Two Reviews

Emily, who recently reviewed “A Spirit of Vengeance” and “In the Driver’s Seat” for Rainbow Reviews, is working her way through my backlist and so far seems to like everything. I love seeing new reviews of my stories pop up; they make me want to dive back in and write more, to say nothing of putting a silly smile on my face. 😀

Here’s what she said about one of my Halloween stories, Candy Courage:

Book Blurb:
Glenn Bellamy, a divorced dad, is taking his son around trick-or-treating. He confiscates some homemade peanut brittle ~ and eats it himself of course ~ not knowing that the old man who made it is an alchemist who adds something special to his candy each year. This year it was Courage, so when Glenn and his son hit Neal Sampson’s house, Glenn finds himself flirting and making a date for the next day. Will the candy courage wear off, or will Glenn find the guts to go after what he wants?

“‘No prob.’ Glenn winked at Sam while opening up the wax paper packet and snagging a piece. ‘This ith good thtuff,’ he added around a bite of peanut brittle. ‘Way too good to wathte on the kidth.'”

Sebastiano Fiorentelli likes to participate in the Halloween traditions by making homemade candy for all the kids. After being around the neighborhood for so many years, no one questions letting their kids eat the special candy but they really have no idea quite how special it is. Each year Mr. Fiorentelli adds something extra to the candy, and this year he has decided to make courage. Anyone that eats the candy gets a small burst of extra courage, that lil push they need to face their greatest fears. For Glenn Bellamy, when he hits co-worker Neal Sampson’s house after eating the peanut brittle o’ plenty, the candy helps him to openly flirt and make a date with the man he has been admiring from afar. The next day his fears start to break down his confidence, and Glenn struggles to hang onto the courage from his night of throwing caution to the wind by grabbing life, or someone else, by the balls.

The thing I love most about reviewing for Rainbow Reviews is that I get introduced to new authors that I otherwise might have missed and in the case of Angela Benedetti I feel that I’ve hit a gold mine. After reviewing In the Driver’s Seat and A Spirit of Vengeance I knew I had to get the rest of her backlist and read every story. I now realize that I missed one but I will most definitely be rectifying that as soon as possible! I have loved each and every story I’ve read and look forward to reading more. Angela possesses a unique brand of storytelling that flows so easily and introduces characters that are engaging in just a few short pages. Each story I have read is fresh and thoroughly enjoyable, so much so that I read them more than once.

Candy Courage is a fun Halloween tale with an interesting quirk. I loved how Angela sets up the affect the candy has on people who consume it through eight-year-old Robbie who is afraid of the trampoline cage in his backyard and six-year-old Graciela who is frightened of her brothers’ dog Lito. Children are so open with their feelings and the affect the candy has on their lives is touching and adorable. The story then focuses on Glenn as he is taking his son Georgie trick-or-treating. Glenn’s relationship with his son is wonderful, and they have quite a bit of fun for Halloween. Eating the peanut brittle with a kick gives Glenn just the hint of courage he needs to throw caution to the wind and go after what he wants. What results, thankfully for readers, is what can only be referred to as “sextastic” which I have to say is one of my new favorite words. Unfortunately for Glenn, his insecurities start to creap back in and following along as he tries not to wimp out is capitavating and a joy to read. The two men geek out together a bit, something I always love being a fellow geek, and you just know they will hit it off quite well if Glenn can hang onto the newfound burst to his courage. Overall this is a phenomenal tale and a great Halloween story that I enjoyed immensely. Fans of Angela’s writing will most definitely enjoy this story and anyone who hasn’t had the chance to read any of Angela’s stories must drop everything and read one immediately! You won’t be disappointed!

And here’s what she had to say about my other Halloween story, Chasing Fear:

Book Blurb:
Emilio loves Martin with everything he has, but he’s still scared to go out and be openly gay, especially with the way his family reacted to the news. Martin just wants to go out and have a good time, so he pushes Emilio’s limits to the breaking point. Emilio figures having greenman for a lover has its dangers, especially when it comes to going on a date in the great outdoors. Can he and Martin learn to see eye to eye?

“Sometimes having a Greenman for a lover was a pain in the culo.”

Emilio knows he should be heading home to his partner Martin but he just can’t bring himself to go, finding any excuse he can to stay outdoors. When he finds a tree that was felled by loosened soil after a heavy rain, he spends time clearing it by himself. Anything to have an excuse not to have to go out with Martin as he agreed to do, to be out in the open and not hiding the fact that he is gay. When Emilio doesn’t show up like he’s promise to, Martin seeks him out and decides to a change of plans. If Emilio can’t bring himself to go out and have a good time, Martin will make his own good time, and the nature in the forest is on his side.

Yet another Halloween story that I enjoyed from a writer that has quickly moved to the top of my favorites list. The interaction between Emilio and Martin is quite fascinating for many reasons, not the least of which being that he is a Greenman. When Martin faces off with Emilio in the forest, Emilio is at a slight disadvantage as he can’t control the vines and leaves and trees like Martin can. Emilio gets trapped, victim to Martin’s desires, but despite everything, Martin loves Emilio deeply and is willing to stand by his side while Emilio battles his fears. This is a wonderful story with a paranormal twist that is unique and characters that are engaging and complex. Definitely check out this story!

Thanks so much to Emily for her wonderful reviews. 😀


[EDIT: Closed to comments because of a spam storm.]

Plagiarism Again — This Time by a University President

As you might have heard, it seems the doctoral dissertation of William Meehan, who was granted his Doctor of Education degree by the University of Alabama in 1999, and is currently president of Jacksonville State University, contains a significant amount of plagiarized material. Check out the graphic in Michael Leddy’s blog — the verbage copied word-for-word from the 1997 dissertation of Carl Boening, is hilighted in yellow.

Leddy’s been reporting on this for a while — also see his posts on 23 April and 9 May.

Backing up a bit, this all started when Prof. David Whetstone sued Meehan over some plant specimens which Meehan claimed belonged to the university and Whetstone claimed belonged to him. Whetstone pointed out the plagiarism in Meehan’s dissertation as a way of establishing “a pattern of behavior of him stealing others’ work.” Most people commenting on the situation seem to be more concerned with the plagiarism than the plants, which is probably understandable to everyone but Prof. Whetstone. I think we’re still grateful to him for bringing this up, though.

According to the Tuscaloosa News story linked just above, two UA administrators are fighting subpoenas to testify regarding the plagiarism of Meehan’s dissertation, on the grounds that “it will subject them to annoyance, embarrassment and undue burden.” Umm, right. The great burden of being called to testify in a matter as trivial as a plagiarized doctoral dissertation (especially when the accused is, on the strength of that dissertation, currently the president of a university) is just too onerous. Clearly someone should have sympathy for these poor people. [/sarcasm]

Sandy Gordon, a lawyer for the University of Alabama, claims that the two administrators shouldn’t be called to testify because the plagiarism issue has nothing at all to do with the dispute over the plant specimens, and besides there’s this other guy you should talk to about it ’cause he’s on our side.

That being Mike Miller, who chaired Meehan’s dissertation committee. And, interestingly enough, also chaired Boening’s dissertation committee. That makes him a not-disinterested participant, since if it’s officially decided that Meehan did plagiarize Boening’s dissertation, the obvious question will be, why didn’t Miller spot it? Or Harold Bishop, who was also on both committees?

Interestingly enough:

Miller, a former UA professor, said in an interview last week he was never contacted by anyone at the university to discuss Meehan’s dissertation, contradicting Meehan’s statement that Miller was called upon by UA to investigate the accusation two years ago.

Miller told The Tuscaloosa News that he doesn’t believe Meehan plagiarized.

So either Meehan or Miller is lying about whether anyone talked to Miller about this two years ago. And Miller’s statement to the press doesn’t carry much weight either; if he wasn’t called on to investigate the plagiarism accusation two years ago, then can we really believe he remembers enough details about two dissertations he read ten and twelve years ago to be able to say with any assurance that there was no plagiarism? If he had investigated the matter two years ago then I’d be slightly more likely to believe at least that he believes there was no wrongdoing (although I still wouldn’t take his word for it without a lot more supporting evidence than his bare assertion) but he says he did no investigation and was never asked to. One might suspect that his assertion that there was no plagiarism rests more on the fact that his own academic reputation is on the line here, than on the likelihood of him remembering specifics of two papers he read a decade or more ago.

Patty Hobbs, PR Director at Jacksonville State (where Meehan is president) said in a press release [link to PDF] on 23 April that:

Litigation is currently pending in a lawsuit filed by a JSU professor against the University claiming the professor owns plant specimens located in the JSU herbarium. Unrelated to this case, attorneys for the professor have leveled unfounded plagiarism claims against the university president. These claims have been investigated not only by the university, but by third parties and the university is completely satisfied that there is no substance to the allegations. President Meehan has been clear from the beginning that he used Mr. Boening’s dissertation as a spring board for his own, and Meehan’s dissertation duly credits his predecessor’s work. It appears these false charges have been made in an unfair attempt to pressure the university to pay money to resolve a questionable claim regarding ownership of the plant specimens. The two matters are totally unrelated.

So the two matters are completely unrelated, have nothing to do with one another, and besides he didn’t do anything wrong.

Except the statement that “third parties” have satisfied the university that Meehan is in the clear is questionable. Leddy references an AP article in which

Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today examined the dissertations and “concluded that ‘extensive portions’ of Meehan’s dissertation were plagiarism of Boening’s work.” In other words, the third-party investigation supports, not discredits, the allegation of plagiarism.

One has to wonder just which third parties gave Meehan’s dissertation a thumbs-up? It would’ve been nice if the press release had been more specific on just who was supporting Meehan.

The main argument in favor of Meehan seems to be that he acknowledged Boening. In his abstract, he says: [link to PDF]

Using a case study and content analysis design, this study replicated at a regional comprehensive institution a study of sabbatical leave patterns that had first been conducted at The University of Alabama in 1996 by Carl Boening.

That’s fine so far as it goes, but that’s an acknowledgement that the original idea for the study, and perhaps the method, came from Boening. This very general acknowledgement doesn’t give Meehan wholesale leave to lift extensive phrasing and passages from Boening’s dissertation without further, line-level citation. Boening’s dissertation is included in Meehan’s References list, and Boening’s name is mentioned ten times in the body of the document. That’s not nearly enough to account for all the lifted passages.

The fact that Meehan duplicated Boening’s study, but at a different institution, isn’t the problem. An editor’s note in the Tuscaloosa News describes the situation, then says:

So far, so good. I can’t see anything wrong with extending one line of research in new directions. In fact, that’s what the scientific method is all about. We do similar things with news stories. If one newspaper looks at an issue in their hometown, we may look at the same issue here.

This is common practice in both academia and journalism; whether or not a thesis applies in a larger context or a different setting is a completely legitimate question for research. The problem isn’t with what Meehan chose to study, or even how he conducted his research, but rather with the extensive verbage lifted directly from someone else’s paper.

What’s really outrageous about this isn’t that, unless there’s a fairly huge chunk of mitigating data hiding somewhere, an extremely prominent (and well paid) academic plagiarized large chunks of his dissertation, although that’s bad enough. No, what’s really outrageous is that neither the institution which granted his doctorate nor the one which currently employs him seem at all interested in pursuing the matter.

DRMT, commenting on BoingBoing’s post on the subject, [Comment #108] says:

When a university president is found to have plagiarized, it’s the alumni and donors who need to raise their voices and force the board of regents to fire him or her. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the only way these things get done. Plagiarism is an increasing problem in our classes and students need to understand how serious it is.

I’d say that the alumni and donors of both Jacksonville State University and the University of Alabama need to call for a thorough, independent and transparent investigation of the matter, followed by a firing if the results go against Meehan rather than dismissal without some sort of due process, but otherwise I agree. It’s hard enough to convince other people — writers, readers, students, teachers — that plagiarism is a serious violation and not to be tolerated when someone as prominent as a university president seems to be getting away with it, and profiting handsomely from his stealing and cheating, even after the matter has been made so public. This is outrageous, and I wouldn’t expect anyone to want to be associated with any institution which condones or overlooks such behavior, much less support them with funding.

[ETA: comments closed because of spam.]


June Challenge — First Day

No, I’m not planning to do this every day this month. 🙂 There’s something about starting a new challenge that gets the words flowing, though, or at least it does for me; challenge pace is 834 words per day, and this is almost twice that. Maybe that’s the trick of it — start a new challenge every day? [wry smile]

Heck, if I thought it’d work….

Does that happen with anyone else? You start a new challenge and you’re writing gangbusters, then the shiny wears off and the energy leaves and the struggle comes later on?