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Note: Some necroposting upcoming

Ron Newman pointed out that when I edit an old WordPress post (which I've been doing to fix dead links), it shows up in my friends' streams.

I don't know if this happens for existing posts, but I'll try not to add any additional old posts. It used to be that LJ prevented posting out of order, but that's no longer true.

Anyhow, some may show out of order despite my best efforts, so apologies if that happens.

(At this very moment, I'm scrubbing dead sff.net links from my blog.)
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dsmoen

On Zayn Malik Leaving One Direction

The Road to Hana, site of a recent Zayn Malik / One Direction fangirl moment

The Road to Hana, site of a recent Zayn Malik / One Direction fangirl moment.

I have a little One Direction story. Earlier this month, we rented a car on Maui and drove on the Road to Hana. There are a lot of roadside stands there, people selling home-made goods. We stopped at one where the radio was playing. As I waited for my grown-in-Hawaii coffee, I started singing to “What Makes You Beautiful.”

The woman behind the counter did a doubletake. I’m an unapologetic lover of pop music, and I gauged from her reaction that she’d been made fun of for liking the song. (She was a bit older than the stereotypical 1D fan.) Eventually, she started singing along with me.

Another car pulls up, and a woman older than my mother gets out. The woman behind the counter stops singing again, but then the older woman starts humming along. So the younger one does too.

Three generations of women who just happen to like the song, sharing a moment.

As much as the song is overplayed, I think it’s a really important song. Teenage women (in particular) don’t have a lot of messages that they’re beautiful without makeup, that they’re beautiful for who they are. Instead, they’re assaulted by constant messages that what they look like is never enough, the clothes they have are never enough, their weight is never right, etc.

Zayn Malik’s Departure

Zayn Malik

People burn out from time to time (I burned out as a software engineer twice before leaving in 2013). Zayn’s leaving, and a lot of fans are taking the news badly. I don’t even need to tell you what the #cut4zayn hashtag is for. Or that some people are making fun of them.

Preach it, sisters.

All I want to say to the mourning 1D fans: you are beautiful. Don’t forget that.

Also, Zayn may be leaving 1D now, but that’s not necessarily a permanent choice. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people do come and go, and bands get back together. It’s never guaranteed, of course.

He’s still alive, he’s still young, and there’s still time.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Dear Author: Jane Litte Reveals She’s NA Author Jen Frederick

Dear Author • Jane Litte • Jen Frederick

Yesterday, Jane Litte revealed on Dear Author that she was New Adult romance author Jen Frederick. The reaction has not been universal love, however.

The post comes on the heels of being deposed in the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit, with the implication that she’s letting the word out because it came up in the deposition, and controlling how the word gets out. (I have no problem with controlling how the word gets out.)

There was some backlash, perhaps best stated in this post (and its comments) on The Passive Voice:

Now that I know better, I make sure that, if I vent at all about anything industry or book related, I vent to trusted friends and colleagues and in loops with other authors. In those private loops (and yes, I’m aware nothing online is ever truly private) likeminded authors speak more freely. Because you have to understand, we don’t have an after work softball team, or a water cooler, or a birthday cake for Sally on Tuesday where we get to bitch about old Mr. Jennings and how he’s really busting our hump at work that day.

We just have each other and those loops. Most of us never see another author face to face more than once or twice in a given year, if that.

In those loops, we talk industry and strategy and marketing and pricing and trends and hard sales numbers. We talk about the writing process and how hard it can be sometimes, and acknowledge that the muse doesn’t necessarily pepper our dreams with glittery ideas for bestsellers and that it’s a freaking GRIND sometimes, or how we just HATE our current manuscript and are terrified our readers will hate it too, and what a struggle it’s been, and yes, some authors talk reviews. It’s the place that we get to speak freely and treat our business like exactly that. A for profit business. A place where we don’t have to wear our public hat that, by necessity, requires us to stifle ourselves to some degree or risk ostracizing our readership. A place where we take our bra off and stretch for a minute with other braless writer-types. Not that I’m pretending to be someone else on open social media, but there are definitely things I say to authors in “private” that would pull back the curtain, so to speak, in a way that would make me uncomfortable in public, not unlike a school teacher talking politics on Facebook or something.

Imagine my surprise, then, to realize that Jane is on more than one of these loops with me as Jen Frederick. I find myself…not okay with that.

As an author who’s been on some of those “among author” conversations, and as an author who’s also had a different role (convention runner) in the greater fandom, here’s what concerns me:

How much of what was posted on The Curious Case post was told in Jane Litte’s hearing vs. Jen Frederick’s?

As an author talking privately to other authors, I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories, like the agent who spikes a book, the solicited manuscript that winds up sitting in the editorial office for years, the (now former) editor dissing an author behind his back.

As a convention runner, I hear different things, like who has a restraining order against whom, who will (or will not) speak with whom, and who will or will not get in an elevator with whom (for real).

Running this series of posts about the EC v. DA lawsuit, I’ve heard enough privately that I believe that Jane Litte’s claim in her Curious post were substantially true.

But…now that I know the two people are the same, I have to admit that a lot of what I read on the Curious Case post sounds like the kind of thing authors would say privately to other authors.

Not that this makes the underlying claims seem less legitimate; quite the contrary. But I wonder how much of the information was intended to be public, and how much of it was things the authors would rather not have to back up in public in the resulting court case.

Does this Change How I Feel About the Dear Author Case?

In short, no. The case always seemed like it was intended to bully those who spoke out—whether intentionally or not—and I’m just as opposed to that as I always have been.

Also, I’ve been around the lawsuit-watching rodeo myself, and I’m aware that generally neither party looks very good when all is said and done. I had no expectations this case would be different.

One commenter on the TPV post said she’d have felt differently about donating to the legal defense fund if she’d known Jane had a book deal and a movie deal pending. I can speak to this as someone who’s had a movie deal before (that didn’t turn into an actual movie):

  1. Jane did say she had twenty grand to contribute to her defense. That’s possibly where it came from.
  2. The movie deal in question was probably an option, which pay very little money until the movie is actually ready to produce. Far less than twenty grand. I wouldn’t be shocked if we’re talking on the order of $1,000-5,000.
  3. Book deals aren’t a bunch of money all at once, particularly not for a relatively new author like Jen Frederick, even with a better-known co-author.

I think the free speech issues are larger than how I feel about Jane Litte/Jen Frederick. Or Ellora’s Cave, for that matter.

On the Other Hand

Because Jane Litte has recommended some NA books I’ve loved (e.g., Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years Book 1) New Price: Old Price: You Save: ), I figured I’d probably like her books. So I picked up the first one (which is free, btw), and I’ll read it when I get around to that part of my TBR pile. However, I’ll not link to it here.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward, Photo by Lizzy Gadd

Photo by Lizzy Gadd

Fandom (and I mean greater extended fandom, not just science fiction fandom) has had various ways of paying it forward for decades. In fact, TAFF, the trans-atlantic fan fund, has been around since 1953.

What’s harder to find are those opportunities to transition from serious amateur to professional. Sure, there are Clarion (and Clarion West) scholarships, and various other programs to help get people over that hump. However, there are vastly more people qualified for them (and needing them) than there is money to go around.

Which is why I’m so excited by Lori Witt’s offer for romance writers: to fund (sans airfare) attendance for one new romance writer to RT Booklovers convention for 2016.Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Five Tips for Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Originally published at chair-in-the-sky.com. You can comment here or there.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is almost overwhelmingly vast. I’ve been several times, and these are my tips to help ensure you get the most out of your visit.

If you’re a hiker, there are over 150 miles of trails you can enjoy. If not, there are still several hours worth of driving and other activities.

At present, you can only see lava by helicopter. The current lava flow is actually outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

  1. Don’t forget the basics. Sunscreen, hat, water. Camera. On the sunscreen, even if you’re not hiking, that few minutes out of the car here and there add up over time. Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )

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How I Discovered My Coconut Allergy

Coconut-covered praline

It started innocently enough. My dad and I used to go out to see new science fiction and fantasy movies on release night. The same day we went to go see Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, I received a sample of a new shampoo in the mail.

I washed my hair…and spent most of the movie sneezing. I’d become allergic to shampoo. I’d remain in denial about this for quite a few years. As you do.

I can’t remember what my brand of choice was at the time—probably Breck—but I soon discovered that I’d become allergic to any shampoo before I finished the bottle. Worse, it was beginning to get more and more difficult to find new kinds of shampoo.

Ever Really Studied a Shampoo Label?

Yeah, neither had I, at least not before. After checking three I’d recently become allergic to and seeing no obvious ingredients in common, I just figured it was something I had to suffer with.

One day, when I was more flush with cash and in an experimental mindset, I started rotating shampoos. Around about this time, I also discovered that rinsing alone would help reduce the number of times I needed to shampoo, and thus make a bottle last that much longer. Somehow, there did seem to be a frequency-of-use component to developing an allergy to a specific shampoo.

Even after not using a shampoo for one, five, ten years—I’d still be allergic. I loved phrases like “New and Improved,” though, because sometimes they meant a new enough formulation that it was new to my immune system, too.

Some shampoos I was allergic to on first use, though I could usually tell those by smelling them in the store. And yes, I was one of those people, and I hope you understand why.

Worse, once I was allergic to one bottle from a given line, it was generally true that I couldn’t use a different scent in the same line.

Then I Married a Soap Chemist

My first husband, Richard, had been a soap chemist at Lever Bros, and asked me about my fixation on a large array of shampoo products. He didn’t particularly care about the cast-offs—more for him, after all—but it sounded like a challenge to him. We went through the store one day, and I told him all the brands I’d tried. (I’d in fact tried many more than were stocked in Northeastern Vermont.)

He started writing down ingredients and comparing them, and he was fascinated by all the sulfates (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate). “These are pretty harsh,” he said. I believe he said they were lathering agents, but he’s now dead, so I can’t exactly ask him about it.

We started looking for shampoos that contained none of the sulfates, and all I could find at first was a pet shampoo. It left my hair blah looking, but I was able to finish the bottle without developing an allergy. Hooray! I just…was too embarrassed to admit what kind of shampoo I’d been using.

Eventually, I discovered that a lot of the organic groceries stocked sulfate free shampoos, so I’d occasionally find a bottle here and there, and use those. These days, Trader Joe’s, Burt’s Bees, and many other places have sulfate-free shampoos. Yay!

But That’s Only Half the Coconut Story

About the time Richard died, I’d been on an elimination diet, suspecting gluten issues. I discovered that I had major problems with gluten. (I’ve never received a formal celiac diagnosis, but it’s presumed. There are long-standing reasons for this, and getting a formal diagnosis is complicated once you’ve been gluten-free for a long time.)

I’d never really bonded with Indian or Thai food. Part of it is the fact that I don’t like all the spices, but part of it is that I’ve just felt sick after eating it. Or ill. Or sometimes both. I kept assuming that the restaurants I was visiting were simply lying about the contents and I was getting secretly glutened.

Then a new book about Indian cooking came out, called Five Spices. One of the recipes was printed in the paper, and Rick cooked it. Indian food I liked that didn’t make me sick! It was a revelation.

A Chance Conversation

I happened to be talking to someone about my shampoo allergy one day, and she said, “Oh, you’re allergic to the coconut-based ingredients.”

Ding!

I started paying more attention to what kinds of Indian and Thai food made me sick, and it pretty much all involved coconut in some form (e.g., curry).

See, one of the problems of coconut (any food ingredient, really): just because it tastes like coconut doesn’t mean it actually contains coconut. Inversely, just because it doesn’t taste like coconut doesn’t mean you can safely eat it. So it can be really hard to learn from good/bad food interactions what the problem ingredients actually are.

And, until someone shed light on the problem, I’d never assumed my shampoo allergy had anything to do with a dietary problem. Strange, I know, especially given

A few years ago, I went to an Indian place in Liverpool (in the UK), and was able to safely navigate the waters of an Indian restaurant menu. Progress!

It’s a Lot Easier Now

Sometimes, I forget to ask questions, like when we went out recently for vegan with friends, and I forgot to ask what the base for the ice cream was. (Fortunately, that tasted like coconut, and I didn’t get sick because I caught it right away.)

There are a lot of great sulfate-free shampoos out there, too, so that’s less of a problem.

On the other hand, when I saw all the signs in Maui for food trucks with “ice cold coconut,” it made me sad that I couldn’t have one of my very own.

A List of Coconut Derivatives

After I posted this, this page linked to my tweet announcing the post. If only I’d had that page in 1994-1995. Sigh.

It does tell me there are some medications I should probably avoid, and one of them is a common cough syrup ingredient. :(

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Ellora’s Cave: Royalty Statement Missing Column

elloras-cave-blog-header

When I looked at Cat Grant’s statements from Ellora’s Cave (link to one), I noticed that the statement contained the following columns:

  1. ISBN
  2. Book Name
  3. Book type (e.g., ebook or paper)
  4. Store (e.g., Amazon UK)
  5. Per Unit (which I interpret to mean the amount received from EC from that vendor for that line item per copy sold)
  6. Quantity Sold
  7. Total Received (5 times 6)
  8. Royalty % (which is not shown as a percentage)
  9. Royalty paid (7 times 8)

That’s missing a very important column to be able to audit the royalties received. I happened to mention this to someone last night and, well, mind blown.

Sorry I didn’t think to post about it earlier. I’m one of those people who notices holes in things, and I kinda forget that other people don’t always.

Here’s one of my royalty statements.

Note the second column: Price, meaning the suggested retail price for a book, or the price at a given vendor.

That’s absent from Ellora’s Cave’s statements.

So, what you can’t see on EC’s statements are what the spread between price (for a given vendor) and “per unit” are. Meaning: how much, as a percentage of the price, is Ellora’s Cave actually receiving? (Or claiming to receive?)

  1. Is that spread in line with industry norms?
  2. Is that spread consistent from month to month?
  3. Has the price changed over time?
  4. If so, has the spread followed those price changes?

Without the price information, you just can’t determine that.

Ellora’s Cave apparently figures that that’s none of its authors’ business, and they should not worry their collective pretty little heads over it. Personally, I disagree.

Then There Are Worldwide Pricing Issues…

I’ve previously mentioned EC’s distribution issues, but that also feeds into the point about price, as each market may or may not have a different price for an Ellora’s Cave title. On top of that, I only looked at US markets in that post; there are many, many more.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Ellora’s Cave: Jaid Black/Tina Engler Flounces off Twitter

elloras-cave-blog-header

Ellora’s Cave founder Tina Engler (pseudonym: Jaid Black) flounced off Twitter after being called out on her Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings beliefs (that it was a romantic relationship and the two were married) and her transphobic comments.

Yesterday was quite the day. Too bad I screencapped the wrong stuff, missed half of the best stuff, and lost bandwidth entirely just as @pubnt returned.

The Anne Rice Facebook post issue was still going sideways.

The Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings Issue

So there’s a new book (short story length, apparently) about Thomas Jefferson and (his slave) Sally Hemings and their BDSM “relationship.” It’s paranormal.

Jaid Black/Tina Engler got involved in this one.

And so did Jenny Trout, who doxed the hell out of it far more than I could on limited internet time/bandwidth while away from home.

The earlier start to this is last week’s Stephanie Dray incident, covered by Jeanne here and Aya de Leon here. Both cover a lot of similar ground, but both are worth reading. Updated to add this link: Roslyn Holcomb? What she said.

Today’s piece that ties all of these things together, though, complete with a neat little bow, is this one from Moonlight Reader:

And that, my friends, is the hill that Anne Rice has chosen to die on. She hates Jenny Trout so much that she will support that crap over Jenny. And she hates the “bullies” so much than anything that they think is bad, she must go on record as calling good. Even if that thing that is “good” is a disgusting rape fic about a 14-year-old black enslaved person who was raped by her 44 year old white owner for decades.

And, in related news:

Getting Back to Thomas Jefferson for a Moment…

Correction: it was Thaddeus Kosciuszko.

Transphobia

First, let’s have a trans* man speak, shall we?

Jaid Black/Tina Engler also showed her transphobic ass yesterday.

…and…

…and…

There’s more, but I didn’t screencap it all.

First: what Courtney said.

I wrote a piece last year about my evolution in thinking about transgender folks. About three decades ago, when I first learned about trans issues, pretty much everyone was railroaded into being pre-op or post-op.

The trans* community doesn’t all fit into neat categories that cis people like Tina Engler/Jaid Black define, though. Nor should they.

Hell, Jaid’s definitions don’t even cover a lot of the biologically intersexed, which my husband covered rather well in an essay on the definitional problems of “man” and “woman”. While this was written to point out how flawed Prop 8 was, every bit is just as true today.

And then the Flounce.

Tired of being called out (for good reason), Tina Engler decided to delete the @JaidBlack Twitter account.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Bounce Rate and Why It Matters

What is bounce rate? The percentage of people who click on a link to your site—and then leaves via the back button or closing the window rather than via interacting with the page (to click a link on the page).

I learned something fascinating about Google ads the other day. If you have a business and go buy Google ads for the first time, you don’t generally wind up on google.com search pages—not until you’ve proven that a) you have a high click-through rate on your page (because why should you get on Google.com when someone more proven can), and b) a low bounce rate.

It makes sense in context, obviously: Google’s there to make ad money, and they’re more likely to make ad money when someone interacts with the page.

Aaron Wall Has a Point

Aaron Wall’s recent post, You Can’t Copyright Facts, makes the point:

Some of the more hated aspects of online publishing (headline bait, idiotic correlations out of context, pagination, slideshows, popups, fly in ad units, auto play videos, full page ad wraps, huge ads eating most the above the fold real estate, integration of terrible native ad units promoting junk offers with shocking headline bait, content scraping answer farms, blending unvetted user generated content with house editorial, partnering with content farms to create subdomains on trusted blue chip sites, using Narrative Science or Automated Insights to auto-generate content, etc.) are not done because online publishers want to be jackasses, but because it is hard to make the numbers work in a competitive environment.

(Seth Godin also has some interesting points on the subject.)

And, like all of the above, bounce rate does matter in another way that’s far more subtle: it affects your search rankings in Google—whether you advertise or not.

Another Reason for Measuring Bounce Rate

Think about it from Google’s perspective. They want to offer the most relevant items for a given search. You search for pink fuzzy dice, but when you click on the page, it’s just used as a short phrase in a long essay about the history of gambling. You click the back button to find another entry on the search page.

What that tells Google is that the selected page wasn’t relevant for that search for you. So Google downranks it.

See how that can hurt you?

The problem is, every single page of any size has many, many search terms on it at any given time, and you can’t write something relevant for all of them.

As an example, briefly, after making this Scalzi shirt I ranked very highly for the search phrase: t-shirt hell. I no longer do. Makes sense: my placement was accidental and it’s not relevant to the customers of the brand T-Shirt Hell. (Kinda the opposite, actually.)

Then sometimes you wind up winning despite the relevancy. This post ranks very highly for searches involving: letter and sister-in-law. I can almost guarantee you it’s not what they’re looking for, but they do actually stick around, and it’s one of my best click-through-rate pages.

So Apart from Writing Compelling Copy, What Do You Do?

Well, I’m glad you asked. The Evil League of Evil Research Labs are testing something even as we speak.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Ellora’s Cave: Tina Engler Claims I’m Pubnt

elloras-cave-blog-header

Yep, you heard right. Given that Tina Engler says that, I propose a wager.

As a comment on Anne Rice’s Facebook post, Tina Engler/Jaid Black said the following:

Well to be honest Anita, my mom & I believe it’s [@pubnt is] one of you. That D— who keeps a color-coded spreadsheet tracking my every breath lives in San Francisco. I’ve never been to SF & don’t know anyone who lives there. (Purposefully edited so I don’t get accused of more “doxing.”[)]

TinaClaimsDSMisPubnt

Look, I’m pitifully easy to dox, and I do not live in San Francisco. Further:

  1. I’m not @pubnt, never have been.
  2. I still believe that @pubnt is solely or mostly Tina Engler.
  3. I believe, if it’s not Tina, that Tina and Patty Marks know perfectly well who @pubnt is—which is why Ellora’s Cave didn’t add @pubnt to their witness list like the defense did.

Personally, if someone not affiliated with my company started tweeting about business and legal strategy in the middle of a lawsuit, I’d be all over that. Which is one reason why it’s so curious Ellora’s Cave has not been.

The color-coded “spreadsheet” (sic) I keep is the court case docket that has nothing to do with Tina personally. If Ellora’s Cave and/or Tina Engler didn’t want me to keep a color-coded docket, maybe they shouldn’t have sued Dear Author.

Ellora’s Cave, I Call Your Bluff

So here’s the deal, Ellora’s Cave and Tina Engler/Jaid Black.

If you’re so convinced that I’m @pubnt, feel free to subpoena Twitter asking for a comparison of @deirdresm’s and @pubnt’s IP addresses and identifying information.

I’ll waive any privacy issues at the Twitter end on one condition….

That, when you’re proven wrong, you agree to do the following:

  1. Put on the top of Ellora’s Cave’s home page in the first slider right up at the top an apology to me and include a link to my Ellora’s Cave posts, and
  2. Do the same on the top of Jaid Black’s website and blog, and
  3. Both for a duration of no less than four months and thirteen days (the amount of time we had to endure @pubnt’s nonsense). Longer if @pubnt ever shows her face again.
  4. Failure to do so will cost $500 per day (plus collection and/or court costs) per site for every day you don’t display said apology.

So, Tina Marie, how about it?

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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