Weekend thoughts…

Statistically, any day could be a bad news day: the phone rings and a few seconds later your life’s crossed a threshold from which there’s no going back.  And, statistically, the older you get and the older the people around you get, the better the odds are that any particular call will be that call.

Lately, by which I mean since Bob died in 2008, it seems I’ve been getting a couple every month and I almost got one today.

The phone rang about 5:30, which was a little unusual in and of itself – my usual crop of politicians, solicitors, and misguided debt collectors only call at dinner time during the week; on weekends they tend to call around eight in the morning.  It was my mom.  She sounded fine—and sometimes she sounds weary—but she told me I probably should sit down.  And I did, though it was more like I contracted into the nearest chair.  She hastened to tell me that she was, indeed, fine but that she’d been in a car accident.

Mom and Dad live in a very nice community just off US Highway 441 in Tavares.  When they moved there in 1980, you could practically go bowling each day out on Highway 441, but that’s changed now.  441 is six lanes now and while just about every place lays claim to the worst drivers in the country, I think Lake County might actually have them.  When Jane and CJ came to visit, they watched as the driver at the next gas pump, dragged himself out of the driver’s seat and down the length of his car, clearly a stroke victim, completely paralyzed on one side—with all that that means for depth perception and peripheral vision.  Jane and CJ were agog, but I scarcely blinked—that’s an ordinary sight on Highway 441.

It’s the kind of road that drives you crazy and brings out the worst in every driver – including me and, today, apparently, including my mom.  She was trying to make a left, which means crossing the three southbound lanes (never mind that they’re actually going due east), holing up in the median cut, then merging into the northbound lanes (which are going due west…love driving that road at sunset).  And, somehow, she overlooked a semi in the outside lane and merged into its second axle – the rear wheels of the cab.

Somehow, she got the car back onto the median (from which I infer that it wasn’t so badly crumpled that its tires were no longer in contact with the ground).

And she’s not hurt.  Embarrassed, but not hurt.

And I’m blogging rather than doing any of a great number of things that I’m really not looking forward to at all.

But a semi–   The mind boggles, and cringes.  I don’t think I’m going to sleep well tonight.

All in all, I’d rather have had a replay of last weekend’s crisis.  That was when we lost Jane’s email archive.  Seems she’d been archiving all her email (and all the Closed Circle email!) on the server and in the midst of trying to tamp down Carolyn’s spam torrent, I missed the warning messages (assuming there were warning messages) that her archive had grown larger than its server-space.  She sent me this very plaintive message—did I have any idea why she couldn’t access her email archive?

I didn’t…until I looked at the server directories, then I did a swift OMG, ‘cause her account was gone, gone, gone.  Fortunately, I had access to a full system backup of everything on our server.  Once I got it downloaded, I started picking it apart.  Ultimately, I found the missing archives and restored them (along with her email account which now has infinite storage!) 

But it took a while and while I was working I apparently forgot to move because when I finally stood up I had a stabbing pain above my left hip.  Ibuprofen didn’t touch it and I thought I’d done something not only stupid but serious.  It’s still stupid, but it’s not serious: I managed to pull a groin muscle while sitting!  For several days, I asked myself, How did I do that? all while grumbling to myself that it wasn’t really getting better.  On Wednesday it dawned on me (one of those “dawn broke over the universe” moments) that the problem was my computer chair—my beloved Balans chair in which I’ve been kneeling for nearly thirty years.

Balans

I don’t know whether the fault lies with the chair or with my body (a bit of both, I suspect), but I rolled the Balans aside and sat myself down in a spare dining-room chair.  The dining-room chair brought instant misery to my back, but my groin stopped hurting immediately.  So I went on a quest for a new computer chair.  I guess I’m glad that there are so many more choices now, but I lost hours figuring out what all the adjectives meant.  After sitting in every chair at the local Office Depot, I concluded that I wanted (needed?) a mid-back chair with forward-tilt adjustment and a waterfall seat (waterfall seat???  Who knew???)  None of the available local chairs worked for me, so I’ve ordered one from Amazon.  It had gotten as far as Jacksonville by midnight last night and should be here, ready to assemble, on Monday.

In the meantime—and for the first time in a long, long time—I’m having ration my at-the-computer time, which meant I didn’t get to alert everyone to the shout-out that Closed Circle got on Tele-Reads last Thursday.  It’s an interesting article, worth reading even without Closed Circle.  We’ve moved into the next round of the publishing Kerfluffle – now an agent has their authors’ backlists and given them exclusively to Amazon.  I’ll have more thoughts to share about this…once I’ve assembled the new chair…

I’m Impressed…and a bit taken aback

Jeff Bezos made an announcement a little while ago…

Amazon.com Now Selling More Kindle Books Than Hardcover Books

Since we started Closed Circle, my best guess had been that e-readers like Kindle were going to wipe out the market for mass-market books before they dented hardcovers.  I’d focused on the notion that while the Kindle and its kin have their flaws as a single-book replacement, they offer unprecedented options for the multi-book reader/collector who wants to have it ALL right here, right now.  I thought the convenience would more than make up for the fact that some publishers have pegged their ebook prices above their mass market prices—because that’s how it’s been working for me.

I don’t buy many hardcovers, so I don’t understand that mindset.  I figured that people who buy hardcovers value the premium experience of having books that don’t need bookends on their shelves and that they’d be resistant to ebooks.  But virtually all ebooks are priced ‘way below the hardcover.  Even if I was right about the hardcover mindset, it appears that economic pressures are ruling the day

An interesting analysis of the “agency model”

Random House vs. Apple’s iPad: Stall Tactics Only Hurt Authors, Sales

with thanks to Elaine—who always enjoys legal humor

Administrivia – Part 2

I have been remiss.  A week or so ago, at the height of the Amazon/Macmillan kerfluffle, a commenter pointed out that nowhere here at Face of Chaos did I take the time to identify myself nor had I done anything to satisfy a newcomer’s curiosity about my storytelling.

I took steps to seal both those loopholes, then promptly developed massive allergy symptoms and forgot highlight them.

So….in case you hadn’t noticed….

All posts are now coming from Lynn Abbey instead of Lynn and I’ve added PAGES to my blog header.

Click on the “About” tab at the top of the page and you’ll find my “3rd Person” biography.  As writing assignments go, writing about myself ranks down there with revising the tax code, but it covers the basics.

The second tab “Bibliography / 1st Chapters” is cut-and-paste from my website lynnabbey.com.  It’s a collection of links to the “my books” pages I created back when static websites were the new kids on the block.  Aesthetically, they’re pretty dated now, but just about every book I’ve written has a web page where I wrote a short essay about the book and then displayed the first chapter in HTML format. 

Turning those HTML chapters into e-readable downloads is one of the many items beneath the round tuit on my desk, but, in the meantime, if anyone wants to sample my fiction….

(I am, by the bye, nearing completion of the OCR clean-up of Daughter of the Bright Moon . By Sunday, I expect to be exploring the mysteries of ToC creation and format conversion.   Fingers crossed, but by mid-week, I might actually have a novel (!) for sale over at Closed Circle )

And, finally—during the kerfluffle the Teleread blog posted links to some of posts.  I’d not heard of them before, but they’ve quickly become a preferred source for news and opinion regarding the rise of digital prose and ereaders. I don’t agree with everything I’ve read there, but I’ve found Teleread to be have consistently interesting original material and to be a good aggregator of other pertinent articles and posts.

Since they were nice to me.  I’m adding them to my blogroll and recommending that you click on over….

Stray thoughts

I don’t think there’s been such an interesting (in that proverbial Chinese-curse sense) or exciting time in the publishing industry.  Movable type, maybe, but that didn’t occur against the backdrop of the Internet and it’s possible that the scriptorium monks weren’t all that heartbroken about losing their jobs.

I’ve tucked up a half-dozen meaty articles for deep reading that hasn’t happened yet.

Here is a sample of my to-be-read stuff:

Apple’s disruption of the ebook market has nothing to do with the tablet

What Should an E-book Cost?

Why do people want more expensive backlist books?

Friday Midday Links: Pricing Debate Continues

Maybe we should be hurting the authors

Piracy. Is. Stealing.

The Futile Struggle Against Free Content

Hachette Increasing eBook Pricing on Amazon

Hachette Announces Agency Model, Simultaneous Releases; Guild Says Macmillan Will Be at 25%

Another New Data Set on eReading

Discussing Ideas to Help Stores Survive

and

It’s an Amazon-Eat-Buy-Button World Out There

Looks like I’m going to be reading for a while.  But my initial speed-reading pass snagged this from an uncredited comment on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish (yeah, this is going around the political blogs, ‘cause they’ve all written books.  It’s strange-bedfellow time.)

A nameless reader says:

Bunch, willfully or not, ignores the fact that while the intellectual property laws — and this goes beyond music and even beyond copyright into patent law — were intended to protect the creation of intellectual property, they have come to be used largely to protect the distribution of intellectual property.  At some point in the life of a creation — and we can have a legitimate argument about when that point is reached — the distribution of a work becomes divorced from its creation.

The reader has seeded my thought clouds.  I felt it in my gut yesterday when Sargent/Macmillan blithely wrote of “our intellectual property,” the laws I’ve always thought were supposed to protect me have been co-opted by entities that view me as a commodity.

Pronoun Problems (Macmillan Again)

The kerfluffle has gone another round.  John Sargent, CEO at Macmillan, has penned an open letter to Macmillan authors and illustrators, with a CC to literary agents.

Already I’m confused.  All agents?  Just those agents with clients at Macmillan?  There is a difference.  But, since I’m definitely a Macmillan author, whose Amazon buttons have yet to reappear, I kept reading…

Over the last few years we have been deeply concerned about the pricing of electronic books. That pricing, combined with the traditional business model we were using, was creating a market that we believe was fundamentally unbalanced.  In the last three weeks, from a standing start we have moved to a new business model. We will make less money on the sale of e books, but we will have a stable and rational market. To repeat myself from last Sunday’s letter, we will now have a business model that will ensure our intellectual property will be available digitally through many channels, at a price that is both fair to the consumer and that allows those who create and publish it to be fairly compensated.

About that “we,” Mr. Sargent….  Exactly who are the “we” who’ve been deeply concerned, who’ve moved from a standing start to a new business model in just three weeks!?  I assumed, through the first four sentences, that “we” was “you”—corporate Macmillan—rather than “us”—because why else would you be sending me a letter.

Then I hit the fifth sentence:  …”our intellectual property”…

I checked, just to make certain, but there it is on the title page verso – copyright 2006 / Lynn Abbey.  Rifkind’s Challenge is MY intellectual property.  It is licensed to Macmillan/TOR under a contract that sometimes feels like indentured servitude (or maybe like the old Hollywood studio/contract system).  License is not quite the same as ownership.

But, by golly, they’re going to be fair to “those who create.”

These are the good guys?

Is it any wonder I’m confused…and just a teeny bit skeptical?

Back in the Dark Ages—the mid 70s, the post Star-Wars period when Hollywood started optioning SF—the wise words were: Get all your money up front; and if that doesn’t work never, ever take a share of net anything, especially profits.

So, now I’m back to thinking about that Wall Street Journal article I linked to few days back.  Macmillan’s got the same problem…a problem they can partially solve by sweetening current/future contracts and then offering to sprinkle the same sweetner on old contracts…all in the name of fairness….toward the creators of their intellectual property.

Yeah, there are going to be problems. Somebody’s going to have to come up with the publishing equivalent of United Artists.  UA didn’t change the game because they won an anti-trust suit against the system; they did it by beating the system at its own game