S.R.Claridge writes Mystery and Romantic Suspense novels. Her work has been said to have the energy of Dan Brown, the mystery of Mary Higgins Clark and the humor of Janet Evanovich. Claridge novels will take you to the edge of your seat, keep you guessing until the very end and ultimately warm your heart. It is on the pages of every S.R.Claridge novel that Mystery and Sensual Suspense collide.

For more information on bookings, interviews and upcoming releases, please visit the author website and Facebook fan page.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Doing My Part

I’m receiving tons of email regarding my leaving Vanilla Heart Publishing (VHP).  People are asking questions and sharing their experiences with VHP and with other publishers as well.  At first, I felt inundated and overwhelmed by the barrage of email; but now, I feel grateful because each one gives insight and I find myself learning through other’s experiences.  I’m thankful for those lessons, so keep writing.  I will do my best to respond in a timely manner, but please forgive me if my responses come slowly.   In addition, when many of you ask the same question I will try to answer it here, in blog format, so that others can benefit from the information as well.

Several of you mentioned that Vanilla Heart (and a couple of other publishers that I won’t name here) never signed your contracts and that when you sought an attorney you were told that they could not go after a breach of contract when a contract never existed.  This is a statement of truth, but there is a loophole.  I will only speak of VHP and not the other publishers mentioned in email because my experience is limited to VHP.  

VHP never signed their contracts so that they could never be in “breach” of their contracts.  This is a manipulative ploy in and of itself.  Kimberlee Williams banked on the fact that new authors wouldn’t know any better…and it worked for her up until this year when about 14 authors grew wiser.  She banked on her cunning ability to manipulate new authors with empty promises, lies and fear tactics; but here, in the details of the law, is where truth is found:

VHP’s contracts are Bi-Lateral Agreements, which means both parties (the author and the publisher) are signing that they are in agreement with the terms of the contract.  In essence, they are both committing to do what the contract indicates they will do.  A Bi-Lateral Agreement is only binding in a court of law IF it is signed by both parties.  So, when an attorney says they cannot go after a breach of contract because a contract never existed, they are referring to the Bi-Lateral contractual agreement.

Hear me on this part, because this is every author’s ticket to freedom:  IF the publisher never signed the Bi-Lateral agreement and never rendered a copy of the signed agreement back to the author, the contract never legally existed.  Thereby, the author’s rights were never given to the publisher.  Thus, any of the author’s work that was published by the publisher and from which the publisher benefited financially falls under Copyright Infringement.

Copyright Infringement is a federal offense; a much bigger charge than a breach of contract. Every attorney (particularly those with literary field expertise) will take an infringement case, especially when you’ve got contracts and email correspondence to substantiate your claim.  In addition, if the publisher financially benefited from money gained via Copyright Infringement, that's called theft and it's another federal offense.

That’s the loophole and it’s just step one.

In the case with VHP, this puts the publisher in the position of either admitting to Copyright Infringement OR (if they want to pretend the contract was valid) admitting to a severe breach in contract involving artifice to defraud, fraudulent activity, misrepresentation and theft.

Either way, it doesn’t bode well for a deceitful publisher.


Authors, in today’s world of technology there is no reason why you cannot receive sales reports, royalty statements and payments on time.  In addition, there is no viable excuse for not receiving them.  If you are locked into a contractual agreement with a publisher who is not giving you the information you deserve, take action.  If you sit idly by, you’re hurting yourself and you’re doing an injustice to other authors. 

One woman wrote:  “I know my publisher is cheating me but I’m afraid if I say anything they won’t publish my next book and all of my books will go away.”

I felt that way too.  I was scared.  But…aren’t we all scared right after we finish our first novel and we start to send out queries and submissions?  Aren’t we all frightened that our work won’t be good enough or well received?  But we press on.  We press on…and that’s what you have to do if you’re in a negative relationship with an unethical publisher.  Unethical publishers like Vanilla Heart don’t deserve your talent.  They don’t deserve the right to work with you.

Change can be scary, but it is often necessary for growth.  It’s one thing to be blinded by a lie…it’s another thing to know the truth and make an active choice to live the lie.  

An ex-VHP author wrote in her email:  “At first, I believed the lie.  Then, I hoped it wasn’t true.  Now that my eyes are opened it’s my responsibility to do my part and make sure no one else believes the lie.”
Amen!  That's the very reason I blog and try to answer your emails and questions in a timely manner ...because it's my responsibility now to protect new authors from getting caught up in the lie... it's my job to do my part and I'm going to do it. ~



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Before Jumping Into Bed

I received an email over the weekend and in it the writer asked if I thought it was better to self-publish than to sign with a small press publisher.

This is a tough decision and one each writer must make for themselves.

I never wanted to self-publish, not because I thought there was anything “wrong” with it, but simply because I needed a stranger, a publisher, to believe in my work.  I needed that extra-confidence-boost to tell me I was a good enough writer to be published.  So, in 2010, upon completion of my first novel, No Easy Way, I sought out Agents and Publishers.  That’s when Vanilla Heart took interest and offered me a contract.  The fact that a publisher deemed my work good enough to market and promote motivated me to continue to write, which is how I produced eight books in less than three years. 

Other authors don’t need the self-esteem boost that I did.  They feel confident and secure enough to stand alone and thus self-publishing is the perfect path for them.

In the past, self-publishing bore a negative stigma that a writer wasn’t “good enough” to be contracted by a publishing house; but that stigma has begun to fade.  Readers can tell the difference between someone who writes poorly and someone who writes well.  They know that in purchasing a self-published book they run the risk of stumbling upon a lessor quality novel.  However, they also realize that there are self-published authors who write really good books; gems yet to be discovered.  Many readers today are willing to take that risk, especially with the ease and affordability of the Ebook download.  If they download a book for $0.99 and don’t like it, it’s not a big financial loss; but if they get a great one for that price, what a bargain!

If you decide to go with a small press publisher, meaning any publishing house outside of what has now become the Big Five, do your homework before signing anything.  I cannot stress this enough.  Talk to other authors about their experiences with small press publishers.  Interview authors who are currently under contract with the publisher you’re considering.  Ask questions.  Understand that any publisher that is on the up-and-up will be able to give you timely sales and royalty reports and timely payments.  Do not be pressured into signing right away.  A legitimate publisher will not have any reason to pressure an author into an immediate contractual agreement.

Research the Preditors and Editors listing and Writer Beware.  Contact the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General for the state in which the publisher is located.  If there have been complaints about the publisher, they will be made available to you.  Run a background check on the publisher.  Be thorough.

If you do sign a contract, hold that publisher accountable at every turn for every item.  A legitimate small press publisher will not give excuses for late payments, no payments, late reporting, no reporting, etc.  Except NO excuses.  The contract that you sign is a business agreement and it must be upheld by both parties in an ethical manner.  One lie breaches the agreement.  Period.

One advantage to self-publishing is that the author receives sales reports directly from the distributor and a royalty payment that is never late.  There are no lies or hidden agendas if you go the self-publishing route.  This is a huge advantage to the author and one you should seriously consider prior to signing a contract with a small press publisher because there are many ways in which an unethical publisher can take your money.

Not only did my ex-publisher (Vanilla Heart) defraud statements and steal thousands of dollars, but she also blatantly lied about the number of books that were downloaded for free so that she could pocket the money.  I have emails from her to substantiate the falsification of the reports she gave me and the outright lies she told.  For example:  My novel, House of Lies, came with a bit of controversy as three weeks after its release there was a similar murder in the exact area where the story had taken place.  This generated media interest, both negative and positive, and also generated book sales.  Kimberlee Williams of Vanilla Heart told me that someone had gotten a hold of the Smashwords coupon code for House of Lies and 60 copies were downloaded for free.  I couldn’t believe it.  That was royalty money the publisher and I would never see…or so I believed.  After subpoenaing sales records directly from the distributor, the truth was that only 13 copies of House of Lies had been downloaded using a free coupon code. (All 13 of which I identified as contest winners, book club leaders or reviewers because I had given them the free code.)  The other 47 downloads were bought and paid for.  This was money the publisher kept and I never saw.  Unethical.

Sadly, it didn’t just happen with House of Lies, but with several of my books from the Just Call Me Angel series and No Easy Way.  Had I never left and had the sales reports sent to me directly from the distributors, I would have had no way of knowing just how deep her deception ran and how much money she had stolen.  Sadder still is the fact that I'm not the only one she defrauded.  

The morale of the story is:  Be careful.  As an author, you’ve poured your blood, sweat, time and tears into your book.  It’s your creation, your baby.  Don’t be hasty to get it out there and settle for something less than what your work deserves.  Look at the quality of work the publisher is putting out.  Are there typos and formatting errors strewn throughout their author's books?  If so, don't sign with them.  That's a red flag.  Are the book covers unprofessional looking?  Are their video trailers novice and unprofessional?  (I don't know the correlation, if any, between video trailers and book sales, but Vanilla Heart's trailers were so awful that I never marketed using theirs and had my own made instead.) 

There are ethical small press publishers.  They’re out there, but companies like Vanilla Heart are sadly giving them a bad name. Companies like Vanilla Heart are tainting the world of small press publishing.   If we turn a blind eye and continue to allow the unethical ones to exist and flourish, we are only hurting the ethical publishers, each other and ourselves.

This is OUR industry and it is OUR responsibility to protect it. 
The long and the short of it is this:  If you are in a hurry to get your work out to the masses, then my advice is to self-publish it rather than jumping into bed with a publisher that is literally going to emotionally, mentally and financially screw you. ~



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Criminal Charges

I’ve received some emails wherein people have been asking for specific details (as in the legalities) of what Vanilla Heart Publishing did wrong.  Many of you have asked if the charges against Vanilla Heart are criminal.  Since I’ve touched on the specific breach of contract in previous blogs, I decided to define some basic terminology in hopes of providing clarity. 

Fraud: the crime of cheating somebody; the crime of obtaining money or some other benefit by deliberate deception; somebody who deceives; somebody who deliberately deceives somebody else, usually for financial gain.  Fraud is a felony charge.

Scheme or Artifice to Defraud:  the deprivation of something of value by fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, trick, chicane or overreaching; it connotes a planning to defraud and/or a pattern of fraudulent behavior.  This is a felony charge.

Copyright Infringement:  to disobey or disregard the copyright; to fail to obey or observe the terms of the copyright law.

Copyright Infringement is a felony.  On October 8, 1992 Congress approved the Copyright Felony Act.  Title 17 of the United States Code defines criminal copyright infringement as willful infringement for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.  Running a close second to copyright infringement is piracy, also another felony charge.  

Breach of Contract:  a failure to obey, keep or preserve a law, trust or promise; a breach of confidentiality; a breakdown in contractual obligations or relations.  This is usually dealt with in a civil court, when criminal charges do not come into play.

Theft: the act or crime of stealing somebody else’s property and/or money.

Just for fun let’s look specifically at what the State of Washington (home to Vanilla Heart Publishing) has to say about theft. 

Definition of Theft
Section 9A.56.020 of the Revised Code of Washington defines theft as the wrongful taking of property or services with the intent to deprive the owner of his property or the services he provides. Theft can be committed by actually stealing the property or by receiving the property from the owner through some act of deception.  This is a felony charge.

Second-Degree Theft
In Washington, a person can be charged with second-degree theft in accordance with Section 9A.56.040 if she steals property or services with a value of at least $750, but less than $5,000, or any public record kept in a public office. The Revised Code of Washington classifies second-degree theft as a Class C felony.

Clearly, more than civil charges can be brought against Vanilla Heart.  Subpoenaed sales statements and royalty reports alone are concrete evidence of theft; a felony charge.  That is without even mentioning the breach of contract leading to copyright infringement, artifice to defraud and fraudulent behavior as documented in email testimony by numerous authors and in email correspondence from the publisher. 

I hope this answers some of the basic questions.  ~


Congratulations to my first September Free Reading Sunday winners!  Five people who were the first to email me on Sunday, PLUS two bonus winners who booked me for their upcoming book club meetings.  That’s right, invite me to join your book club and I’ll not only bring wine, but you’ll get free books too!


George Bigger

Michele T. Banes

Julie Garitson

Ace Mulvahil

Elli VanDeMark

Nicholas Boucher

Camelia Howey
Thank you for your interest in my books.  Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

FREE Reading September Sundays



As a Back-to-School promotion, September Sundays are free reading days.  To help promote the importance of reading, I have five free Ebooks to give away. So the first five people to email me can have whichever book they would like.  Email:  AuthorSRClaridge(at)Gmail(dot)com 

Here are the choices:

Tetterbaum's Truth
Angel finds herself hanging in a twisted balance of mafia deception and revenge and the only way out is to expose the truth.

Petals of Blood
She knew of his tainted past, but it was too late to turn back. She loved him.

House of Lies
Skylar Wilson fights to save her sister from a deadly cult that stretches far beyond its pseudo-evangelical veil, penetrating the upper echelon of the United States government and pushing a lethal international agenda.

No Easy Way
Racing to piece together a family secret before anyone else dies, private investigator, Stephen Braznovich, finds himself trapped between white lies and dark lusts in a twisted tale where all roads point to one simple truth...there is No Easy Way.

Traitors Among Us   A kidnapping and an FBI bust sends Angel racing down a path to save her loved ones and she comes face-to-face with the scariest truth yet. There are Traitors Among Us.

Russian Uprising
Walking a fine line between compassion and rage, Angel discovers that the only way to stop the Russian uprising is to turn against her own blood.

Death Trap   Tempers flare and bullets fly as the lines of family loyalty blur into a melting pot of Mafia destruction, where Angel must face the suffocating reality that her only hope of staying alive is in playing dead.

Loose Ends
Unraveling the truth means tying up loose ends...the only problem is that some loose ends aren’t fit to be tied.

Spouse in my House
A unique and poetic look at sex and marriage, a la the styling of Dr. Seuss. Spouse in my House is a tale of sexual enlightenment as one couple strives for marital bliss.

 For a more detailed description of each book, please visit Smashwords   -    Amazon   -   or   -   Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Our Love Is Like Chocolate

This is yet another chocolate-themed poem that was published in a Vanilla Heart Anthology.  I think this is the last one.  Boy, after reading these I'm really craving some chocolate... and a bit of sensual bliss would be nice too!  :)    Enjoy! 

Our Love is Like Chocolate

by S.R.Claridge


Our love is like chocolate,

milky and sweet;

I crave him

like an addictive treat.

His touch is velvet,

his muscles are steel;

he shows me the way

a woman should feel.


Our love is like chocolate,

delectably dark,

deliciously lustful

and filled with heart.

He gives me chills,

that are tingly warm,

like a cup of hot cocoa

amid a storm.

Our love is like chocolate.

I long for a bite;

to taste his sweet passion

all through the night.

With one tender kiss

my defenses are slain;

his love pours down

like sensual rain.


Our love is like chocolate,

rich and sublime;

I pray we indulge

‘til the end of time.









Friday, September 6, 2013

Her First Taste

This poem was published in a chocolate-themed Vanilla Heart Anthology.  I thought I'd post it here so you can read it for free. Enjoy!

Her First Taste 
by S.R.Claridge


His eyes were like chocolate,

dark and divine;

Dripping with flavor

like aging wine.


His lips were cherries,

temptingly sweet;

I longed for his kiss

like a decadent treat.


His fingers so soft,

like a creamy soufflé;

Chased all my

inhibitions away.


The candlelight flickered,

I felt my heart race;

Nearing the moment

I’d have my first taste.



A craving so strong

I could hardly breathe;

Every stroke of his tongue

devouring me.


Like chocolate melting

by a flame;

Our burning lust

could not be tamed.


Deep and warm

Like Creme Brulee;

Drenched in passion

there we lay.





Thursday, September 5, 2013

If Men Were Like Chocolate

As I've been sorting through my old files, I came across several chocolate-themed works, mainly poetry, that were originally published in one or two of the Vanilla Heart Valentine's Day Anthologies. Since I am no longer with Vanilla Heart, I thought I'd post them here for everyone to read for free.  Enjoy!
What Chocolate is to Women

By S.R.Claridge




















If men were more like Chocolate… imagine the sensual possibilities. 



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

True Beauty

One of the most difficult struggles for a woman is to feel beautiful.  Often times I catch my reflection and grimace.  Then I have to remind myself that I, like many women, judge myself too harshly.  I see the flaws where others see the beauty. 
As Sophia Loren said, “Beauty is how you feel inside and it reflects in your eyes.  It is not something physical.”

The older I get the more I realize this is true.  I can dress up, my make-up and hair can be perfect and I can look in the mirror and feel ugly.  This happens because I’m seeing deeper than the flesh.  I’m seeing the interior, how I feel, whereas others look merely at the exterior.  How you feel about yourself can’t be fixed with clothing or accessories; despite how we try.  More shoes won’t make me feel better.  That expensive dress won’t do the trick.  

The reality is you have to learn to love yourself from the inside out.  Then, and only then, will you see beauty reflecting in your eyes.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Spouse in my House - New Release

Marriage has its ups and downs, peaks and valleys, pleasures and pains.  It’s easy for couples to get distracted with life and forget why they ever fell in love.  Spouse In My House is a unique look at one couple’s fight to rekindle their flame on a journey of sexual enlightenment and marital bliss. 

I am excited to announce the release of this short poetic story about hope, love and re-igniting that spark of romance we all crave. 

"A unique and poetic look at sex and marriage, a la the styling of Dr. Seuss."
~ RipeReviews 
Spouse In My House is available now in all Ebook formats from Smashwords.   (Coming soon to Amazon and Barnes & Noble)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I was talking with a friend the other day, explaining everything that had happened with my ex-publisher, Vanilla Heart.  I was unaware at the time that one of my kids was within earshot of our conversation.  That night my son said, “Mom, you’re really mad at your publisher aren’t you?” 

“Yes,” I answered.

“But you’re gonna forgive her, right?”  He asked, his eyes wide with innocence.


Out of the mouths of babes.  All at once my anger came to a screeching halt and I was thrust into the precarious position of deciding whether to live by example or let my child see that I was a hypocrite.  After all, how many times had I told him that we are to forgive others, never hold grudges, and love them as we would like to be loved.  I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly.  I had a tough decision.  Would I be the mother who says, “Do as I say, not as I do?”  Or would I admit that even though forgiveness can be difficult, it’s always the right choice. 

I exhaled.  “Yes, I’m going to forgive her,” I said.

“Even though she hurt you?”  He searched my face for the answer.

“Yes, even though she hurt me.”

That night I lay in bed under a blanket of conviction, unable to sleep.  My mind kept churning over all that had happened and I found myself wondering, am I strong enough to forgive her?  Do I have it in me? I honestly didn’t know.

The next morning I awoke still feeling conflicted.  I wanted to be able to forgive, but I was still angry.  What she did was wrong.  I felt betrayed and I had a right to be angry.  Mulling over my thoughts, I walked around the house picking up all of the random stuff the kids left strewn throughout and returned each item to the correct room.  The last item I scooped up was a football shaped dog-tag necklace that my son wears.  For some reason I happened to glance downward at it and noticed that engraved on the back it read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13” 

Chills darted up the back of my neck as realization swept over me.  I was holding the answer in my hand, literally.  I didn’t need to be strong enough to forgive because God is strong enough.  He would make forgiveness possible for me. All I had to do was let go of the anger and ask for help.


Am I still upset by the injustice of what Vanilla Heart publishing did?  Yes.  But I am no longer dwelling in a continual place of anger.  I forgive my ex-publisher.  I would still like to understand “why” she did it, but whatever the reason, it warrants no more anger from me.  In fact, I found myself sympathetically praying for her. 

People do unscrupulous things…maybe it’s because they are desperate…maybe it’s because of something beyond my capacity to fathom…I don’t know the answer.  I wish I did.  But, I know that forgiveness brings freedom and love covers a multitude of sin.  I know that second chances are real and sometimes that’s all that a person needs…a “do-over.”

That is not to say that I would ever give Vanilla Heart a “do-over” at publishing my books, because financial trust has been violated.  But, in my heart, in life, I’m holding no ill-will and wishing her health and happiness.

Out of the mouths of babes can come the purest of wisdom...and for that I am grateful.   ~