Sunday, June 30, 2013

Legal roundup.

When I was in paralegal school, I learned that the progress of a lawsuit is an elegant dance. If you've ever watched a courtroom drama, you've seen it how it works.  The plaintiff -- the person with the grievance -- first files a complaint against the defendant -- the person the plaintiff is mad at.  The next step in most cases is for the defendant to file an answer to the complaint.  But sometimes the defendant will file a motion to dismiss, in an effort to get the whole thing thrown out of court before it goes any further.

Back in April, a group of authors who contracted for services with Author Solutions' vanity press imprints filed suit against the company.  Fortuitously, Author Solutions had just been bought by Penguin, so the authors are suing Penguin, too.  The authors want $5 million in damages, and they also want the court to grant the case class action status -- which means any settlement would, in theory, benefit any author who has ever had a contract with an Author Solutions company.  (I say "in theory" because class actions have a history of enriching the plaintiffs' lawyers while netting very little for the actual plaintiffs.)

Early last week, to nobody's surprise, Author Solutions filed a motion to dismiss.  In the motion, the company pooh-poohed the lawsuit as "a misguided attempt to make a federal class action out of a series of gripes" and suggested the authors file individual lawsuits against the company if they think Author Solutions violated the terms of their contracts.

At the same time, Author Solutions asked the court to sever Penguin from the lawsuit, saying the authors don't accuse Penguin of any misconduct.  That's true enough; as far as I can tell, the only "misconduct" on Penguin's part was buying this mess of a company without due consideration of exactly what they were getting into bed with.

No ruling on the motion yet.  Stay tuned.

Interestingly enough, the judge in the Author Solutions case is Denise Cote, who heard closing arguments on June 20th in the Apple e-book price-fixing case.  Apple continued to maintain that it had no idea the publishers were talking to one another, and that it had no intention of fixing prices.  For its part, the Justice Department told the court that not only had it established Apple's involvement in the price-fixing deal, but that it was a "per se" violation of U.S. antitrust law -- a violation so egregiously clear that the judge would have no choice but to find Apple guilty.

A verdict is expected within a few weeks.  That likely won't be the end of it -- whichever side wins, the other is likely to appeal.  But regardless, Judge Cote's decision should make interesting reading.

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Guys, I have been horribly remiss.  Way back in February or so, I said that I would mention when the finalists were announced for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, even if I didn't get that far in the contest.  Well, I didn't, and I forgot all about it.  And now there's a winner.  So a round of applause, if you please, for Rysa Walker, whose novel Timebound was the winner of this year's contest.  It's apparently her first book -- a YA fantasy, which means it ought to appeal to some of you guys.

As for me...there's always next year, right?

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer supermoon musings.

I'm feeling kind of free and easy tonight.  The Annealed blog tour is done (and thanks to those of you who followed along); I've unpacked from vacation, paid the bills, bought groceries for the week (usually that gets rolled over into Monday night...), and finished two vacation scrapbooks in two weekends.  Yes!  Both the Danube cruise scrapbook and the Alaska scrapbook are done!  I had no idea how much those books were weighing me down until I finished the Alaska book today.  Whew.

I mean, I still have to clean the bathroom and do laundry.  But with the scrapbooks finished, I feel like there might be light at the end of the tunnel.

Hmm, maybe it's the supermoon.  Tonight's full moon is the largest of the year, because the moon is the closest it will be to Earth for more than a year.  Okay, so it's not the humongous moon that you see photoshopped into calendars, or into web graphics like the one on the left.  But still, there's a difference in size -- even if you can't see it with the naked eye.  I found a website that has a nice comparison of the March 2011 supermoon with a regular ol' full moon in 2010. To see it, click here and scroll down the page.  Kind of cool, huh?

Maybe my ease is due to the supermoon plus the summer solstice this past Friday.  We haven't had a terribly hot summer yet in DC -- just one big heat wave so far, which I cleverly managed to escape by being in Alaska that week -- and I'm hoping it stays that way.  Fingers crossed....

Or maybe clearing away all these other tasks is freeing up space in my brain to start plotting the next series.  I can tell you that it will be set in the same universe as the Pipe Woman Chronicles, but a few years after the Big Mediation.  I have written a little bit, but I'm hesitant to post any of it because it's early days and the story might change a fair amount.  The only thing I'm committed to, apparently, is that there will be a cat, or cats, in this series.  My daughter Kitty insists on it.  So there you go.  More news as it develops.

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Let's see, thanks and congrats:  Congrats to Froggarita of Froggarita's Bookcase, who won the complete set of Pipe Woman Chronicles e-books!  And many, many thanks to those of you who downloaded copies of Seized during my summer solstice promotion on Amazon.  Enjoy!

(Psst: I'll be giving away the other books in the series this summer, too.  Watch my Facebook page for dates and details.)

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So that's pretty much it for now.  I guess I'll go start the laundry.  Maybe I'll even get to bed at a decent hour tonight....  Nah.  I don't want to do anything rash....

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Monday, June 17, 2013

The only thing inevitable is change.

I just finished another marathon, but this one was for a different sort of book: It's a scrapbook of my trip to Europe last year.  I've been meaning to get to it for months, but the Pipe Woman Chronicles kind of got in the way.  But I knew I had to do it soon, so I could start on the scrapbook for the Alaska trip before I start to forget details the way I have for the Europe trip.  (The journaling part of this scrapbook would have been a lot richer if I'd done it sooner.)

Scrapbooking is an obsession with some people; they take pictures of every milestone of their lives or their kids' lives, and put them in a scrapbook by month, date, and event and/or holiday.  I never had it that bad.  When I got into it, I promised myself that I would only do scrapbooks for my vacation pictures -- and I have stuck to that (except for one catchall book for my obsession with Colorado).

But when I started working on this latest book, I realized that I might as well start using up all the precut papers and stickers and things that I'd been hoarding for "another scrapbook someday," because I only have one more vacation destination on my bucket list.  So after the Alaska book is done, I plan to do only one more scrapbook.  That's not to say that I'll never do another one, ever; I certainly don't plan to stop going on vacations, and I may someday take another trip that requires memorializing in scrapbook format.

But making a scrapbook -- at least a dead-tree, cut-up-and-mat-actual-photos scrapbook -- is time-consuming.  And it needs a lot of working room.  This weekend, my dining room table was covered with packs of colored papers, a small cutting mat and templates, my little paper cutter, markers, stickers (alphabet and other), paper punches, scissors, pens for journaling, and my notes. (Yes, I outline my scrapbooks, too.) I had so much crap spread out on the table that I had to put the photos on the kitchen counter (in stacks, sorted by city).  It's not the sort of thing you can easily pack away and haul out again next time, all neatly organized. Hence, the weekend marathon.

And people take so many pictures now.  It's easy with a digital camera -- you just click away and dump the duds immediately.  My friend and I took upwards of 600 photos in Europe.  Alaska won't be as bad; I only have 240 pictures. Heh -- only 240 pictures. In the old days, I would have shot only two or three 36-exposure rolls, and probably a quarter to a third of them would have been unusable, which I wouldn't know 'til I got the photos back from the drug store a week later.  It's a lot easier to put together a scrapbook from 60 pictures than it is from 600, let me tell you.

An acquaintance who has a home-based business selling scrapbooking supplies recently sent out an e-mail that talked about this.  She says a lot of people have just given up on making scrapbooks -- their pictures are on multiple devices and it's just too hard to organize them.  And she's talking about digital scrapbooks, too, not just the dead-tree ones I keep making because I have all this paper to use up.

It reminded me a little of a post on Laurie Boris's blog this week, in which she talked about the tools she used as a beginning graphic artist and how they're all obsolete now that computer graphics are the thing.  I commented that radio is the same way for me -- I got out of the business just as digital editing was coming in, and I would have to retrain if I wanted to go back into it. Not only are my grease-pencil-and-razor-blade skills rusty, they're obsolete.

Now even my hobbies are becoming obsolete.  Good thing my bucket list is getting shorter.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

We have a bit of old business to discuss before I get to the travelogue.  Congrats to Rich Meyer, who won the Navajo dreamcatcher and the Amazon gift card!  Rich, I've e-mailed you -- check your spam folder if you don't see it.

Everybody, thanks for participating, and thanks for helping to make the launch of Annealed a big success!  I'm on virtual tour right now, courtesy of the Finishing Faeries, who have set up an amazing bunch of stops.  Check the "Tour Dates" tab for the schedule, and to catch up on any posts you missed.  (If y'all want to see my Bumble, say so in the comments and I'll post a picture of him next week.  And if you're wondering what I'm talking about, go read my guest post at today's stop.)

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One of the joys of going on vacation is inflicting your photos on your friends when you get home, right?  And we're all friends here, right?  So allow me to bore you with some scenes from my trip to Alaska last week.   

Just don't expect to see a bunch of shots of wildlife.  I am not a wildlife photographer by any stretch of the imagination.  While I saw many tourists with fancy DSLRs with lenses the length of a fencepost, and a tripod or two, the only camera I had was the one in my iPhone.  So because you'd have to take it on faith anyway that that dot of color waaaaay off in the distance is the animal that I say it is, I won't insist that you suffer through any of my wildlife photos.

I'll start off with a picture of my dinner table in the bistro car on the Alaska Railroad, coming back to Anchorage from Seward after the wildlife-watching catamaran cruise.  I saw plenty of wildlife -- a sea otter, puffins, sea lions on rocks, whales, and so on -- but my pictures suck (see above).  And anyway, I spent a good chunk of the cruise hung over the rail at the stern, parting with my lunch.  So let's settle for this shot of my turkey sandwich with a view.
From Anchorage, I drove north to Denali National Park.  On the way, I had to stop and get a picture of the post office in Cantwell, Alaska.  Yes, it's a real town, about 30 miles south of Denali on the Parks Highway.  I've known of its existence since I was a kid; Dad would pull out the atlas every now and then and fantasize, I suppose, of driving to Alaska, and he would always mention Cantwell.  So of course, I had to stop and get a picture.  Dad would've been so proud....

I stayed at a hostel about 14 miles south of Denali.  I had a cabin to myself beside a rushing stream.  The kitchen was in a separate building, and the bathrooms and showers were in another.  Having to walk to the shower house is a little inconvenient first thing in the morning -- or in the middle of the night -- but no worse than the campgrounds I've stayed at.  And the middle-of-the-night thing wasn't as bad as it sounds; it was close enough to the summer solstice that it never really got dark.  And hey, the bathrooms were heated, and they had real plumbing.  And it was worth it for this view out my cabin door -- the creek, the snow-capped mountains, the cobblestone path, the scavenged antler bolted to the door as a handle, the mosquitoes as big as a quarter....
Anyway.  I need to brag a bit here.  The peak of Mt. McKinley -- which the Alaskan Natives call Denali, or "the big one" -- is 20,320 feet above sea level.  It's the highest mountain in North America.  So it has a few quirks, one of which is its micro-climate.  In other words, it makes its own weather systems, and it's often hidden behind clouds.  Only 30% of visitors to Denali National Park actually get to see the peak (or peaks -- Mt. McKinley has two). But somehow, I got lucky and picked the right day to visit.  That's Denali in the distance, snow-covered and framed between two closer mountains, and already starting to build the cloud cover that enshrouded it not long afterward.

The sign says, "Imagine this at 40 below!"
Next,I drove north from Denali to Fairbanks.  From there, I endured a seventeen-hour round trip on a bus to get to the Arctic Circle, thereby joining the 4% of Alaska visitors who have gotten to the Arctic.  Well, "endured" is perhaps too strong a word; the bus was perfectly comfortable and I brought my knitting.  But our route followed the Dalton Highway. The word "highway" in relation to the Dalton is, I think, a little Alaskan joke -- it's a two-lane dirt road for much of the distance.  And the rest stops (here's an example) were, um, somewhat primitive.  But we got there! Our driver rolled out a little red carpet, bisected with a dotted white line, for us, so we could say we crossed the circle.  And then we had tundra cake (chocolate chocolate chip Bundt cake) with "perma-frosting" (whipped cream).  The real permafrost is a big concern when building anything in Alaska, and a great deal of precise engineering was required for the construction of the Trans Alaskan Pipeline, which parallels the Dalton.

I also got to hang out for a day with Cabin Goddess Kriss Morton, who took great pride in showing me the real Fairbanks -- including where to get a bacon Bloody Mary, and where the yarn shops are.  No more needs to be said about that.

So I've been to the wilds of Alaska and lived to tell about it.  And I get one more claim to fame out of this trip -- go me!
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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gone fishin' or something.

See ya next week, when I will have tales of the Frozen North for you.

In the meantime, don't forget -- the contest for the dreamcatcher runs 'til Friday.

And if you're still at sixes and sevens, you can check out my new website.  Thanks to Kai Wilson for its general awesomeness!