Friday Romance Novel Plagiarism Blogging


When I traveled to South Dakota in 2005 to write a story about black-footed ferrets, I never imagined my words about the little weasels would one day appear in a trashy romance novel. I just wanted to write an informative and entertaining piece about these endangered prairie carnivores.

Three years later my story (“Toughing It Out in the Badlands”) is at the center of 2008’s sexiest plagiarism scandal.

It all began when a mysterious e-mail arrived in my inbox last week with a link to a romance novel blog, While reviewing a novel by best-selling romance writer Cassie Edwards, the self-proclaimed “smart bitches” had discovered passages that matched, word for word, my ferret story.
Click Here

In the Internet age, every freelance writer fears that his or her words will be appropriated without compensation. First I was angry. Then I had to laugh. To see my textbook descriptions of ferrets in a bodice-ripper, as dialogue between a hunky American Indian and a lustful pioneer woman who several pages later have sex on a mossy riverbank, is the height of absurdity.


Incensed by this insult to the critters, romance author Nora Roberts brings theferret-rescue awesome:

Tolmé’s article about the black footed ferret focuses on the loss of their habitat, the prairie, and the programs working to bring them back from near extinction.

The black footed ferret is officially classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as extinct in the wild, though breeding and repopulation programs have been successful. Defenders of Wildlife classifies the ferrets as an imperiled species.

And then came this morning’s email:Nora Roberts has volunteered to match up to $5,000.00 USD any donations made by Smart Bitches readers to Defenders of Wildlife, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that works to preserve not just ferrets but endangered wildlife across the US, most particularly that species much loved by paranormal romance writers: the wolf.

They’re only $100 away from the goal!

My mother has read every Nora Roberts book ever written, and I hereby apologize for every time I teased her about them.


14 thoughts on “Friday Romance Novel Plagiarism Blogging

  1. Okay, the click through leads to a picture of a black-footed ferret with–get this–ripped abs.
    I am not kidding. That is one buff fuzzball.
    What a hilarious story. And the part about plagiarism being rampant is sad but true. The first time I recognized a passage in a student paper as plagiarized, I felt sick to my stomach. Luckily, it was in a draft, where I could intervene with a stern talking-to. But it happens all the time, even though it’s laughably easy to detect.
    Most people don’t realize just how distinctive writing styles really are. I have my students doing a lot of writing for homework assignments throughout the term, so when I get to the research paper, I know how they write. If they start talking about the sanguinary British generals ordering tommies to their deaths in the trenches, well, warning bells go off.

  2. So you can seduce teh hot chicks by talking about ferrets? Wow! Okay: “Mothers typically give birth to three kits in early summer and raise their young alone in abandoned prairie dog burrows.”
    *patiently waiting*

  3. TKK, I like the ferret talk reserved for post-coital:
    Shadow Bear reaches across Shiona’s still heaving bosom, collecting his cigarettes and lighter of the night stand. He thoughtfully lights a cigarette, takes a drag, then passes it to Shiona, exhaling, “What I have observed of them, myself, is that these tiny animals breed in early spring when the males roam the night in search of females.”

  4. BuggyQ – of course you know there are now services which will check student papers for plagiarism.

  5. Totally tangential and I don’t know who to suggest to:
    the “Meerkat Manor” reference got me thinking. Meerkats are in so many zoos and so cute with their own TV show that their conservation has a lot of political pressure to it. (Not to mention “The Lion King” epic series).
    Ferrets are very similar, just as cute. Not to mention that ferrets have been adapted as pets while Meerkats, should the truth be told, are definitely wild creatures – they look cute through glass but you don’t want to meet one close up.
    For ferret conservation, could we get the black-foot ferrets their own cartoon and TV show?

  6. Yep, MapleStreet. I’ve used TurnItIn, and it’s works as far as the various online paper mills go. The problem I’ve found more often in recent terms is students using other students’ papers. That’s where the previous homework really helps. And working to prevent it in the first place.

  7. I used to teach at a community college here in the P. of Ontario, and we had a subscription to a plagiarism-detection service called It wasn’t, I thought, all that and a bag of chips, but I actually have training in discourse analytics (the forensics of how to take rhetorical fingerprints — powders, brushes, and all!), and so my students weren’t a-foolin’ nobody, especially me. I wound up having to fail two of them for plagiarism, which sort of hurtme a lot, in that I’d spent an entire lecture — an entire class hour — defining plagiarism, telling people how not to do it, and warning them of the dire consequenses that would befall them if they did. I spenttwo more full class hours teaching them how to do citations, and I even sent them home with a handout with a link on it to the Citation Machine. (The ingrates.)
    I was actually quite stunned by how many of them (in the class, probably four) really just didn’t grasp the concept ofresearch. One of the students I failed had basically written a long expository essay on her opinion of beauty products, peppered through with uncited, unsourced material ganked from product websites. What she wassupposed to be writing was a research project on the business ethics of the beauty industry.
    Then again, a lot of my students (who would be in the 20-25 age group now) didn’t actually grasp the concept of “ethics,” either. As far as they were concerned, if it was cool, it was ethical, and a profit-making business couldn’t actually do anything morally or ethically wrong, since businesses only exist to make profits, and everything in the world is about money, right?
    This is the direct result of 30 years of Thatcher-Reagan-Mulroneyism, I swear. (And Possible President-Elect Obama can go Cheney himself.)

  8. AAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaccccccckkkkkkk. (Auntie Meme coughs up hairball.) You’ve just nailed my #1 sin. I hate plagiarists like the plague. Incompetent, unimaginative fuckwads. I echo BuggyQ–writing style = fingerprint…and I’m Sherlock Holmes.

  9. Friday Ark#174

    We’ll post links to sites that have Friday (plus or minus a few days) photos of their chosen animals (photoshops at our discretion and humans only in supporting roles). Watch the Exception category for rocks, beer, coffee cups, and…? Visit all the b…

  10. ok, ferrets aside, and i know that’s sacrelige at this blog, but cassie edwards has gone even further, havingplagiarizedlaughing boy, a pulitzer prize winning novel from the 20’s, still under copyright.
    thos the cassie edwards scandal is no ben domenech or jeff guckert, it does once again showteh power of teh blogs ™.

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