The Mail I Get – Convicted Conman James Strauss Edition

You’d be stunned how any people have reached out to me to share their horror stories of being swindled or harassed by convicted conman & fake TV writer James Strauss… everybody from aspiring screenwriters to stiffed shopkeepers, from enraged military veterans to swindled conference organizers, from stiffed restaurants to stiffed Hawaii vacation-home renters. There’s been a surge in those emails in the last couple of weeks. I guess he’s stirring things up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, perhaps the only place on earth that hasn’t learned that he’s a total fraud. Here’s an excerpt from one of the many emails that I’ve received:

I live in Lake Geneva Wisconsin and today The Geneva Shore Report, which this James Strauss owns, told bold face lies […] saying [my] church and former pastors were in cahoots with the fire department where people were to vote.  His bold face lies and hurtful newspaper needs to stop. Please don’t use my name. But can you help my community?! And please hurry.

James Strauss’ mugshot, taken before he was sentenced to federal prison for fraud.

It’s YOUR community. YOU do something about it. If you, as a resident, don’t have the guts to stand-up against him, under your own name, and reveal him for what he is, how can you expect people who don’t live there, who have no stake or interest in what is going on, to do anything about it? Here’s an excerpt from a very lengthy email I received:

I am asking you to please not publish my name. Frankly, we cannot afford to feel the wrath of Mr. Strauss’s mean-spirited writings and video “reporting”. I am a long-time resident in the Geneva Lakes Area in Wisconsin. Sadly our lovely resort community is home to The Geneva Shore Report, a mean-spirited rag of a “newspaper” for which James Strauss is the creator and editor. He promotes his rag as “The most feared newspaper in America”.

I am writing to you because Mr. Strauss is damaging good people in our community. Mr. Strauss has made accusations via innuendo and flat out lies about our now retired pastors of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Chaplain on our Lake Geneva Fire Department, [and] slandered Karen Stein of KS Ministries who, out of her own pocketbook, invested a healthy half a million dollars in a clean and sober living house. What can I do to expose his con man lies? Please help!

I told him this: I’m sorry to hear that Strauss is continuing to ruin people’s lives…but there is nothing I can do about it. I’m not a journalist or a cop. The best advice I can give you is to spread the word that he is a convicted conman and fraud who spent years in a federal prison for swindling people. It’s information easily found on the Internet.

Outside of the Lake Geneva folks, I recently also got a desperate email from an aspiring filmmaker (he asked me not to quote his email on my blog) who was wary of doing free work for Strauss, who promised in return to use his contacts to help the kid break into Hollywood. This poor kid was shocked to learn that Strauss has zero legitimate Hollywood experience and asked me what he should do. My answer was simple: walk away. Strauss is a pathological liar and convicted felon who will screw you over.

It’s amazing to me that Strauss is still able to con people when the truth about him is so easily found in a google search. The way I look at it, anybody stupid enough to get into business with him deserves what they get.

The Mail I Get – Scammers Edition

Even in this age of easy self-publishing, the scammers are still out there… and there are still plenty of suckers. I recently ran into an author who not only “published” his book through Authorhouse, he also paid them extra to buy positive reviews for him in the worthless “self-published books” versions of Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. Not only that, he was seriously considering a sleazy marketeer’s $25,000 campaign to “get his book on bestseller lists” by paying people to buy copies and leave positive reviews on digital platforms. He firmly believed that this is how Stephen King, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich and others get their books reviewed and on the bestseller lists. I, of course, told him was wrong and that he’d been swindled. Afterwards, he emailed me this plea:

Okay, so I’m ready with open ears to figure out how to get my book marketed, put on best seller lists, then get it made into a movie. I asked you last week if I could send you a copy to take a look at, cause it’s pretty damn dynamic. I know you have your own writings to take care of, but If there’s anything at all you can do to help me, I would be more than happy cut a nice juicy percent of gross profits…of everything. Please, please, please guide me in the right direction and if possible, drive the damn car for me.

The first thing you need to know is that Authorhouse is a notorious scam that operates under several names (Author Solutions, iUniverse, xlibris, etc.). They prey on the desperation of aspiring authors and squeeze them for every last penny they can get. Don’t pay them another dime for anything. You’ve been swindled out of enough money by these crooks as it is. Here’s just one of many posts out there about the Author Solutions/Authorhouse scam. The good news is that people have finally gotten wise to their con and the company is in a downward spiral.

But before they crash and burn, you should demand that Authorhouse revert the rights to the book back to you, along with the PDF and Kindle files that you’ve paid for, and pull the book from sale. Your book is ranked at 2 million on Amazon, which frankly means you aren’t selling any books anyway, so you aren’t risking anything by yanking it. Nobody knows the book exists.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to help you untangle yourself from Authorhouse or to walk you through self-publishing your book. But before you consider self-publishing again, or marketing your book to real publishers, you should really go back and rewrite the manuscript. I read the Amazon sample and, I mean no offense, but it needs substantial editing by a professional. It’s bloated with endless, dull exposition…and isn’t ready to sell to anybody. Rewriting the book under the guidance of an experienced freelance editor, or a knowledgeable creative writing instructor (perhaps through UCLA Extension), is really the best use of your resources now rather than investing time, effort, and money self-publishing a book that is unlikely to find an audience in its present form.

The Warrant For My Arrest Scam

scam-alert2I had great fun today talking with “Lt. David O’Neal” of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who left a message on my voicemail to let me know that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. He told me I had to call him back today at 213-334-6708. I did…knowing full well it was a scam. He answered the phone.
CONMAN: Los Angeles County Sheriff Department.
ME: I’m looking for Lt. David O’Neal.
CONMAN: This is the operator. I will connect you. Please hold.
<hold for two minutes, then same guy gets back on the line>
CONMAN: This is Lt. O’Neal. How may I help you?
ME: This is Lee Goldberg, you called me today. You said there’s a warrant for my arrest. What’s going on?
CONMAN: Let me check the database.
<hold for two minutes>
CONMAN: Is this Lee Goldberg, who lives at XYZ? (Mispronounces name of my street and the city)
ME:  Yes.
CONMAN: This is in regards to a sums sent to you on October 3 for a court appearance on November 8.
ME: A sums?
CONMAN: Yes, it was sent to your house.
ME: What is a sums?
CONMAN: Excuse me for a moment.
<short hold>
CONMAN: This is in regards to a summons.
ME: Oh, a summons. You didn’t say that.
CONMAN: Yes, I did. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. You have been placed by the court on a D & R. Are you claiming this was a postal failure to deliver and that you are not evading the court.
ME: Yes.
CONMAN: Okay. Do you have a pen and paper?
ME: Yes.
CONMAN: The honorable Judge Virginia Phillips, located in courthouse C, has issued two class C warrants, STA, for failure to appear, docket number 205-20-16, and COC, for contempt of court, docket #205-31-93
ME: Gee, that sounds serious. What did I do?
CONMAN: I do not have access to that information. The court documents are sealed. I am only advising you about the court’s action.
ME: Is this about the attempted murder charge?
CONMAN: Probably, sir.
ME: I thought the statute of limitations had run out.
CONMAN: The statute is still in force. 
ME: Maybe it’s the kidnapping thing.
CONMAN:  I don’t know. Do you have a pen and paper? Write this down. I am Lt. David O’Neal — N-E-A-L, badge # 3193, I am located at 226 Temple Street, LA , 90012 You will have to come down here today to sign an affidavit to appear.
ME: Now?
CONMAN: Not yet. This is a courtesy call to advise you what is going on and to alleviate the situation at hand. I need to advise you that your name is going into the NCIC database. This is standard procedure in cases like this, but don’t be alarmed.
ME: I’m very alarmed. I thought the attempted murder allegations were behind me. 
CONMAN: Before you come down, you need to provide a bond for the STA, which is a failure to appear, and one for the COC, contempt of court. The amount of each bond is $990. The money will be refunded when you appear. These bonds are required to guarantee your appearance. Do you own a mobile device?
ME: Yes.
CONMAN: Good. I need you to stay on the line throughout this procedure. It’s very tedious, but necessary, and will show your good faith to the court.
ME: I don’t have time for a tedious procedure. This has been tedious enough. Why don’t you just come out to the lobby?
CONMAN: What do you mean?
ME: I’m at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station right now.
CONMAN: SHIT!
<Hangs up>
I wasn’t at the Sheriff’s station, of course. I imagine there are some morons who fall for this…but it’s hard to believe considering that the perpetrators are so lame. Here’s the Sheriff’s alert about the scam

The Mail I Get: Booktweep Edition

I’ve been getting spammed with emails lately from an awful book promotion service called Booktweep.

We saw your book “The Pursuit: A Fox and O’Hare Novel” at Amazon. We would like to help you in the Promotional efforts of “The Pursuit: A Fox and O’Hare Novel” to boost the number of sales and ranking. We will act as an extra helping hand in marketing your book so that you can get more time to write your next one. You can check our website and discuss your promotion queries and your Book Sales target. For more info just visit our website and write to us. Our website is https://booktweep.com/product/signup/

So I took a look at the Booktweep website. It’s a mess. Basically, you pay them $14.99 a month and they will send out terrible twitter ads about your book.  Here are three examples of their work:

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CofRrqkVIAAjDhP

I sent the promotional visionaries at Booktweep this note:

Here’s some advice for you on your promotional efforts.

1. Research the authors you are contacting. If you had looked into me, you’d know that THE PURSUIT hit #1 on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists on its debut four weeks ago and that we don’t need your tweet help.

2. Hire someone familiar with the English language to write your twitter ads. The ads you are running now humiliate you and your clients.

3. Hire someone familiar with the English language to write your website. It’s embarrassing and unprofessional to have phrases like this as subject headings on your website:

Why to choose Booktweep?

How it works?

So, why to wait ?

(FYI, the correct phrasing is: Why choose Booktweep? and How does it work? and So why wait?)

In addition to those inept headings, you have phrases like this:

5.8 Millions Tweet Impressions

15.7 Thousands Profile visits of @Ebookjunction

Million and Thousand do not need to be plural. Someone familiar with English would know better.

I could go on and on. Why would anyone pay you to promote their work when you do such an awful, sloppy job?

A Horror in Horror

Open Casket Press

Book Editing Terror!

Author Stant Litore is warning horror writers to be wary of publisher/editor Anthony Giangregorio and his much-maligned Open Casket Press. Litore alleges that Griangregorio goes far beyond traditional book editing, massively rewriting manuscripts and then publishing the altered works without the consent of the authors. Griangregorio has been known to change the gender of characters and add rape scenes. This outrageously over-the-top editing and rewriting amounts to what Litore calls “a crime against intellectual property.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s certainly unprofessional, unethical and inept. Another blogger, Cussedness Corner, warns authors away from Giangregorio as well by offering a horrifying, line-by-line analysis of Open Casket’s terrible author contract.