Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'writing'

: Laurann Dohner Announces New Self-Published Series

Laurann Dohner photo

Yesterday, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Laurann Dohner said she’d have some news today. Today, she posted the news: she has one book completed and another in progress, both to be released in December. The really big news happens in the first and second comment:

Laurann Dohner Making Leap

For the visually impaired, Valerie asked:

Will this be a self-published venture or through your regular publisher?

(All of Ms. Dohner’s previous books have been published by Ellora’s Cave.)

She replied:

You go right for the tough one, Valerie. LOL. This is my project. It’s my baby.

Which several people interpreted to mean these two books will not be published by Ellora’s Cave.

Existing Series

So far as I know, all of Ellora’s Cave’s recent NY Times or USA Today bestselling titles have been authored by Laurann Dohner.

Ms. Dohner did say further along in comments that, “I still have a “to write” list a mile long for my other series.” So we can expect to see more in those lines, though she hasn’t stated whether or not those books will be published by Ellora’s Cave. Legendarily, Ms. Dohner signed a 75-book contract with Ellora’s Cave in 2011, but of course we don’t know exactly what the terms of that contract are.

I’m happy for Laurann and her new books, and I’m glad she’ll be able to bring them out independently. I could even pick up copies without breaking my “no Ellora’s Cave titles” rule. During this last year, I’ve met some huge fans of Ms. Dohner’s writing, and I’m looking forward to being able to see what the fuss is about.

Comments

I’d love to hear your comments, but please keep them polite. It’s a big step announcing a shift to being an indie writer, and it can be a scary time.

Also, this post may (or may not) have been brought to you by repeated listenings of Ozan Çolakoğlu’s song “Aşk Gitti Bizden” featuring Tarkan on vocals (English lyrics).

: Ellora's Cave: A Whole Bunch of Biz Emails

This post includes the bodies of several emails from Tina Engler to Ellora’s Cave’s business list (hosted on yahoogroups). Note that where there are email addresses listed in the body, I’ve reduced it to the part in the front of the domain name (e.g., website@) to not be a source of spam.

Aug 12: Website & New EC Active Author Group

Date: Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 7:26 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] a new group for active EC authors & site update
After the past couple days I’m starting to feel like the town crier so (hopefully!) this will be my last post for at least a week 🙂

Website

  1. search engine done
  2. author pages done
  3. made “coming soon” section our current priority as of today
  4. new front page after that
  5. series search is next
  6. adjusting book pages so the cover isn’t stretched out

*any errors for points 1 & 2 should be sent to website@ as they are completed

New Group Loop

This week I’m going to be sending out invitations to a private, closed group for active EC authors! The new group is voluntary and participatory; it’s not an announcements-only loop. The group’s main foci are: brainstorming, blurb help, strategizing, maximizing sales, and maintaining communication. If you are an active EC author with a professional reputation (i.e. no history of making private business matters public fodder) then you will receive an invite so long as you meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Had an EC book release within the past 3 months
  2. Have an EC book that hasn’t yet released, but has a scheduled release date
  3. Signed a contract with EC within the past 3 months and are in good standing with your editor by turning in your revisions/edits on or before the agreed upon due date
  4. Are a full time EC employee.

*Please remember this is NOT mandatory. If you receive an invitation but feel you’ve already got too much on your plate to deal with, simply decline it. You will NOT be frowned upon for doing so!! Alternately, you can accept the invite then opt out of individual emails so you can check the loop when time, energy, and desire allows. It’s totally up to you.
And finally, inactive authors who still have books under contract at EC will continue to receive all announcements that pertain to them here on the biz loop. You are not removed from our biz loop (unless you choose to unsubscribe) so long as your books are contracted at EC.
Tina, whose typing fingers are getting sore 🙂
(end email)
Except, of course, quite a few people were silently shoved off of (or never added to) the ec_biz list, so this blog is the place they get those emails. Call it a public service.

August 12th Addendum to Email Contact List

Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 3:38 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] Addendum to Email Contacts
Per Raelene:

  1. The main email for authors to use for anything you hadn’t listed, and actually for anything if they don’t remember the other addresses, is AuthorInfo@. Anything they send there (including stuff for contracts, royalties, whatever) will be routed to the right place for them. So if they can only remember one EC email address, that’s the one to use.
  2. And for rights buybacks, authors should cc contracts@ when emailing patty@.

August 12th A Final Post for Now

Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 4:22 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] a final post (for now) with a thank you
First of all, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we get over this hump. I am humbled and sincerely warmed by the outpouring of positivity and graciousness the overwhelming majority of you have sent our way. You make all the hard work and long nights very much worth it 🙂
Secondly, after speaking with an EC author who’s been with us for a while but who I hadn’t met until recently, I realized that we’ve been far too silent this past year. This person pointed out that the majority of EC’s authors are good, professional people and therefore shouldn’t be punished because of a few bad apples. While it was never our intention to punish anyone, we have come to realize that we have indeed been far too silent over the course of the last year. The bad apples are going to do what bad apples do regardless to whether or not we maintain transparency or cloak ourselves under a veil of silence. Gun shy though we may be, s/he is correct. Therefore we will do our very best to be more communicative on a regular basis.
I often wax nostalgic for the old days when I was able to be 100% transparent with our authors and never once have to worry someone would leak private business information onto public forums and social media. While I realize those days can’t be relived due to sheer growth, I would remind those of you who have been with EC for over a decade that I am the same person now who I was back then. What you see is what you get. I have no hidden agendas and rate 0% in the “poker face” arena. I have always kept my life an open book and that will never change. My goal both then and now is to maximize your profits and make you proud to be an EC author. While the current market has turned the publishing world on its heels, we will continue to reinvent ourselves as we’ve done a plethora of times before. We got through the Borders debacle and bounced back stronger than ever thanks to the business acumen of our CEO, Patty Marks, during a time when many publishers went under. Amazon is merely another bump in the road and, as always, we can and will endure and end up stronger because of it.
Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I (a) don’t bullshit people and (b) never, ever give up. Because of our small but mighty team at EC, we WILL put you back on the map and make sure you rule over it. THAT IS A PROMISE!!
Again, thank you for your kindness, generosity, and belief in EC. I allowed myself to behave reactively toward the negativity for a year, but that is over. I love EC and I love the vast majority of our authors both new and old. Here’s to reclaiming our stronghold.
Warmly,
Tina
(end email)
A few bad apples? That’s how you’re choosing to characterize authors making you money who are upset about (purported) slow/no pay and/or underpayment?

August 11th Contact List

Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 9:41 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] EC emails
I apologize in advance for inundating you with an uncharacteristic amount of notices! I want to make various issues easy to find by having their own subject lines rather than grouping them together in one large email. I’m trying to become more conscientious where that’s concerned, though sometimes I do forget. But I’m digressing…
VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR YOUR BENEFIT
When you need to email EC please email ONLY the appropriate address and nobody else. Otherwise everyone included in the email occasionally assumes someone else addressed the issue. This happened recently which is why I’m addressing it now.
CONTACTS
contracts@ – new contracts, new contract questions, and rights reversion requests that meet the criteria (sold less than 100 copies in time frame specified in contract)
royalties@ – royalty questions that can only be answered by the accounting department, missing statements (you should ALWAYS receive a statement with each check,) and discrepancies between statements and monies received (this is rare, but it does occasionally happen.) For the next couple of months please only email royalties@ for missing statements and discrepancies between statements & monies received. This kindness on your behalf is greatly appreciated as Courtney is working 7 days a week (literally) to catch up.
patty@ – questions pertaining to rights reversion requests wherein the author knows they don’t meet the criteria for free reversions and are asking for a buy-back price. As an FYI, the prices are straightforward and are based on anticipated loss of income over a 3-year period. (I’m pretty sure it’s 3 years, but I’m not 100% on that and I don’t want to wake her up to confirm!) Point being, we don’t hijack the prices. Each and every request is calculated the same way.
website@ – issues with the new site.
jaid@ – when you have exhausted yourself of all proper channels and feel that your question and/or issue hasn’t been sufficiently addressed then I’m the one to contact. (It doesn’t matter which department this pertains to.) I’m also the person to contact for anything that has to do with marketing, creative PR, or just project ideas you have that would require me to give the green light before proceeding. Example: authors X, Y, & Z would like to put together a niche anthology (which we don’t typically do anymore) bc they think it has sales potential based on (insert reason.)
josem@ – social media issues/questions/ideas.
IN CLOSING
It’s important we work together; emailing only the proper address is a vital part of that. It’s especially crucial for general email addresses (contracts, royalties, website) because multiple people access those boxes so never assume you’re reaching one specific staff member.
Thanks in advance!
Tina
(end email)
“We don’t hijack the prices.” I disagree. So does Victoria Strauss:

One last thing: a publisher should not put a price on rights reversion. Charging a fee for reversion or contract termination is a nasty way for a publisher to make a quick buck as a writer goes out the door. A termination fee in a publishing contract is a red flag (for more on why, see my blog post). And attempting to levy a fee that’s not included in the contract is truly disgraceful.

August 11th Updates

Subject: [ec_biz] updates
To: ec_biz@yahoogroups.com
We’re extremely and genuinely sorry for the delays you’re experiencing. I understand and empathize with your needs and worries, but I promise it’s getting better. Please hang in there while we catch back up, which we will and always do.
As an FYI: the fewer emails sent to accounting, the faster we can get royalties processed and mailed. Courtney recently had a family emergency and went to [visit a family member with a hospital emergency], but she is back in Ohio and working feverishly to catch up. I understand this is not your problem, but I hope you can lend your understanding.
Sincerely,
Tina
(end email)
Note that I edited out the specifics of what Courtney’s family emergency was to protect the privacy of that family member.
You know what? Rick and I have both worked as temps for Accountemps. There are plenty of temp/contract agencies that could have covered this.

: Scrivener Tips for Book Marketing

scrivener-marketing-tips
A while ago, I was about to change a cover for a book, and wanted to re-examine the Amazon keywords and the blurb to see if I could strengthen them.
I realized that, off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d put that info for this particular book.
Then I realized: this stuff should go in Scrivener. You know, right along with the manuscript itself.

Add a Marketing Folder to Your Scrivener Project

Next to the Research folder, I created a Marketing folder.
What goes inside?

  • Blurbs
  • Amazon keywords (relevant only if you’re self publishing)
  • Any other marketing copy used
  • Relevant URLs (for where to buy the book)
  • Excerpts (for longer work)

Note that, apart from Amazon keywords, these work for traditionally published authors too. If you are publishing in multiple languages, it may make more sense to break out these files by language.
Speaking of which, other languages may also have substantially different covers. I wouldn’t keep these in the main language’s Scrivener document; instead, I have a directory on my hard drive for all the original image files (i.e., the Photoshop PSDs). I only put the current, final JPEG in Scrivener. Otherwise, the Scrivener documents become unmanageably large. Since I work on a MacBook Air with an SSD drive, it also allows me to store rarely-used resources on an external hard drive.
Also, it may make more sense to create a separate Scrivener project for each language if you’re self publishing.

Blurbs

This file’s not just for current versions of blurbs, but also for previous versions.
If you have A/B testing data for whether one blurb is more successful than another, you can also keep notes about that in the blurb file. (Personally, I use a spreadsheet for this, and I don’t keep the spreadsheet in the Scrivener project.)

Amazon Keywords

Amazon keywords are a dark art: without them, your book isn’t discoverable through organic search. I talk about KDSPY, an Amazon keyword research tool, here.
Once you’ve done your research, you’ll need a place to save your notes about that research as well as what your current keyword string is. And why.
Also, over time, market conditions change, and it’ll be easier to revisit how you might want to tweak your Amazon keywords if you can easily re-review why you made the choices you did before.

Other Marketing Copy

Long description, descriptions you’ve used on blog tours, etc. Anything that mixes it up and offers fresh takes.

Relevant URLs

Perhaps you’ve got a blog tour.
Perhaps your book’s available on 27 (or more!) different sites.
Sometimes it’s useful to have all that information handy. If I asked you what your Powell’s link was, how long would it take you to find that?

Excerpts

Especially if you’re doing a blog tour, you’ll want to have different excerpts for different sites. That way, people won’t be seeing the same old same old every time they go to read a different post about your new book.

Don’t Have Scrivener?

Scrivener’s regular price is $45, and it’s available for Mac and Windows. If you use both platforms, it’s worth noting that the Mac version is usually significantly ahead of the Windows version feature-wise.

Got Other Ideas?

What else would you put in your marketing folder for your writing projects?

: Writing Beginnings and Endings

writing: beginnings and endings
Chuck Wendig had a great post yesterday about writing.
Once upon a time, I sat in a writing workshop class: a critique circle with a bunch of other writers. The piece we were critiquing was another classmate’s novel chapter, and everyone else but the workshop leader had gone. I was up.
“What I liked most about this chapter is that it has a classic narrative structure used very effectively.”
At that point, I had everyone’s full attention, and I could see that half the class didn’t understand what I meant.
The character, a woman, had an objective when she showed up at someone’s door. As I recall, she was looking for something. She failed to achieve her goal because the person she asked didn’t have what she wanted. However, in the meantime, the other party in the scene told her something interesting that she hadn’t previously known. Offhand, I can’t remember if it was directly related to the scene’s goal or not, but it was related to why she was looking for what she was looking for.
In short form: she had a goal and motivation behind that goal, she attempted, failed, then got new information, and left the scene in a slightly different direction than she came in: with a modified goal.
It’s not the only possible scene structure, but it’s a common scene and chapter structure in longer work. If you look at most of Chuck’s list of what a novel consists of, basically points 2-9 are some variant of the above, though I’d personally throw the character a bone or two for an upbeat chapter. “Yay, we got somewhere!”

Lessons from Being a First Reader

As someone who’s read slush (unsolicited manuscripts), I thought I’d talk a little about what I learned doing that for the three markets I’ve read for.
Most newer writers have no idea where to start the story. It seems to be the hardest part. We write our way into the story. The most important lesson here: where you start writing isn’t necessarily the start of the story.
Let’s take a hypothetical short story about a high school football player. (I don’t play or watch football, so forgive any lack of sports-fu on my part.) Let’s say our dude in question has recovered from an injury, but hasn’t fully mentally realized it yet. He’s avoiding something because of fear of being injured again.
The ending of the story’s fairly obvious: he goes for it, and he succeeds, and all is well and right and just in the world. Oh, and his team scores…and maybe even wins. But the big victory is that he’s recovered.
So…where to start the story?
The general rule is: as late as possible. There’s a 35% chance the newbie writer starts writing with the player waking up, but that’s the part you edit out. One could also start with the doctor’s office visit, a talk with the parents, and the coach’s pep talks. Etc. I’m not saying these can’t work, because anything can work if you do it right.
Our player has the ball, has that momentary rush, and he sees someone else coming, and he chickens out. That gives opportunity for some great self-loathing, some yelling at by the coach, threats that his girlfriend (or boyfriend) will leave him if he doesn’t snap out of it, and of course the fear that his college scholarship will vaporize.
Then there’s that moment where everything changes for him—whatever that is—and he works through it. Victory, followed by the end.

Writing Beginnings that Match Endings; Writing Endings that Match Beginnings

The best way I’ve heard the structure described is by Karen Joy Fowler when she was my Clarion instructor. Paraphrased:
The ending of the story should be the ending to the story you started at the beginning of the book. The beginning of the story should be the beginning of the story you ended the book with.
They’re bookends.
If you take just your first and last chapter (and/or first and last scene, and/or first and last paragraph), do they go together? Do they feel like they’re from the same piece?
If not, there’s something to work on.

: Paying it Forward

[![Paying it Forward, Photo by Lizzy Gadd](/images/2014/08/KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_n-700x464.jpg)](/images/2014/08/KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_n.jpg)Photo by [Lizzy Gadd](http://www.elizabethgadd.com)

Fandom (and I mean greater extended fandom, not just science fiction fandom) has had various ways of paying it forward for decades. In fact, TAFF, the trans-atlantic fan fund, has been around since 1953.
What’s harder to find are those opportunities to transition from serious amateur to professional. Sure, there are Clarion (and Clarion West) scholarships, and various other programs to help get people over that hump. However, there are vastly more people qualified for them (and needing them) than there is money to go around.
Which is why I’m so excited by Lori Witt’s offer for romance writers: to fund (sans airfare) attendance for one new romance writer to RT Booklovers convention for 2016.> The thing is, the authors who stand to benefit the most from a convention like this often struggle to justify the expense. The very people who need to increase their sales and exposure the most are the ones who generally struggle to pay for it because they need those increased sales to fund the means for increasing those sales. It’s a frustrating paradox! The really awesome swag is expensive. The most visible and eye-catching advertisements and posters are expensive. Just being there is expensive.

How expensive? Look at what Lori’s offering to cover:

From the essays, I will select a group of finalists, and with the help of a group of published authors, determine a winner and two runners up. The number of finalists and the size of the panel will be determined based on the number of qualifying entries.
The two runners up will each receive $150 toward swag or advertising.
And for the winner, I will pay for the following:

  • Your conference registration as a published author (approximately $500).
  • Your hotel room for the duration of RT (April 12-17, 2016 – 5 nights) at the conference hotel.
  • $250 toward custom, professionally produced swag.
  • $250 toward an advertisement of your choice.
  • One celebratory drink at the bar.

In addition to financial assistance, I will provide a guest spot on my blog for a follow-up post about your experiences at RT. Also, one-on-one guidance at the convention. This means help with pitches, going over the agenda to decide which panels and workshops will be most helpful for your goals, helping you set up and prepare for the book signing, generally navigating the conference, etc. This part is entirely optional, but is there if you need it.

Applications close August 1. Here’s the link to Lori’s blog post.
Maybe you don’t qualify, or this doesn’t fit, but you’d like to support Lori in some other way. She writes M/M romance under the name L.A. Witt, and sf/f (that’s not romance) under Lori A. Witt.
Now, granted, RT Booklovers is far more of a professional convention than anything other than World Fantasy in the science fiction/fantasy space.

How Not to Pay it Forward: The Unsplash Edition

Unsplash had become one of my favorite free stock photo sites. They have good taste. The range is limited (partly because they publish 10 photos every 10 days), but the photos are interesting.
However, there’s a darker side to it. Previously, they did nothing with submitted but not accepted photos. Then, suddenly, they decided to create a photographer page with all the submitted photos, killing the chance the photographer had to sell those particular shots for money.
As if that weren’t enough, instead of linking to the photographer’s site, now they just link to their own portfolio page. So the people who did the work are getting name credit, but they’re not getting the referrals. Because so many people link to Unsplash, very often the photographers’ own sites are pushed off the top search results as a consequence.
I’ve used about a dozen Unsplash photos here (including the one up top), and I’ll be deleting all references to the site as well as making sure all credits point to the photographers’ respective pages.
(To be clear, most of the free stock photos I’ve used in my blog posts came from Unsplash. I’ve also used regular stock photos that I’ve paid for, but I’ve used more of my own photos.)
While I’m going to reuse previously-uploaded photos, I’m not sure how I feel about uploading new ones at this point, even though I have a saved library. Unsplash’s actions feel like slapping someone who offered a gift, you know?
It’s a particularly tough time for photographers right now, and Aleksandra Boguslawska speaks more about how Unsplash’s actions hurt photographers.

: A Requires Hate Update

delphinium-700
I posted something in November in haste, and I regret breaking one of my own rules in doing so.
That rule is: rely on your own research when calling people out.
Another thing I’ve become aware of since the Marion Zimmer Bradley story: I actually have a significant platform and need to be careful how I wield it.
Further, we were on sippy cup internet that week (like GPRS every once in a while) and, by the time we got back to normal internet, much of the context was already lost. So it wasn’t that easy to go back and see what happened.
Then a writer of color linked to a piece on the subject that made me think I’d been backing the wrong horse. But it needed research and I was sick, so I put it off. Sadly, that piece has since disappeared, as has another piece it pointed to.
I then added an update to this original post, but didn’t amplify it further, because I wasn’t sure what to say.
So I’m left with a gnarly mess where most of what I really need in order to get the big picture—is incomplete and temporally inconvenient.

Then I Got Called Out on Twitter

First, let me say this: it’s always appropriate to call me out. I’m pointed and direct, so that can be intimidating, but I will always respect it.
So:

  1. I should not have jumped to conclusions based on a single source.
  2. It’s one thing posting things one’s unfamiliar with if they happen to be objective fact, but quite another when it’s not.
  3. I should know better after STGRB in particular that sometimes groups have ironic names.
  4. In general, I try to stay out of drawing conclusions based on what people are have alleged to have done, and instead try to focus on what happened. I didn’t do that, either.

I’m left with the distinctly discomfiting feeling that I should know more about what happened than I do.
I apologize to all I’ve hurt in this, directly and indirectly.

Update: Some Points of Clarification

  1. I didn’t mean to imply that Laura Mixon relied solely on one source. I meant that I had.
  2. This is not a recanting of my prior post. This is an, “I feel an obligation to look into this further because I posted about it in haste and therefore have a duty to the subject matter. And people.” Please don’t assume I’m taking a particular side. I’m simply going to do what I should have done before posting: look and listen.
  3. My usual way of working when there are disparate stories is to start from the position that all people are telling the truth as they know it, and that disparities of information are a part of almost all conflict.
  4. This is big and gnarly and I have a chronic spoon shortage. I may be at this for quite some time, and I’m not starting on it for two weeks.
  5. I believe that pseudonymous and anonymous speech are important, but I believe they can (and should) have limits, too. (Here are some recent US court rulings on anonymous speech.)
  6. I don’t know that I can be impartial (ever, not just in this situation), but I always try to be fair.
  7. To the extent possible, I’ll rely on first-hand information.

(There’s more I wanted to say, but I’m just amazingly tired and in pain, and I need sleep too badly.)
If you wish to comment anonymously here, others have used an email address of anon@anon.com. It’s always moderated, and moderation may take a day or two over the next couple of weeks. Obviously, I get your IP address, but I have no intention of using it.

: Larry Niven: SFWA Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master

larry-niven
SFWA’s just announced that Larry Niven is the newest SFWA Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Larry’s always been one of the more approachable big name writers. He and his wife Fuzzy often appear at conventions, especially in the Los Angeles area.
I remember when I first met him in person, back as an awe-struck twenty-something. My boyfriend and I were in Santa Rosa at a con in 1982. I had a dealer’s table selling game supplies, and he and Jerry Pournelle and their wives came by, pausing at my table to say hello.
Fuzzy wore a button that said, “Big Fan of Larry Niven.” Jerry’s wife didn’t wear a button, but Jerry wore one that said, “Big Fan of Jerry Pournelle.” Years later, it still makes me laugh.

I’m in an Anthology with Larry Niven

My short story, “A Sword Called Rhonda,” appeared in a collection that Larry Niven’s also in. Honestly? That was a big thrill for me.

About the Award

I’ve always wanted one of these. It does definitely mean I’ve gotten old. I’ve been publishing fiction for more than fifty years now. I’m convinced I picked the right career.” ~Larry Niven

Another Funny Larry Niven Anecdote

Larry can be incredibly quick witted. A lot of funny writers, well, we have to work at it over time. Larry’s written some amazingly funny stuff, including “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”, about the problems of Superman having sex with human women.
A few years ago, I happened to be at a convention waiting for an elevator at the same time Larry was. I can’t remember why I had a bunch of “I’m not Jay Lake” ribbons, but I offered Larry one.
He declined, saying, “But I am Jay Lake.”
“Oh?”
“It’s an office, not a person.”

: Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits

Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits
If you’re anything like me, you’ve politely sat on your hands in some talk about author marketing because the techniques discussed clearly were aimed at non-fiction writers. Using your book to upsell readers onto a course (as an example) isn’t something that will (usually) work for a novelist unless you’re an academic.
I can’t remember the exact context I saw this post by Samuel Hulick in, but I first saw it a month or two ago linked from something technical I read. It’s about user onboarding, which is the process of getting a new user able to be up and running with some software in question.
It’s short. It’s brilliant. Go read it.
Except that novels (and short stories, and really any writing) also has an onboarding process. For me, I call it the point where the book “catches” for me. That’s where I’m on board for the first time.
Look at the image he’s got there. That flower? That’s your book. It’s not what you’re selling. That is just a feature of what you provide.
Much like the setting sun in the picture above is a feature. The benefit is its beauty that draws people out to watch.

How to Dovetail this into Author Marketing

When you’re looking at your book in terms of wanting to sell it to someone, whether that be an agent, editor, or reader—think in terms of benefits, not features.
A space opera: that’s a feature. A shifter romance: that’s a feature. Sure, the market has created that so that each catchphrase does create certain expectations of benefits to the reader.
Picking a book somewhat at random (on my to-read pile), Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked uniting a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Now the Dhai and their allies must hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

The themes in the second paragraph are mostly about loyalty. That’s what this book provides: an exploration of an important theme in our lives. It’s not just a book, it’s a conversation.

But What if You’re Just Providing Entertainment?

Then that is your benefit in author marketing terms. To some extent, all fiction is entertainment in some form or another. That’s okay. But you can be more intelligent about your work than just “my writing amuses people.” To the extent that you can be more articulate about it, you can create an online marketing strategy that’s actually useful.
The point is to know what your benefit is.
Photo by Gabriel Santiago

: SFWA Active and Associate Membership Will Be Available to Indies

sfwa-indies-bphSFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has just changed their membership rules. There will be some speedbumps, as this is a major structural change.
Effective March 1, both indie and small press authors will be eligible for SFWA’s Active and Associate memberships.
For Active (full) membership:

  • One novel-length work for which the author’s earned at least $3,000; or
  • At least 10,000 words of shorter work for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

For Associate membership:

  • At least 1,000 words of shorter fiction for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

And then there are those of us bound to break the system because we’re already associates, but before the 6 cents a word went into effect.

Not Just for Gearheads

SF/F is a bigger tent than you might think. If you write a number of romance genres (e.g., paranormal romance), you’re also arguably writing SF/F.
I look forward to our Amish science fiction writer members.
More details here.

: Ellora's Cave: DA/JL's Witness List & the Mouthy Mockernut

First, Courtney Milan has an update and gave a better non-technical distinction of Motion to Dismiss vs. Motion for Summary Judgment.
(It is true, I am trying to keep up with even the dry court minutiae.)

Defense Witness List

In that post, Courtney publishes Dear Author’s/Jane Litte’s witness list:

@PubNT Twitter account
The Pub Net Twitter account has made a series of statements on Twitter since the outset of this case, that are with obvious knowledge of the case at hand. The author behind this Twitter account will have additional information as to the operations of Ellora’s Cave.
Tina Engler
Tina Engler is the founder and head of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Patty Marks
Patty Marks is the CEO of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Susan Edwards
Susan Edwards, at all relevant times, was the COO of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Raylene Gorlinksy
Raylene Gorlinksy is the Publisher of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Whitney Mahlik
At all times relevant hereto, Whitney Mahlik was the Managing Editor of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave
Courtney Thomas

At all times relevant hereto, Courtney Thomas was the Chief Financial Officer of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
So, I’m guessing we’ll get to find out who the mouthy mockernut is after all. Popcorn, anyone?

: RIP: Eric P. Scott

Eric P. Scott was a bay area fan and open source enthusiast who died recently, apparently related to his ongoing heart problems.
One of the peculiarities of Eric P. Scott is the frequency that we’d wind up on the same plane with him. It didn’t matter if we were heading to Calgary or Seattle or some other random convention—he’d wind up on the same flight.
True, we usually fly out of SFO, as did he. True, we often fly United, as did he. He became a United million miler when it was far easier to do, then health problems (more the financial complications of same) limited his ability to travel. Still, there were usually enough flights that we could easily have picked different ones from each other. We just didn’t happen to.
He’d sometimes show up at our house on a Cabal night, talking about Linux with whomever else happened to show up.
We’d see him at random Linux and open source events, too.
For me, he was always a mixed bag: some days, I’d have incredibly long, cool conversations with him, and other days he would be so frustrating I wanted to scream. Even though those days happened, I always looked forward to seeing him.
It’s very weird thinking I’ll never get that privilege again.
See also: File 770 and Chaz Boston Baden. His own LJ is here.

Graphics Credits

I’d been meaning to design a banner graphic for memorials. I’d recently gotten a bunch of layer styles, and used the Frozen style from here. I altered the outer glow to be a little darker and half as thick. Somehow, using a text style associated with an sf/f film seems fitting for eps.
Font is Desire from Borges Lettering, corners from Make Media, and the glitter layer on the corners is also from Make Media.

: Indie Fantasy Fiction Story Bundle

StoryBundle Indie Fantasy Fiction Bundle: Amazing Deal!
StoryBundle has an indie fantasy fiction bundle right now.
Books are:

  1. Bradley P. Beaulieu’s The Winds of Khalakovo.
  2. Scott Marlowe’s The Five Elements.
  3. Sherwood Smith’s Lhind the Thief.
  4. Francesca Forrest’s Pen Pal.
  5. Judith Tarr’s Arrows of the Sun.
  6. M. C. A. Hogarth’s The Worth of a Shell.
  7. C. J. Brightley’s The King’s Sword.
  8. Blair MacGregor’s Sand of Bone.

I’ve only read one of these: Francesca Forrest’s book, and Pen Pal is exactly my kind of crack.

Pen Pal starts with a message in a bottle and ends with revolution.
Em, a child from a floating community off the Gulf Coast, drops a message into the sea. It ends up in the hands of Kaya, an activist on the other side of the world, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Em and Kaya are both living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya’s letters inspire Em, and Em’s comfort Kaya—but soon their correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters.
Pen Pal is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.

It’s a fantastic book, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the bundle. I’ve read books by Sherwood Smith and Judith Tarr before, but not the other writers.

Which Titles Are 2014 Award Eligible

For those of you who are reading for award consideration purposes, only two of these were published in 2014: The Worth of a Shell and Sand of Bone. For that reason, I’ll be reading these two first.

Want to Blog About this Indie Fantasy Fiction Bundle?

If you want to blog about this bundle, feel free to grab this composite image I made.

: Ellora's Cave: Current Status Email

From the eternaltubthumper rolling my eyes:
1) All past and present freelance editors and artists have been paid in full.
2) Many of you received 2 royalty checks in December; More of you will receive 2 royalty checks in January & February.
3) The accounting department will continue to focus on getting the new royalty system online by the end of February and processing royalties on the old system while paralleling them against the reports of the new system to insure all software bugs have been fixed. At some point in the next couple of months expect to receive 2 different royalty statements so you can compare the old way to the new way and make a smooth transition with it.
4) Nothing has changed at Amazon, though more publishers and authors are finally becoming vocal about how Amazon’s business practices are affecting them. Here’s a recent article; note the parallels between what others are reporting and what we’ve been saying all along: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/technology/amazon-offers-all-you-can-eat-books-authors-turn-up-noses.html?_r=0
5) Elisabeth has reacquired 2 of our former freelance editors who remained on positive, professional terms with us and we’re excited to have them back. Also, Susan Edwards is now editing full-time for us, which is excellent for our authors and thereby EC. (FYI: contrary to rumors Susan never left EC; She simply decided she wanted to edit instead.)
6) We still have a few tough business decisions to make, but overall 2015 is going to be a solid year.
Tina/Jaid

My Commentary

Let’s take them one at a time.

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

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

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

    @ataglanceRMC @pubnt this is a lie, period.

    — Jaid Black (@jaidblack) December 23, 2014

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

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

    Pay to settle the DA suit and move on.

: Ellora's Cave: Remand to State Court Denied

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

What’s Next?

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

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

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

Then the Case Management Conference

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

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

From his Judicial Preferences Page:

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

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

How’s This for Irony?

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

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

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

: 2014: My Favorite Book

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There was only one book that I re-read twice this year. I read about two hundred books this year, so that so many good writers and so many good books. However, relatively few books that I loved.
Down and Out by Kelley R. Martin. It’s an indie (self-published) book that hit the New York Times Bestseller list last month.
down-and-out-cover
Two months ago, Savannah went cold turkey on the meaningless one-night stands and decided to show herself some self-respect. Sadly, that didn’t pay as well as waitressing at a strip club, so she’s down to her last few $1 bills and living out of her car.
Meanwhile, Declan’s running a gym—and is a really good underground fighter. When she comes looking for a job, he knows he can’t say no, and she can’t afford to.
Just seriously loved this book, mostly because I love the banter between the two. They’ve known each other for a little over a day at this point. After giving her a job the day before, he’s discovered she’s living in her car and brought her up to his place to feed her and make sure she has a safe place to sleep. This conversation takes place during that dinner.

Do you have a boyfriend?”
Laughing, I shake my head. “No. I don’t do relationships.”
Declan grabs his beer, preparing to take a sip. “You know, most girls who say they’re not looking for a relationship actually are.”
I shrug, smiling coyly. “I’m not most girls.” That was quick, even for me. He forgot all about asking me how I ended up in my car after only a few suggestive moves.
He takes a sip and asks, “So why don’t you do relationships?”
My brow lifts as I stare at him. “Are you telling me you do?” No. No freaking way does this beautiful, tattooed god prefer monogamy over an endless stream of women who would jump at the chance to jump him.
“Why does that sound so preposterous?” he asks, frowning.
I blink as my eyes widen marginally. Apparently he’s going to make me spell it out for him. “Well…look at you,” I say, gesturing to the sleeves of ink sticking out from the sleeves of his plain white tee. “You don’t really look like the relationship type.”
“What type do I look like?”
The reckless type who specializes in amazing sex.
I shrug, instinctively licking my lips as I look him over. “Short-lived fun.”
He leans back in his chair and folds his hands behind his head. His shoulders lift in a lazy shrug as he gives me a cocky smile. “Well, you’re not exactly wrong. I don’t do relationships either, only casual hookups.”
My lips press into a thin line, trying to suppress my smile. I knew it. I freaking knew it. “You’re giving me shit when I was right? You ass,” I say, playfully kicking him under the table.
He laughs, deep and throaty, as his head tilts back. I kind of like the sound. When he looks back at me, his green eyes are alight with warmth. “So tell me, Kitten, why don’t you do relationships?”
My eyes narrow on him as I pick up my sandwich and take another bite. I shouldn’t like that nickname at all, but it’s kind of growing on me. After I chew and swallow, I say, “Why don’t you?”
His lips twitch in amusement. “I asked you first.”
My eyes roll at the immature response, but this conversation’s turning out more entertaining than I thought, so I throw him a bone. “Because it’s a waste of time and perfectly good mascara. I say, save yourself the heartache and the drama. Buy a vibrator instead.”
Declan’s chair tips forward as his elbows lean on the table, his face growing animated. “Wait—do you have a vibrator? Can I see it?”
I nearly choke as laughter erupts out of me. “No! And hell no.” I’d never show it to him. I’d rather die first.
My face heats under his gleeful gaze. I should’ve known he’d take this whole vibrator thing and run with it.
“Just answer one question for me. How big is it?”

Unlike a lot of other books where I’m perfectly happy to read about the characters and be done with them, these two just sound like they’d be a lot of fun if you caught them in the right mood.

Favorite New (to Me) Author

TYWFD+drop
Sarina Bowen, whose books I just inhaled. The Year We Fell Down is an amazing book about two people who happen to be handicapped from fairly recent injuries, but it’s not a book about those injuries. Just—how to move on and live a new normal.
From the Dear Author review:

There is no miracle recovery in this book. Yes, Corey can and does walk at times with the help of arm crutches but most of her time is spent in a wheelchair. Who she is physically at the beginning of the book is primarily who she is physically at the end of the book. But she never lets you feel sorry for her. As you lose yourself in the story, Corey becomes just a student who has a crush on her neighbor across the hall, is adjusting her dreams to something different, and learning to make new friends.

This. Handicapped is a part of Corey’s life, but it’s not the focus of the book.
I also loved her other books, just not quite as much.
Also indie published, btw.

Favorite Author Trick

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Laurelin Paige wrote The Fixed Trilogy (Fixed on You, Found in You, Forever With You). I got the first book in a bundle and eventually got around to reading it.
Sometimes, when I read romance novels, it reminds me of the Animaniacs episode where Dot visits a perfume shop.

Fifi: We have “Obsession”, “Repression”, and “Ecstacy.”
Dot: Do you have anything for beginners?

This series tackles the subject of obsession, though. Laynie’s had a checkered past: she stalked her ex to the point where he’d gotten a restraining order and she’d gotten arrested. Since then, she’s been through therapy, and she’s avoided relationships that form attachments. She’s currently working with David, who’s a wannabe boyfriend.
When Hayden comes in, all her bad behavior keeps tickling at the edges.
What I loved about this series is how it’s revealed what exactly their checkered pasts are, and how deep the character flaws go is a card held to the very end.
I’ve never seen it done before and work, especially in a romance. I’ve seen plenty where I didn’t believe the people could (or would) get together, even when they did. But this one worked for me.

: What to Do With a Rusty Dumpster

What-to-Do-With-a-Rusty-Dumpster
Note: this is a much simpler form of this tutorial from Spoongraphics.
The other night, a friend of mine and I were chatting, and she complimented something I’ve been working on (but haven’t yet posted). And I said, “ehh, it’s just a dumpster.”
She replied, “I would not have assumed dumpster.”
So, here’s my dumpster space scene mini-tutorial.

  1. Acquire a photo of a rusty dumpster. I used this one ($3), but many others are out there. Or—take your own! I used a blue (sea) + rust (land) combo, but there are many other combinations that work. Scratches, however, make it seem unrealistic (though you can mend those in Photoshop).
  2. Cut out a circular piece that you like the water/land shapes on. Spherize (in Photoshop: Filter > Distort > Spherize). Rotate it, if desired, to put the elements where you most like them. (I didn’t bother with this.)
  3. Create a black area the same size. Gaussian blur it with a big blur. Then blur it again. This is the most fiddly part, and you’ll need to fuss with it to make it look realistic.
  4. Expand the shadow region until it looks right.
  5. Add inner and outer glow to the planet so it has atmosphere.
  6. Find a good lens flare photo. I used one from Photography planet I had lying around and used it at 80% normal blend mode.
  7. A good background is black or near-black, and has stars. I happened to use one from here. You can use brushes to make star patterns, or use photos of sky or nebulae—whatever.
  8. I added a different layer above the lens flare, set it to lighten 70%, then filled in a few places (atmosphere, flare itself) with 50%, 70%, or 100% black to keep the stars from peeking through.

From there, the Spoon Graphics tutorial has lovely ideas on how to make the whole thing more realistic, including adding clouds and stuff.

: Ellora's Cave: When Lightning Strikes

elloras-cave-blog-header
It’s a very rainy day in Silicon Valley as we’ve got the worst storm in five years.
Every writer has their tells: the words they misspell or misuse. The words they use in preference to other words.
The other day, I got an anonymous tip: Both @pubnt on Twitter and Tina Engler/Jaid Black have one of the same tells.
It did stick out to me when @Pubnt used it, but I’m not familiar enough with Tina’s writing style to have noticed the similarity.

@ShelbieKnight @jaidblack This is an author you don’t want to keep. Tweeting nonsense about 3 month Lightening fast editing.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 9, 2014

3 months be fore editing is lightening fast in publishing! Most publishers are booked 18+ months in advance. #notchilled @ShelbieKnight

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 8, 2014

Tina Engler uses it in this Amazon review, and here’s the excerpt:

“This author is an absolute master at invoking emotions. If she wants you to feel freaked out, she knows how to use a lightening storm and a few choice words to do it.”

And Tia Isabella, a pseudonym of Jaid Black, which is in turn a pseudonym of Tina Engler, uses it in this EC title:

Thomas watched his cousin bolt down the steps at lightening speed.

And the commenter below also said:

From the Trek Mi Q’an books:
“She leapt on all fours in a lightening-fast movement,”
“Death proved to have lightening-fast reflexes”

My anon tipster did mention this use, but that’s not lightning, the electrical phenomena, but lightening, the gerund form of lighten.

Pubnt’s Backstory

In the early stages, @pubnt went around tweeting publishers to tell them not to work with authors who were “participating” in a lawsuit against Ellora’s Cave.

. @HarperCollins ETA: These are the author PARTICIPATING in a lawsuit against a publisher. Never touch them. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 5, 2014

. @HachetteUS ETA: These are the author PARTICIPATING in a lawsuit against a publisher. Never touch them. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 5, 2014

Except “participating” was a gross exaggeration. Later, @pubnt clarified with this tweet:

.@panmacmillan ETA: http://t.co/f0SyPL5RFZ

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 5, 2014

But this list is of romance authors published by Ellora’s Cave, most of whom never spoke out about Ellora’s Cave. They were simply EC authors who also had non-EC titles.
Pubnt also regularly uses Jane Litte’s real name. In court docs, that’s fine, but many of us have deliberately used the internet pseudonym in our blog posts.
Pubnt also has publicly declared that checks are being paid to people except those “involved” in the lawsuit.

@tejasjulia @AuthorSJDRUM @JulieNaughton Nothing stopped. Checks are coming to all but those involved in the lawsuit, naturally. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 12, 2014

However, “involved” in Pubnt logic doesn’t just mean “is a party to.” “Involved” also would mean, say, anyone who tweeted or blogged or said anything critical about EC.

Catch Is, There Are Laws

18 USC § 1512, for example.
Federal law, along with most state laws, take the reasonable view that if there are threats or harassment of people who testify or provide evidence, then cases won’t be able to proceed.

Tina Was (Probably) Also Barred from Certain Activities

From September 30 to the federal court removal on October 20, Tina as part owner of EC was likely subject to the joint motion’s agreement about not publicly commenting on the case:

In the interim, all parties agree that neither they, nor anyone under their direct control, shall post on the Internet any comments specifically and directly related to the factual allegations that form the basis of Ellora Cave’s defamation complaint; further, they agree not to comment online, directly or indirectly, on the allegations that form the basis of the defamation complaint. Nothing herein shall prohibit Plaintiffs from responding to defamatory posts or re-posts made by third parties related to the issues raised in this litigation.

I note Jaid Black posted this the same day @Pubnt started tweeting. (tl;dr version: McCarthyism, freedom of speech, calling out commenters claiming EC owes them money (some screencaps from comments on this blog), and claiming EC authors are too afraid to speak.)
::cough::
Rick came up with a name for Pubnt today that I rather like: TinaNut.

: Book Landing Pages: Thursday Webinar

Joel Friedlander, aka the book designer, wrote a blog post about book landing pages.
I’ve been in the middle of writing a long blog post about web sites for authors, and I think I’m going to tear up my post and go home. (Actually, no, I won’t, but it’s going to wait until next weekend now.)
Because what Joel’s upcoming webinar’s about is book landing pages and, I’m gathering, booklaunch.io, which has already made me want to toss my WordPress plugin in-progress against the wall.

  • Booklaunch.io’s pages are pretty.
  • They are minimalist.
  • There is a free plan.

We all know that webinar is not-very-secret code for “I want to sell you something.” I’m hoping it’s a nice discount on the paid plan.
The free plan allows for as many book pages as you want, but no extras like mailing list integration. Here’s a page detailing the differences between the free and paid plan.
Example: one of my stories on booklaunch.io vs. the same story’s page on deirdre.net. Could I improve my own site’s version? Sure, with some significant elbow grease. (I could also finish the booklaunch.io one; I only fussed with it for a few minutes.)

What’s WordPress Like For This?

Let me tell you briefly about the state of things in WordPress plugin land.
With MyBookTable, if you want a buy button in anything other than Amazon and Apple, it costs $49 a year (or you can hand-modify the plugin yourself). If you want affiliate sales for your referrals, it also costs $49 a year.
With MyBooks, it’s free for Out:think’s authors on one of its paid courses, but you’ve got to be one of those people.
There is Buy This Book, which only has widget versions, meaning things for your sidebar.
I use Easy Digital Downloads, which is great for direct sales, but falls down when you need the product to link to external places. So, for this paperback, I hand-coded the purchase links and the CSS and suppressed the purchase button.
Another quirk of EDD is this: look at the purchase buttons/links here. In order to get my link above everyone else’s, I had to suppress the automatic generation, then add a manual button. Then add the links for other stores.
Oh, and there’s no sense of “series” of things or obviously related things other than via tags and categories, so that would be another thing I’d have to roll in there. (To its credit, MyBookTable has this.)
So why not use MyBookTable and Easy Digital Downloads together, you ask?
I’m so glad you asked that. Because MBT defines its items as a new post type. And so does Easy Digital Downloads. So, for each book, you’d have to hand-enter the data twice (once for each post type), so you could get to your books via two different URLs, and possibly have the content out of sync. Oh, and pay for MBT too.
No. Thank. You.
My brilliant plan was to automagically generate that, to make a font for icons for the common stores, and to therefore let people style whatever however. I was inspired by Lauren Dane’s website, except she’s gone and changed it and I don’t like the new look.
There are 34,000 WordPress plugins that have been downloaded 796 million times and that’s apparently as good as it gets for the stuff that’s out there.
Depressing, huh?
Fact is, most of the WordPress plugins designed to hook into Amazon are designed to create little web shops where you live on the affiliate income from providing, say, links for the top ten blenders.
I’m curious to see what they’ll say about the state of the competition that’s out there. I really haven’t seen anything in this niche.

But What If You’re Not Me?

Look, I’ve been paid to do web work since 1998. If I find it annoying that there’s no better publicly-available free solution, I’m guessing that you do too.
You can hire awesome people like Jeremiah Tolbert or Stephanie Leary to do it for you.
Or maybe you want to come to Joel’s webinar on Thursday. Blog post link again.

: Out:think's Upcoming Free Course: Hacking Amazon

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Tim Grahl of Out:think has a new free course coming up called Hacking Amazon. (Above graphic is from Tim.)

A few weeks ago, I published an article about how to launch your book with 25+ Amazon customer reviews. This article really exploded, and it got me thinking . . .
I know a lot of little hacks and tricks that make Amazon work better for authors. So I’ve decided to put them all together into a course titled “Hacking Amazon.”
I’m putting the final touches on it over the next couple days. It launches on Thursday at no charge so watch your in-box!

Here’s that blog post Tim referred to.
He’s also got a free book and author marketing course, and you can sign up for that on his Out:think site.

: Happy Thanksgiving

happy-thanksgiving
I’m thankful to people preserving traditional knowledge, especially languages, as they encompass different ways of thinking. Here’s an article about young Native American women working to preserve their culture. (Hat tip to Juliette Wade.)
I’m also thankful for libraries. This tale of the Ferguson library gives me some hope for humanity. They’ve also published a third wish list if you wish to contribute more specifically.
There are many other things I’m thankful for, but those two seem particularly important today.
This post by Chuck Wendig about -ists is an excellent read. I’ve been meaning to write a response to Faruk Ateş’s post What Being Cis Means to Me because I can go to a different place. Maybe if I say this in a blog post, I’ll actually write it.

: Make Your Own Story

When-People-Undermine_700
(Product link on Redbubble.)
I wrote this piece in July after a particularly frustrating week.
One of those pieces of writing advice came back up (like vomit) again this week, and I’ve been in more discussions than I’d ever hope to be about it. I’ve reduced it to two things that really annoy me.

Failing to Respect Other People’s Writing Processes

I wish I had an easy process. I’ve tried. It’s not some moral failure on my part that I can’t outline then write a book. It’s that the energy of the book fizzles when I do it that way, and then I can’t actually write anything interesting.
Your process is your process. You can fuss with it a bit, but not that much. I still think Karen Joy Fowler is absolutely correct.

Dumping One’s Frustration with the Business of Writing on Others

All that advice about what’s “easier” or “harder” to sell onto people? (Anything can sell if it’s done well enough. Sometimes even if it’s not.)
Telling people that won’t sell? (Is that useful in this day and age?)
Telling someone their story is fatally flawed? (All story structures have flaws.)
Anyone who’s been around the block more than a few times will have had some hard knocks along the way. They hurt, and they shape the directions we turn, because we turn to avoid the pain. Sometimes, like I did for years, we just stand frozen in place, paralyzed.

The Responsibility of Teachers

It’s the responsibility of teachers not to stomp all over fragile creative processes or invalidate them.
It’s also the responsibility of teachers to not dump so much of one’s own pain about creative endeavors that one quashes a fledgling voice.

And Now for a Word from Lady Gaga

Song starts 2:30 in.

: Laura J. Mixon on Requires Hate

For those who don’t know, Requires Hate was a book reviewer—of sorts. And so much more. Laura J. Mixon analyzes.
In many other situations book reviewers are simply and only book reviewers, e.g., this review and set of progress comments from Blythe that led to Kathleen Hale’s self-admitted stalking, leading to the #HaleNo backlash.
Here’s RHB’s MO:

Using one of her pseudonyms, RHB begins chatter about a writer or a social-justice topic on her blog, a forum such as LiveJournal, or on Twitter. She uses increasingly obscene and insulting language against her target(s). This is done to goad the target (or their supporters, or a particular community) into responding sharply. In their responses RHB finds words or phrases she can re-cast as misogynistic, homophobic, racist, or colonialist (sometimes they actually are those things, but for her purposes it doesn’t matter).
For instance, rachelmanija, a commenter on the Livejournal community 50 Books POC, told Requires Hate (as Winterfox) that it was inappropriate to call Chinese-American author Cindy Pon a “stupid fuck.” Rachelmanija added that the standards at 50 Books POC were different from those of 4chan (a community where anything goes). In response, Requires Hate accused rachelmanija of being racist and implying that Winterfox was a Nazi, because 4chan was a cesspit of Nazis and white supremacists.
Often RHB will then begin to pursue the person she has decided to target, issuing multiple vituperative posts or death threats on blogs they frequent, and/or on Twitter, and/or in the online forum where she first targeted them. She then erases—at the very least—the most violent and abusive comments and posts, leaving the target reeling but with no visible proof that the threat occurred. Often, she deletes everything. Therefore not many screencaps of her worst abuses exist.
However, I received numerous screencaps that had been recovered by her targets or witnesses, and I was also able to obtain copies of a portion of RHB’s now-deleted content via The Wayback Machine. In addition, I received independent emails from both targets and witnesses confirming the substance of the death, rape, maiming, and dismemberment threats RHB has been accused of.

I believe reviews are sacrosanct. However, I believe stalking and threats are not.
Much like Kathleen Hale, Requires Hate is a case where she was doing the stalking, then ironically accusing the other party of doing so.
As Mixon documents, her targets have been largely of color and women, two groups that are already under-represented.
Therefore, as far as award consideration goes, Benjanun Sriduangkaew unfortunately goes in the Sin Bin along with a handful of others. I won’t nominate for awards, and the Sin Binners will be the last I read for award consideration (and not just in that category; on the entire ballot). I still believe the work stands alone, so if I genuinely think it ranks first, that’s where I’ll vote it. That’s never happened so far, though.

Our genre has always had a soft spot for sharp-tongued souls. The person who speaks embarrassing truths has an honored—if discomfiting—place at the dinner table, in our SFF Island of Misfit Toys.

I honor such people (and in fact am one of them)—but only up to a point.

Update

At one point, I read a post about the Requires Hate controversy from the perspective of a writer or reader of color, and it was interesting, and, after reading it, I felt guilty linking to the above without also amplifying a voice of color’s perspective on it. I was traveling at the time, and I appear not to have saved the link. (I remember it being tweeted by Naamen Tilahun, but attempts to look at his Twitter stream don’t go back far enough.)
However, I found this thoughtful post from K. Tempest Bradford, so I’m linking to that, as it brings up one of the points I’d been feeling guilty about with respect to this specific controversy.
In general, I have not been receipt gathering. I value the people who do that work, it’s just not something I think to do. But I shouldn’t have piled on without digging deeper, either. I try to do my own research, and when I can’t, I try to limit my commentary to the part of a controversy I actually understand. This is a case where I exceeded that. I think it’s valuable for me to preserve what I originally wrote, but also valuable for me to fess up.

: Happy Halloween! With Treats!

happy-halloween
Happy Halloween!
As a kid, my favorite holiday. Still my favorite.

Last Day on Cat Grant’s GoFundMe to Get Her Ellora’s Cave Rights Back

I had the awesome privilege of meeting Cat Grant in person last weekend when I was in her area. We talked for several hours! She’s trying to buy the rights back to her three books still with EC. GoFundMe link.

All Treats for Design Cuts’ Birthday

I’ve spoken about my great love of Design Cuts ever since I discovered them earlier this year. They are re-running twenty-two of their prior deals.
The font used in the image above is Brush Up from Pintassilgo Prints, and is from the Monster Creative Font Bundle.
If I had to pick three of the above….

  1. The All Inclusive Design Bundle.
  2. Monster Creative Font Bundle. or any font bundle.
  3. Any 2 Lil Owls bundle.

This will be running for another week and a half in case you are just overwhelmed with choice. Hell, I was, and I already had 14 of the bundles being re-run. I now, uh, have 17 of them.

A Plug for DealJumbo

Peter of Cruzine Design also runs DealJumbo.com, where he pulls together a lot of great deals, often from Creative Market shops.
Cruzine has some really complicated vintage-style logos and frames that I can’t ever see myself using but want to hoarde all the same. Here’s one of the freebies where you can see what I mean.
The deals DealJumbo runs, though, are far broader in appeal. The “5in1” deals are from five different designers, which is a great concept.
Here are a few active deals I’ve bought:

The monster in the box up top came from one of DealJumbo’s freebies, but it appears to be one only available to mailing list subscribers.

But, But, I Don’t Know How to Do Design Stuff

Another treat!
Look, I get it. I was a Photoshop idiot for years even after taking a couple of classes. These days, I consider myself intermediate in Photoshop skill.
Dustin Lee at Retro Supply started making amazing videos to show off how to use his products. Then he started adding extra videos when you bought his stuff, and they were useful enough that, well, hell with whether or not I need/want the product, I wanna see the videos!
He’s just opened Retro Academy which will feature tutorial videos.

And Now for Something Really Scary: Scientology

Last year, the EEOC sued Dynamic Medical Services for Religious Discrimination.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the company required Norma Rodriguez, Maykel Ruz, Rommy Sanchez, Yanileydis Capote and other employees to spend at least half their work days in courses that involved Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at someone for eight hours without moving. The company also instructed employees to attend courses at the Church of Scientology. Additionally, the company required Sanchez to undergo an “audit” by connecting herself to an “E-meter,” which Scientologists believe is a religious artifact, and required her to undergo “purification” treatment at the Church of Scientology. According to the EEOC’s suit, employees repeatedly asked not to attend the courses but were told it was a requirement of the job. In the cases of Rodriguez and Sanchez, when they refused to participate in Scientology religious practices and/or did not conform to Scientology religious beliefs, they were terminated.

It was later settled for $170,000.
I saw this a lot from the Scientology side of the fence when I was on staff (except for the terminations).
For many years, Scientology’s big clients have been chiropractors, dentists, and related non-mainstream medical practices. There are Scientology-based consulting practices, such as Sterling Management Systems, whose entire goal it is to get everyone in an office “trained” in “Scientology tech.” And audited. And Clear.
Whether they want to be or not.
Most weeks, it was more than half the income of the local Scientology church I worked at.
At the time, I thought it was great. Now, of course, I want to wash all the ick off my psyche.

: Proving Substantial Truth

elloras-cave-blog-header
Substantial truth can be tricksy. Here’s a DMLP post with a few examples.
Two of those examples where the statements were ruled substantially true:

A statement that a boxer tested positive for cocaine, when actually he had tested positive for marijuana. See Cobb v. Time Inc. 24 Media L. Rep. 585 (M.D. Tenn 1995).
A statement that a man was charged with sexual assault, when actually he had only been arrested but not arraigned. See Rouch v. Enquirer & News of Battle Creek, 440 Mich. 238 (1992).

Look, I haven’t read up on the case law, but the above two examples should demonstrate that “substantial truth” isn’t cut and dried.

Hypothetically Speaking

Let’s say the claim in question is about “a set of authors” and whether or not they’ve been paid in a timely manner. Let’s say there are more than 500 authors, each of which has one or more books.
Now, the person believing they’ve all been paid may in fact only have been double-checking the highest earners.
However, let’s say the claims are true for three authors:
a = {Fred, George, Mark}
That still means one needs to sift through an unknown large portion of the data set before one determines that it’s true for “a set” of them.

And Now an Intermission

I’m done with the above hypothetical.
I have no personal information about the actual facts of the Ellora’s Cave case. However, I’d like to look at some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

How Big Is the EC Data Set?

Let’s go with the following assumptions:

  1. 934 authors (last I counted). Let’s round down to 900.
  2. Amazon gives me 6,767 items when I search for “Ellora’s Cave.” Let’s assume 4,500. Ergo, an author has an average of 5 titles, including paperback editions.
  3. Each book sells, per month, in an average of 5 stores from: EC’s own site, ARe, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google, iBooks, foreign markets for same, and any paperback vendors.
  4. Need to look back to when the accounting system changed last year, so 10 months of data at present.
  5. Each line item has seven pieces of data per month per author (per Cat Grant’s statements). The 7 pieces of data are: ISBN, title, format, store, amount received per unit, qty sold, total received (calculated, so not actually a separate piece of data), royalty %, royalty paid (also calculated).

So for each month:
4500 books x 5 stores books sold in that month x 7 other pieces of data = 157,000 pieces of data (or 174 per author). Per. Month.
Times ten months, so 1.57 million.
Consider the legal and accounting billing that would be involved in re-verifying and distilling 1.57 million pieces of data.

Another Aspect of Substantial Truth

In a case where “a set of authors” may not have received timely payments, royalty payments received by the publisher not corresponding with line items paid to authors could potentially also be a source of substantial truth.
Therefore, one would also need to audit amounts received from, say, Amazon, and amounts paid out in royalty checks that month, and determine that the amounts were equal. (Especially when others have said they’ve seen no Amazon drops during the same period for similar non-EC books.)
There are also around 9,000 checks to sort out.

  • When were they written?
  • When were they mailed?
  • When were they cashed?
  • When did they clear the bank?
  • Are any missing? Either not paid or not cashed?
  • If they’re missing, were they actually cut?

In theory, all that information is already entered and double-checked and could be provided to the defense at a moment’s notice.

The Question that Started This Post

@deirdresm Law Q: Are EC actions only relevant to the case up until the time it was filed? Recent payment timing immaterial? #notchilled

— Susan Garbanzo (@Soenda) October 27, 2014

It’s a good question. It doesn’t change the absolute truth of what was said on the day it was said, no.
But if events post-filing help show substantial truth, then probably they’re relevant.

@Soenda I haven’t read the case law; I can only guess. My guess: similar actions after filing help substantive truth claim. #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 27, 2014

My Intuition

This case, if it gets all the way to a jury trial, will be far, far more expensive to litigate than other people have expected because the potentially triable matters of fact involve large data sets.
It’s my understanding that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show substantive falsity. Meaning: Ellora’s Cave and the mysteriously joined Jasmine Jade Enterprises need to demonstrate that.
Can they sample the data?
I don’t see how they can prove that “a set of authors” is defamatory without the full data being examined. “A set of authors” doesn’t need to be a large set.
My intuition, given the lagging of checks mailed weeks after the check date, all the reports of no answer for months when authors asked about royalty checks, is that that aspect of the DA post, at least, was substantively true.
Consider, for example, how small the two examples at the top are in terms of data. A single arrest. A single drug test, and possibly one or more followups. But not 1.57 million of them.
Completely different animal, litigation-wise.

: Ellora's Cave: No COO? Selling Reverted Books? Lawsuit Update

elloras-cave-blog-header

First: New EC-themed Art!

See above.
I’ve been trying to make a habit of including art with posts so there’s always a featured image. It’s a tough job. Broken ankh render from The Hairy Man.

Ellora’s Cave Lost Its COO?

Behold the current LinkedIn profile of Susan Edwards, who was Ellora’s Cave’s COO.
Note that it lists “Writer and Editor” as a job from “1980 – Present”, but Ellora’s Cave from “January 2005 – October 2014”, meaning she’s no longer there.
se_linkedin
Detail of the Ellora’s Cave entry:
se_ec_detail
Now Dear Author tweeted this last month:

Re Ellora’s Cave: Whitney Mihalik, the managing editor, and Susan Edwards, the chief operating officer, have both resigned.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 15, 2014

…and…

EC trying to retain Susan Edwards, COO, who previously indicated she was leaving.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 23, 2014

But this is the first I’ve heard that it was externally verifiable.

Ellora’s Cave Allegedly Selling Titles It Doesn’t Have the Rights To

Angelia Sparrow posted this morning.

My mail today. Why does a check cut on September 30 have an October 25 postmark?
Why are books that I have had the rights returned still on sale?

“Eight Days Ablaze” was returned in Feb. I am not getting paid for it. Why is it still available at Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Ellora’s Site itself?

“Eight Days Ablaze” is apparently still theirs. I checked my reversion letters, and it is not mentioned. “For Love of Etarin” and “Raising the Dead” however, HAVE reverted.
“For Love of Etarin” is the same way. And yet, it still available on GooglePlay.
Glad Hands and Privateer’s Treasure are still up on Amazon, And the rights reverted back August 15.

I can verify that it’s still on sale, but obviously I have no personal notice of whether or not the rights are reverted. I’ll just point authors to a resource out there for you. If your rights are reverted, then a DMCA takedown notice to the vendor is an appropriate—and probably the fastest—action.
It doesn’t give you the correct royalties for any amounts that were due you, though. That has to be addressed separately. Unfortunately.
Previous post of interest from Angelia.
I previously talked about Shoshanna Evers’s related story of books being sold after reversion here.
Also, Cat Grant shows her May 2014 royalty statement, received in September, where she states that she was paid for a Nook ebook on a title that, per her, reverted in November 2013.
B&N/Nook pays 60 days after the end of the month. So, if a sale took place in November while EC still had the rights, it should have been in the royalty statement for February or maybe March. May is unreasonable.
Again, I can see what the allegations are, but I don’t have personal knowledge of the reversion, just taking the claims at face value. If three authors are correct, how many other authors has EC been selling the works of without the rights to?

The No-Frills EC v. DA Lawsuit Page

Yesterday, out of frustration at the lawsuit documents and the order mine weren’t in, I created this simple page that emulates the federal court docket.
For some exhibits, there’s a short summary. Each, where applicable, is color-coded based on the lawsuit “thread” as Courtney defined them. And, if there are blog posts relating to them, they’re listed below the docket item.
It’s a very lightweight page: no images, no Javascript, and very very little CSS.

Lawsuit Update

Yesterday, defense filed their opposition to Ellora’s Cave’s Motion to Remand (from federal court to state court). Courtney Milan analyzes.
Particularly interesting footnote:

On 7 October, an email was sent to at least one of Ms. Lampe’s supervisors. On 14 October that same email was forwarded to the entire department within which Ms. Lampe works. This is consistent with prior actions by directors of Ellora’s Cave. Ellora’s Cave has also engaged in acts to try and intimidate witnesses in this case. Therefore, sending this subpoena on short notice was of great importance. Since the Defense addressed this with Plaintiff’s counsel, these actions have waned.

Wow. Just. Wow.
Let me pull this one line out and bold it.

Ellora’s Cave has also engaged in acts to try and intimidate witnesses in this case.

That is not OK.
From the opposition brief itself:

All parties agreed that the matter required needed additional time, and therefore the parties stipulated to a hearing to be held on 27 October. In the intervening period, counsel for the Defense was able to fully evaluate the case, and on 17 October it became 100% clear that removal was appropriate.

I’m just going to put those two together and back away slowly.

What’s Next?

Jane Litte’s answer is expected soon. The court granted the motion to continue on the TRO and gave EC/JJ 7 days to file a response to defense’s objection about the removal. In that way, the removal issue is settled before the TRO hearing, which does make sense.

: Sales Analysis

PubNumbers.001
I’m a numbers person, and I like charts and graphs and other ways to reassure myself that things are Getting Done.
I check at the beginning of each month to make sure my titles are up where they’re supposed to be and to record the sales.
It would take more time if I had more books. This is the summary over time; one title dates back to 2011 and the other was published this year. I hear a lot of people wanting to sell on Amazon only. In my case, that would mean cutting 2/3 of my revenue.
I also have a spreadsheet that tracks each title month-by-month, with a different tab for each year.

: Ellora's Cave: Distribution Issues

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Part of EC’s problem is, and has been, distribution.
I’ve done some spot checks on EC authors and found that they aren’t consistently in all possible stores. For many authors, there are enough titles that it can be difficult to demonstrate the issue, but in this case, I’ve picked very small cases that are easier to see.
When talking on twitter about Axl and Taylor, I happened to search the iBooks store instead of my library. My recollection was that I’d bought one of Taylor’s books back when I was taking notes and writing research questions for an ex-stripper character I wanted to write. I’d never read the book (as I’m working on a different book right now), so I was trying to find it in amongst the other billion books I’ve bought.
I found one book by Taylor in the store. My recollection was that he’d written two. I was wrong; he’s written three. Well, co-authored three. I filed that away, then thought I’d use his case as symptomatic of a larger problem that EC has with its book distribution.

  Take It Off! Take It Off! (Again) Top Guns
Ellora’s Cave site $5.20 $5.20 $5.95
All Romance Ebooks $6.50 $7.50 1
Amazon $5.39 $5.39 $5.78
Apple iBooks $5.99 $7.99 2
B&N Nook $5.99 $5.99 $6.99
Kobo $5.39 $5.39 $6.19

Huh.
What’s really interesting about this is that Apple reports that the seller for Taylor’s book on iBooks is All Romance Ebooks, which does not list that title.

EC’s Own Site

Two of these are paperbacks. Three e-books.
taylor-ec

All Romance Ebooks

taylor-ARe
top-guns-ARe

Amazon

Note that one can cleverly add the publisher in the search.
taylor-amazon

Apple iBooks

taylor-ibooks

B&N Nook

taylor-nook

Kobo

taylor-kobo

Let’s Look at Cat Grant’s Titles

You may recall that Cat Grant is trying to buy back her rights from Ellora’s Cave to the three titles she has with them (The First Real Thing, Appearing Nightly, and A Fool for You).
EC’s site: all three
Amazon: all three (but only two show up with Ellora’s Cave in the search)
Apple: no Appearing Nightly
ARe: all three
B&N Nook: all three
Kobo: all three, ranked dead last when sorted by “bestsellers”

Then There Are Books Getting Filtered

Like this tale from Lissa Matthews:

I have one book filtered at Amazon and I don’t even have a year’s worth of sales numbers on it, but I can tell you it definitely meets the ‘sells less than 100 copies in a calendar year’… No one even knows the book exists unless I tell them. And it’s filtered because I didn’t specify No Nudity for the cover. Okay, I took blame for that, but how was I supposed to know I had to tell Ellora’s Cave what their distributors would and wouldn’t allow on covers in order for them to be found by readers and not stashed so deep into the abyss? I had never had to specify that before and believe you me, I learned that lesson. Because the next and final book that I submitted specified on the cover art form NO NUDITY!

The cover in question features a nude woman facing away, held by a man in jeans. I think it may be the side boob more than the nudity, though.

Shoshanna Evers’s Story

I’ve had rights reverted on an EC book since Dec, but it’s still for sale on @iBooks. *sigh* On hold w/iBooks now. #notchilled

— Shoshanna Evers (@ShoshannaEvers) October 24, 2014

@hmweinerman @deirdresm I’m not even looking for any money from EC. I just want my last book back from them. They’ve put it on sale for 99c.

— Shoshanna Evers (@ShoshannaEvers) October 24, 2014

So—EC’s still selling a book they haven’t had the rights to since December 2013.

Moral of the Story

You can’t just “set and forget” books. Database issues occur. There are nuances of data structures that mean not every vendor will represent titles in the same way.
It’s got to be someone’s job to comb through and make sure that every single book is at every single vendor. And re-check it periodically.
Paul Krugman wrote this piece about Amazon, which is worth it just to comment only on this one bit:

Book sales depend crucially on buzz and word of mouth (which is why authors are often sent on grueling book tours); you buy a book because you’ve heard about it, because other people are reading it, because it’s a topic of conversation, because it’s made the best-seller list. And what Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place.

Well, that’s true so far as it goes. Personally, I only look at Amazon if my first-source vendors don’t have it. When I worked at an indie bookstore, I wound up making a habit of knowing what books were featured on NPR, as those were the titles more people asked about than any other.
For me, I’m usually searching on a web site for books, so if that search doesn’t find the books in question, that’s what kills the buzz.

Footnotes

1 The book is listed only under Justin Whitfield even though there are three named authors on the cover. I don’t know if this is generally a problem with multi-author titles at ARe as I don’t shop there much.
2 Listed only under Justin Whitfield in iBooks, too, but ARe as a vendor may explain that.

: Ellora's Cave: Dear Author's Answer and Counterclaim

elloras-cave-blog-header
The exciting invocation of the Communications Decency Act in a lawsuit about an erotica/erotic romance publisher—but not in the way you’d expect. Up next after “Previously on….”

Earlier Documents of Note

From now on, I’ll post a quick recap at the beginning of this series.

  1. Dear Author’s blog post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave. Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises sued Dear Author and Jane Litte over this post.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, complete with the TRO request. I discuss the memorandum of law and the request to out anonymous commenters in this post.
  3. The removal to federal court, which I posted the meat of the other day.
  4. Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. I cover a few points in this post. Courtney Milan gives a deeper understanding of the document in her post. Exhibits: (Exhibit A, from Jane Litte; Exhibit B, from an editor hired in 2003; Exhibit C, from an author first published by EC in 2007; Exhibit D, from an author first published by EC in 2013; Exhibit E, from an editor hired in 2012; Exhibit F, from an editor hired in 2013; Exhibit G is a true copy of tax liens and Workers’ Comp liens against EC and Tina Engler/Jaid Black.)

Also of interest: Courtney Milan’s post, On Limited Purpose Public Figures. All my blog posts relating to Ellora’s Cave are tagged. There are a few not directly related to the lawsuit.

Dear Author’s Answer

Note that this is just Dear Author’s answer. I expect Jane Litte’s answer shortly.
Document here. Because it’s a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the lawsuit, you’ll need to have a copy of that to read side-by-side.
Responding to the first two paragraphs, “Consequently, this averment is denied and strict proof demanded.” That’s some legal verbiage that I may not understand the nuance of. The import, however, is to ensure that the correct parties are suing Dear Author and Jane Litte.
It starts to get interesting in ¶ 10:

Admitted that Defendant [Litte] authored an article entitled “The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave,” which was published on the blog Dear Author, which is owned and operated by Dear Author. Denied as to the defined term “Libelous Publication” as an erroneous legal conclusion without factual foundation.

The next few paragraphs of fallout are flatly denied.
When it gets to the nuances of EC’s relationship fallouts, the phrasing changes to:

Dear Author is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the corresponding averment. Consequently, this averment is denied and strict proof demanded.

Here are the most interesting paragraphs that applies to (sorry, 15-17 are being auto-renumbered to 1-3, grr):

  1. This Libelous Publication has caused distress among current Authors under contract with Ellora’s, and Ellora’s has received numerous contacts from Authors wishing to rescind contracts based on this Publication.
  2. This Libelous Publication has caused distress among employees and contractors with Ellora’s and Ellora’s has received numerous contacts from employees and contractors concerned about the current state of the business.
  3. This Libelous Publication has also prevented Ellora’s from contracting with other potential authors.

I would guess (being an analytical sort), that in order to prove ¶ 15, one would have to show what the rate of authors requesting reversions/cancellations were before the publication, and what they were after. That would require excellent recordkeeping, though. (It would also require proof that defamation occurred, and a causal link.)
I’m not sure that ¶ 16 implies actual damages, especially not after the August 19th publication about Ellora’s Cave layoffs. That’s almost a month before the Curious post.
¶ 18-19 are about Jasmine Jade. Frankly, I’m not sure why Jasmine Jade is a party to this action. There is only one reference to JJ in the Curious post, and it’s about a tax lien that anyone could look up.
The rest of the responses are denials of various sorts.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses are a curious beast. I’m guessing that Courtney will go into this later, but basically they are reasons why, even if the allegations are true, that aspect of the case can’t proceed.
An example would be statute of limitations. You sue for something where the law gave you a year to sue and it’s now 2 years after the event happened. Everything you say is true, but if the defense raises statute of limitations as an affirmative defense, then the lawsuit can’t proceed.
The other aspect of affirmative defenses is that they typically have to be raised in the answer. They can’t be brought up later. Thus, the affirmative defenses tend to be rather kitchen sink in approach.

First Affirmative Defense: Communications Decency Act

In order to understand why this affirmative defense is hilarious in context, one needs to know what the original intended purpose of the CDA was. Some excerpts from its legislative history:

What became the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was initiated in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee […] to expand the prohibitions against obscene, indecent and harassing phone calls so that they would apply to all forms of electronic communications. The amendment was offered “to address an increasing number of published reports of inappropriate uses of telecommunications technologies to transmit pornography, engage children in inappropriate adult contact, terrorize computer network users through “electronic stalking,” and seize personal information […].”
The amendment from Feinstein, cosponsored by Republican Senator Trent Lott from Mississippi, sought to require cable and satellite companies to fully scramble any sexually explicit adult programming.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 began in the House as HR 1555. […] There were disputes over efforts to limit internet indecency and television violence though. The committee bill requested that the attorney general‟s office submit a report evaluating the enforceability of current criminal laws governing the distribution of obscenity over the internet, assessing the Federal, State, and local law enforcement resources available to enforce those laws, evaluating the technical means available to combat obscenity, and making recommendations on the means of encouraging the development of new technologies to deal with obscenity.

So let’s look at the affirmative defense here.

  1. Defendant Dear Author is a provider of interactive computer services as defined in 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2).
  2. Dear Author neither created nor authored the content of any of the statements complained of in Plaintffs’ Complaint.
  3. Under 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1), Dear Author cannot be treated as the publisher of the above complained-of statements, and thus cannot be held liable, either at law or in equity, for the contents of the statements.

47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2) (link to law) defines an “interactive computer service”:

The term “interactive computer service” means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

The reason that blogs allow comments and internet forums exist is because the CDA makes it feasible to not get caught up in every squabble.
And 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) states:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

In other words, because Jane Litte, the pseudonymous author of the Curious post, is not Dear Author LLC, the LLC providing the Dear Author service offering the Curious post, Dear Author LLC is not liable for any statements Jane Litte made.
Or, in short, law says you’ve got the wrong person.
I admit to not being up enough on CDA case law to know what rulings have been. I am more familiar with cases like Religious Technology Center v. Netcom and the ruling excerpt incorporated into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if only because I was at ground zero during that controversy.

Second Affirmative Defense: Truth

  1. Although the burden of proof for falsity is upon Plaintiffs, as applied to Plaintiffs’ claims for defamation, Dear Author avers that all statements allegedly made by Dear Author complained of by Plaintiffs are true.
  2. Any complained-of statements allegedly made by Dear Author that may happen to lack 100% factual veracity are substantially true, and thus treated as true as a matter of law.
  3. As truth is an absolute defense to defamation, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Truth is an affirmative defense to defamation.

Third Affirmative Defense: Substantial Truth

  1. Any statements allegedly made by Dear Author complained of by Plaintiffs that are not literally true are substantially true, in that the “gist” or “sting” of the article is true.
  2. As substantial truth is a defense to claims for defamation, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Pretty straightforward.

Fourth Affirmative Defense: Qualified Privilege

I know almost nothing about qualified privilege as it relates to defamation cases, but the plaintiffs cited an Ohio case (#5, Am. Chem. Soc’y v. Leadscope, Inc.) that discussed it extensively. PDF of the ruling is here.

  1. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were directed to parties having a common interest in the subject matter of the statements, particularly authors who either had a contractual relationship with Plaintiffs or who were contemplating one.
  2. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were made in the course of a justifiable exercise of a moral obligation, free of improper motive or malice.
  3. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were fair comment and criticism of Defendants’ business practices, matters of significant public and social interest.

As someone who bought a few of EC’s titles last year to evaluate them as a potential market, I feel like this was aimed at me. Thanks, Jane.

Fifth Affirmative Defense: Failure To State A Claim

  1. Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead the elements of a cause of
    action for libel.
  2. Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead the elements of a cause of
    action for libel per se.

Like many other causes of action, there are specific things that have to be alleged in order for there to be a claim for defamation. This (short) page lists them.
Re-reading the complaint, it seems like there’s at least some language to cover all the bases. If the judge rules that one of the required elements doesn’t exist and failure to state a claim isn’t raised as an affirmative defense, I’m not sure what would happen, exactly.

Sixth Affirmative Defense: Failure To Join an Indispensable Party

I saw this one coming.

  1. Plaintiffs have failed to join an indispensable party, Tina Engler, in their
    Complaint.
  2. Tina Engler is an indispensable party because Plaintiffs’ Complaint
    identifies allegedly defamatory statements about her allegedly made by
    Dear Author.
  3. Engler is also an indispensable party because many of the allegedly
    defamatory statements identified in the Complaint attribute Plaintiffs’
    declining business performance to the actions of Engler.
  4. In Engler’s absence, the Court cannot afford complete relief among
    Plaintiffs and Dear Author.
  5. Because the allegations in Plaintiffs’ Complaint would also entitle Engler to
    bring an action against Dear Author for the same statements identified in the Complaint, not including Engler in this litigation would potentially make Dear Author subject to a substantial risk of incurring multiple or otherwise inconsistent obligations.

When asked why she wasn’t a plaintiff, here’s my answer in a comment on a previous post:
Last I heard, Jaid/Tina was 90% owner. As for why she’s not a plaintiff, my understanding of the legal concepts is that it’s a jurisdiction issue.
It’s a general principle of law that to sue for damages, you have to sue where the damage occurred. If someone published allegedly defamatory information on the internet about you and the person posting it was in Iowa and you’re based in Ohio, then the alleged damage occurred in Ohio. So that’s why EC sued in Ohio. (Note: this is a simplification because jurisdiction can get complicated.)
Catch is, Jaid lives in West Hollywood, California, so any alleged damage would be in California, and an Ohio court would not have jurisdiction to determine or award damages. Had Jaid also sued separately, then there probably would have been a motion to join both the cases in federal court, which is used to dealing with mixed jurisdiction cases.
However, California has strong anti-SLAPP protection, so California’s not a good jurisdiction for this particular case. As I understand it, anyway. (And, again, IANAL and TINLA.)
Getting back to the ownership issue: even when one is 90% owner of a corporation, the legal interests of the company and the legal interests of the individual may diverge significantly over the course of a trial, and it’s best practices to have separate counsel. That doubles the legal fees. In some cases, it may make sense to fold the company, and then the minority shareholders may wish to fight that, and that’s a completely separate issue from the interests of the individual majority owner as a person.
The simple way around this would have been to sue in federal court from the outset.
However, I’m not convinced that ¶ 12(f) and 12(g) in the complaint were strong allegations. They felt more like hurt feelings to me.

Seventh Affirmative Defense: Lack of Actual Malice

When in doubt, always look to the Supreme Court case that’s the seminal ruling on defamation law.

  1. Plaintiffs are general purpose public figures, or at least public figures in the context of Adult Romance publishers. Accordingly, their defamation claims are subject to the “actual malice” standard set forth in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which requires that the defendant made the allegedly defamatory statements with “knowledge that [they were] false or with reckless disregard of whether [they were] false or not.” 376 U.S. 254, 280 (1964).
  2. Dear Author at no point harbored any doubt as to the truth of the complained of statements, and had no reason to doubt their accuracy.
  3. As actual malice is a requirement to establish liability for defamation in these circumstances, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Dear Author’s Counterclaim

Document here.
Can be summed up as: because the suit was filed as an abuse of process—in part because Dear Author is exempt under the CDA and in part because the claims are baseless—Dear Author is requesting compensatory and punitive damages as well as costs.

What’s Next?

I’m guessing Jane Litte’s answer, along with a likely counterclaim, are coming up next. Courtney will post on both after Jane’s is filed. Unless there’s something particularly interesting, I’ll probably just post a link to her article when it’s up.
There’s also a hearing on the 29th about the TRO/preliminary injunction, i.e., taking the Curious post offline.

: Ellora's Cave: Dear Author's Motion in Opposition

elloras-cave-blog-header

Earlier Documents of Note

  1. Dear Author’s blog post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, complete with the TRO request. (included in removal to federal court document) I analyze the memorandum of law and the request to out anonymous commenters in this post.
  3. The removal to federal court, which I posted the meat of the other day.

Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction

In the first substantive response to Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, Dear Author’s attorney, Marc Randazza, has filed an Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and Courtney Milan has graciously hosted the 25-page PDF and its exhibits. Exhibits: (Exhibit A, from Jane Litte; Exhibit B, from an editor hired in 2003; Exhibit C, from an author first published by EC in 2007; Exhibit D, from an author first published by EC in 2013; Exhibit E, from an editor hired in 2012; Exhibit F, from an editor hired in 2013; Exhibit G is a true copy of tax liens and Workers’ Comp liens against EC and Tina Engler/Jaid Black.)
Courtney found it just before retiring for the evening. I’ve read it and the supporting documents (not included in the 25 pages). Courtney will post her own notes in the morning, but I’m going to write up a few comments about turns of phrase that amused me. Because of the miracle of the internet, I’m going to schedule this post for when I’m asleep. 🙂
Update: Courtney’s post is here, and it links to the exhibits not in the original opposition document. Thank you to all the people who provided statements.

Seems Like Old Times

Footnote at the bottom of page 3:

The defendant has gathered what evidence she could, informally. However, should this case continue, and perhaps prior to the hearing on this motion, she intends to depose the management of Ellora’s Cave. But, despite the reasonable and exceedingly courteous efforts of counsel for Plaintiffs, Ellora’s Cave and its management do not appear willing to provide deposition testimony before the hearing.

So, Ellora’s Cave sued Dear Author, right? You’d think, given that they filed suit on September 26th, they’d love to have a quick deposition to ensure they get as much on the record to support their motion for a TRO/preliminary injunction, right?
This footnote basically says that EC’s stonewalling their own attorney who has been “reasonable and exceedingly courteous.”
If you read the order from the Brashear case, you’ll note this is a consistent tactic. Except in the DA case, EC’s the plaintiff, not the defendant.

The Ebola Footnote

Even if Ellora’s Cave were in perfect financial health, these are the symptoms of an ailing company. It is as if a perfectly healthy person were suffering from a severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. A reasonable person might say, with all candor and right to do so, that the patient appears to have Ebola symptoms. Of course, the subject might counter that they were only suffering from a hangover. But, the First Amendment would permit either observation.

Courtney’s right that this could be perceived as party dickishness insofar as two of the Ellora’s Cave cover models are currently in mandatory quarantine for ebola after being on Amber Vinson’s flight when coming home from the annual Ellora’s Cave convention, Romanticon.
However, I think it unlikely that Randazza knew about this issue, and did not intend it thus. Update: Randazza clarifies in comments to Courtney that, indeed, he did not know.

The Goulash Analogy

Ellora’s Cave nit picks minor possible factual inconsistencies, as a child might try to remove peas from goulash. However, even if a child despises peas, it does not make the goulash itself poisonous. Analysis of a defamation claim like this is like reasoning with the child who complains that because there are peas in the goulash, the goulash itself is inedible.
The goulash here is savory, even if the plaintiffs would prefer not to eat the peas.

Ohio Provides Better Protection than the First Amendment

While this is the national standard, Ohio law provides for more protection than the First Amendment demands. Under Ohio law, “the plaintiff must demonstrate, with convincing clarity, that the defendant published the defamatory statement either with actual knowledge that the statement was false, or with reckless disregard as to whether it was false.”

Failure to Demonstrate Irreparable Harm

Plaintiffs claim that “[i]t is clear that Ellora’s will suffer irreparable injury if Defendants are allowed to continue to publish the Blog Publication on the internet.” Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 4. However, Plaintiffs provide nothing to support this. Irreparable harm requires a showing that there is an insufficient remedy at law. Furthermore, for the harm to be irreparable, there must be more than monetary damages. “The basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm and inadequacy of legal remedies.” Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88 (1974). “A finding of irreparable harm is necessary before granting a preliminary injunction.” Bettcher Indus. v. Bunzl USA, Inc., 692 F.Supp.2d 805, 822 (N.D.Ohio 2010).

This is news to me (remember, I’m not a lawyer), but it’s fascinating. I’m guessing this has to do with one being a remedy at law and the other a remedy in equity.
So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and lo, apparently so. I’m a little rusty on this stuff, but at least I have good instincts.
In short: law remedies are things like monetary damages and equity remedies are things like injunctions or specific performance. “Inadequacy of legal remedies” in the quote above means that there isn’t money that can make up for the damage that’s caused.
In the Bluemile case cited below (which Randazza goes into more than I’ve quoted here), one company was impersonating another. There’s no way the impersonator throwing money at the trademark holder is going to make up for the damage that’s done. Therefore, it’s irreparable (in the “can’t be fixed with $” sense).
But EC presumably can monitor things like sales and royalties and know what’s going on with them at every moment. Even if they don’t monitor these things this closely, in theory they can. So, presumably, they can say, “well, this article cost $X in lost sales.” And then, if defamation were proved to be the cause of those lost sales (which is not easy), then there’s a remedy at law, so no remedy at equity is needed.
Now, if there were irreparable harm, that would need to be listed in the memorandum of law along with case law to support that. I have some ideas about what those kinds of things might include for EC, but it’s not my job to aid EC’s prosecution of its case—and a preliminary injunction wouldn’t help in any case.

The Section Every Author Should Read

pp. 16-18 where it talks about the public interest aspects of Dear Author’s blog, as well as the link to Author’s Rights When a Publisher Files Bankruptcy.

The Bluemile Cite

My first reaction when I read this case was an audible, “What the fuck?!?”
When I wrote up my own response, I wrote:

In my opinion (though, again, IANAL and TINLA), there is no similarity, and the “strikingly similar” made me wonder what quality pharmaceuticals the esteemed esquire had access to. In Bluemile, there was a clear intent to confuse the trademark held by the plaintiff and siphon off their potential customers by the defendant with a confusing domain name (bluemile.net). The defendant’s site was intended to be confusing.

Clearly, when someone’s trying to siphon off your business by confusing your potential customers, monetary damages aren’t enough.
Randazza covers this more deeply:

While Plaintiffs cite to Bluemile Inc. v. Yourcolo, LLC, in support of their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the facts of that case are starkly different of the facts at hand. The only connection seems to be that a Preliminary Injunction was granted there and Plaintiffs are requesting one here.

Rick and I both laughed at that.

In Bluemile, the Southern District of Ohio confronted an intellectual property case and enjoined the defendant’s use of the plaintiff’s trademark, enjoined defendants from using a website confusingly similar to plaintiff’s name, which then used that website to publish statements that were already determined to be defamatory. That case was premised on Lanham Act violations and trademark infringement, and the defamatory statements were merely an accessory to the Lanham Act violations. Trademark violations are more readily granted injunctive relief because the irreparable harm is presumed in such cases. Too, Inc. v. TJX Cos., 229 F.Supp.2d 825, 838 (S.D.Ohio 2002), Taubman Co. v. Webfeats, 319 F.3d 770, 778 (6th Cir. 2003).

Wait for it….

This is precisely the opposite of the law surrounding defamation.

Did you feel that slam dunk? I did. He goes on for another page and a half, too.

Standing

I remember studying jurisdiction until I was blue in the face, realizing I’d only begun to scratch the surface, but even I knew that the case had a problem with it.

Some of the comments Plaintiffs complain of specifically address Ms. Engler, who is not a party to this case. While Ms.[Litte’s] statements regarding Ms. Engler are not defamatory, they are also irrelevant unless and until Plaintiffs bring Ms. Engler into this litigation as a plaintiff. Plaintiffs lack the requisite standing to complain on behalf of Ms. Engler. “Elements of standing are an indispensable part of a plaintiff’s case.” Bourke v. Carnahan, 163 Ohio App.3d 818 (10th Dist. 2005). The onus is on Plaintiffs to demonstrate that they have suffered an injury, which is causally related to the defendants’ actions. Id. Plaintiffs are not entitled to recovery for statements made about individuals other than themselves. Statements about Ms. Engler’s personal life are not statements about Ellora’s Cave, and therefore, Plaintiffs lack the standing to sue over those statements.

Then, at the end of that section, Randazza adds:

If Ms. Engler wishes to join this case as a plaintiff, then the statements can be at issue. But, she is not here today, and she should not be permitted to litigate by proxy.

Bond, But Not James

Lastly, Plaintiffs have failed to offer up a bond, in violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(C) and Ohio R. Civ. P. 65(C). Rule 65(C) requires the plaintiff post a bond, in order to ensure that damages may be accounted for, in the event the court later determines that the injunction was wrongly issued.

Per Randazza, it’d need to be a bond of at least $150,000.

Popcorn Good

I think the Internet is getting good popcorn value, here.

: I'm on Writing Excuses!

[![Photo by Sergey Zolkin](/images/2014/10/cA4aKEIPQrerBnp1yGHv_IMG_9534-3-2-800-700x466.jpg)](/images/2014/10/cA4aKEIPQrerBnp1yGHv_IMG_9534-3-2-800.jpg)Photo by Sergey Zolkin

I’m extremely honored to be a guest on Writing Excuses this week, talking about the author-convention relationship from the convention programming head point of view.
So here are a few tips, in no particular order, to make it easier for programming staff: 1. Have a website. Better: have a website with your own domain name.

  1. When contacting programming staff for a convention, don’t assume they know who you are. These are volunteer positions. I’ve been the third head of programming for a given year, as an example.
  2. What makes you interesting may be a combination of what your writing skills are plus all the other skills you have. Even though I’ve volunteered for science fiction and fantasy conventions, I’ve put together panels on things like antique motorbikes. Don’t assume you’re not interesting, and don’t limit your usefulness by saying you’re interested in speaking only about writing.
  3. Don’t claim that you can speak on any writing topic. That’s a warning sign. No one can.
  4. Don’t ask to speak on panels with the Guests of Honor unless you know them personally. This is a warning sign that you’re being a social climber.
  5. Do offer to speak at the times when a lot of people don’t want to be scheduled: early morning, especially after a heavy party night. Late at night. Opposite the masquerade. The more open you are to times when it’s hard to find people, the more likely you are to be invited.
  6. Even if you usually speak at a local convention, don’t be insulted if you’re not asked one year. It can’t be the same convention every single year.
  7. Remember: the purpose of speaking at a convention is to entertain the audience at the convention. Side effects like making yourself known and selling more books are not the primary purpose.

Audiobook of the Week

The SaintI got to pick the audio book of the week, which is Tiffany Reisz’s The Saint. Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership.
Before she became Manhattan’s most famous dominatrix, Nora Sutherlin was merely a girl called Eleanor…
Rebellious, green-eyed Eleanor never met a rule she didn’t want to break. She’s sick of her mother’s zealotry and the confines of Catholic school, and declares she’ll never go to church again. But her first glimpse of beautiful, magnetic Father Marcus Stearns—Søren to her and only her—and his lust-worthy Italian motorcycle is an epiphany. Eleanor is consumed—yet even she knows that being in love with a priest can’t be right.
But when one desperate mistake nearly costs Eleanor everything, it is Søren who steps in to save her. When she vows to repay him with complete obedience, a whole world opens before her as he reveals to her his deepest secrets that will change everything.
Danger can be managed—pain, welcomed. Everything is about to begin.

My Comments About the Book

This is the fifth of Tiffany Reisz’s books about Nora Sutherlin, but the first in the prequel series. As such, it’s not intended to stand alone as the first book. If you haven’t read the first series, you may wish to start with The Siren.
Also, as you may gather from the description, this series of books gets all sorts of adult content warnings. Tiffany’s also got an interesting HuffPo piece, What’s a Writer Gotta Do To Get Banned Around Here?

: More Thoughts on SFWA Bulletin 200 Cover Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

: How I Became a Romance Reader

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

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

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

And then Nanowrimo Came

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

Dear Author

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

In other news

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

: The Internet Wants Its Popcorn, Ellora's Cave

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First, there’s an Ellora’s Cave Exodus Support Thread update further down.

Dear Author/Jane Litte Defense Fund

SBTB’s Jane Wendell has set up a gofundme for DA’s defense fund. She’s also offered non-gofundme ways to contribute.

Many people have been asking if and how they can contribute to Dear Author and Jane Litte’s legal defense. Consequently, this campaign was created. The Dear Author Jane Litte Legal Defense Fund will be run through Go Fund Me. Any donations made to this fund will be used for Jane Litte’s defense against the defamation suit filed against her and Dear Author Media Network LLC by Ellora’s Cave. You can read more about the suit at Dear Author.
Why a fund?
Because lawsuits are expensive (that’s why they’re so often used as a threat, if you’ve ever wondered). Because of that, and because the duration of the litigation is undetermined, Jane will need financial assistance. Jane’s attorney, Marc Randazza, is contributing by discounting his hourly rate. Even with a generous discount, it’s still expensive.
Jane Litte has set aside $20,000.00 of her own funds to fight this defamation suit and has paid the large retainer out of the fund but that money will be depleted quickly as the case progresses.
If you’d like to donate to the legal fund, you can follow this link to the GoFundMe site, and make your donation. Please note: these are NOT tax deductible donations, as this is NOT a 501(c)3 not-for-profit
entity.
All funds will be used for Jane’s legal defense, minus the fees charged by GoFundMe, and because we don’t know what the end result will be, we have no way of knowing what the total amount required will be. If there are any funds left over when the suit is finished, they will be donated to the Society of Professional Journalists Legal Defense Fund (http://www.spj.org/ldf.asp).
If the fees do not exceed $20,000, we will attempt to refund the donations per the GoFundMe policies (http://support.gofundme.com/entries/22603558-How-do-I-issue-a-refund-to-a-donor-). Countries with the following currencies are supported: $ USD, £ GBP, $ CAD, $ AUD and € EUR.
If you’d like to use an alternate method to contribute, there are two options available. First, if you’d like to use a credit card, you can send a contribution via Paypal to jane@dearauthor.com. Please make sure to earmark the funds “Jane Litte/Dear Author Defense Fund.” As stated previously, if the total costs for the lawsuit are lower than $20,000.00, Jane will refund the monies donated.
If you’d prefer not to use a credit card, please email Sarah at sarah(AT)smartbitchestrashybooks.com.
Any amount that you can contribute is most appreciated.

They’ve raised $36,000 so far. Amazing.
To me, that says one thing: The internet wants its popcorn.
Perhaps the single most amazing contribution is one from Lolita Lopez aka Roxie Rivera.

Lolita Lopez / Roxie Rivera

Lolita Lopez / Roxie Rivera Contribution Note
She’s written a truly heartwrenching post, Ellora’s Cave. The Grabbed Series. #notchilled tl;dr: she’s walking away from her Ellora’s Cave series.
Lolita’s one of the more successful Ellora’s Cave authors, but her daughter’s disabled, and the money from Lolita’s writing goes toward helping take care of her daughter’s future.
It’s a crappy situation to be in. I know I’ll be checking out her non-EC titles.

Some Additional Notes About the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

I’ve been in contact with a few EC authors who aren’t ready to be included on the list. That’s fine. It’s still a resource that’s there for you later if you wish. Also, if you don’t want to be listed, that’s also fine.
Initially, I added people who’d posted somewhere. Not all were aboard with that. I overstepped with a few people, and I’m sorry for that.
There’s a story that someone asked EC for a reversion, then got an email that said EC was reverting. Then the author said something and EC apparently changed their mind. I’m not sure how that’s possible, given that they don’t have the rights to grab back again, but there it is.
So: if you’re in doubt, or are trying to revert your works, please take your time. We’ll still be here for you.
Plus, grief has no timeline. Many of you are still reeling in the sheer WTF? of what happened, and it’s only been a few weeks. Some of you have years of careers—and it’s just not possible for everyone to switch their hearts around that quickly, especially if they’ve been treated well over the years.
So, I’m not going to add additional people unless they ask or unless I’ve confirmed it with them. You can comment here, you can email me (deirdre@deirdre.net), you can tweet me (@deirdresm), you can message me on facebook (@deirdresm) or Absolute Write (Deirdre). Whatever you’re comfortable with. I’m also @deirdresm on ello, but I don’t really have a feel for that yet.

Note of Potential Future Conflict of Interest

I’ve applied for a position (not in publishing) where blogging/tweeting about the ongoing EC issues would be a conflict of interest if I get the position. I’d really like the job, so I’d appreciate some warm thoughts that I’ll get it. There are plenty of other people who can pick up the slack.
I’ll still keep the EC Author Exodus Support Thread updated as it’s an ongoing project.
If I suddenly stop mentioning the EC issues and don’t respond about certain kinds of things, I haven’t been bought out or silenced. I made a choice about where I’d like my career to go, and that is a side effect with this particular position.

: On Ellora's Cave's Request to Out Anonymous Commenters

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tl;dr: The request to out anonymous commenters in the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit isn’t a part of the complaint or any motion; it’s in a memorandum of law, tacked on without any supporting legal citations, and not phrased as a request for the judge to do anything.
Much has been made about the request in the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit against Dear Author about the request to out the anonymous commenters on the Dear Author post at the heart of the lawsuit. The complaint is embedded in this post at The Passive Voice if you wish to follow along.
I’m not a lawyer (and this post is not legal advice), but I am something of a legal ruling groupie. I’m fascinated by the law, sometimes finding myself reading judicial opinions for the sheer joy of judicial language use. Back in the dot bomb era, when I wondered if programming would ever snap back to the pre-bubble normal, I took paralegal classes, including legal research, anticipating a potential career change. That said, my education was general, California-specific, and I didn’t finish the program. So, not only am I not a lawyer, I’m not a paralegal, and I’m not familiar with Ohio law at all, case law especially.
Here’s how my understanding of a judge’s role changed during that time. Essentially, a judge’s purpose is to make rulings within their legal ability to do so about questions properly raised before them. As a general rule, they can do nothing unless something is asked (“moved” or relief prayed for), nor can they do something unless they have the legal authority. Well, they can, but it’ll likely get overturned, and no judge likes that.
At the very end of the PDF (p. 21 of 22) appears this zinger:

Additionally, Plaintiff request that Defendants disclose the name of the anonymous commenters on the blog so that the spreading of the defamatory statement can be stopped.

Let’s look at that in the scope of the document as a whole, sticking to general legal principles.

Structure Is Important

First, legal filings have a structure. The structure differs somewhat jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Here are the sections in the filing in DA’s case:

  1. pp 1-8: Complaint and claims for for relief.
  2. pp 9-14: DA post that EC was complaining about. Note that this does not include the anonymous (or pseudonymous) comments.
  3. p 15: Motion for temporary restraining order.
  4. pp 16-22: Memorandum in support of the motion. The anonymous commenter request appears here.

Essentially, a motion asks a judge to do something, and the memorandum in support tells the judge why they have the authority, based on legislation and prior case law, to act in mover’s favor. So: this is what we want you to do and this is why you should do it.
Before we get into all that, let’s get into controlling vs. persuasive case law for a minute, but be aware this is a gross oversimplification. Essentially, case law is controlling if it’s in the “chain of command” of courts from the court hearing the case, and is considered mandatory for the court to consider. However, the details of the case may mean that ruling isn’t directly relevant.
Persuasive case law, well, maybe someone in Hawaii wrote a great ruling that happens to address the issue very succinctly, but there’s nothing in Ohio law that’s quite as close. So an attorney might cite the Hawaii case in an attempt to persuade the judge. The judge, however, is not required to use the Hawaii court’s reasoning in their ruling.
With all that in mind, let’s look at the case citations in the memorandum.

TRO Memorandum Case Citations

There are seven cases cited (excluding references to other cases) in the TRO’s memorandum, and I’ll discuss each briefly.
Perhaps of note is that all cases cited for defamation are cases where the parties were ruled against in the citations. Sometimes, cases where the plaintiff loses make for the most interesting (and valuable) rulings, so I’m not sure that’s indicative of anything. I just found it amusing.

1. Mike McGarry & Sons, Inc. v. Robert Gross, et al

This ruling lays out what’s necessary in Ohio to get a TRO. You can read the ruling here.
This case is in the Eighth district, and Akron’s in the 9th, so my understanding is that this is persuasive, not controlling. Given that there’s a controlling case with similar wording, why bother with this one?
There are four criteria that have to be met:

A party requesting a preliminary injunction must show that: (1) there is a substantial likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits, (2) the plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) no third parties will be unjustifiably harmed if the injunction is granted, and (4) the public interest will be served by the injunction. Procter & Gamble Co. v. Stoneham (2000), 140 Ohio App.3d 260, 267.

In the case cited, here’s the example of irreparable harm. One guy ran a painting company, then re-joined his former employer, then left to found a competing firm. It was found that he was soliciting his former employer’s clients to come with his new, competing firm. That was determined to be irreparable harm.

Brendan McGarry testified that all of the clients that Gross admitted to conducting business with were McGarry & Sons’ clients. (Tr. 67). Attempting to start one’s own business by taking away customers that were serviced by a former employer is precisely the type of irreparable harm that a covenant not to compete is designed to prevent.

So, not particularly relevant as a whole.

2. University of Texas v. Camenisch

This is a US Supreme Court case.
It’s a case about a deaf student and who should pay for interpreter accommodations.
“The purpose of a preliminary injunction is merely to preserve the relative positions of the parties until a trial on the merits can be held,” then I must be missing something because I don’t understand how that applies in this case. It’s cited in the next ruling, and that one line’s cited in the memorandum, but I don’t get it.

3. Midwest Retailers Association, Ltd. v. City of Toledo

This case cites the quoted sentence in the previous ruling. The case was about a new law requiring certain retailers to have 24/7 surveillance cameras, and they wanted a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from taking effect while the case was heard. The judge converted this to a temporary restraining order against the new law and granted it. A good chunk of the ruling is about the fourth, fifth, and thirteenth amendment consequences of the law.
It’s cited here because of the way it weighs the relative factors in granting a TRO, and it’s controlling for the Akron area. Unlike the first ruling, it uses this wording as the criteria:

To grant either form of injunctive relief, a court must consider: “(1) whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant would suffer irreparable injury absent a stay; (3) whether granting the stay would cause substantial harm to others; and (4) whether the public interest would be served by granting the stay.” Northeast Ohio, supra, 467 F.3d at 1009; see also Rios, supra, 345 F. Supp. 2d at 835.

So if that’s the controlling opinion, why the first two? I don’t get it.
It initially jarred me that this ruling was written in first person. It hadn’t stuck out to me how rare that was, though it seems more common in dissenting and concurring opinions.

4. Hersch v. E. W. Scripps Co

Here’s the ruling.

In the case at bar this court must determine whether a “stupid act” is substantially synonymous with an exercise of “poor judgment” and “impropriety,” or whether it connotes a greater opprobrium.

I have to admit, this sentence made me laugh. Irony?
Also:

[T]his court is persuaded by the evidence before the trial court that the characterization of the conduct of attorney Hersch as “stupid” is either true or is an exceedingly charitable assessment of his behavior.

And, in the end, the publication was ruled to be not defamatory.

It is the considered opinion of this court in view of the posture of the evidence in this case, that to be charged with having “acted stupidly” carries no greater opprobrium than to be charged with having committed an impropriety and with having exercised poor judgment. Under the authority of Williams v. P. W Publishing Co., supra, this court is persuaded that, as a matter of law, the summary of Judge Zingale’s remarks contained in the Cleveland Press article was not so false and defamatory as to serve as the basis for an action for libel.

If anything, this may be the most relevant citation of all, but not for the reason esteemed counsel might expect. 😉
Either “true” or “exceedingly charitable,” huh?

5. Am. Chem. Soc’y v. Leadscope, Inc.

You can read the ruling here. From the case summary:

In determining whether a statement is defamatory as a matter of law, a court must review the totality of the circumstances and read the statement in the context of the entire publication to determine whether a reasonable reader would interpret it as defamatory.

One of the propositions of law discussed in the ruling is this:

Damages for defamation must be based upon harm caused by the defamatory statements, as distinct from harm caused by a public lawsuit or other proceeding.

So the interesting thing here is that the defamation claim? Lost in this case.

We reverse the appellate court’s decision finding that the trial court did not err in overruling ACS’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on Leadscope’s counterclaim for defamation. We hold that when reviewed under the totality of the circumstances and in the context of the entire publications, ACS’s statements in the internal memorandum and its attorney’s statements in Business First are not defamatory as a matter of law. […]
The cause is remanded to the trial court with orders to vacate its judgment for Leadscope on the issue of defamation.

The short version is that ACS essentially claimed that Leadscope stole their invention and Leadscope countersued with defamation claims. The ruling (and dissent and concurring opinions) is all about the nuances of qualified privilege, and that doesn’t seem to be applicable to the way it’s cited in the EC TRO memorandum.
I particularly recommend J. Pfeifer’s dissenting part about the defamation case on pp. 40-49.

ACS, “one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information,” announced to an audience that included the scientific world and the financial world that virtually everything that Leadscope was built upon was stolen. A few words to the right audience can be ruinous. And the jury determined that those words were ruinous to Leadscope, Blower, Johnson, and Myatt. The majority has not demonstrated why those jury verdicts should not stand. […]
In both instances—the employee memorandum and the Business First article—the statements made by ACS were false, were made with the knowledge that they were false, injured the reputations of Leadscope and the individual defendants, and adversely affected them in their business.

But still ruled not defamatory. Interesting case to cite from that perspective.

6. Bluemile, Inc. v. YourColo, LLC

You can read the injunction ruling here. From the EC lawsuit:

The facts are strikingly similar to Bluemile, Inc. v. YourColo, LLC. In Bluemile, the plaintiff, an Ohio corporation, sought a temporary injunction against the defendant, who owned a business claiming the same business name.

In my opinion (though, again, IANAL and TINLA), there is no similarity, and the “strikingly similar” made me wonder what quality pharmaceuticals the esteemed esquire had access to. In Bluemile, there was a clear intent to confuse the trademark held by the plaintiff and siphon off their potential customers by the defendant with a confusing domain name (bluemile.net). The defendant’s site was intended to be confusing.

According to Plaintiff, Defendant uses the website to misdirect traffic through malicious use of Plaintiff’s registered trademark and post false and misleading information about Plaintiff’s products to Defendant’s benefit and Plaintiff’s detriment. Thus, in the Court’s view, Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of some or all of its claims.

None of the above is true—or claimed to be true—in the Dear Author case.
In the Bluemile kind of egregious behavior, it strikes me that a temporary/preliminary injunction is the only possible answer.

7. Guion v. Terra Marketing

This is a Nevada Supreme Court case from 1974, and I’m unaware of it being controlling case law for Ohio. Besides, Nevada. Odd state. (Says the Californian.) Here’s the ruling in question.
So the case here is that the defendant put up signs visible to the plaintiff’s potential and actual customers, that said:

A Terracor representative threatened to kill me! What next, Rick Johnson. I regret having done business with a Terracor representative. Doing business with a Terracor representative introduced me to a new low in ethics.

The case hinged partly upon whether or not the party making said threat was a Terracor representative, and hence on the truth or falsity of the statement. But—the order of magnitude of the statement here is way different than the Dear Author case and claims.
Which reminds me. Nowhere in the DA post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave did DA claim that anyone having issues with payment was currently/recently an employee. My take, which may be incorrect, was that it was about issues freelancers and authors were having.
And yet, one of the false statements claimed in the lawsuit (p. 3) is:

a. That employees of Ellora’s are going unpaid when in fact they are being paid.

Surely there’s a case somewhere in the last forty years that’s controlling that’s more relevant. Surely.

Some Humor Because You’ve Stuck With Me This Far

One of my favorite legal writers of all time is retired (forcibly) US District Court Judge Samuel B. Kent, especially Bradshaw v. Unity Marine.

Defendant begins the descent into Alice’s Wonderland by submitting a Motion that relies upon only one legal authority. The Motion cites a Fifth Circuit case which stands for the whopping proposition that a federal court sitting in Texas applies the Texas statutes of limitations to certain state and federal law claims. See Gonzales v. Wyatt, 157 F.3d 1016, 1021 n.1 (5th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1118 (2000). That is all well and good–the Court is quite fond of the Erie doctrine; indeed there is talk of little else around both the Canal and this Court’s water cooler. Defendant, however, does not even cite to Erie, but to a mere successor case, and further fails to even begin to analyze why the Court should approach the shores of Erie.

(So, persuasive, not controlling.)

Plaintiff responds to this deft, yet minimalist analytical wizardry with an equally gossamer wisp of an argument, although Plaintiff does at least cite the federal limitations provision applicable to maritime tort claims. See 46 U.S.C. § 763a. Naturally, Plaintiff also neglects to provide any analysis whatsoever of why his claim versus Defendant Phillips is a maritime action. Instead, Plaintiff “cites” to a single case from the Fourth Circuit. Plaintiff’s citation, however, points to a nonexistent Volume “1886” of the Federal Reporter *671 Third Edition and neglects to provide a pinpoint citation for what, after being located, turned out to be a forty-page decision. Ultimately, to the Court’s dismay after reviewing the opinion, it stands simply for the bombshell proposition that torts committed on navigable waters (in this case an alleged defamation committed by the controversial G. Gordon Liddy aboard a cruise ship at sea) require the application of general maritime rather than state tort law. See Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 524 (4th Cir.1999) (What the …)?! The Court cannot even begin to comprehend why this case was selected for reference. It is almost as if Plaintiff’s counsel chose the opinion by throwing long range darts at the Federal Reporter (remarkably enough hitting a nonexistent volume!). And though the Court often gives great heed to dicta from courts as far flung as those of Manitoba, it finds this case unpersuasive.

Again, persuasive not controlling, and unpersuasive in the end.
And, my favorite part:

After this remarkably long walk on a short legal pier, having received no useful guidance whatever from either party, the Court has endeavored, primarily based upon its affection for both counsel, but also out of its own sense of morbid curiosity, to resolve what it perceived to be the legal issue presented. Despite the waste of perfectly good crayon seen in both parties’ briefing (and the inexplicable odor of wet dog emanating from such) the Court believes it has satisfactorily resolved this matter.

Getting Back to the Request to Out Anonymous Commenters

It’s been a long post, so here’s anonymous commenter request again:

Additionally, Plaintiff request that Defendants disclose the name of the anonymous commenters on the blog so that the spreading of the defamatory statement can be stopped.

So, EC is asking Dear Author (et al) for the names of the anonymous commenters on the blog to stop the propagation of that post.

  1. It’s the readers, not the commenters, who are going to spread whatever was in the post. The commenters are there for internal engagement (within the context of the post), not external engagement (between the post and the outside world). Commenting does not in fact spread the post.
  2. EC may want the sources of DA’s information, but those people are not necessarily anonymous commenters. Or pseudonymous commenters. Or commenters. They may never have engaged with Dear Author publicly at all.
  3. As SBTB commented, the Streisand Effect pretty much ensures that the Internet will remember, in glorious detail, any attempt at censorship.
  4. Note that the statement does not ask the judge to do anything.
  5. Having skimmed more than two hundred pages of case law (so you don’t have to), I don’t see a single case that supports the request to out the anonymous commenters. The request is aimed at Dear Author, not the judge, and is in a curious place.

The average person, however, will read that line, not take the context into account, and think it means more than it perhaps does.
Which is why I think it’s just thrown in there for the chilling effect: “We’ve outed Dear Author’s identity; you’re next.”

See Also

Beware: Anonymous Commenters & Those Who Seek To Unmask Them

: The Indie Secrets Workshop

As I’ve stated before, and you’ve no doubt picked up, I’m quite the fan of Tim Grahl. I got to meet him at the World Domination Summit this year. One of his mantras is: focus on being relentlessly helpful.
He’s done book marketing for a lot of really big names, so I listen to him. He makes sense. He sounds like a really nice person (and has been in all my interactions with him).
Back when I was in Dublin, I attended one of his first Indie Secrets workshops with Michael Bunker, an indie author who writes Amish science fiction.
They are now doing that workshop again, and it now has an additional three-hour session.
The single thing that struck me the most can be summed up by contrasting it with a snippet I pulled into a post yesterday from Carolyn Jewel’s post The Flush Pile:

Do not assume a publisher has an interest in your book selling well. They should, but they don’t. Their interest is in seeing which books unexpectedly hit. That’s it. If it’s not you, you’re screwed.

Does your book make an immediate hit? Because if it doesn’t hit fairly quickly, then it’ll be brushed off the shelves to see if next month’s book offerings do better. How your last book did will affect your next book’s orders—especially for a series.
Bunker’s approach is different. Measured. Long-term. Something that seems positively relaxed given what I’ve heard about first-day craziness. And yet, he does have launch success, too.
I mention all this because Grahl and Bunker, along with Nick Cole, are running another set of the Indie Secrets Workshop on October 16th and 23rd. Check it out.

: Eugie Foster, RIP

It was just under a year ago that Eugie Foster broke open a dam with her plea for people to buy her work, but not the Norilana editions. She was fighting cancer, an aggressive form.
Unfortunately, the treatments she’s gotten, including radiation, several courses of chemo, and stem cell therapy, weren’t enough to save her life.
Sadly, she died today.
If you don’t know Eugie’s work, she was an amazing writer with a Nebula award and a hundred-ish publishing credits to her name. Link below.
Her last published story is, “When it Ends, He Catches Her,” published in Daily Science Fiction.

A Note from Her Husband

Matthew M. Foster said:

Eugie Foster, author, editor, wife, died on September 27th of respiratory failure at Emory University in Atlanta.
In her forty-two years, Eugie lived three lifetimes. She won the Nebula award, the highest award for science fiction literature, and had over one hundred of her stories published. She was an editor for the Georgia General Assembly. She was the director of the Daily Dragon at Dragon Con, and was a regular speaker at genre conventions. She was a model, dancer, and psychologist. She also made my life worth living.
Memorial service will be announced soon.
We do not need flowers. In lieu of flowers, please buy her books and read them. Buy them for others to read until everyone on the planet knows how amazing she was.

You can find her fiction linked here on her website.

Some Tweets from Others

This has long been the example I give ppl of how much power SFF short fiction can have in audio: Eugie Foster’s http://t.co/iubw83GR1A #RIP

— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) September 27, 2014

We are heartbroken at the loss of our Director/Editor, @eugiefoster. A beautiful soul and steadfast friend. http://t.co/g0UXKzHiy7

— Daily Dragon (@daily_dragon) September 27, 2014

New Post: Saying Goodbye to Eugie Foster http://t.co/du5hz3ymSR

— Jim C. Hines (@jimchines) September 27, 2014

Eugie Foster is one of the writers I think of whenever I wonder if Speculations did any good. (Yes, it did.) http://t.co/ChmEbxvRIu

— Kent Brewster (@kentbrew) September 27, 2014

If you haven’t done so, read “When it Ends, He Catches Her” by @EugieFoster in @DailySF. One of the year’s best. http://t.co/9eQsTUBMiX

— Jason Sanford (@jasonsanford) September 27, 2014

Wondering why your feeds are exploding with grief over Eugie Foster? She was one of our best writers…and one of our best people.

— Jaym Gates (@jaymgates) September 27, 2014

May she never be forgotten.

: Ellora's Cave Sues Dear Author

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Tweeple! @ellorascave has sued me for libel / defamation so I need a good Ohio attorney. If you have a recommendation, let me know!

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 26, 2014

Dear @ellorascave I welcome your suit and look forward to inspecting all of your books. Truth is a defense in defamation cases.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 26, 2014

The suit link here hinges on several claims Jane made about payments and economic status of the firm.
What’s of particular interest here is the statements in the lawsuit open up the Ellora’s Cave books for discovery since it does indeed revolve around whether or not authors, editors, and employees were paid properly.
I tend to think that Jane probably has her tail covered, or at least mostly so.
Popcorn, anyone?

The House in West Hollywood

I thought I’d add the small amount of fact-checking I tried to do for my own self on the West Hollywood house thing.
Here’s today’s DA tweet about it:

And here is the FB status of Jaid Black/Tina Engler announcing her move to West Hollywood @ellorascave pic.twitter.com/hc3O7bnprt

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 26, 2014

So here’s what I was able to find.

  1. On March 2, Jaid Black/Tina Engler announced on facebook that she was moving from Venice Beach to West Hollywood.
  2. On March 3, Jaid named William Cerqueira as her real estate agent in a facebook post.
  3. Cerqueira has a website, but all the sales listed on it are at least four years old. There’s also this link, which lists no sales at all. That page links to a different, dead website.
  4. Cerqueira’s Yelp listing has an endorsement from Jaid B., who says she leased a home with him as her agent. (Note: I just found this today.)

So here’s the thing: Jane saying that Jaid purchased (rather than leased) a home isn’t inherently defamatory. Even if it were, it’s about Jaid’s personal life in California, which makes me wonder if it’s a valid cause of action for a state suit filed about an Ohio business in state court in Ohio against an Iowa LLC.

: Mark Greyland Needs Your Help

Update Two: Mark Greyland sadly passed in May 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

: Forget Curious, This Is Downright Bizarre

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

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

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

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

Eden Connor comments about a similar experience with Silver Publishing:

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

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

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

Hmmm.
On the surface, it appears that:

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

Some Thumbnail Numbers

Let’s make the following assumptions.

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

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

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

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

EC’s Prior Lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antares later follows up with:

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

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

Meanwhile

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

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

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

: Using Negativity Wisely

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

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

The Kinds of Things I Don’t Say

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

The Result

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

: Irish Literature

I was having coffee with a friend in Ireland the other day, and he talked about someone he knew.

He makes a living, well, for being Irish.

At one point, I considered emigrating to Ireland. I had all the paperwork, but I didn’t go through with it because other things came through that would require me to remain in the states.
Like many, I had a dream of making a living as a writer there.
However, it turns out that the arts council only funds literature, and they don’t respect genre work at all (and I’ve basically always been a genre writer). The panel at Shamrokon about where the Irish SF was(n’t) was truly depressing for me.
In fact, the only Irish-themed SF novel I can think of that I’ve ever read is Flynn Connolly’s _The Rising of the Moon, published by Del Rey in 1993. And Flynn’s from the US.
Fantasy is more respected in Ireland, but only because it’s very tied up with being Irish. So things like not sleeping in fairy forts aren’t perceived as fantasy—rather they’re seen as common sense.
In essence, the funding, like MFA programs, is about the homogenization of taste. You can make a living, but only within a narrow spectrum. Nothing else is worthy, and the market’s not big enough to support writers (or Irish publishers) who don’t get arts council money. As one small press pointed out, if you ever take their money, you’re doomed to follow their dictates.
For the first time, I’m not wistful about not having taken that path all those years ago.

: Throwing Down My Teeny Weeny Gauntlet

For the last three months, there’s been a loophole on SFWA’s site about who qualifies for membership. Specifically, it’s Rule 3:

One paid sale of a work of fiction of under 40,000 words for which the candidate’s income equals or exceeds $2,000.00, such income to include a simple payment or an advance and/or subsequent royalties after the advance has earned out. Detailed documentation of payment will be required.

Rule 3 does not specify that said work must be sold to a “qualifying professional market”, but Rule 1 and 2, which list other ways to qualify, do.
When I questioned that, I was told that it didn’t overrule the bylaws, which still prohibited qualifying based on non-qualifying markets.
By that time, however, I’d had a lot of time to think.
This morning, SFWA sent a seven-question survey about whether or not indie and small press publishing credits should count for SFWA membership. Consider this a broader answer to those question.

Case 1: Lori Witt

In March, Lori wrote this post about writing income, which I’ve previously written about.

…whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011.

That description narrows the book in question down to two possible novellas, but I believe it’s this one. [Edited to add: I was wrong; see note at bottom.]
Riptide’s a small press, specializing in LGBT books, with around 50 authors. As is Samhain, which is a much larger digital first romance publisher that publishes both straight and gay romance.

Case 2: Michael Bunker

Michael Bunker lives off-grid and writes Amish science fiction. He makes a significant part of his income doing so.

The Point

As I’m writing this, I’m eligible for Associate (junior) membership in SFWA based on my sale of a short to Baen in 2003 (published in 2004).
Lori and Michael are eligible for absolutely no SFWA status based on their writing.
Back when SFWA was formed, essentially you sold to qualifying markets or you weren’t making significant money writing science fiction. The world has shifted in recent years, and that’s no longer true.
Any writers’ organization that privileges my one-time sale to a Baen anthology in 2003 where I’ve earned less than $400 over the last 11 years over far more significant current income from working writers—that’s an unjust system.
My opinion.
It’s frankly been idiotic for me to continue to pay for SFWA membership; I’ve essentially paid out all I took in from that one sale (so far) several times over.
Therefore, I’ll start paying for SFWA membership again when the whole qualifying market thing changes.

Note

Well, I guessed wrong on which novella. It was this one, which isn’t sf/f.

@deirdresm @mbunker Wow, interesting. (for the record, the novella was AJ’s Angel, but I believe Chip meets the criteria too)

— L.A.Witt/L.Gallagher (@GallagherWitt) August 23, 2014

: How to Get to Helsinki from Pitcairn

I was talking with Crystal Huff about getting to Helsinki, and I volunteered to put together a list of how to get to Finland for the Helsinki in 2017 Worldcon bid.
After I sat down and got started, I thought it would be interesting to put the list together in a non-US-centric way, so I started on the Wikipedia List of Countries by Population. And, as I scrolled down the list, I realized that, without specifically planning going to Finland, I already knew most of the answers about how to get there from wherever.
I scrolled to the bottom of the list, and laughed.

242. Pitcairn

As it happens, I’ve been there, so I’ve studied up on how to get there. Pitcairn, which consists of four islands—only one of which is inhabited—is one of the remotest and most difficult places to get to on the planet. It’s the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific.
So here’s my draft of that answer. Note: it’s this difficult to get from Pitcairn to anywhere, which is one reason that residents often spend several months away at a time.
Pitcairn: If you’re one of the few dozen people from Pitcairn, it will take you longer to get to Helsinki than for the average person, but you already know that. You know all about the cruise ship schedule, and you’re no doubt hoping that something comes later than the Costa Luminosa so you’ll be able to stay on Pitcairn past February 23rd, way too early to leave for Worldcon. Eventually, the Claymore II supply ship schedule for 2017 will be posted, and you’ll probably sail for Mangareva around June. From there, you’ll fly Air Tahiti (not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui) to Papeete. From there, you’ve got one of three possible routes: Air France/Finnair via Los Angeles and Paris (17,615 km), LAN/KLM via Easter Island, Santiago Chile, and Amsterdam (21,521 km), or Air New Zealand via some route like Auckland, Tokyo, Helsinki on Air New Zealand and Finnair, which is shorter (20750 km) than the same route through Hong Kong (21070 km). So, sure, you’d have to leave in June and you might be able to make the September supply ship back, but think of the interesting places you could stop over along the way.

A Funny Aside

When I was entering the UK, the immigration officer looked at my passport. As often happens, initially a bored immigration agent is looking for a place to stamp, then they become interested in the unusual places I have in my passport.
“Where’s Pitcairn?” he asked.
I boggled. After all, it is a British Overseas Territory, but I was actually having to resist answering, “the ass end of nowhere.” I stumbled over the explanation, then Rick piped up to explain.
“Where the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty‘ happened” is generally the simplest explanation, though not quite correct as that’s where the mutineers wound up, not where the mutiny occurred.
You can get to Helsinki even from Pitcairn. It’ll just take a while.
Pitcairn Island

: Building a Brand: Object Lessons

I wrote this some time ago; it’s been a draft sitting on my computer for quite a while. It’s as true now as it was then, though.
Looking at prospective panelists, I’m surprised at how many published writers trying to promote themselves do not or cannot:

  1. Have their own domain name,
  2. Have an excerpt up on their site,
  3. Write a paragraph introducing themselves,
  4. Understand what a paragraph is,
  5. Bother to mention a URL where their book is,
  6. (for the non-indies) Mention who their publisher is.

And yet want to be on a panel about building a brand or give a solo presentation about same.

: Delia Derbyshire, Overlooked Musician and Composer

Delia Derbyshire wrote some of, and played all of, one of the most famous—and earliest widely-known—pieces of electronic music ever. Not only that, she did so before the advent of the first commercially-available synthesizer.

(Brian Hodgson composed the tardis sound.)
She was a kid in Coventry during WW2, hearing all the weird and haunting sounds of air raids and all-clear signals.
Decca Records told her that they did not employ women in their recording studios. So she joined the BBC. Delia said, “I was told in no uncertain terms that the BBC does not employ composers.”
Seeing the footage about her contributions to the Doctor Who theme was really the highlight of the Doctor Who Experience. As a Torchwood fan (and not really a Doctor Who fan), I felt left out for the most part.
There’s a great page about the history of the theme song.

On first hearing it Grainer was tickled pink: “Did I really write this?” he asked. “Most of it,” replied Derbyshire.

Yet, even though Grainer wanted Derbyshire to receive credit and a share of the royalties, it didn’t happen that way due to BBC red tape (no doubt assisted by the fact that Delia was female). Thus, she became uncredited and without royalties for something that has been heard by millions of people.
Bitter, she left the industry, became an alcoholic, and later developed breast cancer. Though she did get back into electronic music in the 90s, toward the end of her life, she died of kidney failure in 2001.
I find it curious that the BBC created an exhibit for her in the Doctor Who Experience—but still never managed to correct the credits or royalty situation.
If you’d like to learn more about her, here’s a bunch of YouTube links, but you probably want to start with Sculptress of Sound
Her name was Delia Derbyshire, and she loved listening to thunderstorms.

: Hotel Convention Bookings: A Cautionary Tale

tl;dr: Inadvertent double booking due to intermediaries (and missing that there were two bookings) resulted in attempts to overcharge us by £1350 (~$2250) for a five-night stay.

  1. On August 30, 2013, I booked a room for Loncon3 through Starwood’s reservation system for the Aloft London Excel (a Starwood hotel) at £279/night (not at the much lower convention rate). I book through Starwood so seldom that I’ve never bothered with the paperwork to change my surname with them; it’s still my pre-married name of Saoirse. I didn’t add a second guest name to this booking.
  2. On January 2, 2014, because my Aloft room wasn’t at the £120 convention rate, I booked one at the Premier Inn to hold something at the convention rate.
  3. On January 2, 2014, I contacted Loncon3 staff to see about moving my Aloft reservation into the convention’s Aloft block so I could be at the hotel directly attached to the convention center (less walking).

    I don’t need an accessible room. I just need less total walking during the day and the ability to easily duck out for a nap during the con to recharge. Staying at the Aloft would be of significant benefit to me.
    Rick Moen and I will share, so we’d prefer a queen or (haha) a king if available.
    Membership number: 172
    Existing booking # 2…7 (Premier Inn London Docklands Excel)
    This will free up a disabled room.

    (followup)

    FYI, I already have an existing Aloft reservation, 7…0, which could just be moved into block if that’s easier.

  4. Loncon3 staff respond:

    Thanks. We’ve received your lottery request and will send an update once we have more info.

  5. I respond back:

    Well, either way I have an Aloft reservation, since I made one before the contract was finalised.
    Ideally, I’d like it moved into block without having to go through the lottery.

  6. They respond:

    The room blocks have no financial impact on the convention, unlike in the U.S. Since you already have a reservation in the Aloft, I suggest you just keep that one and cancel the Premier.

  7. I respond:

    I was hoping for the con room rate though. £279 a night is the rate I’m holding.
    So it may not have a financial impact for you, but it does for me (and thus my holding two reservations at present).

  8. On January 3, I cancel the reservation at the Premier Inn.
  9. On January 4, Rick and I depart for Chile; we didn’t return to the US for 22 days. For most of that time, we’re in some of the remotest places on earth with zero Internet.
  10. On January 17, an email is sent reminding of the lottery closing, but I have no ability to receive or respond to that email.
  11. On January 24, with no further input from me except for what happened above, I receive a confirmation from Infotel, the booking service used by Loncon3 for convention-rate hotel bookings, for the dates of my existing Aloft booking, guaranteed to the same credit card, with a room rate of £120 per night. The second guest in the room is listed as “Rick Moen.” This is how you can tell I didn’t make the booking. No cover note or anything, so all the information I have is in that email. Because we’re still traveling, I only give the email a cursory glance.
    Note: at this point, I’d assumed Infotel had taken over my existing Aloft booking. Also important: I was never, not once, given a cancellation or no-show penalty for this reservation. For my prior Infotel booking, the no-show or late cancellation penalty was a one-night stay. Except for ultra luxury or boutique hotels, this is pretty standard.
    Also: the URL given to manage my booking began: http://localhost:50861/ —invalid for anyone except Infotel.
  12. Whenever I logged into either Infotel or Starwood Preferred Guest, I saw a single booking. For that reason, I believed there was a single reservation. Oops. There’s a reason for this: my Starwood number wasn’t added to the Infotel booking because my surname on that booking (Saoirse Moen) is different from the surname (Saoirse) attached to my Starwood account.
  13. After Rick and I sort out our plans (a couple of weeks before the convention), I make a ToDo list. One of those items was to shorten our hotel stay by one night. I fail to get this done.
  14. We check in on August 13th, remembering to shorten our stay to the 18th. I add Rick’s name to the booking sheet using his legal name. We use Rick’s credit card to check in.
  15. On August 14th, at 3:37 am local time, I get an email that says the Aloft tried to charge £600 to the card I used to hold the booking. I found this curious given that we’d just checked in. Stupidly, I assumed they tried to authorize to my card rather than the one they’d swiped when we checked in. (This has happened before on other occasions when there wasn’t any problem, so I didn’t think anything of it except that it was odd.)
    Despite having two bookings with the same starting part of the surname, we were not advised of that. Naturally, they check us into the booking that’s £279 per night with no included breakfast rather than the booking that’s £120 per night with included breakfast for two.
    The other odd thing: Why £600? Why not £720, which was the full six nights of the booking? Why not £120 for the cancellation fee?
  16. On August 14th in the afternoon, Rick gets a voice mail in the room to “Rick Moen”—asking him if he was also intending to shorten his stay to the 18th. We’re both puzzled by the use of his nickname.
  17. I had breakfast with Peggy Rae and John Sapienza one morning, and they said their hotel room came with breakfast. Ours hadn’t, I said, but I didn’t think to check and see if something was wrong.
  18. We start the checkout process on the 18th, then discover the £279 rate, then I pull up the email reservation. It’s only at this point that I realize there must have been two reservations all along, and we checked into the wrong one. When we get to the third or fourth person who finally cares to try to do something about the issue (srsly), it takes them the better part of an hour to fix the reservation. Basically, they deleted the breakfast line items and credited us with £750, which isn’t exactly the right solution (and made both of us nitpicky types unhappy with the solution), but it’s functional.
    They also tell us that they can’t change the number of days on the £120/night stay, so we’ve essentially got the room through to the 19th—except that we’re leaving for Cardiff. We get hotel keys for our room and put our luggage back there, then head off to the convention.

Overall

First, no one at the hotel really seemed to care about the business of running the hotel. They all seemed like they were phoning it in. There were things like: being open until 11pm for dinner, but telling people they couldn’t take any more diners at 9:30 pm. Having to wait 20 minutes, on average, for gluten-free bread every morning because it took that long to find some waitstaff to get it for me.
Additionally, despite asking for a hamburger with no bun and sautéed potatoes instead of chips, I was brought out a hamburger on a regular bun with chips. I didn’t explicitly say “gluten free,” but that shouldn’t matter.
After going several rounds with the night manager, who made it sound like he was doing me a big fucking favor, he confirmed that chips aren’t gluten free (fried in the same fryer with gluten-coated items). On a different occasion, when I specified I needed gluten free more clearly, I was still brought black pudding (not gluten free, generally) and another non-gluten free item.
I loved the look of the hotel, but the entire experience left a bad taste. I was really glad to move on to Cardiff—and to a different hotel.

The Hotel’s Honesty

The woman checking us in wasn’t particularly experienced, so I don’t think it was dishonesty on her part that checked us into the wrong reservation.
However, the hotel knew all along that there were two reservations. Remember that message for Rick Moen? If we were checked into the reservation with no second party, where I’d handwritten in Rick’s legal name, then why call and ask for him in the name of “Rick Moen” if they didn’t have the other reservation right in front of them?
So—they knew, they knew to our detriment, and they did nothing about it. For that reason, I consider the hotel essentially dishonest, especially after attempting to charge so much for the “no show” penalty.

Lessons for Convention Runners

  1. There really should be a way for the mobility impaired to get hotel rooms close to the convention facilities at convention rates without having to compete with the able-bodied, especially when rooms sell out very quickly for things like Worldcon.
  2. There needs to be a way for that to happen without using up a lot of people points.
  3. Clearer communication about what was done (i.e.., was an existing reservation modified, or was a new reservation created) would be stellar.
  4. Very few things use up people points like attempts to overcharge by £1350.

: Hugo Awards, 2014 Edition

First, congratulations to all the winners!
Wow, what a rush.
None of my four outlier recommendations made the ballot. Except one of them won in a different category, and I could just do jumping jacks about that.

Campbell Award

I’m entirely unsurprised that Sofia Samatar won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I remember vascillating between her and Ramez Naam, my own two personal favorites out of the five.

Best Fan Artist

Sarah Webb is someone I should have known would win eventually.
The first of my recommendations, Randall Munroe, came in 9th.

Best Fan Writer

Kameron Hurley takes it! Her acceptance speech. She likely mostly won for the post that also won “Best Related Work” (below), but my personal favorite is When to Persist… and When to Quit.

Best Fancast

SF Signal. Which I should totally listen to more often. Interesting quirk: No Award had the highest number of first-place votes in this category.

Best Fanzine

Aiden Moher’s beautiful A Dribble of Ink.

Best Semiprozine

Lightspeed Magazine. Given their recent success in Kickstarter campaigns, this surprises exactly no one.

Best Professional Artist

Julie Dillon becomes the first woman to win the Hugo for Best Professional Artist as a solo artist. (Diane Dillon co-won with her husband in 1971.)

Best Editor, Long Form

Ace’s retiring editor Ginjer Buchanan won, though she didn’t have the largest number of first-place votes. Baen’s Toni Weisskopf did, but she also had less support in other places, and also had more people rank No Award higher.

Best Editor, Short Form

Ellen. Datlow.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

I was really hoping for Orphan Black, but Game of Thrones won for “The Rains of Castamere.” I’m peeved that Sharknado wasn’t on either the long list for either the long or short form ballot. It was robbed!

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Gravity. So, so, so happy about this.

Best Graphic Story

Randall Munroe, XKCD, Time.
In 2011, I first suggested Randall Munroe for Best Fan Artist. As a result of my lobbying, he got on the ballot that year (and the next), but he didn’t win.
Randall’s acceptance speech.
And Cory Doctorow accepting, dressed as an XKCD character (also a later XKCD):

[![Cory Doctorow accepting the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award for Randall Munroe's "Time.". Photo by Jim C. Hines](/images/2014/08/863871148.jpg)](/images/2014/08/863871148.jpg)Cory Doctorow accepting the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award for Randall Munroe’s “Time.”. Photo by Jim C. Hines

My work here is done.
Congratulations, Randall! ## Best Related Work

“We Have Always Fought”: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley on A Dribble of Ink. Very much worth reading. In a related note, here’s how the lemming myth was perpetuated.
I also have a soft spot in my heart for Writing Excuses as I’ll be on an upcoming episode.

Best Short Story

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu published by Tor.com.

Best Novelette

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal also published by Tor.com. I loved the audio version last year, and love the text version as well.
This was the category that Vox Day was also in, so I note that he lost fifth place (of five) to “No Award.”

Best Novella

“Equoid” by Charles Stross also published by Tor.com. I love Stross’s work. Though I preferred his Best Novel entry to this one, I’m glad he won in a category.

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This book won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Clarke Award, and the Locus Award, as well as tying for the BSFA Award. That is a very rare combo, especially for a debut novel.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson came in 4th, and, Warbound by Larry Correia (of the voting slate) came in last, somewhat above “No Award.”

Overall

Wow, a lot of women won! (Dramatic sigh re: Orphan Black not being among them.)
The two nominations I was most excited by won. w00t!
Tor.com really did a great job.

: Falling Back in Love With One's Own Book

[![Photo by Lizzy Gadd](/images/2014/08/KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_n-700x464.jpg)](/images/2014/08/KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_n.jpg)Photo by Lizzy Gadd

While I’m guilty of most of the classic bad writerly habits save for drugs and alcohol, none of those bad habits per se are the cause of my greatest problems with word count.
No, for things like spending too much time on Twitter, that typically means I’ll write fewer words (unless I’m on Twitter for a word war, at which point it’s productive).
What causes the single greatest loss for me are the days on end where I’ve lost belief in my book. It happens every book. I wish I could say that I’ve learned to plan for these side trips into the doldrums, but no. I haven’t.
So here are some of the ways I work out of these issues. ## But X Has a More Famous Book on a Similar Topic

This will always be true, right? Even though every book is unique, the mind can always find ways in which X’s book or Y’s screenplay or Z’s book is similar to one’s own.
Here’s my exercises for this stage of writerly despair:

  1. Name ten things your book has that X’s does not. They can be small things, e.g., you feature a coffee shop throughout your novel, and X’s does not. You love coffee.
  2. Name one person (whom you’re not related to) who you think would be more interested in the book you’re writing than X’s, and why you think that’s so. Pro tip: this can be your barista.
  3. Identify one thing you hope a reader will get out of your book that they won’t get out of X’s.

Why Am I Writing This?

At some point, my answer usually boils down to: because you started it. That’s reason enough for some people, but sadly it’s not reason enough for me.

  1. List ten things you think are cool about the book.
  2. Name three things you learned while writing or researching the book.
  3. Is there anything you found “too cool not to use” that you haven’t used yet?

Write Ten Words (or Write One Paragraph)

Instead of writing a day’s quota, I’ll challenge myself to only write a ridiculously small amount of words. Then quit.
Repeat as needed. It’s better than not writing at all. At some point, you’ll realize you’ve gone over that quota and are back in the groove. For me, this usually takes a few days.

: Amazon, Invoking WW2 and Getting it Wrong

Amazon invokes World War II. (Do Not Linkified because why should they get all the Google juice?)

Also, structure of email opening is remarkably similar to http://t.co/redsJvrNhc from @andrewtshaffer (which has full Orwell quote)

— andrea vuleta (@alv65) August 9, 2014

Except, of course, they said “World War II” rather than 1939 because that carries so much more emotional weight. It’s Godwin’s Law by proxy.
Also, as a technical point, this was an innovation in the US, and the US wasn’t involved in WWII in 1939 (not until Pearl Harbor in December, 1941). Not only that, as Andrew’s article points out, the paperback started in June, 1939, and World War II is generally considered to have started with the Invasion of Poland on 1 September, 1939.
So not only did they invoke WWII for all the emotional baggage it carries, their email opening is factually incorrect.

@alv65 When you google “paperback history” or “paperback revolution,” my story is the first hit. So it’s possible they just crammed it.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF They also twisted the Orwell quote to make it look like he hated paperbacks. Just the opposite: pic.twitter.com/V0M60brNcu

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Looks like they took it—and their opening graf—from my Mental Floss article. I dunno. Crazy no matter what. http://t.co/1TFYAg07TG

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Now that I look back into the quote, looks like he thought paperbacks were good for readers, bad for trade. pic.twitter.com/z09AOFRBuo

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF I still don’t think he was literally suggesting publishers collude, though, which is what Amazon’s letter seems to suggest.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

Then Amazon gives the email address of Hachette’s CEO, but not their own.
Because Amazon wants to play fair, right?
No.

Cora Buhlert Has an Even Better Point

Edited to add Cora Buhlert’s fabulous tweets:

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward Besides, Germany has had paperbacks since 1867.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward And they cost 20 pennies, 25 pennies from 1917 on. I demand a return to the prices of the Second Empire.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward In case you need a reference for the 1867 paperbacks, try this one: http://t.co/xbFhRgpuCm

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

: RAINN Donations for MZB's The Mists of Avalon

Catherine Schaff-Stump has a great post: she’s got a copy of Mists of Avalon, and would like to see people donate to RAINN because of the recent revelations about Marion Zimmer Bradley’s abuse of her children.
Here’s her post.
Thanks Cath!

: Overwerked

So, as you all know, I’m a big fan of Canadian DJ Overwerk. He’s in the middle of his first US tour, and I just had to go.

Electronica and I, We Go Way Back

Look, the first time I went to a concert was to see Jethro Tull in 1973 on the A Passion Play tour. I’ve seen a ton of bands since then, including: Led Zeppelin (pre- and post-Stairway to Heaven), Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Queen, and, well, so many others that if I list them all, I’ll never get to the point.
What I’d not really understood was how much electronica had changed over the years. When I took an electronic music in the 70s, synthesizers were not only monophonic (meaning they could only play one note at a time). Well, okay, there were some polyphonic synthesizers, but the college could not afford them. Yet. The one thing this class really did for me? Made me realize how amazingly awesome Switched-On Bach was. What an unbelievably large amount of work. It reminds me of spectacular English marquetry in terms of hours of labor.
Somewhere in the late 80s, I had a Roland D-50 for a short while. I was determined to go the MIDI route, but it was tremendously painful. Things hadn’t progressed as far as I’d hoped.
In the 90s, I worked for Synclavier, or at least the remnants of it. I had a synclavier.com work email address. I didn’t work on synth-related stuff; I worked on managing royalties for use of digital audio elements. Still, I had a sense of what was possible then, vastly improved over the years.
But since then? No clue.
In 2005, I was talking with a colleague about music, and I thought I was showing that I was fairly current because of the relatively recent artists I was listening to. However, he pointed out, half correct, that most of the bands were more than 10 years old. (Some had been around that long; most were newer, but not new-new.) Who was I listening to that was new?
Ever since then, I’ve made more of an effort to listen to a wider variety of music and more newer artists, not just new albums from artists I already love or have newly discovered.

The Dance Thing

I know I used to compete in ice dancing, and that I’ve studied dancing. I first appeared on stage in a white satin duck suit. Tap dancing. As a teen and in my twenties, I had no use for non-ballroom dancing, though. I was always feeling out of my element when I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, especially when it was something physical.
So I did what I always do: I ignored it, pretended it didn’t matter.
Yet, at the same time, once we got past the main part of the disco era, dance music started to diverge more. I loved dance music, I just didn’t, you know, dance. In that sense, I was an equal opportunity hater and wound up rolling my eyes more than once when asked to pick sides. I like what I like, musically speaking.
Then my back and knee started bothering me, and so the point is now moot: I simply can’t dance for more than a couple of minutes, and most dance moves have me risking collapsing (and I mean that literally) in a heap on the floor.
So, Overwerk’s coming. What to do?

Conflicting Plans, Not Good

Overwerk was coming to both San Francisco and Santa Cruz, but they were dates I was out of town. I wrote to the Santa Cruz club anyway, as I could have made it if I changed my flight (and missed the Great Namaste), but I never heard back from them.
I also tried to contact several that would have been doable with some combination of the various miles I have hoarded.
The one club I contacted that answered me: The Monarch Theatre in Phoenix. They were really nice about assuring me there would be some place for me to sit.
I used my British Airways miles to book tickets on US Air, found a great rate at the Arizona Biltmore, which is a cool historic American property.
So I got up at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday to fly to Phoenix, then checked into the Biltmore and took a nap. My friend called; she couldn’t make it. Bummer. Had an amazing dinner at the Biltmore all by myself.
I went alone to the club, and I can’t tell you the number of times I completely wanted to chicken out. The number of times I’ve found accommodations non-existant makes anything like this completely intimidating, especially at a dance club when you aren’t able to dance.
I found the place, arriving just early enough that there were only a few people in line. However, not being able to stand, they found me a seat, which effectively put me first in line (not that that actually mattered as there were few enough people in line).
The DJs paraded in ahead, as did various people on the guest list. We were all let in, and I needed to go back and get the VIP wristband for the seating area.
The first DJ, Joey Williams, warmed everyone up.

[![Joey Williams by Jacob Tyler Dunn](/images/2014/08/10492245_258240470966227_1149176629842689935_n.jpg)](/images/2014/08/10492245_258240470966227_1149176629842689935_n.jpg)Joey Williams by Jacob Tyler Dunn

Second up was 2ToneDisco.

[![2ToneDisco by Jacob Tyler Dunn](/images/2014/08/10414072_258240867632854_8635205320862845656_n.jpg)](/images/2014/08/10414072_258240867632854_8635205320862845656_n.jpg)2ToneDisco by Jacob Tyler Dunn

James and Omni had an energetic set of Nu Disco and other fun stuff. Probably the crowd favorite was their Ghostbusters remix, which you can listen to (and download) for free:
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/174253553″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
I don’t know who the third DJ was; he was quite popular with the crowd. He tended to play vocal songs that had very singable anthem lines. Not my cuppa, but the crowd was having fun, and that’s the important thing.
Fourth up was Overwerk, who came on at 12:30.
The crowd cheered when his signature motif, “Overwerk it,” played for the first time in his set.
The biggest crowd pleaser of his set was 12:30, which is a remix of ABBA’s “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (a Man after Midnight).” You can listen to (or download) it for free here:
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/84242101″ params=”color=00aabb&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

[![Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn](/images/2014/08/10409549_258240500966224_1538363407301473663_n.jpg)](/images/2014/08/10409549_258240500966224_1538363407301473663_n.jpg)Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn
[![Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn](/images/2014/08/10487256_258240477632893_4577881855150976248_n.jpg)](/images/2014/08/10487256_258240477632893_4577881855150976248_n.jpg)Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn
[![Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn](/images/2014/08/10537416_258240777632863_4185577574332582253_n.jpg)](/images/2014/08/10537416_258240777632863_4185577574332582253_n.jpg)Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn
[![Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn](/images/2014/08/10514591_258241717632769_2933766180983845784_n.jpg)](/images/2014/08/10514591_258241717632769_2933766180983845784_n.jpg)Overwerk by Jacob Tyler Dunn

At 2 a.m., Edmond ended his set with my personal favorite, Daybreak, though the club isn’t conducive to the quieter opening this song has (and thus it started differently). I can’t embed this one, but you can listen to it here.
I loved how each DJ had a different visual style. The three large monitors gave quite the light show in addition to the ceiling lights. Not having spent a lot of time in clubs, and never for a traditional dance event (it was always some private event held at a club), this was something I’d never known about (or expected).
All in all, a great time. Many thanks to the Monarch Theatre, Overwerk, 2ToneDisco, and the other DJs, as well as Relentless Beats, the promoter.
More of Jacob Tyler Dunn’s photos here.

: Change the World, Have a Good Time

EB-White-700
Now available on Redbubble: prints, posters, t-shirts, pillows, totes, phone cases, iPad cases, and greeting cards.
I love this E.B. White quotation.

I get up every day determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.
Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.

Design element credits

Polygon background: Justin Thanks, Justin!
Pattern overlay layers: two from 2 Lil Owls (from a Design Cuts bundle) plus 2 from Joyful Heart Designs.
Font: Brave from Nicky Laatz. Post-processed with Ian Barnard’s Inkwell.

: A Much-Delayed Review

I’ve been doing some tidying around the social network space and got around to looking at reviews on This Is My Funniest 2 on Goodreads.
From a one-star review of the book….

No outright guffaws but….
Big smiles:
The Robot Who Came to Dinner by Ron Goulart
Frog Kiss by Kevin J. Anderson
A Sword Called Rhonda by C. S. Moen

Hey, up there with Ron Goulart and Kevin J. Anderson, ahead of the other 26 authors?
I’ll take it.
Overall, the anthology hasn’t done particularly well, though I was happy to be in an anthology with Larry Niven. When I had him autograph my copy, he said I should autograph his. This is why I like Larry.
When I queried Mike Resnick, he said, “If I laugh, I’ll buy the story.” He must have.
At readings, there’s usually one line that does get a LOL.

: Rejecting Bad Writing Advice

There was a time when I was so starved for any writing advice, I’d take whatever crap would fall in. Granted, I was a Scientologist at the time, so you could say I was particularly primed for not only sources of bad advice, but also the unquestioned acceptance of same.
Over the years, I found that my brain became so constrained by all the bullshit I’d accepted that I found it impossible to write at all. I was bound by the red tape.

If You Want to Sell a Novel, Sell Short Stories First

Look, having any kind of respectable publishing credits helps. No question.
But not all novelists can write short. Even if they can write short, they may be nowhere near as good a short story writer as they are a novelist.
So here’s my revised answer to that: Write short stories because you want to. Submit them because you want to.
If they don’t speak to you, there are plenty of other, better ways to spend that time.

You’re Never Going to Make a Lot of Money as a Short Story Writer

I heard this last weekend. Verbatim.
Do I believe it’s true? No, I do not. Edward D. Hoch made a living as a short story writer.
Do I believe the odds are against you?
Sure, if you insist on thinking of it in terms of odds, which I don’t think is helpful.
Rather, I prefer to think of it this way: if you want to make a lot of money as a short story writer, you’d likely need to have a large number of relatively uncomplicated (in the sense that it’s a “short story” idea rather than a “novel” idea) ideas that you can write and polish to professional levels.
I know me: I have a smaller number of ideas but they’re more complex, and thus I’m a novella or novel kind of writer.
There’s also the issue that how much you make from short fiction depends on what venues are available for you to sell it, including film and television. Excluding self publishing at the moment, I’d argue that novella length has new life in the digital first markets.
Case in point:

We both have short stories and novellas, which frequently don’t make it into print except in collections or magazines. Those collections and magazines tend to pay token amounts if at all — contributor’s copies are common — whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011. Aleks and I co-wrote a short story that was released last year and has made each of us just under $2,000.

(Quoted from here.)
I’d say that most people would think $8,000 was “a lot of money.” Somewhat fewer would consider $4,000 ($2,000 x 2 writers) “a lot of money.”
But $10,000? For two pieces of short fiction? That’s a lot of money.
Ahh, but she writes male/male romance, you say.
I say that’s not the point. The point is that this construction, “You’re never going to make a lot of money as a short story writer,” assumes things one cannot possibly know about me and my future. It’s a prediction that my future will suck because someone else’s past (e.g., the speaker’s) has sucked.
Besides, Clive Barker did pretty well with this one novella. There are other examples, too.
Rather, it’s more helpful to know what kind of writer you are and whether or not that road would be easier or harder for you. If you’ve got a background writing short non-fiction, then writing short fiction may be easier for you.
Just because it’s a hard road isn’t a reason not to do it. A hard road is still a path, just a difficult one.
There are plenty of kinds of writing, if writing is what you want to do. If it’s not, there are plenty of things to do in almost any field. I really wish I’d understood this early on, because I felt roles were far more rigid when I was in high school. Maybe that was my mistake.

You Should Write in Third Person Because It’s Easier to Sell

To which I respond: my favorite novel’s in second person.

You’re four hours into your shift, decompressing from two weeks of working nights supervising clean-up after drunken fights on Lothian Road and domestics in Craiglockhart. Daylight work on the other side of the capital city comes as a big relief, bringing with it business of a different, and mostly less violent, sort. This morning you dealt with: two shoplifting call-outs, getting your team to chase up a bunch of littering offences, a couple of community liaison visits, and you’re due down the station in two hours to record your testimony for the plead-by-email hearing on a serial B&E case you’ve been working on. You’re also baby-sitting Bob—probationary constable Robert Lockhart—who is ever so slightly fresh out of police college and about as probationary as a very probationary thing indeed. So it’s not like you’re not busy or anything, but at least it’s low-stress stuff for the most part.

Second is very voicey, and it’s both a boon and a bane because of that.
Write in whatever viewpoint you feel happens to fit the story best, including second if you’re so inclined. If you’ve never tried it before, consider rewriting a scene in second person. See how it feels. Try the same scene in first and third emphasizing different viewpoint characters.
There’s no single right answer, but some genres are more frequently in one or the other.
I’ll give an example, though, of where I think first person really hurt the book.
Twilight.
Edward hovered over Bella at night in part because he was protecting her against rogue vampires that she didn’t know existed. Because the book was written in first person, it made Edward look more manipulative and controlling (and for worse reasons) than was actually true. because the book’s POV only showed things that Bella knew, and she didn’t know the whole story.
Read the partial of Midnight Sun (Twilight told from Edward’s POV) alongside Twilight. The two taken together, plus the movie, are a rare opportunity to learn from POV choices and mistakes.
So, if the motivations of another character are important to understanding the piece as sympathetically as possible, consider writing in third. Or, you know, some other POV that’s not a single first person POV.

That Odds Matter

I know a lot of heartbreaking stories in publishing. People having solicited manuscripts lost in piles in a publisher’s office for years. People having their novel abandoned when an editor goes on maternity leave and the replacement editor quits to go into the food business.
There are all kinds of narratives about publishing, and one of the ones I want to address is this: that there is such a thing as odds that determine whether or not you’ll sell a story or whether it’ll do well.
When I receive, say, 100 submissions for BayCon, the odds that I accept your story is not 1 in 100. I don’t roll any dice. Did you write the best story I received? Does your story mesh with my taste? Does it fit the theme better than other stories? (We don’t require that it fit the theme, but it doesn’t hurt.) That’s not a matter of odds.
More than half the time, I reject a story on the first page. I’m sure every writer did the best they could on their first page. Sometimes, it’s a matter of fit. I’ve said that the story we buy has to be family friendly, so “fuck” on the first (or any) page is a non-starter. And yes, I’ve rejected more than one story for exactly that reason.
It’s entirely random that I once, back in the Abyss & Apex days, received two short stories in a row with first sentences that had unintended flying trees. Yay misplaced modifiers. (Both of those were rejected on the first sentence.)
So you’ve survived the first page. Does your piece plunge immediately into backstory on page 2 or 3? That’s probably the single most common reason I reject stories on pages 2 or 3. And yes, this can be done right, and it so frequently isn’t. I’ve done it badly myself. Recently. (First draft, so there’s that.)
Let’s say I get to the end. More than half the time, I’ll still reject the story. Most frequently, it’s one of: the story you started isn’t the story you finished, or you didn’t nail the ending.
Another common failure is what I call the “this feels like a novel chapter” problem. I didn’t really understand this phrase until I saw it a few times as an editor. If you’ve raised more interesting questions/problems/plot points that are referred to in the narrative but don’t happen in the narrative present, it’ll feel like it’s a piece of a longer work. The only way I know of to fix one of these babies is to trim off the glittery parts that point out to other plot lines and story arcs until it feels like the story is resolved in the short form.
But selling a story? That’s not a matter of odds.
Let’s say the first page is solid and interesting, and pages 2 and 3 are strong enough to keep me going, and I finish the piece, and you have a great ending. You’ll likely wind up on the short list.
If anything in the process involves odds, then it’s what happens on the short list, because generally there are more pieces than there are slots we can publish. Since we’re picking newer writers, name isn’t a consideration. It’s just which stories the various people like the best. (I pick the short list, but that’s winnowed down by a small group.)

If I Had to Give Advice…

Three little things.

  1. Is this beginning actually the best entry point for your story for a reader? Not just where you started writing.
  2. Love your piece for what it is. Every piece has issues. Do what you can, then move on. I remember going over another author’s piece in a critique session. The author was worried about how it would be received because of a structure issue. I thought it was fabulous as it stood. It was later nominated for a major award, pretty much as I read it.
  3. Don’t overwork a piece in response to critiques. One of the death knells of an opening is often over-response to a critique like: “I wanted to know more about X in the beginning.” Then the writer edits it in, destroying the opening. Someone wants to know more about the character? Good. Read on.

: Respecting Other Peoples' Processes

Several times over the last month-ish, I’ve been told or heard some variant of: “If you want to do X, you need to [do it this way that I’m not].”
I call bullshit.
I don’t write longhand on top of a refrigerator, write with a fountain pen using an oil lamp for illumination, or other variations on the extreme no-computer end of things, but those are valid processes for those writers.
As is wherever you happen to fall on the plotter vs. pantser spectrum of pre-writing organization.
Every writing process has flaws. Every. Single. One.
Many of us have had the outline where the book takes a sudden hard turn into unexpected territory. I’ve heard the writer whose shorts I love but whose novels always seemed flat to me say that she makes her characters adhere to the outline.
Many of us who write without an outline have had the book proceed neatly into no-story land, never to return. Or veer off onto story B, leaving us with half of story A and half of story B.
I was told over the weekend that I needed to decide in advance how long a story would be, then write that.
I’m sure that does work for some people, but I generally only have a vague sense of how long something will be when I start. Basically, I know how complex the idea I have is, and I write it to what I think is the natural length. Sometimes, it winds up being several orders of magnitude more complex, sometimes less complex.
I underwrite the first draft (I think overwriting is more common). In part, that’s because I have open questions that I haven’t resolved yet, so don’t have those details to fill in during the first draft until toward the end of the draft.

Karen Joy Fowler on Her Process

I went to the Maui Writer’s Conference in 2007, and went to this lecture by Karen (who was one of my Clarion instructors in 2002). I bought the CD for the lecture also, so I’ve transcribed the first few minutes for you.
If you haven’t heard of Karen Joy Fowler, she’s a New York Times bestselling author, and most famous for her book The Jane Austen Book Club. She recently won the PEN/Faulkner award for her most recent book, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. My personal favorite of her books, though, is Wit’s End.

The page one that I start with, when I’m first beginning to start writing the novel, is rarely the page one that I have when the novel is finished.
I think that you come to conferences like this, and you hear a lot of writers talk, and you hear a lot of writers explain their own methods, and how they create the books that they create. It sounds often like things that you should be doing.
You’re told to outline, you’re told to not outline…that’s probably the major one.
What I have come to believe, after several years of taking classes, and several years of teaching classes, is that your own working method is your own working method. In fact, I don’t think that you can alter it greatly. Or I worry if you try to alter it greatly. I think that we all start this enterprise because we love to write. Because there’s something about the process of writing that is actually fun for us, and something that at least has parts that we very much look forward to doing. And if you make your method something more efficient, something more reasonable, something smarter—what I worry is that what you edit out of the process is the thing that you loved. So that you’ll be working in a much more streamlined, much more reasonable way, but you won’t be having fun with it any more.
I’m going to talk to you about my working method, therefore. In no way is this meant to suggest that this should be your working method. In point of fact, my working method is a very silly, an inefficient, and stupid one, but it is mine. And I do have fun doing it.
So, I am not a writer who outlines. I am not a writer often who knows much about the book I’m going to write when I start writing the book. The whole process of writing the book is a process of making decisions, and hopefully finding different things that will surprise me as the writer—as well as the reader of the book.
This means that the first draft is kind of an intensely painful one step forward, two steps back sort of process for a long, long time until decisions are made. I probably spend half the time I spend on a book writing the first fifty pages as I am just feeling my way into the book, making the decisions that seem best, then questioning those decisions, and going back and making other decisions, getting to know my characters.
So, just as you often have a working title for a book, I have a working first page. When I am first starting, I do not know where the book is going to go. All I want is a page I can proceed from. Something that, for me, has enough energy, and enough pleasure in it as a writer that I want to write the next page.
I spend a lot of time rewriting—experimenting—with writing the first page. Trying it one way, trying it another way.
When I have actually finished the book, and I know how it ends, is the only time that I confidently know what the first page should be, because you always want to finish the same story that you started.

Here’s My Process

I’m a pantser. I don’t just write without an outline, I write out of order, too.
For books, I write in order until I get stuck. If I have a part later in the novel that’s clearer, I’ll write that because it gives me something to work toward. If not, then I look at the decisions I’ve made recently, because I’ve possibly worked my way into a corner.
If that doesn’t unstick the writing, then I ask myself three things I’d like to have in the book. Maybe I want a big set piece wedding that goes horribly wrong. I keep a running list of these things in the front of my working document. The first section will have a list of those things where I have an order to them. Like: I know they’re going to do A before B. Then I keep a second list for unordered items. Like: I want someone to order a frou-frou coffee drink with whipped cream at the worst possible time.
At any point during the book, I can use an unordered item if it makes sense. (Sometimes I’ll use one even if it doesn’t. Writing should be fun.)
When my writing unsticks, I generally go back to the main working narrative, continuing forward.
One book I did write almost completely out of order, and it’s fascinating to see what sections I completely managed to skip over. (It doesn’t help that I have this sinking feeling that I’m missing one of the notebooks for that book, either.) But it’s largely a first draft that, save for a few gaps, is a mostly complete first draft I wrote when I was having a really horrible few months and needed to write something.
So I mostly organize my book as I write it, and I write mostly in order except when it helps to do it otherwise.

: Mark Greyland Speaks Out

C.A. Starfire has an interview with Mark Greyland, the son of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen.

I thought everyone knew and that I was such a bad person no one would speak to me.

And, later, addressing the inheritance issue:

I was disinherited by language that sounded so unlike my mother that I knew she never wrote it, as was my sister and my half-brother who is now deceased.
The money went to the opera and to her lover.

Heartbreaking stuff.
In addition to the links C.A. Starfire provided, Mark previously permitted me to share two of his Zazzle links: Stringbreaker and Geofractal.
I bought the Space Kitten! t-shirt (partly from the proceeds of Scalzi t-shirts, so thank you for your support).
Space Kitten!
It doesn’t make up for the hurt I inadvertently caused Mark, but I really do love that piece.

New Post Category

In other news, given a significant number of my website hits are about Marion Zimmer Bradley and are likely to continue to be, I’ve added that as a category. Previously, it was just a tag. So I’m going back and re-categorizing older posts on this matter.

: The Samuel Delany / NAMBLA Conversation

Will Shetterly takes on the hard questions.
It was posted on my birthday, and I didn’t read it in full then, and I’m not going to tonight. Maybe after my edits are done, but that’ll be a few weeks.
This is long (~8,000 words).
My initial take, without reading for nuance or depth:

  1. There are some hard issues explored (and it needs all the trigger warnings).
  2. Delany’s got some good points—except that I’d argue that rehabilitation is only possible if someone genuinely wants rehabilitation. If you read, for example, MZB’s own deposition where she refuses to answer questions about whether a child (of unknown age) was old enough to consent—it’s clear that she had her answer and would stick with it even if it cost her more in the civil suit. That’s not the kind of person who would be rehabilitated. (I agree with Chip in that I’m anti-death penalty, except possibly in cases where murders are committed on multiple occasions. I believe anyone can be pushed past their breaking point once; it’s the people who went there more than once that I feel differently about.)
  3. I tend to look at childhood trauma on a logarithmic scale. I’m going to abstract here. Let’s say someone had as similar background to my own: being battered a lot as a child and teen (and more than once having bruises because of same), gaslighted when the stepmother came into the picture, difficult family relations. Let’s call that an 8 on a 1-10 scale of childhood badness. Let’s say that said person had a similar young experience to Delany’s with the super. Because the home situation is so bad, a relatively positive contact wouldn’t register as negative (because, for that kid, it might be a 5 on that scale), where if one had a normal (1 on 1-10) background, it might feel like the most traumatic thing ever.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t harmful.
On the other hand, I tend to take at face value what people say about their own perceptions of their own experiences, so long as it’s not something that’s scientifically disprovable.

: False Assumptions About Names

I loved this article about names four years ago, and it continues to be relevant.
There are entire novels in the comments.
As someone whose name is frequently misparsed (my name is “Saoirse Moen, Deirdre” not “Moen,Deirdre,Saoirse”), I feel their pain.
Yes, the article is written for programmers, but it’s still useful for writers. We all carry assumptions about names.
Offhand, I can’t remember what language it was that someone filed a bug about where they had to use a non-Unicode font. Even Dhivehi/Thaana was added to Unicode in 1999, and that’s a pretty obscure script. (pic) I just remember being pretty impressed that there were still living languages where that was the case.

: Coming Soon: An Older Story, "The Duchess's Dress"

My birthday’s on Wednesday the 9th, and I’m going to celebrate by doing two things.

  1. I’m going to release an old short story that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. More about that in a minute.
  2. I’m going to discount the pair of short stories I currently have on my site if you buy both directly from me. For a month, so July 9th to August 9th. Yes, the story will also be available through other outlets, including iBooks, Amazon, Nook, and Kobo, though it may take a couple of days to wind up there.

I’ve been thinking about the story because it is the only story I ever submitted to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, and it received a personal rejection that said it had “no sense of wonder.” This was back before the myriad of forms Marion started sending in lieu of personal rejections.
My writing teacher said, “That’s her problem, not yours.” Yay writing teacher.
More stories of MZB’s infamous rejection letters here.
That particular rejection smarted. Did I think it was the best story ever? No, but it has some interesting stuff in it, and it remains a sentimental favorite of mine.
There are some structural issues in the story that aren’t solvable without killing everything I happen to like about the story.
I no longer read medieval fantasy, nor do I write it, which has left this story in limbo for many years. It was an offshoot of a fantasy trilogy that I never revised, instead writing a tangential book that fundamentally changed the nature of the world. The seer of this story also appears in that book in that new world—which still needs to shift again, orphaning this story even further. It can’t bend that far.
I wrote the first draft in 1992, then revised it lightly when I was in grad school (2001-2004), trying to keep up with at least some of the world’s changes.
Duchess-Cover-700

: This Map Is Humbling

Where people have read my blog from in the last 30 days.
posts-read-around-the-world
…better known as: “more places in the world than I’ve been.” Humbling.
Every country in the Americas except Suriname. Ten more than I’ve visited.
Twenty-two countries in Africa (assuming I counted correctly), which would be nineteen more than I’ve visited (Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa).
Greenland, we’ve gotta talk.
Full list of countries and territories who stopped by in the last 30 days, with ones I’ve been to in italics:
Afghanistan
Albania
Algeria
Angola
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Bermuda
Bhutan
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Botswana
Brazil
Brunei Darussalam
Bulgaria
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Cayman Islands
Chile
China
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
Denmark
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Estonia
Ethiopia
Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
Faroe Islands
Fiji
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Guam
Guatemala
Guernsey
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Iraq
Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Jersey
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Korea, Republic of
Kuwait
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Latvia
Lebanon
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macao
Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritius
Mexico
Moldova, Republic of
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar
Namibia
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Nigeria
Norway
Oman
Pakistan
Palestinian Territory, Occupied
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Puerto Rico
Qatar
Romania
Russian Federation
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Suriname
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Togo
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkey
Turks and Caicos Islands
Uganda
Ukraine
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Venezuela
Viet Nam
Virgin Islands, U.S.

: What Blog Statistics Look Like Here

I’ve had a blog for 10 years, but I’ve been irregular for periods about posting to it before WordPress had a good spam solution. These days, an average day for me is between 100 and 250 page views and between 70 and 150 unique visitors. Obviously, this excludes people who turn off tracking.
For reasons related to upcoming projects, I’d moved deirdre.net to WP Engine. I’m so glad I did, because they were able to handle the massive sudden spike.
site-stats-mzb
At the peak, in a 24-hour period from June 10-11, I had 28,000 page views, almost entirely unique visitors.
If you need a really great hosting platform for your self-hosted WordPress blog, I’ve been really impressed with WP Engine.

: Marion Zimmer Bradley: Artist vs. Art

There have been some super-interesting conversations about Marion Zimmer Bradley’s work in the context of larger discussions on the artist vs. their art. I think we all know that all artists are flawed, but clearly some flaws are larger than others.
For those of you who don’t yet know, I broke the news about Marion Zimmer Bradley‘s child abuse of her daughter Moira last month.
I haven’t heard the artist vs. art argument said quite this succinctly, so I’m quoting Broomstick from The Straight Dope boards:

When evaluating a novel it doesn’t get better if the author is a saint, and it doesn’t get worse if the author is a sinner, it’s the same book either way.

Every art contains, to some extent, the artist’s worldview. How could it not? And yet it is a thing distinct and unto itself, though with a context. The meaning you read into it depends on the context you bring into it, too.
And the context you miss depends upon your own life context, too.
When I was 11, Jane Fonda’s movie Klute came out, and my parents took me with them. I can cheerfully say that most of the movie went “whoosh” right over my head. If I saw it today, I’d see a completely different film.
It’s that old Heraclitus quote:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

And that may be one reason not to re-read a previously-loved book, like a Darkover book or Mists of Avalon, after finding out Marion Zimmer Bradley’s failings.
Because the context is different for you even though the book hasn’t changed.
And then there’s the other killer comment, from ShipperX on LJ:

With MZB it’s the sexual nature of her work combined with the sexual nature of her atrocities that has me backing away. ::shudder::

Yes. That.

: [Westercon] Tag Team Jeopardy & Avenue of Awesomeness

avenue-of-awesome-b

My Westercon Panels

On Friday at 1 pm, I’ll be a guest on Writing Excuses. Live taping FTW! (Salon D & E)
On Saturday at 2:30 pm, I’ll join Nathan Shumate and William Stout on the Lousy Book Covers panel. (Deer Valley I & II)

Is this cover so bad that it’s good, or just plain bad? Why doesn’t the art match the story that it’s trying to sell? Learn how to make a better book cover from critiques of bad book covers.

Flyer Credits

Just so you don’t all think I’m more horrifically clever than I actually am, the event flyer template’s from Krukowski and the font is Nanami Handmade by Thinkdust.

: The Guardian Runs Piece on Marion Zimmer Bradley

Alison Flood of The Guardian wrote this piece about Moira’s revelations about her mother Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Damien Walter has another piece, “How far can culture heroes’ work stand apart from their lives?”

: Ann Leckie on Swearing

Great article by Ann Leckie on swearing.
If I ever got up on James Lipton’s stage and had to answer the Bernard Pivot questions, “What is your favorite word?” and “What is your favorite curse word?” would have the same answer.
As some regular readers may have no doubt figured out, fuck is my favorite word.
It’s not precisely because it’s a curse word, but rather its complex versatility.
Anyhow, I try not to overuse it, but it’s a struggle some days.

: Robert Heinlein on the Breendoggle

From William H. Patterson’s book Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, p. 263.
At just that moment, in fact, science-fiction fandom was tearing itself apart over the preemptive cancellation of the membership of a suspected pedophile by PacifiCon, the most recent world science-fiction convention, in September 1964. This conflict might have passed the Heinleins by, except that the suspected pedophile was the husband of one of Heinlein’s more intimate correspondents, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Heinlein never commented on the “Breen Boondoggle” publicly, but to Bradley Heinlein wrote:

The fan nuisance we were subjected to was nothing like as nasty as the horrible things that were done to you two but it was bad enough that we could get nothing else done during the weeks it went on and utterly spoiled what should have been a pleasant, happy winter. But it resulted in a decision which has made our life much pleasanter already and which I expect to have increasingly good effects throughout all the years ahead. We have cut off all contact with organized fandom….I regret that we will miss meeting some worthwhile people in the future as a result of this decision. But the percentage of poisonous jerks in the ranks of fans makes the price too high; we’ll find our friends elsewhere.

Fortunately, not all their fan contacts were so unpleasant.
(end excerpt)
You know, I’ve never been a Heinlein fan either, but this takes my non-fandom to new depths. Guess they never cared how pleasant the winter of the kids would be. Patterson’s a piece of work, too.
For context, Mark D. Eddy adds:

For context, though, Heinlein had already had a series of negative experiences with fans and conventions (including a fan who was harassing friends and family to try to write an unauthorized biography for a publisher Heinlein wouldn’t write for), and was already distancing himself from the “poisonous jerks” — so all he apparently knew about the situation was filtered through MZB, who was hardly an uninterested party.

Which is a fair point. While it’s always good to get as much of both sides of the story as possible, there’s a real human failing believing the predator’s side of the story. (See also: STK’s comment on the deirdre.net version of this entry.)
Hat tip: RPG.net commenter The Scribbler.
Note: I’m also tagging all of the posts with the breendoggle tag to make it easier to find in the future.
Also: When asked, Can this be true? The MZB click thrus are upsetting., Deborah J. Ross, author of many books set in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover universe, replied, Only half the story is being told. Please be careful about believing sensationalist rumors online.
Note: I’ve edited out a couple of paragraphs from the original post as Deborah has apologized for her ill-considered tweet.
In light of that apology, I’ve deleted my unnecessarily harsh snark but am leaving the context above intact.

: New Design: Your Book Needs You to Finish It

Your-Book-700
Available from Redbubble in posters, prints, t-shirts and hoodies, greeting cards, and stickers.
I’ve had this saying around on my hard drive since grad school in 2003, when Seton Hill University professor Michael Arnzen said this. Neither of us can remember the precise context, though.
He is a horror writer, and I can totally hear that evil horror writer cackle at the end, so I went with a red theme, leaving it open to interpretation if that’s actual writerly blood running down the left side.
Oh, hey, there’s coffee rings in the lower right.
100% detail:
100-percent-detail

Credits

This time, I decided to use my favorite packager of graphic elements I love, Design Cuts. Every one of these came from one of their bundles; they run a single bundle every other week.

  1. Font: Castor and Castor Catchwords from Albatross.
  2. Font: Thirsty Rough from Yellow Design Studio. This is the script font. The detail shows the regular font plus the outline font, which is a really neat look.
  3. Two textures from 2 Lil Owls. One on the very bottom and one on the very top. The bottom one has some subtle text that you can kind of see hints of. As I write this, these are out of the current Design Cuts bundle. One’s from the Grandeur pack, and one from the Relic pack.
  4. The yellow swath is from Robyn Gough, who also did a few other brush textures used very lightly in the background.
  5. The red on the top and left is a vector element from Offset’s Vector Texture kit.
  6. The coffee rings are a set of Photoshop brushes from FanExtra.

Apart from that, I used one linear gradient and one radial gradient.
That’s it!

: Breendoggle Documentation Now On a Wiki

Trigger Warning: child rape
Just when I thought I was done with this….
One thing that’s come out of shining light into dark corners is that the original “Breendoggle” from 1963 has now been posted online. If it was online before, Google couldn’t find it, only documented references to it.
Bill Donaho wrote the original piece in 1963.
What this gives is contemporary accounts, some second- and third-hand, of recent events as of that time.
You know, the year before Marion Zimmer Bradley married Walter Breen.

So I really want you to think that she married him the year after this report about what happened between Breen and a three-year-old in public view of others.

The second cause was Walter’s sex play with 3-year old P———– —————-. He had her trained up to the point where she would take off her clothes the minute she saw him. He would then “rub her down” and all that. I recall one occasion — a fairly large gathering at the Nelsons — in which he also used a pencil, rubbing the eraser back and forth in the general area of the vagina, not quite masturbating her. (Walter is incredible.) Many people were somewhat displeased by this — most particularly her parents. No one thought he was actually psychologically damaging P——— (she being so young) — obviously —– and —- would have interfered if they thought he had been — but the spectacle was not thought to be aesthetically pleasing. Years later Walter found out about the reaction and said, “But why didn’t somebody say something! I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it if I’d thought someone objected.

I seriously wonder what I’d say to proposal of marriage from someone who’d been thusly accused, because “Are you fucking kidding me?” fails the adequacy test.
I do want to say that there are some changes in understanding about psychological harm that have come since then. The survivor stories weren’t being widely told back then.
Also, given what’s in the Breendoggle, if that’s true, I think 150 is probably a low victim count for Breen.

In Which I Take an Important Slight Turn

Related link: The Adverse Child Experiences Study
Dr. Vincent Felitti is talking about people who defied his predictions about how people became obese:

The turning point in Felitti’s quest came by accident. The physician was running through yet another series of questions with yet another obesity program patient: How much did you weigh when you were born? How much did you weigh when you started first grade? How much did you weigh when you entered high school? How old were you when you became sexually active? How old were you when you married?
“I misspoke,” he recalls, probably out of discomfort in asking about when she became sexually active – although physicians are given plenty of training in examining body parts without hesitation, they’re given little support in talking about what patients do with some of those body parts. “Instead of asking, “How old were you when you were first sexually active,” I asked, “How much did you weigh when you were first sexually active?’ The patient, a woman, answered, ‘Forty pounds.’”
He didn’t understand what he was hearing. He misspoke the question again. She gave the same answer, burst into tears and added, “It was when I was four years old, with my father.”
He suddenly realized what he had asked.
“I remembered thinking, ‘This is only the second incest case I’ve had in 23 years of practice’,” Felitti recalls. “I didn’t know what to do with the information. About 10 days later, I ran into the same thing. It was very disturbing. Every other person was providing information about childhood sexual abuse. I thought, ‘This can’t be true. People would know if that were true. Someone would have told me in medical school.’ ”

…and…

Of the 286 people whom Felitti and his colleagues interviewed, most had been sexually abused as children. As startling as this was, it turned out to be less significant than another piece of the puzzle that dropped into place during an interview with a woman who had been raped when she was 23 years old. In the year after the attack, she told Felitti that she’d gained 105 pounds.
“As she was thanking me for asking the question,” says Felitti, “she looks down at the carpet, and mutters, ‘Overweight is overlooked, and that’s the way I need to be.’”

…and…

The other way it helped was that, for many people, just being obese solved a problem. In the case of the woman who’d been raped, she felt as if she were invisible to men. In the case of a man who’d been beaten up when he was a skinny kid, being fat kept him safe, because when he gained a lot of weight, nobody bothered him.

That last? I very much relate to. I stopped being harassed on the street when I gained weight.
Next time you see someone morbidly obese, consider what the hell kind of problem is that big. Then look at the obesity problem in a new way and prepare to be stunned.
Side note: The MZB Literary Works Trust, in its bio of Ms. Bradley, has expunged Walter Breen.
Side note: Corey Feldman video: Pedophilia is Hollywood’s biggest problem. Hat tip: Matt Wallace.

: The Importance of Books and the MZB Timeline

Responding to this comment about the timeline on the MetaFilter thread about MZB’s abuse and Breen’s case.
More correct timeline:

  1. Tor.com publishes their tribute piece on MZB’s birthday. (Now removed, see #3)
  2. I write my response piece and post a link to it on the Tor.com piece’s comments.
  3. When looking at my own comments, I notice a lot of hits coming from this File 770 piece that says Tor.com took down the MZB article.
  4. I’m not proud of this, but here it is. I post a childish gloat. I’d rather the original piece at least mentioned the bad stuff. Even a cursory sentence and we probably wouldn’t be here right now.
  5. A commenter on my original piece calls me out about my motivations, and, for the first time in 3 years, I re-read MZB’s depositions. Twice. Note that at this point, I haven’t yet read Lisa’s deposition. I thought I had three years ago, but no.
  6. I respond to my commenter with items out of MZB’s deposition. No further comments from them. (Given the family history there? I truly hope they’re okay. My heart goes out to them.)
  7. I write to both Moira and Stephen Goldin. I receive a response from Moira, which I asked for permission to post, and received that permission. I received no response from Stephen. (Update: he was offline at the time and has since commented.)
  8. I posted the followup piece with Moira’s emails.
  9. Only after I read the MeFi thread did I read Elisabeth Water’s deposition, unaware that I’d missed possibly even more significant content. Ugh.

I’ll promote a paragraph from one of my comments into this post:
Many of us have been through some really dark times, and we have the pieces that spoke to our hearts that got us through those times. It genuinely gives me no joy to know that, for those whom MZB’s works were those pieces, I’ve dislodged that for them.
And I’ll add:
In addition to the lives she harmed, MZB’s works saved the lives of other people by speaking to them when other works and other people would not and/or did not.
Truly.
Rachel E. Holmen, who worked as an editor for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine said about Marion:

When she visited cons, ten or twenty young women an hour would stop by with stories along the lines of “Your books saved my life.”

There are other writers being published now who may speak to those same hearts, but if MZB is still the author that would help them, then I think it’s important that her work be available to do so. This doesn’t diminish her very real (and very severe) failings.
Rachel’s quote points out why we need diverse books by diverse writers that speak to diverse audiences.
Additionally, MZB gave a start to a lot of women writers—a higher percentage than anyone else in the genre at the time. Those writers helped pave the way for even more female voices in the genre.
Including me.
“A Sword Called Rhonda” was in fact a parody of Mercedes Lackey’s works (specifically, Rhonda was a parody of Need), and Lackey was first published by MZB.
I think the Carl Sagan quote about books is a great way to end this.
0z6lz-carl-sagan-quote-on-books
See also: Paul St John Mackintosh’s article, “More on Marion Zimmer Bradley and the ethics of artists”, which takes a more intellectual approach.
Janni Lee Simner discusses what she and her husband did with the royalties they’d earned from sales to Marion’s anthologies. Thoughtful.

: Marion Zimmer Bradley: It's Worse Than I Knew

Moira Greyland (Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen’s daughter) has agreed to let me share her email.
This is really hard stuff to read, and I’ve just thrown up my lunch. I knew about none of this part of things until a few minutes ago.

Hello Deirdre.
It is a lot worse than that.
The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away.
I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy. I had tried to intervene when I was 13 by telling Mother and Lisa, and they just moved him into his own apartment.
I had been living partially on couches since I was ten years old because of the out of control drugs, orgies, and constant flow of people in and out of our family “home.”
None of this should be news. Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse. She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.
I wish I had better news.
Moira Greyland.

Followed up with:

It should also be noted that Walter was convicted on 13 counts of PC 288 A, B, C, and D.
Oral sex was the least of anyone’s worries.

Link to the California Penal Code for context.
No. Words.

Mother’s Hands

I’ve updated this post to add two pieces by Moira Greyland with her permission. This is the first.
Reprinted with permission.
Mother’s Hands
© 2000 Moira Stern (Moira Greyland) in “honor” of my mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley
I lost my mother late last year
Her epitaph I’m writing here
Of all the things I should hold dear
Remember Mother’s hands
Hands to strangle, hands to crush
Hands to make her children blush
Hands to batter, hands to choke
Make me scared of other folk
But ashes for me, and dust to dust
If I can’t even trust
Mother’s hands.
They sent me sprawling across a room
The bathtub nearly spelled my doom
Explaining my persistent gloom
Remember Mother’s hands.
And hands that touched me way down there
I still pretend that I don’t care
Hands that ripped my soul apart
My healing goes in stop and start
Never a mark did she leave on me
No concrete proof of cruelty
But a cross-shaped scar I can barely see
The knife in Mother’s hands.
So Mother’s day it comes and goes
No Hallmark pretense, deep red rose
Except blood-red with her actions goes
It drips off Mother’s hands.
The worst of all my mother did
Was evil to a little kid
The mother cat she stoned to death
She told to me with even breath
And no remorse was ever seen
Reality was in between
Her books, her world, that was her life
The rest of us a source of strife.
She told me that I was not real
So how could she think I would feel
But how could she look in my eyes
And not feel anguish at my cries?
And so I give you Mother’s hands
Two evil, base, corrupted hands
And lest her memory forget
I’m still afraid of getting wet.
The bathtub scene makes me see red
With water closing over my head
No little girl should fear to die
Her mother’s fury in her eye!
But both her hands were choking me
And underwater again I’d be
I think she liked her little game
But I will never be the same
I’m still the girl who quakes within
And tries to rip off all her skin
I’m scared of water, scared of the dark
My mother’s vicious, brutal mark.
In self-admiring tones she told
Of self restraint in a story old.
For twice near death she’d beaten me,
And now she wants my sympathy.
I’ve gone along for quite awhile,
Never meant to make you smile
But here and now I make my stand
I really hate my mother’s hands.

They Did Their Best

By Moira Greyland
The cry of our day is to smile as we say
Something pat that sounds like understanding
And those of us left who still cry when bereft
Risk guilt trips upon our heads landing
Something pat that sounds like understanding
So the ones of us left Who still cry when bereft
Risk guilt trips upon our heads landing
For the party line now Is to claim that somehow
Everybody somehow did their best
So the ones who did wrong Goes the new New Age song
Aren’t to blame, we should lay this to rest.
But it’s lies, there are villains who are still out there killing
Or else for our courts there’s no need
Our jails are not filled With innocents willed
By a system corrupted with greed.
My mother did her best, yes she really did her best
To drown me for not being her willing lover
My daddy did his best, oh he really did his best
And forced his preteen boyfriends to bend over.
Some people are sick, like to make people suffer
Some people just turn a blind eye
But pretending a monster is ribbons and lace
May condemn a small child to die.
My husband was a cop and much child abuse had stopped
Like the mom who put her baby on the stove
She threw him out of sight but the smell she couldn’t hide
And she didn’t come out smelling like a rose.
Did that mommy do her best? Would you tell that little one
“Forgive her dear, she must have been insane”
Would you tell that to those burns, To that lie will you return
And hurt those shining eyes so full of pain?
A victim does his best, a victim does her best
To love and live and give up grief and malice
But when we had no love, but what came down from Above
It’s surprising we have not become more callous.
And how to learn to cope And not give up all my hope
Is painful far enough without your lies
But if you had seen me then With blood pouring off my skin
Would you have turned a deaf ear to my cries??
And told me “Mommy did her best, yes, she really did her best
So stop crying and stop bleeding and forgive her
To cut you she’s the right, and to throw you out of sight
And not love you till you sexually deliver!!

The Guardian Covers this Story

The Guardian has covered this story here.

: Tor.com Pulls MZB Tribute

Thanks to Mike Glyer at File 770 for the heads up.

Before the post was yanked it drew a blistering response by Deirdre Saoirse Moen[…].

Go, me!
My post was here, in case you missed it.

: Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives, All Right

Leah Schnelbach wrote a piece on Tor.com for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s birthday. I’m not going to link to it.
In this case, I feel that what’s most important about Marion Zimmer Bradley isn’t that she wrote a bunch of stuff.
I feel that what’s important to remember about MZB is what she enabled that was unconscionable.
Let’s pull some tidbits of MZB in her own words out of her sworn testimony at two of her three depositions on the matter. Docs are up at my mirror of Stephen Goldin’s site.

Q. And to your knowledge, how old was [Victim X] when your husband was having a sexual relationship with him?
A. I think he was about 14 or possibly 15. I’m not certain.
Q. Were you aware that your husband had a sexual relationship with [Victim X] when he was below the age of 18?
A. Yes, I was.

And:

Q. Can you tell me why you would publicly state that Walter was not a pedophile when you knew that he had been having sex with a minor child?
A. Because, as I said, [Victim X] did not impress me as a minor child. He was late in his teens, and I considered him — I think he would have been old enough to be married in this state legally, so I figured what he did sexually was his own business.
[Editor’s note: In point of fact, the boy was 10 and 11 at the time in question.]

And about Elisabeth Waters, two quotes from her own diary:

Q. Elisabeth Waters in her 10-8-89 diary, which was given to the police, indicates the following: Quote, “And I feel like a total idiot for not having said anything back when I thought Walter was molesting [Johnnt Doe 3] ten years ago. I guess it was just another case of,” quote, “‘Don’t trust your own perceptions when the adults are telling you you’re wrong.’
Q. I’m going to read to you from the 10-9-89 entry of Elisabeth Waters.
“Marion always said she’d divorce Walter if he did this again. She seems to think that he molested both [Victim X] and [Johnny Doe 4], but she was rather startled when I told her about the letter to Dr. Morin about [Johnny Doe 3]. She said that she thought Walter thought of [Johnny Doe 3] as a son.”

For me, the following is the real kicker.

Q. Where did you have this discussion with David where he thought he was too old for Walter?
A. When he was 15 or so.
Q. So at the time that David was 15, David informed you that he believed that your then husband was not propositioning him because at that point David was too old for Walter’s tastes?
A. I think that’s what he said. To the best of my memory, that’s what he said.
Q. So you were curious enough to ask your own son whether your husband had made a sexual proposition to him?
A. I wouldn’t say I was concerned enough. I would simply say the matter came up in conversation.

Now, I have to say that I didn’t know about this until three years ago, because people don’t talk about it. Stephen Goldin asked to be a panelist at Westercon, and I looked at his site.
(edited to add the following 2 paragraphs before the end)
I have pretty strong feelings about this in part because I had a roommate (and a friend) who had molested his own child in the past and who had been on the relative straight and narrow after a good deal of therapy. But part of why he’d come around is that no one was enabling him and he felt that he needed to change. I don’t know that he never relapsed, but I know how much of a struggle he had with it.
So he had the perspective of someone who knew what he was doing was wrong. I don’t see that MZB had that attitude. At. All.
Why do we give MZB more of a pass than we gave Ed Kramer? She defended her husband when he was (rightfully) thrown out of a con for being a child sexual predator. [Note: I conflated two events significantly far apart in time in this sentence. As many people have read it, I’m keeping it as written and adding a note. See this comment. At the time of the Breendoggle, most people did not know of Breen’s 1954 conviction, and thus many felt it was libel.]

: My First Science Fiction Convention

(excerpted from a longer piece)
Ken said there was a science fiction convention coming up over Easter weekend. There would be gaming, which I was looking forward to. He was volunteering and said I should too. So I did, claiming that I was in fact over 18—required for volunteers at that con at that time—when I was still 17. Ken vouched for me, so I was trusted with tasks not ordinarily trusted a newbie.
It was 1977. Science fiction and fantasy films had been so awful since 2001 that I was severely underwhelmed. At that point, there had been only one Star Trek series. Star Wars wasn’t out yet. There hadn’t been a truly great science fiction film since 2001.
I hadn’t seen many fantasy films that hadn’t embarrassed the hell out of me to even have been in the theatre with them. Well, except for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was a movie that I actually disliked the first few times I was dragged to it by friends. Eventually, I grew to love it. There were well-intended box office successes like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, but I remember it being cringeworthy, even apart from the Ray Harryhausen animation I never warmed to. The Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit and the Bakshi film Wizards weren’t out yet. Nothing had touched what I felt was possible in books.
If you’d asked me in Easter 1977 what my favorite science fiction or fantasy film of the seventies had been thus far, I’d probably have answered Woody Allen’s Sleeper. For science fiction films, we’d had Silent Running, which at least was interesting despite being too slow. Then there was Zardoz, which regularly makes worst-of lists. Some of the choices were differently compelling, like Rollerball. I didn’t like it at the time, but came to appreciate it many years later. One could argue that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a science fiction film in that it involved aliens. There was a bunch of crap like At the Earth’s Core and Journey to the Center of the Earth and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.
What there weren’t, however, were good space-based science fiction films. It just hadn’t been done since 2001.
When I arrived at my first science fiction convention, I wasn’t at all drawn by the media-related opportunities, of which there were many, including airings of some relatively recent science fiction and fantasy films.
So naturally, being young, personable and female, I was assigned to escort media guests around, to manage the situation if they were overwhelmed by fans, and to help them get anything they needed. Most of them got a few polite expressions of fannishness, but nothing that actually needed a escort. Still, it made them feel valuable, and it was interesting enough.
Many of the convention’s VIPs were guest actors from Star Trek episodes, and many of those actors were truly great people. Some were from even older shows, like Kirk Alyn, the first actor to play Superman. Over the times I volunteered at the con, I enjoyed being Kirk’s VIP guide the most. I remember him being charming and generous with his time.
This first time, though, I was assigned to accompany an actor whose big film was coming out later that year. He was quite the comic fan (where I was not), and I just remember that he was completely unremarkable to me as a person. I spent a lot of time standing next to him as he geeked out with various comic vendors about things coming out and favorite issues in common. Even though I read comics at the time, I genuinely didn’t understand his deep interest in the subject, and we had no favorite comics in common. Back then, I read Spiderman and Nova mostly, occasionally dipping into other books.
The next morning, I sat alone in the hotel restaurant eating breakfast while I listened to people describe said actor as dreamy. Oh, he was decent enough looking, blond and somewhat geeky, which normally was my thing. Just—not this time. Thus, I found the interest in him fascinating.
It wasn’t until the fifth time I saw Star Wars that it hit me that I’d spent my day accompanying Mark Hamill around the con. You know. Luke Skywalker.
Hamill is now older than Alec Guinness was when the filming of Star Wars began.

: Jay Lake, RIP, and a Few Memories

But still, you’d have much better odds at the craps table in Vegas than you would betting me to show up at WorldCon in 2014. Jay Lake, 2009

I found that while I was looking for a post I remembered, probably from 2009, about the depth of his fear that he’d have to go through a second round of chemo (he wound up going through several more than that—five?). I couldn’t find it, nor could I stand to look through the archives any longer just now.
I’ve never been able to say before, on the day someone died, “I had a great time at his wake last year.” That’s the kind of person Jay was.
I can’t remember exactly when I met Jay, but I think it was in 2002. It was definitely at a con, and I remember being in a low-density party room with Jay and Cassie Alexander, the only two people in that room at that time where I knew who they were.
Though I felt invisible, I became something of a fan. Later, when BayCon had invited Frank Wu (or, actually, I extended the invitation in person at Worldcon) for BayCon’s guest of honor, I started lobbying for Jay for Writer Guest of Honor. Kathryn Daugherty, who’d gotten to know Jay through the Worldcon circuit, thought that was a good idea, though generally BayCon was looking for higher-profile writers than Jay was at the time. (Specifically, they looked for a Hugo award or NY Times Bestseller. At that time, he’d had a bunch of short stories published, but no novels, though he’d won the Campbell award for Best New Writer.)
The singularly awesome moment, from my perspective, at that BayCon was Jay’s participation in “A Shot Rang Out.”
I invited my long-time friend Martin Young to speak. I knew he’d be fabulous at ASRO, but I also knew that I couldn’t tell Martin in advance what the concept was because he’d overthink it. So, a few minutes prior to the start of the panel, I stood in front of him and told him what it was all about.
“I hate you,” Martin said, not meaning it.
From a 2005 BayCon report.

Easily the highlight of Sunday (being one of two panels I got to sit in the audience for) was BayCon’s traditional “A Shot Rang Out” panel. It’s a simple concept and it depends so much on the people involved. This year, we had Hilary Ayer, Jane Mailander, Martin Young, Writer Guest of Honor Jay Lake, and Lee Martindale.
The concept: The story begins with “A shot rang out.” Each panelist must draw a slip out of a box and end their turn with that line. Anything in the middle goes. Jay Lake, when pulling one of his slips, asked, “Does this have to make any sense at all? The other panelists assured him not.
A few moments were especially worth noting.
Once, Martin ended his turn so spectacularly that Jay Lake, master of improv writing, couldn’t find a way to follow him. Jay ran across the stage and kissed Martin on the head, saying, “I have come to pledge my love for you, for no man has ever left me in such a hard place.”
Later, Martin pulled a slip and said, “Oh, f*, that’s a long one!”
Jay quipped, “Are you sure you said those words in the right order?”
For a few moments, no one could continue on, they were laughing so hard. Perfect retort.

He went on to publish Mainspring (which is an example of the kind of book I love but could never have written) and other novels.
Kathryn Daugherty and Jay Lake were diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer about the same time. Kathryn and I had never been best friends, but she was very influential in my life.
We’d recently been through a couple of rounds of cancer at the house: my mother had had endometrial cancer in 2006 and our cat Scruffy had a leg amputated after the reappearance of cancer.
It’s unusual for anyone with stage IV colorectal cancer to survive as long as Jay did; Kathryn died in 2012. He wanted to be there as long as possible for his daughter and went through hell to try to make that happen. He expressed so so many of his fears and doubts on his blog. If you ever need to know the pains and trials of being a cancer patient, so much of it is laid out in black and white on his blog. I think many of us had no idea what was involved in being a long-time cancer patient, and he blogged it in excruciating (and yet obviously incomplete) detail.
A little over a year ago, he was given his life walking papers in the form of a terminal diagnosis. For the first time, Rick and I made it up to the annual JayCon, then to JayWake.

In his wrapup, Jay said: “I have become medically interesting in two different ways, which is not really something you should aspire to.”

Other posts about Jay I’ve made:
Living vs. Dying
Fuck Cancer: New Art

Look, He Wasn’t Perfect

Because I believe OSC was right in telling the entire truth about a person after they pass:
K. Tempest Bradford makes a point.

The Clayton Memorial Medical Fund

Jay has asked for anyone wishing to make a contribution to do so to the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund.
Mary Robinette Kowal talks about having been helped by the fund.

Remember the Living

One thing I’ve noticed, especially after I was widowed myself, is that people talk a lot about the deceased, but tend to forget about the people still living.
Lisa Costello is an amazing person, and she has been blogging about her own life.
Bronwyn, of course, will miss her daddy.
And Jay left a widow, Susan Lake, whom he sometimes referred to as “The Mother of The Child.”
Jay’s parents are still alive.
And there are many other family members and friends.
His obituary can be found here.

: Vacation vs. Real Experience and Answers vs. Questions

“I’m an expert on Africa because I took a vacation.” @cynthia_ward’s shorter Bryan Thomas Schmidt on Resnick.

— Nisi Shawl (@NisiShawl) May 28, 2014

(My recollection is that Resnick has been to Africa quite a few times and for fairly long stays for a vacation, but the sentiment is still a valid point.)
I travel all over the place.
I do not confuse that with knowing what it’s actually like to be from those places or being of those peoples.
I don’t travel to feel like I know “all about” something. Yet, I can encapsulate the gist of my experience, while recognizing that experience is from a place of (mostly) privilege.
I travel because it makes me question my assumptions in ways that reading does not. I travel because it makes me think. I travel because going around the world has given me a feel for its size and heft that not traveling did not. It’s about as long a flight from Johannesburg to London as it is from London to San Francisco or Bangkok to Johannesburg. And, for the record, I do not recommend doing them as close together as I did last year on my two-week “Jet Lag World Tour.” (San Francisco – Wellington, NZ – Melbourne, AU – Bangkok, TH – Cape Town, ZA – London – home)
I travel because it raises more questions than it answers.
For me, the single biggest boon to writing is having more questions.
Charles A. Tan wrote about the recent submissions call for stories about Africa.
Would I have felt comfortable submitting to any of the anthologies Tan links to? No. However, I have a feeling I’d have been welcome to submit to the problematic one. Save for, you know, being a feminist and all.
I’ve been to three countries in Africa: Egypt (in 2007), Morocco (in 2011), and South Africa (in 2013). This means that, among white Americans, and especially white American women, I’m probably in the top 1/2 of 1% as far as direct experience with Africa. Maybe even higher up than that.
The problem is that between those three trips, I have a grand total of a week spent on the ground. The first two were two-day cruise stops (with one day spent in one city and one day in another), and the third was part of a 14-day around-the-world trip.
I also haven’t mentioned the cruise stop details before. We were shepherded onto buses, and each bus had an armed guard. The buses traveled together with a police escort. Think about how deep an experience you can have in that context. Even so, the cruise line (NCL) stopped going to Morocco after that because of the complaints about it. I thought it was a fantastic experience and would love to go back. No, it is not Geneva, but I went because it wasn’t Geneva.
For a moment that struck me with wonder: we visited the king’s palace in Rabat, Morocco. As we’re getting off the bus, the call to prayer starts. For smaller mosques, the call to prayer is often a recording. As this particular adhan started, the muezzin’s voice cracked. I don’t know why that moment of realizing it was actually live (not Memorex) sent chills down my spine, but it did.
I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m merely a tourist. I studied Middle Egyptian at Stanford Continuing Studies before I went. I actually wanted to arrive in Egypt understanding something more than what a tour guide would tell me. Unfortunately, arguing with an obnoxious vendor at Giza, I ran out of spoons for visiting the solar barque. Sigh.
In South Africa (Cape Town), I went to visit a friend, one I helped get out of Scientology back in the day. But still I was staying at a hotel. Cape Town has some of the highest disparity between income levels of any place in the world. So, when my iPhone was stolen, I was annoyed, but I couldn’t really feel angry about it.
Maybe it’s my time in Scientology, but I’ve come to mistrust people who seem to have answers, especially if they’re overly comfortable with those answers. And it feels like that call is looking for people with answers.
It bothers me that I’ve probably “interacted with” three cultures enough for that particular submissions call.
Know what I mean?

: Crow Baby

We have a crow fledgling that’s been involved in several adventures where my mom’s gone to protect the little dear.
Crows have a very complex family structure, and our fledgling’s parents are very involved in their baby’s upbringing.
crow baby

: Creating a Media Kit for Yourself

Confession: I have been to more than my fair share of webinars of late. I’ve learned that “webinar” = “We will sell you something.”
That’s not always a bad thing, though.
So I attended (aka sat in my living room chair in my jammies) a webinar earlier today about creating media kits and press releases for indie authors. Except, as it turns out, not just indie authors.
In this webinar, I learned there are seven audiences for your media kit:

Seven Audiences for Your Kit/Book

  1. journalists, which includes freelancers
  2. bloggers
  3. book reviewers
  4. retailers
  5. individual buyers
  6. event planners
  7. anyone who wants to promote you or your book (editor, podcaster)

When they got to #6, I was sold. Remember those frustrations I’ve been uttering over the years, speaking as a programming head? About how someone wants to speak and how it can be hard to figure out who they are with minimal effort?

Your Number One Goal

  • make their job easy

Yes, please.
Rick has a saying that I try to keep in mind, “Make it easy for people to help you.”

Another Confession

I love media kits. Not just for people, but for hotels. Did you know the Burj al Arab has a media kit? And that you can download beautiful high-res pictures like this one in 3500×2533 size, perfect for any desktop background?
Yeah, I get that we’re probably not going to wind up as a desktop background for anyone. But that’s not the point. The point is: make it easy for people to get the information they need for writing about your work or contacting you.

But…My Publisher

Yes, if you’re a writer published by a larger house, your publisher probably has made a media kit for you and your book. Depending on how they work things, you may not be able to provide an electronic form of that on your website.
The catch is, your publisher’s interest only extends so far. Their goal is to promote their current catalog. Your interest is to promote you.
You can make your own media kit for you as a writer, though you shouldn’t work at cross purposes to the publicist at your publisher without a good reason. (A good reason can include: you’re also being published elsewhere, including indie publishing, or you’re about to branch out into a different genre, etc.)

Flipping the Table for a Minute

Speaking as a convention runner for a minute, I’d like to give you some ideas of what it’s like coming in to run programming for a convention.

  1. You’ll get a long list of people you mostly don’t know, or don’t know well. Sometimes that list is literally just name and email address. Sometimes you have a short bio, but that’s unusual in my experience. It’s also unusual to get the person’s website, so you have to look them up.
  2. Some people will write in to be on programming. Some of these people are wonderful, and others are people you shouldn’t consider for any reason. Naturally, it’s not obvious which is which. Note: if you are writing in to be on programming, please assume the person receiving your email has no idea who you are. Provide information about who you are and why you’d be interesting, but also please do not be overly familiar. Receiving something lewd intended for someone else is awkward at best.
  3. You’ll need to make a balanced schedule, including some from the first two lists, and some new names.
  4. You have to make a call based on really limited information, such as what’s on someone’s web site, about whether or not to have them as a speaker.
  5. A media kit is more than I need, typically, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Coming Back Around to the Webinar

The intro pricing on the media kit template, good through Monday May 26th, is incredibly competitive at $67. Here’s the link to purchase. (Note: not an affiliate or anything.)
If you don’t currently have any media kit or anyone doing public relations for you, then this package seems to be a great place to start. The author, Joan Stewart, has been a newspaper editor, and has therefore been on the other side of media and press kits over the years.
Another thing I don’t know if the kit mentions: please give photo credit to your photographer(s) and also specify photo rights. This is the standard in journalism, and too frequently I see zero credits given. Any media outlet is going to need to know that they have the right to reproduce a photo for editorial use, so please make the rights clear.
Also: please have black-and-white photos available, too, because that photo that looks great in color is going to look horrible if it’s converted without care. Many print publications are in black and white.

Most of the writer sites I’ve been to, including my own, don’t have a media kit link that I can find. The usual places you’ll find that linked are:

  1. From the “About” page, which is typically a top-level page. Example from Tiffany Reisz.
  2. From the links in the footer that include things like Privacy Policy and Copyright. Example from Apple. Note: if you have infinite scrolling turned on as a feature (which I hate), don’t put anything here.

Those are the two most likely places to look. If you have anything in the footer, the media kit link should also be here. The footer has the advantage of being one click from any page, where a media kit link off the About page is generally two clicks.

One More Tiny Plea

If you’re published by a small press, in your book blurb on your site, please make the publisher name be a live link to their site and, if possible, your book on their site. I know this sounds incredibly obvious, but you’d be surprised how infrequently it’s true.

: How Not to Run a Book Signing

For those of you not tuned into the romance world, you may have missed the big kerfluffle over the RT Booklovers convention signing.
Like some of the smaller pro-heavy cons in SF/F that are open to all, namely World Fantasy and the SFWA Nebula Weekend, there’s a huge signing called the Giant Book Fair. At 1200 people, RT isn’t that much larger than a typical World Fantasy, but it does cost about three times as much and is far more program heavy.
I’ll tell you something: on the whole, no one buys books like romance readers. No one.
Furthermore, most of their favorite authors go, and most of them want to buy and get books autographed there at the con. A lot of the writers have giveaways (like samples of a new book or glossy cover cards for indie authors), so it pays to visit all the writers you care about.
I’ll tell you that, as an author, I’ve loved these kinds of signings. They can be awesome fun. Worst case, you wind up sitting next to an interesting writer you didn’t know before, give a couple of autographs, and talk to some people.
The problem: with there being more and more romance writers, and not enough space to set them all up in. So how did they divide them up?
By whether or not the books purchased were returnable, as Courtney Milan explains.
Now, if you were looking for a book in the computer section, would you think to look in an entirely different room because O’Reilly books aren’t (or at least weren’t, back when I worked in a bookstore) returnable?
Multiply that times 1200. Now add the fact that a significant fraction of the people who are writers and signing for people publish for both kinds of presses and therefore it’s not going to be clear to the average reader who is going to wind up where.
Worse, authors had to pick whether they were going to sign one kind of book or the other. So, if like Courtney Milan, you happened to have a number of books published traditionally, you had to decide if you wanted to be in that room or the other. The one where you might be perceived as not playing for the team with your traditional publisher, or where you’re not playing for yourself or your small press for your other works. It’s a horrible situation to put authors in, let alone trying to have readers find them.
Also, to give you an idea of the size of the rooms, one writer I follow on Twitter tweeted that her signing was in row 38.
There are no easy solutions on this one. I get that.

: Ahh, Hugo Voting Packet Politics

Note: I later changed the rule below due to the Amazon/Hachette tiff, putting Orbit books first.
Essentially, my policy is one Rick uses for other things: make it easy for me to help you. Orbit isn’t.
John Scalzi discusses Orbit’s decision to only include previews of their three nominees here.
This year’s kind of rare—I spent my year reading out of genre and have read exactly zero of the nominated novels.
My usual rule for book-length works is:
If it’s not in the Hugo Voter’s Packet, I don’t vote for it.
This year, I need to modify that:
If it’s not in the Hugo Voter’s Packet in complete form, I don’t vote for it.
Why? Because not providing a nominated book says to me that the Hugo Awards aren’t perceived as valuable by the publisher. Why should I reward that?
Meanwhile, this weekend attendees at RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans are getting a thumb drive with 349 books. Self-published books, granted, but who has more to lose (or gain) than they do? (I have one of those, fwiw, Felt Tips: Office Supply Erotica, edited by Tiffany Reisz.)
There are a few modifiers to my rules:

  1. I’ll consider voting for a work if I already own the book. So, of the Hugo Nominees for Best Novel this year, what do I already own? But, if I haven’t read it yet, it goes in line after the provided books.
  2. If the book’s not supplied in EPUB format, it’s not in the packet. None of this PDF shit.
  3. If the ebook’s on sale during the award reading period, I might consider purchasing it. (I will read the sample first, though, so providing one actually does help. I guess I should thank Orbit for that.)

If I read a book in a Hugo packet and I love the book, I will buy it if I hadn’t already. So, in that sense, being nominated already means I’m more likely to a) read the book and b) buy the book than any other random book published last year.
I no longer read print books, and not being a Kindle person, I don’t do ebook library loans.
In general, there are 1-2 Hugo-shortlisted novels per year that I’d buy. Stross wrote my favorite book, and the nominated book is the third in a series (and I haven’t read the first two in that series). Ann Leckie’s been getting a lot of buzz, I just hadn’t gotten around to buying and reading her book yet. And I’m so far behind on Mira Grant books that it’s not funny (though this one’s in a new series, so there’s that). All three are affected by Orbit’s decision not to put entire books in the packet. Here’s the joint post by the three affected Orbit authors.
I’ve already established that I’ll be putting Larry dead last. (Edit: to clarify, I mean in reading order. Since I haven’t yet read his book, I’m not sure where I’d rank it on the ballot, but I can say it’s unlikely I’ll get to it during the voting period.) Why? I don’t mind hearing people say, “I liked this, it’s eligible, I think you could check it out,” but I think that putting together a slate crosses the line. (This is aside from any issues of what he did or didn’t recommend.) So he goes after the whole Orbit crowd.
…which leaves…
(cue dramatic music)
jordan-sanderson
I guess I’ll go about finally reading The Wheel of Time then. (Those books on the shelf? Rick’s. I almost never read incomplete series.)
Tentative reading order, possibly to be modified later:

  1. Wheel of Time
  2. Stross
  3. Leckie
  4. Grant
  5. Correia

If Orbit provided full books, my reading order would likely be:

  1. Leckie
  2. Grant
  3. Stross (as I want to read the other books too)
  4. Wheel of Time
  5. Correia

Mini-PDF Rant

I was asked on LJ what the problems were with PDF:

  1. I can’t read it in my font of preference.
  2. I like to read in white text on black because I read in bed (on an iPad) at night. I can’t control that with a PDF.
  3. I like to read it at my text size of preference.
  4. Which, if I do that, the page is significantly larger than the screen, so every single fucking sentence involves scrolling left and right.

Total pain in the ass.
I honestly can’t get into a book that takes that much attention just to read. I’ve tried before, and not voted before. The last time I tried was a Cat Valente nominee (Palimpsest).
No more.

: Vernacular & Literary Tricks

Dante caught shit for writing in Italian instead of Latin.

My native vernacular comes across less in writing than it does in speech, but for those who have spoken with me and know the area, it’s totally obvious where I came from.
I’m a Valley Girl.
I can excise those speech bits when I wish to, and my accent has mellowed over the years, but it is still my “native” accent. Because a lot of Valley Girl is adverb usage, I’ve never really been aboard the adverb minimalization train.
My Valley Girl tendencies are modified by two other aspects of the time and place I was raised:

  1. I’m of Irish descent, and some aspects of Irish (not Irish English, but Irish Gaelic) remain. For example, there are no words in Irish for yes or no. If you ask me a yes/no question, you’ll probably get a 2-3 sentence answer that doesn’t contain either word. This frustrates Rick at times.
  2. I was born when there were 49 states in the US. During my childhood, Southern California was a walking tribute to Disneyfied Hawai’iana (e.g., Waltah Clarke), and that’s affected my speech, thought, and culture. So I have this weird relation to Hawai’ian culture despite not being of Hawai’ian descent.

The pressure to conform to “Standard English” in both writing and speech was very strong in both my father’s side of the family and in my education. The usual way this was done was insisting that non-standard usage is “illiterate.”
I still have non-standard usage that persists. In speech in particular, I’ll often muck up subject-verb agreement in longer sentences with this format: “one of the people who are.” I usually use the subjunctive in formal writing, but often don’t in speech, though I will admit that Gwen Stefani’s “If I Was a Rich Girl” really grates where “If I Were a Rich Man” does not.
When I first started hearing AAVE being given respect by literary and academic communities, I’ll be honest: it grated.
The thing is, I don’t want to sound like an academic with a Ph.D. in English. On the flip side, I actually like to feel comfortable enough with the rules that I know when I’m breaking them vs. when I’m not.
I like stories with a strong sense of voice. I like stories with a strong sense of place, which sometimes ties into a strong sense of voice.
As a fiction writer, I’ve learned that vernacular really can be about unusual (to the average white English speaker) speech patterns. In one story I wrote one character’s dialect using Irish Gaelic syntax, which is verb first and uses extra words for emphasis.
I got back one critique that said: “Sounds like Yoda, she does.”
Which is exactly Irish syntax. What bothered me more about the critique is that Yoda’s syntax was not consistently Irish, but at that time, that’s how most Americans had heard any such usage in English. One of these days, I might actually get the story back out and rework it, but part of that is just going to be affirming, “That’s how she talks. Deal with it.”
I remember, for example, Rick and I driving around Tahiti, noting that their usage of French was unfamiliar. Understandable, but different words were chosen than other places we’d been. I’ve seen this in English, too. I remember puzzling over a sign in Indonesia.
no-touting
It is exactly those differences in usage that tie us to places. I recently read a romance novel that had every Irish English usage correct—except the one mistake I’d made myself, and was therefore very aware that her hero used the wrong word. It threw me out.

Not Our Kind, Dear

Some years ago, Rick and I went up to Petaluma for some Linux thing. We wound up having a long conversation with a woman there, and wound up talking a lot about the rules enforced on women.
For example, no white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. Sure, you can wear “winter white,” which isn’t really white at all, but not white white (unless you live in Florida).
If you dared to do such a thing, you were “not our kind, dear.”
That kind of policing every detail is what I (and many other women) grew up with, and it’s toxic to everyone. Maybe I want to wear white shoes in February. If you’re so small a person that you can’t accept fucking shoe color (or, worse, straps around the ankle) as an acceptable variant in dress, I don’t want to be your friend.
Which leads nicely into AAVE.

What makes AAVE so dramatically different as a political issue from, say, Spanish (also spoken in Oakland, by up to a quarter of the population) is its close relation to another language of much higher prestige. Most speakers of Standard English think that AAVE is just a badly spoken version of their language, marred by a lot of ignorant mistakes in grammar and pronunciation, or worse than that, an unimportant and mostly abusive repertoire of street slang used by an ignorant urban underclass. (link)

I was that person ridiculing Ebonics. There’s probably evidence of same somewhere in the bowels of Google.

And Then I Grew Up (At Least Imperfectly)

You know what? I’m allowed to have been wrong.
I still have difficulty feeling that my own (white privileged) vernacular is “acceptable,” and it’s a recognizable (albeit ridiculed) variant of SE.
I can’t imagine what people who speak non-SE dialects feel when they’re minimized because of their native dialect.
So when @djolder posted links to this Storify version of his responses to this Strange Horizons review, I was horrified.
Strange Horizons reviewed a book, Long Hidden, specifically about marginalized cultures in SF/F stories. Then the reviewer calls out AAVE as “a literary trick”?
Writing in your own dialect is never a literary trick.
Saying that is othering and dismissive of the entire premise of Long Hidden. Rose Fox, one of the editors, said, “It’s an ethical and cultural error.” I concur. Strange Horizons has apologized. tweet one, two, and three.
I’m not even convinced that writing in another dialect is a literary trick. To me, “trick” implies deceit above and beyond the usual call of fiction. Sure, there’s the alternate meaning of “trick” as being clever without being deceitful (e.g., somersaulting on a skateboard), but that clearly wasn’t the meaning here.

So What Is a Literary Trick?

For me, a literary trick implies leading the reader to expect one thing, then delivering another. The classic “red herring” is a literary trick. “Who is Kaiser Soze?” from The Usual Suspects is a literary trick (sadly, I figured that out 15-20 minutes into the film). A wonderful quote from that link:

Kevin Spacey claimed that Bryan Singer managed to convince all of the major actors that they were Keyser Soze. At the first screening, an angry Gabriel Byrne stormed off when he realised the truth.

That’s a literary trick on an entirely different level.
Writing an unreliable narrator such that she tells one story on a literal level and a completely different story when you realize what way she’s being unreliable—that’s a literary trick.
But being honest and true about your own dialect? Nope.
I learn a lot from meeting people and reading stories by people who are quite different from myself. I love it when people take me unexpected places.
I think this bears repeating: Writing in your own dialect is never a literary trick.
See also: this great post from Troy L. Wiggins.

: D. S. Moen vs. Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Lis Mitchell asks:

Have any of my SF writing sisters ever considered writing with a neutral or masculine pseudonym? (Just curious what reasons, if so.)

Well, I do, but not to hide the fact that I’m female, though that is a side effect.
My reasons:

  1. When I was at Clarion, Patrick Nielsen Hayden sat down across from me one night and said, “You have three names, all of them difficult to spell.” My response? “You’re one to talk.” He had a point. Thus, my future submissions had the byline of D. S. Moen.
  2. Because, like the Nielsen Haydens, my last name is non-obviously compound, I realized that it would be easier to consistently ensure my readers could find my work on a shelf if my work were consistently shelvable. Then again, I did work at a bookstore that had a hangtag in the Ms that pointed out that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was shelved under “Garcia Marquez,” so I’m perhaps more aware of that issue than most.
  3. I realize that my name is not only difficult to spell, but difficult to pronounce, thus I felt it was easier. While I’m constantly bemused by people’s attempts to pronounce Saoirse (hint: “Sounds Like Weird” is a hint for pronouncing both Deirdre and Saoirse), I’m not cruel about it.

I love the ethnicity of my name.
I love the fact that Deirdre anagrams as: dire red.
I love that Saoirse anagrams as: a rose is.
I love that Moen anagrams as: omen.
All together: red rose is a dire omen.
Which is just awesome. I didn’t plan it, it just happened that way.

: I'm a Rebel (and What That Means)

Some time ago, I realized I’d missed the two opening rounds of tickets for this year’s World Domination Summit and added myself to the notification list for the third round. And promptly forgot about it.
Over the weekend, I’d gotten an email reminding me that more tickets would be available soon, so I went over to the website and read up on the speakers.
I watched this completely amazing (to me) talk by Gretchen Rubin from last year’s conference.

Gretchen Rubin from Chris Guillebeau on Vimeo.
The segment about the Rubin Tendencies (begins around 19 minutes in), four different ways of approaching internal and external motivation was revelatory for me.
If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s a link to descriptions, from which I’ve excerpted the following short quote:

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

(I also think there’s an inverse to the Obliger, which I’ve labeled Self-Obliger for the moment.)
It’s like someone explained my life to me in a way I suddenly understand.
Now, some of us pretend to be one of those that we’re not. And we can have tendencies in other directions. I’m a Rebel with Questioner tendencies, and I’ve gotten through life by masquerading a Questioner.
But I’m not, and the façade is exhausting.
It leads to long stretches of anxious busy instead of katamari busy.

So How Do You Motivate Yourself?

I’m a very in-the-moment person, and I suspect many Rebels are. We make choices without necessarily considering long-term implications. Yet, many Rebels wind up in either the clergy or military/police, which are very structured.
My preference is for well-defined loose structure: several large constraints but without a lot of rules, but where the structure is consistent. I prefer large swaths of nothing on my calendar. A day feels “busy” if it has one timed item on it, no matter how short that time slot is. This week, I have timed items on my calendar three days in a row, and that feels impossible.
Thus, I’ve tended to work best on long projects where I don’t have a lot of daily (or weekly) milestones that are externally imposed, but can proceed making progress at my own pace.
The catch is what motivates me: whatever it is I’m doing has to be the most interesting thing to do in the world at that moment.
And I’m a person who’s fascinated by a lot of things.
You see the inherent problem here.
Squirrel!
There are a couple of other things that motivate me.
The thing I want to do can be the thing I most want to do in that moment. I can work on talking my way into that being something I really want to do. “Wouldn’t you enjoy eating something better for you than this bad thing? If you cooked it, you could have that.”
Like most rebels, I’m motivated by a realistic challenge.
A funny story of my teen rebel years. I wanted to take college classes while I was in high school, but the high school counselor said I couldn’t because it was against the law. Went to the library, photocopied the law (which, btw, said the exact opposite), came back and pointed out it said nothing of the kind. He still wouldn’t let me go to college, so I actually switched schools to the alternative school. My senior high school year, I had English, Physics, Horticulture, and (I can’t make this one up) Independent Study Table Tennis. In college, I took French, Calculus, and some other stuff.
Not many people would have done that at age 16.
On the flip side, I genuinely have never given a fuck about my GPA except where it has mattered for some goal I was trying to achieve. Instead, I’m that asshole who took notes during class, dutifully copying down all the professor’s jokes, never looked at my notes, never studied, often never bought the textbook—and aced the test. Obviously, I hated project classes unless the project was The Best Thing Ever.
Yet I wound up not only with a BA but also an MS (Computer Science) and an MA (Writing Popular Fiction). However, when I went back for the “F” (my MA program turned into an MFA program), my brain balked. I wound up dropping out because I realized that, for me, the money/energy/time was better spent on world travel.
That short stint in the MFA program led directly to the book I’m now working on, though, so it wasn’t a waste of time.

How This Affects My Writing Process

Given what I’ve told you already, do you think I’m a planner or a pantser? (Pantser refers to someone who writes “by the seat of their pants,” meaning without an outline or plan.)
Yep, pantser.
My attempts to outline ahead of time essentially wind up like this:

Outline says: “Jake wants rents a boat and discovers a long-rumored sea monster.”
What I actually write: Jake gets mugged while hiking in the mountains.
Me, arguing with mss/outline, “But…!”
Brain: Denied.

At the point where they diverge, I can’t even think.
Or, if I’m trying to interview characters ahead of time:

Me: “So what do you really want out of life?”
Character: “If you followed me around, you’d know this shit.”
Me: “…?”
Character: Turns back to me, and, like a cat, thumps her tail loudly on the wooden floor.

Fuck that shit.
I just can’t do an outline before I do the work. If it doesn’t lead to an outright block, what it does is drain the “new” energy out of the piece. That “new” energy is exactly why I like writing. I feed on it.
Some day, when I dig through this pile of stuff, I’ll upload the “outline” I did for grad school when I had to turn one in. Basically, I reasoned that I had X deadlines throughout the program, and each of those deadlines would be a chapter, and therefore I had X chapters to write. I was in a restaurant that had paper placemats, so I moved my plate aside and wrote down a short phrase (2-5 words) for each chapter.
That got me through the first draft, and it stuck.
I can only do that once I’m to a certain point in writing a piece, though. I generally have to start blind, write down a few ideas, and then Just Start Writing. I usually start at the beginning. In a short piece, I usually need to write the ending (so I know where I’m going) before I write the middle, but even that’s not consistent.
I often write longer books out of order, which I’m doing with the current book.
I keep a list of things I want to accomplish in the piece at the top of my document, and I’ll just delete those items as I use them. It’s not an outline, it includes all kinds of things like places, characters to introduce, a scene I want to write but don’t know where it goes, etc. Most of the items are plot pieces, though. (This was easy when I was writing in Byword, but not so easy in Scrivener, and I need to figure out a way that works for me in Scrivener. In Byword, I just peeled off a chapter as I finished it and kept writing in the same working document.)
When I know the order of those items, I’ll move them into order at the top before any of the unordered items.
At some point, usually 1/4 to 1/3 of the way in, I hit a wall. I know I’ve hit the wall when my productivity slumps and every time I write I feel like I have more questions than answers. Often those questions include, “Does this really go here?”
That’s when I need to start organizing a loose outline. It’s not what I’m keeping at the top of the document, but something more like a short synopsis.
The important thing here, though, is that it’s when the number of raised questions exceeds my comfort level. That’s something that happens organically during writing.

I’m Not Uncomfortable with Open Questions

I’ve discovered that I’m happier with more open questions than the average person.
As a real example of that, last year my boss told me a week before I was headed out on a long trip that I needed to cut it in half. I made a bunch of changes to my itinerary, but one of the questions that was left open was how I was going to get home from South Africa. I had a tentative plan in place, but it didn’t meet the constraint he’d set. Close, though.
I don’t know how many people would set off on a trip with such an important detail hanging. But I did.
Did it bother me? Only insofar as I wanted to meet my boss’s constraints.
I trusted that I had the ability to return from South Africa. After all, as an experienced traveler, I know how to work the system, and I know that there is a system. Plus, there’s always the “pay more cash for what you really want” option, even though that’s not the way I preferred to do it. So I waited for something to open up, and returned via London, catching a show I’d wanted to see.

Part of My Process is Trust

Trust that I can make it work, trust that I will make it work. When it’s something I haven’t done before, I worry, but then I remind myself that I’ve done similarly complex things before.
I trust in my ability to be resourceful and adapt to new information.
One of the things I know I’ll need to do for an upcoming project is to make a small font. I have no fucking clue how to make a font. Worse, I’m going to have to learn Illustrator for some of the mockups I’m working on, and I’ve been resisting learning that for about 25 years.
I know I can do it, though. I just haven’t had a real need to before now. I’m excited about it because I know it’ll be interesting and different. Yay.
That’s the single hardest piece of the stuff I’m doing. I am working on other things (to go with the font), and it’s all new and fun.

World Domination Summit

Getting back to the start of this post, why yes, I am going to the World Domination Summit. July in Portland, Oregon. Fun times.
I’ve also updated my events page with other places I’m going to be this year.

: Manuscript Wish List & Ten Queries

Some of you know about the Twitter hashtags #mswl (manuscript wish list) and #tenqueries.
A friend of mine has started a site that tracks recent entries of these and a couple of other things. Stuff can roll off Twitter faster than you can sneeze.
The first is #mswl, which is editors and agents requesting manuscripts. Each has the original tweet link.
The second is #tenqueries, which is agents responding to ten queries they’ve received.
Other tabs have query tips and publishing tips.
The site is mswishlist.com.

: A Plea from a Programming Head

For conventions that move around, you get to interact with people who you don’t know and see if they’ll fit into the program. It’s always an interesting process.
I keep seeing emails that reduce to the following:

Hi, I’m A and I’m a writer [most are, anyway]. I’d like to be a panelist at Westercon. I’ve previously spoken at X, Y, and Z [conventions whose programs I haven’t studied in depth and frankly don’t have time to].

Look, I don’t have time to pore over everyone’s site, nor do I want to make a snap decision because I’m frustrated trying to get a sense of who you are.
My job is to put people up on stage so they can have interesting conversations with one another. Or provide useful information. I have only limited information about them available, and I need to make the call based on that.
So….

  1. Writer of what?
  2. What topics are you interested in speaking about? What topics have you spoken about?
  3. Please tell me there’s something you care about other than writing or publishing. What combination of things makes you unique in the world? I collect countries and grunge textures, not necessarily at the same time. You?
  4. There are reasons I keep a list of panels I’ve spoken on. Why? It’s not to be impressive or anything. It’s that I’ve been that head of programming trying to schedule people at 2 am, muttering to myself, “for the love of God, please think of a title for this panel.” Or, “I have these great people available at this time. What can I put them together for?”

Also, if you’re going to Westercon in Salt Lake City this year (July 3-6) and you’d like to be on programming, programming @ is the address. Danke.
I’d really like to see:

  1. More diversity. Please.
  2. More science types.
  3. More costumers.
  4. More people from the Westercon region. We have lots of local resources, and most of the people asking have been local.

Don’t. Make. Me. Beg.
I’m no damn good at it.

: Recent Word Counts

My usual daily quota right now is around 2,000 words. I budgeted zero words on the two driving days up and near-zero words on the three driving days back on this trip. Nor did I expect normal word counts while I’m up here.
Here’s how many words I wrote on each day of the trip, by day:

  1. 0 (as budgeted)
  2. 0 (as budgeted)
  3. 185 (disappointing)
  4. 298 (disappointing)
  5. 1,160 (a fucking miracle, given we found out the house was a writeoff this day)
  6. 343 (a fucking miracle, having gotten access to the house this day)

Overall, still less than I hoped for, but I’m glad I didn’t let life completely kick me in the ass.
Tomorrow is our first day driving back.
I’m really hoping that one of the childhood heirlooms of mine that still hasn’t been produced can be found and obtained before we leave. It’s an absolutely stupid thing of no commercial value, but it’s such a unique memorabilia piece from my life and so appropriate to this trip, I can’t imagine not having it.
It’s from the trip we took to San Clemente Island one year, when the military mixed up the schedule and accidentally authorized us anchorage at Pyramid Cove at the same time they were shelling the island from a destroyer five miles out. They weren’t missing by much, not even when they went ten or fifteen miles out, so we felt pretty safe exploring the island well away from the target range. So we did. I also remember snorkeling through the kelp beds to get bait for fishing.

: Writing and the Critical Path

As someone who’s spent my whole life working mostly on one large project after another, you’d think novels wouldn’t be as hard for me to write as they actually are.
I had this glimpse into why: I generally had a sense, at all times, whether something was on the critical path—or not. There were desired features and planned expansions, but building them wasn’t part of my initial task. So there were clearly things on the critical path—and not. Generally, there was at least something of an order: I need to get pretty far along in X before I can test Y, so let’s write X first. I can work on Y if I’m stumped on X.
In a novel, generally all of the planned scenes need to be written because they’re interwoven. It’s all on the critical path.
Non-fiction’s different: some items may be optional. If they’re not written for the book itself, they can be re-used in other ways, like website content or newsletter content.
So I don’t necessarily have a sense of what I should work on next. The list is too large. Since I write out of order frequently that makes the problem set too large.
I’m going to have to think about this.

: The Amount of Time it Takes

Just for the record, the amount of time it takes from the time someone decides to to use a new pseudonym to:

  1. Google the potential problems with the name, then register the variant that’s the most promising.
  2. Wait for DNS to propagate.
  3. Find a theme for a landing page site template.
  4. Upload the bare bones to the writer’s server of choice.
  5. Find the right stock art and fonts for the right look. Requires searching five different sites, but you think you nailed it for not just the one book, but the planned series.
  6. Start setting up the email accounts. This needs another round of DNS propagation for reasons you never have figured out, and it’s two in the morning already.
  7. Restart Apache. Whoops.
  8. Web server down! No………..
  9. Obligatory teeth gnashing step.
  10. Oh, that’s why. Doh.
  11. Web server running again. Phew.
  12. Design the book cover from scratch. Fuss with it a few times.
  13. Hack and saw the web site template into something resembling what you need right now.
  14. Verify that the email accounts now work. Woohoo!
  15. Hack and saw the background image that isn’t as perfect as you thought it was. What’s that jaggy edge? Ewww.
  16. Write all the copy for the web page.
  17. Have the author sign up for Twitter.
  18. Have the author sign up for Smashwords.
  19. Figure out how you broke the author’s web site’s layout. Twice.
  20. Fix it, declare victory!

…eight hours have passed. And $35 or so ($15 for domain, $12 for landing page template, $8 for art).
Just in case you’re ever inspired to, you know, do the same.
I can has nap nao?

: Jackie Barbosa's Son

Most of you reading this will have no idea who Jackie Barbosa is. Nor who her son is.
Jackie’s a romance writer. Last week, her teenage son was driving to school and struck by an oncoming car. Dear Author mention is here, including link to a fundraiser.
I don’t know Jackie, but I do know what it’s like to have a husband suddenly die, and it really and truly sucks.
So, what I’m asking: here’s her booklist. If any of those are your cuppa, consider reading a sample and see if it’s something you want to buy and read the rest of. If you know other people who might like her work, consider telling them about her stuff.
She has a blog about publishing matters (she is a hybrid author, meaning both published traditionally and self-published). You might wish to read that. Like, for example, this post about metadata ownership concerns in publishing contracts. So, even if you don’t care about the romance genre, if you write, there may be something of interest to you in there. Maybe even if you don’t write.
From my own experience and that of others I’ve known in grief support groups since my first husband’s death, it’s going to take 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 years to be fully productive again. I don’t know how many of you read the linked Esquire article in my recent MH 370 blog post, but part of what was disturbing about it for me was how the article really communicated how differently people grieve and how that can drive a wedge between family members when someone dies. And in the case of that article, between parents who’d lost a child.
I wish her (and her family) the best.
Update: Kensington has put one of her books on sale until 4/1. Link has details.

: Two More Scrivener Tip Posts

I’ve been writing so much the last couple of days I’d almost forgotten about my little demo project to show how to produce different e-books by vendor. (Why? So your Amazon version has Amazon-specific links, etc.) I should have that done this week.
Jacey Bedford has an awesome tip about keeping character viewpoints in order. Which now makes me want to add that tip into the sample project.
Diane Patterson has an awesome tip about how to easily keep track of new characters or add new information to existing characters’ sheets. This will save you a ton of time later and will help your copy editor (if your copy editor is doing your consistency editing). If you’re writing a series, it’ll not only help your copy editor, it’ll help save your sanity.
Jacey and I posted because of Jaine Fenn, who’s recently joined us on the Scrivener side. Also, Jaine’s book, Queen of Nowhere is Hugo-eligible this year. Which, I’ve been catching up with Jaine, so perhaps I should resort to reading out of order at this point.

: Long Overdue Author Platform Rant

Me: I’m writing my author platform rant.
Rick: Is that what your statue sits on?

I said a few months ago that I had a pending rant about author platforms. It’s that time. I’m completely frustrated about something entirely different, so it’s a good time to fuel that energy into this.
For non-fiction writers, your platform is, in part, your specific expertise to write that book. Being a kick-ass researcher, like Mary Roach, will help you get through problems writing books like Packing for Mars even without subject-matter expertise prior to starting the book.
Note that I said in part. I’ll get back to that.
For fiction writers, your platform is a lot more nebulous, but the similar part would be what you write about.

Platform Isn’t an External Thing

Which is another thing. I sometimes see statements like: my platform is (and a list of social media and blog stuff, possibly with a mailing list). Um, no. That’s an important aspect, true, but it’s like saying the car you drive is you.
The rant, for me, comes in here: a platform isn’t an external thing. It’s not actually external to you. It is you, but it’s not all of you. People asking, “What’s your platform?” just make it feel like it’s something that’s external.
It’s how you present your work and how you interact with potential and actual target audiences. It also excludes the audiences you alienate, even though you may think you don’t ever want to alienate any. You will. It’s a given. Not everyone will be into what you write. It’s okay.
Let’s say you’re writing a historical romance. I’m not your target audience, so that would generally exclude me unless you happened to hit enough other things I liked that my interest in those things transcends genre. Write about a romance with strong women in the Venetian Renaissance? I’m there.

So Here’s How I Think of It

Your platform is how you appeal to and interact with the various groups that comprise your target audiences, including:

  1. What you write
  2. Your face-to-face interactions
  3. Your email interactions (including a newsletter, if you have one)
  4. Your website and blog (some people use different servers for these)
  5. Your other social media
  6. Your marketing (business cards, bookmarks, blog tours, etc.)
  7. Everything else

Note That Plural

Target audiences.
Even if you’re writing two books in the same series, not every book in that series will appeal the same to every reader. It’s not even about what book is (or isn’t) objectively better. The Empire Strikes Back is (my opinion) objectively better than Star Wars, but I still prefer Star Wars because it doesn’t have the middle-part-of-a-trilogy structure problem.
My favorite plot structure is, essentially, not really in the catalog of possibilities for a typical romance. However, I enjoy reading romance. I just won’t bond with it quite as deeply as I might if the story used my favorite plot structure. (Books: Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates and Steve Martini’s The List. Movies: The Player, and, to a lesser extent but for similar reasons, Donnie Darko and Inception.)
As I’ve said when giving career advice to people in technology: the sum total of what you care about, what you do not, and how much you care/don’t is unique. I care about my favorite plot structure, but not to the exclusion of other plot structures.
How do you help people find you who care about the same things you write about?
That’s the big question, isn’t it?

: Serious Indiegogo Question

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.

: On Reviews and Critiques

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.)

Critiques

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.

: Joining the Cult of Scrivener

I’ve officially joined the cult of Scrivener. Which, btw, it’s on sale right now for $20 instead of the usual $45.
Like other people coming from Markdown, you can use Markdown syntax in Scrivener, export your project to text files, and use Markdown syntax on iOS apps (like my much-loved Byword) ’cause there is no RTF (Scrivener’s native format) on iOS, really.
But, you say, then what?
Beholdify. You can wait to convert your Markdown until the very last second by checking it in the Compile options when you generate your final output.
scrivener-compile-markdown
So for those of us with books and books written in Markdown syntax, we can have it all. Finally.

So?

You’re not one of the Markdown people, I can tell.

\# This is an h1 heading \## This is an h2 heading \## This is an h2 too (sorry, couldn’t resist) This is a paragraph with _italics_, **bold text**, and ***italic bold text***. You can also do *italics* with single asterisks if you swing that way. And this is another paragraph.

…becomes…

This is an h1 heading

This is an h2 heading

This is an h2 too (sorry, couldn’t resist)

This is a paragraph with italics, bold text, and italic bold text. You can also do italics with single asterisks if you swing that way.
And this is another paragraph.

Therefore….

  • No fussing with menu bars or character formats.
  • No having to remember shortcuts for italics, bold, whatever.

Just. Write.
Which is one reason I’ve liked Markdown all along. It gets out of your way when you’re putting the words on the page.

: Bare-Faced Messiah Back in Print

Russell Miller’s amazing book about L. Ron Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah, sued into oblivion in the United States, is finally going to be re-published. Tony Ortega article.
About the private investigator Scientology frequently uses for harassment:

Eugene Ingram was certainly the major figure, because later on they then tracked down virtually everybody I knew in the United States and Europe. I mean, it was amazing to me. They found every single person I knew in the United States, and I knew a lot of people there because I worked there frequently. So they were in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, and it always seemed to be Eugene Ingram turning up.

What you may not know: after I left Scientology, and again in 1995, Eugene Ingram went around to all my friends, exes, and known ties telling them crap about me.
Even more amazing about Russell Miller’s re-publication is Marty Rathbun’s apology for his part in the dirty tricks. For those who don’t know, Marty has not historically been big on apologizing for this kind of stuff. Good on him.
As he says:

I encourage people to purchase his book once available and read it. Not just because it will make me feel a bit better about my own efforts to suppress it, but because I believe it is essential reading for anyone involved with Scientology.

Linky links: Amazon iBooks Nook Kobo

: Sell to Where the Reader Reads (and Shops)

I’m not a book marketer, okay? But I do know how you can sell books to me, and I’ve worked in a bookstore, so I know how things work at the other end, too.
Sell to where the reader reads (and shops).
There’s a book I’d like to buy, but it’s only available for Kindle (which I read on my iPad). My main ebook library contains 829 books (all items I bought; I have been buying ebooks since 2005). How many Kindle books do I have?
24.
One of them is QF32, which is an awesome story.
So, when I’m looking for books to read, where am I looking?
Not in my Kindle library. I never think of it unless I happen to remember it’s there. When I buy a Kindle book, I read it right away, and never think of my Kindle library again unless I want to read another book I can’t get another way.
Every book on the digital shelves I peruse, meaning my not-Kindle library, is an advertisement for your next book. I have lots of bookcases there, and I sort my books. I keep most of the books I’ve read (or re-read) in the last year on my iPad. Books are small.
If you want me to think of your book, remember your book, remember it the next time I’m looking for another book to read by an author I liked (and, honestly, I’ll like your book better if I get to read it in an application where the font choices don’t annoy me), then you’ll make the choice to sell it in one of two ways:

  1. Through Apple’s iBooks.
  2. Non-DRMed through another vendor (e.g., Nook, Smashwords, your own website) so I can sideload it into iBooks. This means it’s got to be an EPUB, which isn’t the Kindle format.

And yeah, I could de-DRM the books and convert them using a piece of crap usability nightmare like calibre, but I’d actually like to use the remaining hours of my life for something actively, you know, useful. Plus it only works for one of the two underlying Kindle formats, and I can tell you that the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction is of the other format.
Frankly, most people won’t bother with this. They shop where they shop, and if it’s there, it’s there, and if it’s not, they don’t buy it.
Every fucking time I have to go to the Kindle store to buy a book, I’m annoyed, and that’s not how you want me to feel right before I start reading the sample for your book. I will sometimes buy books without having read a sample on iBooks, but there’s NFW I’ll consider it for Kindle.
On the other hand? If I want to read a piece of trash and never have it sully my iBooks library again…. Ever bought that thing you’re completely embarrassed to have? Hate to be reminded of it every time you look at items “Not in My library”? Filed a feature request for a “Never Let Us Speak of This Again” button? (Unless, you know, you’re overtaken by insanity and you actually want to hear Duffy again. And by Duffy, I mean the meh solo works by Stephen Duffy, not the rather awesome Welsh singer.)

Well, my Kindle library is a great place for that kind of book, even if it’s available on iBooks. Just so you know what kind of company you’ll be keeping in those 24 books.

: Baen, Heinlein, and Me

I’m a (very minor) Baen author. I’m embarrassed by this. Honestly, I couldn’t read the whole thing. I got to this pair of sentences and bounced out:

Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

Easy peasy. Life is short.
I don’t like Heinlein’s work, generally speaking.
His female characters were, well, not believable female characters to me. On the other hand, as Rick pointed out when I had wound up to quite a rant one day: Heinlein wrote female main (and major) characters at a point in time when few other people did. So, credit where it’s due. He tried. Maybe not very hard, but he tried at a time when few others even bothered.
All the Heinlein stories that I do like are neatly collected into this anthology. “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants” and “And He Built a Crooked House,” for example.
What I dislike even more than some of Heinlein’s stuff is some Heinlein fans. My least favorite group to interact with in fandom is The Heinlein Society. Why?
Because when I told them that I didn’t want to have single-author panels for next year’s convention, they went to the chair of a convention I was attending to get her to help them lobby me (in person, live) to change my policy. After that, I never wanted to speak to them again. Never got an apology, either.
I don’t believe in single-author panels for two reasons:

  1. Panels should be about conversations that expand the audience’s appreciation about a topic. Single-author panels only appeal to big fans of that particular author, and thus have a more-limiting maximum audience than a broader topic.
  2. I consider it disrespectful to the Writer Guest of Honor to have single-author panels that aren’t about the WGoH’s own work. (In the case of someone like Scalzi, including a discussion of Heinlein influences in Scalzi’s work would be a two-author panel, but I’d be okay with that kind of thing, sure.)

One of the things various Heinlein fans have said to me over the years is that Heinlein wrote about his wife Virginia, usually followed by something like therefore he must understand women.
My usual response to that is, “So she married her rapist?” Somehow the topic always drops after that. Mind you, she only married the “good” rapist. IMHO, for a much better book with some Friday-esque themes in it (and without that problematic ending), Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl is a far better book.
Let’s just say there are reasons that BASFA occasionally auctions off a used copy of Friday, someone drives over it or otherwise abuses it, then it gets re-donated to be re-auctioned. Maybe it’s time to scour the local used bookstores for a fresh copy.

: One of My Pet Peeves

…is when indigenous words show up in dictionaries show up with derivations that are non-indigenous.
Today’s example: mosquito

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Spanish and Portuguese, diminutive of mosca, from Latin musca ‘fly.’

O rly.
And where did the Spanish get it?
(See also: desert.)
Ahh, didn’t expect to ragequit transcribing my notes from Nicaragua.

: An Open Letter to Neil Gaiman

We don’t know each other, but we have something in common: a former relationship with Scientology. Only I didn’t grow up at its centre, then in East Grinstead, Sussex, the way you did. I got in when I was 18.
I read your piece Storms and how they start, and I get that Jonathan Ross is your friend. That isn’t a problem for me. What is a problem? Is failure to understand that your friend was always a problematic choice for hosting the Hugos, which I will get to.
One of the problems of the culture of Scientology is that you’re not supposed to talk about things that other people do to upset you, lest you yourself get told to get to Ethics and write up everything you’ve done. Or, worse, have to pay for a bunch of sessions to “handle” the whole thing. It takes the stiff upper lip thing to the next level, so it’s hard to hear a bunch of complaints and realize there is legitimacy to them.
Your dad was one of the most problematic people in Scientology. He ordered false information put in US security agency computers. He was involved, though not to the point of being an unindicted co-conspirator, in Operation Snow White, the largest civilian intrusion into US government systems to date. He took over for Jane Kember after she was convicted. Your dad, as Public Relations official for the Scientology’s Guardian’s Office Worldwide, was involved in cleaning up L. Ron Hubbard’s PR disasters, such as the chain locker abuses on the ships, particularly the incidents involving children. One disaster was throwing Mary Sue Hubbard under the bus after she was convicted in Operation Snow White. (She arguably got the best treatment by Hubbard of any of his wives.)
But still—David Gaiman was your dad.
Before we go further, I’d like to say: thank you for being a better person than he was, speaking as someone who was harassed by techniques your dad took a hand in developing.
However, better is relative here. I think the statement you made about your affiliation with Scientology (“As a child, I suppose I was as much a Scientologist as I was Jewish, which is to say it was the family religion. Am I now? No.”) was disingenuous given that a) you married a Scientologist before (not Amanda, obviously) and b) non-Scientologists don’t fork over $35,000 for obscure religious level contributions of benefit only to long-standing Scientologists. Sure, I believe you’re not a Scientologist now.
Still, that conditioning is hard to break. Hubbard and David Gaiman, among others, developed strategies specifically for silencing critics. So I can’t help but wonder if there’s a part of you still stuck in the “what are your crimes?” victim-blaming of critics that your father perfected.
Given that kind of a background, I can understand why you might have overlooked why Jonathan Ross was a problematic choice.
The best explanation I’ve read is Patton Oswalt’s post about rape jokes:

In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punchline, and make sure it isn’t the victim.

Now, with that in mind, let’s look at these ten moments of Jonathan Ross’s. I’ll pick three.

  1. Heather Mills: kicking downward.
  2. Ethnic minorities at work: kicking downward.
  3. Madonna: kicking downward about her child.

What the people tweeting didn’t like? They didn’t want a Hugo announcer to kick downward. They had a reasonable fear that he would.
Look, I get that comedians tend to go too far. It’s how they find out where the edges are. But as a culture, SF/F fandom is still trying to cope with how to stop kicking downward. For that reason, Ross was simply the wrong choice. Oswalt again:

We bomb all the time. We go too far all the time. It’s in our nature. […]
I’m a man. I get to be wrong. And I get to change.

What I’d like, Neil, is for you to consider one thing: maybe the people who objected to Ross had a valid point. And maybe you just didn’t see that point while reeling at the backlash.
It’s not too late to look again in a new unit of time.

: Two Takes on Writing for a Living

First, from Lauren Gallagher/L.A. Witt, a writer who has an impressive number of titles out:

In 2010, with a steadily growing backlist and fan base, my income turned us from sweating over every dollar to being able to go out to a nice dinner (not terribly expensive, just not “fries with that”), and in 2011, the royalties roughly equaled what I’d been making at my previous day job. In 2012, it doubled. In 2013, it doubled again. It’s entirely possible the pattern will continue in 2014.

Another pull quote:

As of right now, Aleks has 32 books on Amazon. Between my two pen names, I have 66. It’s not just novels, either. We both have short stories and novellas, which frequently don’t make it into print except in collections or magazines. Those collections and magazines tend to pay token amounts if at all — contributor’s copies are common — whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011. Aleks and I co-wrote a short story that was released last year and has made each of us just under $2,000.

vs. Emily Gould’s “How Much My Novel Cost Me”:

In 2008 I sold a book-in-progress for $200,000 ($170,000 after commission, to be paid in four installments), which still seems to me like a lot of money. At the time, though, it seemed infinite. The resulting book—a “paperback original,” as they’re called—has sold around 8,000 copies, which is about a fifth of what it needed to sell not to be considered a flop. This essentially guarantees that no one will ever pay me that kind of money to write a book again.

Having only one book and having its marketing be at the mercy of a big house’s ad budget is having no Plan B. Lori’s plan B was to write more words. That has been really successful for her—she’s made most of her living writing gay romance and is now making four times her old day job doing it. Granted, it took her a while to wind up, but go look at the titles on her site and count up how many, many words she published.
Note that these two women are talking about publishing in approximately the same timespan, and both are talking different forms of traditional publishing. Most of Lori’s titles are digital first, and many are digital only. She’s self-published a couple of items off her backlist.
As a random geeky aside, I love the fact that the number 8,000 figures in both stories in very different ways. I believe the novella that Lori refers to is this one, which is science fiction (despite the use of the word “vampire” in the description).

: Fun Data from the Author Earnings Spreadsheet

This page is not affiliated with authorearnings.com. Rails app to generate this can be found on GitHub. Some earlier charts are here.
Table columns are percentiles: 25% means that, if you line everyone up in order, 25% made that or less.

Self-Published Earnings, 2013

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%  
914 300 3000 24000 91000 200000 13000000  

Traditionally-Published Earnings, 2013

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%  
265 800 7000 38000 100000 200000 1200000  

Self-Published Earnings by # Books Self-Published

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
0-2 100 500 3200 15000 30000 130000
3-5 200 1600 14000 46000 70000 500000
6-10 1000 10000 45000 140000 200000 500000
11-25 3000 19000 78000 270000 380000 3500000
26-50 3000 24000 100000 400000 1000000 13000000
51-9999 5000 20000 80000 102500 1000000 1000000

Traditional Earnings by # Books Traditionally Published

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
0-2 200 1000 7876 50000 100000 190000
3-5 2000 17500 40000 150000 380000 500000
6-10 1500 10000 40000 100000 100000 200000
11-25 4214 30000 70000 250000 450000 550000
26-50 2500 10000 60000 153000 200000 1000000
51-9999 35000 65000 100000 1200000 1200000 1200000

Self-Published Earnings by Cover Art Type

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
My Own 150 1500 15000 50000 104000 3500000
Pre-Made 100 500 2000 11500 60000 100000
Hire a Pro 500 5000 35000 113232 250000 13000000

Self-Published Earnings by Editor Type

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
None 200 3500 20000 38000 165000 1000000
Friends & Family 150 1200 12000 70000 100000 567000
Critique Group 125 800 6000 50000 64000 1000000
Freelance Editor 600 6000 40000 140000 300000 13000000

: You Didn't Fail

Context: this post from Cassie Alexander.
Cassie, I’ve known you for a long time. We’ve spent nights writing in chat, on Twitter, at conventions, all kinds of things. I remember you bringing your (impressively large) box of rejection letters to BayCon one year before you had a pro sale.
I love you so much I even set foot in a Scientology building for you (because I said I’d be there for you for Writers of the Future) even though I hadn’t done that in many years.
I’m sorry that St. Martin’s has dropped your series, which I’ve loved. (And I feel guilty that I didn’t do as much as I’d have liked to help promote it, and I’m a shitty friend that way. Sorry.)
I’ve never known anyone as dedicated to their art as you are. You’ve written nine novels in the same time I’ve written four (and a half). I keep getting novel ideas, though, and series ideas.
The early days of self-publishing (via POD) were fraught with peril. I remember when I worked at Kepler’s that we wouldn’t order them because they were often so poorly produced (and I’m not just talking badly edited, I mean the covers would fall off, etc.) that they were just too problematic.
The world has changed, though. The production values on POD are now indistinguishable from traditional printing, and e-books have available samples, so there’s little risk. Now you can look and determine if it really is something you want to buy.
There’s a very, very real market and some good strategies for reaching it. And, I’m finding out, that the strategies that work for that are those that don’t work for the traditional market at all.

The Dip

One of the problems with The Dip is that you tend to look at your failures, but not your successes. Losing a book contract is a hardcore dip point.
What’s easy to overlook is that you’ve had amazing success as a writer. You were contracted to write a five-book series—and you did. Four of the volumes are in print and one will be out soonish.

Moving on to Indie Publishing

A few thoughts:

  1. Out:think has some great resources. Read everything.
  2. Reading all the email I got from Out:think led me to start reading Write. Publish. Repeat. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s an amazing book.

Many of the successful indie authors have an seasonal/episodic approach to books. It’s a familiar paradigm in this culture of TV viewers. Instead of one longer novel, the books are novella length, and released as episodes. A season is often six episodes. Because they’re novella length, three makes a nice size paperback.
So the marketing goes like this:

  1. Publish and sell episode 1.
  2. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 1 when episode 2 comes out.
  3. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 2 when episode 3 comes out.
  4. Create an omnibus of episodes 1-3. Create a print book to go with.
  5. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episodes 1-3 omnibus when episode 4 comes out.
  6. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 4 when episode 5 comes out.
  7. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 5 when episode 6 comes out.
  8. Create an omnibus of episodes 4-6. Create a print book to go with.
  9. Create an omnibus of episodes 1-6. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of that when episode 7 (aka season 2, episode 1) comes out.

It’s rather brilliant, actually.
I was thinking about the whole idea of episodes, and, personally, I’m a fan of thirteen episodes to a season. Gives a great chance for reversals of fortune, too. Two six-episode arcs, a thirteen-episode arc, and a standalone in the middle.
The real point, though is to publish and market fairly consistently: have a predictable release schedule.

A Comment on “Real Writer”

But at the time, I thought, oh, no way, that’s too silly. I’m a Real Writer and I shouldn’t concern myself with smut…even though I happen to be perfectly good at writing it, heh!

Faruk Ateş raised the “real” issue on Twitter today, so I’m going to quote two of his tweets (the first not being aimed at you, obviously, it just gives context as he was wound up about someone’s writing):

“Real” as an attributive adjective has taken on the meaning of revealing that the author doesn’t know what they are talking about. link
“Real women” — meaningless; every woman is a real woman. “Real work” — no work is more “real” than any other. “Real game” — please shut up. link

It’s all real.
So do some cool stuff. I’ll be along for the ride.

: Four Hugo Awards Recommendations

The Hugo Awards
Best related work: Fic by Anne Jamison, a history of fanfiction.
Best fan artist: Randall Munroe. Last cartoon of the year is 1311 and first of 2013 was 1155 (thank you @xkcdfeed). Three of note: 1158 (it’s all about physics), 1167 (Star Trek Into Darkness), 1177 (Time Robot). For those who feel he isn’t eligible, he was ruled eligible in 2011 and the rules have not changed. Further discussion here.
Best dramatic presentation, short form: Flying Tiare by Matthieu Courtois and Ludovic Allain. Made as a fan film for the airline’s 15th birthday, it’s a real look at the technology and work of commercial flying. The really cool part, though, is seeing someone go up into the jet engine and get to see the (running) engine from the inside.

I’d already posted a recommendation for: Short story: “The Slow Winter” by James Mickens, so just a reminder.

The Cambellian Anthology

The 2014 Cambellian Anthology is out! It features 860,000 words (eight-ish novels in size) from 111 different writers who are eligible for the Campbell award this year. Totally, completely free.
I want to offer my immense gratitude to Stupefying Stories for this. More than any other single award, I try to be well-read for the Campbell, and it used to be a real chore before Writertopia started keeping the eligibility list. Stupefying Stories took it to the next level with the clever idea to have an annual anthology.
Also, immense gratitude (and props) to the authors and publishers who’ve permitted their work to be included.
Special shout-out for Brooke Bolander, who is one of the eligible.

Addendum

Best dramatic presentation, long form: Sharknado. As billed. Loved it, and I’m not normally up for this kind of thing. Definitely smarter than it had to be.

: 2013 Reading Summary

Finally got around to reading this post, The Women We Don’t See.
Last year, my reading habits shifted as I was looking to publish in another genre. As that genre happened to be romance, I read a whole bunch of female authors (some of whom may be female in pen name only, granted). To my knowledge, none of the authors I read last year fit in a non-binary category, though some of the works I read did.
Books read: 243
Books by female authors: 220
Books by male authors: 28
91% female authors
(Sum is greater than total because of co-authors, e.g., Witt & Voinov.)

: Fascinating Atlantic Article on Fraternities

Caitlin Flanagan of Vanity Fair has taken the art of the first paragraph to a new level in her article The Dark Power of Fraternities. I’m not going to quote it here. Just: coffee & cats warning, okay?
There should be a trigger warning on the subject matter of the rest, though, which is about the warring dynamics of student safety, fraternity traditions and independence (not all of which is bad), and universities knowing where their fundraising dollars come from and not wanting to upset the balance.

[T]he majority of all fraternity insurance claims involve booze—I have read hundreds of fraternity incident reports, not one of which describes an event where massive amounts of alcohol weren’t part of the problem—and the need to manage or transfer risk presented by alcohol is perhaps the most important factor in protecting the system’s longevity.

And, after a truly horrifying set of crisis-management steps:

As you should by now be able to see very clearly, the interests of the national organization and the individual members cleave sharply as this crisis-management plan is followed.

Indeed.
I love the descriptions of two sides of the fraternity vs. injured-by-fraternity representatives.

Fierberg is a man of obvious and deep intelligence, comfortable—in the way of alpha-male litigators—with sharply correcting a fuzzy thought; with using obscenities; with speaking derisively, even contemptuously, of opponents. He is also the man I would run to as though my hair were on fire if I ever found myself in a legal battle with a fraternity, and so should you.

…and…

And then there is Peter Smithhisler, who is the senior fraternity man ne plus ultra: unfailingly, sometimes elaborately courteous; careful in his choice of words; unflappable; and as unlikely to interrupt or drop the f-bomb on a respectful female journalist as he would be to join the Communist Party.

Worth a read even if you don’t actually care about fraternities.

: Fodera Apologizes

Text here.
Excerpt:

I want to apologize to Mary for doing that. Mary, if you are reading this, I really am very sorry for my inconsiderate and insensitive response to the question, and my later posts. Our estrangement (admittedly by my own choice) has been painful to me, and I should not have done this to you, nor should I do such a thing to anyone. I don’t expect us to become friends again, but I hope for the sake of our earlier friendship, and what you did know of me, that you will believe the sincerity of my apology. In any event, I fully intend to leave you in peace, Mary, and I wish you continued success.

Update: Mary accepts. (My bad on the initial wording of this; I was chatting online at the time about the wording of Sean’s apology and made an unfortunate gaffe. I have not actually seen Mary’s post, but others have linked to it and hope it comes back online soon.)
Note: as of this update, the site with the linked-to posts is down. Screencaps on Pretty Terrible post here.

: Oh Colleagues, My Colleagues

Here are my core values:

  1. I believe that true communication can be healing for all parties. Catch is, true communication can be difficult at the best of times. In some cases, I will grant, it is impossible.
  2. I believe that name calling, whether it be twelve rabid weasels or unperson, or anything else, cannot be true communication and therefore is not healing. I don’t care who does it, and I’ve seen it from both sides, and can we please all just be better people?
  3. I really, really don’t like being told who I can or can’t talk to. (Yes, there are professional limitations with confidentiality or conflict of interest, duh, but I mean apart from that.) That this has happened in the past and people have ragequit being my friend because I wasn’t #$(*#$& enough just reinforces this.
  4. Anyone looking to find fault with another never needs to look far. We are human. Because of that, I try to focus not on the fault but on the positive.

I also want to say that there’s a very real “tone argument” problem with the way one of the sff.net posts was treated (linked above). Yes, the content is problematic, but there is an underlying point.
Let me translate it without the tone problem:

  1. A member spent significant time working on a document of use to the membership.
  2. Another member asked that it be given to her to post on the new SFWA site.
  3. He (member in #1) said he wouldn’t post it as long as he didn’t have access. (There’s an additional clause too.)
  4. She said he’d had a chance to influence the site, but hadn’t logged in.
  5. He had repeatedly requested an account, but never received a response. Others had the same problem. (Note: I was one of them, which I’ll talk about in a minute.)
  6. As a side effect of being blocked from joining the new site, he quit SFWA.

Now, given the current blow-up, you might think that’s a good thing. I don’t know about that, I’ve known him for quite a few years and have always thought, as Scalzi says, that he is generally a decent and good person. People hit their breaking points in strange ways. He apparently hit his.
Partial aside: I think Susan’s post about communities is important, and I agree. And yeah, I can relate to the hurt/comfort narrative she alludes to (and, full disclosure, also guilty of posting comfort in the thread she mentions). It’s one of the reasons I don’t read LJ or FB much.
There’s a very real difference in how “usenet” people and “web forum” people interact and how they like to receive their information. The usenet approach has always been less controlled and more decentralized. Posts can be canceled, but not edited. There are managers, but they’re very hands off. The forum approach is far more about active management, including editing of posts. Or deleting them wholesale.
Like this one, riffing off this post on my site and its followup:

This was exactly my point. Stop creating more legal and moral debt. Even a non-exclusive right diverts the authors’ sales into what are essentially Vera’s pockets at present.
Oh, and, in a related note: stop trying to show that they are loyal to you, and instead show that you are loyal to them (and their bottom lines) — by reverting all rights. That’s the only statement that’s unambiguous and clear.

Now, I could have rephrased and posted something milder after the above two paragraphs were censored, but I’m going to point something out right now: that someone is still a member of SFWA. So, if you read that thread on sfwa.org forums (sans my bit o’ content), you might not realize that you’d actually get more real information if you’d just saved your SFWA membership $ and read the Absolute Write thread instead.
So back to the thing I said I’d talk about. Many of us who were active on sff.net found that we couldn’t get sfwa.org logins that stuck. It’d work for a day or two, then not work. Then we’d ask for a reset, none would come, then we’d whine again. Everyone complained in the sff.net SFWA Lounge.
Honestly, it never occurred to me that we were being deliberately kept out, but that seems to be the narrative now. Also, I volunteered more than once, do web development for a living and not once was I even contacted to help.
I very nearly quit SFWA over it.
So I can understand why Member the First would have been upset. I understand why he quit. And I can understand why he might still be angry about it, even having experienced only what I have. The rest? I don’t understand that.
There were and are very real problems, and there’s a lot of pent-up anger from people who’d been SFWA members for a long time who have felt shut out for years.
This takes us back to core value #1, doesn’t it?
Speaking of: there’s a reason that while my name is on this timeline, I’m one of the very few who never got a letter from a lawyer, raided, sued, or stuff like that. When sides are disagreeing loudly, you’ll generally find me in the buffer zone.
Edit to respond to a couple of points raised in private conversations:
1. This was about persistent trouble getting onto the SFWA.org site, not the sff.net one.
2. I was asked if I knew of other incidents involving Member the First. I had never heard of any until this recent incident.
I’ll say this, just so it’s clear: if there were people who “should be” blacklisted for any reason other than people who had previously behaved badly on panels at at a convention I’m working on (which, frankly, was only a very few people and as many women as men), I’ve never been privy to any list of people guilty of bad behavior. I have been on the programming staff of a Worldcon and programming head for a Westercon and several regional conventions.
The kind of bad behavior I’ve heard of (these are real things that happened): monopolizing conversation on a panel so hard that con ops had to be called to shut the panel down before it erupted into violence; blowing off a panel with the other panelists and taking the Guest of Honor offsite so they missed an important event, then gaslighting the programming staff. Then there’s the episode with Harlan Ellison, the Klingons, and the speakers playing loud dance music…. (Harlan won.)
Footnote to add link to later apology.

: Premature Optimization

“Premature optimization is the root of all evil.” — Donald Knuth

Case in point.

  1. An ex-SFWAn and some colleagues put up a petition about feared changes in editorial policy of the SFWA Bulletin. Link.
  2. The Internet reacts. Including me.
  3. Some of the people sympathetic to the petition signers, but not to those in step 2, counter-respond. Link.
  4. One person in particular says a bunch of stuff that, frankly, can’t be unsaid. This person happens to work at the publisher where the person (who happens to be a woman) he’s saying something about is being published.

People have lost their jobs over about as much. Case in point.
And—to what purpose? Really?
I get that, as science fiction and fantasy writers, “if this goes on” is one of our primary memes. It’s the launching point for many book ideas. We’ve all got more than a little Philip K. Dick in us. Institutional paranoia isn’t a bad thing to have, up to a point.
I understand the very real sexism of aiming that fear at the highest woman on the SFWA board at one point—and not at her male peers. Mary’s post is worth reading. As is Scalzi’s. I get the sexism, especially after as long as I’ve spent in the computer industry.
No one is obligated to like anyone, but Mary is a colleague of ours, and I expect Mary to be treated with the same professional courtesy that (most of) you would treat your favorite of the genre’s masters if they were suddenly to walk into your living room.

Premature Optimization

I can’t help but think, though, that if premature optimization weren’t such a human tendency, none of this would have happened.
Knuth’s point about premature optimization is about wasted effort. Many engineering projects fail because a lot of effort is spent optimizing in area A when area B is a substantially more significant problem in the actual use case. It’s just that area A’s problems were seen earlier.
In the current SFWA thing, the premature petition put a drag on all of our time and energy due to the very real problems that surfaced as a result of the initial premature optimization. I’m being kind here: the petition itself was ill-conceived, and quite a few people spent time working on it that they undoubtedly could have better spent doing other things.
Look, I know it’s a Myers-Briggs J vs. P approach to problems thing. Truly I do. Even as someone who is very, very P, I sometimes have to tell myself “Wait.” Still.
When it comes to events here in reality, respond to reality.

But…Lobbying

You can spend a lot of effort heading off potential problems that would never become actual problems.
There is a long tradition of lobbying against laws being passed, and that’s arguably not premature optimization when we have the text of the proposed bill. But there’s also the fact that every single progressive mailing list I’m on has asked me to rail against certain proposed bills that had no chance of passing. Unfortunately, some bills we thought had no chance of passing occasionally do anyway.
It’s a different thing when a law passes than when a relatively small organization makes a structural change, though. I’m not going to say that SFWA is agile, but it’s at least arguably more agile than a government.

And Yet

Worth reading: Mark Tiedemann, “On The Extraction of Feet From Mouths”. I’m glad something good came out of all this. (Note: post is from last June, so is about the issue that the current controversy is responding to, not the current controversy per se).
Popehat writer Ken White gives an awesome legal analysis of the defamation lawsuit threat.

: Author Earnings Survey: Initial Glance

There’s a lot of interesting information in the Author Earnings survey that Hugh Howey and others are working on. Hugh’s posted a preliminary link on Twitter, and you can watch the live data coming in.
I decided to do some breakdowns of the really early data: self-reported 2013 income.
[fancy_table]

  Trad Self
Median 6,000 3,000
Mean 37,000 67,000

[/fancy_table]
Let’s look at the self-published percentile numbers a little more (and the clever plug for a forthcoming book that neatly echoes the graph’s shape). (Click to embiggen)
AuthorEarnings.001
Above 97.5%, everyone’s over $200k, and the top 5 reporters are over $1M, with the tippy top at $13M.
Me? I’m still at the “carryable number of lattes” phase and I haven’t yet entered my data. Soon.

: Word for the Day: Wanksplaining

New word? There are no Google hits for it.
So last year, SFWA Bulletin put out a set of dialogues by Michael Resnick and Barry Malzberg that contained some wanksplaining about the history of women in professional science fiction circles, to wit:

She was competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous … as photographs make quite clear…[S]he was a knockout as a young woman. …
According to Margaret, during its first few years of existence CFG was populated exclusively by men. Then Bea joined. Then the members’ wives got a look at Bea in her swimsuit at the 1950 Midwestcon. Then the club’s makeup changed to the 50% men and 50% women that has existed ever since.

(I really don’t understand the causality link between the last two sentences. Were the women in question all bi?)
Anyhow, Scalzi posted about that, and, rather than having the task of any Bulletin issues fall on the President, it was decided that a review board would be a good idea. You know, like most professional associations have.
Scalzi didn’t re-rerun, and Steven Gould became SFWA president (which was already in place when the Bulletin issue occurred). Steven’s probably best known as the author of Jumper (later turned into a movie), but he’s currently collaborating with James Cameron on forthcoming Avatar universe things.
You know, he’s a working writer. Working.
The whole thread of the current uproar, if you can call it that, over the review board is linked here.
What wasn’t linked from that page, but was forwarded to me, was the body of an email from Silverberg that included this gem:

A bunch of us, including Messrs Ellison, Spinrad, Gene Wolfe, Resnick, Malzberg, Benford, RS, etc., plus Nancy Kress, CJ Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, and others, thought that a writers’ organization should not be repealing the First Amendment and have put together a petition objecting to this review board.

Ellison.
First name.
That would be Harlan “I did not grab Connie Willis’s breast” Ellison. Video here. Note that he’s being disingenuous about verbs. (I was in the audience.)
Look, I was head of programming for a convention and we had Harlan for a Special Guest. He groped one of my staff during that con. I heard he groped other people, too, though I didn’t speak to them about it. I heard nothing about it until after the con, though.
If Harlan’s the first person you put on a list saying you don’t want a review board because y’all are fuckwits?
Y’all are fuckwits squared.
I don’t care what gets you all off. I don’t care about your male gaze. Sure, I like attractive (for my definitions of same) people on covers of things, on posters, in movies, in books, all that kind of thing. But what I consider attractive isn’t just about looks. It’s about actions, and y’all are being fugly.
So stop your wanksplaning and try being a tiny bit professional for a change. Steven Gould sure has been. If I’d gotten the first email from Truesdale that he’d gotten, I’d probably have just written a reply that said, “Smeg off” and put him in my filters so his name would never darken my internet doorway again. After all, Truesdale isn’t a SFWA member.
All SFWA wants is an editorial board, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to have. As C. C. Finlay rightly points out, editing is not censorship.
On the cover specifically….
Last year, I posted a picture with 25 (note: fixed this; it did originally say 30) erotic romance covers. This was in response to Resnick’s claim about beefcake on romance covers. Out of those 26, there are men (in any representation) on only 13 of those 25. (There are women on the cover of 19, and 2 have no people on the cover.)
Of the 13, 5 feature only fully-clothed men. One man has bare shoulders, but you can’t see further than that. Absolutely zero of them feature bare male thighs (though five have some depiction of bare female thighs). So let’s not pretend that the sexualization of men and women is the same because it’s not, not even when books are marketed to women and explicitly about sex. Cover I think is the hottest? This one, because men in suits leaning on things are hot.
But — none of the twenty-five covers — none — out of this selection of erotic romances I’d recently read have a woman in as sexualized a pose (or as scantily clad) as the cover of SFWA Bulletin 200.
When I went to a writer’s conference last fall, the most valuable single line I heard was this one: “A one-star review means that the wrong reader has found your book.”
It’s actually quite a profound statement if you think about it.
What a book cover (or magazine cover) is supposed to do is to give you an expectation of what’s inside. It’s to set the mood for what’s within. So how does that cover of SFWA Bulletin 200 work for you now?
See also: You only hate boobs because you hate freedom.
Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up. and My very complicated reaction to issue 202 of the Bulletin which has some great commentary in particular. Bennett North on Objectifying Women Is Not a Constitutional Right.
I also love this comment: “The irony about complaining about editing by committee before publication in order to complain about editing by committee before publication seems lost on him.” (source)

: Showing a Bit Too Much Process

When I’m writing a longer, more complicated piece, I’ll often schedule it for a couple of days out to encourage me to work on it. Give myself a deadline. Otherwise, drafts sit around and collect dust and, a month or two later, I’ll say eff that and delete the sucker in a fit of pique.
Usually, I’ll schedule a piece for later in the morning so I can have my coffee, look at it, then either re-schedule it for later or publish the piece. In this morning’s case, I’d forgotten to change the date when I scheduled the piece, plus I woke up later than usual, so it was published before I woke up.
Often what’s missing in those first drafts is context and flow. In this case, it didn’t just miss the boat, it was missing an entire yacht club of context.
Please hold, I’ve rescheduled it for Saturday.

: Village Voice on Writers of the Future

I had missed this piece from March 2012, even though it quotes me.
Because I’ve never posted this on my own blog and I think it’s important, I’m going to quote what I posted over on John Brown’s.

If you haven’t seen documentation about Scientology’s systemic abuses, you really have been avoiding looking, frankly. I’ve got some links on my WotF-tagged posts.
How can Galaxy Press afford to keep the anthologies in print, you might ask? Because I assure you, they benefit from the church’s own internal human trafficking to do so.
You may not know that Scn owns their own presses, operated by Bridge Publications. There’s frankly no way, despite their claims of massive sales, they could afford to keep the anthologies in print using commercial printers, especially the older anthologies where the sales have tapered off.
Here’s a lawsuit from a former Bridge staffer who, as a minor, severed a finger in a guillotine that had no safety guards. Minors are prohibited by federal law from operating such equipment, and Montalvo was offered no compensation.
Meanwhile, workers at Bridge Publications? Are Sea Org, and Sea Org women are prohibited from having children and coerced into abortions. I have a post about that here.
The camera crew for the event come from Gold Base, where the security is insane. Look at the inward-facing motion detectors, razor wire, spikes — all designed to keep people in (granted, as well as out).
These are the working conditions for the people who actually make the bright shiny anthologies so that people can say there’s no connection. It’s not just about the surface details, that’s just gloss.
Here’s the California penal code for human trafficking.
d1: Scn does this with Sea Org staff. Don’t believe me? Look at the spikes in the link above.
d2: Scn controls passports and IDs of its Sea Org staff.
e: Scn does this with Sea Org.
Watch the testimonies from the Human Trafficking Conference. Of these, Will Fry’s is most relevant as he was actually Sea Org at Bridge Publications.
Look deeper. I will be.
Until then, ponder: what social costs are you willing to pay to get a check for a few hundred or a few grand and have your story perpetually in print?
As Nick Mamatas has pointed out, you have been recruited. Your post is proof that you are indeed doing PR for them with this post.

I remember talking with Tony before this story went to print. One of the things he said was that he couldn’t use Montalvo as a source because the case had settled. However, I’m not bound by the same rules of a journalist. The lawsuit is a matter of public record.

: 2-1/2 Years of E-Book Sales Data

In two charts.
I worked at Apple, so it’s not surprising to me that I sold more copies through iBooks than is generally true for other authors. What did surprise me was the relative number of Nook book sales.
Because this is a short story, here are the royalty percentages per sale: Amazon 35%, Nook 40%, and iBooks 70%.
As far as absolute amounts, let’s just say that it’s possible to carry the number of lattes I could order with the amount of money I’ve made, but it would be an awkward number to carry, even from expensive frou-frou coffee places like Blue Bottle and Chromatic.

[![](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.002.jpg)](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.002.jpg)Unit Sales to Date
[![](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.003.jpg)](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.003.jpg)Royalties to Date

I made, to the penny, identical amounts from Amazon and iBooks. Amazon includes foreign sales from Germany and UK; iBooks included Canadian, Australian, and UK sales. For Nook, I only have US sales, though I have enabled worldwide sales.

: Writing Quality: Where I Aim

When I posted this about self-publishing the other day, a friend messaged me and said, “I know you worked quite hard on it, but I really envy your writing ability.”
Even my close friends–hell, even my husband–don’t realize how hard I worked on it.
Let me put it this way: writing is a learnable skill.
My SATs weren’t stellar on the writing side. I got in the high-80s, percentile-wise. I’ve forgotten my exact scores. I had a decent but not outstanding vocabulary—the one thing I studied the hardest for SAT prep.
I don’t even remember how many times I took freshman comp. Without finding my transcripts, I want to say five times, and at least one of those times I probably got an F. Not because I sucked that badly, but because I “failed to drop.” I was working two jobs and I tended to get busy and miss things. For part of that time, I was too busy making sure power plants weren’t polluting and writing software to control them.
Because I started working as a developer while I was in high school, I didn’t go to college on the usual plan. I’d take a class here or there and wasn’t particularly worried about graduating or finishing.
Finally, I got a great freshman comp teacher. He’d sit outside by the lunch truck with me at a table and we’d jointly copyedit my work. Something finally clicked. I wound up with my second published piece then. I went on to quite a few publications over the next handful of years.
When it came time to gather up my paperwork for community college graduation many years later, I was closest in French, Economics, and Film. But, because any English degree, including Creative Writing, required far more literature classes than I’d taken, I wasn’t close to a degree in English.
No one was more surprised than I was when I finally went into an upper division program and I was closest to a degree in fiction writing. No one. But, over a period of years, I’d taken various writing classes and fiction writing classes, and poetry classes, and more fiction classes–and it added up.
I applied to Clarion, but didn’t get in, though I did get into Odyssey, so I did that.
Then I got my M.S. in Computer Science, then I wanted an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I wound up at Seton Hill in an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction program, so I wound up with two master’s degrees. I call them “left brain” and “right brain.”
In the middle of my M.A., I got into Clarion and did that. Stupidest. Juxtaposition. Ever.
Since Clarion, I’ve done Viable Paradise twice and Milford once. I haven’t even mentioned all the conferences, volunteering for conferences, workshopping, etc. that I’ve done. Let’s just not. Now, I’m not saying that you should do this. At all. It was what I needed to develop the skill I have.
What I can say is this: If I can do it from where I was, you can do it—but only if you really, really want to.
I really believe that what you put out there should be your best effort. It doesn’t have to be a serious work, but it should involve a serious concern for craft.
So when Wendig gets reactions like the one he posted in this followup thread,, I sigh right there along with him.
“Creativity” without control is the difference between a tornado and a jet engine.
Good writing requires control. Mediocrity does not. But then, neither does a tornado.
Me? I’ll go for the jet engines. So far, they’ve gotten me there. Every. Time.
Now, what you write is what you write, whether it be high-falutin’ or not. There were aspects of The Hangover that were way, way smarter than that movie needed to be. Same with Sharknado. Because there was that extra layer to both films, they delivered more than they promised, and I enjoyed them. More than once.
And that’s all Wendig’s asking. Don’t be almost adequate for the genre you’re writing in. Go that extra bit.
Instead? Go for memorable.

: A Few Book Covers

Things coming out Real Soon Now, in probable release order.

Coffee & Canopy

Coffee & Canopy is a forthcoming book about our experiences in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Monkeys! Crocodiles! Bats! Venomous sea snakes! Volcanoes! Cover photo is one I took of Nicaragua’s Masaya volcano.

The “travel diary” series will be novella length, have selected color photos (as well as the occasional black and white), and will be digital only. I’ll also have PDF as a format option for this series. Price will be $2.99.

So You Want to Travel the World

Would you like to travel more? See the world? Get discouraged by how many things there are to do and see? So You Want to Travel the World will help you divide and conquer the problems so you can get more of your travel goals accomplished. The cover photo was one I took in Venice, Italy in December, 2011.

This book will be in both digital and print. Pricing will depend upon final size, so I’m waiting to announce that.

Deep Pacific

Deep Pacific will chronicle our journey from San Francisco to Valparaiso, Chile to Easter Island, Pitcairn, Moorea, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and finally back to San Francisco. The cover photo is one I took on Easter Island.

This is also a digital-only member of the “travel diary” series. Price will be $2.99.

For more titles coming out later in the year, see my home page.

: Self-Publishing and Quality

Chuck Wendig has a great post out: Self-Publishing Is Not the Minor Leagues

I have to admit something: I’ve only ever submitted fiction to a semi-pro market once.

The letter I got wasn’t a rejection, it was more “You misread the guidelines, but if you do A, B, and C, I’ll publish it.” Though I don’t think the publisher figured out that I’d misread the guidelines. I wrote a near miss story despite that.

I withdrew the story, because what they wanted wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to write.

It’s a good thing I did withdraw, because the story happened to have an unfortunate trope in it, and now I can cringe at the Bad Trope in the drawer and not be embarrassed every time someone calls me out on it. Some day, I may pull the stuff I like out of that story and evict the Bad Trope.

In all other cases, I held my stories until I thought they could go to a pro market, and basically wasn’t going to go to semi-pro markets until I was selling more consistently to pro markets.

It really only was for the reason of wanting to avoid the obvious stupid mistakes. I figured I’d probably learn something by then, and there might be more pro markets–or at least some different editors at the same pro markets. I’ve avoided having a lot of stupid stuff published because I haven’t bothered digging down to the “Bazooka Cannibals in Space” tier of possibilities.

I’m at the stage of personal rejection letters, which is a nice place to be, but it hasn’t been translating into sales. That is likely more a function of my paucity of submissions.

On the other hand, because I am really selective about submissions, I can say that “A Sword Called Rhonda” sold both the first and second time I submitted it anywhere.

So you can imagine how I felt, given that I’ve just confessed to basically being an obsessive perfectionist, when I was at a NaNoWriMo meeting and someone said they wanted to self-publish their book because they “didn’t want to do all that extra work readying it for market.”

You’ll be very proud of me: I did not leap over the table at the pizza place with an editorial pen of my own devising.

Meanwhile, for a book I’m planning to come out with later in the year that’ll be both in paper and e-book form, I realized that Pages wasn’t going to cut it, and it was driving me crazy anyways. Pages does allow you to save to EPUB, but the book templates are really only designed for PDF books, and no one’s making ones for common trade sizes.

Which leaves InDesign, and I have forgotten so much about using production aspects of PageMaker/InDesign it’s not even funny. Back in the day when I worked at agencies in between contract programming gigs, I would frequently wind up at a specific ad agency doing page layout. I’ve always enjoyed it.

I’ve continued doing it over the years, but some of the advances in book publishing in InDesign were features I’d never learned. I’m not going to argue that it’s brain surgery, but it takes a non-zero amount of time to pick up.

There’s also a lot of frustration to it. Like, say you want a PDF version of your book. Your main book design has spreads so you can have odd/even pages (because odd/even headers are A Thing). By default, that means you can’t make an interactive PDF (with live links) that doesn’t have spreads.

Honestly, if you think editing your book is all that complicated, you shouldn’t be self-publishing. There’s a lot to it, and it’ll show if you don’t respect that–and I’m not just talking typos or grammar.

For the same reasons, I’m delaying production of a couple of other titles by a bit until I can finish up the conversion to InDesign. In one case, I got pretty close to final draft before realizing I was barking up the wrong toolchain.

So that will be fun.

On the other hand, I’ll have lots more experience with current multi-document production in InDesign, and that could come in handy.

One never knows.

: Kameron Hurley on Persistence and Being a Writer

Kameron Hurley’s post is here. But I’m really more reacting to Rose Fox’s response here.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer. Writing wasn’t something I tried until my 20s. It wasn’t an easy start, and it’s still not easy, but it stuck.

If I’d known how hard it would be, I probably would never have tried it, but I think that’s true of many art forms. We have a romanticized notion of the craft in question, and, by the time we find out that’s not the cold, harsh reality, we’re sucked in deep enough that we plod along.

The actual truth: I don’t enjoy writing — most of the time. I do enjoy taking stuff I’ve written and shaping it into something. In other words, I enjoy editing (my own work) more than I enjoy writing. I don’t enjoy editing others’ work nearly as much.

I wrote more about my history with writing in this post. When I was thinking about what to say to the posts linked at the top, pretty much everything I thought of was said in my previous post.

Except, perhaps, the most important thing of all: I write because I’m happier when I write consistently. Not every day, but when I get my writing time in on fiction projects. Whatever else I’m doing with my life, I need to make enough mental space that that can happen.

One of my fans said (paraphrasing) that I write my best stuff when I’m traveling. She’s seen my dailies, as it were, and I think she’s right.

Oh, and I’m still working on the book whose synopsis I mentioned in that post — been working on the book for about three months (though I’m also working on other projects).

This post brought to you by a rainstorm in Bora Bora….

bora-bora-rain

: Cool Writing Tool

So I write in Markdown, which is basically a text file where you put asterisks around stuff you want to underline, etc. There’s more to it than that, of course. Full syntax here.

There are a number of Markdown editors. I normally use Byword, which I prefer.

byword

However, there’s another Markdown editor, Writer Pro, that has a cool feature I rather like using for editing. You can syntax highlight any of the following: nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs, or conjunctions.

Like so:

writer-pro

Pretty sweet, huh?

It’s gonna save trees, as I traditionally have printed out for these editing passes. Don’t have to any more. Yay.

And, part of the beauty of the Markdown format: you can freely switch between these (or any other) Markdown editors.

The heavy lifting on this feature’s actually a part of MacOS, so there may be other editors doing this soon. One can hope.

: Random Linguistic Notes

Phrase that annoys me: “tribal tattoos.”

Tattoo is from a Tahitian word, from tatau, meaning “to mark.” They were inherently tribal. Your ink, tribal or otherwise, is your ink. But ink that has cultural meaning isn’t tribal. It’s a tattoo.

Likewise, taboo is also a Polynesian word, though it’s been credited to Tongan (tapu), Fijian (tabu), or Maori (tapu). The Hawai’ian form of the word is kapu. (Some day, I’d like to write a long post about why Hawai’i has so few consonants. One aspect of the answer is that teeth were considered to have mana. So. Religious dentistry.)

While I’m on the linguistic tear here, I’d also like to put in a word for desert.

Apple’s dictionary gives the derivation as follows:

ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from late Latin desertum ‘something left waste,’ neuter past participle of deserere ‘leave, forsake.’

And most dictionaries stop there (because everything stops at Latin or Greek, right?), but that’s not where the word comes from.

The Middle Egyptian word, transliterated dshrt (deshret), means the red lands beyond the area where the flooding occurred aka those lands that were desert. Kmt (kemet) referred to the black soil where the flooding occurred annually. More notes on this with hieroglyphs.

So, I get why, historically, the original meaning was lost — because we really did lose much of the meaning of hieroglyphs until the Rosetta stone was deciphered. It doesn’t really excuse the dictionary derivations being wrong past that point, though.

IMG_0664

: 2013: Year in Review

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Music

I mostly consider myself an alternative listener, but when I’m writing, I prefer electronica.
The most surreal music moment for me was being driven around in a taxi in Istanbul and hearing the background music for the opening scene for Fairly Legal, Season 2 (Episode 1, Satisfaction). I used SoundHound to find out what tune it was: Yachts (A Man Called Adam Mix) – Hôtel Costes – Etage 3 (Mixed By Stéphane Pompougnac). Tasty bossa nova. You can hear it in the background in this Fairly Legal clip.
Favorite album is sort of related in its own weird way. Ryan Johnson, actor in the above clip, shouted out an album he liked: …Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age. Loved it. I generally listen to people’s music recommendations, and his taste and mine have a fair amount of overlap. I’ve liked Queens of the Stone Age for a long time, they’d just fallen off my radar.
Favorite new song is from the Air Tahiti Nui video below: Daybreak by Overwerk.
“Let me tell you ’bout the funky dolphins.” I was listening to Overwerk’s new album clips on Beatport when I started clicking into random other songs and discovered Pyramyth’s Dolphin Talk. I don’t normally like glitch hop, but this is fun and catchy and actually sounds like it’s using dolphin sounds in there.
For something more typical of my tastes (as I really like trip hop), picked up some back catalog Zero 7 and am really fond of the song In the Waiting Line. This particular song’s slower than I generally prefer and not suited for writing (too much vocal emphasis), but I like it a lot.
One of the songs of the year, for reasons that will become more obvious below, is Moscow Nights by The Red Army Choir, genuine Cold War era classic.

Movies & TV

I haven’t watched either as many movies or as much TV as in prior years. I do have five favorites, though:
Gravity – Amazing performance by Sandra Bullock, who remains one of my favorite actors.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Yes I know you were told it’s a terrible movie. It’s not a great movie, but it is great fun. I enjoyed the hell out of it. More than once.
Sharknado – This movie was way smarter than it had to be.
In the short film category, there are two contenders for me this year.
The University of Bath produced this film about the Leidenfrost effect called The Leidenfrost Maze.
Air Tahiti Nui’s video made by Matthieu Courtois and Ludovic Allain has enough of a narrative structure to it that I’d argue it’s Hugo BDP worthy. Inside the turbines with them running? Hardcore.

Books

I read — a fuck of a lot of books. I don’t want to know how many, but it was hundreds. Four in particular stand out.
Lauren Gallagher’s The Princess and the Porn Star is about a rock star trying to hang on to her career with a record label that’s sending mixed messages. One of the reasons I love it so much is that it’s the most “me” book I’ve read this year. I relate to every single one of her fears, which is part of the reason I didn’t pursue rock as my career. (I will actually write that story this coming year.)
Vivi Andrews’s Naughty Karma is one of those hate-to-love books that are hard to pull off, but this one works for me. It’s the capstone book in the series, though. Rarely do I like the final book in the series as much.
Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren is an incredible book, but I was less enamored with the sequels to it. Each was really different from the others, which is fine. The problem for me is that I felt that the subplots in The Mistress (aka book 4) were not really adequately set up in books 1 through 3, so it felt kind of last minute, and one of them was frankly unbelievable. Additionally, the book 4 antagonist is nowhere near as nuanced as the other characters. But: book 1 is extremely well written. What’s really interesting about it is that the out-there sex scenes? Aren’t in the narrative present of the book.
Jay Crownover’s Rule is the book that made me finally get what the New Adult category is about. The titular character isn’t very sympathetic at the opening, but in understandable ways.
Also see my Some Self-Published Love post for more recs.

Short Stories

I didn’t read a lot of short stories this year (apart from ones I read as an editor). ::hangs head in shame:: I either seem to read a lot of shorts or a lot of novels in a given year. I never seem to manage a good balance.
One recommendation: “The Slow Winter” by James Mickens. Link is to my blog post about it from earlier this year.

Internet

I want to express my undying love for Jenny Trout’s 50 Shades Recap, which, at points, had me laughing so hard I hurt myself. She calls it a “sporknalysis.” Also, her books, indie published under the pseudonym Abigail Barnette, are really good if they’re your cuppa.
Made a fan site for my favorite actor, Ryan Johnson. Who was flattered. And then, adorkably, bought an iPad. (He knew I was an Apple engineer.)

Personal Embarrassment

Tale of a pitch session at a writer’s conference. It turned out well, at least.

Travel

You’ve been waiting for this one, I can tell.
In order:

  • Visited Japan for the first time. Didn’t manage to leave the airport before I had my first culture shock meltdown.
  • In related news, had my first meltdown in Tokyo station. Repeat N times.
  • Almost missed my flight from Tokyo to Bangkok.
  • Visited Vietnam, where my uncle served in the military only to come home broken. Surreal, but a great place. They have immense pride in their produce regions. And they should.
  • Visited Federated States of Micronesia and stayed in a thatched hut in Pohnpei.
  • On Pohnpei, visited Nan Madol, which is a super impressive pre-historic city.
  • Had green tangerines in Kosrae. Apparently, oranges and tangerines never develop their eponymous colors in that part of the world.
  • Landed on Kwajalein.
  • Visited Canada to buy banned substances. Quizzed at land crossing border by Canadian immigration who (possibly justifiably) felt my visit was suspicious. My contraband? The best sugar substitute there is, banned in the US since 1969. It’s the one sugar substitute I can use.
  • Visited Sri Lanka, and loved it.
  • Visited the Maldives and was just amazed by them. I love small island countries, but this is a diverse country of many islands.
  • Saw an octopus while snorkeling in the Maldives.
  • Visited Myanmar on what could be the mistake fare of the century. Flight home, business class, from Myanmar to Seattle was €65.02.
  • I will always now associate the song Gangsta’s Paradise with Yangon, Myanmar. Thank you, night club across the street from my hotel. You broke my brain.
  • Had a rather awful trip to Puerto Rico. Nothing went right. Flights were awful. Car rental company accidentally charged me for someone else’s three-week rental, and my hotel stay was bad enough that my rant to Conrad got the hotel deflagged down to a Hilton.
  • Rather horrified about the rioting in Istanbul, especially since it started not far from where our hotel was and a couple of days after we set sail from there.
  • Charmed by Bulgaria.
  • Romania was oddly depressing, but I loved seeing the Roma houses, and I loved seeing the Danube river delta.
  • Didn’t expect to like the Ukraine so much. Probably liked Yalta the best.
  • Except for that one tour guide that was so horrible we actually bailed mid-tour. Never done that before.
  • I know you don’t want to hear it, but I’m going to say it as it was my reaction at the time: I loved seeing Sochi. It’s one of the few times where I felt like I was seeing more of the future of a city than the past. It’s also a really great spot on the map and I’d love to go back. Pity about Russia’s attitude towards QUILTBAG, so I guess it may be a while before I’d feel okay about going back.
  • Visited Novorossiysk, where there was just overwhelming loss of life, and you could still feel it all around despite the beautiful day.
  • Saw the Crimean war locations around Balaclava, then saw the ex-Soviet secret submarine base. Awesome and chilling.
  • Visited Alaska and got taken around Anchorage by my friend Bri. Had a great time.
  • On our way back, we missed the approach and flew around, eerily about three weeks before the Asiana crash, and I believe on the same runway. Surreal.
  • Rick and I went to Portland, Oregon for JayCon and JayWake.
  • Flew to New Zealand on my birthday. We hung out with friends and went to a con (Au Contraire).
  • Then flew to Melbourne to visit another friend from the fountain pen community: Nicholas.
  • Then flew to Cape Town, South Africa (via Bangkok and Johannesburg) to see one of my oldest Internet friends, and someone I helped get out of Scientology.
  • Flew to London (from South Africa) solely because I wanted to see Lloyd Owen (also a Fairly Legal actor) perform in The Bodyguard. Granted, I had to get home somehow, and this was as good a route as any.
  • In related news, bailed on two trips to South America this year, which meant I visited five continents instead of six. Before I switched to London, I’d planned to leave South Africa via Buenos Aires.
  • I also had a paid ticket to Rio de Janeiro, a deep discount fare that had an incredibly stupid amount of flying involved: Los Angeles to Orlando to Houston to Rio to Houston to Orlando to Houston to Los Angeles. When I was accepted into Milford, I switched that ticket to get me to Milford.
  • Was invited to go to, and went to, the annual SP (suppressive person) party of ex-Scientologists and critics. Got to meet Tony Ortega and Steve Hassan, among others.
  • Visited Las Vegas for a friend’s party. What a house! Master bath backdrop.
  • Finally got to go through the Nuclear Testing Museum in Vegas with more time than the last time we visited. (That’s where the Ground Zero Theatre image comes from.)
  • Visited San Antonio finally, a city I’d been wanting to visit since I was a kid. Yes, because of the song.
  • Went to Milford! It was amazing.
  • Visited the Isle of Man, which was a lot different than I was expecting, somehow. Loved it, especially the broad promenade in Douglas.
  • Our trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was amazing.
  • Still not king: haven’t flown on a Boeing B787 yet. Sniff.

Development

I’ll probably be ready to release something to GitHub in early Feb. It’s something I work on in between other things.
Mostly, I’ve been spending time filling in gaps in what I know.

Writing

Last, but by no means least.

  1. Wrote a good chunk of four books.
  2. Have more ideas for new books than I’ve ever had.
  3. Milford! Awesome!

The most useful critique is one where the person didn’t like my story, but was articulate enough about why to make me realize it was simply a manifestation of something I’d never realized about my writing. It’s really been making me re-think a lot of my stuck-in-the-drawer work. In several cases, those pieces are easily reworkable. Most will need deeper re-thinking.
Even more interesting, it’s something no one has ever mentioned before.
Fascinating, huh?

: Coming Soon: Coffee & Canopy

I’ve been busy as a bee, and hope to have an outline posted for So You Want to Travel the World before we leave for Really Remote Places. But, there’s another free perk for everyone who’s contributed $10 or more: an ebook I’m writing about our recent trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It’s called Coffee & Canopy.

Wanna see the cover? Of course you do.

Coffee-and-Canopy

The book will be free for everyone who contributes (or who already has contributed) $10 or more to the Indiegogo campaign for So You Want to Travel the World. Otherwise, it’ll be $2.99 all by its lonesome through the usual outlets. I’m almost done. Can’t wait.

Every book should feature unexpected venomous sea snakes, right?

The cover photo is one I took in Nicaragua at the Masaya volcano crater rim. The stairs leading up to the cross in the upper right have dissolved enough through years of corrosive volcanic emissions that they are now off-limits due to structural damage.

I’ll let everyone know when it’s available through the usual venues.

: Why I Wrote the Calcumatic

Bonjour to all my Francophone visitors!

A French site has linked to my E-Book Royalty Calcumatic, and there are a couple of points I wanted to address.

First, it is US-based, and it is my intention to expand it to other regions and vendors. It’s not my intent to be exhaustive, though.

One of the comments on the above link says (Original in French first, then a rough translation):

Etant donné que les ventes sont imprévisibles et aléatoires, ça en fait un outil complétement inutile!

Given that sales are unpredictable and random, that makes this tool completely useless!

Okay, it’s a fair point. Let’s look at why I did write it and get back to what it does and doesn’t mean.

There were a few reasons I wrote the tool the way I did (remember, I first wrote it in 2011):

  1. I worked on the Safari team at Apple and there was a cool new input element—range sliders—in HTML5. Every new toy must have a use case, right? This was mine. (I’d really love to have a pie chart slice draggy thing, honestly, but I’m not going to write one.)
  2. I wanted to convince some friends not to leave money on the table. Specifically, as someone who uses the Kindle format as my “last resort” choice, I wanted to convince them not to leave my money on the table. To this day, some people still only publish through Kindle’s program. Look, I get that there are compelling reasons for introducing books through Kindle’s store and giving them a 90-day exclusive. Truly I do.
  3. I figured I might actually educate some people who were readers, not writers—people who might think to take that extra moment to get the book from a different source that pays the authors better next time they were purchasing a book and had a choice of vendors.

However, there are always things you can’t control, right?

  1. You can’t control whether someone buys your book. Or not.
  2. You can’t control where someone buys your book (unless you sell it only in one place, which is a poor choice).

There are things you have some control over, though.

  1. You can put your book in multiple bookstores.
  2. You can preferentially feature stores that offer you better deals on your website. You don’t have to list Amazon first. (Yeah, I used to work at Apple, but this is just me being me, not me being an Apple alumna.)

See, I read in iBooks. I only read in iBooks.

Why? I think the layout and rendering is the best there. I like Apple’s choice of fonts. Iowan/Night theme gal, here. I like having all my books together in one big happy library.

I have a handful of Nook books. They are now in iBooks. I have a handful of Kindle books. They are ignored.

If you want me to purchase and read your book, you’ll put it somewhere in an EPUB. It’ll be available without DRM or it’ll be available in the iBooks store.

I don’t mind going to Smashwords to buy your books if I know they are DRM free. Heck, I’ll buy them off your website if I want to read the book and you sell direct. It doesn’t cost me anything extra, but you get paid faster and more money. Sounds like a win win to me.

Just don’t send me to the Kindle store, because you’ll lose the sale. Well, unless you write something so spectacular (like QF32) that I can’t resist buying the book. Still haven’t read it, though. But—you go ahead and land the biggest passenger airplane after an engine blows out and I’ll go to the Kindle store to buy your book, okay?

For years, I didn’t read The Hunger Games. Not available non-DRMed or on the iBooks store. Same thing with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it was hot. I think we actually bought that one in paper—and Larsson’s heirs lost a few bucks accordingly.

I’m sure there are people equally fervent about their reading app of choice. Sell to them, too.

: January Indie Monday: Francesca Forrest's Pen Pal

January’s Indie Monday book is Francesca Forrest’s novel, Pen Pal. An excerpt is linked from this page.

Em is a twelve-year-old girl in a floating community off the Gulf Coast. Kaya is a political activist in a terrifying prison. They are pen pals.

Em’s wistful message in a bottle finds its way to Kaya, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Both are living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya’s letters inspire Em, and Em’s comfort Kaya—but soon this correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and even the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters.

Pen Pal is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.

She had me at volcanoes.

Have my copy in hand, can’t wait to read it!

: 2013 in Travel: 148,350 miles flown

First four maps are from Aperture.

2013-africa-anzo-south-asia-oceania]

2013-americas]

2013-europe-and-north-asia]

2013-singapore-and-indonesia]

This one’s from gcmap. Here’s the gcmap version with all airport and distance information.

2013-flight-map

New Countries and Territories

I started the year at 70 Countries/Territories on the TCC list. Ended at 88. I will make 100 with already-booked travel in 2014. Woohoo!

  1. Japan (UN 48, ISO 62: JP) (2013)
  2. Thailand (UN 49, ISO 63: TH)
  3. Sumatra, Indonesia (UN 6, ISO 7)
  4. Vietnam (UN 50, ISO 64: VN)
  5. Guam (UN 1, ISO 65: GU)
  6. Micronesia, Federated States of (UN 51, ISO 66: FM)
  7. Marshall Islands, Republic of (UN 52, ISO 67: MH)
  8. South Korea (UN 53, ISO 68: KR)
  9. Sri Lanka (UN 54, ISO 69: LK)
  10. Maldives (UN 55, ISO 70: MV)
  11. Malaysia (UN 56, ISO 71: MY)
  12. Myanmar (UN 57, ISO 72: MM)
  13. Bulgaria (UN 58, ISO 73: BG)
  14. Romania (UN 59, ISO 74: RO)
  15. Ukraine (UN 60, ISO 75: UA)
  16. Alaska (UN 1, ISO 1: US)
  17. South Africa (UN 61, ISO 76: ZA)
  18. Isle of Man (UN 4, ISO 77: IM)

: Scientology Says I'm a Suppressive Person

deirdre-is-an-sp
As if you didn’t know that already.
This is the first time I’ve actually had documentation of it, though. (“Dead File” simply means “Do not contact this person (treat them like they’re dead).” SP means “Suppressive Person.”) Apparently full SP list can be found here and in related videos.
I’d actually intended to change my surname a few years earlier than I actually did, and I’d gotten into a fit of Celtic pride after taking some Irish lessons in Hollywood back in the day. When I actually tried to figure out what to change my surname to, well, the Irish form of Maloy (Ní Mhaolmhudhaigh) was too unwieldy, so I picked a first name.
Saoirse means freedom. (Moen is Rick’s surname. Like the Borg, I added his distinctiveness to my own.)
In this case, it was a meta commentary about my life: I was free from the trap of selling freedom to people who were freer before than they would be after.
Events that have occurred recently have had me thinking: should I write a book about my time in Scientology? I came up with a great title for it yesterday. I’m only going to reveal one word: Firebrand.
I never had the experience of Marc Headley, who got run off the road trying to escape from Hemet. I still shudder to think I could have wound up there. Wanted to, in fact.
To my knowledge, I was the first person for whom Scientology used its resources to out me on the internet. (timeline here)
There are — a lot of things I wouldn’t say outside a book. Like why “firebrand” is the right word in the title. Or why writing a book makes me shake, even oh so many years later. Or why you might think less of me once you’d read it. Or, weirdly, why you might think more of me in ways that would make me uncomfortable.
I left because I didn’t like the person I’d become. It was alien — and antithetical — to the person I wanted to be. It wasn’t a problem Scientology could solve, but it was one they could create.
I have a story, though, one that’s far more interesting than I’ve been letting on. (For those of you who know the details that I’ve only told trusted people face-to-face for the past 20 years, I ask that you keep my confidence just this little while longer.)
Back in the day of the ScienoSitter, when Scientology secretly installed internet filtering software on Scientologists’ computers under the guise of letting them build their own pro-Scientology web sites, “Deirdre” was one of the banned terms. Web pages with my name in them were secretly unavailable. Some of those web sites still exist; Robin Rowand, who got me into Scientology (along with her husband) still has hers up.
I’m. Just. That. Awesome.
My story is also related to the reason that XKCD 386 is my license plate.

So. My question: is that a book you’d be interested in reading?
I wrote the rest of this post July 2, 2010, after a visit to where I’d been staff for several years, back when we decided to go visit the old stomping grounds for grins. Yeah, we punked them.


Talk about your surreal. Friend of mine and I headed down to Tustin to the grand old corner of Irvine and Red Hill to see how the old place (where we’d both worked) was.
First of all, the parking lot is really ratty. These people, if they want to sell that building, need to make it less of an albatross. Paint was peeling all over and it almost looked like it hadn’t been painted at all since I was there last in 1990.
When I walked in the entrance nearest reception, two people were standing there and one asked what I needed (very friendly, though) and led me to one place. I said I didn’t know if I was declared a suppressive person, I’d emailed ahead of time (by a day), and I was coming in to find out my status. You think this might make them unfriendly, but it didn’t. After all, one of the steps to being recovered is paying $BIGBUCKS and there I was on Thursday morning, almost as if I knew that stats were collected on Thursday at 2 and they could use the income.
So we got led to the “special people” reception, who then led us to Ethics reception. Unfortunately, the Ethics Officer was busy, so we had to wait in the special ethics reception (yes, so far I’ve been in three reception areas within a span of 10 minutes. Such is Scientology — everyone’s busy sending people places to wait.)
Someone popped in, looked at me, did a double-take and said, “You’re….” As soon as I heard the voice, I recognized her. She’d not aged well, looked quite wrinkled, and her hair had gone from jet black to light grey, but I had worked with her for 8 years, just not closely.
“Deirdre.”
“Wow, I haven’t seen you in a long time.” So we chat for a while.
This is repeated twice again with other people, the final person being the guy who now runs the place, Ed Dearborn. He was in his early 20s when he joined staff there, meaning he’s now somewhere between mid-40s and maybe as old as 50 (I can’t quite remember how long we worked together).
The Ethics Officer came out, she was a cute 20-something, obviously someone I’d never met except perhaps in infancy, and was very polite. I wrote down my name, my old post, my dates of employment, and my senior’s name and dates of employment. She went away for a loooooooong time (30-45 minutes, it seemed like), and then came back with a single sheet of paper.
“Your ethics file is not here.” That must have saved 2-3″ in a filing cabinet. 🙂 “There is, however, a note that you were declared, but I have no copy of that declare.” Later, I thought: they aren’t cleared for my level of suppression. Probably literally.
The piece of paper was my old boss’s suppressive person declare, a scant one page long. Now I’ve read some really lurid ones of these, including specific sex acts, and all kinds of details that were mostly fabricated, running on for pages and pages.
I felt kind of sad for my friend — he was accused of exactly one thing, which he apparently did do, and nothing else, making it seem like he was insufficiently important for a lurid declare, nor was it probably credible that he’d actually done anything lurid. He’s one of those steadfast kinds of people, though. Very nice guy.
After that, we went to a location Google maps told us was Scientology in Santa Ana — a warehouse of unknown purpose, and the new “Ideal Org” building in downtown Santa Ana had a water disconnect notice (for $1400+ for an empty building, no less). The notice had been there for three weeks, apparently unnoticed by anyone at the org.
Speaking of the Ideal Org campaign — essentially, each org, even those that own their buildings clear (as Orange County has in the past), was too ratty, and thus there’s a campaign to raise money to get historic buildings, glossy interiors, and this is funded by fundraising from affluent Scientologists. The highest contributors are called, get this, “humanitarians.” That will explain one of the photos in the set below.
Note: April 1 2015, I’ll finish reposting the photos later today, but here’s the “humanitarian” one.
Guess they have no humanitarians.

: Updated: E-Book Royalty Calcumatic

What’s new: direct sales calculations, assuming PayPal as your payment gateway.

There are some nuances that aren’t easily calculable, including Google Books’s rather opaque approach to remuneration.

Without further ado, the E-Book Royalty Calcumatic.

: Why We Don't Sail Carnival

It’s not because of the poop cruise.

It’s not because of the Concordia.

Yet it’s indirectly related to both those things.

Here’s an example. Seabourn had two small ships, carrying 112 passengers. Seabourn was sold to Carnival, and those small ships were replaced with three larger ships with more than double the tonnage carrying 208 passengers. That’s not a bad size.

Except those three ships are now being replaced with 32,000 ton ships that carry 450 passengers. So, a periodic doubling of passenger capacity and a concomitant loss of intimacy.

Seabourn’s original two ships are now owned and operated by SeaDream. We love them. Sure, it’d be nice to have something a bit bigger, but their ships are really great, though designed before good wheelchair-friendly designs came out. (As a mobility-impaired person, it’s a bit challenging at times, but I manage just fine.)

When we first arrived on SeaDream, they knew our names, knew I needed gluten-free food, and so on. On our second cruise, most of the crew was the same, and they all remembered us. You can’t get that kind of intimacy on a large ship, and every time Carnival goes through another iteration, it’s to make things bigger.

Another point about gluten-free food and SeaDream: they mark every menu with what is gluten-free and what is not. They are very careful with it; I’ve never gotten sick from food aboard. Their food is truly world class.

: Updated: E-Book Royalty Calcumatic Notes Page

My E-Book Royalty Calcumatic has needed some updating and TLC, but I had to update all the notes and references first. This is now done.

Hat tip to Diane Patterson who helped me find the impossible-to-locate and depressingly-obtuse Google data.

I’ve also added the cold harsh reality that is payment timetables at the bottom, so don’t miss it!

: E-Book Royalty Calcumatic: Have Suggestions?

I have an e-book royalty calcumatic that needs some TLC, which I’m about to do.

However, since it is one of my more popular pages, I thought I’d ask in case someone needed something I hadn’t thought of.

Selling Off Your Own Site

Back when I wrote the Calcumatic, there were reasons I didn’t include the option of selling off one’s own site. However, there are now good tools to do so. For example, Easy Digital Downloads is a WordPress plugin that does all the heavy lifting. There are add-ons for cost, but the basic setup is for PayPal, and is free (apart from the cost of using PayPal).

Here’s a quick-and-dirty comparison of the existing options. (I may need to tweak this data.)

[fancy_table] | Sales Source | Revenue per 1000 sales for $2.99 book | |---|---| | Amazon Select (not combineable with other options) | $2093 | | Amazon KDP | $1046 | | iBooks | $1046 (requires ISBN) | | Nook | $1046 | | Easy Digital Downloads + PayPal or ZenCart + PayPal | **$2603** | \[/fancy\_table\]

There are other options for selling off your site, like various shopping cart programs, some of which have ongoing monthly costs.

The Monthly Cost Problem

Because I’m trying to do something back-of-the-envelope, ongoing monthly costs really affect the way the bottom line is calculated. Then you’d have to calculate what percentage of those sales are from the site and over what time period in order to figure out effective revenue.

Catch is, most e-books sell under 200 copies, meaning: it probably isn’t cost effective to commit to anything with ongoing costs.

Unless some of you think that’s useful, I probably won’t bother with it for now.

What Else Would You Like?

I’m interested in other options I may have overlooked that you might be interested in. Suggestions?

: Oh, Pitcairn

Sometime when I wasn’t looking, Crystal updated our itinerary for Pitcairn with the following: “No organized shore excursions are planned on Pitcairn Island, as guests will not proceed ashore.”

Well, that sucks.

It’s one of the remotest settlements on earth, remnants of the Mutiny on the Bounty crew. I was wondering how 900+ guests (plus all the crew) would manage to go ashore on an island that has no harbour (or airport or, for that matter, cars) and only 50 inhabitants.

On the other hand, they will bring their longboats out and do some trade, so it’s still possible that something cool will come of it all.

However, as this affects one of the perks of my So You Want to Travel the World Indiegogo campaign, I’ve unfortunately had to remove the Virtual Pitcairn offering. It’s possible I’ll be able to add some modified version of the offering given that we will be there.

: Pacific Ocean Country/Territory Visit Difficulty, Easiest to Hardest (from San Francisco)

Note: difficulty is partly ranked by which can easily be reached via Star Alliance carriers vs. not as I’m a Star Alliance flyer and this is a list for my own purposes. Country & Territory list is taken from here.

Easy (non-stops)

  • Hawaiians Islands (nonstop from SFO)

    (been)

  • New Zealand (AKL nonstop from SFO)

    (been)

  • Australia (SYD nonstop from SFO)

    (been)

Next easiest (1-stops)

A Simple Matter of Flights (2+ stops)

Other Logistics Entirely

: Basilisk and Bats

We went to the Palo Verde National Park yesterday and saw a lot of wildlife.

The basilisk, aka the Jesus Christ lizard, runs quickly enough that it can run on the surface of water.

Basilisk]

Long-nosed brown bats nesting on a tree trunk. It’s a slight overhang, which isn’t obvious in the photo.

Bats on Tree]

: Costa Rica Vacations: Visiting Mount Arenal

Mount Arenal, a common destination for Costa Rica Vacations] We were very lucky to visit Mount Arenal on our recent Costa Rica vacations. I didn’t get to see Mount Arenal on my first trip in 2012. On that trip, I only visited the Papagayo region in the northwestern Guanacaste Province.
Mount Arenal isn’t the most active of Costa Rica’s six active volcanoes, but it is one of the most accessible from Costa Rica’s capital of San José. For that reason, almost 70% of Costa Rica’s tourists visit here.
Our vantage point where I took this photo came after a drive through the Arenal Volcano National Park, where we saw white-faced capuchin monkeys and quite a few birds. We didn’t see coati in the park, but we did see some outside.
After our trip to see the volcano, we relaxed in the hot springs nearby, fed by the heat from Mount Arenal. There are many, many hot springs in Costa Rica. We happened to visit the Tabacón hot springs, which was an amazing experience with so many high-quality pools to visit!
We booked our Arenal Volcano day trip through Swiss Travel, Costa Rica’s oldest and most respected tour agency. (Currently, they’re updating their website, so I can’t link to a specific tour.)

My Forthcoming Book: Coffee & Canopy

I’m writing a book about our Costa Rica and Nicaragua vacations. My new book should be out in late spring 2015.

Want Some Ideas for Your Costa Rica Vacations?

I have blogged about some trip ideas for Costa Rica Vacations.

: Geographical Trivia

  1. All of Asia, except for Indonesia, is above the equator. (Some perspectives don’t count Indonesia as a part of Asia, though.)
  2. Wellington, New Zealand (41° 17′ 20″ S) is the world’s southernmost capital city. It’s at about the same latitude (different hemisphere, obviously) as Rome, Italy (41° 54′ 0″ N).
  3. The equator passes through the land or territorial waters of 14 countries. I have been to two of them: Colombia and Maldives.
  4. Venice, Italy, (45° 26′ 15″ N) is approximately as far north as the Vermont/New Hampshire border with Canada (45° N). Obviously, the vast majority of Europe is farther north than that.
  5. Melbourne, Australia (37° 48′ 49″ S) is about as far south as San Francisco (37° 47′ 0″ N) is north.
  6. Tokyo (35° 41′ 22.22″ N) is about halfway between, latitude-wise, as San Francisco and Los Angeles (34° 3′ 0″ N). This one invariably breaks my brain.
  7. Cape Town, South Africa (33° 55′ 31″ S) is approximately the same latitude as Los Angeles, albeit in the opposite hemisphere.
  8. Ushuaia, Argentina (54° 48′ 0″ S) is generally considered to be the southernmost city in the world. It’s closer to the equator than Copenhagen, Denmark (55° 40′ 34″ N) is.

: So You Want to Travel the World

Indiegogo campaign page.

Hi, I’m Deirdre.

As a kid, I was given a globe, and I was fascinated by it. I kept imagining that I would go to all these wonderful places, especially the islands where all the lettering squished together on the globe. Or weird places like Ifni, which was on my globe and existed for only 11 years as a separate province.

For years, I traveled for business only, and I was able to travel to several continents. I wanted to travel for pleasure and had a long list of places I wanted to visit, but no real idea of how to make things happen. So many places to go. So many things to see. Learn how to reduce the possibilities to a manageable list, then how to plan your trips.

Then, earlier this year, I had a once-in-a-lifetime trip planned. Eight days before I was due to leave, I had a wrench thrown in my plans and had to either a) scrap the trip entirely, b) have it suddenly cost thousands of unplanned dollars more; or c) change my trip so fundamentally that it no longer resembled what I originally planned. Learn coping strategies for adversity.

It’s a big world. Let me help you get out there.

My Background

While I’ve primarily been a software engineer most of my life, most recently at Apple, I’ve also worked in the travel industry.

For (now defunct, but not my fault) Eastern Airlines, I was a reservationist with the group booking desk, planning trips for the Caribbean and northern South America. You can see an old Eastern Airlines route map here.

I’ve also worked in several capacities on several cruise lines, mostly Premier Cruise Lines (also now defunct, but also not my fault), from purser to medical records consultant to computer consultant–also mostly in the Caribbean.

More recently, I worked in reservations at (the still existing, yay) Classic Vacations, the luxury division of Expedia. Like everyone, I started on the Hawaii desk, booking custom air-and-hotel packages for travel agents’ clients. Then I expanded to the other locations they had at the time: Mexico, Canada, Caribbean, and Europe. Eventually, I worked in product development as a product administrator, specializing in Turkey and Western Canada.

Here’s a map of my travels in 2013. (233,863 km or 145,316 miles)

As a traveler, I’ve been to 61 countries as recognized by the United Nations, or 88 countries and territories as recognized by the rather-more-liberal Traveler’s Century Club. I’ve been around the world twice. After I failed to go around the world twice. I’ve visited six of the seven continents, five of them more than once.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: I get this. This isn’t yet another Indiegogo campaign about someone wanting to fund their first trip to Europe.

I’ve delivered sixteen published books on time. In my past, I wrote twelve short adult western novels under pseudonyms. I have published four technical books through Que and Sams, and had a daily column of Linux tips for Earth Web in 1999.

The Calendar (and its pictures)

I also occasionally take decent photos, as you can see from the calendar here.

Note About Postcard Perks

Physical postcards can, unfortunately, take a long time to deliver. I always send myself a postcard at the same time as I mail them to others. When I sent postcards in early April from the Maldives, I received them in July. That’s unusual, but three to four weeks is not unusual.

There’s also a special case for Pitcairn: a) it’s one of the most remote islands in the world with very limited shipping to and from the island; b) there’s always the possibility we won’t be able to go ashore at all. Pitcairn has no airport and no harbor and is one of the most isolated places people live on Earth.

Because of delays in delivery, I’m also offering a virtual postcard, by which I mean a pretty photo I took at the location in question, e-mailed either from the location (available bandwidth permitting) or shortly thereafter, using a postcard application on my iPhone.

I’ll also take photos of the fronts and backs of postcards I send.

Why I Need Your Help

There are a bunch of other software engineers in the world, but there aren’t that many people who could–or would–write this book.

Historically, I can’t do significant amounts of writing at the same time as I’m doing software development. It uses too much of the same mental processes, unfortunately. In order to get this book written, I need to spend my time writing the book, not doing other things like looking for software engineering contracts or learning or refreshing existing skills. I need to turn down or delay other work in order for this book to happen.

Additionally, I’ve recently written part of a novel draft. The idea, synopsis, and opening was strong enough that I won $150 (2nd place) at a writer’s conference and was asked for a full manuscript (rare) by an agent at that conference. Story here. So I’d be putting this project on hold, too. The reality of traditional publishing timelines is such that it’s not particularly likely this book would provide income in 2014.

I’ll have expenses for software (updating InDesign) to produce the physical books, as well as expenses related to cover design and editing services. Ideally, I’d like to get my camera repaired.

I have two (already paid for) trips coming up where I’ll be able to talk to people who are even better traveled than I am. We’ll be on a segment (partial) world cruise. I’ve been trying to get on one of these my whole life, and this is an opportunity to write about it.

After It’s Over

Once my hand recovers from all the typing and signing….

My plan is to continue to self-publish So You Want to Travel the World in both electronic and paper form, then go on to publish the occasional travel journey as a separate short book.

: Some Self-Published Love

Now that I’ve whinged a bit on self publishing issues, I thought I’d spend time giving some love to some self-published authors whose books I love. I’ve picked from quite a few genres here.

Self-Published Books That Sold To Publishers

In one of the first sales of its kind, John Scalzi sold Old Man’s War to Tor after serializing it on his blog. It was nominated for a Hugo award in 2006 and optioned for a film in 2011, and it was largely on the basis of this book that he won the Campbell award. Not too shabby.
Jay Crownover self-published Rule, a new adult romance, then picked up a publisher for it. It’s the first new adult book where I really got the category, and it’s well-written and realistic. I loved this book, one of my favorites of the year. And, okay, the cover’s full of win. Here’s a gushing review by someone who does read a lot of new adult. I agree: the characters are really distinct and interesting, and it’s well done. I also read Jet, but didn’t love it quite as much. Still a very good book, though. Can’t wait for Rome.

Self-Published Books That Stayed Self-Published

Jenny Trout became infamous for her take-down of E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey (et seq). It was really enlightening to read some of her takes on consent issues in the books, and make me think about things that are important. She talks about this from the perspective of someone in a long-term BDSM relationship. And then she went and wrote (as Abigail Barnette) The Boss, which was serialized in a blog, and The Girlfriend, which was e-book only. Those are parts 1 and 2 of a trilogy. It’s erotic romance and adults only. (I’ve linked to Smashwords, but these are also available through other services, too.)
Sarah Stegall wrote Deadfall, a mystery about the ghost of Wyatt Earp in present-day San Francisco. Sample is here. Disclaimer: Sarah’s in my writing group, so I read this prior to publication. She can actually write, and she has a passion for San Francisco that I love.
Dario Ciriello wrote a great book about his family moving to Greece. And then not. It’s called Aegean Dream. He’s excerpted the tale of his first Easter in Greece in this blog post. If you want to know why Greece’s economy is so screwed up, this book has that story on a micro level. It’s amazing they have a country at all. Disclaimer: I’ve been in the same writing group with Dario, and we nearly visited him in Greece in 2007, but, you know, things fell apart. See: Greece.
Those are a few that I’ve seen, but I’ve always been interested in others, too.
Note: in comments, its okay to promote your own work on two conditions: a) you have a sample that I can read on your website, b) you don’t mind my commenting on it (there’s always a risk I won’t like it).

: Miscellaneous Thoughts on Self-Publishing

When I was the head of programming for a local convention, I always cringed when someone self-published wanted to be a panelist.
It’s not that the self-published had little to say, or that they couldn’t be interesting. It was the baggage that tended to come with: wanting a place (often in the sold-out dealers’ room) to sell their books directly to customers, wanting to hijack panels to talk about their publications rather than the topic, wanting to hide the fact that they were self-published. In one case, a prospective panelist vehemently denied being self-published even after I went and looked up his “publisher’s” corporate registration and called him on it.
There’s no shame in being self-published, okay? Never was, never will be.
The issue comes in what a person who’s only been self-published can speak to vs. what someone who’s been traditionally-published can. If people want to hear (as many do) about experiences selling to industry editors, that’s not something the self-published can talk about with any authority. But they will always volunteer, in my experience.
Just. Don’t. It’s fucking annoying.
Especially these days, where a lot of traditionally-published writers are self-publishing their backlist or oddball works, the traditionally-published who’ve also self-published (aka hybrid-published) still have an advantage talking about self-publishing because they have informed opinions about which works for a given piece — and why. That may actually be more useful than a panel on self-publishing per se.
But there I was, having to make too many decisions about authors late at night, and all I had was their emails, websites, and Amazon (et al) to go by.

Let’s Give an Example

I happened to be searching on Google a couple weeks ago and came across an author site for a self-published author I don’t know. So, I’m sorry author-I-don’t-know, I’m going to use this site site as an example of what not to do.
First, let’s open the page for a random book on the author’s site.
Starting from the top of the content area (don’t get me started on the author platform in the menu):

  1. The first thing you see about a book shouldn’t be the literary prizes, especially not “buy the prize” offerings like this one. Above the fold should be a short synopsis (like this site has). See? [Update: she’s removed those links. Yay!]
  2. I’m not generally a fan of putting reviews before the synopsis, but it works for me if I can see the synopsis without scrolling. On the example site, I can’t.
  3. If you are a self-published author and you do not put an excerpt on your site, you are telling people that you think you’re a bad writer. I cannot emphasize this enough. Especially if you’ve paid over $100 to get literary prizes to attempt to lure buyers. [Update: she has now added an excerpt. Yay!]
  4. Reviews: 3-5.
  5. Do not post pingbacks from your own site on your site. That just looks stupid.

If you know anything about marketing and lead conversion and stuff like that, you’ll know the following: the fewer clicks it takes someone to get to what the reader wants, the more likely they will stick around and get it from you. Also, look at the way most sites are designed: you only send someone outside your little garden if there’s an actual need.
Sure, someone could follow a link off-site and get an excerpt of your writing. Is that what you want? For them to be distracted by all the other authors’ books? Maybe buy a DVD of Vin Diesel instead of your story? Perhaps they’ve forgotten all about that colored titanium spork they were looking for. Until now.
Do the lifting on your site. Look, no one’s going to sell to everyone. It’s the way it is. At Milford, we’d say, “I’m not your target audience.” However, some people will be captured, and those people you want to capture as soon as possible.
Which you can only do when you’ve got an excerpt on your site, right?

Show That You’re Interesting

Unfortunately, this site is pretty typical of what I see from self-published writers. There’s a whole bunch about “being a writer” and not a lot about being a generally interesting person that might be interesting to have as a panelist — or whose book may be interesting to read. The blog largely consists of cross promotion that can come off as a circle jerk (even though it is the most interesting content). Though I will give her props for having more interesting blog content than I’ve seen on some similar sites.
A few weeks ago, I was at a technical talk, and a woman who was interested both in math and traditional art was asking around for advice. She was insecure because others knew more than she did.
As a generalist, I feel this problem all the time. I’m rarely the person who knows the most about X, whatever X is. But if you happen to want to have a topic-shifting conversation about sound recording, the history of astronomy, SQL quirks, Leica cameras (and rangefinders vs. SLRs generally), similarities between Middle Egyptian and Hawai’ian languages, fascinating aspects of virology, writing Cocoa applications, and a bunch of random other stuff, well, I’m probably on your short list.
What I said to the woman was: the aggregate of what you’re interested in vs. what you’re not interested in is unique. Look carefully at what you care about vs. what you care less about, then look at what you don’t care about and what you really don’t care about. That combination makes you different, and you can use that to find your way into the right career track.
If you’re a writer and talk about what you’re interested in on your web site, some of the people who come to your web site will care about some of those things. Others will find your web site because search engines noted that you used those words, and they’ll lead other people to your pages.

An Example

So I take a lot of travel photos. I’d like to think I’m good at them. I’ve had a flickr account for over 8 years. I’ve posted a few of my travel photos on flickr here and there.
But my most popular photo is this one, taken at a chairmaking class with master craftsman Brian Boggs a few years ago at Northwest Woodworking Studio. It’s not a great photo. It’s not about the glory of sunsets. It’s about a good old-fashioned honest tool: a shaving horse (used to clamp an irregularly-shaped piece of wood while using tools on it, like so).
Probably, when you think of me, traditional woodworking doesn’t come to mind. That’s okay. It’s a part of who I am.
That photo is also three times more popular than the first photo that’s not about traditional chairmaking: a photo of a couple in the Mediterranean, taken from a beach near Alexandria, Egypt. They were the only couple there that day.
The story, as we were told, is that women on public beaches in Egypt are pretty much not allowed to go into the water. They aren’t prohibited from it per se, they’re just shamed into not doing it. So women who want to swim use private beaches, which this was one of. Some modern women swim in rather modest swimsuits, but going into the water in traditional dress isn’t unheard of. But that’s not why the photo’s unusual.
What’s led almost 350,000 views to my flickr pages is the sum and aggregate of who I am. I post irregularly and in weird increments, posting nothing for months at a time, then posting just one photo here and there. If I actually tried to game it, I’m sure I could get a lot more views even if my photos weren’t any more interesting than they are now.
What would have been a mistake, though, would be not posting about chairmaking because I thought people wouldn’t be interested in that part of me. Clearly, there are quite a few avid traditional chairmakers out there.

Epilogue

Because long post is long, I have two stories.

Story the first

Here’s a funny moment out of that class that I’ve never shared, but it’s one of the moments that sticks with me (apart from the moment where I cut myself with a drawknife and was embarrassed so I superglued myself back together so no one would know). The back legs were steam bent, and I had watched the other people force theirs into the forms we’d built to hold the leg in place while it dried.
I am not a small woman, but I am extremely strong. I was seriously worried that I was going to break the rear leg bending it to the form. I had visions of the wood splintering into bits–and we had had people try to bend the legs too quickly (or with too little steam), causing exactly that to happen. Instead, I found that I didn’t weigh enough to force the leg into the form using only my strength, and two guys pitched into help. Thanks, guys.
Every weird experience you have, like that one, is something that makes you different than everyone else out there. Use your distinctiveness.

Story the Second

I was at a convention talking with a BNA (big-name author) who’d published a lot of books and won a lot of awards, who turned the tables on me. Asked what kind of book I was writing.
I gave him the elevator pitch.
“Oh, I couldn’t write that,” he said.
It stopped me cold. I was stunned. “What do you mean, you couldn’t write that?”
“Your character’s on open ocean in a small boat. I’m afraid of water. Hotel pool’s okay, but that’s enough water for me.”
Which is why my favorite piece of writing advice isn’t, “Write what you know,” but, rather, “Write the book that only you can write.”
Now go make a web site to match that.

: Making Book: A Technological Evolution

Once upon a time, I lost all the poetry I ever wrote, including the stuff I’d published. It was published in journals so small I’d be lucky if a single copy survives to this day. It’s possible dozens of people read my work.

Of all of those poems, I’m saddest about the piece I wrote the day I was in Belfast. The day we weren’t supposed to be in Belfast. The day I got a rifle pointed at me. (If you ever happen across Metropolis, a journal of urban poetry, with my poem titled “Belfast Brunch,” I’ll pay you for the copy.)

I thought: I’m a software engineer, why don’t I add all the stuff I’ve written into source control? But then you have two problems, as the old joke goes.

This was back in CVS days, and what CVS really didn’t like much was binary files. And me with a bunch of Word documents. Oh, and AppleWorks documents, because we know how forward-compatible those suckers are. (The current version of Apple’s Pages will not open them, but then it won’t open RTF, either.)

Novels and short stories don’t actually consist of a lot of sophisticated markup, though. There’s the occasional italics, the section breaks, the chapter headings. Because HTML was too much work to generate cleanly, I just wrote in plain text. With underlines around italics. You know, like Markdown. Though Markdown hadn’t been announced back then.

Eventually, I switched over to Subversion for source control. (I recently switched to git due in part to feedback on this post.)

However, getting stuff ready for critique or submission was another story entirely. I was talking about this with Serah Eley, and she mentioned using XSLT and XSL-FO, and had a perl/java toolchain that worked well enough, so I incorporated it into my own work. By this time, I was running my submissions through my own Ruby on Rails app, and it was slick enough that it knew where a project’s files lived, and would generate all the meta information needed by XSL-FO in order to make a PDF to print. (At that point, RTFs weren’t really possible as they were still the realm of proprietary software.)

So why XSL-FO? Part of it was the beauty of the templating system. You could make a stylesheet that specified double-spaced courier and to add an address block for a submission to an editor. You could make it single spaced in Garamond with no address block if it’s something you wanted to hand to someone you didn’t want to have your address. You could have a cover page and exclude your name on subsequent pages for contest submissions.

The downside, though is that XSLT is pretty fiddly and I had a toolchain from hell that required not only Ruby and Perl and Java, but a lot of dependencies that would occasionally drive me mad when they broke or balked.

And Then An Amazing Thing Happened

Apple decided to adopt EPUB for iBooks. Before that, there’d been a far more confusing array of choices for electronic formats, but then people started veering toward EPUB. Plus other tools had come out like calibre, which will convert your books (so long as you don’t mind it getting its grubby paws all over your markup and inserting its calibre-isms).

Then jugyo wrote eeepub, a ruby gem to make EPUB files. And, hey, I already had valid XML files from my earlier process, right?

Not long after that, I was the head of programming (by which I mean scheduling of people and rooms, not software engineering, though I also almost all of that, too) for BayCon and Westercon 64.

One of the things I wrote the code for was the generation of the tabular data for the program grid. From there, especially with jugyo’s excellent gem, it wasn’t that far to getting a program book in EPUB form. (Reusing work I’d done in 2003-2007, I was still using XSLT + XSL-FO + InDesign for things like table tents, back of badge stickers, room signs, and the schedule content for the body of the program book.)

I remember sitting down one night a few days before con, wondering if I could actually make an ebook version of the program schedule. I wrote it on too little sleep when I had a case of shingles, but hey, it works! PDF and EPUB versions of the file are linked on Westercon 64’s site. The PDF used the same intermediate XML that generated the EPUB, but I used InDesign to generate the final product.

Here’s the code to make the EPUB version. The tl;dr version of what it does:

  1. Figure out what days the convention runs. Get the names of those days.
  2. Calculate what public program items run, in order, and spit them out along with their program participants, one file per day. Make sure the program participants link to their bios. (Non-public items were things like meetings for exec staff and stuff we didn’t want to schedule against, e.g., when someone wasn’t planning to be in the masquerade but didn’t want to miss it.)
  3. Generate a file, in alphabetic order, of the program participants and their bios. Note: this file takes too long to render in the EPUB, and one of the changes I’d make if I were doing it again would be to break it up by first letter of last name or smaller groups to make the rendering faster.
  4. Commented out code used for Westercon: add the bylaws.

Simplifying the Novel-Production Process

Somewhere around 2008, Ruby had better Markdown support and I’d become aware that I was really writing drafts in Markdown, so I was able to eliminate part of the toolchain I had.

More recently, I discovered textutil, which does the back-end work I’d been using XSL-FO for. So, I can take an HTML file (which I get from Markdown) and get an RTF and a DOC and a PDF out of it? With almost no pain?

To quote Ben Grogan: I call that winning.

As the saying goes: now you have one problem.

General Casing the One Problem

I’ve been working on a more general case solution, both in Ruby and Python, for taking Markdown files and making a book out of them without having to do quite so much of the work.

I’ve tried a number of Markdown editors over the last couple of years, and I have standardized on ByWord on both Mac and iOS. For things that I’ve got in source control, I use git on Dropbox with my repository on BitBucket. I use a nightly script to push repository changes in case I forget to do so.

In my current process, I no longer have rails generate XML template files, nor do I need prose DTDs, etc. I just have rails generate a YAML file, and I’ve moved much of the configuration into the rails app. But now I need to push some of that back out into CSS. And maybe I want it to be a Cocoa app, you know?

I’m still thinking about ways to do that when I want to still be able to produce the following variants with no change of my Markdown files:

  1. Novel proposal, meaning synopsis (formatted one way) plus first three chapters or (as a programmer, I hate this one) no more than 50 pages.
  2. Novel chapter for critique, which usually means slightly different spacing and more whitespace for comments, but doesn’t need all the fancy fancy.
  3. Reading copy, which would be formatted pretty but not include author address (or legal name, necessarily).
  4. Final book format, which can include a lot more data than the above three, e.g., ISBN.
  5. Contest entry format which suppresses author name on pages other than the first. (Or, sometimes, at all, as it’s included only in a cover letter.)
  6. A relatively easy way to create variant style definitions and keep them together without requiring the rails app I’m currently using.

Most of that’s fairly easy, but some of it’s surprisingly subtle.

And here you thought I just flung words on pages.

: Author Platform: Well That Was Embarrassing

I’m not particularly easy to embarrass.
Sometimes, that’s actually a fault of mine: I can speak frankly about things that make other people blanch, and I’m not always sensitive to that. Sometimes I’m an asshole about it.
A couple of weekends ago, I went to the Algonkian Write to Market Conference. One of the exercises was intimidating but simple: four of you would get up in front of the room, each would deliver your pitch that you’d readied for an agent, and you would do a Q&A session about it.
Simple enough, right?
Except that I was pitching an erotic romance novel.
Probably anyone not already published in that genre would be nervous about it. Reasonable.
Then there was the Q&A part.
Question from the back: “What makes you think you can write a sex scene?”
This is an author platform question, essentially.
Fiction writers often don’t get grilled on them. I’ve never lived in a post-apocalyptic Palo Alto, never been on a space station, nor have I ever lived in a mythical world. But I’ve written about them.
Erotic romance novels are different than “hot” romance novels. Passionate Ink has category definitions, but I prefer my own:

Porn: about the reader’s journey, not the characters’. It has a happy ending — of sorts. Generally ends with a sex scene for obvious reasons.
Erotica: about one character’s sexual journey, and doesn’t require a happy ending. Classic example: the book version of Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill, which does not have a happy ending in the romance sense, but does have a happy ending in other senses.
Erotic Romance: about characters in a relationship and their mutual sexual journey, requiring HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happily for now). Removing or toning down the sex causes the story to fall apart. So the question posed of me was also asking: can you not only write a sex scene, but do you have enough skill to make that sex scene a necessary part of the plot?
Sexy Romance: about characters in a relationship who have explicit sex, requiring HEA or HFN. I do agree that the sex can be toned down without losing structure. Frankly, I don’t like these much and find myself skipping over the sex scenes in them.

Author platforms are critical in a lot of non-fiction: why would anyone want to read your cookbook? What authority do you have to write a self-help book? A travel guide? A medical reference?
But there are so many things saying how essential it is for an author–any author–to have a platform. I have a pent-up rant coming about this, so we’ll just table that for now. Let’s just say that even Forbes has gotten into the buzz.
For a fiction writer, that platform can be as simple as: be yourself, just a bit more out there.
There I was with a question–and any number of ways to answer it, and lots of pleasant memories from my callow youth volunteering their services. Oh, black sand beaches of Martinique…. I digress.
This is publishing, and I happened to have a track record, which I’ve written about before.
So I said, “Well, I’ve sold twelve porn novels for money, and I made more writing them than I did programming during that period.”
Which is true.
I’m not sure what compelled me to add that second part, though.
I’ve generally said it was “half” my income, but the truth is it was a tidge over fifty percent, partly because software engineering salaries in South Florida at the time were reprehensible, and partly because I had writing deadlines and checks that came in like clockwork.
It’s always been embarrassing to me: not that I wrote porn for money. More that I took money for writing books I wouldn’t read for free. It was hard work, and not work I’m proud of, but it did teach me how to approach writing seriously even if the subject is generally not regarded seriously. When I went on to write and sell four computer books, it was incredibly useful experience. As awful as I think the porn books were, I’m pretty sure none of them are as bad as the examples in this (seriously NSFW) blog of sex scene WTFery.
The question from the back changed my perception of my prior work. Suddenly, it became relevant. Instead of writing in another field, it was at least arguably relevant to something I’m doing in the present. For the first time, I felt like I was at peace with my time in literary brothels.
The other writers applauded, and not just the polite sort of applause. It was a difficult and pointed question to get through, and I’m sure they were all very, very glad it wasn’t a question they had to answer.
I came home with a 2nd place synopsis/opening contest win (and accompanying check), and I didn’t even get through my newly-revised pitch before the agent I stood in front of requested a full.
Go, me!

: Season Three: Narrative Structure

Now that Fairly Legal Season 2 is being broadcast in worldwide markets, I keep seeing people ask what season 3 would have been like.
Several of us who’ve done a lot of writing have discussed this, and I’m sad to say that others have come around to my point of view. In short: I believe this was answered in the first scene of the second season.

Specifically, it’s this line:

No. No. I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.

That’s the proverbial Chekovian gun on the mantlepiece. Since it didn’t happen at the end of season 2, my guess was that it was intended for the end of season 3.
Sarah Shahi has said that Kate was going to be very “Sex and the City” in Season 3, dating lots of guys. Implication being anyone other than Ben.
And, honestly, in the sense of keeping a longer-running show around, it was too early to put Ben and Kate together. Look at how long the romantic lead-up was in Castle. Or CSI. (In CSI, I like that it didn’t turn out to be Happily Ever After for Grissom and Sara, but then there’s the awkward part of the relationship being shorter than the buildup.)

Show Longevity Revolves Around UST

Where UST = Unresolved Sexual Tension. That’s what sells advertising, and TV shows live or die based on ad spend. You can throw a believable male/female spark between the primary characters, press them -> very long. Several hundred thousand words (aka several books) long. Here’s a Twilight one that tops half a million words. A Star Wars one that’s 300k words. A 400k Glee fic. (Note: I haven’t read any of these; I generally limit myself to ones that are no more than typical novel length.)
As a footnote, I’ve come to a new understanding of serious fanfic writers: fanfic is like improvisational jazz for writers. You get to take someone else’s motif and play with it. I like the pieces that subvert the underlying work’s tropes or add meta layers to them. I love weird crossovers (Fairly Legal/V anyone?). A piece I admire concept-wise (but have only read a bit of) is this meta-fanfic where Bella is a fanfic writer and Edward is one of her readers. Note: half a million words and a lot of UST.

Dividing Loyalties

The love triangle’s a hard one, and I think Fairly Legal lost ratings because it divided crucial viewers between the Justin camp and the Ben camp. Most of the new viewers were solidly in the Ben camp, and it’s interesting to note that essentially all the fanfic written after Season 2 started was about Ben and Kate, not Justin and Kate.
Working backwards from the final scene of season 2, I get why it happened the way it did, but it would have been far more sympathetic to the Justin shippers for Justin to find a new and compelling possible romance to give the Justin fans something to look forward to.
Worse, Kate’s Sex and the City antics in season 3 would have lost many of the Ben shippers, including me if it had gone on too long.

Character Arcs

The opening bar scene in season 2 made me wonder: was Ben intended to be a two-season character? Or not? As someone who loved the character, had he stayed disappeared after the end of season 3, I’d have stopped watching. My expectation for the season 3 ending would have been that Ben would have disappeared sometime in the final episode and Leo and Lauren–and possibly even Justin–would have pushed her into going to look for Ben, with the final moment being them seeing each other, leaving that moment hanging in the air. Because, you know, season finales and cliffies go together like strawberries and whipped cream.

That Word

Speaking of, I have to say that I really, really love where season 2 of Fairly Legal wound up. I think it was one of the best moments I’ve ever seen for a show ending, because it both closed off a lot of possibilities, but left the new season (if there were to be one) open in the way most season endings don’t.
I need a word for that. It’s almost the opposite of a plot chokepoint.
Said ending caused my plot brain to go into overdrive for months. Every morning, I’d dream a new plot that could stem from that moment.

: Living vs. Dying

My friend Jay Lake has been blogging about his cancer for several years, and someone made a rather rude point.

I considered the posts that I read and saw nothing in them but anger and suffering. If Jay feels that there is more to his life now than suffering, he should post that more often than complaints about his GI tract, his inability to write or even function cognitively at a level that allows any degree of productivity.

Just because I, or another person, wouldn’t choose (from where we’re sitting) to make the same choices doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice.
Once upon a time, I dated a doctor. His father was terminal (in several senses) and wanted to die (I heard the father say so multiple times). Yet, he didn’t want his father to go. There were durable powers of attorney and no support for end-of-life decisions other than surviving, and, essentially, he forced his father to live. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch, and it was one of the core issues that destroyed the relationship. I felt that I would never be truly listened to on important issues like that. After we broke up, he went around telling people I was suicidal (not true) simply because we’d had discussions about what end of life meant. And disagreed. I lost friends who believed him instead of me.
As this comment suggests, it’s not always easy to know if an expressed desire to die is out of some kind of frustration or hopelessness, or out of a real desire to die. However, in the father’s case, it really was that he wanted to move on.
I think it’s remarkable that Jay’s been so public about the struggle he’s had with cancer, and it was very hard reading his recent post about having a couple dozen tumors. We don’t get to see into the lives of cancer patients very often, and the stories we do hear tend to be the better ones or ones without the detail Jay provides. I know I posted a particularly good cancer story a few years ago. Most aren’t like that, though. Far more stories are like Jay’s, with no one listening, with no one understanding, because we’d rather all sweep it under the rug.

: Ahh, Book Reviews

Once upon a time, I thought I’d actually find new books by joining up on Goodreads and adding a handful of people whose taste I liked and — I’d find new books that way.
Then my friend Kathryn, got sick (and has since died) and wasn’t reviewing as much, and hers was the only taste I knew relative to mine well enough that I could tell whether I’d like a book or not.
What I discovered fairly quickly was that I became profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of reviewing books. These were my colleagues, even if I happened to be the junior leaguer of the bunch. The other thing is that I feel there’s an inherent narrative if I tell you what I am (or am not) reading, and that’s my bigger problem with Goodreads. I feel like there’s some accountability for my taste. Why am I not reading X? Why did I not like Y? I find the mere thought of that kind of meta-narrative paralyzing.
Oh, and “You should read Z.” That goes over really well with me. Not.
Whenever anyone asks me to write a review, my inner snark comes out. Spare us both and don’t ask.
Over the weekend, I heard the following line: “A one-star review means the wrong reader found your book.” The reader is someone who wanted to like your book.
The truth is, I happen to pick up a particular book to read it because it feels like the book that would appeal to me most in the moment. That’s all there is to it.
I think I’m going to just do it this way from now on: I’m going to occasionally post reviews on Goodreads (even though this author probably wishes I didn’t) that are primarily “I really loved this particular book” reviews. That means I’m not going to review, or attempt to review, most of the books I read. I’m removing all my shelves soon.
While I’m on the subject of reviews, congrats to all the people I know on the RT list, including Susan Mallery (whom I went to grad school with) and Vivi Andrews and Kelly Jamieson, who wrote two of my favorite books this year, and Lauren Beukes, who’s up for the big prize. Sadly, Lauren Gallagher, who wrote my so-far-favorite of the year, didn’t make the list. And I’ve added a few books to my to-read pile off that list….

: Fascinating Breakdown of NY Times YA Bestseller Lists

Here’s a fascinating breakdown of New York Times Bestseller Lists answering the age-old question: do women really dominate the YA lists?
tl;dr version:

The first thing I wanted to know was how well men and women were represented on the lists. I’ve always suspected that men outnumbered women on the list, and when I’ve made that claim before, I’ve been told that’s not true.
But actually, it’s startlingly true.

Possibly just seems like women dominate the list because the field is more equal than others?

: Nine Years Ago Today

Nine years ago today, Turn the Other Chick came out from Baen with my story “A Sword Called Rhonda” in it. That week was the first time I’d been to the World Fantasy Convention, and I participated in the mass signing, where people actually brought (and bought) the book.
In hardcover.
As a side note, the book is also Cassandra Clare’s first professional publication, though she was already well-known for her fanfiction, specifically, The Very Secret Diaries, still the funniest thing written about The Lord of the Rings like ever.
So, happy literary birthday, TOC sister!
turn-the-other-chick

: My First Publication

When I talk about my writing, I generally start with my fiction writing, because that’s what’s turned out to be important to me.
My first paid publication, though, was in Computer Gaming World, Issue 1. (1.4MB PDF)
Before I’d been published in fiction, I’d been published in technical writings of various stripes. I had a column about computers for, and I quote my editor here, “double-digit IQ types.” (Over time, I’ve actually had three technical columns.)
I was very happy to have poetry published, as I considered it the “least like me” writing style of all. Another style I didn’t expect to be published in: creative non-fiction. I rather enjoyed it once I got the hang of it.
All of those happened before my first fiction sale (which was in 1991).

: Writing Repositories: Git? SVN?

Apart from the fact that my writing process is complicated, the tech part of my writing process is also complicated.
One of my working goals was to be able to use source code management, so I write in plain text files. I have eight years of subversion repositories for my creative writing, and that was part of my goal: I don’t lose anything.
But: Given that I’m leaving the server where I’ve got subversion hosting and can therefore move to anything I want — where to go, what to do?
Also, I think I want to switch to git.
My history with these things:

  1. A novel is a directory, where the chapter files are named xxx-chap-nn.txt, other necessary files (e.g., a template file with things like author info and pseudonym) are in that same directory, and there’s a support directory with other files (like research notes)
  2. A short story is a single file in a directory of shorts. Until now, all my shorts were in the same repository (because that worked well with Subversion), but I think that’s the wrong answer.
  3. When I submit a piece, I create a subversion tag for that submission. So, instantly, I can look at a piece and see what I submitted for a given editor and how it has (or has not) changed since then.

How I get it from text files into the final version: I write in Markdown, render the Markdown into HTML, massage into XML, use XSL-FO with XSLT stylesheets to generate a PDF and RTF. It’s a fidgety process prone to breakage, and I’d actually like to just go straight to RTF/EPUB from HTML.
Dropbox gives me the freedom of a directory structure that iCloud sharing does not, so I could still keep my existing novel structure in Dropbox. That would make it possible to still use Subversion, but I’m not sure how well it’d work with git.
Other people have wondered why I have such a fiddly system. Because some editors still prefer Courier. Some want anything but Courier. (Personally, I’ve grown to like Courier, hate Times New Roman, and generally use Georgia as my “most compatible with everyone” font of choice.) Sometimes you want to print 1-1/2 lines for editing to save gobs of paper. Maybe you want to print a reading copy for someone.
With my old system, I can just use a different XSLT stylesheet. But I could just use something like (or exactly like) PhantomJS to inject a CSS stylesheet and document header information — et voila, HTML with stuff I don’t actually keep in my writing documents.
With MacOS X, I can convert from HTML to RTF easy peasy, so I don’t need the old messiness:
textutil -convert rtf novel-chap-01.html novel-chap-02.html novel-chap-03.html
So the question I have: Git or SVN for this? And why? And where to host (given that I don’t want to share my repositories with anyone)?
Here’s what I do care about and don’t care about:

  1. I need a fair number of private repositories. 100-ish.
  2. Don’t need other “developers” (aka writers).
  3. Space is not a concern. Books are small. Typical hardcover is ~1MB of text.
  4. SSL would be nice.
  5. Don’t need issue management or Trac or yada yada.

Looks like CloudForge is the best per this page, but that focuses on SVN hosting (though CloudForge does both). Let’s put it this way: GitHub is too expensive for the number of private repositories I want to have, so it’s a non-starter.
Edited to add: I specifically want offsite repos.

: Which iPad?

Been meaning to write this for a while…. Dan Frommer talks about his changing use of an iPad after acquiring an iPad Mini.
John Gruber says in his iPad Air review:

There are so many millions of iPad users that no simple explanation can cover all use cases. But my take, since last year, has been that the full-size iPad is best seen as an alternative to a laptop, and the iPad Mini as a supplement to a laptop.

I thought I’d talk about my own evolution over the years, and talk about them in a larger context, going back to when I got my first iPad in 2010.
I’ve had an original iPad (wifi), an original iPad (3G) with an engraved autograph by Steve Jobs, and replaced it last year with a The New iPad, aka iPad 3, retina screen, 32 gigs, LTE. Over the years, I’ve had an original iPhone, an iPhone 3GS, a 4, 4S, and just acquired a 5 after my 4S was stolen.
I was given an iPad Mini last Christmas. Thank you Mr. Federighi.
Just like when I got my first iPad, I wasn’t sure how the new member of the family would fit in. Most of my coworkers used only one iPad. When I brought both iPads to meetings, they sometimes teased me about it.
I loved, loved, loved retina on my iPad. When I first got a retina device, I said, “Wow, it’s like getting a new pair of glasses.” And it is.
Despite the lack of a retina screen, I prefer using my iPad Mini for book reading — and I’m an avid book reader. Having an iPad Mini quintupled the rate at which I read books, which surprised me. Having an iPad at all tripled the rate at which I read books. Partly that’s just due to tired eyes: I prefer to read at night before I go to sleep, and I prefer to read with my glasses off. Over time, that meant I found larger text easier. Since print books hadn’t changed, that meant I was reading fewer and fewer. Not a good place for someone who writes.
Speaking of writing, I prefer to write on the full-sized iPad. I love the retina screen. I love my external Logitech keyboard for it. I like the form factor. It feels writing-sized. It reminds me of a cool little battery-operated typewriter I used to have that had a thermal print head and would store about a dozen sheets of paper in its lid.
Catch is, once I started using the iPad Mini a lot, my usage of the full-sized iPad dropped like a rock. I’d either reach for my laptop (which hardly went anywhere any more) or the iPad Mini. Honestly, I haven’t opened my iPad in days, and that’s typical for me now.
I prefer to watch videos on the iPad, especially with the retina screen. Catch is, I’m not doing that as much as I was before I got the iPad Mini.
Additionally, my iPad has LTE, but my iPad Mini is wifi only. For that reason alone, I haven’t been willing to give up my iPad — it’s my backup cellular device when I’m traveling, which was critical when my iPhone was stolen in July.
So consider the changes that the iPad Air and the iPad Mini Retina offer: I can get the same retina niceness, the same screen resolution — in a form factor I find more convenient.
Now consider that I switched from a 15″ MacBook Pro (weighing 5.6 pounds) to a 13″ MacBook Air last month (weighing 2.5 pounds). That weight and size difference? It’s huge. So you might think I’d want to keep the larger iPad form factor.
I really had to think about it, though.
As Gruber points out in his review, the iPad Air is the better device for those whose primary mobile device is an iPad rather than a laptop. I use a laptop as my only computer.
What matters most to me is: which device do I actually reach for? I keep both of them nearby when I sleep, but it’s almost always the Mini I reach for in the morning to check my email and Twitter. Unless I’m using a book as a reference while programming, I’ll use the Mini for reading. Otherwise, the size of the full-size iPad is helpful.
As soon as the new iPad Mini comes out, I’m selling both of my current iPads and getting a new iPad Mini.
I was so sure Gruber was wrong when he said, “Both the 11-inch Air and full-size iPad 3/4 make more sense to me as devices for people who only want to carry one portable computer. But if I’m going to carry both, I think it makes more sense to get a bigger MacBook and the smaller iPad Mini.”
However, my own usage patterns have shown one thing: that’s exactly what happened.

: Why Write

Unlike a lot of people I know, writing didn’t come naturally to me. As a kid, I never felt the urge to write fiction. I wrote some songs, but that’s not really the same thing.
Music — that came far more easily to me. Dance was much, much harder, but I loved tap dance. By the time I was sixteen, I’d performed on stage as a dancer (my stage debut was tap dancing in a duck suit), singer, and on seven different instruments (alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, flute, piccolo, oboe, and viola). By the time I was eighteen, I added three more instruments (piano, guitar, and bass guitar).
I have an amazing memory for numbers. I also have an amazing memory for melodic lines. I can hear a piece, remember the melodic and harmonic lines and often improvise a counterpoint. For me, though, that’s more my math brain at work than my creative brain.
I love my math brain, don’t get me wrong. But I found I’m not happy if I’m not exercising both my math brain and my creative brain, and the math brain side gets plenty to do at work.
Which is no doubt why I didn’t stick with music. That, and I was always shy about having other people hear me practice. Performing was fine, but I cringed at practice rooms with glass doors.
Writing was harder than all of them, yet it’s what’s stuck with me. Why? I know younger me. If I’d had any idea it’d be as hard as it is, I would have given up.
Lawrence Block gave me the idea to write. I’d always been an avid reader. I’d read his fiction, and Telling Lies for Fun and Profit came out. Starved for another book, I read that too. Then my best friend Joyce started a writing group for our friends. If I wanted to hang out with the cool kids, I had to write.
So here are my first lines of fiction:

While waiting for a response, Gilbert’s beeper made a raspberry sound. He calmly moved his hand to silence it, and, in his haste, knocked it to the ground. It shattered with a last mournful wail. Gilbert’s faced turned raspberry, no doubt to match the sound.

Beepers. Those were the days. This was supposed to be a science fiction novel. Sigh. At least the character wasn’t waking up. Joyce said it was like “waltzing with Frankenstein,” clarifying that it was incredibly awkward, but it got there.
The interesting thing to me is that I wrote it in third person, which is most common. I soon found I was blocked if I didn’t draft in first person. For me, formal essay writing is like pulling teeth, and because writing in third person reminded me too much of essay writing, all my fiction first drafts had to be in first person or I’d freeze up. So I’d draft in first person, then edit it into third person (if that was the right viewpoint). Total pain. It was years before I could draft in third person.
And I didn’t know anything. I’m not someone who actually learns about book structure or style by reading books. When I read, I get caught up in the world, and rarely see the structure so long as I stay in readerspace.
So I learned writing through workshops and critique groups. In addition to the experience in my BA and MA programs, I went to Odyssey, Clarion, and Viable Paradise (twice). I can’t actually tell you how many shorter workshops I’ve been to. At every single one, I learned something important to me, even if that something was, “ignore this person’s advice.”
Yet, I’ve heard people diss the workshopping experience as if it’s only for “those other writers” who lack confidence. Sure, I’ll cop to having lacked a good chunk of that, too, but that’s not why I went. I went to learn, and learn I did.
Many writers struggle with understanding their creative process. Each person’s is unique, though each work has its own distinct process challenges. One of the things I’d learned is that I’m really really not a planner when it comes to writing. I’m of the E.L. Doctorow school: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I’ve never been sure if that’s because my career (software engineering) has typically required a lot of planning, and I need to go into a different headspace — or what. Overplanning means the energy of the book fizzles, never to be caught again.
What’s the right amount of planning for me? I was in grad school for my MA in Writing Popular Fiction, and I had to turn in a synopsis. This is often the thing that kills a book’s energy for me, so I was pretty terrified. I was out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant with my husband and my mom, and the place was one of those that had paper placemats. Service was unusually slow that day, so I started writing numbers diagonally down the piece of paper. I had twenty-four submissions to do over four terms, so I wrote the numbers 1-24. Next to each, I wrote a short (2-5 word) description of what the chapter was about. That was the right amount of planning to get me through the first draft of 102,000 words. For me, that amount of planning usually comes about 1/4 of the way into the book. I can (and do) write entirely blind until then. I call it “backing into a book.”
Yet short fiction is quite different for me: I write the opening, I write the last line (most frequently) or last scene, then I write the middle. I need that map tack to work toward.
In 2010, my MA program decided to become an MFA program, and I went back “for the F,” as some of us put it.
Catch is, I’d changed a lot as a writer, and what I felt I needed wasn’t something I felt the program would provide, so I dropped out. I’ve wondered in the interim if I was just being an idiot. This year, I went to Milford, my sole significant workshop in quite a few years.
What I learned was that my instincts were correct — I had, somehow, managed to put together the remaining pieces I needed as a writer in the interim. This doesn’t mean I always see what the problems are in my own work, of course, nor does it mean that I don’t have work to do. It’s just that I know what to do and how to solve things, which didn’t used to be the case.
My first drafts can be just as awful as they ever were, but the surprise is that they aren’t necessarily that crappy. Somehow, finally, I had internalized the pieces I needed to know.
Then, last night, I wrote the synopsis for a book I’ve written one page of, and I didn’t feel the energy of the book fizzle. Will I be able to write this book now that I have a deeper sense of the plot and characters than I usually start with? Who knows.
Writing’s an evolving set of challenges, which is, no doubt, why it continues to hold me captive after all these years.

: Hugo Short Story Recommendation: The Slow Winter by James Mickens

The Hugo Awards] Yes, I’m recommending a technical paper written by a Microsoft researcher for a Hugo Award for Best Short Story.
Wait.
Come back.
There is a narrative in there….about the 2nd person narrator, son John, and the generational differences in chip design between the two of them.

As a child in 1977, John had met Gordon Moore; Gordon had pulled a quarter from behind John’s ear and then proclaimed that he would pull twice as many quarters from John’s ear every 18 months. Moore, of course, was an incorrigible liar and tormentor of youths, and he never pulled another quarter from John’s ear again, having immediately fled the scene while yelling that Hong Kong will always be a British territory, and nobody will ever pay $8 for a Mocha Frappuccino, and a variety of other things that seemed like universal laws to people at the time, but were actually just arbitrary nouns and adjectives that Moore had scrawled on a napkin earlier that morning.

John learned about the rumored Intel Septium chip, a chip whose prototype had been turned on exactly once, and which had leaked so much voltage that it had transformed into a young Linda Blair and demanded an exorcism before it embarked on a series of poor career moves that culminated in an inevitable spokesperson role for PETA.

He would then throw a coffee cup at the speaker and say that adding new hardware features would require each processor to be connected to a dedicated coal plant in West Virginia. John’s coworkers eventually understood his wisdom, and their need to wear coffee-resistant indoor ponchos lessened with time.

: Comedy in Death

Deadbeat dad leaves wife, gets declared dead, eventually turns up to be re-declared alive. Fails.
Edge Case Deirdre is all over the interesting possibilities in this one: he can’t really collect social security of his own. If you can’t serve someone with divorce papers, and you can’t find them, declaring them dead generally is the last resort.
They just usually don’t show up years later (too many years in this case) to object.


I don’t know why I was reminded of this when I heard the story, but….
My first husband, Richard, was raised believing his mother was his sister and his step-grandfather was his father (and his grandmother was his mother). Only on his mother’s deathbed did he find out that he was adopted by her parents. So her maiden name was Savino (after she was adopted), same as his.
I legally changed my surname and because Richard and I were together but not yet married at that point, I just tacked his on, so my maiden name became Saoirse-Savino. Which was also my married surname.
So when Richard died, I was talking to the guy at the funeral home, who was arranging the announcement for Richard’s death, and he asked my maiden name and Richard’s mother’s maiden name, and boggled at the fact that they all were Savino.
“I know I’m gonna get calls on this,” he moaned.
I still get the occasional chuckle out of that.
Sure enough, when the paper ran the obit, my maiden name changed to Saoirse and his mother’s changed to the believed surname of his birth father (Aigner, who apparently had never known he had a son).

: Week in Review: Coming Home

A few weeks ago, I was at Milford. Let’s just say that it was a much-needed experience.
On my flight home on Monday, I was seated next to a guy who seemed to be starting his midlife crisis that very day. One of the things we have in common is a dislike of the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” kind of question. Our goals are not tickable boxes that way; they never have been. What we seek is experiential: a great environment with interesting problems. In both our cases, our definitions of interesting problems had shifted recently.
And he said, more than once, “Respect your dreams.” Always good advice, but also something I needed to hear that day.
Interesting conversation to start the week with, and something that keeps coming to mind.
trigonos

: How You Know You're a Natural Novelist

You and your spouse have been discussing going to Worldcon and Eurocon next year (London and Dublin), possibly with side trips to Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man.
In the simple form:
map
Or:
map-1
And then you talk about a place you two would like to go, and you think, well, it reopens right during Worldcon, so that would be convenient (as if anything like this ever would be) and so we could go on the way home.
Like so.
map-2
And that’s kind of what it’s like being a novelist: never seeing the simple arc when there’s a more interesting and involved complicated route to find.

: Clarion Write-a-Thon, Week 1

It’s been one week, and I’ve been working on an existing short. It’s been kinda sloggy writing-wise because I’m super-busy at work this time of year, and I have the death of a thousand paper cuts with errands and details before the trip begins.
Also, it’s been incredibly hot this weekend. Yesterday, it was 102 and today it was 96 — and we don’t have air conditioning. Right now, it’s 88 degrees inside and it’s 8 pm. Sigh.
But I have written, every day.
You can sponsor me here.

: You Get One Shot To Fix Things

Trigger warning.
I’ve been on the Internet a long time. I’ve seen everything from the first spam onward.
I entered my first internet controversy in 1993. I’m sure you’re all shocked. This resulted in attempted (but failed) personal harassment in 1995. That feud is still ongoing and has its own Wikipedia page.
So you might say that I’m no stranger to the long-term consequences of Internet tiffs.
My observation is that there are two basic rules for companies who are primarily Internet-based:

  1. You get one business day for a response. Two at most.
  2. Your first response is critical.

So, about Kickstarter.
Specifically, about the Kickstarter for Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome With Women. (Update: now archived here)
Nothing in the Kickstarter copy specifically says that the guy is promoting rape tips. This is an important point.
However, Casey Malone did more research. He came up with the following quote from his reddits:

Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.

That? Is assault. It is also disgusting. It was also, per his implication on the Kickstarter page, part of the content of the book.
So here’s Kickstarter’s official response:

Update, 6:51 p.m. EST: Kickstarter emailed a statement to The Raw Story regarding both the project and the public response:
Kickstarter reviews projects based on our guidelines and the information creators share on their project pages. It’s a process we’ve refined over four years and continue to refine daily. We strive for fair and thoughtful policies that maintain the health of the Kickstarter ecosystem.
This morning, material that a project creator posted on Reddit earlier this year was brought to our and the public’s attention just hours before the project’s deadline. Some of this material is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as people and as an organization. Based on our current guidelines, however, the material on Reddit did not warrant the irreversible action of canceling the project.
As stewards of Kickstarter we sometimes have to make difficult decisions. We followed the discussion around the web today very closely. It led to a lot of internal discussion and will lead to a further review of our policies.

I’m sure you’re all sobbing about this decision. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it all that much more when you’re in the unemployment line kicking yourself for not standing up for the women and men who have been raped. Or cosmic irony, which I do not wish for in this case.
But if you have a company that thinks men forcing women’s hands onto men’s dicks isn’t against company policy, I pity the women, if any, you have at your workplace. (Update: link to list of Kickstarter employees.) And I think your workplace needs to cease to exist.
About rape. I have been raped. I don’t generally make a big deal out of it. In fact, I tend to minimize it in the way women pull that bullshit for reasons listed in the post I’m about to link to.
Therefore, I’m going to end this with what I think is the most useful post I’ve ever read about rape culture and how women respond during and after rape: Harriet’s Another Post About Rape.
Brilliant.

: Clarion Write-a-Thon

Every year, the Clarion workshop at UCSD has a fundraiser where they encourage alumni (and, well, anyone) to participate in the annual write-a-thon as a fundraiser. The dates of the write-a-thon overlap the workshop itself, reminding us how crazy we were to do nothing but write, edit, and critique for six weeks.
I’ll be participating, thought it’s going to be interesting to see how much writing I’ll actually get done given that I’ll have an epic case of jetlag most of the time the workshop is running. In other words, it’ll be just like 2002 all over again!
Because the write-a-thon formally ends before my return, it won’t literally be an around-the-world write-a-thon trip.
You can sponsor me here.
Keffy also has a great post and is totally worth sponsoring too.
Of this year’s faculty, I went to grad school with Nalo Hopkinson, and she taught a couple of workshops I was in. Karen Joy Fowler was one of my Clarion instructors.
Write-a-Thon

: How Will They Know?

Some years ago, Rick and I sat listening to a panel of some TV writers talking about their experiences in Hollywood. Neither of us remember the writer in question or the name of the proposed show, but we both remembered the punch line, and I think it’s an important one.
It’s one of those that’ll stick with you.
Before Buffy, the proposed TV show (never produced) about vampires was going to feature a major character who was a Moor, centuries old, educated at Oxford. Or maybe Cambridge.
One of the network execs giving notes said, “He doesn’t sound black.”
Writer explains character’s background and education.
Network exec says, “How will they know he’s black?”

: On Lady Professionals

Once upon a time, when I was talking casually with a guy about bringing me in for an interview, he asked, me, “So how do you feel about working in a group that’s almost all men?”

Until that point, I hadn’t really thought about it. The reality of my job as a software engineer has been that I’ve been surrounded by men in my professional life. Fortunately, I like men. Bunches.

What I very rarely say, though, is how male dominated it has been. For the first sixteen years I worked as a software engineer, I worked with no female software engineer peers.

Zero.

Just imagine what it would be like to work in your field, whatever it happens to be, with every one of your same-sex peers erased. For sixteen years.

What’s perhaps odder in retrospect was that it didn’t seem the least bit strange until this guy lampshaded it quite a few years later. I wrote down everyone I’d worked with at every company and what they did. Surely I’d missed some woman somewhere.

Nope.

Part of this was the type of programming I was doing: I started out in scientific programming. I didn’t work (as I do now) for a large company in a large team that has a large percentage of women (less than half, but the highest percentage of women I’ve ever worked with). Even when I previously worked as a consultant for a large company on a team of almost 40 people, there were two other women, but neither were software engineers. Thirty-odd of us software engineers, and I was the odd.

So I guess part of how I feel in the whole SF/F thing is: I feel no less welcome than I have in my day job career. Which is: it basically hasn’t been an issue for me.

Oh sure, there was the one boss who was trying to overthrow all women of power. He, uh, Got Resigned. And there was his replacement, who was worse. I could tell you stories, but they’re frankly the kind of thing you wouldn’t believe in a novel, much less in reality. But I can say that he didn’t act sexist toward me. Flying his “admin” back and forth every week, though, that was another story. That’s two bad apples, and there were many good ones.

I was never treated as though I was there simply because I was female. Nor was I treated like I was unique because I was female. I was just another person, there to do a job.

I’ve worked with quite a few non-white software engineers (and managers) over the years, but in my entire career, I’ve only worked with two who were black: one was an African immigrant, and the other was an African-American man who was just beginning the transition from support staff to engineering. I’ve also worked with a number of LGBT* folks, too, though I suspect I’ve worked with more than I’ve known about.

So, coming from my professional background, the field of SF/F has felt to me like it’s stuffed to the rafters with talented and diverse people, except for the relative paucity of Indian SF/F writers relative to the numbers I’ve known professionally.

No one ever called me a “lady software engineer,” nor would they have been able to do so twice. So I sure as hell am not a “lady writer ”or “lady editor,” either.

: The Outrage Machine Is on Vacation

I was hoping to make some salient points on the whole SFWA matter, especially given that (as with many of us) Resnick’s been one of my editors.
However, I’ve spent the last few days in the Second World, and I’m rather overwhelmed by some of the following:
1. Crossing the battlefields of Balaclava, Ukraine (of The Thin Red Line and Charge of the Light Brigade fame).
2. Visiting Novorossiysk, a city with a population of 24,000, bombed so severely that the only surviving residents were a mother, her two children, and their grandmother.
3. Seeing the famed Potemkin steps in Odessa.
4. Spending time in Romania, where Rick last was during the time of Ceausescu (he visited many of the same sites in 1978), and hearing about then vs. now.
5. What may have hit me the hardest: going to a long-secret Soviet submarine base in Balaclava and walking behind several layers of super-thick blast doors where 1000 people regularly lived — all developed because they were afraid of us. (The USA)
Additionally, we just landed in Istanbul (where there’s been a lot of rioting), a person I know has been raped and another person I respect has died, and I just can’t work up the energy on an issue that doesn’t involve issues as severe as any of the above.
However, I can insert my generic short form internet blow-up thoughts here:
1. There’s a reason my license plate is XKCD 386.
2. People are complex, and too often on this issue, I see parties from both/several sides reducing the other to one dimension that is unjust. This doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues, mind, just that I’m tired of rhetorical bullshit.
3. People feel obligated to be on the “right” side when the cards land, sometimes pressuring other people to shun someone. This is evil. I’ve been in a cult with shunning and I don’t do that. Sure, I may choose not to speak to someone, but it may just be I’m tired of completely different shit. Maybe they talk too much about Ohio. Or Cancun.
4. I’m not the kind of person who holds a grudge. I do think people need to be called on their bullshit, and if you call me on mine respectfully, I will appreciate you more for doing so. Some people will refuse to learn, and some will try to learn but fail. What matters more to me than one blow-up is how people deal with issues in the longer term.
5. I love the Internet and all the weird places it has, even the ones that make me shudder. Maybe even especially those. See #1.

: Artist: Art vs. Reality

My dad was a physicist. He’s retired now, but when I was a kid, we’d go out to a pizza place, he’d bring a lab notebook, a slide rule and a calculator, and he’d write equations and notes in it. Sometimes, he’d write jokes.
His entire work life is in those notebooks: everything from Synchrotron experiments to the work he did on the Viking Lander’s GCMS project to the TOMS project (for which he won a NASA prize) to the Hubble Space Telescope, just to name a few projects he’s worked on.
The notebooks were a good chunk of his work product, but they’re not that comprehensible to the uninitiated. It’s not like the next-door neighbor back in Vermont, a farmer, who used to take his kid out on a tractor with him. That kind of work is far more comprehensible to outsiders.
So I suppose it’s no surprise that writing as a career doesn’t seem odd to me. After all, it’s not that dissimilar to the scribbles my dad did in his notebooks way back when. It just has a different audience and result.
There’s a funny thing, though, about both acting and writing. It can be really difficult for others to know where the work ends and reality begins because we get so used to fluid movements in and out of artistic headspace. With actors in particular, that can include whole mannerisms and ways of being. (Maybe some writers are like that, too, but I’m not. I don’t think.)
I was in the shower one morning thinking about how a male character I was writing would approach women, and a thought came out fully formed.
My first reaction thought was, “Well, I’d never think that.” Quite aside from my being straight, I found his thought process compelling but repugnant.
Followed by the mental double-take because: I. Just. Had. Thought. That.
Once I got over my initial reaction, I found that it was comforting: I’d been able to distance the character in a way that made him easier to write now that I had a point of significant difference (from myself) to hang other actions on. I had bounced out of the art and bounced back in.
Sometimes, when others see us, they don’t know what part of us they’re seeing, and that can be disconcerting. It’s also easy to confuse the artist and the art.
With other art forms, the process and result is so much more concrete. My friend James (NSFW link), well, you never know where he is. “Where are you?” I ask. “On a hilltop on Maui chasing nude women on horseback.” Now, see, that’s a far more concrete thing than “I’m laughing my ass off in front of my monitor at two a.m. because I’m writing a funny scene that 61 people will ever read and two of them are in Malaysia.”

: Creeping in Film Form

There are a number of examples of creeping in “romantic” films, and by creeping, I mean men who do not listen to what women say, taking no to mean yes.
It’s the Schrodinger’s Rapist problem. In a nutshell, a man who doesn’t listen to what you communicate, verbally or otherwise, is unlikely to listen in intimate situations where your consent is more important.
Ever since I read that essay, I hadn’t seen a clear film representation of it until last year, when I saw the 2011 film Rockstar on a flight. Thankfully, I was able to turn it off and watch something else.
In short, there are several times Heer, the female lead, gives JJ, the male lead, very very clear “no” responses and he keeps treating them as “yes.” When he shows up in her classroom to declare his love for her despite that, I just couldn’t watch any more.
I wouldn’t recommend the movie (obviously), but that’s a pretty clear-cut creeper example if anyone happened to need one.

: Lessons Learned from Writing Fanfic

I started writing fiction around 1988. My best friend, Joyce, started a writing group out of our circle of friends. If I wanted to play, I had to write. All of us (who are still living) are still writing, too.
The first piece I wrote Joyce said was like “waltzing with Frankenstein” — it’s clumsy, but I got there. It was science fiction. In that future, people had beepers. Just goes to show you about failures of imagination, doesn’t it?

While waiting for a response, Gilbert’s beeper made a raspberry sound. He calmly moved his hand to silence it, and, in his haste, knocked it to the ground. It shattered with a last mournful wail. Gilbert’s faced turned raspberry, no doubt to match the sound.

And so, my literary (non-) career began.
I remember spending an inordinate amount of time looking stupid shit up. Like punctuating dialogue.
My next novel I wrote on a typewriter. Way. I started it — and given much of the slush I’ve read, this is not an uncommon place to begin — by having the character wake up. I wrote three novels of it in first person. It bit. I wrote a short story set in the same world. It also bit. Marion Zimmer Bradley said it had “no sense of wonder” back when she used to send personal rejection letters. I have always wondered if that was more her problem or mine. (I’m not an idiot: at least part of it was indeed my problem.)
Somewhere in there, I tried to write some Trek fanfic, but I really wasn’t inspired. That’s because it was before Riker grew a beard, I think, and before I dated the guy who kinda sorta looked like Riker.
Then I fell into a rough crowd, literarily speaking, and wound up with contracts for twelve adult (read: porn) westerns in four different series. Yippie-ki-yay. Wound up being half my income for that 18-month stretch, mostly written when I lived in Fort Lauderdale in a studio apartment with a roach problem, dating a guy who had a magic ability to rescue and repair televisions. I know that not all twelve wound up being published; I know at least one was, and no, I’m not telling you the names. Move along.
Oh, and my late husband, not realizing what the stash of books was all about, burned them one evening. Just. Great.
I started writing technical books and chapters after that, including a book about (Macintosh) System 7 for Que. They came with prompt checks and contracts (and really prompt deadlines; I had three weeks to write my first book), but eventually I realized it was coming at the expense of writing fiction. Fiction writing makes me happy; technical writing does not.
I got turned down for Clarion a couple of times and realized I needed to try harder. I went to Odyssey one year, but our year is sort of a lost year, unfortunately. Some of us are really only just now starting to get some success.
In 2001, I started my MA in Writing Popular Fiction (now an MFA program), and learned a lot. I was accepted for Clarion in 2002 (don’t ever do that mid-MA/MFA, it was a stupid idea), and then went on to do Viable Paradise in 2002 (see previous comment) and again in 2004.
Then I got into the doldrums, where I was lost for years. I’m not usually a fast writer and I am fairly easily discouraged when I hit a wall. Nanowrimo has been really a successful endeavor when I’ve been able to commit to it.
Last time I wrote a whole novel draft (2009), it was only in a few weeks, but I wrote it out of order and it is an unholy mess. Let’s just say that, like E.L. James, it is an erotica riff that launched from Twilight in its own way, but the resemblance ends there.

She strolled by, smelling like a hot Texas night where lovers cling under the magnolia tree wrapped in dense humid mists, fireflies twinkling with excitement. Only she was two thousand miles from Texas and blocks from even a single magnolia.

It’s not that I wasn’t writing, but I wasn’t doing enough of it. There are reasons, and some of them are good reasons. Let’s just say it’s part of the past.
In 2010, I decided to go for my F (MA->MFA upgrade), but decided quickly that it really wasn’t for me. For the first time, I felt like I knew what I was doing as an author, and what I needed was more story seeds, not more education. Instead, I set out and fixed some long-standing obstacles in my past, including mending a long-broken relationship with a good friend.
So I had an idea for Nano last fall, and I decided on a project I’d been wanting to for a few months, so I started on it on Nov 1 dutifully. In a few days, I fell over.
Why? Because my writer brain had been waking up every day for months, without fail, working on fanfic. So I said, well, what the fuck, we’ll write some fanfic then. I started doing that on the 6th or so.
I got the 50k done in November. The piece is somewhere around 70k now, but I haven’t yet taken the machete to some places that need it, and I cut 10k out of it one day.
I started posting it. Any of my Clarion classmates can tell you this: I’m really really not a one-draft writer. So seriously not. I under-write. I leave out important stuff. My first draft is really more like making clay for the final pot without any pot-like shape to it.
But this is fanfic. You can make it as polished as you want — or not. I’ve decided to mostly post first drafts, flaws and all. However, my first drafts are far cleaner than they were in my Clarion days. First, I’m not as tired. Second, I’ve grown as a writer. However, I’m aware of my limitations, but I decided I wanted to play now, not six months from now.
I’m glad I did.
I got fan mail. (As of today, I’ve gotten fan mail ten days in a row.) Fan mail is incredibly addictive, folks. It will keep almost anything going.
But that’s not what’s most valuable about it to me.
I’ve discovered a lot of things about how I write. I’ve always known I’m a plot writer, and characters don’t really talk to me except when we’re in media res together. I can’t do those character sheets ahead of time and have it mean anything. But fanfic comes with complete characters (hopefully not so complete that you don’t have room to grow them somehow), so that wasn’t a problem for me this time. Because of that, it was easier to keep going because I felt like I had a feel of what the characters would say and do that I don’t get when I’m writing the early parts of my first drafts.
So I can start characters first. I just never have been able to with original stuff.
There are spaces in between scenes where things can happen, and those interstitial moments can be very cool.
Other people are writing the same characters and using them in different ways with different moments, memories, and lines. You get to look at those choices and figure out if you agree more with them or your own interpretation — or if you want to write another piece that takes advantage of what you’ve learned from someone else’s interpretations. It’s interesting how much even four people can diverge on interpretations yet agree in the main.
Fanfiction.net also offers some very nifty traffic stats. I have a reader in Kazakstan. How cool is that?
But mostly, the other people writing in that same world will amuse you and you will learn from them — and they from you.

: Dead Shows: Fairly Legal

Rick and I were discussing my favorite kinds of shows as I was whining about Fairly Legal being canceled. He pointed out I liked smart shows with good dialogue, complicated plots, and layers to them — and that most people simply couldn’t relate to them. I also really like a good sense of humor in a dramatic piece, but it’s not something that’s absolutely necessary for me.
My three favorite movies, in order, are: The Player, Duplicity, and Inception: all but the last have a great sense of humor; Inception probably would be my favorite movie if it were warmer and funnier.
So let’s go over those doomed series. This will be the first of a one-post-per-show format.

For this show, I really loved the writing. There were lots of places where things were left far more open than in a typical series, and I just love that kind of pointilist dialogue.
There were, unfortunately, a lot of fans of the soon-to-be-ex-husband on the show, aka #TeamJustin. Having built that up for a year, introducing Ben was bound to cause some of the fans to become disaffected, though many of us who liked Justin in the first season switched to #TeamBen. For me, I liked Ben from his first episode, though I saw his flaws, but for others, it didn’t happen until around episode 8 (“Ripple of Hope”) of 13 episodes, which was, imho, way too late to get people on board. Some people stopped caring about the show as a consequence. Side note: iTunes claims I’ve watched Ripple of Hope 192 times. Ahem.

The other aspect is that Justin comes off as a stronger male character (in the classic romance novel sense) than Ben does. For me, Ben comes off as a more modern character: he makes the fundamental assumption that women know what they want and are generally able to communicate it. There are a lot of layers in the dialogue, such as this opening scene where Kate and Ben meet.

K: (plays with rim of glass)
B: Plymouth and tonic.
K; Check, please.
B: Do you always come in the door leaving?
K: Umm, it is Not My Scene.
B: But, here you are, so you were either born on that bar stool or you came in here disguised as a woman who wants attention.
K: And you’re wearing a $3000 suit with a pocket square.
B: I believe my motives are clear.
K: Sorry. It has been a while since anyone’s offered to buy me a drink.
B: Really? Did the world go blind?
K: (Laughs) I’m married. Was married. Now I’m not. Anyway, the ex is on his way to sign the (waves hand) whatever, but it looks like he has blown me off.
B: Well, it’s just as well, or he would have changed his mind.
K: (Laughs) Nice try. Maybe it’ll feel normal some day.
B: Do you believe in fate?
K: Wow, was that a line?
B: It’s a question. Takes the edge off picking up strangers in bars.
K: I’m 29. I’m, uh, nearly divorced, recently orphaned, more recently out of a job. My life is kind of at this unexpected turning point, so yeah. I do believe in fate. And I believe she is a fickle, fickle bitch. [nice recap for people who didn’t watch Season 1]
B: You seem broken.
K: (laughs)
B: I like that.
K: And you’re a fixer.
B: No.
K: Yeah.
B: No, I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.
K: Well, at least you’re decent enough to be honest about it, you don’t see that much.
B: Oh, you must be a lawyer.
K: (lying) Schoolteacher.
B: Right. You’re a schoolteacher and I’m a decent guy, so (raises glass) cheers to honesty.
K: Hey, cheers. Yeah. (laughs) And good night. (gets up, starts leaving)
B: Is truth the way to your heart?
K: (turns)
B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart.
K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me.
B: (stares)
K: (whispers) Too late.
B: (stares after her as she leaves)

Justin winds up telling Kate what she wants (and is wrong) and keeps trying to assert his dominance, like in this scene from the Finale.

K: Oh, Justin.
J: Here we go.
K: Oh, God, what?
J: Nothing. I just know you, that’s all.
K: Look, this is the, uh … , right needle, wrong haystack. I’ve been fighting this feeling–
J: Oh, my, Kate–
K: …and I keep hoping–
J: Don’t do this!
K: …that this is going to feel right–
J: It does feel right. We’re not who we used to be, don’t do this.
K: I know you think that I’m running away.
J: Yeah, because you are. I knew you were gonna get scared.
K: I’m not scared.
J: (nods his head)

It also doesn’t help that Kate is the patron saint of lost causes, and while Justin has given up on her, she hasn’t given up on him. Then, to make matters worse, when she starts getting scared at Ben’s advances, she runs back to Justin, who then becomes fully engaged again. That all works as far as the plot goes, but some of the ways it plays out make Kate less sympathetic and Ben seem less strong a character as far as many women might see him, and that loses audience.
Justin tries to manipulate Kate directly, but he’s bad at it. Ben’s a far better manipulator, but he’s discovered that manipulating people doesn’t make for good long-term relationships, so he’s the kind of guy who manipulates the underlying situation and let the people cards fall where they will. As an example: knowing it’s complicated and it’ll take her days to decide, they fly to Lake Tahoe “for the day” for a case for which he’s gotten her appointed as a Special Magistrate. Naturally, with Kate, it becomes a multi-day affair, with the two of them spending two nights in Tahoe. The second night, there’s a hot tub scene where Ben’s out there and Kate comes to give him some news about the case, then a different conversation follows. I see Ben’s strategy: he’s made an advance, she’s run to someone else, and if Ben makes the next move and closes the gap between them, he will never know if he manipulated her into it or if she truly picked him. On the other hand, if he gets her close by, within inches, and she closes that last mile, that’s something else. Thus, the hot tub scene, which parallels the season’s opening scene.

K: What’s that?
B: It’s a rock. Found it up there today, it’s sort of shaped like a heart.
K: Do you think it’s ever possible to feel that way again?
B: Like what?
K: The way it feels when you fall in love for the first time. Do you remember that? It just feels like this wave just washes over you, but you’re not afraid to drown. Wow. It’s just so easy the first time.
B: Love is never easy. You don’t have to be 17, you just have to be brave. I knew you couldn’t just pick a side and then fly home. I wanted to stay the night, because I do care that much.
K: (looks up at him)
B: So do you. (crosses over to her) That’s why you went back to Justin, because he’s safe. And this you can’t control and it scares the hell out of you. You want that wave. (reaches for her hand and pulls her into the water) No strategy. No foreplay. No negotiation. You just have to have the guts to dive in. (beat) Do you?
K: (freezes)
B: Too late. (walks off)

One of my other favorite bits is when Ben’s ex Lydia is the opposing counsel in episode Shine a Light.

B: She’ll have another Tanqueray and tonic.
L: You trying to get me drunk, Ben?
B: Don’t need to get women drunk.
L: Ah, so they just fall at your feet without lubrication.
B: My cross to bear.
L: He’ll have a Plymouth and tonic.
B: You remember. I’m touched.
L: I didn’t need any help, either.
B: Except for that one time in Sausalito.
L: We were both pretty sauced up then.
B: And Alcatraz.
L: That was work related.
B: Oh. (incredulous) That was work.
(Ben crosses behind Lydia as she’s laughing)
B. I thought about your offer.
L: The $125,000?
B: Yeah, it doesn’t really work for me.
L: I could knock it down to 75 if you’d like.
B: How about a million. See, here’s the thing. Karl was so peeved about that settlement that I failed to bring him that I started to wonder: who did tell him about it? Do you know?
L: Search me.
B: It’s perplexing, isn’t it? Because whoever did would have communicated with my client without me being there — which is an even bigger ethics violation than failing to mention a settlement agreement in the first place.
L: (says nothing)
B: You spoke to my client without me being there. The bar association will be so crushed. See, it’s not fair that you’re the only one who gets to be satisfied here, Lydia. Do you know what I mean?
L: Alcatraz.
B: Exactly. (Pause) So. Bring me a cashier’s check for a million dollars by the end of the day and I’ll see if he’ll bite.
L: You’re bluffing. And I should have left you handcuffed to that cell.
B: Is that a yes or a no?
L: (turns and leaves)

They know each other well enough to have secret metaphors that are never explained, but you can almost read between the lines.

: My Favorite Show Was Canceled

Sorry to see you go, Fairly Legal.
There’s really only been two shows I’ve fully bonded with in the last few years: that one and FlashForward, but they appealed to me in completely different ways.
I’ll write about that later.
nu9sr

: Going for Memorable

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

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

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: Pop Quiz

What political issue do all eight of the following agree upon (at least in the larger sense)?
Sarah Palin and Melissa Etheridge
Snoop Dog and Pat Robertson
Glenn Beck and Aaron Sorkin
Rachel Maddow and Rick Perry

: Am I The Only Holdout on Marriage Proposals?

Several of my friends have, over the months this came out, held this up as a cool marriage proposal.
I have to admit, I think it’s creepy.
Why?
Because, in my book, any marriage proposal designed to “sell” the woman into the thing, especially one that leverages a celebrity (e.g., Patrick Stewart) or family (as in the earlier proposal) is not a proposal between peers. It is potential husband + club + possibility of public shaming, especially given the prevalence of these things on YouTube.
Now, true, it’s always possible that the couple arranged the whole thing to make it look like a surprise. If so, go them.
It’s also true that Rick proposed to me in front of others on a mailing list, but it probably wasn’t generally known that Rick asked me if that would be okay first.

: You Might Think Mitt Planned To Lose

: Captain Awkward FTW

#322 & #323 “My friend group has a case of the Creepy Dude. How do we clear that up?”.

: "She Opted Out of This Section of the Universe"

That’s what a Church of Scientology official said when explaining why the President of the Church of Scientology’s ex-wife Karen (de la Carriere) would not be permitted to attend her 27-year-old son’s memorial.
Story here.
I’m glad that Heber (said president) will be permitted out of The Hole for the memorial, though. It shows a very small amount of humanity.
Karen will be holding her own memorial for her son in a few days.

: My Westercon Schedule

This weekend, I’ll be speaking at Westercon 65 at the Doubletree Seatac in Seattle.
Here’s my schedule:
Thu Jul 5 3:00:pm – 4:00:pm Humor in Speculative Fiction
Cascade 2 Blowing up a spaceship is easy; making it funny is hard. Writers talk about hilarity for fun and profit.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Frances Pauli Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Ted Butler
Fri Jul 6 9:00:am – 10:00:am Research for Fantasy Writers
Cascade 13 Readers don’t want to run into glaring inaccuracies in a story. How does a fantasy writer avoid this? Where can a writer find good research sources easily? What has to be “real” in a fantasy world, and what can the writer get away with?
Anna Sheehan Deirdre Saoirse Moen Michael Ehart Renee Stern Robin Hobb
Fri Jul 6 1:00:pm – 2:00:pm Lessons From The Slush Pile
Cascade 7-8 Slush piles can be terrifying. They can also be an author’s best friend. Why you should volunteer your time as a slush pile reader.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Janna Silverstein Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Patrick Swenson
Sat Jul 7 4:00:pm – 5:00:pm My Town
Cascade 2 Westercon is a regional convention. Part of the beauty is getting to see how it’s done in your town. What towns would you like to see host Westercon?
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Gibbitt Rhys-Jones Suzanne Tompkins
Sun Jul 8 11:00:am – 12:00:pm Ebook Conversion 101
Cascade 3-4 Want to take your manuscript and convert it to an ebook so you can post it on Amazon and make more money than the Queen? Great! Where do you begin? What tools do you need? How do you get from A to B to C and the rest of the alphabet before you’re ready to upload it? Let’s discuss.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen G.Robin Gibbitt Rhys-Jones M Todd Gallowglas Tod McCoy

: One Freakin' SNP: Today's Change

I have a bad SNP. It’s not my fault. Genetic analysis has determined that I got this wayward gene from my father.
However, knowing that celiac disease could be very bad, and having only a big major medical coverage at the time (in 1996, with a $5,000 deductible), I didn’t want to be “officially” diagnosed as celiac. So my doctor and I did the blood test and I changed my diet to gluten-free. Until I had more stable coverage, this was all I could afford to do.
This meant that I was “off the books” as a presumed celiac, and that meant there was no paper trail to deny me insurance based on a pre-existing condition. And there ain’t much more pre-existing than a bum gene, right?
However, this worked against me in the long run. If I were to stay in a hospital, I had nothing to back up a gluten-free meal request — or, worse, gluten-free pill requests. I’ve been told explicitly I wasn’t celiac because I didn’t have high enough levels of anti-gliadin antibodies (never mind the fact that not every celiac does) even though I’d been on a gluten-free diet for years. In fact, I still haven’t gotten the celiac label to stick at my HMO because it is so difficult to diagnose someone who’s been on a gluten-free diet as long as I have, and typically the methods involve making someone very ill. Charming.
In short, I’ve been trying for years to get accurately labeled, and it’s cost time, expense, and quite literal pain and suffering — all because of my fear of being labeled when I had inadequate insurance and could be denied for pre-existing conditions.
In fact, my mother had emigrated to Canada in the 80s, had breast cancer while there, and was afraid to return to the US for fear of not being able to find any coverage at any price. At the time she left, few small US employers offered health care plans, and pre-existing condition exemptions were huge. Over time, that changed, so she returned to the US as a dual citizen in the dot bomb era, now able to find good coverage (partly because the cancer had been long enough ago that pre-existing clauses didn’t clawback that far).
Also, as my friend Kate phrased it, “I’m unbelievably happy, not having to plan major life decisions around benefits packages could change my entire career path.”
Amen, sister.

: Two Conversations

From Fairly Legal, Season 1, episode “Coming Home”, a key conversation between Justin and Kate. From this, it’s fairly obvious that Justin filed for divorce and that Kate didn’t want to split up.
K: (Knocks on Justin’s door) Hey, I tried calling you, you didn’t answer your phone.
J: That’s because I didn’t want to talk to anybody.
K: I’m really sorry I betrayed your confidence.
J: So you just apologize and everything’s all right?
K: Justin, it’s me we’re talking about.
J: You’re unbelievable, you know that?
K: Aww, Justin. I’m sorry. But don’t hold this over my head just to get even.
J: This isn’t about getting even. This isn’t about Paul Hainsley and you know it.
K: All right, fine. I admit it. I’ve been avoiding signing the divorce papers. It’s…. I really like things the way they are.
J: What we have is not a marriage, Kate.
K: I know, and isn’t that great?
J: How is that great?
K: Well, when we were married married, we never had any time for each other, right? And that created pressure.
J: Which I was willing to work through; you weren’t.
K: It’s everything I loved about the relationship without actually having to be in the relationship.
J: So it’s all the fun without the work, right?
K: Yeah, so what’s wrong with that?
J: Where do I start?
(they kiss)
J: Stop.
K: What’s wrong?
J: This is what we always do.
K: Yeah, there’s good reasons why we should.
J: No, and then it just goes back to the way it was before and nothing changes, and I don’t want to do this any more, Kate. I can’t.
K: Sure you can.
J: No. I can’t. What if you were mediating this relationship? What would you say? Ignore the problem. Let’s go to bed. Nah. You’d say fix it, right?
K: Maybe.
J: Yeah. I love you, Kate. But what we have is broken. We can’t keep pretending that it’s not.
K: Justin.
J: (backs away) I’m sorry.
And the opening scene from season 2’s first episode, Satisfaction, where Kate and Ben meet. It essentially is a plot map for much of season 2.
K: (plays with rim of glass)
B: Plymouth and tonic.
K; Check, please.
B: Do you always come in the door leaving?
K: Umm, it is Not My Scene.
B: But, here you are, so you were either born on that bar stool or you came in here disguised as a woman who wants attention.
K: And you’re wearing a $3000 suit with a pocket square.
B: I believe my motives are clear.
K: Sorry. It has been a while since anyone’s offered to buy me a drink.
B: Really? Did the world go blind?
K: (Laughs) I’m married. Was married. Now I’m not. Anyway, the ex is on his way to sign the (waves hand) whatever, but it looks like he has blown me off.
B: Well, it’s just as well, or he would have changed his mind.
K: (Laughs) Nice try. Maybe it’ll feel normal some day.
B: Do you believe in fate?
K: Wow, was that a line?
B: It’s a question. Takes the edge off picking up strangers in bars.
K: I’m 29. I’m, uh, nearly divorced, recently orphaned, more recently out of a job. My life is kind of at this unexpected turning point, so yeah. I do believe in fate. And I believe she is a fickle, fickle bitch. [nice recap for people who didn’t watch Season 1]
B: You seem broken.
K: (laughs)
B: I like that.
K: And you’re a fixer.
B: No.
K: Yeah.
B: No, I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.
K: Well, at least you’re decent enough to be honest about it, you don’t see that much.
B: Oh, you must be a lawyer.
K: (lying) Schoolteacher.
B: Right. You’re a schoolteacher and I’m a decent guy, so (raises glass) cheers to honesty.
K: Hey, cheers. Yeah. (laughs) And good night. (gets up, starts leaving)
B: Is truth the way to your heart?
K: (turns)
B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart.
K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me.
B: (stares)
K: (whispers) Too late.
B: (stares after her as she leaves)

: Fairly Legal, Season 2 (thus far)

Fairly Legal, Season 2 (thus far)
After season 1, USA axed the show creator and brought on a different show creator, then brought in Ben as a love triangle character. Season 1 was about the rather broken relationship that Kate had with her soon-to-be-ex husband Justin, which was summed up in season 1’s episode “Coming Home”:

J: What we have is not a marriage, Kate. K: I know, and isn’t that great? J: How is that great? K: Well, when we were married married, we never had any time for each other, right? And that created pressure. J: Which I was willing to work through; you weren’t. K: It’s everything I loved about the relationship without actually having to be in the relationship. J: So it’s all the fun without the work, right? K: Yeah, so what’s wrong with that? J: Where do I start? The scene ends with Justin pulling back more than once. In Season 2, Kate finally does sign the divorce papers she’s been putting off, and Justin ineptly tells her she can start dating again. This leads to an awkward situation where she’s out having a drink with Ben (as a colleague) and Justin shows up with a new date, something Kate’s completely unprepared for. But let’s back up for a minute. The opening scene of Season 2 is when Kate’s sitting at a bar waiting for Justin so they can sign the divorce papers, but he doesn’t show (not his fault, as is shown later in the episode). Ben, a rather cocky attorney, comes by to hit on her. He throws one line after another out, hoping for something to stick, and as she’s starting to leave, he finally hits home. B: Is truth the way to your heart? K: (turns) B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart. K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me. B: (stares) K: (whispers) Too late. B: (stares after her as she leaves) As it turns out, he actually does really listen to what she says here, though he doesn’t really get the groove right away. The next day, he’s representing one party in her mediation, and by the end of the episode, he’s bought his way into the firm. Now, strictly as a writer thing, it’s the way to get him into situations up close and personal with the main characters — there was no other way to have him continually interact wth her. For Ben, though, he’s the 23rd-highest-grossing attorney in the city, he has no associates, is generally a lone wolf (and competent at it), so why would he buy his way into a law firm that was going under — if it weren’t for his initial fascination with Kate? The day after he buys into the firm: B: You look familiar. K: Oh dear God, it’s true. You actually do work here. B: Didn’t you hit on me in some bar recently? K: You know how some women don’t remember the pain of child labor? I don’t remember the bar. B: And yet here I am, rosy cheeked, 153 pounds, 7 ounces, right in the office next to yours. We’re going to have so much fun together, Katie. Pillow fights. Movie nights. Up gossiping till dawn. K: (punches elevator button repeatedly) Things progress until episode 6, “What they Seem,” which is when Justin fumbles telling Kate she can date. There’s an earlier bit cut out of the actual episode that’s in the [season 2 promo](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSsN6gVMd9g) that’s necessary for context. J: The only reason he brought you into this mess is because he thinks you’re can throw me off my game. K: Oh, you think? J: Oh, so you know he’s using you. K: Yeah. Sometimes a girl doesn’t mind being used, especially if he’s cute and has a lot of money. (blows Ben a kiss.) (To Justin) How’s your game now? Later in the same episode after the case’s resolution, J: (About a case they just worked on) I guess I’m not usually blinded by my emotions. K: (Sarcastically) I have no idea what that’s like. You said I was the one being used. J: Just for the record, if you wanted to be used, or — not used, but — look, what I’m saying is– K: (turns to look in the direction Justin’s looking and sees Ben) Ben Grogan? J: No. No? (impliedly asking if she were interested in Ben) K: No. J: No, no, no, I’m talking about the concept in general of dating. (devolves into stammerfest) K: You’re so cute to see you fumbling for your words. J: Oh my God, forget I said anything. K: Good, I hope so, ’cause that was weird. Somewhat earlier, Kate is convinced that inattentional blindness is at the heart of her current mediation, and Ben doesn’t believe in it, so Kate leads him into the office by his tie and tries (successfully) to distract him. Her demo buys her most of a day to try to uncover what really happened. In the bar later, Ben notices Kate isn’t her usual self: B: To partners. K: Whatever. B: Look at you, agreeing to have a drink with me. K: Oh, slow down there, cowboy. I just needed a bar and somebody with a car to drive me there. B: What is the matter? You’re the queen of win-win. This is win-win-win. K: Uh huh. B: You get the truth, O’Hara gets to keep his pension, and Andre Chernof is going to clean up. K: Mmhmm. Then Justin walks in with a date. Ben asks if she wants to leave. Initially she resists, but then grabs Ben’s coat and says, “Let’s get out of here.” Ben drives Kate home, and she invites him in. She then propositions him, but he turns her down. For a lot of fans, this was when they started liking Ben. Naturally, the two characters wind up in the elevator the next morning: B: Oh shazam, now I remember. You saw Justin on a date last night, drank too much, I drove you home, and you asked me in for meaningless revenge sex because you think I’m an empty person. Did we? No. Because I said no to you and went home. (There are a lot of great elevator scenes in this series) Two episodes later, after another case, Kate and Ben are leaving the building at the end of the day, and he pulls her into a kiss. While he starts it, she definitely contributes to it, then breaks it off. In the following episode, she describes it as “I kissed somebody” to two different people — as though she had initiated the action, but when she tells her assistant Leo, and he asks who, she lies and says he doesn’t know the guy. Leo figures it out later that day, though. Nevertheless, Kate stands up Ben the next episode, instead spending the night with Justin (who tells her “Don’t ever change” — a line that justifiably enraged a lot of fans). It’s not until the 10th episode, Shattered, when Kate finds out that Ben really cares, and leads to my favorite line of the entire series when Ben’s ex shows up as counsel for one of Kate’s cases: “Were you two Amish together?” Kate corners Leo after noticing that Leo and Ben are acting different around each other; Leo tells Kate (after Ben asked him not to — twice) that Ben had come around to his house looking for Kate when Kate stood Ben up. Despite this, Kate leaves hand-in-hand with Justin at the end of the episode, but she looks back twice to see the reaction on Ben’s face. [Next episode’s sneak peak suggests that Ben isn’t going to fight fair.](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70tRkbrBUOY) I approve. I didn’t come around to Ben right away; he’s become increasingly sympathetic as the season goes on, but he’s just as flawed as Kate is. What I find interesting is that when you look at personal space, Kate is far more likely to invade the space of or touch Ben than she ever was with Justin. Kate’s a very touchy person, and is comfortable with that close boundary, but she tends to keep her distance with Justin unless she’s trying to manipulate him into sex. I really hope she stops doing that, but hell, I had one of those relationships with an ex for years, so I can also empathize. In Kate’s case, it really doesn’t seem like she’s dated anyone other than Justin, which makes it harder for her to break things off. In Ben’s case, we’ve already met two of his exes, so one wonders how many dozens (or hundreds) of others there are. Or, as I’ve said before: Kate’s a train wreck and Ben’s a perfectly good train. The main thing wrong with Justin is that he’s an unwreckable train. In order for a plot to work, the plot mechanisms need to be able to create change in the characters, and Justin’s like Argon: non-reactive. He’s too steadfast a personality to be interesting with Kate. Ben is mercurial and has that well-practiced exterior gloss over the wounded puppy inside.

: BayCon 2012 Schedule

1. How Has the SyFy Channel Failed Fandom? on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM in Alameda For those of us who thought “Wow! A complete cable channel for US!” and ended up sorry they ever tuned in. Or put another way, why these shouldn’t even be rated “B” movies or serials.
2. Themed Reading: Science Fiction on Saturday from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM in Central
Come listen to authors read from their science fiction works.
3. Hugo Nominees Discussed on Saturday from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM in San Tomas
WorldCon 2012 is fast approaching, and every year the highlight is the Hugo Awards. Our panel of past and present Hugo voters will discuss the nominees. Who do you think should win? Who do you think will win?
4. Travel is My Drug of Choice on Sunday from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM in Camino Real
Avid travelers travel for different reasons. Panelists discuss the motivations behind their enthusiasm.
5. Make a Website that Doesn’t Suck on Sunday from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM in Bayshore
What do to, what to avoid when putting together your own website, and how to do it.
6. A Shot Rang Out on Monday from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM in Bayshore

: Read So Hard, Got Paper Cuts

It’s possible you haven’t seen this fine bit of rap from Annabelle Quezada, La Shea Delaney and company.

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Lyrics are here and a note about author choice is here.

: On the Funding of Television

Context: a local Comcast rep came to talk to us as we’re one of the “switchers.”
Dear M,
Thanks for stopping by our house to talk to us about Comcast. As you know, we did have some rather legendary service issues, but that’s not ultimately what led us to leave the fold, it was merely the catalyst.
In short, the entire process of billing for cable television is broken. Without the ability to not subsidize channels like Fox News or shows like 19 Kids and Counting (when did The Learning Channel become so craptastic?), there’s no way I’d come back to cable.
And yes, I really do want to pay show-by-show, not just pay for a shotgun lineup of channels. Now, the shows we actually watch are able to get direct dollars from us, and if more people chose that approach, maybe there’d be better-quality shows produced. Or not. Regardless, what we like is now more directly correlated to what we pay for. What we dislike, we are not paying for.
Also, except for the broadcast channels, I’m able to watch shows with no ads. Imagine that. I’m paying about the same amount of money over time (less, actually) and fewer ads. I’ve never been clear on why I paid a cable company for non-broadcast channels that have advertising.
So, there it is. Sure, we don’t have as many channels as we had before, and downloads aren’t instantaneous, so it’s not a perfect system. It is, however, a better one.

: Kathryn Daugherty, RIP

I heard earlier this afternoon that science fiction fan and convention runner, Kathryn Daugherty, passed away. She’d had a reoccurrence of colorectal cancer and had recently had surgery and started a second round of chemo. She’s been married to James Stanley Daugherty for almost 40 years.
She was a friend and a mentor, and I’ll really miss her presence.
She had been the programming head for ConJosé, the World Science Fiction convention in 2002, and I worked for her as her staff, then as her second for BayCon the following year. I also worked as her autographing staff at a later Worldcon.
She loved to read, and kept her Goodreads list up to date, though some of the side effects of cancer had slowed her reading down at times. She loved to collect autographs and literally had a room full of autographed hardbacks. I think she kept Amazon.co.uk afloat in the early years with her love of British SF imports.
Like Rick and me, she had a great love of travel, having lived in several places around the world, including New Zealand and St. Croix. I’d turned her on to the Traveler’s Century Club and she and her husband James had planned their trips around attaining membership on the list. I know she passed Rick and I in country count some years ago, but I’m not sure if she ever got to 100. She did get to Million Mile status on United, which is a bit easier when you have multiple houses near United hubs.
Her hobby of love, apart from building or renovating houses, was needlework, and she had a needlework blog.
I’ll miss her, and I know others will as well. I know she was also a mentor to Seanan McGuire, who wrote one of Kathryn’s favorite books of recent years.

: When Coerced Abortion Is a Sacrament

I keep hearing about people who want to have religious exemptions for contraception in medical policies. Few people realize there’s another side to that coin: a religious exemption for coerced abortions.
Well, right, but who would do such a thing you ask?
The Church of Scientology, of course.
I’d previously mentioned Claire Headley’s case, but she wasn’t speaking at the Human Trafficking in Scientology Press Conference I went to two years ago because of that case. There was, however, a similar story.
Laura Decrescenzo talks about joining the Sea Org at 12, being coerced into an abortion despite wanting kids, and how she attempted suicide to get out of the Sea Org:

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Maureen Bolstad was camera crew for Gold, here’s some of her story (including some of the conditions she did camera work under). Note that she did what some of the other Gold crew have done for Writers of the Future. Note in particular the circumstances in the second video when she talks about some of the conditions she worked under while severely injured. She is a representative sample of the Gold camera crew filming the Writers of the Future events.

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Here’s part of the ruling (currently under appeal) in Claire Headley’s case:

Even so, she [Claire Headley] argues that she is a victim under the TVPA [Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act] because: (1) Defendants coerced her into having two abortions; (2) Defendants placed restrictions on Sea Org members’ ability to leave; (3) Defendants pursue Sea Org members who leave without routing out and attempt to dissuade them from their decision; (4) Defendants discipline Sea Org members who even express a desire to leave; (5) Defendants censor Sea Org members’ communications; (6) Defendants’ discipline of Sea Org members includes sleep and eating deprivation and heavy manual labor; and (7) Defendants attempted to force Plaintiff to divorce her husband. (Pl.’s Opp’n 17-18.)
In contrast to Bollard and Elvig, Defendants here represent that the challenged conduct was doctrinally motivated. (E.g., Defs.’ Reply 10-11, 15-18.) Therefore, inquiry into these allegations would entangle the Court in the religious doctrine of Scientology and the doctrinally-motivated practices of the Sea Org. It would also require the Court to analyze the criteria Defendants use to choose their ministers and the reasonableness of the methods used to enforce church policy and encourage members to remain with the organization and the religion itself. For example, inquiry concerning the pressure Plaintiff allegedly faced after becoming pregnant would require review of Scientology’s doctrine prohibiting Sea Org members from raising children. In order to determine whether Defendants’ means of persuading members to remain with the Sea Org, etc. fall within the purview of the TVPA, a trier of fact must inquire into Scientology’s policies,practices, and scriptures.
The Court rejects Plaintiff’s argument that the challenged conduct was not doctrinally motivated.

The judge is, essentially, full of it. In fact, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings are very much anti-abortion, so you could argue that the theology of Scn is anti-abortion but the current practice, at least for Sea Org members is exactly the opposite, and therefore it is a triable matter of fact as it can’t possibly be doctrinally motivated.
Here’s the background for how Scn prevented Sea Org members from leaving Gold base, including coercion and motion sensors. Here’s the judge’s statement in a hearing (pacer link, which requires a fee):

You submitted evidence that they did believe that the Church did not want them to leave the property, and if they did, that they couldn’t be members of the Church anymore. That’s an entirely different thing from being held against one’s will and being forced to work.

I can’t lather up enough rage for the judge’s complete inability to consider testimony.
A longer history of Scientology and abortion can be found in the Wikipedia article. Possibly the best reference on the change from anti-abortion to the coerced abortion situation, though, is this post about the institution of the “no kids” in the Sea Org when one of L. Ron Hubbard’s kids, Suzette, was pregnant. However, it should be noted that there were coerced abortions before, too, including time in the 60s on the ships with L. Ron Hubbard at the head of the church, but it was not as widespread or among as many people as it later became. So, really, the implied policy has always been more about serving the church’s goals and needs than about the actual theoretical doctrine.

: Brinker's First Class Flights

A lot of people have focused on senior Komen execs’ compensation. I’m not sure if $400,000 is out of line for similar non-profit execs or not, but my first thought was: it’s probably not.
However, there is the issue of Brinker’s expense report.

At the Komen foundation, as the chief executive officer and founder, Brinker is approved for first-class travel, according to the foundation’s tax records.
Cohen of Nonprofit Quarterly points out that first-class travel at a nonprofit organization not only is unusual, but also can create the perception that donors’ dollars aren’t reaching the intended beneficiaries. “For most nonprofits, they wouldn’t think of first-class travel,” he says. “There is the issue of perception.”
Says one former employee: “How many mammograms could you buy for those first-class tickets?”

For an exec like Brinker, business class airfare, if available for discount, may be typical. First class isn’t, but that’s what Brinker flies.
Let’s look at the cost, shall we? These prices are for San Francisco to New York on United:
Price I paid a couple of weeks ago: $299.60 (S class)
Current cheapest coach: $318.60 (W class)
Refundable coach: $1,489.60 (B class, which is not the most expensive coach fare)
Cheapest business: $3,383.60 (Z class)
Refundable business: $4,597.60 (D class)
Cheapest first class: $4651.20 (No non-stop on the return, mix of F and A fares with one Y segment, so we know she wouldn’t have booked this one!)
Refundable first class: $6,385.60 (F class all the way)
So while it might be defensible for Brinker to book the cheapest business class fare at a bit over 11 times the coach fare costs, if she’s typically flying first class, she’d probably have booked the first class at 21.3 times the price of the coach ticket. That delta could have paid for mammograms and research.
Some of you might say: but why business at all? The simple answer on a transcon is better sleep, food (important if you spend a lot of time on a plane), and lounge access (always including food, frequently including showers) at the end of your journey. It’s probably warranted on a longer trip (especially an overnight), but not on a short one.

: On the Alleged Separateness of Writers of the Future and Scientology

I have been following the contest (and some of the people involved in its administration) since 1984 when I first worked the combined Battlefield Earth / Writers of the Future booth at the World Science Fiction convention in Anaheim.
All Scientology organizations are legally separate from one another. This is a manifestation of L. Ron Hubbard’s paranoia about Scientology being taken over (by your paranoid theory of choice). Nevertheless, all things are micromanaged from the top down.

  • At the start, WotF was administered by Author Services, which is apparently completely controlled by the Church of Spiritual Technology, both of which are part of Scientology.
  • Author Services is also the corporation David Miscavige (current leader of the church) came up through the ranks out of (his wikipedia page is a little bit out of order here; Author Services existed before L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986 and Miscavige overthrew the Broekers around 1987 and took over; before then, Miscavige was the head of Author Services). If there were no relationship between Scientology and Author Services, how could that possibly happen?
  • There is very little money separate in Scientology. It’s always an upward pull week-by-week. I was on the financial planning committee of Tustin for several years. We’d send $5,000 up even when we couldn’t afford toilet paper. I’ve been science fiction convention staff at several conventions involving WotF and I see the same Scientology fingerprints all over: not having the budget to buy a dealer’s table until the end, pleading with the staff, and wanting programming to accommodate them at the last minute. There was a commitment to Westercon last year — and then, nothing. If their money was *really* separate, I’d think they’d be more consistent with their planning and not act like everything’s a last-minute emergency the way Scientology does every frakkin’ week. As for budget specifics, obviously none of us have seen them.
  • When I went to the Athenaeum at CalTech in 2007 for the WotF event, they checked the column marked “Wog.” The other column was marked, “Scn.” I said, “Oh, I’m a Scientologist.” (partly to see what they’d do) They changed what box they checked. Why use a racist slur (also commonly used to mean non-Scn) if they were not affiliated? Why track Scientologists separately?
  • The camera crew at the events are Gold Sea Org (Scn’s religious order) members. This means they normally reside and work at the same location where Debbie Cook was tortured and Marc Headley was run off the road trying to leave. I’ve actually point-blank asked a few of them, “Oh, are you from Gold base? I always thought that would be so cool!” (Because of my film background, people were pressuring me to go there when I was in, but now I’m super-glad I did not.)
  • In 2008, the event was held at the Author Services building in Hollywood. Canapes were served by Sea Org staff.
  • I’ve never met a WotF staffer who wasn’t a Scientologist (more specifically, a Sea Org member). Galaxy Press is a secular organization, so in theory they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion, disability, color, and (most especially in California) sexual orientation. So where are the people of color? The disabled? The queer? The people of other faiths? If the contest administration is truly separate, is it also a secular organization? If so, same question.
  • I seem to recall Will Fry talking about some of the aspects of fiction publishing when WotF books were still published by Bridge Publications (where he was Sea Org), but I will need to look that up. He did talk specifically about gaming the NY Times bestseller list, though.

Regardless of the nitty-gritty details of any separation between WotF and the church, you’ve still got the problem of putting the name of a guy who put kids in chain lockers on the cover. This should not be forgotten about.

: Why I No Longer Support the Writers of the Future Contest

Trigger warning for those of you who need such, especially about bullying.
For a long time, I supported Scientology’s “Writers of the Future” contest. A couple of years ago, I quietly dropped my support for it as my views on the current state of the organization changed. (Note: I am a former CofS member and staff member.)
There have been tales going on for years about some of the bad stuff the Church of Scientology has been into, including the largest known infiltration of the US Government in history, and a secret IRS agreement that gives Scientology preferential tax treatment over all other faiths despite having lost a US Supreme Court case.
But that’s old news.
Why I’m posting about this now? On Feb 9, 2012, for the first time, a senior insider to the organization documented inhuman behavior at the highest levels under oath.

Cook: We were made to do these confessions…one time in front of 100 people, yelling at you. I was put in a trash can, cold water poured over me, slapped. One time it went on for 12 hours…There were times I was accused of being a homosexual, a lesbian.

The same story from another POV:

For the next twelve hours Debbie was made to stand in a large garbage can and face one hundred people screaming at her demanding a confession as to her “homosexual tendancies”. While this was going on water was poured over her head. Signs were put around Debbie’s neck, one marked in magic marker “LESBO” while this torture proceeded. Debbie was repeatedly slapped across the face by other women in the room during the interrogation. Debbie never did break. And fittingly she was rewarded with what turned out to be a break in another sense of the word.

Debbie Cook is also saying that she would have been unable to leave, and that is why she signed the document she did. Some people find that difficult to believe, but I challenge any of you to read the first chapter of Marc Headley’s book Blown for Good, where Scientology staffers from the same base came after him in an SUV to run his motorcycle off the road so he could not escape. You can read the opening on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or download a sample from iBooks. There is contemporary evidence; here’s the sheriff’s report. Here are spikes that would have kept both Debbie and Marc from escaping, along with inward-facing motion sensors, cameras, and guards (some of which are documented here).
It’s all very nice to dangle a few dollars in front of talented sf/f writers and illustrators so new blood can give new cred to L. Ron Hubbard, but please remember there are people’s lives being destroyed by the surrounding organization.
If that’s okay with you, feel free to continue to support the contest. (Look, past winners are past as far as I’m concerned. I’m more interested in people’s actions from this point forward.)
If it’s not, I ask that you link to or repost this (but please include the trigger warning at the top).
I have never spoken out in this context about my own harassment. In February, 1995, Scientology goons came to visit me in rural Vermont. However, I lived on a rural route and they couldn’t find me, so they harassed my friends they could find, sending private investigators around. I was the first ex-member to have a personal bully on the ‘net. One of the things I was accused of (to give you an idea of the truth level): marrying a post-op transsexual. At that point, I’d never been married. I do have an ex who transitioned, but our romantic relationship was before, not after.
Not even that was enough to make me speak out against the contest (having rationalized that the contest was good and only tenuously connected to the organization at large). In the larger sense of things, my own experience was small potatoes. Thankfully.

Cook said she was held there seven weeks with more than 100 other Scientology executives. They spent their nights in sleeping bags on ant-infested floors, ate a soupy “slop” of reheated leftovers and screamed at each other in confessionals that often turned violent. For two weeks, she said, Miscavige had the electricity turned off as daytime temperatures in the desert east of Los Angeles topped 100 degrees.
Cook testified Thursday that the experience in the summer of 2007 gave her nightmares and was part of the reason she was so eager to leave the Scientology staff later that year and sign a severance agreement never to speak ill of the church. (source)

Just keep that in mind.
Deirdre

: Blowing Out the Airline Miles

I cleared the pipes on my airline miles accounts Thursday and Friday, booking an around-the-world ticket mostly in business class. Except, you know, the single longest flight, which happens to be fourteen hours. Ugh.
Normal coach airfares for round-the-world trips are pretty hideous, far more so than doing the same mileage as a round-trip. They typically cost somewhere between $4200 and $4700 for the lower-end fares. Business class is another matter entirely; on OneWorld, it’s around $11,400 (which is actually less than I expected). I am too cheap for either kind of fare.
I don’t fly often enough (or on high enough fares or with enough status or spend enough on credit cards) to really gather lots of points, nor have I really tried to game the system. So I’ve carefully spent several months pooling my miles into two large heaps: British Airways and United (well, okay, most of the pooling was done on Continental, some via points.com trades, but there’s currently no fee to transfer between Continental and United). Some of the latter were Continental (and Eastern Airlines) miles I earned in the 80s.
I told a friend what I’d done and how many miles it had cost me (about 200,000 miles and about $400 in taxes) and she just was gobsmacked at the amount of miles. Upon reflection, she realized that she’d been using 50,000 a year for a trip to the midwest and had 80,000 in her account, so we just used our points differently over the last few years.
That’s fine, of course, but if you do fly frequently, ask yourself the question: is this the trip I want to spend all these on? If not, save them until it is, and read blogs like The Points Guy to improve your strategy in getting what you really want. Of course, coach domestic redemptions are fine if that’s what floats your boat, but they aren’t the best bang for the buck one can make.
Many coach redemptions are on the order of 1 cent/mile. Experienced travelers look for redemptions that are up to 10 cents/mile. Mine worked out to 6 cents/mile, so I feel I got a really good value out of my points.
After five years of benign neglect (and a British Airways credit card), I was pretty convinced I had a useless amount of points, but TPG gave me some ideas. Weirdly, it was looking up award travel to Dubai [1] that put the thought in my head, as BA suggested themselves inbound and Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong) on the return. I didn’t like going eastbound, but it did put the round-the-world idea in my head. Unfortunately, the itinerary I was looking at ran something like 280,000 miles, which wasn’t going to happen.
I started looking at alternatives while my miles were still coalescing, and once they hit 100,000 on United, I knew I had enough to make the trip work. British Airways is part of One World, and United’s part of Star Alliance, but there are no Star Alliance flights from Southeast Asia to Dubai on Star Alliance. Thus, for my plan to work, I had to go westbound on OneWorld.
Beyond that, since the dates I wanted to be in Dubai were set in wet cement, that meant that I had to work around award availability. Since BA’s Avios pricing is segment-based, I booked each segment separately. Then I waited a day to figure out the return. My return was far more open: there were lots of Star Alliance carriers who could take me from Dubai westward (and I could still wrangle something else if that didn’t work out), but the bigger problem was winding up in a city where it was useful to fly back home from, so I thought I should sleep on it.
TPG posted the next morning about Swiss opening up award availability. Sure enough, I was able to book a saver business award back home and a business award from Dubai, and I still had over 20k United miles left over when all was said and done.
So I’m taking a ten-day trip to Hong Kong, Dubai, and Zurich.

: One. Billion. Dollars.

Just as the year changed, Debbie Cook sent an email to 12,000 people that rocked their world.
It was a letter to active Scientologists. Debbie was the head of the largest public-facing Scientology church in the world (in Clearwater Florida) for 17 years. In the four years she’s been off their staff, she’s been busy accumulating information.
Here’s a layman’s translation of her letter:

  1. She’s highly trained, and spent 29 years in Scientology’s religious order, and isn’t connected with anyone who is a critic of Scientology. She’s a dedicated Scientologist in good standing (as of the time she wrote this letter; that has undoubtedly changed). ALl of the above is basically “why you should listen to me,” even though most Scientologists are such sheep that they probably won’t.
  2. She’s trying to use the words of L. Ron Hubbard to point out that the organization has gone off the rails in several areas, specifically:
    1. You know the organization’s supposed to follow LRH’s policies.
    2. Despite this, current leadership created the International Association of Scientologists (IAS), Scientology’s membership organization, in 1984, and has since pressured Scientologists to fund a ton of money into it. As of the time she had the information, the IAS controlled one billion dollars in reserves. (As an example, Nancy Cartwright donated $10 million. Per Hubbard, a lifetime membership should cost $75, and the money should be made available to local organizations instead of sucked into the black hole center.)
    3. There is no advertising of Scientology or Dianetics. (There used to be, in a campaign designed by Jefferson Hawkins.) In other words, money gathered to help expand Scientology — isn’t being used for that purpose.
    4. There has been a multi-year campaign to buy new buildings for Scientology churches, and this has meant hundreds of millions of dollars. The money has been raised by direct fundraising for that purpose, including bingo nights and so on, which is in direct conflict with Hubbard’s policies prohibiting fundraising. Hubbard’s philosophy was, “Solve it with Scientology.” In other words, Scientology services alone should be able to fund the buildings said services are delivered in. Instead, currently, Scientology organizations are focused on money raising for new buildings and for the IAS and are not focused on Scientology services.
    5. When services are delivered, they are being mis-delivered. Specifically, upper-level Scientologists keep getting kicked down to below the middle grade of Clear (originally mentioned in the first book, Dianetics), (and some have been forced to re-do the level more than once). Then there are the people who’ve been kicked all the way back down to the bottom, forced to start over from the beginning. Why? Money. Specifically, “many millions of dollars.”
    6. Hubbard left a team of people at the head to run the organization. They have all been disappeared over the years, occasionally trotted out at events. (One in particular, Heber Jentzsch, the ostensible President of the church, has not been seen in public in years.)
  3. Debbie suggests that Scientologists refuse to donate for anything other than their services, in particular, to stop donating for the IAS war chest and for the buildings.

So here’s my take on this: the fallout’s going to be interesting. For the most part, Debbie’s email has reached “new blood,” people who were so far in they don’t know about the Internet, Anonymous, the various blogs and sites full of ex-members — or any such thing. They still think Scientology’s expanding like gangbusters (present evidence to the contrary).
There will be pressure to pull in each of the 12,000 people for debriefing and forced loyalty testing (no doubt in the form of pushing them to donate to the things that are against Hubbard’s policies). That will push some people who hadn’t considered Debbie’s email to realize that it really is a problem, and then they’ll have to figure out how to respond.
Right now, though, there’s a lot of disavowal of Debbie, so it’ll be interesting to see how many waves she’s actually caused.

: 12/25 Quiet Christmas, With Bells

Bridges crossed: 0.
Maybe because I heard it a lot in Liverpool, I can only think of the John Lennon song: “So this is Christmas.”
(I also heard more than one’s fair share of “Wonderful Christmastime,” but as Scalzi points out, at least it doesn’t have Yoko on it.)
Truth is, I’m kind of wrung out from yesterday’s adventures. I take non-stop flights when I can for a simple reason: the stress of pressurization and depressurization is wearing on the bod, not to mention the stress of rushing through airports.
Worse, I didn’t just take one connecting flight yesterday, I took two, and, of the four airports I visited in four different countries, the two in the middle were two of the five largest in Europe. Worse, they felt like it.
So, rubber legs that I had, I decided on a different strategy: I was going to walk around and not cross any bridges unless I felt like it. Given that my legs were sore and tired, I didn’t feel like it, so I simply stayed in my little part of Cannaregio for the evening.
Most restaurants here charge a cover charge for bread service, and many of them add gratuities, etc. The night before, I went to a self-serve place that avoided all that, plus I got to see the food before I ordered and felt better informed that I’d make a good choice for a celiac. Dining here isn’t as difficult as I feared; there is high celiac awareness in Italy generally, far more so than in the US. Unlike the UK, most of the breakfast cereals in my hotel turned out to be gluten free, and there were rice cakes available for those of us who can’t have regular bread. I’m going to have to hunt down the cornetti senza glutine that supposedly exist. I haven’t seen them in windows; everything looks pretty bog standard wheat-enabled, but I’ll try to find some before I go.
It’s nice to have a magic phrase: sono celiaco.
Tonight, I just didn’t see any place open that looked like it’d be good for celiacs, so I opted for dining from my stash brought from the UK and US. It wasn’t the healthiest of dinners, but if you can’t have jam-filled gluten-free cookies for most of your holiday meal on Christmas, when can you have it?
Because I was so tired, I slept most of the evening, woke up and stayed up part of the night, then got more sleep before breakfast. All told, I probably had about 14 hours of sleep. Not the most exciting Christmas, but I really needed the rest.

: 12/24 Paris by Accident, Venice by Intent

Bridges crossed: 1 (Guglie across the Cannaegio canal)
Travel-wise (and obviously excluding the death of my mother-in-law), everything was going entirely too well, right? Well, all that was about to change. Today, I’d wind up in France by accident.
I woke up at 3:30 to finish packing my luggage, am downstairs a hair after 4, and check out of my room (which seems to take an eternity, but they were training someone new). They called a cab who didn’t show up, so they had to call again.
I’m supposed to check my bags in 150 minutes early, but the counter opens at 5am and my flight’s at 6:10am, so I am relieved to get there at 5:02. They reprint my boarding passes as their computer for reading the online-printed ones is down.
We’re all waiting at the gate (which is pretty shabby, fwiw), but at 5:30, no crew’s at the gate. There’s an announcement: the flight’s delayed; the inbound crew were delayed and there are strict rest requirements. I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with missing an hour’s sleep that the airline knew about the night before. I also have a problem with them not having known to re-book me at the desk when I arrived, but kicking the rebooking over to Amsterdam’s transit desks (which was probably the better plan, though). I had 90 minutes of stopover in Amsterdam, and I have to transit from a non-Schengen area (silly UK) to the Schengen one, which means security. That means I’m almost certain to miss my flight.
For those of you who don’t travel enough to know: essentially, the Schengen area is a border agreement. For practical purposes, it’s like crossing a state line in the US to go from one Schengen country to another. No passport control, no customs control, and no passport stamps.
We land on the ground at 9:22 Amsterdam time, and my flight’s at 9:50. I’m in tears just from the stress of the whole thing: cumulative lack of sleep catching up with me. I ask the first transfer desk, they say to talk to the Schengen transfer desk, which requires going through the Schengen security checkpoint first.
At the security checkpoint, they want everything out. I had six bins with the entrails of my carry-on on the conveyor belt, but that wasn’t out enough. I asked if they wanted cameras out too, they said no. They lied. They looked inside every lens. My non-underwire bra made the metal detector beep, so I got checked thoroughly by a security agent who smelled slightly of pot (this is how you know you’re in a different country; pot is legal in Amsterdam).
Naturally, after that, there was zero chance I’d make my flight. I was trying for it, but I knew it was hopeless. On the bright side, I really had wanted to spend more time in Schiphol, and I wouldn’t be too put out about it.
But: stress. I was crying because of the failure and my frustration with my even much-improved mobility.
I go to the transfer desk, and they were very nice and efficient. The lady listens to my issue with mobility (which is why I missed my flight, really), and looks at several re-routings, including one through Geneva. I’d asked about Schengen area, but I’d forgotten (probably because it wasn’t implemented last time I was in Switzerland) that Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, but it is a Schengen country.
Anyhow, a better routing that got me there earlier was through Paris, which turns out to be on strike. This worked somewhat in my favor, actually.
Additionally, they gave me a €10 voucher for food, a €50 voucher for a future trip, and a phone card voucher that I didn’t use.
I did use the food voucher. The nearest place to eat, Bubbles, was a seafood bar. I was so exhausted (and hungry, since I’d only had a banana, some water, and some orange juice) that I really needed to eat. I was too tired to parse the descriptions, so I pointed at a fish plate that was €15.95 and gave them my voucher. I paid the difference and got some water as well, and make it to the gate 20 minutes before boarding time. Win!
So I hop on my flight to Paris.
When we arrived, there was a woman helping people who gave me directions to my gate, but I forgot to ask if my luggage was checked through. In case someone screwed up, I waited at baggage claim just in case, but that proved unnecessary. Still, better to be prepared, right?
The sign on the baggage claim said that the security agents were on strike, and they apologized. I had to laugh at that, though later I saw military walking through the airport with rifles and it didn’t seem so funny then.
I then hurried to the gate, which turned out to be a long hike from 2F to 2D. The closer entrance to the D gates was closed, so it was exhausting for me, especially since this was my third airport trek today. Enroute, I bought a Pepsi, and was asked, “Pepsi normal?” Which I said “oui,” and now I had something to take with my meds. Despite all the walking, I make it to the gate 30 minutes before boarding. I’m eternally thankful to the nice transfer desk woman in Amsterdam.
Nothing edible for me on this flight, either, so I just had some water and slept as much as possible. I woke up over the Alps, snapped a couple of pictures, then fell back asleep. Thankfully, I had the entire row to myself, so I was able to move my purse to underneath the next seat and put the armrest up so I could be more comfortable.
I’m not the fastest person off the plane, so I follow everyone to the baggage carousel and wait for my bag.
No bag. I break out into tears again. Great, just great. Am I turning into Mary Robinette Kowal? Did I miss seeing my bag in Paris? Did it even get to Paris? This is how baggage gets lost. While I’ve packed my typical extra underwear in my bag, I forgot to re-pack a change of top. I’ve always considered this secret duo my talisman against luggage mishaps.
Another family’s bags are lost too, so we head over to the helpful desk. Their bag seems to have genuinely disappeared. My issue turns out to be funnier.
It turns out there were two flights from Paris coming in at the same time, and I was looking at the EasyJet baggage carousel. I flew in on Air France, though. Lady suggests I look on the other baggage carousel and, miracle of miracles, there is my lovely Tumi bag all ready.
“Mille grazie!” I say to the nice helpful lady who had told me that it had scanned as being on the flight. Good to know these things.
Now onto differently-complicated things. For example, getting to Venice (the islands) from Marco Polo airport. There are three ways: train, bus, or water taxi. For the last, there are private transfers (current advertised price was €110), shared transfers, or the (semi-?)public water bus, Allilaguna (€15). Getting to any of the above is a bit tricky, but I’d read the detailed instructions (with pictures) on Venice for Visitors. The water bus can be really crowded, but I happened to be the only person on my boat, at least until I got off at the Guglie station. There’s a large bridge between me and my hotel, but it has mini-steps on one side for the disabled and isn’t as high as the Scalzi bridge (one of four that crosses the grand canal) that would take me to the bus station. Therefore, I’m able to wrestle my luggage with me without much difficulty other than the occasional balking as the wheels hit some surface irregularity.
Sure, the train would have been the most practical, but I have a travel rule: if you’re going to a place that’s got something particularly unique or interesting about it, it’s always a good idea to travel there by the most traditional means possible. For Venice, that means travel by water.
As I have an early morning departure, I’m staying on the mainland for my final night, so I will probably take the train on my way out as it is the most direct and practical route.
One thing I noticed while walking to my hotel: there are a lot more places open than I’d expected. Not just places to eat, but also shops. I note a few where it looks like there’s something I can eat. The Guglie stop is (think about the word for a minute) in the Ghetto. By “ghetto,” I don’t mean the American word for slum, but in fact the original Venetian word for the Jewish quarter. As I’m passing the various shops and restaurants, one of them is a Hasidic place, the only Kosher restaurant in Venice. I will likely be eating there (the name of the place is Gam Gam) just because it’s such a part of the history that’s Venice.
I have stayed in my hotel before when I was on a Globus tour in 1992. It’s near the train station, and I remember it as being right in a place where the street opens up before the Scalzi bridge.
In general, it’s a good idea to stay fairly close to a vaporetto stop or a major bridge (the latter assuming you can navigate the larger bridges, which can be problematic for the mobility impaired). The closer you stay to St. Mark’s square, the more expensive it is. Fortunately, there are vaporettos, and two of the lines are fully accessible for those who need that (though one of those lines is seasonal).
I check into my hotel, and they upgrade me to a nicer room. I don’t particularly care about the nicer part, but there is a hidden benefit. Venice has for-fee wifi along the grand canal, and that generally doesn’t extend to the hotels. However, because my hotel is facing the canal and I’m in the front of the hotel (in a side room, though, no canal view), my hotel room has wifi. This is a good thing because I really don’t like having to have all my computer doo-dads out in public view unless I’m sitting inside a café. Catch is, I’ve forgotten that the site is having problems processing payments via Visa, so it takes me until morning to figure out that I need to pay with Mastercard. Voila, problem solved.
I peer out the small window of my room and see that there’s a shorter building next door, and I can see into one room at an angle. The family has a Christmas tree with only blue lights and a white couch.
It’s time to forage for dinner, and I have at least half a dozen serious possibilities. I opt for the first place, a café with a self-serve restaurant in the back that advertises no cover charge, so I can explore what they have and leave without guilt if I’m not comfortable with my options. They have paella though, which is an easy choice for me. It’s got clams, mussels, and small bits of salami, which seems like a truly weird addition to me, but hey, life’s an adventure. Too many green peppers (I’m sensitive to them) to be great Deirdre food, but it’s at least something I can eat without having to think about it too much. I’m still on wifi withdrawal, and, even though I’ve emailed some details to Rick, they are links and not full page text, so I can’t retrieve the magic phrases I was looking for.
I get the first full night’s sleep of my entire trip, which is extremely welcome.

: 12/23 Two Errands

Friday is my last real day in Liverpool, and I decided to go back to explore the pedestrian area. I have two goals in mind: I want to hit a local health food store and lay in some supplies of gluten-free items in case I need them for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Venice — when my dining options will be limited. I don’t want to starve, after all.
I find the health food store first, and they do not disappoint. I note Linda McCartney’s veg dinners in a freezer case. They also have some more familiar brands, including Ann’s, but all are vegetarian, which isn’t what I want for dinner — the more walking I do, the more the body craves red meat.
I ask for directions to Boots, which turns out to be around the corner. Both places are within a half a block of where I felt so lost the day before. Naturally.
Boots is a drug store, much like the US concept, but there’s a quirk of UK law: codeine is sold over the counter in drug stores that have a chemist (not all do, but most of the larger ones do). Frankly, this is one of the reasons I tend to route to Europe through the UK: even Heathrow has Boots with chemists, as do many tube stops. While I took codeine for years, I’ve been off it for a while, but all the walking is beginning to wear me down, and I need some help for bridges in Venice.
UK Codeine comes in two formulations: with acetominophen (paracetamol) or with ibuprofen. The latter is far more useful to me. I might as well wave a chicken feather for all tylenol helps me, and the ibuprofen formula causes less gastrointestinal irritation than the aspirin formulations available over the counter in Canada and Australia or by prescription in the US.
The process is less painful than buying pseudoephedrine back in the US: no ID is required. The assistant asks me if I want the small box or the large one. I pick the large one, of course. £7, such a deal.
I should also add that the pills are not as strong as what’s typically prescribed in the US. A Tylenol 3, typical prescription strength, will have 30mg of codeine. OTC doses in Australia and Canada are Tylenol 1 strength, 8mg. In the UK, it’s 12mg, so 50% more kick. It’s a nice dose, one where even half a pill can be enough.
I almost walk all the way back to my hotel before I consider the issue of dinner. Out of sheer laziness, I go back to the Pumphouse and sit at my same table, #13. One of the servers jokes that they’re going to have to put my name on a plaque on that table.

: 12/22 Magical Mystery Tour

For Thursday, I’d booked a tour: the Magical Mystery Tour. I walked over early enough that I could do something else: I decided to take a ride on the ferris wheel. It’s 60 meters high, and I do believe I could actually see to Wales.
Unlike the last few days, the sky is only mostly cloudy, and it gets clearer (and warmer) as the day progresses.
There’s something weird about me and industrial cities like Liverpool and Glasgow (and Pittsburgh): I love them. I can’t explain it. They just seem more real than some of the more glitzy places I’ve been.
The Magical Mystery Tour picked us up at the Albert Dock and took us around the various Beatles sites, including Strawberry Field and Penny Lane and all the various places where The Beatles grew up.
Sadly, the house where Ringo was born is scheduled, along with the other council houses for several blocks, to be demolished.
I should step back for a moment: three of the four Beatles grew up in public housing. Mendips, the house where John lived with his Aunt Mimi, was the exception; it’s not a huge house, but it’s 2-3 times larger than any of the others and has a significant side yard. Instead of a row house, it’s part of a duplex.
Because Mimi forbade John from playing in the house, John went over to Paul’s to write music. Thus, in 1965, the National Trust bought the McCartney home, the first 20th century building to be added, because of the history where the songs were written. When Mendips came up for sale in the 60s, the National Trust wasn’t interested because it wasn’t historic enough. Within the last decade, Yoko bought Mendips when it came on the market and donated it to the National Trust. I suppose that’s one way to accomplish it.
The other two Beatles, though, their homes were not deemed historically significant enough for the National Trust, either, so there’s no effort to preserve them even though Ringo and George were both actually born in those buildings. So Ringo’s childhood home is slated for demolition, and many fans have scrawled Ringo-love phrases all over the façade.
The house where George grew up, his family moved out when he could afford to help them do so. For the last 40 years, the same woman’s lived there, and our tour guide called her “the most patient woman in all of England.” It’s probably true.
Driving around Liverpool gave me a real sense of the place, and I loved the competing Anglican and Catholic cathedrals at either end of the appropriately-named Hope Street.
The bus tour ends near the Cavern Club somewhere, but that area’s now a part of a pedestrian center of Liverpool, so they can’t actually take us right to it. So we’re off.
Catch is, I actually have no idea where I am. I have the souvenir map from the tour. I’ve forgotten about the map in my pocket. I wander aimlessly down the streets full of people. There are wonderful-smelling food stalls with lots on offer, but the ones that seem are gluten-free aren’t quite ready yet.
For the first time, I duck into McD’s. I need a place to sit, it’s cheap, and I can use Amex. Mostly, I need something to take with my pills, so I get a coke, which makes the ibuprofen go faster.
I walk back to the house and sleep fitfully. At 5:30, I happen to wake up and look at my phone, and you know the rest: my mother-in-law passed away. I talk to Rick on the phone for a while, and don’t sleep well at all, understandably.

: 12/21 Downtime

The weather today was utterly miserable, and that did not encourage me to go out.
I was tired from the day before, still jet lagged, and I just wasn’t feeling all that great, so I spent a lot of the day resting up. I did finally get out, but it turned out to be too late to get to the Maritime Museum or the International Slavery museum, so I just went to the Pumphouse and had dinner.
Everyone needs a down day, this one was mine.

: On the Run: The Tour

Tuesday’s the big day. I tuck my concert ticket into my passport in my neck travel wallet and head down to breakfast.
I’m starving, and I woke up at 4 a.m., which my iPad insisted (it still thinking it was on continental Europe time) was 5 a.m. I waited until 6:30, headed downstairs, then went for my free Hampton Inn breakfast: sausages (probably not gluten free, so alas I skipped them), cereal (not a single gluten-free one), ham (yay), eggs (never my favorite dish), orange juice, coffee (I pressed “cappuccino” on the dial that morning), and a gluten-free English muffin I brought with me from the US.
That’s right, I brought — frozen — a half-dozen English muffins. I rolled the container up in my clothing to help keep them frozen. Customs didn’t seem concerned about them, and I apologized for carrying gluten-free coals to Newcastle, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t starve, yada yada.
Sadly, my hotel room doesn’t have a refrigerator, so it looks like they will spoil before I run out.
They have jam and Nutella packets at breakfast, so I grab an extra one of each in case I need it later that night (for stomachs that aren’t exactly with the program timezone-wise).
I mentioned that I’m not that wild about eggs. For a number of years, I wasn’t able to eat them at all, and it’s been difficult over the last few years because I tend to be nauseated (from pain) in the morning and sulfur smells do not help. However, now that I’ve been feeling better and seeing a nutritionist, I’m trying to work more eggs into my schedule.
I still don’t like them, though, and that means that I eat them with jam, because jam makes everything better. This morning, I idly wonder what eggs taste like with both Nutella and jam. You know, it’s an interesting experiment, but I’m not going to waste any more Nutella on it. Instead, I put more Nutella on my English muffin after warming it up in the microwave and cutting it apart. It was still partly frozen.
Now, I did travel with something to put on my English muffins: specifically, I traveled with packets of Justin’s nut butters in the following flavors: maple almond butter, honey almond butter, and chocolate hazelnut butter. I like them because they have less sugar than Nutella and there are different varieties. I also have one packet of Artisina Raw Macadamia butter, but I have a feeling I’ll vastly prefer the roasted kind I got in Hilo. These went into my checked luggage, but I only had a half dozen nut butter packets. Because of that, I’m conserving some and using the hotel’s Nutella instead.
Before I leave the UK, I’m going to head to a local health-food store and see what they’ve got that might help me in Venice, where I expect I’ll have fewer options that are complicated by holiday schedules and vaporettos, not to mention the sheer joy of finding random things in Venice. Suffice to say that I’ve no intention of starving, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up some Gouda or Edam when I pass back through Schiphol on Saturday. I should be able to find some rice cakes or crackers or something. I see there are two places within walkable distance I can go. But that’s for later, let’s get back to Tuesday.
It is very cold and very windy, but part of that is lack of acclimation and part of it is the hotel being kept too warm. I walk to the Albert Dock, which seems to be the
Because Paul’s concert’s tonight, I head to The Beatles Story, which is at the south end of the Albert Dock area facing the Echo Arena where the concert will be later. I had pre-booked the museum for £15.95, and the clerk was new, so someone had to show him how to handle an online transaction.
In the front, even before you get to the register, there are photos of Liverpool from World War II. We hear about London’s bombings, but because of Liverpool’s strategic importance as a port, it was extremely heavily bombed, second only to London. The Beatles, all born between 1940 and 1943, had this (not to mention the post-war rationing) as their early life.
I’ve recently read Cynthia Lennon’s book, John, and she gave some context to who John was (as well as others), but a better book for context (despite typos) is Tony Bramwell’s Magical Mystery Tours. So I go through the Beatles Story museum, and it’s got lots of great stuff: John’s first guitar, Paul’s contract for “Live and Let Die” (four pages, typed), and lots of details about The Beatles organized chronologically. I was unaware that “My Sweet Lord” remains the best-selling post-Beatles song.
Each of the four Beatles has a little seating area with film clips of that Beatle and key moments in their lives. Paul’s included clips of the “Live and Let Die” music video they did with OMG-those-are-70s pants.
One of the John clips is an interview with him where he says that he didn’t want to still be singing “Please Please Me” when he was thirty. And there he was, thirty, and he pointed out that he wasn’t singing the song any more.
That bothered me deeply on so many levels — and yet, I understood it perfectly. That’s probably what bothered me so much about it.
You see, I wanted to be a musician, but I was always afraid I’d have to do the same stuff over and over and over, and that seemed really truly dreary to me. It felt like it would be a chore, and I’m pretty sure John saw it somewhat similarly — that, and he’d moved on.
And yet, if you’re not willing to do that kind of work, doesn’t it seem like it’s maybe not the right career? That was my ultimate decision about being a musician and why it wasn’t right for me: because the essential aspects of the work didn’t seem fun to me. Yet, it was his best option, and yet he was still able to give it up for years at a time (1975 – 1980, for example).
I came out of the museum with all these kinds of things fluttering through my mind. It was 4:30 and I was hungry, so I set off to see who might take American Express nearby. The first place I came across that advertised such was Spice Lounge, an Indian restaurant.
I have had the greatest difficulty finding Indian food that works for my body. I’m celiac, I had a long-undiagnosed coconut sensitivity, and I’m likely sensitive to other spices. Of course, soy is also out, as are a whole bunch of other vegetables, so that limits my options too. Without exception, dining in Indian, Thai, and Korean restaurants has ended in days of gastrointestinal unhappiness.
I looked at their menu and found a chicken dish that was mild in flavor, dairy-based, and sounded like I could tolerate it well. I started to ask about ingredients and the waiter said it was gluten-free before I got very far into the process. Win! It was really yummy, but a bit sweet, so it’s not something I’d order regularly, but ghee, cream, spices, and chicken are generally okay for me now and again. Sadly, I can’t look up the name of the dish at the moment (stupid flash web site they have).
After dinner, I begin to head over to the arena, then realize I’d forgotten my lens adapter for my longer lens. Waffling for a few minutes, I bite the bullet then decide to walk the three blocks back, get the adapter, then come back to the Arena. In doing so, I ditch my purse, which turns out to be a wise move as they are doing a purse check and my camera is out of spec (they don’t permit cameras over 5 megapixels, but even my iPhone has more than that). I’ve got one lens stuffed in my left pocket and my camera awkwardly stuffed into my right. But, because I don’t have a purse, I’m waved through. There’s so many people on the concourse, they don’t let us in, so we’re standing in a light, very cold rain waiting. Waiting. More waiting. Finally, we get in and I get settled into my seat. Frankly, it’s further back than I’d hoped, but it’s okay.
What can I say about Paul McCartney? He’s got decades of skill of working an audience, he clearly loves performing, and if you can see him, by all means do so. He doesn’t do that many tours (and who would at age 69, really?). Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of most of his solo work, though there are pieces I love. I didn’t much care for the Wings era at all. There’s still enough in there for me to have had a great time.
Some great moments: there were songs he’d never performed before in Liverpool, including Mull of Kintyre (with a local drum and pipe corps), Wonderful Christmastime (with a local women’s choir from the Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts that Paul helped found), and “The Night Before” from Help (one of my all-time favorites) and “The Word” from Rubber Soul (which was mostly written by John) in a medley with “All You Need Is Love.”
I’d never realized that “Live and Let Die” would be the big set piece. I’ve always really liked the song, even more so with pyrotechnics. It was awesome, and I hope to find a good video clip of it when I get home. (I did take video of part of the song, but camera operator error prevented me getting more of it).
Also, still thinking about Lennon’s comment, I realized that I don’t mind writing for loops after all these years, even though they’re a scale of some sort. I simply don’t do them as practice per se. It made me think differently about the music thing.
Finally, during the second encore, Paul told the audience “No” (we couldn’t stay and listen to him all night), and he ended the concert.
Unlike a lot of other concerts where there’s an extended drum solo so everyone else gets break time during the concert, Paul was on stage very nearly every moment. He gave the band a break during one song, but that was it. The concert lasted about 2:40, which is a long time to perform after a concert the night before and with no warm-up band.
I walked home and I was totally wired from all the energy. Great show, totally worth having gone all that way.

: Greetings from Paris

No, I wasn’t supposed to visit France this trip, but sometimes one winds up in the wrong country by chance. Long story, which I shall tell later. I have done the CDG airport death march, and this is my third airport today. One left (one hopes).
I consider this my little Joyeux Nöel present from KLM/Air France. Well that, my fish lunch, and a voucher for a small amount off a future trip.
On the bright side, I now have chocolate as I had time to acquire some.
P.S.: Hello, Aliette! ::waves::

: Above Us Only Sky

Liverpool’s airport is John Lennon International, and it has a cool motto: “Above us only sky.” It’s not a huge airport, and KLM’s withdrawal will probably hurt a lot (though obviously if KLM were making money on the routes, they’d continue going there, so I now feel sad for my half-full plane).
Funny bit at immigration. The guy wanted to know if I was visiting friends or family or had been to Liverpool before. I answered no to each, and I could tell that this was beginning to set off alarms. Improvising, I said, “Paul McCartney’s in town.” He asks if he’s giving a concert, and I said that he was, at Echo Arena, and that’s why I was in Liverpool. At that point, he got visibly calmer.
“Well, you’ve got lots of friends here, then, you just haven’t met them yet. At the end of the day, you’ll all be singing the same songs.”
That’s the spirit!
Because I’d been more worried about other logistics and knew that the UK had working transit systems, I hadn’t even bothered to arrange transport: I was arriving around 5 pm on a weekday and trusted to the system. Worst case, I had cash for a cab.
The airport is south of the main part of Liverpool in a district called Speke, where George Harrison and Paul McCartney grew up. In fact, they often rode the # 81 bus together. George’s father was a bus driver on that line. Guess what the first bus I saw at the airport was? Yep, good old # 81. I’m not much of a trivia nut about these things, but I’d been reading up about the early Beatles history in Liverpool in preparation, so it just felt like that extra bit of welcoming context.
The right bus for me was # 500. While I was waiting for the bus, one of the staff asked where I was going, and I told him where. He gave me a tourist map, told me it was close to the Baltic Fleet pub (which it is), and that it’s the Campanile exit.
For £2.80, the bus took me and my luggage to that stop. I’m staying at the Hampton Inn, which is a couple of blocks south from the Albert Dock than the Hilton, but it’s half the money and includes free breakfast and free internet (and the Hilton does not). In fact, given the prices for breakfast and internet at UK hotels, it’s practically like getting the room for free.
The Campanile stop was a couple of blocks further south than the Hampton, so it looked like it wasn’t anywhere near the tourist sites like I was hoping, but it became obvious, once I walked toward the hotel, that I was closer than I’d thought.
Because I’m a Hilton Gold member, everything was ready when I got there, and my concert ticket had arrived and were in the hotel safe. After a moment of confusion when the clerk couldn’t find the envelope, he did and all was well. I was off to my room in no time, this time with a much more local map and a few restaurant suggestions. Sadly, the prime suggestion was Italian; a) I’m celiac so Italian’s rarely a good choice; b) I’m heading to Italy soon, so I’ll save my Italian dining for that part of the trip.
Hampton Inns tend to be fairly minimalist, but this one may be more minimalist than others. The room’s small, but not uncomfortably so, but there’s a complete dearth of drawers here. Still, there’s enough room for me, my luggage, and it has working internet. My only real complaint is that there’s very sheer sheers and venetian blinds, so there’s no way of getting a mix of privacy and the ability to see out. I like to be able to wake up to natural light and it’s just not possible in this room.
With the blinds open, my room has a view of Albert dock and the Echo Arena Big Wheel, a 60-meter Ferris wheel that can, on clear days, see to Wales. Thus far, there have been no clear days, but I’m hopeful that one of my remaining days turns out to be a good one for visibility. If so, I’ll go up on it during daylight hours.
First, though, it was time to forage for food. In this Merseyside area, there’s two main areas for dinner: the Albert Dock, which tends to have the trendier restaurants, and Liverpool One, which is a bus depot and shopping area. The first place I found where it looked like there was something reasonably affordable (given UK food prices) that I could eat was the Pump House Pub, which had the following advantages: 1) it’s a real pub! In England! 2) in a historic building; 3) food/price.
I put on my vest, coat, hat, gloves, jacket, and shawl and headed forth, and was miserable by the time I got there. It’s almost a kilometer of walking and, once you get to Albert Dock, it’s really rough stone road that’s just unlevel enough to be unkind to knees like mine. Plus, I was tired and sore from travel and wanted to go to bed, but I knew I’d be hungry at some impossible hour when I couldn’t get decent food at a price I’d be willing to pay. Besides, there’s no better way to train your body to a time zone than to feed it when it’s supposed to want to eat.
I had a burger, which was tasty but dry, and they had a gluten-free lemon flourless cake with a lemon and raspberry sauce. Topping the whole thing off was a gravy boat of double creme. Zomg, so good.
After that, I was pretty much done for that evening, so I went to bed. Sadly, I kept waking up every hour or two, my body completely confused by the time.
Coming up next: Tuesday, aka Concert Day

: A Brief Visit to Amsterdam

I’ve been to Amsterdam before, but never to its airport, Schiphol, which is pronounced “skipple” (by the Dutch, anyway, and they’re the ones who matter in this context. Silly British pronunciations need not apply).
I’ve been through numerous airports on four continents, but this one’s a bit surreal.
I haven’t transited from country A to country B through country C frequently in my life, but I have done so in London (both Gatwick and Heathrow), Mumbai, and Toronto.
Just like for arrivals into a country, every other airport I know of has you land into a secure area, do a long march where you get your luggage, go through customs and possibly immigration, then drop your bags off again and go into the secure part of the airport along with everyone else waiting for connecting flights.
Not so with Amsterdam. I started following people exiting my flight only to realize they were dispersing into the airport — we might as well have stepped off a domestic flight. I had that momentary panic wondering if there was something I was missing, but then I realized we weren’t given landing cards. Not being an idiot, I did double-check with the info desk to make sure; an apparent lack of protocol isn’t an excuse for messing it up.
Once I cleared that up and asked where my hotel was located, I was able to enjoy the airport shopping experience. In addition to the usual international brands, there was a Rijksmuseum gift shop. There were also places to buy Delft wares, cheese, and tulips, as well as a cool cafe where the chairs were Delft-like teacups. In short, there was a lot of pride in what made them unique, something I see too little of in US airports. Hint: sports teams ain’t it.
I used the free airport wifi until it was time to check into my room. There are two “airside” hotels in Schiphol: the Mercure is very small, more expensive, and frequently sold out, while the Yotel is more budget, a bit larger in terms of number of rooms, but the rooms are quite small. They are rented as a minimum four-hour block, but you can book them for overnight if you like.
Airside, in this case, means on the secure side of the airport. In the US, that’d be after you go through the TSA checkpoint. So you can go to a hotel without having to schlep anything. Since my luggage was checked through to its final destination (yay, efficiency), that means that I had made sure that what I needed, including a change of underthings, was available in my carry-on.
Schiphol also has, I found out, public showers, but you need to bring your own towel and soap, so if you’re a hoopy frood, you’re in luck. I suddenly understand the large market in travel towels.
Speaking of, and completely off-topic otherwise, I also newly understand the market in another travel accessory: the travel vest with many pockets. It seems that many air carriers limit weight on carry on baggage, but not travel jackets and vests, so people put their heavier items in the vest/jacket. Lufthansa limits carry-on to 7kg. Air Tahiti (not Air Tahiti Nui, which is a different carrier) limits carry-on to 3kg.
Back to Yotel. There’s two kiosks to check in, but I don’t have my reservation number out. I’m fumbling for it, and the gentleman there says it’s faster to tell the lady at the desk, which I do. I’m given my room key and my access code.
Now, I knew these rooms are small. Twin bed, tiny corridor the length of the bed, and a combined very narrow toilet/sink/shower. They’re about 75 square feet. I worried it might feel a bit claustrophobic, but it didn’t. The bed was wider than I feared. It was firm but not uncomfortably so, and the comforter was cozy. Opposite the door was a mirror and a hangar (hanging my coat obstructed the mirror). Below that was a small ledge wide enough for iPhones and similar stuff, and there were plugs in a variety of configurations, including US. I plugged my power strip into it, then the CPAP, iPad, and iPhone into it.
The door had a window onto the corridor and a blind, which I let down.
There was no apparent light other than the weird ambient purplish light, which is pretty dim, but bright enough for what I needed.
The shower was the rainforest style, which meant that getting one’s head wet was pretty much a mandatory feature. I don’t always wash my hair in a shower, but this time I gave it a rinse as I was feeling sticky all over from the flight.
I have to say: the idea of showers at airports is an immensely civilized undertaking. Until I started reading trip reports and comments by long-haul travelers, I didn’t realize that these things existed. I should have known better; long-haul travel is a way of life for more people than you might think. Generally, showers are reserved for business class and up, which makes sense, really. They’re typically a function of an airline’s lounge, and many such lounges require a ticket in business or first class. (Or, if you’re flying on Emirates air in first class on an Airbus 380, you can have a shower on the plane itself, but that’s another story…and would not be me.)
I climbed into bed and noticed that there’s a TV at my feet, but I don’t switch it on. I set my alarm, and sleep until my appointed time (20 minutes before check-out), getting more sleep in the airport than I got on the plane. Better, because I’m behind a locked door, I don’t have to have that subconscious always watching my stuff. I actually get real sleep instead.
It’s time to shuffle off to Liverpool, so I head down to the gate, go through security screening, and sit in the appointed boarding area. A bus pulls up, and the gate agent scans all our documents, then we board the bus and get driven to a rather large field of KLM planes. This one’s a Fokker 70, which is a fairly small plane, but still large enough.
I’ll end this segment by saying: I booked this trip this way because KLM was the only airline that flew from the US to both Liverpool and Venice. Sadly, they’ve just announced that, as of March, they will no longer fly into Liverpool. I suspect a lot of people fly or take the train into Manchester instead, where there’s a two-hour express train from London. Pity the Eurostar doesn’t go to Amsterdam, but I’m sure there’s some way to get to either Paris or Brussels by train from Amsterdam that’s reasonably efficient.
Up next: Liverpool.

: Departing for Amsterdam

For me, a trip always begins with the packing. I had a list, but I was still stressed I’d forget things. The list kept morphing. As I write this on the 20th, I don’t think I forgot anything critically important, but there certainly are some things that might have made the trip a bit nicer had I remembered them.
For example, I’d ordered some cashmere gloves from Gilt, but they sent the wrong gloves, so I had to send them back. I’d ordered a cashmere hat from Macy’s that matched some existing leather gloves I had, but then I couldn’t find those. Naturally, after I’d gone to Macy’s and bought the matching cashmere gloves (the last ones in that color in the store, matter of fact), I found them in the pockets of my down vest.
Liverpool’s known for being cold and rainy, so I packed (well, carried) my down vest and trench coat along with two cashmere shawls and the aforementioned gloves (both pairs) and hat. That way, I could cover a variety of warmth and wind requirements.
Beyond that, I opted for only silk shirts (because of the layering capabilities and warmth were better than cotton) and made sure I had sufficient socks and undies. For a long trip, I generally pack half as many pairs as days in the trip with a maximum of 7 and a minimum of 3.
I was completely wired all day Friday and Saturday, couldn’t sleep well at all. You know, if it weren’t for the fact that I typically start a trip sleep-deprived,I might actually enjoy the process more, but that angst never seems to fade, alas.
I was so wire I made breakfast (Brazilian cheese balls, mostly), but forgot to eat most of it.
It’s also heightened by international travel, which, even at the best of times, seems more complicated. In practical terms, more complicated mostly means packing your passport and ensuring your prescriptions are in their pharmacy-labeled bottles.
Oh, and then there’s the issue of power adapters. I knew I had at least two UK ones (which I never found), but forgot I had some for continental Europe (which I did find). I also have a universal adapter that turns out not to work in my hotel. Fortunately, I had bought another UK adapter. Combined with my dual-voltage electric power strip, I was all set.
Because I’m flying the much-loathed regional jets between European cities, I used my smaller new carry-on, hoping it would be small enough. It was just large enough for camera gear, CPAP, and vital necessities, though my 3-1-1 bag needed to go in my purse.
The CPAP always means I can’t fully pack the night before, so I set my alarm at 8-something so I can do all the stuff I need to before we leave around 11-ish for my 2:35 flight on KLM.
When I got there, the gate said that the flight time was 3:10, but I had checked and not gotten a schedule change notification. Unlike British Airways, which has split Rick and I up on long flights more than once, I got the seat I actually selected. Win!
However, I was stressed because I was getting hungry, and I knew I needed to make sure I was covered in case catering screwed things up, so I ran into one of the stores, grabbed a fistful of comestibles and some spare batteries for my headphones. When I put the batteries away, I finally found the ones I thought I’d forgotten because I hadn’t been able to find them. And yet, there they were in exactly the first place I intended to store them. Funny how brains work, isn’t it?
Shortly after take-off everyone was offered hot towel service, even those of us in E- (as regular economy is sometimes called in this day of Economy Plus seats for more money). Unlike some other carriers I’ve been on, the person ahead of me reclining didn’t jam the seat painfully into my knee, and I could still put the tray down properly.
My gluten-free dinner meal was correctly ordered, so that was great news. The fish was excellent.
Meanwhile, I still had a tangerine in my 3-1-1 bag from the other day, so I ate it early in the flight so I wouldn’t forget about it.
There were a number of movie choices, all of them subtitled in other languages, so I watched Water for Elephants. After that, I tried to sleep, maybe got 1-2 hours’ worth. I don’t normally have trouble sleeping on planes, but I have trouble getting enough sleep. Face it, coach seats aren’t designed for comfort.
After a surprising second hot towel service, breakfast arrives. More fish! This time, it’s rice cakes with salmon plus a hot tray with eggs and stuff. Yum.
Coming into Amsterdam is wonderful: there’s lots of modern windmills, some impossibly large three-bladed contraptions. Sometimes a farm will have just one, which probably supplies much of their power. Of course, the land is notably flat, but everything is neat and surprisingly green for this late in the year.

: Small Hawaii Businesses

I thought I’d bring up some small Hawaii businesses I’ve run across on my two trips to the big island. The first two you can only enjoy from the island, but the rest you can enjoy almost anywhere.
First, two tour companies.

  1. Lava Ocean Adventures does ocean tours to the volcano (and other points out of Hilo). It was an awesome experience last year. (This year, lava wasn’t flowing when I was there, so I skipped it.)
  2. Vavoom Volcano Tours does the obvious volcano tours, but also can customize day tours. Lori’s great.

Food companies.

  1. Volcano Winery is Hawaii’s only full-grape wine producer. There are a couple of other companies on Maui that make pineapple wine, etc., but this company grows grapes. They do offer two blended wines, though. They are less than a mile from the entrance to Volcanoes National park, so the name is no exaggeration. I tried four of their wines, including two that aren’t on their site. I’m not a wine person, but they seemed decent. The Mac Nut Honey wine (which has a champagne yeast, iirc) is very light and delicate.
  2. Hilo Coffee Mill is one of the non-Kona coffee growing regions of Hawaii, and one of three on the big island (the other being Kona, which includes both North Kona and South Kona, and then there’s Ka’u, which is east of Kona and west of Kilauea). Because of the rainfall, it’s the mildest coffee, but it’s also significantly less expensive than the premium Kona coffees. (Example: Kona coffee at Peet’s, which is a very nice select grade, runs $50 per pound. Hilo Coffee Mills’s coffee runs $29.) I have had some truly awful roadside Kona coffee (that I needed to cut with TJ’s coffee to improve it), so I can say for sure that not all Kona coffee is created equal. In essence, Hilo coffee is shade-grown simply because of the frequent cloud cover. Because of the difficulty transporting and logistics surrounding manure and compost from other farms in a high-rainfall area, this is not an organically-grown coffee if that’s important to you, but they do not use pesticides in growing, just non-organic fertilizers. I am incredibly impressed with their pineapple coffee. Usually, flavored coffees are an excuse to use up the worst beans, but that’s not true in this case. It’s a subtler flavor than you’d expect, and a nice addition to the coffee. Really. None of their coffees are bitter, so if you like coffee but not bitter, you might give it a try. Our pound of the pineapple coffee is almost gone. Sniff.
  3. Aunt Phyllis’s Macadamia Nut Butter with Macadamia Nut Honey. Three ingredients: mac nuts, mac nut honey, and sea salt. This stuff is incredibly addictive and I am now out. I will be getting more in a few weeks. They do mail order (it’s $10 a jar plus shipping), but don’t have a web site set up. If you want contact info, let me know.
  4. Wao Kele honey (link is to a story and video about them, but they don’t have a web site) makes great honey. I do have a PO Box for them off their labels if anyone’s interested. The lehua honey is particularly nice.

Other.
My favorite discovery by far is the funny and gregarious guy who runs Filthy Farmgirl Soap at the Hilo farmer’s market. He definitely has great marketing and labels. Product names range from the extremely tacky to the merely quirky, each with its own unique label and ingredients. He advertises “no yucky stuff” and means it. Most of the soaps are vegan; a few are not (e.g., the Goat’s Milk Chai soap we picked up for my mother-in-law). I picked up some of the Filthy Geek (aka Hyper Mocha Minx) soap (chocolate and fair trade coffee) for ourselves. Unlike most of the other small businesses listed in this post, he’s got a shopping cart and takes PayPal.

: Evolving Tastes: Chickpeas

As a kid, the only chickpeas I ever saw came in a can and were labeled garbanzo beans. I loathed them with a passion I still reserve only for lima beans, brussel sprouts, and (most especially) asparagus and quinoa.
I have to admit: part of it was looking down on things I perceived as Hispanic foods. I grew up in SoCal and really didn’t take to Mexican food until I was an adult, and I was (unfortunately) prejudiced as a child. Now, it’s often the cuisine of last resort for me: it’s the safest and most reliable. My friend Joyce would always want to go out to Mexican food, and I’d always want to go out to Chinese, and she called it Vitamin M and usually won these rounds. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was celiac, and the foods I ate at Mexican restaurants were better for me than what I ate at Chinese places.
When I went on a gluten-free diet in 1997, I remember going to King Arthur Flour’s shop in Norwich, Vermont. I remember standing in front of the shelf of gluten-free flours with a list. Rice flour, check. Potato starch, check. Tapioca starch, check. But what were all the other options there? Sorghum, for example, and millet, and chickpea. SInce then, amaranth and quinoa have become more popular, too.
When I looked at the nutritional content of various gluten-substitute stock flours, I was horrified. They are all carbs, almost zero protein. I wanted more protein and a better carb/protein/fat mix, so I started looking into buckwheat and chickpea, which I now add to my standard gluten-free mix.
Somewhere along the line, I learned to like chickpeas. I learned to like hummus. I even have the occasional “hummus day” where I have hummus as my lunch. The other night, I had hummus, salmon, and gluten-free crackers for dinner. I kinda overdid it, but it was yummy.
Yet still, I’m not that fond of chickpeas as whole chickpeas. They’ve become something like avocados for me: I basically don’t like them, but I like some goopy thing they’re in (guacamole for avocados) and I eat them because they’re good for me, but it’s not something I actually love. I just like it enough to keep doing it.
I still don’t like the word “garbanzo” though. It sounded intimidating and scary when I was a kid. I think it’s the Z and all the hard consonants. (Though one can’t underestimate the issue of the can. I can’t stand canned vegetables.) Chickpea sounds cute and cuddly and worthy of nurture.
Shuemais said, “And now I shall play you the song of my people … ON MY GARBANZO.”
Yes, that. It’s a musical torture device like a cross between a banjo and an accordion.
I do wonder if I would have taken to these beans earlier in life if the can had said chickpeas, though.

: Nine Hotels

I’ve previously expressed my love for Ladera, set among the incredible beauty of St. Lucia’s pitons.
Eight other hotels around the world I’d love to stay at.
Kona Village, on Hawaii’s big island, is temporarily closed due to tsunami damage, but I’m hopeful it’ll return. It consists of little bungalows. If you don’t want to be disturbed, you put a coconut out on your lanai.
Almost any of the over-water beach bungalows in Bora Bora at the nicer hotels, e.g., the Hilton. I love the idea of swimming out from my room.
Continuing the water theme, there’s the Conrad Maldives Resort, which not only has over-water bungalows, it also has an underwater restaurant, the only restaurant actually in the ocean. Given that the high point on the Maldives is under three meters, it’s probably just as well they built down.
Palazzo Sasso, a 12th-century palazzo hotel on the Italian coast.
The Grand Continental Hotel in Siena.
Probably the least frou-frou of the hotels on my list, the Hotel du Louvre in Paris has location going for it. It’s not that it’s not luxurious, it’s just not so obviously so compared to some of the places on this list.
Since I’ve neglected most of Asia, the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort looks like an awesome place to stay once you get past the logistics of getting there.
I’m going to end with the most out there of the hotels, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Sure, it’s over the top. It’s a feature, not a bug. Check out the gallery.

: Signs You Travel Too Much

Funny items from this long thread on flyertalk:
When you are brought in by immigration because you have more entries and exits into that country than anyone else, native or foreigner, for seven of the last 8 years and you are not from that country.
You schedule an extra 2 hour layover to sign and have your final divorce and QDRO (qualified domestic relations order, relating to a divorce) notarized at the airport.
I had a (hopeful) FA once ask me if I was stalking him since I’d been on every single flight he’d been working for 2 weeks. But that’s a while ago now.
When you write your FF number on your bank deposit instead of your account number.
I was in Kyrgyzstan last week and called a colleague in the states for an upcoming trip. His wife says he is not at home. I walk into a cafe, and the person I called is having breakfast in the cafe.
When you run out of room on the arrival form for countries visited in the past month.
When you go to the wrong airport and the airline seems unconcerned and puts you on a flight home anyway.
When you have tickets for future travel on 183 flights for 276,000 flown miles.
“We don’t see ladies with the fat passport often.”
your wallet includes public transport tickets from cities on three different continents which get used up before they expire.
you stop changing foreign currencies back because you’ll need that money in two weeks anyway.
When you return to your office after a bathroom break and the first thing you do when you sit in your chair is reach for the seatbelt.
Your dog still barks at you when you come home. (we’ve had him for 3 months)
When you have to call home to find out what city you’re in, and what hotel you’re staying at (happened to my cousin on a 5-country trip to Europe – he went out to buy aspirin, and didn’t remember what hotel he was staying at. His daughter the other side of the world had his itinerary!)
When the crew on the flight home from Hong Kong recognize you from last week’s flight home from India (happened to me a couple of years ago …)
when the check in agent is surprised you only have 4 boarding passes this time
When you go to your closet looking for your blue blazer only to realize “Oh yeah, I left that in Germany with a colleague for next time”.
No biggie, you reach for your OTHER blue blazer only to find that it’s in Japan on a similar mission.
My daughter keeps a homeless shelter well-stocked with shampoo and soap and other stuff by donating the toiletries courtesy of my hotel stays/overnight flights.
I went 15 months from September 2006 to November 2007 where the longest consecutive period I spent in any single country was 6 days. I’ve sworn never to do that ever again – it truly wears you down in both body and spirit.
when the immigration clerk asks you where you were last week because you were on vacation and didn’t fly your regular route
when the pilot calls you to tell you that your plane will be delayed
My husband travels so much that our 4 year old son thinks that daddy actually lives somewhere else, and just comes to visit at random.
Talking to loved ones while on a layover and not able to answer the question, so where are you?
Two minutes later you pass by the Elvis store, and can finally answer, MEM.
1) Your wallet contains more foreign currency than domestic.
2) Your FF cards (mile collecting credit cards, status cards) outnumber every other type of card you carry.
3) You have various different sized suitcases in your living room, all half packed.
4) Your fridge contents consist of condiments and expired milk.
5) Your liquor cabinet is fully stocked with duty free liquor.
6) You have two complete sets of toiletries, one of which is all under 100ml and already packed into a kippie bag.
7) You have to ask the flight attendant where you are when you land.
8) You plan your vacations based around which countries you haven’t been to yet.
9) The first one to notice your new haircut is the security agent at your home airport.
I’ve gone to Caracas for lunch because I hadn’t flown Aeropostal before.
you answer the home phone in another language
I was asked the other day by a lounge agent how my recent overseas trip went. Me – “Which one, you’ll need to be more specific.” Agent – “it was last week”. Me – “Again, you’ll need to be more specific.” I’d had 4 overseas round trips the week in question.
When immigration staff at several airports say “Oh it’s you – I heard about you”
When you have a home in one country, an apartment in another, a suitcase left with a hotel in a third, staying in a fourth, and visiting a fifth for the day.
When you are going through immigration in a country that you passed through on the same day one year before, and the immigration officer asks you why you are here as you have already been through immigration… then notices the year on your old stamp.
When you have (just checked) prepaid SIM cards for 8 countries, currencies for 11, driver’s licenses for 2 and a number of prepaid phone cards and transport passes.
Actually happened tonight:
Partner: How ’bout a drink before turning in?
Voop (distracted by some nagging email): Uhmm, the mini-bar is overpriced, I think I have a bottle of something I picked up from duty-free….
Partner: “Mini-bar”? Honey, you’re at home, and I don’t charge….not for the mini-bar either….
In my defense, I wasn’t all wrong, the home-bar is stocked exclusively with duty-free…..
I was running on a treadmill with a built-in TV this morning, and briefly wondered how to get the AirMap to show.
You get an email survey from your airline asking questions about your recent flight from XXX to XXX. You think which week?
When the pilots called to ask if I wanted to join them for dinner on a layover but I had another trip lined up….
On a recent trip, at an airport that doesn’t support transits, transit passengers are supposed to be met by an airline agent at the gate. The agent for my airline didn’t turn up and had to be called when I arrived at immigration. His reason? He thought there must have been an error in the passenger info sheet – no one could possibly be travelling Vienna to Zurich via Riyadh.
“You have to take a passport to give blood.”
It took me over an hour to do the screening part of giving blood last time I tried and they had to call their head office to see if the time I spent in the Middle East was a disqualifying event even though I had told them it wasn’t.
Over the past year I have spent so much time at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur that I have many of the hotel staff in my Facebook friends list….I guess that is a sign that you have stayed there too much 😉
My doctor is in Prague, my dentist in Dubai, my tax guy in Serbia.
the classic one that always gets me is waking up and not knowing the country, time zone, why I’m there, etc. And yes, it sometimes happens at home.
Worse still, when you can recite airline and airport announcements in a language you can’t even speak.
Attentie, alstublieft, voor een gatewijziging!
When you accidentally use the term “going home” to describe getting onto a British Airways aeroplane to go somewhere you’ve never been before.
I went through a phase a few years ago when I was on at least four, sometimes six BA flights a week. This went on for about six months, then it reduced to two or three flights a week. A began to recognise certain FAs and there were two or three captains who I always seemed to end up with. At some point I took three weeks off to spend time with the family. When I got back home there was a nice letter from BA asking if I was alright and hoping that I remained happy with their service. The letter said that they had hoped I would be travelling again soon and gave me 50,000 BA miles for the hell of it.
You ask your children via Skype what they want to do this weekend while your home. They respond with a mileage run. You cry on the inside because you have taught them well.
When not traveling, riding with the wife, she drove me the airport before realizing she’s supposed to drop me office at the office, more than once.
You actually have a frequent stay card at the Ice Hotel in Reykjavik

: New Luggage Report

In the last week-ish, I’ve done both a flight vacation and a car trip with my new Tumi Vapor luggage.
The first piece I got, as you may have seen, is the International Carry-On in pink multi with the breast cancer awareness luggage tag. Very nice.
The second piece I got is the Medium Trip Packing Case in “black,” which is really a nice striated charcoal grey. I did worry how common the color would be, but didn’t see anyone else traveling with this particular bag on my flights, so it turned out not to be an issue of everyone diving for the same piece of luggage.
First of all, it’s really light, and I like the corner reinforcement.
My first trip, as you know, was to Hawaii.
In my carry-on, I carried:
1) CPAP and paraphernalia associated with. This took up 1/2 of one side of the carry on.
2) Liner from my Artisan and Artist camera bag containing two camera bodies and two lenses. That took up the other half.
3) My bag containing: tank top, spare socks and underwear, and bathing suit. (Always in carry-on in case of luggage snafus). Also my sink stopper and clothing hangar.
4) My 3-1-1 liquids bag.
5) My pills.
6) A pair of leggings (wrapped around the CPAP).
7) Banana chips and nuts, aka food for the trip. I always carry food I can eat in case of flight delays; sometimes there’s nothing I literally can eat.
The checked bag seemed overwhelmingly large for one tourist on a four-day trip to Hawaii. I packed two pairs of leggings, four shirts, and other things I needed like socks.
The other half of the bag would have been empty, so I just stuffed a tripod in one half and a super-thick yoga mat in the other. I’d heard that polycarbonate bags are safer when they’re fully packed, and, hey, yoga. Photography. It seemed natural.
On the way back, though, I’d bought so much stuff that my trusty bag was brimming full. I discovered that a bottle of wine (Volcano winery) and a large jar of lehua honey fit nicely inside the yoga mat with three pairs of underwear as a buffer (one at either end, one between the two glass containers). Between the coffee, the macadamia nuts, the honey, the macadamia nut butter, the soaps, the jam, the wine, etc., my bags were packed to the gills. They did smell super-nice, though!
I got to the airport. My luggage weighed 51.5 pounds. Oops! They were nice and didn’t charge me, though I could have moved 1-1/2 pounds to my carry-on if I’d picked carefully. I’m sure that if I had been using my older, heavier, Travelpro bag, I would have been charged, though.
Even at 51.5 pounds, my new bag moved super-smoothly, and I’m really really glad I upgraded.
After I got home and unpacked, I repacked for our three-night car trip to Los Angeles. I packed everything just in the medium trip bag (and overpacked because I was tired). It was a better size for my car than the arrangements I’d tried in the past, and three of us went down to LA and back with no issues.

: Hilo Wednesday (done)

Stuff to do and see:
1) Finish packing (ugh)
2) Farmer’s market (6 am – 4 pm), specifically for jam/honey guy and soap guy
6) Imiloa (9-5, $17.50, but this is the most interesting of the museums for me)
7) Place that sells unrefined Hawaiian salt near the farmer’s market
8) Mokupapapa Discovery Center (which is awesome and also free)
9) Hakalau bay (this actually is most relevant to my book, so it’s the most likely to get done)
After most everything closed, I still had hours to kill, so I saw Arthur Christmas. Not bad, not great, but enjoyable. I skipped dinner, likely a mistake, but I wasn’t hungry. I still have cashews. Everything else is checked. With the honey, jam, wine, coffee, etc., my new lighter bag came near 50#. I thought it was heavy.
Halakau bay was awesome in its way. I hope some of the pictures look good.

: Hilo Wednesday (To Do)

Stuff to do and see:
1) Finish packing (ugh)
2) Farmer’s market (6 am – 4 pm), specifically for jam/honey guy and soap guy
3) Zoo, specifically Namaste’s feeding at 3:30 (zoo’s open from 9-4, free)
4) Pacific Tsunami Museum (9-4:15, $8)
5) Lyman museum (10-4:30, $10)
6) Imiloa (9-5, $17.50, but this is the most interesting of the museums for me)
7) Place that sells unrefined Hawaiian salt near the farmer’s market
8) Mokupapapa Discovery Center (which is awesome and also free)
9) Hakalau bay (this actually is most relevant to my book, so it’s the most likely to get done)
10) World Botanical Gardens (near Hakalau, $13)
Except for the zoo and the beach, all are within a few blocks of each other. Since my plane doesn’t leave until late, I could, in theory, manage several of these.
I’m guessing I’ll get the following done: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9; some of them are only a few minutes and are clumped together.

: Hilo Tuesday

First, a bit left over from Monday: I went out to Hilo Bay Cafe, which is a more high-falutin’ place than the name suggests, and had an awesome beef short rib dinner. Now, I’m not normally a beef person (except for hamburgers) and I generally don’t like short ribs at all because they are too tough. This was grass-fed beef and super-tender. I’d been there on my previous trip and they were really great to work with to find food I could eat, plus they specialize in local and organic. Considering that (and the price of food generally on the island), it was quite reasonable.
This morning, I went first to Volcano winery. As the name indicates, it’s up by the entrance to Volcanoes National Park, and it’s literally at the end of the road past the golf course. I tasted several of their wines, but I’m not a wine drinker. I’d heard their wines were sweet, but they didn’t seem particularly sweet compared to other wines I’ve tried. So I picked one for Thanksgiving. They do have a macadamia nut honey wine that is very delicate — it reminds me a lot of an elderflower cordial that I’ve tried in the past.
After that, I went to Hilo Coffee Mill, which has coffee from several regions around the big island, and even coffee from other Hawaiian islands. They do roasting for a number of growers, and they gave me a little tour. I had to dodge a few chickens (they’ve got about 200, so if you’re ever in Hilo looking for super-fresh eggs, you might want to try there first).
I tried several of their coffees. As they put it, they get so much rainfall that their coffee is milder than on the Kona side, which is far drier — for the simple reason that soil chemicals tend to get washed away. They do supplement the soil, and they’re not an organic farm as a result, but that’s the nature of working with what you’ve got sometimes.
There are coffee plants on the east side of the island that are 100 to 150 years old; it’s a longer-established coffee-growing region than Kona.
What surprised me most, though, was their pineapple coffee. It doesn’t scream “bad coffee hidden by horrific fruit flavoring” — no, it’s good coffee with a delicate lilt of pineapple, and it seemed to me to work very well. So I got some.
At that point it was around noon. I decided to head south past Pahoa (a town I keep going through) and see how far south one could actually drive. About a mile out of Kalapana, the road forks, and I kept going on highway 130, which ended abruptly. There’d been signs earlier that visiting hours for the lava flow were 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Now that I knew where the entrance was, I had about an hour to kill, so I went and got lunch, then headed back.
At the end of the road, there were scary signs that said, “Restricted Access – Authorized Personnel Only.” So I parked just before that and started walking, but a woman pulled over in a car and said I could drive in anyway. So I did, wondering if I were negating my rental agreement in doing so. I drove about a mile in (over two sections of relatively recent lava flows and regular old road between them) and parked where the security people told me to. The woman said, “Oh, because it’s between 2 and 10, you’re authorized.” Nice to know.
Then I set out to walk to the end of where they let you walk, which is about 4/10 of a mile down the road, crossing several flows that seem at most a few years old, houses (still inhabited) dotting either side of the road. Of course, yards are problematic.
It was brutally hot. The wind was behind me, so I didn’t feel it on my face, and it was full sun, I had SPF 85 on, and a liter of water, my camera bag, and my purse. I felt like a camel. I managed to get up onto the end of the road where the lava flow was and look out; I didn’t see any actual lava activity, but they said it was about six miles from where I stood. Then one of the women who worked there said the flow I was standing on dated from January.
I was thinking as I walked it that it seemed that this spot of land was in fact the very land I was photographing last year from the water’s edge. Some of the details seemed familiar, though of course the perspective was radically different. Another staffer said they’d lost a mile and a half of road in the last year — just eaten up by lava.
So, yes, I was basically standing near the hot melty stuff I photographed last year.
New lava flows are shiny and glassy. I tried to capture that in photos, but didn’t capture it last year and not sure I did this year, either. It turns out that silicon is part of the flow, and it rises to the surface as the lava is cooling (being less dense than some of the other minerals), so it gives the freshest lava a very cool sheen. I’d seen that on the black sand beach last year but hadn’t known the reason. I took some photos; we’ll see how they turn out.
Because silicon isn’t super-hard, though, that layer wears off fairly quickly (over 2-5 years), and then lava takes on the more familiar matte appearance.
On the walk back, I had the breeze in my face, but it was still pretty brutal. At the end, I was hot, I was tired, and I kind of collapsed into the car, turned on the air conditioning, and drank some extra water until I felt unshaky enough to drive.
After that, not much. I missed Namaste’s feeding again, darn it, so I’ll just have to go tomorrow. I’m reserving tomorrow for Hilo town stuff: the zoo, the planetarium, the farmer’s market, and a store I wanted to visit.

: Confessions of an Imperfect Celiac

I confess: At times over the years, particularly when it came to certain trigger foods, I was a bad celiac. That changed in 2009 when I saw this video. I mention my failings because I’m not the only one out there.
Truth is, I knew I was celiac for at least three years before I was diagnosed, I just didn’t want to know it. At that time, in the era before good web searches and tireless wikipedia editors, I didn’t know how bad celiac disease really was. Then again, I’m not really sure anyone did.
When I was a kid, people thought celiac disease was something you had as a kid and “got over.” I kind of adapted in weird ways: I ate my sandwiches on white bread (less protein and thus less gluten, but also I respond to the bleached protein differently) open-faced (one piece of bread instead of two). I ate lots of pasta sauce with very little noodles. When I made lasagne, I used half the noodles and twice as much other stuff. I preferred corn muffins and oatmeal cookies (but with chocolate chips). I’d use corn tortillas for my tacos. In other words, there were ways I was unaware of that I tried to reduce my gluten consumption. My dad was constantly nagging me to eat more grains, but now he admits he was wrong on that point.
And then there was the time I went vegetarian. I think I lasted a week or two, probably mostly because the wheat germ made me so very ill. It still makes me shudder.
There wasn’t a history of celiac disease in my family. My father carries some of the genes; my mother doesn’t. My stepmother noticed that I sometimes came back from visits to my mom with stomach cramps. I was sent to a shrink as it was believed to be psychological. It wasn’t, it was dietary. (I don’t actually remember the symptoms, I just remember the outrage of being sent to a shrink over it.) I was eleven at the time, so I know I was symptomatic then, but I don’t know when the symptoms actually started, only when they were noticeable by other people.
Even after I was diagnosed (at the age of 37), I would have moments of weakness. Some celiacs vomit up gluten. Lucky them, as it does less damage that way. Some get cramps within an hour. Lucky them.
And then there’s me. My symptoms take two to three days after gluten ingestion, so you can see that would be difficult to correlate food with symptom. Who remembers what they had to eat in detail 2-3 days ago on a regular basis?
There are certain foods I miss a lot.
At the end of the first week I was gluten-free, I missed two things: pizza and chocolate chip cookies. I made a passable pizza from scratch (my first), but the cookies were awful. I didn’t know the difference between potato starch and potato flour and made the grittiest, most awful cookies such that a house full of college students wouldn’t touch the damn things.
I miss croissants and chocolate cake in particular. Sure, you can make a passable chocolate cake without gluten, and Miglet’s bakery does a great job, but it’s not really the same thing. Sadly, croissants are simply beyond what non-gluten flours can do. Actually, I did hear a rumor that someone in either Australia or New Zealand made a passable croissant without gluten, but I remain unconvinced until I try one.
So, for years, we’d go out for lingonberry pancakes every once in a while. I’d have my birthday croissant. I’d occasionally eat something else sinful, and it was touch and go whether I’d hit the bread basket in a restaurant if I was really, really hungry. Now I have the strength to push it away from me (they always put it in front of me, it’s like being the person in a room who doesn’t like cats).
I’m not talking a lot. I’m talking about a slip on average once a month. Later on, it was more like once every two or three months, but it was a significant slip: an entire non-compliant meal in the case of the lingonberries.
Lest I sound like a complete idiot for the above admission — I know of more than one celiac who, when he or she gave up gluten entirely, developed a life-threatening gluten allergy as a side effect. Thus, I thought, maybe it is better to have low occasional doses of gluten.
When I saw Dr. Murphy’s video, though, it stopped me cold. I’m still not perfect, but I feel better for the more strident and continued effort. Unfortunately, it meant food felt more like a war zone than it had before.
On my last trip to Hilo, it was really difficult. Everything’s got soy sauce or teriyaki (which is derived from soy sauce) or some other form of gluten. This time, I picked more carefully and was able to avoid the land mines, but I nearly had an oops when I saw that McDonald’s was serving banana pies. I love hot bananas, and I love pie. One dollar and you can have both. Grrr!
I was thinking about this earlier: I probably need to make a list of foods I associate with gluten that I really, truly love — then figure out a way to work them into my food plan in some gluten-free version. I think I’ll just bronze a croissant, though, that’s a lost cause.
I also remain unhappy with all my lasagne options thus far.
With that exercise, I’ll probably discover that there’s some aspect of foods that I like where there’s some common thing I haven’t thought of.
For example, Rick and I were talking about some foods I didn’t really like. I’ll eat zucchini, pick at it more like, but I’ve never been a fan. I love the smell of cucumbers, but not the taste. The common aspect to both of those is simply that I don’t like the sharp tang they have to me. I don’t like bitter tastes for the most part. So, weirdly, I don’t like cucumbers and I don’t like vinegar, but I do like the occasional dill pickle, because the taste is more than either cucumber or vinegar or the combination of the two.
I’ve never really heard anyone else talk about having trouble staying compliant. Maybe they’re more like me than they’d like to admit, but it sure seems that most people have much more immediate gluten reactions; I’m not that fortunate. For me, these days, it’s more the emotional reaction: it’s not fair, and it’ll never feel fair. But we forge along anyway.

: Hilo Monday

I slept in late (really, I slept 8 hours, I just got to sleep late) and got up and had the same old thing at Ken’s Pancakes. For breakfast, I’m a creature of habit.
I’d planned to go to Akaka falls and the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden on Tuesday, but the high bright overcast this morning meant rain wasn’t likely. After the last couple of days, that made for welcome weather prospects, so I headed north to the HTBG, went in and bought my admission and water (knowing there weren’t such facilities at Akaka), then headed to Akaka first.
Last year, I simply couldn’t manage the pathway. It’s 56 steps down, some nasty paths (which are paved at least), and about 2/10 of a mile to the falls proper via the shorter route. The longer route also visits another, smaller fall, but it seemed to have more stairs, so I chickened out on that one.
I managed it without difficulty. Further, last year, if I had done it, I couldn’t have done any other major walking immediately afterward like I did this year, when I walked all two miles of the paths (save for about 100′ where the handrailing for the stairs was underneath significant amounts of overgrown plants). Last year, I walked about 2/3 of the paths and it took me five hours because I was so tired and in so much pain. I wasn’t striving for time (since the point of going was enjoying the scenery, sitting in front of the falls, taking photos of cool plants, etc.), but it took me just under 2-1/2 hours this time. HTBG’s literature says that an average complete visit is around two hours. So I’m not exceptionally slow any more, which is great.
As a photographer, one of the problems of my lack of stamina has caused is that my hands shake when I’m that exhausted, and obviously that means I blow more photos. Much less of that this year.
However, the real point of going to HTBG is the same as last year: Isle of Pearls is set in an alternate Polynesia, and this is the closest thing I have to walking through some real rain forest. It’s not all native plants, granted, but the variety (not to mention size) is stunning. I noticed details that I hadn’t noticed before: how the cliffs are pummeled away at the water line, the difference between the water sounds and the wind sounds, etc.
From last year’s trip, I used a lot of details in other work I’ve done since, but IoP still needs a full re-write and I now feel ready to tackle it.
Now I just need to figure out what to do with the rest of my day; it’s only six in the evening. Hilo being Hilo, that basically means the tourist stuff is over for the day, but there’s still other kinds of adventures like dinner.

: Hilo Sunday

Woke up fairly early and decided to venture forth for breakfast. Last time, I found a cheap place to eat, but their food quality wasn’t so hot, so I decided to try some place different this time.
When I asked about the farmer’s market at the airport, the guy said to turn left at Ken’s Pancakes. Now, as a celiac, I notice pancake houses like never, but this place is an institution, it’s open 24 hours a day (except a few days a year), and it’s close to where I’m staying. Fine.
They had things I could eat, so I had a nice breakfast of corned beef hash, eggs, hash browns (I know, seems redundant, right?), pineapple and coffee. Not bad.
On my flight over, I’d struck up a conversation with a woman who works at Starbucks, and she told me about some of the non-Kona growing regions of coffee on the big island, so I decided to check them out. Essentially, I’d made a pact that I wasn’t going to the west side of the island. Not not not. All the tourist stuff is there, but there’s so much to see on the east side, I’d spend all my time driving around again like last year. Boo.
So one of them was in Hilo, so they were on the way to the volcano. I accidentally passed the place, so I kept going to Volcanos National Park, paid the $10 to get in, and then drove to the steam vent lookout. The area between the parking and the rim is covered with molasses grass, and last year it smelled strongly of sulfur and molasses together (yes, that is weird). This year, though, the molasses grass was mid-thigh height, and the rain minimized the sulfur smell where the dampness made the molasses super-strong. Very neat. I got a half-decent picture of a lehua blossom on an ohi’a tree, so I’ll post that when I get a chance.
It was too wet for me to feel safe going to the Thurston lava tube again, plus I went last year. Just as I was pulling into the Kilauea Iki lookout, the sky opened up, so I continued south along chain of craters road.
You don’t realize how big even a relatively short shield volcano like Kilauea is until you drive the whole thing: it’s about 20 miles from the summit to the shore. Shield volcanoes are deceptively large, like super-big cow pies that make up a big chunk of a large island.
I pulled out several places to take pictures of the destruction one lava flow or another caused, but the sheer vastness of the place was overwhelming, and I was actually volcanoed out (which happens like never) before I was done for the day.
On my way back, I stopped at the coffee place, but it turns out they were closed on Sunday all along. I licked my wounds and went to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm, which I hadn’t visited on my last trip. There’s 2500 acres of mac nuts, and they are separated by very tall and very narrow Norfolk Island pines. The 2500 acres contain about 250,000 mac nut trees, apparently.
I don’t know what I was expecting — more, maybe? They had a little Maui Divers jewelry store in the shop, and the woman recognized the gold coral necklace I was wearing as one of theirs (since they’re the only purveyors of gold coral). Also, they told me that the pink coral they have, they will not be getting more of it, so if you like it, go pick some up. I’m not that into the pink, personally, so I just filed it away. I will say they take their ecology very seriously, and if they aren’t harvesting pink any more, that’s because there’s either an issue of ecology or economy.
Anyhow, I walked out with the requested macadamia nuts, as well as a small can of the kona coffee-covered ones Just For Me ™, which I have half enjoyed.
For dinner, I went downtown to another place, Café Pesto, which is mostly a pizza and pasta joint, but they do serve local fish and stuff. The waiter knew exactly what I needed when I asked about flour content, got me my ahi just right and all gluten-free. Yay.
I wasn’t tired, but it was wet and dark, so I decided to go to the movies. I really wanted to see the new Clooney flick that takes place on Hawaii, but it’s not showing here. Instead, I went to see Twilight 4 of 5, which was better than I’d feared (given the general bad ratings it’s gotten) and reminded me how much there was in that last volume of the series. They got Carter Burwell back for composer, and this time, they nailed the ending — which is pretty hard to do in the middle of a book.
I’m down to 5% battery on my iPad, so I’m going to call it a night and post this.

: Links and Legibility

Back when the web was born, links were underlined. Many early browsers (e.g., lynx) were text only, and many people didn’t have color monitors, or had monitors that were severely limited in palettes (like 16 colors), so the convention of underlines stayed.
However, an underlined link isn’t as legible as one that isn’t underlined.
For those of you who want some thoughts about alternatives, here’s a few:
1) Make the color different than surrounding un-linked text, and add a change of color when the text is hovered over or active. E.g.:
a {text-decoration: none}
a:link {color: #ff9900}
a:active, a:hover {color: #ff0000} /* change from orange to red */
2) add a more delicate border when hovered over, e.g.:
a {text-decoration: none}
a:link {color: #ff9900}
a:active, a:hover {border: bottom: thin dotted #ff9900} /* add border when hovering */
3) add some fancy schmancy effect when hovering. Right now, on deirdre.net, I change the text color and add a text-shadow effect:
a{color:#00437f; text-decoration:none}
a:hover{color: #002444; text-decoration:none; border-bottom: none; text-shadow: #00598d 0 0 4px}
Just be clear and give sufficient contrast that people understand a) it’s a link, and b) when the link is hovered over or active.
You can see a live example here.

: Great Article on Bullying from Elton John

Article’s here.
“And failing to address the still everyday use of the word “gay” as a playground insult is also inexcusable. Those who do eventually realise that they’re gay find that the word which describes them has been used – unchallenged – as a proxy for anything that’s useless or rubbish for half their childhoods. There’s now firm evidence of the damage it does to young people’s self-esteem.”

: A Cranky Request for Luggage Recommendations

I know some of you travel a lot, and I’m looking for a new piece of big luggage to replace my falling-apart one. Plus, hey, bad shoulder and I really felt that 46.6 lb bag I pushed around the airport (it was full of books from World Fantasy)
I’m looking for:

  1. A spinner (meaning 4 wheels, though I do prefer double wheels and not the itty ones either)
  2. Not part of a set
  3. Not from the lesser lines from a given company (e.g., not American Tourister, which is a less expensive Samsonite line)
  4. That’s available in a color other than black
  5. Is hard sided
  6. Is available in a size somewhere between 24″ and 26″

Anyone have specific recommendations?
I’m also looking for a rolling carry-on, and I’m even more specific there. I currently have a Travelpro Crew 6 rolling tote that’s 16 x 13 x 7. It began falling apart almost immediately, but I have been stoically carrying it for four years, even though the handle screws are falling out. Frankly, I love the form factor, but not the product. Unfortunately, it’s an odd and great size: it exactly fits in the overhead of smaller commuter planes. I like not being the bin hog, y’know?
When Travelpro went to their newer lines, they screwed up what little I did like about the bag.
So, I’m looking for:

  1. A spinner (meaning 4 wheels, but this one can have smaller wheels)
  2. Not part of a set
  3. Not from the lesser lines from a given company (e.g., not American Tourister, which is a less expensive Samsonite line)
  4. That’s available in a color other than black
  5. Is not hard sided
  6. Is available in a size somewhere close to what I already have

I’ve normally been a Travelpro person or a Ricardo of Beverly Hills person, but I’m not really someone who has strong brand preferences here. I don’t really want to join the Tumi cult.

: Weekend Wrap-Up

Sunday Morning I gave my reading and about a half-dozen people came. Some of them I didn’t even know. For a 10 a.m. Sunday morning reading, this is successful, as even established authors have difficulty filling a room at most conventions.
After my reading was Peter S. Beagle‘s, so I stayed to listen. He’d been the Writer Guest of Honor at BayCon two years ago, but I hadn’t seen his reading then. He read a new piece he hadn’t read before. Below’s a photo I took with my iPhone 4S and edited in-phone with Snapseed. (Aside: best photo app for mobile that I’ve bought.)
I hadn’t bought banquet tickets, and hunger forced me to forage for food elsewhere. Naturally, the closest restaurants were closed, so it took me quite a while (sore from Saturday morning’s fall) to get across the hotel property to get to Charlie’s. I’m sad I missed the awards: Peter S. Beagle got a lifetime achievement award. One of my Clarion instructors, Karen Joy Fowler, won for best collection. Nnedi Okorafor won for best novel, and has a tweet about where she happened to be at the time.
My trip home wasn’t remarkable except that Prime Time shuttle completely failed to pick me up within the stated time period and I took Super Shuttle to the airport instead.

: Long Weekend Trip to San Diego

I was originally scheduled to come to San Diego on Saturday morning so I could go to a work-related event on Friday, but, well, I had an opportunity for yet another medical appointment, so that took precedence and I flew down Thursday morning.
Getting to the bottom of my medical stuff has been something of a nightmare and has been a multi-year process of peeling the onion. In short, the celiac disease seems to have triggered other stuff, and now I think we’re getting to the last and possibly most critical bit.
Many years ago, I was given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia without excluding other diseases, and fibro’s supposed to be a diagnosis of last resort after everything else is ruled out — and nothing was. I do mean nothing.
For several years, treating it as though it were fibro was enough, but for the last few years, it has not been, and it’s been getting worse.
The good news? I think I finally figured it out. I could be wrong, but I’ve done a lot of reading lately, and I don’t think I am.
So, I found a doctor that agrees with me (thus my earlier trip), but isn’t “in plan,” so it’s more of an advisory role, and there are serious concerns about treating the issue (which I knew). On the other hand, it’s possible that I could get full remission in a few days.
I also got some work done, though I was limited by my doctor schedule and travel logistics.
The event I was coming for is, of course, World Fantasy. So last night I had the opportunity to participate in the mass signing, and I met a local writer who also happens to be a co-worker, so I introduced him to the other sf/f writer co-worker I know. I got Neil Gaiman’s autographs for a friend, too.
Today was my first full con day, and I went to the SFWA meeting at (oh my God) 8 a.m., which went well. As I was leaving, I was just out of it enough that I thought to myself, “Oh, I’m moving well now that the drugs kicked in.” Not five seconds later, I didn’t see that there was a step and took a rather nasty tumble, and I’ve been very sore since. A very sweet African-American teen here for another event helped me up and wanted to know if I was okay.
Because of the pain from the fall, I missed a lot of stuff, and spent the con sitting and talking to people for longer periods and not moving around so much (perfectly understandable). It remains to be seen how well I’ll be feeling the next two days, when the soreness from a fall is generally at its worst. Fortunately, I don’t think I hurt anything seriously.
I have a reading at 10 a.m., and I am now thinking everything I’ve written is crap, and I’m feeling the pressure; I’m reading right before someone I’ve always looked up to and it’s intimidating. I am not sure what I’ll read in the morning yet, but I brought seven things to pick from. I’ll probably read two or three.
I spent some of my downtime this trip reading Steve Jobs’s biograpy. I hope to finish it by Halloween, which seems fitting given the focus of the holiday for me (the annual honoring of people who’ve passed on). I’m going to write a longer post about that when I’ve finished the book. I started reading from the time of Steve’s cancer diagnosis forward, finished the book, then started again at the beginning. I think that’s actually an interesting way to read the book.
I’m going home tomorrow to a newly-repaired car. I have two follow-ups in-plan medical-wise on Tuesday, then a backup appointment on Wednesday with a different doctor.

: Venice, Airships, Versailles: Wait, What?

Rick and I saw the new Three Musketeers movie tonight. Unlike other versions, this one’s actually SF.
It’s not a great movie, granted, but it was an awful lot of fun. Rick opined that Dumas would have loved it.
The acting rarely rose above adequate, but Milla Jovovich was a nice surprise: her skill’s improved significantly over the years. The dialogue is best left unrated, but I really loved the look of the film, which was mostly shot in Bavaria.

: The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Situation

For those of you who don’t know, Doranna Durgin asked for reversion from her publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, and they have stalled despite being contacted by SFWA’s Grievance Committee (aka Griefcom). Griefcom frequently handles issues like reversions when they get sticky, but the situation went south. You can read more on Doranna’s blog.
[blockquote quotes=”true” cite=”Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing” citeLink=”http://boingboing.net/2011/10/16/writer-my-publisher-said-i-could-only-get-the-rights-to-my-out-of-print-book-back-if-i-bought-their-leftover-copies-from-them.html”]According to her version of the story (a version corroborated by independent sources, like the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Grievance Committee) Durgin’s publisher is most certainly not keeping her book in print per the terms of their contract. The fact that they’ve demanded that Durgin buy back their leftover copies of book as a condition of holding up their end of the contract is without precedent — indeed, it’s a breathtaking violation of publishing norms, the sort of thing you’re more likely to encounter from ripoff vanity publishers and not a respected house like Fitz and Witz. Writer Beware indeed.[/blockquote]

: Photo Friday: Sagrada Familia

I have been meaning to post some photos. Sadly, I relied on my camera’s 40-year-old light meter and, well, it works fine in daylight, but not so much indoors.
With that disclaimer, I still think this photo of the windows is pretty even though it’s not what I hoped for photo-wise.
Sagrada Familia’s construction has been going on for almost 130 years, and it is Barcelona’s most ambitious monument.

: Don't Feed the Pretty Hate Machine

The WBC is a unique organization in that it feeds most directly on people who hate their work.
Most businesses feed on people who love (or at least like) their work.
But no, the WBC pre-announces their events to foment hatred. Enraged people do stupid things, such as interfering with the free speech rights of lawyers. Then the WBC members sue for interfering with a law practice and use the settlement money to lather, rinse, repeat.
So, with all due respect, if people stopped re-posting their stuff, stopped paying them attention, and made fun of them rather than acting enraged (and thus stopped doing stupid things that would make the opposition pay for the WBC’s next gig), they would die out.
WBC is a clever social hack. Snip the social and it falls apart.
Don’t be a part of their pretty hate machine.

: Women's Iron Deficiencies Frequently Misdiagnosed

It’s not about that female thing, or at least rarely so.
86% of the time when it was diagnosed as menstrual bleeding, the cause of the anemia was actually gastrointestinal bleeding.
Note that taking iron supplements doesn’t cure your gastrointestinal lining; it’s a bandaid for the wrong problem.
Also, if you’re low on ferritin (iron transport protein), you can actually directly supplement it, which is what I do. (For vegetarians and vegans, sorry, it’s an animal protein, so there is no animal-free option for that particular supplement.)

: Miscellanea

First, I’ve been starting to send out rejection letters for BayCon’s flash fiction submissions. I’ve sent out about a quarter of them so far. Sorry for the delay, I wanted to re-read pieces because I wasn’t reading them in my best frame of mind with shooting shoulder pains for several weeks. I expect to get the reject/hold notices sent out this week; we’re starting to prepare the progress report the story will be in, so I need to get a move on.
Second, filtering words. It’s a difficult topic to search for, so here’s a good blog post on it. I don’t like all of her examples, but it explains why adding that layer of indirection isn’t always a great idea.
Third, showers. There I was in the shower this morning thinking it was one of the great wonders of civilization, and I realized I’d never heard (despite reading a lot of Libertarian books in my youth) how either Libertarians or the Tea Party would handle things like sanitation engineering and water management. What changed me from being Libertarian was seeing that public health simply wasn’t doable that way, and Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague was the final nail in the Libertarian coffin for me.

: Seanan's Book Event for One Salt Sea

Last night, Rick and I went to Borderlands Books for the launch of Seanan McGuire’s book One Salt Sea.
Now, it’s not just a reading, it’s an event. We stayed for two of the three musical sets plus the Q&A session. Sadly, by that time, we were hungry, so we left before the actual reading part of the evening.
It was awesome fun. If you get the chance to see one of these events of Seanan’s just go.

: My Thoughts on Abortion

I need to speak up about this.
1. Rights between mothers and their unborn are a zero-sum game. Every right you give to the unborn you take away from all women of childbearing age and all girls who will be of childbearing age. Thus, all limitations on abortions, yes all, are inherently anti-woman.
2. If a woman cannot determine who can or cannot be inside her body, that is institutionalized rape. Thus, in my book, there should be no limitation on abortion. Further, if a woman cannot determine who can or cannot be in her body in the third trimester (as an example), why is rape of pregnant women illegal?
3. Mandatory ultrasounds (as an abortion avoidance tactic) are not external, they are internal. That would be, you guessed it, rape.
4. Most rapes are much shorter than 9 months in duration. Until you’ve had a truly unwanted pregnancy, you really can’t imagine what it’s like.
5. Unplanned (not just unwanted) pregnancies are far more likely to trigger hyperemesis gravidarum, which can be life threatening. Even normal pregnancy and childbirth are very risky for the long-term health of many women.
6. And yet, every unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy. I volunteered at a family planning center. Most of the women I met were having an abortion because they couldn’t afford another child. Very few actually wanted an abortion, it was simply their best option. I have held the hands of women I’d never met before (or since) while they sobbed in the recovery room.
Obviously, I’d prefer more perfect planning for pregnancy or non-pregnancy. However, no method is perfect.
I’ve been raped. I’m glad I wasn’t pregnant as a result, but if I were, I’m glad I could have an abortion. I can’t imagine having to see the face of my rapist over and over in the child. I can’t imagine the legal wrangling in the case of an adoption — or worse, if I chose to keep the child and was ordered to turn the child over for visitation. I can’t imagine possibly continuing any evil in the world.
I can’t help but think that Mike Huckabee hates women who’ve been raped more than he hates rapists.

: Revision Habits

I’m really really really not a one-draft writer. At some point, I hope to dazzle you all with an illustration of how much I’m not a one-drafter, but today is not that day. Generally a first draft for me runs very short — somewhere between 1/3 and 3/4 of the final length.
To paraphrase how Tim Powers described my first drafts at Clarion: the stage is bare, the actors are auditioning as the scriptwriter’s in the front row re-writing the piece, and there’s only tape on the stage to tell them where to stand. They’re not quite that threadbare, but the layer I get written first is the plot (the piece he said this about, I’d gotten the bones down for a three-plotline short that was 3,800 words and, at most, 1/3 to 1/2 its final length).
Vylar Kaftan talks about her revision statistics, including her A, B, C system for stories.
So below are mine. My first drafts fall kind of between A and B. Right now, they’re in C shape, but if I were done re-thinking them, they’d be moved up to the next categories. Submitted Previously, well, those are Bs. Out at a Market and Sold, obviously, are As.
Until such time as I have a sufficiently developed draft, there’s no point in categorizing it, but most of my pieces need significant steeping. The most recent piece I have out at market was one I wrote the first draft of in 2007. The oldest is one I wrote the first draft of in 1990, one of the first shorts I wrote and one of the most difficult pieces I’ve written.

: Feeling Better

Got that tooth out. The dentist didn’t have to use extreme measures, but it wasn’t the easiest extraction I’ve had. Nor was it the worst.
Despite my face being sore from the trauma, I feel so much better, enough so that I took a walk to help reduce the post-lidocaine shakes. That alone says how much better I’m doing.

: A Visit With Writers and My Thoughts from Last Night

Last night, I went to go see my Clarion classmate, Catherine Holm read from her collection, My Heart Is a Mountain and talk about yoga practices in writing. Karen Joy Fowler [1], one of our Clarion instructors, was also there, as well as Cat’s brother Paul Dybiec, who is a clothing designer for maternity clothing maker Japanese Weekend, so we all went out for coffee afterward.
I got to East West early [2], so I was noodling in a notebook about Disbelievers and got some good ideas. One of my standard noodling ideas is: Imagine what 100 cool things in this universe might be and write them down. You likely won’t use all 100, but the goal is to get a few new ideas that will help you. In this case, I realized what a big tentpole scene about 3/4 of the way through the book will be. It is something that’ll create an aftermath, and it’s the big scene that forces the climax.
Catherine’s stories are often about relationship with the land and environment, living as she does on a farm in northern Minnesota. They reminded me of the Vermont writers I’d heard speak on similar topics. She read a wonderful piece about a woman being taken away from her farm into community housing.
There’s something about these stories, though, that always make me feel like the weird child. Don’t get me wrong, I am the weird child, but most of the time my life feels normal to me.
Back when I was in college, we had a group writing session where we sat around a conference table and wrote on the topic of “my mother’s cooking.” We then read our entries out loud to each other. I came near the end, so I got to hear everyone’s tales of white galley kitchens and sizzling poultry, and canning.
My piece was titled “Pounding Abalone.” Here’s an excerpt.

The few times mom and I collaborated on a meal were usually on a boat working in cramped quarters. Mom and Bill [my stepfather] were avid scuba divers; I preferred to snorkel. I remember sitting up on deck while the others sought food, sitting under a light blanket (to reduce glare) while reading a book. Once, a shadow of a lobster caught my attention under the blanket, startling me. It turns out that the lobster had crawled up the blanket about four feet before I noticed it. I got my revenge though —- I boiled him.
Mom would make a great bouillabaisse, simmering the sauce all day while out catching the fish for the soup. We usually had mostly shellfish—lobster, abalone bits, tiny shrimp—rather than fish.
By far my favorite sea dish was the one I usually got to prepare -— abalone. Abalone clings very hard to rocks and has to be pried not only off the rock but out of its shell. Once out, it doesn’t have the decency to just sit there and behave. No, it has to crawl all over. Abalone is inherently tough, so I would pound it with a meat tenderizer as it crawled across the cutting board. I’d stop wailing on it with the metal tenderizer and watch it to see if it had stopped moving, but it would curl up its edges and slide away.
When we were getting ready to cook, I’d cut the abalone up, but even that didn’t prevent it crawling. It would move in my hands as I rolled it in the batter mom made. Then, when she put it on the sizzling pan, only then would it stop moving.
Since the last time mom and I went out boating together, I’ve never had abalone properly prepared. I’m not sure if it was my pounding or her cooking, but perhaps it was simply the magic of shared experience.

I think everyone was horrified, but then I never heard tales of plucking chickens….
One of the people at the reading was a licensed therapist who asked some interesting questions. She specifically asked about ego in writing. I can’t remember the exact question she asked because my mind was already racing with the question’s implications, but it made me realize what it was that bothered me about the “thou shalt outline” writers: they’re ego and super-ego writers. I’m an id writer. I describe my writing as backing into a story with blinders: I can only see where I’ve been — at least until the story catches, and at many points thereafter. That is, by definition, id writing. It’s also why my first drafts can be so craptastic.
This is, btw, one of two reasons I dropped out of James Gunn’s workshop: it simply wasn’t compatible with my process.
Also, one of the writers who’s been on an e-mail list of women writers said that, for years, people were discussing craft issues. About a year ago, this flipped, and now most of the discussions were about marketing. This has depressed me as well; I’ve been noticing it more and more.
[1] A big thank you to Shweta Narayan. When I was having a rough emotional time a couple of years ago, I asked her for recommendations for a light book to help me through, and she recommended Karen’s Wit’s End. It was perfect, just exactly what I needed, and it was really nice to be able to tell Karen that.
[2] Due to a short in a power strip that tripped the circuit breaker to my office. Great.

: More On Dieting

Jay Lake linked to an article on dieting: “Why Even Resolute Dieters Often Fail.”
I’ve become convinced the issue is deeper than that. In 2005, I wrote about a protein called Zonulin. In short, it determines how permeable your intestines are. My hypothesis (which apparently doesn’t apply for celiac disease, and possibly not for most cases of type 1 diabetes, either) is that it is an anti-starvation mechanism.
Catch is, letting in more stuff from the gut lets in a whole bunch of badness — the so-called leaky gut syndrome is, in fact, real. Elevated zonulin levels are also associated with some nasty autoimmune diseases other than celiac disease, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
I didn’t really spell out my hypothesis in detail before, so here goes:
1) You think you’re overweight (whether you are or not may not be important in this scenario).
2) You diet.
3) You trigger your body’s starvation reflex.
4) To avoid starvation, your body produces more zonulin to gather all the nutrients out of your gut.
5) This lets bacterial toxins in, as well as, well, crap, including stuff your liver’s already ejected.
6) Said toxins, after entering your blood stream, wreak havoc in your immune system.
7) You could eventually wind up with an autoimmune disease as a consequence. Which one is a matter of which toxins trigger which genetic expressions.
If there’s any truth to my hypothesis, dieting may be a Really Bad Idea. In my own experience, when I’ve been successful, it’s been careful control of exercise as well as portions.
Given that women seem more prone to dieting (Goddess knows I went on my fair share of diet fads as a teen), it might even partly explain why women are more prone to autoimmune diseases like MS.
One correction I need to make on my earlier hypothesis: the anti-equatorial factor in MS prevalence seems to be related to Vitamin D rather than starvation.
The clinical trials for larazotide acetate, a Zonulin inhibitor, have reached stage 2b, and there’s been some speculation that it could go on the market as early as next year. I know what I will be lobbying for the moment it comes out.

: BayCon Submissions Breakdown

There’s often questions about markets’ submission breakdowns, particularly by sex. BayCon’s submission period just closed, so here’s the breakdown of the submissions we received over two months. All statements are rounded numbers; the charts are more exact.
1. We received twice as many Short Story submissions as Flash submissions.

2\. We received 15% more fantasy submissions than science fiction. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.002-800x600.jpg "Stats.002")](https://deirdre.net/baycon-submissions-breakdown/stats-002/) 3\. We received a third more submissions from men than from women. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.003-800x600.jpg "Stats.003")](https://deirdre.net/baycon-submissions-breakdown/stats-003/) 4\. Women submitted twice as much fantasy as science fiction. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.004-800x600.jpg "Stats.004")](https://deirdre.net/baycon-submissions-breakdown/stats-004/) 5\. Men submitted 25% more science fiction than fantasy. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.005-800x600.jpg "Stats.005")](https://deirdre.net/baycon-submissions-breakdown/stats-005/) 6\. We received almost exactly the same number of fantasy submissions from men and women; we received twice as many science fiction submissions from men than from women. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.006-800x600.jpg "Stats.006")](https://deirdre.net/baycon-submissions-breakdown/stats-006/)

: Writing and the Tyranny of Choice

Years ago, I read Barry Schwartz’s article, “The Tyranny of Choice,” but I’ve had opportunity recently to re-visit it.
I just re-read it before recommending it to someone else, and that’s when it hit me: that’s why I’m dissatisfied with my writing early on in the piece. It’s always the case, I’ve always known it, and I just put on headphones and try to plow through, because I’m a discovery writer. I discover what I’m writing about by the act of writing it. I start with merely the smallest glimpse of an idea.
For “A Sword Called Rhonda,” my idea came after reading an article in Ms. magazine about how advertisers in traditional women’s magazines dictated content: how much, what kinds, and what pages. I believe this was several years after I read Misty Lackey’s books Oathbound and Oathbreakers, which featured a sword called Need that helped women. And then there’s my old economics teacher who always used to ask the question, “Who gets to decide?” In this context: who gets to decide what “need” a woman requires help with?
Years after that, those three ideas combined in my head: what would a sword who helped women be like were it written from the viewpoint of the typical women’s magazine? This is how I got lines like:

“And you so need me, too. You’re a mess! Look at that eyebrow. Don’t you ever pluck?”
I rubbed the bridge of my nose. So it had a little hair. Big deal.

That’s texture, it’s not a story in and of itself, but that’s all I knew when I began writing. I had an idea of who Rhonda was (butch), and who Karma was (girlie sword), and why they were the way they were.
In other words: I still had too many choices.
I begin being happy with a piece when I can see the ending. Not even the whole ending, just an anchor point in space. I usually see this point when I’m somewhere between 20% and 35% through the first draft. For a short, when I finish the scene I’m writing, I’ll either write the end scene or make notes about it, then go back to write the middle. At that point, I now have enough choices narrowed down that I’m comfortable.
I’ve also been known to write a novel out of order for similar reasons, though that usually winds up with a big, fat mess, so I try not to do it unless it seems like the only way to get it out.
I’m experimenting with some ideas for getting to that point without having to flail for so long. I don’t know if they’ll help. I do know that an outline only helps me after the first draft, and same with character studies. For me, they’re for editing, not for writing.
Unfortunately, I lack a good process at present.

: Publishing: Beating the Odds

Many of you know I’m the submissions editor for BayCon’s nascent fiction market (gentle reminder: submissions close 9/15; currently, submissions are running 40% flash and 60% short stories). In a practical sense, that means I’ll be reading all the submissions, culling it down to a short list for each of the Flash and Short Story pieces. Because I’ll be reading all of them, I added minimum and maximum qualifications so that we wouldn’t need a staff of editors to make the first cut.
I’ve heard from three different people that, because we’re only publishing two stories this year, they don’t think the “chances” of getting in are good, so it’s not worth tying up a story. Now, I’m not criticizing where people want to submit (your writing career, your goals, after all), but I can say something about the “chances” aspect.

Publishing Is Not a Lottery

Like acting, success in publishing is showing up at the right place at the right time with the right presentation on the right project. There are no “odds” except that the person seeing your work happens to give it the best read possible, and the number of times you submit a piece increases the likelihood it’ll find its way onto the right desk at the right time. Frankly, you don’t know what the “right” timing is because you don’t have the experience of the flow of submissions from the other side of the desk.
We’ve all heard stories about how many times J. K. Rowling was turned down, and I’ve seen the ream of rejections some friends have accumulated. Then there’s the flip side: some things sell first time out. “A Sword Called Rhonda” did. It also sold the second. That doesn’t mean I’m especially clever, truly it doesn’t. It just means I had the right piece at the right time for the right market. I’ve accumulated my fair share of rejections.
If there are 100 submissions, that 101st submission doesn’t affect the likelihood your story will get accepted unless your story was already borderline. If it’s superb, it’ll still be superb. If it needs work, it’ll still need work.
Anyhow, it’s not a lottery, and it’s not a game of chance. In this case, a good story could get you between $50 and $200.

: I'm a Guest Blogger

I’m a guest blogger for Greater Portland Scribists on the subject of self-publishing.

: What Do You Write, Take Two

A few years ago, I wrote this post called “What Do You Write?” There were some interesting comments.
I’m dusting it off because Worldcon’s coming up, and some people will be asked what they write. Perhaps this will give you some time to think about it before someone Asks The Question.

: Testing Dreamwidth Crosspost

Yo.
Worked. So it turns out I can use ‘s ljxp to crosspost to Dreamwidth, and my settings there will also push posts to LJ. So I get a threefer. That’ll save time. Now I just need to figure out Goodreads. I also need to figure out pushing Twitter to Google+. I currently push it to Facebook.

: They Fight Crime!

He’s a lounge-singing chivalrous cowboy who believes he can never love again. She’s a mistrustful green-skinned mechanic with a flame-thrower. They fight crime!

: Cord-Cutting: Netflix

In addition to the usual computers, we have three devices we can watch Netflix instant on:

  1. TiVo (Series 3)
  2. Apple TV (Second gen)
  3. Boxee Box

Of the three, the best user experience (not to mention the smallest) is the Apple TV.

  1. Best throughput and caching
  2. Best user experience
  3. Best responsiveness

Maybe I’ll make a little movie about it.

: "A Sword Called Rhonda" Now Available as an E-Book

“Hey, Karma,” Rhonda the sword whined, “I need to go, like, shopping.”

She hung from the wall of my small home in what used to be suburban Palo Alto. Being far away didn’t help. I could hear her just as clearly as if I’d held her in my hand with her voice coming out the end of the hilt. I’d tried hanging her from my waist at first, but she just yelled loud enough for everyone to hear. Now, I carry her over my shoulder so she talks in my ear.

I hadn’t responded, so she yelled. “Are you listening?”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you,” I replied.

Two weeks ago, I bought the sword at the city’s disincorporation sale. It was a fine sword, made of good strong steel that could take a beating. At the time, it seemed like a good deal.


Cover Art by Manu De Mey

Finally available in a standalone, DRM-free e-book from the following resellers:

[Purchase this book from iTunes (EPUB)](http://itun.es/igt9H8) [Purchase this book from Amazon (Kindle)](http://www.amazon.com/A-Sword-Called-Rhonda-ebook/dp/B005DTS1Y0/) [Purchase this book from Barnes and Noble (EPUB)](http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sword-called-rhonda-d-s-moen/1104119696?ean=2940013647879)

: E-Book Royalty Calcumatic

In trying to understand what various royalty options for self-published e-books meant in the real world, I wrote my e-book royalty calcumatic. If you’ve got a new-fangled browser with snazzy HTML5 sliders, it’s a prettier page. These degrade to inputs with older browsers.
There is still an issue with Opera’s calculations that I haven’t yet sorted out, but, so far as I’m aware, it works correctly on other browsers. If it does not, please let me know.
Also, as I’ve pored over contracts until my eyes bled (okay, not literally), I may have missed something. Feel free to let me know.
If I previously said to hold off on letting other people know—that time has passed and it’s okay to repost now.

: New Professional SF/F Market

Pen NibI’ve been working with BayCon to bring forth a new professional market. It’s small: two stories a year, but I think it hits a sweet spot now that Baen’s magazine is no longer publishing (though they are still publishing books, of course!). The “Introducing!” spot was much sought after and sorely missed.

: The Joy of Fountain Pens

Sure, fountain pens are a bit fiddlier than your average ballpoint. But they do have their advantages.

  1. The colors you can write in is not a direct function of the manufacturer of the pen. Like the look of one pen and the ink colors offered by someone else? You can do that.
  2. More ink colors. For those of us with acute color discrimination, this can be really useful.
  3. Washable ink. For those unhappy accidents. Sure, some ink colors do stain.
  4. …which brings me to: waterproof and forgery-proof inks. Sure, there are ballpoints (Uniball Signo) that do that as well, but not in as many colors as are currently available for fountain pens. Note that these are not washable from clothing, so you can go to both extremes. Here are some torture test results.

I’ve seen fountain pens from $1 all the way up to “Oh my God!” levels, where that was seven figure to the left of the decimal point. Most expensive I’ve held in my hands was five figures. All of them can use the same inks.

: Miss Snark: 110 Slush Entries Critiqued

I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of Miss Snark before, but one of the coolest things a budding writer can read are the 110 reactions to cover letter and first page she’s posted.

One critique I particularly liked, where the story starts with the character asleep. So many new writers start with their character waking up (or asleep), forgetting that the beginning of their story needs to match the ending of the story, and there’s not a lot of time to waste. Don’t make it start the way the reader starts their day or it’ll be mundane. (And yes, I’m giving this critique almost exactly in Critters this week.

Look at each entry, and then her comments. You may not agree with her, but maybe you’ll learn something. I did.

: Jim Baen, 1943-2006

It’s funny how you can feel a great sense of loss when someone dies that you’ve never met — and I wonder, given the number of conventions I’ve been to, how it came to be that I’d never met him. Some of my favorite books were published by Baen.

: My Publisher in Hospital

My story, “A Sword Called Rhonda,” was published in the popular Chicks in Chainmail series from Baen books. Unfortunately, Jim’s had a stroke. While we’re all pulling for him, strokes are very serious things, especially when they leave someone in a coma for days like Jim has. Having seen my late husband in a coma from a stroke, I have at least some sense of what everyone’s going through, though grief is very personal.

From the update Patrick Nielsen Hayden forwarded, it sounds like it is Very Bad News.

So, in the spirit of Esther Friesner (the Chicks editor), we definitely want the prayers and hamster wheels spinning on this.

: Inflections, Again

Back when there was the virus/viri/virii/viruses/virus and octopus/octopi/octopodes/octopuses debate on the Rails list, somehow I missed this article on my husband’s web site. In short, in classical Latin usage, virus was an uncountable noun, thus its lack of a definitive plural. It is only the change in usage that renders a plural necessary.

: Galleys

Yesterday, I got galleys for the paperback edition of Turn the Other Chick, so that should be out some time in the not-too-horribly distant future. Meanwhile, I’ve picked up another batch of hardcovers to take to Loscon.

: Kepler's Reopening

Kepler’s has announced their reopening on October 8. I know I plan to be there, I hope you do too.

: Hypergraphia

One of my friends, Erin (the best unpublished writer I know, for what it’s worth, and I’ve read a lot) is an amazingly voluminous writer. She pointed me to a blurb about hypergraphia.

I have difficulty being quite that voluminous, though I did successfully complete NaNoWriMo one year. However, I completed it by using music to drown out that little editor voice that nags me, so my prose was pretty awful. Then again, I wasn’t in a hypergraphia phase — I was trying to artificially induce one. Fortunately, I enjoy editing more than I enjoy the actual process of writing, so it’s all good.

And, while I don’t suffer from chronic hypergraphia, I do occasionally go through spurts of it both as an author and as a software engineer, where my productivity is way above average, and I can’t wait to get back to work.

Speaking of work, I must be off.

: Mac Mini Bag

Since the Mini was announced, I’ve been coveting one.

Recently, Tom Bihn announced a bag for the Mini. Like their other bags, made in the USA, which I also appreciate.

From the product description, “Makes a sporty, albeit expensive, Bento Box as well.” Uh huh.

Pity they don’t have it in Plum.

: Incredibly busy

Some great things are beginning to bust loose. I rather feel like I’m about to have some really fabulous things happen.

I’m busy, though. That said, I only have 14 irons in the fire at the moment; in August, I had 19.

: Something's Brewing!

I can’t say what, but I did have a great bit of inspiration.

Suffice to say that it involves the mysterious disappearance of a book.

Bwaahaaahaaa.

Back to writing.

: Work weird

There’s something harder than average about returning to work after a week-long writer’s workshop. My mind is still thinking about ancient Egypt, robot monsters, the future of aliens in San Francisco, and Jax’s rendition of Henry V with a Texas accent (it worked!).

It’s very odd to have to suddenly focus on where in the world Tlalnepantla is and whether Mexico City is the best approximation of Tlalnepantla’s location.

: Martha's VP photos

Can be found here.

: Andrew's VP comments

Can be found here.

Andrew, I still want to read that giant robot story too. 🙂

: TNH's VP comments

I just found Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s blog comments on VP.

My personal favorite is a comment about the previously-mentioned (by Your Humble Blogger) game of Thing:

As for my supposed ruthlessness, I acknowledge that I behaved wickedly in one game of Thing; but when you’re assigned the role of an evil soulless shapechanging extraterrestrial, what else are you supposed to do?

Her comments on Thing game strategy are indeed interesting.

And to her comment:

I will admit that Thinging a research scientist one night, and then next morning leading the lynch mob that killed him or her, was an awfully good way to allay suspicions about my own Thingitude.

I only have one thing to say (no pun intended): “You set me up!”

It’s all good.

: Restaurant Gar

It’s tiring having to tell people all the time, “No, I can’t have that, it’s probably got wheat in it.” Bread they understand, pasta they sometimes do, but items such as Rice Dream (a rice milk), they’re less likely to. Nor do most people have any clue that soy sauce almost invariably contains wheat.

Friday night, I went to a restaurant and, after looking at the menu, asked if I could have lobster scampi served on potatoes. He said they only had french fries. I asked them if they cooked the fries separately from the fish and seafood they also served — they did. What else did they cook in that fryer? Only fries.

Fine, I said, I’ll take the scampi over fries.

“The chef said it wouldn’t be very good,” the waiter offered. “We could put it over pasta.”

“Look,” I said, “eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines. I’ll take it over fries.”

Waiter said OK, then went on to take the rest of the table’s order.

A few minutes later, he comes out, apologetic. Chef has refused to make said order because it “wouldn’t be any good.” Waiter says there’s a lot of other seafood they serve with fries, I could have some of that.

“It’s all battered in wheat. Eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines.” Repetition is sometimes necessary.

“Well, you could have steak tips.”

Right, at a seafood place. Not. (I’m glad I didn’t, it looked incredibly dull)

Instead, I had a shrimp appetizer after verifying that it wouldn’t contain any flour of any kind. I also ordered potato skins.

Despite the chef’s assertion about “it wouldn’t be any good,” the two of us who ordered potato skins found ours to be BLACK they were burned so badly.

Ugh.

But it took three go-arounds and about 5 minutes of interaction with the waitroid to even get that far. I’ve literally been brought to tears because I’ve been so frustrated about food (and so embarrassed by the problems food causes me).

If someone says they can’t have wheat: believe them. It doesn’t matter if they’re imagining it, chances are they’re not.