Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Own Experience with Aspen Mountain Press

I am a published author of YA paranormal romances.  When I wrote a middle grade horror novel, I had no place to submit it.  It's an odd duck, really.  Besides the Goosebumps series, the well-known and beloved books by R.L. Stine, horror is not a genre generally associated in the middle grade level.  Then I stumbled upon Aspen Mountain Press.  I was thrilled when I learned they were about to launch a new imprint specifically for speculative fiction.  I queried and Celina Summers requested the full.  

On July 11, 2011 I received the exciting email from Celina that AMP wanted to publish my work, The Detention Demon, and if I accepted, the release date would be October 3, 2011.  I was invited to the author site, advised I would be assigned an editor and artist right away, and a contract was attached for me to read and sign.  I read it over, acknowledged in the author signature line and mailed it back.  I was going to be an AMP author under the Aura Speculative Fiction imprint.  I was excited and impressed with how professional it was moving forward.

On August 5, 2011, I received a group email from Celina Summers explaining there had been an "incompatibility" between the "planned direction" and the "business practices" between what we authors now refer to the Fab four, Celina Summers, Dominique Eastwick, Kerry Mand and Kelly Shorten, and the publisher, Sandra Hicks and they were resigning, en masse.  We did not know then what a nightmare that would mean for us now.

We have been enlightened.

Even as the publisher began to trot out all manner of excuse for her actions; depression, personal family problems, abandonment, you name it, the company, which had been left in perfect operating condition by the Fab Four, began a sickening slide to disaster and implosion....destruction from the inside out.  And slowly, we became more and more enlightened as Celina Summers, sickened by half-truths and out-and-out lies and bastardizations of the truth, finally broke her long-suffering silence.

Here is what we, the pawns, have learned:

We know now that company funds have been co-mingled with Sandra Hicks' personal funds, illegally.  We know that she has not issued statements or paid royalties for months on end, in some cases, several quarters worth, illegally.  We know that she is selling books on her website and third party websites that she has no right to and/or are out of contract, illegally.  We know that dozens of authors have requested, even demanded the rights back to one, two, seven, nine or more of their own intellectual property and have been ignored, illegally.  And finally, we know that she thinks she is the victim in all of this, even as she continues to victimize each and everyone of us, if not illegally, then at least immorally.

Of course, my book was never released.  The imprint, Aura Speculative Fiction, never launched.  Authors are actively having their OWN books removed from third party sites and one brave author, Charles Wells, even got AMAZON to comply, the mother of all sites.  He also got the AMP site shut down.  Which lasted for one hour.  Because amazingly, Sandra Hicks was able to shake her debilitating depression to rally enough strength to get the site running again in RECORD TIME FOR A PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY COMPROMISED PERSON.  Really, she is to be commended.  Hear, hear.

At the end of the day, Sandra Hicks is stealing from authors who now want nothing more to do with her or Aspen Mountain Press and likely rue the day they ever heard of the damn house.  If she has any sense at all, she will do the following, before she is arrested and handcuffed at her home for felony fraud:

  1. Release every single author who demands their rights back for every single book they requested.
  2. Pay CURRENT every single royalty she owes.
  3. Allow and PAY FOR an independent audit of the last 36 months of AMP's operations
  4. Take down every single title from every single 3rd party site within a PRESCRIBED period of time
  5. Sign a statement agreeing to NEVER be involved in the publishing industry EVER again.
Number Five is my personal favorite.  If that judge in Prescott, AZ can get his inmates to wear pink striped prison uniforms, then we should be able to get number five.  Thanks for listening.

Samantha Combs


  1. Oh wow! Were you able to get your rights back?

  2. I hope you get your rights back! And I'm glad you're speaking out.

  3. Brea, as of this evening, only one author has been given her rights back. And although she has her rights, her books are STILL being sold, illegally, on the AMP website. The fight continues.
    Thanks Bettielee. If we don't speak out, who will. We are the OCCUPY of the publishing world.

  4. The more people who have the guts to speak out the better protected authors will become.

    Good on you for speaking out.

  5. I'm terribly sorry to hear about the terrible way you and the other contracted authors of AMP have been treated. I can't imagine the agony and heartache this must have caused.

  6. Shirley, thank you for your support.
    Amaleen, I appreciate your kind words. It's been helpful to me and the other authors to know our fight is supported by other authors. At the end of the day, we did nothing wrong. This could happen to anyone and we all have to be extra careful. Thanks again for following my blog!

  7. Samantha, it is important that people stop whining/wringing of hands and take action. My husband's first book was published by Aspen last summer. Although we know of several friends who purchased his book, he has received no royalties nor any accounting. If you want to see Sandra Hicks "in handcuffs," you need to use our judicial system. I would suggest:

    1) I spoke with the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service (1-877-777-4778). They advise we go to the IRS web site at, download Form #3949A, fill it out and mail it to the IRS. Sandra Hick's using the Aspen business account for personal purchases is "co-mingling of accounts" and the IRS is interested in such activity.
    2) If I understand correctly, after I contacted the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office, suggesting they read the blog activity, it is their current position (after reading the blogs) that "they can see nothing of a prosecutorial nature". I find that that strange when the publisher is selling our books/withholding royalties and holding books hostage so they cannot be re-published elsewhere. If you feel you have something of a prosecutorial nature, call "Mason" at the D.A.'s office at 1-720-874-8500 and give him some AMMO.
    3) I called teh Colorado State Attorney General's Office (1-800-222-4444) and spoke with someone in their Consumer Complaint Department. The woman I spoke with said, "I recommend two things to you. First, if you can afford it, hire your own personal attorney to go after the publisher in court. Secondly, go to our web site at www.colorado.attorneygeneral/complaint, select "Private Business," fill out that form and we WILL look into the matter for you." WE ALL NEED TO DO THIS.
    4) I contacted the Denver Better Business Bureau who advised me that I and others affected by this publisher's actions should compose a snail mail letter to the BBB listing all the infractions and mail it to the BBB at 1020 Cherokee Street, Denver, CO 80204.

    Please do not be a victim. DO hire an attorney if you can afford it and use our legal system to get what is rightfully yours. Otherwise, please take the actions suggested above, or more. It's important ALL authors stand up and make yourself heard in this matter. Gadhafi is dead because there is POWER in numbers.