Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

There's Bad Rendering, and There's Atrocity

14 January 2015

So, having admittedly not gotten the memo about transparent PNG graphics on Kindles, I tossed a transparent PNG into my Scrivener project.
And compiled for Kindle, which meant massaging the whole thing through Kindlegen.
Et voila.
What. The Actual. Fuck.
Compare with the PNG I added to the project:
I can kind of see what it’s doing: it’s creating a non-transparent background out of the nearest adjacent colors.

Transparent GIF: Also Nope

I thought, “Haha, well, there’s always GIF, right?”
Nope. Transparent GIF renders with a black background. Which, since I read with a black background, I thought I’d won the internet at first. Then I switched to a white background. Oops.

So What Are Your Options, Then?

JPEG, which has no transparent background, is probably your best bet if you want to stick with images. Generally, a JPEG file will be smaller than a PNG anyway.
Catch is, most e-reader apps offer: white background, black background, and some ivory background. There is no standardization, however. One app’s white may not be another’s.
So my recommendation for that would be to look at using a background color that permits high contrast (for the non-color e-ink devices) but still looks good on white, black, and sepia. A pale warm grey, for example.
Your other option is not to use an image at all for Kindles.

But If I Don’t Use an Image on Kindles….

Yes, that’s exactly right. Your compile process will be more complicated.
So let’s look at the workaround for, say, an image title on the book’s title page.

  1. Duplicate your front matter folder (or document; some people put most of the typical front matter at the back).
  2. Edit the Title so that the non-Kindle version uses an image. (Yes, you could also make a different image for Kindle, that works too.)

EPUB Title Page


Kindle Title Page


Compilation Step

For Kindle, select the Kindle frontmatter folder:
And for EPUB, the EPUB frontmatter folder:


In an ideal world, you’d have a backmatter folder for each different market, too, but I’ll go into that at a later time.

One More Tip

If you keep the names of certain files the same across multiple projects, e.g., your interior title pics always have the same filenames, then you can save those compile settings once and use them across multiple projects.
Not so complicated after all, right?

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[Admin] Still Haven't Fixed Comment Notification Issue

14 January 2015

[![Ice Flowers](/images/2015/01/FDE-IceFlowers-700-700x525.jpg)](/images/2015/01/FDE-IceFlowers-700.jpg)Ice Flowers, by [Thom Bouman](

Just a note that I’m still looking into the comment notification issue and it’s still not fixed. (I’ve not been receiving blog-related emails for 10 days.)
Here’s what I’ve done so far: 1. Dumped my old Bayesian database and re-set my spam settings so no non-RBLed accounts are getting filtered out.

  1. Verified that my domain’s host is not on an RBL list. (That has happened before, quite annoying!)
  2. Added the WordPress sender email address to my domain’s email accounts. If you need to change the default WordPress sender, here’s a plugin for that. Amazing that it’s not otherwise configurable!

My guess is that, due to a change in my email provider’s policies, it’s getting caught as an invalid IP address for sending mail for that domain. So I’m digging into that next.

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Ellora's Cave: The Gulf Between Doubt and Belief

13 January 2015

@ataglanceRMC found a blog post that I’d responded to in a drive-by three months ago, and I’d missed Jaid Black’s response to me until today.
I want to respond to part of her response here, though. Here’s the blog post.
Here’s part of my comment:

One point: others have said that their Amazon sales were NOT declining during the same period when EC’s Amazon sales were. Examples: posts 417, 418, and 420 from this thread:

And here’s part of Jaid’s response:

Deirdre, my impression of you is that of a person who deeply cares about her fellow authors. For that reason I respect you despite the fact you believe I’m guilty of doing pretty heinous things. You have good intentions, but then you know what they say about those…

For context, I was referencing this August 2014 letter from Ellora’s Cave CEO Patty Marks, excerpt:

You are probably aware of the quick, sharp decline of ebook sales via Amazon in recent months. EC is not the only publisher experiencing this sudden decrease, and interestingly, we are not seeing the same drastic dip from other vendors. But Amazon is our largest vendor, so we are having to make some fairly large changes quickly to deal with the situation until we can understand it and turn it around.

There’s a Difference Between Doubt and Belief

Essentially, what I was saying was this: Other people’s commentary about their experiences has given me reason to doubt EC’s statement.
Does it mean it’s not true? No, it does not.
Does it say anything about what I believe about anyone personally? No.
Because, you see, I’m a creature of doubt, not of belief. I find it farfetched to think I have any opinion about who Jaid is based on my point about Amazon. (There was another point about tax liens, but even the worst interpretation of that wouldn’t earn heinous as an adjective in my book.)
Had anyone asked, I could have thrown quite a few hypotheticals against the wall about how the Amazon situation could be true. Just for sport, here are a few speculations, off the top of my head:

  1. EC titles got caught in adult filtering changes that more adversely affected them compared to other publishers and indies referenced in that and other threads.
  2. EC’s contract terms with Amazon are less favorable to Amazon, so other results are filtered higher to make Amazon more profit.
  3. EC’s fulfillment has been a problem (as was alleged in the Borders lawsuit), thus Amazon has filtered other publishers higher.
  4. People who buy EC titles aren’t buying as many non-EC titles, so are less well-connected via “people who bought this also bought” results used for upsells, and the algorithm for calculating these changed in a way that was less favorable to EC.

None of those would mean I’d feel that Jaid Black was doing heinous things.

The Thing I Least Understand

Out of every single thing that has been said by EC that’s relevant to this whole legal case, here’s the statement that I least understand (emphasis mine, text also from the August Patty Marks letter quoted above):

It is also important to support and promote Barnes & Noble and All Romance Ebooks as well until we are able to determine the reasons for Amazon’s declining sales. Hopefully we will be able to work with Amazon to correct the inconsistencies quickly.

I’m a software engineer and a researcher. My entire career has revolved around analyzing problems and fixing potential future problems. Therefore, I just absolutely can’t understand why this hadn’t already been discovered and known.

Jaid Also Asked

Have you ever considered that you might be wrong, though?

It’s a fair question.
I’m one of those people who’s far more comfortable with many open questions than most people. On the Myers-Briggs types, Js like things planned out. Ps like things open. I’m 99% P. I like open questions.
The answer is: I question myself all the time. Since I hadn’t reached any conclusions about the truth in the EC matter, it’s hard to actually be wrong.
I tend to be very direct, and I’m not a person who means a lot above and beyond what I actually say. I was not, for example, implying that EC’s statement was a knowingly false statement. Or even a false statement.
More like: here’s a string sticking out, I think it leads to interesting questions.
My general feeling about Jaid is that she’s deeply motivated to make things work out given her background, and she’s not the kind of person to give up. These are admirable qualities, generally speaking, but (as every fiction writer knows) one’s strengths in one context can be one’s greatest weakness in another.

But No, Not Heinous

That would be Marion Zimmer Bradley.

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My New Creative Market Shop

13 January 2015

My first product in my Creative Market Shop
I’m a huge fan of Creative Market. When I started to have items I wanted to sell, I applied for a shop there. I’ve been on a waiting list for a Creative Market shop for a really long time. Probably at least 8 months.
My first product is ready, too!
Last week, I got word that it was finally ready, which meant getting a ton of things done:

  1. Setting up e-commerce on
  2. Setting up a separate email list for Which I may have forgotten to complete. Ah well.
  3. Removing some of the suck from (you guessed it).
  4. Creating a header for my Creative Market site. (Shown below.)
  5. Fixing up a product that I’d thrown up on Gumroad a few months ago (and only two people looked at it, ever).

I’ve been working on everything I needed to do for several days, including re-tweaking the CSS on the site and re-generating all the image thumbnails until I was happy with them, and changing the site from the girly pink to a less girly mint—which has the added benefit of receding into the background, as cool colors are wont to do.
Here’s the facebook edition of my new shop header. Bibi is not my cat, but I’m glad that the virtual office mockup included a kitty. Mine would never pose like that!
It covers a bit of what I did last year:

  1. Poster (etc.) I did that’s on redbubble.
  2. Bora Bora photo from a year ago.
  3. One of my funny holiday cards.
  4. And a photo I sent out to my email list but haven’t otherwise shown publicly. Thank you to the 42.5% of you who saw it.

If you’re inclined to like facebook pages, here’s the link.
My Creative Market shop is here.

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Sorry for Missing Some Comments (and Maybe Messages)

08 January 2015

[![Ice Flowers](/images/2015/01/FDE-IceFlowers-700-700x525.jpg)](/images/2015/01/FDE-IceFlowers-700.jpg)Ice Flowers, by [Thom Bouman](

Sorry I haven’t responded to some comments for the last four days. When I’ve been on my iPad, I’ve seen the notifications, and responded then.
As for the rest….
Four days ago (I can narrow it down to an hour-long span, actually), I fat-fingered marking an email message and accidentally reported an email from my own website as spam. Even though I quickly hit undo, I’ve learned from experience that “undo” on marking something spam does not actually remove it from the Bayesian spam algorithm. Not on, anyway.
I’ve got my settings set as aggressive, meaning: > Known insecure email hosts/relays are always blocked (xbl)

Possible spam is placed in your ‘Junk Mail’ folder
Extremely probable spam is discarded without you seeing it
Email from people in your address book is definite not spam

None of those comment notifications appeared in my Junk Mail folder, so therefore:

  1. I’d failed to mark the address sending mail from WordPress as not spam by adding it to my contact list. Oops! (Now fixed.)
  2. Further messages were marked as “Extremely probable spam” and hence silently discarded.

One of my comment management strategies I’ve used is to auto-flag incoming comments, then delete the flag when I’ve replied (or determined that no reply was necessary). So, failing that….
Lesson learned, time to go actually look at the comment queue.

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Ellora's Cave: Current Status Email

07 January 2015

From the eternaltubthumper rolling my eyes:
1) All past and present freelance editors and artists have been paid in full.
2) Many of you received 2 royalty checks in December; More of you will receive 2 royalty checks in January & February.
3) The accounting department will continue to focus on getting the new royalty system online by the end of February and processing royalties on the old system while paralleling them against the reports of the new system to insure all software bugs have been fixed. At some point in the next couple of months expect to receive 2 different royalty statements so you can compare the old way to the new way and make a smooth transition with it.
4) Nothing has changed at Amazon, though more publishers and authors are finally becoming vocal about how Amazon’s business practices are affecting them. Here’s a recent article; note the parallels between what others are reporting and what we’ve been saying all along:
5) Elisabeth has reacquired 2 of our former freelance editors who remained on positive, professional terms with us and we’re excited to have them back. Also, Susan Edwards is now editing full-time for us, which is excellent for our authors and thereby EC. (FYI: contrary to rumors Susan never left EC; She simply decided she wanted to edit instead.)
6) We still have a few tough business decisions to make, but overall 2015 is going to be a solid year.

My Commentary

Let’s take them one at a time.

  1. If I’m reading this right, Tina’s admitting that, as of the time of the lawsuit, the freelance editors and artists were not paid, and have not been until just recently.

    Hey, @pubnt, what is your explanation of why EC editors and artists were not paid for months at the time of the DA article? #notchilled

    — At a Glance Romance (@ataglanceRMC) December 18, 2014

    @ataglanceRMC @pubnt this is a lie, period.

    — Jaid Black (@jaidblack) December 23, 2014

    And yet, at least one of the checks was reportedly dated Christmas Eve. The day after that tweet. The ones I’ve heard of arriving all were postmarked after Christmas.

  2. Several authors have reported receiving checks for July and fewer still for August. One reported receiving June and August, but no July. Some have had no report (or check) for months.
  3. So EC’s still using the “old” accounting system? After more than a year? Right.
    If it’s still that fucked up, why sue Dear Author/Jane Litte instead of the software vendor?
    I remain unconvinced that there ever was a new accounting/royalty system.
  4. “Nothing has changed at Amazon.” And then links to an article about how indie authors are affected by Kindle Unlimited—which has exactly zero to do with what happened before Kindle Unlimited came into effect? That article’s about stuff that happened after DA’s post, not before. H. M. Ward’s post was at the end of November about the prior 60 days.
    Let’s put it this way: H. M. Ward, all by her lonesome, has sold six million books in three years. I’m a huge fan of her work. It is my crack.
    My point here is that Holly’s revenue from said six million books puts her in EC’s ballpark, sales-figure-wise.
  5. “positive, professional terms with us” I’m guessing that means they didn’t complain when they weren’t paid.
    On Susan. Well. It wasn’t a “rumor.” Susan Edwards’s LinkedIn page still says she’s freelance. Ellora’s Cave’s Leadership and Staff page doesn’t list her. EC’s Editors and Artists page doesn’t list her.. In theory, those sites are self-reported and authoritative for both parties in question.
    Sounds more like a rumor that Susan is working at EC.
  6. Only a few?
    I have a suggestion. The only lawsuit that makes any business sense is the accounting/royalty system vendor. Everything else is a distraction.

    Pay to settle the DA suit and move on.

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Explaining Some Hardware Whinging—I Love My MacBook Air

07 January 2015

Apple Store Stairs-colorefex-700
First, I want to say this: though I worked at Apple to September 2013, I have no actual knowledge of Apple’s future hardware plans. So, on the off chance that I happened to sign an NDA relating to the device I’m commenting about, I honestly didn’t know that that was the case. I believe every hardware NDA I signed was for a product that’s already shipped.
9to5mac posted this mockup of a purported future 12″ MacBook Air.
In short, I hated it.
In 2013, I switched from a 15″ MacBook Pro—I’d had several over the years—to a 13″ MacBook Air. I did it after Rick made the same move, and for the same reason: believe it or not, it’s actually faster on day-to-day activities, despite the slower CPU.
It’s also cheaper.
So what’s in the new report that I hate so much?

  • No Thunderbolt. I rely on Thunderbolt RAID for backup. That RAID array is Thunderbolt only. I also rely in an external 2TB hard drive I use just for graphics library (and Aperture) storage.
    Look, I love Thunderbolt. I’ve invested heavily in it. If Apple’s dumping it on my preferred laptop model three years in, I’m pissed.
    I don’t use Thunderbolt for displays, and I understand USB-C can drive displays. Thunderbolt is still a better, faster technology. By all means, replace the existing USB connectors with USB-C. That makes sense.
  • No MagSafe Connector. It’s proposing to use power through a single USB connector. John Gruber talks about why that’s a mistake.

    As enumerated earlier, I have numerous questions regarding Mark Gurman’s report that the upcoming next-generation MacBook Air does away with all ports other than two: a USB Type-C and a headphone jack.
    But one that I keep thinking about is MagSafe. I can definitely see getting rid of classic USB — it’s old and thick. Thunderbolt, sort of. But MagSafe? When Apple announced MagSafe back in 2006, I knew they were solving a real problem, not an imaginary marketing problem. Tripping over power cables and yanking laptops off tables and onto floors was a real issue. I had an iBook way back when that ultimately died after one such incident too many. If anything, Apple has made MagSafe 2 even easier to pull apart, not harder. Switching to USB Type-C seems like it would take us all the way back to days when tripping over the charging cable would take your laptop along for the ride.

  • Keyboard squeeze. I don’t think I’ll like this. If anything, the 13″‘s keyboard is already too narrow.
  • Elimination of physical key feedback. That’s a big nope from me. If that’s the way Apple’s headed for all keyboards, I’m going to have to look to Microsoft as my preferred keyboard vendor. That’s a painful thing to say.
  • Elimination of the SD Card slot. I love that I don’t have to keep track of some small doodad, and I can just pack my laptop, my cameras, my iPad/Phone, a power cord and a lightning cable when I travel. It’s one more thing I have to track, and I’d really miss this.

In short, this looks like a light-use computer for people who either a) don’t use computers or b) use another computer as their primary computer. I’m one of those people who uses a MacBook Air as my sole computer, and that’s the way I’d like to keep it.

So Why Not Go to a 13″ MacBook Pro?

13″ MacBook Air tricked out with 8G (max) memory and 512G (max) Flash & 1.7 GHz CPU: $1,749 (before other things like AppleCare and any accessories).
Here’s the thing: a 13″ MacBook Pro does not have the same amount of area on the screen. So, in order to get the same effective 1440×900 resolution, I’d have to go back to a 15″ MBP. Further, I can’t go with an 8GB and have the same effective memory because retina uses more memory.
15″ MacBook Pro with 16G (only) memory, 512G (min) Flash & 2.5 GHz (min) CPU: $2,499. I could argue that, for a true replacement, it’d also have to bump up another $500 for the 1TB flash because, again, the retina machine will use more memory for things like swap, so the real price is $2,999.
Twelve hundred bucks is a lot of difference for better external drive support and a better power cable.
Update: more thoughts in this post.
Photo credit: Rick Moen.

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Ellora's Cave: Remand to State Court Denied

07 January 2015

Not a surprise that Ellora’s Cave lost their motion, but I was hoping for more of a judicial smackdown.
Since it’s been two months, here’s the summary. After Ellora’s Cave/Jasmine Jade filed against Dear Author/Jane Litte in Ohio state court (EC/JJ being in Ohio; DA/JL in Iowa), defense filed to remove the case to federal court. EC/JJ filed a remand motion at the end October, and it’s just been ruled upon today.
Five-page ruling here. I’ve also updated the copy of the federal court documents I have on Dropbox.

What’s Next?

The Case Management Conference Scheduling Order specifies that Plaintiffs must make a settlement demand two weeks prior, and Defendants must make an offer one week later.

At least fourteen (14) days prior to meeting with the Court, Plaintiff(s) shall have made a demand with a written description and monetary breakdown of the damages claimed, and no later than seven (7) days thereafter, Defendant(s) shall have responded with an offer. This is to be included in the Parties’ Planning Meeting Report.

Obviously, I don’t expect this to result in an actual settlement unless EC/JJ folds.

Then the Case Management Conference

Main discovery is stayed until after the Case Management Conference on January 26th.
That’s not a meeting that’s public, but this particular judge has very specific instructions for the CMC. From the CMC Scheduling Order:

Lead counsel, parties with full settlement authority, and a representative with full settlement authority of any Insurance Carrier must be present and have calendars available for scheduling.

From his Judicial Preferences Page:

Judge Adams is of the view that the Case Management Conference is of extraordinary importance. He expects counsel to be prepared with the factual predicate from the standpoint of counsel’s client. Judge Adams expects the client to be present; where the client is a corporate entity, he expects a person to be present who has the greatest knowledge of the relevant facts. This is probably NOT in-house counsel. Judge Adams tailors the Case Management Plan based on the information supplied at the CMC by counsel and parties.

Given those two quoted paragraphs, I can’t see how both Tina Engler (as settlement authority based on her majority ownership and the subject of one of the claims) and Patricia Marks (as EC’s CEO of record) can avoid being there. Also, obviously, Jane Litte needs to be there.

How’s This for Irony?

Hat tip to tejasjulia.
Ellora's Cave Advertising on Dear Author
Lest you think this is old, the blog post is dated January 3, 2015.
What does this mean?

  1. EC has been recently advertising through Google.
  2. At least one of those ads was served to Dear Author, who makes ad revenue from Google ads.
  3. So, indirectly, Ellora’s Cave is paying Dear Author.

Note: I’ll link to Courtney Milan’s promised post about the remand decision once it’s up.

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WordPress Stats, Yo

04 January 2015

2014 WordPress Jetpack Report
I’m sharing my WordPress annual report.
tl;dr version:

  1. Almost 1/4 million views.
  2. Over 23,000 in a single day, the day after I posted the Marion Zimmer Bradley story. Several weeks before The Guardian article, btw.
  3. 4 of the top 5 stories were related to MZB; the fifth’s related to Ellora’s Cave.

Fascinating that the post about supporting authors who have non-EC works is more popular than all my other posts about Ellora’s Cave—by a wide margin.

Best Move I Made This Year

My blog would not have survived the most popular day (nor several other popular days) without the excellent services of my hosting provider, WP Engine. They’re not cheap but you get:

  1. A staging area so you have a place to test and goof up. And wipe in a moment if you want to (or need to).
  2. Automagic daily backups, and easy-to-create other backups at will.
  3. When I had a security issue (my site was defaced after I visited a site with a malicious script), they copied over my site to a third staging area and had a security team look at it. My site was able to be immediately restored, and I had peace of mind knowing my site itself didn’t have security issues.
  4. Note that my number of visitors, divided by twelve, almost exactly fits into the personal plan at WP Engine. Almost. The post-May stats were a lot higher than the first half of the year. Most months, I have an overage of a few dollars.

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Bye 2014, Hello 2015!

31 December 2014

This song played on iTunes this morning, and I think it’s awesome for today:

My Thoughts on Welcoming 2015: Go for Memorable

I’m just going to glarp this 2012 blog post, “Going for Memorable,” and post it below.
Kate showed me this video of an an audition.
Not just any audition. One where a comedian with a character as a geek gamer crashes a music video dance audition and acts like a goofball (and specifically asks for a rules exception). Despite no formal dance training (but impressive dance skill despite that), he gets the gig.
It’s about rules, about expertise, about genius, about knowing when to throw away something perfectly usable and go for memorable instead.
There are a lot of solid, good dancers in the audition. No question. One comment, though. When people ask what reading slush is like, I point to the guy who does a solo right before Keith at around 47 seconds in. Imperfect execution, some solid grasp of concepts, but not able to stand out from the crowd.
For both of these, may be NSFW due to adult themes, but worth watching when you can.


And the resulting video, clearly re-written to take advantage of their new dancer…..

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