Sunday, May 19, 2013

WTH is Amazon Doing to My MOBI Files?

As an indie author publishing on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, I have spent the last year working with KDP files and noticed last week that my preview files were doubling in size!  I use Kindle for PC to edit because it helps me see errors simply working with the Word document does not.  Once I finish an edit, I upload it to KDP, save it as a draft, then download the new book preview.  With 13 books in my KDP bookshelf and my inability to edit for more than 3 or 4 significant features at a time, I've done this thousands of times.

The mobi file sizes crept up slowly, which I disregarded for the most part.  But in mid-May, I began noticing them double in size, as well as taking actual minutes to download, instead of mere seconds.  Since I also publish on Smashwords, and they offer mobi files, I ran a comparison of file sizes.

Smashwords file sizes are smaller than the size of the Word document and jpeg cover because they compress the cover; I've complained to them that my huge, beautiful covers look terrible on both my ereader and those of my friends.  Nevertheless, if you will compare Smashwords mobi files to Kindle's new mobi files, you will see they range from 11% to 14% the size of the new Amazon files.

Some significant notes (data in bold):  If I downloaded the Amazon file to any storage besides its regular Kindle Content file, it was smaller.  If I uploaded a new version, the new mobi file doubled in size.  It did not matter if I made content changes or not; see the difference between Dignity and Dynasty, and compare to Nobility (no changes/no new upload):

Mobi File Sizes
Book (Word file + cover)                                                     Kindle                            Smashwords              
Dignity (.480 mb + 3.04 mb = 3.52 mb)
downloaded 5/9/13
downloaded 5/18/13 not to Kindle content file
downloaded 5/18/13 to Kindle content file, after making a few changes / edition 2

4.599 mb
1.537 mb
7.714 mb             
1.114 mb
Majesty (.485 mb + 3.25 mb = 3.735 mb)
7.907 mb
.948 mb
Fealty (.477 mb + 3.23 mb = 3.707 mb)
8.118 mb
1.078 mb
Royalty (.462 mb + 3.43 mb = 3.892 mb)
8.432 mb
1.059 mb
Dynasty (.489 mb + 3.28 mb = 3.769 mb)
downloaded 5/9/13
downloaded 5/18/13 after making no changes in document
downloaded 5/19/13 after uploading file/no changes

4.826 mb
4.826 mb
8.191 mb
1.090 mb
Loyalty (.645 mb + 3.19 mb = 3.835 mb)
8.624 mb
1.398 mb
Evan’s Ladies (.325 mb + 3.14 mb = 3.465 mb)
7.485 mb
Nobility (959 kb + 4.97 mb = 5.929 mb)
downloaded 4/29/13
downloaded 5/18/13 after making no changes, but also not uploaded since 4/29

3.443 mb
3.443 mb

as yet

There is a reason for compiling this information, naturally.  I had uploaded new versions of four of my books and received the confirmation from KDP on Friday, May 17th, 1:12 a.m. that the third book, Fealty, was 'live'.  I kept waiting for confirmation for the fourth book, Dignity, and noticed that not one single sale of ANY of my books registered after that.

Since the magnificent Ricki Wilson had just put up a spotlight on my most recent book, LOYALTY, I was eager to see how much my sales would increase.

9:19 pm 5/16/13
INDIE SPOTLIGHT on LOYALTY, Book Six in Eva Caye's TO BE SINCLAIR Series @EvaCaye 

Not only have I not registered any sales for at least 48 hours, the original tweet has been retweeted 30 times, many more than the usual 2-3 retweets I get.  In addition, I've updated two other marketing sites and discovered a few others, which I've been working on while wondering when Dignity would go live and KDP would start showing new sales.

I emailed KDP and received a response that their technicians were working on it.  Dignity finally went live a couple of hours ago, but I have yet to see any new sales register on the six books I have been selling so far in May.  

What is the issue?  I believe Amazon may be getting too paranoid over ebook sales.  Their restrictive measures annoy everyone, for you are unable to transfer your book to any other device.  In addition, I've read about a number of other problems people have had with their ebooks, such as having them disappear completely, or the indie publisher finding out she 'owes' for some bizarre instance in which the book was updated, the previous purchasers notified, and instead of just being able to download the new version, they charge the author for those new downloads.

One of my many complaints with Amazon is that I cannot have a Kindle for PC account separate from my husband's Kindle account on our same PC.  As a result, if I buy an ebook from Amazon, I must assign it to my cloud reader, because it will not download any but my husband's books to our PC unless he deletes his Kindle for PC, and all his books will disappear.  Since the mobi files are doubling in size, I project it is because Amazon is adding new restrictions to what people are allowed to do with their ebooks.

I think Amazon should get a clue!  I would not want 8 meg files filling up a Kindle if I could get 1 meg files from Smashwords, would you?  Of course, my fondest hope is that they quit screwing around with mobi files and show me my sales!  I've had more than one author friend tell me they are positive Amazon does not automatically register sales, that they are often hours or even days late.  When the author notes not one book sale WHILE speaking to a friend who is JUST THEN reading aloud from her new ebook, it's pretty obvious.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Another Life Ruined For Corporate Interests

Coming home from work, he was not high, but he had a small amount of marijuana in his possession.  Despite not being read his Miranda rights, he was arrested.  Since he had been raised by loving parents who never assumed he would get in trouble, he did not know to hire or ask for an attorney.  Those loving parents, who also raised him to be honest, cringed to discover he also pleaded guilty.  Thus doth ignorance make victims of us all.

Now he is a felon.  A mellow, benevolent, average boy-next-door felon sentenced for a crime that harmed no one.  What will his life be like in prison?   We’ve seen movies; we know, regardless of our desperate intent to ignore prison culture.  

When he gets out, what will his life be like, then?  Will he still be the beautiful soul ready to help out the needy with a smile on his face and his usual sweet refrain, Pay it Forward, Bro?  Or will he be hardened never to trust another soul, habituated to swapping favors because he has been trained in the ultimate school-of-hard-knocks to think ‘no one ever does anything out of the goodness of their heart, they always want something out of you’?  Will the physical traumas he undoubtedly garners in prison scar him soul-deep, to become a perpetrator of violence for the rest of his life?

He worked as a pizza delivery driver, pleasant to all, trustworthy, trying to make ends meet working a dead-end job, for he had barely earned his GED.  He is now in jail, a failure by everyone’s standards.  He failed civics twice in high school, he failed to get a lawyer because he could not afford one, he failed to know his Miranda rights to realize he needed a lawyer in the first place, and he failed to understand the Fifth Amendment.  He failed to comprehend that those policemen were not heroes protecting the public interest, that they were instead biological robots earning their own meager paychecks by enforcing ridiculous laws first enacted in 1937 by corporate special interests which to this day fight hemp and marijuana legalization against the vast majority of public opinion.

What special corporate interests perpetrate this outrage?  At a minimum, pharmaceutical companies and private prisons, but undoubtedly other industrial manufacturers of many products such as oil, fabric, and paper, as well as the federal government.

The federal government, you say?  You can find their patent for cannabinoids here: 
The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services

Private prisons, you say?  This page estimates how many people are in FOR-PROFIT private prisons for drug offenses:
This graphic shows the increase in drug offenders between 1980 and 2010:

URL source:

Pharmaceutical companies, you say?  They do not want marijuana legalized because it is a natural remedy.  The TITLE of Patent 6,630,507, dated October 7, 2003, as owned by the U. S. government’s own Department of Health and Human Services, is “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”.

How many people would welcome cheap, abundant antioxidants and neuroprotectants in their lives at this very moment?  Does the government criminalize marijuana because it does not want happy, healthy, neuroprotected citizens?  Does the greed of pharmaceutical companies and for-profit private prisons contribute to the maintenance of this outrageous law, the criminalization of marijuana and hemp?  Do rhetorical questions piss you off because they state facts and are not really questions, because they describe bitter, cynical offenses to your soul, or both?

The sheer idiocy of the criminalization of marijuana has been as much a clusterf*ck of ignorant, well-intentioned people as it has been the greedy and paranoid mentality of corporate interests.  One person put cannabis as a poison on a state list in 1905, and the rest of the states jumped on the bandwagon.  It did not even require the brainwashing of the masses, reminding me horribly of slavery laws where many good, well-intentioned people simply relied upon the government to make their decisions for them.   There has been plenty of brainwashing, however.  Wikipedia’s entry, “Legal history of cannabis in the United States” specifically mentions the demonization of marijuana via the ‘yellow journalism’ of William Randolph Hearst, ostensibly to protect his income generated by vast tracts of forests in his possession.

The true crime is the wholesale demonization of a FIVE THOUSAND YEAR-OLD NATURAL REMEDY for devastating diseases such as cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s, RA, MS, epilepsy, chronic pain like fibromyalgia, and a host of other health problems like diabetes, glaucoma, autism, PTSD, and depression.  Putting sick people in jail because they are trying to get well is one of the most heinous crimes I can imagine, up there with vivisection and genocide.  Since cannabis also provides food, clothing, construction materials, industrial and hygiene/beauty products, and can be grown on minimal land with virtually no cultivation while also controlling erosion and suppressing weeds, we could all profit by reinstating it as a viable industrial alternative to imported products and grotesquely expensive medications with more side effects than benefits.

What is the value of cannabis now, besides its mere street value?  Consider how much money in the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has been spent on marijuana alone.  Delete that money from the budget of every country, state, and city, including apprehension, court costs, and prison housing.

Where would we find the real wealth of cannabis?  King James I ordered colonists to grow 100 cannabis plants each for export.  Our founding fathers wrote drafts of the Constitution on cheap, durable hemp paper, and George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams advocated its use.  And otherwise, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was written to tax the medical and industrial uses of cannabis. 

That vast potential alone demonstrates our current politicians have no clue whatsoever how to build a sustainable economy that generates true income!  They plod along under unjustified precedents and outmoded moral codes because they fear the average, everyday person might enjoy the wealth of a few home-grown cannabis products.  Yet look at how few people grow food in their own gardens!  The potential industrial production overwhelmingly outweighs any local production by several orders of magnitude.

Politicians, here’s a clue.  Enormous farms and factories producing a plethora of cannabis products?  Tax them.  Happy people who can now work despite their illnesses?  Tax them.  Industrially-produced and controlled smokes?  Tax them.  More cured people than dying people dependent upon outrageously expensive medical treatments that kill them faster than if they died naturally at home?  Tax them.  Formerly-disabled people now back in the work force and no longer dependent on Social Security or Medicare?  Tax them. 

We all understand taxes; we do not understand a legal system that criminalizes a natural product with so many benefits.

What is the definition of criminal, anyway?  From
Main Entry:
criminal  [krim-uh-nl]  
Part of Speech:
lawless, felonious
bent, caught, corrupt, crooked, culpable, deplorable, dirty, heavy, hung up, illegal, illegitimate, illicit, immoral, indictable, iniquitous, nefarious, off base, out of line, peccant, racket, scandalous, senseless, shady, smoking gun, unlawful, unrighteous, vicious, villainous, wicked, wildcat, wrong

Tell me, with the exception of breaking a ridiculous law, how many of those adjectives accurately refer to a working-class man or woman coming home from work to relax with a joint, giggling over TV shows while eating brownies for dessert?  Marijuana users don’t need other drugs, so it’s not a gateway drug.  They are not addicts, so they do not perform acts of desperation to get huge sums of money to afford a habit.  At the worst, a modern marijuana user hopes to relax from the stresses of their workday.  A natural remedy, to be sure, as much as using honey or garlic, both of which can be produced locally.  If cannabis were easily available and controlled as much as alcohol, which IS an actual poison that is much more dangerous and can also be produced at home, why would the cannabis user need to break any other crime whatsoever?

A young man as described above, barely 20 years old, can now look to one of these futures: either he is victimized by an archaic, hypocritical, and fact-rejecting government’s criminal justice system, or he productively works his way through the day, paying taxes left and right, yet knowing he can enjoy a little smoke to relax at night.  Citizens of the United States of America, WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

Eva Caye

P. S.  I predict the first presidential candidate who promises to legalize marijuana will be voted in by a landslide. 

A simple online search will provide you with thousands of documents.  Please, do your research!

Update:  shows over 300,000 people in various prisons for drug violations (237,000 state, 94,600 federal, 4,986 drugs).  About 336,600 people who are trying their best to medicate themselves; although some of the drugs are undoubtedly dangerous, how many are 'just' marijuana?

Writing Obsession? Understanding the Overachiever in Authors

It’s good to have a passion!  Sitting on the floor of the pit of my depression, staring around at the rubbly walls, I wondered what was wrong with me.  Nothing more than a warm body that processed the occasional thought, I realized one thing wrong with my life was that I had no passion.

We all need a reason to get out of bed of a day, and it helps when one reason is the joy, delight, verve, thrill, and zest in exploring or participating in something we love.  Sometimes a lifelong pleasure in reading works itself up to the impetus to try writing.  You may have dabbled with a few stories, asked friends and relatives to read them, and veered off with the thought that you could not handle the criticism or did not really want to expose your inner thoughts to the masses.  Or, like many of us, you may have had people rave over your efforts, experienced a deep satisfaction that someone understood what you have been trying to say all along, and gotten hooked on the praise.  And then it became an obsession....

I do not think all obsessions are bad.  I hope my local firefighters are obsessed with maintaining their safety as they put out devastating flames and prevent the spread of the fire to local homes or businesses.  I hope the EMTs taking my loved ones to the hospital are obsessed with all the support systems the patient needs to keep from decompensating before they get access to the fancy machines and medications in the emergency room.  I hope my lawyer has read every valuable precedent with the further intent to prepare every possible argument to my every extenuating circumstance. 

Yet when it comes to writing, most writers equate obsession with profusion and creativity with profligacy.  If that’s how you want to live your life, go for it!  But if you want to produce a body of work that withstands the trends and vagaries of current reader interests, you should consider redefining your obsession, taking it from passionate to professional with the intent to produce a body of literature that you can stand to promote for the rest of your life.

I love ebooks for a thousand reasons!  From carrying an entire library in my purse to uploading my manuscripts whenever I catch a mistake, I love that ebooks are cheap, quick to find, can be purchased and enjoyed immediately from your comfy spot in your home, and will last forever without contributing to the waste stream or wasting the energy needed to recycle tons of paper.  Unfortunately, the convenience provided by our technology means so many writers think they can slap a provocative cover on a piece of slop and make millions of dollars from it.  As a result, I’ve heard many a ‘burned’ reader (one who picked up a desperately underwritten story for free or $.99) tell me they still shop big-box stores because “publishers have vetted them.”  This depressing state of affairs should be addressed by each author, personally!   I hope I can encourage new authors to take their craft seriously as a result, by offering you ways to turn your obsession into productive measures.

Just because you have a thousand stories popping into your head every day does not mean they are all great ideas, nor does it mean your first words on the topic should be your last words.  To keep from turning readers off ebooks, the very first thing you should do is write your ideas down and let them simmer.  I have a file called Books to Write, with hundreds of ideas ranging from a mere title to several paragraphs of synopsis; I also have 25 files in my “Working Files” folder, most of which are story parts and partials.

Let me summarize the best pieces of advice I’ve found about writing, and I will refer back to them as needed:

A.  Write the piece with a target audience in mind. 
B.  Put it away.
C.  Write something else.
D.  Read something new about writing.  Perfect your craft by understanding tenses, moods, misplaced modifiers (my big problem!), characterization, literary devices, plot, and punctuation.
E.  Rewrite your piece with fresh eyes and new knowledge.
F.  Get a number of beta readers, and LISTEN to them.
G.  Rewrite again.
H.  Pay a professional editor to edit your work.
I.  Rewrite according to the editor’s suggestions.
J.   Send the piece to contests, magazines, and agents.

Now, here are my thoughts about those pieces of advice:

A.  Finish the damn story.  All of it, from beginning to end.  Chop off the front part to the first significant action, and the back part to the implied happily-ever-after. 

I am not so strict in that I think the first sentence should blast some appalling action at the reader to make them wonder “what the hell?”  But the first paragraph or two should provide an action which defines the entire tenor of the book.  The last paragraphs should summarize the resolution of the inherent need of the main character, yet leave the future open to the reader’s imagination to fulfill, even if you do not intend to write a sequel.

B.  Look at your finished work tomorrow, then look at it next week, then look at it one month from now.  Each day you learn, you grow, and you have a new perspective on how your work might answer a desperate need in people.  That vantage of time helps you recognize the faults in the story.  I particularly notice how I tend to under-express all the feelings and knowledge behind the actions and dialogue.  This leads to letter E, rewriting for content.

C.  You would not be a writer if you did not have things to say.  Starting another project is the easiest way to figure out what else you really have to say.  If you are an activist and all your articles are about one particular subject, you will surely have many issues you can address before the masses even ask you your thoughts about them.

If you are a fiction author and think you’ve written the Great American Novel, you have to consider what your raving fans will beg of you next.  And if you think you’re going to live off the proceeds of just one book for the rest of your life, think again.  The only ‘one-hit wonder’ I could think of who did so was J. D. Salinger, and he was a recluse not because he could afford to be.  His other works consisted of short stories and novellas that I doubt if any of you can name without going to Google or Wikipedia.  All the greatest prizes judge an author by their body of literature.

D.  The internet exists; all hail the internet!  You can find answers to just about anything.  Sometimes I cannot figure out if I’ve learned more grammar from my education, from my editor, or from online sources.  And sometimes you have to make up your own rules, such as when I read 3 different sources about spelling out numbers instead of using digits.

E.  Try not to beat yourself up while rewriting.  Recognize it as a process.  First, the inspiration: get down the major actions and dialogue.  Then, the crafting: check your dialogue tags, rewrite them for more subtle actions and meaning, do not overuse phrases (I am editing one phrase out of my ebooks right now), and check for everything you learned in part D.  I have a limited attention span, so I usually check for three issues such as commas, dialogue tags, and ‘which’ vs ‘that’, and edit my books continuously.

F.  Since I write science fiction romance, I had both romance readers and science fiction readers.  You do not have to do everything they suggest, but you MUST pay attention to their issues!  My romance readers wanted more open sex, and my science fiction readers wanted ‘closed doors’.  My solution?  I added short-story ‘Easter eggs’ to my novels, frequently using a unique POV than one in the novel, and deliberately labeled with a page warning, “Erotic Easter Egg!”  I describe what an Easter egg is for video games, and tell the reader not to read further if erotica upsets them.

G.  This rewrite should be from a holistic perspective.  Did I leave a sub-plot unresolved or unexplained?  Did I answer the original question, the thesis of the book, the ‘what-if’, as thoroughly as possible?  Did I crescendo adequately to the climax, and is the denouement inadequate or too wordy?

H.  An editor is a must.  Do not put out your work without professional advice on how to improve it.  Just don’t.  I treat my editor like a college professor; if she edits something I do not understand, I ask her why, she tells me, and I go look up misplaced modifiers.  Most importantly, I try my damndest never to make that same mistake again.  She loves me so much for it that she has gone from three rounds of editing with me down to two.  The first book I sent to her she returned with well over 200 comments.  She returned my fifth book (after the second round) with only one comment.

I.  Always take your editor’s comments seriously.  If you have a weakness, try to choose an editor who will cover your weakness.  I had been reading science fiction and fantasy for some 30 years, with only a few romance novels in my teens.  My editor primarily works with romance and erotica; although the science occasionally throws her for a loop, the essence of the story has been enriched by her descriptions of what the reader expects or needs.

J.  Even if you have a hundred reasons why you plan to e-publish your book, I recommend you send it to contests and try the ‘traditional’ publishing route.  First, if you win a contest, that’s a HUGE badge of honor to put on your book cover or in your query letters to agents and publishing houses.  Second, you might tweak an agent’s fancy, which is hard to do.  Third, although traditional publishing houses have editors and you have already paid for one, the prestige of being accepted by them, with the orchestra of copyeditors, cover artists, and marketing experts behind them to help you, will relieve you of a lot of the work for your next big project.  Caveat: research the agents and publishers first, for some contracts out there are getting tricky indeed.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST, the most important thing you should do THIS VERY INSTANT if you have not already:

Get an account with Google, Dropbox, SugarSync, or Box that gives you a free 5-gig cloud server in which to store your work.  I have all four that I use in different ways so I never have to worry about my computer being raped by a virus and losing it all.  Trust me, it’s devastating!  Not only do I have all four, I cannot count the number of flash drives, portable hard drives, and other devices I save my work to.  I even use one of hubby’s old Kindles with a broken screen to store my old versions!

Remember, if you have something important to say and a clever or expressive way to say it, a reader still will not want to read it if it irritates them with misspelled words, grammatical errors, and sloppy writing.  If they pay money for it, they will want it back, and you can kiss that future fan good-bye.  You must take your obsession for writing and consider all the angles, every aspect, not just how prolifically you can write or how outrageously you can surprise or stun the reader with your ingenuity.  

QUALITY vs QUANTITY: which do you prefer in your life?  If you must be obsessive, use your obsession to learn your new profession as well as a physician must learn the human body and how every system interacts.  Only then will you birth beautiful novels that thrill your readers, nourish their spirits, or perhaps inspire social changes that may even save humankind someday.

◊ ◊ ◊

Eva Caye is the author of the To Be Sinclair series of science fiction romances, which consists of six published ebooks, two in various stages of editing, and a finale and two prequels as works-in-progress.  She lives with her magnificent husband and two lovely mutts in a tiny, century-old farmhouse in Louisville, Kentucky.

Her website, blog, social media, and author pages:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

LOYALTY: Preview in Tweets!

Published April 30th, 2013, LOYALTY is the sixth book of the To Be Sinclair series:

LOYALTY: "If I do this, if I open you, I will truly be your slave. I would have no defenses against you."

LOYALTY: "I can't imagine how tortured Father must be... executing a traitor in the heat of towering rage [when] he could have been kept alive [for questioning]...."

LOYALTY: "You fear for his life? In his own house?"

LOYALTY: "I was never a conquest to him. Therefore, he won me to his side."

LOYALTY: "...Stelluric science could be deadly on a massive scale. We do not want that to fall into anyone's hands."

LOYALTY: Hot. Cold. How could she be shivering? The stench of burnt metal, plastic, and flesh assaulted her.

LOYALTY: Murderess.... Treason against her own people. How would she... show her face in public again?

LOYALTY: "Don’t focus on your own role. If anything, you are the weapon that I myself aimed."

LOYALTY: "You are off the comm... I need you to brief the diplomatic corps. For the next 36 hours, you are a Prince."

LOYALTY: He actually felt jealous [they] were so attached to his siblings. Who would cry for him if he went missing?

LOYALTY: "I have always known this was a possibility.... yet how could I love her properly & not support her excellence?"

LOYALTY: "It is a dreadful tax I place upon you, to hope you might love my children despite personal sacrifices...."

LOYALTY: "We are all hostages to fortune.... A stinging insect killed my child. That is no worse a cruel twist of fate than...."