Shaderunners webcomic

I have this featured over in links, but it’s worth a closer look and a shout-out: Shaderunners.

From the comic’s ‘About’ page:

One part Prohibition fantasy, one part Robin Hood, and a whole lot of epic heist, Shaderunners follows a group of ragtag bootleggers and bohemians who band together in an effort to steal colour from the wealthy echelons of Ironwell’s high society. Among them: a philosopher, a puppeteer, a gutter rat, an opera singer, a naval officer and a hopeless romantic. Together, they run The Glass Dial, former watch shop and future night club, where all the house drinks run red.

Speak easy, pal, ‘cause the road to ruin is paved with good intentions.

Take a secondary world with a ‘feel’ of Prohibition-Era America. Unknown forces have left the world drained of all color. But the tomb of an ancient queen reveals artifacts still imbued with precious, rare color…and they become prizes in a power struggle not only between empires, but between the aristocracy and a furtive band of renegades. The renegades reason ‘Why should only the Gilts and Inks get to see color? Why shouldn’t ordinary people get to see it, too? And why shouldn’t we make money off it?’ and set out to rectify that injustice. Along the way, they might just stumble into idealism and real revolution.

The worldbuilding is A+, telling you just enough to ground you but leaving you hungry for more. The characters are interesting, each with their own flaws, strengths, and secrets. The plot is fun. The art is yummy, and perfect for the vibe.

One of the greatest tricks Shaderunners plays? How easily it follows several genderfluid characters, in a world where ‘alternative’ sexuality and gender are nothing remarkable. The art works with story image cues more easily and efficiently than pure text, to show us a character being ‘Mr’ one moment and ‘Miss’ another. In suspenders and a newsboy cap in one setting, and a silken dress and vamp-queen Deco headress in another. Rather than being a trangressive or ‘teaching’ moment, this is simply portrayed as life-as-usual…a refreshing change from both extremes, and one I wish more authors, artists, agents, and publishers would understand.

Try this webcomic. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

 

The dark side of Pinterest

I both love and hate Pinterest.

On the plus side, it’s an incredible resource for worldwide inspiration in every visual art field, curated to various levels of research and granularity.

On the minus side(s), it’s a hot mess.

The app is pushy as hell, and locks down random scrolling unless you log it. Which I don’t always want to do or have time to do. No, Pinterest, you are not my go-to image search app, and the pushier you get the more resistant I get.

Even worse is the citation problem many visual artists feared from the beginning. When Pinterest started, there were few mechanisms to track the original source of an image. Pinterest addressed some of those, but it’s still not easy to tell who first came up with an image, and who merely reposted it.

I’ve been guilty of the same, I’m certain, even though I try to cite my Pinterest sources, and hope others will do the same for me.

For a cautionary story of the right and wrong ways to use Pinterest and other social media image-sharing apps, check out this tale of a mural in Chicago, two artists, and the best First Lady we’ve had in decades.

First Look: Politics As Usual

I’ve had this piece of fiber book art in mind since 2011-2012. I’m glad I held off until now: even Mitt Romney’s version of the GOP has been eclipsed by the current crop of corrupt, venal, sanctimonious, and utterly incompetent politicians gracing the Republican Party. (And I say that as a former GOP member!)

‘Politics As Usual’ will combine beaded 18-count cross-stitch with applique patches and commercially-printed fabrics, to make an Abecedarium (ABC Book) using two political terms per alphabet letter on fabric pages. The binding will be a wood box-spine anchored by decorative red-white-and-blue glass beaded tassels. The covers will be woodburned poplar, tooled leather, fiber art, or some mix of those.

The current main word-pair lineup stands at: Alternative Facts / Agenda, Brink / Bipartisan, Constitution / Conflict, Dissent / Doublespeak, Ethics / Emolument, Fascist / Filibuster, Grassroots / Gerrymander, Hegemony / Humanist, Ideology / Impeach, Justice /  Jingo, Kleptocracy / Keynesian, Lobbyist / Loophole, Mandate / Midterm, Nationalism / Nihilism, Oligarchy / Opposition, Proxy / Pundit, Quota / Quorum, Resist / Racist, Spin / Suffrage, Theocracy / Tyranny, Unity / Useful Idiot, Vote / Veto, Wedge / Whistleblower, Xenophobia / X-Factor, Yellow Journalism / Yield, Zeitgeist, Zero Sum Game.

There may or may not be additional smaller-font words worked into the background, along with little topical motifs such as biohazard symbols, radiation symbols, the GOP Elephant, the DNC Donkey, mushroom clouds, dollar and pound signs, Resistance symbols, Trump’s hair, high-heeled shoes, palm trees, golf symbols, etc.

As befits a subversive embroidery sampler, it may or may not be housed in a repurposed cedarwood Bible box, depending on the final dimensions of the book.

It’s going to be a lot of fun to make.

 

2017 Hugo Awards List!

It’s April, and I’ve been so busy with my own art and writing I forgot one of April’s cherished traditions.

It’s Hugo Awards nomination time! And that means another Pie Fight GIF, this time courtesy of the very topical film Dr. Strangelove. I love how stoic and dignified this poor guy looks…kinda the way most of us feel now about the Hugos, the Puppies, and the battle for the soul of genre fiction.

So much has changed since last we were here! The Puppies got trounced, but Trump won, only now it looks like Trump & Co may go up against a firing squad (maybe figurative, maybe literal) any day now. Or we’ll start a WWIII between the US, China, Russia, Syria, and North Korea, with IS bringing up the rear.

Is diversity and democracy dead? Or stronger than ever?

It may be worth noting that Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and plenty of other genre SFF memes have jumped from geeky obscurity to proud symbols of the anti-Trump #Resistance. When GOP and ‘mainsteam’ pundits mock anti-GOP candidates for loving SFF or, say, posing in Star Wars or Trek cosplay gear…we laugh at the naysayers. We know our people, and with some luck and skillful (nonviolent) revolution, we know our people can win.

We thinking peoples of the world have a chance to push back against kleptocracy and isolationist nationalism, against anti-science and anti-global cabals. It won’t be easy. This time we aren’t reading a book or watching a movie with a scripted ending. We’re inside a messy complex real-world multi-platform Go game where half the players won’t mind suicide if it takes out the others.

It’s also worth noting that many players on the Rabid Puppy/Sad Puppy/ Gamergate sides have migrated fully over to the neo Nazi alt-right camp (not that we were surprised by this.) They understand that a generation’s movies, games, and books become mythologies that shape its thinking, and they still want to warp SFF into their image.

Don’t let them. Read dangerous, challenging, and diverse books. Write them. Watch the movies. Make the art. Support the other people doing the same thing. Fight the Nazis, the rigid theocracies of every faith, the dynasties of terror and delusion, and the petty politicians who would rather support party (or their own Cayman account) than country.

Against this backdrop this year’s Hugo nominees are (mostly) a diverse and forward-thinking lot. We have only a couple of token Puppy plants, none as charmingly perverse as our beloved Chuck Tingle. I leave it to you, gentle eligible voters, to make your choices.

 

BREATHE covers

Typically, it’s April and I only just starting to upload 2017’s book arts pieces!

Here are the roughly 1.5x3x.25″ faux-inlay covers (outside and inside) for BREATHE. I showed a first look at the pages last year. They’re a gathering of Latin mottos I thought were particularly appropriate for the current state of the world:

Dum Spiro Spero. Dum Spero Amo. Dum Amo Vivo. Dum Vivo Prosum.

While I breathe, I hope. While I hope, I love. While I love, I live. While I live, I do good.

The covers give rough English translations, along with the title, colophon, my sigil and date made.

I chose poplar because it’s a fairly hard, very fine-grained wood that takes well to woodburning. When properly varnished, good poplar feels and ‘pings’ almost like porcelain or bone.

Text and designs are burned in with a pyrography pen. You can’t see it in these scans, but I did scrollwork on every edge. It came out yummy.

I sanded and scrubbed away the burn resins (otherwise the paint won’t stick!), then filled the channels with a thickened tinted acrylic (in this case, Indigo and Titanium White). When that dried, I sanded it again until most of the wood was clean, and most of the burned channels were still filled with a paint ‘inlay’ with a fine dark brown outline. It’s not an exact artform: you can see where I sanded out the paint on the word ‘breathe’ on the lower right image.

Alert readers will have seen me try this out here. I’ve been farting around with this technique for over ten years, but this and the blood orange wand are the first times I’ve been mostly happy with the look. Hint: fine-grained wood is the key. Wengewood, purpleheart, and oak have too much open grain that collects the paint and obscures the drawing (see where I messed up on CONTINENTAL DIVIDE and CITY AT NIGHT).

When sealed with a UV resistant lacquer varnish, the silky grain of the poplar shows up in a figured pattern, with a lot of surface translucence that offsets the opaque paint.

The beaded accents are from the 30-Year Stash: blue and white porcelain inside the cover holes, with matte green/red striped ‘onyx’ glass and pale gray-purple matte seed beads. I thought these picked up the dark blue, lavender, buttercreme, and ice-blue colorways and floral theme of the fabric pages.

Thread is Navy Blue waxed polyester from Maine Thread Co.

And now on to join pages and covers! More on the finished piece here.

 

My RevPit bio

Certain things in my life are brick walls that I bash into, until I become smart enough to bash through, climb over, dig under, or set aside. There are several art galleries that are such long-term goals, they’re almost just existential by now. Online query pitch contests are another. Every time I flame out in one I swear I won’t do that again…until the next one.

Next week begins a thing called #RevPit, for Revise & Resub. For the winners, it’s a month of free editing and query help from some pro editors, followed by an agent cotillion. It takes the place of the hurriedly cancelled Pitch2Pub.

The mms for SINGER is revised, the query tightened up again. I’m still planning on querying it to the Big 5, then one small press I like, and then probably just self-publishing it. At this point, I’m adult enough to know it probably won’t snag an agent. But it could use some decent editing.

For people stalking my mms, there’s plenty on that buried in the rest of this blog. I’ll make it simple. It’s a big secondary-world high fantasy/sword&planet quest/romance novel about music, ancient bio-weapons, sentient amnesiac black holes, oppressed populations, incipient civil wars, and three people who really need to talk honestly to each other more often. Like I said, simple. That big black beastie on a green background up above? He’s a major character in the saga.

For people stalking me, I’m really rather boring. The most interesting thing about me right now is my hair, which is partly cobalt blue right now. And my terrible taste in socks.

I’ve been a commercial and fine artist for a couple of decades. Some of my areas of expertise chosen obsessions are silversmithing, beadwork, embroidery, acrylic painting, costuming, couture clothing, masks, book art sculptures, and digital art.

I’ve had art in some national exhibitions and fancy coffee-table art books. My book art pieces are represented by two incredible galleries, who sell my work to collectors around the world. I have art online at a few sites, both for display and for sale.

By day I write marketing and catalog copy for private companies.

In my spare time, I write science fiction, fantasy, fanfiction, and original erotic romance. I’m apparently not supposed to let on how much I’ve written, but psst, I’ve been writing for 30 years last weekend.

Some of it has even been published by royalty-paying publishers.

What do I want out of this? Nearly everyone wants an enthusiastic, skilled agent and maybe a very nice deal down the road. But my years in art have taught me that the outcomes and odds can be so improbable that you’d better be doing something you love. That you would do anyway. That you cannot not do. That the journey itself may be more important, and lead to even more amazing places than you ever dreamed.

So I’m hoping to connect with some more mentors who will become good friends, that maybe I can help as much as they could help me. Even if I don’t make it into the later rounds, just doing this has helped me clarify my goals.

 

Tempe Festival of the Arts, Spring 2017

If you’re in the Phoenix, AZ area this weekend, check out the Tempe Festival of the Arts, running March 31 to April 2. It’s a sprawling wonderful circus occupying Tempe’s Mill Avenue and the surrounding side streets: plenty of art, food, live music, and people-watching.

This festival’s Featured Artist is Hannie Goldgewicht, known for her blending of ceramics and basketry. Her pieces have a monumental simplicity, combining the textures of pine-needle basketry with the rich colors of her stoneware base forms.

I’ll expand this blog post later today, to show the festival award ribbons I designed to riff off Hannie’s signature ‘look’ and themes.

***

And it’s now later.

Since 2010, I’ve designed and made the fiber art ribbons used as category and grand prize winners at the Tempe Festival of the Arts. The organizers and I have hit on the strategy of having me focus on themes (such as the AZ Centennial in 2012) or riffs on that show’s Featured Artist’s show poster. When I first heard they were considering Hannie’s work for this show poster, I started getting design ideas.

First, a look back at someone who may or may not have been an inspiration to Hannie, but they were certainly firing on the same wavelength: the late fresco artist Marcia Myers.

courtesy Gail Severn Gallery

I first came across Myers’ work in a coffee table art book, and then in person at a show at Phoenix’s Bentley Projects gallery. Inspired by Venetian frescos, Myers developed her own techniques for creating lush, many layered faux frescos on canvas or board with acrylic mediums (plus other art media). Deceptively simple, these must be seen in person to be really appreciated.

They show the same light-soaked, rich colors and pleasing textures as Hannie Goldgewicht’s work.

How to show those textures and tones in fabric? Ultrasuede: it has a soft nap and leather-like look that almost mimics the textures of fresco or ceramic. I had some oxblood red, aqua turquoise, and caramel-gold suede on hand from other projects.

How to keep a clean, crisp edge without a lot of bulk? Ribbon facing: a black-cherry red satin ribbon binds the edge of the cutout thick interfacing shape. Ultrasuede panels are glued and sewn on top. Bonus: I can use this edge trick on fiber book pages!

Text blocks and logo are digitally printed fabric, sewn in place with satin stitch.

Wood and stone beads (jasper, carnelian, dyed magnesite, various agates, tigereye, and aventurine) made great accents.

How to mimic Hannie’s simple pine-needle basketry? I thought about pine needles, but they are too finicky to work with in very small forms (for me, at least). Pigtail raffia, however, has long thin fibers in a rich straw to green-gold tone. When soaked to soften, then twisted, they were perfect to couch-embroider over the suede panels.

For the raffia accents, I chose very simple shapes to echo the simplicity of Hannie’s work.

The ribbons are finished on back with seafoam-green canvas, frayed out along the edges for more texture. Ribbon ties and pinbacks offer a variety of display methods for the winners of the three major awards, the category winners, and the honorable mentions. There are 23 ribbons total in each show’s set.

I can’t wait to see what next fall’s design is going to be!

Mood board for Singer

To keep my mind off #pitmad and to get ready for #revpit in two weeks, here’s another mood board I cobbled together for my high fantasy mms SINGER.

Art credits include: Michael Whelan, cover for Tanith Lee’s ‘Night’s Sorceries’

Renaissance gold chain, Incollect https://www.incollect.com/articles/revival-jewelry-looking-to-the-past-for-inspiration

Venezuelan thunderstorm, The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/southamerica/venezuela/11728250/Catatumbo-Venezuelas-everlasting-lightning-storm.html

Blue Planet, BBC advertising

St. Herman’s Cave, Belize http://www.vivabelize.com/tours-activities/land-activities/st-hermans-ceremonial-cave-exploration/

Bamboo flute, Alibaba

Sawyer Fredericks, MusicTone music videos

original map, embroidery, digital painting by Marian Crane

 

Why enter pitch contests?

Other than sheer masochism? They offer a slight shortcut to the usually long query process, they let you meet fellow writers and industry professionals, and they offer the chance to get agent offers and free feedback.

I’ve blogged before about some dangers and darker sides of online pitch contests. Now for a spotlight on the second valuable gift they offer: feedback and editing.

Very few people can write in a vacuum. We need feedback in developmental stages of a mms, and capable editing at the later stages.

Would-be self-published writers, do you know that it can cost between $1500 and $5000 for qualified professional editing of your mms? Most self-pub authors don’t bother, and it shows in the final product.

Many pitch contests offer author-peer and professional feedback, for free or a minor donation! Some offer the finalists or winners a few weeks to a couple of months of pro editing, as well as a final showcase to tempt agents and acquisition editors.

Sure, it’s a long shot, but why not try?

I just finished a rewarding and humbling experience: tightening up my smutty M/M space opera MORO’S PRICE, which is being re-released (in a heavily revised version) from NineStarPress this summer. I have an awesome editor, and I really need her skills. (So many mistakes!)

The experience made me look again at my newly revised high fantasy mms. It’s a better book that the version I shopped last year, but I know it needs editing.

So I’m bashing my head against the mostly-so-far-fruitless pitch contest scene again, and entering this mms in the upcoming Pitch 2 Publication melee.* I have a teeny chance at getting anywhere in that event, but I’ve got to try it.

Because even if I don’t snag an agent, I’ll get strong feedback. All the ‘unsuccessful’ contests last year, plus agent and editor feedback, led to my recent revisions and a much stronger book.

If I need to, I can then self-publish that book.

(I have been known to submit work to top SFF short fiction markets, just for their personalized rejections, for similar reasons.)

*Which has now been postponed and replaced with Revise & Resub.

 

Character names and titles

Character names and titles are important in fiction (duh!)

Different genres have different naming trends and types, if not outright rules. A clever writer can exploit or twist those, while a tone-deaf writer can suffer for them. Of course, it helps to read massively and currently in your target genres.

I have a perennial problem with names. Many of my characters go through name changes during their story’s evolution (Tel from ‘Bloodshadow’ has had five different names). Or they’re called by different names by different people or groups (Moro from ‘Moro’s Price, poor lad.)

Some characters will stubbornly keep their names, no matter what plotty bribes I throw their way.

I’ve got two naming problems right now, with two separate projects.

My editor felt uncertain about a 52nd Century character calling himself ‘Bill’, with a given name of William (which he hates, hence the nickname). Realistically, linguistic drift and culture changes should result in very different name structures.

But this is a smutty M/M space opera, not literary fiction with scholarly linguistic projection.

The character has good reason to go by a jaunty, unassuming nickname. So I left him as ‘Bill’.

I gave him an Eastern European version of ‘William’ that links back to part of his family’s heritage. He still hates it, because it makes him look even more like a rich mobster. And, like the rest of the book, it offers an indirect political comment on RL current events.

My second name problem is an honorific, a job title, a threat, and an insult…applied to one of the founding characters in my secondary-world high-fantasy Lonhra Sequence books. I’ve had this (mostly background) immortal character in his/her/their current form for over three decades. (What happens when you worldbuild as a hobby.)

That character’s given name changes often due to marriage and politics, but their title is a bedrock of Lonhran history.

Imagine my reactions when I read today about a new YA author using almost that same title in her fantasy book! After the initial jolt passed, I examined my problem logically.

I doubt she ‘stole’ it, even though my version has been trade-published since early 2012. The title is a combination of two common English language words. It’s likely many people have used it.

Could I use the Lonhra language version: Tilurak? It means the same thing. I like both, but the longer English version is more familiar and approachable for me.

If an agent or editor brings up the coincidence, I’ll have to explain and justify my reasons.

Until then, that character title stays.

The lesson for other writers? Names can be a battleground. Be prepared to fight for, alter, or jettison them as needed.

Black Ceramic Chain

Technology is wonderful. Especially when bright but otherwise bored people say ‘Hey, these zirconium ceramic ball bearings and whetstones are nearly as tough as sapphire. I bet we could make jewelry out of this stuff!’

Jewelry wonks are already familiar with Cubic Zirconium, the relatively cheap and readily available diamond-substitute gem, usually faceted and sold either clear or colored to mimic other gemstones.*

Zirconium powder can also be purified and melted with binding agents into a tough, hard, opaque ceramic (the aforementioned ball bearings). I’ve seen the jewelry results in pieces from David Yurman ($1500) or Jona ($5000).

Recently, Fire Mountain Gems got some black and white zirconium ceramic jewelry components in stock. When they had a deep sale on the 29x16mm and 13x10mm oval links, I bought. That yielded 12 of the big links and 2 of the smaller ones. For less than I’d pay for a good cheesesteak sandwich at my local deli.

Combined with matte-finished black #11 seed beads in ladder-stitched links, fire-polished Czech faceted ovals, and black nylon thread, the zirconium ceramic links made this minimal 20-inch necklace with toggle clasp. I like how the polished ceramic links have the black glitter of hematite, but much less weight. (It’s as light as a fiber art piece, honestly, with more weight from the glass.)

*About 30 years ago, when Cubic Zirconium gems (CZ) really came onto the hobbyist market, there was a mail order scam trade run by several ‘jewelers’ who would convince people they’d ‘won’ a free CZ faceted gem, for a minimal shipping fee. They even had soap opera celebrity spokespeople, which should have been an instant warning.

Sometime between 1985 and 1987 I got a mailing from one of the companies. (I’ve taken it off web links because the owner’s apparently just got out of prison on racketeering charges, with a side of witness tampering. Typical GOP businessman, alas.)

Back then if you accepted the stone and the ‘cash winning opportunity’, you’d get hounded to buy their other products. I had a pretty good idea what was really going on, so I said ‘Sure, Redacted Jewelry Company, send me my genuine fine diamond simulant!’

What I got was a pretty nice 1 carat white faceted stone for the shipping cost (not much), and a massive sales pitch for their crappy gold or silver plated jewelry settings. Because most people even then weren’t silversmiths, or knew that real silver and vermeil (gold plated silver) findings were easy to come by and easy to set with a few basic tools. Redacted Jewelry Company and I had some more go-arounds while I talked them out of a few more CZ gems (Hey, cheap CZ!) before they finally gave up on me.

What to take from this? I love technology, and I really like this necklace. Also, every new product or service has scam potential…but if you know what’s happening, you can have a hell of a lot of fun with the scammers.

 

Blood Orange and Jasper Magic Wand

Or: faux inlay technique on wood.

I make artifacts and jewelry, along with book art and a ton of other largely useless but fun things. I belong to a loose-knit group of like-minded souls who, upon occasion, will make Harry-Potter-inspired magic wands as props and cosplay pieces.

This newest piece is made from a Blood Orange tree twig woodburned and painted, with a lanyard of braided waxed blue-gray polyester cord strung with Picture Jasper and Blue Lace Agate beads. The stick is about 14″ long and .75″ at its widest.

I’ve had the twig for 15 years. It came from a Blood Orange bonsai attempt that died at two years old. The corkscrew end is part of the root, and shows the stress on the tree. (I am never starting another bonsai again. It’s cruel, the tree equivalent of foot-binding.) I kept the dried-out little trunk because it was beautiful in its frozen misery, and a stern reminder of boundaries I shouldn’t cross again.

When I decided to make a prop wand from it, I stripped off the bark with a Dremel sander tip, then polished with successively finer sandpapers up to 600 grit. 

I did the spiraling design on the twig freehand with a temperature-controlled woodburning pen with a chisel tip. That allowed me to sink deep, precise marks along the wood. The resulting resins got scrubbed off with 90% alcohol and an old T-shirt. This cleaned off the soot and oils that could otherwise retard paint and varnish. The stick looked like this…

Painting time! I mixed a blue/turquoise/gray acrylic paint slip and worked it into every burned line, then painted a layer over the whole stick. That got to dry for a day. I chose blue-gray because it’s a color out of a fantasy series I’m working on, and I want do do some book covers in this look eventually.

(I can imagine that an earthwitch out of my Lonhra Sequence books might use a version of this thing.)

orangwwood wand detailWith another old T-shirt and more alcohol, I rubbed off most of the paint, until the buttery-yellow bare wood showed and the burned lines were filled with blue-gray paint. Once that dried for another day or three, I sanded again with fresh 600 grit black wet-dry paper.

This leaves a general effect of bare wood + colored inlaid lines bordered with the dark brown burned edges of the design. Covered with an oil-based or clear resin varnish, the effect looks even more like inlay. I use this technique a lot on wood book covers, because it adds subtle, precise surface detail.

The lanyard is Gray 4-ply waxed polyester cord from Maine Thread Co, in a triple-strand braid. The tan/cream/brown Picture Jasper rectangular tubes came from a $4 thrift store necklace I found last week. From The 30-Year Stash, I already had tumbled nuggets of Blue Lace Agate with the right mix of gray-blue and white banding and tan matrix.

On pyrography: Some folks do woodburning on leather (I don’t like the smell, or the result, but that’s only my take on it.) You may not get as deep or as controlled a brand line as you might on wood. Be careful when scrubbing/sanding off the top layer, as you can ‘suede’ your leather accidentally.

If you want to try this look, you can use the regular hobbyist single-temperature ‘soldering iron’ type of woodburning pen. I’ve found that my variable-temp professional pyrography unit with multiple tips is an amazing drawing tool. It’s more than paid for itself in the decade-and-a-half since purchase.

What am I going to do with this wand? Hang it up to look at for a while, maybe sell it later. It’s a proof of concept. The value for me lay in the crafting, so I can apply the look elsewhere.

When writing goes exceptionally well

I’ve been at a plateau for a while on the big fantasy project: polished, but not quite gleaming. This weekend, three things happened:

I wrote a decent pitch for an upcoming pitch contest.

Image result for ronan dance off GIF

I tightened the first chapter, and bridged new and old versions with really strong scenes. I forced more emotion into one character, and more agency into another.

Image result for maleficent cartoon GIF

Both beta readers on this project (who are neither lazy slouches nor easily won over) have given me their vast approval.

So even if the pitch contest doesn’t work, I’m far more confident about this book than in its previous versions. It’s not wasted effort, if it improves the manuscript.

The only catch: it all has to be done by Friday the 24th. That’s when the pitch contest begins…but more importantly, it’s when I have to start work on a major art project AND wrangle incoming edits for the brand new, shiny version of Moro’s Price (coming from NineStar Press this summer).

Shame on Samhain

A brief but long overdue update, on erotic romance publisher Samhain. After announcing their closure late in 2015, they regrouped in a flurry of activity over 2016.

But they’re closing for real at the end of February 2017, only a few days after releasing a last round of contracted books. Those first rights are burned, and how much will those authors earn now in less than a week of sales? I’ve seen new authors who actually submitted mms to Samhain over 2016, when many seasoned authors warned them off. Loyal readers are scrambling to back up their digital libraries.

The company had a good run over much of its eleven years. I’m sorry to see Samhain go, but wish they could have kept their first promises and folded more responsibly last year.

The death of the romance industry small presses…claims another round of victims.

Update 2-12-2017: In a move eerily like their announcement in 2016, Samhain announces it will retain a handful of employees and ‘wind down’ company sales to help satisfy customers. During this process, as rights come due, those will be reverted to the authors. Ready-to-launch books will still be sold. Uncompleted projects will be reverted.

Potentially, this means that a Samhain title released in late February of this year might not go out of contract for 7 more years…or by March of this year. We don’t know yet, because we don’t have a ‘lights out’ date for Samhain. A potential title (contracted but not ready for release as of February 2017) would be reverted this month to its author.

Now, this is just a year’s delay of closure, not long in the publishing world. Samhain is closing because of poor ebook sales. So it’s very likely those remaining Samhain authors are not going to see the sales levels they might have, from back in the company’s glory days. How much marketing and promo will Samhain do now, over how long the company winds down?

I still think it was irresponsible of Samhain to solicit and contract more authors between 2016 and 2017, but at least the company appears to have a plan in place.

If you love erotic romances and Samhain authors, keep buying while you can…and back up your digital library!

Pussyhat Legionnaire Cap

It’s done! It looks like this:

PussyHat Legionnaire Cap Marian Crane www.cranehanabooks.com/blog

It started from an old beige cotton Dorfman Pacific Legionnaire Cap, bought at Popular Surplus when that was still around in AZ.

Around 2003, for a Halloween event, I put the cap into a salmon-pink dye bath. Then doodled some red fabric paint on it, and stitched a raggedy bit of cotton fringe to the bottom. The same fabric, salvaged from a thrift store woven skirt, made part of the hatband decoration. It was intended to have a vaguely fantasy/tribal/ethnic feel.

And then it sat in the costume stash for a decade or so. I picked off some of the more extravagant decorations for another project. I almost donated the cap last summer to Goodwill.

And then Trump won. Pussyhats became a thing. Now, I can’t knit, and my crochet was barely up to hat-level for the two lumpy pink hats I sent to the Phoenix Women’s March on 1-21-2017.

But I’m a costumer. I can sew. I remembered I already had a pink hat.

A couple of ear patterns later, some Beacon Fabric Adhesive, a lot of thread, beads, handmade tassels, more salvaged fabric, and many needle stabs later, I have a ridiculously glorious flaming beacon of a Pussyhat.

Which I will be wearing in public, thank you. Maybe I can draw fire for some younger revolutionaries.

I’m also very happy with the Rebel Starbird applique on back, in seafoam green ultrasuede with coral-red glass bead accents.

 

We miss you, Carrie Fisher. #Resistance

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If anyone wants a pattern, I don’t have a complete one – I had to change my patterns so much I’d have to re-engineer the ears.

I can tell you that sewing the ears separately with some stiff interfacing inside worked really well. Just sew inside-out while catching the very edge of the interfacing, flip right side out, turn in the bottom edge, and sew some reinforcement seams. Fold the ears to get the shape you want, then tack half an inch or so along the lower edge of the ears to lock that fold in place.

Then use Beacon or another ‘permanent’ high-tack fabric adhesive to baste the ears into place. Every cap will have a slightly different brim/crown geometry, so the curled-into-the brim look of mine was a happy accident.

After the glue has set, come in and secure all seams with same-color thread worked through the cap fabric. (I never rely on glue alone.) I frayed some bright pink linen strips to line the ear bases front and back, to give more hot-pink tones to my salmon pink cap.

Marian Crane Pussyhat Legionnaire Cap

There’s a long-term advantage to designing around and between trends. Certain themes/colors surge and fade in the fashion world. An ice-pink dress I made nearly 20 years ago? Now back in style as a wrap, with a few tweaks. This vivid salmon/red/turquoise theme, that I started at least 13 years ago? Had a flare-up about a year ago.

I’ve seen these Cici Espadrilles from Maurice’s before, but my local thrift outlet got a pair my size for much less than the $24 retail price. They’re a perfect match. I’m not entirely sure I didn’t design the Legionnaire Cap around this very colorway, based on murky memories of the Cici shoes from over the last year or so. And it doesn’t really matter. Added to the salmon pants and shirt I already have, I’ve got an absurdly bright outfit.

Cici Espadrilles, Maurices, salmon multi

Toddler Grandma Insurgency, anyone?

Of Shade and Soul: A Touch Trilogy Novella

My friend A. G. Carpenter and the great people at Falstaff Books have released ‘Of Shade and Soul’, the second novella in her Southern gothic ‘Touch’ trilogy.

Delaney Green might be dead, but she don’t mean to stay that way. As she searches for a way back to the realm of the living, and the man she lay down flesh and bone for, Percival Cox and his team investigate a series of deaths and stolen souls. But Percy is not the man he used to be. If Del can’t find a way to stop him from waking his past, he could destroy everything, including himself.

This is a powerful continuation of the first book (I was honored to read both in their beta stages and final form). The final product is worthy of a Poe award. If you like moody Southern gothic, horror-fantasy, magical realism with a languid air of magnolia and burnt blood…this is your trilogy. Come read it here:

https://www.amazon.com/Shade-Soul-Touch-Trilogy-Novella-ebook/dp/B01MZE2D64

Dragon Batik, a PussyHat, and the Tax Day March

A test piece from circa 1991, made with scrap linen, plain old paraffin wax, acrylic dyes, a lot of cheap paper towels and a thrift-store iron, and a design borrowed from Balinese carvings and an amaaaazing Chinese celadon vase (Thank you, ASU West Library).

I’m posting it because it’s fun, fierce, and there’s only so many times a day I can poke at Donald Trump.

Although…

While I was digging this piece out of storage, I ran across another old hall costume orphan: a cotton muslin Legionnaire’s cap with backflap. In a fit of madness one year in the Aughts, I dyed bright salmon pink for a Halloween stunt, then stuck a camel’s worth of fringe and beads on it. A few years later, some of the adornments came off, to be stitched on something else. I almost donated the piece to Goodwill last year.

“Hey self,” I said while eyeing the cap’s possibilities. “It’s PINK.” I have fabric in matching and complementary shades, and another camel’s worth of more fringe and beads. I have a whole outfit the same color, heh heh.

I think it can be turned into a spectacular PussyHat, and I can make others out of the scraps.

There are rumblings across social media, that, since The Donald seems afraid to release his tax returns; that the Women’s March on Saturday seemed to really piss him off; and that many of us just like banging on cages…we might be aiming to march again on Saturday, April 15, just before the US Tax Day.

Earlier in March (TBA), a lot of angry scientists are planning a march of their own.

Will you join us?

Crowd sizes and why they may actually matter

So apparently there were at least three times as many people protesting Trump in Washington, D.C. Saturday 1-21-2017 than attended Trump’s inauguration the day before. The National Guard has confirmed it the largest single-location protest in American history. If you count all the *other* protests in the US and worldwide, participation numbered in the millions.

This would be moderately interesting, if not for Trump’s thin-skinned, totally size queen reaction.

Trump Twitter and Facebook armies immediately explained it was because *their* people had to stay at home and work at jobs, like responsible adults.

The Department of the Interior had its social media accounts frozen Saturday, after someone there tweeted comparisons of the crowds for Trump’s inauguration, and Obama’s two ceremonies. Hint: Trump’s crowd was far more sparse.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

On Saturday, Sean Spicer trotted out to do a hasty press conference…claiming the media inaccurately showed Trump’s crowd. Then Spicer flat out lied about the size of Saturday’s protest, spawning instant comparisons to Baghdad Bob.

I repeat: Spicer’s claim was a blatant lie. From The Guardian. From the NY Times. From USA Today. From Vox. From The Atlantic.

Because the National Park Service no longer provides ‘accurate’ counts of crowds (due to backlash), we have only indirect metrics to estimate the difference in crowd sizes. Days before both the inauguration and the Women’s March, we knew that organizers had applied for around 200 bus parking permits for Trump’s shindig, whereas Women’s March organizers had applied for at least 1,200 bus permits. Every indication is that those buses were full, too.

The DC-area transit authority reported that on Friday, January 20, approximately 193,000 people rode the Metro system as of 11am. The crowds for Saturday were estimated to be at least three times that, around 470,000 people.

The reason WHY this important?

It shows the level of engagement of really angry people, who feel that the new administration is corrupt, venal, rent-seeking, ignorant, and illegitimate. Who fear the loss of hard-won civil rights. Who fear the devastation even know showing from global climate change.

Trump is entering office as the most unpopular President of the United States in four decades. He barely won the Electoral College votes, and that was because of antique apportionment rules that give more sparsely populated rural areas more voting power than urban areas. He lost the popular vote by at least 3,000,000.

He has no ‘national mandate’ and he knows it.

Alternate factsare lies.

Crowd-size arguments show how truly thin-skinned Trump & Co really are. Their unpopularity is a yuuuge problem for them, a soft target, and they know that, too.

Trump has no depth of character: his only personal metrics are his apparent wealth and ratings. Trump’s own ego is the biggest trap awaiting him. It forces him to engage in constant damage control against the slightest insult from the smallest source. Obama was, in many respects, the too-calm ‘Shake It Off’ President, and comedy routines spawned around how much we wanted to see him get angry (The Rock Obama).

Trump & Co shown that any pushback on their perceived popularity hurts them, which just shows us where to strike. Maximum impact! Show up at marches. Ding Trump & Co on social media. Start organizing at local levels, and learn from the Tea Party’s exasperating tactics. Support at least one actual news outlet with a subscription. Call out fake news when you see it. Punch Nazis whenever you can. Resist the normalization of fascism.

Remember that the last time we had extremely large protests against a President, Watergate happened and Nixon was forced to resign a year later.