Was I duped by Sarah Daltry?

My dilemma for the past couple of weeks has been that I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to blog in support of Sarah Daltry or one… well, warning about her. I’ve been trying to weigh both sides of the story, since I felt it was worth a blog post, but simply couldn’t decide. Supporting either side felt, and still feels, wrong. When I moped about it to my wife, she – wisely, as always – told me that there’s nothing wrong with continuing to sit on the fence if neither side appears palatable.

So, here I sit.

Undecided, but wanting to get my doubts out.

The email

After my passionate rant in her defense (and that of anyone who’s ever been bullied) when I heard that she was withdrawing her written work and her social media presence due to extreme bullying, I didn’t hear about the issue again for months until I received an email from someone who said she was a friend of Sarah’s. She apologised for the delay, saying she’d only found my post recently in a Google search (and that Sarah wouldn’t do such research herself), explained Sarah’s current situation (which was apparently much improved after she was suicidal and required professional help, so improved, in fact, that she was “coming back, with a focus on […] the stories she loves and what the writing means to her”), and thanked me for my supportive words in the open letter I wrote.

Honestly, that felt good. I’d done the right thing, stood up for what I believed was right and smote (well, with words) what I believed was wrong. And I was being thanked for it. I was under no illusions that my words had pulled Sarah back from the brink of darkness or anything that dramatic, but I was sincerely glad to hear she was doing better and writing once again. Someone who’d had that many bad things happen to her (bullying, via bad reviews as well as emails and on social media, rape, poverty, depression, suicide attempts…) surely deserved my help.

My reply

I replied to the email, thanking her for the update and confessing to be a “sucker for happy endings, but enough of a realist to understand that it’s not always like that”. I offered to help if I could:

“If there’s anything I can do to help, please do let me know – however much, however little, I’d be glad to help, whether it’s a new blog post with your words (only with your permission, of course), beta reading, feedback of any kind, or simply taking down the old post if Sarah prefers and never mentioning it again… just let me know.”

Research of my own

We emailed each other another couple of times; she was happy for me to do a blog post, even to post the contents of her first email, and, since Sarah was currently “rewriting her NA series that was originally romance [into] a new series [that was] geared more towards YA”, I could share upcoming promos for that series.

I agreed, saying I’d do a blog post later that week (over two weeks ago). In the meantime, I wanted to do a little bit of research to know more about Sarah’s story; surely, many others had carried the torch as I had, had stood up to bullying in their own ways in support of someone who’d been treated that badly.

The original “Open Letter to Bullies” post, in which Sarah announced that she was giving up, conceding defeat to all the hate, was no longer available, but there’s always the wayback machine for such cases (even if the styling is off, the content is there):

http://web.archive.org/web/[…]/open-letter-to-bullies/

The other side

To my surprise, what I discovered next was quite a different story. Rather than the social media outrage I’d expected at an author being bullied, the first three results of googling “Sarah Daltry” were her author pages on goodreads.com (with quite a favourable rating), her own site, and amazon.com, followed by a blog post by a site that seemed dedicated to stopping bullying on goodreads, except… that one was not supportive of her at all. Instead, just four days after Sarah published her open letter to bullies, it claimed to have sufficient information to take the stance that the whole thing was just a PR stunt to promote her work:

http://www.stopthegrbullies.com/2014/04/09/sarah-daltry-cries-bully/

Wait, I thought, aren’t you guys supposed to be trying to stop the bullying rather than adding to it? I read through this post with skepticism sitting heavy on my shoulders, but starting to slip as I found out that she’d reversed her decision to take down her site and her self-published books. Reading through the comments, people seemed to be quite willing to get right back to bashing Sarah (or was it “back”?).

There were a few other sites that were similarly dismissive of her claims, stating that Sarah had made quite a profit out of “crying wolf”, getting many “sympathy buys” after asking publicly for support, etc., and that there was no proof that she’d ever been bullied by bad reviews, with high ratings on both goodreads and amazon.

Who’s right?

Hmm. So either Sarah Daltry was right with her claims and those other websites were just adding to the incredible unfairness she’s experienced, or they (I’ll call them her “decriers”) were right to call BS and Sarah has been abusing the sympathy of a great lot of people, myself included, for her own profit.

Either way, I feel I have a right to be outraged. I think. I’m just really reluctant to direct my outrage at anyone unless I can be sure that, when I get down from my fence, I land on the right side.

Here’s what I emailed back to Sarah’s friend after I’d read up on the issue:

Wow, do I feel stupid. I was about to write up that blog post I mentioned, but, having just done a bit of googling myself, I’m not quite sure what to believe…

The reply was… well, understanding, ending with: “I will respect your choice either way, because in the end the choice is up to you as to what you believe.”

Checking newer posts on Sarah’s site like this one, she replies to comments by Nicholas (whose post first alerted me to the whole issue and who I think is a genuinely nice guy) that, yes, she’s read positive things as well as negative things posted about her.

What doesn’t add up for me

Here’s why I’m not willing to leave my perch on the fence just yet, some things still don’t quite make sense….

Assuming Sarah Daltry’s claims and reasons for withdrawing from “public life” were legitimate:

  • Why did she claim that she’d be removing her books but then did no such thing?
  • Why are her reviews so high on goodreads and amazon if there was such extreme bullying?
  • Why does she claim that she reads positive and negative things about herself when her friend says she’d never do that (only two days earlier)?
  • Why wasn’t her friend more, I don’t know, outraged when I said I wasn’t sure what to believe? If your friend gets treated really badly and someone says they think she might be lying about it, wouldn’t you get upset?
  • Would a site that’s supposed to be about protecting those who were bullied call BS on someone claiming to have been bullied, unless they had pretty good evidence?

Assuming it was all a farce and those who say she cried wolf to engender false sympathy are right:

  • Couldn’t the lack of evidence of bullying and the positive reviews just be because the abusive reviews and comments were removed from the sites in question? (I honestly don’t know what their policies are.)
  • Is Sarah’s “friend” who emailed me actually just another one of the multiple personas her decriers claim she maintains?
  • Why does the “stopthegrbullies” site not post the “evidence” that proves who Sarah Daltry is? Is it really because of a promise to those who gave them that information, to protect them from Sarah using her other personas (“socks”) to write bad reviews about them? Even if she abused sympathy to sell her books, making Sarah sound like an evil kingpin with that much power doesn’t quite gel.
  • Why did the “stopthegrbullies” site remove commenters’ last names and links to their websites? Because of “trolls stalking their blog” to protect the commenters, really? Sorry, but that seems far-fetched to me. By the same token as their argument about Sarah’s “socks”, some of those commenters who were “convinced” could then well have been the site owners themselves.

And, either way: Would people really do that?!? Wow, maybe I’m just too naïve.

So… was I duped?

What do you think? Or know? Have I missed any major information? Am I being silly in not being able to reach a conclusion, one way or the other? Should I just “let it go” and stop fretting?

Please let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me (amos at amosmcarpenter dot com) if you’d rather not make it public.

About Amos M. Carpenter

Web dev by day, author by night, and generally interested in (and opinionated about) way too many things.

Posted on 15 October, 2014, in Authors, Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Amos,

    Because you linked back to my blog, I saw this. I am answering your questions, because I don’t know what else to do. I’m just a person. I’m aware of the StoptheGRB post and some other bloggers and their posts, and I have tried to stay out of it. You have to understand that I just wanted to let it go so I could deal with other things.

    1. Why did she claim that she’d be removing her books but then did no such thing?

    I did remove my books actually. After I decided it wasn’t healthy, I took them down and I took down all my social media. It was only for about 3 weeks in April, because my friends kept texting and emailing. People I didn’t even know sent me messages asking me not to give up, to finish the story, etc. I felt I owed it to them to do so and I did in May. Then I tried to keep going and in June, it got worse for me emotionally and I shut it all down again all summer. I signed a book with a small press and debated using a new name, but they felt it was silly to do that. I’m trying really hard to be social again, although it’s not always easy.

    1. Why are her reviews so high on goodreads and amazon if there was such extreme bullying?

    I have no idea. This is not about reviews. My open letter to bullies was about something else and it was taken out of context. It was written months before the post when I said I couldn’t take it anymore. I deleted everything from my site, because I really did intend to be done. It was unhealthy and I needed to figure out why.

    1. Why does she claim that she reads positive and negative things about herself when her friend says she’d never do that (only two days earlier)?

    I don’t usually read them at all. My friend sent me the posts from a couple people, because I asked. When I replied to Nicholas, I wanted to be diplomatic and then I asked because I wanted to try to do the right thing and let people know I wasn’t ignoring them. I don’t read my reviews anymore. I don’t look at things anymore. I only knew this existed because you linked to my blog. But I felt it was only decent to say thank you.

    1. Why wasn’t her friend more, I don’t know, outraged when I said I wasn’t sure what to believe? If your friend gets treated really badly and someone says they think she might be lying about it, wouldn’t you get upset?

    I don’t know. I didn’t even know that conversation happened. And yes, I would. I am told a lot of things and sometimes I start questioning what I can believe. When you have social anxiety and you don’t have a huge support system in your life, you have to trust someone and I don’t always make the right choices in whom I trust. That’s what led to my breakdown this spring and maybe I’m an idiot.

    1. Would a site that’s supposed to be about protecting those who were bullied call BS on someone claiming to have been bullied, unless they had pretty good evidence?

    For the record, that site is generally reviled. They’re supporting Ellora’s Cave right now, just to give some perspective. I don’t know the people on the site, but I was sent a message during this mess with names – sock puppet accounts that apparently the people or person who run the site use. I deleted it. I wish I hadn’t.

    Look, you don’t know me. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know me. I wanted this all to die. I just wanted to refocus my energies on something positive, to try to revive a dream I have had since childhood. I feel sick about all of it. I never intended for anything to come of it either way. TEN people read my blog. My post was an apology to them. I have debated saying anything, of explaining, of giving my side of things, but it feels futile. I figure people believe what they want. I’m probably a weak person, because as someone who would tell people to stand up for what they believe, I am way too scared to do it myself. So I apologize you felt duped and I don’t ask you to do anything with any of my titles. Thanks for originally posting that and I’m sorry you had to get involved.

    • From your comment, Sarah, and from the emails I’ve received, my gut feeling tells me that you’ve been wronged. It’s too long ago and I have too few hard facts to be sure about anything, but it certainly feels more right than believing that you’ve been conning people. Maybe a part of it is that I’d be more willing to live with being a fool duped by someone who cried wolf than with joining bullies in condemning that person (whether that condemnation is right or not) based on what I think amounts to guesswork, but it’ll let me put the matter to rest in my head.

      My apologies for bringing this up again, Sarah, I know that can’t have been easy for you, and thanks for the patience in letting me sort out my thoughts about all this.

      • Thank you and I appreciate you at least asking and letting me explain. I’ve been torn on saying things in general and I never bothered to respond to some of those people, because well, their minds were made up and what would have been accomplished?

        You don’t need to apologize, either. I said it, and I made the mistake of taking down the posts and deleting messages and basically trying to kill it, but now it’s just words against words and I have to deal with that. I’m pretty naive, but at the very least, I’ve learned from it.

  2. For what it’s worth, an awful lot of bellyaching and raking up past mistakes goes on on the internet, especially with respect to author behaviour – good or bad. Most of it seems to go beyond logic and reason. Interestingly, a lot of the bullying is done with genuine and misplaced enthusiasm by people who genuinely believe that by bullying another (although they are absolutely unable to see the parallel between what they do and the actions of their perceived ‘bully’) they are standing up for the underdog and making the internet a better and friendlier place.

    In response I’d say three things:

    1. Two ‘wrongs’ don’t make a right. Sarah I’ve no idea what you did or didn’t do and ditto with the BBA folks but one only has to look at the state of perpetual carnage in the Middle East to see what ‘an eye for an eye’ does for relations between nations and ethnic groups.
    2. The wise man acknowledges the past but is prepared to leave it where it is.

    3. Sorry to sound so patronising. I can’t think of a way to put it succinctly without sounding as if I’m typing it from about 15 feet up my own arse! 😉

    Cheers

    MTM

  3. Hey, thanks for thinking I’m a nice guy 🙂

    I just saw this, and had to say one thing: in a sense, this isn’t about Sarah. Whatever she did (or did not do), this is about you. You did the right thing by standing up for someone who you felt was being wronged.

    I used to go through something similar every time I stop by a traffic light and someone asks me for money. “Is he duping me? Am I an idiot? I’ve heard so many stories about guys with supposed injuries and how they trick us.”

    In the end, I realized this isn’t about them doing the right thing. It’s about me. If you approach me asking for help, I’ll do my best to help me. If you’re duping me, then that’s on you. It still doesn’t affect my good Karma, though 🙂

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