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, http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com. 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.
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.
Y U DO THIS?
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.