Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

NTSB Fatality Family + MH370 = Stress

22 March 2014

On the ring finger of my left hand, I wear the wedding ring that once belonged to Pan Am Captain Arthur Moen. My late father-in-law, whom I never met.
Anyone who flies a lot fears the worst. Truly, on average, the risks in commercial aviation are low. Not zero, but low. Those of us who flew, say, 160,000 miles last year, some of that over the Indian Ocean, might be a wee bit more stressed about MH 370 than average folks.
This household, though, is a dual-NTSB-report family. A dual-NTSB-fatality-report family.
Rick and I were the same age when tragedy struck our families’ lives in very different ways.

My Side O’ The Family

My stepfather had a Cessna 182, and it was on a leaseback, meaning other people could pay to fly it when we weren’t. One pilot with 1500 hours (quite a lot for a private pilot) decided to fly himself and three passengers to the Reno air show that year.
The pilot blew off the weather briefing that morning and, despite not being instrument rated (and the plane didn’t have the right gear for IFR), he took off in weather that required instruments. The fog was all the way to the ground at the place of impact.
The pilot mis-estimated where he was and, well, “struck obscured mntn side” says it all, doesn’t it?
Four people died. NTSB report.
Crash victim family members threatened to sue my family. There was an NTSB investigation, but our hands were clean. Still, when you’re a kid (or even an adult), it’s rather horrifying to think that the plane you flew in not so long ago flew full-speed into a mountain and caught fire.

Rick’s Side O’ The Family

Rick’s father’s case is the more famous one, a Pan Am cargo flight to Viet Nam.

The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was an attempted takeoff with the flaps in a retracted position. This resulted from a combination of factors; (a) inadequate cockpit checklist and procedures; (b) a warning system inadequacy associated with cold weather operations; (c) ineffective control practices regarding manufacturer’s Service Bulletins; and (d) stresses imposed upon the crew by their attempts to meet an air traffic control deadline.

On Christmas Day, the flight left San Francisco, bound for Anchorage for refueling. The weather at the commercial airport was unsafe, so they landed at Elmendorf Air Force Base instead. The following morning (which, being Alaska in December, was completely dark), there were a number of irregularities in procedure during takeoff, and the time pressure wasn’t helping.
None of the three people survived the resulting crash.
The NTSB report resulted in a number of psychological studies on the relative effectiveness of checklists, though. Overall, checklist procedures at all airlines changed, albeit slowly.
The findings and related research were incorporated into other works. An example would be this dissertation. Or, perhaps strangely, the NTSB’s conclusions reached software development books like Model-Driven Development of Advanced User Interfaces.
Perhaps the most relevant book would be The Multitasking Myth (Ashgate Studies in Human Factors for Flight Operations):

However, accumulating scientific evidence now reveals that multitasking increases the probability of human error. This book presents a set of NASA studies that characterize concurrent demands in one work domain, routine airline cockpit operations, in order to illustrate that attempting to manage multiple operational task demands concurrently makes human performance in this, and in any domain, vulnerable to potentially serious errors and to accidents.

These were things that were largely unknown at the time. Pity we found some of them out the hard way.
If a job asks you to multitask? Better hope what you’re doing isn’t critical.

The Waiting

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if the Asiana 214 report will be ready soon. I double-check to see I haven’t missed it.
Three weeks before the Asiana crash at my home airport, SFO, I was returning home from Alaska—my first trip there, and a place Rick understandably doesn’t wish to return to—when my United flight missed their approach and did a go-around. It was very strange looking out the window down at the airport from an angle you’re not supposed to see it.
While I hadn’t had a near miss, let’s just say that it rattled me. I didn’t tell Rick about the missed approach until the Asiana crash because it involved Alaska.
The only reason my wedding ring exists? Art had left it home to see if it could be adjusted by the local jeweler as it wasn’t fitting him right any more. Therefore it wasn’t in Alaska when the crash occurred.
So MH 370 —especially as someone who flew the airline last year (Maldives-Malaysia-Myanmar)—has me on tenterhooks.
We want to know what happened. We’re realists; we expect that there are no survivors. But we want to understand what happened. To feel reassured that’s not going to happen to us. We feel it more deeply than many other people because we’ve pored over other NTSB reports, become fascinated with tragic failures.
Family history has become part of our culture in gruesome ways. Rick keeps a photo of that particular Pan Am plane (the featured image for this post) at his desk at work. In my office at Apple, I kept a vintage ad for electronics marketing from Pan Am, also featuring that exact plane. Sadly, I don’t have the ad showing the tail number, but I have seen a copy. I just saw it minutes after it was sold. The ad I do have, though, was clearly taken in the same photo session.
Rick says that his real nightmare, thanks to SwissAir 111 (and the amazing writing in this Esquire piece), is this scenario. Warning: this is extremely difficult reading and will likely become a nightmare for you, too.

Then he told his wife, and she said, Until they phone us with the news, we have to believe. And the man said, But darling, they’re not going to phone with news like that. They’d come to the door —
And before he’d finished his sentence, the doorbell rang.

Two hundred thirty-nine people’s families are waiting for their doorbells to ring.

Read More

Serious Indiegogo Question

21 March 2014

For the purposes of this question, let’s assume the following are exactly as stated.

  1. Someone puts up an Indiegogo campaign.
  2. There are complaints about the campaign, and it’s arguably right on the edge of the TOS boundary.
  3. There are contributions to the campaign.
  4. The originator tries to cancel the campaign, but is told it must stay open. Like, you know, this one.

Note: the following is not about the linked campaign. The situation just got me thinking.
So, I ask, what’s to stop a campaign runner from deliberately starting an edge-of-TOS campaign, have a friend contribute five bucks, then “have to” keep it running? Using Indiegogo’s TOS against them, effectively?
And how hard does it have to violate the TOS before Indiegogo steps in?
Because I can’t help but think, re the linked campaign above: as it stands, Indiegogo makes $82.80 from it, but if it were all undone and reset, they’d make $0.
Those decisions add up.
Additional thoughts added after posting:
In general, I’m a huge fan of transparency, and I can get that Indiegogo wants to keep the transparency by keeping the campaign page public. I’m okay with that part.
However, I don’t get why the campaign is kept live. It’s possible, that like the Kickstarter campaign with the PUA book (and its brouhaha), that they didn’t have a process to stop it. Which, given how long Indiegogo’s been around, seems weird.

Read More

Ten of My Favorite YouTube Videos (Including Sheep Playing Pong)

21 March 2014

So, Google had been annoying me with the “Do you want to link this YouTube account to your real name?” crap for eons. It was like a bad date who wouldn’t take the word “no” seriously, you know?
Usually, I’d log out of YouTube, then reload the damn page to watch the video. As my friend Jason is so fond of saying, “Because fuck you.”
So I went to favorite a video today, and I had no favorites list. None. Zero.
I thought I’d lost my carefully-kept list of Ryan Johnson clips. I haven’t put fan videos featuring his work on that list, but my favorite of the ones I’ve found is this Fairly Legal one featuring Duffy’s “Mercy”. I think maybe it’s time for a second playlist here….
Anyhow…what happened. My YouTube account split. I now have my old persona and my new persona. All two of my uploaded videos are goners, but at least I still have what mattered most: my favorites.
So, without further ado, here are ten of my favorite YouTube clips.

  1. Jessica Biel can actually sing. I love this song, love her performance. Colin Firth steals the movie, but her music is, in my opinion, the real star.
  2. Ilio the Surfing Pig. For real. I first saw this segment on TV, and there was more of Ilio surfing then, but only “Part 1” has been uploaded. If anyone finds a better link, I’m all ears.
  3. Salvador Dali on the 50s TV show What’s My Line?
  4. Jordan, the Royal Tour. Visit the country of Jordan, guided by a former Star Trek actor who also happens to be the head of state. (This is several YouTube videos long and is definitely worth watching if you’ve never seen it.)
  5. Daylight Robbery, a show featuring extreme squirrel obstacle courses.
  6. Star Trek/NIN “Closer” mashup. Exactly what it says on the tin. Original series slash at its finest. All clean except for the (non-bowdlerized) song.
  7. TED: Bonnie Bassler, The Secret Lives of Bacteria. Quorum sensing bacteria is just such an amazing thing to me.
  8. Boney M, “Rasputin.” Love this video. Though it is their official video, the male singer isn’t the person at the microphone as this is the non-live version of the track with live footage carefully cut.
  9. Sean Penn gives us all a lesson on how to answer awkward questions about one’s ex. Major props to him for a really winning approach that leaves nowhere to go and is hilarious at the same time.
  10. Extreme Sheep LED Art. Welsh farmers with a truckload of LED lights and a bunch of sheep. Hilarity ensues.

So, there you go. Hope you enjoyed.

Read More

On Reviews and Critiques

20 March 2014

The single pull quote that has stuck with me the most from the Algonkian Conference I went to last November is this one:

A one-star review means that the wrong reader has found your book. —David Cole.

(I think I have the attribution correct.)
If you think about it, it’s quite profound.
With a book, you signal expectations with:

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Any other copy on the front
  4. Blurb on the back if it’s a physical book
  5. The book’s opening or sample

If someone hasn’t figured out what to expect from the book by that point and they get something different than what they expected, they will be disappointed. And, at its heart, a one-star review is a failure to meet expectations. (Save the “I read 50 Shades knowing I’d hate it because everyone else read it” sort of reviewer.)
So, working backwards:

  1. Does the cover correctly lead the reader to grasp the genre and feel of your book?
  2. Does your title signify the wrong genre and prose expectations? Look, if I’m going to pick up Cum for Bigfoot (which I have not read), I’m not going to expect scintillating prose. If I get scintillating prose on top, I’ll give it a better review.
  3. Does any other front/back copy support same?
  4. Does the book’s sample actually lead the reader to expect how the book resolves? Or is it, like Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio was for me, which I would give a one-star review to? As one of my grad school colleagues put it, “It’s like a hard SF novel and a romance novel had a violent accident.” That. So much. Look, I like most of Greg’s books (haven’t read them all) and like him as a person, I just hated that book. It happens. But, hey, it won the Hugo award and the Nebula award. Clearly I’m in the minority. (At the time I read it, no sequel had been announced, and it was my understanding that it was intended to stand alone. I still would have disliked it, but if I’d known it wasn’t the whole intended story, I’d have felt differently.)


It must be “ask Deirdre advice” month, as several people have asked me similar questions about getting a critique from a better-known author in their genre. I’ve been to a fuckton of workshops where I’ve gotten that, so I’m going to tell a tale first.
When I was at Clarion, there were a few days when we had two writers (the anchor team) and an editor giving critiques along with the sixteen of us plus the author being critiqued. For this particular story, the writers-in-residence were Tim Powers and Karen Joy Fowler and the editor was Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor.
So the story being critiqued was, at its heart, a black Conan pastiche. And, well, I hadn’t read Conan because it really isn’t my thing. As a group, we were pretty horrible about the critiques.
Then it got to PNH, who said he liked the idea, pointed out that Tor published (at least some) Conan books, and I remember him particularly admiring the “strenuously operatic dialogue.”
I remember a particular line of Karen Joy Fowler’s about this piece. Or maybe it was about my own attempt to branch out. “An interesting failure is much to be admired.”
I’ve secretly wondered since then if Greg wasn’t smarter than all of us. Sure, the piece wasn’t ready, but he was trying something really different.
Point is: a writer knows how to make their writing their writing, only better (via self-editing). An editor’s job is to know how to make your writing your writing, only better. These are not the same thing.
Does that mean that paying a writer for a critique of your work is a bad idea? No, it does not.
If you’re going to pick someone like that, you want to know that the writer you pick likes the same kinds of things you like. Just because you like their writing doesn’t mean the opposite is true. Don’t expect them to love your book. Don’t expect them to blurb your book when you do sell it, though they might.
So, my advice is: choose wisely.

Overworking Your Piece After Critique

When I read slush, I saw a lot of pieces where the prose had simply had been overworked after critique. That’s particularly true of openings, where critiquers are likely to say things like, “I can’t see this.” So the writer tends to counteract by overexplaining, slowing the opening down.
First, you should read this entire piece by David Mamet even though it’s in all caps. I’ll spare you the caps in the section I’m requoting below.

Yes but yes but yes but, you say: What about the necessity of writing in all that “information?”
And I respond “Figure it out” any dickhead with a bluesuit can be (and is) taught to say “make it clearer”, and “I want to know more about him”.
When you’ve made it so clear that even this bluesuited penguin is happy, both you and he or she will be out of a job.
The job of the dramatist is to make the audience wonder what happens next. Not to explain to them what just happened, or to suggest to them what happens next.
Any dickhead, as above, can write, “But, Jim, if we don’t assassinate the prime minister in the next scene, all europe will be engulfed in flame”
We are not getting paid to realize that the audience needs this information to understand the next scene, but to figure out how to write the scene before us such that the audience will be interested in what happens next.

So when you get your critique, remember that it’s an opinion about your work. You get to decide what to do about that opinion. Up to a point, a reader wanting to know more about a character than is on the page is a good thing.
Also remember that you can bend reality good and hard. Nalo Hopkinson was talking about one of her pieces, “Whose Upward Flight I Love,” once. She said, “In this story, trees fly. Deal with it.” She never explained why trees flew. It wasn’t important to the story.

Read More

Apple Mail Tip: Unread Emails

18 March 2014

I’m sometimes horrible about marking some kinds of items as read or deleting them.
Things like:

  1. People favoriting my tweets.
  2. LiveJournal comment notifications.
  3. Newsletters I don’t have time to read right away.
  4. New product notices from my very favorite vendors.

Unfortunately, I sometimes skip important messages by mistake.
At the moment, I have (gulp) 182 of these kinds of unread messages.
I don’t like the default way Apple Mail handles unread messages, as I feel they get lost.
Here’s how to create a new smart mailbox that contains only your unread messages:

  1. Mailbox menu -> New Smart Mailbox.
  2. Name your smart mailbox. Mine is cleverly named: Unread.
  3. Select “all” in the “Contains messages that match” popup.
  4. It’ll be pre-filled with “Any recipient” and “contains” and hopefully your email address. Keep that, or fix it if it’s not that already.
  5. Click the + sign on the right.
  6. Select “Message is Unread” from the second pop-up row.
  7. Click OK.

And you’re done.
Then you just need to go through and see if any of those things are things you can do without longer term.
Which is what I’m now doing.

Read More

Interesting WordPress Spam-by-Proxy Today

18 March 2014

Today, I got one of the classic spammy kinds of comments with English words that don’t make sense when strung together.

I am this is on the list of a great deal important information in my situation.

One of these days, I’m going to get one with the words in the sentence alphabetized, and it’ll make me laugh.
However, what was different about this one is that it didn’t link to a spam domain.
Instead, it linked to a forum profile at an educational site (major university in this case), and that forum happened to show a user’s URL to everyone. The linked site was a spam site. The educational forum allows registration from anyone. (For obvious reasons, I’m not listing the link.)
So, just be aware when you get a comment on your blog, even if the linked site appears to be legitimate, it may be just spam-by-proxy.

Read More

Why I Helped the First Time

16 March 2014

When Rose Lemberg and I ran Vera Nazarian’s fundraiser, we each had our own reasons for helping.
I’ll link to Rose’s below, but here are mine.
In 2003, I befriended another person on a forum where we knew each other anonymously (this forum required pseudonyms). Let’s call him Cas. He lived in the Portland, Oregon area. I can’t remember exactly when we first met face to face, but I believe it was 2005. Cas was in town for business (he was a mid-level manager in electronics), and he, Rick, and I had dinner.
In 2006, I took a traditional chairmaking workshop in Portland for a week. Cas and I went out for dinner to his favorite Chinese restaurant, which was a very informal place, but very tasty. In 2007, Cas was once again in my area for business, and he, Rick, and I went out for dinner again.
At that time, Cas was at the very end of what would turn out to be his last job.
Look, I’m going to say it, because I think the truth needs to be said when I’m talking this stuff (which is part of why I’m giving you a nick and not his real name): he was not the most ethical person. I don’t know the whole story, and I don’t care, but he’d done something wrong (and by “wrong,” I mean big ticket wrong) in the past where wound up with an IRS bill of over a hundred grand that was not dischargeable in Chapter 7, only Chapter 13. I believe the rules have subsequently changed, but those were the rules in place at the time.
However, in between when he’d incurred that debt and when I met him, he’d straightened up a lot. Not completely, but a lot. (For me, growth is a more important trait than perfection.)
And he’d had a Chapter 7 years and years before, but this IRS bill was weighing around his neck. In 2005, he filed Chapter 13. Even after he’d lost his job, he’d kept paying on the Chapter 13. His wife had to file Chapter 13 also just so they could keep the house (because they could defer other bills and reduce their household expenses). She had chronic illness, so that was yet another complicating factor.
If he’d gotten a job again, it would have been bearable, but he never did. Months turned into a year, and everything started to fall apart. His creditors asked for relief from the bankruptcy stay beginning in March 2008, right as I got my job at Apple.
Cas never told me.
I was so high on having gotten the job I wanted, I wasn’t really aware that he was deflecting, something he hadn’t done with me before. Only much later, when I looked back, was I able to see that our conversations started shifting at about that point in time.
In August, his bankruptcy was dismissed. He still never told me. Then he started to really withdraw, but I was so busy at work, I honestly barely noticed.
The morning they came to foreclose upon his house late October 2008, he shot and killed himself.
His family called, and I spoke to his brother.
I felt horribly guilty. No, it wasn’t my fault, but I feel guilty that I wasn’t present enough to call him on his withdrawal. I felt guilty that he’d previously trusted me with stuff, and, for whatever reason, maybe I’d lost his trust at a time when he needed someone most to vent to. I regretted not being there.
Even more horribly, I got why he did it. The house was solely in his name, and, in his own weird way, he was trying to protect his wife in a non-community property state. Undeniably, he was sending a big old “fuck you” to the bank foreclosing on the house, knowing they couldn’t sell it as is. That would be a very Cas-like approach. Part of me respects that.
The IRS debt was also solely his and from before marrying his wife, so the innocent spouse rule applied. If he died, she was free from it.
You know what? I miss my friend.
So, when only a few weeks later, someone else I knew sent out a bat signal that they were going to lose their home to foreclosure?
Of course I helped Vera. I felt like I’d failed Cas, but I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. I didn’t do it for Vera anywhere near as much as I did it for Cas.

About That Growth Thing

I’d seen Cas grow over the years I’d known him.
What I haven’t seen is Vera’s growth, and I’ve known her longer.
Cas never asked to borrow money from me (or manipulated money out of me), even when he desperately needed it.
Vera, on the other hand, is all about other people giving her money by whatever means. I’m not actually sure what verb applies to what Vera did, so I’m not going to go there, especially not when strict liability for libel may apply.
It’s not a happy verb, though.
I will say, however, one of the things Teresa Nielsen Hayden said once that has really stuck with me: “the long con is a narrative form.”

Read More

More Thoughts on Malaysian MH 370

15 March 2014

Previously: my crackpot theory.
When I said, “it’s sunk,” my intuition was based on the fact that military sites had detected it, then recanted their statement. That said to me that it could have been a friendly fire episode where people hadn’t gotten their stories straight. Except, we’d have detected pieces by now, I’m pretty sure.
My second thought was hijacking, assuming the military disbelieved their own systems because they weren’t detecting quite what they expected.
So here are some more relevant details that are apparently ahead of the news cycle.
This is one of those times where I wish I’d actually traveled more of the Indian Ocean. I was supposed to go to the Seychelles last year—had it booked, in fact—but my stand-up boss nixed it, though it had been booked for almost 11 months.
Several people have asked if the pilot’s home simulator was common. I knew (until his death) a former commercial pilot, and he’d told me they were common. The photos I’ve seen in the news very much like my late friend’s setup.
Here are a few tweets from a fairly well-informed person, @flyingwithfish:
I think the US Gov’t has an idea of where #MH370 is given that DHS told it flew about 3,675 miles on Thursday.
The 3,675 miles flown DHS gave me in Thurs lines up with Malaysia’s PM saying it flew 7.5hrs on Friday.
So here’s that map with that range marked out (so you’re looking toward the bounding border of the circle):
Let’s assume the little islands of the Indian Ocean aren’t of interest. So no Diego Garcia, Reunion, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Lakshadweep, Christmas Island, Cocos/Keeling, Maldives, Mayotte, Rodriguez, or Zil Elwannyen Sesel. Or Socotra or Madagascar or Andaman/Nicobar islands, which are bigger.
Let’s also assume that the flight path would not have to overfly anyone else’s airspace and that, based on the latest information would mean west of Kuala Lumpur.
So that leaves:
Africa: Somalia
Arabian peninsula: Yemen, Oman
Asia: Pakistan and Iran. Technically also India, but I find that highly unlikely.
If the plane had turned north from the Andamans, add Myanmar and Thailand.
But I don’t think so.
Some of what flyingwithfish has tweeted:
DHS source says “It is unlikely #MH370 headed south and its exact direction of travel remains unknown to the RMAF. We’re looking elsewhere.”
Based on what sources have told me, I have been saying state backed actions for a week in regard to #MH370
Remember that value is in the eye of the beholder, we may not be looking for something with a lot of hard currency as a motive
Why steal #MH370? My theory, which could be wrong, is grab who is on board or evade customs & other issues of what’s in the belly
There is proof 20 managing engineers involved with building US Defense Application semiconductors were on #MH370
Question asked: Is it possible for the aircraft to piggyback in another aircrafts shadow to avoid radar? Answer: El Al did it with Entebbe
We even know #MH370 had 1000lbs of lithium batteries above the maximum allowed limit.
On the cargo (ULD = unit load device):
We don’t know what is on an unaccounted for ULD cargo position. It is unaccounted for. That is unheard of. #MH370
Another angle of cargo ULDs being loaded onto a 777-200/ER, like #MH370, you can’t dump the cargo easily.
You cannot open a cargo door on a commercial airliner in flight. It opens from the outside
Here is my issue with the radar arc image for #MH370, given an estimated fly time & distance flown, why does it avoid a likely location?
There are a number of possible locations, based on the info I have & talking to experts yesterday I gusstimate IFN IFN is Isfahan.
Bloomberg piece about Iran, Malaysia, US:

Iran increasingly is obtaining U.S. military equipment and technology through shipments to Malaysian middlemen that illegally circumvent trade restrictions, according to American officials and analysts.

What they wanted? Engineers and managers who knew US defense plans:
Why? They know how to build US Defense Application technology and there were 20 on one plane, which is stupid
I’ve missed a lot of his tweets, but let’s summarize the above (and a couple of other things):

  1. The pilot was involved. It’s not known whether it was the older, more experienced one or the younger one, but the younger one was engaged with a wedding coming up.
  2. Cargo doors can’t be opened from inside the plane.
  3. There was a cargo container with unknown goods inside. This is unheard of.
  4. Isfahan airport is the Fish’s guess of location they’re going. If so, there’s state involvement from Iran.
  5. The signature of the plane could be covered by shadowing another plane, which would require state involvement also.
  6. There were 20 defense engineers who knew significant details of recent/future US military defense technologies on board.
  7. I believe the aircraft was flown, landed, off loaded of what they wanted, plane & collateral liabilities are eliminated. Gulp.

Well @ToTheWinslow, since you ask. On a scale of 1-to-This-Is-Totally-Bat$#!+-Crazy, I would score the #MH370 story at 997.
I dunno, I have at least enough plots for half a dozen spy thrillers now….
Edited to add the next three paragraphs…
Jim Wright has some really great commentary over on FB

Because the ocean is a damned big place, vaster than you can imagine unless you’ve sailed across it (and, because I know you people, yes, I HAVE indeed sailed this part of the world, it’s vast, and complicated and dangerous). And even when you know exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, where to look, it’s still extremely difficult to find scattered bits of airplane or, to be blunt, scattered bits of people in the water. As a navy sailor, I’ve spent days searching for lost aircraft and airmen, and even if you think you know where the bird went down, the winds and the currents can spread the debris across hundreds or even thousands of miles of ocean in fairly short order. No machine, no computer, can search this volume, you have to put human eyeballs on every inch of the search area.

Having recently spent a couple of weeks in some of the remoter ocean parts of the world, this. Three days of no satellite, something I never expected, with the realization that we were really on a very tiny ship (about 800′, which isn’t actually that small) in a very, very large place.
And now for something that made me laugh so we end on a lighter note. Senior Afghan official on whether #MH370 flew over Afghanistan: “We do not have a radar. Go and ask the Americans.”

Read More

Vera Nazarian / Norilana Books Bankruptcy Challenge

15 March 2014

Over on Passive Voice, Vera stated a criticism of what I’ve posted in the past:

The $100,000 money borrowed from my now deceased friend will be paid back in full to his heirs, and was in fact retained voluntarily by me as a debt instead of having it be dismissed through the bankruptcy.
His family is fully aware of the situation, we have an agreement, and everything is above board.
The person who has posted this originally with their own spin on it, seems to have a personal interest to do me harm.

If I’m wrong, it was unintentional. However, having just re-looked at the entire case, I don’t believe I’m wrong.
Rather than listen to what Vera had to say, I looked at what the filings actually said. There is nothing I saw in those filings that says that 2/3 of her total debt, a loan from a friend, is not discharged where the other 1/3 is.
No bankruptcy court would allow that and the other creditors would have a hissy.
Here’s the essence of how bankruptcy works: you either throw everyone under the bus, or you throw no one under the bus. There are exceptions and nuances (like secured creditors), but the entire point is to be a clean slate, especially in Chapter 7.

Here’s a Challenge

I’ve gone and zipped up Vera’s entire filings including the docket report.
I invite you to see if I missed something. I will pay $50 to anyone (except Vera) who can demonstrate, with the filings themselves, that I am wrong about the bankruptcy court having discharged Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr.’s loans to her of $100,000 plus interest. (But you might want to first look at docket item 13.)
That money can go to you or it can go to your choice of the authors she’s named in the Indiegogo as third-party authors published by Norilana. But not to Vera.

Read More

Norilana Books Again

14 March 2014

Previously on Norilana Books and Vera Nazarian, Something Needs To Be Said and Something Else Needs To Be Said.
Let’s note that it really is and here: Norilana is a sole proprietorship and therefore legally the same person as Vera Nazarian. (Last I checked, which was admittedly a few months ago.)
Today, Vera Nazarian started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for back royalties owed Norilana’s authors.
She did not list the authors as creditors in her bankruptcy discharged in 2012, even though she hadn’t paid royalties since (apparently) 2009.
Further, now she’s apparently preferentially wanting to pay her author creditors amounts that should have been partially discharged in bankruptcy even though this is unlawful. Does anyone have contact information for Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr.’s heirs? They may be interested in getting the bankruptcy overturned.
You know, the guy dying of cancer that she snubbed to the tune of $109,364?
Sarcasm alert:
But, of course you should believe that the $19,198.36 of back royalties that she’s raising the money for herself (rather than having an independent party doing it for accountability purposes) is going to her authors.
And of course you should believe that $19,198.36 is in fact due.
Which, let’s look at.
Here are the titles from third parties that aren’t public-domain authors. I’m assuming Val Noirre is Vera’s pseudonym (because it’s not on her list of authors due royalties) and thus am excluding.

Titles that Norilana Still Publishes Where Royalties May Be Due

  • 2011: Delusion’s Master by Tanith Lee (Note: Tanith Lee had an advance setaside in the creditor matrix, so any royalties due would be dependent upon it earning out) (reprint)
  • 2011: A Song of Awakening by Roby James
  • 2011: Phantas by Jeffry Dwight
  • 2011: The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee (reprint)
  • 2010: Death’s Master by Tanith Lee (reprint)
  • 2010: Warrior Wisewoman 3 (anthology)
  • 2009: Sounds and Furies by Tanith Lee (single-author collection)
  • 2009: The Captain’s Witch by Rosemary Hawley Jarman (reprint)
  • 2009: Under the Rose edited by Dave Hutchinson
  • 2009: Night’s Master by Tanith Lee (reprint)
  • 2009: Warrior Wisewoman 2 edited by Roby James (anthology)
  • 2009: A Cold Day In Hell by Ken Rand
  • 2009: Lace and Blade 2 edited by Deborah J. Ross (anthology)
  • 2009: The Memory Palace by JoSelle Vanderhooft
  • 2008: Warrior Wisewoman edited by Roby James (anthology)
  • 2008: A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects by Catherynne M. Valente (single-author collection)
  • 2008: Lace and Blade edited by Deborah J. Ross (anthology)
  • 2007: Leaving Fortusa by John Grant
  • 2007: The Covenant by Modean Moon
  • 2007: A Little Peace and Quiet by Modean Moon
  • 2007: Evermore by Modean Moon

Titles that Norilana No Longer Publishes (But Royalties May Still Be Due)

  • 2011: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXVI (anthology)
  • 2011: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXV (anthology)
  • 2010: Clockwork Phoenix 3: New Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (anthology)
  • 2009: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXIV (anthology)
  • 2009: Returning My Sister’s Face: And Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice by Eugie Foster (single-author collection)
  • 2009: Clockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness edited by Mike Allen (anthology)
  • 2009: Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Journey by Leonore H. Dvorkin
  • 2009: Business Secrets from the Stars by David Dvorkin (reprint)
  • 2009: Mearsies Heili Bounces Back: CJ’s Second Notebook by Sherwood Smith
  • 2008: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXIII (anthology)
  • 2008: A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith
  • 2008: A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith
  • 2008: Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (anthology)
  • 2008: The Journey to Kailash by Mike Allen
  • 2008: A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith
  • 2007: Over the Sea: CJ’s First Notebook by Sherwood Smith
  • 2007: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXII (anthology)
  • 2007: East of the Sun and West of Fort Smith by William Sanders (single-author collection)
  • 2007: J. by William Sanders (reprint)
  • 2007: Senrid by Sherwood Smith

For the next part, let’s assume the following gross oversimplifications:

  1. An author’s royalty for a given work is equal year-to-year and book-to-book (and across authors).
  2. Reprints earn half the royalties of original works.
  3. Collections and anthologies often don’t earn out. Let’s assume these count as 15% of an original title. (This is extremely generous, though.)
  4. If an author or editor withdrew the work, then I’m assuming in-print and royalties due in 2010 through 2012 (or the first two years) as stuff really started blowing up in 2013.
  5. Royalties due per book run, on average, $1.25. Royalty rates for trade paper generally start at around 7.5% of list price, and many run around $15, so $1.125. This is a little generous for trade paper only, but there were often both hardback and trade paper editions, released at the same time.

It’s Spreadsheet Time

a.k.a. Time to check Deirdre’s arithmetic.
So, what does this mean, gross oversimplifications aside?

  1. Assuming Vera’s royalty number is true, the average Norilana author sold 196 copies of any given book in any given year. Reprints would be 98 copies, anthologies and collections 29.4 copies that royalties would be paid on.
  2. If you want to assume every book sold the same number of royalty-paying copies over time, there’s 41 titles, 4 years, that would be (19198.36/41/4/1.25), or 93.65 copies per book per year.

So That Selling Books Thing

Vera Nazarian aka Norilana Books simply has no idea how to actually sell books. If you’re a publisher and consistently, on average, selling under a couple hundred titles per year with dozens of titles to market….
You’re doing it wrong.
Especially if you publish twelve such titles in one year and then the next year, “Oops, can’t pay royalties.”


Everything about this Indiegogo campaign is intensely problematic. We don’t really know that the money is owed (except for Eugie Foster having opened the can of worms). We don’t really know how much is owed, and we only have vague ideas of to whom. It’s possible some authors have been paid (while others have not). There’s also what someone called “the Vera factor” in all this. I’ll let you figure the meaning.
Raising money to pay debt like this is also problematic. Vera already received that money. She spent it on other things (like her cable bill, which she details in one of her comments to my first post linked at the top).
All I can say at this point is: I don’t even.

Read More