Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

What A Celiac Thinks of the Gluten-Free Foods Fad

27 April 2015

[![What I think about the gluten-free fad](/images/2015/04/Depositphotos_24460587_700.jpg)](/images/2015/04/Depositphotos_24460587_700.jpg)Falafel balls with salad, photo by Ilya Shapovalov.

I really, really, really wish someone would ask a few celiacs what we think of the gluten-free foods fad. Instead, we get pieces with inflammatory headlines like this steaming poo and this pile o crap, and I just want to make all of you suffer my culinary life for the rest of yours. With extreme prejudice. (Sorry for the lower digestive metaphors, but if you were celiac, you’d understand where I’m coming from. So to speak.)
Look, I’m a child of scientists, and I do absolutely believe in basing your culinary decisions, at least in part, on science. And I would not wish a gluten-free diet on anyone, not even my worst enemy.
For me, not eating gluten free means feeling like I have food poisoning. In fact, I thought I did recently when I accidentally grabbed the gluten-filled waffles at the store and managed to eat two before I noticed.
Having to eat gluten-free foods all the time has brought me to tears more often than I’d like to admit to. Occasionally, like my first day at Apple, they’re tears of joy because there are four gluten-free soups and you’ve never seen a gluten-free soup in the wild before.
Here is what I’d most like to say to people who eat gluten free and have pressured various restaurants to have gluten-free foods available: Thank you.

That’s it. Thank you.
Because of all of you, I can walk into pretty much any first-tier hotel pretty much anywhere in the world and not starve. I usually can have gluten-free food I like. Better restaurants and hotels have gluten-free bread, even though sometimes it’s so awful I’d rather not actually eat it (glares at the Hilton Frankfurt Airport).
Sometimes, there’s a gluten-free menu. I live for those days.
Sometimes, those menus have cool things on them.
I had, for the first time in the almost 20 years I’ve lived gluten free, gluten-free fish and chips for the first time in a restaurant. It was magical.
Also, I’d like to extend a warm shout-out to those who aren’t celiac but who do have genuine problems with gluten and/or wheat, rye, or barley. There are the people who are flat-out allergic, and there’s at least an arguable case for non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

But: Gluten-Free Foods!

If you don’t absolutely have to eat gluten-free foods….
Look, as much as I appreciate your support, I wish you’d consider your life choices, and also how you’re harming those of us who have no other choice.

  • Because you are willing to accept gluten substitutes, you make us look flaky.
  • Some people will passively aggressively serve us gluten because they don’t believe anyone needs a gluten-free diet.
  • 20 ppm really apparently does harm some celiacs, and a lot of kitchens aren’t celiac safe. Like: pizza places that cut their (formerly) gluten-free pizzas in the same workspaces, with the same tools, that they cut their wheat pizzas. That may be fine for you, but it’s not fine for us. Consequently, we still have to ask All the Annoying Questions.

Doing gluten free right is hard. I get why you sometimes just say fuck it and eat what you’d rather have. (I wish I had that choice.)

While You’re Lobbying for Foods for Us…

Would you please all collectively ask for regular old meat lasagne for me? Something akin to what Marie Callender’s used to serve, but in gluten-free form?
I’ve never seen a gluten-free meat lasagne in a restaurant, and I’d very much like to.
Much obliged.

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Editor Edmund R. Schubert Withdraws from Hugo Awards

27 April 2015

hugo-awards
Althea Kontis shares Edmund’s statement:

My name is Edmund R. Schubert, and I am announcing my withdrawal from the Hugo category of Best Editor (Short Form). My withdrawal comes with complications, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll do my best to explain. I am withdrawing because:

  1. I believe that while the Sad Puppies’ stated goal of bringing attention to under-recognized work may have been well-intentioned, their tactics were seriously flawed. While I personally find it challenging that some people won’t read IGMS because they disagree with the publisher’s perceived politics (which have nothing whatsoever to do with what goes into the magazine), I can’t in good conscience complain about the deck being stacked against me, and then feel good about being nominated for an award when the deck gets stacked in my favor. That would make me a hypocrite. I can’t be part of that and still maintain my integrity.
  2. Vox Day/Theodore Beale/Rabid Puppies. Good grief. While I firmly believe that free speech is only truly free if everyone is allowed to speak their mind, I believe equally strongly that defending people’s right to free speech comes with responsibilities: in this case, the responsibility to call out unproductive, mean-spirited, inflammatory, and downright hateful speech. I believe that far too many of Vox’s words fall into those categories—and a stand has to be made against it.
  3. Ping pong. (Yes, really.) A ping pong ball only ever gets used by people who need something to hit as a way to score points, and I am through being treated like a political ping pong ball—by all sorts of people across the entire spectrum. Done.

Edited to add this paragraph: the statement on the IGMS website clarifies my point #1 wass wrong, and I have corrected it accordingly. My apologies to Mr. Schubert.
I think it’s important to note these things:

  1. It’s likely

    Edmund knew did not know about the slates prior to nominations closing.

  2. Edmund accepted the nomination (people are given the ability to decline prior to the official nominee list being posted).
  3. Edmund likely knew others withdrew after acceptance. Edmund chose not to at that point.
  4. Edmund likely knew the ballot had been locked after two people were declared ineligible and two withdrew.
  5. Like Black Gate, Edmund’s withdrawal took place after all these events.

While that allows for some sympathy/empathy, it’s not as large as someone declining the nomination in the first place or, as Dave Creek did, asking off the slate prior to nominations closing.
The statement is significantly longer than what I’ve excerpted above, but I’d like to highlight two parts.

What About the Works Pushed Off the Hugo Awards Nominations?

I will not, however, advocate for an across-the-board No Award vote. That penalizes people who are innocent, for the sake of making a political point. Vox Day chose to put himself and his publishing company, Castalia House, in the crosshairs, which makes him fair game—but not everybody, not unilaterally. I can’t support that.

This is, my opinion, classic speaking from privilege.
You know who was really penalized? Hint: it’s not the people who were nominated.
It’s the works (and people) who were pushed off the ballot entirely.
There are works that will never receive fair consideration for a Hugo award.
Voting no award for the two puppy slates does not deprive the puppies of their Hugo Awards nominations.
That’s why I’m voting down the entire slate.

Schubert’s Comments About IGMS

As editor of IGMS, I can, and have, and will continue to be—with the full support of publisher Orson Scott Card—open to publishing stories by and about gay authors and gay characters, stories by and about female authors and female characters, stories by authors and about characters of any and every racial, political, or religious affiliation—as long as I feel like those authors 1) have a story to tell, not a point to score, and 2) tell that story well. And you know what? Orson is happy to have me do so. Because the raison d’etre of IGMS is to support writers and artists. Period.
IGMS—Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show—is open to everyone. All the way. Always has been, always will be. All I ask, all I have ever asked, is that people’s minds operate in the same fashion.

It’s published some fine writers and some fine stories. My problem with it, understandable in context, is that it’s Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show and not just InterGalactic Medicine Show. There’s no real way of promoting the magazine without the full problematic title and its problematic patron.
Much like L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future.
Yet I’m also fascinated, in the case of comparing people’s feelings about the two, how much harsher people are about IGMS than WotF. So far as I know, Card has never made a gay or lesbian (or, in this case, someone accused of same) stand in a trash can for twelve hours while screaming obscenities and epithets at them.
Scientology has, and it runs Writers of the Future.

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Apologies for the Overly Aggressive Spam Police

27 April 2015

bad-cache-issues
I don’t view my WordPress dashboard very frequently, so I’d missed that the Stop Spammers Registration plugin had trapped 75 registrations/commenters it shouldn’t have, some of whom are regular commenters here.
Nor did I know where the UI was for that. (I do now and have whitelisted all 75 of you.)
I’m sure 75 sounds like a lot, but let me give you context here.

OpenID Change

A while back, I switched from one openID plugin to another because the one I had been using was not being maintained. The new one apparently let through a lot more spam registrations than the previous one did—to the point where that was more than half of my email.
Then I installed the Stop Spammer Registrations plugin. Blissful quiet.

Stop Spammers in total has stopped 33,680 spammers since 2014/02/26.

stop-spammers-breakdown
And, unfortunately, 75 legit folks. (As well as possibly more who didn’t say, “Hey!”)

Almost Half Were Cache Problems

There’s a joke in computer science:

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things. —Phil Karlton

My host sometimes needs to service machines and switches me over without me noticing. This invalidates cache, and Stop Spammer Registration latches onto that like a fierce little puppy and growls.
Why? Because invalid cache is a security attack vector, unfortunately.

An Added Bonus

Ever looked at your Akismet spam queue? Even after setting it to delete the worst, I used to have 50-100 per day. Now I get 1-2 per week.

Though…

I’m going to look at the settings and see if anything needs to be tweaked.

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Hugo Awards: Blocs, Slates, Lists, and MilliScalzis

23 April 2015

hugo-awards
One of the questions when faced with bloc nominating in the Hugo Awards is this: when is something bloc voting/nominating? When isn’t it?
There have been statements about the Sad Puppies slate being a slate because it’s five items in many categories: conveniently the number of possible nominations. And, while that is a compelling argument, that isn’t one I find especially convincing.

A Question Was Posed

In this comment, MC DuQuesne says:

Here’s another obvious slate that should be taken into account
http://aidanmoher.com/blog/featured-article/2015/03/final-2015-hugo-awards-ballot-recommendations/

I’m not going to respond to the sealioning in MC’s comments here (though I did cover the answers in another recent comment on the post they commented on), but Aidan’s post actually is a good compare/contrast to discuss why I believe Aidan’s post was not a slate and the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies was.
Because, frankly, if you don’t think that setting up a sockpuppet site (or a hundred), declaring a slate of “SJW” works, and infesting it with a few pets to write blog comments (perhaps even buying a few fiverr gigs for even more comments) isn’t going to happen, well, that’s naive.
So, what defines a slate, then?
Well, let’s look at a bit of unpleasant second-world history for some actual historic usage, tweets by Rose Lemberg that were storified by Charles A. Tan. Actual gulag tales there.
Clearly, we don’t mean anything that dramatic with bloc voting in the Hugos. One hopes.
For starters, there’s the obvious results-based approach. Let’s look at successful nominations this year:

Slate/List Successful Nominations Failed Nominations
Rabid Puppies (Slate) 55 12
Sad Puppies (Slate) 49 11
Aidan Moher (List) 8 34

Aidan’s list includes two Best Novel nominees, one Long Form nominee (shared with the puppies), one Best Pro Editor Short Form nominee, one Best Professional Artist nominee, and three Best Semiprozine nominees. What’s particularly interesting—and perhaps most compelling given how much of Aidan’s blog is about art—is that his sole Fan Artist nomination wasn’t on the final ballot at all. This was the sole puppy-free category, too.

A Better Measure of Influence: the MilliScalzi

Google ranks pages; Alexa ranks sites. Alexa ranks are used by all kinds of companies to measure influence. The ranking (lower is better) means: how many sites are more influential than you are?
In this case, the milliScalzi is defined as:
1000 * (Scalzi’s Alexa Rank) / (Your Alexa Rank)

Name Alexa Rank MilliScalzis
John Scalzi 84,424 1,000
Vox Day 86,085 981
Larry Correia 124,256 679
Brad Torgersen 199,682 423
Sarah Hoyt 238,721 354
John C. Wright 265,307 318
Mike Glyer / File 770 296,754 284
Aidan Moher 525,045 161
Deirdre Saoirse Moen 579,880 146

So, given that Aidan and I hang around in the same milliScalzi hood, I feel I can say about how much influence he had this year. Let’s put it this way: it only took 23 nominations to get on the fan artist ballot, and his nomination didn’t make it onto the list.

More Compelling Reasons I Don’t Consider Aidan’s List a Slate

  1. Aidan didn’t highlight his own work. Do I need to explain how the puppy slates differed in that regard?
  2. Aidan posted it on March 9th (though he’d posted novel thoughts earlier), and nominations closed less than a week later. The Sad Puppies 3 slate was posted at the beginning of February. While I could also see a case being made for people just nominating without reading, I believe the extra lead time is a significant factor.
  3. A slate with little to no effective conversions (in the marketing sense, by which I mean people taking action) is not a slate. Given that the fan artist influence didn’t push his candidate up and over, I think the “slate” argument is truly a non-starter.

Just to put this in perspective, here are my blog stats for that same period:
march9-15-stats
Still, I think it’s poor form to post one’s full nomination list if one has any significant influence—and Aiden having won a Hugo last year means he has some. There are bound to be hurt feelings about who was left out, even if they’d never say so. (And no, I’m not the least bit offended or hurt. I’m glad I’m not on the final ballot this year. I feel for my friends who are.)

Hugo Awards Nomination Ideas

I kind of like this one because I think it’ll take more pressure off people who feel they haven’t read the whole field.

  • One nomination per (some new member type) member per category;
  • Two nominations (currently 5) per supporting member per category;
  • Four nominations (currently 5) per attending member per category.

I think only having one or two things would feel less overwhelming for someone who hadn’t read as widely.

In Other News

In other news, Worldcon has a new gavel (which Rick suggested be named Grabthar’s Hammer), and master filker Tom Smith has a Sad Puppies filk. With a choir.
Puppy nominee Lou Antonelli calls me a Nazi after I tossed him off my blog. (Nazi screencap here.) Protip: when your opening paragraph asserts a position I do not hold and tries to argue with me about it, things will not go well for you.
My honest reaction was amusement: you think you’re a legitimately-nominated Hugo Award nominee for Best Short Story (and Best Related Work)—and that’s the best you’ve got? Really?

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Hugo Awards: Eric Flint Speaks, and Final Nomination Changes

16 April 2015

The Hugo Awards
Summary of what’s in this post: the final Hugo Awards nomination changes, a discussion of a great post about the Hugo Awards from Baen author Eric Flint, and a constructive suggestion to those who, like the puppy sympathists, feel their own favorite works are being left out of the big table. And, at the end, I have a suggestion.

Final Hugo Awards Nomination Changes

I’ve updated the Puppy-Free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide to reflect the changes in the Hugo Awards nominations after two nominations were declared ineligible and after two nominees withdrew their works. The tl;dr version: Puppy-free works have been added in Best Novel (The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu) and Best Novelette (“The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated by Lia Belt). Congratulations to all the new nominees, and condoliolations (congratulations on having been nominated, condolences for the situation leading to no longer being on the ballot) to those who withdrew or were declared ineligible.
I’m especially jazzed about having two works originally published in other languages on the ballot, as literature in translation is so frequently overlooked.
As noted in the File 770 piece, Hugo Award administrator John Lorentz has locked the ballot, and no further changes will be made. (There were also a couple of technical corrections on the final announcement.)

Eric Flint’s Piece

Eric Flint has his own “I can tell this was written by a novelist” piece on his blog.

I’ve been doing my best to stay away from the current ruckus over the Hugo Awards, but it’s now spread widely enough that it’s spilled onto my Facebook page, and it’s bound to splatter on me elsewhere as well. It’s also been brought to my attention that Breitbart’s very well-trafficked web site—never famous for the accuracy of its so-called “reporting”—has me listed as one of the supposedly downtrodden conservative and/or libertarian authors oppressed by the SF establishment. Given my lifelong advocacy of socialism—and I was no armchair Marxist either, but committed twenty-five years of my life to being an activist in the industrial trade unions—I find that quite amusing.

Flint discusses at length the paucity of awards for Murray Leinster and Andre Norton in particular, then lists several other writers’ nomination and win counts.

What has become equally obvious, to anyone willing to look at the situation objectively, is that a third of a century later the situation has become transformed. Today, there are is only one author left who can regularly maintain the bridge between popular appeal and critical acclaim. That author is Neil Gaiman. And there are no more than a handful of others who can manage it on occasion. Perhaps the most prominent in that small group are Lois McMaster Bujold, Ursula LeGuin and George R.R. Martin.
Once you get beyond that very small number of authors, the field diverges rapidly. That handful aside, there is no longer any great overlap between those fantasy and science fiction authors whom the mass audience considers the field’s most important writers—judging by sales, at any rate—and those who are acclaimed by the small groups of people who hand out awards.

Exactly so, though I’d argue that LeGuin is perhaps less famous with mainstream, but more famous in literary circles. When I was an undergrad, I was told I couldn’t write science fiction or fantasy and work with writing faculty unless I wanted “to write like Ursula LeGuin.” I declined (because I want to write like myself, not LeGuin) and worked with a science faculty member who was an sf/f reader. (The program, then a part of Vermont College, required a faculty sponsor for the semester, but none of the writing faculty were willing to sponsor anyone writing any form of popular fiction.)
Anyone who writes genre fiction and wanted to seriously pursue a writing degree has, no doubt, run into some form of the above at some point.

Any author—or publisher, or editor—who gets widely associated with a political viewpoint that generates a lot of passion will inevitably suffer a loss of attractiveness when it comes to getting nominated for awards—or just reader reviews. Somebody is bound to get angry at you and denigrate your work, and often enough urge others to do the same.
Does it happen to people who are strongly associated with the right? Yes, it does. But it also happens to people who are strongly associated in the public mind with the left. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is read through Amazon reader reviews of my work and see how many “reviews” are obviously triggered off by someone’s outrage/indignation/umbrage at what they perceive as my political viewpoint and have little if anything to do with the book which is theoretically being “reviewed.”
Nor does it matter very much whether the assessment people have is accurate or not. To give an example which is germane to this issue, there is a wide perception among many people in fandom—the average reader-on-the-street could care less—that Baen Books is a slavering rightwing publisher. And never mind the inconvenient fact that the author who has had more books published through Baen Books than any other over the past twenty years is…
(roll of drums)
Me.
Who is today and has been throughout his adult life an avowed socialist (as well as an atheist), and hasn’t changed his basic opinions one whit.

I’m also unhappy with the reduction of Baen to only publishing right-wing (and various other tropes) authors because I’m also a Baen author. I’m not as universally liberal as you might think, and I’ve in fact been a libertarian (both big-L and not) in the past. My religious affiliation could be best described as “Agnostic Pagan,” specifically Druidism.

Yes, it’s true that Larry Correia and John Ringo are pretty far to the right on the political spectrum and they don’t get nominated for major awards despite being very popular.
You know what else is true?
I’m very popular and further to the left on the political spectrum than they are to the right—and I never get nominated either. Mercedes Lackey isn’t as far left as I am, but she’s pretty damn far to the left and even more popular than I am—or Larry Correia, or John Ringo—and she doesn’t get nominated either.
The popular fantasy author Steven Brust, like me, is what most people call a “Trotskyist.” In a career that has now lasted thirty years, he’s picked up one Nebula nomination. On the other hand, China Miéville—another so-called Trotskyist—has gotten around a dozen nominations and won both a Hugo and a World Fantasy Award.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Mike Resnick has gotten more Hugo nominations than just about any author in the history of science fiction—he’s won five times, too—and he’s a Republican. A sometimes loud and vociferous Republican, as I can attest because he’s a friend of mine and we’ve been known to argue about politics. Loudly and vociferously.
The fact is, there is no correlation I can see between an author’s political views and the frequency (or complete lack thereof) with which he or she gets nominated for SF literary awards. The claim of the Sad Puppies faction that so-called “social justice warriors” are systematically discriminating against them is specious. It can only be advanced by cherry-picking examples and studiously ignoring all the ones that contradict the thesis, of which there are a multitude.

Exactly so. Resnick was also an editor of mine. I’ve had some great conversations with him over the years.

I believe there are three major factors involved that account for the ever-widening gap between the judgment of the mass audience and that of the (comparatively tiny) inner circles of SFdom who hand out awards. Of the three, two of them are objective in nature, which is what makes the problem so intractable. And all three of them tend to constantly reinforce each other.
The first objective factor is about as simple as gets. The field is simply too damn BIG, nowadays. For all the constant whining you hear from lots of authors about how tough things are today for working writers—which is true enough, in and of itself—the fact is that the situation is a lot better than it used to be. Half a century ago, I doubt if there were more than a dozen F&SF writers able to make a full-time living at it, and most of them were not making a very good living. Today, with a North American population no more than twice the size it was then, I figure there are somewhere around a hundred F&SF authors able to work at it full time, and at least a third of them are earning more than the median annual income. Even in per capita terms, that’s a big improvement.

Back in the old days, many of the most popular authors had a number of pseudonyms. Mike Resnick has a Rolodex full of pseudonyms. Not a joke or exaggeration. So in the old days, there was a different kind of problem: you’d like six authors, but they’d all be the same person.

The second objective problem is that due to massive changes in the market for F&SF—changes so massive that they amount to a complete transformation of the field over the past several decades—the structure of the major awards no longer bears any relationship to the real world in which professional authors live and work. That’s especially true for those authors who are able to work on a full-time basis and who depend on their writing income for a living. Award-voters and reviewers and critics can afford to blithely ignore the realities of the market, but they can’t.
Both the Hugo and the Nebula give out four literary awards. (I’m not including here the more recent dramatic awards, just the purely literary categories.) Those awards are given for best short story, best novelette, best novella, and best novel. In other words, three out of four awards—75% of the total—are given for short fiction.
Forty or fifty years ago, that made perfect sense. It was an accurate reflection of the reality of the field for working authors. F&SF in those days was primarily a short form genre, whether you measured that in terms of income generated or number of readers.
But that is no longer true. Today, F&SF is overwhelmingly a novel market. Short fiction doesn’t generate more than 1% or 2% of all income for writers. And even measured in terms of readership, short fiction doesn’t account for more than 5% of the market.
Don’t believe me? Then consider this: I have published at least half a dozen novels each of which has sold more copies than the combined circulation of all science fiction and fantasy magazines in the United States—and I am by no means the most popular author in our field.

Romantic Times gives out an absolutely dizzying number of awards each year. Here are this year’s winners. Note that quite a few of those are publisher specific. Romance is an even more overwhelmingly novel-oriented market than science fiction or fantasy are.
To give you an idea of how large that field is, I read 150 romance books last year, mostly ones published last year. I’ve only read one of the books on the list. I’ve read twelve of the authors, though most of those have been published in sf/f.
Also, I disagree with the point he then follows up with about the novel length for the Hugo being wrong. Up until 2010, I’d have agreed with him. However, with the rise of digital first publishing, many more short novels are being written than used to be. It hasn’t picked up as much in science fiction and fantasy as it has in romance—in part because it began earlier in romance with a greater number of digital-first publishers and the popularity of “category length” (read: shorter) books—but I believe that is just a matter of time.
While there are romance series, most of them are a completely different style than is popular in sf/f: the protagonists of book 1 become side characters in book 2, and vice-versa.

Is there any solution to the problem?

Well, freeping the Hugos doesn’t fix the problem, it just vastly increases the number of people who are unhappy.

In addition to being an author, I also do a lot of editing of old science fiction stories. I’ve produced by now something like three dozen anthologies of stories written mostly in the fifties, sixties and early seventies. And I can state flatly that the average level of fiction written in our field today is far higher than it was half a century ago. As fond as I am of the fiction I grew up on, the simple fact is that most of those authors couldn’t get published today.
It’s not just a matter of prose, either. Just about everything in those days was crude, compared to the situation today.
The science in “science fiction” was often abysmal, especially the biology. Edgar Rice Burroughs was by no means the only author who told stories in which humans mate with aliens and produce offspring. Thereby demonstrating a grasp of biology stuck somewhere in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries.
The settings were typically crude, too, compared to the settings of most stories today. So were the plots. There were exceptions, to be sure—and, not surprisingly, those tended to be the most popular authors.
My point is simply that there is no rational basis for thinking that the literary sophistication of the mass audience for F&SF today is any worse than it was some decades ago, and plenty of reason to think that it’s actually superior.

I agree.

Why the Quality Shift

The quality shift was a concerted effort on behalf of people like Robin Scott Wilson, who created the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in the 1960s to help improve the quality of writing in the field. These days, there are quite a few similar workshops open by audition:

  1. Clarion in San Diego (6 weeks)
  2. Clarion West in Seattle (6 weeks)
  3. Odyssey in New Hampshire (6 weeks)
  4. Viable Paradise in Martha’s Vineyard (1 week)
  5. Milford in Wales

There are, finally, also programs in writing popular fiction, including MFA degrees from both Seton Hill and the University of Southern Maine.
Knight also founded SFWA, and part of the intention of the Nebula Awards was to focus on works on literary quality (as distinct from popularity). Yet, over time, the Nebula Award and Hugo Awards nomination lists seem to be (this is a perception that I have not analyzed, to be clear) closer rather than farther apart.
Over time, Clarion has produced (let’s say 15 people average per year x 40+ years) over 600 graduates, and many of those vote or nominate. Or hold (or have held) editorial positions at some point. When you add in the members of the other groups, too, this represents a significant influence on science fiction and fantasy books and short stories.
Yet, as a counter-example, a couple of years before I attended Clarion, Gordon van Gelder was the editor-in-residence. He handed the class his slush pile, and said, “which one of these would I buy?”
The class read the stories and argued with each other and had it narrowed down to a list of five candidates. Gordon said, basically, that it was none of them. He pointed to a story by a far more famous writer and said (paraphrase), “I’d buy this one, so I could put his name in big letters on the cover and sell the magazine.”
The sword definitely cuts more than one way. As Gardner Dozois put it, people become publishable before they start selling.

A Modest Proposal

Here’s my proposal: someone (not me) should start a workshop designed for people who want to write the popular end of science fiction and fantasy, and possibly aimed at people who wish to write sf/f books (the existing workshops are mostly about short-story writing). Yes, I know that Viable Paradise is about that, but the field is certainly big enough for two such workshops.
Not only that, it could be one that valued humor more than Clarion et al tend to. (You know what’s harder than writing humorous work? Critiquing it. Harder yet is understanding how to use the critiques.)
Make it six weeks long, have authors bring complete novel drafts, and workshop the whole draft in six chunks.
Don’t make it depend on ideology, make it depend on wanting to write stronger works of popular fiction.
This would be a great place to form relationships with other, similar writers, to build interrelationships within the field (as happens with Clarion et al), and doesn’t have the problematic relationship with the Church of Scientology that Writers of the Future does.
You’re only 47 years behind.

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Google Changes: Five Free Responsive WordPress Themes

16 April 2015

responsive-wordpress-themes
Google’s making huge changes in how they’ll rank web sites, and those changes take effect next week on April 21. Google has warned that sites that are not responsive will be penalized in rankings. If you run WordPress sites, then switching to responsive WordPress themes will prevent you from losing your Google juice.
You may be saying: ZOMG! What do I do?
(At the end, I’ll have a new thingy for you author types.)

Five Free Responsive WordPress Themes

If you have a self-hosted WordPress site and haven’t done a ton of customization to your theme, here are some themes that will at least get you over that hump.

  1. TwentyFifteen. It comes with WordPress, it’s boring (I mean: content-focused) as all get out, but it’ll get you there. In particular, you know it’ll support just about any WordPress feature since it’s a core theme. One downside: there are only two child themes currently (and I don’t care for either of them), but you can design your own.
  2. Pinboard. As I’ve mentioned before, I use this one for ryanjohnsonactor.info. There are no child themes that I know of, but it’s a solid theme.
  3. Virtue. Not only is it free, not only is it responsive, but it’s also designed for Woocommerce if you happen to want a store with your site. There are no child themes. I haven’t used this one.
  4. Vantage. This is a free theme that wraps around a plugin, PageBuilder. I haven’t tried it, but it appears that it would permit easier customization for most people than child themes would, without the expense of costly solutions like Headway or Dynamik (which I use on some sites).
  5. Omega. This is a wonderful free theme that has inspired quite a few other free child themes. Here are three of them: Composer, Hotel, and Church. You can find even more with this search.

Note that I’ve only added responsive WordPress themes that are free, not “lite” versions of commercial themes that are often omitting really basic features so that you’ll pay for it. One of those features often missing? Responsive.

A Child Theme Primer

For those of who who’ve never used WordPress child themes, they are a spectacular feature.

  1. A child theme, at its most basic form, is a new folder in the WordPress theme directory that contains a stylesheet (named style.css).
  2. A child theme can also contain new WordPress functions that may alter the parent’s theme, which I do in Ryan’s site. (And deirdre.net, also, as I have changed the way the header looks—substantially—from the StudioPress Metro Pro theme it started out as.
  3. A child theme can also contain any other resource a theme can, including graphics, fonts, and JavaScript.

Essentially, it’s installed just like any other WordPress theme, it’s just that you need both the child and the parent theme installed for it to work.

Once You’ve Changed Your Theme, Now What?

  1. Log into Google Webmaster Tools. If you haven’t verified your site, go through the steps to do that. Read carefully about any issues Google says your site has, then fix them.
  2. For the love of your readers, please use permalinks. You’re not going to remember, and neither will I, that this post is deirdre.net?p=5024 a day from now. From the WordPress admin interface, go to Settings -> Permalinks. Click on “post name” (or anything other than “default”), then click Save Changes. This will help your site rank better.
  3. Install an SEO plugin. There are two that are particularly well-regarded: All-in-one SEO Pack and Yoast’s WordPress SEO. I use the latter. Both will coach you on how to improve your page ranking. It’s like having your own copywriting coach.

Here are two screencaps taken while I was drafting this article:
yoast-seo-1
yoast-seo-2

Is it Really Worth All That Effort?

As a marketing coach I know phrased it: “No one ever complained about having three times as much Google traffic. For free.” And that’s true. All you’re doing in changing to responsive WordPress themes is making it easier for people to find your site.
I don’t know why Google’s pushing this change specifically, but I’ve been really frustrated with horrible mobile experiences. Bad mobile sites cause a higher bounce rate. Reducing bounce rate is also critical to ranking, so you may find that you get a lift in traffic. I mention in that link that I was testing something, and that test has been successful. I’ll write about it next week.

StudioPress’s New Author Theme

Less than ten minutes before I planned to post this, I found out about a new paid theme I’m super excited about.
One of the huge problems of author-friendly themes out there is that most are designed for one book. They’re inevitably badly designed for the face that book covers are (not universally, but nearly so) tall rather than wide or square, and almost all WordPress themes use landscape or square images.
That kind of thing? Will drive you crazy over time.
I was in the middle of fussing with some theme constraints, and now I’m packing in that project because StudioPress, author of the Genesis themes family, has a new Author theme.
Further, even if you don’t want that particular Genesis theme, there’s a free Genesis Author Pro plugin that’ll work with any Genesis theme.
StudioPress themes are lean, optimized for speed and search engine optimization. I’m really glad I switched last year. I was in the middle of making some changes, so I may well switch to the Author Pro theme myself.

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Hugo Awards: Two Nominees Withdraw

15 April 2015

The Hugo Awards
Two Hugo Awards nominees who were on Sad Puppies and/or Rabid Puppies slates have withdrawn their works.
Annie Bellet, author of “Goodnight Stars,” nominated for Best Short Story, announced her withdrawal in a moving post, excerpted:

I want to make it clear I am not doing this lightly. I am not doing it because I am ashamed. I am not doing it because I was pressured by anyone either way or on any “side,” though many friends have made cogent arguments for both keeping my nomination and sticking it out, as well as for retracting it and letting things proceed without me in the middle.
I am withdrawing because this has become about something very different than great science fiction. I find my story, and by extension myself, stuck in a game of political dodge ball, where I’m both a conscripted player and also a ball. (Wrap your head around that analogy, if you can, ha!) All joy that might have come from this nomination has been co-opted, ruined, or sapped away. This is not about celebrating good writing anymore, and I don’t want to be a part of what it has become.
I am not a ball. I do not want to be a player. This is not what my writing is about. This is not why I write. I believe in a compassionate, diverse, and inclusive world. I try to write my own take on human experiences and relationships, and present my fiction as entertainingly and honestly as I can.
I am proud of “Goodnight Stars.” I wrote a damn good story last year that a lot of people have enjoyed. I believe it could have maybe even won.
But it is not the last story I will write. It is not even the best story I will write. I have perhaps already written better stories this year. I will write better stories next year, and the year after, and for decades after that. I hope to be like Ray Bradbury and write every moment until I go gentle in that good night, pen in hand.
There will be other years and maybe other rockets. I don’t want to stand in a battlefield anymore. I don’t want to have to think over every tweet and retweet, every blog post, every word I say. I don’t want to cringe when I open my email. I don’t want to have to ask friends to google me and read things so that I can at least be aware of the stuff people might be saying in my name or against my name.
This is not why I write. This is not the kind of community I want to be a part of, nor the kind of award I want to win.

Incredibly moved by that post.
Marko Kloos, nominated for his novel Lines of Departure blogged about his withdawal:

It has come to my attention that “Lines of Departure” was one of the nomination suggestions in Vox Day’s “Rabid Puppies” campaign. Therefore—and regardless of who else has recommended the novel for award consideration—the presence of “Lines of Departure” on the shortlist is almost certainly due to my inclusion on the “Rabid Puppies” slate. For that reason, I had no choice but to withdraw my acceptance of the nomination. I cannot in good conscience accept an award nomination that I feel I may not have earned solely with the quality of the nominated work.

Both are very honorable positions, and, no matter which way they had gone, they’d have both made friends and lost friends. I wish them both the very best.

John Scalzi on Hugo Conspiracies

Because of the kerfluffle over ineligible work, naturally it was pointed out that Scalzi’s Old Man’s War previously qualified for a Hugo Award, though it did not win, despite having first been serialized for the web.
Scalzi’s response is interesting. The tl;dr version is: the changes in the publishing landscape between then and now have changed what’s perceived as “publication.”
Scalzi wraps it up with this point:

What would I have done in 2006 if I had been disqualified from the Hugo ballot because OMW had been serialized on my Web site? I imagine I would have been very gravely disappointed and would have probably groused privately and possibly even publicly. Then I imagine I would have put on my own big kid pants and dealt with it. Because here’s a home truth: No one is owed a Hugo award, or a Hugo nomination. If you start thinking you are, you’re the problem, not the Hugos, their administrators, or anyone else who might have ever been nominated, or even been awarded, one of the rockets.

I don’t know, John, maybe this calls for your Universal Blame Accepter role. 😉

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Willis and Straczynski on the Hugo Awards

14 April 2015

The Hugo Awards
In the continuing saga of this year’s Hugo Awards, I discuss commentary from Connie Willis and J. Michael Straczynski.
Connie Willis writes about why she’s turned down the opportunity to present the Campbell Award this year:

I love the Hugos. I can still remember how thrilled I was the first time I was nominated for one. It was the fulfillment of a dream I’d had ever since I was thirteen and had opened up Heinlein’s HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL and fallen into the magical world of science fiction. I was nominated for a short story called “Daisy, in the Sun,” and I didn’t win–I lost to George R.R. Martin–but just being nominated and being there at the awards ceremony was more than enough, and then on top of that, I got to talk to Robert Silverberg and watch Damon Knight emcee and meet all these famous authors who were my heroes. It was one of the happiest nights of my life.
Since that first time, I’ve won Hugos, emceed the awards ceremony twice, and presented countless awards. I’ve handed Hugo Awards for all kinds of fiction to all kinds of authors, told them congratulations, beamed at them as they made their acceptance speeches, hugged them, and helped them down the dark stairs backstage afterwards. I’ve loved doing it. And I’ve loved everything else about the Hugos–the anticipation and the nervousness when you’re a nominee, the fun of bantering with George R.R. Martin and Mike Resnick and doing comedy routines with Robert Silverberg, the excitement of watching authors and artists you love be awarded for the work they do, and the joy of being in a room with thousands of other people who love science fiction as much as I do. I’ve adored every minute of it. Till now.

She continues, and I’d suggest you read her piece.
Personally, I can’t imagine being a presenter this year. Too fraught.
In a partial response, J. Michael Straczynski has a radical suggestion:

That being said, every indication is that this year the process was hijacked to a degree never before witnessed, if only because those involved seem to have made no pretense otherwise. They not only robbed the bank, they posted photos of the currency on Facebook and dared anyone to come and get it.
[…]
If, as many involved in Worldcon believe, the Hugos have been hijacked, if the slate of nominees to go out has been gamed in such a way that the Hugo vote and the awards themselves are not actually legitimate, then you have only one option.
Leave the relationship.
Cancel the Hugos.
If you, the organizers, genuinely feel that the Hugos this year are illegitimate, then why in god’s name are you handing out illegitimate awards?

My problem with that is that the Hugo Awards are consitutionally required by the WSFS constitution. The constitution takes two years to change, so changes initiated this year would need to be ratified next year, then become effective for 2017’s Hugo nominations and awards.
What is not constitutionally required is a Hugo Award ceremony.
Sure, that would hurt any legitimate winners (and the entire fan artist category in particular). But when I read Connie Willis’s piece, I wondered how many other people had been asked to be presenters and turned it down.
Instead, the winners as well as the nominator breakdowns could be circulated before the first business meeting. Or the second, so the old business could get out of the way in the first meeting.
Frankly, I don’t envy the senior members of Sasquan’s concom about now.
I can just hear con chair in memoriam Bobbie DuFault on the entire topic….

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Is There a Statute of Limitations for Being an Ass on the Internet?

12 April 2015

Note: the front half of this post was originally going to be separate from my post about the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award. Rick pointed out that the light opening could be seen as minimizing the subject, which was not my intent.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for Being an Ass on the Internet? (Or: Why I’m voting No Award first on the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer this year.)

Asking for a friend.

(That was a joke.)

Well, it both is and it isn’t, because I’ll bet those people who’ve known me for five-ten-twenty-more years remembered something of their own to wince about. ## One of the Problems of the Internet

One of the special problems of the internet is that everything that’s a still-valid web page appears to be happening now. Save for obviously “ZOMG, how 90s” pages that call attention by their dated look and sixteen web-safe colors, things feel like they’re happening now, even when they’re not.

Sure, there are contextual clues in many pages—dates, technology choices, etc.

I’m not sure that changes the emotional weight of something feeling fresh and new, though.
Not long after I wrote my Laura J. Mixon piece on Requires Hate, I had a little nagging in my ear:

When did this happen?

Followed by questions like: am I punching down by signal boosting? Why didn’t I see what writers of color were saying about it before jumping on it?

By the time I returned to the land of real internet (instead of catching slight breezes of it in St. Vincent and the Grenadines), the initial furor had died down. I did read another piece (now gone) that made me think.

I didn’t do anything until February 8, when I added the update to the end. Almost a month later, I wrote this post. and got into several conversations about it, and updated that post accordingly.

Then the Hugo Award Nominees Were Announced

…after George R. R. Martin signal boosted that Laura J. Mixon should get the fan writer nomination, she does. Further, she’s the only fan writer standing after you take away the puppy slates’ nominees.

By the time the nominations were announced, I pretty much knew how I felt, though I didn’t really have a sense of how the actual nominations would unfold.

My Own Organizing Principles

These are some of my organizing principles, and it’s impossible to really discuss how I feel about Mixon’s post without them.

  1. I value people trying to live less hateful lives.
  2. I believe that people change for their own reasons, on their own time schedules. Which may be never.
  3. Not everyone will change for the better, and your definition (or mine) of “better” may be wrong.
  4. It’s not necessary (or even desirable) to forgive everyone who’s harmed you. It’s one’s own judgment whether that should happen.
  5. I believe shunning is evil, where shunning is defined as person A trying to encourage person B not to communicate with person C else sanctions will occur. I belonged to a cult that did shunning (Scientology) and I’m over it. Hence, I still have friends who dislike each other. Vehemently.

I’m not asking that my guiding principles be yours, but: I really believe in redemption and/or self-improvement.

I read this long piece from Abigail Nussbaum and I’m concurring—in the legal sense, meaning: I agree with her decision to rank Laura J. Mixon below No Award—but I disagree with Nussbaum’s reasons.

First, there is no question in my mind that Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s behavior years ago was reprehensible. She agrees.

Second, there’s an obvious conflict of interest here: I was also eligible for best fan writer. One of the things I had to decide was whether or not I was going to nominate Mixon. In the end, I did not. So, regardless of how the nominations wound up, I’d made that choice before the nominee outcome was known.

Voting No Award for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer

My reasons, let me how you them.

  1. The events Mixon’s post mentions were, essentially, 3-10 years ago. Had they been contemporary, I’d have felt they were more relevant.
  2. Mixon’s post happened after Sriduangkaew started to get recognition and after Mamatas outed her.
  3. I disagree with Nussbaum that the topic isn’t sufficiently fannish.
  4. I agree that I think fan writer should be about a body of work and not a single post (says the person who got a quarter million hits for the best-known of my own posts last year). For a single post, Best Related Work is more relevant (as Kameron Hurley won for her “We Have Always Fought” piece).

Much of this information was available for years and only came to be posted because it affected a new writer’s career.
You know, the writing career that Sriduangkaew was now focusing on instead of harassing people.

Statute of Limitations

Most of us are never going to live the lives of a Sādhu, and I’m sure even they have moments they’re less than proud of. It’s entirely possible that some people become Sādhu because they’d done things far worse than you or I have.
The Internet allows us to hold onto hate longer and spread it farther, and that’s not always a good thing.
I don’t have an answer for what the statute of limitations should be for being an ass on the Internet. I’ll just say that the base federal (US) sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter are 10-16 months.
For killing someone. (Not intentionally, obviously.)
Maybe we ought to think about this three-to-ten year thing.

No, this Does Not Mean

…that people who were harmed by Requires Hate / Winterfox should “get over it.” You have a right to feel however you feel.
I just question lowering the boom so long after the situation had changed so significantly.
Some may question: well, if that’s too late, what about Marion Zimmer Bradley?
I’ve heard no evidence that, at any point in her life, MZB felt any remorse about the part she took in raping children and allowing children to be raped (by her husband). Her only care was separating from him to reduce her financial liability. Also, half of that story (her as perp) had never been told until I broke it last year. Plus she’s dead, so it won’t affect her career, though it’s probably affected her heir and co-authors.

Nussbaum Nails How I Feel

In a later comment, Abigail Nussbaum added this, and it reflects my feelings:

My problem is with what the zeal of that exposure reveals about our community, and with the message that I think is sent by rewarding it. You and I obviously disagree about what that message is, and you may be right, but let me be clear again that we do not disagree about the harm that Sriduangkaew has caused.

Got Comments?

Respectful comments welcome. Legal threats, well, I’m in California and we have amazingly powerful anti-SLAPP laws here. (I mention this because of this comment on Abigail Nussbaum’s piece.)

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Ellora's Cave: Don't Bet on Black

12 April 2015

Ellora's Cave: Don't Bet on Black
Every single time I’m convinced the Ellora’s Cave situation can’t take another weird turn (I mean, c’mon, Ebola strippers? What are the freakin’ odds?)—well, let’s just say that I’m rarely disappointed because there’s always something new and strange.
I found out about this side project of Jaid Black’s two days ago, and I can’t help but shake my head repeatedly over it. On the bright side, at least I’m getting my neck exercises in.
Here’s a screenshot of the latest project, Bet on Black Books, which has a header link proudly titled “Self Publish With Us.”
bet on black homepage

So. Tone. Deaf.

Does Jaid Black have any idea how tone deaf this comes across?
Why would anyone need to “bet on” anything?
If this were a portal for, say, books about gambling strategy—it would be a great site name. As something that’s ostensibly otherwise, though, it’s like you’re supposed to bet on her reputation. Which, when it comes to women’s reputations and betting, it’s just skeevy to me.
Furthermore, expecting customers to bet on Jaid Black’s reputation just seems incredibly strange.
Also, the timing of this is interesting. If you look at the domain screencap further down, the domain was registered a couple of days before the mass layoffs at Ellora’s Cave last August. And this is supposed to inspire confidence to “bet on” Jaid Black?
And yet, at the same time, it’s less appropriative a name than Ellora’s Cave, which also appropriates a second culture of color with its logo. So, um, better? Differently wrong?
I don’t even.

Wait, What, Self Publish?

Basically, it’s an electronic store for books. You know, like Amazon. Except this one’s newly-built with outdated technology on a free website builder with a cart service several of us (who have spent more than our fair share of time with shopping cart services) have never heard of.
Yeah, you also have to sign a contract when you submit.
There are a lot of interesting nuances in the FAQ that are not in the contract.
Things like:

When you buy a book from Bet On Black Books, you own it permanently.

Unlike, say, every single other ebook agreement, possibly making new case law in doctrine of first sale as it applies to ebooks.
Courtney Milan had a few comments as well:

@AlishaRai What. Someone created a storefront for just self-published books and they think they can offer worse terms?@suleikhasnyder

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

@AlishaRai Also, you make more on a lower priced book… I guess transaction costs don’t matter? @suleikhasnyder

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

@AlishaRai It looks like she just copied her publishing contract without thinking. There’s stuff in that that makes no sense otherwise.

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

This one is particularly important as it involves a significant downside risk:

@AlishaRai I mean, she’s claiming the right to prosecute a suit for infringement where she had no exclusive rights. Why.

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

@AlishaRai Also. Just don’t do business with a self-publishing portal that can’t afford to have a lawyer look at its boilerplate.

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

As a general rule, I suggest avoiding self-publishing portals that don’t use competent lawyers to look over their boilerplate. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

(Standard disclaimer : last tweet on behalf of myself and not anyone else etc etc)

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

There Are Illegitimate Sites Selling Books Out There

Modest though my own sales are, I’ve found my own books on sites selling them for $—sites that never had any intention of paying me any royalties. These sites are often based on the same kind of free site builders and payment gateways.
Note that I don’t believe Black’s intentions are untoward here, it’s just that, were I a potential customer who didn’t know who she was but happened across the site, I wouldn’t assume it’s legitimate. I admit that the gambling metaphor would be my first red flag.
But there are times when I was buying things in market sectors I knew less well than publishing, desperately wanted something, but didn’t buy it because it just didn’t feel entirely above board.

If You’re an Author, Should You Sell Here?

I’m going to say it: I believe it’s a bad idea to sell your books through this site.
If you want to sell your books off of a web site other than Amazon, you can sell them off your own site, get the money more quickly, not have to contract with another company, and make more money. Oh, and note that the Bet on Black contract does not specify when or how frequently you will be paid.
Let’s say you have a book you’d like to sell for $1.99, and you sell it today (April 12th, as I write this)

| Sales Outlet | You’d Receive | When | |---|---|---| | Bet on Black Books | $1.49 | Undefined | | Amazon | $0.70 | end of June | | B&N Nook | $0.80 | end of June | | iBooks | $1.39 | mid-June | | Kobo | $1.39 | (monthly or semi-annually) | | Smashwords | $1.69 | mid-July | | Your Own Site | $1.63 | *Today* |

And let’s look at the $2.99 level, too:

| Sales Outlet | You’d Receive | When | |---|---|---| | Bet on Black Books | $2.09 | Undefined | | Amazon | $2.09 | end of June | | B&N Nook | $1.94 | end of June | | iBooks | $2.09 | mid-June | | Kobo | $2.09 | (monthly or semi-annually) | | Smashwords | $2.54 | mid-July | | Your Own Site | $2.60 | *Today* |

(Note: Google’s also a book vendor, but their terms of royalty amount are unclear, so I’ve omitted them. I believe they’re in the 52-55% range.)
The whole thing: freebie website builder, cheesy cart system, unexceptional royalties, no defined payment schedule, peculiar legal terms—add up to nope.

So How Hard Is it to Set Up an E-Commerce Store?

This answer assumes that you want to sell directly to readers, in addition to other outlets such as Amazon and iBooks.
If you want to accept PayPal (typical transaction fees of 2.9% + 0.30 for premier and business accounts), then here’s one way to get what you need:

  1. A self-hosted WordPress account (varies widely, but I’d be looking in the $12-20/month range)
  2. A domain name for said account ($15/yr)
  3. Easy Digital Downloads or WooCommerce
  4. A theme that is compatible with your storefront of choice.

Because PayPal handles the payment information, you do not need an SSL certificate. The beauty of it: once you set up the site, when someone buys a book from you, you get your money right away.
For very little cash (~$27 initial outlay, same as a WordPress self-hosted site with no e-commerce), you can sell your digital goods, and you can have your own shop. Plus, you can add other things to your little store, too. Like maybe you want to recommend books, and get affiliate commissions on those. Maybe you’re part of a writing group and you want to exchange ad space on each others’ sites.
Without having done it before in WordPress, I found that it took me about 30 minutes to set up either Easy Digital Downloads or Woocommerce for the first time. (Granted, I’m very technical.)
Examples: deirdre.net currently has Easy Digital Downloads on its front page (that will change in a couple of weeks). desamo.graphics uses WooCommerce. (deirdre.net is changing simply because WooCommerce is something I’m also using on other sites, and I’d rather have one ecosystem to maintain.)

Okay, Maybe I Don’t Want to Go That Far

Let’s say you don’t want to fuss with WordPress. You want your own domain, you want a lovely pre-rolled solution.
I’d recommend Squarespace. Fees start at $8/month; with that plan you could sell one product. The next plan is $16/month, which allows up to 20 products.
For two examples of Squarespace author sites, Tiffany Reisz and her husband Andrew Shaffer’s site.(Note that they don’t sell directly off their sites, but they do have different-looking sites from each other.)

Is This Independent? Ellora’s Cave? WTF BBQ?

The domain registration says the registrant organization is Ellora’s Cave, and uses the exact same street address that EC does, even though the bottom of the web page says “Jaid Black Productions.”
bet on black domain registry
Jaid Black Productions is indeed an LLC in Ohio, but I didn’t find a DBA for Bet on Black books. (I have had issues figuring out where the UI is for that, so this may be my fault. It’s been a few months.)
So: I don’t know? Maybe Ellora’s Cave just owns the domain?

One Hilarious Thing

One thing I do find hilarious, though: she’s using the classic 70s typeface Avant Garde for the header.
This is the same typeface that Marc Randazza—you know, opposing counsel in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case—famously uses for his pleadings.

@deirdresm flattering

— Marc J. Randazza (@marcorandazza) April 10, 2015

Was there no better choice of typeface? Personally, it’s not one I warm to very much, which is why I don’t have the same thinner weights that either Black or Randazza use.

Got Comments? Questions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I do have a planned topic about the specific problems of author websites, so questions on that topic will help me formulate that post.

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