But Soft, Coffee

I will not ever go out uncaffeinated again. Saturday was enough for me, thanks. Having to tear my dogs away from some neckbeard’s unleashed canines–because a certain type of heavyset white man thinks that leash laws are just advisories for someone of his exalted status–while lacking a base level of caffeine in my blood is not a good time.

Pre-coffee I’m irritated with everything. EVERYTHING, even the need to breathe, not to mention clothes, or even my very flesh itself. Not to mention anyone who tries speaking to me before I have elixir in my veins. The kids get a pass, of course, and the dogs make me laugh. But otherwise? STABBY McSTABBERSON, that’s me.

I did have a lovely weekend otherwise, what with a Sekrit Projekt and a mess of housework. There were books to finish reading, too, like Luce D’Eramo’s Deviation and a very old, very tiny hardback on the French Revolution. All in all, it was pleasant–except for the jackasses who won’t leash their dogs.

Anyway, I’m using the Sekrit Projekt as a carrot to get me through HOOD‘s Season One and the next big chunk of Epic Fantasy #2. If I can just get through the rest of the epic fantasies, I swear I won’t ever make this mistake again. *sigh*

In any case, the dogs are itching for a run, and since it’s a clouding-up Monday we hopefully won’t come across any entitled chucklefucks with legal comprehension problems.

Hopefully.

I should also mention that due to ongoing piracy, there will not be an ebook edition of Steelflower in Snow. Further Steelflower books will also have to wait for me to have the time and resources to write them. At this rate, the return to G’maihallan and the Dark Mountain saga will not ever be written; if I get through the Highlands War it’ll be a miracle. If you want to be mad at someone for depriving you of Kaia’s future adventures, be mad at e-pirates and torrent sites. I wish I could demand that any further work coming out through trad publishing be paper-only, too. If it’s not the pirates stealing from a writer it’s a publisher wanting you to do unpaid clerical work finding and submitting piracy URLs before they bestir themselves to act.

I’m beginning to hate ebooks, and I really shouldn’t. It’s not the format I hate, or the readers–definitely not the readers! It’s the goddamn thieves, and the asshats who make excuses for the thievery.

Well, that’s the last of my coffee. I can’t wait for spring rains to come in. At least when it’s pouring I can run alone with the canines. I have a scene with Little John and Alan-a-Dale to write today, as well as getting back into a “tell me about these assassins” moment between a general and an astrologer. I’m swamped.

Let us embark upon Monday, chickadees. It will get better the further in we get.

Or we’ll stab it.

On Formality

I am a somewhat formal creature. My emails start with “Dear Sir/Madam” most of the time, and I will never call someone by their first name until specifically asked to do so, and even then it will be Ms/Mr Firstname for a while.

This meshes somewhat uneasily with my chosen career. Generally the people I write to are glad of the formality–politeness, after all, is a plus when dealing with editors, publishers, or other writers.

But it also means that the modern slide into informality irritates the living daylights out of me. Strangers who start their missives with “Hey Lili” or “Hey Lilith” get an automatic strike, and guess what? If I haven’t deliberately told you to address me informally at least once, you’re a stranger.

I wouldn’t mind so much, except for the Saintcrow Law of Informal Address1: the informality of address by a stranger is precisely proportional to the “favor” they wish to extract from you, and their concomitant fury when denied is multiplied by each factor and then squared.

In other words, I see “Hey Lili” at the beginning of a stranger’s email and wince, knowing ahead of time that I will be asked for something and when I say “no” I’ll get a screed2 in return.

It never, ever fails. I can count the exceptions to this rule on one hand and have fingers left over, and that’s after being on the goddamn internet for decades now.

By contrast, the emails I get with formal address (including, hilariously, missives sent to an entirely nonexistent “Mr Saintcrowe”, because somehow if I’m a man the extra “e” needs to be added, don’t ask me, I just work here) are uniformly much better spelled, not to mention more reasonable in content, and when I send a gentle “I am sorry, I cannot,” the letter writer takes time to pen a short, very polite, forgiving missive to close out the interaction.

Consequently I am much more likely to use the extremely limited time allotted to correspondence to respond to a letter or email using formal address than the alternative.

I offer this insight not to complain3 but to advise. The joking informality currently in fashion might be working against you if you want people to go out of their way or read past your greeting. Especially if you’re asking a busy person for a favor.

I realize my habit of formal address is often seen as cold or standoffish, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for behaving in a decent fashion according to my own lights. I’ve never had a person call me rude for using proper address4. So, of course, your mileage may vary…

…but if you don’t get responses to your familiar, joking little emails, you might want to consider how you’re starting them out.

‘Nuff said.

Breach, Gasp, Dive

So not only did the garbage disposal explode (relax, it’s fine, there will be no plumbers called today) and the Moka pot decide to cough the instant I lifted the lid (again, relax, I was standing far back and the stovetop is used to worse) but the dogs are entirely too energetic (an entire weekend off means they are incapable of relaxation until we run) and I decided, in a fit of pique, to wash my sheets this morning. (There were, alas, a number of squeaky toys dismembered upon my bed in the recent past.) So of course there were also many Canine Attempts to Help, of the sort that are Amusing but No Real Help At All.

I’ve two cover questionnaires to fill out, since I took the weekend entirely off, and a full day’s writing as well as Latin and piano practice. Dinner must be thought of too, but I’m already worn out, and having to wait for yet another phone update before we go running is rasping the dogs’ nerves as well as my own.

All that aside, though, I feel way better than I did before the weekend. I was plunged into a despair, the world on fire and no help in sight. I am still pessimistic about the survival of humanity as a whole (who could fail to be, at this point?) but my determination to do the best I can with what time I have left remains unshaken, and that’s the important thing.

Even if it’s not, I’m going to treat it as such. Of course it’s all hopeless, but it’s important to fight anyway. Just keep swimming, and all that.

So I’ve breached the surface of despair and taken a deep breath. It’s good to get some air after all the darkness. Friar Tuck and Prince John are on a space flagship, Maid Marian’s getting ready for a speeder race, and I’ve a couple of assassination-happy princes maneuvering for political advantage. As soon as coffee settles, the dogs need a good medium-length run, and I could do with some endorphins. I’ve taken all the Roadtrip Z books from KDP to Draft2Digital, so that’s done1, and I’ll think about if I want to do the same with the other self-published stuff that isn’t so recent.

May you likewise find a breath of deep relief today, dear Readers. Over and out.

Break to Fight Again

I’m drained today, my friends. The news is so awful, the fight seems so hopeless, nothing seems worth it. Part of the problem is I’ve been on Twitter a lot, and the firehose of bad news takes a toll. And then I feel weak, because I am relatively privileged and so many people are dealing with so much worse than I could ever dream of–and I can dream of a lot, as we well know.

I don’t mind admitting I feel sad, vulnerable, and broken right now. I know there’s no choice but to keep going, if only to make the defeat less severe for those with less advantage than myself. I feel like the job of telling stories is an important one, but I’m not up to the task and just fooling myself thinking I can make any difference at all.

I’m going to keep fighting–accepting defeat is not an option–but I could really use a break.

There are dogs to pet and walk, there are children to raise, there is coffee, and there is work to be done. Today the work might be all about renewing my will to fight, to keep putting one word after another, one foot before another.

I hope you’re doing better, chickadees, and if you’re not, at least we’re in the boat together. I’m holding the line as best I can, and I won’t let go no matter how the rope cuts.

Over and out.

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.