A Note From Ambient Heights | September 15, 2019

Hello, Ambient Heights community. This post is a detailed account of the hacking situation that has occurred. My hope is that this post will provide transparency, answers, and peace for the writing community. I will address several questions and concerns.

The first thing I would like to address is your involvement with the Ambient Heights community- your work will never be used against you. When you submit your work to Ambient Heights, the work remains your copyrighted property. When an anthology is published, each and every involved author is a co-author of the production; Ambient Heights is simply the publisher that produces the published copy of the book. Along with this, please know that you are the individuals that make Ambient Heights possible- without each and every one of you and your dream to write, there is no Ambient Heights. You all have become a family to me in a world that isn’t always so bright. I want to continue to build relationships within the writing community and I do not wish to let this event hinder this. At no point during the recovery of Ambient Heights did I intend to hurt anyone- however, things were not presented in a transparent manner and it is my hope that this post will clear up any confusion and serve as a fresh start for Ambient Heights.

New Email: teamahpublishing@gmail.com
New Instagram: ambientheightspublishing

1. What was hacked? Over the weekend, the Ambient Heights Instagram account was hacked and the account was removed from Instagram. As some of you know, Ambient Heights has not been as active as usual and I am afraid that the inactivity may have lead to the hacking of the account. After the hacking, I should have made another account and began the recovery process- but instead, I chose to jump the gun on several things that were not the appropriate way to go about the situation. I temporarily set the website to ‘private’ so that I could figure out what was going on. I deleted the email account associated with Ambient Heights- this was probably one of my biggest mistakes, because it took away the ability to contact Ambient Heights. I did this for two reasons… one being that stupidly enough, the Instagram and email account had the same password. Beyond this, the email address was a Google account and was connected to the Instagram account. I was afraid to take the risk of a co-authors work being compromised. While the hack could have been computer-made, I wanted to play it safe an ensure that the email address was not the next way in for a potential hacker. I deleted the email address/Google account, and looking back, I should not have done this at all or at least until I had sent out a mass email to everyone. So now, at this point, Ambient Heights was gone- no Instagram, no website, no email. Looking back, this was not a good thing. However, because I had never dealt with something like this before, I got scared and jumped the gun. To note, at no point were the website or email account compromised via hacking, only the Instagram.

2. Do you have a database with email addresses? Yes, I do. For those who have previously submitted their work through the submission form on the AH website, your email is stored with your submission on WordPress. I should have sent a mass email as soon as possible and I did not. I am now working on collecting the emails from individual submissions and will put them in a word document so that I am able to copy and paste them into a mass email whenever necessary. A mass email will still be sent to those who have an email on file.

3. What took you so long to post about the hacking? I should have been more punctual with the process of recovering Ambient Heights. I was not, and this was purely my fault. I was so angry on the initial day of the hack that I pretty much shut down emotionally- so again, why did I think it was okay to act on things (i.e. shutting down the email account/temporarily setting the website to private) when I was emotional? That was not professional of me or fair to any of you. Today (9/15/19), I set the website back to public and made a new email address/Instagram account. However, and as several of you have noted, this was done after an Instagram post was made from an Ambient Heights co-author. And yes, that does look suspicious to reinstate everything only after a post was made. How did I see the post? Why did I wait until I was called out? I saw the post because yes, my work is included in the previous anthology, and therefore, when my writing account was tagged in the post, I saw it. My writing account on IG is @mcshanewrites. You’ll see that this account isn’t following many people and has no posts. It was made at the same time as the Ambient Heights account so that I could have an outlet for my own writing- but I’ve never actually posted to it because I’ve pretty much relied on Ambient Heights for everything. While I’ve taken time to write, I’ve never started the process of regularly posting on that account. So, why did I wait until I was called out to take action? Honestly, I was just ready to give up earlier in the weekend. I was so upset by the hacking situation that I just ceased to communicate with any Ambient Heights people- and that was NOT okay. It never crossed my mind that I was in possession of the unpublished work of lots of individuals and I didn’t even stop to think about how upsetting it would be to realize some stranger has your work at their disposal and to have no idea what happened to them or what their intentions are (I’ll take a moment here to reiterate that Ambient Heights will NEVER take advantage of you or your work- that’s yours. As a writer, I would be devastated if my work was taken advantage of and there was nothing I could do about it). I can’t believe that I was stupid enough to not even consider that factor of the equation. Ambient Heights is not just Ambient Heights- it’s all of us. And I am going to take strides to be better at acknowledging that. When I saw that people were actually affected by the situation, I knew it was time to reach out to the community. Will my actions come too late for some people? Yes. And that’s on me.

4. What happened to the submissions? If you submitted your work through the submission form on this website, then your work is safe. I have it on the WordPress database.

5. Where does the profit from anthologies go? I’m an idiot for not discussing this topic before the first anthology was even published. I set the paperback price on Amazon at $5.99 (USD). After printing, I receive $0.66 in royalties/profit per copy sold. For the first anthology, I used the profits to pay for the registration of the ambientheights.com domain and site hosting fee (about $60). I’m hoping to start donating profits to charities chosen by the Ambient Heights community. I think it’ll be a fun way for the community to connect and also, I don’t find it fair that one person keeps the profit when 50+ people are working to make an anthology possible and when it’s free to publish the book via Kindle Direct Publishing.

6. Why was the anthology still available for purchase during the hacking situation? The anthology is available and published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. I used my personal Amazon account for this, and thus it is connected to my personal email and was not affected during the hack. I realize now that this might have looked suspicious and I apologize for this.

7. What does the future of Ambient Heights look like?
Right now, it looks like healing. It isn’t going to be easy to come back from this on a multitude of levels- but again, that’s on me. I should have been more proactive about the situation and I wasn’t. I can’t apologize enough for this- it was never my intention to hurt anyone, but I have, and I am so sincerely sorry for that. I want to make this right. This starts and ends with me- I need to step up my communication, posting, effort, and a thousand other things, too. I need to start treating Ambient Heights with as much reverence as the rest of you do. Ambient Heights will remain a community for writers and it will grow as a community as well. I am going to start focusing more on featuring authors. I overwhelmed myself with the concept of anthologies and I have overlooked other important aspects of Ambient Heights. Change starts today.

8. What does the future of Misplaced Devotion: Works About Love look like? Another apology from me needs to be addressed here. I am extremely behind on this anthology and that is not fair to the rest of you. I was so excited about the first anthology that I didn’t stop to think about giving myself time between publishing it and starting the next anthology. This was my first mistake. My second mistake was not making a post about submission updates being delayed due to having a family member in the hospital sooner. While I took time to be with that family member, I easily could have taken five minutes to make a post on Instagram and didn’t until a couple of days after I should have. Again, this is on me and I am so sorry. I am still working to catch up on submissions, but we will make this anthology happen if everyone still wants it to happen. If you already submitted your work for this anthology and no longer want it to be published or considered for publication, please let me know via email. I completely understand.

I will add more to this post as I think of it. Friends, I am so sorry for all of this. As I said, it was never my intention to hurt anyone or have this situation be approached in a way that was not professional. Unfortunately, both of those things can happen. It is up to Ambient Heights to pursue action and make things right. Please accept my sincerest apologies for everything- I considered myself before the rest of the Ambient Heights community in all of this and that was so very wrong of me. You are each the reason Ambient Heights is able to exist- and I need to start acting like that. Starting now, Ambient Heights is going to be about action. Acting upon a regular posting schedule, feature schedule, organized submission updates, and general transparency. I am here to serve the writing community, and I never want my mistakes to take that away from anyone. I understand that trust is not always something that can be restored easily- and I will work as hard as I can to build trust among this community again. I do not ever want to have a member of this community fear for the safety of their cherished work. Your work will always remain yours and I never want someone to feel less than what they are worth because of something that wasn’t their fault.

Ambient Heights will strive to be a better community. I hope that this post can provide clarity for the situation that occurred this weekend and I promise to never handle a situation with poor communication and rash decisions again.

Many thanks,
AH

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