from her fathers side, if we want to be specific. The middle east is made up seventeen different countries with seventeen+ different cultures. The character I supposedly copied is never given an explicit ethnicity. Thanks to another google search, “REDACTED and her father are “ambiguously brown” justified in that the father, being over five thousand years old, predates all modern concepts of ethnicity or race. The MC is described as looking exotic with dark brown hair, slightly-elongated almond-shaped dark brown eyes and lightly tanned skin.
How did I copy her when my MC is 1/2 Iranian and we don’t even know what the other character’s race is? Things like this really bother me. Not just because I’m being accused of taking something but also because representation matters. Even if they were the same race, why is that an issue. Can we only have 1 brown heroine? This makes no sense to me.
My series name is the Blood & Magic series. Theirs is the heroines first and last name. Someone actually said my series name was too similar. Like, how?
Another one for consideration. A character in a well known series has a best friend who is also the Pack’s Head of Security. His name is Jim.
In my world, my character has a best friend who is the Pack Hunter (responsible for taking down other shifters when/if they go rogue). His name is James. My head of Pack security’s name is Brock (in case you were wondering) and he’s a 20 something werelion who’s pretty badass for being so young. BUT some people have claimed I copied Jim because James is too similar a name. Despite them being different roles in the books. Despite them actually being different names that just so happen to start with the same letter. They’re also different ethnicities. They have different personalities. But none of that matters because someone decided James = Jim and trolled me all over the internet for it.
I don’t think using Lyc-V or having a heroine who lives for coffee had any bearing on whether I wrote a good book or not. Neither affected my story, plot points, characterization, none of it. So why does it matter how I chose to describe a virus? Why does it matter that in my books, Aria’s best friend is named James? I have a Robert in my book as well. They do too. Mine is a coyote. Theirs is a Rat Alpha. I guess I copied that because Robert is just such an uncommon name (note that was sarcasm). This just gets really old. I have a dozen or more 1 star reviews on Goodreads that all say a similar thing along the lines of, “I won’t read this book because it’s a KD rip off.” So that’s great. They decided to drop a 1 star on a book they haven’t even read based on someone else’s opinion. Mind you, out of 1,704 reviews are ratings on Goodreads, 1,512 of them are 5 star, 4 star, and 3stars. But I guess the less than 4% of my reviews/ratings that are 1 stars and claim I copied someone else’s work are more valid and should be believed over all the others.
It’s really frustrating. But there’s one more thing I want to address. I’ve been asked this before. Q: If you didn’t copy/steal the work, how did readers “find out” about it, unless it’s true or partially true?” My response: Please see exhibit A: The Twitter.
So basically what happened is someone emailed another author to tell them that I plagiarized their book. The same someone who thinks multiple characters can’t like coffee. This was the authors immediate response without reading my book. I get it. It was a heat of the moment reaction. It is what it is. But here’s the thing. In 2015, I was a minnow and they were a shark. So ALL their readers which are many, went on the hunt for this elusive unnamed plagiarist and started trolling my book. 1 staring it and saying it was a rip-off and they would never read it.
Then a few days pass and the author decides to read my book. They then decide they’re not mad about trope or genre similarities because those happen across all genres. They’re not upset about similar names because that happens all the time too.
What they are upset about is the use of the word Lyc-V. They feel they coined it much like JK Rowling’s use of the word muggle (which side note, is not actually an original word. It’s in the dictionary. She just made it more interesting) and it’s actually used in a lot of books these days and it doesn’t seem like JK cares likely because she knows she just gave an existing word a spin. You cannot own a word.
noun: muggle; plural noun: muggles
a person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.“this video game won’t appeal to muggles”
But moving on. They feel they own the word. Their readers are die hard awesome fans who are going to have their back 100% and try to take down the evil doer stealing their work. Then begins the shouting from the rooftops that my book is a rip-off and making up 101 similarities most of which don’t even exist outside of the broadest of possibilities. Then, the snowball effect. It gets bigger and bigger and then it all goes to shit.
There’s been mention since of their intent to copyright Lyc-V. I have no idea if it went through. But to be honest I doubt it. If it had, I would think I’d have been notified since I use it in my books. But given that they were not the originators, the copyright wouldn’t hold up in court anyway. I don’t even know if Joel Levy was the originator. There could be earlier uses of it. But what I do know is, his book was published in 1999 and their first was published in 2007, eight years later. Sometimes we think we have an original idea. Sometimes it’s truly original and other times it isn’t. We just don’t know one way or the other because we haven’t come across or experienced it elsewhere ourselves. But just because you haven’t seen something, doesn’t mean it’s isn’t already out there. And it doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t steal the term Lyc-V. They don’t have any claim to exclusively use it because they “think” they made it up or because they’re bigger and better known. I get it. They’ve been publishing much longer than I have been. They’re better known and they have significantly more books in their catalogue. Many Urban Fantasy readers see the word Lyc-V and think of them. It’s easy to see why readers would assume the word was taken. That doesn’t mean they’re right.
So with all of that said, I’m just going to leave this here. If you have questions, please ask them. I will happily answer. If you’d like an explanation on an accused similarity, by all means ask. I’m an open book and will happily clarify things for you. What I’m hoping comes of this is just that people start doing their own research. Don’t make assumptions based on 1 or 2 negative reviews. It would be super awesome if I stopped getting trolled with 1 star reviews from readers who refuse to read it. If you read the book and hate it, sure give me a 1star. But at least read the dang thing.
For those who like me or enjoy my novels, thanks for sticking around for my insanely long rant. I feel better getting all of that off of my chest after four long years and I’m hoping to put this behind me. With any luck, those upset over my usage of these words, names, and phrases will choose to move on too. Life is short, we should stop being petty. Stop taking on someone else’s opinions as our own. And remember, it literally costs nothing to be kind.