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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 23:29

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.)

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Important Things, Marion Zimmer Bradley,..."
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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 20:48

nQZcA7PRTyuduZPSZQ88_wanderlust-sm2

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:

I don’t personally know anyone who isn’t getting a check at all. I’m getting checks, but the amounts are questionable. I’m doing well to get a six dollar monthly check. I have trouble with the concept that a new release sold less than ten copies in two months when all my previous books had decent releases. I’ve spoken with several authors who hand-sold twenty or more books at a book fair and were credited with less than five.

Simple fact is, of all my friends who are published with EC and close enough to discuss money and sales, none feel their checks are accurate based on past sales and their personal accounting. Over twenty authors and not a single one of them feels they are getting paid. These are people with multiple publishers. They are NOT experiencing drops in sales across the board, only from EC.

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?

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Publishing, publishing"
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Date: Sunday, 14 Sep 2014 15:33
The Amazing Disco Elevator with strobing lights. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 2012.

The Amazing Disco Elevator with strobing lights. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 2012.

Eventually, if you travel long enough, you’ll lose a piece of luggage. Sometimes this results in the somewhat related travel phenomenon, the travel meltdown.

Rick’s take on these kinds of things is that it usually happens when you’re tired and it’s what he calls a stepwise disaster. No single step is bad, but at some point, something gets missed. Despite everyone’s best intentions, a disaster occurs.

In this particular case, Rick helped my mom bring her luggage down to the lobby, while I sat and watched Rick’s and my luggage. We travel together a lot, so we’re used to what each other carries. My mom, however, was carrying an additional piece in the form of a new bag.

The person who called the taxi asked for her to wait by the door to see if the taxi came. Then we all went to the taxi, inadvertently leaving her large bag behind. Sadly, we didn’t figure out what happened exactly until just after the ship pulled away from Lisbon. Since we weren’t returning to Lisbon, this left us with a problem.

Ways to Ensure You Have All Your Things

I’m a numbers person, so I favor the numbers method: I’m making sure I have my three (or whatever number) items at any point. I ensure that I don’t take out or put away any items, so that the count remains constant through one segment of my trip (e.g., transferring items from one’s hotel room to a cruise ship stateroom).

Your method doesn’t have to be numbers. It could be colors of things: blue, purple, red, black. So long as you have a specific method that works for you.

Furthermore, check the count (or whatever your method) at every single point: leaving the hotel, what gets put into the taxi, leaving the taxi, boarding the ship, etc. Obviously, in cases where porters will take your luggage, your system needs to account for those pieces at that time.

Two Strategies

I’ve sometimes said that packing extra underwear in my carryon is a talisman against losing my luggage, but I say that jokingly. You’re far more used to having a carryon with you, and thus you’re both more likely (more opportunity) and less likely (because you’re using to having it with you) to lose it.

This leads to a more general solution to the problem: cross-packing. Take a packing cube and put one change of clothes in it with one or two changes of underwear. If everyone traveling (well, up to about four people) does this and one piece of luggage is lost, then you’ve got a suitcase with items from four people that’s lost, but everyone has at least three changes of clothes. This works best if each person’s packing cubes are color coded.

So What Happens When You Lose Your Luggage?

People on a round-trip usually pick up their lost luggage on their return through the same place. If you’re not going back there, generally it’s sent via some package service like FedEx, UPS, or DHL. On a ship, you can have it sent to the ship’s agent in a future port.

Except in my mom’s case, it was sent to the ship’s agent in Málaga, Spain, arriving the day before the ship did. Then the agent, whose business it is to receive things for the ship (and occasionally handle passengers and crew who miss the ship, as well as other duties like dealing with port charges, etc.) decided to refuse the package. So, despite having been sent from Lisbon, Portugal to Málaga, Spain, her suitcase is currently in Köln, Germany.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Travel, travel"
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Date: Sunday, 07 Sep 2014 20:59

Well, not all travel is fun or good.

I’ve been exhausted for five freakin’ days, and I’m hoping to finally get some good restorative sleep tonight.

You see, my CPAP, which I need to get good sleep, blew up not long after arriving in Frankfurt.

blown-up-cpap

I managed to get one good nap out of it, then it blew up in a shower of sparks, then nothing since then. I’ve had a persistent headache and been draggy. As a consequence, I bailed on visiting both Bratislava and Salzburg. Boo.

The good news is that I had a backup plan, and Rick brought that with him. The one time we arrive separately turns out to have been a great thing.

My carryon’s telescoping handle also broke (why does it always happen at the beginning of a trip)? I did something I’ve never ever done at a hotel before: borrowed duct tape from the front desk. So I’ll be taking that in for repair when I return. Meanwhile, I’m hoping I get it in the overhead bin on my flight in, oh, an hour and a half. ::crosses fingers::

My trip, revised and scaled down:

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

We fly home from Rome a couple of days later.


Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

As always, I’m using the Travelers Century Club list of countries and territories.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Travel"
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Date: Saturday, 06 Sep 2014 18:12

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Writing"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 21:15

When I was at Apple, these things happened all the time. Sometimes, people I thought were my friends asked these kinds of things, and I just stopped talking to whomever.

If you think it’s fresh or new or funny, you’re wrong.

Because anyone who thinks their curiosity is more important than your job is an unmitigated asshole.

Once upon a time, someone on Fountain Pen Network (of all places) offered big bucks (an actual number, which I’m not going to state) if I’d steal a prototype iPad. Which I then reported to both the board’s owners and to Apple legal.

So in case you wonder why a lot of people at Apple (for example) aren’t more out about working there, or more open about what they do, maybe they’re just tired of dealing with the fallout of the world’s curiosity. It’s exhausting, frankly.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Rants, Work"
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 06:17

Chuck Wendig has the first PSA. Note: much swearing.

What I think annoys me most of all about this whole debacle is the implication that nude photos are okay to steal.

Dude. There are plenty of them that are consensually shared. Letmedothis.com is one of the better tumblrs full. (Since every site has a theme, this site’s is: at least two people, at least one of whom is female, involved in some sexual/sensual act with explicit nudity.)

But if you’re not going to act honorably and lawfully about nude photos, then it’s no fucking wonder why no one will take any with you. No one with self-respect, anyway.

If, instead, you happen to like nude photos, treat it as a gift when people consensually share that with you and trust you. Because it is.

And maybe, you know, you’ll actually get to see more of the good stuff.

Also: this interesting post from Nik Cubrilovic covers some bigger security implications.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Rants, Sexism, rants, sexism"
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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 11:33

I’ve seen this link about how women fare in performance reviews going around, and people have been focusing on the fact that women get tone policed.

What I haven’t seen mentioned: women score more negatively in performance reviews in all ways.

58.9% of men’s reviews contained critical feedback, while an overwhelming 87.9% of the reviews received by women did.

This ties into raises, bonuses, and promotions, obviously.

For what it’s worth, I don’t recall ever being called abrasive in a performance review.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Sexism, Work, sexism, work"
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Date: Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 02:10

A spam comment caught by Akismet:

If the previous game is too adventurous for you, simply try flapping a blanket in the air above your ferret as if you were fluttering a bed sheet over a mattress.

You don’t say.

This particular spam comment ended with:

…and ferrets love to cuddle.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Amusements, Software, computers, humor"
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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 16:31

Rick and I returned from Ireland on Tuesday, and my flight to Frankfurt is on Monday.

Given that one of the hardest parts of jet lag is adjusting to the time zone, I thought I should try to stay on Europe time. Normally, it takes a day to adjust per hour of time difference, and it just seemed fundamentally worse to try to do that in this particular circumstance.

Last night, I went to bed at 5 in the afternoon (1 am, Irish time) and woke up at 3:30 in the morning (11:30 am, Irish time). It was so strange. When I see it’s 7 and it’s light out, I’m not sure if it’s 7 pm or 7 am.

I’ve tried adjusting to time zones before trips before, with limited success (insofar as I always have difficulty changing time). We’ll see how this one holds up.

I usually have a sense of what time it is within fifteen minutes. Right now, that’s not true.

Last year, when I flew this route, starting in San Francisco and heading west:


Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

…I was fine until I reached South Africa. At that point, my sense of what time it was just broke. I didn’t regain it until after I got home.

So, even though I’m all confused about time right now, I’m hoping this experiment is a good one for me.

My little trip, once I wind up in Frankfurt:

  1. Train to Vienna.
  2. Day trip to Bratislava. (New country! #92)
  3. Day trip to Salzburg. Apart from Salzburg itself, the train is supposed to be some of the most beautiful scenery in Austria.
  4. Fly to Lisbon via Zurich. (New country! #93) At this point, I join Rick and my mom as we explore Portugal.
  5. Sail to Gibraltar. (New country/territory! #94)
  6. Sail to Puerto Banus, Spain.
  7. Sail to Malaga, Spain. Alhambra!
  8. Sail to Cartagena, Spain.
  9. Sail to Ibiza, Balearic Islands. (New country/territory! #95)
  10. Sail to Mahón, Menorca.
  11. Sail to Alghero, Sardinia. (New country/territory! #96)
  12. Sail to Bonifacio, Corsica. (New country/territory! #97)
  13. Sail to Porto Vecchio, Corsica.
  14. Sail to Civitavecchia, Italy, aka the cruise port closest to Rome.
  15. Visit the Vatican! (New country! #98)

We fly home from Rome a couple of days later.


Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

As always, I’m using the Travelers Century Club list of countries and territories.

What I like most: my revised itinerary is that I’ll again get to see some of the territory I found so beautiful in 1992 when we drove south from Munich to Venice via Innsbruck.

Ganz Wien

I can’t think about this trip without hearing the Falco song.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Travel, europe, travel"
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Date: Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 16:38

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Travel, Writing, ireland, travel, writin..."
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Date: Sunday, 24 Aug 2014 11:10

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Writing, indie-publishing, publishing, S..."
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Date: Saturday, 23 Aug 2014 14:58

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

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Conventions, Travel, conventions, fanwri..."
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Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 20:12

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Music, Sexism, fanwriting, music, sexism..."
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Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 19:29

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Conventions, Writing, conventions, fanwr..."
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 11:04

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Conventions, Hotels, Rants, Travel, conv..."
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 10:59

This post, clickbaitingly called Know If a Font Sucks actually has some fascinating tidbits about compensating for our eyes tricking us.

Hat tip to Janet Jia-Ee Chui.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Graphic Design, cool, fonts, graphic-des..."
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Date: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 22:27

Note: for those reading on Tumblr, LiveJournal, or Dreamwidth, the deirdre.net version of this post has the WordPress-fu that expands the Twitter links.

Mary Robinette notes some good things for the future of audio-first books:

Last year, she was disqualified for Best Novelette in last year’s Hugos because it was audio first and the posted story on her blog had some small staging directions. Thus, the administrators ruled it would qualify in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Sadly, it lacked the number of votes to make the nominating cutoff in that particular category.

This year, it was published on Tor.com and won Best Novelette.

A few months ago, I had a conversation on Twitter with Colter Reed. He said he’d “read” an audiobook, and the usage stuck out to me.

Audiobooks are really taking off, and a lot of people read them. (See what I did there?)

I’ve moved away from them myself, for various reasons, mostly that I tend to remember books better when I read them by eye rather than ear.

I’m very aware, as my very literate father’s eyesight has degraded, that reading a book with one’s eyes is a privilege not everyone has.

Some people prefer audiobooks for other reasons, like making a long commute easier.

Still, it’s a book—or a story—and we “read” those.

Accordingly, my usage of the term “read” has changed.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "books, conventions, hugos, reading"
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Date: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 00:00

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

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Conventions, 2014, conventions, fanwriti..."
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Date: Friday, 15 Aug 2014 23:10

Photo by Lizzy Gadd

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.

Author: "Deirdre" Tags: "Writing, writing"
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