That would be a good thing

16 April 2018

That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.

Dorothy Parker

Kindle Previewer: New and (really!) Improved

16 April 2018

From JW Manus:

I’ve been using Amazon’s Kindle Previewer app ever since I started formatting ebooks. Have to say, I was never much impressed with it. It had some useful features and it was a quick way to convert an epub file into a mobi file, and a sort of quick way to convert a Word doc into a mobi file so I could load it onto a Kindle or tablet. As for viewing a book on the computer? Forget it. It looked awful and the screen size couldn’t be adjusted. For some tasks it was essential, but I never fully trusted it to give me a hundred percent true rendering of my ebooks.

Then I got a brand new computer and when I downloaded the Kindle Previewer, I got the newest version.

And oh my God, Amazon, what have you done?

. . . .

For those of you, my dear readers, with a Do-It-Yourself frame of mind, this version also converts Word docs. No more need for converting the doc first in MobiPocket and then converting the prc file. Click File > Open Book and select a Word doc and the program will convert it into a mobi file. It won’t be a commercial quality ebook and it won’t build the internal navigation guide, but it does allow you to check your styling and the mobi file can be loaded onto your Kindle or tablet for proofreading.

Link to the rest at JW Manus

Writing in the Public Eye, These Women Brought the 20th Century Into Focus

16 April 2018

From Smithsonian:

“So there you are” read the kicker on Dorothy Parker’s first, somewhat hesitant review as the newly appointed theatre critic for Vanity Fair. An exploration into musical comediesthe article ran 100 years ago this month—a full two years before American women had the right to vote, when female voices in the public sphere were few and far between. It wouldn’t take long, just a few more articles, for Parker’s voice to transform into the confident, piercing wit for which she’s now famous.

In her new book, Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion (April 10, Grove Atlantic), author Michelle Dean mixes biography, history and criticism to examine how female intellects and critics of the 20th century, like Parker, carved out a space for themselves at a time when women’s opinions weren’t entirely welcome in the national conversation. What drew readers to these women, and what sometimes what repelled them, was their sharpness. As Dean described in an interview, it’s a tone that proved “most successful at cutting through a male-dominated atmosphere of public debate.”

Dedicating individual chapters to each of the ten women she profiles, and a few to illustrate their overlap, Dean lays out a constellation of political thinkers and cultural critics. Often, these women are seen as separate from one another, but the book puts them in conversation with each other. After all, several of the women “knew each other or had personal connections, or wrote about the same things at the same times, or often reviewed each other,” Dean said. Parker leads the pack because, as Dean explained, she was “somebody everybody had to define themselves against…the type of writer that they represent wouldn’t exist without her.”

The role of the 20th century public intellectual to shape political discourse, and that of the critic to define and assess the national culture was primarily dominated by men, from Saul Bellow to Dwight MacDonald to Edmund Wilson. The women Dean covers used their intellect to stake out a place for themselves in the conversation and on the pages of major magazines like The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books where the American public first got to know them. These publications offered the women of Sharp a place to explore and defend their ideas, including Hannah Arendt’s “the banality of evil,” inspired by her reporting on the trial of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann and the concept of “camp” aesthetics, first codified by Susan Sontag in the Partisan Review. They critiqued the merits of each other’s work—in the New York Review of Books, Renata Adler tore apart Pauline Kael’s film criticism—and inspired new writers—a young Kael remembered being struck by the protagonist of Mary McCarthy’s novel, The Company She Keeps. Ultimately, these women influenced the conversation on topics that ranged from politics, film, photography, psychoanalysis to feminism, to name just a few.

Link to the rest at Smithsonian

Why I Don’t Write About the Women in My Family

16 April 2018

From The Literary Hub:

It is a fact universally known that in Lima, if you are a lady of beauty, you are likely to be a whore. I learned this when I was around 13, and my mother was obsessed with me being a lady of the night, too. She liked to check my pockets to see if I had extra money, money I couldn’t account for, a domestic IRS of my little, never-been-kissed vagina. But I digress.

I’ve been wanting to write about the women in my family for some time, but haven’t known where to start. I’ve always located them in a 19th-century rural world of dusty roads and wooden carts, like the ones carrying the 13-year-old prostitute Eréndira and her abuela desalmada in the Gabriel García Márquez story. Their Peruvian lives ooze a vague Vargas Llosa air, but the places they hailed from would have been irrespirable for his bourgeoisie. Melchora, my great-grandmother, was a native of Huánuco, a small village at the center of the Andean plain, a yellow world trapped between jungle and mountains. She couldn’t read or write, though it really didn’t matter; she spoke Quechua, and Quechua is a spoken language—its real life exists between mouths and ears, though it can be transcribed. Melchora loved going to the movies and yelling at the screen, especially at the villains: You are as ugly as your deeds! Melchora married an Irishman, Byrne, who beat her frequently and was drunk all the time. Eventually he left, and Melchora moved to La Victoria, a shoddy neighborhood in Lima, along with her two daughters, Olga and Ana, and a retarded little boy, Pepe.

Ana was the prettiest: by the time she was 12 a line of suitors had already formed in front of her. Men came to the house and offered their charms and gifts: platters of carne seca, furniture, ham, jewelry. Ana loved dressing up and dancing. She was wispy at the waist, she had wide Bambi eyes, and she loved getting dolled up in capri pants to dance boleros at the Lima clubs. Sometimes she wore jasmine in her hair like La flor de la Canela, a bolero heroine, the Madonna of the Rímac. She enjoyed the vanity of the temptress; she had fun with it.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub


Supreme Court Weighs Widening States’ Reach on Online Sales Taxes

16 April 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Billions of dollars of goods sold each year by independent merchants on and other online marketplaces would be vulnerable to state sales taxes for the first time if justices decide to reverse a quarter-century-old precedent in a case before the Supreme Court this week.

In the case, South Dakota is seeking to overturn a longtime precedent under which states can’t require retailers to collect sales taxes unless the companies have a physical presence in the state. While Inc. itself collects sales taxes on its own products, it does not on most others’ sales through its platform.

. . . .

The current tax rules—from the era of mail-order catalogs—helped fuel the rise of internet commerce and spurred frustration among brick-and-mortar retailers, shopping-mall owners and state governments.

Tax and legal experts expect the court to overturn the precedent, freeing states to collect levies on future cross-state transactions. It isn’t clear what new standard might take its place or what rules states might impose.

. . . .

The biggest effects would be felt on online marketplaces, where between $3.9 billion and $6.2 billion in taxes could have been collected on goods sold by smaller vendors in 2017, according to the Government Accountability Office.

. . . .

The 1992 opinion, in the case of Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, held that the Constitution’s commerce clause limited interstate tax enforcement without congressional assent. Justice John Paul Stevens said it was up to Congress to set nationwide rules for cross-border sales-tax enforcement, but Congress hasn’t done so.

. . . .

State governments and brick-and-mortar shops argue the 1992 precedent harms state treasuries and disadvantages taxpaying homegrown businesses. In a related case three years ago, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted for the Quill ruling in 1992, filed a concurring opinion suggesting the time had come to reconsider the question. South Dakota quickly enacted a tax statute designed to give the high court such an opportunity.

The state sued Wayfair, an online home-goods retailer, and other larger internet-based sellers. The South Dakota Supreme Court sided with Wayfair under the 1992 precedent, and the state then appealed. Wayfair says it collects and remits taxes on about 80% of its sales.

States, large retailers, shopping-center owners and the Trump administration want the court to let states extend sales-tax collections to online merchants based elsewhere. They argue that technological advances made the physical-presence standard set out in the 1992 precedent obsolete and that the ruling has left holes on Main Streets and in government budgets.

South Dakota asks the court to extend state authority over merchants with an “economic presence” in their territory, arguing that it is a better reflection of business ties to a state than the 20th century “physical presence” standard. The South Dakota law would extend the collection mandate to sellers doing at least $100,000 of business or conducting more than 200 transactions with state residents.

. . . .

Conservatives and online retailers warn about expanded state power and fear states would reach outside their borders to audit sellers with no representation.

. . . .

“A world in which state tax power is unbounded by geography is undoubtedly a world that is bad for Amazon,” said Andrew Moylan, executive vice president at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, which wants the court to preserve the physical-presence standard.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG says the original 1992 Quill decision was and is well-founded.

The Commerce Clause of the US Constitution is found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”

The Commerce Clause has usually been held to grant Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce and to restrict the regulatory powers of the states with respect to interstate commerce. The restrictions on state regulation are sometimes described as the Dormant Commerce Clause.

The particular concerns underlying the Dormant Commerce Clause is to prevent states from making laws that discriminate against interstate commerce. Specific types of legislation that provide benefits to in-state businesses that give them advantages over those located outside the state have regularly been prohibited.

One of the rationales for previously prohibiting the collection of sales taxes on businesses located outside of the state is that the benefits of sales taxes were bestowed inside the state, not on any business outside the state. Third party delivery services like UPS that deliver products from out-of-state sellers to buyers inside of a state pay all the taxes associated with their in-state activities.

Additionally, every state with which PG is familiar imposes a Use Tax at the same rate as the state’s sales tax upon state residents who purchase good from a vendor outside the state that doesn’t collect in-state sales taxes. The idea is that the in-state resident who benefits from state services will pay a tax for using an out-state product or service in the state and the state won’t be shorted on tax revenues.

Actually collecting use taxes from local voters tends to be bad politics, however, so to the best of PG’s knowledge, few states attempt to collect such taxes from their own residents, restricting use tax enforcement to large businesses.

Proponents of sales taxes also argue that computer software makes the calculation and collection of sales taxes on a nation-wide basis easy to implement.

Unfortunately, state sales tax laws are often quite complex with a variety of different sales tax rates on different products. Different localities within a state have differing rates as well. Towns and cities can impose additional sales taxes for sales made within their borders. In some geographic areas, local businesses are required to collect sales tax surcharges to support local public transit services and in other areas, no surcharges are imposed.

While sales tax laws that specifically discriminate against businesses outside of a state by, for example, charging a higher sales tax rate to out-state businesses than on in-state businesses would probably still not pass constitutional muster, but differing enforcement treatment for out-state businesses could provide a defacto surcharge for such businesses.

State taxing authorities have a variety of sales tax enforcement methods and the power to impose fines and penalties for noncompliance. For example, those authorities can conduct audits of business records to ensure compliance with sales tax laws.

If a small New Hampshire home-based craft business decided to move away from Etsy and set up its own website to provide better service and make higher profits, how can that business effectively deal with a sales tax audit in Hawaii? Such audits may require the seller to appear with all its sales records at an in-state tax enforcement office.

PG also suggests that requiring online businesses to collect sales taxes will tend to drive them sell through large businesses like Amazon rather than build their own online service and distribution system. Such behavior will tend to reduce competition for large and established incumbents. The next Jeff Bezos might be discouraged from starting a new Amazon because of the additional complexities involved in tax collection and compliance.

Consumers might also be harmed to a larger extent than the cost of paying sales taxes to out-state sellers. PG suggests that it would not be difficult for online businesses to geo-fence visitors to their websites so purchasers from high-tax/difficult compliance states pay a higher sales price (in addition to sales taxes) for the additional hassle for the seller of dealing with the taxing authorities of their states.

For more information written to be understood by non-lawyers, see the website of the Legal Information Institute, sponsored by Cornell University School of Law.

The Billion-Dollar Romance Fiction Industry Has A Diversity Problem

15 April 2018

From National Public Radio:

The romance genre is a juggernaut that continues unabated.

It’s a billion-dollar industry that outperforms all other book genres, and it’s remarkably innovative, with a strong tradition of independent and self-publishing.

It’s also an industry that’s been grappling with a diversity problem. The RITA Award, the top honor for romance writers awarded by the Romance Writers of America, was awarded this week, and the organization acknowledged that in its 36-year history, no black author has ever won the prize. According to the RWA’s own research, black authors have written less than half of 1 percent of the total number of books considered as prize finalists.

“It is impossible to deny that this is a serious issue and that it needs to be addressed,” said the organization in a statement. “Educating everyone about these statistics is the first step in trying to fix this problem. We know there are no perfect solutions but ignoring the issue is that not acceptable.” There’s certainly no lack of black readership: A Pew Research survey from 2014 found that the person most likely to read a book of any genre is a college-educated black woman.

Alisha Rai, the south Asian author of the three-part Forbidden Hearts series and nearly a dozen other romance novels, has been reading and writing the genre since she was a teenager. She tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro about her own experience with readers, publishers and writing about race.

. . . .

On systemic issues in the genre

I’ve heard horror stories from other authors [of color] about, you know, sitting at a table at the RWA national conference and people who are there will get up and walk away from them. In a lot of ways, it’s like going to a water cooler and being turned away from that water cooler. And when you’re in this industry, it’s a very solitary life. We write, and we keep to ourselves in a lot of ways; we’re a little bit like hermits. And this is our way to see our colleagues, is to go to these meetings and conferences. When you feel like you’re not a part of it, it’s very demoralizing.

The organization is composed of so many people, it is hard to get everybody together and moving in the same position, and I understand that progress can be slow. … This is the first year that I’ve even joined RWA, because I felt sort of a tentative hope that maybe we are moving forward, maybe I wouldn’t feel so left out constantly.

. . . .

On her own experience with publishers

Getting published was pretty tough. My first book was more sort of on the sexier side, and the heroine was south Asian. … You sort of fall into an internalized trap, all of my characters [before] were always white, and my heart just wasn’t in it. So I felt like, this wasn’t a book I hadn’t see anywhere, so I want to write it. … I shopped the book around [with different publishers], and I was told to change the characters’ ethnicities. “We can take this if you can edit it.” … It is disheartening to hear, “Well, we can’t really connect to her, but we can if you make her white.”

Link to the rest at NPR

PG suggests the problems of the romance industry must be laid at the door of the traditional publishers in the romance industry. They have decided and continue to decide which authors are published and which are not. Which material will be included in those books and which will not.

If asked which segment of the traditional publishing business has treated its authors the worst, without hesitation, PG would name romance. Exhibit A (there are others) would be Harlequin, which settled a large class-action lawsuit by its authors for substantial underpayment of royalties over several years.

Romance publishers are the single best reason for authors to self-publish. There’s a lot of money to be made in romance and indie authors are earning far more of that money than their traditionally-published counterparts.

The conventional view of mysteries

15 April 2018

The conventional view of mysteries, as explained by Auden, for example, is as an essentially conservative genre. A crime disturbs the status quo; we readers get to enjoy the transgressive thrill, then observe approvingly as the detective, agent of social order, sets things right at the end.  We finish our coca and tuck ourselves in, safe and sound….But what this theory fails to take into account is the next book, the next murder, and the next.  When you line up all the Poirots, all the Maigrets, all the Lew Archers and Matt Scudders, what you get is something far stranger and more familiar: a world where mysterious destructive forces are constantly erupting and where all solutions are temporary, slight pauses during which we take a breath before the next case.

David Gordon

She Kept Us in Suspense

15 April 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

‘A great many women feel trapped after they have their first child,” a social-worker character says in Margaret Millar’s 1952 novel “Rose’s Last Summer,” “especially talented and ambitious women. . . . Most of them eventually adjust themselves, in one way or another.”

Margaret Millar (1915-94), who had her first (and only) child in Toronto, in 1939 at the age of 24, adjusted initially by giving her infant daughter over to the care of female relatives and taking to bed with an imagined (she would later confess) heart ailment. There she read dozens of detective stories brought home for her from the library by her husband, Kenneth, who would soon take a job teaching high school in Kitchener, Ontario. The new mother, already frustrated in her youthful ambition to be a writer, threw one of these novels against a wall and vowed: “I could do better than that!”

In two bedridden weeks, she produced a handwritten draft of what would be the first work in a 27-book oeuvre.

The entirety of that lifework is now gathered in Collected Millar, a densely packed set of seven mostly omnibus volumes by the author who more or less invented the mystery subgenre dubbed “psychological suspense.” Her works would be ranked by German author-critic Alfred Andersch with those of Georges Simenon and Patricia Highsmith. Her admiring readers would include Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Truman Capote. In 1983, she was named a “Grand Master” by the Mystery Writers of America.

. . . .

In the golden age of mysteries preceding their careers, it was thought an impossibility (with certain notorious exceptions) for an author to give glimpses into the mind of the villain without either cheating the reader or spoiling the story’s suspense. Yet without depicting the interior life of the criminal, how could mystery fiction move beyond the “whodunit” stage?

Millar found her solution in having plot unfold through the points of view of several characters, any of whom might conceivably be culpable of, or vulnerable to, crimes. With this enlarged emphasis on victims and potential perpetrators, the traditional detective figure became less central. For the most part, Millar would write non-series, stand-alone books.

Her best-known novel is probably the Edgar Award-winning 1955 work Beast in View,” in which a well-to-do Beverly Hills woman, Helen Clarvoe, is menaced by telephone calls from a female she is certain means to destroy her. But how much faith should be put in Helen’s perceptions, given her propensity for such Freudian slips as, writing in a seemingly friendly letter to her mother: “I hope that all is hell with you.” Is it Helen perhaps who is her own worst enemy? With the powerfully effective “Beast in View,” Millar pioneered (albeit in third-person prose) the currently ubiquitous device of the unreliable narrator.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

China Literature Sees France, UK as Key Rights Buyers

15 April 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

Like the very tip of an iceberg, 20 or so slim, plain-covered English-language samples of books lie on the shelves at the China Literature stand. What you’re not seeing is the roughly 10 million works ready to take their places as soon as a publisher buys the rights to these.

Aaron Huang, China Literature‘s international licensing director, and Sandra Chen, senior manager with the online service Qidian, are avid reps for such works as The King’s Avatar by an author known as Butterfly Blue. That one has been adapted into an animated film series that drew 8.19 ratings (out of 10) on MyAnimeList, a leading online anime and manga community website.

. . . .

Fantasy, science-fiction, and romance are the leading genres they sell in China and on Qidian’s English-language site,, with “city life” close behind, a genre specific to Chinese urban readership.

. . . .

China Literature is a combination both of traditional publishing for paperback editions and “online writing,” as the company’s massive Internet platform is called in China. About 1 percent of China Literature’s online books are released in print. As modest as that sounds, that small percentage totals 100,000 print books.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate Dips in March 2018 as the Funding Pool Increases

15 April 2018

From The Digital Reader:

While the Kindle Unlimited funding pool grew by 5% in March 2018, the per-page royalty did not.

. . . .

From Self-Publisher Bibel (please fill in the missing numbers):

  • US: $0.0045 (USD)
  • Germany: €0.0031 (EUR)
  • Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy: €0.0045 (EUR)
  • Canada: $0.0046 (CAD)
  • Brazil: R$ 0.0109 (BRL)
  • Japan: 0.5568 (JPY)
  • UK, Mexico, Australia, Canada, India: unknown

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

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