Data Gathering: Douchemobiles

run away I fell into revising Agent Trinity yesterday with a vengeance. It’s a relief when the engines click over and I slide wholly back into a story, all my resources focused on the task in front of me. Of course, this usually means little things like feeding children and animals but forgetting to feed myself, but who cares? It’s story time! At least I got a shower in.

Small mercies, right?

The clouds are back today, and the relief is near indescribable. Sunshine just drives everyone mad around here. They start piloting their cars as if they’re in a video game, and do other strange things. It’s as if some fungal thing settled in their brain-creases is being slowly destroyed by the heat and glare, and the concomitant destruction of gray matter makes them into jerky marionettes.

Now there’s a story idea.

However, the sudden return of sanity has not extended to some specific groups. Case in point? There’s a sign at the middle school: “RIGHT TURN ONLY DURING PICKUP/DROPOFF AND SPECIAL EVENTS!” Seems pretty simple, right? Turn right onto the four-lane street, there are more than enough ways to get back to the main arteries after one does so. When the directions are followed, morning dropoff goes very smoothly.

Unfortunately, there are also special snowflakes who are either illiterate (and driving!), blind (and driving!), or very certain the rules don’t apply to them. My somewhat informal data-gathering on this point has returned something interesting: a good 80-85% of the time, the cars who wait to turn left, snarling up everything behind them and just generally acting like douchemobiles, fall into three distinct kinds. In descending order, they are:

* Various makes of Lexus
* Cadillac Escalades
* Various makes of Acuras

Strange, isn’t it? Those three groups comprise the overwhelming majority of douchenozzles I encounter while dropping the Little Prince off. Of the remainder, the biggest group is VERY LARGE TRUCKS, piloted by middle-aged men. I shall leave the obligatory “compensating for something” jokes to your imagination.

I am tempted now to tally the other bad behavior I see in the school parking lot, just to see if the pattern holds true. According to my (admittedly unscientific) recollections, though, it seems minivans with harried mothers are the rudest inside the lot itself, while the douchebaggery at the stop sign falls into other discrete groups.

Of course, I turn to data-gathering because it distracts me from perhaps uttering a curse or two upon the head of any specific jackass in the parking lot on any specific morning. I don’t want to waste my mojo on what are, in the grand scheme of things, Very Small Potatoes.

Still, it’s irritating, especially when one has to explain to a teenage boy why politeness is the best policy after all. And when it is keeping one from work that needs doing, it rather frays one’s nerves.

I believe I need tea. Onward and upward, I guess.

She Wolf and Plumbing

swac That’s right, a new chapter of She Wolf and Cub is up! Our heroine is back to one of the things she does best–dishing out murder. Also, wandering naked on the streets. Bonus!

The plumbing saga continues apace. Looks like the leak’s been there–and invisible–for a very long time. Which means I get to see if my homeowner’s insurance is any good. And if my premiums will go up! New life skills will be earned, new dragons will be sung to sleep.

Damn. I’d better level up out of all this XP.

Things Not To Send An Author

snobgooseI need a new tag for the “I get mail…” stories. Here, have this little gem:

Date: April 6, 2015 at 6:18:59 PM PDT
Subject: Rose and Thunder can be a Bestseller.
From: *redacted*
To: contact@lilithsaintcrow.com

Hi Lilith,

I must say that’s an outstanding book you got out there. It has readers appeal, but you need to push it a bit.

You can check out *redacted*, they will direct up to 50 of their avid readers to purchase your book on Amazon and these reviewers will then post good reviews on your Amazon book page.

I once posted reviews for them in exchange for gift cards before i started my M.Ed program. Imagine having 50 readers post great reviews on your book page, that’ll definitely land you on the bestsellers list. I believe the many positive reviews from *redacted* will greatly help your book.

Thanks for putting out such an enjoyable book, but please promote it.

Regards,

*redacted*

Let’s just count the things wrong with this. First, you sent it on release day, so what are the chances that you’ve actually read the book? Close to zero, I fancy. Second, it’s a huge insult to think I’d purchase reviews, positive, negative, or otherwise. Third, for someone who claims to be in a Master’s of Education program, you should have at least enough common sense to know how insulting the mere suggestion is, and how ethically repugnant it would be for me to even consider. Fourth, your closing needs a little work–“Thanks…but please promote it,” is incredibly insulting as well. Deigning to tell me about a pay-for-reviews scheme and implying that I’m less than intelligent for not “promoting” my book to your exacting specifications is even worse. (It’s like a skeezy PUA attempting to neg me, for God’s sake. GROW UP.) Personally, I much prefer to do my promotion in less ignoble ways, thank you very much.

So, readers, here’s a way to be amazingly rude to an author, and if you’re a new author, taking this sort of email up on its offer is sketchy at best, a waste of money and a nasty skeleton to have in your career closet at worst.

There. A teachable moment, courtesy of someone who should have known better. I think it’s time for some tea now.

ROSE & THUNDER release!

R&T_draft4 I am sunk in the gutting and rewriting of Blood Call, so much so that I almost missed the most auspicious (and terrifying) of things for a writer: release day! Rose & Thunder is now live in all formats!

Beauty…

Isabella Harpe, last in a long line of witches, drifts with the wind. Her tarot cards always ready to bring in enough to live on, and her instincts keep her mostly out of trouble. Unfortunately, bad boyfriends and even worse luck strand her near the most dangerous place for a witch to land-beside a cursed town, and an even more cursed man.

The roses…

Jeremy Tremont’s family built their house over an ancient place of power, turning it into an uneasy, rose-choked sanctuary for the weird and the dangerous alike. Scarred, quiet, and difficult, he’s not Isabella’s idea of a prospective employer, no matter how badly she needs the money. He’s paying well, and there’s only one catch: she has to be home by dusk. Because in Tremont City, bad things happen after nightfall.

And the curse.

Secrets hide in every corner, an ancient curse cloaks itself in silence, and Isabella’s arrival has begun a deadly countdown. Despite that, she may have found a home-all she has to do is figure out how to break the curse.

Oh, and survive in the dark…

My faithful and beloved assistant Skyla swears that her real boyfriend in this book is the Tremont house, which owes a great deal to Robin McKinley’s Beauty, holding pride of place on my favorites shelf for a reason.

I love both Jeremy and Isabella; this book is set in the Watchers/Valentine universe and was just a ton of fun to write. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale; I will probably revisit it again at some point. I hope my dear Readers enjoy it as well.

Now available direct or at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and All Romance Ebooks.

Joe and Norbert

Rollin It’s probably time to move Fred & George’s little house to a safer location, ever since the Great Mystery Hunt. (I’ll tell you guys about that when the weather improves.) They might even have to share it with a horseradish, which will no doubt lead to many hijinks. As it is, Emphysema Joe is hiding behind the new spring growth of lavender, and is happy to remain so. I had a long conversation with him the other day while I was planting radishes–he wanted to be caught up on all the latest gossip, being a little bit of a hermit. I think only George visits him, and they only talk about green things and video games. “HE’S A SQUIRREL,” Zombie Joe says, quietly, puffing to light his pipe to his satisfacction. “THERE’S NOT A LOT OF PHILOSOPHY THERE.”

“Not a lot of philosophy in me either, buddy.” I was too busy scraping out a row with almost-raw fingers. The earth is a little chilly in spring, and my fingernails were already full of dirt.

“YOU’RE PLANTING RADISHES.”

“And carrots. And fennel.” I yanked a few more weeds. They get going early in spring.

“THERE YOU GO.”

“There I what?”

“RADISHES ARE PHILOSOPHICAL.”

“How so?” I seeded the row very carefully. Radish seeds are tiny little motherfuckers.

“A FIERY VEGETABLE GROWN UNDERGROUND. DON’T TELL ME IT’S NOT.” He puffed on his pipe, quite pleased. It smells halfway between skunk and lavender when he really gets going in that corner.

“Uh, okay.”

“SO HOW’S MIRANDA DOING?” He sounded very casual. If I didn’t know the entire backyard was in love with her, I might almost suspect he was disinterested.

“Fine. Urging the crocuses to store up against next winter, and trying to coax some of that sorrel up. She says summer’s going to be interesting.”

That perked him up. “INTERESTING HOW?”

“Just interesting. You know how she is.”

“MUST BE A DRAG, BEING AN ORACLE.”

“Sometimes that gleam in her eye makes me suspect she likes it.”

“THAT’S PHILOSOPHICAL TOO. SEE? YOU’RE HALFWAY TO AN ORACLE YOURSELF.”

“I’m a writer, dear. That’s different.”

“I’LL TAKE YOUR WORD FOR IT. WANT A TOKE?”

“No thanks.”

Norbert piped up from his vantage point. “WHY CAN’T YOU SMOKE THAT STUFF WHEN THE BIRDS COME? THAT WOULD SCARE THEM AWAY.”

Emphysema Joe shrugged. “OR MAKE THEM REALLY, REALLY HUNGRY. YOU WANT THAT?”

“Don’t fight, you two.” I patted some fine soil down. “At least, not where I can hear you.”

“HE’S RIGHT,” Norbert sniffed. “YOU’RE A PHILOSOPHER. A PRAGMATIST, TO BE PRECISE.”

“Must come with motherhood.” I rolled my eyes and began scraping a row for carrot seeds, too. Between the two of them, it’s a wonder I get any work done at all.

The favs are coming up nicely, and Miranda’s whispering to the crocuses seems to have paid off. I wish she’d talk to the dogwood and find out what’s ailing it, but she’s less interested in things that are taller than she is. Maybe I’ll ask her next time. Of course, I’ll probably walk out there and get waylaid by something else…

PS: *whispers* You can buy the Rose & Thunder ebook directly from the site now.

Technically, Rest

Storm coming in Panama City Beach, FL Yesterday afternoon, after a day of my sinuses jabbing me with rusty spikes all day, we got the promised storm. It culminated in a flash of lightning right overhead and a big boom immediately afterward. The storm passed pretty directly over the house, and it even made Trundles take sleepy notice. Miss B, of course, was cowering under my desk when the first rattle-booms began in the distance. I turned my desktop off, and we all congregated in the living room to watch the hail come down sideways–even B, who will brave thunder for my sake, but is never happy about it.

So that was all our excitement yesterday. It was quite enough for me. Afterwards, the dogs refused to go out into the backyard unattended, and Trundles clearly expected me to carry him over the cold, cold hail strewn on the ground. His poor delicate paws, you see. I just laughed at him, and he gave me a filthy look before trotting off to bedew a hosta or two.

Still haven’t heard back from the Inktera/PageFoundry people. I’ve pulled my self-pubbed books from the PageFoundry distribution channel–not like any of them ever sold through there, and Smashwords made it very clear none of the books were going into the Clean Reader app, but it’s the principle of the thing. PageFoundry got their fingers singed, and I guess they won’t be answering any questions from plebes like me who make the books they want to profit from. I’m still curious, but my curiosity is now tinged with disdain and no little suspicion.

It’s time for me to head out for a very short, very easy run. Technically today is a rest day, but I’ve got that feeling of crackling discomfort, and I need a clear head before diving back into gutting and reworking Blood Call. The editor is right about several things in the book; I just have to figure out what surgery will fix them…

photo by: Karsun Designs

Fidgets

psychoanalysed It’s one of those days when irritation boils just below the skin. I can’t wait for a run to shake the fidgets out, to get rid of the unpleasant prickles. B can’t wait either, she keeps nosing at me. “NAO? NAO? WE RUN NAO?” Even loading her in the car to drop the Prince off at school didn’t ease her; she still thinks that if she doesn’t keep physical contact with me I might escape and run without her.

No further answer from the Inktera people. I’m not really surprised–it’s not like they’re going to care very much what I think, or attach much importance to answering me. Still, I’m curious, and this is a significant black mark on PageFoundry’s record as far as I’m concerned. Authors don’t forget something like that.

If you’ve noticed a bit of dust and banging about here lately, it’s because the marvelous Skyla has been hard at work redesigning the site. I think it’s coming along swimmingly.

The kids and I fell into Cookie Clicker over the weekend and could barely escape. Now the Prince has me trying out Clash of Clans. It’s fun to see this stuff he’s been talking about for a while now, and he is utterly thrilled that Mum is showing more interest. “YOU’RE playing Clash? YAY let me tell you everything and make a clan JUST FOR US TWO!” Heh.

Other than that, there’s revisions going on. I’m gutting and rewriting significant bits of Blood Call, and there’s another pass to take on Agent Zero. Which means I’d better get out the door, so I can come back, make a pot of tea, and start my timer for twenty-minute chunks for the rest of the day.

*stretches*

All right, let’s kick Tuesday right in the pants.

Weekend Persistence

Wild dog licking his chops A nice sunny weekend, and now I need a day to recover from everything I did on my days “off.” I did manage my One New Recipe Of The Week, Thug Kitchen‘s spiced chickpea wraps with tahini dressing. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with tahini, despite loving hummus with a fiery and abiding love, and they were more flatbread-plus than actual wraps. The Princess found them acceptable and would ask for them again; the Prince prefers mac-and-cheese, of course. The box kind, not homemade. *eyeroll*

Also this weekend: the Princess, at seventeen, got her ears pierced. She finally wanted to do it, and we discussed getting it done by an actual licensed piercer rather than at the mall. I checked out the local tattoo/piercing shop–it’s been open for three years, so I felt comfortable enough that it wasn’t a fly-by-night operation, and the piercer (clean, friendly, and calm) answered all my questions cheerfully and thoroughly when I dropped in unannounced. When I came back with the Princess she greeted us both warmly and went over aftercare and the procedure with the Princess, making sure she was comfortable. All in all, a good experience. I recommend body piercers over the mall stores anyway; it’s just better.

This weekend also featured the Inktera Twitter feed–Inktera is one of the companies involved in the recent Clean Reader app kerfuffle. So the Inktera “bookstore” was pulled from the Clean Reader app, but PageFoundry (which seems to be the same company as Inktera?) is still offering Clean Reader. There’s also the confusion over what PageFoundry and Inktera actually do, what their connection is. I have some questions–and so does Andrea Phillips. I’ve Storified our interaction with whoever was running their Twitter feed this weekend. It’s a little…bizarre. I think at one point they were trying to sell me their services or insult me, but I’m not sure which.

Here’s the first set of questions I have for them:

1. The Twitter person seems to imply Inktera and PageFoundry are the same company, or will soon become the same company. Is this the case?
2. Did Inktera code the CleanReader app, or just provide the database of books to be “cleaned”?
3. Is CleanReader still for sale in the Apple app store, Google Play, or any other platform? If so, is it a new version not covered by the former announcement that the app has been discontinued?
4. How did Inktera not understand writers would protest such a treatment of their work?
5. What policies or procedures, if any, have been put in place to make sure similar apps aren’t introduced by Inktera/PageFoundry/whoever in the future?
6. Who at Inktera or PageFoundry is equipped to answer these questions, if you are not?

I know it seems like I’m beating this horse to death. Unfortunately, I’m genuinely curious–who at this company thought this app was a good idea, who still does, what precisely does Inktera DO, is Inktera the future version of PageFoundry? Is the app still around, despite the kerfuffle and the assurances that it’s been taken down? If it is still available, has it essentially changed so it isn’t Bowdlerizing people’s work without their consent? I checked the Apple store through my iTunes this morning, and found Clean Reader still available, with the developer listed as PageFoundry Inc and “in-app purchases” listed as “ebooks.” It’s still available through Google Play, too. It seems to be that one can import books through it, and the only change has been the PageFoundry database isn’t offering in-app purchases of people’s work for Bowdlerizing? Is that indeed the case?

See? So many questions. When I get curious, I get extremely persistent. Furthermore, when I can’t tell if I’m being insulted or sold to, I get irritated, which makes me even more persistent. It’s like an endless cycle of “how to make Lili very, very curious indeed.”

Now I’d like to fully understand what happened, who coded this, who at this company (or companies?) thought it was a good idea, what they’re going to do with similar apps in the future, and why they’re still offering the app. Of course they could refuse to answer, or cite internal privacy or something-whatever. Frankly, I’m expecting to be blown off again, and am considering taking my Smashwords books out of PageFoundry even though the Smashwords CEO made the decision that none of its books would go through the app in particular. (See the March 25 update.)

ETA: I have received what I can only call a partial answer from Inktera. Let’s take it from the top…

On Mar 29, 2015, at 3:32 PM, Inktera wrote:

Hello!
This was passed to us via Twitter.
How can we help you today?

Lilith Saintcrow wrote:
Lilith Saintcrow ‏@lilithsaintcrow
@Inktera Someone with the ability to answer these questions can email me at contact AT lilithsaintcrow DOT com. @andrhia

So my initial feeling, that whoever was manning the Twitter stream just wanted to unload me onto Support, seems somewhat justified. Here were my initial questions:

On Mon, 30 Mar at 8:18 AM , Lilith Saintcrow wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am one of the authors who vigorously protested the CleanReader app. I have further questions, and whoever is handling the Twitter account does not seem empowered or disposed to answer them. My questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The Twitter person seems to imply Inktera and PageFoundry are the same company, or will soon become the same company. Is this the case?
2. Did Inktera code the CleanReader app, or just provide the database of books to be “cleaned”?
3. Is CleanReader still for sale in the Apple app store, Google Play, or any other platform? If so, is it a new version not covered by the former announcement that the app has been discontinued?
4. How did Inktera not understand writers would protest such a treatment of their work?
5. What policies or procedures, if any, have been put in place to make sure similar apps aren’t introduced by Inktera/PageFoundry/whoever in the future?
6. Who at Inktera or PageFoundry is equipped to answer these questions, if you are not?

Whatever answer I receive will be posted publicly. I am quite curious about this, and whoever is running your social media feeds seems unable or unwilling to answer what I think are quite reasonable questions about the provenance and the future of CleanReader-type apps. I have other questions, but this list will do for a start.

Thank you for your time, and I do hope to hear from you soon.

Best,

Lilith Saintcrow

Here is the reply I’ve received so far, sent at 8:55am, March 30, 2015:

Lilith:

Thank you for taking the time to send us your questions and concerns.

You have contacted the support queue that manages questions and help-requests from customers, and also general routing of other inquiries that might come in for any number of reasons.

The most common question we get is “How do i delete a book, after I’m finished reading it?”, if this gives you some context for what we typically handle. On principal, care so much about serving you that we would treat you the same if you were asking for a good chicken soup recipe! :) (you might be surprised if you knew how diverse our customers are!)

For some of the questions you have sent through, I can answer them directly, because we have the training and knowledge to do so.
For some, I can get back to you shortly, as the answer may require some research on my side to make sure I get everything right.
And then for others, the scope of the question is outside the parameters of what a customer-service queue can handle. In these cases, I can route your concerns to other individuals or departments.

I also want to make sure I’m responding to you as quickly as possible, as we have internal SLA’s we like to hit when first responding to requests for help.
In the time that it has taken me to type thus far, I see 11 other support requests which have not yet been serviced, too!

So I hope you will accept our fastest-possible “first cut” of those questions that have ready-made answers.
It might take a full day for me to respond to the rest. OK??

Q: Are Inktera and Page Foundry the same company?
A: The company “Page Foundry” created the brand “Inktera” to represent the bookstore product that customers would buy. For example, Amazon and Kindle have a similar relationship, though many people use the terms interchangeably. Page Foundry and Inktera will soon become “Inktera” alone, which will be simpler.

Q: Is the Clean Reader app still available for download?
A: I just checked, and it is available both in the Apple and Google app stores.

More to come very soon, my friend!
We are here to serve you, whether you are an author, publisher, reader or all of the above!

Okay. So PageFoundry and Inktera ARE the same company. PageFoundry is still offering the app through Google and Apple. The change is that they have removed Inktera’s “buy now” capability and database; now the reader must import the books in, as far as I understand, PDF form. The major objection to the app was that they were selling the books to be Bowdlerized, now the app is free and one must import one’s own books. Which makes it somewhat distasteful, but still just on the edge of legality as far as my understanding goes.

I shall update here when/if I receive more.

ALSO ETA: It seems whoever’s in charge of Clean Reader’s Facebook app got into a snit and disclosed private financial information about one of their critics. They have since apologized. I have to say, between this and the numerous grammatical and spelling errors in the app’s feed, that I am not at all sanguine about them arrogating the privilege of word choice…

photo by:

Nasty Letters

I get mail. Some of it is…breathtaking.

First Name: *redacted*
Last Name: *redacted*

Your Email
*redacted*

Re-enter email
*redacted*

Subject:
steelflower

Message:
Loved this book. I just read that epiracy killed the series. How does it not kill your other series? You would write of a woman who does not shirk her responsibilities to those she comes across, who does not back down from trouble; yet after giving her life, you would back down from finishing her story? I will not read your books after this, you let Steelflower down.

So, because some of the other series I’ve written have been pirated but not killed completely, I am to blame, and I am to be roundly punished.

I see.

I was not initially going to reply, but I thought about it. I decided this might become my form reply to similar letters.

Dear *redacted*,

I am very sorry you feel that way. I hope you never have to make the type of decision I did when I found I could not continue Kaia’s story because of the theft of my work by e-pirates. I further hope you never receive the sort of hatemail I have for making that decision. It is quite distressing to be stolen from, then blamed for being stolen from and furthermore receive nasty letters about it.

I hope you find other stories you like,

Lili Saintcrow

The more I get letters like this, the less inclined I am to work my ass off to try to find a solution to thieves killing a series I agonized over, with characters I love.

*sigh*

Spring, Obscene

happy The trees are beginning to leaf out. Spring! I’m going about humming Tom Lehrer. (As one does.) There are two more garden boxes set up. They won’t be used right away, soil prep for the clay and dry shade is just beginning. Leafy greens will go in one box, the others will hold what I affectionately call a witch’s garden–rue, mugwort, things of that sort. (We must wear our rue with a difference, always.) Not until next year though–this year is for cover crops. Oats and field peas, planted then allowed to die down in winter to provide mulch. I may even put some massive daikons in–they’re good at breaking up clay. Since grass won’t grow in that upper part of the yard, I’m forced to other measures. (Like I ever need an EXCUSE to grow mugwort, but still…)

I’ve calmed somewhat after yesterday’s irritation. I can laugh at the hapless idiocy now, instead of being vexed at the insult to my intelligence or my books. There is one more small thing I wanted to say.

It seems absolutely insane to me that people can use a few “bad” words to level the charge of “obscenity” in an attempt to censor a work of literature, or any other art. It seems rather a misuse of the word.

You want to know what’s obscene? Extraordinary rendition. Children starving to death. The rate of incarceration in America. Racism. Sexism. Xenophobia. The current Republican party’s platform, policies, and behavior. Guantanamo Bay. Drones. Security theater in our airports that doesn’t make us safer, only accustoms us to ever-increasing violations of privacy. Dogfights, cockfights. MRAs harassing, doxxing, and threatening women. A child’s body left on the pavement for four and a half hours. War.

Those are obscene. Not books. Not art. At best, art can only faithfully mirror our own twisted selves.

*sigh* Now I’m disgusted all over again. Time to go back to revising. I may even throw in a few extra fucks, shits, goddammits, and cuntwhistles for good measure. Maybe even a dicklicking motherfucking shitsucking douchenozzle or two.

Over and out.

photo by: huntz