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Jack London

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As the Year Closes...

I thought about doing a year-end status report, but it's too nice a day to think about business matters.

It sounds silly, but I'm dreaming stories again. Not nightmares or stress/worry rehashes like I have for the past year. It's a pretty good feeling, and I don't want to ruin it.

So instead, I'll say

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - The Penguins of Madagascar

The Penguins solo adventure picks up at the party at the end of Madagascar 3, though there is a quick flashback to the boys' childhood. The story revolves around the team's competition with another secret agent group called Northwind in taking down the mad octopus Dave.


* * *

SPOILERS

* * *

PROS
1) I love the Penguins to the point of watching their animated TV shows. This is the first movie or TV program that layers the guys' personalities. Watching Skipper admit that Confidential's plan was better than his was painful, but a necessary evolution to his character.


CONS
1) The other penguins' treatment of Private really didn't make sense in terms of this being a story set after Madagascar 3. Private has proven his bravery and resourcefulness over and over again. For Skipper, Kowolski and Rico to treat him in such a patronizing manner was off-putting.

2) The pacing of the story was glacial compared to the other installments of the Madagascar franchise. There were points I started to nod off.

For the record, that is not a good thing.

3) The animated series did the same basic plot with Dr. Blowhole in the animated series, and it was done MUCH better there.

Because Neil Patrick Harris rocks!

4) Dreamworks' intention to launch the Northwind team as a new series was painfully obvious.


As much as I love the Penguins, this movie version didn't cut it. I'd give a 5 out of 10 stars at best.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Random Thoughts on December 24th

For those of you who don't know, our family is interfaith. One of the things we've tried to instill in GK is respect for other people's beliefs regardless of his own or ours.

Which means at some point, the in-laws will find out that GK has declared himself an atheist. And damn, will that be entertaining!

But my in-laws' heads exploding wasn't the point of this post. While getting last minute groceries yesterday morning, I had a lot of folks wish me "Merry Christmas!" I'm not Christian, but I'm not offended. The greetings were sincerely meant.

But a lot of folks get pissed off if someone says "Happy Holidays!" I don't really understand why some people feel this is a personal attack. Christians aren't the only ones that have a holiday this time of year. There's Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, and more that I've forgotten. (My sincere apologies to those I didn't name.)

I name a specific holiday greeting to a person if I know their religion. For example, I wish my friend Kat "Merry Christmas," and she wishes me "Happy Yule."

But I don't always know a stranger's religion, it isn't obvious (like wearing a yarmulke, a hajib, or a cross), and frankly, their religion isn't my business. So I go with my favorite standby, "Happy Holidays!"

And when I did that to a customer years ago at the last Day Job, he went freakin' ballistic and accused me of being anti-Christian. At the end of his tirade, I asked him how I was supposed to know his religion. He blinked several times before he answered, "This is Christian nation!"

"But not everyone in the U.S. is Christian," I said.

That prompted another tirade. Again, I waited patiently for it to end before I asked, "Should there be a law that everyone in the U.S. wear the symbol for their religion?"

"Yes!"

"And how did that work out for the Jews in Germany seventy years ago?" I asked quietly.

The blood drained from his face, and he marched out of the store.

I never saw him again, and he never filed a complaint with my manager (I half-expected it). I hope I made him think. I hope he now sees those of us who aren't Christian as people and not enemies. I hope he realizes that a sincere non-specific December holiday greeting is just that--a greeting, not an insult.

Since today's the last day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, I wish everyone a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - Interstellar

The last time I saw Matthew McConaughey in a literary-type sci-fi flick was in 1997's Contact. I think Interstellar is a similar, albeit much better film.

The premise is simple. Earth is dying. While the dialogue doesn't come out and say it, human-influenced climate and microbial changes have brought the human race to the brink of extinction. So of course, we have the brilliant scientist (Michael Caine) and his beautiful and equally brilliant daughter (Anne Hathaway) sconced in a top-secret installation, searching for a solution.

What they need is a pilot for their space ark. Again, the dialogue insinuates that air travel no longer exists. McConaughey's Cooper was one of the last astronauts trained before NASA was officially shut down as a waste of resources.


* * *

SPOILERS

* * *

PROS
1) Give me a good story if you can't give me good science. For the most part, this movie gives both. In fact, the human story outshines the spectacular effects and occasional oopses in the science department. What would you do if your children aged more rapidly than you? If you could only see your grandchildren in messages that were decades old? Could you give up your personal desires/beliefs/dreams in total service to the existence of your race?

2) All three women who portray Cooper's daughter Murph give outstanding performances. While Jessica Chastain has the lion's share of scenes, it's Mackenzie Foy as the teen Murph and Ellen Burstyn as the elderly Murph that will bring tears to your eyes.

3) OMG! Matt Damon does NOT get enough credit as an actor! As Caine's co-head of the Lazarus Project, Dr. Mann seems reasonable and logical, but the mask slips, and we realize he's bat-crap crazy a split-second before the other characters do. Seriously, this guy needs a Best Supporting Actor nomination by the Academy!

4) The special effects are going to make you wish Stanley Kubrick had CGI when he was filming. Even better was the visual allegory of "string theory/threads of the Fates".

5) I got a sneaky thrill that Murph, a female scientist, is the one who calculates with the Unified Field Theory based on the information her father and TARS were able to transmit to her, though the movie never actually names it as such.


CONS
1) Some of the science left me with a WTF feeling. There's a difference between a neutron star and a black hole. At various times in the movie, Gargantua is referred to as both.

2) The filmmakers push credibility by having three planets within Gargantua's habitable zone. Even if I let that go, the fact that Miller's planet is the closest to Gargantua, a star with a massive gravity field, and has liquid water, you would think the scientists would suspect massive tides. But hey, I only have a minor in physics so what do I know.


Obviously Christopher Nolan's shooting for an Oscar with this movie, and I hope he gets it.

Overall, I give Interstellar a 9 out of 10 for a couple of questionable science issues, and two instances where the characters were too stupid to live (and didn't).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Songs I've Been Listening to Lately

You really can't get this tune out of your head after seeing the movie.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Are Disney Princesses Finally Becoming Real Women?

In a stroke of marketing genius, Andy Mooney, Disney's chairman of Consumer Products, created the Disney Princess line in 2000 after observing several young girls dressed in generic princess attire while attending a Disney on Ice production. Mooney pulled together the female leads of several of the animated movie franchises, including the classics created under Walt Disney's supervision, the revival under Michael Eisner's leadership of the corporation, and CGI creations under John Lassiter as the former head of Pixar and the new head of Disney's animated division.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, each man brought his conceptions of womanhood to the drawing board. Walt Disney took classic fairy tales that were often brutal and bloody and toned them down for family consumption. He also reflected American cultural beliefs that "good" women should seek out marriage and children. The movies involving Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora (aka "Sleeping Beauty") all end with the title character's marriage to a prince.

Because of the poor reception and low box office take of Sleeping Beauty, Walt didn't tackle another fairy tale. While there's no proof of any connection, one has to wonder if the infancy of 60's counter-culture movements didn't have some effect on Sleeping Beauty's box office. It was released in January of 1959, the same month Castro and his forces took over Cuba. Sixteen months later, the first contraceptive pill was approved by the FDA. The HEA endings didn't make sense to a generation of women taking control of their lives.

It wasn't until Michael Eisner became the head of the Disney corporation in 1984 that the company tackled another animated fairy tale. To his credit, Eisner tried to return to the artforms the company was best remembered for as well as expand the corporation's holdings. The result was an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid.

Disney's Princess Ariel was far more feisty than her predecessors. However, she still need to be rescued from the villain by her love interest, Prince Eric. The studio finally broke the "heroine only looking for love" mold with Belle in Beauty and the Beast, but the movie still ended with her falling in love with a prince.

The successive princesses (Mulan is included by the company even though she's of common birth, as is her love interest Li Shang) showed more spunk, more independence, but at the conclusion of each story, the princess in question finds romantic love. Even in Tangled, Rapunzel ends up married to Eugene, a pardoned thief, even though she showed more realistic traits of an emotional abused teenager. In addition, she's the first to take the initiative to escape her psychological imprisonment.

The first time a princess walks into the proverbial sunset without a man on her arm was Merida of the Disney/Pixar film Brave. In fact, she rejects all of her suitors, much to their relief. The three princes didn't want to be forced into a loveless marriage any more than she did.

Merida also broke the Disney mold of one or more dead parents. While her dad loses a leg in a bear attack in the first few minutes of the movie and her mom is turned into a bear later, both of Merida's parents remain alive through the movie.

The primary issue in the story was the normal tension between a teen and her biological mother, an issue neither Disney nor Pixar have dealt with in their animated movies. For once this wasn't about a guardian or parental figure abusing the heroine or out-and-out plotting her murder. Queen Elinor sincerely wants what's best for Merida, but fails to see the person her daughter has become. Merida feels stifled by her mother's constant demands of royal propriety.

I think breaking the normal plot molds of Disney is the one of the real reasons Brave received so many negative reviews when the film was first released. However, thoughts concerning the movie shifted when Disney announced they were adding Merida to the Princess line. The artwork for packaging and the new doll changed Merida from a small-breasted, adolescent tomboy with frizzy hair to a voluptuous woman with well-tamed and styled hair. The new princess aroused the ire of many feminists, and worse, mothers. A petition was started on Change.org, and Disney returned Merida to the original Pixar version. [Disclosure: As one of the pissed-off mothers, I signed the petition.]

The backlash of the petition and the support from subsequent reviewers seemed to sink through the brains of the Disney executives. Maleficent, the live-action retelling of Sleeping Beauty, takes elements of the mother/daughter relationship and uses that love to save the princess rather than romantic love as in the original animated version. It also takes the unusual step of displaying a metaphorical drugged date rape and subsequently punishing the rapist. Further, the hero refused to take advantage of Aurora when she was unconscious. Finally, Maleficent and Aurora work together to save themselves.

Frozen, Disney's latest animated film, also manages to avoid the romance-as-female-safety trap. The princesses Elsa and Anna save each other through the power of their sisterly love. In fact, one romantic interest derides Anna for her desperate wish for any kind of love and how easily she was manipulated because of it.

So has Disney caught up with the 21st century? Three movies does not a pattern make. But I believe the Disney execs will listen to the people who generally buy gifts for the children in the family. And frankly, we buyers are tired of the helpless female meme. I was tired of it when I was growing up in the '70's. And it's definitely a meme I don't want my son indoctrinated in.

What happens next?

That's really up to Disney if they want my money. I still have a couple of underage nieces and my future granddaughters to buy for. If Disney can't keep it's act together, then I'll be buying a lot of Wonder Woman merchandise as gifts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Monday Movie Mania on a Wednesday - Frozen

FTC Notice: The movie was courtesy of a free promotional weekend by HBO.

For the past year, you couldn't avoid Idina Menzel's incredible voice belting out the show-stopping number from Disney's latest animated fairytale flick. Because of the move from hell, it was the first time our family ever missed a first-run in the theaters, but even GK sat through my princess night on Saturday (ABC Family also ran Tangled that night, so we had a Disney movie-a-thon.), because yes, both movies are that good.

The story is loosely, very, very loosely, based on the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Snow Queen. Alas, no demons or magic mirrors in this version.


* * * SPOILERS * * *


Elsa and Anna are two young princesses in a Scandinavian land. Elsa has powers to create snow and ice; Anna doesn't have any magical abilities. But that doesn't stop the sisters from having an incredibly close relationship until the day Elsa accidentally harms Anna.

It takes a troll king to heal Anna. Far, far worse is the damage the girls' parents do by forbidding Elsa to use her powers and forcing her to hide them. Elsa becomes so afraid of herself that she shuns any contact with Anna or anyone else. Matters come to a head when the sisters quarrel on the day of Elsa's coronation, and she accidentally turns her kingdom into a frozen wasteland.

PROS
1) The writers captured the sibling relationship perfectly, how they can be best friends and worst enemies at the same time.

2) For once, the male characters weren't the perfect heroes that swooped in and saved the day. Disney tried to change the trend in Tangled, but they fully succeeded in Frozen. It wasn't romantic love that saved the sisters, but their love for each other.

3) Idina Menzel and Kristin Bell's duet. 'Nuff said.


CONS
1) Why does Disney have an obsession with whacking the parents? This is one case where I wish the parents were alive, and they learned their lesson that oppressing their daughter for her own good was the stupidest thing they could have done.


I give Frozen a 10 out of 10 for its Girl Power message and the best music in a Disney score since The Lion King.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - Maleficent

Last weekend was a cornucopia of movies for the family, both recent releases and older ones we missed due to the insanity of the last year and a half. I'll focus on the Disneys first with some thoughts on Friday concerning the company's apparent change in direction in regards to female characters.

FTC Notice: This film was courtesy of a free coupon from AT&T Universe's On Demand service.

Hoo boy! Maleficent. This live-action version isn't your grandma's classic animated one.

The earliest tales of Sleeping Beauty, which has been around in some version or another for 800 years, gave a reason for the character of Maleficent to curse the princess, but Uncle Walt's original movie is pretty one-dimensional. She's painted as bitch for the sake of being one.


*** SPOILERS ***


This version gives the fairy a damn good reason for being pissed at the man who will become King Stefan. He claims he loves her, drugs her, and cuts off her wings, all in order to be named king. The rape imagery is impossible to miss.

Many folks think this makes Maleficent too dark of a movie for children. As a parent myself, I would say watch it yourself and use your common sense as to whether your children is ready. However, don't underestimate your child. This scene is a good teaching moment when it comes to trust and safety issues.

The story also addresses the redeeming power of love, though not of the romantic variety. Maleficent spies on the three pixies raising the young princess, with the intent of torturing the child and thereby her father. However, she finds herself saving Aurora again and again from the pixies' lack of attention and inexperience with humans.

The defining moment is when the little girl accepts the wounded fairy as she is. The innocence of the child thaws Maleficent's heart. She tries to revoke the curse, but is unable to.

PROS
1) Angelina Jolie's subtlety in playing this role. She makes Maleficent a sympathetic, strong, and totally understandable person.

2) Elle Fanning's Aurora throwing a totally teen temper tantrum upon learning that ALL the fairies have been lying to her for her whole life. It's a very real moment in a fantasy story, but it grounds the character, compared to the blow-up Barbie doll she was in the animated version.

3) Prince Phillip not winning the day. I believe in love, but a five-minute meet-up in the woods is lust, not love. In counterpoint to the earlier rape allegory, he refuses to kiss an unconscious girl.

4) This movie is an excellent way for parents to open conversations with their pre-teen children about the opposite sex and safety.

CONS
1) This is a PG-rated film. Use your best judgment, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it for children under eight. Like I said above, this ain't your grandma's Sleeping Beauty.

Overall, I would give it 10 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Songs I've Been Listening to Lately

Since I brought up the delightful Meghan Trainor yesterday, here's a taste...


Friday, December 12, 2014

It's All About That Butt

...with apologies to Meghan Trainor.

One of the hardest things about writing for a living is keeping the weight under control. The sedentary life, and subsequent weight gain, can lead to all kinds of health problems, most of which I already have.

Over October and a good chunk of November, I bounced between hotels and the in-laws while we waited for the delivery of furniture, both old and new. Unfortunately, that meant a lot of eating out. Despite my efforts at good choices and portion control, I jumped up a pant size.

Argh!

Being able to cook in our new home has helped. I can plan our meals and control the ingredients I use.

Plus, GK is determined to try out for high school soccer next year (he was the unofficial timekeeper for the boys' and girls' varsity games this year). The new apartment complex has a nice exercise facility that's open 24/7. So every day, once GK is finished with his afterschool snack, we head over to the mini-gym. I alternate between cardio and weights.

And yesterday, I was able to get into my old jeans! Yay!

I'm not seeking to change how I look. I just want to be reasonably healthy again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Writing Is a Business; Treat It Like One

The title of this post has been my mantra since I decided to indie publish. I emphasized it when I wrote a few guest posts for other bloggers on developing a business plan for indie publishing. I was reminded of it during a discussion on the comments on Monday's post (definitely one of those cases where comments went off on a side tangent).

Regardless of whether you go the trad-published, indie published, or hybrid routes, you are self-employed. You are operating a small business.

I think that's where a lot of writers make their mistakes. Writing is not a business. To them, it's art. It's a dream. It's the lottery.

Which it may be all those things to you. But when you are offering your writing for money, it has now become a business, too

And like any business, you, as the owner, have to keep a handle on your overhead. Otherwise, your business is going to failure.

Statistics on business success/failure vary. Under some outdated information, the U.S. Small Business Administration estimated over fifty percent of new businesses failed in the first year. With the widespread use of computers and access to relevant information through the internet, the failure rate is probably much closer to Canada's four percent failure rate in the first year.

When it comes to a new business failing, the two biggest reasons are lack of adequate planning and lack of adequate capital. And believe me, the two go hand in hand.

So going back to Monday's discussion, here's part of how I planned for adequate capital. I don't NEED caffeine while I write, but my work habits are deeply ingrained from my days in IT. That means my brain goes into work mode if I have a caffeinated beverage sitting next to my computer, like the black tea sitting next to me right now. (Even with electric for the microwave and dishwasher, the cost of the mug of tea is less than $0.05.)

From a business point of view, it's not worth the time necessary to retrain my habits. (I generally assign $10/hr to my time because it's easy to calculate.) Therefore, I've added caffeine into my business budget.

Generally, I buy soda, tea and coffee from the grocery store. I search out sales and add in coupons to keep that budget under control. For example, even if I buy Starbucks coffee and sugar-free peppermint mocha creamer at the grocery store, it still comes out less than $0.20 per cup.

But I also budget for the occasional trip to a restaurant or café. Occasionally changing my work environment can trigger additional productivity. (YMMV on that one.)

However, there's the question of drinkability when I venture outside of the house, which is why I don't go to McDonald's. I swear the only time I've ever tossed a full cup of coffee in the trash, it was a McDonald's peppermint mocha. I shudder at the memory even now. Blech!

And if I'm not in walking distance, which I never am, I have to factor in gas money.

So in Houston in December, I would go to one of the closest Starbucks (2 miles away so roundtrip is 4 miles) and get a venti peppermint mocha. That's $5.25 for the coffee, $0.50 for the tip, plus gas at $3.00/gallon and a car that gets 20 miles/gallon.

$5.25 + $0.50 + $0.80 = $6.55

Lost writing time is only 10 minutes or $1.67.

$6.55 + 1.67 = $ 8.22

In Ohio in December, the cost would remain the same except for gas. Bowling Green, and the closest Starbucks, is twenty miles away. That adds an extra $6.00 to my overhead compared to the $0.80 for gas in Houston.

$5.25 + $0.50 + $6.00 = $11.75

Oh, and I lost an hour of writing time on the drive to and from Bowling Green.

$11.75 + $10.00 - $21.75

So my overhead has now nearly tripled for the sake of my peccadillo. Not good business, folks. Not good business at all.

To put it another way, I'd have to sell eleven books to cover my trip to Bowling Green compared to the sale of four books covering one trip in Houston.

This is exactly where most business people lose their way. These little costs add up. If you're not selling enough to cover your costs, your business will go under.

It's why I dreaded seeing statements from new writers about how much they spent on cover art, editing, etc., back when I put out by business planning series in 2012. So many of these folks are having to go back to their day jobs now because they spent way more money than they had coming in.

This is not to disparage one of DH's mantras, "You have to spend money to make money." However, I do believe it's in your best interests to find the best quality at the lowest price.

Remember, selling your stories means you are now in commerce, not art. If you want to keep writing full-time, you've got to keep that overhead under control. Writing is a business. Treat it like one.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting Back into the Groove

If you're a regular reader, you've noticed my blogging has become a little erratic. Since I use my posts as a warm-up exercise before settling down to write for the day, it definitely reflects my work habits right now.

It's weird living in a new (old) place. I'm not quite comfortable in the new apartment because...boxes. Boxes everywhere still even though we've unpacked three or four dozen of the essentials. I'm having a problem ignoring them because yes, I am that anal when it comes to my living space. Not to mention the incredible need to find my razor blades because my legs are hairier than the husband and teen son's legs put together.

Back in Houston, if something bugged me at home, I would grab my computer bag and head out to a coffee shop. But as I told a friend last night, most of my usual haunts are gone in this town. (It has been nearly twenty years since DH and I moved to Houston after all.) So it comes down to finding an appropriate new place.

The closest Starbucks is in Bowling Green, which is twenty miles away. The place with the best coffee here in town is the Caribou kiosk in the middle of Great Scot grocery. A little noisy and one table.Tim Horton's coffee is okay, but the doughnuts are too much temptation. Bob Evans and Denny's have a terrific staff, but there's no slow period to stake out a table.

Seriously, I swear half the population in this town is over seventy! They spend hours at the diners gossiping. Not to mention, they all know my in-laws. I can't write with half the town looking over my shoulder. Especially not the erotica!

Coffee Amici has decent coffee and is pretty slow during the day, but downtown parking is limited, as in two hours max before you get ticketed by the friendly local constabulary. (Nighttime parking is a different matter, but you'll want to go in for Coffee Amici's live music.)

Which leaves the local Panera's. I haven't checked them out yet, but DH says they have the same, um, clientele issue that Bob Evans and Denny's have.

If I only had the money for my own private Starbucks...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Want Some Cheese with Your Whine?

"Sales are down!"

"KU is screwing us over!"

"The sky is falling!"

Anyone else besides me hearing a ton of this kind of crap from authors lately?

It's not just trad or indie or hybrid-related. It's everyone.

Guess what? The publishing industry has been all doom and gloom for a long time. Even Charles Dickens bitched about filthy pirates illegally copying his books. Mark Twain despaired that commerce was overtaking art. The monks lamented losing their jobs because of that damn Guttenberg.

I can't tell you what you should do about it. I can tell you what you probably shouldn't.

1) Don't accuse your readers of stealing your books. Nothing turns off a potential fan like a charge of theft. Sure, there are folks pirating. Guess what? Those people aren't your fans, and don't give a flying flip about your tantrum. The innocents are the ones who will be offended by your accusations. And they WILL stop buying your books. It's okay to bitch to your friends privately, but lengthy rants on Facebook will only alienate readers.

2) The gold rush is over. If you want success in this business, you're going to have to work. That may mean stepping up production, learning how to market better, or any myriad of things that you can improve in your business. Setting back on your laurels and crying that you're only selling 500 books a month instead of 50,000 isn't going to win you sympathy points, especially from the readers. Your true fans are waiting for that next book. Get crackin'!

3) Don't depend on any one method or retailer for getting your books to readers. If something isn't working for you, change it. Albert Einstein once said that the sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If exclusivity in Amazon isn't working for you, check out other retailers.

Keeping an ear out for industry comings and goings is smart, but don't let the kvetching interfere with your writing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

When You Lose at NaNoWriMo...

...nothing happens.

That's right. The skies don't fall. The Red Sea isn't parted. Aliens don't invade Earth.

"But, but, but I feel awful!" you scream. "I only wrote 49,999 words! I am a failure!"

No. You are not a failure. You have a novel. Go finish it. Add that last word.

"But it's December!"

So the fuck what?

NaNoWriMo is not about hard and fast rules. It's not about torturing yourself. It's definitely not about finding new ways to make yourself miserable.

NaNoWriMo is about trying something new. Stretching your wings. Having some fun, for the love of [deity of your choice]!

"You're just saying that because you wrote 50,000 words," you say with a sneer.

No, I didn't. I made it about 5,000 words before real life interfered too much. I started November 1st, sitting in a hotel room that didn't even have a desk chair. A miserable cold had me in its talons, and the repairs on my car still weren't completed. Trust me, the rest of the month is a freaking blur. I sat down on Saturday, November 29th, looked around, and thought, "Screw it! I'm crocheting and watching movies."

What it comes down to is knowing when to lay down the hammer on your ass and when to ease up. After fifteen months of stress, my brain was fried. I struggled to type even a paragraph. Luckily, I have family and friends who have no problem telling me I'm being too hard on myself. So even though November is the official National Novel Writing Month, it really doesn't matter when you write.

I just matters that you write.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

An Intimate Night with Leonard Nimoy - Part 2

Here's the second half of our favorite Vulcan's L.A. Times interview:


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vanity Publishing Is Making a Comeback

WARNING! Angry Sheep rant dead ahead!

Before this rant gets started, let me be clear on what my definitions of the various types of publishing are:

Legacy/Traditional Publishing is where the writer licenses her story's copyright to a third party for an advance, advance plus royalties, or royalties alone. The third party is responsible for costs of producing a book, regardless of the final format(s) of the item, i.e. digital file, bound paper, etc.. The third party then seeks to recoup costs and make a profit by selling the licensed final product to the public or certain sections thereof.

Indie Publishing/Self-publishing is where the writer assumes the costs of producing a book, again regardless of the final format(s) of the item. The writer may do certain production tasks herself, or she may subcontract production tasks. The writer then seeks recoup her costs and make a profit by selling her product to the public or certain sections thereof.

Vanity publishing is where a third party charges a writer for ALL production costs. These charges are often well above the market rate. The third party may or may not produce a book. If the third party does produce a book, they may or may not try to sell that book to the public or certain sections thereof. The third party relies primarily on charging the writer for any profit it makes.


In any gold rush, there are people who have no interest in the hard work of mining, but have no problem finding ways to make money off the miners, i.e. scamming them. The same is true as the publishing industry shifts from a primarily legacy publishing model to a self-publishing model. New companies are popping up everyday to take advantage of the naive writers who are unsure of what to do or the lazy writers who want to be taken care of.

The following rant is for the naive writers. I already know the lazy writers won't listen and will be taken advantage of.

My #1 rule when a new writer asks me for advice: Writing is a business. Treat it like one.

If you've stumbled across my blog accidentally, looking for the secret of the publishing universe, that's it. It means lots of research and hard work. If you're not willing to do either, then you will be taken advantage of. Hell, even my husband suggested I start publishing other writers who were too scared to do the research and learn new techniques; we could make some serious moola off their insecurity.

As much as I found that idea abhorrent, I knew there were others whose scruples were not...how do I put this...as mired in legal ethics classes as mine were. Since that discussion with DH, Penguin Random House bought Author Solutions. If you don't know who AS is, go read David Gaughran's blog.

Part of the reason PRH bought AS was to prop up their own sagging profits. They believed their name would counteract AS's negative reputation. However, in the U.S., the opposite has been true. Also, as writers become more educated in the working of the publishing industry, AS hasn't been bringing in as much money as PRH thought they would.

AS's growth is flat partly because they've become notorious in American writers' circles. If you're a visitor and a writer from outside of the U.S., please spread the word far and wide to your friends and colleagues. AS uses high pressure tactics on writers because this is where a majority of their income comes from. Writers.

Not book sales.

Writers.

Now, with more and more writers taking a chance with indie publishing, especially the growing e-book market (Don't let news reports of stagnate sales fool you. Most news outlets are owned by the same conglomerates that own the biggest legacy publishers.), a new breed of vanity publishers are popping up. These companies prey on the writers who aren't tech savvy. The ones who write long-hand because they don't understand or are afraid of their computers. The ones who don't know the difference between HTML and WORD.

(If you're one of them, your education starts now. HTML is a programming language that is the basis for most e-books. WORD is document processing software produced by Microsoft Corp. See that wasn't so bad, was it?)

What scares writers the most is formatting an e-book or creating a cover. These are not difficult tasks, but they are time consuming if you haven't done them before.

I strongly suggest that you try doing it yourself first, preferably on a short story or novella. Why? You don't go out and run a marathon when you've been a couch all your life, do you? By learning the basics, you'll know when you're getting ripped off.

If you still don't feel comfortable, ask for referrals. Seriously, the indie publishing community is very supportive. You'll get recommendations for knowledgeable editors, formatters and artists who charge reasonable prices.

By reasonable, I mean even if you subcontract every task, it shouldn't cost you $1000 to publish your book. Nor should any of your contractors EVER have control of your retail accounts!

I'm starting to get e-mails from companies doing exactly. Like DH, they see the money-making potential of growing self-publishing movement. The latest was from a firm called Publish Wholesale. They format a print book, create a cover, purchase an ISBN, send you one proof copy, list your book under their Amazon, B&N, etc., accounts, and a staff member to hold your hand through the process. All for the bargain price of $959.

That's right. You're handing them control of YOUR book and YOUR money for a measly $959.

And that doesn't even include e-book production.

Please understand something. I'm not saying don't get help if you need it.

For example, I'm way behind in my own writing and production schedule thanks to the move from hell. I've already talked to a formatter who will do the e-book and print formatting for the last three books in the Bloodlines series, as well as redo the e-book formatting and format for print the first six books in the series.

That's right. I'm getting nine books done, both e-book and print, for what the bozos at Publish Warehouse will charge you for one.

Think about it for a minute.

I'm getting books formatted, no one's holding my hand, and I control the money. Not my subcontractor. ME!

That's the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

So, as the day shift briefing sergeant, Phil Esterhaus, would say before his people left the police station on Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there."

Angry Sheep signing off.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Battle Between Hatchette and Amazon Is Over...Or Is It?

Hatchette and Amazon inked a new distribution deal on November 13th. Both sides said they're happy with the deal and got what they wanted. However, there are three problems that still exist:

1) Hatchette let short-term profits override it's long-term interests.
Amazon and Hatchette signed their deal on November 13th, two weeks before the American Thanksgiving holiday, which also happens to be the start of the winter holiday retail season. Americans call the Friday after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" because for many retailers, this is the turning point in the profitability of their store for the year.

Amazon has diversified enough that it isn't dependent on selling books in December. Hatchette is dependent on books alone. Without the U.S. largest book retailer, Hatchette Book Group USA would be in a world of hurt at the end of the year. They didn't have a choice but to sign a deal with Amazon at least two weeks before Black Friday in order to get their stock in Amazon warehouses in time.

The real question is will the holiday shopping season make up for the 18% loss in sales Hatchette saw in the last quarter, a loss they blamed on the conflict with Amazon.


2) The multi-year deals between Amazon and the Big 5.
Publishers have been signing writers for eons to contracts for the length of copyright, i.e. life of the author plus 70 years. Such a term makes it next to impossible for the writer to capitalize on their work. Writers are hobbled by the very contract they desired.

With the rapid changes in the publishing industry, Amazon has just done something similar to Hatchette with their four-year deal. Four years ago, I was still submitting to agents. Three and a half years ago, I self-published my first book. Two years ago, I quit my day job. Yes, things have changed that rapidly as far as fiction publishing and distribution go. If changes keep up this pace over the next four years, Hatchette may have crippled itself.


3) Hatchette's Author Mouthpieces Won't Shut Up
James Patterson and Doug Preston are still railing against Amazon. The usual suspects are mentioned: literature, culture, children, puppies. But if you read between the lines, not once does either author mention other writers. Their entire concern is for publishers, aka the entities that made them both very rich men. How many writers pull in $90 million a year?

It's those millions per year that the star authors are seeing slip through their fingers. And guess where it's going? Yep, into indie writers' pockets.

That's the real reason the Big 5 and folks like Patterson and Preston hate Amazon. Bezos and his people opened publishing's doors to the unwashed masses. Even worse, those same unvetted, uncensored books are being bought by readers. Lots of readers. To the point that the unwashed masses can pay their electric bills, their mortgages, and their children's college tuition. How much more will the mega-stars like Patterson and Preston lose?

Adding onto Hatchette's PR problems is Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild. She's making noises about how Hatchette should be rewarding loyal authors who stood by the publisher during the dispute. Hatchette has every legal right to adhere to the contracts signed by their loyal followers, but how many of them will stick around if they feel they've been dissed and dismissed by Hatchette?

Hatchette needs to take a good long look at the mess Harlequin has become to see their future.


So, ladies and gentlemen, what are your bets on Hatchette surviving the next four years?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Intimate Night with Leonard Nimoy - Part 1

Want to spend the night with a hot actor? Here's part 1 of an interview with Leonard Nimoy from L.A. Times:


Saturday, November 15, 2014

How Can You Not Love Uncle George?

George Takei's appearance on Conan O'Brien from last year. I could listen to his voice all night. Ohhhh Myyy!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Do You Love Steampunk Like I Love Steampunk?

You guys know I don't pimp books that often, but I've discovered a new author I adore. Ava Morgan writes steampunk and fantasy. She has an incredible steampunk series called the Curiosity Chronicles.

The first in the series, The Lady Machinist is a delightful, romantic-fantasy romp. Think Leia and Han in a 19th century setting, except Han's the diplomat and Leia's the genius mechanic. It's action and adventure and biting wit without everyone being hung up on Victorian manners and propriety. (Really, it's a super, major plus because I've read too many books that sound like history textbooks.) Ava does a fabulous job of relaying her story that make you want to jump to the next book, which is...

The Armored Doctor. It's on sale for $0.99, but even better, Ava is participating in The Indie Steampunk Book Extravaganza 2 over at Facebook. There's contests and prizes, and there's more steampunk authors I'm dying to check out!

Don't worry, regular readers! I'll address the Amazon-Hatchette settlement on Monday. Have a wonderful steampunk reading weekend!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

VW Tries to Beat Audi When It Comes to Star Trek

While fun, the commercial doesn't quit live up to Old Spock vs. New Spock.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Money for Nothing and Your Songs/Books for Free?

Over the weekend, Taylor Swift's label Big Machine Label Group and Spotify couldn't come to terms over their contract negotiations. As a result, Swift's music is no longer available on the popular streaming service.

The backlash has been epic. People have been screaming that their access to music is being censored. The anger is on a scale not seen since the Amazon/Hatchette negotiation dispute started earlier this year. The difference is the scorn is heaped on...

Taylor? (Here's one of the few articles standing up for ALL artists' rights.)

What happened to the greedy distributor meme using the poor artist as a pawn in their plan for world domination? Nearly every news organization in the U.S. (and quite a few in Europe) accused Amazon of trying to rule the world by refusing to sell Hatchette's books.

But here's the funny thing. Amazon HAS NOT taken Hatchette books off their website. They are still selling ALL PUBLISHED Hatchette tomes. In fact, I can buy Lilith Saintcrow's The Damnation Affair through the Evil Empire's One-Click(TM) right now. Or I would if I hadn't already I bought it last week through Barnes & Noble because I had a $5 credit.

Nor has Hatchette pulled their books from Amazon. They continue to ship both paper and e-books to the retailer despite their pretty hostile and very public catfight.

And that's the difference between the Amazon/Hatchette battle and the Big Machine Label Group/Spotify dispute. BMLG had the balls to pull their catalog when the companies couldn't come to an agreement.

Maybe Amazon and Hatchette are more sensitive to public opinion than BMLG since they snipe at each other, but neither has taken the step of totally severing their relationship. Maybe BMLG really is looking out for their artists by refusing a contract that pays $0.006 and $0.0084 for every play.

Probably what is more disturbing is the attitude of Swift's fans. They accuse Swift of greed in removing her music from a "free" service. However, Spotifiy charges $5 or $10 per month for access depending on the package the customer selects. Also, Swift's music is still available via other retailers and streaming services. (Ironically, Amazon is one of them.)

So how does either corporate dispute really harm consumers? It doesn't. The public can buy Hatchette's books and Swift's music through a multitude of alternatives.

Is it censorship? No. The government is not halting distribution of either Hatchette's books or Swift's music. No retailer is required to sell either parties' materials. A case can be made for collusion is all retailers and services joined together and refused to distribute Hatchette's books and Swift's music. But as I pointed out above, such a scenario has not happened.

Unfortunately, there is a sense of entitlement among a certain class of consumers. They believe all art should be free. That artists only do it for the love. That's part of the backlash against Swift. She's the most prominent of BMLG's artists and part owner of the label. So why can't Swift decide what to charge for her work?

That's right. How dare she! She sings for LUURVE!

Do they also expect their waitress to serve them out of love? Their mechanic? Their doctor?

Do these people do their job without any expectation of recompense?

Of course not. Artists have every right to charge for their services as anyone else does for theirs. And maybe that's what bugs the entitled most of all. How dare someone claim they are the same social status as they are!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Movies I Can't Wait to See!

Not that I'm excited about this or anything! (Keep an eye on Thor's reaction when Cap tries to lift Mjolnir. LOL)


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On the Road Again

I love road trips when they're for fun reasons. The adventure of seeing new places. Trying out new restaurants. Marveling how similar and yet how different areas of the United States are.

But over 5,000 miles in less than a month when I'm still sore from getting the house on the market and a bad cold on top of that? Definitely not as fun.

If you're reading this on the day it posts, I should be somewhere between Houston and Memphis. Memphis, being the rough halfway point between Houston and Toledo. As DH comments every time we make the drive, it's the most boring leg of interstate on the trip.

And before any Arkansas and East Texas folks get their panties in a wad, DH is not into logging, camping, fishing or country music. Which, let's face it, is all there is between the mighty Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.

And if y'all feel the need to bitch, I'll include your crystal meth production in my list. At least the rednecks where I grew up produce something a little more beneficial like pot.

Anyway, my convertible has a new heart (engine), new brakes, new tires, and she's purring again. I'm so very glad not to be in a mini-van anymore. Before anyone gets their dander up about THAT, (1) I've been driving either my Saturn or the convertible for the last twenty-three years, and (2) I tend to forget that a mini-van has a higher center of gravity and can't take turns as fast or as sharp as a sports car. So far I haven't had any mishaps. (*knocking on wood*)

So I've got my CDs (my baby's a '98, i.e. before MP3 connections became standard) and my trail mix (Archer Farms Cashew, Cranberry & Almond--best stuff evah!), and I'm on the road. Can't wait to be writing and cooking our new place!

I just need to remember to slow down through the tiny burgs along U.S. 59. I don't need Officer Bailey pulling me over for speeding for the second time in a week.

(*sigh* Yes, I broke my ten year, seven month record for no tickets.)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Status Report - November 2014

The last eighteen months haven't been the greatest for me and my family. We had plans. Plans that would be best for each of us to fulfill our personal goals. And the great god Murphy laughed maniacally and did everything he could to fuck those plans up.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room hundreds of miles from our new home, waiting for my car to be repaired. Yep, Murphy has been so good to me lately. (If you couldn't tell by the dripping sarcasm.)

But all the problems doesn't mean I haven't been writing! However, it does mean that the 2014 production schedule has been officially shredded into more pieces than Iran-Contra documents.

So here's the 2015 plan:

The Bloodlines Series
I'm writing the last four books as we speak. In edition, I've re-proofed the first three books, and I'm half-way through re-proofing #4. I've already talked with someone about contracting her to format the entire series for both e-book and print starting in January. I'm also on the search for a new cover artist so there's a unified theme and style for the covers. The plan is to re-launch the entire series late winter/early spring. I'll post a chapter from the new books once a week over at the Blood Lines blog.

The Justice Series
I've thought long and hard about how I want to launch this series. There's a particular artist I want to hire for Justice Anthea's stories, but he's expensive which means I need to save my pennies. Also, I don't want leave readers hanging between books, so I plan to release the first three books, A Question of BalanceA Modicum of Truth, and A Matter of Death, hopefully around next Halloween.

888-555-HERO Series
I'm collaborating with another ex-attorney/fantasy writer, Laura Kirwan. (P.S. I highly recommend her book, Impervious!) This is my first time working with someone, and I'm really enjoying it! It's about a couple of attorneys who handle the legal problems of superheroes. Our projected release date for the first book is May 1st.

All the credit for the series tagline goes to Laura:

Franklin & Winters, Attorneys at Law — You saved the world. Let us handle the cleanup. For a free consultation, call 888-555-HERO.

Seasons of Magick Series
If I have any spare time next year, I plan to do a collected edition of the Seasons of Magick series.

* * *

The money side
As far as sales go, they are down. We're talking the $200/month ballpark collectively across all platforms for all of 2014. I blame it on my lack of publishing. I've found the best marketing is releasing a new book every few months, and needless to say, my last releases under the Suzan Harden name were over Halloween week last year.

Ironically, the reason I'm selling anything at all is thanks to Nora Roberts. The title of the third book in her O'Dwyer trilogy is...Blood Magick. So my book of the same name is showing up on e-book searches, and people have been trying it out.

Alter Ego has been doing slightly better in sales because the last novel of a trilogy was released in May and she participated in a charity anthology over the summer.

I'm hoping all of this will improve once I start releasing books from both of us this winter. Keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Samhain!

Or Halloween. Or New Year's. Or whatever floats your boat.

All Hail the Pumpkin King!


Monday, October 27, 2014

When Writers Pick on Bloggers

What the hell is wrong with writers lately? First, Tina Engler, aka Jaid Black, sues the romance blog Dear Author for libel via Tina's company Ellora's Cave. Then author Kathleen Hale dove into creepy stalker territory because a book blogger gave her a one-star on Goodreads.

For the record, I've gotten a few one-stars. I have commented on a blogger (who I intentionally did not name) here at WWW, but only because she continued to read the Bloodlines series after not liking Blood Magick. My point-of-view was that I wouldn't continue reading someone's work if I didn't particularly like the first book.

But that's me trying to manage my time. I didn't track the blogger down and harass her (and "her" is meant in the generic) for disliking the book. I sure as hell didn't show up on this blogger's doorstep, a la Kathleen Hale. In fact, it's Blogger's opinion, and she has every right to write whatever kind of review she wants about my books or anyone else's.

Just like I have the right to write whatever the hell in my novels and short stories.

But the backlash from the book bloggers has landed.

First is the #notchilled hashtag flying thick and fast on Twitter. Let's face facts. The Ellora's Cave lawsuit is all about getting bloggers to shut up about the company's problems. The harder you try to shut up the public, the more the public talks about you. It's called the Streisand Effect for that very reason. A certain diva with the first name of Barbra tried to squelch coastline photos that included her mansion. No one would have paid any attention to the picture if she hadn't pitched a temper tantrum. So, instead of silencing her critics, Tina's made sure that nearly everyone in the country is talking about her, and not in a positive way.

The latest event starts today--The Blogger Blackout, aka #bloggerblackout on Twitter. Reviewer Tez Miller gives a succinct account of why book bloggers are participating.

You know what? I totally agree with Tez. No blogger should have to worry about lawsuits or their personal safety just for discussing online what they like or don't like about books they read. Or they didn't finish. Or anything else they damn well please.

Here's where advice from the late Jay Lake comes into play. When a writer publishes a book, it's no longer the writer's story. It's the public's. And each member of the public brings her own baggage and peccadillos to the party. It's neither right or wrong. It simply is.

If you're a writer, remember Jay's wise words. Readers have every right to dislike your book and talk about it as they do to like your book and talk about it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Not-So-Funny Saturday

I know I normally post something funny on Saturday nights, but this issue was too important to wait until Monday.

Ellora's Cave models and authors, Axl Goode and Taylor Cole, were on their way home from EC's Romanticon a couple of weeks ago. They also happened to be on the same flight as Amber Vinson, the nurse from Dallas who was diagnosed with ebola shortly after her trip to Akron to visit her family. Both men are now under a mandatory 21-day quarantine because they were sitting within three feet of Ms. Vinson. Since they cannot work their days jobs during this period, they have a fundraiser on GoFundMe to cover their living expenses.

Assuming Axl's account is accurate, his conversations with both the Dallas County Health Department and the Center for Disease Control are disturbing at the least. They're dealing with a virulent, highly contagious and deadly disease. Yet, the delays in responding to the men show what could be construed as a lack or knowledge and/or concern.

This scares me because it shows the same disregard for public safety by government and medical personnel that was shown during the AIDS epidemic in the '80's. Lack of accurate information in how the disease is transmitted and how to prevent transmission was disseminated to the public. Why? Because it was considered a gay disease and who cared about gays. No compassion. No common sense.

That attitude made me sick then, and it still does now. I wanted to believe Thomas Duncan's care, or lack thereof, was born of ignorance, but I have to wonder. If he'd been white and American, instead of a foreign-born black, would he have received an appropriate diagnosis the first time he went to Texas Presbyterian's ER?

Because, yes, Mr. Duncan was sent home by the staff while he was in the early throes of an ebola infection. He could have contaminated a large number of people, not just two of his nurses after he was re-admitted. And right now, there's no answers of how the nurses became infected. Spokesmen for Texas Presbyterian swear up-and-down the ladies followed infectious care protocols. But this is the same hospital that's looking at huge liability for the original ER screw-up.

So there's a lot of rumors and misinformation running around. In fact, as I paid our bill at one of the local Bob Evans' restaurants in Ohio, the cashier noted that I use a Texas debit card, and asked me if I was in the medical profession.

Really? Has it come to where anyone from the Texas medical community is a suspected carrier? Then I reminded myself just why I left rural Ohio twenty-five years ago.

All I can say it's the combination of arrogance and ignorance that will be our downfall despite the common sense displayed by men like Axl and Taylor.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Legal Shake-ups in the Publishing Biz

We're still in the middle of moving into the new place. The new mattress DH and I ordered won't be delivered until next week, so we're still crashing at the in-laws.

Which means I'm finally getting caught up on industry news. Two major events happened on the legal side of the publishing industry.

The first is the lawsuit by Ellora's Cave against blogger Dear Jane was removed to federal court. Both The Passive Guy and romance author/attorney Courtney Milan have more intelligent commentary than I can provide.

I will say that I've been on the receiving end of of a relatively mild rebuke by a federal judge. It was not pleasant. If Tina Engler thinks she'll get away with the antics she's pulled in Summit County, she's sadly mistaken.

The other big news is the resurrected case against Harlequin for its slight of hand with author royalties was certified as a class action suit by the trial judge. By no means does this indicate the screwed-over writers will win their case. But the judge's cert along with Torstar's quick divestiture of Harlequin to HarperCollins doesn't indicate good things ahead for the publisher. Once again, The Passive Guy has posted the legal paperwork for those who enjoy reading court documents.

Catch y'all on the other side of the weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NSFW Cartoon

This is totally inappropriate. Or is it? After all, Jesus is supposed to kick ass when the dead rise from their graves.


Monday, October 20, 2014

When Real Life Gets in the Way

I hear a lot of writers bemoaning their lack of writing time. The ones I feel sympathy for are the ones dealing with some serious life issues. Chronic diseases such as fibromyalgia or MS which limit writers' mobility and energy. Providing care for special needs children or parents nearing the end of their lives. Or maybe they're working two or three jobs in order to put food on the table.

I haven't published anything under my name since last November. It doesn't mean I haven't been writing. Time is grabbed here and there. Standing in line at the post office. Waiting for my take-out order. The last few minutes before bedtime.

Why? Life's been crazy trying to get our house on the market. Then trying to get moved into our new apartment. A lot of things went wrong. A lot of things didn't. But through it all, I kept plugging away. And I honestly can't complain. DH and I made some hard decisions of what would be best for the family.

Sure, it's been slow on the publishing front. But things are looking up. I met with a graphic artist over breakfast this morning about the new logo for Angry Sheep Publishing. I've got a tentative agreement with a formatter for updating the Bloodlines novels and issuing print versions. I've narrowed down my prospective list of artists whose work I like for the new covers.

Now, I have to finish reviewing Zombie Wedding and Blood Sacrifice for typos because I found a couple in Blood Magick, and I need to finish the last four books of the series. Then it's on to the Justice series, and a couple of special projects that I'll tell you more about soon.

You should have a lot of new things to read from me in 2015.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes

If everything went according to plan, we closed on our house Friday, and I'm sleeping off the drive from Houston to Ohio.

Or DH could be dragging me around Toledo right now to furniture shop.

I'll let y'all know on Wednesday.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Batman Vs. Zombies

This is so warped that I had to share!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Cuteness Factor

Baby animals are adorable. Even dinosaurs!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sexism and Superheroes

Back in the '80's, a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) wrote to Marvel. His letter was published in The Uncanny X-Men. (I can't tell you which issue number because my books are in storage right now.) The gist of his complaint was that he wasn't going to read that particular book anymore because the women of the team had stronger, cooler powers than the men. At the time, the team consisted of Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Shadowcat, and Rogue.

o_O Okkaaay. Yes, the guys of my generation could be insecure about their masculinity. At the time, I chalked it up to teen angst. I figured they'd grow out of it.

Jump ahead thirty years, and boy, was I wrong. These guys are still trying to exclude women from the hero world. This time, it's clothing for children.

The excuses are still the same. Boys won't wear girl characters. Girls won't wear superhero-related shirts. And they're both right up there with Warner Bros. excuse for not making a Wonder Woman movie.

Guys, you might want to take a look at my closet before you make that pronouncement. Girls like superheros. We like 'em even better if there are women superheroes in the mix.

And I won't just pick on Warner Brothers. Did Disney/Marvel think I wouldn't notice you didn't have one of the founding members of the Avengers in the movie? I'll give them a little credit. They did substitute Wasp with Black Widow instead of another male Avenger. And they are putting the Scarlet Witch in the next movie. Which still puts them a couple of steps above WB. But then drops them another step for not having Gamora with the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy on a t-shirt for little boys.

*sigh*

To the guys my age marketing shit to younger superhero fans: Kids today grew up with Buffy Summers and Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger. They'll wear shirts with Black Widow and Gamora. They'll even go see Wonder Woman if you make the movie right.

And by right, I mean having a team like Chris Nolan had for the Dark Knight trilogy. A team that passionately cares about the subject matter. Or is this all a plan to mess up the possibility of a movie because you don't want to see your sons wearing Wonder Woman t-shirts?

Guess what? Your sons are totally secure in their manhood. It's you that has the problem.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Dear Author/Jane Litte Defense Fund

If you're a regular reader of my blog or involved in the erotica community, you should know by now that Tina Engler, in her capacity as the primary owner of Ellora's Cave, Inc., has sued Jennifer Gerrish-Lampe, aka Jane Litte,of the popular blog Dear Author for defamation.

In my opinion, Jennifer didn't say anything that many other bloggers weren't already talking about--the death spiral of EC and its causes. For a company in the perfect position to take advantage of the e-book explosion, EC has failed to capitalize on the market changes. Personally, I think that Engler's desperate to shut up her critics, but going after an attorney wasn't the brightest move. Speaking from experience, if an attorney is sued or threatened with a lawsuit, we have a tendency to laugh and pull out the guns.

However, a lawsuit is still fucking expensive because no attorney in her right mind will represent herself in a case, and she definitely has to pay the other attorney. One nice thing is we generally know who the best in the business is. The second nice thing is the attorney we hire may cut us a deal on her rates. But the costs still mount up, and Jennifer's already put aside $20,000 of her own money to fight this case.

Sad to say, she's going to need a lot more to fight this. Sarah Wendell of the blog, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has started a GoFundMe campaign for donations to help with the battle.

I'm going to make a statement that I hope my regular readers and new visitors understand:

I'm all for good snark, and I personally think both Jennifer and Sarah cross from snarkiness to downright meanness too much on their respective turfs, but I will defend to death their right to say whatever opinions they want on their own GODDAMN BLOGS!

Which means I'll be donating to the defense fund after I (hopefully) close on our house this week.

Bloggers, writers and readers shouldn't fear a lawsuit for criticizing publishers in public.

Angry Sheep, signing off

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sheldon as Soft Kitty?

Here's an atypical cat video from the folks at Comediva.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Why I'm Glad I'm Not Practicing Law Anymore

Was it only last Friday that Ellora's Cave filed suit against Dear Author? *shakes head* This mess makes me singularly glad that I no longer practice law.

On Monday, I posted links to the pertinent sites involved along with other bloggers commenting about the situation. As I said before, I would have handled the pleadings differently than the EC attorney. It's not in the plaintiff's best interest to put a copy of the alleged libelous statements directly into a pleading, especially since:

(1) It's been mentioned in other avenues and outlets that the plaintiff corporation is having financial difficulties. Whether the difficulties are factual or not, such information in the public record can lead to new or additional financial damage to the corporation.

(2) The screen shot of the corporate principle flipping off her critics on Facebook doesn't shine a particularly gracious light on the principle or the corporation. When you request a jury trial, you know your opponent will try to enter that screenshot into evidence, and she'll succeed because you opened the door. Ohio is a rather conservative state, and you're taking an awful chance that screenshot won't backfire.

Yesterday morning, both sides presented a Joint Motion for Continuance of Temporary Restraining Order. What does this mean?

Both sides agreed that their best interests are served by taking more time to collect and present evidence on EC's request for an injunction. They named as October 27, 2014. What's most interesting to me is Section 3 of the Joint Motion:
3.   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. 
So what does Tina Engler, the principle of EC, do? She commented over at The Passive Voice.

What exactly was the point of the gag request if you negate it almost entirely in the last sentence of the section? This is not helping your client. You can't stop third parties from discussing the case. By filing it, it's matter of public knowledge, therefore it's hard to stop public discourse on the matter. But by not keeping your client silent, and I'm referring to both sides of this case here, you're potentially giving your opponent ammunition to shoot your case with on the 27th.

In fact, I commented of TPV that I was glad I wasn't Tina's attorney. Occasionally, an attorney will get a client who literally can't keep their mouth shut. I had my fair share when I still practiced law. As I told more than one client, sometimes all I can do is keep the damage to the client to a minimum. That didn't stop some clients from making their problems worse despite my instructions not to talk about their case.

On the other hand, either Jane Litte, the proprietress of Dear Author, understands her silence is necessary as an attorney herself, or she's listening to her counsel. Either way, Jane's been quiet on the matter since she requested witnesses on her blog on September 30th. Such a request is allowed under Section 4 of the Joint Motion.

In conclusion, attorneys CANNOT save you from your own bad decisions. If you've spent a ton of money to hire an attorney, listen to her. If you really, truly believe an attorney is giving you poor advice, you have every right to fire her and hire someone else. But don't blame your attorney when you do something against her advice that hurts you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bankruptcy and Publishing

With all the talk of small publishers, and possibly a few bigger publishers, filing for bankruptcy, I see a lot of misinformation traveling around the writer blogosphere. If your publisher has filed for bankruptcy, or is facing the possibility of filing, this is a time when a writer really, truly needs expert help in the form of a bankruptcy attorney.

Many contracts with American publishers have a clause in them, saying that in the event that the publisher files for, or is forced into, bankruptcy, all rights revert back to the writer. For all intents and purposes, this clause IS ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS!

Why? In the American legal system, contracts are governed by state law. In fact, there's usually another clause in the contract specifying which state's law is the deciding factor. (And it's almost always the publishers' home state.) Bankruptcy law is federal law. And the American system, federal law almost always trumps state law.

What does this mean? It means if your publisher files for bankruptcy, the rights he bought from you become part of the bankruptcy estate and can be sold to satisfy the publisher's debts. Not only that, but if your publisher owes you royalties, those royalties are an unsecured debt which put you the writer near the bottom of the list of people to get paid by the bankruptcy trustee. This isn't anything personal on the part of the trustee. The law ranks creditors in a certain order.

If you think your publisher is in trouble (such as the poor folks who sold rights to Ellora's Cave), you need to talk to an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy NOW. If you wait, you may never see your precious books again.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How Ellora's Cave May Have Just Committed Suicide

In case you actually had a life over the weekend and missed the blow-up, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc. and Jasmine-Jade Enterprises, LLC filed a civil suit Friday morning against Dear Author Media Network, LLC, and Jennifer Gerrish-Lampe for defamation. Ellora's Cave was a ground-breaking e-book erotica publisher. Jennifer is better known as Jane Litte, the proprietress of Dear Author, an incredibly popular romance blog and review website.

The subject of Ellora's Cave (aka EC) has been a major topic on the internet for the past few months. Jennifer wrote a piece that was, in my opinion, fair and factual in regards to their business problems. I linked to it when I compared EC's current behavior to the events leading to Dorchester's demise. Everything Jennifer mentioned is a matter of public record. She laid out the facts, and she gave an opinion about what may be going on behind the scenes and what the end result may be. Her post went live fifteen days ago on September 14th.

Three days ago on September 26th, EC filed suit against Jennifer in Akron, specifically the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division. You can read the actual court documents here at the Summit County Clerk of Courts. I first heard about the lawsuit in an article on The Digital Reader. The Passive Voice has posted the actual filing, which is now a matter of public record, along with his own legal commentary. Inexplicably, EC's attorney attached a copy of Jennifer's blog post to the pleading.

*facepalm*

I know it's been a while since I've practiced law (and nothing I'm about to say constitutes legal advice or legal representation of anyone WHATSOEVER), but what the fuck was that attorney thinking? The apparent objective of the lawsuit was to suppress Jennifer's analysis of EC and chill any further discussion of EC 's business practices. Yet, he just made sure everyone in the world can read it. As Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader said, the Streisand Effect will ensure everyone on the planet knows about the Dear Author blog post and shine a very bright light on EC's behavior.

In a case like this, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, i.e. EC, to show that Jennifer deliberately lied to damage their business. Which means their going to have to open their financials to the court to prove one of the main allegations, that EC did in fact pay ALL their writers, editors and cover artists. Again, any evidence entered into the case will become a matter of public record. Considering how many EC authors are openly complaining about the lack of payment, these folks will be very interested in seeing the financial records of the company.

By Saturday afternoon, the Streisand Effect was in full force as bloggers spread the word about Dear Author getting sued. Outraged readers picked up the thread. Even Publishers Weekly broadcasted it through their Twitter account.

By filing this lawsuit, EC may have just hastened its ultimate fate. The company may not even survive long enough for this case to go to trial.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

The End of an Era

No, I'm not quitting the blog. I'm talking about the place I've lived the longest in my entire life. Eighteen years, three months, and seventeen days.

DH and I moved in June 23rd, the day before our first anniversary. Our son took his first bite of ice cream in that kitchen. His first step in that living room. His first bath. His first swear word.

Part of us expected him to learn to drive on our street, too. But it wasn't meant to be. We needed to be elsewhere.

And I think my in-laws needed Genius Kid on an emotional level. Maybe more than they needed the help around the house that both DH and GK provided.

Leaving is bittersweet. In my heart, I know it's time to leave. GK is afforded educational opportunities in Ohio he wouldn't get in Houston. DH needs to spend time with his parents before the inevitable happens. I have new business opportunities that I need the peace to focus on.

But we all are going to miss this place. The Houston Museum of Natural Science. Our favorite Mexican restaurant and their margarita nights. The soccer league GK played in and DH coached.

Several people have asked if we're buying a new house. Not yet. I'm exhausted from getting this house ready for the market, and I've spent most of the summer sick from that same exhaustion and stress. DH and I need to think about GK's college and our retirement rather than plunging into another money sink that property ownership can be. Frankly, I want someone else to take care of things for a while.

And as much as I'm tired of dealing with our old house, I'm still going to miss it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Real Author Versus The Person on the Page

Last Sunday, the Passive Guy posted a snippet of Drew Hayes' blog post titled "Image Management." Drew talks about some basic, common-sense rules for portraying yourself on social media. He also made a couple of very good points that readers expect to interact with writers these days and that it's exhausting maintaining a fake persona.

Cal Rogers, one of the commenters at TPV, became very irate with Drew's statement concerning writers "whose entire image is just their body of work. It feels like trying to shake the hand of a cardboard cutout." Cal felt Drew dismissed a life's work in favor of a tweet about breakfast.

There's really two problems here:

1) Some writers are very uncomfortable with ANY social interaction. Let's face it--most of us are introverts. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say. But some folks get just as freaked about social media as they do attending a formal dinner.

For folks like Cal, please remember that you do not have to use social media. No one's holding a gun to your head to tweet about what you had for breakfast. If you find it uncomfortable, it will show in your interactions and will probably make your readers uncomfortable as well. Honestly, you don't have to do anything just because you think the everyone else is doing it.

2) Drew, on the other hand, makes a good point that writers who only talk about their books can come across as one-dimensional. This is true of any profession. Haven't you been to some social function where there's this one guy who can only talk about his job? The other people at the function avoid him because his stories about asphalt or stocks or whatever becomes repetitious and boring.

That's what social media is for professionals. It's the cocktail hour where you don't drink too much, avoid politics and religion, and try to stick to chitchat where you can make a connection without going overboard. That is, you talk about the upcoming Avengers movie, but not the five-pound tumor that was removed from your stomach.

I knew there's probably someone reading this who's thinking, "But, Suzan, you write under two different names, and you don't reveal to people that they're both the same person. How do you call that honest?"

As Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I'm a geek girl who likes love, romance, and freaky sex. The geek aspect is emphasized under the Suzan Harden name. The rest is emphasized under Alter Ego. That doesn't mean the two don't meet.

This morning, Alter Ego and one of her readers had a long, online discussion about last night's season premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As for Suzan, take a closer look at the Bloodlines and Seasons of Magick series. A lot of my characters get busy and fall in love in those books. In neither case, do I come out and say I love fishing and hunting because I don't. On the other hand, both personas mention ice cream. A lot.

What it comes down to is if you plan to use social media to further your writing career, be yourself. Trust me, you're cool and readers will love you for it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Facepalm Is Strong with the Authors Guild

This is a link to a video debate between Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild, and Paul Kedrosky, contributing editor at Bloomberg.

Some people just should not speak publicly. I'm not endorsing Paul's reference to a Clay Shirkey tweet,


but Roxana bit on the bait and still doesn't feel the hook in her lip.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Silence from Barnes & Noble Is Deafening

So what exactly is going on with Barnes & Noble's Nook and NookPress businesses?

The company claims three companies are courting them to purchase the Nook business. But is there really a business left to purchase?

Microsoft, a forced partner in Nook with B&N thanks to an IP lawsuit over the e-reader's tech, has declined to take over the business.

The Nook e-reader itself is gone, replaced by a Samsung tablet. Could Samsung be one of the suitors? Possibly. After the lawsuits filed against them by rival Apple, the Samsung execs may want to stick it to the house that Jobs built.

But the other two? No idea, though there's plenty of speculation on the internet.

As for known buy-out attempts, the sale to G Asset fell through last February. Since then, there have been no obviouos takers. Also, B&N has been noted to announce things in order to jack with the company's share price. Like Chairman Len Riggio saying he was going to buy the B&M retail portion of the business in 2013. He supposedly backed out over concerns from other shareholders.

Speaking of Riggio, he dumped a huge chunk of his stock last April. That sort of act doesn't show much faith in the health of the company he founded.

Concern about B&N's financial health flared among indie writers when approximately 5% of them didn't receive payments due at the end of August. B&N claimed it was a computer glitch. (Hmmm...where have we heard that story before? Ellora's Cave. Dorchester. Triskelion. Silver. And so on...) But they refused to answer e-mails from many NookPress authors, nor did they make an announcement on the NookPress News page. No, they didn't issue any answer until Publishers Weekly bugged them about the issue. Not reassuring to those of us doing business through NookPress. Not reassuring at all.

The next day B&N rejoiced that their second quarter losses were less than their first quarter's. It doesn't stop the company's steady bleeding of red since 2012.

Even more bizarre was an e-mail I received from B&N (and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who received it). They would give me twenty dollars for every Samsung Nook Tablet that was sold through my affiliate code.

Affiliate code? This was the first I knew they'd finally activated their affiliate program. But this late in the game why would I shill for a company that refuses to answer my e-mails about missing sales?

Then there's the "data migration" B&N announced last Saturday. NookPress would not be updating sales data from Sept. 16th through 22nd.

Again, no explanation for what this "data migration" is. However, reports from customers started trickling in that the DOWNLOAD button to load a copy of the books they bought to a third party app or device had been removed. B&N has already stopped supporting the Nook App for PC. One of the few things B&N had going for it over Amazon, and they yank it with no warning?

B&N's constant stonewalling of information scares the crap out of me. I have no idea what they're doing or why they're doing it. It's difficult for me to make business decisions when a business partner is hiding information. This is one of my biggest complaints about Amazon. However, B&N has taken it to a whole new level.

I've already decided not to load any of my new releases onto the NookPress platform. I'm disappointed to be forced into this position. For the last two and a half years, I've made more money from my Nook books than all other e-book retailers combined. But I cannot deny any longer that B&N is dying.

I'll make the decision whether or not to pull my current books from NookPress at the end of the month. If I don't receive my payment, it'll make pulling the plug that much easier.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Authors United Strikes Again

Writers need to learn business.

Willful ignorance by writers who should know business is downright embarrassing.

Authors United, a little group of writers headed by Douglas Preston, is showing their willful ignorance.

Again.

Even worse, they display elitism and racism at its most horrible. I'm terribly ashamed that one of my favorite authors, Ursula Le Guin, signed a letter vilifying blue collar workers and Asian workers. Feel free to contact her or any of the other writers.

I will.

As soon as my blood pressure lowers enough for me to write coherently.

So what's going on?

Many of the AU authors are published by Hatchette Book Group. Hatchette's contract with Amazon expired last March. Amazon has been trying since January to work out a new contract with Hatchette, who ignored all communications until May.

That's when the PR war started. News media issued story after story of how Amazon was deliberately trying to kill traditional publishing. Anonymous tips came from unnamed sources close to Hatchette.

When that didn't work, James Patterson and Doug Preston took to the airwaves. Interview after interview claimed that Amazon was 1) refusing to sell Hatchette books, 2) refusing to discount Hatchette books and 3) slowing delivery of Hatchette books.

In reality, 1) Amazon is selling all published Hatchette books, but they aren't putting pre-order buttons on un-published books, 2) the same people had been bitching when Amazon WAS discounting their books, and 3) Amazon wasn't using valuable warehouse space to stockpile Hatchette books because they couldn't be guaranteed of returns due to no contract with Hatchette.

So AU published a letter in the New York Times re-stating Preston and Patterson accusations.

And nothing happened.

Well, that's not true. Only 900 writers rallied to their cause. Readers didn't care. And 8,000 writers and readers signed Hugh Howey and J.A. Konrath's letter thanking Amazon and readers for supporting them. [Disclosure: I signed Hugh and Joe's letter.]

So AU issued another letter Monday morning, this time to the Amazon board of directors. The Amazon BOD is going to care about as much as the readers do where the petty whining of a bunch of millionaire authors are concerned. Their responsibility is to their stockholders, and from the price of the stock, the stockholders like what they are doing ($322.57/share as I write this)

These authors' contracts are with Hatchette, not Amazon, so why aren't they nagging Hatchette to negotiate with Amazon?

Because if the writers do that, their contracts won't be renewed and they'll be blacklisted by the Big Five.

Or that's their fear anyway, because they can't conceive of forming their own companies to publish themselves. Therefore everything is Amazon and Chines blue collar workers' fault.

And they can't see that while they fight Hatchette's imaginary war for the publisher, we indies are taking over their market share.

Instead of fighting someone else's playground battles, Preston's group needs to take a hard look at what's happening around them. This isn't a war they can win.

In fact, the war's already over except for the dying.

[Note: If you want an really funny take on the AU letter, go read Jen Rasmussen.]

[Note 2: Apparently, the bitching by me and several other bloggers about the racist comment concerning Chinese blue-collar workers made Preston rethink his words and change the letter to the Amazon board. Now instead of insulting 1.5 billion people, he insults 7 billion. *rolls eyes* You would think someone who makes a living by writing understands how language works. Thanks to TPV regular Claire Ryan for the link to the original version via the WayBack Machine. LOL]

[Note 3: Oh, and he STILL hasn't fixed they typo in the first paragraph of the letter. So much for being the greatest authors in the U.S.]