An #SFFPit analysis

This deserves a post of its own. Dan Koboldt has this reasoned and honest breakdown of last months’ #SFFpit Twitter pitch event.

The Fifth SFFpit and Twitter Pitch Fatigue

I’ve linked to it here, because it has some very good info for people just now querying science fiction and fantasy. Some mitigating factors include bad timing in June, ‘twitter pitch fatigue’ because of so many events, and small sample size.

Point 1: YA still dominates the pitch field, so we can draw a rough estimate that there are still at least a third more Young Adult authors than Adult authors trying to break into the field. This is a good thing in one way, because we need to keep pushing the quality and number of SFF books in YA. As long as YA SFF is separated from adult (it wasn’t, until about 15-20 years ago), it’s a main ambassador of SFF to younger readers.

It’s a bad thing for primarily Adult authors, because they may coming away with the picture that publishers, agents, their fellow authors, and the market itself supports YA speculative fiction more than it supports adult. I don’t think that’s the whole picture, from looking at publishers’ catalogs, but it does seem to indicate that un-agented writers may have an easier time getting publisher interest if they are writing YA. It also seems to indicate that many agents (whether they openly admit it or not) seem to be more favorably disposed to YA authors.

Point 2: agent and editor participation was down sharply, and seemed to show fewer of what I’d deem responsible professional publishers. There were many more newer publishers and younger agents, often a warning sign meriting a lot more research.

Point 3: Dan ended his analysis with a pitch for the upcoming PitchWars. This may be good for some authors. PitchWars, according to Dan, gives un-agented authors a chance to have ‘published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine.’

I’m still dithering about participating in PitchWars, mostly because of timing and market issues. I’m also probably not going to participate in more general Twitter pitching contests. It was a fun experiment, I learned a lot from it, I had valuable feedback…but in the end, I didn’t make any serious headway.

Packing and shipping for dummies

A subtweety primer, for folks who ship stuff from online sales:

If you are selling glass jars of honey over international borders, it doesn’t matter if you carefully wrap all jars in bubble wrap…if you push them against one side of a too-small cardboard box! Nor does the amount of air-packs and newspaper you stuffed into the other side.

I’d like to think the bad arrangement was Customs doing its Thing, and not you…but YOU chose the small box. Remember: breakables go into the center of the box, with at least 3″ of crushable packing around them on all sides. Putting ‘Fragile Glass Inside’ tape outside was apparently taken as an invitation, not a warning, because this box came looking like it had barely survived an airplane crash. Nothing was broken, by sheer luck.

We won’t discuss how you managed not to pack a single jar of the honey actually ordered.

Also, if you are selling delicate porcelain jewelry components off Etsy, please don’t shove them all into a small clear plastic bag together, tape the bag tightly, then shove that into a padded mailer. Ceramics crunch and break when crushed by, say, automatic mail sorting machines. Again, by sheer stupid luck, not a piece was broken. But they should have been separately bagged or bagged individually in plastic foam, then shipped in a more rigid box.

I wrap and ship things professionally, and have for the past 20+ years through several jobs. If you don’t know how to wrap things, and you cannot afford to have your local UPS, DHL, or FedEx depot do it for you…LEARN.

Here is a UPS guideline set to packing.

Here’s the catalog for Gaylord, a museum-grade archival firm whose products I use a lot when prepping pieces for shipping or longterm storage.

Etsy itself even has this comprehensive guide: How to pack and ship anything.

Do these things, and you will have happier customers. Return customers. Customers who will not call you out with snide blog posts.

Ciao!

Moro’s Price first edition 2012 to 2016

I say ‘first edition’ because I have several future paths for my first published novel, now that its association with Loose Id LLC has come to an end. Moro’s Price no longer exists as an ebook on Amazon.com, or on the Loose Id website. Over the next month or so, it will leave AllRomance Ebooks, Barnes&Noble, and its other vendors.

If you see it there and want this version, this will be your last chance.

I’ve enjoyed working with Loose Id, and wish the company and its authors the very best going forward. For me, rights reversion came at a good time, letting me revise the story to better fit its planned sequels and the larger universe it inhabits.

Moro Jade Disc

What happens next to the story of Val and Moro? That very much depends on what happens with the (very slightly) related mms I’m currently shopping. I have a lot of options, all of them interesting.

When I know, I’ll pass the word.

My deepest gratitude to Loose Id for taking a chance on the book in 2012, for Cherry Weiner for going to bat for me over contract issues, and all the people who read, enjoyed, and reviewed the book.

Linen pearl scarf in progress

pearl scarf progress for blog

A progress shot of the constructed-fabric scarf I just made from some of these gray-tan linen strips I showed before.

scarf strips

I posted the image on Twitter a few minutes ago, so here are the specifics:

Size: 80″x9″

Materials: 1.25×80″ linen strips / matching thread / some secret ingredients / 140 flat mother-of-pearl shell rectangle beads.

I’m just territorial enough that I won’t go into production specifics, but anyone who knows fabric will be able to tell. I will say this: it’s way too much sewing for something this basic.

The grid foundation is done, washed to frizz it out further. Now I’m hand-sewing on those shell rectangles for a bit of glimmer. I’d dithered about huge freshwater pearl coin beads, or 5mm flat tourmaline square beads. Both would have meant another $80 to $100 in rather fragile beads. So I settled for creamy natural mother-of-pearl, which can be cold-water hand-washed with gentle soap. That’s only $25 added to the cost.

Given other materials and sheer labor, this will still easily be a $200+ scarf when I’m done. Not cost effective enough for large production, but a fun proof of concept for me. It’s great when the final piece comes close to what I imagined!

And it’s very wearable, even now (so fuzzy).

 

Thrift store treasures: flask and black gloves

One of the perks of living in a large, relatively low-income Sun Belt city is the diversity of thrift store finds.

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of this transferred wealth comes from tragedy: retirees dying off and their heirs shoveling stuff to Goodwill or the dump, divorced or unemployed folks suddenly having to get rid of possessions they’ve no room to keep, and transferred workers leaving for out-of-state jobs and dropping off their sparse gear rather than move with it.

This benefits the careful and patient shopper. I am always very conscious of the past sacrifices I witness whenever I walk into a resale store. Today, Goodwill was kind enough to furnish me a 3oz, unmarked, flawless stainless steel hip flask for $3, a gift for a friend. I’ll look into etching his personal sigil on it.

flask for blog

And these incredible black leather gloves with sewn geometric applique detail and nickel-plated brass studs, for $4.

black gloves for blog.

They scream ‘cosplay’ no matter what I do to them.

Thank you, unknown people, for letting me be the next owner of your stuff.

Learn to write with Girl Genius

I love this graphic novel series enough to have it in my sidebar. I follow several dozen online and print graphic novels, because they’re excellent. If I included them in the links, it would be probably bore you.

Girl Genius is there for lots of reasons.

Give me 600 words, and I’ll blather about why I love it. And why new writers of high and epic fantasy are well-served if they pick up some pointers from Kaja and Phil Foglio’s masterwork Girl Genius. (There are hundreds of other graphic novels and manga that could help, as well. Pick one you like, read critically, and apply.)

  1. Story beats. Girl Genius is a multi-part graphic novel, a comic book adventure on steroids. Bless the internet for making things like this more available! Because it is a gigantic page-by-page series of graphic novels, this story has clear and recognizable beats. There is at least one major, interesting, or funny (or all three) thing happening on every page. There are always peripheral events happening, too, which just add to the fun.
  2. Depth and worldbuilding. I’ve been following since around November of 2010. I’m regularly blown away by the incredible detail in the world of Agatha Heterodyne and her friends…and how it all supports rather than overwhelms this story.
  3. Plot. Yes, Virginia, there is a plot. A vast and devious one, that frequently hides its tracks in hilarious or heartbreaking side quests. I trust the Foglios to know exactly where they’re going.
  4. Art. Graphic novel, duh. The Foglios have realized a lot of the early promise I saw in the Dragon Magazine runs of ‘Phil and Dixie’ (yes, I am that old.) The art of Girl Genius brings together an incredibly skilled team, to create some of my most favorite characters in a gorgeous world. Also, this team loves costumes.
  5. Diversity. Kind, calm, matter-of-fact diversity, where lots of different kinds of people interact without the slightest hint of our worlds’ racist and sexist attitudes. And without any of the self-conscious, aggressively overt, and equally divisive posturing that often seems to flavor arguments from the real world’s more left-of-center population. Agatha’s world has its own serious problems, but the color of one’s skin and the nuances of one’s gender identity and preferences do not seem to be an issue. The Foglios and their team are not afraid to write and portray real people with real bodies and minds.
  6. Merchandising. Yes, there are great T-shirts, pins, toys, etc. available from the main website and its affiliates. But the Foglios and their team have skillfully navigated some major developments in outreach and sales. They fund collections of their works with popular, well-considered, and very lucrative Kickstarter campaigns. They’re active at genre conventions and through social media. Probably most ambitious, they’ve adapted the visual media of their graphic novels into text. Book versions! Ebooks and print novelizations that tell the same story, but offer exciting new tangents that fill in the whole epic in all its formats.
  7. Responsibility. The Foglios and their team are incredibly generous with their time. From working with and helping showcase other graphic novel creators, to donations of time and goods to worthy causes, and actually stepping away from Hugo Awards nominations so other people could have a shot…Okay, I’m sniffling sentimentally here. But the creative community really needs to have its kinder, gentler inspirations, in the face of so many ‘Screw you, I got mine’ success stories.

Every single one of these points are things that benefit other writers. Learn from the Professors Foglio, folks.

‘Of Lips And Tongue’ by A.G. Carpenter

Delaney Green is one of them that don’t burn.

Touch Trilogy 1 cover AG Carpenter

Possessed of the Touch – with the ability to not only see the future but manipulate it – she’s been kept in an institution for most of her life. When the Salesman, a murderous entity with a connection to Delaney’s past, starts burning girls to death, FBI Agent Percival Cox gives her the chance to leave the asylum behind. But he presents an even greater threat and she must risk flesh and bone in order to keep him from becoming a Power more destructive than the Salesman.

I was lucky enough to read this novella in bits and pieces as a beta reader for A.G. Carpenter. Seeing everything stitched into place just proves all over again: this woman can write with the best of them.

Many novellas (my stuff included) can suffer from too little worldbuilding and story. A.G. has a deft touch with just the right amount of setting and plot, character and atmosphere, and social commentary slipped into a roller-coaster of a story. My Twitter blurb about this book may say just enough to avoid spoilers:

If you like dark, unsettling, gorgeous Southern Gothic books with a taste of Southern Fried X-Files, this novella might be your cuppa.

Second-best part: it’s part of a trilogy coming from Falstaff Books. First best part: I’ve already read some of the second book!

Amazon buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Lips-Tongue-Touch-Trilogy-Novella-ebook/dp/B01HMVHOVW

B&N buy link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/of-lips-and-tongue-a-g-carpenter/1124017184

A.G. Carpenter’s Amazon Author page (worth a look, I promise.)

She will be at LibertyCon next week

Sew Madness

I have some free hours tonight. To help settle my manuscript submission jitters, I’m playing with several sewing projects that need to advance to their next stages. Not finished (cue hysterical laughter); any one of these will take far more than a couple of hours for that.

  1. Refine the patterns and start cutting UV-blocking fabric for a bicycle car rack cover. This is an absolutely necessary top-priority piece. Yakima has not yet figured out that what works for sun-and-heat resistance in northern climes fails quickly and miserably down here in hell Crematoria Muspellheim Phoenix. scarf strips
  2. Check that I have everything ready for a gonzo insane 15″ x 76″ scarf in a loose open weave of these gray-tan linen strips. With large freshwater pearls sewn over the junctures. It would easily be a $200 scarf if I was insane enough to sell it, based on hours and materials. Anyone want a $200 scarf? I’m making it because I will wear until I get bored with it, and it wants to be made. Faded Glory jacket
  3. Blocking the paper pattern for a waterfall bustle to go on the back of this Faded Glory jacket in sage eyelet. The jacket is extremely well made: the seams are bound the way I’d do them from scratch, and it has vaguely Victorian/steampunk lines that will be perfect with black braid and bronze buttons. I just found a sage/khaki hat that will go with it, with some modifications. But the jacket also needs to be a tailcoat, and I’m intrigued by the lines of waterfall bustles and their back-folded ruffles. I lucked out with some sage-printed cotton and some antique bronze sequined black net, which go well with some of my other fabric stores in sage-green tones. Here’s the brown paper pattern…sage bustle pattern
  4. Which leads to the discovery (which I suspected) that even my modest little 18″ bustle is going to take at least 80″ of fabric. Because Ruffles. I think I have it…but it will be close. I keep telling myself that if I can make a 60″ accordion-fold fabric book, a double-faced waterfall bustle is going to be relatively easy.

Now, if I can just juggle things like this for the next 8 weeks, I will be able to ignore my manuscript submission jitters. Yeah, right.

Carnelian Collar

I’ve always loved the red-orange tones of carnelian: 1) Grew up in northern New Mexico. 2) A kidlet obsession with ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

While designing the worldbuilding for the Lonhra Sequence, I somehow got fixated on the idea that the Dana homeworld’s vegetation was primarily red to purple (I blame Barrayar for that, probably). So of course, the stones and gems associated with Dana settlers on Lonhra would be red and purple: red jade, marbles, granites, ruby, amethyst, spinel, garnet, jasper, and carnelian.

I found a gorgeous carnelian bangle bracelet at the Tucson Rock & Gem Show last February. For $10, it was a bargain. And then I made the mistake of starting to source other carnelian components. Because of course I need another necklace.

This happened:

Carnelian collar for blog

From one local bead store, 8 carnelian fan-shaped sets of 13 top-drilled beads. From a great shop in NC, the big 50mm axe-head bead in deep red carnelian. From my personal stash gathered over years: carnelian accent beads, and two big carnelian arrow points with a clean Deco design. Sterling silver findings from Plazko.com include extender chain, crimps, crimp covers, wire guards, a bunch of 3mm closed jump rings, and a big swivel lobster-claw clasp.

The jump rings provide just a whisper of silver between the carnelian stick beads, and make for easier movement and less drag. I may have to remake this piece to add details to the chain and loosen up the beads, but I’m 90% there with a piece I love.

I like the subtle militancy of the axe and arrow points. Especially considering that the Dana on Lonhra have adopted a superficially peaceful reputation, to downplay their role in an almost planet-busting war.

Worldbuilding, meet jewelry.

#SFFpit: the epilogue

So a few days have passed. I did about as well in #SFFpit as I expected: one of the small publishers I know and trust liked my entries, as well as a few other people. It was a long shot with some hidden value beyond the pitch day, so I wasn’t that worried for the mms’ sake.

However – and not to diss Dan Koboldt or any of the other many people who made the June 2016 #SFFpit happen – it seemed largely a wash. Part of that may just be summer doldrums, and a one-day event sandwiched between the twitter juggernauts of QueryKombat and PitchWars later this summer. Part had to have been the Brexit vote and its aftermath, sucking up all air on the internet during Thursday. Part may simply be twitter-pitch fatigue.

I looked across my categories of interest: fantasy, epic fantasy, high fantasy. I saw some great entries that I wished were available books. Many of these pitches were YA, but not as many as I’d feared earlier. Most of them didn’t get a single agent or editor ‘like’; the best entries seemed to gather only (low) single digit-likes.

Not a lot of play visible from major agents, but the usual small-press/vanity/new company suspects were out in full force. I’ve already written about similar companies and their strategies in ‘Filigree’s Rule’, so I won’t go into a dissection here.

It was a fun experience, but I doubt I’ll do it again in December, or take part in other twitter pitch contests for this particular fantasy mms. I have already queried and had rejections from most of my target agents, with only a few stragglers left on my list. By December, I hope to either have agent representation or (more likely) be working on the process of self-publishing at least 4 novels.

I’d still recommend that every unagented author with a completed and polished mms try at least three twitter pitch events. I’d also recommend they use a scheduling program like HootSuite or Tweetdeck to automatically send their tweets at the right times during the contest hours, especially if they have a life outside Twitter.

The greatest thing about twitter pitches? The incredible community. The second greatest thing? Developing and honing twitter pitches leads to better elevator blurbs, loglines, and teaser copy.

When I considered #DVpit (Diverse Voices) in April, I wasn’t sure I could manage to create a single pitch, let alone three or four. Turns out, those pitches sucked: I used Classical mythology references that younger readers and agents didn’t get, I used 15-year-old or older comparison titles, I relied too much on pop culture shorthand, and I didn’t drill down into the conflicts of my story.

Here are my first three #DVpit attempts:

1 LGBT secworld Orpheus: a warrior, a bard, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #DVpit #highfantasy

2 Sword&planet Orpheus: a warrior, a bard, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #DVpit #highfantasy.

3 The tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live: LGBT Orpheus #highfantasy #Adult McKillip+Kushiel VivaLaVida the novel #DVpit

They were riffs on a description that had gone over tolerably well in a couple of online writing forums, but suffered when condensed to 140 characters. I didn’t know the approved abbreviations for SFF subgenres; I should have used #HF for #highfantasy, for example.

People were unfamiliar enough with Classical themes that they thought ‘Sword&planet Orpheus’ was the title, instead of a theme. My comp titles were so old that only a few agents even recognized them. Using a Coldplay song, while sort of accurate, probably hindered more than it helped. Worst of all, I had no detailed sense of the book’s conflicts.

Out of DVpit I got one agent’s interest on a partial; but the book had too much romance for her, so that went nowhere (I’d already queried her agency in March and had a rejection, so no surprise.)

I noticed a lot of agent likes and editor retweets across the board in fantasy, epic fantasy, and high fantasy…even if a lot of them seemed to be in YA. It was a lively day.

Before stumbling onward to Brenda Drake’s #PitMad (Pitch Madness) on June 9, I participated in Kyra M. Nelson’s #MockPit on June 2. This one-day event is a kind of practice run for #PitMad.

I used the old pitches and got roundly trounced; this was an event dominated by YA authors and agents, and they showed me the deep faults in my pitches. (Though I wasn’t ready to really see or admit them yet.)

On to Pitch Madness!

I refined my pitches to the following:

1 LGBT Orpheus: a warrior shedding her humanity, a bard transcending his, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #PitMad #A #F         

2 Sword&planet Orpheus: a warrior, a bard, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #PitMad #A #F

3 Rebels plot murder: ageless tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live. LGBT Orpheus McKillip+Kushiel meets VivaLaVida #PitMad #A #F

I was still stuck on those beloved old comp titles, even knowing they had to go, but I was getting a little better with my subgenres.

By some rare miracle, a great publisher and a really good agent liked my work. The publisher is one of two I might consider in lieu of self-publishing. The agent now has the full mss. (The agent is old enough to have liked my comp titles. Whee! For that, I can wait another 8 to 10 weeks.) The same usual suspects chimed in, plus a few trolls.

#PitMad was interesting in general because it had the same relatively high agent/editor participation that #DVpit had. Lots of YA, even with many agents specifically asking ahead of time for adult work. This event covers many genres, so it’s very big.

I hoped that #SFFpit would let me narrow my pitches to legitimate agents and editors in my subgenres. With that in mind I threw out most of the old pitches, and decided to take advantage of #SFFpit’s generous 10-pitch limit.

Here are the tweets I used, roughly once an hour from 8am to 6pm EST, plus their character count and the MST times launched:

1 Rebels plot. An ageless tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live. Her lovers just won’t do protective custody #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                               135                         5:05am

When his wife flees from humanity, the last bard of a dying race thwarts a secret war and ancient gods to rejoin her  #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                          135                6:07am

3  A warrior sheds her humanity and a bard transcends his, for love of a genderfluid sorcerer whose life is tied to theirs #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                   137           7:13am

His wife outcast from humanity, the last bard of a dying race thwarts assassination and ancient gods to rejoin her #SFFpit #FR #EF #LGBT               136             8:22am

Ageless tyrant rules only while her two mortal consorts live: one has known from birth, the other is a sworn enemy #SFFpit #A #FR #LGBT                         135                     9:14am

A warrior exiled from the bard she loves; for her, the bard gives up everything but the sorcerer destined for them both #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                              137                 10:26am

Forbidden shapeshifting magic may reunite a bard with his exiled wife, after she sends him to win an enemy mage’s heart #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                    134                    11:07am

8 The last bard of a dying race thwarts civil war and ancient gods to join his outcast wife; a Dark Power loves her, too #SFFpit #A #EF #LGBT                      139                     12:19pm

Rebels plot. An ageless tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live. Her lovers just won’t do protective custody #SFFpit #EF #LGBT                                         137                       1:08pm

10  Immortal tyrant rules only while her two mortal consorts live: one has known from birth, the other is a sworn enemy #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                              133                   2:21pm

After the day was done, the most likes I got was 4. No retweets. Only a few of the likes from known publishers I trust.

Even so, I think the experience was valuable, in that I have ten slightly different but accurate pitch lines, for when I’m doing advertising pushes for the self-published versions. I have better ideas about plot and sequels. I met some great people: writers, agents, and editors whose conversations have enriched my life.

A good result for a little typing and auto-scheduling, I think.

Even though I can’t participate in it this round, I’d like to do a shout-out for The Knight Agency’s first ever agency Twitter-Pitch event. You can find out date and time here, if you’re interested.

 

 

 

#SFFpit tomorrow, + how about them Dems

I’m an Independent, and I am actually proud of the House Democrats today. They made some history by staging a fearless sitdown in the House, in protest over the Republican refusal to even *look* at upcoming gun control laws. When Paul Ryan booted out CSPAN and turned off the microphones and cameras, he forgot about smart phones and the Capital internet.

That revolution was brought to you by Periscope and Twitter. Whether anything will come of it, who knows? I’m writing scathing letters to my senators and representatives.

One of the key problems is the NoFlyNoBuy bill, which reasonably suggests that if you are on a terror watch list, you probably shouldn’t be buying AR-15 guns and high capacity magazines. The ACLU has rightfully pointed out the No Fly list is riddled with mistakes and bad profiling.

Okay, sure it is…*I’m* on that watch list, for simply being a member of MoveOn.org for years. Let’s have that conversation when we bring up the bill. Others have suggested that the NoFly list’s profiling is not going to catch the ‘lone gunman’ usually crazy, religious, and white, who seems to cause lots of these domestic outrages. Well, duh, that’s why we need to have an adult discussion about gun control in America. Instead of the NRA members who have the luxury of a never-wavering ‘No’ vote every chance they can lobby.

***

In happier (I think) news, I’m going to be participating in one last twitter pitch session this summer, tomorrow’s #SFFpit. I have ten distinct pitches ready and scheduled though the day from 8am to 6pm EST. I have no idea what is going to happen, and I’ll be busy enough during the day that I can only look in during the morning.

Ten pitches. My eyes are crossing.

If you follow me on Twitter (@MCHana2), please do not like or retweet my posts, since that muddies the water for agents and editors. I appreciate all such shows of support, but those are against the session guidelines.

Gotta be honest: I’m not expecting much. I grew tenfold as a writing during these pitch contests, as I shaped new tweets and discarded old ones. Very educational. If it doesn’t help me get agent notice (the odds are very long), the new tweets will certainly help me in marketing for self-publishing.

The Wattys are here

After some hours of delay, assumed coding problems, and many thousands of panicked writers around the world…the 2016 Wattys are up and running.

The Wattys are Wattpad’s *huge* annual writing contest, split among many countries, languages, and genres. It’s a fascinating way for me, as an American, to see some of the best of the best of international writing outside the fanfiction and commercial venues I normally frequent!

Bloodshadow for Wattpad

For my part, just to see if anything would happen, I chucked Bloodshadow into the mix. From now until August 31, if you have (or want) a Wattpad account (they’re free), please stop by and give my old trunk-novel a look. It’s well beyond commercially publishable at this point; all that I can do is heavily revise and self-publish it, and I’m planning to do that anyway.

Etsy Showcase: a few gold chains

In my work I get to see some amazing metal chains, both as premade necklaces and by the foot. During a bout of insomnia + random Google cosplay searches, it struck me that most hobby jewelers and beaders have no idea how to take chains to the next level.

These are the folks content to do a single chain necklace. They might feel unspeakably daring to do a multi-strand ‘statement’ necklace mixing several chain types and metals.

Very few designers branch out and blast completely past those safe limits. I can see why: bulk chains can add up in $$, this kind of work takes actual design and possibly engineering and/or architecture, it’s physically tricky to do (you must have a pinnable sturdy dressform!), and the results are often so time consuming they are unrealistic for hobby sellers.

However…chains and straps are sexy. They are both prison and armor, constraint and freedom, an unabashed nod to bright and dark fantasies in broad daylight. I wish more intermediate level beaders and jewelers could take time to push their limits with chains, leather strips, fiber chains, and beaded nets.

It’s worth the time and cost. (But seriously, get a good dressform in your target size first.)

I won’t steal their work to show it here, but go look at these two designers:

http://www.laureldewitt.com

Laurel’s work is grandly theatrical, even insane. I adore it. Goddesses and gods would wear this stuff.

Zana Bayne

Zana’s collections are at once more demure and more subversive. She flaunts the whisper of bondage gear in the precise geometrics of pieced leather and metal meshes, yet many of her accessories can be worn with office clothes as well as evening garb. Because they’re generally more deceptively simple, they might be more approachable ideas for hobbyist crafters.

Online and art fair sellers: pay close attention to the prices of the finished goods. Those are entirely reasonable given the amount of work. You cannot sell this kind of work for under $100, not and lose money, supplies, and time.

This is ‘Green Beads for Blues Night’, an old piece of mine from almost two decades ago. I spent about three months off and on with it. I made it so badly it cannot be sold. I used the wrong thread for the #8 seed beads that make up most of it, and it’s now shredding under its own weight. It would gone much faster had I used a dressform. It was inspired by costuming on the SFF shows ‘Stargate’ and ‘Farscape’.

Green Vest for blog

No, that’s not me, but the model who graciously wore it when it was featured in a craft magazine piece. Photography courtesy of Bead & Button Magazine.

So next time you score a bunch of cheap but good chains at a thrift store, look at them in new ways…is that a dozen $15 necklaces on Etsy, or one showstopping club dress or cosplay piece?

 

 

 

Continental Divide: 12 years later

In 2004, in the midst of a fairly divisive American Presidential election, I made this fiber art book.

Crane book -- Continental Divide open

This is one set of pages, embroidered in red and blue cotton thread on cotton and linen ground, with fore-edges tasseled in cotton thread and glass beads.

Divide page for blog

This is the original poem I wrote and embroidered into the fiber pages:

From here I cannot see two oceans:

Standing astride this ridge, one foot

Touching sunset – the other, night.

On each side, cool winds taste the same.

From here I see no difference between

Factory or farm, trailer or mansion,

No hint of hand or ideology behind

The lights that in distant valleys bloom.

Thrumming roads, the tight hives of towns,

Diamond cities spilled across the dark –

All nerves flooded by two signals,

Twin prayers voiced and un-uttered.

From here I see only the glorious

Storm,  

And I recall how Church

Painted Cotopaxi (in the shadow

Of Civil War.)

This book is now in the special collections library of a major American Ivy-League university.

Crane book -- Continental Divide new bind back

I’m making a book for the 2016 Elections right now. It makes ‘Continental Divide’ seem genteel. Stay tuned.

 

Orlando (infuriating content)

So this was going to be a narrow-focused publishing rant about Peter Thiel, Pixar, Diverse Voices, and hypocrisy…

But then Orlando happened: first the senseless death of a harmless, gifted young woman, then the carnage last night, more innocent lives lost at the Pulse nightclub. The latter apparently caused by a young Muslim man with access to assault weapons and a deep disgust of gay people.

I have friends in Orlando who are still trying to find their loved ones, this morning.

So now this is going to be a very nasty, confrontational rant with a somewhat larger focus.

My premise: there is no fundamental difference between the flavors of religiously motivated violence. ISIS or Christian, Hindu Nationalist, Jewish Orthodox, African animists, the militant form of Buddhism growing in Myanmar…these groups are only distinguished by what their most violent adherents can get away with. 

I do not contest that religion itself can be a useful social construct probably equally important as trade, to the development of civilization.

But I also propose that *every religion* carries the lurking seeds of its worst aspects: of social oppression, human sacrifice, slavery in many forms, terrorist attacks against its ideological opponents, theocratic tyranny or oligarchy, and the chilling indoctrination that creates a placid or cowed population. If we are to elevate the better parts of religion, we must as a species commit to pruning back the poison weeds that threaten it and us.

I put forward that while ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda are guilty of horrific crimes against humanity, they are only achieving what many other religious groups appear to fantasize about. ‘Good Christian’ senators and pastors regularly invoke vicious wish-fulfillment prayers against political opponents and targeted minorities. Donald Trump is a master at whipping his largely white, racist supporters into near-violence, then stepping back, then claiming butt-hurt and innocence when fights break out.

We need tolerance, if we are to continue as a species worthy of surviving. If gay people kissing in front of us disgusts us, we need to not take it personally, and look the fuck away.

We need to not care so much what a person looks like, how they dress, or what personal pronouns they use to self-identify.

We need to not tie our daughters to petrol-soaked beds and set them afire, for the crimes of marrying for love, controlling their fertility, or learning to read.

We need to not be hysterical about where people pee and poop…unless it’s to make sure that people can eliminate in peace, in safety, in clean places where they will not be subject to sewage-borne diseases or sexual assault. All people.

We need to rely on logic, teamwork, police work, and yes, even bureacracy to solve crimes like Orlando, instead of mob rule and overreaction. To understand that most of our Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, etc. friends and co-workers just want to live their lives in peace, too. Most humans are not horrible, and can be pretty decent to each other. We actually live in an era where social and military violence have been decreasing. Terrorists of any stripe are terrified of losing their status, so they’re lashing out.

Unfortunately, when they lash out they not only claim innocent lives, they endanger humanity as a whole. We cannot afford to backslide from science, rationality, and tolerance, not when the next few hundred years are already going to be hard enough.

If humanity can’t figure that out, then I don’t think we deserve to survive.

 

Phoenix Comicon begins today!

I may or may not be there, depending on:

Heatwaves. Seriously, folks, it’s going to be 120F on Saturday. I’ve lived here for nearly 30 years. It would take extraordinary enticements to make me brave even crossing the street in central Phoenix if I’m not absolutely required to do so. I will probably be lurking in a dim basement listening to music, gorging on mango popcicles, and drafting a subversive political cross-stitch ABC book. (Cross-stitch skulls, mushroom clouds, biohazard symbols, AK47s, Trump’s Hair, and many other fun things to sketch.)

Work. I love my dayjob. I love my writing and art. They are all hitting tremendous deadline pushes with a vengeance this month.

Clothes. (See Heatwaves.) This is not weather for me to tempt heatstroke with heavy hall costumes. So if I go, I’ll just be in civvies. But you might see me wearing this book pendant.

Marian Crane original design

And I may or may not have a cobalt blue streak in my hair.

Anyway, if you are going, stop by any of the Kids Need To Read events and booths, and buy raffle tickets. Why? Let me remind you that this mask…

First Frost mask by Marian Crane

…is up for grabs, along with (4) $25 vouchers for the jewelry-making supply company Plazko.com.

Carry on.

 

May 25: a mixed-bag day

Down to three unanswered queries out of my list from early February. I have Some Thoughts about this process, but it’s not considered polite to vent about agents while querying, so I won’t. I do notice it’s very similar to certain job interviews, wherein one tries to strike the balance between assertive but not too assertive, and trying to prove one’s work history without coming across as a grandiose jerk. Even if some of the good stuff really is true, you may have to downplay it in front of an interviewer.

Do guys have to do that shit? Because women still do, even when (often, especially when!) interviewing with other women.

In better news, I’ve narrowed down editors and cover designers. One of the really daunting things about prepping to do a self-published series, and not just one book? I have to ‘brand’ the covers and title styles of a proposed 8 – 12 books to create a cohesive look. This is basic publishing stuff, but so important that I’d like to remind my fellow prospective self-pub authors: even if you are only writing standalones, your ‘brand’ needs to be similar from book-to-book.

Related to covers: I’ve made the snap decision (but backed by 15 years of publishing exposure) that if a romance or women’s fiction book has a cartoony cover, I’m outta there. And bribes probably won’t make me read it. If the cover features a Barbie-clone, I can’t get away from the feeling that it may signal the level of the writing. Sorry, cartoon-cover novelists. Take heart that you are not alone in my loathing: I’m also very skeptical of manga-style covers. Some can be gorgeous, but there are some artists who just turn me off.

I’ll be digging out a lilac-colored shirt in a few minutes (though skipping the towel, alas) for the combined observance of Wear The Lilac and Towel Day. Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams were founding patrons of my SFF reading. It hurts to think they’re both gone.

Jack Kirby’s ghost must screaming at Marvel right now. Some group of idiot wanna-be-edgy writers decided that:

Nope, we cannot possibly make Steve Rogers have a romantic relationship with Bucky Barnes.

But we can make Steve Rogers a deep-cover Hydra operative.

Whut.

There goes any last remaining guilt I may have had at doing Cap/Anybody fanfiction. Steve Rogers is supposed to be the scrappy, steadfast Everyman, the best face of America…and he’s been turned into Alexander Pierce?

I put forth that the plot twist to make Cap into a Hydra goon is a retcon scheme put forth by Hydra itself, and possibly the Trump campaign.

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of slashfic, I say.

Oh hell, no…or bad IngramSpark

This tweet from IngramSpark is getting a category in Filigree’s Rule, but I thought it should have its own blog post, too:

***

is a great way to promote your new book, even if you plan to use a traditional publisher in the future.

***

That’s not how this works…and the Ingram folks know it.

Once a specific book has been self-published, 99% of the time, literary agents and commercial publishers are less likely to promote or publish it.

Why should they? First rights are gone. If the book flamed out without a trace in the market, they’re going to take that as proof it won’t make money in commercial publishing. Even if it was modestly successful and got a few thousand buys, the agents and editors might do a Profit/Loss analysis and decide the market has already been bought out.

Too many self-publishing gurus either imply or outright say that every author has the sales potential of Hugh Howey, C.S. Pacat, Andy Weir, etc.

That’s not true. Yes, we who dabble in self-publishing have to put our best efforts and attitudes forward…but the odds are that we’re still not going to sell much more than a few thousand copies, tops. Effective self-publishing is not well served by self-delusion.

The only way – hedged with many caveats – that self-publishing can help an author go commercial is if they query/sub an unrelated later book to literary agents and commercial publishers. Even then, there will be that P/L report, drilling down on the author’s previous sales…where dismal self-published results can still harm an author.

Everyone spies on everyone else in this industry. We have to, to get a sense of where to jump next.

Why do you think that even agented, commercially published authors are often told to find a new pen name to reinvent their marketability? Or they are cut loose from commercial contracts altogether? Their past performance didn’t meet market expectations.

Self-publish if you want the control and are willing to do the work. Self-publish if there is no other option available. Please don’t self-publish if you want that same book to have commercial potential later!

Literary agents, please tell us…

…If you might consider looking at unagented work that has snagged an advance-paying commercial publisher’s contract offer.

We’re a little tired of doing things this way:

 

And we’re certain you’re tired of dealing with us.

If you already share this? Thank you, bless you, may your authors win many awards and make truckloads of money.

Obviously, if we queried you already and you sent a form rejection, we’ll likely not contact you about the offer.

This one additional bit of information doesn’t have to be complicated. ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘No Way In Hell’, and ‘Never Darken My Door Again’ are all blunt, quick options. It would be helpful if it’s easily found on your Publishers Marketplace or QueryTracker page if you have one, or part of your agency’s online submissions guidelines. It can even be, to quote Douglas Adams: “…on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

We’re authors with some basic Google-Fu. We’ll find that damn leopard.

We understand why you might say ‘No’. Many agents want to guide the sale from the beginning, and they’d rather spend energy and time on those clients they signed out of their own slushpiles or private recommendations.

Many of you probably shouldn’t say ‘Yes’ when we ask, because if you are not as enthusiastic about the book as we are, you might not move mountains on its behalf. Tell us ‘No’ ahead of time, and we won’t bother you.

Within many genre niches, there might be only so many agents who know that field. Once the giddy joy of a contract offer settles into reality, we’d like to contact those agents who might be open to an arrangement. We don’t want to appear unprofessional and waste your time and ours, by trying to blindly guess what sort of agent you are.

Thanks for listening.