Writing, Will Write, Have Been Writing. Also: Reading

February 13th, 2015

Reading

My RITA reading is all done. Now I’m back to reading Judith Ivory. It’s a slice of reading bliss…

Writing

I attended a writing function last night where someone else paid for dinner and I got to chat with lots of Romance authors and persons in the business. But I had to drive to San Francisco and … Hey! I did find parking on the street, there’s that! My car, bought used, and now paid for, is getting cranky in its old age. I never know which key (I have two, no, no fob…never never buy a car without a fob….) will actually open the door. Any door. And now I’m never sure which key will actually start the car. One of these days the answer will be “None of them!” Sigh. Anyway, I was glad to find parking because that meant I wouldn’t have to give the valet 10 minutes of instructions about what to do if the door(s) won’t open and how to voodoo the ignition. But I didn’t get home until midnight and I had to be up at 5:15AM — I was at least smart enough to not even try for the 4:00AM workout — and so my point is I’m really tired right now.

I’ve been working on My Immortals 7 and things are going pretty well. I’m liking the story a lot and am almost at the point where the story is really essentially done and there’s not much plot left to deal with.

What the title will be, I don’t know yet. I have a few ideas, but nothing I want to commit to yet, and that is why I cannot show you the cover for Book 7 — because the cover is all done except for a place holder title from Book 5. But I love, love, love the cover.

I’m going to be writing another historical novella for a second anthology with Grace Burrowes, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen. The anthology title should be Dancing in the Duke’s Arms. We were able to arrange a custom photo shoot and so provide some very specific requests for poses and emotions to be conveyed for our cover image. We’ve selected the image we want to use, but there is nothing to show you yet.

Also, I know the story I want to write for the anthology, and it’s an idea that keeps nagging at me.

Arithmetic

Six weeks into 2015 already! I should be doing my taxes but I’m not. Yet. ::Shrug::

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Inspiration – Some of my favorite Bollywood Movies

February 7th, 2015

As some of you may know, I am a fan of Bollywood movies. My knowledge and expertise is narrow, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have people who are knowledgeable provide me with recommendations. Including, as it happens, some members of the offshore development teams I work with.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites, with some links to reviews where I’ve done them. You can find more if you click on my Arjun Rampal Fan Page tab.

This link will take you to my movie review posts, most of them are Bollywood movies so just scroll past the American Sniper review.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi — This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love it. You all should watch it. Shah Rukh Kahn.
Om Shanti Om — SRK AND Arjun Rampal
Rajneeti — Arjun with homage to Quentin Tarrantino — so, if violence bothers you, maybe skip, but this is a political film.
The Last Lear — Really really really good movie.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham — a recent recommendation from one of the offshore devs I work with. This is about family.
Band Baaja Baaraat — @alisharai recommended this on twitter. Super cute movie with a super hot kiss scene.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai — SRK, with one of the hottest shoulder touching scenes in the history of ever. Persevere to the 2nd half of the movie.
My Name is Khan — SRK. I bawled like a baby.
EMI — kind of a silly movie but thoroughly redeemed by one of the love stories — probably a must see for Romance authors.

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Comments Are Back

January 31st, 2015

In case you were itching to comment, comments are back at the blog.

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Notice

January 30th, 2015

Comments are temporarily disabled. Sorry.

Should be back on soon.

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Mass Reorg AKA Progress!

January 20th, 2015

Over the weekend I did my first big reorganization of My Immortals 7. This time around, I’m trying to keep some vague keeping track of stuff in Scrivener, because it’s a great tool for that, while doing the actual writing per usual. Scrivener was very helpful in allowing me to structure, label, and organize the story the way I wanted to.

I don’t write in scenes. At least so far I don’t. But I have chapters that must move together, if I do move things around, because they’re linked by time or story flow. And Scrivener made that easy.

But it does mean I didn’t write as many words as I’d hoped. On the other hand, because the new order makes me happier and because now everything flows and is paced better, it was easy to see how and where I would up the ante.

I’m off to do that now.

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I think I have a problem with this: American Sniper

January 18th, 2015

I read the book American Sniper shortly after it came out. I have also read several other memoirs of Navy SEALS. Chris Kyle, the author of American Sniper, as you probably know, retired from active service and was later killed by a mentally disturbed man at a shooting range Kyle owned. Now there’s a movie about the book.

FYI: I have now added a paragraph at the bottom to address yet another controversy about this movie.

The controversy I’ve heard around the movie goes like this: Kyle killed people and talked about it. He was callous and unfeeling, and possibly not a very nice person. I have seen comparisons between success of the movie with things that are unrelated that imply that Americans of the sort who would see American Sniper are terrible people. Example, juxtaposing the movie’s successful opening with people who gave Bill Cosby a standing ovation.

Today, after writing a draft of this post, I went to see the movie because, one, I wanted to see it anyway, and two, since I was so bothered by some of the conversation, not seeing the movie would leave my opinions and thoughts less informed than they should be.

The Review Portion

Clint Eastwood is a very good director. There’s no doubt about it. Great material to work with, and yet I often felt that if I’d not read the book, I couldn’t have followed the movie as well. In fact, several times, I thought, oh, right, that’s [some character] from the book, because those roles were not clear to me. Alas, and probably no surprise, Kyle’s wife was sadly one-dimensional. I don’t mean the actress, I mean the screenplay and the directorial decisions. More than once I whispered “eff you.” Because of course the woman is shown as unable to understand the man she married. So, you know, the eff.

More important, I did not see this movie as a glorification of killing or an endorsement of the war in Iraq; at times quite the opposite. One of the strengths of the movie was showing moments of internal conflict and Kyle’s (as he was shown to us on the screen) refusal to acknowledge that even his brothers-in-arms had times of profound doubt.

Frankly, though I enjoyed the movie, and though it made me as sad as ever about war in general, and Iraq in particular, it’s not Eastwood’s best work. It’s a bit uneven and might have been better served by spending slightly less time on shooting and explosions and more on demonstrating the brotherhood of the soldiers. Thus ends the review portion of this post.

On War And the Warrior Trope

Here’s a fact, there are branches of the military, the SEALs being one, that have achieved a mystical standing. By definition, these men are extraordinary. They embody everything we glorify about warriors. I find it odd not to acknowledge the power of that trope and the reality behind it. Spartans. Athenians. Amazons. Roman Gladiators. Alexander The Great. Picts. Scots. The history of humans includes the history of war and warfare. Setting aside issues of the elision of women and minorities from history and warfare, this is us. As humans. We can recognize and admit the power of the warrior trope without also elevating war to heroic status.

Story vs. Truth

The movie represents Kyle at three removes. Kyle, the person, is gone and unable to speak for himself. His memoir is a writing and all writing is a remove from the person who is the writer. More, when there is a co-writer, there is yet another remove. What’s on the page are the words that convey words spoken, not the actual experience.

Writers are tricky people. They understand how and when to manipulate with words. It behooves us all, when we are reading a text, to remember that fact. It’s even more important when the writer of a memoir isn’t the subject of the memoir. And even so we cannot represent or assume the words on the page are equivalent to Kyle. They are a representation of him. And now we have a movie of the book; a representation of a representation.

The Thing that Bothers Me

It bothers me that there seems to be a conflation of Kyle, the movie, and its viewers that suggests that because Kyle killed people for a living that all the viewers of the movie are ascribed bloodthirsty motivations for seeing the movie. Further, suggesting there is some relation between a SEAL sniper doing his job and the alleged actions of Bill Cosby is offensive. How is a soldier doing what his country pays him to do anything like Cosby?

Whatever you may feel about the role the US is playing in the world, we should not be denigrating the men and women who serve in our military nor should we be making sly or not so sly insinuations about the moral worth of members of the military because we might disagree with US politics or decisions to send our military into war. Kyle, personally, did not set US policy. He did not commit crimes.

It is entirely possible for someone to read and see American Sniper while maintaining an ability to separate the actions and culpability of a White House Administration that put our country at war in Iraq under less than truthful circumstances with the actions of the soldiers who were sent to fight.

Bill Cosby is alleged to have committed several crimes. Assaults against women whom he allegedly drugged so that they could not object or consent. It is offensive to me that anyone would conflate the part-of-the-job actions of a member of the US military with actions that are a crime and suggest that viewers of the movie must also support Cosby.

Further, I have read American Sniper and seen the movie. I have not become a bloodthirsty, jackbooted conservative. Nor would I have given Bill Cosby a standing ovation. But then, I would also never have gone to see Cosby, knowing the allegations against him. I can deplore that the US went to war in Iraq at the same time that I support the women and men who are sent to fight on our behalves.

Idiots are Not an Excuse

Just now I saw tweets about the movie in which someone screen-capped several tweets in which people who saw the movie said they now hated Iraqis and want to kill “them” where “them” was a racial epithet. That tweet said with full ironic sarcasm: “It’s just a movie.”

Kyle was killed by an American, after his service was over. Not an Iraqi. Should the movie not have been made because there are idiots out there incapable of seeing the tragic irony of that? What should we do, give a test before the movie and refuse to admit people who we feel lack critical thinking abilities?

It is equally possible to see this movie and think, as I did, no wonder they hate us. Yes. That’s right. It’s not just a movie. The problem isn’t the movie. The problem lies in the hearts of minds of the people who see the movie.

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Stuff! That’s Going On!

January 11th, 2015

Well. Did you notice that it’s 2015 already? What the?

I’m working on My Immortals 7, which is Kynan and Maddy. I have 21 chapters so far. Everything is in the wrong order at the moment, but that’s actually fully expected. I’ll be doing another Regency novella scheduled for summer, too. After Immortals 7 and the novella, I start work on the Dark Elf story — the world for the story The King’s Dragon, with Mair and Dal Atul.

So. Here is a picture of  a rose I took back in November.

 

Bronze rose, Honey Dijon by Yours Truly

Honey Dijon by Yours Truly

Allow me to restate. I didn’t take the rose. I took the picture. Just in case you were wondering.

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Books Prices in the EU…Continued

January 3rd, 2015

France and Germany . . .

This is a continuation of my previous post on this issue.

I can’t find any confirmation that the fixed book pricing laws in place in France only apply to books in French. What I find is this explanation of the French law as of 2011:

lesechos.fr

C’est fait : la loi sur le prix unique des e-books a été définitivement adoptée par le Parlement français. Après le Sénat, l’Assemblée nationale a entériné mardi soir, par un vote quasi unanime, la proposition de loi UMP qui autorise un éditeur français à fixer le prix des ouvrages sous format numérique, comme c’est le cas pour le papier. Et cette règle s’appliquera aux libraires en ligne installés en France comme aux revendeurs installés à l’étranger comme Apple, Amazon ou Google. Sur le papier, le dispositif devrait donc réjouir les éditeurs, les libraires et aussi les distributeurs de produits culturels établis en France comme la FNAC qui redoutaient les distorsions de concurrence.

What this says according to my French with a confirmative (sort of) assist from Google translate, is that French PUBLISHERS set the price of their books and that all French booksellers and resellers must abide by that price. It also says that online sellers “settled in France” such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, are also subject to that law. So…. Assume for the moment that I am the publisher of my book on sale in France. I set my price and Apple, Amazon, and Google must comply with that price. Therefore (and I’m not a lawyer anywhere in the world) Apple should not be rounding up my prices in France.

Does this mean that I must give all vendors in France the same price? I see ambiguity on that point. The assumption of the law appears to be that publishers do not want their books discounted ever. There’s some indication that you could discount by no more than 5%.

When I look at Amazon.fr, I can see that the publisher for the French translation of Scandal is listed as J’ai Lu which is, indeed, the company that contracted for French rights to Scandal. My self-published books on Amazon.fr show the publisher as “cJewel Books” which is the imprint name I assigned to the ISBN and gave to Amazon as the publisher.

So…. I would seem to be a publisher in France for the purposes of the price law, which also suggests that I have been thinking about this in a slightly inaccurate way. In France, it’s not that all books must be the same price. It’s that publishers get to set the price and distributors and resellers, including Amazon, must sell the book for that price without discounts.

The law appears to be silent on whether I, as a publisher, can give different prices to different French vendors, because, I speculate, that state of affairs was not the point of the law. The law was intended to prevent discounts on the publisher-set price.

I have to wonder if this means Kobo is out of compliance with French law because it does not permit me, the publisher, to set the French price. I can only set the EU price.

Germany….

Germany has a law that is similar to France’s but also more than a century older. It, too, applies to publishers setting prices. According to this 2004 document from the Legal department of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association German Book Prices – PDF Publishers must provide the same price to all German vendors. From the document (which is in English):

The law is relatively short, as it consists of only 10 articles.
§ 1 reemphasizes that it is the overall intention of this law to protect books as a cultural good.

According to Art. 2 the law applies to all sorts of books, i.e. printed works. This includes not only printed books, but also music notes, cartography products like maps and globes as well as substitutions or reproductions of books.

According to Art. 5 the publisher or importer of a book shall determine the retail price of such book for the German territory. Foreign language books which are almost exclusively sold outside of Germany are not included in the law’s scope of application. (emphasis added)

Art. 3 obliges the vendor of the book to keep this determined price. Any retailer is forced by law to keep the fixed price. Consequently also the publisher himself has to keep its own fixed prices if he sells a book directly to customers. However, the law does not prevent the publisher to change such fixed prices at his discretion. He is free to adjust the applicable fixed prices according to market conditions or any other considerations he may have. (emphasis added)


According to Art. 8 publishers may cancel the fixed price if the edition of one particular book has been published for more than 18 months.

Note the two things I bolded there. Assuming the rules set out in this 2004 document have not changed, my English language version of, say, Scandal, would not be subject to this law. Maybe. Depends how you interpret “almost exclusively sold outside of Germany.” However, my German translations would be subject to this law.

Interesting. But none of this resolves the ambiguity. Nor does any of this solve the Nook problem, or, the Kobo one, or Apple rounding up.

 

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One Size Does Not Fit All – Books Prices in the EU

January 1st, 2015

So.

There’s this whole VAT thing with the EU, where blah blah blah. Pricing difficulties blah blah blah. Rock and a Hard Place.

Short Version

I’m very sorry to say that at Nook, I have set all my books to US only. For now, it won’t be possible to buy Nook versions of my books outside the US. I hate that. Hate. It. But Nook has made it impossible to correctly account for VAT and the laws in certain countries that require book prices to be the same everywhere in that country.

Amazon aggressively prices-matches Nook, including Nook in the UK. I know this because a few weeks ago it took Amazon UK all of 3 hours to price match a Nook UK price change to .99 while Amazon US did not match for a couple of days.

Nook Press does three things that make it impossible to comply with the laws.

1. They require US-based authors to provide a price that does NOT include VAT.
2. They allow only one price for the entire EU
3. You can choose US-only OR all three: US + UK + EU.

This means I cannot be in Nook UK, because that option also puts me in the EU.
This means it is not possible to comply with Fixed Price Laws.
It also means that I can’t be at Nook at all with books where my traditional publisher has only North American rights, but that’s been true forever. I’m just complaining is all.

As an aside, it is also impossible to comply with Nook’s expectation that my Nook prices will not be higher than the prices I set at other vendors.

If I keep my books on sale at Nook with the current state of affairs at Nook Press I would be unable to match my prices across the EU vendors AND I would have different prices at Nook.de, Amazon.de, iBooks de, etc when the law requires them to be the same. The same would be true of France. I would get a nasty-gram from Amazon informing me of the price discrepancies and, since I would be unable to address them, Amazon could either price match or remove my book from sale.

The problem of different German prices (or French etc) is not a price matching issue. This is a regulatory issue, and Amazon is the one who will hear from the German authorities about not complying with German law. Amazon might have to take my book off sale in order to continue doing business in Germany.

(I would expect Nook to be hearing from France and Germany about this when/if those authorities notice that Nook prices are out of compliance, which they will be.)

This is not a risk I wish to take. Since my Nook sales are something like 99% US, I suppose my decision affects only a few readers. (Please contact me if you are one of those readers.)

The Longer Explanation

Three of the major vendors for self-publishing authors, Amazon, iBooks, and Google, make it possible to behave like a normal business and set prices in the various EU countries that account for VAT and also price books to end in .99. I can decide whether I will round down to a .99 price or round up to one. They also allow authors to make sure their prices are the same across vendors where there are fixed price laws for books.

Kobo, for those who are interested, expects US users to provide an EU price that INCLUDES VAT. They also only have one price for the EU, but because it includes VAT, you can, effectively, provide the same VAT-inclusive price everywhere and remain in compliance with German and French laws, assuming you (alas) set the German and French prices to the same VAT-inclusive price everywhere else. Not very fair to the French, where VAT is so much lower, but it’s that or nothing.

Because Nook does not include VAT and also only has one price for the entire EU, there is no way to guarantee the price will be the same where it needs to be.

Kind of Snide Aside

I always wondered why Nook is inflexible about how you sell in countries outside the US. I thought it was peculiar that they said “because of the volume” it could take several weeks for a book to appear on the UK or EU sites. Today, the answer finally kicked me in the shins.

The only reason volume would be an issue for populating a website is if they’re doing it mostly by hand. The beauty of a database driven website is that once you have the webpage talking to the database (waving hands and leaving out the bits about horrific SQL queries) there is little difference between putting one record on a page or 1,000,000,000 records. And even if we’re talking about terrible query performance, the time to render even a million records is minutes and in no possible case is it weeks. The only thing that takes weeks in this scenario is the person you’re paying to put the records into excel. Or worse, the person who is entering the data by hand into the servers located in the EU.

Even Longer Explanation

Basically, if you’re selling books, the laws about how to comply with the taxing and pricing authorities in the European Union just got a lot more complicated. For those who are thinking they’ll just wait for the EU tax authorities to come knocking, I will say that you have misunderstood what could happen. If you are selling your books to the EU via Amazon and the like, you are selling to the EU because those vendors have a presence in the EU. If your book at these vendors is priced such that you jeopardize their compliance with EU laws, they will likely have to remove your book from those countries. So, no, Germany will not collect a euro of VAT from you. But your books are likely to be yanked from all the German vendors so, yes, no VAT paid to Germany, but no one in Germany is buying your books.

Slight Aside

If you are selling books from your website and you sell to residents of the EU without remitting the appropriate VAT to their country of residence, then you will have some exposure there. Probably you could get away with it, but that does not make it ethical to do so. I have no idea what the IRS might say during an audit when you have income from the EU and can’t prove you don’t have to pay State tax on it, perhaps, or maybe, (total speculation here) the IRS would say something like, Hmm. The US has a treaty with Germany in which we agree not to screw each other over taxes. I dunno. I think I don’t want to find out.

Back to the Even Longer Explanation

VAT varies across countries in the EU. Further, in some EU countries, books must be the same price at all places in that country. Thus, if you are selling a book in Germany, that book must be the same price everywhere it’s on sale in Germany. For DIY authors, that means if a book is Euro 2.99 at Amazon.de, it must also be 2.99 at the German iBooks, the German Google, the German Nook, the German Kobo, etc. The same is true in France: same price in France across all French venues.

In the EU, the price shown to purchasers includes VAT.

Now, in Germany, VAT is 19%. Thus, if a book is priced at Euro 2.99 in Germany, after the sale is made .48 goes to the German government, leaving the remainder of 2.51 to be split between the vendor and author. As an author, I care about the part of that 2.99 that does not include VAT because that’s the amount used to calculate my royalty.

In France, VAT is 5.5%. Thus, for a book priced at Euro 2.99, in France, after the sale is made .16 goes to the French government leaving the remainder of 2.83 to be split between the vendor and author.

At Nook, where I am providing ONE VAT exclusive price for the entire EU, that price must have the appropriate VAT added to it, and that VAT rate varies. Suppose I say, OK, my book is $2.99 (American). Google-fu says that’s Euro 2.48. A quick test at Nook gave Euro 2.47. Using 2.47:

Add 19% VAT for Germany and the price is 2.94
Add 5.5 VAT for France and the price is 2.61

Those are stupid prices to show consumers, but they are also prices I cannot guarantee will match the VAT inclusive prices I must give at EVERY OTHER VENDOR.

iBooks rounds up or down to .99 prices. I will NEVER be able to match Nook to Apple. Not ever except by total serendipity.

At Kobo, I give a single VAT INCLUSIVE price. So… which one do I pick at Kobo? iBooks Germany 2.99 or Nook Germany 2.94?

I could change the Nook EU price to 2.51 to give me a Nook Germany price of 2.99 and match Apple, Kobo, Amazon, and Google to that.

But then the French price at Nook becomes 2.65, which at Apple will be rounded up to 2.99 and …. boom. Not in compliance with French law. This is true as long as I have books on sale at Nook EU.

And that is why I no longer have books on sale at Nook EU. This is complicated enough as it is. Heck, I’m not even confident yet that I have managed to price everything as required, because I will tell you, iBooks did some crazy ass shit with prices that scares me, and Amazon’s VAT adjustment resulted in two of my US prices being raised. That’s not supposed to happen. But I know it did because a couple months ago I used Amazon’s pricing tool to reset some prices, which I logged so I could keep track, and also conformed at other vendors where Amazon recommended a price decrease (because I didn’t want to gouge others) and today, two of those Amazon books were back to the higher US price and therefore MORE than the price at other vendors.

::sigh::

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New Cover for Free Fall!

December 31st, 2014

I have a new cover for Free Fall, my My Immortals novella. I spiffied up the inside, too. Here’s the new cover:

Cover of Free Fall featuring a hot Asian demon

Cover of Free Fall

About Free Fall

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