This is a bit long, but incredible...
Recently I received a message from a man named Tom, who said he had found a quote from my book, "Once a Warrior", credited to a different author in a different book—only her book just came out in 2020, and "Once a Warrior" was published in 1997. He thought I should know.
I was bewildered; how could anyone possibly remember a small excerpt from a book I wrote over 20 years ago? And how did he know someone else had used it? He explained:
"That quote, found by chance, was a life changer...When I found that someone else penned it as her own, I became confused. It's rather similar to "Once a Warrior." I thought you should know. Thank you for that wonderful quote, and I mean it... It was life changing."
I was humbled, to say the least. My books are historical romance novels—-with action and intrigue—-but my readers are primarily women. Tom, who is a former Intelligence Analyst with the US army, (as in a spy—how freaking awesome is that??) did not exactly fit that profile. How had he come to read my book and feel so connected to it? He told me in 2015, while working with homeless veterans, he had to organize a logistics warehouse where bedding, clothing and basic necessities were gathered and issued.
"I happened upon a collection of books...deemed unreadable with either a few pages missing, water damaged, missing jacket covers...One individual book was a small paperback book... A few pages in, and darn it, I got sucked into a romance novel. I almost set it down, as I was embarrassed...
"However, this book had chutzpah, caught my attention, and I was emotionally invested into it. So, it would become my little secret. I read on. I actually loved the book. Being that this book had been sorted into a "repair or discard" bin, I was determined to give this novel a chance to live, to be repaired, so that another could read it. It was titled "Once a Warrior," and yes, a historical romance novel, riddled with aspects of PTSD (perfect, since I was working with US Vets).
"So, the importance of this book, is that I never got to finish it, because a section of the book had been torn out. The kicker is this, I'm a firm believer in things happening for a purpose. I came across a quote so powerful and meaningful to me, that I wanted to write this down, but the page that this quote was on, was hanging by a thread...I snatched the page, and rebound it, to save it for another day.
"So that quote... (slightly adapted...)
""We are not condemned by the failures of our past, provided we have not intentionally inflicted suffering. With all the limitations that are so cruelly thrust upon us, it is what we do today, and tomorrow, that matters."
"That particular quote from the book, as I mentioned earlier (albeit slightly paraphrased), was life changing for me, so I went to Google it yesterday, as I went to use your quote, to give you credit for this brilliant piece of text. I knew I'd get teased about the origin, but caring not, I went to search the quote... hoping with the powerful artificial intelligence of today's search engine, it might come close to locating the source.
"I came across it, and discovered two authors listed, with two different publication dates, yours in 1997 and the imposter just last year in 2020. As I began to read the quote in both, names were different, and I recognized similarities that were too coincidental...the search engine helped me to discover names and locations had been changed, but that the same plot was evident."
Wait, what? The same plot? I thought we were talking about one isolated quote!
A quick search led me to the synopsis. Oh my God, this author stole my plot! Incredulous, I read a few pages and discovered she had taken more than that. She had plagiarized my story, changing the names of the characters and the setting, then continuing with my actual chapters and scenes for God’s sake, paraphrasing and making small changes to the sentences.
I am aghast that someone would do this. Infuriated, sickened, hurt—the emotions are piercing.
I contacted my agent and editor. I am waiting to learn what happens now.
The ray of light to this deeply personal theft is that I have made a new friend. The universe connected me with Tom years ago, without my knowledge, so a small piece of my writing could inspire him. Now it has brought us together again, with him discovering someone has stolen my book from me, and caring enough to find me and let me know—all because of one quote from a tattered book without a cover or an ending.
As Tom reflected on his FB page,
"It was meant to be, being at the right place at the right time, for the right reason. I discovered and helped her by wanting to give her credit for a quote I treasured so much. Her quote came from a book in a pile that was buried by boxes and clothing, in a dusty warehouse. I was meant to come across that quote. I feel as if this has gone in a full cosmic circle....I don't believe in chance. This reaffirms this."
I am forever grateful to my new friend, who will soon be receiving a pristine, complete and autographed copy of "Once a Warrior," so he can finally read the ending.