Kept From Brooding

I finished up the revisions on two short stories yesterday–the Hansel & Gretel kung fu story and the Alice in Wonderland/Resident Evil one. Both are sent off to the editors now, since they need another pair of eyes to figure out where the lacunae are. The stories are so vivid inside my head I forget the reader can’t peek inside my skull and watch them. Maybe one day technology will allow for that–I remember a Tanith Lee novel where someone had a job doing as much–but for right now, text is the tool I’ve got to pry the stories out of my head.

There’s an update on yesterday’s post about Atlanta Bound. It’s particularly telling that KDP only responded once I unpublished the book, which cuts into their profits. I expect Amazon to drag its feet over listing the book as distributed by Draft2Digital, too, especially now that I’ve publicly called them out. Which isn’t perfect, it is an inconvenience I did my best to prevent, but there’s nothing to be done for it.

Anyway, today I have a scene in The Poison Prince to rip apart and rework–an Emperor and his second concubine having a long-overdue conversation–and Alan-a-Dale has to visit Maid Marian’s clinic besides. My work is cut out for me, and there’s also lasagna to be made for the Princess’s houseguests. Somewhere in there the dogs need walks, and I should probably take a shower before the morning gets much older.

The Princess greeted me with coffee this morning as I shuffled into the kitchen, a truly welcome event. Boxnoggin and B are still worn out from yesterday’s wind and long-ish run, and the advent of visitors will explode their Tiny Little Minds. There’s a lot of excitement planned for today.

I should probably get started. No rest for the weary or the wicked, my loves, and sometimes I prefer it that way. It keeps me from brooding.

Or at least, it tries to. I’m pretty sure I can brood anywhere, anytime.

Over and out.

What Happened to ATLANTA BOUND?

I never, ever upload a placeholder file to any digital publishing platform. Ever. I’ve heard too many horror stories of platforms releasing the placeholder instead of the final file.

But even doing everything correctly, it seems, is no guarantee of success when you’re dealing with Amazon.

Despite having a full, complete, and final .mobi of Atlanta Bound from the very beginning1, Amazon sent out a corrupted file (comprising only front and back matter, not the content) to preorder customers. Of course they waited until release day to tell me, and I immediately uploaded another fresh, full, complete .mobi file. (This can be seen in the “look inside” portion of the Amazon detail page.)

You can see it. It’s there. But Amazon won’t take Atlanta Bound out of jail.

After nine emails and four calls to KDP’s “customer service” line (where I get hung up on halfway through the option tree) there is still no move on Amazon’s part to fix their mistake. Unfortunately, Amazon will not condescend to reply to my numerous emails, phone calls, and at least one customer service chat. Atlanta Bound is still listed as “unavailable” a week after release. One of the reviews on the detail page says that Amazon customer service sent her the full, correct file when she gave them her preorder number, so at least there’s that. But the detail page is still locked, and I don’t know if other preorder customers have gotten theirs. There is literally and absolutely nothing else I can do here; Amazon is simply refusing to do their damn job.

I have unpublished the book on KDP and will be shifting it over to Draft2Digital, which holds the distinction of being a company that hasn’t screwed over multiple authors yet. That means it will be on sale through Amazon again, it will just be supplied through a different pathway. Of course the transition will take time.

If you have a Kindle, you can get the .mobi edition through my Gumroad store, and it will play nice with said Kindle in every way.

IF YOU PREORDERED THROUGH AMAZON AND DID NOT GET YOUR COMPLETE DOWNLOAD, please email me through my contact page. Upon verification of purchase, I’ll personally send you the .mobi file. I am very sorry, I did everything I could to make this a better experience for my readers, but when Amazon decides to make their displeasure with a vocal critic of their business practices known, I suppose they go all the way.

I mean, sure, this could be an honest mistake or some form of inefficiency. But I’m not thinking it is, and until something happens to change my mind that’s the assumption I’m operating under. Future books will probably not be released through the KDP interface.

Readers, I apologize. I did everything I could, and it still didn’t work out. Thank you to everyone who’s been supportive through this. Release Day is always a special kind of nerve-wrack hell, and this kind of bullshit makes it even worse.

I’ve short stories to revise and more books to write. Back to work it is.

UPDATE 1/15/19: So I unpublished Atlanta Bound yesterday morning before writing this post. Guess what happened less than two hours later? Go on, guess.

That’s right. Someone at KDP finally wrote back.

 Jan 14, 2019, at 10:58 AM,Amazon.com<[email protected]> wrote:

Hello Lilith,

My name is [[redacted]], one of the Customer Service Supervisors with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Your case has been brought into my attention.

I’m very sorry for the frustration this issue has caused.

I checked your account and see that, your book, “Atlanta Bound” is currently in “Unpublished” status. In this case, I’d request you to republish your book in order for us to investigate further.

In the meantime, I’ll reach out to our quality team to remove the error message from your detail page. I will reach out to you with an update as soon as possible.

Also, once you republished your book, we will be able to push the updated content to the customers who pre-ordered your book.

Thanks for your understanding.

Can you imagine the look on my face when I opened that email? It was somewhat close to this:

Here’s my reply:

Jan 14, 2019, at 11:40 AM, Lilith Saintcrow [[personal email address redacted]] wrote:

Dear Mr [[redacted]],
Yes, after a week of being ignored—of NINE separate emails sent through the KDP Help menu, FOUR phone calls to KDP Customer Service (all of which hung up on me halfway through the option tree), and a Customer Service chat with a very nice young man named Syed who could not fix the problem—I have unpublished Atlanta Bound. I did so, in fact, earlier this very morning. I will be publishing it (and future works) to Amazon through Draft2Digital instead of KDP. I have no desire to have KDP/Amazon continue to ignore me while profiting off my work. You can find more details here: https://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/2019/01/what-happened-to-atlanta-bound/

There are two things you can do right now:

* You can make certain the preorder customers all have the full download. This is non-negotiable. You guys messed up, you need to fix it with the customers. I expect every one of those customers to have the full download and the royalties to be clearly marked on my next statement from KDP.

* You can let me know where to send an invoice for the working time I lost while attempting numerous times to get KDP to fix their error. I bill $75/hr for freelance work; emails and the like are automatically billed at a minimum of a quarter-hour apiece.

As you can no doubt tell, I am extremely frustrated with Amazon’s lack of attention to this matter, and furthermore I am insulted that it took unpublishing the book to get any sort of response. You can, no doubt, see that I am a prolific author; KDP is well on its way to losing my future business for good.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

I don’t think I’ll get a prompt reply.

Update 1/21/19: Amazon now tells me that all preorder customers should have the full download. If you do not, please email [email protected]. The book is now listed on Amazon as well, but the reviews seem to have not come through.

They’re still refusing to pay the invoice, which lengthens every time I have to email them about this damn matter. But I didn’t really expect much else.

Let Me Be Wrong

Afterwar

I’ve talked before about how difficult and draining  Afterwar was to write, and how bumpy the road to publication was. The pain is still somewhat ongoing; I feel an ignored Cassandra, shouting into the wind. I fucking told you so,

*sigh* I was prepared for the book to be ignored, but I was not prepared for the feeling of…well, I feel like I did my best and it still wasn’t enough. It’s a common, creeping little feeling, lying in wait for any unsuspecting (or even suspecting) writer.

I just keep looking at current events and shaking my head. I saw this coming in 2015, I think, and the weight of seeing ahead, along with the weight of witnessing my country descend gleefully into totalitarian filth, wears on me daily. I can barely stand to look at the news. My heart aches.

Our midterm ballots arrived last week. The Princess and I (the Prince has not yet reached voting age) sat down at the dining room table, shielding our ballots, and passed the state voter’s guide back and forth, reading campaign statements and filling in little boxes. She’s hopeful.

I…don’t know.

History tells me what comes next. The camps and dehumanization are already here, and growing worse daily. The “Fuhrer worship” of that small-handed orange shithead grows, racists and nationalists cavort openly with their fascist buckles jangling, and our major journalism is supine. The police are full of rage, hatred, and military surplus; they are the Mango Mussolini’s private army now.

I know it’s always been bad. Even Eisenhower saw where the military-industrial complex and its pursuit of more profit by fear and murder would end. There’s been no shortage of warnings. America was a genocidal slave state from the start, and refusal to look at that plain fact lets exceptionalism, fascism, and murder grow like rank weeds in rich soil.

I just…I am in despair. I poured my heart and soul into a warning cry, and suspected it would be ignored. The small hope that it wouldn’t is thoroughly crushed.

So I continue writing. What else can I do?

I just finished a romance because after  Afterwar and the epic fantasy, I wanted something lighter. Now I’m struggling with guilt because how dare I write something I enjoy, knowing what I know?

The enjoyment is necessary. We’re not just fighting to halt evil, but also to preserve what is precious and joyful and good. Intellectually I know this.

I just have a hard time convincing my heart that it’s not a waste of time, that I’m not fiddling while Rome burns.1 I already feel like no matter what I do, it won’t be enough. Nobody will be saved, nothing will be preserved, the horrifying things will come to pass and all I’ve ever accomplished is dust in the wind.

I have to believe that it is the attempt itself that matters. I have to believe that daily decency, kindness, listening, boosting marginalized voices, and refusing to let the despair paralyze me matters.

Some days, though, heartsick and sore, I can’t bring myself to. Some days I have very little faith in anything other than humanity drowning itself and the planet in its own blood. Some days, like today, I am not even furious, just exhausted, terrified, and sure that nothing matters.

Please, dear gods, let me be wrong.

Please let me be wrong.

Squirrel vs Pole, Part IV

Last week got away from me. There was school to prepare for, a train trip to get a certain young fellow ready for, Sir Boxnoggin to finish settling into the household, and and and. I think I’ve finally recovered from Afterwar and a long, almost fruitless wait for a publisher to get their kittens and ducks in a row. So the epic fantasy is a go now, I can continue working on revisions, and the portal fantasy’s going to have to wait.

But I was telling you about the bird feeder pole, wasn’t I.

When last we spoke, Preggers McGee had whomped Batgirl and stuffed herself with birdseed. The remaining contents of both feeders was scattered all over the deck, and I was a trifle peeved.1 But I’d come across a strange idea on the internet many moons previously, and that brainwave can be described in one word.

Crisco.

That’s right. Vegetable lard. The baseform of Twinkie cream. One of the less ideal but still workable ways to get your mohawk to stand up in cold weather. Good old fry-your-chicken-in-vegetarian-grease.

“Mum?” The Princess knows that when I begin to look determined, something epic or hilarious (or both) is afoot. “What are you thinking?”

“Crisco,” I said, grimly. “I hear if you grease the pole, squirrels may not be able to climb it.”

“They might just consider it a sauce,” the Little Prince pointed out. “Like the hot-sauce birdseed.”

“Well, it’s biodegradable.” I’m not sure why I chose that as my defense, but I was on a mission. I grabbed a pad of paper towels, slathered a hunk of veggie lard onto it, and stepped out into the scorching heat.

Miss B, of course, had to come with me. Besides, it was after dinner, and she had unloading and prancing to do. Sir Boxnoggin had not yet graced us with his presence, but I’m sure he would have wanted to investigate whatever fascinating thing I was doing with something from the kitchen cabinets–i.e., food.

And I greased that fucking bird feeder pole.

Now, the blessed thing is metal, and it had been an above-90F day, so there was dripping involved. But I marinated the fucker. I greased the arches, the loops where plant-pots were supposed to go (the squirrels had put paid to that particular decoration choice) I even left a glob on top of the central pole so it would melt and slide down. Miss B sniffed, but she didn’t try a single lick.

She knows better. And she had business of her own to attend to in the backyard, once she figured out I wasn’t adding anything snackable to the lower portions of the pole.

Because, you see, I was just annoyed enough to leave the bottom half of the damn thing ungreased, just to draw the little bastards in. Not very sporting of me, I know, but the goddamn arboreal rats never play fair themselves. It was time to get a little of my own back.

Anyway, I got back into the air conditioning, heaved a sigh of relief, tossed the greasy wad of paper towel, and turned to find both children staring at me.

“What?”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” The Princess looked uncharacteristically worried.

“No,” I said. “But I’m pretty sure of one thing.”

That perked the Prince’s ears all the way to the top of his fuzzy head. “What?”

“It’s going to be funny.”

That cracked both of them up pretty good, and Miss B came prancing back up to get inside. Dinner was over, the trap was laid, and the squirrels weren’t going to be back until the next day.

At least, that was the plan.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Squirrel vs Pole, Part III

I have never outlined a book before; the most I do, about a third of the way into a particularly challenging project, is put some highlights in brackets further down the document to ignore when I get to those particular events. But apparently, there’s a portal fantasy with a love triangle in my head that wanted an outline, so I spent yesterday afternoon switching between housework and getting the skeleton of a brand-new trilogy out of my skull.

As procrastination and a “day off” goes, it wasn’t too bad.

Anyway, I was telling you about squirrels and Crisco.

When last we spoke, Preggers McGee (who, if she is not gestating, puts on a grand appearance of it) had shown Batgirl just how the getting of birdseed was done. Batgirl nosed at the falling seeds, casting nasty glances up the bird feeder pole, and Olsen Twins probably thought he’d gone to squirrel heaven, where manna in the form of No-Waste Birdseed falls from the sky.

I stared, mouth slightly open, and the Princess exhaled in wonder. The Prince flinched when Preggers’s hind claws slipped. “I don’t like this,” he said, darkly…

…right before said hind claws gave out, and Preggers hung from the heretofore-unplundered bird feeder, her back legs scrabbling for purchase. If you can imagine a furry, rage-spitting piñata made of arboreal rodent and scattering shrapnel far and wide, well, you’ve pretty much got the idea.

“Oh, shit–” the Princess and I chorused, and Preggers McGee fell.

The Little Prince winced again, this time in sympathy. But Preggers didn’t splat on the decking.

Oh, no. Instead, this gravid squirrel curved in midair, as if to perform Batgirl’s signature cat-in-a-cartoon trick, and landed, with a thump that shook the entire deck…

…right upon Batgirl.

“Oh, no!” I gasped.

“HOLY SHIT,” the Princess weighed in at the same moment.

“BE CAREFUL!” the Little Prince yelled.

“…be careful?” the Princess enquired, a half-beat afterward.

Then the squirrels exploded.

Wigs came off. Heels went flying. Hair was pulled. Olsen Twins, seeking safety in distance, scurried away with a full mouth, squeezed through the deck railing, and ran up a handy fir trunk. Squeak-screams of “BITCH THAT’S MAH POLE” and “YOU ASSHOLE” echoed through the backyard. My fork clattered into my bowl, because both my hands clapped over my mouth. The Princess half-rose, watching with her eyebrows fully lifted.

“STOP IT,” the Little Prince yelled, thinking he could restore order through sheer volume or just excited, I guess. “MOM! THEY’RE FIGHTING!”

“I know, honey,” I managed to say, muffled by my hands. Had I more time, I might have warned him not to underestimate the hormones in even a pregnant squirrel, but there wasn’t a moment to make such an observation.

Because Preggers, slightly slower because of the extra burden in her swollen belly, was simply not having any of this bullshit. Not only had she landed on a convenient pillow, but she was motivated, which all added up to one thing.

She whupped Batgirl’s fuzzy ass.

Batgirl made for the same fir trunk Olsen Twins had scampered up, but Preggers wasn’t finished. She got hold of Batgirl’s tail and climbed the the other squirrel’s back like a rodeo rider crossed with Spiderman and lit with napalm. Birdseed flew, spattering the French door, and we all flinched in unison.

Batgirl finally escaped, and Preggers strutted around the bird feeder pole, chittering some version of “THAT’S RIGHT, MOTHERFUCKERS, I GOT A FAMILY TO FEED, DON’T FUCK WITH ME!”

“And she’s pregnant,” the Princess breathed, sinking back into her chair. “Wow.”

“I felt like that a few times, carrying you two.” I finally dropped my hands. The deck was a mess, coated with wasted birdseed, because the squirrels like the bigger bits and the birds don’t want to be on the deck floor cleaning that up with the Mad Tortie staring through said French door at them.1 That’s just a step too far for their little prey-wired nervous systems. “Jesus Christ, what a mess.”

“You know, you could probably move the pole…” the Little Prince said, nervously.

“That would mean they win,” I said, darkly. “I’ve got another idea.” We watched Preggers complete her victory laps and stuff herself with enough birdseed for herself and her passengers, then she scampered off into the dusk.

And I, once my pasta was finished, headed for the kitchen cabinets.


TO BE CONTINUED…

Squirrel vs Pole, Part I

Six planets are retrograde, the heat is giving everyone a short temper and rashes, politics are a never-ending hellscape, a publisher is expecting me to be on time while they drag their feet, irrational guilt is having a picnic inside my head, and even running in the cool of morning is bringing little relief.

It’s almost enough to rob me of any joy at all, even in things that are normally reliable like snoot-boops or chocolate. Dinner last night was grilled cheese, because neither the kids nor I could deal with anything more complex.

Sir Boxnoggin continues to settle in. The squirrels are furious with me over the Crisco–wait, let me back up.

Okay. So, after we re-stained the deck earlier this summer, I had the bright idea of putting bird feeders on a metal stand that had heretofore only held plants and windchimes. The birds found this new largesse acceptable, and it was nice to sit on the deck and read while flying dinosaurs pecked and chirped.

Then, of course, the squirrels found out.

So one evening, while we were all at dinner, the Princess looked up and blurted out, “Oh, no.” My head whipped to the side, and I saw a skinny, very agile, nervous squirrel we’ve since christened “Olsen Twins”1 attempting, with death-defying aplomb, to hold the central pole with its back paws while reaching the bird feeder with his front.

He failed. Spectacularly. Several times.

You know who did not fail? Batgirl.

Batgirl is a rounder, much brighter squirrel. She shouldered Olsen Twins out of the way, shimmied casually up, and began to help herself from the feeders like a pole dancer bored by her athletic routine and eating Corn Nuts while hanging upside down.

“Son of a bitch,” I breathed, and the Little Prince began to laugh a trifle nervously.

We watched, our own dinner growing cold, as Batgirl’s back feet slipped. She hung from the feeder by all fours, lost her grip, and did an amazing catlike “let’s get our feet under us before we land” maneuver, landing with a thump that rattled the deck. Undeterred, she shimmied right back up, held the pole with her back claws, and proceeded to stretch like a Slinky while stuffing her face. Below, Olsen Twins cleaned up anything that fell, which is probably why he hangs around with Batgirl in the first place.

Finally, having stuffed themselves to the gills, both squirrels scampered off to digest their ill-gotten gains. The Princess nervously advanced the notion that perhaps bird feeders on the deck were a bad idea, but I shook my head.

“Oh, no,” I said, calmly. “Now it’s personal.”

“Shit,” the Little Prince muttered, and went back to his pasta.

The rest of dinner passed without event, and I went to Google determined to learn about squirrels and bird feeders.

The next night, things got a little…bizarre.




TO BE CONTINUED…

Eggs, Multiple Baskets

Today, I have placed my thumb upon my sword-guard, and there is an inch of blade showing. I am ready. READY, I TELL YOU. But that’s neither here nor there.

The Verge has a good article up about Cockygate and Kindle Unlimited. After a careful reading, I’ve made the decision to start taking the Anna Beguine books out of KU. It’s just not worth the risk of their algorithms suddenly deciding I’m doing something naughty. Basically, KU seems like a giant scam that other giant scammers are taking advantage of, and who suffers? Real authors, and readers. Fortunately I only have two books left in there, and the last will be free in October.

An object lesson in not putting all one’s publishing eggs in one basket, indeed. I’m glad I’m already conversant with

The only other news is that I have an appointment to take Odd Trundles to the vet today. He’s just…not himself. It’s not like him to turn his nose up at food, and the weight loss is marked enough that I’m concerned. So it’s loading him into the car today, always fun, and then the poking and prodding he’ll put up with because he is a sweet-natured pup even when he isn’t feeling well. I really could have done without a vet bill this month, but it’s a small price to pay for his goofy, lovely little self.

I’m tense and shaking already, hoping it’s something easily fixable. But he’s getting old for a bulldog, and his health has never been ultra-good. It’s hard when one of the furbabies isn’t feeling well; they can’t use human language to tell you what’s wrong. If it’s something severe I’ll be kicking myself for not taking him in earlier, if it’s something small I’ll be relieved and a little guilty at stressing him out by dragging him to the vet. And of course Miss B will be furious at being left behind, even if I ran her hard this morning to get her fidgets out.

You just can’t win most days, so I’m not even going to try. Just doing the best one can is enough.

Over and out.