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:

On Clean Reader

Manuscript So there’s this–an an app called “Clean Reader” that purports to “scrub” books of offensive terms. Joanne Harris has protested; she makes the excellent point, among others, of the insulting substitution of “witch” for “bitch.” Chuck Wendig also weighed in.

I therefore wrote to Clean Reader requesting that they do not touch my books in any way, shape, or form.

On Wed, 25 Mar at 12:36 PM , Lilith Saintcrow (contact @lilithsaintcrow.com) wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to object, in the strongest possible terms, to my books’ inclusion in the Clean Reader app. I find the whole idea of Bowdlerisation of authors’ works to be distasteful and déclassé in the extreme, not to mention the proposed “cleaning” to be extremely gauche and heavy-handed in its “American evangelical crackpot” focus. If I wanted to write Tipper Gore-approved tripe, I would, and there are plenty of writers who do. I do not wish to, and I object strongly to your “app” insulting my work by presuming to substitute “cleaner” words. I chose, and continue to choose, every word in every book I write for a reason, and you are not licensed, allowed, approved, or empowered to change one jot or tittle.

Frankly, I am surprised you didn’t think to offer authors the chance to opt in or out of this mutilation of their work. In any case, I am emphatically opting out. Please make absolutely certain your “app” does not touch a single one of my books. You may find my works listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites; I write fiction under my name, Lilith Saintcrow, and YA fiction under Lili St. Crow.

Please reply with confirmation that my books are not and will not be touched by this “app.” I am uninterested in whatever justification you might offer for this censorship and mutilation of literature, no matter how well-meaning.

Sincerely,

Lilith Saintcrow

I received this reply.

On Mar 25, 2015, at 1:58 PM, Clean Reader (cleanreader @inktera.com) wrote:

Lilith:

First of all, thank you for taking the time to send us your message. Your request is being implemented right now, and should be completed within the next few hours (there is a QA process to validate de-listing titles).
In fact, it is our policy to de-list any titles as requested by the author without need for explanation.

Please understand, however, that there are a fair number of mis-representations and misinformation surrounding what the Clean Reader app does and does not do. For instance:
– The app does not remove any words from a book
– The app does not change any words in a book, or replace them with alternatives
– The app does not censor any works, or limit the user’s ability to read the book in the exact form provided by the author/publisher
– The app does not change (or understand) the meaning of any phrases or text
– The app does not substitute an edited or adjusted edition of the title
– The app does not discriminate against any person on any basis
– The app does not impose any feature upon a user, with the exception of DRM-related restrictions as presented by the author/publisher

Of course, we cannot know what you’ve been told about what Clean Reader is/does. But we can tell you that all of the above-mentioned statements are true.

I think the thing that irritated me most about it was the insult to my intelligence. The disingenuousness was perhaps merely a bonus. Offering “alternative” words to “obscenities” or “curse words” is a substitution of phrases or text. (See example in this Guardian article detailing Harris’s objections.) My reply, I’m afraid, is somewhat rude and has one regrettable typo, but in my defense, I was a little vexed.

On Wed, 25 Mar at 3:30 PM , Lilith Saintcrow (contact @lilithsaintcrow.com) wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your reply.

I told you I was uninterested in whatever justification you might offer, but you persisted in sending one. I shall, therefore, reply.

Your app substitutes one word for another books according to some “cleanliness standard.” I find it disingenuous in the extreme for you to claim otherwise, when I have gone to your website and seen how the app works in your very own words. It also does change the meaning of phrases and text, by substituting other phrases and text. This is shown on your very own website. That it is the user choosing a “cleanliness level” is beside the point, especially since your “cleanliness” levels have a specific and prevailing “Christian,” “evangelical,” and, I should add, very 1950s McCarthy rubric.

If I wanted to use different words in my works, I would. I chose and choose the words in each book carefully, and they are not to be abridged or altered without my explicit consent. Your app might conceivably fall under the rubric of a “translator” program, but if my works are translated into a foreign language I work with the translator where possible, and am (this is very important) paid for the foreign-language rights. By not contacting the authors in your database (since your “list” of titles is indeed a database) and not giving them a chance to opt out of this bowdlerization (I presume you have Google, please look that up) you have committed an extremely grave error, compounded by your incredibly tone-deaf responses in social media and even in this email thread.

If readers are so offended by my dialogue/characters/plotlines, they are welcome to find other works. There are entire genres catering to such tastes. You shall not force my own books into those genres without my consent, and you shall not facilitate the dismemberment and mutilation of my work in this fashion, period, point blank.

No doubt there is money to be made catering to the fears and petty prejudices of those who wish fiction or language deboned, dethroned, denatured, or spayed, but you shall not make one red cent off doing so to my books. I would urge you to reconsider this entire debacle, but I suspect I would be wasting breath.

Please confine further replies to confirmation of my books removed from your database. I have no further time to waste today; I have books to write.

Sincerely,

Lilith Saintcrow

The reply I received, sent at 2:33PM PDT:

Lilith:

We have confirmed that your books (now and future) are unavailable for sale or discovery within the Clean Reader App.

I am a little irked at the entire thing, especially since they did not contact authors of books at risk of being Bowdlerised before listing them “for sale or discovery.” I won’t quite label that particular decision “shady as fuck” but it’s certainly an omission of what I’d think would be a necessary act of good faith or even just good business hygiene. I’m not quite sure how this got approved at the app stores (Apple and Google Play) in question, either.

For other authors wishing to object, I wrote to jared@cleanreaderapp.com and CC’d support@pagefoundry.com; the replies all came from support@inktera.com.

Time to go back to revision.

photo by: Muffet

Spa Kidney

Sumatran tigress licking her nose Richard III is being laid to restJosephine Tey would be happy, I think. I remember reading The Daughter of Time years ago and being stunned. Don’t get me wrong, Shakespeare’s play is fucking amazeballs, but he was writing while questions of legitimacy swirled around a current Tudor monarch, so he couldn’t quite tell the truth–even if the truth was known to him, which is by no means likely.

Anyway, I’m very pleased. Historical rehabilitations always please me.

This morning I got the kids to school and decided to treat myself to a clay masque, a la Spa Day At Home. I smeared the clay concoction on and sallied out of my loo, only to be assaulted by a barking bulldog who thought I had done something to his beloved human. Also, there was an Aussie who had no idea why the damn bulldog was so upset, but was determined to find out AND remind him that if there was going to be a shitfit thrown, SHE was going to do it first, thank you very much, and also, what was that strange thing on her human’s face?

The result of this was a furry ball of two-dog destruction nailing me right in the shins, which drove me back against the loo doorknob, which speared me unerringly in the right kidney. I let out a strangled yelp, and Trundles, driven into fresh excitement by the fact that he could hear his beloved human in distress, redoubled his attempts to head-butt the strange-faced thing that had taken her place. Miss B, of course, got him by a hind leg and dragged him down, and she proceeded to lick every part of him she could reach while I stumbled back into the loo proper, my back spasming and my face working in interesting contortions that no doubt added to my, ahem, exotic appearance. I grabbed at the towel rack to steady myself, and it’s a wonder I didn’t pull it free of the wall.

Trundles snapped at Miss B, who snapped back, and the two of them rolled out into my bedroom, then raced around the house a bit while I hobbled, wincing, for the kitchen. By the time they had sorted out who was in charge (it’s Miss B, ever and always, but Odd keeps on having to be reminded every time something New and Disturbing wipes his hard drive clean) Trundles had forgotten what upset him in the first place, and simply rested his face against my calves as I stood at the sink, drinking water and trying to regain my breath. He paid no further attention to the masque, since Miss B had reached the kitchen first and was unfazed by the new thread to my familiar smell.

Spa day at home, folks. Rest, relaxation, and kidney trauma.

Have a good Monday. I’ve got to limp into the kitchen again for more tea, and get started on revisions…

Legendary Stubbornness

| violin | That Bach polonaise I’ve been working on for months? I can finally find the notes with both hands, in some places slowly, in other places with more facility. It’s not the Turkish Rondo, but it’s a challenging enough piece that I suspect it was well beyond my capabilities and the danger was in me getting frustrated enough to just rage-quit.

Fortunately, though, my stubbornness has been honed by years of constant and consistent practice.

You know who else’s stubbornness is legendary? Odd Trundles. He’s grumbling at me right now because he wants ear-rubs, dammit, and he will keep moaning until he gets them. Between the seizures, his poor paw, the seasonal alopecia, and his facial pockets, he’s just a mess all the time, and requires much petting and ear-milking in order to cope. His other Perpetual Endeavor is trying to catch the Princess’s backpack as she heads out the door in the morning. He thinks that if he can just get his jaws on that and kill it, she’ll stay and won’t leeeeeeave him alooooooone. And if she can’t leave, then the Prince and I can’t either, and we’ll all be RIGHT WHERE PRINCE TRUNDLES WANTS US.

Sadly, this does not happen. But to be a Trundles is to be full of hope.

I hear there were a lot of people on a subreddit recommending my books yesterday. Thank you! It’s nice to know. It somewhat soothes the ache in my lower back from the hauling of boxes and bins of author’s copies.

Which reminds me, I have to find desiccant packs. The last thing I need is boxes of moldy copies. There’s also the foul matter (I love calling it that) to be sorted and archived.

For now, though, I should finish my coffee, give Trundles enough ear-scrubbing and attention to completely bewilder him, and get started on revisions for Blood Call. Later, of course, I’ll practice piano.

It might even be time to attempt a new Bach piece. Never rest on one’s laurels, you know, and all that.

photo by: arquera