Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Cat Grant Gives Away Her Unreverted Ellora's Cave Titles

24 September 2014

[![Cat Grant, photo by Adam Bouska](/images/2014/09/CatGrantAuthorPic.jpg)](/images/2014/09/CatGrantAuthorPic.jpg)Cat Grant, photo by Adam Bouska

Cat Grant asked troubled erotic romance publisher Ellora’s Cave for rights reversion on three titles. She got an answer: two thousand dollars.
Over on Absolute Write, poster junierob said: > That is on the low end of what other authors have been told–by a lot. I wonder if they were more reasonable with her because they knew she’d post it publicly.

After that, Cat thought about it, then decided to give away her three Ellora’s Cave titles for free.

No, I’m not kidding. I would rather give these books away than see EC make another penny’s worth of profit from them.
I’m tired of being told to “sit down, shut up & do what we say or we’ll sue you.”
So go ahead, EC. Sue me. I double dog dare you.

Author Tymber Dalton commented:

If they try to sue you, that means they will be forced to go through the discovery process, which is something I sincerely doubt they want made public. If they were smart they’d simply revert your rights.

Exactly so. As I pointed out in my prior post on Ellora’s Cave, EC refused to produce documents about their business records when sued by one of the owners of the company for her share of the profits. There’s no way they’d open up their books for an author, even in court.
Cat got a lot of support for her move, and speaks out more in a later post:

I don’t have a “day job” to fall back on. I’m a disabled widow who’s been writing full-time since 2008. I have a back list 30-odd books strong. This year alone I’ve had six releases, with another two, possibly three, in the pipeline. Not as prolific as some, but I’m not exactly lazing around the house all day doing nothing, either.

I have to admit that, uh, I have several Cat Grant titles, but I haven’t yet gotten around to reading them. So I can’t personally recommend her work, but I found her through her co-author, L. A. Witt, who happens to be one of my favorite erotic romance writers. I’m just still catching up on Witt’s titles, and thus the purchased-but-as-yet-unread co-authored titles with Grant. (It’s not personal, I’m about 40 Witt books behind still, having discovered her only last year.)
In addition to Ellora’s Cave, Cat Grant is published through Samhain, Riptide, and others, including quite a few self-published titles.
Anyhow, if you’ve never read any male/male erotic romance, and might be interested, consider giving Cat Grant a try. If the titles she’s giving away aren’t of interest, please consider at least reading a sample of one of her other books.
Meanwhile, Ellora’s Cave owner Jaid Black/Tina Engler posted this classy photo as her facebook profile pic.
Ellora's Cave owner Jaid Black/Tina Engler recently selected this classy photo as her facebook profile pic.

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Luggage, Again

20 September 2014

So, you’ll never guess what we saw in Civitavecchia yesterday.

[![Reunited with Lost Luggage](/images/2014/09/2014-09-20-09.22.59-2-sm-700x700.jpg)](/images/2014/09/2014-09-20-09.22.59-2-sm.jpg)Reunited with Lost Luggage

Yep, the long-lost bag was found!
Sadly, this threw off the bag count, and another bag was left behind. I’m hoping this doesn’t become a trend….

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The Continuing Luggage Saga….

16 September 2014

In the last installment of the lost luggage saga, mom’s suitcase was pouting in Köln, Germany, despite there being no visits to Germany on her itinerary.

On Monday, we visited Ibiza, one of the Balaeric Islands. That was the day the luggage was due to try a re-delivery attempt in Málaga, despite our having left there on Saturday.

Yesterday, we were in Menorca, and we heard the luggage was in Mallorca. There are fast ferries between the two every hour, and the ferry that arrived in our port was berthed within easy walking distance.

After our private estate tour in the morning, we were hoping that the luggage would get delivered.

Alas, it was not to be. We sailed away.

So near and yet so far.

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Mark Greyland Needs Your Help

15 September 2014

Update Two: Mark Greyland sadly passed in May 2019.

Update: Mark is now out of the hospital and doing as well as he can be.
Mark Greyland, aka the son of Marion Zimmer Bradley, needs your help. He’s currently in the hospital; he entered the ICU with diabetic ketoacidosis a few days ago. His doctor had never seen a blood sugar reading that high. Thankfully, he’s been pulling through, though he is still in the hospital.
Here’s what he needs help with:

  1. Housing in a sane, stable, safe environment within 15 miles of Berkeley, California. He can’t drive due to poor eyesight. He does have funding for this.

  2. Counseling. He’s never had any. This interview is the most he’s ever said about what happened to him.

  3. Help with getting permanent disability. The hospital is working on this in part, but he could very much use some kind of advocate who’d help him.

  4. Any kinds of resources you might be able to think of in the Berkeley area. Frankly, I don’t even know what to ask for.

  5. Your love and affection, kind thoughts, prayers.

Ideally, if there’s some kind of existing charitable foundation that can help, pointers would be amazing.

He simply hasn’t been able to cope with everything going on.

His Space Kitten! shirt has cheered me up quite a few times. I’ve worn it in Ireland and at Worldcon in London and most recently in Gibraltar. His more recent work is here.

(Please repost or forward to any interested parties. Thank you.)

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Forget Curious, This Is Downright Bizarre

15 September 2014

elloras-cave-blog-header
One of the things that truly fascinates me is how things fail. How businesses fail, how wars start, how bridges collapse, and how factories explode. For Ellora’s Cave, a long-established erotica and erotic romance publisher, it’s a complex tale of tax liens, slow royalties, broken promises, complete lack of communication, and the founder’s weird paranoid ramblings. Technically, EC hasn’t failed yet, but it certainly appears to be flirting with the drainpipe if not outright sucking it.
Jane at Dear Author (DA) has a great post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave, that documents the tax liens, including an unpaid lien dating to July of last year.

At the same time, court records showed repeated tax violations by [EC founder Tina] Engler [aka Jaid Black] and Jasmine Jade Enterprises. Since 2009, Engler has had a tax lien filed against her by Ohio Department of Taxation in every year except 2010.

Last year’s lien is $35,853.21, and this year’s is $105,819.92. The ongoing nature of the liens and their size suggest poor cash flow.
Yet, in August 2013, the Akron Beacon Journal profiled Ellora’s Cave quoted the CEO stating EC sold $15 million per year—200,000 books.
Royalty payments have been late. Not once, not twice, but on an ongoing basis. Roslyn Holcomb speaks out. Avril Ashton and Cat Grant have asked people not to buy their Ellora’s Cave titles, hoping that will reduce their sales enough to get EC to agree to a rights reversion—as well as cut their losses on royalties due. Avril self-published her latest book instead. (Avril talks more about that choice in this post.)
Quite a few are afraid to speak out about their own troubles with EC. Kenzi comments on DA’s post:

I’ve been terrified to say anything publicly. It isn’t just dealing with the repercussions at EC; it’s also the fear that you’ll make yourself undesirable to other publishers. Who wants to be seen as a troublemaker?
Ms. Black claims on her Facebook page that this is all lies. There is no proof. I wish someone would call her out and ask which parts are a lie. When was the last time her editors and artists were paid? Is she claiming they have been? Is she saying it’s untrue that authors have been told their books will be copyedited and released without their input? Even though a lot of us have gotten those emails? Does she really want us to start posting these things publicly as proof?

Eden Connor comments about a similar experience with Silver Publishing:

Speaking out is the right thing to do. And I’ll mention here what I said to the publisher at Silver when he threatened to sue me for speaking out: Sue me. Please, please sue me. Because in order for any court to determine if slander took place, step one would be for you to turn over the books for a forensic accounting by a court-appointed auditor.
And he did not sue me, because having to open his books was the last thing he wanted.

Ellora’s Cave has also been particularly reluctant to open their books, as you’ll see later.
There’s also talk about hinky royalty accounting: (Note: this was a link, but at the request of said post’s author, I’ve removed it and the quoted content.)
EC also claims that it hasn’t talked to Amazon about a massive drop off in sales.
Summary so far:

  1. Massive tax liens.
  2. Downsizing.
  3. Paying royalties late, and paying smaller than perceived correct royalties.
  4. Claiming there’s a massive drop off in Amazon sales, but not talking to Amazon about said dropoff.
  5. Three other authors say that the dropoff is not true for them with books published by other publishers (including self-published).
  6. EC principals accusing people talking about late or non-payments of lying, causing others to be more afraid (or angry) about speaking out.

Hmmm.
On the surface, it appears that:

  • The slump, to the extent that it’s real, is related to cover art issues and EC’s ebooks being too expensive.
  • Hinky royalty accounting.
  • If the money isn’t in EC’s accounts (which late royalties imply), could money have been diverted to other ventures and/or people?
  • Authors have been left in the dark.

Some Thumbnail Numbers

Let’s make the following assumptions.

  1. The tax lien amounts are directly related to sales.
  2. The $15M number is true for 2013, correlating to the $105k Ohio tax bill.
  3. Engler/Black was hit with a $29,679.52 tax bill from the City of Akron in March. The City of Akron tax rate is 2.25% on adjusted net income (cite: tax form). Ergo, the adjusted net income for 2013 was $1,319,089.78. That’s after all expenses such as royalties. (Paid royalties if it’s cash-based, accrued royalties if it’s accrual-based.)
  4. If 15M/1.32M are for the same tax year, then the business has 8.8% net profit.

The obvious question: where’s the million-and-a-third bucks?
DA goes on to say:

In the meantime, Engler boasts of her Rodeo Drive shopping trips and her new property purchase in West Hollywood on her Facebook page.

I see.
Pity her real estate agent’s website is four years out of date.

EC’s Prior Lawsuit

Once upon a time, someone threatened me with a lawsuit. I didn’t have a good response handy, so I said, fliply, “Well, discovery should prove interesting.” It proved to be the exact right thing to say. Obviously, the lawsuit never happened.
In 2008, Ellora’s Cave was sued by Christine Brashear, who went on to become the founder of Samhain (a press I like very much). You can read her lawsuit against Ellora’s Cave six years ago, which sounds like some of the same ongoing issues. PDF here.
During that suit, Ellora’s Cave got quite the smackdown from the judge. Not only did they refuse production of documents, they no-showed for the final pre-trial conference:

Defendants willfully evaded the production of discovery, resulting in unnecessary delays of this case and increased legal fees. Defendants’ actions in this case have crossed the line from a zealous defense to malingering, malfeasance, sabotage and delay. […]
It is suspect that all three of them failed to appear for the final pretrial. The Court could understand if one of them had neglected to put it on their calendar or “forgot” to come. But the absence of all three, who concede to receiving notice of the hearing, is questionable. […]
Such continuous, systematic delays and flagrant disrespect for court orders resemble an unwillingness to defend and bad faith attempts to derail the case from moving to a resolution.

Brashear won on summary judgment. This is pretty damn rare in business lawsuits.
Personally, I’d never have been an author with them after that point. If they evaded discovery in a lawsuit, there’s no way I’d ever trust them to pay royalties accurately.
Meanwhile, there are two threads over on The Passive Voice: one two.
From the EC letter PV links to in the second article:

Also, please note that almost all the royalty checks have been mailed, with the exception of a handful that should be out by end of week. We are not bankrupt (rumors) and are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy.

[We] are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy. Wow. That’s so comforting.
Commenter Antares says:

I used to do bankruptcy law.
Based on my experience, if I saw my publisher put out that statement, I would immediately sue to get my rights back.
What do I mean by ‘immediately’? I mean today. I want my suit going forward and notice served before they file for bankruptcy. Maybe I can get relief from the stay to litigate in state court. Maybe not and I’ll litigate the suit in bankruptcy court. But I bet when I offer to buy back my rights and put money on the table, the trustee will settle.

Antares later follows up with:

Look, in an earlier comment I wrote that I would file a suit against the publisher immediately. Why?
To get my rights back? No.
Then why?
To improve my position against the other creditors.
Once the publisher files for bankruptcy protection — and the minute a business owner uses the B word I know he’s gonna file, it’s just a question of when — the writers no longer have rights. Yeah, you got the copyrights, but you licensed some of those rights to the publisher. Those licensed rights are now assets of the estate. The court’s duty is to equitably divide the assets among the creditors. If you are due royalties, you are an unsecured creditor. Maybe there is some entity in the bankruptcy food chain lower than an unsecured creditor, but I never saw such. […]
Bankruptcy is a tool. You can use it to break contracts. To me, it is the start of negotiations.
If you 1) have a contract with EC, 2) are owed money by EC, 3) know two other writers whom EC owes money, and 4) want to get really nasty with EC, ask a bankruptcy attorney about an involuntary bankruptcy.

In this particular case, I’m not sure if discovery would prove interesting or not. I’m very curious about what happened to all that money. Disappearing gobs of money plus weird paranoia tends to scream one thing to me.
However, if you’re an EC reader, you might not want to add to the pile at present. Support your favorite authors in other ways. If you’re a writer, I’d strongly suggest not submitting to EC. If it’s too late, ask for a reversion.
If your payments are late and are significant, I strongly suggest you consider Antares’s words.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, EC is still open to submissions, and is still holding their $325 per person annual convention in Akron, Ohio next month. Complete with Cavemen.
Edited to add: and in the extra bonus unhappiness round check out the comment from Adam (sorry, no direct link, so I’ll quote one paragraph):

Wasn’t it you who told me at Romanticon™, who cares if one of the models inappropriately touched a teenaged fan, that is what the fans are here for? Wasn’t it you bragging about how endowed some of the Cavemen were because you had personal experience? Wasn’t it you who said it didn’t matter how a book was crafted, or how many typos were in it, as long as it was nasty? As the father of teenaged daughters, this is something I am very unlikely to forget, and a life lesson I want my girls far, far away from. Were this the first such incident, it would have been perturbing. But, this was just the latest in the chain of strippers behaving inappropriately with women, sometimes for money. See Romantic Times, circa 2008 and the semi-public sex one of your Cavemen engaged in for money.

Anyone happen to have that RT issue handy?
Kit Tunstall has also asked that people not purchase her EC titles. (Note: Kit has deleted this post.) Also Evanne Lorraine.
Cat Grant reports on what the buyback offer for her three remaining titles was.

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Travel Mishaps: Lost Luggage

14 September 2014

[![The Amazing Disco Elevator with strobing lights. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 2012.](/images/2014/09/disco-elevator-700x470.jpg)](/images/2014/09/disco-elevator.jpg)The Amazing Disco Elevator with strobing lights. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 2012.

Eventually, if you travel long enough, you’ll lose a piece of luggage. Sometimes this results in the somewhat related travel phenomenon, the travel meltdown.
Rick’s take on these kinds of things is that it usually happens when you’re tired and it’s what he calls a stepwise disaster. No single step is bad, but at some point, something gets missed. Despite everyone’s best intentions, a disaster occurs.
In this particular case, Rick helped my mom bring her luggage down to the lobby, while I sat and watched Rick’s and my luggage. We travel together a lot, so we’re used to what each other carries. My mom, however, was carrying an additional piece in the form of a new bag.
The person who called the taxi asked for her to wait by the door to see if the taxi came. Then we all went to the taxi, inadvertently leaving her large bag behind. Sadly, we didn’t figure out what happened exactly until just after the ship pulled away from Lisbon. Since we weren’t returning to Lisbon, this left us with a problem. ## Ways to Ensure You Have All Your Things

I’m a numbers person, so I favor the numbers method: I’m making sure I have my three (or whatever number) items at any point. I ensure that I don’t take out or put away any items, so that the count remains constant through one segment of my trip (e.g., transferring items from one’s hotel room to a cruise ship stateroom).
Your method doesn’t have to be numbers. It could be colors of things: blue, purple, red, black. So long as you have a specific method that works for you.
Furthermore, check the count (or whatever your method) at every single point: leaving the hotel, what gets put into the taxi, leaving the taxi, boarding the ship, etc. Obviously, in cases where porters will take your luggage, your system needs to account for those pieces at that time.

Two Strategies

I’ve sometimes said that packing extra underwear in my carryon is a talisman against losing my luggage, but I say that jokingly. You’re far more used to having a carryon with you, and thus you’re both more likely (more opportunity) and less likely (because you’re using to having it with you) to lose it.
This leads to a more general solution to the problem: cross-packing. Take a packing cube and put one change of clothes in it with one or two changes of underwear. If everyone traveling (well, up to about four people) does this and one piece of luggage is lost, then you’ve got a suitcase with items from four people that’s lost, but everyone has at least three changes of clothes. This works best if each person’s packing cubes are color coded.

So What Happens When You Lose Your Luggage?

People on a round-trip usually pick up their lost luggage on their return through the same place. If you’re not going back there, generally it’s sent via some package service like FedEx, UPS, or DHL. On a ship, you can have it sent to the ship’s agent in a future port.
Except in my mom’s case, it was sent to the ship’s agent in Málaga, Spain, arriving the day before the ship did. Then the agent, whose business it is to receive things for the ship (and occasionally handle passengers and crew who miss the ship, as well as other duties like dealing with port charges, etc.) decided to refuse the package. So, despite having been sent from Lisbon, Portugal to Málaga, Spain, her suitcase is currently in Köln, Germany.

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Travel Misadventures

07 September 2014

Well, not all travel is fun or good.
I’ve been exhausted for five freakin’ days, and I’m hoping to finally get some good restorative sleep tonight.
You see, my CPAP, which I need to get good sleep, blew up not long after arriving in Frankfurt.
blown-up-cpap
I managed to get one good nap out of it, then it blew up in a shower of sparks, then nothing since then. I’ve had a persistent headache and been draggy. As a consequence, I bailed on visiting both Bratislava and Salzburg. Boo.
The good news is that I had a backup plan, and Rick brought that with him. The one time we arrive separately turns out to have been a great thing.
My carryon’s telescoping handle also broke (why does it always happen at the beginning of a trip)? I did something I’ve never ever done at a hotel before: borrowed duct tape from the front desk. So I’ll be taking that in for repair when I return. Meanwhile, I’m hoping I get it in the overhead bin on my flight in, oh, an hour and a half. ::crosses fingers::
My trip, revised and scaled down:

  1. Train to Vienna.
  2. Fly to Lisbon via Zurich. (New country! #92) At this point, I join Rick and my mom as we explore Portugal.
  3. Sail to Gibraltar. (New country/territory! #93)
  4. Sail to Puerto Banus, Spain.
  5. Sail to Malaga, Spain. Alhambra!
  6. Sail to Cartagena, Spain.
  7. Sail to Ibiza, Balearic Islands. (New country/territory! #94)
  8. Sail to Mahón, Menorca.
  9. Sail to Alghero, Sardinia. (New country/territory! #95)
  10. Sail to Bonifacio, Corsica. (New country/territory! #96)
  11. Sail to Porto Vecchio, Corsica.
  12. Sail to Civitavecchia, Italy, aka the cruise port closest to Rome.
  13. Visit the Vatican! (New country! #97)

We fly home from Rome a couple of days later.
[gcmap path=’fra-vie-zrh-lis-gib-agp-mjv-ibz-mah-aho-fsc-fco’ bgcolor=bluemarble pathcolor=blue dottag=city]
As always, I’m using the Travelers Century Club list of countries and territories.

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Using Negativity Wisely

06 September 2014

I made a deliberate change in how I blogged this last year.
Instead of avoiding negativity, like I had in the past, I decided to change my policy.
However, I don’t want to be an unrelenting source of misery. There’s enough of that in the world. Also, while I can be a mean person, I am very aware, from having been on the other side of that, that it’s something that really needs to be used carefully.
After reading this post from Tim Grahl about Overcoming Criticism, I thought I’d talk about the transformation I made and why.
So here are my guidelines.

  1. Is it funny and not about a specific person? Like my post about someone using my email address to sign up with Amazon? And yes, while a specific person was named, it’s pretty clear that was company policy. Also, I’ve heard a lot of people say why they didn’t like having double-opt-in on email lists, and, as a continually-frustrated person on this regard, I decided to write a counterpoint.
  2. Is the purpose of the post educational? Like my Norilana posts earlier this year about how Vera Nazarian was receiving royalties for others but not paying them out?
  3. Is the purpose of the post cathartic? Like publishing Moira Greyland’s account of her mother’s abuse. Or my own tale of my experience working at Apple as a mobility-impaired person?

The Kinds of Things I Don’t Say

Last week, I read a novel where I thought the writer phoned it in. I’d never review the book (I think the idea of authors reviewing books is inherently fraught unless it’s a book about writing or at least outside the categories one writes in), nor would I say that to the author in question. Unless directly asked, at which point I’d be as precise as possible, and only to her. Just in case you fear it’s you, I don’t follow this writer on Twitter or Facebook (or anywhere), nor have I read her books before.
I try not to be unnecessarily mean. I don’t like people piling on a mean train.
I also try to use my outrage in ways that I think will make the world a better place. Like, will someone think this through if write this post?

The Result

After about a year of this, my overall readers have doubled—and that’s excluding the posts related to Marion Zimmer Bradley.
I feel like I’m more honestly me when I’m posting.
I’m also less frustrated.
I’ve probably also lost some readers, which would be normal, I think.

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What's Wrong With Jokingly Asking for the Scoop?

04 September 2014

Won’t ya look at that. http://t.co/zT3fbVKx3Q

— Ricky Mondello (@rmondello) September 4, 2014

@rmondello give me the scoop and what type of watches there will be

— Matthew Davis (@mtthwdvs) September 4, 2014

@mtthwdvs Do you have any idea how fucking rude your tweet was? @rmondello

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) September 4, 2014

@deirdresm @rmondello what’s wrong with jokingly asking for the scoop

— Matthew Davis (@mtthwdvs) September 4, 2014

When I was at Apple, these things happened all the time. Sometimes, people I thought were my friends asked these kinds of things, and I just stopped talking to whomever.
If you think it’s fresh or new or funny, you’re wrong.
Because anyone who thinks their curiosity is more important than your job is an unmitigated asshole.
Once upon a time, someone on Fountain Pen Network (of all places) offered big bucks (an actual number, which I’m not going to state) if I’d steal a prototype iPad. Which I then reported to both the board’s owners and to Apple legal.
So in case you wonder why a lot of people at Apple (for example) aren’t more out about working there, or more open about what they do, maybe they’re just tired of dealing with the fallout of the world’s curiosity. It’s exhausting, frankly.

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