Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A new chapter

EDIT:  Well, that was embarrassing.  In giving Tom credit for the picture, I gave links to somebody else.  Read his comment below for the irony there.  Links are corrected now. 

EDIT #2: Removed a phrase that several of my peers were misinterpreting to be an attack on them.  Maybe they'll be happy now.

When God closes a door, He usually gives you lemons.  It's up to you to find tequila and salt.

It's a kick in the gut for me to have to announce that Trestle Press and I are no longer working together.  That means several things, some good and some challenging.  First, and most practical, the three works that have been available on Amazon.com and BN.com are no longer available for purchase.  Second, it means my new release party for Ascension, scheduled for Friday, is canceled.  Third, it means that I get to stretch and try my hand at self-publishing, at least for the Return of the Gods series.  The prospect scares me a little but excites me a lot more, thanks to the knowledge that I'll have control over the cover, the contents, and the release dates.

A lot has gone into my decision to break away from Trestle.  Part of it, certainly, relates to the scandal on the matter of Intellectual Property rights.  It took me several days longer to come to my decision than some thought it should, mostly because I refused to make such an important decision based solely on the allegations of relatively anonymous Internet postings.  After some research, though, I found there is most likely something to the allegations, and, damningly, in regards to my own works.    

I'll not badmouth Trestle Press on the matter; to do so would be, in my opinion, rather unprofessional.  There is some debate over whether the alleged violations were due to ignorance or malicious intent; I'll leave that matter to be debated by people with stronger opinions than I.  To me, it doesn't matter; ultimately I'm only responsible for my own name and integrity. 

I do wish it had come to pass a little differently.  The kids who discovered the matter first, in my opinion, could have and should have handled it with much more professionalism and diplomacy than they did.  Instead of acting in a manner which allowed those of us involved on the periphery to maintain a degree of dignity, they blasted the Internet with an ounce of righteous indignation and a pound of malicious retribution.  Their names deserve no mention here, but I hope for all our sakes that the matter can be put to rest quickly so it doesn't continue to add its weight to the already-held perception of unprofessional buffoonery that currently afflicts Indies and small pubs. 

The positives in this matter are twofold.  First, I'm looking forward to proceeding on my own as a true Indie author, at least with the RotG series.  It's an exciting opportunity, one that I was already strongly considering when the offer to be published through Trestle first came about.  I plan on making my books available via both e-book and paperback formats, and I think I have enough training and motivation in entrepreneurial matters to make an honest go of it.

They'll have different covers, though.

Second, I've met a wonderful artist through these dealings.  Turns out Tom Gehrke, an IT guy by day (yay!) and artist/photographer otherwise, is responsible for creating the picture of Ares that graced the original cover of Cataclysm.  He and I have corresponded a little bit.  He's a great guy, and a wonderful artist, and someday soon I hope he grants me an interview for this blog.

Here's a link to Tom's gallery on DeviantArt:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomgehrke/

Here's his blog showing his skills in photography:  http://blog.thomasgehrke.com/

Here's Ares in his full original glory:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomgehrke/2683536669/in/set-72157606340202727

He seems quite a reasonable guy.  If you're interested in using his art for something, and your name isn't Trestle Press, he'll probably be quite wonderful to work with.  Just--get his permission first.  You know, 'cause it's the right thing to do.  And 'cause it's the legal thing to do.  And 'cause you don't want TOSK punting kittens at you in frustration over anybody else's actions.


Well, that's enough news for today.  I'll probably come out of my funk in time to write more in a few days.  Till then, then....  Unfortunately, I can't update my web site till I get home this evening, but keep an eye out there for new publication information.



  1. Stephen,
    I wasn't going to do this, but this is the third time I've seen you make rather insulting remarks about the writers who saw the writing on the wall earlier than you did. To say jumping off the sinking ship was an act of malicious retribution totally misses the mark. On my part, and the part of most of the writers I know, it was an act of disassociation with an outfit that was clearly not on the up and up. Many of us did not NEED TP, and had no reason to sully our own names with them. As you say, they are responsible only for their "own name and integrity".
    The evidence that you call "based solely on the allegations of relatively anonymous Internet postings" couldn't be further from the truth. Right from the get-go, it was clear what had happened, and each new piece of art brought to light only served to illustrate it more. The clincher for me (and, I suspect, for many others) was TP's insistence that they (he) had done nothing wrong-- refusing to step up and admit his mistake. The writers who stayed on with him after that lost almost ALL their credibility.
    Some of your comments on Deviant Art gave the distinct impression that you KNEW the allegations were true, and yet didn't care. I hope I'm wrong about that, because it would make your words about integrity ring pretty hollow.
    I sincerely hope that you find success in this crazy business we're in. You have talent. But alienating your peers by questioning their integrity, while carrying on with a company that doesn't know what integrity means, doesn't help your chances.

    1. Whoa, simmer down, Heath. If you saw evidence before I did, and jumped out of your contract before I did as a result, then I mean no disrespect to you and I apologize if it came across that way. If, on the other hand, you breached a contract based only on what "he said..." without checking it out, then my words were meant for you, and they still stand as stated. Integrity is doing what you say you're going to do no matter what the appearance says. Sorry if that alienates you in any way, but if you don't have integrity then you're not my peer.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. While the drive-by Anonymous poster was doing me the favor of demonstrating what I meant by "unprofessional buffoonery," he made a valid point. To rephrase somewhat, he said, "Heath's cover art included images of Bill and Ted, and thus it was a much easier conclusion for him to reach that the art was not used with the proper permissions."

      Valid point, that. If I'd had "Bill and fucking Ted," as Anonymous so in-eloquently splatted onto my blog, then I probably would have left quicker as well. Regardless, my original comment that it implies that I meant no disrespect for Heath still stands.

      Please be nice on the boards, folks. That's all I really ask. Disagree with me if you wish, but be civil.

    4. One more point occurs as I re-read Heath's commentary, specific to contract law. Heath talks about what was apparent with other authors' art and TP's comments about that. But the contract I signed was between TP and me, specifically, and wasn't related to anything said or done with any other parties; I presume the other authors had the same contracts I did. He and the rest were lucky in that TP's contract and TP's legal position were both pretty weak. I don't know if any of the other authors breached their contract based on what was happening with someone else, and it's not my business, but they should consider taking a contract law class before they breach another one based on third party activity or allegation, as that can get one into a lot of legal trouble.

      Breaching contract is serious, serious business, folks, questions about integrity or not.

    5. My cover art was not Bill and Ted, though. My story "That Damned Coyote Hill" had original cover art done by a friend of mine. Just to clarify. So the "scandal" didn't touch me at all, fortunately. I left because I care about intellectual property, and it was clear to me that art was being stolen (whether maliciously or out of lack of understanding, I'll leave up to others to decide). I had no contract with TP, and so it wasn't a big issue.

    6. You didn't have a contract, Heath? That was silly of TP. That said, though--good for you. My whole point is related to breach of contract, so it doesn't apply to any of you who didn't do so.

      Again, I mean no insult where none is due. Trust me on that. I just get tired of kids on the Internet yelling "Why u no breech contract when we say 2?"

    7. Also, it's my understanding that the vast majority of the writers did not have contracts.

    8. They didn't? Fascinating. I can still only speak for my own situation, of course, but I think not having at least a basic understanding of the relationship between myself and a publisher in writing would've been a deal-breaker at the beginning.

      I don't mean that as insult. I just--well, I assumed that all had contracts, because to do otherwise is a rather foreign idea to me.

      Keep in mind that my comments on Deviant Art were in response to some pretty significant allegations aimed at me, rather than at the guy who actually used the artwork without getting permission. I was called an "accessory" for the specific reason that I didn't bust out of my contract sooner like everybody else did. Had I known you all didn't have contracts, or had it even been an assumption that might have crossed my mind, I would have responded differently.

      Regarding your suggestion that my comments give the impression that I knew the allegations were true, I believe you must have mis-read whatever comments those are, or I mis-stated them, one, though I just went back over my comments and I don't see any. Regardless, I did not know the allegations were true until after I'd talked to the artist.

    9. You say you had a contract. Then suggest it was a basic understanding between you and TP, in writing.

      What was in your 'contract' ? Please post the points.

      You have come out of this looking almost as bad as TP, my simplistic friend.

      TP knew exactly what they were doing, getting a load of (mostly) half baked writers to sell books to their friends and cream 30% off the top. Hence asking everyone to go with them.

    10. Really? I came out of this looking almost as bad as a guy who stole artwork? You say this, hiding behind the title of "Anonymous," and you have the gall to suggest I'm simplistic?

  2. Thanks Stephen! It's been a pleasure corresponding with you, current situation notwithstanding. ;)

    Ironically, the deviantART links are not me and I really need to do something to get deviantART's attention on the matter. It's kind of a big problem for me...


    Most of that is what I'd consider Fair Use, but still. Ah, the Internet. Makes things so easy and so difficult at the same time.

    Probably the most "official" copy of the image can be found on my Flickr profile - http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomgehrke/2683536669/in/set-72157606340202727

    For those monitoring this whole situation, Stephen and I are good and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone put this behind us so he can get his books back out there. Personally, I'm looking forward to jumping into Cataclysm ASAP.

  3. As a former Trestle author, I respectfully disagree with those using the term "breach of contract" as applied to the authors, at least in my case (and probably others). The contract was negotiated between Trestle and myself; I asked that the contract be rescinded, with copyrights reverting back to me; Trestle agreed.

    In addition, if you look at the definition below, I think a case could be made for breach of contract on the part of Trestle (substitution of inferior goods/or significantly different goods).

    This is the definition from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/breach+of+contract

    "Breach of contract n. failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse. This may include not completing a job, not paying in full or on time, failure to deliver all the goods, substituting inferior or significantly different goods, not providing a bond when required, being late without excuse, or any act which shows the party will not complete the work ("anticipatory breach.") Breach of contract is one of the most common causes of law suits for damages and/or court-ordered "specific performance" of the contract."

    Of course, I'm not a lawyer. :-)

    I hope that some good comes out of all of this; it's great to know that Tom Gehrke, and hopefully some other artists, will benefit in the end by having a greater audience for their work. Well deserved, I might add.

    1. You were lucky that Trestle had a weak contract and was in a weak position so they agreed to release them. Regardless, I made sure I had a case, with documented evidence, for breach of contract, before I made the request. That was the prudent thing to do, and now I'm being attacked because I chose prudence? That's just silly.

      I get that you're not a lawyer. I'm not either, but I do contracts on a monthly basis in my day job. I appreciate your quoting the definition of breach of contract, but I am surprised that you don't see that it makes my point. The case could indeed be made (and I was prepared to make it) for breach of contract between me and Trestle--once I had data that the arrangement between me and Trestle was faulty. But if you ever have a lawyer who advises you that you can declare breach of your contract based on somebody else's contract, you need to find a new lawyer.

      I agree with what you say regarding Tom Gehrke and the others. They're the true victims here.

  4. Hey people i normaly do not get involved in stuff like this but Stephen is my friend and a good man who did what he felt was right, when he felt it was right. Dont make him out to be the villain here! Lets keep the villain role where it belongs. I was at one time a TP author and i and my work were handled with disrespect, the fact that the art was stolen was more fule for my fire to leave. My heart goes out to all authors and artists that the owner of TP hurt.