Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

More Thoughts on SFWA Bulletin 200 Cover Controversy

15 October 2014

[![Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.

Last week, I had an “aha!” moment, finally understanding what Mike Resnick was going on about. I wrote about the cover controversy earlier this year, complete with sample covers from the genre he was complaining about.
Here’s what Resnick said (click for pic of text, quoted below)> And a lot of it abounded in bare, raw, pulsating flesh, totally naked from the neck to the navel. No question about it. It’s there for anyone to see—and of course, since such displays seem to offend some of our members, to picket.

You know where I found it?
In the romance section. I’d say that just about every other cover shows a man’s bare torso, lean and muscular, usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. Clearly these are erotic covers, designed to get a certain readership’s pulse pounding.

I’ve admitted that I haven’t spent a lot of time paying attention to Ellora’s Cave (link is to my posts on same), an erotic romance publisher, until recently.
When I was writing this post about their annual convention, something clicked.
Let’s look at their little video for BEA 2013:

Quite a different feel from the gardening book publishers, no?
Anyhow, it struck me:
Mike Resnick was trying to use a false equivalency between a professional industry publication and an erotic romance publisher’s book covers.
What’s particularly egregious about that, of course, is that Mike’s daughter, Laura Resnick, is a romance writer. You’d think he’d have seen her own book covers and know his statements were FoS.

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Two Other Unusual Apple Medical Benefits

14 October 2014

I’ve been hearing about the freezing eggs benefit, which has made the news, but I’ve never heard news break about the Stanford Health Navigator benefit that Apple offers.

  • Worldwide
  • To its employees
  • For immediate family
  • Even if they’re not covered by Apple insurance

Medical Referral Anywhere in the World

Need some edge case treatment not available locally? Want to go for some treatment elsewhere?
They’ll refer you.

Navigators can also assist with scheduling appointments and coordinating specialist visits at Stanford Hospitals and Clinics and its affiliated network of leading healthcare institutions around the world, including the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General, and select institutions in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Medical Librarian Research

Want research on a medical topic to make better decisions or take it to your doctor? Give them a call and they’ll prep it for you.

No request is too large for our staff to address or too small for you to mention. Whatever you need, we will respond as quickly as we can. We are committed to providing you with the highest quality customer service.

NVIDIA also has the same program. (There were several corporations that donated big bucks to Stanford, I believe 6 corporations in all.)

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Virtual Visit to Ellora's Cave Convention: Romanticon

13 October 2014

[![Ellora's Cave Party Bus. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/BzgxZu3IUAAtGCg.jpg-large-700x393.jpeg)](/images/2014/10/BzgxZu3IUAAtGCg.jpg-large.jpeg)Ellora’s Cave Party Bus. Photo by Cait Miller.

Single-publisher conventions are fairly rare, but not unheard of. Ellora’s cave has had one, EC Romanticon, for several years. How many? According to this 2011 scrape of the ecromanticon.com site by archive.org, the 2011 convention was the third annual convention, so 2009 would have been the first. (The earlier conventions may not have been on a separate domain; the scrape I linked to is the first scrape by archive.org.)
What is Romanticon, you ask?
Well, I have a 2013 promo video for you. Ready?

So, there you go. The video very much focuses on the Ellora’s Cavemen, and a bit on the convention goers, but not at all on Ellora’s Cave writers. ## Let’s Talk a Bit About Convention Funding

I’ve got a lot of experience with fan-run science fiction and fantasy conventions, mostly with conventions significantly larger than Romanticon.
Romanticon runs a single track of programming. I’ve seen small conventions run this way, but I’ve also seen large ones (World Domination Summit is single track and around 3,000 people). It’s my understanding that Romanticon brings in around 400 300 (source: Glamour) people. Their venue’s grand ballroom seats a maximum of 500 people in banquet layout.
Registration ran $325; authors got a $25 discount. For sf/f con fans, that seems impossibly high (as most sf/f conventions are < $100), but it’s less than RT ($489)…on several levels. It’s more $ than most other romance conventions that aren’t writer-focused, though. (Writer-focused conventions will typically fly in agents and editors, and that adds up.)
Friday and Saturday night there are dinners, so that’s a good chunk of the registration cost.
For sf/f cons, the only people typically paid in any way are the guests of honor, where memberships are typically comped and hotel rooms are covered. Memberships for speakers may or may not be covered, or if covered they may be at a discount rate. For most GoHs, there aren’t any honoraria payments.
Functionally, the Cavemen are the guests of honor. One of the weekend events is picking the Alpha Caveman for the year, so Cavemen have a slot where they feature what they’re known for.

The Events

Let’s look at the events list:

Events for Non-Writer Attendees

  • Bad Girls of Romance Karaoke Party
  • Line Dancing with Taylor
  • TwerkShop (Cleveland Exotic Dance)
  • Fantasy Cavemen Cover Shoot (pose with a caveman as though you were on a cover) Note: this event’s open to the public
  • Jaided Ladies Erotica Lounge (author readings, 2 sessions)
  • Women’s Path to Pleasure
  • Bling Your Badge
  • Genius Geeks versus Bad Boys
  • Screaming Orgasm—More Than Just a Drink
  • Hoedown/Throwdown Party
  • Kickin’ It with Caveman Kimo
  • Lap Dance Lessons
  • Dirty Quotes by the Dirty Dozen
  • Beyond Vampires & Werewolves: Madlibs
  • Beefcake Bonanza
  • Golden Ankh Awards Party
  • Bookfair and SEXpo Note: this event’s open to the public
  • Pizza, Pajama & Bingo Party

Events for Writers (other than the panelists)

  • Pow Wow with Patty—which was scheduled for Thursday afternoon (!).
  • #1k1hr Writing Sprint (2 sessions)
  • Jaided Ladies Erotica Lounge (author readings, 2 sessions)
  • Publisher’s Parlor (2 sessions)
  • Writer Organization and Optimization
  • Sexy Writing 101
  • Dirty Quotes by the Dirty Dozen
  • How to Use Scrivener
  • Writing Situations
  • How to Research Erotic Romance, with or without the Flogging
  • Golden Ankh Awards Party
  • Bookfair and SEXpo (if published with EC)
  • Not on the events list: Pitch sessions

As someone who’s scheduled speakers for numerous conventions: I note that Laurann Dohner is an attending author, but she is on exactly zero of the other events. A few years ago, Laurann signed a 75-book deal with EC, and she’s apparently EC’s best-selling author.
All I’ve got to say is: there’s a story there. I don’t know what it is. Last year, she was on a presentation:

Love to Love You, Baby: Sexy Songs and Steamy Scenes (Samantha Kane, Mari Freeman, Kristin Daniels, Mari Carr, Cait Miller, Laurann Dohner, JK Coi, Jayne Rylon, Desiree Holt): Which songs inspire all those super steamy love scenes in your favorite books? Time to find out. Match the song to the author, then match the scene to the book, and walk away with a prize! And maybe a new appreciation for heavy bass, driving drumbeats and sensual horn sections. 😉

(Added note: the reason is explained in comments, and don’t I feel like a heel for lampshading it. I wish you the best, Laurann.)

How Many Authors Came?

Year # Authors Coming
2011 (not listed)
2012 (not listed, but I’ve been told it was 88)
2013 84 (list)
2014 37 (Aug 11 archive)
2014 38 (live site, not archive)

So, it doesn’t appear that Ellora’s Cave’s claim in its lawsuit that authors were scared off by Dear Author’s post is defensible. Instead of numbers going down between August 11 and the convention in October, the number of authors actually increased. The August 11 capture a week before the announcement of changes at Ellora’s Cave, so any changes in author loyalty would have been after then.
If anyone has names or numbers of authors for 2011 or 2012, I’d love a comment or email. Thank you!

About that Pow-Wow with Patty

Do any EC authors know what happened at the afternoon “Pow Wow with Patty” at #RCon14? I can’t find a peep. #notchilled

— Karen Booth (@karenbbooth) October 10, 2014

@karenbbooth I wonder if they had to sign non disclosure agreements. No video, audio etc.

— Mermaid Sharon (@Mojitana) October 10, 2014

Most probably didn’t know about it, since they moved it from Saturday to today during registration, when many weren’t there… @karenbbooth

— Carrie (@carriejeditor) October 10, 2014

http://t.co/GjKkj8g6k0: originally scheduled on Sat. from 3-3:50, NOT Thurs during registration. @karenbbooth #notchilled

— Carrie (@carriejeditor) October 10, 2014

So seriously, there’s no news being reported from Romanticon at all? Nada? There must be something….

— Karen Stivali (@karenstivali) October 10, 2014

@karenstivali The news is that there is no news. #RCon14 tag is a ghost town. Patty Marks talk was hastily rescheduled to today. *shrug*

— Mermaid Sharon (@Mojitana) October 10, 2014

I got nothing.

This Post Is Useless Without Pics

Well. Since you asked….
Linedancing. Looks like a snooze-fest numbers-wise. Feel sad for the Caveman on duty.

[![Romanticon Line Dancing. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/Bzl4zfcCQAAeZoT.jpg)](/images/2014/10/Bzl4zfcCQAAeZoT.jpg)Romanticon Line Dancing. Photo by Cait Miller.

Cait Miller tweeted a pic with lots of Cavemen:

[![Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.

Anna Alexander tweeted a pic of the banquet table prior to the Hoedown/Throwdown. Here’s a color corrected version:
color-corrected-banquet
Kathy Kulig tweets a nice pic of herself with Caveman DeAngelo (the reigning Alpha Caveman):
Kathy and Caveman DeAngelo
The Lap Dance class was more popular, as Kathy Kulig tweets. No laps were present, apparently.
Romanticon Lap Dance Class
Kathy also tweets a pic of formal (Saturday) night. Guess dress code is different for the men.
BzswPyiCIAAwM4U
Anna points out that yes, the dress code is really different….
BztISNaIcAA_5fr
Better pic from Jocelyn Dex:
BzxdmdyIMAA2o5W
Awards were given out:
BztQp3CIgAA5H_g
Three ladies managed to get stuck in an elevator with Caveman Sinjyn:
BzunejlIYAAGoyl
A short written review by Diana Hunter.
Saved the best for last: Caveman Cisco instagrammed a photo from a photo shoot he did while in Akron:

[![Caveman Cisco. Photo by Eric Battershell.](/images/2014/10/10729432_804581416267352_7111239_n-1.jpg)](/images/2014/10/10729432_804581416267352_7111239_n-1.jpg)Caveman Cisco. Photo by Eric Battershell.

So…About Next Year

I’ll just leave this tweet right here.

#RCon14 nearly over. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

— Mr Laurann (@MrLaurann) October 13, 2014

Then I’m going to invoke Courtney Milan’s piece, “Why is Tina Engler economically irrational? #notchilled” and talk about the convention thing for a minute.
There’s an old economics saying: a business’s primary economizing problem is money; a person’s primary economizing problem is time. (You may argue with me on the second one, but this is the opinion of people with money, so there’s that.)
Both money (given Amazon downturn in sales and recent staff layoffs mentioned in their August letter) and time (smaller staff, thus less time to give) are in shorter supply at Ellora’s Cave of late by their own reports.
First, if there are multi-year agreements to run the convention, it may cost more to cancel them than to hold them. This is something that needs to be closely looked at to see if it’s viable. One thing’s for sure, though: canceling earlier rather than later is typically less expensive. That offers the hotel more time to sell the space, and that’s often something that reduces cancelation costs.
Second, there are book sales, and outside of larger conventions like RT, it’s the single largest gathering of EC authors. Also, there’s a high author-to-member ratio.
Third, it’s a really different kind of convention, and there’s no close substitute for it. That’s not a reason to keep running it despite everything, but it can be a make-or-break factor if all else is neutral.
Yet, it’s hard to tell. If Romanticon actually turns a profit, even a slight one, for Ellora’s Cave, it may still be worth running the convention despite the time suck. There’s no cut-and-dried answer, though, and it’s not something an outsider can readily determine.

Post-Convention Update

Jaid Black posted a notice about potential exposure to ebola. Dallas nurse Amber Vinson, who now is confirmed to have ebola, was in Akron during the same time period that Romanticon was held.

According to news reports, the infected woman, a healthcare worker who treated “Patient Zero,” was in Akron visiting family. She did not show signs of infection until already in Akron. The CDC has confirmed that she was definitely symptomatic while traveling from Cleveland to Dallas on October 13 so if you know anyone else on that flight please have them contact the CDC IMMEDIATELY.
Romanticon attendees (other than those on flight 1143) have nothing to worry about… according to the CDC. As they haven’t exactly been forthcoming with information, and we have no idea where in Akron this woman was, I am asking EC employees and Romanticon attendees in general, to self-monitor their health for the next 3 weeks. A list of symptoms can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/symptoms/

Further, two of the Cavemen, Axl and Taylor (who are also both EC authors), were on the same flight as Vinson. After consulting with the CDC, they are both in self-imposed quarantine for 21 days.
Here’s Axl’s story.
Axl and Taylor appear briefly on this GMA segment speaking about their self-quarantine.
My hope is that everyone will be fine, but I’m sure thoughts and prayers are welcome. Axl gives his contact information in his facebook post if you wish to reach out to him.

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World Music Break: Tarkan

13 October 2014

On one of the facebook groups I’m in, someone posted this video the other day:

Kuzu Kuzu song purchase links: (iTunes) (Amazon)
Tarkan’s an extremely popular Turkish singer, sometimes called the Turkish equivalent of Elvis, but perhaps a better description would be the Bad Boy of Turkish Pop.
The above video’s from 2001, but he broke out in Turkey almost ten years earlier. His first breakout video’s generally considered to be 1994’s “Hepsi Senin Mi?” It’s not as strong as his later work, but it was considered daring and rebellious. It’s also catchy as hell. It was later re-reorded and retitled Sikidim with different orchestration.

Hepsi Senin Mi? song purchase links: (iTunes) (Amazon)
Sikidim/Hepsi Senin Mi? song purchase links: (iTunes) (Amazon)
2001 also saw the release of the controversial video for “Hüp” (quote is from Wikipedia):

Another scandal broke out when the video for the single “Hüp” was released. The Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council considered banning the video, directed by Ferzan Özpetek, from television broadcast, as some viewers complained that the scene in which Tarkan kisses actress Sinemis Candemir was too “explicit” and “pornographic”. The case was reported through Europe by the BBC.[31] There was no ban, and fans had their say by voting it the video of the year in 2001 at Kral music station’s video awards.

Hüp song purchase links: (iTunes) (Amazon)
In 2014, Tarkan’s been in two videos with other artists, and I like both of them quite a bit.
Hop De’s a song by İskender Paydaş:

Hop De song purchase links: (iTunes) (Amazon)
Hop De music video purchase link: (iTunes)
And here’s a concert rehearsal video for Hop De, before a concert series in Istanbul:

The other video’s quite different, contrasting the energy of the video with the relatively limited movement of the female singer, Nazan Öncel:

Hadi O Zaman song purchase links: (iTunes) (Amazon)
Hadi O Zaman music video purchase link: (iTunes)
I’ve gotta say, listening to all these with a bum hip is a particular form of torture.

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Twitter Hashtag for Promoting Non-EC Books by EC Authors #nonECbook

10 October 2014

Susan Garbanzo asked me:

@deirdresm Maybe a specific hashtag for use by EC authors on your support list? #notchilled

— Susan Garbanzo (@Soenda) October 10, 2014

::smacks forehead::
I didn’t think of that, that’s why. She’s a genius.
Therefore, if you’re tweeting/instagramming about your non-EC titles, that seems to be a good way to find people who are looking for EC authors to support in the midst of the Dear Author lawsuit and any uncertainty surrounding it.
This also neatly separates the #notchilled free speech issue tweets from the #nonECbook promotion opportunities. Not everyone reading #notchilled reads erotic romance or erotica.
Plus, @BooksFoodShoes has already used it once, so that seems a good enough reason to keep using it.
Note: there is no requirement that you be otherwise eligible for the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread.
There are only two requirements.

  1. You are (or were until recently) an Ellora’s Cave author.
  2. You have at least one non-EC book to promote.

…OR…

  1. You know someone who writes/wrote for EC
  2. You want to recommend one of their non-EC titles.

Just—try to keep the quantities of tweets reasonable.

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Ellora's Cave: and then Things Took a WTF Turn

08 October 2014

[![Demon, street art by SB, photo/color manipulation by Deirdre Saoirse Moen](/images/2014/10/L1004537-700x374.jpg)](/images/2014/10/L1004537.jpg)Demon, street art by SB, photo/color manipulation by Deirdre Saoirse Moen

I was looking for my dinosaur pictures, but I liked that one better.
I was working on a lovely post about technological shifts. Because I think it’s a factor in the history of Ellora’s Cave. And I was genuinely rooting for all the issues to be resolved and everyone to go happily on their way. EC resolving the suit with DA, picking themselves up and working out things with their authors, etc. And, you know, surviving in some form.
They snapped my goodwill today. Permanently. (See update at the bottom.)
I generally take people at face value, assume they’re telling me as much of the truth as it’s convenient for them to, and don’t try to over-read things I don’t know. I try to be charitable in my interpretations. The number of people I don’t wish to speak to is a very short list.
It’s hard to get on that short list. ## Ellora’s Cave Didn’t Tweet after August 11…Until Today

They had lots of books come out, right?

Did you know my debut work came out with EC on 8/15? No? Because their social media has been quiet. Until now. To praise STGRB. #notchilled

— Phoebe Chase (@Phoebe_Chase) October 8, 2014

Official EC Twitter hasn’t posted any book promo (or anything) for 58 days. Now they’re thanking STGRB for their hard work. #notchilled

— Lynda the Guppy (@FishWithSticks) October 8, 2014

STGRB = Stop the GoodReads Bullies, a misguided group of people who feel that people who leave “too many” negative reviews are “bullies.”
Ellora’s Cave still hasn’t promoted their releases for the last few weeks, because throwing in support with STGRB was so much more important.

I Aim Jenny Trout at the Issue

I know when to use a tactical nuke.

I just want to hear @Jenny_Trout wax poetic about this tweet: http://t.co/YjGCZbkHRt #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 8, 2014

As she succinctly put it:

The publisher of one of my books, @ellorascave, officially endorses STGRB? Don’t buy my book, or any book, from them.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

This is yet another case of someone acting like a little shit, then taking the support of STGRB, who are even shittier, to defend them.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent, @ellorascave.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

Anyone in publishing who supports a website that has endangered bloggers loses all credibility. STGRB attacks your customers, @ellorascave .

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

Some people need to look at who their allies are and really reconsider their method of implosion.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

If STGRB wants to defend you, you’ve either done something really awful, or they think they ride you for their gain. They are leeches.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes Actually major anti-bullying campaigns have requested that STGRB not use their graphics or names on the site.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes STGRB has, in the past, posted the real names, home addresses, employers, some people’s daily schedules (one person took

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes walks every day at the same time) of bloggers who have left “too many” bad reviews on Goodreads.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes They don’t say, “Go stalk and harass these people,” but it’s heavily implied.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

I HADN’T EVEN THOUGHT OF THAT. EC absolutely just endorsed a hate site that has targeted one of their authors in the past. #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

At least one that I know of: Me. We’re supposed to be loyal to our publishers, but it doesn’t go both ways? #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

I want my fucking rights back. #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

This is what STGRB does and this is who EC has chosen to align themselves with. #notchilled http://t.co/8RBeI5tr2m

— Phoebe Chase (@Phoebe_Chase) October 8, 2014

Here is one of two posts I made this year about STGRB. Why would anyone want to align with them?: http://t.co/12fTL5iYS1 #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

And here’s a post I made after STGRB threatened that they were “keeping an eye on” me. http://t.co/SrzUNL8DXj #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

By all means, if you’ve alienated a bunch of reviewers, the very next thing you should do is alienate even more of them.

Information Request from @tejasjulia

If any of you can provide.

I’ve heard talk of EC “deducting for overpayment of royalties” recently. Anyone want to go public with $$ on the “correction”? #notchilled

— tejas (@tejasjulia) October 8, 2014

Department of :O

WOW. Tina really doesn’t seem to be in touch with reality, does she. #notchilled pic.twitter.com/xIver9REWX

— tejas (@tejasjulia) October 7, 2014

It’s not a beautiful day. Yet.

Department of WTF Updatery

@ReeCroteau @Phoebe_Chase For the love of God, what now? We don’t currently have a social media person! And what is STGRB????

— Jaid Black (@jaidblack) October 9, 2014

Trying to snippet other bits of conversation will lack too much context.
However: Ellora’s Cave doesn’t currently have a social media person. Which means that there’s an explicable lack of Twitter promotion since, oh, sometime around 8/11/14, but not an explanation for the STGRB tweets of today.
I tried to keep it simple:

@jaidblack @ReeCroteau The official @ellorascave Twitter is promoting a hate group, but not its own authors. That was my point.

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 9, 2014

I think more popcorn evenings are in my future.
Since Jaid didn’t know what STGRB meant, it may take a while….

@ReeCroteau unless they are funding ISIS I don’t have enough hours in the day 2 worry about them.

— Jaid Black (@jaidblack) October 9, 2014

So there’s that.
Meanwhile, there’s the mystery of who is posting using the official Ellora’s Cave Twitter account—and whether said person posting today is currently with the firm.

10/12 Update

Props where due. @ellorascave deleted pro-STGRB tweets and started promoting their authors like they had been pre-8/11. #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 12, 2014

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Post-ER Trip Hip Update

07 October 2014

There are few things quite so grueling as having a part of you that hurts a ton go through medical imaging. So far, been there, done that with a wrist, an ankle, a knee, and now a hip.
My x-ray last night led to me collapsing into a sobbing pile. This was after the first round of IV pain meds. The x-ray tech thought it was just not gonna happen, not knowing exactly how stubborn I was. She and I talked briefly about what we could do that would both get a good clean image and make it hurt less for me. A bolster that supported my leg a few inches worked wonders.
Short version: I didn’t break my ass, but I apparently did sprain it.
I also have developed some arthritis in that hip since my last imaging three years ago. It’s not bad enough to explain the current issue, though.
I was given better pain meds and ushered out.
All told, I spent about six hours in the ER. Rick was wonderful and made an In & Out burger run. I managed to sleep five hours in a single session after getting home last night, so that’s better than the four hours the night before.
Probably I’ll just need to really really really keep off it for a few weeks. Sadly, this means no rowing this weekend. 🙁
Acupuncture has often helped manage my pain, so I have a session with my long-time acupuncturist later today.

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Book Reversion Game Theory & Consent

05 October 2014

Please Release Me
Let’s say the following:

  1. You’re a small press with a lot of authors, most of whom still have books that you get right of first refusal on their next books, either in the same genre or in the same series.
  2. You’ve had a downturn in sales, and that means staff cuts, including editors that would accept/reject and/or edit new titles.
  3. There’s a lot of grumpiness out on the ‘net, and you need some good PR.

Right now, this is EC’s defense: “Authors hate working with Ellora’s Cave so much, they formed a massive conspiracy to escape.” #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) October 4, 2014

What are your best moves?

Things I hadn’t Considered About Right of First Refusal Clauses

When I started looking at romance publishers a couple of years ago, I found this clause of Samhain’s:

5.3. If I contract the first book of a series with Samhain, do I have to give you first refusal on subsequent books in the series?
No. Samhain contracts one book at a time. We hope you’ll love working with us enough to send us all your other books, but we want you to be free to make that decision for yourself.

I hadn’t realized the prior association of Samhain’s founder with Ellora’s Cave, but I found that to be an interesting clause.
Of course you’d rather have authors writing for you who want to write for you.
Also, the more I think about it, the more I wouldn’t sign a right of first refusal clause unless there were an advance involved, where the reversion fee’s some explicit portion of the advance.

The Cold Harsh Realities of Series Numbers

Here are the current Amazon rankings for the first six volumes of H. M. Ward’s The Arrangement, a bestselling indie new adult series that’s currently up to 16 books. (Which, frankly, this series is like crack for me. Loved it.)

1 656
2 612
3 638
4 711
5 755
6 789

The cold, harsh reality of series is that, overall, the later books in the series sell less well than the earlier books in the series. Some percentage of readers never pick up that next volume. Sure, there are times when the newer books sell better—like when they’re first released. In the long run, though, they will tend to sell less well.
Ergo, the value of that next book in the series is necessarily lower than the income from the previous books.
For a troubled publisher, some writers may feel, as Lolita Lopez/Roxie Rivera (hell of a #micdrop post) apparently does, that not writing more books in the series is the right answer for them.
If you’re the publisher who’s published, say, books 1-5, and there will be no book 6, then the revenue of books 1-5 will tend to decrease over time. If, however, another publisher (including self-publishing here) publishes book 6, and books 1-5 are still listed on the author’s website, then there will still be some level of increased demand for books 1-5.
I read a lot of authors. I mostly don’t read their blogs. When I do look them up, I tend to look at their website for new books.
So what’s the publisher’s best strategy here?
Releasing the author from right of first refusal for the next books in the series, in exchange for which the author puts the publisher’s books back on their website for, say, a year.
But…but….

I haven’t really seen this come up, which kind of surprises me given the subsection of romance Ellora’s Cave is in.
A lot of their books are about the boundaries of consent. BDSM, for example.
What struck me in Lolita’s post: she’d essentially said she no longer consented to future publication from Ellora’s Cave.
It doesn’t matter why someone no longer consents. Contractually, it may, but consent is important, and it really, really gets me that there are, in fact, so many consent issues at the heart of this debacle.

Slower Paying?

One of the data pieces that’s been corroborated by several authors, including Lolita Lopez (at the link above) and Cat Grant: the payments, once regular, are alleged to have been getting slower.
Several authors have alleged they received their payment for May royalties at the end of September (4 months later). Lolita alleged she received December’s payment (assuming this is for royalties received in November) in mid-February, which would be 2-1/2 months later:

In February 2014, I received my 2013 Form 1099 from Ellora’s Cave. It included $13,354.79 worth of income that I did not receive in 2013. In fact, a few days after my 2013 Form 1099 arrived, a royalty check with a December 2013 date on it finally made its way into my mailbox. That’s right. A royalty check that was cut in December of 2013 took more than 6 weeks to arrive in my mailbox. The amount was enough to push me over the income limit for the next hop in tax rates so the IRS slapped my hand with a fine for underpayment.
The accounting firm that I use was not amused by this. They encouraged me to file a complaint with the IRS, but I declined. I paid the fine and the extra taxes. Clearly, I should have listened to the professionals. Hindsight, right?

In an ideal world, the payments for authors would be put immediately into a separate account. Assume 45%, then fix it for the amounts that are less (I see some sales are 40%). There would be no need to pay slower because the money would always be available on time for the authors.
Ergo, the implication when royalties are being paid slower like this (or, as others have reported, no check at all arrived for a given month): the company is using the received royalty income for operational expenses instead of setting it aside for the authors.
Edited to add this paragraph: one of the confusing parts of the various author accounts: it’s not clear if people reporting missing checks were meaning they never received a check for that month (let’s say April), or if they never received any check in April, but may have received royalties they expected to receive in April in a subsequent month.

Chop the Long Tail

With over 800 authors, some of those authors are going to be bringing in peanuts and others whole food trucks. Release the authors that are consistently not performing.
As an example, calculate how long it takes to put together all the royalty information, divide by the number of authors. Figure out how much you’re paying the people who do that work, including cutting the checks. Triple that cost. For the authors who aren’t making, on average, that much for the house over the last year, offer to release their titles (for no fee).
Probably, that’s more than half the authors. It’ll take more work temporarily, but it’ll be less work long term. Then the business is focused on the higher-performing writers.

Release the Remaining Long Tailers from Right of First Refusal

In addition to releasing existing books from the end of the long tail, release the right of first refusal for those people, too. (Might even want to make it for a larger pool.)

Charging for Reversions

Victoria Strauss runs Writer Beware, a site that warns about predatory practices and predatory companies in publishing.

@victoriastrauss I thought I remembered that you said somewhere that publishers shouldn’t be charging for reversions? (except advances)

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 5, 2014

@deirdresm Correct. I don’t think there should be any fees associated with reversion–a red flag if you see this in a contract.

— Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) October 5, 2014

@deirdresm I’ve also heard of pubs who ask for reversion fees even if there’s nothing in contract to allow this.

— Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) October 5, 2014

@deirdresm No matter how pub justifies it, I think it’s abusive.

— Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) October 5, 2014

Contract One Book at a Time

The editorial staff has shrunk. Money’s tighter than it should be. People are complaining. The future isn’t looking as bright as it used to.
Only contract the books you can afford to edit and produce. Given the changing market conditions, an agile approach is needed here: limit scope of future projects.
D. Renee Bagby/Zenobia Renquist has quite the post on her attempt to get reversions for twelve proposal titles.
So apart from the fact that it sounds like EC is intending to publish the books outside their contract terms (and wouldn’t that be an interesting DMCA takedown quarrel?), here’s the gotcha, in the form of a letter from EC CEO Patty Marks (emphasis added):

We have already cut staff, special EC projects and other expenses, but the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for EC on almost every new book we publish, with the exception of a handful of the highest sellers.

So what do you do? Only contract multiple books from people who already are the highest sellers.
Renee/Zenobia has said that she was not released from twelve books under contract. Yet, in the same post, she shows that her royalties for May would not put her in that group of “a handful of the highest sellers.” And yet, EC doesn’t want to release those books back to Renee/Zenobia despite it appearing that would put her in the negative return on investment?
These things have to be business decisions and not emotional ones. There’s an old economics maxim:

If the expected added benefits exceed the expected added costs, do it. If not, don’t.

If Renee/Zenobia were to self-publish, she’d undoubtedly do better, and EC wouldn’t lose money. Isn’t that win/win?

As a publisher, you want readers, reviewers, and authors to stick with you through tough times. You want them to continue to consent to be in your corner.
Those perceptions can be managed if you look beyond initial blame and hurt. Win/win negotiations are still possible.
Respecting the word “no,” however phrased, is key.
Related: Coerced Consent: When “Yes” Really Means “No”
The image in this post’s header is free for you to use. Details and a higher-resolution copy are over here.

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Hip Update: Trip to the ER

05 October 2014

I wasn’t able to sleep through the night, so I’m going to the ER. (I did manage to get a single spell of about 4 hours of sleep, but that was after 2 hours of tossing and turning to find a comfortable enough position where I could get to sleep. Every time I want to sleep, same thing.)
Because I have fibromyalgia, that means that I am now at risk for hurting worse for days than I was yesterday. Yesterday was the worst yet. Fibro’s kind of a weird feedback loop: your body thinks sensation should hurt rather than be neutral or pleasant.
As an example, Diamox, used to prevent altitude sickness, can cause a shimmery sensation across the skin. My body interprets that as pain. 🙁 That’s not normal, though.
Restorative sleep (stages 3 and 4) returns the body’s pain levels (and sensation interpretations) to more normal levels. Most of my restorative sleep comes at the end of my sleep cycle.
The pain levels get more normal during the restorative sleep cycle, but I only get that at the end of a night’s sleep.
So sleeping through the night undisturbed is key, and I haven’t been getting that consistently. Given my pain levels yesterday, it was absolutely necessary to get the pain under control so the sleep cycle returns to normal.
I also have myofascial pain, which means that trigger points (inflamed nodules where nerves enter muscles) send shooting pain down muscle bundles.
I’ve had a lot of general (fibro) pain and specific (myo) pain and a lot of whimpering nerves. I honestly cannot tell where the pain is coming from, and that’s with some significant amount of education on the subject (I just went through a chronic pain management program earlier this year).
Normally, I wouldn’t go to the ER unless my pain were actually a 10. For me, that’s nausea, vomiting, uncontrolled crying, etc.
A 9 includes inability to get to sleep or stay asleep, which is where I was yesterday, and frankly I’ve been at a long-term 8 or 9 for three weeks. (Note: these are my definitions of pain levels for me. A lot of people use 10 to mean something less.)
So I’m going to the ER, where they can take specialized measures to make me feel better.

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How I Became a Romance Reader

04 October 2014

[![Mai Tai, Mama's Fish House, Maui](/images/2014/10/IMG_3832-672x700.jpg)](/images/2014/10/IMG_3832.jpg)Mai Tai, Mama’s Fish House, Maui

Since my teenage years, I’ve mostly been a science fiction and fantasy reader. I’ve made several strafing runs through the romance genre through the years. However, like mystery, I’d historically found that it wasn’t a genre I could write.
There are reasons for my issues with romance in particular, many of them having to do with where romance was as a genre at the time. See: The TL;DR Erotic Romance Edition post from Love in the Margins.
After I’d written the first draft of my first (fantasy) novel, though, a project landed on my lap. Would I write porn (meaning the kinds of novels you buy in adult bookstores along with your sex toys) for money?
I’d left Scientology, I was no longer putting up with their puritanical bullshit, and I needed the income. So I pulled out my handy typewriter—yes, you heard me correctly—and wanked out a 35k book every six weeks for eighteen months straight. Well, not entirely straight. 😉
It was good money. I wasn’t overly proud of my work, but it was functional. If I ever read those fuckers again, I’d probably take to drinking. Let’s put it this way: I’ve learned a ton about writing in the interim.
I’d tried to read romance before, during, and after this period, but I just couldn’t handle the coy sex scenes with “his throbbing member” and that the sex scene had to be all metaphorical and at the end. Plus the endless “cut to black,” and the emphasis on pregnancy. Look, pregnancy and I don’t get along. Never did.
I discovered that I could enjoy writing sex scenes about bedroom scenes that weren’t my thing. And thanks to writers like Mercedes Lackey, I discovered that I could enjoy reading m/m sex scenes though obviously I wasn’t going to be having any of that.
In short, I’m more diverse as a reader and writer than I am in personal experience, and that’s okay.
So in 2009, I was having a bad time at life. It’s not my story to tell, but I wound up seeing the Twilight movie almost every day for a couple of months as a way to decompress from all the awful. I wrote this post about the book vs. the movie because I was interested in the differences as a writer.
Also in that time, I managed to write a vampire comedy erotic novel that I figured had no market anywhere. ## Say What?

I know, right?
Because, you see, I really had no idea what the market for romance was like. I’d never read erotic romance, didn’t know it was a thing, didn’t know it was my thing, and just had no clue that there was an active and thriving market. Throbbing, even.
Never heard of Ellora’s Cave.
To me, it sounded like my book had “too many adjectives” and was in too obscure a subgenre.
I wrote the book longhand in fountain pen, using a different color of ink every day I wrote. I had a lot of fun with it, but I was writing for fun. I wrote it out of order (and I’m a pantser), so it’s a hot mess. I have all but one 5k excerpt in Scrivener now, though. That other 5k is in a notebook. Somewhere.
Skip forward a year-ish, I search on “vampire” in Fictionwise (remember Fictionwise?) and found Mary Hughes’s book, Biting Me Softly. Which is, I note, vampire erotic comedy.
All the dots lined up in my brain, but other shit was kicking me in life, so I didn’t have the mental space to cope. I read the other books in the Biting series, but didn’t really venture forth into reading or writing romance.

And then Nanowrimo Came

Fast forward to Nanowrimo 2012. I started a different novel, but then got an idea for a romance fanfic. So I started writing it and posting my first drafts. Which are first drafty, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I’d post a chapter at night before going to bed and I’d have fan mail in the morning. It’s completely awesomesauce.
The other thing: as a new writer, I’d accepted all this bullshit about what writers should and shouldn’t do, but a lot of that was science fiction specific. So writing a different genre was like finally getting out of the straightjacket I hadn’t realized I was wearing. If you feel stuck, maybe trying a different genre or length will help.
Four months later, I was still having a good time.
So I thought, maybe I should see what the market was like.
Since I’d bought Samhain books before, I stuck with them. I searched through their site a few ways and read some samples. I read a few other authors. (I remember tripping and falling while out on a walk one day because I was reading Maya Banks. I became terrified I’d break my Steve Jobs autographed iPad.)
For those of you who’ve read her books, I bet you’re completely unsurprised to find that Vivi Andrews is one of my favorite writers. Humorous paranormal is one of my sweet spots.
Soon I found I was hunting the forthcoming books from Samhain. Every. Week.
I started keeping track of authors I liked (and didn’t like), tropes I did and didn’t like (not big on the secret baby trope).
I branched out to other publishers, too. From Samhain’s Lauren Gallagher titles, I followed her across to her L. A. Witt titles, discovering Riptide. I started perusing bestseller lists, and found Jay Crownover. A literary agent I like recommended Tiffany Reisz. A fan of my fanfic recommended Jenny Trout.
Still hadn’t heard of Ellora’s Cave.
It was my branching out, reading further markets, where I first found them, then bought some backlist titles from my favorite authors. In all but the case of a several-book series, I preferred their non-EC titles.

Dear Author

For about the last year, I’d been following Dear Author on Twitter, occasionally reading posts linked from tweets. When Jane Litte posted a review in August for Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down, I immediately went and read the book based on her review.
It’s funny how someone recommending a favorite book to you can shift how you feel about them. Right now, that title (or perhaps a later book in the series, The Understatement of the Year) is my favorite book so far this year. Which, Understatement has just been released and it’s worth reading. ::plug::
I went to grad school with a lot of romance writers, but I’ve never felt truly a part of the romance community until now. So, thank you all.
I still read and write science fiction and fantasy, and still feel it’s my primary genre.

In other news

I still fucking hate the verb “lave.” Just thought you should know.

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