Surreality Check

A Savage Writer's Journal

March 2004
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Last Month (February)

02 March 2004
In Like a Lion

If this is what March's "lionesque" beginning is going to be like, I'm leaving town in August. It was 60°F here yesterday. Sure, there were high winds; but this bodes ill for the heat and humidity I can look forward to this summer. To use the technical term, "icky."

In any event, it's not just the weather that's wacky. Lucy had her first rabbit-chase of the season this morning, which is at least two weeks early. She's probably a little bit out of practice, which might explain why she missed her pounce; but I suspect that won't last long. Wascawy wabbits bewayuh! It probably beats eating manuscripts.

The place I'm most likely to be going "in like a lion" in the near future is the United States District Court for the Central District of California (Cooper, J.). The mandate in Ellison v. Robertson will issue today. (That's the order from the Court of Appeals sending the case back to the District Court when there has been a reversal, complete or partial.) After it takes several days to wend its way through the administrative system, the decision will end up back on Judge Cooper's desk. Ordinarily, she will then set a status conference in the matter, and we'll start working up pretrial motions and other stuff (the "other stuff" can't be discussed here). The status conference will probably be handled by Glen Kulik or John Carmichael, as there's no sense in my flying to LA and back for a status conference that will only be used to manage scheduling.

11 March 2004
Sleepless in Chambanana

My youngest son had an overnight sleep study last night. Consequently, I got only about two hours of sleep—because he awoke for the day at 0230. Spellling errers are to be expectorated.

15 March 2004
Ellison v. Robertson

Judge Cooper has vacated her summary judgment for AOL and set the case for a status hearing on 26 April. This will be a lawyer-talk session in which nothing of substance will occur. So, then, what's next? It depends upon what Judge Cooper orders at the status hearing. She could order the remaining parties (Ellison and AOL) to engage in settlement discussions, with or without the assistance of a Magistrate Judge, and report back. She could set a trial date and get the clock started on all of the necessary pretrial motions. That's not likely, but it is possible as a stick to force settlement discussions; some judges like to have the trial date staring the parties in the face to add a sense of urgency. Given that it will have been four years to the day since the lawsuit was served on the date of the status hearing, "urgency" is not really the issue, is it?

20 March 2004
Base Eight

One of the major reasons that journal entries have been so scarce, and so short, of late is that I've been analyzing royalty statements from both major and minor publishers. This is an incredibly tedious process, involving lots and lots of Tom Lehrer's "new math". Now that I think about it, treating some of the figures as if they are in base eight explains a lot about some of the, umm, mathematically challenged results of royalty arithmetic. Typically, I find that 2% of so of the math doesn't add up, often in the reserves against returns and in foreign sales accounting.

Once the numbers are nailed down, the real fun begins. Was the reserve against returns calculated properly? Was the book basket-accounted with other books, and if so does the contract allow it? Was the correct royalty rate assigned to sales based on previous sales of the title? Is the number of spoiled copies consistent with previous data and returns? Has there been a spike in lower-royalty-producing sales? And so on. I do a great deal more than does an accountant for this, precisely because some of the contract provisions that create strange results are scattered across the contract.

Just by coincidence, I'm sure, the errors are almost always in the publisher's favor. And that's before we get into the more purely legal issues, such as whether the reserve against returns was in fact consistent with the contract's requirements. Believe me, only a nerd could love doing this—a particularly anal retentive nerd—which is why it is done so seldom.

So it's back to the sixty-fours' place…

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